Steph Visits Puerto Vallarta Part 3

Wednesday we said goodbye to the beautiful area of Mismaloya and the Barcelo, and now it’s time to head up to Nuevo Vallarta to spend the next 2 nights at the Occidental Grand Nuevo Vallarta. Nuevo is in the state of Nayarit, just on the other side of Puerto Vallarta city, and is about an hour drive. Buses always put me right to sleep, so I settle in and wake up in a new area.

Nuevo is very different from Puerto Vallarta and Mismaloya. The resorts are larger, and a lot closer together. Everything is more modern, but still has a touch of colonial Mexico. There is lots of mall shopping, rather than markets (there are still markets though, don’t worry!)

After check in, we tour the hotel with the the staff. In addition to the deluxe room we are staying in, we also get to see a junior suite. These have a larger sitting area, a separate bedroom, and a very large bathroom with a soaker tub. The hotel only has 4 junior suites, so they sell out pretty fast. My favorite feature of the hotel is the beach; it goes on forever. If you wanted, you could walk several kilometers to Bucerias uninterrupted.
This afternoon there is finally some time for sun and sand without having to rush. I suit up, and head for the ocean. The water is warm, and there are some light waves to body surf in. Every time I get in the ocean, I always wonder why I don’t live closer to one – I’m just in heaven.
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Wednesday evening brings us to Rhythms of the Night, which is the most popular excursion in Puerto Vallarta. We go by boat for roughly an hour to Las Caletas, where they have a beautiful outdoor theater for the show. There is also an private area for weddings, which I think would be absolutely beautiful. The show is fantastic, with amazing acrobatics, dance, strength and singing. Everything is in Spanish, so I don’t really know what is going on, but it doesn’t matter because everything is just so mesmerizing. After the show, a buffet dinner is included before we head back to town.
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Our final day in Puerto Vallarta leaves us with a full day for free time. I hummed and hawed about what to do, and finally settled on an excursion to the Marietas Islands with a few others from the group. I heard a rumor that the government is going to close down the Hidden Beach part of the islands to tourists, so I figured I better get in before they do so. The main draw of the Island is Hidden Beach, which is a beach in the middle of the island that can only be accessed by going through a cave. It was truly beautiful, and got some great photos. There was also time for snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding before lunch and drinks were served. Once back at the Occidental, the rest of the afternoon is spend by the pool getting as much sun in as I can before I have to say goodbye.

 

The Occidental treats us to a great farewell dinner at La Hacienda, their Mexican restaurant. There is a huge buffet spread of salads, tacos, enchiladas, rice and beans, vegetables and desserts. I don’t know how we could possibly eat this much food. We spend our last few hours together laughing, taking photos, and enjoying the amazing sunsets of the Pacific coast. After dinner, as I’m up in my room packing for my flight home tomorrow, I’m sad to be coming home so quickly. The past 4 days have just flown by. Adios Puerto Vallarta, but don’t fret as I will be back to see you soon!
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Steph Visits Puerto Vallarta Part 2

I always knew I loved the ocean, but waking up at the Barcelo Puerto Vallarta confirms it even more. With my patio door open, I can hear the crashing waves from bed before the bustle of resort life kicks in. This is a sound I never want to let go of. Well, I guess it’s back to reality now.

The day is full as we start off with a presentation from one of the 2 Westjet Vacations destination reps. She tells us about what guests will experience from them when they arrive – the morning briefing, recommended excursions, emergency contact details and more. I find her very helpful, and I’m happy she is here to take care of our many clients in Puerto Vallarta. Next, we are on to see all the Barcelo has to offer.

We are given a tour of 2 excellent room categories; a Family Suite that has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and a Master Suite with a huge sitting room and separate bedroom. I think the Family Suite is absolutely perfect for those larger families that need a little extra space. The Master Suite is stunning, and would be my top choice for a wedding or honeymoon couple. After an update from our local Canadian rep on all things Barcelo and Occidental, there is a bit of free time for lunch before we are at it again on a city tour.

