I recently returned from my third trip to Baja California Sur more in love than ever with this magical part of Mexico. Last year, we spent over a week sailing the Sea of Cortez (read all about it here). We had such an amazing time that we decided to return again this spring and do it all again.

A Little Bit of Geography

The Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, separates the Baja California peninsula from the Mexican mainland. The Mexican state of Baja California is located directly under the US state of California (Baja in Spanish means “lower”). Baja California Sur is, naturally, the southern half of the peninsula.

The Sea of Cortez

The Sea of Cortez is a dazzling sea in the midst of the desert, surrounded by staggering mountains covered with enormous cacti. As you sail from one cove to another, the sea changes from shades of crystal clear blue, to aquamarine, turquoise, and emerald green. In Baja, you can’t help but be in awe of the beauty and wildness surrounding you. Though this was my third trip to the peninsula, it was like I was experiencing it with fresh eyes. From sunrise to sunset I just couldn’t get enough of my surroundings.

Our Route

Due to weather conditions, we were unable to go to some of our favorite spots from last year, including Coronado Island, Monserrate, and Agua Verde. While we were a bit disappointed, such is Mother Nature and we didn’t let it ruin our trip. Instead, we spent more time enjoying the white-sand beaches of Espiritu Santo and exploring the wild islands of San Francisco and San Jose. The map below details our ship’s route. 

 

Trip Highlights

The Sea of Cortez was dubbed the world’s aquarium because it is one of the richest and most extraordinary marine environments on earth. During our weeklong trip, we got up close and personal with the stunning creatures that call the Sea of Cortez home. We also got a glimpse into life in the remote parts of Baja and explored the islands by foot, boat, jet ski, and kayak. Some of the highlights included…

Whale Watching

I still remember the first time I saw a whale in the open sea, it took my breath away. Now I’ve been lucky enough to see whales on multiple occasions but they never cease to amaze me. Grey whales travel more than 10,000 miles from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to the southern Baja peninsula. There they spend the months of December to April mating, giving birth and feeding their young calves. Both last trip and on this occasion we were lucky enough to see the famous grey whales. We even saw one breach (aka jump out of the water) and a mother with her young. Getting close to such massive, magnificent creatures is truly awe inspiring and something I hope everyone gets to experience one day.

Swimming with Whale Sharks

Last year we had planned to swim with whale sharks but weather conditions prevented us from doing so. But this year we were in luck! Whale sharks get their name because they are as large as some species of whale and, like whales, are filter feeders. In other words, they feed on plankton and have absolutely no interest in eating humans. The whale sharks we swam with were juveniles and measured about 25 feet long. Although they looked absolutely massive, they were actually on the small size for whale sharks with adults measuring up to 40 feet! Swimming with these gentle giants was a surreal experience and it reinforced my belief that sharks are misunderstood creatures who get an (often) undeserved bad rep.

Our GoPro whale shark photos didn’t turn out so great so here’s a photo courtesy of The Telegraph

*PS check out theMisunderstood Predators episode of the Netflix show “Tales by Light” about human-friendly tiger sharks. I guarantee you it will change the way you think about sharks.

Playing with Sea Lions

Sea lions are one of my all time favorite creatures. They’re so much fun to watch and interact with! Last year we snorkeled with the famous sea lions of Espiritu Santo and this year we dove with them. Scuba diving allowed us to get even closer to them and some young ones came to play with us. They swam in circles around us and our instructor even put his hand out for them to playfully nibble on; they’re just like puppies!

