Tagged Michael A

What to do and where to stay in Hawaii

Written by and photos by Michael A.

Are you figuring out what to do and where to stay in Hawaii? Here’s the perfect guide to your Hawaiian adventure for both the thrillseeker and the maxin’ and relaxin’ type of vacationer.

Exploring the Hilo Side of Big Island

Where to stay while Visiting Volcanoes National Park: Volcano Mist Cottage

DSCN7352
Beautiful and comfortable private outdoor seating area with easy to start fireplace while you listen to the beautiful calls of the rainforest
DSCN7349
Outdoor seating
DSCN7356
Outdoor Shower
DSCN7313
Your view as you wake up to the peaceful sounds of the rainforest
DSCN7335
Indoor electric fireplace in your living room
DSCN7332
Full kitchen for those of you who like to cook
DSCN7324
Bathrobes for that true vacation feel

Look at these pictures!!!! Talk about three perfect days in Volcano Village! Volcano Mist Cottage makes you feel like you’re in a private massage and spa treatment sanctuary for your entire stay. Volcano Mist Cottage is one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed. Situated a mere seven minute drive from Volcanoes National Park and only five minutes from local restaurants, this is the perfect place to stay when visiting this side of the island. Although many of you are familiar with both Kona and Hilo on the Big Island, the main reason people go to the “Hilo side” is to check out Volcanoes National Park because there really isn’t all that much to do in Hilo itself. If you were to stay in Hilo, the national park is about an hour away. You won’t want to spend the time driving each day so try to stay closer to the park. With that being said, there really aren’t too many hotels near the park (I mean very slim pickings). So, you’ll end up at a B&B or something on the smaller side. Read more

Looking for the Best Bed and Breakfast in Washington? Check out Domaine Madeleine!

DSCN6549
Spacious Bedroom

DSCN6570

DSCN6572

DSCN6573
Cozy Fireplace
DSCN6555
3 complimentary Harbinger bottles of wine for March’s Wine Month
DSCN6557
Spacious Bathroom with bidet
DSCN6559
Deep jacuzzi in 4 out of 5 of the rooms

 

DSCN6562
Beautiful spacious private deck overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca and CanadaDSCN6563
Beautiful spacious private deck overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Canada 

 

 

Written by and photos by Michael A.

Domaine Madeleine is truly a 5-star Bed and Breakfast for an unbelievable price. In my opinion, it’s the best bed and breakfast in Washington — if not in the U.S. Never have I been so blown away by a stay at a hotel, resort, or a B&B. I’m legitimately having withdrawals writing about this place knowing that I can’t be there right now. I often don’t travel to a place more than once, but I’ll definitely find a way to get back there as soon as possible. This is truly the perfect weekend/week/month/year-long getaway spot. Now that you’ve seen the pictures, please do yourself and your significant other a huge favor and go their site right now to book your stay as this place fills up fast!

The Rooms at Domaine Madeleine

This quaint B&B is nestled right on the northern edge of the state of Washington overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Canada. All but one of the rooms has an absolutely gorgeous view of the water and the vast well-maintained green lawn that precedes the bluffs. Each room is very spacious with huge windows facing the water to make sure that each guest can constantly admire the beauty of Domaine Madeleine’s location and experience the beauty that the Olympic Peninsula of Washington has to offer. Each room has a very earthly feel to it and comes with a beautiful painting above the bed that represents one part of the Olympic National Park.

There are five different rooms on this property. They are all nicely spread out so that you have complete privacy and it really makes you feel like you have your own little apartment. I stayed in the Hurricane Ridge Suite and it was absolutely stunning.

As I walked into the main house, I immediately fell in love with the place.  The beautiful dinning room had a chandelier hanging over the table and a huge window opening up to the beautiful green lawn, which hangs above the Straight of Juan de Fuca. There was a bowl of chocolates waiting for me as well as freshly made cookies at all times.

This room is fully equipped with a beautiful wood fireplace and lots of firewood, huge windows with an amazing view, a jacuzzi in the bathroom, flat screen TV, bidet, robes, slippers for him and her, binoculars (to see the wildlife from your room), a spacious balcony with lawn chairs and a table, and the most comfortable King size bed I have ever laid on, making this easily the best bed and breakfast in Washington.

