Dec 4, 2019

ART WALK, SAN JOSE DEL CABO, MEXICO

The Art District in San Jose Del Cabo is a must see on your list when visiting Cabo. We stayed in the Hotel Zone and it was a quick 15 min walk to the Plaza. It is centred with artisan stores, art galleries, bakeries and restaurants.


Thursday Night: Thursday night bustles with activity, music and artists showcasing their work with live entertainment between November and June from 5-9pm. For more information click on Cabo Art Walk. Even though we missed the thursday event, it was great strolling the narrow lanes and visiting some of the art galleries. Local food carts are available near the church at the plaza. With no events taking place the early morning we visited it was relaxed and quaint. 







Alvaro Obregon, Calle Ignacio Zaragoza are some of the backroads behind the church for some of the picturesque streets. 








CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO

Cabo San Lucas is an easy 3 hour flight from San Francisco. Located at the southern end of Baja California, it is one of the most easily accessible resort towns from the Pacific west coast of the US.


OUR ITINERARY:

Day 1: Arrive Cabo. Spend 1/2 day in the resort, pool and enjoy the beach
Day 2: 1/2 hour time share presentation, 1-2 hours Panga tour to El Arco, rest of day relax
Day 3: Early morning 1/2 day Whale watching tour, 1/2 day to relax
Day 4: Walk to Art District 1/2 day, 1/2 day relaz
Day 5: Head Home

Where to stay:

San Jose del Cabo also know as the Touristic Corridor / Los Cabos,  Cabo Real or Corridor and
Cabo San Lucas which is the Downtown Area ( closer to El Arco ).

Our hotel was located in the Touristic Corridor in the resort town of Los Cabos. The resort town/touristic corridor is about 30 mins away from the Airport, depending on traffic, and is connected with public transportation and tourist taxis. It takes about $40 one way to downtown in a taxi from the resort town or about $2 with public bus. Taxis are located outside hotels. The Art Plaza / Plaza Mijares of San Jose Del Cabo is within walking distance of about 15-20 mins.

DOWNTOWN OR TOURISTIC CORRIDOR? WHICH :

Downtown is one option for choosing your stay.   It is close to the Marina and is closer to the Playa El Medano one of the safest beaches which is close to El Arco and Pelican Rock. The marina is near by for any day tours and whale watching trips or renting a water taxi to see the El Arco.

WHERE WE STAYED:

We always check Hotels.com, Expedia and other website for deals and reviews. We had stayed at the royal Solaris in Cancun on an earlier trip and we knew what to expect. Hotels differ in price and may or may not be a couple of dollars cheap or expensive. While travelling with kids it is our thumb rule to stay at a hotel which is populated around, has good reviews and has a decent rating online.

Royal Solaris Resort.: The resort had a delicious breakfast buffet, lunch and dinner with different themes everyday. All day snacks were available. Pools had an all day pizza bar. There was a kid pool and an adult pool. There were ocean facing restaurants from where we could see the whales breaching. Each evening there was an entertainment night with dancers and singers and musicians. We were upgraded to an ocean facing suite and had the finest views of sunrise each day. We enjoyed the variety of food specially the make your own breakfast options.

SHOULD WE RENT CAR?
We found no need to rent a car here in Cabo. Buses and taxis are usually the mode of transport. If you do need one there are lots of companies that you can select from.

Airport Experiences:

Once you arrive at the airport you will be bombarded by timeshare personnel who tried to sell us time shares. We had experienced this in Cancun and we were aware that this situation would arise. So we decided to give it a shot and see what we could land up with. Once they know that your an easy target they will not leave you and will start throwing freebies that you just cannot resist. Free transportation, free ride, free free free. The catch.. Attend a 1 1/2 hour time share presentation at a resort near downtown we got this.

