Grab Your Lasso and Head West!

P1080063When you think of the wild wild west, what comes to mind?  In the movies, it’s all about the cowboys with their big belt buckles, boots and spurs and cool cowboy hat with lasso in hand.   If you’d like to live your own real life wild west adventure, you can visit one of many dude ranches in the United States. The Dude Ranch Association’s website will give you a list of the various ranches throughout the country.   I have always wanted to see what it would be like to put myself in the middle of a wild wild west adventure. That’s why I chose to visit the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona.  It is perfect for singles, couples and families alike, with a gorgeous backdrop of the Sonoran Desert and the Saguaro National Park.  The ranch sits on 650 acres, houses 180 horses, and is surrounded by the protected Saguaro National Park. This New York City girl has always loved country music, but has never owned a pair of boots or a cowgirl hat. That all changed when I arrived to the ranch.  As they say, when in Rome…or when at a dude ranch, this is your chance to have some fun and dress the part!   I signed up for my first horseback riding lesson and was led into the arena.  In no time, I was following a real life cowboy as he led us on horseback through the breathtaking mountainous terrain.


When contemplating a dude ranch, one may think of it as working the land and getting down and dirty.  However, there is no reason to have to completely rough it while getting the dude ranch experience.  When visiting Tanque Verde Guest Ranch, you will be spoiled with amenities such as a heated pool in which you can swim laps, a hot tub, and overly spacious rooms, casitas and haciendas, which can house up to six people per room with sweeping views of the Sonoran desert from your private terrace.  You can also take in the most gorgeous Tucson sunsets, which transform the sky into amazing shades of orange, red and yellow.  P1080007

The food at the ranch is plentiful, and is a combination of healthy and traditional.  Breakfast includes a buffet, with fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries and oatmeal, and a menu to order, with all types of eggs, pancakes and traditional American options.  Twice a week, everyone usually gets on a horse or mountain bike and rides up to the homestead for breakfast, where the owner Bob, 80, still flips pancakes for everyone. IMG_0135 The general manager, and his wife, Debra, also make daily visits to the ranch and sit with families at lunch and dinner.  They are always open to hearing feedback to ensure your present and future visits are the best they can be. The ranch has been in Bob’s family since 1957 and there are families who have been going to the ranch for almost as long as it’s been open.  Perhaps that is the best testament to the wonderful hospitality and experience the ranch offers. Lunch is also a buffet with a salad bar, hot dishes and desserts, and dinner is either a sit down in the dining room or a cookout in the Cottonwood picnic area.  You’ll sit around the firepit with live country music and selections such as sumptuous steaks, pulled pork, smoked turkey and ribs that fall off the bone, with collard P1080055greens, baked potatoes, beans and mac and cheese.

So what is a typical day like on a dude ranch?  The schedule is chock full of activities for everyone in the family throughout the day and your toughest part will be figuring out which to do first.  The main focus of the ranch is the horseback riding and there are lessons and rides for all levels, including a “fun”damental class for beginners, and intermediate, and advanced classes.  If you are a first time rider or one who just prefers to take a beautiful ride through the desert, the walk rides will take you on various paths and up into some higher elevations for sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and the various types of cacti. P1080158 If you are more advanced and would like to try a loping ride (faster than a trot), they do make you take a loping test to verify you are extremely comfortable on your horse and have all of the skills you need to know.  In addition to the horse lessons and rides, there are daily activities such as team penning, and something they call Fontana, in which you go through various obstacles with the horses.

Because some decide riding isn’t for them, or they would like to do more on the ranch than just ride, there are organized mountain bike rides for all levels, hikes, which range from one and a half to three hours, photo hikes to capture the best light and scenery of the desert, tennis lessons, fishing, nature talks, and water color classes. You can also choose to relax by or take a swim in their heated pool or rest your tired muscles in the hot tub. I tried a little bit of everything, and when asked which was my favorite, I really couldn’t give an answer.  For someone who likes an active vacation with a good mix of relaxation and gorgeous scenery, you can’t beat the P1080193Tanque Verde Guest Ranch.

Speaking of relaxation, while there, you must get a treatment from their Sonora Spa.  My muscles definitely took a beating from all of the activities, and Paige, their lead massage therapist, with a specialty in sports injuries, did incredible work on my neck and back muscles.  Having experienced my share of therapists, I think she was one of the most knowledgeable, and her work was amazing!  P1080167I highly recommend treating yourself to a massage at the end of your stay.  You can also choose from a list of beauty treatments.