Later in the trip, we took jet skis to explore the islands surrounding San Jose and came across a small rock isle inhabited entirely by sea lions. We had the best time watching them engage in their favorite activities–defending their personal rock, playing in the water with their friends, and sunbathing their hefty bodies. Watch a drone video of them below! Some day I’ll learn how to edit videos but for now this will have to do 🙂

Visiting Coyote Island

Right next to the sea lion’s abode is a tiny fishing village called Isla Coyote. This island is home to a grand total of 15 inhabitants and they are literally in the middle of nowhere. They make weekly trips to La Paz, over 2 hours away by boat and 3 hours away by land, for fresh water, food and other necessities. A fisherman named Manuel greeted us and insisted I wear his flip flops to tour the island. He told us he’d lived on the island since he was born and wouldn’t live anywhere else. I was blown away by their decision to live in a nearly inhospitable environment disconnected from the rest of the world. It served as an important reminder that many live with far, far less, and without the modern conveniences we take for granted, and yet are happy with what they have.

Hiking Isla San Francisco

Another highlight was hiking to the top of the hill on Isla San Francisco. It’s not a very strenuous hike and the view from the top is unbeatable. On one side, you have the calm aquamarine waters of the inlet and on the Pacific side, the rough waves of the open sea. The terrain almost looks extraterrestrial with its red, jagged rocks, hundreds of different species of cactus, and arid soil.

Exploring Isla San Jose

Out of all of the starkly beautiful islands we visited in Baja, San Jose may be my favorite. It’s an incredibly diverse island with everything from giant cactus covered beaches to mangroves and salt flats.

Not too far from the cacti are enormous salt flats. We discovered them last year when Julian flew his drone on the beach and realized they were right behind the sand dunes. I had never seen anything like that before with the red algae, mud, and wide expanse of salt.

At one point in the cove, there’s a salt-water river that can be accessed with a kayak or small boat. The scenery is incredible with arid cacti covered hills behind verdant mangroves. After a short ride, the canal opens up to a large bay with a narrow strip of beach between the bay and wider sea. I was so glad Julian brought his drone along as the bird’s-eye view gives you a spectacular perspective of this diverse ecosystem.

Until next time Baja! I’ll be counting down the days to our return…

Photo Gallery:

 isla san francisco drone girl

 

 

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As a kid, I visited Costa Rica once on a family surf trip. I still remember the white sand beaches with gentle waves, the friendly locals, and the incredible flora and fauna of the rainforest. I was recently invited to stay at the Four Seasons Costa Rica on the idyllic Peninsula Papagayo and it was even more stunning than I remembered. We spent the weekend sailing through the Gulf of Papagayo, relaxing on the beach, and immersing ourselves in the local philosophy of pura vida. And of course, enjoying the many amenities of the Four Seasons.

Peninsula Papagayo

Peninsula Papagayo is located on Costa Rica’s north Pacific coast. This remote 1400-acre peninsula was formed by volcanic activity and sculpted by wind, rain, and sun over thousands of years. Today, it is home to 31 different beaches, two luxury resorts (the Four Seasons and the Andaz), a marina, and an Arnold-Palmer designed golf course. However, thanks to a government mandate stating that 70% of the land must remain undeveloped, the vast majority of the peninsula is wild and a nature-lover’s dream.

four seasons costa rica peninsula papagayo aerial

The Four Seasons is located on the narrow strip of land

four seasons costa rica map

Map of Peninsula Papagayo

The Four Seasons Costa Rica

The Four Seasons Costa Rica is ideally positioned on a narrow stretch of the peninsula. Guests are treated to views of the water on both sides and have access to two golden sand beaches. At a high enough vantage point, you can see the Gulf of Papagayo to your right and Culebra Bay to your left.

four seasons costa rica peninsula papagayo

Photo credit: Four Seasons

The peninsula is stunning even in the dry season

costa rica four seasons tree

costa rica four seasons beach

Beach on the Gulf of Papagayo side

The Four Seasons Costa Rica recently underwent a major renovation and the aftermath is stunning. It felt fresh and vibrant and the epitome of eco-chic. I especially loved the resort’s use of locally sourced materials, its seamless melding of indoor-outdoor spaces, and incorporation of its natural surroundings.

