Oct 2010

What is *YOUR* Ultimate Family Vacation?

Sponsored By

Cheerios® is giving you the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, your ultimate family vacation. As part of a paid promotion for their “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, Cheerios® is sponsoring my post today about what my ultimate family vacation would be. Read (and view) mine below and Enter the Sweepstakes for a chance to actually win your own fantasy family trip or one of a bunch of other great prizes!


Where Do *YOU* Want To Go?

I feel incredibly lucky. I have been able to travel a lot in my life. As a child, we went to Germany often to visit family, and that tradition carried on into my relationship with Bryan. When Declan came along, it seemed only natural to bring him along on our adventures.

I was chatting with my boys recently and asked THEM what their “ultimate” family vacation would be. We were out to dinner (so excuse the eating), and I ended up recording our discussion – because as we spoke, I realized in many ways, we’d already had our ultimate family vacation. A few of them.

So lucky.

Bryan talks about how he likes trips that have something for all of us: a mix of adventure, kid-friendly and the back-to-resort upscale-ish-ness for after you have been tromping around all day.

Yeah, we totally did have that in our recent trips to Ireland and Puerto Rico, right?

So, I combined us talking about what we *like to do* on vacation with pics of us *actually on* vacation.


Now tell me about what *YOU* like to do on vacation!


And don’t forget to enter the “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, for a chance to win your own ultimate family vacation. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Further disclaimer: The trip to Puerto Rico was partially sponsored by the Rio Mar Wyndham Resort.

Jul 2010

Puerto Rico: Coastal Scenic Drive on Route 901

I know you thought I was finished with Puerto Rico recaps – but SURPRISE! I have one more up my sleeve. Life has just been so hectic lately, I haven’t been able to edit the photos from our last day there, and in turn, unable to talk about it either. Because what is a vacation recap without photos, right???


Here is the interesting thing about Puerto Rico. Being a small island, the weather reports are pretty similar for everywhere. A lot of “sunny with a chance of rain.” And on our last day, when it started raining on our resort, we were determined to see if we could escape it.

Our waiter from the previous night had told us not to miss a scenic drive along the Coast Highway 901, which is on the southeast side of the island. After I looked at a radar reading for the area, we decided it would be the perfect way to go. I did some quick googling, and not much information was available for this drive; it was certainly going to be more of an uncharted adventure for us.

So, if you go to Puerto Rico, definitely include this loop in your plans.

(Click image to see larger)

The drive along PR 901 included fruit stands, rural neighborhoods, gorgeous vistas, interesting beaches, the Punta Tuna Lighthouse in Maunabo, and a wonderful restaurant perched on a cliff – also recommended by a local friend originally from Puerto Rico. (Always listen to locals even when they have moved away!)

I wish I could tell you exactly where the restaurant was, but it has no website and is listed incorrectly everywhere you look on the web. But it is called El Nuevo Horizonte, and you will see it if you drive the way I described above. On the left. Off a cliff. With umbrellas and chairs perched to overlook the ocean.


Further around the bend, the Punta Tuna lighthouse was stunning – although only a quick visit to the actual lighthouse is required.

Unless you want to see amazingly orange little crab creatures.

The real bonus of that area was the beach down below, which felt oh-so-remote. We just played there for hours. As evidenced by Bryan. And his bone.

Which he used to break open this coconut.

I told you.


The other thing I loved was meeting this fisherman, who only spoke Spanish, but still showed Declan how to fling his net. Total magic.

I can’t believe I have to stop writing about this very special vacation. Thank goodness the photos bring me back there in an instant.

Right down the the tiniest grains of sand.

Puerto Rico, we *will* be back!

Here are all the photos from our Coastal Day.

And this is the Flickr set of my faves from
ALL the Puerto Rico photos.


This trip was partially sponsored by the Rio Mar Wyndham Resort in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
We thank them for their hospitality!

