Tagged the great outdoors

Who’s going to Lightning in a Bottle 2016?!

Written by Nadia Ibanez, Photos courtesy of Lightning in a Bottle

I should have a section on Wander for “Wishful Thinking” posts. It happens just about every week where I’m sitting at my 9-5 job and get a crazy inclination to check out a cool new art show, concert venue, totally crazy event, or new hotel — you name it, I’ve done it. Or, at least I’ve planned to go to something and then plans/universe turned me in a different direction. A couple years ago, I made the intention to check out Lightning in a Bottle at some point in my 20s/30s. And if you know me, you know this event is 1000% Nadia friendly.

Over Memorial Day weekend, thousands and thousands of people convene for a six-day festival of amazing music, yoga, live art installations, a meditation temple, cooking classes and demos, booze, and environmental consciousness in the form of food, vendors and much more. Essentially, people going to LIB are seeking full immersion in a culture that embraces community, self-awareness, the healing benefits of music and yoga, and the act of befriending strangers with common interests.

This year, Lightning in a Bottle will return to the San Antonio Recreation Center in Bradley, CA. Music headliners include some of my favorite artists like Chet Faker, Grimes and Jaime XX and a boatload of other DJs and musicians. While some people are going for the dance and EDM scene, I think I’m more excited about the yoga and meditation aspect, along with spending a couple days out in the wilderness and under the stars. For a hippie, festie girl, this would be a dream come true. Now it’s just a matter of finding a squad to join me.

For more information, check out lightninginabottle.org or check out the 2015 video below. Hope to see you there!

 

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico: A Gem Not To Miss

Scuba Playa del Carmen
Scuba divers will absolutely love this story. Keep reading…

Written by and photos by Michael A.

We often don’t lump Mexico in as being an exciting international getaway destination. You need to stop this mindset immediately. Born and raised in Los Angeles, but a mere three-hour drive away from the Mexican border, I too was a culprit of this belief. I love my food and I love me some good international travel. I’ve traveled to roughly 40 countries, and other than a brief stint where I got stranded in Tijuana with a donkey painted zebra, I never had any intention of really making a vacation out of Mexico. However, I was absolutely blown away by the food, scuba diving, clear waters, and most importantly, how incredibly affordable Playa Del Carmen is.

Where to stay

The pool at Hacienda Real del Caribe in Playa del Carmen.
The pool at Hacienda Real del Caribe in Playa del Carmen.

For just $33 a night (yes you read that correctly), I’d recommend staying at Hacienda Real del Caribe. It has a beautiful salt-water pool and very spacious rooms. I’m a big fan of flat screen TV’s, which it was lacking, but the location of this hotel is just so perfect that you’ll forget all about that detail. This hotel is literally one block away from all of the night life, a plethora of great restaurants, and only a 5-minute walk to the beach. Ummmm, I think I also mentioned that it was $33 a night…so, yeah…if you’re on a budget, this is an amazing place to go.

A scuba diver’s paradise

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Cozumel constantly gets all of the hype for being one of the most amazing diving spots in the world (and rightfully so), but you have to make sure you don’t miss the Cenotes. I’ve been on some cool dives in the past, but the Cenotes….well….just look at these pictures for yourself. You won’t see much sea life down there, but the colors and the fact that you’re 35 feet under the surface of Earth is a pretty cool and special feeling in its own right. You are literally below the bottom of tree roots.

Ditch Cozumel and stay in Playa Del Carmen

The best chile relleno I've ever had.
The best chile relleno I’ve ever had.

Don’t make the mistake that my buddy and I made and get a hotel on this island. There really isn’t all that much going on there other than the best chile relleno you could possibly imagine! Cozumel is known world-wide as being one of the top dive locations in the world because of its ridiculously clear waters and visibility. However, I strongly suggest just staying in Playa Del Carmen and paying the extra $5-10 to the dive shop to take you to some diving out there. If you really want to spend some time on the island, it’s literally a $20 35-minute boat ride that leaves every hour from two different ports in Playa Del Carmen. Don’t bother renting a car either, since you won’t see very much other than the port and undeveloped areas.

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Don’t touch the Lionfish…

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Do make sure that you go on some dives out there though as the swim-throughs are spectacular and plentiful. If you go within the next couple of years, be ready to see a lot of Lionfish and don’t be an idiot like me and get too close. Yes, they’re beautiful, but they are also extremely poisonous. Enjoy them from afar but don’t try to take that coveted selfie with one. Your underwater selfie can wait until you’ve entered one of the very few shipwrecks in the area. Look for the slightly dirty restroom and make sure you keep your eyes open for some of the biggest eels you’ve ever seen hanging underneath the cracks of the floorboards.

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Overall, Playa Del Carmen is definitely a place you don’t want to miss. The food is great, the stay is cheap, and there is beauty all around you — and under you in the case of the Cenotes.

