Unforgettable helicopter tour over Kauai

Chuck and I celebrated another wedding anniversary in June. Often this time of year, we reminisce about past anniversaries and the many ways in which we have celebrated over the years. For our 10th anniversary in 2007, we spent a memorable vacation in Hawaii. Our itinerary was so jam-packed with places to go and things to see over two weeks on two islands that some vacation memories have gotten a bit ‘fuzzy’ with time. But our helicopter trip over Kauai is one anniversary trip activity we won’t soon forget.

Who could forget the breathtaking scenery over the Garden Isle?  We soared high above Kauai’s spectacular beauty — each sight made us imagine we were dropped onto a page of a Hawaii photography coffee table book, a flashy, souvenir calendar or a colorful tourism website.

Inter-Island Helicopters was recommended by friends and also came highly rated in the tour guide known as the “blue bible” — The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook. We opted for a deluxe tour which landed us at a private waterfall where we enjoyed a break from the loud whirring of blades. Some of us even took a quick dip in a crystal clear pool at the base of the falls. As I understand it, the waterfall landing tour is no longer available, so we feel really fortunate to have been able to go when we did.

Inter-Island is one of a few Kauai helicopters companies to offer tourists door-free rides. It’s one thing to fly a couple thousand feet above the azure blue waters of the Pacific and the lush Hawaiian tropical canopy; think about riding in a helicopter without doors!  After a few minutes getting our heads (and stomachs) adjusted to the motion and height of the take-off, we felt much more at ease. The pilot’s narration and humor helped us to relax a bit more.

Yet as we looked down over the landscape, we were quickly reminded that the only thing holding us in was a combination seat belt/shoulder strap. Our white-knuckled fists stayed firmly wrapped around the nearest grab bar — aka the “Oh-(insert expletive)! handle.”  At one point when the helicopter climbed up out and over the island’s northern cliffs, we glanced back and forth in both directions — we could see up and down the Kauai’s iconic Na Pali Coast. These overwhelming views kept the exclamations rolling off our tongues: “Wow!” “I can’t believe this!” “Incredible!”

Gorgeous landscapes, infinite coastal beaches and dazzling canyons were not the only sights from our Kauai helicopter tour. We also were able to spot wildlife — mountain goats, wild boars and of course, those famous Kauai chickens.

Here are some of our favorite photos and a short video from that unforgettable anniversary helicopter tour.

IMG_0793

Hills of southwest Kauai

IMG_0800

Waimea Canyon

kau5

Along Kauai’s Na Pali Coast

kau1

Monowaiopuna Falls

kau4

North coast near Tunnels Beach

kau2

We landed in a clearing in north central Kauai

kau3

Multiple waterfall sights on Kauai helicopter tour

kau6

Patchwork farmland of south central Kauai

Rocky Point: Much to do at the beach (or not)

Almost every time we plan a trip to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, our friends will ask, “What do you do down there, anyway? Just sit around on the beach?” Our answer: “There’s so much activity!” We proceed to list a host of activity options. Here are just a few of these pastimes in pictures:

rp1

1. Talk a morning walk with a friend or two

rp2

2. Search for seashells to add to your collection.

rp6

3. Look for creative ways to photograph a sunset

rp3

4. Take a relaxing drift on a ‘lazy river’

rp4

5. Spend quality time with family

rp5

6. Kick up your heels along the surf

rp8

7. Enjoy delectable dishes from the Sea of Cortez

rp11

8. Purchase refreshments without leaving the shade of your palapa

rp10

9. Capture some lifelong memories for your scrapbook

10. Make a list of ‘things to do’ at the beach:

Watch a sunset, bury yourself in the sand, build a sand castle, watch for dolphins, fly a kite, read a book, listen to music, wiggle your toes in the sand, draw messages in the sand, watch pelicans and gulls, take a ride on a horse, Jet Ski, banana boat or an Ultralight, go boating, fishing or body surfing, watch a sunrise, paddle through the waves in a kayak or a stand-up board, snorkel, get a massage, shop for jewelry, pottery, blankets, wood carvings, or souvenirs such as “your name on a grain of rice.”

