If you are in Monterey, I recommend you to hire a car and drive through the 17-Mile Beach Drive to Pebble Beach. The 7-Mile Drive is popularly known as one of the most scenic drives in US. Whilst driving, Every turn presents an awe-inspiring vista. The scenic coastal road extends through Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, from the dramatic Pacific coastline to the majestic Del Monte Forest. The spectacular coastline passes famous golf courses, grand mansions and picturesque sceneries of some of the California’s nature’s treasures including The Lone Cypress – one of California’s best-known landmarks (it has prevailed on its perch for over 250 years); Spanish Bay – a scenic picnic stop and a beautiful place to stroll around the coastline, Cypress Point Lookout and Carmel Bay. You can also see the emerald fairways of The Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill and the world-renowned golf course – The Lodge which was built in 1919, The Lodge is the heart and soul of Pebble Beach and home to the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links. It is open to the public and it offers a variety of dining and shopping options.
Monterey Bay Coastal Trail stretches up to 18 miles along the coast of Monterey. However, we didn’t have the time to walk the long stretch so we only walked 6.5 miles return. We started the walk at sunrise from Fisherman’s Wharf to Monterey Bay Aquarium then back. It was a reasonably short walk for us however, we tasted the fresh ocean breeze and enjoyed the stunning views. Every mile offers a scenic view of the ocean against the beautiful houses sitting on the cliffs, colourful flora and fauna and wildlife including harbor seals, sea otters, sea lions and birds.
Monterey is a beautiful coastal city of California and could make for a great two day trip for those visiting San Francisco (just a little over 2hrs drive) or Los Angeles (just under 5 hrs drive) which is exactly what I did when I was at Los Anegeles.It is best known for its beautiful coastline and its world-renowned aquarium including Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat. You can enjoy actvities such as going to the beach, kayaking, scuba diving, surfing and whale watching in and around Monterey. There are also land-based actvities such as playing golf at the legendary gold courses or visit The Lodge and the popular 19th hole; shopping at Cannery Row which is lined with shops, hotels and reastaurants and driving the spectacular coastline to Big Sur. From Cannery Row, you can walk the scenic Monterey Coastal Trail to Fisherman’s Wharf. Along the coastal walk, you will see harbour seals, sea otters and pelicans in natural habitats on the beautiful waterfront of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. There is certainly something for everyone in this beautiful town.
Hiking to the La Mina Falls. 2.5kms return.
It appears to be that all the tourists and the locals decided to go to La Mina Falls that day. We all had the same idea.
El Yunque National Rainforest is at Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. It covers 28,000 acres and receiving more than 200 inches of rain per year. If you love the nature and enjoy hiking, it’s worth a visit. We did the La Mina Trail which I think is an easy grade. It is narrow and paved and may require stepping off the paved track to let an oncoming traffic pass. Don’t wait to go for swim at La Mina Falls because it can get really packed when you get there unless you get there early. Go and swin at the water holes you will pass by. I think it would be more enjoyable than sharing the waterfall with a hundred and one tourists.
Loquillo Beach is located at at East Of San Juan via the Coastal Highway. We came here to cool-down after a hike in El Yunque Rainforest. It is one of the most popular and nicest public beaches in the San Juan. The beach provides huge majestic coconut palms shades along the beach of fine and shimmering sand. It’s a nice clean beach. However, it’s not white sand so it’s not particularly inviting to me. I’ve been spoilt with white sand beaches in Australia.
Old San Juan lies on a small and narrow island in the north coast of Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is a an incredibly colourful towm and a tourists favourite in all of Puerto Rico eventhough it does not offer any natural beauty so to speak. However it boasts its over 500 years of history, its historic and beautiful colonial architecture, colourful vibes, lively and festive Hispanic culture and an inexplicable magic that makes it one of the most enchanting destinations in the Caribbean. We spent so many fabulous hours just walking around the walled city.
