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Archive for the ‘sand castle’ Category

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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Sun rising over Waikiki. Photo: Lori Knowles

Hello again from Hawaii, where Day 1 on Waikiki was near perfect.

Our day began with breakfast with Jimmy Buffet. I should say, at Jimmy Buffet’s. His restaurant inside the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber houses the Honolulu Surf Museum, our first stop of the day. And our first stop in an family adventure focused on surfing… finding that iconic Hawaiiain wave.

Curator Mark Fragale offered up a tour… something you can book yourself by contacting the restaurant (see website). Grab a beer from the bar and take a walk with Mark. He’ll track Hawaii’s surfing culture from waaay back, when Hawaii’s royals rode long boards carved out of single trees, Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swim champ, popularized Hawaiian surfing, and Gidget did her bubbly best to make every teen in North America want to ‘hang ten.’

The museum is the baby of Jimmy Buffet, who began simply by needing a place to display one of his favourite gifts: the surf board that appeared in that ’70s iconic flick, Apocalypse Now. Here’s a pic of the board, signed by Robert Duvall, and hanging now above Jimmy Buffet’s bar:

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Let’s Go Surfing Now

Next came our first family foray into surfing. We signed up for a group surfing lesson at Waikiki’s Hilton Hawaiian Village.

We were met casually by the hotel’s ‘surf stand’ by a laid back team of surfing pros in bright green shirts. Our motley crew included: a Japanese family speaking little English; a Brazilian woman with a broad, happy grin; my nine-year-old, goggle-wearing son; and me… keen, but definitely feeling forty-something.

Kudos to that team for making it all work.

Elijah, our lead pro, taught us how to lie on the board, paddle, pop up on our knees, stand up Ninja-style sideways on the board. It all seemed pretty easy on sand. I was doubtful about how all this ‘ease’ would translate on the Pacific.

But you know what? It did.

Our entire motely little crew stood up on our first wave. Amazing. Those Japanese kids, that Brazilian woman, my goggle-wearing son, even me, the forty-something. We rode those breaks — as small as they were — just like we were Gidget. Golden.

I’d offer a photo, but it was just too wet to take any. I’ll buy some from the pro photographer we took Kelly-Slater-style along with us (!), and post them as soon as possible.

In the meantime, I’ll sign off with this… My reason the day, as I said at the top, was only “near” perfect:

On my first Hawaiian surfing lesson, I got seasick.

There, I said it. I GOT SEASICK! Evidently, I forgot to keep an eye on the horzion.

But don’t let my admission stop you folks. Every person should try to hang ten at least once in their lives… even if they get seasick. And even if they’re forty-somthing.

A note about LoriExploring: Lori Knowles is the Family Fare columnist for the travel section of the Toronto Sun. Follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring

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Hello Hawaii!

We’ve moved into our superior digs at Honolulu’s Hilton Hawaiian Village. Like our view?

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We arrived, my 9-year-old son and I, mid-afternoon Saturday. Emerging from a 12-hour flight from Toronto into the sun and soft wind of Waikiki felt a little surreal. A swim in the Pacific and a bite to eat set us nearly right… but sleep was really what we needed.

Now it’s (very early) Sunday morning and we’re set for our Hawaiian family surf adventure. First stop: The Honolulu Surf Museum at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber.

Next, we’ll attempt to surf ourselves in our first lesson at 11 a.m.

Stay tuned… I’ll keep you posted.

A note about LoriExploring: Lori Knowles is the Family Fare columnist for the travel section of the Toronto Sun. Follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring

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Today I discovered two things:

1) I love to surf.

2) I’m terrible at surfing.

I’m a 40-plus woman on a girlfriend-getaway in Tofino, British Columbia… capital of Canada’s cold-water surfing culture. Capital, I should say, of Canada’s female cold-water surfing culture–I’m told there are more women than men surfing Tofino waves.

Why?

Tofino is home of Surf Sister, an all-female surfing school that offers all-women (and co-ed) surfing camps. You can learn in an hour, a day, a week… whatever. Surf Sister’s founder, Krissy Montgomery, has a band of pros under her wing who break down “the break,” making learning to surf Tofino waves really, really simple.

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Simple, that is, in theory… not necessarily in practice. Today I learned ‘popping up’ and ‘paddling out’ and ‘reading’ the waves are all more exhausting than simple.

Exhausting! After my 14th wave, just as I figured out where to place my feet and hold my hands and bend my knees… my body turned to jello. Simply walking out into the surf became a trial.

But surfing is thrilling, nonetheless. Very, very thrilling, especially when experienced alongside a group of like-minded women. Like I said, I learned to love it. Now, if only I wasn’t so terrible…

Stay tuned… humiliating surf photos to come!

In the meantime, some added suggestions for a girlfriend getatway in Tofino:

1) Consider a helicopter ride along this wild wet coast courtesy of Atleo Air. Jason Bertin’s new Tofino service offers sightseeing trips to glaciers, private islands, remote coastal locations…. head’s up, guys: it’s a good way to propose! Astounding and terrific.

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2) Tofino’s Wildside Grill cooks the best BC salmon and spotted prawn I’ve ever tasted. Wildside’s Jeff Mikus is a commercial fisherman bringing BC’s sea delicacies straight to your picnic table. Chef Jesse Blake certainly knows how to BBQ them.