I traveled to the dude ranch on my own, but the staff never made me feel as though I were isolated.   In the center of the dining room is a community table, so one can sit there each night and meet new people coming to stay at the ranch.  The hot tub is amazing for sore muscle recovery and also a romantic night of stargazing.  Tucson has a light ordinance, so unless cloudy, you will usually have amazing views of the night sky. You can also grab a drink in the doghouse saloon and play a little pool, or sit on the deck and watch the beautiful sunset. One of my favorite things to do was to sit on the lounge chair on my terrace and just enjoy the peaceful serene sounds of the desert.

P1080101Perhaps what the ranch is most known for is its family visits.  They have a kid’s horseback riding program so the parents can also enjoy themselves, knowing the children are being looked after with good care from the staff.  I spoke with one family who have been going there for 23 years!  Their parents took them and now they are taking their children. Their parents still go, and they have their family reunion there each year. Another family was coming up on their 50-year reunion.  The ranch has a very warm and welcoming feeling, and many make it their second home, with the kids looking forward to going back each year.  P1080233

So grab your riding boots, hat, and gloves, and head to the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch. If you forget, or don’t have any of your own gear, their well-stocked gift shop will help you fulfill all of your cowboy and cowgirl needs.  The fun pictures and experiences you and the entire family will enjoy will definitely make memories to last a lifetime!

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Luxurious Bus Travel

Inside the limoliner

Inside the limoliner

Do you travel between NYC and Boston or Framingham for business or to see friends and family?   You can take Amtrak, which adds up in price, or you can fly, but I think for trips under five hours, it never really pays to fly – the time it takes you to get to the airport, the fact that you have to get there at least an hour before your flight, and add in the possible delay factor.  So what options are left? Taking the bus, which can be economical, but you never know how cramped it will be, as the seats are usually narrow with little legroom, and if that person next to you brings on board some smelly food or talks on their cell really loudly, you’re stuck being miserable for the duration of the trip.  That’s where the perfect compromise comes into play…it’s called the limoliner.  It’s a bus, but one with big leather seats, either next to the window or aisle, and carries under 30 people per trip.   It will make your ride to and from Boston a very comfortable, stress-free one.

The service onboard is terrific.  They serve one meal and unlimited soft drinks and snacks.  The bus also has wifi, which works well.  I’ve been on buses before that promote wifi service, but you’re lucky if a site loads within 10 minutes.  I was able to work the entire trip.  At one point, there was a woman talking really loudly on her cellphone and the gentleman working for limoliner politely went over to her and let her know she was a bit loud, as to not make it an uncomfortable ride for everyone else on board.  However, you do get great reception and can make business calls while onboard.  In the back of the bus, there is a cell-free zone, so if you prefer complete silence, you can opt for one of those seats, some of which have a table as well for your laptop.



They also play a movie, have a television channel, and SiriusXM radio on board. Since the bus is so small, you can see the tv screens from anywhere on the bus and you can control whether you want to listen to the radio or movie/tv from your seat.   It feels just like a flight, but without all the airport hassle.

The bus conveniently travels between the Hilton in midtown on 53rd street  and 6th avenue in NYC, the Sheraton Back Bay in Boston, and the Mass Pike Framingham Park and Ride.  There are a few departures throughout the day, and the price starts at just $69 one way.  To book your next trip to or from Boston, just click here.

Chatham Bars Inn: New England Enchantment!

Chatham Bars Inn

Chatham Bars Inn

I’m always looking for great romantic getaways close to home because, let’s face it, we can’t all get away for a week or more at a time.  However, three days over a long weekend is usually doable, and can do wonders for your soul.   It can throw in that extra spark into an already amazing relationship or into one that has been missing that TLC for a little while.  For years, I have wanted to visit Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket and get back to Cape Cod.  On my last trip to the cape a few years ago, I drove past the Chatham Bars Inn in Chatham, stopped in to get a pamphlet, and said, I need to go there!  Well around five years later, I finally made it there, and the wait was definitely well worth it!

Spa Suite

Spa Suite

If you ask anyone in town how to get there, as we did a few times when finding our way, their eyes will light up when you mention the Chatham Bars Inn.  It really is second to none to every other property in the Cape Cod region.  If I did not have an agenda of checking out Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, I would have loved to stay at the resort all day and night.  However, it is a fantastic place to stay if you plan on exploring Chatham and other regions on the cape while staying in a purely luxurious property with phenomenal restaurants, a private spa, and oceanview rooms bigger than my apartment in New York City.  I was spoiled with accommodations in the spa suite where the rooms have their own private steam shower, Jacuzzi tub, fireplace, and sauna, and an outside pool that can only be accessed by those staying in the spa rooms.   There is nothing like coming home at the end of a day of biking and exploring, and settling into a hot steam shower and sauna before crawling underneath the covers.

Stars Restaurant

Stars Restaurant

Complimentary transportation will take you around the resort and to various places close by, but there is also plenty of valet and self parking.  With the beautiful setting of the resort, you’ll want to walk everywhere, and if awake early enough, take in the beautiful sunrise over the ocean as you make your way to breakfast or to the complimentary morning coffee and tea.

