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Archive for the ‘Beach’ Category

It had been too many years since I last visited Jamaica, so when I was invited to participate in an annual resort golf tournament, I accepted. I had played the Sandal’s Golf Course ten years ago and I knew it wasn’t maintained as pristine as the Doral, Pinehurst, or other well-known courses, but it was a fun course to play with small greens and Jamaican caddies.

AirTran departed early from both Richmond and Atlanta and we actually arrived early. Sandals has a comfortable private lounge in the Montego Bay Airport; refreshments and light snacks are provided as they arrange your transportation to your resort. Ocho Rios is a 90-mile drive from MoBay but I was glad to see that the improved highway (the one that had been promised for ten years) was FINALLY completed, so the drive time has been somewhat shortened. A rest stop complete with cold Red Stripe beer makes the 1 ¾ hour drive endurable.

 By the time I went to register for the golf tournament, stopped to grab a light snack, and got to my room, my luggage had been delivered to my room. At Sandals, one of the original and luxurious all-inclusive resorts, everything at the resort is included in a pre-paid price. My room was stocked with a complete bar, refrigerator with cold drinks, mixers, and beer, so I got into the island culture with a rum and tonic as I unpacked. At the opening reception and dinner that night, I met the hotel’s General Manager as well most department heads and many Sandals’ executives.

After a breakfast buffet featuring just about anything you could want, including mimosas and every variety of tropical  fruit that I’d ever heard of, we spend time reviewing the many Sandals’ upgrading projects currently being executed. We then headed to the golf course where we were assigned caddies for our entire stay, and off we went. “StarBoy” and Payne headed down the fairway and watched all four first drives find the fairway. As we approached the first green, we could see that the greens weren’t all “green”, in fact a lot of sand on the greens made them half-brown. I was pleased that although slow, the greens actually putted fairly smooth and even. It only took a few holes for us to realize that the caddies did know the way the greens broke, although after mis-clubbing me several times, I started getting my own distances and pulling my own clubs. Most holes were well-marked with 100, 150, and 200 yardmarkers, so calculating distances was not hard. All of the caddies were dressed alike in khaki shorts and yellow polo shirts ~ this gave a very nice and professional look. A well stocked refreshment cart circulates frequently. After golf, we tried the course’s 19th hole. This covered patio features an adequate food menu of chicken, burgers, hot dogs, and a fully stocked bar.

Our outdoor dinner at “MysticMountain” was cancelled because of threatening weather, so in its place, we were invited to the villa of Sandals’ chairman, Butch Stewart. Over one hundred of us had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in his home and then dined under banquet tents that had been erected in just a few hours. We left the villa and returned to our host hotel, Sandals Grande Ocho Rios, where the piano bar was just getting cranked up.

After golf and a relaxing afternoon the next day, we were hosted for dinner at Sandals Royal Plantation. Located next door to our host hotel, the Royal Plantation, is Sandals’ first boutique resort and has earned membership in The Leading Small Hotels of the World. Our buffet was set on the resort’s elevated patio that overlooks their private beach set fifty feet below. A magnificent buffet of everything tropical awaited us including oysters, shrimp, lobster, lamb, jerk chicken and pork (of course, what’s a Jamaican’s meal without one of these) assorted veggies, and a dessert table that must have kept the pastry kitchen busy all day.

Time did not allow me to visit the Red Lane Spa, but from past experiences, a trip here will relieve most things that ail you.

Jamaica continues to receive undeserved “bad press”. If you observe common sense and stay on your resort after dark, Jamaica is as safe as any other island in the Caribbean; the weather is great and the people are friendly. Don’t expect U.S. service levels and you won’t be disappointed.

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monkeysGallo Pinto? Pejibaye soup? No, I’m not really a “foodie”, but my recent trip to Costa Rica has me daydreaming about the superb native dishes made with the freshest ingredients.  In this gem of a country you can fish in the ocean and have your catch prepared to your liking that same evening at a dockside restaurant.  Yellowfin tuna sashimi alongside grilled mahi mahi.  Homemade tamales wrapped in banana leaves, tiny empanadas stuffed with local cheeses or meats; there’s always a new dish to savor. (more…)

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flowerOne thing I love about Maui is that you can choose to fill your time there with very diverse and exciting activities or you can choose to do nothing at all and still have a great time.  Having done quite a bit of sightseeing on the other islands, we had decided in advance that we would spend most of our time in Maui enjoying the beach and pools and we were looking forward to doing just that when we arrived midday at Kahului airport.  Arriving at this time of day is ideal because you usually won’t have to worry about traffic, which can be somewhat heavy around Lahaina in the morning and evening hours.  It only took us about 45 minutes in our rental car to get to the Ka’anapali resort area, where we were staying.  (more…)

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Grand Hyatt KauaiWe arrived in Lihu’e, Kauai in the early afternoon and quickly picked up our rental car.   We were excited to get to our resort, located on the south side of the island, which I knew would be one of the highlights of our trip.  From the second we arrived at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, we were never disappointed.  It is definitely one of the most beautiful resorts I have stayed in, from the amazing open air lobby with a postcard picture “window” towards the ocean, to the large and beautifully appointed rooms, to the amazing and extensive grounds full of colorful tropical flowers, waterfalls, palms, lagoons and waterfalls, to the spectacular pools, slide, hot tubs and more.  There was no question we were staying in paradise. (more…)

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Waikiki rainbowOn our way to breakfast this morning we walked along Waikiki beach and after a quick rain shower, we were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow, our fist one of the trip!  We then left for the airport and got on an early flight of about 50 minutes to Hilo, on the eastern coast of Hawaii (better known as the Big Island).  Most people that visit the Big Island fly into Kona airport, on the West, or sunny coast, where most hotels are located.  But we had decided to enjoy the beach on the islands of Kauai and Maui later on in the trip, so we took advantage of Hilo’s proximity to Volcanoes National Park and flew here instead.  There are only a couple of modest hotels in the town of Hilo and a few bed and breakfasts near the National Park.  We chose to stay at the Hilo Hawaiian hotel, which though it offers simple accommodations, it had comfortable and spacious rooms with balconies and beautiful views of Hilo Bay.  (more…)

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My mother and I are beach bums.  There is nothing we like better than to sit on a beach and read from early morning until dinner time. In between the reading, we like to roast in the sun, play in the water, eat yummy food for lunch and drink bar concoctions that we would never make at home.

In May, 2009 we found that perfect beach in Punta Cana which is in the Dominican Republic.  Take a look ….

Left beachRight BeachChair View

See what I mean…. (more…)

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plumeriaI recently returned from our family summer vacation in Hawaii.  I traveled with my husband and my 6 & 9 year old daughters. I have been to Hawaii several times before, but never with the kids.  So I knew this trip would be different, but I knew that overall, we wanted to show them what Hawaii is all about and give the whole family a mix of sightseeing, adventure, fun and relaxation.   I won’t argue that Hawaii is far from Virginia, and that’s part of the reason we waited til the kids were old enough to handle the flying time.  But providing them with enough entertainment to keep them busy, they did really well and if you ask them, they would go back to Hawaii in a heartbeat and it’s currently their favorite destination!

We arrived Honolulu around 5pm (11pm east coast time) and checked into the Hyatt, right across the street from Waikiki beach. We had a wonderful view of the ocean and beach and the Hyatt had everything we needed for a comfortable stay. (more…)

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