With all of these amenities, this room made it so incredibly hard for me to leave and actually explore the area. I think I had the most relaxing stay I’ve ever had in my life. I would just hang out in the room with the fire going and drink wine all day while looking out at the gorgeous view. Book this place now!

The Food at Domaine Madeleine

DSCN6585
1st course
DSCN6593
2nd course
DSCN6595
2nd course
DSCN6602
3rd course
DSCN6614
4th course
DSCN6763
1st course
DSCN6766
2nd course
DSCN6772
3rd course
4th course
4th course

 

DSCN6540
Where much of their food is grown on the property

During those few hours that I was able to pull myself away from my room, I headed downstairs (you can also have it delivered to your room) for a four-course breakfast prepared by Brian, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. Needless to say, if you’re going to have the best bed and breakfast in Washington the food has to also be amazing; and it definitely was!

The really cool part of the eating experience though was Brian himself. As he served each course, he would describe what was on the plate as well as where the food came from. The ingredients from each dish were truly hyper-local as just about every ingredient came from within a five mile radius of the B&B. In fact, I want to say that roughly 25 percent of the food is actually grown on the Domaine Madeleine property.

The ingredients are fresh, the food is delicious, and Brian really makes the experience wonderful and worth leaving your beautiful room for an hour or two.

Domaine Madeleine’s Location

DSCN6684
Olympic Game Farm; 4 feet away from our car
DSCN6738
Olympic Game Farm
DSCN6735
Olympic Game Farm; I smell Hot Cheeeeetos!
DSCN6801
Spruce Railroad Trail
DSCN6805
Spruce Railroad Trail

If you’re able to actually make it off of the grounds of Domaine Madeleine’s, unlike me, you’ll realize that this B&B is perfectly situated next to many of Olympic National Park’s main nature attractions. This is just another reason why this was easily the best bed and breakfast in Washington.

Domaine Madeleine is only 15 minutes away from the Olympic Game Farm which is a truly unique experience where you will have everything from peacocks to Bison, and Elk fighting for your attention as they swarm your car. If you drive a few minutes further, you’ll reach the Dungeness Spit & Lighthouse. In the other direction, Ediz Hook is only 30 minutes away. Go 15 minutes further and you’ll stumble upon Spruce Railroad Trail.

I stopped at Kokopelli Grill in Port Angeles on Friday night as I had heard wonderful things about their food. It definitely didn’t let me down and you should book early to get a reservation here.

DSCN6582
Kokopelli Grill
DSCN6583
Kokopelli Grill

If you played your cards like me and barely left the property, explore the grounds of Domaine Madeleine as it is very well kept and right in the middle of nature. They have a garden and the stunning views overlook the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Canada. Plus, you can check off your wildlife sightseeing adventure as there is a family of Bald Eagles living in the trees right outside the Domaine Madeleine property.

From the second I booked this place, Stephen, the Innkeeper, was absolutely tremendous. He not only gave me recommendations for where to eat and hike, but he reach out to every restaurant I considered just to make sure they would fit me in on a busy night. Stephen has a lot of pull in Port Angeles and the restaurants seemed to all know and value anyone staying at the Domaine Madeleine property.

Stephen not only showed me the ins-and-outs of my beautiful room, but he actually gave me a tour of the entire property. When I was out of wood for the fire (because I was using it all day), he had someone come up with more wood and set up the fire again. Stephen also made sure that my room always had wine from Harbinger Winery (DELICIOUS). I was even lucky enough to be treated to a private wine tasting in their main room with Harbinger Winery.

I really can’t say enough good things about the room, the food, the location, and the absolutely wonderful customer service and experience. This is easily the best bed and breakfast in Washington if not in the US. This had to be one of the most relaxing weekends of my life and that’s all thanks to the beauty of Domaine Madeleine. Do yourself, or your significant other, a favor and make a trip out here no matter where you are in the world. Don’t think of Olympic National Park as your travel destination and Domaine Madeleine as your place of stay, but rather make Domaine Madeleine your destination and you will be in for a great treat. This is truly a gem unlike any other.