We visited the amazing and massive Fortresses such as El Morro and La Forteza, we dined out at the popular Fortaleza Street, we took a sunset stroll along Paseo La Princesa to the Gate of San Juan and enjoyed the souvenir night market on the weekend. We skipped the salsa dancing due to tiredness. Being in Puerto Rico during the Easter Holidays, we were also lucky to witness the parade of Easter Re-enactment of Jesus Christ Crucifixion.
I love the different colours of the doors in Old San Juan.
The fortress is one of the most impressive and most popular historic site on the island, encapsulating Puerto Rico’s role as a guardian of the New World. Anyone who visits Old San Juan simply cannot leave without visiting El Morro. Within these walls, you could easily sense the awesome power this bastion of defense once commanded, and you can bear witness to nearly half a century of military history that began with the Spanish conquistadores and ended with World War II. It’s an amazing structure coupled with stunning views of the ocean.
Condado Beach is a beach that extends for several miles east of downtown Old San Juan. It is lined with high-rise resorts and populated with sun worshippers. This part of San Juan is perfect for tourists. The beach is nice, clean and the water is warm and crystal clear. The main street (Ashford Avenue) has plenty of restaurants and shops. However, I must say that I’ve been to Bahamas and I’ve been to the South Pacific. I am from Australia. Given that, this Beach is pretty average to me.
I went to Macau as a side trip from my Hong Kong visit. Macau is a city of contrast. The city has the fortresses, churches and food of its former colonial master Portugal and on the other, Macau is unashamedly and popularly known as the Las Vegas of the East. It took an hour ferry ride to get to Macau. As soon as we got off the ferry, the poorer infrastructure and facilities were evident by the stench around the wharf and unhygienic toilet facilities. We were greeted by many overbearing overseas Filipino workers desperately moonlighting as tourist guides.
The Portuguese influence is evident in the main part of the city. They have cobbled back streets, baroque churches, stone fortresses, Art Deco buildings and restful parks and gardens. The fusion of East and West in culture and architecture is interestingly unique. The architecture of the casinos were mostly Las Vegas copies. Given that I have been to Las Vegas myself and have seen the real deal, the sight of the casinos in Macau made me feel that they were almost like fake designer copies. It’s not a city I would recommend as a must-see But if you are in Hong Kong. Macau is another city to see to add to your travel tally.
TIP: You can use the free casino transports to go around the town. You can take them from the Port and from the casinos.
I have never really thought of Hong Kong as a major destination but a place to chill and break the 24-hour flight before a more desirable journey to Europe. It is a place with multiple personalities, as a result of being both Cantonese Chinese and under a contemporary ex-British influence. The mixture of both cultures are evident in most aspects of the city and its people.
My initial acquaintance with Hong Kong was a bit overwhelming. I had to quickly learn how to navigate around the tightly packed and crowded sidewalks with neon signages at every corner that almost looks like a red light district minus the girls selling male gratification.
The city is surprisingly safe and wonderfully well organised. It offers multiple moments of designer shopping perfection and if you can’t afford the real deal, there are plenty of copies at bargain prices at the markets.
Hong Kong also offers simple pleasures of affordable cultural experiences like a $2 tram or ferry ride, tasty authentic Chinese food from the side streets restaurants, a whiff of incense curling from temple rafters, savouring fishing-village sundowners and fresh seafood – that are wonderful experiences of priceless memories.
I must say that there are many historic and interesting things to do and see from Disneyland to Fishing Villages to Chinese Temples and the rest. But I didn’t do all that. I was there to go shopping.
TIP: When buying electronics goods, make sure that you know exactly which model you want to get and your local price for that model. They are not necessarily cheaper in Hong Kong particularly if you are an ignorant tourist. Some shop assistants are opportunists.
Negril is a small lively town in Jamaica which is only about one hour and fifteen minutes drive from Sir Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. If you want to party in Jamaica, it is the best place to be. The laid back and relaxed atmosphere during the day transforms into a reggae and energetic dance parties at night. The small town features a calm 11km-long white sandy beach with eternally warm crystal-clear turquoise coloured water which is apparently rated as one of the top ten beaches in the world. The town is populated with many resorts along beautiful cliffs where you can watch the vivid colour palette of orange and yellow sunsets. It is one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in my life. Given that tourism is the main livelihood in this town, there is a friendly rapport between the visitors and locals, however, as a tourist (–like in any other popular touristy part of the world), be prepared to be treated like a walking wallet. Every Jamaican hustler would want a share of your dollar. Be wary but enjoy the tourist ride.