four seasons costa rica lobby

The redesigned open-air lobby

four seasons costa rica restaurant

Every space takes advantage of its beautiful surroundings

four seasons costa rica pool

The reimagined pool area

The Miramar Suite

Since we were traveling with two other couples, we stayed at the three-bedroom Miramar Suite. From its position on a hilltop, we had an incredible view of the beach below. The Miramar Suite is the perfect mix of secluded and accessible. Though it’s just a short golf-cart ride away from the resort, we felt as though we were in a private residence in the middle of the jungle. I could have happily stayed there all weekend long! Only the lure of a day on the sea pulled me away…

miramar suite four seasons costa rica

monkey costa rica

We had so much fun watching the monkeys swing from the trees bordering the property

Sailing through the Gulf of Papagayo

We spent a blissful Saturday sailing with friends through the Gulf of Papagayo. Catamarans are one of my  favorite boats and this one was ideal for navigating the calm waters and coves of Papagayo. The scenery from the boat was truly spectacular and the cliffs descending into the Pacific Ocean covered in subtropical vegetation reminded me of Puerto Vallarta, one of my favorite coastal destinations in Mexico.

catamaran costa rica boat girl catamaran

After sailing for an hour or so, we anchored at a little cove for lunch. There we feasted on grilled lobster, which was some of the best I’ve ever had. We spent the afternoon swimming, exploring the beach, sipping sweet coconuts, and taking siestas in the sun.

peninsula papagayo costa rica beach

coconut girl beach

coconut girl beach

On our way home, we watched the sun set and enjoyed the company of our friends with drinks in hand. Needless to say, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.

golden hour sail boat girl

costa rica sunset

Prieta Beach Club

On Sunday, we stayed land bound and enjoyed a relaxing day at the Prieta Beach Club. I really loved the aesthetic and vibe of Prieta and it has something for everyone. While kids splash in the pool, adults can lounge in the cabana beds or enjoy Costa Rican meets Baja California cuisine under the palapa.

Prieta Beach Club costa rica

costa rica tree beach

Prieta Beach Club costa rica

girl beach costa rica

bird costa rica

Pura Vida: A Way of Life

In Costa Rica, you’ll hear the saying pura vida constantly. Before this past trip, I thought it was just a touristy catchphrase. On this trip, however, I learned that Pura vida is at the core of Costa Rican life. It means simply “pure life” and it sums up the ticos philosophy: Enjoy life and be happy. After two days on this stunning peninsula, I began to understand what pura vida is all about. But a weekend is far too little time to take advantage of all this spectacular peninsula has to offer. In the meantime, I’ll be counting down the days until my return to the Four Seasons Costa Rica.

costa rica sunset children beach

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Three years ago, I visited Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca for the first time and fell in love with its endless beaches, rich biodiversity, and laid back vibes. Recently, I returned to Puerto and had more time to explore this legendary surf town. From swimming with bioluminescent plankton to releasing newly hatched sea turtles, this hippie beach town has much to offer surfers and non-surfers alike. Read on for a complete Puerto Escondido guide including where to stay, where to eat, and things to do during your stay.

Playa Zicatela puerto escondido

Restaurants along Playa Zicatela

hotel rockaway puerto escondido

Living my best life

 bougainvilleas Calle del Morro puerto escondido

One of the many vibrant bougainvilleas along Calle del Morro

Location

Puerto Escondido is located in the state of Oaxaca (pronounced wah-HA-kah), on the West Coast of Mexico. By plane, it’s a little over an hour from Mexico City. It is much farther south than many popular Pacific Coast beaches like Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta and is very hot year round.

puerto escondido guide mexico map

Playa Zicatela

Most of the action in Puerto Escondido takes place along Playa Zicatela, a beach famous for its golden sand and powerful waves. Among surfers, Zicatela is known as the Mexican Pipeline. It’s home to the biggest surf in Mexico and is considered one of the top surfing destinations in the world. In the late 70s, my Dad spent a lot of time chasing waves in Mexico and Puerto Escondido was his favorite big wave spot. It was so fun to return to Puerto with him over thirty years later and to hear his wild memories of the place and how it had changed.