rp7

11. Know that sitting around on the beach doing not much of anything is perfectly fine, too.

 

 

10 things to love about Bahamas’ Atlantis Resort

A recipe for the best family vacation starts with a gorgeous beach on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. Add a water park, marine habitat, casino, spa, movie theater, concert venue, designer shops and world class dining and voilà: you have Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

Seeing an email alert this week from the resort about its spring travel deals reminded me of our vacation stay there. Although our vacation was during the fall, Atlantis during any season is pure paradise. (See blog post from 2012.) Spring may is often considered the ideal time to visit, and current discount deals make this popular Bahamas resort on Paradise Island even more attractive. Add to the mix an airfare credit of up to $300 and you may find yourself booking a flight for your family to Nassau today! Here are a few of our favorite things we love about Atlantis:

at10

1. Swimming pools resemble landscape architecture works of art.

at9

2. Some days you may feel like medieval royalty about to conquer an abandoned castle

at7

3. Colorful lily pads transform a frog pond into garden water features ‘fit for a prince’

at8

4. Warmer, calm cove waters and pristine beaches line the resort’s perimeter – perfect for wading

at6

5. Iconic sights such as the Royal Towers will prompt memories of popular spy-action movies

at5

6. Leisurely lunches at one of several outdoor poolside & patio eateries

at1

7. Views in every direction conjure images of the mythical ‘Lost City’

at2

8. Beautiful walkways and patios along the marina allow easy access to the casinos

at4

9. River rides can provide either a thrilling tubing adventure…

at3

…or a relaxing float trip — or both! That’s 10!

Visit the Atlantis Resort website for more information about Atlantis Resort and seasonal specials and discount deals.

We’d love to hear from our readers: What’s your favorite family beach resort? What are your spring break travel plans?

You can also find AzGetawayTravel.com on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Soak like Hawaiian royalty at Kauai’s Queen’s Bath

Start of trail to Queen's Bath was fairly dry during June

Start of trail to Queen’s Bath was fairly dry during June

On our first trip to Kauai, one of the first beach excursions we mapped out was the short walk to Queen’s Bath near Princeville. This 15-minute jaunt gave us an immediate (and cautious) appreciation for the Pacific’s power — the force of its waves, as well as a healthy respect for the seasonally changing coastline trail conditions.

Queen’s Bath is a tide pool along the rocky north shore. It can be a great place to try out or practice snorkeling. We made the trip during the summer, when Kauai’s north shore is calmer and a bit drier than in the winter months.

The trail location can easily found from various web resources; one of these is HawaiiGaga.com. Many of these websites will also alert visitors to safety precautions. As first time visitors from the desert, we weren’t accustomed to walking along slippery, muddy trails laced with protruding roots.  I’m glad we did a little research before our vacation and invested in good set of sturdy hiking sandals with heavy tread. With snorkeling gear and a light backpack of snacks, water, camera and tow, we started out fairly early. This turned out to be a good plan, because there is limited parking for hikers along the residential street. The warmer part of the afternoon will draw the bulk of the tourist crowd.

Following the trail, we walked past a couple small waterfalls and came through an area of lush tropical growth.  (As desert dwellers, we always appreciate any kind of vegetation deviation from creosote bush and cactus. Thicker, greener: better.) And just as we were starting to love this dense little thicket, the trail opens up to a full view of the rocky Kauai north coast. Waves come crashing on the black lava rocks, sending up the salty spray. To see this part of Kauai up close for the first time is exhilarating, exciting!

