5 South American Locations Perfect for Escaping Winter

This Winter you may be longing for the warm days of Summer to come back.  Luckily, our neighbor south of the Equator offers the temperatures of Summer this time of year.  Here are 5 locations perfect to swap the cold and snow for some warm summer nights.

1) Punta del Esta, Uruguay.

Uruguay is commonly referred to as the “Switzerland of South America” for it high class and European feel.  CNN named Uruguay one of the “World’s Top Destinations for 2012″.  If Uruguay was New York City, Punta del Esta would be the Hamptons.  For locals, keeping a summer house in Punta del Esta is ideal for its resort feel and rich atmosphere.

uruaguay


2) San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

Situated between the Andes mountains and Nahuel Huapi Lake, Bariloche is a nature lover’s dream.  The city itself is styled after German and Swiss architecture, and is known for its jaw-dropping scenery and top-notch cuisine.  A huge ski town in the Winter (Summer for the Northern hemisphere), the region is perfect for boating, hiking, scuba diving, and similar activities in the Summer months.

Baril

3) Manaus, Brazil

Manaus is literally surrounded by the Amazon Rainforest and is one of the cities with the easiest access to the jungle.  Your best bet for a trip to the Amazon would be December or early January, if you go too late you will be arriving in the wet season.  Manaus offers a city feel in the middle of the jungle.

Manhaus

4) Santiago, Chile

A large modern metropolis, Santiago can offer a tourist just about everything.  With a Mediterranean climate similar to California, Chile has perfect Winter weather.  You can hike in the mountains in the morning and be on the beach by the afternoon.

Chile

 

5) Belize

Okay, so technically speaking Belize is not in South America, but it was too good to leave off our list.  Just off the coast of Belize you can find the cleverly named, Great Blue Hole; A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  With Caribbean culture and temperatures; Belize City is a calm, fun-loving city perfect for relaxing, snorkeling  or scuba diving on the coast.

Belize

 

Have another favorite Winter getaway? Let us know!

Your Guide to Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bay

Our Kayak Tour in Laguna Grande

Our Kayak Tour in Laguna Grande

 

Undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist attractions in Puerto Rico, the Bioluminescent Bays draw many tourists out on dark nights to witness a unique effect first-hand.  Only a handful of places in the world are home to bodies of water with tiny dinoflagellates which produce a glowing effect when moved. I recently toured one of the Bio Bays on my trip to Puerto Rico. While the experience is something I would absolutely recommend, there are a few things to know before you go.

The Bays:

Of Puerto Rico’s three bays, two are frequently accessed from San Juan.  The first is Laguna Grande in Fajardo on the east side of the island.  The second is Mosquito Bay on the island of Vieques off the east coast of the country.  Mosquito Bay is often regarded as the better spot to witness the effect since it has less light pollution and a larger concentration of dinoflagellates, making it appear brighter than Laguna Grande.  However, a trip to Vieques will require a night’s stay and a flight or ferry ride making it a more time consuming and costly option.  Vieques is still worth looking into if you have the time, since the island has famous beaches and many other sights in addition to the bio bay.

Ways to See the Bays:

By Kayak – Kayaking is definitely the most popular way to see the bay and was the tour I chose.  The tours begin in the open bay before kayaking through a narrow waterway to get to Laguna Grande.  The path to get to the Lagoon is lined with mangrove trees making the journey essentially pitch black.  The guides have dim lights on their kayaks so you can follow them, but otherwise you are quite literally left in the dark.  I have a fear of both the dark and the ocean and while I was expecting the tour to be dark it was much darker than my expectations.  Embarrassingly enough, my friend and I had to be tethered to the guide’s kayak after we kept getting stuck in mangrove trees since we couldn’t see.  You don’t have to be an expert kayaker for the tour but I would be cautious if you are a beginner or have reservations about your kayaking ability or the dark.

