A few favorite sun and sky photos

While recently sorting through some old vacation photos, I came across an abundance of snapshots of skies and sunsets. Several dozen photos of the same scene make up hundreds of files, taking up precious space on disks, thumb drives and memory sticks. Before these get buried back into the depths of storage, I wanted to publish just a few of the most recent photos:

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Sunset view from Princeville Resort, on Kauai’s north shore.

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Late afternoon sky at The Windmill Winery, near Florence, Ariz.

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Sunset over a choppy Sea of Cortez near San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico.

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Dusk at Ashurst Lake near Flagstaff

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Setting sun near San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

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Sun peaks through huge cottonwood tree at San Pedro House near Sierra Vista

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Nightfall on the Pacific Ocean near Jaco, Costa Rica

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Brilliant sun prepares to sink over Isla Venado near San Carlos.

 

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Guaymas, Sonora pearl farm a ‘must-see’

pearl on chain

Sea of Cortez pearl set in sterling silver

No vacation to the San Carlos-Guaymas coastal resort area of Sonora, Mexico is complete without a stop at Perlas del Mar de Cortez, (Sea of Cortez Pearl Farm). The attraction is not only a tourist destination; it’s an ongoing research facility of pearl-producing oysters, a scientific enterprise of pearl farming and also, a kind of historical landmark.

Natural and cultivated, single- and multicolored pearls from two main regional species: the black-lipped pearl oyster and the rainbow-lipped pearl oyster have found their way to various aspects of culture, notably John Steinbeck’s, “The Pearl” and less notably, but more interestingly, “El Mechudo — the long-haired Yaqui.” Find more fascinating cultural and historical references on the Perlas del Mar de Cortez website.

If you’re considering a tour of the pearl farm, plan to spend at least two hours. You will want to either book a tour with your San Carlos or Guaymas resort concierge, or simply venture out on your own, to the location on Bacochibampo Bay. The tour includes a general history of pearls and New World pearls, especially those from Mexico. You will learn how they are created naturally, artificially and also get a lesson about different pearl varieties. You’ll also receive information about how this educational facility began and its current endeavors and challenges.

Dock facility at pearl farm (2004 photo)

Dock facility at pearl farm (2004 photo)

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Actually, there’s not a lot to do or see at the farm – it’s a small group of buildings and a boat ramp. However, your tour guide will spend most of the tour time (an hour) explaining the intensive and fascinating process underwater (the farm), in the lab and at the dock. You will be able to see the black floats, like buoys, out in the bay indicating the location of each submerged cage of young, growing oysters and other implanted oysters developing the pearls. In the submerged cages, or “pearl nets”, it usually takes about 18 months for a young oyster to reach the stage to be seeded and another 18 to 24 months for a seeded oyster to develop the pearls. During this time, workers remove and clean the oysters about every two months — a very tedious, but necessary task.

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Black floats mark the location of pearl nets

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After your pearl farm tour, a visit to the pearl gift shop is also a must, because, even if you choose not to buy, you will want to see the finished products – beautiful pendants, earrings, rings and individual pearls in all shapes, sizes and colors!

Tip: After a morning at the pearl farm, take a little detour to one of Guaymas’ many colorful shopping centers for souvenirs and lunch. Also consider visiting other Guaymas sights including Tres Presidentes Plaza, City Hall and San Fernando Church.

Readers: Have you been to San Carlos or Guaymas? Can you tell us: What are your favorite activities and places to visit?

We last visited Guaymas in 2008. Please note that the farm photos are actually taken in 2004. I’m assuming the dock building was rebuilt following the September 2009 storm. Any reader updates or comments would be welcomed and appreciated.

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

 

 

2012 vacation goals: Ring in the new and old — destinations

2012 arrives at AZGetawayTravel with annual resolutions, new household budget, new business prospects and new travel plans. Each January, my husband and I reassess our vacation plans. This year, we’d like to set our sights on Europe, Central America or the Caribbean. And as we have learned, there are always a few leftover items from the ‘to-do’ list of past travels. So we’d also like to return to a few of our favorite places and complete the itinerary. Here’s a sampling:

1. San Carlos, Sonora

We once dreamed of having the means to explore the small coves and inlets, around Guaymas and San Carlos in our own 42′ foot sailboat. Now, it’s more realistic for us to buy a couple of seats on a tour boat, or brush up on our kayaking skills. We still imagine ourselves in those isolated coves, only the method of access is changed. Maybe this year, we return to San Carlos — for gunkholing the Sea of Cortez.

View of Playa Piedras Pintas from Zorro Cove trail

Southern tip of Playa Algodones near Marina Real

Tetakawi Mountain and Zorro Cove near San Carlos

2. Kauai

We love the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and its numerous small, tucked-away beaches. These may be hidden, but they’re certainly not secret. Yet some of the access trails are a bit challenging, so they help to prevent overcrowding by most tourists. We’ve visited several of these seemingly obscure beaches, but there’s a few we missed and someday, we hope to return.

Queen's Bath on Kauai's north coast, is a pool carved into the island's lava shelf

A catamaran takes visitors to Nualolo Kai on Kauai's Napali Coast

Our doorless helicopter ride was a thrill. Maybe this year we'll get a closer look at Kauai's beaches.

3. Cancun and Riviera Maya

We spent one week in Cancun in 2006. One week was not nearly enough. Our stay was filled with sight-seeing, beach time, snorkeling, boating, but several side trips had to be postponed. Maybe this year we can return to explore the Rivieria Maya, or visit nearby islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel.

Chichen Itza is one of several Mayan ruin sites on the Yucatan

Cancun beaches are fantastic -- remember to save time for side trips

Folk dancer entertains tourists near Chichen Itza, Yucatan