Red Eyed Tree Frog

Things to do in Costa Rica – An Adrenaline Junkie’s Oasis

Written by and photos by Michael A.

COSTA RICA, COSTA RICA, COSTA RICA! As you can tell, I’m just a tad bit fond of my recent adventure in this beautiful country that really has everything for all types of travelers. I’d love to write a book on all you can do in this small country, but I’m going to try to keep it as brief as possible and let the pictures do the talking as words just won’t do this place justice. If you’re looking for things to do in Costa Rica, let this be your guide.

For those tired of exploring cities, Costa Rica really has it all for you. Just to name a few things before I get into my recommendations, Costa Rican highlights include: volcanoes, natural hot springs, beautiful beaches, rain forests, jungles, some of the most diverse wildlife of any country, all classes of whitewater rafting, zip lining, canyoning, rappelling, waterfall jumping, surfing, scuba diving, big game fishing, massages to knock your underwear off, and most importantly AMAZING customer service and knowledgeable guides.

I’d love to go on and on about how great the country is, but I really want to focus this article on a few companies that you absolutely must use when traveling to Costa Rica, or at least still searching for things to do in Costa Rica. I assume that you’re all smart people and have already decided that Costa Rica is the perfect vacation so I’m going to just tell you what you should do there. The customer support and service at all these below mentioned places are truly unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and that’s what really sets Costa Rica apart from the other 40 something countries I’ve traveled to. All of these guides or owners never seemed to be catering to its guests because it was part of business. Rather, it seemed as though each company really enjoyed its guest and was legitimately having a great time with each of us. I really recommend all these companies below!

Where to Stay Near Arenal Volcano – Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel


Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel Bedroom
Spacious rooms with very fine wood giving the room a very earthly feel.
Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel bathroom
Spacious bathrooms with large windows to keep you constantly surrounded by nature.
Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel Patio
Spacious patio to lounge on in the middle of the rainforest.
Private hotel homes
Private hotel homes
Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel Pool
The beautiful pool right next to the restaurant/bar
Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel is truly a unique stay and a vacation within a vacation in its own right. Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel is smack dab right in the middle of the rainforest while still relatively close to La Fortuna (the very touristy town next to the Arenal volcano). Personally, I couldn’t imagine staying in La Fortuna as I just didn’t find it very nice because it’s really just a place for excursion companies to operate. Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel is just a 25 minute drive away which allows you to really experience the rainforest of Costa Rica while still having access to all of the fun excursions that Costa Rica has to offer.

The rooms are beautifully kept and are built out of very high quality wood. Furthermore, as you can see in the picture above, each room comes with a beautiful patio with furniture and a table so that you can relax in the morning as the rain comes down or watch a sunset while listening to the hundreds of different species chirp. The rooms are very modern yet they still do a great job in keeping its natural feel of being in the middle of the rain forest.

The landscape of this property is absolutely stunning. This hotel owns a lot of the land and they have trails on their property, which are perfect for horseback riding, night tours, bird watching, day hikes and more (all of which you can purchase for a very affordable price through the hotel). You really don’t have any reason to leave the property between your beautiful room, gorgeous landscape, pool, wildlife, and a good restaurant all on premises.

The rooms are beautiful and the landscape is unreal, but my favorite part of my stay was getting to talk to one of the owners and hearing about how this is a hotel for the community. More times than not, business is all about money and getting the most out of each visitor. Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel has done something extremely unique in this aspect which really makes this place extra special and gives it a very real Costa Rican vibe. These owners want to make sure that each of their guests really gets a true Costa Rican experience while still making sure to not turn the area into another resort where Americans visit and wipe out the culture to the point where you don’t even realize that you’re in a foreign country anymore. Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel is a very self-sufficient hotel where they grow a lot of their crops, recycle (obviously), and hire only those from the local town to ensure that this property remains not only a profitable business, but also a major contributor to the lives of the locals. You’ll see brothers and sisters working together or a uncle and nephew and so forth. I thought this was something truly special as you don’t have this authenticity elsewhere in Costa Rica.

