Siesta Key and Beyond

At the end of my four-day solo travel experiment, my long-time friend Gail joined me on Siesta Key. The slow pace quickened immediately to a flurry of activity. Morning walks, paddleboarding, dinner at different restaurants each night, boating, visits with various friends in the area, and a trip to urgent care for Gail’s bronchial infection interrupted our number 1 priority, beach time. Here are the highlights.

Siesta Beach is my clear all-time favorite with a wide beach and soft, fine, white quartz sand that stays cool under the feet. Most mornings we joined other walkers getting their exercise in this beautiful setting directly across the street from our condo.




Siesta Beach


Morning walkers

When our walks took us off the beach, we twice succumbed to the temptation to stop for breakfast. Sun Garden in the village and Toasted Mango Cafe on Midnight Pass Road both got high marks from us.

My daughter-in-law’s mother, Tricia, kindly invited us to Ft. Meyers for a day of boating. A sunny day on the water was irresistible. I hadn’t been to the Ft. Meyers area previously so seeing more of this part of Florida by water was fun and Tricia and Gary were excellent hosts.


Our hosts, Tricia and Gary



Tricia and me- the mothers


Gail and me at lunch

Another day we drove north from Sarasota to Anna Maria Island, stopping at several beaches along the way.  As we drove through Sarasota, I snapped a photo of the 25-foot tall sculpture by Seward Johnson, Unconditional Surrender, based on a photo taken on V-J Day in Times Square.


Unconditional Surrender sculpture

Following lunch at the Sand Bar on Anna Maria, we relaxed on the beach for awhile and then checked out several of the piers in the area.


Lunch at the Sand Bar


My beach umbrella and Gail’s beach blanket at Anna Maria Beach


Anna Maria Beach


Rod and Reel Pier


Anna Maria City Pier


View from Anna Maria Pier toward the Sunshine Skyway Bridge


Anna Maria Pier

Ever since we discovered Dan at Siesta Key Paddleboards, we rent boards from him each year. He delivers the boards to us at Turtle Beach and we paddle through the canals to a secluded beach that only boaters frequent. Recently, a friend asked me if there are alligators in the canals. This is salt water and the gators prefer brackish water so no, we have never seen an alligator here…thankfully. We did see a dolphin in the canal, however.


Our man, Dan, setting us up with paddleboards


Paddleboarding fun

It’s always fun to see friends from home while we’re in Florida. We visited Gail’s friends, Jenny and Jeff, who now live full-time in Venice and my friends, Nancy and Jamie, who winter at a golf community just south of Siesta Key. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit our friends, Deb and Dan, in Naples this year but we hope to see them soon.


Jenny and Jeff


Nancy and Jamie

Finally, we had some outstanding meals during our stay.  Casey Key Fish House and Indigenous were my favorites.



Gail and I have been friends for over 50 years. Check back in the next 50 for more of our adventures together on Siesta Key and beyond.

Based on events from March 2016.


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Solo on Siesta Key

My friend, Gail, and I have spent a week together in Florida at Sarasota or on Siesta Key in March for the past 5 years. In 2016, in order to extend my stay to two weeks, I planned to spend the first 4 days alone. Most condos in Siesta Key rent by the week from Saturday to Saturday and Gail couldn’t get there until Wednesday. I’ve never particularly aspired to solo traveling but my husband consistently declines to join us on this trip. Regarding the opportunity as a growth experience, I was willing to give it a try to get out of the winter cold in north Iowa for a little longer.

In the past, I’ve flown into Tampa, met Gail at the airport, picked up our rental car, and Gail drove the 72 miles south to Siesta Key. This time, I flew into St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport where I found a cheaper flight and picked up my rental car and faced my first challenge with trepidation: driving the Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay. As a recovering acrophobe, I knew this would be a definite test. Frankly, I was very nervous and I talked out loud to myself to calm my fears. Meanwhile, Siri was also talking out loud to give me directions on my I-phone. Safely taking a photo under those conditions  would have been totally impossible for me so the pic below was taken 2 weeks later on the way back to the airport with Gail driving. (As you can see, it was also raining so it was a good time to leave.)