Soon we realized we are stepping gingerly along the lava rocks along the shore. Walking became a bit more “tricky,” as we kept one eye on the ocean waves and the other on the rocks below our feet. After exiting the wooded trail, we stayed to the left (West), following the rocky coast for a few hundred yards. We passed two other lava rock tide pools that reminded us of the photos we had seen of Queen’s Bath, but they were not our intended destination. Finally, we recognized Queen’s Bath as we approached, knowing it was the same iconic sight plucked from postcards and brochures, the same place we’d seen in the popular Hawaii guidebooks and websites.  It’s the only tide pool that’s almost completely surrounded by rock walls. There is only one narrow ocean outlet against the water’s edge. Several nice rocky benches and ledges on the near side of the pool made perfect places to sit down, spread out our gear and enjoy the “bath.”

Kauai’s Queen’s Bath actually is named after another site on Hawaii (the “Big Island”) that was swept away by destruction after Kilauea Volcano’s 1983 eruption, according to Wikipedia. That particular “bath” site was reserved only for Hawaiian kings and queens.

Spending an hour soaking up Kauai’s sunshine, floating effortlessly in a crystal-clear tide pool and noshing on a picnic lunch with fantastic views of Kauai’s north shore is indeed the “perfect day in paradise.”  And it’s surely enough to make any Arizona desert rat feel like Hawaiian royalty.

Waterfalls and pools along the trail

Waterfalls and pools along the trail

Beautiful Pacific Ocean views along the trail

Beautiful Pacific Ocean views along the trail

Walk past other pools along the shore trail to Queen's Bath

Walk past other pools along the shore trail to Queen’s Bath

Use care walking along those slippery rocks!

Use care walking along those slippery rocks!

We spotted a sea turtle or two in the open water

We spotted a sea turtle or two in the open water

You'll know when you've come to Queen's Bath - it's almost completely enclosed

You’ll know when you’ve come to Queen’s Bath – it’s almost completely enclosed

Queen's Bath is a great place to try snorkeling or brush up on your skills

Queen’s Bath is a great place to try snorkeling or brush up on your skills

Spectacular views of Kauai's north shore while relaxing at Queen's Bath

Spectacular views of Kauai’s north shore while relaxing at Queen’s Bath

 

You can also find AzGetawayTravel.com on Twitter and Facebook.

Planning a vacation? Don’t forget the music!

Don't forget to pack the travel tunes on your next trip

Travel and music: Two of my passions. One almost always makes me think about the other. When I pack for a trip, before I think about clothes,  I think about what music I will bring. There’s too much about the entire subject of travel tunes, road trip music, vacation songs, to cover in one blog. It’s a bit overwhelming to think about.

We have music for: leaving home, coming home, moving or staying. We have music for trucking, biking, hiking, riding, driving, boating and flying. There are long lonesome highway songs for solo trips or happy sing-along songs for family vacations.

There are songs about cross-country explorations, exotic destinations and global nations. Many songs have been recorded about boats, RVs, trains, planes and automobiles. We use music for our highways and byways, toll roads and freeways, back roads and interstates.

Out of state visitors bring travel tunes about Arizona. What’s the first song that comes to mind when you think of Arizona road trips? Is it Take It Easy from the Eagles? By the Time I Get to Phoenix from Glen Campbell? Several songs are entitled, “Arizona” – most popular are those from Mark Lindsay, Kings of Leon and The Scorpions. Hundreds of popular songs give a simple reference Arizona — a lot about Tucson: “…take me down to Tucson…” or “…all roads lead back to Tucson…”

Great vacation memories can be created with music. It’s another form of souvenir. Those slack key guitar tunes bring back images of Hawaii. Reggae, ska and calypso remind me of Caribbean islands. Many of us have a loaded up a separate playlist for each aspect of traveling – for soaking rays on the beach, sitting around the campfire or driving along desolate highways. Travel songs have the ability to prompt a personal memory. For instance, whenever I hear Allman Brothers: Jessica, I’m always reminded of driving through northwestern Ohio at sunrise, on my way from home back to college. Another Allman Brothers song: Little Martha, makes me think of a sunset drive along a stretch of State Route 288 between Young and Globe.