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3) Order take-out (or hire a personal chef) from Tofino’s RedCan Gourmet. Chef Tim May makes a mean granola bar, brownie… and braises lamb to absolute perfection.

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4) Stay at Tofino’s Pacific Sands hotel. Rent a beach house. Mine is No.35… and it’s glorious, especially in the chair from which I’m writing this:

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Adios (rested) from Tofino.
Lori. www.loriknowles.com
Twitter: @LoriExploring

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The Hot Springs

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“Hot Springs Cove lies 26 nautical miles up the coast from Taquinna Provincial Park. For thousands of years, natural thermal hot springs have poured out of the rocks and spilled out on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Northern Clayoquat Sound.”

So read my Saturday morning itinerary. Uh Oh. My first Girlfriend Getaway to Tofino, British Columbia, was starting with a boat ride in the Pacific Ocean. Should I mention I’m prone to sea sickness? Nah… I’ll be fine. And this will be a wild, warming experience.

We boarded our Beachcomber-esque boat in the the Tofino harbour and immediately met one of the friendliest guides I’ve ever come across: Marla. She guides for Tofino’s Jamie’s Whaling Station & Adventure Centre. Chipper, informed, intelligent, helpful: Marla is my new hero. I forgot to take her photo, but here’s her vessel:

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Marla drove that boat in the Pacific Ocean like Danica Patrick drives her race car: with verve. Never mind that within moments my face was as sallow as the sea kelp. Never mind through the entire two-hour coastal tour I was willing myself — forcing myself — to keep my breakfast where it belonged: in my tummy. The journey to the hot springs was still incroyable.

We saw a whale! A great big tubular grey whale rolling in the waves, feeding on the shell fish delicacies hidden in the mud and sand near the Pacific’s cold shore. We saw sea lions basking in the spray of the waves; they lay lazily on the rocks of the mini islands that dot the coast of Vancouver Island.

We saw thousands and thousands of trees, and massive rocks, and swells bigger than buildings in Toronto. Marla kept up a steady pace of info: friendly, fascinating. And she kept on driving that boat…

Until we came to the hot springs.

Oh, the hot springs. What a sea treasure these springs are, hidden deep in Northern Clayoquot Sound. From a remote dock in Maquinna Provinical Park, the hot springs are a 30-minute walk along a wooden boardwalk (see top photo). The walk (loads of stairs included) delivers you to a narrow, rock-infested canyon full of steaming water… Off come the clothes. You stumble your way down into that warm, warm, soothing spring. Position yourself just so and you can see the sea’s waves below you rolling and crashing. More heaven.

Sorry folks, I don’t have a photo of this natural Canadian wonder: the steam and the rocks were too risky for my camera. You’ll just have to go yourself and witness what my fuss is about.

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Next came my flight out. Tofino Air came to fly us back to Tofino. Holy Mackerel… see photo above. The west coast of Vancouver Island from the air is, is… I can’t find the word. Holy Mackerel.

Our day ended with the Spotted Bear.

The Spotted Bear?

It’s a cozy, candle-lit bistro in Tofino. A few tables. An open kitchen. Two chefs and a server. And the food is sumptuous. Organic, Vancouver Island produce. Fish caught fresh from the Pacific. Upscale yet casual. I highly recommend it. Here’s a photo of our braised ribs and the chefs in action:

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That’s it for now. For info:
Spotted Bear: http://www.spottedbearbistro.com
Jamie’s Whaling Station: http://www.jamies.com

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Good morning from Tofino, where the sun hasn’t yet risen, but I’m waiting… waiting for this view to appear.

What a peaceful night it was here at the Pacific Sands. Our beach villas are perched at the very edge of Vancouver Island, where the waves thunder to the shore. On and on. Relentless.

I left my balcony door open just a little last night so I could stay in touch with the roar. At 2 am a cayote’s call woke me up. At 3 am, a crash of thunder. I’m told that happens a lot here on the edge of this voluminous country.

Why am I here? In Tofino, British Columbia?

A girl’s-only weekend. Girlfriend Getaway, I think they call it. It’s my first one. Ever. I’ve left the kids with their capable dad back in Toronto and have come here to surf, hike, eat, sleep. And write.

Our group of five met happily yesterday at the Vancouver Airport… many of us meeting for the first time. Our little posse boarded an eight-seat Cessna at YVR’s South Terminal. Orca Air. Our female captain and male co-pilot told us it was the first time in Orca’s history their passenger list was filled entirely with women.

Our view from the 50-minute flight looked something like this:

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Next, we were introduced to Tofino’s Pacific Sands by our host, gracious PS GM, Stephen. What a spot! The view from my room is show-stopping, as you’ve seen (first pic). Hell… the room itself is show-stopping:

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Then came a walk on the wet beach… in my rubber boots and hotel-issue yellow slicker.

And then came dinner. Mmmmm… a spicy, warm-your-bones, I’m-so-starving dinner at a Tofino hangout appropriately called: The Shelter. Its vibe: Cedar. Wood fire. Candle light. Surfers by the bar. Surfing flicks on the massive flatscreens by the bar. Surfing flicks on tiny flatscreens by each toilet (I’m serious). And perfectly spiced, belly-warming food brewed with mussels, oysters, lingcod, salmon and halibut.

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And finally…. finally… came sleep. In a big, white, feathery bed, with the door cracked open and the waves…. Heaven.

Info: Pacific Sands

The Shelter

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