Bottom line: Do yourself a favor and spend at least a few days here so that you can really enjoy Costa Rica for what it is and not just stay in the tourist trap of La Fortuna.

TripAdvisor rating: 4/5
TripAdvisor link

Arenal Combo Volcano Hike with Red Lava Tourist Service Center

Arenal Volcano
View of the famous Arenal Volcano at the start of the tour
They allow you to take a dip halfway through at this waterfall
Take a dip halfway through the tour at this waterfall

 

Natural hot springs
Nightcaps and mud facials in the natural hot springs.

The guides at Red Lava Tourist Service Center are knowledgeable and friendly! GREAT customer service! They have amazing reviews all over TripAdvisor for a very good reason. The company’s big seller is the Combo 2 Volcano Hike which I strongly recommend. I unfortunately only was able to do the second tour but it was still a great treat. The combo hike compared to the one I did are pretty different from one another. During the Combo hike, the morning hike is a bit rigorous as you climb the Chato Volcano, which is right next to the Arenal volcano. Make sure you bring solid hiking shoes; anyone in decent shape shouldn’t have any issues with the hike. I opted for the second hike as it’s much more leisurely. You could probably get away with wearing tennis shoes as there isn’t really any climbing. Your guide will take you to beautiful locations where you’ll have stunning views of the Arenal volcano. You’ll also visit a beautiful waterfall and end the day with shots in natural hot spring. The nature aspect of this trip is obviously stunning. However, the most impressive part of the hike was all of the knowledge our guide provided. We weren’t just walking from location to location. Every so often, our guide gave us facts about the plant life or a beautiful bird call we heard echoing throughout the rain forest. He made the trip very educational and fascinating. I couldn’t have been more pleased with this hike.

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5/5
TripAdvisor link

Rappelling and Whitewater rafting with Pure Trek Canyoning

 

175ft waterfall rappel
First Rappel of the day; 175ft down a waterfall
waterfall rappel
Rappelling through waterfalls

PIC (82)

Oh boy! If you want adrenaline, look no further. Start your morning off with a 185ft rappel down a gorgeous waterfall with Pure Trek Canyoning. Not your cup of tea? Well, I didn’t think it would be mine either since I’m kind of afraid of heights and I’ve never rappelled before. Somehow though, these great guides wiped away all my fear and got me to go through with the tour.

Although this trip is great for those seeking thrills, this actually turned into a big growing experience for many of us on this tour. These guides face customers with my similar fears on a regular basis. They are nice and friendly and really help you believe in yourself to overcome fears. Before you know it, you’re rappelling down 100ft waterfalls like it’s absolutely nothing. I think we went down a total of around nine amazingly beautiful waterfalls. Also, there is a zip line/monkey drop where you essentially zip line about 50 ft. At that point they stop you and then you just drop another 50 ft or so right before the stop you a few feet above the ground from your free fall. SO MUCH FUN!

Although the guides were having a great time with us, we constantly felt safe in their hands.

Whitewater Rafting the Balsa River (Class 2 and 3)

Constant rapids throughout the 2-3 river ride.
Constant rapids throughout the 2-3 river ride.

Once the rappelling in the rain forest wrapped up, Pure Trek Canyoning then took us to the Balsa River where we went whitewater rafting. Much like the rappelling, I didn’t really have much experience with this extreme sport. Once again though, I felt perfectly safe. They made sure to keep the guides/customer ratio very good at around one guide for every four people. Although I thought a Class 3 was going to be a bit easy, these rapids actually turned out to be a lot more fun, adventurous, and continuous than the Class 5 that I did previously.

At this point in the day, we were all pretty hungry as we’d been moving around since around 8 a.m. This tour thankfully comes with lunch. This was no ham and cheese sandwich type of lunch though. They took us to a restaurant where we had an authentic Costa Rican meal and even got to try freshly brewed Costa Rican coffee. Once we finished eating, they showed us how sugar is produced from sugar cane. This trip was much more than just an adrenaline rush, but was also an educational trip leaving us a bit more knowledgeable and cultured about the country.

typical Costa Rican food
An authentic Costa Rican meal

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5
TripAdvisor link

 

Night Jungle Tour with Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge and Wildlife Refuge

 

Red Eyed Tree Frog
Red Eyed Tree Frog
Red Eyed Tree Frog
Red Eyed Tree Frog
There's a SNAKE in my boot!!
There’s a SNAKE in my boot!!