We are shown the Our Lady of Guadalupe church, which is gorgeous. We are also taken along the Malecon beach boardwalk where our guide points out some of the local art. There is a stop for shopping at a local silver shop, and a local candy store.

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Lady of Guadalupe Church


After dinner tonight, myself and a few other ladies venture back into town by local bus, which is only 8 Pesos (less than $1 CAD). We walked the Malecon, and stopped for a couple of $1 USD margaritas. It’s getting late now, so we figure its time to head back to the resort to get some sleep, as tomorrow is another jam packed day.

 

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Steph Visits Puerto Vallarta Part 1

Buenos dias my amigos!

My next adventure brings me to the beautiful Pacific Coast city of Puerto Vallarta for the next 4 nights. I will be spending my first 2 nights at the beautiful Barcelo Puerto Vallarta. The hosts have been gracious enough to provide an upgrade to Club Premium, which gives an array of extra amenities at the resort – a private lounge, best room location, a bottle of tequila, room service, wifi, unlimited a la carte reservations amd more! I’ve met several other travelers from Saskatoon. So far my afternoon has consisted of exploring the hotel grounds, eating tacos, and maybe a cervesa or 2.

My evening includes meeting with my hosts from Barcelo and Occidental Resorts, and the rest of the group of agents visiting from across Canada. We had a lovely custom 5 course dinner on the deck overlooking the ocean. This would be such a perfect setting for a small wedding group or family reunion. I just love hearing the sound of the waves. I’m really looking forward to what the next 4 days have in store for me while I explore a new part of the world.

 

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Barceló Puerto Vallarta

 

KAUAI… With Kids. Jamie’s Final Blog

We were told that Aloha means Hello, Goodbye and also Love, by the lady at Kauai Food Truck who promised our food would be served with Aloha. As we get ready to leave Kauai, I would have to agree….there is something special about the Hawaiian Islands that we simply love and haven’t been able to find anywhere else. It is that feeling of Aloha and being welcomed.

 

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We spent our last days exploring a bit more of the island. I had heard the best time of day to visit Spouting Horn was Sunset, but that Sunrise was almost as good and there would be a lot less people to block your view. As we were always up well before dawn, we decided to take in sunrise at Spouting Horn – a short 5 minute drive from our hotel. It was very pretty and worth seeing. Spouting Horn is a cavern through under the lava rock and the waves spout out a hole in the top. It can be quite spectacular when there are big waves coming in.

 

We took in the Kilohana Plantation which is home to the Kauai Plantation Railroad. It was about $80 USD total for 4 adults, a child and two infants and the train ride was about 40 minutes through different kinds of fruit trees, sugar cane, hardwoods, flower gardens and more. It also stops halfway and the kids can feed the goats, roosters and wild pigs. In and of itself, it’s probably not worth the drive (about 20 minutes) and cost. However, in the same plantation is the Kauai Rum Factory, with free Rum tasting, there is a pottery store, several gift shops, a day spa and a nice restaurant and the setting is beautiful. If you were to take a half day and take in the rest of the Plantation, it would be well worth it!

 

We took a leisurely drive up the North Coast to Hanalei Bay – about an hour and a half drive from Poipu. We stopped at the beach at Hanalei Bay, but it was a rough water day, so we didn’t venture in. We had lunch at a local rib and chicken stand and Sydney had a hot dog from the famous Puka Dog stand – best hot dog ever – worth the $6.45! We meandered our way back down the coast, stopping at a few beaches along the way. The scenery on the North Coast is quite different from the South Coast where we are staying. It looks like you stepped into Jurassic Park with towering mountains, waterfalls and rainforest. It was definitely worth the time, but we decided we like our sunny, calm South Shore as a place to stay.