You can choose the breakfast buffet or a la carte menu.  The buffet is definitely quality with plenty of fresh fruit, lox and other fish, all of your traditional breakfast favorites, plus eggs benedict, various types of granola, oatmeal, muffins, breads, various juices and smoothies.   For dinner, there are various restaurants from which to choose, from casual to formal, with a wide range of food selections.

Stars Restaurant

Stars Restaurant

We dined one night in Stars, the formal steakhouse and seafood restaurant.  I ordered the half lobster with a shrimp and crabcake supplement and a side of sautéed spinach, while my friend ordered the NY strip with parmesan crusted steak fries.  Dessert was homemade balsamic vinegar icecream and a mixture of sorbet.  Appetizers were seared scallops and an amazing raw tuna dish.  My seafood dish was quite succulent and the spinach prepared perfectly.  You could definitely tell that the chef paid attention to detail, as the food far surpassed anything we had eaten outside the hotel.

Stars Restaurant

Stars Restaurant

The concierge was very helpful in suggesting ferry and tour companies for the trips to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  We went on Labor Day for a few days, so it was right after the height of the season had settled down.  However, if you plan on going during the peak season, you definitely want to make a reservation, especially if you plan on bringing a bike or car on board.  We opted for the Hy-line high speed boat to both the vineyard and Nantucket.  They left from Hyannis, which was around a 30 minute ride from the hotel and around 40 minutes in peak season.  The boat company was terrific with easy parking right near the terminal ($17) and plenty of space on the top and inside the boat.



I would definitely recommend the high-speed line, as we arrived in about an hour compared to the two plus hour ride on the traditional ferry.  It is definitely worth the extra money, especially if you decide to do day trips like we did.  The ferry ride was more than just a way to get from Hyannis to the islands.  The scenery was spectacular and the sunset on the way back from the Vineyard was breathtaking!

There is so much to see and do while on Martha’s Vineyard, so if you are on the day plan, I definitely think you should take an intro tour to get a sense of the island so you know what you’re looking at as you explore on your own.  Ron Minkin was highly recommended . He sent Dave to give us a personalized tour and Dave had so many great anectodal stories to tell since he’s lived on the island for over three decades and was even in the movie “Jaws” when they filmed it on the island. IMG_2194 His personalized tours start at $80/hr for up to four people.   After the tour, we walked around the downtown area, checking out the various shops.


Sun ‘n fun

With so many great bike paths, given the opportunity, I would always rent a bike to explore an island, but with Martha’s Vineyard, it is much bigger than Nantucket, and therefore, with our limited amount of time, we decided to rent a jeep from Sun ‘n Fun to explore the rest of the island so we could make it to the end and see the gorgeous view of the lighthouse in Aquinnah.   At first we were going to rent a moped, but we were able to cover a lot more ground in the jeep.  It’s really easy to get around the island, as there are really only three main roads, North, South, and Middle.  Sun ‘n Fun has some of, if not the, best rental rates on the island for hourly or full day rentals.

Gail's Tours

Gail’s Tours

On Nantucket, we also only had the day, and since we were already into off peak  season, the ferry back to Hyannis left at 4:30, leaving us only six hours to explore.  Therefore, we decided to call Gail of Gail’s Tours, who was also recommended to us.  She fills her red Mercedes van with ten or so people and travels the island telling tales of its inhabitants and pointing out the best photo spots.  She charges $25 per person and can be reached at (508) 257-6557.  There are many bike paths leading to the gorgeous beaches.  We only had time to start on one towards Madaket, but the beautiful multicolored flora surrounding us on both sides was like a scene out of a movie.  I would definitely love to go back when I have more time to ride the trails, which for the most part are flat, with minor hills.  You can also explore off road with the many dirt paths that lead to places a car or moped couldn’t get to.

So if you’re thinking about getting away for just a few days or longer and want to really treat yourself to an amazing escape that will leave you feeling pampered and relaxed,  book your stay at the Chatham Bars Inn as a home base for your New England adventure or as your destination. IMG_2185  If you’re seeking the perfect romantic retreat, girlfriend getaway or golf outing with the guys, you will enjoy every moment.

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Raw Goodness!

P1060857When I say I love to eat raw food, what’s the first thing you think of? When I did a features piece on raw food restaurants a few years ago, responses included everything from raw hamburger meat to bugs that are eaten on the show Fear Factor.   Well it couldn’t be further from the truth.  Since I did the story six years ago, the raw food diet has gained some additional recognition and more raw food restaurants and juice bars are popping up, but still there are many people not familiar with the whole way of eating. I feel they are missing out tremendously on what is probably the healthiest way of eating for optimum health.  I have known about the raw food lifestyle for awhile and whenever I met someone who told me they had a dehydrator or a vitamix, I would get super excited, but also jealous that I did not have one and I wasn’t preparing delicious raw food desserts and entrees like they were.  Therefore, when I saw the email in my inbox advertising the Raw Food bootcamp weekend in DC, I canceled all my weekend plans and knew I had to go.