DSCN5886

DSCN5880

Tarantula Tarantula
Tarantula

I strongly advise going on a night jungle tour with Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge and Wildlife Refuge as the jungle really awakens with some amazing creatures at night. This is pretty much a real life Planet Earth experience. As night became dark, we were led through the jungle with nothing but our flashlights. Our guide Issac was extremely knowledgeable and seemed to know just an unfathomable amount of information about each insect, reptile, amphibian or plant. He also taught us about their calls, behavior, and why certain traits evolved the way they did. The tour was around two hours and we saw a ton of wildlife, including poisonous snakes, Banana spiders, and the only Red Eye Tree Frog that I saw my whole time in Costa Rica. I told Issac how important it was to me find one of these and he was thankfully able to come through. This was a surreal experience and a true bargain. Make sure you do at least one night jungle hike while in the area.

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5/5
TripAdvisor link

Desafio Gravity Falls

rapelling in Costa Rica
Literally stepping off of a cliff
One of your rappels
One of your rappels
canyoning
Canyoning through the beautiful Costa Rican Rainforest

I think we all grew up with the love of jumping in rivers off of rocks or swinging into lakes by a rope. Well, this takes those loves to the next level with Costa Rica’s newest extreme excursion which combines waterfall free jumping and some rappelling. You must be in at least decent shape for this one and love a good rush! This was definitely the excursion that I was worried about the most during my time in Costa Rica. Rappelling down 150ft waterfalls and jumping without ropes over waterfalls 30ft down can easily make your skin chill. However, Desafio makes you feel extremely safe as they take you through beautiful canyons deep in the rainforest. They had three guides for the four of us on the tour so that we each had individual attention throughout each jump and rappel. They really emphasized safety with every single jump. Plus, this company had a professional camera that was able to take some amazing photos of you in action as you conquered your fears. They also took us out to a very nice lunch once our goosebumps finally settled.

Desafio Cooking Class

homemade tortillas
Making tortillas from scratch
Most of the food that you cook with is all organic grown on their land
Most of the food that you cook with is all organic grown on their land
A typical Costa Rican meal
A typical Costa Rican meal

Although Desafio definitely prides itself on being extreme and for adrenaline junkies, they also cater to those that want to get a little more sophistication and culture out of their Costa Rican experience. For a rather small fee, they take you up to the mountains to a restaurant where 80 percent of the food is grown on that property. They walk you around and show you all the plants to give you a better understanding of spices and medicines in their natural state. Once our small group finished walking around, we headed to the kitchen where we had two Costa Rican ladies help prepare a traditional  meal. By far the coolest part of this excursion was learning how to make tortillas from scratch. Culture is often deeply rooted in food and this was a very cool experience.

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5
TripAdvisor link

Manuel Tour of Manuel Antonio National park

Concerned monkey
Concerned monkey
Howler Monkey
Howler Monkey

 

I'm going to steal your Taco Bell
I’m going to steal your Taco Bell

Photo 10-2-16 8 52 02 a.m.

 

I'm a proud iguana
I’m a proud iguana

Let me first start off by saying, Manuel is the man! I wouldn’t be surprised if the city of Manuel Antonio were named after him ;). Manuel runs his own operation, Manuel’s Tours, and he usually keeps his tour groups very small. He is unbelievably knowledgeable and very well respected amongst all of the guides of Manuel Antonio. When you hire Manuel to guide you through the national park, you actually hire 100 guides as all guides help one another out to make sure that their customers can see as much wildlife as possible and boy did we!