Jun 2010

Puerto Rico : Snorkeling

I know, I KNOW! I am not done with the Puerto Rico recaps yet!

Almost there.

I swear.

Towards the end of our trip, we headed out snorkeling. Simple enough, yeah?

That was the point.

We have been snorkeling many times and always enjoyed it – but as I was doing research for this trip – I came across something a little bit different for only a little bit more money.* It was a 6-passenger, 50-foot sailboat that takes you out for the whole day, snorkeling at the best locations according to the weather and sea conditions. And we got a homemade lunch to boot.

The other thing that tickled my funny bone, considering we had a big trip to Ireland last summer? The company is called Erin Go Bragh, and the boat has a huge shamrock on the sail.

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Not sure if I have ever mentioned this – but my dad was a competitive sailor. Nothing serious, but enough that we had a sailboat growing up – and some of my fondest memories from that time are going UNDER the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, not just over.

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It was neat to have Declan out on the water like that too. It was also neat to have the crew from Erin Go Bragh treat him like their little sailing assistant.

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What was really neat? The incredibly incredibly incredibly blue water.

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What was also neat? The MASSIVE amount of fish we saw while snorkeling. It may have not been the most diverse group of fish we have ever seen… but in terms of quantity?

The black splotches next to the boat are fish begging Declan to feed them.

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Declan only got in for a dip, he got a little scared of ALL THOSE DARN FISH, but you know what he did while Bryan and I snorkeled? He helped the Erin Go Bragh crew make lunch. Something I could never have done on a bigger tour.

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Have you ever heard of spirit animals?

I found mine.

They look like Dory and let me swim with them for over 15 minutes.

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Bryan laughed at my corniness, not to mention WHY COULDN’T MY SPIRIT ANIMAL BE A LION OR SOMETHING EQUALLY FIERCE – but I needed these fish. The way we floated together, adjusted our movements for each other, crowded together but gave each other space – it was probably the most at peace I have ever been in my life.

Just like I need this man. What a hilarious goofball.

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And I need this kid! … HOW CUTE IS HE????

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And I needed this day.

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All photos from snorkeling can be found in my Flickrstream.

Seriously, we saw some awesome fish and coral that day.

Special thanks to Erin Go Bragh Sailing and Snorkeling Charters, who provided us with a 1/3 discount on the tour. And obviously took good care of us.

Jun 2010

Puerto Rico : Luquillo Beach & Old San Juan

Let’s get back to fun in the sun, shall we???

One of the very best things about the resort we stayed in was it’s location. In a single day, we were able to spend the morning and lunchtime on Luquillo Beach and in their famous Kiosks – then drive over to Old San Juan for the afternoon to explore a bit while watching the sun set.

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We were jazzed to try out Luquillo Beach (just a 10 minute drive) after I read that Frommer’s listed it as their Best Family Beach in Puerto Rico. It really was lovely, tranquil and easy. Public restrooms, public showers (for $1.00), and white sandy beaches made it REALLY easy to spend the day there – playing. I like easy.

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We also managed to make, in my humble opinion, our very best sand castle of the entire trip there.

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On the back side of the beach, and where we had our lunch, are the Luquillo Kiosks (or Kioskos). These were very interesting to me. EVERYONE said we HAD to visit these. To have fried foods and coconut milk.

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However, we were fairly shocked by the mixture of upscale, medium-scale and downright – um – garbage-heap that were all lined up right next to each other, one by one, down the row of the kiosks.

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Having said that, EVERYONE, and I really mean EVERYONE this time, said to go to Kiosk #2 (La Parilla) for the mofongo – which happens to be my favorite Puerto Rican food. They were absolutely right. Ab-so-lutely the best meal we had all week.

Vegans avert your eyes.

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So, with a full belly, no more sand in our you-know-where’s after our $1 showers, and the afternoon to kill – we headed back west to the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan. Specifically, to the historic district of Old San Juan.

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I reminded me of what maybe Cuba looks like… -?