playa zicatela puerto escondido

playa zicatela puerto escondido swing

playa zicatela puerto escondido sunset

playa zicatela puerto escondido marina rocks

Where to Stay

On my most recent trip to Puerto, my family and I stayed in the heart of Zicatela at Hotel Rockaway. This boutique hotel is at the center of the action, surrounded by surf shops, bars, restaurants, and hotels. For my family, this location was ideal as we could walk almost everywhere and the Mexican Pipeline was just steps from our door. But if you’re looking for somewhere more quiet and secluded, I would recommend staying closer to La Punta (the point of Zicatela).

playa zicatela puerto escondido colorful Calle del Morro

The colorful Calle del Morro, the main drag along Playa Zicatela

hotel rockaway cabana puerto escondido

Relaxing in a cabana at Hotel Rockaway

playa zicatela puerto escondido

Punta Zicatela, a beautiful, secluded area on the far northern end of Playa Zicatela

Where to Eat

We were happy to discover that Puerto Escondido has a lively food scene with something for everyone. Here were our favorite Puerto Escondido restaurants:

  • Sativa– Cafe serving healthy options such as juices, smoothies, and egg dishes. Cool vibes and one of the few places in town with decent wifi. But be warned, the service can be extremely slow.  
  • El Cafecito– A local favorite and a great breakfast option for Mexican and American dishes. Affordable, always busy, and relatively quick.
  • Spirulina– Go here for a healthy lunch and order their tasty sandwiches.
  • La Olita– Best tacos in town.
  • Hotel Santa Fe– It’s an older crowd but the view of the sea, cool breeze, and fresh fish make for a very pleasant evening.  
  • Lychee Thai– Hippie Thai joint with flavorful curries and fresh fish. If you like having your feet in the sand while dining and listening to live music, this place is for you.
  • Almoraduz– By far our favorite meal in Puerto. The Oaxacan chef serves up authentic Oaxaqueño dishes with a gourmet twist. Go for inspired, delicious dishes in a relaxed environment.
puerto escondido sativa cafe best restaurants

Sativa Cafe

puerto escondido Almoraduz best restaurants

So many delicious dishes at Almoraduz!

Hotel Santa Fe puerto escondido best restaurants

Hotel Santa Fe, worth visiting for the decor as well as the food

Surfing in Puerto

Puerto Escondido is a surfer’s paradise. That being said, if you’re a beginner surfer or just a swimmer, you need to be very careful in the surf. The current at the northern end of Playa Zicatela is very strong and it can whisk you down the beach or pull you under with little warning. Summer is the prime season for big waves but even in the off-seasons huge waves can appear out of nowhere. During my time in Puerto I learned that even seemingly small waves can have a deceptively strong force.

surfing playa zicatela puerto escondido

Dad paddling out in a big set

surfing playa zicatela puerto escondido tube

Little brother getting tubed (he’s only slightly better than me 😉 )

If you want to enjoy the surf without the risk, head down to Punta Zicatela where the waves are gentler. Or go to the nearby Playa Carrizalillo, a beautiful cove ideal for swimming and beginner surfers. Although I grew up surfing, I’m not a big wave surfer like my Dad and brother and so the gentler, long waves of Playa Carrizalillo were perfect for me. If you’re interested in giving it a try, stop by a local surf shop and schedule a lesson.

puerto escondido Playa Carrizalillo

The beautiful cove of Playa Carrizalillo

puerto escondido playa carrizalillo

puerto escondido playa carrizalillo surf

Heading out to catch some waves! You can rent a board at Playa Carrizalillo for only 100 pesos an hour

puerto escondido playa carrizalillo surfer girl

Got the wave to myself!

What to Do (Besides Surfing)

If you don’t surf, don’t worry, there are many other things to do during your time in Puerto Escondido.

Boat Tour of the Manialtepec Lagoon

On my first trip to Puerto, I went on an evening boat tour of the Manialtepec Lagoon to see one of nature’s most amazing phenomena: bioluminescence. Before the sun went down, we admired the intricate mangroves and the lagoon’s abundant wildlife. At one point, the lagoon runs into the beach and we disembarked to watch a spectacular sunset. Once the sun set, we dipped our hands in the water to reveal the glowing blue bioluminescence. A few people in our party even jumped in to swim with the microscopic neon creatures.