I’ve never spent money on a guide when going through a national park as I just didn’t think it was ever worth it. After trekking with Manuel, please take my advice and hire this man. Otherwise you are completely throwing away your $16 entrance fee down the drain. The animals in this national park are obviously hard to see as animals should be. Manuel let us look through his spotter scope, which made finding all of these animals crystal clear even when far away. Manuel was an absolute godsend and I can’t imagine my time in the forest would be as great had he not been our guide. There is so much more to see than just monkeys, but you won’t see it unless you have a guide like Manuel with a trained eye and his spotter scope.

Manuel’s Night Jungle Tour

A beautiful butterfly
A beautiful butterfly
Ribbbbet anyone?
Ribbbbet anyone?
scorpion-spider
Your worst nightmare; a scorpion-spider
nighttime crawlers - a scorpion
nighttime crawlers – a scorpion
The Fearless MANuel taming the deadliest snake in Costa Rica
The Fearless MANuel taming the deadliest snake in Costa Rica
The deadliest snake in Costa Rica
The deadliest snake in Costa Rica

Once again, let me start off by saying, MANUEL IS THE MAN!! Did I mention that he fought off Costa Rica’s most dangerous snake right in front of me? Yeah, that happened. As with the day tour, it was an incredibly small group (me and one other person) so he was able to answer all of our questions and taught us a lot about the evolution of the landscape and life within it. He taught us some neat tricks on how to spot these creatures in the middle of the night. Among other things, we saw snakes, toads, scorpions, and the hideous scorpion spider. Manuel is truly a good man that cares deeply about his guests having a great time and you will when learning all of the cool facts that he has to offer.

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5
TripAdvisor link

ADR Adventure Park

waterfall zip-lining
Zip-lining through a waterfall. Yeh, that’s pretty damn cool
Rapeling through the rainforest
Rappelling through the rain forest

Eight extreme activities all wrapped up into one excursion! Although the name is a bit confusing, this is NOT a park. The guides at ADR Adventure Park took us into the middle of the jungle for the activities. This is a great value for the amount of different things you get to try, like zip lining through a waterfall (Yes, you read that correctly!). There is quite a bit of zip lining in this excursion which is one of Costa Rica’s main attraction. So, if you’re looking to do some zip lining which I’m sure 90% of you are, then take this tour. You get a taste of a lot of different activities such as a high rope swing, rappelling, a good amount of hiking, a waterfall jump, and more all included in one. The location is absolutely stunning and the photographer they bring is amazing! I had to buy these pictures as these action shots were just so unreal.

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5
TripAdvisor link

Surfing in Manuel Antonio with Coconut Surf and Skate

Your Surf scene
Your surf scene
surfing in costa rica
Costa Rica Surfin’

Surfing is big in Costa Rica. Although Jaco and Dominical are supposed to be pretty big surf spots, the town of Manuel Antonio has so much more to offer than these other towns.  Shoot Coconut Surf and Skate an email as his surf setup is right outside Manuel Antonio National park on the free public beach. If you’re driving toward the National Park from Quepos, it’s one of the first parking lots to the right you can enter and you’ll see him right there. He both rents out his boards and gives three hour surf lessons that I was told were pretty good by others. So, make sure to send him an email to get his prices and scheduling.

H2O Adventures (Class 5 Whitewater Rafting EL CHORRO)

With good reason, I was definitely nervous about this Class 5 rafting trip with H20 Adventures since I’ve only been rafting twice and the highest class I’ve ever done was a 3. It’s important to know how the classifications work though so you have an idea of what to expect. Class 5 doesn’t necessarily mean that the Rapids are 10 times tougher than a Class 2 or 3 would be. In fact, the Class 3 might even be tougher. Rather, a very important factor in determining classification is based on the danger level and the magnitude of how badly someone could get hurt. Once again though, this company really emphasizes safety (of course after making you sign your life away via a waiver!). We had a 3:1 rider to guide ratio, which was perfect not only for getting down the river, but also learning logistics on the strategy of taming the beast. We saw a couple of wipeouts as some of these rapids get pretty intense as you drop 8-10 ft followed by hard rights and left turns to avoid slamming into boulders. I felt completely safe the entire time (that could also be because I had a secret plan to ride the body of any of my boat members in case we tipped). This company also had a professional photographer with us.