Road-trip music also has a practical side. It can keep us awake if we’re getting sleepy. In the days before Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy and Starbucks Double Shot Espresso, we’d have to turn up the volume on the radio, 8-track, cassette tape or CD player. Or sing — yikes! We’d have to pop in a song to energize us while that truck stop coffee was still taking effect. Songs like Golden Earring’s Radar Love have kept many night drivers alert. What worked for me: Poco’s Grand Junction, Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway or Little Feat’s Let It Roll. They create a high energy highway driving mood.

When traveling to my favorite weekend getaway spots, I like to compile songs about the journeys and the destinations: Songs from Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers for Puerto Penasco. Mark Mulligan’s music for San Carlos. Then I mix in some Mariachi and traditional Mexican music to enjoy while I’m there. For beach escapes, I combine indigenous island musical styles and artists with popular ex-pat, ‘trop rock’ or ‘island country’ anthems.

Hundreds of music databases containing thousands of songs with dozens of key words are there for the exploring. You can come up with your favorite travel tunes playlists. Check websites and blogs for lists of music. Look at others’ compilations on iTunes or Spotify. One website has 885 road trip songs to review.

Great music makes miles pass quickly

 

Here are some of my favorite travel tunes — they’re recordings that make me think of traveling, destinations, or its music I just like to listen to while driving down the road.

Americano – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Back to the Island – Leon Russell

Blood Pressure – Mute Math

Blue Boat Home – Peter Mayer

Boats – Kenny Chesney

Calamity Song – The Decemberists

The Coast – Court Yard Hounds

Counterclockwise – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Dig a Little Deeper – Peter Bjorn

Eastern Standard Time – Skatalites

El Rayo-X – David Lindley

Evangelina – Hoyt Axton

Grand Junction – Poco

Hana – Ozzie Kotani

Heaven or the Highway out of Town – Refreshments

Hitchin a Ride – Green Day

Ho Hey – Lumineers

Island in the Sun – Weezer

Last Ride In – Green Day

Little Martha – Allman Brothers

Love is the Seventh Wave – Sting

Manana – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Mercury Blues – David Lindley

Olinda Road – Hapa

Place in the Sun – Darden Smith

Roam – B52s

Soak up the Sun – Sheryl Crow

Texas Tango — David Lindley

These Roads Don’t Move – Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard

Toes – Zac Brown Band

Up Up Up – Givers

Welcome to Paradise – Green Day

What I Got – Sublime

You are a Tourist – Death Cab for Cutie

Readers: what’s on your road trip playlist? Or your flight mix? Please use the comment section below. I’m always looking for new music for traveling!

Follow AzGetawayTravel on Twitter and like us on Facebook

Rocky Point beach condo packing list ‘extras’

beach

Beach condo family vacations can be the most memorable.

So your vacation condo listing advises: “just bring swimsuit and toothbrush” but I’m sure you’ll probably want to bring a few more items. We’re getting ready for another beach vacation to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico so I thought a post about packing for a beach condo would be apropos. If you’ve made several trips to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) and have stayed at the condo resorts, you’re already aware of these tips. But even a seasoned condo guest may benefit from our list:

1. Extra coffee filters

Call me a control freak, but I like to bring extra filters from home. The condo may provide one or two, but if you need more, it can be a hassle. Forget to buy them on your back from town, and you’ll find yourself fashioning a makeshift filter out of paper towels or napkins. That’s why I bring a few both standard cone and basket filter types for most 12-cup coffee makers. After all, you’re on vacation — you shouldn’t have to work for your morning coffee.

2. Extra kitchen tie-type garbage bags

The condo or timeshare may provide a few bags, or your resort may provide daily towel and ‘tidy’ service. Nevertheless, trash has a way of doubling in size at check out time. Yes, you always could try to find a housekeeper with spare bags or maybe call up the front desk to send some up. It’s easier to just stick a few extras in your bag – they can always be used for wet swim suits, towels or sandy sneakers.