- Free return taxi from the resort town to the hotel for the time share presentation worth $80 bucks.
- Free water taxi to see El Arco worth $10 per person worth $40
- Whale watching (2 hours at sea ) with a stop to see Pelican Rock, Divorce Beach, Lovers Beach and El Arco and full buffet breakfast  with amazing views for $50 for a family of 4 which is otherwise worth $ 340.
- Free taxi to Marina the next day since all whale watching tours are early morning - worth $40.

Total saving: $450.

While it wasn't easy doing this with a toddler, we managed to get ourselves a free ride, save on an excursion, taxi fare and buffet breakfast for a day and a fantastic morning to seeing whales breaching . If you can save a morning and know how to deal with a pushy time share representative, you may be able to save on a lot and spend it somewhere else. Would we do this again? - Well maybe if we get a great deal and save on money to splurge for something else in return.

EL ARCO:

After our time share presentation, we collected our free passes for the promised excursions. We hired a "Panga" water taxi, it is a small motor boat which is like a mini fishing trawler with seats. It had a small glass bottom in the middle from where we could see the fish underwater. Life vests are mandatory. When we reached Lovers beach, we were given fish food to throw in the water. We saw the most colorful, large fish that jumped right up into the air to catch the food.

We were taken by boat to see the hidden cove and passed by Lovers beach on the other side. Lovers Beach and Divorce beach are great for sunbathing, and for some beautiful pictures with the backdrop of the arches. Most of the small boat tours to El Arco can leave you there and pick you up at a later time. There are sea lions, pelicans and tropical fish in the sea.



The next day we went back into downtown and got an additional viewing of El Arco due to our free tour. Our whale watching tour was with Caboreyhttps://www.caborey.com/ and I can completely recommend them for their courteousness, and willingness to take manoeveur the boat to the whales yet keep a safe distance whenever there was any sighting. Engines were switched off when we neared the area where the whales were spotted. Carry motion sickness medication if needed

The official whale season is from early December to mid April. Many boat tours have an age requirement for accompanying small children onwhale watching tours. We read about Zodiac tours which were commonly used, however it was safer to go whale watching in a larger boat with kids. The smaller boats we found were not suitable for our 2 1/2 year old an many tour companies did not accomodate toddlers.


WHALEWATCHING TOUR:

We selected Caborey for our Whale watching tour. Service was incredible, buffet breakfast on board, music, dancing and complete commentary from start to finish. The boat had a ramp which was stroller/ wheelchair accessible. We highly recommend them and were highly satisfactory due to the over 15 sightings of whales we saw that day.

 
While returning from downtown to the resort are, we took public transport the blue Baja Cabo bus that was from Downtown to the airport. The stops are written on the front of the bus. Just let the driver know where your stopping. They would not mind stopping even if your stop is not a regular bus stop. The buses are clean. Drivers take only cash and usually have small change. The price per person is around $2. The buses from Downtown that come towards the resort area stop at the round about on the main road and go towards the San Jose townsquare onward to the airport. They do not enter the resort town. It is a 10-15 min walk from the main road to the resort lane. There are sidewalks and we found it to be very safe during the day time. You could even take the Urbano to your hotel if walking isn't an option.

There are local buses called Urbanos that ply on the resort route. They look like vintage yellow buses and are unique inside. They have just two parallel long seats and give an appearance of the vintage buses in the 60's. Urbanos are convenient if you plan to reach back to the resort faster from Art district.

Urbano local bus

Photography and other Tips:

#Cabo famous signboard is available at the end of the marina just before the entrance of the Paraiso mall.
Circle of large waterboards at the entrance of the Marina.
A large Los Cabos sign is available at the arrival terminal just as you exit the airport towards the shuttles. Make sure you get the sign at the arrival into Los Cabos as I didn't see any sign at the departures.
Mexico and Los Cabos sign boards are available at the round about public bus stop junction at the hotel zone.
Tips are expected for all services.
We carry pesos for touristic spots.
$ bills are accepted. Tipping is appreciated in $s.
Paraiso mall is the closest major bus stop to the Marina and to get back into the resort town by public transport.
More information on Getting around in Cabo Here.
Pick up souvenirs at the Paraiso Mall. Vendors are available at the marina as well.