I made it! The worst part was in my head– seeing it and thinking about it. Actually doing it wasn’t nearly as bad.

After a stop at the grocery store in Sarasota, I headed out to the island to check into La Siesta Condominiums. Aah…that view. Yes, I know there’s a pool, a clubhouse, a street, and a parking lot between me and the Gulf but it’s heaven to me.


Our view

I planned to return my rental car the following morning in Sarasota and walk back to Siesta Key. Until Gail arrived I would relax on the island, walk the beach, eat my meals on the lanai with a view, read a little and write a lot.


Our condo


Kitchen at the condo


My workspace


Siesta Key Beach


Breakfast at the beach


Beautiful Siesta Key Beach


Gulf view from Siesta Key Beach


Day’s end on Siesta Key

So how do I feel about solo traveling? It’s definitely not my preference. Although I’m perfectly capable of entertaining myself and I love to spend time alone especially in the morning, I tend to do less when I’m alone. That’s probably because I’m kind of a scaredy cat and somewhat shy. So I did the things I enjoy doing alone like walking the beach, meditating, reading, and writing, but I didn’t go out to eat or socialize. If I traveled alone more often or for longer periods, I’d have to make a greater effort to plan activities to prevent feeling isolated. Fortunately, I have several great travel partners so, at least at this stage of my life, I won’t be traveling solo too often.


Based on events from March 2016.

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One More Puerto Aventuras Post

It’s time to move on. But before we do, I want to share several miscellaneous recollections from Puerto Aventuras.

Super Chedraui is the supermarket located outside the gates of PA, certainly within walking distance for us although the highway is rather busy.  They stock everything we needed including great fresh produce, wine, and beer. A word of caution: our debit card was skimmed probably at the ATM outside the store so be careful! If possible, get local currency from an ATM at a bank before you arrive because there are no banks in PA.

If the supermarket isn’t your thing, check out the farmer’s market held in the heart of PA on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. The produce looked the same as the grocery store (and maybe it was) but it was a convenient location. This is cash only, however, so bring pesos.


Farmer’s Market in Puerto Aventuras


Lots of fresh produce

Speaking of food, the best thing I ate in Puerto Aventuras was the fresh dorado, aka mahi-mahi or dolphin fish, that we purchased at the marina directly from a fishing boat. For 350 pesos (about $18 U.S.) the three of us ate fresh fish for three meals. That’s just $2 per person per meal! The entertainment value of using my simple Spanish to talk him into selling us that fish and then watching him filet it before our eyes was worth every peso, too.


Fileting the dorado we purchased


Our first meal of fresh dorado

The restaurants in PA offer basic food for a decent price. If you’re a foodie, however, you may want to search further afield for that “to die for” dish. The fresh locally sourced fish is always a good choice but often under-seasoned. Ask for pico de gallo to add some flavor. That said, we discovered Restaurante Dos Aguas that served an excellent paella with an outstanding Spanish tempranillo wine. I hope it’s still open next time.


Fresh fish at the restaurant in the Omni Hotel


Paella at Restaurante Dos Aguas


Picaña a la piedra at Restaurante Dos Aguas


Tres amigos al Restaurante Dos Aguas

As we walked to the gates of PA to catch the Colectivo (bus) to Tulum for a day trip to the beach, we stopped to watch pétanque for a while. Pétanque is a French game, very similar to the Italian bocce. On our next visit, I want to find out more about opportunities to play.


Pétanque in PA

Speaking of our day trip to Tulum, we fell in love with the beach the previous year and went back for a repeat experience. Sadly, the restaurant where we rented beach chairs for the day no longer existed. After a thorough search, we settled for a recently opened replacement.


Beach chairs at Tulum available when you purchase food


Fish tacos—it’s what’s for lunch


Playa Esperanza at Tulum


Jim and Laura at the beach at Tulum

For Jim and Gail, the perfect ending to each day in Puerto Aventuras was a visit to Jesse Gelato, where they make their own delicious products. I think they tried something different each night but they would tell you it was all good with large portions at low prices.