Manialtepec Lagoon birds puerto escondido

Manialtepec Lagoon mangroves puerto escondido

puerto escondido sunset beach

Hot Springs of Tututepec 

About an hour and 45 minutes outside of Puerto Escondido is a tiny town called Tututepec. You can rent horses there and, with a guide, ride through streams and trails until you reach natural hot springs. These springs range from warm to boiling and have therapeutic qualities. Soaking in them is extremely relaxing and you’ll leave feeling revitalized with skin as soft as a baby. The hot springs of Tututepec are off of the beaten path and you’ll likely have them all to yourselves.

Tututepec hot springs horseback riding

On our way to the hot springs

Tututepec hot springs

Getting a hot spring massage

Tututepec hot springs

La Cascada de la Reforma

A 90 minute drive from Puerto is a staggering waterfall called Cascada de la Reforma. I was looking forward to visiting it during my latest trip but was prevented from doing so due to protestors blocking the roads. (Political protests are very common in Oaxaca and disruptions such as these are not unusual). However, my family managed to visit the famous cascada after I’d left. The journey involves bumpy dirt roads followed by a short hike but they said the 147 ft (45 m) waterfall was well worth the trip. 

Cascada de la Reforma puerto escondido

Can you spot my brother?

Sea Turtle Release

Did you know that the Oaxacan coast is one of the world’s top five turtle nesting areas? From July to December mama turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in mass nestings. Then from January to about May, the baby turtles start hatching.

For decades, poachers would hunt the beaches for buried eggs, either for food or to sell them as aphrodisiacs. This had a devastating impact on the sea turtle population and virtually decimated four turtle species. Finally, the Mexican federal government stepped in and outlawed turtle hunting in 1990. Since then conservation efforts have tried to rejuvenate the endangered turtle population. Today, as soon as turtle nesting season begins, local volunteers and conservationists comb the long beaches to collect the eggs. The vulnerable eggs are then moved to protected areas for their incubation period.

sea turtle release puerto escondido

Making a mad dash for the sea!

There are many beaches up and down the coastline where you can participate in a turtle release. Just inquire at your hotel or at a local tour agency and they will set you up. We went to Barra de Colotepec, a beautiful virgin beach just behind La Punta, to participate in the release of recently hatched turtles. 

Barra de Colotepec beach

Barra de Colotepec beach

The release takes place right before sunset, when they have the best chance for survival. Tragically, of the hundreds of thousands of turtle eggs laid every year, only about 2% survive due to attacks by predators, dangerous surf conditions and pollution. So these guys need all the help they can get! While some babies make a beeline for the ocean, others get disoriented and head in the wrong direction. That’s where you come in, helping to gently guide them towards their new home. It’s truly an unforgettable experience and one you won’t want to miss.

baby sea turtle release puerto escondido

So whether you come to Puerto Escondido to shred its legendary waves, relax on its beautiful beaches, or experience its natural wonders and abundant wildlife, I guarantee you’ll leave wanting more.

puerto escondido sunset


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Growing up in the extremely flat state of Delaware, skiing was not something my family did regularly. As a kid, my parents took me to Pennsylvania a few times to learn to ski; but once my brother Ben and I got the hang of it, they started opting for warmer vacation destinations. My family has always been much more water-sport inclined. My Dad’s logic is: 1) the water is much more forgiving when you fall and 2) unlike skiing/snowboarding you don’t have to pay to go in the ocean. Solid points, I’d say.

So when Julian invited me to go skiing with his family in Colorado, I was a bit apprehensive. After all, I hadn’t skied since I was 14 and East Coast mountains are not exactly the Rockies. But once I saw photos of where we’d be staying, I was sold. Soon I was conjuring images of sipping hot cocoa by a fire, soaring down the mountain in my new gear, and relaxing at the spa after a long day on the slopes.

Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch colorado

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch

If you haven’t heard of Bachelor Gulch before, don’t worry, neither had I before my trip. Bachelor Gulch is an enclave in Vail Valley and is so named for its original settlers, the five Swedish bachelors who called this deep V-shaped valley, or gulch, home. From the Ritz, the resort town of Beaver Creek is just down the road and Vail is less than a 20 minute drive.  

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch snow

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch is as stunning in real life as it is in pictures. Far from the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s the perfect place for a winter retreat. As soon as I walked through its doors twinkling with Christmas lights, I felt right at home. While some Ritzs can be a bit pretentious, this Ritz exudes understated luxury with its rustic decor evoking the great mountain lodges of the American West.

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch lodge

Photo credit: The Ritz

Highlights of Our Stay

We loved every moment of our stay but a few highlights stood out…

-Après-skiing at Bachelors Lounge, an open-air cigar bar kept warm with a roaring fire and electric heaters. After a long day of skiing, we’d head there for a glass of champagne or wine (or both…) and hors-d’oeuvres. We also spent many nights here, including NYE, sipping on cocktails and hanging out with friends.

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch bachelors lounge

Photo credit: The Ritz

-Listening to live music after skiing. The performer played a great selection of classic hits and always drew a fun crowd.

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch live music

-Relaxing at the spa. After skiing, there was nothing better than heading to the spa to unwind. The grotto jacuzzi was the perfect thing for our tired muscles. We also took advantage of the steam rooms, saunas, hot and cold plunge pools, and the relaxation room.

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch spa

Photo credit: The Ritz Carlton

-Breathing in the fresh mountain air. After being at home in Delaware for the holidays and Mexico City before that, I really enjoyed the change of scenery and reveled in the crisp air and the sight of snow and pine trees.

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch cashmere dear drew lounge set

Taking in the views in my cashmere lounge set from Drew Barrymore’s Dear Drew line. Treat yourself to a set and receive 30% off your purchase with the code Sarah30.

-Snowshoeing to Zach’s Cabin (more on that later!)

Skiing

Unfortunately, the skiing conditions were not ideal. In fact, it was the least snow Colorado had seen in years! It was a shame Colorado was not quite the winter wonderland I had envisioned but that’s Mother Nature for you and it’s no use getting upset about. In a way, the less than ideal conditions were a blessing for me because I’m a huge baby about the cold. Most days, we were skiing in the high 30s and low 40s. Balmy temperatures for winter in Colorado!

 Beaver Creek skiing colorado

Skiing in Beaver Creek. As you can see, the mountains behind me are completely devoid of snow!

 Beaver Creek skiing colorado

Skiing in Bachelor Gulch is super comfortable because you can ski in and out of the hotel. You literally just put your gear on, grab your boots and skis (which are stored with the ski valet) and off you go! Also, an on-site mountain guide tells you everything you need to know about the day’s conditions and gives you recommendations based on your skill level before you hit the slopes. Beaver Creek Mountain is great for beginners and also has plenty of fun runs for intermediate skiers. One day, we made the trek to Vail which has more terrain and advanced runs. Vail also boasts superior views as you can see from the pics below.

vail skiing colorado

vail skiing colorado

Since my skiing skills were rather rusty, I decided to hire an instructor my first day. For beginners or anyone who hasn’t skied in a while, I’d highly recommend doing a group or private lesson. It’s not cheap but I considered it an investment in my future as a skier. In the end, it was so worthwhile. A good instructor will help you master your form, give you personalized tips, prevent you from doing anything potentially dangerous, and best of all, give you a big confidence boost!

vail skiing colorado

beaver creek ski school

Me with my favorite ski instructor Jim. Turns out he attended the University of Virginia too, Wahoowa!