BEST TIME TO VISIT

While Cabo has warm weather throughout the year. Temperatures ranger between 60 F in the mornings to about 80-90 daytime.  With little rainfall, sunny days are almost 350 days a year. A light jacket may be needed after sundown as temperatures drop a bit. Get deals on hotels and flights by booking early.

WHAT TO WEAR:
Summer cotton clothes, a light sweater for the evenings. It can get muggy and hot sometimes so be prepared with lots of sunscreen and lots of water.


IVAN GUADERRAMA GALLERY VISIT

One place which was on my list of art galleries to visit was Ivan Guaderrama. A talented artist whose name figured everywhere on Pinterest under Cabo  made me even more curious to see what was exceptionally so special about this talented artist. and stand out amongst others.


If your visiting this is the address: Alvaro Obregon 20, Gallery District..

His website: https://www.ivanguaderrama.com/
From Ivan's  website: "By creating software and hardware applied to his works of art, his paintings not only produce sounds when touched, but also come alive with the use of an application developed by himself available for ios and android technology." 

We were given a first hand experience of how art and technology works. Wow! is all we could say.. His art transforms into magic and suddenly the piano painted on the wall is alive, the hearts start dancing and the music changes with a light touch.




Dec 2, 2019

WYNWOOD WALLS, MIAMI

Wynwood Walls is just 20 mins away from South Beach, Miami. So if your in town do not miss this colorful district which is know to have some of the best artists in the world. It was formerly a warehouse which has been converted into a colorful neighborhood. We completed a walking tour of this place in less than an hour plus time for a quick lunch before heading home.

The neighborhood has restaurants and paid parking which is strictly enforced. Although I am not much into art and painting, the graffiti painting was sincerely appreciated by all.

Wynwood Walls are located at 2520 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami. It is Free of charge. Parking is paid and available in lots around the area.

















SOUTH BEACH, MIAMI

Our last day in Miami and we had an entire day to ourselves. We planned to drive around South Beach and then head over to Wynwood that encases colorful murals and showcases some of the worlds best street graffiti artists.

Parking at South Pointe Park was an easy access to South Miami Beach and the South Point Pier. It had a nice park area for small children with sprinklers and restrooms and easy access for an evening stroll along the marina. It is also a great place to watch cruise ships entering the port. South Pointe Pier is also a great place to take pictures of Miami Beach.





The lifeguard stands were unique and colorful.


There was a convenient beach walk all the way down to Miami Beach from South Pointe. We loved this and was so convenient walking around Ocean Dr. for a quick lunch/ snack. There is a Free Beach Trolley which is convenient and quick in case you are short on time. This is a great place to just relax and wind down a hectic day.

Parking in this area could get problematic on weekends and holidays. There is metered parking here and parking garages available close by. Street parking was difficult and spots are taken quickly. Ocean Dr was crowded particularly in the evenings. It had a variety of restaurants, icecream shops and a pretty relaxed vibrant energy after sundown.

7th street and Collins Avenue Garage
210 7th street

13th street and Collins Avenue Garage
1301 Collins Avenue

16th Street and Collins
Indian Beach Park and 4601 Collins

The Welcome Sign board for Miami Beach is at the end of the Julia Tuttle causeway 195 towards Miami beach on the left  before you turn right to join 907/Alton Road.

Apr 30, 2019

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, FLORIDA

"There are no other Everglades in the world"- Marjory Stoneman Douglas.


Everglades is one of the largest tropical wilderness found in the USA. This is one of the parks where you can get up close views of manatees, alligators, crocodiles and various species of birds that visit during the warm winters. 