As I review my recollections of Puerto Aventuras, I am reminded of the beautiful views, lovely beaches, balmy winter temperatures, and low-key atmosphere. I’m excited to return in January 2017.


Dawn breaks on our last morning in paradise


Based on events of January 2016.







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Sailing Fat Cat from Puerto Aventuras

If you’re looking for a fun-filled sailing experience while visiting the Riviera Maya, check out Fat Cat Catamaran and Sailing Tours. For $100 per person, we got a four-hour sailing experience that included drinks, lunch, music, snorkeling, swimming, and even the catch of a dorado.


Our catamaran, Fat Cat Two

As we set sail at 9 am, most of the passengers were ready to party to the thumping dance music with drinks in hand–rum punch or beer. While I don’t usually succumb to sea sickness, I felt that alcohol so early in the day combined with motion might not set well on my stomach so I declined the offer and stuck with water until after lunch. My friend Gail definitely tends toward sea sickness so she abstained with me. I admit when drinks are included, there’s some pressure to imbibe, just to “get your money’s worth” but the seas were a little rough and I think it was a wise choice for both of us.


Gail showing a Corona Mega


Setting sail


Jim as we set sail


Out of the marina and into the open water

After sailing north toward Playa del Carmen for an hour or more, we anchored to snorkel. I snorkeled briefly but then returned to the boat to take photos instead. Someday I’m going to get a waterproof camera and take photos while in the water.


Our group snorkeling


Gail snorkeling


Gail returns to the boat


Jim snorkeling


Jim returns to the boat

While in the warm, crystal-clear water, the snorkelers saw many varieties of colorful reef fish, stingrays, and sea turtles. When they were finished, everyone had worked up an appetite and it was time for lunch. The others had a typical sack lunch containing sandwiches, chips, and cookies but I requested a gluten-free lunch and I was thrilled with my offering of tuna, lettuce, tomato, and avocado.


My lunch 

After lunch, we headed back at a leisurely pace.


Jim enjoying the ride


Enjoying a rum punch on the return trip

The fishing lines were trolling off the rear of the boat and we were thrilled to watch the staff land a dorado, also called mahi-mahi in Hawaii or dolphinfish in other places.  In Spanish, dorado means golden which perfectly describes this tasty fish. Everyone who cared to was offered the opportunity to pose with the fish.


Gail with the dorado


Jim with the dorado


Laura (me) with dorado

We made a final stop near our marina for swimming. While there we discovered one of the other passengers onboard was a firefighter from Iowa who knows my brother through rugby. I’m always amazed by the connections we find with people as we chat.


Swimming off the boat


My handsome man

As we sailed into the channel to the marina, I got a photo of our condo from the water.


View of our condo as we sail into the marina

It was a great day at sea and Jim was already talking about going again next year.


Based on events from January 2016.





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Beach Day at Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is one of the top destinations on the Riviera Maya and while I’d been through there several times on my way to other places, I’d never spent any time there. It was time to correct that omission.

We took the colectivo, a mini bus that shuttles locals and tourists along the Riviera Maya, from Puerto Aventuras north to Playa del Carmen for 25 pesos (around $1.40).


Colectivo that shuttles people up and down the Riviera Maya

The bus dropped us a couple blocks from the beach. We passed the main shopping street, Fifth Avenue, but we were intent on finding a spot in the sand so we postponed any shopping until later.


Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen

Portal Maya, one entrance to the beach, was built in 2012 to commemorate the end of the Maya calendar. You may recall the Maya calendar ended on the winter solstice, December 21, in 2012, which resulted in many doomsday predictions but needless to say, they were wrong.


Portal Maya

I’m a shade lover so we found beach chairs with an umbrella that we could occupy for free as long as we ordered food from Wah Wah Beach Bar. Gail, on the other hand, stretched her towel out on the sand in the hot sunshine.


Jim and our beach chairs under the umbrella on Play del Carmen


Our view

As we explored the beach, we spied the pier to the south where the ferries to Cozumel arrive and depart. Next year maybe we’ll check out Cozumel for a day trip.