3. Small bottles of dish and laundry detergent, and liquid hand soap

Chalk this under the “why make an extra trip to the store this when you could be sitting on the beach and it costs three times what it’s worth at the resort mini-mart” column. I know, housekeeping is supposed to restock this stuff, but I think it’s just easier to bring small amounts to have on hand.

4. Plastic cups for the pool

With your own plastic cups or sports bottles, you can bring your own drink down from the room. You don’t have to worry about hiding a can or bottle under a Kan Koozie. (You wouldn’t bring glass to the pool anyway.) At the end of your stay, you can use plastic cups with lids for transporting home the kids’ seashells.

5. Insulated tote back or soft cooler

Resort management heavily frowns upon bringing your 120-quart ice chest down to the pool, setting it up next to the swim-up bar and serving 100 of your friends. So keep it classy and exercise a little decorum. For this reason, we love our small, soft cooler that resembles a backpack or beach tote.

6. Binoculars

At one condo we rented, the owner provided a spotting scope. It was great for viewing the ocean sights! Binoculars come in handy for those long distance views over the Sea of Cortez, keeping an eye out for early morning dolphins while you enjoy your coffee on the balcony. Bring a pair to the beach to watch kids on the banana boat, sailboats on the horizon, or to see if that crazy guy hanging out of the ultralight is someone you know.

7. Favorite foods and beverages

Although it’s not necessarily true of all parts of Mexico: some American products are really hard to find in Rocky Point grocery stores. So we often bring our favorite brands for wine, dark chocolate, club soda, English muffins, craft beer, apples, tea and cheese. Just about everything else is available at the Super Ley.

8. Folding camp chairs

Here’s why you may want to bring a few extra chairs: 1) Beach sand can get really warm! It’s too hot to sit on a little towel or even one of those grass mats for very long! 2) Chaises under the beach palapas can get very crowded during summer months and 3) poolside chairs also will be in heavy demand.

What’s on your beach vacation packing list?

hammock

Beach condo vacations can be relaxing with a little planning

Harborside at Atlantis Resort: off-season stay advantages

waterfall

You have your own waterfall at Atlantis Resort in the off-season

 

Two major downsides prevent many vacationers from booking a late summer or early fall stay at a Caribbean or southern Atlantic resort. And granted, they are important ones: hurricane warnings and lack of activities. Unless you’re extremely worried about hurricane possibilities or you focus ALL activity on the ocean, most vacationing families will find enjoyable off-season stays are worth every dime — saved from reduced airfares, hotel or condo rates, restaurant charges and tour fees. Some off-season advantages we found while spending a September week’s stay at Harborside Resort at Atlantis on The Bahamas’ Paradise Island are:

Reduced lodging rates

Harborside Resort at Atlantis is one of 20 resorts in the Starwood Vacation Ownership collection. Using our Starwood points exchange program called StarOptions, we were able to trade our home resort week in Cancun to book a one-bedroom condo week during September at Harborside. Although it’s not actually part of the main Atlantis Resort, the adjacent Harborside Villas are just a five-minute walk or short complimentary shuttle ride around the yacht marinas to Atlantis. These nicely appointed condo units book up quickly for spring breaks, early summer vacations and winter holiday seasons. Even if you don’t own a timeshare you still may be able to find a deal through owners who rent out their week. Check sites such as Craigslist or Redweek.com. Or find lower nightly rates at Atlantis’ family-friendly Beach Tower or Coral Tower.

Harborside Resort

Harborside at Atlantis Resort, view from Atlantis Marina

 

More time for perusing art and architecture

If you’ve been to Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, you’ve seen artist Dale Chihuly’s Desert Towers, located just outside the admissions building. At Atlantis Resort’s casino, each room opens to a large Chihuly glass sculpture, either suspending from the ceiling or sprouting out of a cashier’s kiosk. In the off-season, since there’s an increased chance of cloudy, windy days, you may as well be spending additional time in the casino anyway. Right? Why not take the time – in between rounds of blackjack – to admire these wonderful works?  You also can stroll around the hallways of the convention and entertainment wings and gaze upon Atlantis’ mythological metal works and massive architectural designs.