 Things to remember :

1.) Dry season: This lasts between November - March.
Better chance of seeing a variety of birds and predators, wildlife
2.) Wet season: April to November.
Buggy and chance of storms are inevitable.
Many ranger programs are closed. Check the NPS Everglades website here for latest information.
3.) Get a pair of binoculars. Your kids will thank you!
4.) Check for closures on the NPS website as they are regularly updated with latest information.
5.) Carry sunscreen

How did we cover Everglades?

We had 1 1/2 day here. The first half we spent at Coopertown. We went on an airboat excursion to see the reptiles and natural surroundings.

There are 3 areas to cover at Everglades.
- North Entrance covering Shark Valley and Gulf Coast covering Everglades City
-South Entrance covers Royal Palms at Homestead covering the Anhinga trail and Gumbo Limbo trail.
It also covers Flamingo which is 38 miles into the south park which ends at the Florida Bay.
- The 3rd entrance is via the Florida Bay to explore the gulf coast.

We visited Everglades in November and if I distinctly remember the Shark Valley tram tours were not operational. This would probably have been a great experience. If you do get a chance go when the tours are operational. Here is the link.  Reservations are needed specially from November to April and it is about a 2 1/2 hour tour. 

What will you see:
Estuaries, freshwater marshlands, mangroves,sloughs, tropical hammocks, cypress trees and coastal mainlands along with reptiles and animals like alligators, manatees, egrets, are some of what you can expect to see.

Ernest F. Coe visitor Centre is a good place to start. Pick up a map here. The rangers guided us as to the best spots for seeing wildlife and advised us of some areas that were closed. This is the southern area in Everglades NP.

1. Anhinga Trail:
Anhinga Trail

- About 4 miles from the visitor centre is Anhinga Trail. It is a short 0.8 mi trail. If you have time do the ranger hike. We managed to catch up with one that had just started. Going with a ranger is the best education you will ever get. They were so knowledgeable and answered questions that the kids and little ones had. It had a small loop and a boardwalk over the Taylor Slough. We heard alligators nearby growling The seemed to be very near to us but due to the thick dense habitat we had to settle with just hearing them. There were cormorants, Tricolored heron and great egrets on the trail and a vast area of lily pads in the water.
The trail was stroller friendly. It was scorching that day. Thank goodness for the hats.

- Gumbo Limbo trail was closed due to flooding when we visited.

2. Mahogany Hammock:



We wanted to make sure we did not miss out on anything. So we made a quick stop here. It was a short boardwalk which had a lot of mahogany trees just like how the name of the stop was. The place was humid as there wasn't a lot of air circulation due to the thick vegetation. The loop was short however there was a lot to learn on the trail.


Gumbo Limbo tree
The gumbo limbo tree is one of the most hurricane resistant tree in the area.


Nurse Log
The nurse logs are trees that continue to support the plants and animals. Mammals and incubating animals live inside the fallen logs. Plants absorb the stored moisture along with the nutrients. Evern after total decomposition, the trees essence live on in the plants that grow from the nutrients left behind. So interesting. Read this on one of the informational details on the trail. 

4. West Lake Trail:




New growth at mangroves
This was a short boardwalk which had a thick mangled mangrove. There was nothing much to see here except for the mangroves which I saw for the first time at a close distance. At the end of boardwalk was the West Lake. There were three types of mangroves white, red and black. The mangroves thrive in salty, soggy, oxygen poor places with tropical weather. The area was filled with a bad stench. So we hurriedly moved to the next destination. 

5. Flamingo Visitor Centre:

This was almost about 35 miles from the Ernest Coe visitor centre. There were manatees flipping and swimming in the river nearby. A few crocodiles were basking in the sun and there were some in the water. There was a marina and a kayak rental. We clicked some pics of the reptiles and the sea animals and moved on to our next destination NASA.

Manatee in the water

Crocodiles


Apr 24, 2019

AIRBOAT TOUR, EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK

To make it easier for planning purposes, I will break up this Everglades tour into two parts.