 

We had seen a write up on the Kauai Food Truck, which is located near us in the town of Koloa, so we gave it a try for lunch one day and the food was really good – lots of local flavours with Kalua Pork, Shrimp and Fish Tacos, and lots of other great dishes. The staff was incredibly friendly and outgoing and our kids got a free cold coconut to drink which they loved. One other spot we hit up for lunch was Joes on the Green, which had been recommended by a friend and by the hotel. It is a 2-3 minute drive from our Kiahuna Plantation, on the Kiahuna Golf Course ($95 a round inc cart). The menu was extensive and very reasonable with most items being $10-$15. Mark couldn’t fit his mouth around the burger it was so huge and the Coconut Shrimp was as good as any I’ve had. They also mixed me up a special Mimosa with Guava and Mango juice – so good I had to have two!

 

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All in all, we have loved our stay in Kauai and we will definitely be back. I have nothing bad to say about the Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation. We have had great service, our Condo was top notch and had everything we needed. The beach in front of the hotel was as good as any we have seen on the Island and we love the extensive grounds and gardens for walking through. We were able to see Whales and Turtles from the beach most mornings, which the kids loved. It is very kid friendly and was a perfect choice for us. The only small thing I could say is the pool is a bit inconvenient and it would be nice if they had a pool closer to the ocean and right on hotel grounds, but that is a really minor complaint. Thank you to the Outrigger and Kauai for making our stay so delightful, we hope to see you soon!

Now, let’s hope we survive the flight home tomorrow! Aloha!

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Kaui…. With Kids – Jamie’s Blog Part 2

My what a fun and action packed few days we’ve had! Not that it has really been that busy, but every outing with small kids seems to be a big event. We have spent some time enjoying our resort. The grounds are stunning, with orchid and cactus gardens, wide green lawns, lush foliage, white sandy beaches…what’s not to love? The resort has many well maintained BBQ areas for use of its guests and some have picnic tables as well making it easy to have casual meals and enjoy the grounds. The staff are constantly upkeeping the hotel grounds and buildings and they go out of their way to be friendly and seem to really love little children. They make everyone feel very welcome and well looked after. I would definitely recommend the Kiahuna Plantation by Outrigger.

 

There is a shopping center across the street with a few restaurants including a Thai place, a hot dog place, Starbucks, a Gelato shop and a really nice restaurant called Keokis Paradise. We had a nice date night there last night thanks to Grandpa and Grandma being willing to babysit for a couple of hours. Shrimp, Crab Cakes, Steak, Mojitos and no kids….hmmmm. Enough said.   In addition to the restaurants, there is also quite a few shops featuring local clothing, shoes, art, gift shops and a Whalers General Store (similar to an ABC store – which I have yet to see in Kauai!).

 

The nearest town is Koloa which is about a 5 minute drive away. There are some neat local shops and food trucks in Old Koloa Town and there is a Big Save Grocery store with everything you will need to stock up on food and essentials while you are in the Poipu area. Prices were actually quite reasonable on most things and it saves a half hour drive back to Lihue to go to the Costco or Safeway.

 

We did a drive to the Kauai Coffee Company Plantation, about a half hour drive along the South Shore. They have a good gift shop, a cafe, a small museum and free walking tours (self guided and also guided) that take you through their coffee and sugar cane plantation. Well worth the drive, a great little stop.

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Tonight we went to the Auli’i Luau at the Sheraton Kauai. We picked this Luau because the Sheraton is right beside our hotel and it was less than a 5 minute walk from our door to the Luau. Convenience won, since we didn’t know how long the kids would make it and it would be easy for one of us to bring them home if needed. This was my third Luau, I have been to one in Oahu and in Maui. This was my favorite. It was a smaller crowd and a beautiful oceanfront setting. The staff were very helpful and went out of their way to make us comfortable. The performers were very good and the hostess was very entertaining. The best part was the food! Luau food can be a bit hit and miss since it’s buffet and meant to feed a bunch of people. Auli’i had an appetizer buffet, which was nice, an open bar with cocktails and wine as well as coffee, pop and juice and the dinner buffet was awesome – the best Kalua Pig I have had yet as well as really nice fish, chicken and beef dishes and lots of salads and sides. No one went hungry and it was a very enjoyable meal and evening. The highlight was when they brought our 7 year old up to learn the Hula. She loved it, something she’s not likely to forget soon and she can’t wait to tell her friends and other grandmas and grandpas at home all about it. Well done Sheraton Kauai! The cost was just over $100 for adults and around $70 for kids, toddlers free. We included the upgrade to the premiere seating which meant you got to check in first, got a flower lei and had reserved seating in the first two rows, so perfect for viewing the performance.