Our time in Negril was short. We hired a driver and his van for the day to take us around Negril and at the end of the day, we could see the famous 35-feet cliff diving by the locals and tourists alike as well as the world famous breathtaking sunset from Rick’s Cafe. The Cafe is located right on the cliff. It has a bar, a restaurant and a pool which boast a spectacular view of the ocean. It was amazing to watch the brave tourist cliff-divers and the Rick’s Cafe’s skilled divers showing off their daring talent. Watching the risky diving would certainly put back ‘awe’ in awesome. It’s a thrilling experience in itself. The local divers ask for donations and would only jump when they have received enough.
TIP: It is strongly recommended that you arrive at the Cafe in time for sunset or even earlier to grab a good spot at the bar. It can get extremely busy as the sunset is a popular tourist destination in itself and there are many tours that do just that. The sunset ambience presents true Jamaican vibe whilst you listen to a live reggae band playing in the background.
Montego Bay is a slice of tropical paradise in Jamaica and it is popularly known for its energetic vibe, its natural beauty and its friendly and relaxed Rastafarian culture. You can easily picture yourself soaking up the sunny vivid blue sky on perfectly white sandy beaches whilst cooling down with scrumptious Bob Marley cocktails until the sun goes down. The town is equally a party town for the North Americans in their Spring Break and as a destination for those who seek a quiet R & R’s. It offers a variety of water sports activities for visitors such crystal clear-water snorkeling, scuba-diving, kayaking and sailing as well as diverse nightlife and duty-free shopping. The big all-inclusive resorts are located well outside the city. The city itself, however, is an entirely different face – it is a bustling mix of cars and people with all the discomfort that comes with it which gives you an uncensored and gritty slice of Jamaican life.
Mo Bay (as locals call it) offers Doctor’s Cave beach and it is one of the most famous beaches in Jamaica. The beach is clean and has beautiful warm turquoise-coloured water. It is open to the public. Snorkelling and scuba-diving gears can be hired here.
We took a day trip to the famous Dunn Waterfalls in Ocho Rios which took us just over 1.5 hours to get there. The Dunn Waterfalls is 180 feet high and 600 feet long. The waterfalls are terraced like stairs and the waterfalls down cascade beautifully. There are a number of small lagoons that are interspersed among the vertical sections of the falls. We joined a tour group to climb up the waterfalls which is a popular tourist activity. It took about 1.5 hours to climb with short breaks for photographs and video recordings taken by the guides. There are stairs located along the waterfalls, for those who do not want to get wet or are unable to manage the climb on the rocky, uneven and slippery terrain of the actual waterfalls. We climbed up the waterfalls like a hand-holding human chain led by our funny tour guide. The climb is relatively hard particularly if you are unfit and the hand-holding chain provides a bit more stability. It was recommended not to take a camera so I didn’t (hence, the google images) but the tour guides took photographs and videos.
TIP: All inclusive accommodation is recommended.
Clifton Gardens is located in Mosman which is one of the affluent suburbs North of Sydney. Clifton Gardens is a beautiful family park with a stunning view of Chowder Bay. The park features a relatively small beach and a netted swimming bath which is perfect for young children and it is enclosed by a wharf which is popular for fishing enthusiasts. There is no waves in this beach as it is sheltered by the cliffs on both ends of the park. The park has a huge grass area for family picnics with many undercover table seatings. It has electric barbecue facilities with many taps and bubblers scattered around. It also offers a covered and sheltered playground for the little ones as well as a path for little bike, skateboard and scooter riders.
On the Southern end of the park, there is a walking track that will take you to Taronga Zoo. On the Northen end of the park towards Bacino Cafe, if you head up towards Ripples Restaurant or the scuba diving school, you will find a walking track that will take you to Balmoral Beach.