- Airboat tours
- Everglades National Park ( Ahinga trail, shark valley visitor centre etc. )

The two places are about an hour drive to each other. So you can plan as to how it would suit your itinerary. We did the airboat tours first and then stayed for the night at the Hampton Inn and Suites Miami South in Homestead. Hampton.

While there are crocodile zoos and farms for crocodile viewing, one cannot miss going to Everglades National Park without visiting and seeing Alligators in an Airboat! Driving from Keywest to Coopertown, we were short on time and it took a bit longer than our estimated time to reach our destination due to some construction that was being carried out. However we reached bang on time before the last tour went out at Coopertown Airboat tours for the day. 

There are a few authorized airboat tour operators. They can be found on the  National Park Services website.  These three are Coopertown Airboat tours, Everglades Safari Park and Gator Park.

We wanted to see alligators in their natural habitat so we decided to go with Coopertown Airboat tours. It was a difficult decision to make as to which one would be a good choice as all had reasonable amount of good ratings. We decided we did not want the safari park as we had not much time. So we settled just for the boat tour. Did we have any regrets to not go to a safari park? Well it was mixed if we have more time we may have given it a second thought but since it was a good 3 and a half hours from KeyWest we decided to keep it simple just in case we were delayed.

Keep in mind their last tour timing. After purchasing tickets, we were given a short talk about the importance of the marshlands that help protect the habitat and the abundant wildlife in their habitat.

Recommended to Read before your trip to Coopertown Tours:

- Go in the morning/afternoon. The alligators love the sun.. There is a higher chance of seeing more of them during this time.
- Check online coupons to save some cash.
- Parking is free.
- Last boat ride is at 5.15pm. Contact the tour company for latest information.
- If you have a National Park Pass, there may be an additional discount for the ticket.   
- You will get a chance to hold a young alligator at the end of the tour.
To families unsure if this would be right for your toddlers.. We travelled with our 2 year old and yes we found it safe. We definitely would recommend using the cotton / headphones for them too.
- The guides do their best to find alligators however there may be a chance that on some occasions they are are no sightings.


We had a professional and educational airboat guide who took us on a 9 mile tour and who went out of his way to find us a few alligators. We had the 24 seater boat to ourselves as we were probably the last visitors for the day. We were given cotton balls plus headphones to block the resounding noise the boat makes as it made its way through the marshland.


The best part of the evening was the sunset as we were I presume about 9 miles out on the marshes and the spectacular rain cloud in the other direction as it poured closeby. If there was one thing we would have changed about this trip, it would be to visit earlier in the day.


The boat waded through tall saw grass. No wonder Everglades is called the river of grass. We travelled through a Hardwood Hammock which was a small island of solid ground into the river of grass. Our guide showed us many alligator holes alas no alligators. I'm sure there would have been birds but we didn't see any closeby except for their chirping in the fading sunlight. He would switch off the large beast and made some kind of a sound to get the attention of the animals. Not sure if they really know them by name but he called a couple of them and it was real funny to see one medium sized alligator swim right up to us. So exciting!


It was a marvelous experience venturing out into the habitat and searching for the wildlife. At the end of our tour we got to hold a baby alligator. On the field talking to our guide was so much learning for my 4th grader who used his 4th Grade National Pass for the Everglades trip.

Our guide was truly passionate about his job and went out of his way to find some for us. There was no doubt that he knew the area extremely well as he maneuvered the airboat like it was his backyard!

VIDEOS:

Boat tour out to the marshlands:


 



There are other businesses where you can get to see alligators, snakes and crocodiles. We did not check these places out however am mentioning them below should you be interested. 

Everglades Alligator Farm
Naples Zoo
St. Augustine Alligator Farm
Myakka River State Park
Shark Valley
Big Cypress National Preserve

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and I have not been compensated for writing the same.

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