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Jordan Verdin Photo

Playa Del Carmen vs. Cancun: An Amazing, Authentic Alternative for a Riviera Maya Vacation

by Andrea Verdin

When planning a vacation, who doesn’t immediately begin to daydream of an all inclusive resort, with beautiful white sandy beaches? Who doesn’t yearn for miles of beautiful tropical jungle, with a small village nestled in between the leaves and fronds? Who doesn’t want to climb and explore the ancient ruins, only to be washed by a rainstorm once at the top?

Jordan Verdin Photo
Jordan Verdin Photo

Well, for my family and me, this was the experience we had at Playa Del Carmen. Playa del Carmen is located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, about an hour south of Cancun. It’s in the state of Quintana Roo, in the Yucatán peninsula. While it’s only an hour away from the popular Cancun, it’s worlds apart in terms of experience. Firstly, Playa Del Carmen is still considered a beach town; that means everything is still smaller scale. Even the hotels and resorts, which are monolithic, are on the outskirts of town, leaving an adorable, sleepy town with locals at its center.

Playa Del Carmen has regulated hotels and large business so that they cannot go past three stories in height. This means that you do not have to worry about your view of the jungle or beach being marred by an obnoxious skyscraper. This is not the case in Cancun, which has a much more industrialized feeling attached.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t find great food, or that you won’t be able to get some great shopping done while at Playa Del Carmen. Guests are encouraged to experience La Quinta, more commonly known by tourists as 5th Avenue.

La Quinta has an interesting mixture of shops. You can find both Mayan-made products with their makers sitting quietly in their booths, or you can access a sprawling, air conditioned mall with designer shops and familiar chain restaurants. One of the best ways to unwind after a day full of adventure, snorkeling and eating is to walk as far as you can down La Quinta. Pop into each shop, take a look at their wares, and negotiate with the shop owner to get the best bargain on the trinket, piece of clothing or memento you want to keep from your trip.

Jordan Verdin photo
Jordan Verdin photo

If you walk off the main strip, there are more localized shops and stands with food that the locals eat, such as el Fogon. This two story taco shop was packed with families, couples on dates, and tourists who knew how to shop around before settling on dinner. Everything was chopped as it was ordered, and you can’t help but try to fill yourself with as many tacos and tortas as possible.

While there are lovely restaurants along La Quinta, there are plenty of taco stands along the blocks near La Quinta that will give you the best – and cheapest – fare. What you need to do is look for a stand that has plenty of locals waiting in line for something to eat. This lets you know that the stand will have fresh food, great flavors, and a decent price attached. One of my husband’s favorite parts of the taco stand crawl was the churro guy at the end: once he received an order for churros, he would place the fresh batter into boiling oil before throwing it into the cinnamon mix. Customers are left with delicious, piping hot churros to top off their already full bellies.
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Another bonus of being in Playa Del Carmen is the quick access available to Cozumel, an island sitting just a few miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. For under 20 dollars, guests can take a round trip ride to an even more remote part of the Riviera Maya. Cozumel is only partially developed, and doesn’t have a lot going on after the sun falls, so it’s great for a day trip.

The view from our fish house in Cozumel
The view from our fish house in Cozumel

Once you arrive, don’t feel like you have to stay in the port village of Cozumel. There’s an entire island to see! We rented a buggy, then hit the open road. There’s a single road that circles the entire island, and we were able to stop at the southernmost point of the island and have lunch at a small shack on the beach.

The fish was freshly caught, the breeze was beautifully cool, and the sights were spectacular. Along the way around the island, there are several stands selling coconuts just off of the trees, and you can even stop and get a massage on the sand while your family or significant other snorkels along the reef.

 

Joshua Tree Music Festival attracts people of all ages

Joshua Tree Music Festival paints a perfect picture of music, relaxation and fun for festival goers

As some of us are preparing for the second weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival that kicks off today, many of us are dying of envy as we watch our friends done headdresses, lace, and art gear to enjoy the festivities. However, there is another amazing festival that takes place in awe-inspiring Joshua Tree — the Joshua Tree Music Festival, which is happening May 14-17, 2015.

The Joshua Tree Music Festival is its own experience, and festival planner Barnett English is proud to plan a global music festival that is fun for people of all ages. This is completely different experience from other festivals because your children, friends and family can all come to this event, bond, and truly revel in the experience that can only be had at Joshua Tree.

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If people aren’t familiar with the Joshua Tree Music Festival, it’s important to note that it’s definitely an intimate affair, said English.

“We are not a huge festival – we have at most 4,000 people on site,” he explained. “There are no crushing crowds, and you can get right in front of the stage. It’s super laid back. From my experience, Coachella has about 100,000 people, and the madness can get pretty intense. Ours is not like that. You can see the eyeballs of the guy playing the guitar. It’s a more authentic experience because you are not getting lost in a sea of people.”