And also the Miami art deco areas.

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Old San Juan is particularly famous for it’s blue cobblestones. Which I kept explaining the coolness of to Declan over and over again and he kept disagreeing; he thought it was silly that they had not paved over them yet with a “real road.”


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We walked around, took in the architecture, had a lovely ceviche dinner…

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The only thing we did not fully explore were the ancient forts of El Morro and San Cristobal.

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There’s always next time, right?

P.S. All the photos from this day are here.

May 2010

Puerto Rico : El Yunque Rainforest

Our second big adventure in Puerto Rico was visiting El Yunque rainforest, which is the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. To give you an idea of how much we enjoyed El Yunque, Declan turned to me at one point and said, “This is the best day of my life.” This is AFTER we experienced the Bio Bay!

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All our activities at El Yunque took about 6 hours, given we had Declan (and me) with us. Meaning we did one small hike and one more extensive one (details below) as well as drove up and down the main road, stopping as we saw fit. But for those who are into hiking, there are several longer trails, especially along the peak, several of which take several hours. Point being – you could spend a lot of time in El Yunque alone, never mind the rest of Puerto Rico.

El Yunque Map
El Yunque Map

We came into El Yunque and stopped at the Forest Center. If you feel comfortable with what you are doing, you can skip this, but we got good advice on the trails (such as learning how long the ones at the peak were and OBTAINING THIS MAP!).

La Coca Falls
Right by the highway, very easy to get out and walk around. And gorgeous!
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Yokahu Tower
Stop here. Walk to the top of the tower. Take in the view. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. As someone commented in my Flickr stream, it’s like looking out and seeing Jurassic Park.

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And there is a little shop in the tower, where people can buy batteries for their child’s camera, not that THAT happened to US or anything. You can also buy ponchos there. Which I did. Since it’s a RAINFOREST. People we met on the BioBay trip said they got poured on, and used the ponchos ALL DAY, but I have to tell you we never even opened the pack. Good to have, though.

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Juan Diego Creek & Falls
I had read on the Puerto Rico Day Trips website – a goldmine of Puerto Rico information, by the way – to go walking back to Juan Diego Falls, that is was El Yunque’s “best kept secret.” LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE. THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.

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As they mention, the trail is poorly marked, so look around – but it is about a 5-10 minute walk back along the creek to the waterfall you see above. In retrospect, I wish we would have had Declan swim in *this* waterfall. It was much more secluded and smaller, less powerful than the more famous La Mina Falls (below). Point being, if you have children with you – THIS is the waterfall to let them play in. But still be careful, of course, a waterfall is dangerous no matter how small. But smaller is better than huge like La Mina.

La Mina Falls
There are two trails to La Mina. Big Tree, which is through the rainforest or Palo Colorado, which is along the river. We chose Palo Colorado – and it was an amazing, almost spiritual experience. Not to mention, HOT, WET and STICKY.

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It takes about 30 minutes to walk down the trail – and it is stairs and rocks and steep the whole way. We made sure we had water, snacks and our bathing suits. I have to give my son such credit here – he was SUCH a trooper. Later – not so much, ha. But by then we were ALL on the train to Crankyville, so I can’t blame him. Point being – Bryan and Declan were waiting for ME most of the time.

Puerto Rico Fern On Tree Closeup

Of course, I *was* stopping often to take pictures.

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Finally! We made it to La Mina Falls!

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And La Mina Falls kicked my booty.

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Seriously friends. I am a strong swimmer. I am a big gal. If you go into this waterfall, BE CAREFUL! I really did get turned around in there for a minute until the waterfall had enough of me and literally pushed me out. Yes, LITERALLY.

But is was so worth it.


Until we had to walk back up.

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That’s OK. The resort had this waiting for me.

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Blogger Disclosure: This trip was partially sponsored by the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort. They graciously provided accommodations for my family while we were in Puerto Rico.