Chihuly scupture

Glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly on display Atlantis Resort Casino

 

Less waiting time in line for water rides and slides

Some resorts and water parks have numerous water features but none can hold a candle to Atlantis. In the off-season, you’ll find shorter wait lines and less chance of body bumping or traffic jamming along the Lazy River or The Current, a mechanical surf wave which propels inner-tubing kids of all ages through a canal around the waterfall grottos. More people will be dominating the famous water slides, but even these lines also move quickly. Tip: be sure your inner tube is fully inflated before riding down Power Tower slides.

The Current

Atlantis Resort’s ‘The Current’ is no lazy river

 

No hustling and bustling to get your towel on a beach chair at 5 a.m.

Twelve pools, seven water slides, three beaches, two rivers, one lagoon will be at your disposal without crowds. I lost count of all the waterfalls and fountains. Maybe someone can get back to me on that. Crescent-shaped Cove Beach is the most protected — best for quiet wading. We also enjoyed our long morning strolls along Atlantis Beach and Paradise Beach. Tip: bring your entire days’ gear to the water park and stow snack lunches, water, change of clothes, money, etc. in hospitality lockers.

Cove Beach

More space for your sand castle if you visit during off-season

 

More photo opportunities of aquarium marine life

During peak times of day during the off-season, crowds will gather at feeding time around the underwater viewing windows. Feeding and times when fish are more active seem to attract schools of tourists. You will have more opportunity to return to the exhibit tunnels during other times of day and then have entire viewing window to yourself while you snap photos of manta rays, hammerhead sharks, seahorses, moon jellyfish, moray eels and many other species. Tip: don’t forget to turn off the camera flash when shooting through the window.

eels

Eels in one of many subterranean marine life exhibits

 

No reservations – no problem

We enjoyed several of the restaurants, both near the main casino area and on the resort perimeter without long waits. Atlantis has a wide variety of dining options – there’s something pleasing for every kind of palate and pocketbook. A few places required reservations, but when we arrived, few tables were filled or reserved. And shopping, too, actually was pleasant. Window-shopping at high-end designer shops in the Crystal Court and Marina Village makes for wishful daydreaming. Or visit nearby souvenir and craft shops — just a short walk away from the resort.

Marina Village

Pastel, Colonial-style shops, cafes and bistros at the Marina Village

 

Best thing about traveling to The Bahamas during off-season? It’s the same time as fall break for many of Arizona’s school districts — perfect time for a family getaway!

Royal Baths Pool

During the off-season, have the Royal Baths Pool all to yourself — almost

Costa Rica vacation home: Casa de Mariposas

 

Mariposas1

Casa de Mariposas' spacious front porch welcomes visitors

In one sense, Costa Rica seems so distant, so remote. Yet at times it seems comfortably close to home – especially if you stay at Casa de Mariposas.

Casa de Mariposas, located just on the outskirts of Jaco, is a vacation home at the point where the rainforest meets the beach, and where ‘town meets country.’ Even when you pull up to the house, you’ll have this feeling that you could be in the middle of a jungle. The sound of exotic bird calls greets you, as does the warm friendly charm of the front porch. It’s like you were meant to be here. When you step inside, you get that feeling you’ve come home, almost as though you never left the city, but then you smell those wonderful flowers and plants that could only come from the Costa Rica rainforest.

 

mariposas2

Jaco's beach is only a two-minute walk from Casa de Mariposas

 

You could call it luxury with a fringe of the wild side. I mean, all the resort amenities are there in the home: spacious living room with flat screen TVs, luxurious beds and huge walk-in showers of tile and glass, but the views from the second floor through the green canopy to Pacific Ocean beyond the beach, make you feel like you might be in a tree house or on a deserted island. Then you hear the faint sounds of Latin music and laughter coming from the boutique resort, Club del Mar, located across the street, where you, as a Casa de Mariposas guest, have complimentary use of most facilities.