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5

TripAdvisor link

As I’m sure you figured by now, I was a bit worried about many of these excursions due to my lack of experience and fear of heights. But, that’s what’s so great about Costa Rica; it’s a place far enough from home where you can be whatever you want to be, conquer your fears, get a rush like never before, and really grow as a person. If these words and glowing recommendations on things to do in Costa Rica haven’t convinced you to book a flight to Costa Rica immediately, I sure hope the pictures get you there because this is one special place.

 

 

 

See the sights of San Francisco with GoCar Tours

GoCar SF Golden Gate Bridge

Written by Nadia Ibanez, photos by Michael A. 

I’m sure you’re sick of hearing it: I don’t do touristy things. But when you have friends or family in town for the first time, or if you’re helping someone knock things off their SF bucket list, sometimes you gotta give in. Case in point: My friends and I wanted to see SF not by foot or by car. But by GoCar.

Let’s face it. You can walk miles in SF and not realize it. Unless you’re walking uphill, then that sh*t hurts. Parking and driving in the city without getting stressed out by the car and foot traffic? Yeah, that’s a joke too. So the next best alternative is GoCar. I guarantee you’ve seen these yellow, three-wheelers buzzin’ around in San Francisco and San Diego. But don’t be fooled. These little guys have some power and you can zoom around the City better and more efficiently than by foot or full-sized car.

We magically scheduled our rental on a sunny SF Sunday, got some instruction on how to maneuver around, checked out a couple of paths we could take, and were on our way. I’ve gotta say that I was completely shocked as to how fast the cars went and how much fun these things could be.

GoCar SF
You can go almost everywhere in these little things.

We started our ride in Fisherman’s Wharf, rode to Chrissy Field, went to the beach, through Golden Gate Park and everywhere in between. If you stay on the pre-determined route, you’ll hear a really cool history of SF from the speakers within the car. The tour is self-paced so even if you decide to make a pit stop or get off the route, the GPS will pick up again once you get back on the trail.

chrissy field view
We found some awesome view points while on the GoCar Tours route.

Some of the best parts of the day were zooming down Lombard, up to Coit Tower and around Alamo Square. Although they were highly touristed areas, you’d be surprised as to how much stuff you can pack in a single day.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Unless you’re planning on just driving these cars around, I’d book these GoCars for a few hours. It’s hard to see everything with just a one-hour rental. Splurge a little and rent the cars for a few hours.
  • If you plan on having these cars into the late afternoon. Make sure to bring plenty of layers because it gets chilly. I suggest a hoodie, scarf, light throw blanket, sunglasses and gloves.
  • Bring a group of friends along when you go on these tours. Each car seats two people and I guarantee you’ll have a ton of fun with more people in your group.

If you’re looking for an alternative way to show some out-of-towners the City, or if you’ve lived here awhile but want to see SF in a whole new light, GoCar Tours is how you should do it. For more information, visit www.gocartours.com.

 

 

 

 

Explore the many landscapes of Oregon

Crater Lake
I mean, just look at this place.

Written by and photos by Michael A.

Although no one would ever question the beauty of Oregon, the state is much more than just beautiful forests. Oregon is in a constant state of beauty whether you’re driving up the beautiful beaches, wandering around the forests, rock climbing in Smith Rock State Park, or eating the West Coast meets Southern style fusion food in Portland. And let’s not forget about all of the breweries and medical dispensaries that seem to be popping up all over the state.

So, follow me on a road trip from California through Oregon as I make stops in Klamath Falls, Crater Lake, Bend, Smith Rock State Park, Multnomah Falls, Portland, and all up and down the coast.

Crater Lake

DSCN4852

Although Crater Lake is regarded as one of Oregon’s biggest tourist destinations, it was pretty empty and peaceful on the day that I went. I should prefix that with the fact that I went on a Friday, mid-November afternoon when most people are working. Note to self: always check the driving advisories before making the trip to Crater Lake as it does get quite a bit of snow and your car will start sliding. Also, there aren’t any gas stations within around 30 miles of the Lake. So, don’t be like me and try to “man up” against your tank. Feed your car some of that sweet gas before making her drive to isolated areas. She’ll appreciate it ;).