Pier at Playa del Carmen

Walking the playa, Spanish for beach, is a good way to explore the area while getting some sun and exercise at the same time.


Looking north on the beach


Playa del Carmen


Walking the playa

I’ve always had a special affinity for lighthouses so I was charmed when I spotted the one below, called Faro Lighthouse. Faro means lighthouse in Spanish.


El Faro (Spanish for lighthouse)


Fishing and snorkeling boats


Boats tied up on shore

At the end of a perfectly gorgeous day on the playa, we wandered back to Fifth Avenue. You can find all the usual souvenirs along this street but there are also some higher end shops and plenty of restaurants, too. Jim and Gail had to try out the gelato but found it was more expensive than their favorite, Jessie’s, in Puerto Aventuras.


Gail and Jim on Fifth Avenue


Fifth Avenue


Shops on Fifth Avenue

Overall, I would recommend a visit to Playa del Carmen if you’re seeking a party atmosphere with lots of people and action. It was fun to visit for the day but at the end of the day, we were happy to return to quiet, laid-back Puerto Aventuras.

Based on events from January 2016.

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Stinking and Sinking in Puerto Aventuras

Our condo at Chac Hal Al overlooked Bahia de Fatima, a beautiful, serene bay with clear cerulean water perfect for swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, or paddle boarding. For the less active, it was a beautiful setting for sunbathing or just sitting in the shade of a palm tree or palapa with a good book or a cocktail.


Bahia de Fátima (Fatima Bay) from our beach


Báhia de Fátima (Fatima Bay) from our balcony


Swimmers and snorkelers at the beach


Gail paddle boarding


Jim chillaxin’ poolside with a view of the bay


Gail sunbathing on the beach


Jim with a view of the pool and the bay


Time for nachos and Coronitas


My view

Idyllic, wouldn’t you agree? That is until our idyll was disturbed by two events. The first disruption occurred when we observed this.


What looked like brown seaweed invaded the peaceful azure waters and definitely discouraged water activities. My research revealed it was sargassum or sargasso seaweed, which is an increasingly common problem in the Caribbean. The free-floating algae originate in the Sargasso Sea located in the Bermuda Triangle of the North Atlantic. While its existence is nothing new, the amount has increased dramatically and may be attributed to the warming of the ocean due to global climate change. In normal amounts, sargassum provides habitat for lots of marine life including hatching sea turtles but the massive amounts washing ashore today can adversely impact tourism. Clogging the water, it discourages swimmers and snorkelers and the smell as it deteriorates drives away beach-lovers.

I was impressed to see residents and employees working side by side to rake and bag the sargassum and haul it away from the beach. Soon they had the beach looking pristine again and ready for activities. We did, however, observe sargassum at other beaches along the Riviera Maya during our stay so I wonder how they are dealing with the issue.


Jim walking back from the area where clean-up occurred

The next puzzling event occurred when we noticed a large ship which appeared offshore in Bahia de Fatima.


Large ship in Bahia Fátima

After several days continued presence, we asked a local realtor that paddle boarded to our beach about it. She said a Mexican Navy ship hit the reef and sank. I posted a teaser on Facebook and Twitter that a blog post would follow. This is finally that post.

We still didn’t know the full story. Why was the large ship there? Day after day, when I saw it was still there, I wondered what it was doing and how long it would continue to be present. It dominated our view and became a daily topic of conversation.


Mexican Navy Ship


View of the navy ship from our upstairs balcony

We even discussed it over cocktails at the Omni swim-up bar.


Our view of the navy ship from the swim-up bar at the Omni Hotel

And then it was gone and the drama ended. We finally learned from reading the local paper, The Pelican Free Press, a Polaris Patrol Interceptor boat lost power causing it to hit the reef. It was hung up on the reef for several days, where Jim first saw it, but it sank when it was pulled from the rocks. Salvage operations first centered around removing equipment and weapons from the boat. The Mexican Navy’s second largest multipurpose logistical ship, a BAL-02, equipped with a hoist arrived to refloat the sunken ship and tow her in for repairs.