Club1

Club del Mar is just across the street from Casa de Mariposas

 

Imagine both ends of the spectrum: that of a remote, private little world in the rainforest or on an unspoiled beach, then the images of a comfortable, familiar, welcoming vacation home. After spending nearly two weeks here, I concluded it really does have the best of both worlds, one of uncivilized: adventure, excitement and intense natural beauty, coupled together with another world of civilization with its full rewards — lounging around the pool, feasting on fresh seafood, enjoying a massage at a spa or golfing at the nearby Los Suenos Marriott.

 

manuel antonio

Manuel Antonio's sandy white beaches are less than an hour's drive

A visit to the owner’s website is the best way to get more clear idea of region’s beauty plus you can be impressed by all the fine details of the home and also obtain additional information about the huge amount of local attractions and activities. On the website, you may conjure up an itinerary of deep sea fishing, surfing, Scuba diving and snorkeling, zip-lining and rafting, beach sports, beautiful wildlife parks and nature preserves filled with the most amazing flowers, plants, and some of the most fascinating creatures you never knew existed. After you consider the “uncivilized,” think about the “civilized” – Jaco and neighboring towns have it all: casinos, great restaurants, nightclubs, big box stores, a yacht marina, fine golf courses. And right in the heart of it all is Casa de Mariposas.  It really does have the best of both worlds.

 

mariposas3

Jaco Beach at dusk

Eight reasons for spring break at Cancun’s Royal Resorts

Ready for a spring break getaway? Soon many Arizonans will be heading to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), San Diego, Las Vegas or Colorado while others may be setting their sights on farther destinations, such as Cancun.

So right now, you’re thinking: Cancun craziness of college spring breaks, wild drinking and partying. Well, it’s not necessarily true of all Cancun resorts. In fact some, such as the Royal Resorts properties, discourage the wild spring break scene by requiring guest-registering adults be 25 years old or older. Plus, strict behavior and noise policies inhibit unruliness. A family-friendly atmosphere is just one reason why we like Royal Resorts. Here are seven more:

2. Floor plan of the ‘Flexivillas’

With the main living area in the middle of each two-bedroom suite, the unit is a perfect floor plan for families. One side is the studio lock-off side, a self-contained room with full bath and kitchenette. The one-bedroom side has the main entrance to the suite, with separate one-bedroom with dining area, fully equipped kitchen with full-size appliances. Each living room area not only is spacious but it also features fold-down Murphy beds. The two-bedroom is an ideal setup for two couples who like some privacy, or a family with four children.

Spacious living room in Royal Resorts suite -- perfect floor plan for family vacation

3. Site design

It’s not really fair to say this ‘horseshoe’ layout is only typical at Royal Resorts, in fact many properties in the hotel zone are designed the same way, with the buildings fanned out with a clean view of the Caribbean, but from what we’ve experienced, the building layout of the Royal Mayan, Sands, Islander and Caribbean seems superior, both vertical and horizontal spaces are maximized. From almost every suite balcony in the resort, guests can set their eyes on the aquamarine color of the Caribbean. Most walkways are open breezeways. Restaurants, lobbies, gift shops, offices, convenience markets all are on the ground floors, so even the lowest floor of suites is higher than the restaurant building, usually set behind or next to the well-manicured gardens and pool areas. Best suites are up in the front row with spectacular ocean views. Steps or elevators take guests down to the palapas on the white sand beach.

Waterfalls cascade over well-groomed landscaping at the Royal Islander

4. Your fridge is filled upon arrival

After you’ve confirmed your reservations, you can place a grocery order to the Royal Resort market to have various items placed in your refrigerator before you get there. So if your flight is delayed, or you missed your transportation from the airport, and arrive at the resort late, you don’t have to worry, your fridge is filled with beverages and groceries for that evening, the next morning or for your entire week, if you want – all at no charge. In fact, many reservations for tours, spa visits, dining, or special events can be arranged online before you get there.