By Electric Boat – If you’re unable to kayak (or too terrified, like me), you can still go out on the bay by way of electric boat.  The boats are very low riding, so you can still touch and play with the water and are able to see the effect just like you would on a kayak.  You can also devote all your attention to the bio bay instead of having to focus on keeping up with your tour guide and not getting in fellow kayaker’s ways.

By Foot – If you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, Para La Naturaleza offers walking tours to Laguna Grande. A guide will take you to experience the Bio Bay from a boardwalk over the Lagoon where you can play with the water to create the glowing effect.  The walking tour is also a steal at $22 ($12 for students), half the price of the other tours.

Things to Know:

Leave the cameras behind. Unless you have an amazing camera and get your settings exactly right you will not be able to get a picture of the effect of the Bio Bay.  I brought my iPhone naively hoping I could get something on film and instead worried the whole time about getting it wet with nothing to show for my attempts.  Plus the kayak company sent us a free picture after the tour to commemorate the journey.

If it is supposed to rain on your tour date don’t reschedule.  It began to rain on our tour and it was by far the coolest way to experience the effect of the bio bay.  Since the dinoflagellates only glow when moved, you typically only view them by the movement of the boat or your oars.  The rain hitting the water made the dinoflagellates appear everywhere. Cheesy as it sounds, it was like being in the stars. Incredible.

If you’re kayaking wear water shoes and swim bottoms.  In order to get into the kayak you wade into the bay just below your hips. Make sure your cover up is fast drying or water resistant fabric or you’ll be sitting in wet shorts for the rest of the evening.

 

Top 5 Fall Trips to Take in North America

5 Fall Trips in North America

Looking for a great trip to take this fall? Here are some suggestions.  There is a little something for everyone whether you want to experience fall beauty or escape somewhere to forget about the impending winter.

1) For Road Trip Enthusiasts 

Drive through New England and the Appalachians to see the trees in hundreds of varying colors.  Famous Allegheny Passage from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania boasts some of the most famous views of fall foliage.  Stop along to way to visit apple orchards or to take a hayride. Travel anywhere from South Carolina to Wisconsin to experience picturesque views in the fall.

Fall foliage

 

2) For Those Who Aren’t Ready to Face Winter

Visit locations close to the Ecuador for one last summer-like trip. Places such as Puerto Rico still have temperatures in the high 80’s throughout the fall.  As an added bonus, the tourist season doesn’t pick up until mid-November, providing cheaper hotels and airfare.

Puerto rico

 

3) For Those Who Like Unique Experiences 

Every fall there are a number of festivals throughout the U.S., perhaps one of the most famous of these is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  Each year the festival draws thousands to view the hundreds of balloons ranging in shapes from a Pepsi can to a castle.

Balloon Fiesta

 

4) For Nature Lovers 

Ski resorts in British Columbia, Nevada, and Colorado offer a place to stay in nature with an amazing view.  Like mexico, it is the off season in the fall, so you can stay in an upscale resort for bargain prices.

mountain small

 

5) For the Tourist

Prefer to take a trip to a location with lots of action and nightlife? A city on a coast can be a great option for if you are looking for warm, stable weather with a plethora of things to do. Visit cities such as San Diego or Charleston and experience a tourist hot spot minus the summer crowds.

san diego

8 Things You Probably Are Not Packing For Your Trip

While you can hopefully remember to pack your basics like clothing and toiletries, here are some additional items you may not think of as well as some you may think you wouldn’t need.

1. Pillowcase:  I have stayed in a lot of hotels, many of which I did not want to touch the bed covers let alone rest my head on their pillow.  Packing a pillowcase lets you keep your peace of mind while you sleep in a strange place whether you’re staying in a sketchy hostel or the Four Seasons.

Image

 

 

2. Food you can’t get where you are going.  One of my travel companions dips everything in ranch dressing before she eats it.  She freaked when she realized ranch is almost impossible to find in Europe and what you can get is nothing like what she was used to.  If you don’t go a week without it at home, assume you won’t be able to find it in your destination and take some.