Originally I was going to drive down from NYC, but my friends suggested I take the Vamoose bus which left right from 30th and 7th avenue and dropped me off in front of the metro which was one stop away from NIH, where the Raw Food Institute’s bootcamp was going to be for the weekend, so it couldn’t have worked out better!   I read recently about a couple who used to commuted every weekend on the Vamoose bus to visit each other.  It was a beautiful love story. 1542-Vamoose-100a When I called to book my ticket, the woman told me another couple recently met on a ride from New York to D.C.  and he proposed to his then girlfriend on the bus!   With odds like that, I figured, why not?!  Maybe I’d be next!  As I type this, a pretty cute guy is sleeping in the seat next me, so who knows how this trip will end!  The ticket is only $30 one way from New York to the DC area, with stops either in Bethesda or Virginia.  Between gas, tolls, and the aggravation of driving, it was a no brainer!  The Vamoose buses were really comfortable both ways, and full, but not overly crowded with plenty of room to spread out. P1060844  They do offer internet and outlets on the bus, but like on many buses, you have to be a bit patient with the internet.   If you need to pay a visit to Washington D.C., Maryland or Virginia from New York, this is an extremely relaxing and economical way to travel.

I arrived at the Raw Food Institute’s bootcamp Friday evening and met Lisa Wilson and Michael Bergonzi, who run the institute in Simsbury, Connecticut.  They joined forces recently after Lisa left the DC area for Connecticut and Michael left the world renowned Hippocraties Instiitute in Florida.  Usually they do a seven day immersion program in which people come to detox and learn the A to Z’s of the raw food lifestyle.  They decided to do the bootcamp in an effort to get people there who could not normally take off for a week at a time to do the program.   It was a jam-packed weekend in which we heard testimonials from people who are now survivors of stage 4 cancer after adopting the raw food lifestyle for healing, lessons on how to prepare and make delicious fresh veggie juices, entrees, how to sprout, grow and juice our own wheatgrass, and the medicinal benefits of essential oils. P1060849 I didn’t sleep much for the weekend I was there, as I was also catching up with friends, so I was yawning in the morning, but as soon as I started drinking the rejuvenating reishi tea, the delicious vegetable juices, and eating raw samples (kale chips, macaroons, icecream, soup, etc), I was wide awake, alert and excited!  Lunch was amazing, catered by Khepra’s, a local raw food owner and chef in Washington D.C.  It consisted of kelp vegetables, raw hummus, nut burgers, seaweed wraps, creamy collards, spicy broccoli, and some other phenomenal raw food dishes that gave me so much energy.

P1060853Lisa and Michael complement each other nicely, as Lisa focuses more on the raw food aspect of the weekend, while Michael is a master grass grower and taught us how to make our own mini greenhouses, grow our own wheatgrass, and sprout many different protein rich beans.  In addition to teaching us all about the importance of certain vitamins and minerals in our diet,  and why certain foods are called superfoods and more nutritious for us than others, they also emphasized the mental component to making a change for the positive in our lives.  They were both very motivational and I learned a lot in just two and a half days.

If you would like to partake in a life changing  week at their institute where you will detox and start your journey to a new, healthier you, or participate in the next bootcamp weekend, you can read more and sign up here.  I promise you it will be money well spent!  Think of all the money you’ll save in doctor’s bills in the future!

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Connecticut’s Club Med: A Vacation in a Weekend!

Are you looking for an amazing vacation in a weekend and a place where you’re guaranteed to meet new friends and possible relationships?  As you know, I love to travel, and with Club Getaway, you can meet up to 300 single like minded people who love everything from relaxing by the lake and reading a book to hiking the beautiful Appalachian trail and water skiing. Zipline1 Located in the Berkshire Mountains, just two hours from New York City and Boston, the weekend is chock full of fitness classes, hikes, bicycle rides, wine tastings, trapeze lessons, organized sports and tennis lessons.  At night, enjoy a beautiful bonfire with live music, the dance club and live bands.  I have been going for years and have met some of my closest friends here.  Memorial Day Weekend will be here sooner than you think and now is your chance to sign up and get a $60-$75 discount off of the regular rate, plus your first drink is on me!  Click here to sign up and feel free to contact me with any questions.  If you call 1-877-7GO-PLAY to book, make sure you mention my name so you can get the discount and then tell me, so I can make sure you get your drink!  If you can’t make this weekend, there are other themed weekends for young professionals, Jewish weekends (kosher food), Boomers, and families.  Looking forward to seeing you there!