I was a bit hesitant to make a stop here as there was a lot of other things I wanted to do in Oregon. Whether you want to stay by the coast your not, do yourself the favor and make a stop here. Although I had the benefit of not running into very many people, it’s hard not to find peace and tranquility with such a beautiful view.

Bend

12003878_10207808715198532_343401090921263105_n

Up until my visit, I can honestly say that I didn’t know all that much about Bend. When you think of cities in Oregon, for the most part, we just think of the state as having a ton of trees and that one city named Portland. However, Bend is a great city to stop on your way up through the state. There are tons of food options and breweries everywhere you look. With this combination, it’s hard not to have a good time. Oh, and did I mention, attractive people everywhere! Who would have thought? Since you are somewhat in the middle of nowhere, prices are cheap and you can easily find a hotel room for under $100.

Smith Rock State Park

DSCN5184

The central/eastern part of Oregon definitely doesn’t feel like Oregon anymore. Out with the tall trees and in with the beautiful wide-open landscapes. Oregon quickly transforms itself from greenery everywhere you look to a hay-type hue with beautiful rock formations. If you decide to go to Bend on your way north to Portland, this is an easy stop on the way. If you’re a rock climber, you’ll definitely not want to miss this stop as you’ll see hundreds of rock climbers trying to make these rock formations their bitch.

DSCN5094

Multnomah Falls

12208705_10207846707388313_2842090958914537290_n

Just an hour or so east of Portland is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever laid my eyes on and that’s saying a lot. I’ve seen them all over Iceland, Ireland, Hawaii, Jamaica, etc. but there truly is something special about the waterfall here. It’s free to get in and you need to make sure you pick up your jaw, which will surely be hanging after 30 minutes of staring in awe as the mist eventually envelopes you as you work your way up to the top of the falls. There are great trails that you can spend hours on and essentially feel as though you’re trapped in some type of Disney fairy tale (or enjoyed the dispensaries way more than you should have).

DSCN4954

Portland

Portland

Oh boy! Just for a little perspective, I’ve been to 40 states and I usually try to go to the biggest to cities in each. I’ve heard good things in the past about Portland’s food and their beer culture, but it was never a top city of mine that I wanted to visit. I can now easily put Portland in my top five American cities to visit. The fusion of modern American/Southern comfort food is absolutely to die for (or from). While you’ll feel stuffed to the brim as you leave, every single meal left me with the ability to work up the energy to crack a smile before going into a two-hour food coma. SOOOOO GOOOOOOOD. Eat everything and do it as often as possible. Also, drink everywhere and do it as often as possible. Microbreweries are everywhere in this young man’s city so do yourself a favor and try to sign up for a beer tour as Portland is now known internationally for their unique and delicious beers.

Also, for all of you West Coast people who have always wanted to see the fall colors, don’t bother flying all the way across the country to the Northeast. I’ve lived on the east coast and although the fall season is beautiful, Portland does a great job making you forget all about the colors of New England.

Lastly, I can’t talk about Portland and not mention Voodoo Donuts. Voodoo Donuts is one of the top places to eat in Portland. You’ll likely wait a good 30 minutes just to get inside. Let me save you the time: OVERRATED. They are just donuts with the novelty of throwing a bunch of odd toppings on them like Fruit Loops. The donuts themselves don’t taste all that good and they are really heavy so you’re missing out an actual meal of delicious food from elsewhere in the city.

Oregon Coast

IMG_0716I strongly suggest driving up on the Eastern side of Oregon and then coming back down on the coast. The coast is beautifully filled with drastic cliffs cutting down into the ocean with tall forest trees resting above. It’s a rather unique view and one that you won’t get tired of as you drive the 8 hours or so from Northern Oregon to the California border.

TL, DR: Oregon = BEAUTY BEAUTY BEAUTY. Take the time, get a car, maybe a tent, a DD, and have a blast as you experience the many wonders of Oregon.

The simple beauty that is Oregon.
The simple beauty that is Oregon.