Image

 

3. Adaptors. If you are going to a country where the outlets are different, do not forget to pack an adaptor.  While hotels provide most appliances (such as blow dryers) you are still likely to need an adaptor for something.  It is almost impossible to find adaptors once you reach your destination since all those sold in local stores are to adapt the local plug to a foreign one instead of the other way around.

Image 

4. Space bags.  In a previous post, I mentioned that I could not stand travel Space Bags, and that I do not believe they work.  While this opinion stands, there is one excellent alternative use for them that everyone should consider.  Space Bags are a great option to store smelly, wet, or dirty clothes in when traveling, because they are created to seal in everything and store larger amounts of clothing than a Ziploc bag.  Whether your clothing smells like cigarette smoke or is covered in mud from a hike, storing them in a Space Bag keeps them from rubbing off on your other clothing.

Image 

5. GPS Tracker. For less than $100, you can buy a GPS tracking unit to store in your checked bag.  If your bag gets stolen or never makes it on the plane, you can check where the GPS system is and find your bag once again. For example, the Mini Real Time Tracker, shown below, uses a SIM card to send its current coordinates to your phone.

Image 

6. Spare credit card, medicine, and ID. Often travelers are told to keep these items safely in their carry-ons during trips.  While this is sound advice, you should keep a spare of everything you can’t live without in your suitcase. This way if your wallet, purse, or bag get stolen on your trip you can have a backup.

Image 

7.  Spare outfit for the opposite climate you are traveling to.  If you are traveling to Sweden, it is safe to bet you will not be needing shorts and a tank top.  However, the place you are staying may over-compensate for the cold by turning the heat much higher than comfortable.  The same can be said for very warm climates.  Pack just one outfit in-case you are stuck in the opposite temperatures you prepared for.

Image 

8. Pharmaceutical needs. On a trip to Europe, I had a cold and did not take any medicie with me.  I tried to find some Sudafed but could not find anything similar to this common medicine even with the pharmacist’s help.  Drug products vary greatly from country to country and even region to region, so bring anything you may need with you.

Though rarely mentioned in travel blogs (probably due to the taboo nature of the topic) the same can be said about products such as tampons and condoms.  The U.S. has very different health standards than many other countries, so stick with what you know to be safe and pack safe and reliable drugstore products from home.

Image 

Top 5 Fall Trips in North American

5 Fall Trips in North America

Looking for a great trip to take this fall? Here are some suggestions.  There is a little something for everyone whether you want to experience fall beauty or escape somewhere to forget about the impending winter.

1) Fall Foliage Trip 

Drive through New England to see the trees in hundreds of varying colors.  Famous Allegheny Passage from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania boasts some of the most famous views of fall foliage.  Stop along to way to visit apple orchards or to take a hayride. Travel anywhere from South Carolina to Wisconsin to experience picturesque views in the fall.

Image

2) Escape the Winter Trip

Visit locations close to the Ecuador for one last summer-like trip. Puerto Vallarta still has temperatures in the high 80’s throughout the fall.  As an added bonus, the tourist season doesn’t pick up until mid-November, providing cheaper hotels and airfare.

Image

3) Unusual U.S. Trip

Every fall there are a number of festivals throughout the U.S., perhaps one of the most famous of these is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  Each year the festival draws thousands to view the hundreds of balloons ranging in shapes from a Pepsi can to a castle.

Image

4)British Columbia Classic Trip

Ski resorts in British Columbia, Nevada, and Colorado offer a place to stay in nature with an amazing view.  Like mexico, it is the off season in the fall, so you can stay in an upscale resort for bargain prices.

Image

5) City Trip

Prefer to take a trip to a location with lots of action and nightlife? Los Angeles can be a great option for it warm stable weather and plethora of things to do. Visit neighboring cities such as San Diego or take a trip to the farms in the valley while you are visiting.

Image