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SeaWorld Antarctica

SeaWorld Orlando’s Cool New Penguin Attraction: Antarctica

After more than two years planning and preparing,¬†SeaWorld Orlando¬†finally debuted Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin on May 24 — a super-cool new ride and habitat for 200-plus penguins that resembles the Southern Hemisphere’s Continent of Antarctica, including icebergs, high winds and snow caps.

It’s Orlando’s coldest theme park attraction to date…. to read my review, please see my Family Fare piece in the Toronto Sun’s travel section, or visit the Family section of my website, LoriKnowles.com.

Photo by Lori Knowles. Copyright Lori Knowles. All rights reserved.

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SeaWorld Orlando’s latest family attraction opens May 24, 2013. I will be there.

Antarctica, Empire of the Penguins, features a ‘thrill ride’ through the South Pole, and a walk through a penguin habitat. Watch here for news, reviews and photos this coming week as the Orlando’s latest attraction debuts…

Lori Knowles will be on assignment at SeaWorld for the travel section of the Toronto Sun. For stories from Lori, see www.loriknowles.com Twitter: @LoriExploring.

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Brutus rests after surfing Hawaii’s North Shore. Photo/copyright: Lori Knowles

Sigh. My Surf Bus story has just appeared in the Toronto Sun’s Travel section. I’m now genuinely missing Oahu’s North Shore.

See story:

http://www.torontosun.com/2013/05/02/surfing-on-oahus-north-shore

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Breakfast at Palma Real

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Greetings once again from the pool at Paradisus Palma Real, Dominican Republic, where we’re sipping Italian coffee and watching the sun sparkle on the water.

But that is not why I’m posting today. This morning, I am more obsessed by my breakfast: tapas. What an experience. This food of Spain is made perfectly for me: small, tasty portions that allow you to sample without over indulging.

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On today’s menu: quiche, mango, mini crepes, and ham and chicken rolls moistened with cream. Delicious!

Time now to let it all digest, on my Bali Bed:

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More later…

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Paradisus Palma Real, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Greetings from Paradisus Palma Real on the beach at Punta Cana. I’m seated on the balcony watching the waves lap the shore, the sand as white as sugar. Incense are filling the air with a spicy smoke, and Balinese music is lilting softly on the stereo.

Heaven? You tell me:

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My day has been about water rituals.

First, a run along the beach, with the sun’s rays beating on my back and the beats of Springsteen propelling me forward.

Second, an egg-white omelet stuffed with vegetables for breakfast, and coffee as strong as it is in Spain.

Third, a tour of Palma Real by Paradisus, a Melia hotel they tell me is among the nicest in Punta Cana. As it’s my first time here, I cannot say for sure. What I do know is this: their Royal Service is helpful and nice, and the beds are lose-yourself comfortable.

Fourth, a doze on the beach. Those cabana beds! I’m taking one home with me.

And finally, a water ritual. In the spa. Hot. Cold. Sauna. Steam. I am ready for bed. But wait… there’s a nine-course dinner to come, and then… well, then, it’s rumoured Michael Jackson is in the buidling.

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Aloha. I have discovered for myself yet another Hawaiian treasure: Kona. Not the coffee, though that is good too… but the island. Also known as Hawaii, The Big Island.

I am in awe at how different this island is from the others — Oahu, Kauai, Maui etc. True, they’re all different. But Kona is very different — it’s black, bare and big, with pockets of paradise scattered about. I’m glad I’ve had a chance to experience it.

The photo above is of our first Kona hotel: Hilton Waikoloa Village. Its location about 30 minutes north of the Kona airport is along the Queen’s highway, which ribbons through a blackened wasteland of ancient lava rock–remnants of Hawaii’s working volcano.

The black, desert-like atmosphere of the road is broken only by patches of white coral along the roadside — words written by travellers with the white coral stones lying by the roadside. Messages like “Jenny Loves Fred” or “Burt Was Here in 2012.” I’ll upload a pic when I get a chance.