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This festival melds the overwhelming spirit of desert freedom with powerful music from around the world to create a lighthearted oasis for music lovers. Magically magnificent art installations, a robust Kidsville schedule, the heavily shaded Music Bowl, a full spectrum of yoga classes from sunrise to sunset, 27 different music playshops and didjeridu classes, late night Astronomy theatre, and a World Market further inspire, intrigue and invite festival goers.

Not to knock bigger, louder, and rowdier festivals like Coachella; it is absolutely a blast when you know how to survive Coachella and all the insanity that comes with it. However, for some, the overwhelming crowds, heat, and overall experience is dampened because you don’t really connect with new friends, or even have the same experience as your own friends. At the Joshua Tree Music Festival, your kids can dance and sway to the music, or you and your significant other can spend time stretching at the yoga class before heading to the main stage together.

Th-19The festival has been held at the same site since its conception, and is held at a privately owned campground with sweeping views of Indian Cove National Park.

“The folks that own the place have given us five acres of 40 acres for us to dream and build stages, shops, and yoga area,” said English. “At the end of the festival, we don’t tear down; we get to leave it here and add onto it every year. It’s not very common that a festival can do that, and we are super grateful to make it funkier.”

The Joshua Tree Music Festival has two main stages, and bands alternate between the two so that no two bands are playing at the same time. This allows for guests to have the same experience, creating a bonding experience.

“All weekend long and afterward, people are affected in a positive way,” said English. “The music has been inspiring and they walk away with more energy. I love to see people have the time of their lives. People come away with meaningful conversations and new friends that they can’t live without.”

If you can’t make it this May, don’t fret. English is proud to say that the festival is so much fun, he and the other planners host it twice a year.

“We are having the 13th annual festival in May, but we also have the 10th annual fall event in October,” he said. “We just couldn’t wait a whole year!”

Full festival line up, schedule, and more information at the following sites:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

Kayakers come out in droves for the Port Angeles Kayak and Film Festival

Port Angeles Kayak and Film Festival unites Film Lovers with the Great Outdoors This Weekend!

by Andrea Verdin

The weekend is nearly here, and for those of us who are scrounging for an adventure, it may be time to head to Port Angeles for a one of a kind experience: the Port Angeles Kayak and Film Festival.

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This event will span two days, with a pre-party starting on Friday night, and continuing through Saturday, April 18 and Sunday, April 19 at Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles, WA. Throughout the entire weekend, there will be over 25 different events happening for anyone interested in paddle sports or film to join.

“We are so pleased to bring an event of this caliber to Port Angeles for a second year,” says Tammi Hinkle, owner of Adventures Through Kayaking, one of three local co-organizers of the Festival. “It’s truly a one-of-a-kind event; no other festival in the country highlights and promotes all classes of paddling. Participants can take an Eskimo rolling class, get educated on tides and currents, learn how to land their craft in surf, experience stand-up paddle boarding and much more.”

img22A “It’s a continuation of an event that used to happen in the area,” said Hinkle. “It’s really about community, being outside, sharing experiences, and being excited about outdoor recreation. It’s absolutely a family event.”

“The best part,” Hinkle continues, “is that almost anyone can participate. The Festival is open to all levels and all ages. It’s a community event that we hope anyone with an interest will come out and enjoy.”

There are 12 different short films that feature some sort of paddle sport. Keynote speaker will be professional kayaker and co-founder of the Ikkatsu Project, Ken Campbell.

paddle-boardersAcccording to Campbell, the Ikkatsu Project is an initiative to raise awareness of the impact that toxic pollutants are having on beaches and shorelines through print, films and data-gathering expeditions. After his presentation, guests will have the opportunity to enjoy the world premiere of Message in a Plastic Bottle, a film by Ken Campbell that discusses the Ikkatsu Project’s third film, which chronicles his 150-mile journey from Olympia to Bellingham aboard the Hyas yiem, a kayak constructed of discarded single-use plastic bottles. The presentation will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 18 at Peninsula College’s Maier Performance Hall.

Since Port Angeles is a quaint portside town, it has all of the smalltime charm that allows for relaxing and enjoying yourself in between films. Hinkle recommends spending a little time enjoying the Olympic National Park after the festival, so you may want to bring a pair of hiking boots and a mountain bike as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring the Port Angeles Kayak and Film Festival, over 20 classes are available to guests, and they can create the itinerary that interests them. One novice might want to learn the basics of kayaking or stand up paddle boarding, while an experienced kayaker might want to focus on navigation or cold water immersion.

“Some of our instructors are very well known in the kayak world,” said Hinkle. “You can bring your own kayak, or you can rent. Gear is included with some of the classes. The festival itself is free, and the only cost is for class participation, with the cost ranging from $5 to $35.”

Don’t fret about being lost in class; each class allows for intimacy with the instructors.

“We have really small classes, with a maximum of eight people,” said Hinkle. “We always have at least two instructors, even in a class of eight for the quality of instruction. There is going to be a lot of learning from very highly acclaimed teachers.”

For more information, go to www.portangeleskayakandfilm.com or call (360) 417-3015.