Tip: In Summer months, this park can get really busy, however, the carpark is quite small. It is recommended to come here early, otherwise, you will end up parking on the hilly streets along the residential area. The parking is not free either.
Chichen Itza (means “at the mouth of the well of Itza “) is the most famous and best restored among the Mayan ruins in Yucatán, Mexico and it is 2nd most visited archeological site of Mexico. We took a luxury bus tour from Cancun that served as unlimited shots of tequila and Mexican beer. The tour guide was almost funny with his memorized punchlines. On the way, we stopped at probably one of the biggest souvenir shops in Yucatan.
The Chichen Itza archaeological site contains numerous ruins built by the Maya civilization around 1000 years ago. Chichen Itza was tremendously overcrowded. Every man and his dog was there to gawk at one of the seven wonders of the world. The restoration and the history behind it will impress even the most jaded tourist. The mysteries of the Mayan astronomical calendar were articulately explained by our tourist guide and were made clear when one understands the design of the ‘time temples’. Other than a few minor passageways, climbing on the structures is not allowed. The central building of the site is the remarkable Kukulcán Pyramid or El Castillo (The Castle). Its four sides contain 365 steps (depicting the solar year), 52 panels (for each year in the Mayan century as well as each week in the solar year) and 18 terraces (for the 18 months in the religious year). Not considering the Louvre Pyramid in Paris and Luxor Pyramid in Las Vegas, this the first pyramid I saw.
Chichen Itza was also populated by hawkers and tacky souvenirs vendors and we were warned to just ignore them particularly if they are shouting that the souvenirs only cost $1. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience to see this spectacular wonder even though our Mexican experience has third world inconveniences and we knew we were consistently and blatantly ripped off, the trip was certainly worth it.
TIP: Never go there in Mexican Summer. The killer heat will…kill you. Bring a hat, sunscreen and lots of water.
Isla Mujeres is 30 minutes to an hour ferry ride from Cancun depending on which ferry you ended up onboarding. It is an island off Cancun. It’s small and reasonable quiet. If you decide to check out the markets, the persistent shop assistants from the tacky souvenirs shops are unavoidable. There are many restaurants along the beach ready to provide good customer service and serve a variety of delicious Mexican cocktails with mozarella sticks and bufallo chicken wings. You will also find roaming Mexican female masseuse offering a nice relaxing massage whilst you smell the scent of sea salt and listen to the waves of the Carribean Sea. Ahhh, life is good.
TIP: The price of the huts for hire along the beach are included in your minimum food order.
In the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula lies a major world-renowned tourist destination that is Cancun. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea and is one of the easternmost points in Mexico.
Cancun is unbeaten in its ability to offer a tropical paradise with natural beauty, cultural and historical treasures and a plethora of activities with modern conveniences. It is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef which makes it an an ideal place for scuba diving and snorkeling. There are a variety of accommodations that ranges from luxurious villas to all-inclusives and all-inclusive resorts budget hotels for kids and romantic getaways.
My impression of Cancun is mad. I was there with my husband without the kids. Happy dance! The Mexicans doted on us Aussies as they don’t see many of us in that part of the world. The souvenir vendors and tour providers ripped us off blatantly. The restaurants fed us Argentinian steaks, tacos and mozzarella sticks ( and by the way, they don’t have Burritos in Mexico). We saw Mexico’s amazing beauty of the Caribbean ocean, the Mayan’s ancient culture and history and we learned the tricks of the trade on the chaos in their streets whilst drinking tequila and sangria alternately…
We visited Isla Mujeres and Chichen Itza and I have a dedicated post for the two places.
TIP: Be vigilant in Cancun downtown and allow yourself to be ripped off as a part of your Mexican culture experience. :D
Denarau Island is situated 20 minutes-drive south of Nadi. It is a man-made development of waterways and gardens. It boasts one of the world’s finest golf courses. Denarau Marina is also in the island and the base for many transfers and cruise operators. The island is the home for many beachfront five-star-hotels such Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa, Sheraton Fiji Resort, Sheraton Denarau Villas, Hilton and the Radisson Fiji. The resorts (I could only speak of Sheraton and Westin given that’s where we stayed) without saying provides 5-star-facilities and service. Stay in the resort pools whilst working on your tan and drinking delicious Fijian cocktails and forget about the beach. It is not white sand as you may expect after looking at some tourist brochures. The beach is disappointingly muddy so it’s best to experience Fijian stunning white beaches in the islands if that’s what you are hoping for. I honestly felt sorry for any fish that live there.