New Years in Times Square

Happy New Year! How did you end up spending your New Years Eve? I thought mine would be low key, which it pretty much was for my standards…dinner, a friend’s apartment party in Times Square and then we walked around the city for awhile before settling into a diner at 3am. However, being that the apartment was on 47th street right off of Broadway, we were able to get close to all the action at around 11:45pm, which was pretty sweet. In all these years living in the New York area, I had never seen the ball drop because I never wanted to wait outside beginning at two in the afternoon. Last year, I went to the same party and it was awesome being in the middle of it all, so I decided to do it again this year. 

The energy of Times Square was truly amazing, with people gathered in one place from all around the world. The countdown, the confetti, the billboards, and the music pumping through the streets was just incredible. I think the best part was just a few minutes after midnight when everyone cleared out and I stood there looking up and around. It’s not often I stand in the middle of Times Square and take it all in.

And to top the night off, there were fireworks in Central Park and as I turned around towards the park, I saw the finale. Definitely a memorable way to start off the New Year, but what’s most important is that I was with friends and that’s what it’s all about. How have you spent the new year so far? We all make resolutions, but what is the one promise you have made to yourself that you will most definitely keep? I think the new year is a time for inspiration and motivation to change whatever it is you’d like to do differently and if you want it, only you can make it happen!! Here’s to health and happiness in the new year!

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The Big Island: Full of Big Adventure!

There is so much to see and do on the Big Island but with only two and half days, I had to make the most of them.  I decided to take a volcano tour and go scuba diving with the manta rays, two experiences I could only get on the Big Island.  First, I’ll tell you about the diving in Kona….a must do!!  Or if you are not a diver, you can usually go out as a snorkeler on the dive boat and just stay above the water, but still see many of the magnificent sea life including the manta rays.  I decided to go diving with KonaHonu Divers and I couldn’t have picked a better dive operation.  I went with them because in addition to the single manta dive that they had in the evenings, they made it a two’fer and did a reef dive at the same spot prior to the manta dive.  It’s amazing what a few hours can do to bring out other creatures of the sea. 

KonaHonu’s dive shop is in town and easy to get to by rental car or SpeediShuttle. Since we were only there for two days, we opted for the SpeediShuttle, which is the easy, no hassle way to get around the island.  We made the mistake and didn’t reserve the shuttle upon arrival, so we had to take a cab to the resort which is more expensive than the shuttle, so definitely make your reservation before flying into Kona.  Once there, I made a reservation to take me to the dive shop as well as back to the airport.  I really liked the drivers for Speedishuttle.   Not only did you get a ride, but also a very informative tour about the people and the island.  Making the reservation was easy, as there is a SpeediShuttle desk inside the Hilton, or you can do on their website.

Once I was at the dive shop, everything was made so easy.  My dive gear was already on the boat, so all I had to do was fill out the waiver and be on my way.   I usually bring my wetsuit and fins with me, but this time decided to travel light.  The service on board the boat was impeccable and I felt spoiled compared to some of my other dives in the past.  Everything was set up with your name label on it.  They came around to make sure everything was good with your integrated weights…that’s right…integrated, so no weight belts!!  The crew on my boat was John, Jason and Jack and they were so diligent in giving us a briefing of the site we were going to dive both before the first and the second dive.  You can tell they are very thorough in their safety checks while also running a top notch operation and making sure everyone has a great time.  They explained the creatures we would see and when it came time to talk Mantas, Jason talked all about how long they’ve been there, how they reproduce, the various ones we’d see, etc.  In between dives, they fed us sandwiches, animal crackers and chips…more than your typical oranges and cookies!

The manta ray dive has been written up as one of the best in the world and I can certainly see why.  When I tell you this is an experience you don’t want to miss, you definitely don’t want to miss this!   With all my diving over these past few years, I had never seen a manta ray, let alone one so close.  It was basically a light show underwater full with 13 mantas swimming up  and over our heads.  Everyone had a flashlight and as the mantas were attracted to our light, they would come right to us as if they were going to eat us with their big but harmless mouths, and then swim right over us, almost in a choreographed fashion with the other manta rays.  I couldn’t believe how beautiful and large these creatures were.  One can just sit there and watch the show they put on for a 45 minute dive.  After the dive was complete,  the crew took care of all of your equipment, so all we had to do was put on our clothes and watch the video the professional videographer took underwater.   They really made the dive so effortless and enjoyable.  I can now see why one of the couples on our trip has been diving with them several times.  If I were to go back, there’s no question, they would be my dive operator of choice.