This Hilton is huge. Indeed, it’s the state of Hawaii’s largest resort… so large, you can take a train or boat between the lobby, the pools, the restaurants and your room. Odd but fun, especially for kids. Here’s a photo:

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There are two pools at Waikoloa. Two gigantic pools with water slides and water falls, and rivers and streams. There’s a dolphin pool in which you can swim with the dolphins… more on that later. And there’s a spectacular trail that snakes for miles along the edge of the ocean with some of the prettiest views on the island.

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The resort also has a massive lagoon that’s full of tropical fish, eels and sea turtles. This lagoon is not stocked… it’s naturally fed by the sea. The sea life chooses to live there. You can rent paddle boards, kayaks, sea bikes and snorkel gear from the beachside lagoon shop. My son and I spent hours mostly snorkelling the lagoon, visiting the sea turtles. We counted nine… they are unafraid and friendly.

Our day was improved further still with a trip to nearby Hapuna Beach. It’s a massive state park with a broad, white-sand beach… rare here on Kona. The experience was unforgettable. We rented boogie boards from the resort and used them to body surf the waves. All afternoon. We were so wiped by the end of it, we went to bed at 7 pm!

I love Hawaii.

Lori Knowles is the Family Fare travel columnist for the Toronto Sun. You can read her stories at www.LoriKnowles.com and follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring.

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Aloha once again from Waikiki, where I’ve just hopped off The Surf Bus.

The Surf Bus?

Sounds fabulous, right? The Surf Bus is a daily tour that transports travellers from highrise-happy Honolulu, to the roughness and wildness of Oahu’s North Shore, home of the big surf. Iconic surf spots–Pipeline, Sunset Beach–they’re all there, on the North Shore, along with the pretty little surf town of Haleiwa (pronounced Hally-EVA).

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The Surf Bus picked us up in the bus port of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Sam, our driver, said “Aloha” and invited us aboard. Sam is a descendent of generations of Hawaiians–his great great grandmother arrived from New Zealand ages ago on a whaling ship. Sam’s family has been here ever since.

Filled with passengers from Australia, South America, the US, the UK and fellow Canucks from Brandon, Manitoba, our enthusiastic little bus plunged onto the Honolulu freeway–a surprisingly busy, multi-lane system. According to Sam, Honolulu has the greatest number of highrises in NA after New York and Chicago. The city has 2.5 million cars–enough that if they lined up, they’d wrap eight times around the island of Oahu.

Despite the density and congestion, it takes us only 40 minutes to reach Oahu’s North Shore. Once past Pearl Harbor, the pineapple fields and the Dole factory, the freeway turns to an inland country road.

The Surf Bus passes through Haleiwa first before it drops us at our first point: The North Shore Surf Shop across the road from Shark Cove. There are surfers everywhere–on bikes, on mopeds, in trucks, on foot. They carry their boards under one arm and steer with the other.

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As part of the tour, we’re given bicycles of our own and pedal along a beachside bike path that snakes past several of the world’s most famous surf breaks.

And so we spend our morning, pedalling, pausing, snapping photos. It’s November, the month of The North Shore’s biggest surf; pro surfing competitions are underway. It’s US Election Day–the surfers are taking a break. But they’re practicing on the breaks–massive wave after thundering wave.

Back at The North Shore Surf Shop, we’re fitted with snorkelling gear–also part of the tour. We cross the road to a natural tide pool next to Shark Cove. The pool is protected (mostly) from the gigantic waves crashing against its rocks. The snorkelling is a mix of rough and wonderful–we skim over jagged black rock, spotting prickly sea urchins and yellow-striped fish.

Then it was back on The Surf Bus for a short trip to Haleiwa. On the way we stop to visit Brutus, one of the sea turtles that hangs out on a North Shore Beach:

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The pretty little town of Haleiwa is inland from the surf. A river runs through it. The Surf Bus kits us out with stand-up paddle boards and we paddle the quiet, jungle-like waterway, skimming over giant sea turtles.

We don’t have much time to tour the town. Too bad. Every store is shop- and photo-worthy. We pause quickly to watch kids slurping shave ice:

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And we grab spectacularly delicious shrimp-and-rice takeout from this blue food truck:

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Then its back to Honolulu. We say so long to Sam. My son and I really liked The Surf Bus.

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