Denarau Island has a ‘Bula Bus’ – a shuttle that continuously goes around the island. And if you stay in Sheraton or Westin, you could equally enjoy and use both hotel facilities as they are managed by the same company. I am inclined to say that there is no reason why you should go to Nadi unless you after some third world experience.
TIP: When the package says ‘Kids Eat Free’, expect to pay double for your main meals. There is a good selection of restaurants at the Marina with authentic and reasonably priced Fijian and international food. Also, protect yourself from the sand flies.
Plantation Island Resort in Fiji is a short less than an hour ferry ride from Denarau Marina. The island is landscaped with tropical gardens and coconut palms and has 7 kilometres of white sandy beaches. From the very first moment you arrive, you will be welcomed with songs and dance warmth and friendliness of the staff who will make your holiday fun and memorable.
The island offers a wide range of leisure activities, many guided water activity sports, entertainment for children or even reasonably priced-island hopping tours. You only have to go as far as two metres from the shore to do snorkelling, fish-feeding or see exotic and colourful variety of fish. Or you could just sip deliciously refreshing cocktails by the pool or by the beach whilst you work on your tan and wait until the sunset arrives. The tap water in the island is inconveniently undrinkable, however, they provide free bottled water and free refill at the reception and kiosks.
The island caters to both honeymooners and families wanting an affordable and unforgettable paradise-like island holiday experience. The resort doesn’t provide first-class facilities but they are clean and will meet your basic needs. Having said that, they have luxury rooms and lavish traditional bungalows for a more plush comfort. The island has a children-free secluded section which is clearly for the honeymooners wanting to avoid the chaotic atmosphere of family holiday makers with hyperactive kids screaming and running around the island for a more relaxing and private time with their new spouse.
At the other end of the island is Musket Cove. It’s a breathtakingly short stroll from the Plantation Island Resort. The sunset from that part of the island is one of the most vivid sunset colours I have ever seen.
There is an island which is essentially a sand bank that is about 15 minutes boat ride from Plantation Island. This is only an island when it’s low tide. The snorkelling here is amazing.
TIP: Do not assume that the buffet menu is cheaper than the a la carte menu particularly if you only eat like a sparrow. Also, protect yourself from the sand flies.
A 90-minute drive from Nadi will take you to south-western corner of Viti Levu’s coastline. It is one of the most visited destinations on the island of Viti Levu in Fiji which is relatively a short drive. Whilst driving along the 80 kilometres stretch of coastline, you will easily discover a large concentration of resorts in one place and mostly, these accommodations are absolute beachfront. The Coral Coast is one of the largest fringing coral reefs in the world. The pleasant drive will reward you with a stunning view of beautiful rolling green hills rising in the background and on the other side of the road is a coastline fringed with beaches, bays, rocky outcrops, mangrove forests, lush vegetation and Fijian villages. Sigatoka, the main town, is predominantly Indian with temples and a mosque. The small town has also got numerous souvenir shops and restaurants. Sigatoka is fairly busy and crowded with travellers from across the globe. Coral Coast has extensive accommodations covering all price ranges that will cater for varying types of travellers from champagne drinking honeymooners to beer- backpackers and the ones in between.
TIP: Be aware that the Coral Coast is also known as the Rainy Coast. If it rains on your parade, don’t let it dampen your spirits. There are many things to do before the sun shines on you again.
Castaway Island in Fiji is an award-winning private island. The island is covered in rich tropical rainforest, surrounded by white sand beaches, vibrant coral reefs and turquoise waters. It is a tropical island escape where you would feel you are a million miles away from the civilisation. Remember Tom Hanks ‘Castaway’ movie? It was supposedly filmed somewhere around there.