One of the main reasons I chose to visit the Big Island was for the volcano that keeps on erupting.  I figured this was a site you would only see in Hawaii, so it was a must do.    What I didn’t realize was that there was a company that would take all of the guesswork out of hiking the volcano.  One that would pick us up at your hotel, provide an extremely informative tour on the ride there, and choose only the best spots to stop throughout the day.  Hawaii Forest and Trail was started by Rob Pacheco who saw there was a void in Hawaii tourism…the ecotourism aspect of Hawaii.  So he started Hawaii Forest and Trail, a full service company that provides a variety of tours to view the volcano and the amazing astrology one can see on a clear night.  We chose the Twilight Volcano Tour, as we were hoping to see the lava lit up at night.  The trip began with a pickup in their van which has a capacity to sit twelve, but we were a more intimate group of six, which really made for a personal tour experience.   Ethan was our guide for the day and from beginning until end, he made sure we were comfortable and safe.  He was always monitoring our happiness from the temperature of the van, to how much we enjoyed the lunch and dinner that came with the tour, and each stop we made along the way.  We first traveled between two of the world’s largest mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Saddle Road.  Along the way, Ethan pointed out some of the rare plants and trees of the world and explained the science of the volcano and how it forms new land.  On the way into Hilo, we stopped at Mauna Kea State Park and the Kaumana Cave, which was probably one of the coolest part of the trip.  We trekked through the lava tube and saw first hand the various types of lava that once flowed through the tube and settled into different textures depending on how quickly it cooled.  While walking through the tube, we could feel the ground water drip through the lava.  Next on the trip was the summit of Kilauea inside Hawaii Volcanos National Park.  Since there is so much to see and do inside the park, it’s really nice to have a guide show you the best spots and take you there in a methodical fashion so you can get the most out of your day.  On our tour, we visited the sulfur banks, steam vents, a pit crater which is only accessible if you’re with Hawaii Forest and Trail along the Chain of Craters Road, hiked a lava field, and before our dinner, drove down the coast and took in the awe inspiring view of the coastline and ocean from a lava bench.  This is a truly romantic spot and would make for a great place to propose above the arches!  After a healthy, delicious dinner in the park, we drove back up around 3000 feet and paid a visit to Jaggar Museum and saw the awesome site of the Halemaumau Crater, which contains hidden molten rock that glows after dark.  It was a magnificent sight to see.  After our full day of exploration, Ethan got us home safely while most of us dozed off on the two hour drive back.  It was a wonderful day and I’m so glad we chose to take the tour with Hawaii Forest and Trail.  They took all the planning out of the equation and left us with a day filled with magnificent memories and new knowledge.  This trip gave new meaning to the volcanoes I used to make with baking soda in grade school!

Hilton Waikoloa Village: Beauty on the Big Island

When deciding which Hawaiian islands to visit, it can be a very tough decision, as there is so much to see and do on all of them.  I wanted to pick two islands that were going to provide different experiences, so I decided on the Big Island to go with my Kauai visit.  As much as I love the beach and relaxing, I like gathering new experiences wherever I go, and the Big Island certainly was intriguing with its volcano and the opportunity to scuba dive with the manta rays, known as one of the world’s best dives.   With the volcano on one side of the island and the diving on the other, I wasn’t sure where to stay, and if it would require a lot of time in the car switching hotels.  Then I called the Hilton Waikoloa Village and they were so helpful in figuring out the best itinerary. It turns out they work with Hawaii Forest and Trail, a company that provides full day tours to the volcano, so you can plant yourself on the west coast and leave the rest to them.

The Hilton Waikoloa Village is an amazing resort and a beautiful and fun place to stay as a couple or with your family.  There is so much to do as a family such as the dolphin quest, where you can have an interactive experience with the dolphins.  I’ve never been to resort that has it on premise, so this is definitely a big treat.  It’s also great to have the opportunity to watch the dolphins from your hotel room terrace!  There is a huge pool and waterslide, Club Keiki, the camp for kids, so you can have some alone time, and the lagoon where you can rent paddleboats, water bikes, kayaks, and snorkel equipment through Ocean Sports.  This past summer I had seen a lot of people doing the stand up paddleboarding and I always wanted to try it, but I was a bit hesitant.  However, with Ocean Sports, they will give you a quick lesson and you can practice in the calm waters, which is a great place to get acclimated with the board, keeping your balance and learning how to maneuver yourself around the lagoon.