Life on Bahia Fátima returned to its previous undisturbed halcyon state. But I’m sure the tourists and locals who were there sometimes say, “Remember when…”


Next time: Playa del Carmen

Based on events from January 2016.



Categories: History, Mexico, natural history, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Miss Chichen Itza

The Maya are an indigenous Mesoamerican people whose civilization flourished as long ago as 1800 B.C. in southeastern Mexico and the northern areas of Central America in Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Honduras and El Salvador. The city of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula was established by the Maya people in the first half of the 5th century A.D. and was the center of civilization until its decline around 1200 A.D.

I’ve been to Mexico many times and I’ve visited the Maya archeological site at Tulum but this was my first visit to Chichen Itza. When I discovered it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, I was keen to see it. Our guide, Norma, provided many details about the Maya and the structures we viewed. For example, the Maya grew cacao for a chocolate drink, they had a complex written language recorded in books, they were brilliant astronomers, and played a game on a large court putting a ball through a hoop.

There are many descendants of the Maya people still residing in the Yucatan and their homes continue to be organically constructed of earth or wood with thatched roofs as shown in the photo below.


Typical Maya dwelling

As we entered Chichen Itza, the main thoroughfare was lined with vendors selling their wares. We were on a tour with a guide so there was no opportunity to shop at that time even though we had learned to ask in Mayan, “Bahoosh?” (how much).


Vendors lining the entrance to Chichen Itza


High Priest’s Grave


Wall along the Great Ball Court



Ruin at Chichen Itza



Norma, our guide


Caracol, an observatory for astronomy


Las Monjas


Path through the jungle at Chichen Itza

The iconic El Castillo, or Pyramid of Kukulcan, is the building everyone goes to Chichen Itza to see. The four sides of this temple each contain 91 steps which total 364 plus one single step at the top for a grand total of 365 steps which equal the number of days in the Mayan calendar. I was under the incorrect assumption that we could climb to the top and felt some trepidation at the thought. A friend of mine told me about the experience. She said the steps were so narrow and steep that coming down she had to sit on the staircase and ease down step by step. Thankfully, visitors are no longer allowed to climb so we dodged that bullet.


The Temple of Kukulcan or El Castillo


Temple of Kukulkan behind us

Following our tour of Chichen Itza, we had a tasty buffet lunch at a restaurant designed to feed busloads of tourists.


Fresh tortillas for lunch


Buffet for a multitude

Following lunch, we stopped at Ik Kil for a swim in one of the most beautiful cenotes I’ve seen. A cenote is a sinkhole where the Maya and others located their towns to have a supply of fresh water available.


Ik Kil


Ik Kil

We declined to swim but enjoyed the experience, nevertheless. And best of all, Norma advised us before leaving the bus to be back by 2:30 saying, “If you’re not back on time, it’s okay.  We’ll be back here in two days and we’ll pick you up then.” No one was late!

Based on events from January 2016.




Categories: History, Mexico, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Behaving Badly in Puerto Aventuras

We enjoyed our week in Puerto Aventuras on the Mayan Riviera of Mexico in January 2015 so much that we returned in January 2016 and extended our stay to two weeks. (If you want to read my previous posts about Puerto Aventuras, check posts from February and March 2015.) In the several days before our friend, Gail, joined us, we got reacquainted with Puerto Aventuras; walked to the grocery store, Super Chedraui, to stock up on essentials; discovered a Starbucks; and even found a Zumba class.


View from our condo


View of Dolphin Discovery from Hoo Haa Restaurant


Sea Lions at Dolphin Discovery


Marina at Puerto Aventuras


Cannon outside the National Museum of Underwater Archeology


Marina at Puerto Aventuras


Our condo at Chac Al Hal is on the right side upper 2 floors


No explanation required


Beach in front of our condo




Guacamole on the balcony


Iguana sunning itself


Party boat leaving the marina


Dinner at Dos Chiles





Knowing  our friend, Gail, wouldn’t care to accompany us, we decided to take a bus tour to Chichen Itza before she arrived. We booked our tour through Paradise Tours located in the lobby of the Omni Hotel. For $85 per person, our package included narrated bus transportation, entrance to Chichen Itza with a guided tour, buffet lunch on the return trip, and a stop at a cenote for a swim. As it turned out, we got even more for our money.