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I am really glad we opted for a 12 day stay in Kauai instead of only 7. Otherwise, it would be almost time to think about coming home.   Instead we have another full week before we have to leave. The island of Kauai has so much to offer, we can’t wait to keep exploring!

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Kaui…. With Kids – Jamie’s Blog Part 1

Last spring we started talking about where we wanted to go for a winter holiday. It would be our first holiday as a family of 5 instead of 3. We would now be travelling with a 7 year old and twin one year olds. We debated hopping a quick non stop flight to Mexico and staying at an all inclusive,but in the end we chose Hawaii. Hawaii has been a long standing favourite. We wanted to have a condo so we weren’t stuck eating out every meal with kids (it’s just not that fun, relaxing or enjoyable with two toddlers!) and we love that in Hawaii you never have to worry about what you are eating or drinking, you can safely drive yourself around and you can be as busy or relaxed during your holiday as you choose to be. We settled on Kauai as it was one island we had not yet visited. We settled on the Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation at the recommendations of friends and because it seemed to be a very good value. The biggest downside was the flights. From Saskatoon, there is really no way to get around a 10-12 hour travel day, or longer. In our case we had a 5 hour layover in Vancouver which meant a total of a 13 hour travel day from take off to landing. What else would a sane mom and dad do, but call in the recruits – grandparents. My in laws had not been to Hawaii before and were happy to come along on our adventure (yay us!).

 

Our travel day started off as expected, flights to Vancouver smooth and on time – thanks Westjet! Layover in Vancouver a breezes – thanks Premium Plaza Lounge for giving us a private conference room to keep our family contained. We had a small room with 4-5 chairs, coffee table, etc which was quiet and allowed our kids to nap and allowed us to keep them in a safe area where they weren’t bothering anyone else. Premium Plaza offers a great service and well worth the cost on a long layover. We enjoyed a free meal, snacks and drinks while in the lounge.

 

We then boarded our flight to Lihue and that is where the fun began. We quickly became “that family”…you know who I mean. My 1 year old son fell asleep before take off – score 1. That’s where our luck ended. Our 1 year old daughter fought sleep for the first two hours, getting quite cranky by the end of the second hour. Then she fell asleep at the same time as our older daughter….well, good – time to order a snack and a glass of wine and celebrate our win fall. That’s when disaster struck. Our little guy, who had been sleeping so nice, started to get a little restless and then started to throw up…and throw up and throw up and throw up.   Oh wait – and the flight got turbulent and then rougher and rougher and rougher (my fear of flying is kicking in). So, we have a little guy throwing up over everything and everyone including his 7 year old sister, his grandma and his mom and his dad (gross), we have a turbulent flight and we have 4 hours left till we land. As my 7 year old said “WORST FLIGHT EVER!” I will never again complain about a noisy kid or a sick kid on a flight. Once you’ve been “that family”, there is no going back.

 

We arrived at Lihue at 930pm local time (130am our time). We had to pick up our luggage, take a shuttle to the Dollar Rent a car, then drive to the Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation. All along the way, things improved. Our little guy was feeling better by the time we left the flight, the Dollar shuttle driver was super helpful as were the staff at the counter. They quickly got us on our way and gave us easy to follow instructions to the hotel.

 

As we were leaving Dollar, the attendant mentioned that there was a new Safeway in Lihue we would pass on our way if we wanted to stop for groceries…um, it’s 11pm by this time and we have 3 tired kids, 2 cranky parents, 2 grandparents questioning their judgement on coming along…so I was very glad I had made arrangements for grocery delivery with Kauai Kiss – more on that later…but no thank you to a midnight stop at Safeway!