5. Royal shuttle

Unless you plan on driving around the Yucatan, you probably don’t need a rental car. Or, you could rent one for a day or two of sightseeing. Taxis can be an excellent alternative. But the best deals are these Royal shuttle buses – they’re free. Some readers right now are probably cringing because these boulevard buses can be the noisy reminders of civilization we wanted to escape from. But we appreciated the Royal shuttles to carry us between all of the Cancun-area Royal Resorts. So we could visit the beaches in front of the Royal Caribbean, or eat lunch at the Royal Mayan. We could travel from the Royal Islander to the Royal Sands for a spa day, or take a five-minutes walk down the boulevard to the upscale shops at Kukulkan Plaza.

6. Save your cash

Put your cash away in your room safe when you check in. Except for the occasional tip, you probably won’t need much cash – at least while you’re at one of the Royal Resort properties. The room key card is your payment method for all bar bills, dining room meals, grocery and gift shop purchases, tour bookings and spa services. You simply pay for the entire week when you check out. It makes it easy not to have to carry cash with you or worry about misplacing it. Of course, this convenience could be a drawback, especially when you get to the gift shop and are tempted by a fine leather briefcase, a giant stuffed dolphin or a huipil — a colorful, embroidered Mayan blouse.

Even during the busy season, it's possible to find some midday solace on the Royal Islander activity deck

7. Many amenities

Some hotels or resorts will charge as much as $20 per day for parking and Internet access. Both are free at Royal Resorts. Daily maid service was an important one to us too. The well-stocked convenience stores carry many popular American and Mexican brands of just about everything: cereal, snacks, candy, liquor, beer, plus fine local favorites: coffee, chocolate and vanilla. You can have an order (over $30USD) of groceries delivered to your condo for free. Activities are plentiful, frequent and everywhere. Or you could choose to do absolutely nothing but sit on the white sand and soak it all in. Even on the resort grounds, it’s easy to find a quiet corner to finish that novel you started on your flight.

8. Information everywhere…

The website impressed us – it’s very easy to navigate around each of the resort pages to make reservations and check amenities. Online, you cruise around the resorts via a virtual tour while standing in the Caribbean at the Royal Cancun or watch the parasails land on the beach in front of the Royal Mayan. From the comprehensive company newsletter link, “Royal Resorts News,” learn about safety in Mexico, latest news updates from Cancun, tips and travel tools. Here you can link to the Royal Channel, the resorts’ video and photo collection to see recent guests enjoying their Royal Resorts vacation.

Beautiful ocean views from almost any vantage point

US Airways still offers daily nonstop round-trip flights from Phoenix to Cancun ranging from about $600 to $700.

What are your favorite spring break vacations? Have any getaway recommendations you’d like to share?

 

 

Seven reasons to visit Guaymas/San Carlos, Sonora

San Carlos is one of our favorite Mexican getaways. The resort area is about a seven-hours’ drive south from Phoenix and half an hour from Guaymas, Sonora. It’s an easy drive though Tucson, Nogales and Hermosillo. Spring is a perfect time to visit. We love San Carlos for the same reasons most tourists enjoy Mexico: beaches, fishing, boating, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, shopping, dining, nightlife, sight-seeing… the list seems endless. Here are just a few things we love best about the destination:

1. Crystal clean pools at our resort, the Sea of Cortez Beach Club

2. San Pedro Island’s sea lions

3. Walks along the beach: Playa Los Algodones

4. Sensational sunsets over San Luis, Doble and Venado Islands

5. Tours to Guaymas to see the city hall, municipal plaza and this church: Iglesia San Fernando

6. Snorkeling at San Pedro Island

7. Tetakawi Mountain and Lalo Cove

San Carlos has a wide variety of dining and lodging accommodations. Here are a few websites we recommend for additional travel information:

What’s Up San Carlos

San Carlos, Mexico

Go2SanCarlos

Desert Divers