 

The Vail Valley Food Scene 

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Vail Valley has an impressive food scene. There are so many amazing restaurants serving up the best of local cuisine. I’d return just for the food! My favorite restaurants were…

Mirabelle– A super cozy Belgian spot perfect for food and wine enthusiasts. I tried elk here for the first time and it did not disappoint. Don’t skip the souffle, both the chocolate and Grand Marnier are to die for.

mirabelle restaurant vail valley

Zach’s Cabin– Perched on the mountainside high above Bachelor Gulch you can only get here by skiing, snowshoeing, or by taking a sleigh ride on the Snow Cat. During the day, it’s only open to members but at night it’s open to the public. We loved the rustic cabin decor, roaring fire, and hearty, delicious meals.

zach's cabin bachelor gulch

Juniper– A bustling eatery considered one of the best dining spots in the valley. We dined as a big group here and everyone was happy.

juniper restaurant vail valley

Julian’s tasty pork chop

Snowshoeing

Another major highlight of our trip was snowshoeing up Bachelor Gulch Mountain for lunch at Zach’s Cabin. It was definitely a workout but the thought of a good meal was a real motivating force. We went on New Years Day and it was the best start to 2018! The views were incredible and after so much indulging it felt good to know we burned 1000 calories going up and down the mountain.

Bachelor Gulch Mountain snowshoeing

Our snowshoe group

Bachelor Gulch Mountain aspen trees

While snowshoeing, you really get the chance to appreciate the natural beauty all around you

Bachelor Gulch Mountain Zach's Cabin

The one thing that kept me going… the thought of lunch at the famous Zach’s Cabin

snowshoeing bachelor gulch mountain

After climbing up the mountain, going down was a piece of cake!

Vail

We had such a packed schedule everyday that I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in Vail. Guess I’ll just have to go back! Vail is made up of three lively areas: Vail Village, Lionshead, and Golden Peak. Vail Village and Lionshead were inspired by Swiss alpine villages and they’re filled with twinkling lights, endless shops, restaurants, and après hot spots. The shops in Vail Village are a mix of high end designers, ski shops, boutiques, and even a few Colorado classics. Do not miss Designer Furs and leather-wear specialist Kemo Sabe.

 ice skating rink Lionshead vail valley

The ice skating rink in Lionshead

Vail Village at night

Vail Village at night

Kemo Sabe vail village

Stop into Kemo Sabe for a taste of real Colorado grit

Magical Colorado

If you had asked me before this trip whether I prefer a tropical beach or a winter wonderland, I would’ve picked beach without hesitation. But after our week in Colorado I may be a convert. Our winter escapade made me remember how magical the snow-covered mountains are and how there’s nothing quite like snuggling up by the fire with your loved ones. While I’ll always be a beach girl at heart, there’s something that awakens the spirit in the mountains… the fresh Colorado air, lush pine forests, and glow of a roaring fire are memories I won’t soon forget.

ritz carlton bachelor gulch champagne cheers

What’s your idea of the perfect vacation? Do you prefer a tropical beach or a winter wonderland? Comment below!

 

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Last weekend, Julian and I visited yet another beautiful city on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Like the iconic Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta was once a sleepy little fishing village before being transformed into a world-class vacation destination.

In the 1960s, renowned director John Huston put Puerto Vallarta on the map with his film “The Night of the Iguana.” It starred Richard Burton and Ava Gardner (huge stars at the time) and was shot on a beach near Puerto Vallarta. Elizabeth Taylor tagged along too as she was having an affair with Richard Burton and this made for a media frenzy. This publicity helped to attract foreign investors in the 1970s, which brought about the expansion of Puerto Vallarta in the 80s and 90s. However, only in the last decade or so has it grown into the popular beach resort city it is today. 