A 12 passenger van picked us up promptly at the Omni and then picked up another couple at a nearby resort. The driver stopped next at Barceló Resort but the passengers were not waiting. What?!!? The driver got on his phone, drove around the resort a bit, waited some more, walked around looking for them, walked inside the resort lobby, and phoned some more. Meanwhile, we were worried we’d miss our connection with the tour bus and I was getting more annoyed by the minute. This is why I usually avoid tours; there’s always someone that keeps the group waiting.

When the young couple finally appeared a half hour late and climbed into the van laughing and chatting, oblivious to their inconsideration, something in me snapped. Honestly, if they had apologized or seemed contrite or abashed, I’d have swallowed my irritation but instead, I blurted, “I hope you were sick in the bathroom and aren’t just an a**hole making us wait.” Oops. I couldn’t believe I’d said it. The words just escaped from my mouth. My bad. And their bad certainly didn’t excuse my bad.  I heard Pete, from the seat behind us, gasp and say quietly to his wife, “And you think I’m outspoken.”

Well, we made our connection with the bus but when we got there, the guide took us and the couple that made us wait aside. I thought, “Uh-oh, now what?” The guide told us that everyone else on the tour had paid more for their package which included breakfast and snacks and they would give us the same extras at no additional charge but not to say anything to the others. Then they seated us together, with a table between us facing each other. Awkward. I was somewhat embarrassed and when I introduced myself, my husband offered, “You can just call her A**hole.” Thankfully, that broke the tension and we had a pleasant 2-hour ride to Chichen Itza. We also enjoyed the additional perquisites including  Coronitas, little Coronas which are just the right size to take the edge off an awkward situation.


So tell me what you think. Whether you think I was horribly rude or just a little out of line, feel free to weigh in below in the comments. Has anything like this happened to you on a tour?

Up next time: Chichen Itza

Based on events from January 2016.


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Aloha ‘Oe, Hawaii

One of the challenges faced by cruise passengers is what to do with luggage while sightseeing before or after a cruise. Most airports no longer offer lockers due to security issues. If you have a hotel reserved, they’ll usually keep your bags until check-in but if not, what’s a tourist to do? We decided to rent a car to store our luggage while we toured Oahu upon our return to Honolulu. For around $50, we had wheels for the day and storage for our bags while we waited for our evening flight.

As soon as our cruise ship, the Pride of America, docked, we took a taxi from the port to the Honolulu Airport to pick up our car. Happy to have the protection of our own vehicle due to intermittent rain showers throughout the day, we headed across the lush Koolau Mountains to the Kamehameha Highway on the windward side of the island.


Koolau Mountains

The Kamehameha Highway follows the coastline with plenty of stopping points to capture the incredibly beautiful views.




Water view along Kamehameha Highway

We stopped at the ruins of the Kualoa Sugar Mill in the Kaaawa Valley of the Koolau Mountains where the scenery looked like Jurassic Park, probably because the movie was filmed in this area. The first sugar mill on Oahu, Kualoa Sugar Mill was built in the early 1860’s and abandoned in the 1870’s because there wasn’t enough rain in the area to grow sugar. Who’d have thought?



Koolau Mountains with ruins of the Kualoa Sugar Mill


Ruins of Kualoa Sugar Mill

We stopped next at the Polynesian Cultural Center but alas, it wasn’t open yet. The “cultural” part of the name attracted us but honestly, it was more of a theme park. We read some of the cultural and historical signs and left before they opened.

After meandering up the eastern coast, we finally arrived at the famous North Shore, home of the perfect wave for surfers. The Van’s Triple Crown of Surfing, a three event men’s professional competition has been held on the North Shore each year since 1983 and in 2015, the dates of the competition were November 12 through December 20. We happened to be there on November 21 toward the end of the second crown, the Van’s Cup of World Surfing, which took place on Sunset Beach. Too bad we didn’t see any action that morning.