The sense of solitude, serenity and pristine surrounds seem almost dreamlike. It was picture-perfect and truly the heart and soul of a Fijian island holiday. My encounter with this island was brief as we only stopped off here for a nice lunch looking over the stunning beach from our island hopping adventure. I want to come back to this paradise and be casted away from all the worries of the world. It’s my idea of heaven.
TIP: Just stay here.
Treasure Island is the most iconic resort in Fiji and probably the oldest. Its popularity is global. It is set on a coral and sand-fringed island within a spectacular marine sanctuary. The resort provides the same day transfer from Denarau Marina, meaning, you quickly get to the island the same day you arrive in Fiji.
The island caters to both honeymooners and families seeking a unique and unforgettable island holiday experience. It’s not a 5-star nor a 4-star-resort. However, if you just want a relaxing holiday set in a tropical landscape and great snorkelling then this Island will meet just that. As usual, when in Fiji, it’s the people that will make your holiday more pleasant and unforgettable.
TIP: I recommend you to probably stay in another island that has far better quality rooms but offers the same price. If you must stay there, wait until they renovate.
Went apple-picking at Bilpin today. Bilpin is situated in the Blue Mountains although it officially sits within the Hawkesbury Valley Region. The area is populated with variety of stone-fruits orchards which are open for your own fruit-picking depending on which fruits are in season. Whilst driving through Bells Line Road, you will come across many charming cafes and restaurants which offers gourmet food in their menu and sell a variety of homemade products like jams, tasty salad dressings, apple pies and local honey. It’s a good a spot to go for a Sunday drive and bring home freshly-picked fruits to make your own delicious homemade pies. It’s fun for the kids too.
Wentworth Falls is a historic in town in the Blue Mountains. Wentworth Falls will take you around 100 kilometres to drive west of Sydney. It offers stunning views over the Jamison Valley and boasts the magnificent waterfall for which it is named. It has been a tourist destination for many years. If you are looking for a good selection of walking tracks in the Blue Mountains, then Wentworth Falls is the place to be. It offers many bushwalking tracks with varying degrees of difficulty. Each track boasts a spectacular view of the Blue Mountains (Jamison Valley) as well as beautiful waterfalls that have been the popular subject of many amateur and professional photographers. So, it doesn’t really matter which track you take, the question is how much time have you got to go for a bushwalk? There’s a big board at the Jamison Valley Lookout at the entrance which will tell you how long each Track takes plus or minus 15% percent depending on your level of fitness and factor in picture-taking stops.
Whilst bushwalking, I was quite surprised to see a medium-sized brown snake in the Princess Rock Track given that the track could get really busy with bushwalkers. The more surprising part was I didn’t die from freaking out. Immediately after the initial shock and the hyper-ventilation in my head, we calmly waited until the snake slowly crawled away. The poisonous snake certainly didn’t stop us from continuing with our mission to burn the calories from the big dinner that was consumed the night before by doing a couple of hours of bushwalking. Although the thought of another snake showing up in the track kept sending shivers down my spine. Made me walk extra fast.
The South Lawson Waterfall Circuit track has three waterfalls. It is equally an invigorating walk and amazing nature photography of the waterfalls, wild flowers, mossy trees and the wetland. It’s such a beautiful track. The track is not too far away from Sydney as it’s in the lower Blue Mountains. It will take about 1.5 hours from Sydney. It’s certainly off the beaten track. The small entrance to the circuit was located near Honour Avenue and Livingstone Street in South Lawson. The track was three kilometres long and would have probably taken about an hour and half to complete if we didn’t get lost. There’s a small carpark at the track entrance that would only fit about five cars but there are many street parking around the quaint neighbourhood.
It’s incredibly easy to get lost in the bushland. Most tracks look almost identical. We had an almost SOS moment and was lost for about an hour. We had to hitch-hike to find my car as we ended up in a different exit. Thanks to my smartphone GPS and the kind guy who gave us a lift to find my car…
TIP: When bushwalking, it’s best not to go on your own. Wear comfortable sturdy shoes and take a small GPS (or compass) and lots of water with you.