Cabo Corrientes beach drone photography puerto vallarta

A beach near where “Night of the Iguana” was filmed

Last winter, we spent a delightful weekend in Vallarta at Casa los Troncos, the beach house of Julian’s family friends. A few weeks ago, they invited us back and I jumped at the opportunity to return to their incredible house. We spent the weekend sailing through Banderas Bay, swimming in the blue-green sea, feasting on fresh seafood, and visiting the luxurious enclave of Punta Mita.

puerto vallarta drone photography casa los troncos nuevo

Casa los Troncos from above

Sailing Banderas Bay

Puerto Vallarta is located on the Bahia de Banderas (Bay of Flags). This bay is the largest in Mexico and is an important breeding and birthing site for humpback whales. It’s also ideal for swimming and sailing as it is much calmer than the open sea. In Puerto Vallarta, we love to take the boat out to explore various beaches along the bay.

On our way to the beach, I was reading on the bow of the boat when suddenly a flock of blue footed boobies appeared directly above me. After observing them for a bit, I realized they were using the air current created by the boat to glide easily without flapping their wings. At one point, there were at least ten of them just a few feet above me! I had the best time watching these exquisite birds soar gracefully along and then plunge into the water in pursuit of fish.

Virgin Beach in Nayarit 

Saturday, we headed for a beach on the northern side of the bay, in the state of Nayarit. Luckily enough, we had the beach all to ourselves and spent the day swimming in the warm, sparkling water. From the sea, we had an incredible view of the lush, palm-covered beach and mountains and I truly felt like we had found paradise.

nayarit beach puerto vallarta

puerto vallarta floating drone photography

nayarit puerto vallarta beach drone photography

Not a soul in sight, just the way we like it!

As is tradition, we had a delicious picnic on the beach. We feasted on marlin, ceviche, shrimp, octopus, and fresh fish accompanied by chilled white wine and followed by popsicles. Nothing makes me happier than a seafood picnic on the beach!

puerto vallarta drone photography nayarit

Dinner at Casa Koko

After spending all day en la playa, we set sail for Punta de Mita. Located at the most northern point of Banderas Bay, it’s home to Punta Mita Resort, an uber luxe golf development. We had been invited to have dinner at Casa Koko, a family friend’s brand new beach house. From the moment we arrived, I was in awe of this stunning oceanfront villa. Every little detail is perfect, from the beautiful wood tables to the stone-covered bathrooms and impressive palapa. To me, Casa Koko absolutely epitomizes beach chic and my dream beach house would look just like it.

casa koko punta mita

casa koko punta mita

casa koko punta mita

casa koko punta mita drone photography

View of the property from above. Drone shot by Julian

Relaxing at Casa los Troncos

Casa los Troncos is a design marvel in a fantastic location — on the tip of an island inside the Nuevo Vallarta Marina channels, just north of Puerto Vallarta. Built in the late 80s by a famous Mexican architect, it’s full of great angles, bright colors and stunning views. It’s also the perfect house to relax in. I always feel tremendously at peace in Casa losTroncos whether curled up reading a book, swimming in the expansive pool, or admiring the view.

casa los troncos pool nuevo vallarta

reading nuevo vallarta casa los tronocs

nuevo vallarta casa los tronocs

nuevo vallarta casa los tronocs

nuevo vallarta casa los tronocs

Cabo Corrientes

On Sunday, we sailed in the opposite direction as the day before and headed for Cabo Corrientes. While Punta de Mita marks the northern boundary of Banderas Bay and is located in the state of Nayarit, Cabo Corrientes marks the southern boundary of the bay and is located in the state of Jalisco. I found it fascinating to see the subtle differences between these tropical beaches as we sailed along this massive bay.

Cabo Corrientes boat puerto vallarta

 cabo corrientes mexico

After about an hour, we came upon a beautiful little beach nestled into a cove. This beach is close to where “Night of the Iguana” was filmed and it honestly looked straight out of a movie set. We once again spent a the day swimming in the blue-green water, having a picnic, and exploring the beach. One cool thing about this beach is that fresh, cold water trickles down the mountains and into the sea. It’s truly a magical place and I was very reluctant to leave!

 cabo corrientes mexico drone photography

cabo corrientes mexico popsicle

cabo corrientes mexico drone photography

Have you been to Puerto Vallarta? If not, would you like to go? Comment below!

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