Sunset Beach



Sunset Beach, home of Van’s World Cup of Surfing



View from Kamehameha Highway

Waimea Valley Park with a hike to the famous Waimea Falls was on our to-do list but untimely showers made the 1.5 mile hike unappealing. We walked around the botanical garden a bit and then stopped at Waimea Bay Beach in time to see blue skies briefly.



Hawaiian vegetation at Waiamea Gardens 


Waimea Bay Beach

The rock at Waimea Bay Beach in the photo below provides a popular albeit dangerous attractive hazard that locals climb then jump into the water. We didn’t see anyone up there that morning so maybe the tide was too low.

Version 2

The rain returned as we drove through the North Shore town of Haleiwa. Further exploration including a shaved ice would have to wait for next time.



We skipped the Dole Pineapple Plantation  this trip but it’s wildly popular among families, entertaining and educating one million visitors each year. Jim and I were there in 2003 with our teenagers and enjoyed the experience. We did, however, see lots of pineapple fields and snapped a few photos. We also ate every bit of fresh pineapple offered to us while in Hawaii. Yum.


Pineapple Fields

After our drive to the North Shore, we headed to the Dole Cannery in Honolulu, once the largest pineapple cannery in the world, now a retail space containing a movie theater with 18 screens. Our friend, Rick, discovered a film festival that he was keen to check out.


The restored Dole Cannery


Rick ready to see a film at the Hawaii International Film Festival

While Rick attended a more artistic film, Lori, Jim, and I watched the last movie in the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 2. Afterward, we stopped by Max’s for an outstanding Filipino dinner prior to our long foodless flight home.


Outside a Filipino restaurant, Max’s


Inside Max’s


Tasty Filipino chicken adobo


Filipino veggies

The tradition of throwing lei into the water dates back to the early 1900’s. Upon leaving Hawaii by boat, visitors threw their lei into the water to return it to Hawaii as they hoped one day, they, too, would return. Leaving by plane and not knowing whether it’s allowable to toss our lei from the Pride of America, we simply left them behind to signal our intention to return one day.


The remains of our beautiful lei

Aloha ‘oe (farewell to you), Hawaii. A hui hou (until we meet again). (🤘🏽🤘🏽🤘🏽shaka, shaka)

Listen to Elvis sing Aloha Oe from the movie, Blue Hawaii,  here.


Based on events from November 2015.

Categories: cruise, History, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Na Pali Coast of Kauai

The iconic Na Pali Coast on the north shore of Kauai is only accessible by boat or air. Well, except for that treacherous 11-mile hiking trail that didn’t especially appeal to us. Fortunately for us, the Pride of America was scheduled to sail along the 17-mile coastline of Na Pali. We were excited to experience sublime views of the emerald-green cliffs on our last day aboard the NCL Pride of America. Unfortunately for us, the weather did not cooperate.  Our first view looked like this.

IMG_9139 (1)

Approaching the Na Pali Coast

The coastline was almost completely obscured by clouds. As we got closer, they began to dissipate a bit but our views remained misty at best.


Low clouds on the Napali Coast


The first bit of green appears before our wondering eyes

We made the best of the situation, however, and enjoyed what we could see. Actually, in retrospect, I think it was fortunate that we initially thought we’d see nothing because then we appreciated what we did see so much more.


Misty Na Pali Coast


Closer view through the mist and low clouds


Na Pali Coast


Looking up the valley along the Na Pali Coast


Another view


Na Pali means cliffs–you can see why


My favorite view of Na Pali coast

We had considered a helicopter or a catamaran tour but I’m glad we didn’t spend the money in view of the weather. The fact that our tour was included in our cruise made us feel like we got something extra. The captain of the Pride of America tried so hard to get us close enough to the shore to see the amazing lush vegetation and velvety emerald cliffs through the mist. We tell people if you haven’t experienced surreal Na Pali in the mist, you haven’t seen Na Pali. But I know I’ll go back  hoping to see Na Pali on a crystal clear day.


Based on events from November 2015.


Categories: cruise, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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