If you are here as a couple, don’t worry, you won’t be surrounded by screaming children, as the resort is vast in size…so big that it even has a monorail running through it!  I’ve stayed at resorts in the past where you would not want to stay  if you were on your honeymoon, but this is not one of them.   I was only here for two full days, so I did not get a chance to eat dinner at the resort, as I was diving one night and on the volcano tour the other, but there are some great restaurants to choose from for all your meals with a wide variety of cuisine from Japanese to traditional Hawaiian cuisine, and something for everyone’s budget.  For breakfast, I hit up the lagoon spoon, which serves a very generous portion of your choice of two cereals and two toppings with milk for just $4.95.  For lunch, there is everything from inexpensive take-out from the marketplace, a casual poolside grill to a sit down restaurant.  There is also a shuttle that goes back and forth to the shops in the Waikoloa Village which includes a supermarket in case you’d like to stock up.  For couples looking to unwind, relax and stay in shape, there is the Kohala Spa and fitness center.

One of my favorite parts of this stay was unquestionably the room and its terrace. The bed was extremely comfy (like it is at all Hilton hotels) and we stayed in a room overlooking the ocean and pool, so each night, we were able to leave our terrace door open to fall asleep to the sound of the ocean and wake up to the gorgeous sun and the sound of the waves below.  There is nothing more serene and beautiful than the sound of the ocean and the view of palm trees.  It’s very easy to start your day, as it’s extremely difficult to stay in bed with this around you!

The Hilton Waikoloa Village has everything you can ever ask for in a Hawaiian resort…breathtaking scenery and views, lots of activities, shopping, a wide variety of cuisine choices, and a friendly staff.   For your trip to the Big Island, there’s no better choice than the Hilton Waikola Village for amazing beauty, comfort and fun!

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Kaua’i = Paradise

Kauai is a magical place.  It’s an island that welcomes you with warm alohas, gorgeous blue skies filled with little puffy white clouds, but not enough to take away the sunshine, a fascinating coastline, and a remarkable canyon.  Kaua’i will sweep you off your feet with its beauty and romance.  If you are celebrating an engagement, wedding, anniversary, or just a special getaway, Kaua’i will enchant you with its beautiful hotels, hiking, sailing, scuba diving and perhaps one of the most breathtaking ways to see the island, by helicopter.   The oldest of the Hawaiian islands, Kaua’i is beautiful throughout, but has a different flare depending on where you are on the island.   My trip took me around the island with the opportunity to explore different properties.  Below is a suggested itinerary if you’d like to do what we did, or you may choose to plant yourself at one resort and explore the island each day by car.

Start off in the north at the prestigious St. Regis.  You’ll enjoy a magnificent view of Hanalei Bay.  Eating their delicious and comprehensive breakfast buffet overlooking the mountains and water each morning does wonders for your soul.   Plus, you can feel a little less guilty about how much you eat, because the morning boot camp class will give you an invigorating workout on the beach.  With the view of palm trees and the ocean, you’ll be motivated for any workout, no matter how challenging!  Their spa is also a great place to unwind and enjoy treatments utilizing organically grown products from the island.   If you choose to stay on Poipu Beach, the Sheraton Kauai Resort is a great choice.  With an oceanview room, you will enjoy gorgeous sunsets on your own private terrace.  The beach is beautiful and if you like relaxing at the property, they have two great restaurants, which also provide great sunset views.  After dinner, hang out with friends at the bar or relax on the beach with your loved one and listen to the sound of the waves and feel the tropical breeze around you.   Another option for accommodations is the Kaua’i Marriott Resort and Beach Club.   This is a great property if you’re looking for something close to the airport.  They provide a complimentary shuttle and also provide free parking, which is a nice perk if you rent a car.  You can also get some great souvenirs at unexpected stores like Walmart , Kmart and Cosco, all very closeby.

When in Kaua’i, there are many activities from which to choose.  I would recommend choosing activities that enable you to see the amazing scenery of the island by sea, on foot and by air.   Kayak Kaua’i  offers hiking and kayaking tours as well as surfing and paddle board lessons, which are very popular in Hawaii.  Hiking the Na Pali coast will provide you with sweeping views of the ocean from above.  We hiked the first two miles and stopped for lunch on some rocks at the beach.  It is a great hike, but can be slippery at times and a little challenging at others.  However, I saw people of all ages and body types on the trail.

Taking a sail up the coast and looking up is equally breathtaking.  Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures will take you on a half day sail up the Na Pali coast and  if you look close enough, you can see the hikers climbing the mountains you were climbing the day before.  You’ll pass by caves, and if you choose to take a zodiac ride, they will take inside some of them.  After a great sail, you’ll stop to snorkel and possibly see some nice sized turtles swimming around with you.  After working up an appetite, you’ll come back on the boat for a freshly cooked bbq lunch and drinks.

You’ll also want to spend part of a day exploring Waimea Canyon.  Even if you don’t have a chance or want to hike it, there is an easy drive up to 4000 feet in elevation with a few lookout points along the way for some great picture taking.  The Allerton Estate Tour of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place to stop as well.