 

We arrived at the hotel, tired, hot and smelly. The lady at check in quickly had us on our way to our rooms, which were very close to the reception. We have the lower two floors with our 2 bedroom condo and my in laws are one floor up above us. They met every request – rooms close together and renovated condos. I can’t speak for all of the condos at this resort, but ours is phenomenal. It has been renovated, has nice furniture, new laminate floors, granite counters, new kitchen, comfy beds. It is quite a bit better than I was expecting. I was worried that we had no AC at this hotel, but it’s been fine. It’s 25-26 degrees during the day, 21 or so at night and there is a nice breeze and ceiling fans, keeping the unit very comfortable.

 

The best thing I did in our planning was arranging for Kauai Kiss to stock our unit with groceries. I picked enough food for a few days so we wouldn’t have to wonder what the heck we would feed the kids the next morning and we wouldn’t have to rush first thing to the grocery store when we were sure to be tired after our long day. Boy, was I grateful we did that! We arrived to a fully stocked kitchen – kid friendly staples like spaghetti, burgers, hot dogs, Kraft Dinner, chicken fingers, plus the necessities like bottled water, coffee, bread, milk fruit and veggies and the best part – COLD BEER and wine:)

 

When we were all up at 6am after a mere 5 hours of sleep, I was very, very happy to have coffee brewing and toast and cereal ready to go. We did a little tour around the property, did a quick beach walk this morning – a 5-7 minute walk from our unit which is at the back of the property by the road. We saw humpback whales breaching and surfers. We also used the well maintained BBQ areas for lunch and had a short swim in the pool before afternoon naps. The pool is across the street, about a 5-7 minute walk from our unit as well. It has a waterslide, zero entry area and hot tub. It wasn’t very busy despite the hotel being full and was family friendly with a snack bar and towels provided.

 

The things I liked about this resort when I was booking – no resort fees, free parking, free WIFI, free towels and chairs at the beach. The only Extra is a cleaning fee at checkout, which is understandable as these are condos that need to be cleaned between visitors. We get three cleaning services during our stay – one is just a towel change, one is floors, garbage and linens and one is a full clean. That should be sufficient, but we can pay for extra cleaning if needed.

 

So, I am happy to report that we survived our “WORST FLIGHT EVER” and our stay on the beautiful island of Kauai is looking up. More to come!

Trista Heads to Hawaii – Final Blog

A very big Mahalo to all the lovely Hawaiian locals who took the time to share the history, passion and Aloha of the Hawaiian Island!

Our last day in Kona, we embarked on a walking tour down the main strip. We started our day at Hulihe’e Palace, a heritage site, with a guided tour that filled us with information on the history of King Kamehameha and the royalty line that lived here. The home is filled with amazing artifacts and hand crafted antique furniture, mainly made from Koa which is a very expensive Hawaiian hardwood.

We crossed the street and stepped inside another heritage site, The Moku’aikaua Church which is Hawaii’s first church congregation established in 1820. Fascinating site, as there have only been minor updates to either damaged or destroyed parts of the church.

Down the street, close to the marina, we had a taste of Scandinavian Shaved Ice, which is a treat that is not to be overlooked!! Shaved ice, stuffed with ice cream and topped with multiple flavors of your choice. The below picture is the Lava Flow, my favorite treat on the trip!
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We got to enjoy a very tasty lunch, pizza and beer from the local brewery at Kona Brew! If you are a beer drinker, don’t forget to stop here for a pint while visiting Kona, as they have tons of variety of beer, all very tasty, unique flavors.

The other half of our group enjoyed the morning with a Body Glove Tour, snorkeling through Captain Cook’s Cove discovering lots of fish, hundreds of spinner dolphins and one even got to see a Spotted Eagle Ray, relative to the Manta Ray that we missed a few days prior. They all came back with a slight sunburn but could not stop ranting about all the sea life they go to see!

This trip has been so informative and one to remember with such an array of sites to see. Don’t hesitate to book the Big Island for your next getaway and stay tuned for “We’ve Been There” in our email blast, mid-January for a great package deal I’ll have for you! Mahalo!