If you’re a seasoned scuba diver or even a beginner, SeaSport Divers is a top dive operation located in Kauai with multiple locations, with the main store in Poipu Beach. Their other store is on the east side of the island in KAPAA.  Seasport Divers is a multiple Rodale’s Readers Choice Award Winner.  They were Voted #1 on Kauai, #5 in the Pacific and Indian oceans and rate as one of the 10 Best Scuba Diving Operators in the US, with a straight “A” rating.  Seasport Divers is the only scuba Diving Company on Kauai with multiple locations.  I had such a great dive experience with them.  From the moment I walked in the door, Frank was extremely welcoming and set me up with everything I needed.  I felt a sense of confidence with this company, especially during the safety briefing.  They were extremely thorough before even getting on the boat.  A lot of dive companies do not explain as much as he did or go into such detail.  While on the boat, divemasters James, Meghan and Frank, made sure all of our gear was set up and working properly.  Captain Andrew led us to the amazing dive sites of Nukumoi and Sheraton Caverns.  While down under, they always made sure everyone was together and when one diver decided to take off on his own, Frank took measures to find him immediately.   James was great with the new divers and took them in a separate group so they didn’t feel the pressure of keeping up with everyone else for their first time out.  Meghan took us down for the second dive in which there were huge turtles everywhere!  I’ve never seen so many turtles in one place, so it was a real treat.  She captured everything on video so one could take it home to always remember the dive.  Frank, James and Meghan were not only a skilled group of divemasters, but also a fun one, and made the Kauai dive a memorable one.  

Perhaps the most spectacular way to see the landscape of the island is by helicopter.   Island Helicopters offers an exclusive Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure.  In addition to your hour and half ride over the island, you will land at the Manawaiopuna Falls, the falls used in the movie Jurassic Park and only accessible by air.  As we rode deeper into the Waimea Canyon and along the coastline, I was overcome with emotion by the sheer beauty.  With everything we had seen while hiking and from the water, I couldn’t imagine it could get anymore gorgeous.  But it did and I think I had a huge smile my face for the entire ride.  If you’re looking for romance, do not leave this out!

All of the food on the island was delicious with lots of fresh fish.  However, one restaurant is an absolute must visit.  Joesslin’s Tapa’s Bar and Grill is a favorite among locals and tourists and for good reason.  The world renowned chef, Jean Marie Josselin prepares organic, fresh dishes in with impeccable style and creativity.  Many of the dishes we tasted included ingredients I had never had before, but were local to the region.  The dining experience was incredible and you should definitely make a dinner stop here.

I’ve seen some places over these past few years, but I can definitely understand why so many people visit Kaua’i for their honeymoons.  It exudes romance without even trying.  As soon as you step off the plane, an air of relaxation will fulfill you and you’ll realize you’re in Paradise!  As they say in Hawaii, Mahalo for reading my article and I hope I’ve inspired you to begin or renew your relationship in Kaua’i!



Thompson Beverly Hills: Swank and Sophisticated

I love traveling to Los Angeles.  Everytime I visit, I vow to move out there. The weather is spectacular and there is always so much to see and do.  In the past I’ve stayed with friends, but this time I decided to stay at one of the newer, hipper hotels in Beverly Hills and see the scene from a new perspective.   The Thompson Hotel brand has hotels in cosmopolitan areas including New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Chicago and two in Los Angeles, including the Roosevelt in Hollywood and the Thompson Beverly Hills, built in 2008. Upon driving into the hotel, which is discreetly located on Wilshire Boulevard, the valet attendant will help you with your luggage and take care of your car.  Right inside is reception with a cozy lobby.   The hotel is modern and the architecture, sharp.  When I stepped into my room, I knew this was different from any hotel I’ve stayed in.  With 107 rooms, 12 of which are suites, the architecture and furniture gave off a sexy, sophisticated and edgy feel.   It was upscale and smart, but reasonably priced.   The hotel and its fabulous rooftop bar and pool has been home to many fashion and television shoots, but is also a perfect spot for business meetings.  Overlooking downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills, one can order drinks or dinner and relax on couches and chairs under a heat lamp.   In addition to the traditional drink menu, they also serve up some delicious signature cocktails.

Many couples will get married at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel, which is quite beautiful and lavish, but also outside many people’s price points, so the wedding party will stay at the more affordable, yet fun and hip, Thompson Beverly Hills.  It’s a great place for locals and tourists alike, and I would highly recommend staying here if you are looking for a sheek, comfortable hotel in the middle of the swank neighborhood of Beverly Hills. Plus, with the winter upon us on the east coast, there’s no better time to visit Los Angeles, especially with fares as low as $149 each way from New York. If you are traveling to this or any of the other Thompson property, be sure to check out their blog called Room 100, which talks all about the exciting events and openings in and around the property.  Whichever Thompson Hotel you choose, you’ll enjoy a stylish, memorable stay in your city of choice.