Spring Break in Mazatlan, Mexico

Mazatlán, Mexico: Located at the base of Sierra Madre in the state of Sinaloa and by the stunning Sea of Cortez of the Pacific (also know as Gulf of California), Mazatlan is a Mexican colonial style town. This is an attractive holiday destination, especially for the people from West Coast of the USA.

Stunning beach of Mazatlan in Mexico

Stunning beach of Mazatlan in Mexico

Mazatlan Downtown and it’s historic city center are the main hot spots here.  This place is equally fun for the young crowds or the retired people or the ones in between. City’s symbol is deer. No, you won’t come across any deer but you’ll see statues and sculptures at many places in downtown.

This was my second trip to Mexico but first for my daughters. After traveling to more than 60 countries worldwide, I have to say Mexicans are some of the most humble and friendliest people I’ve ever met and talked to.

And that sunset by the beach in Mazatlan, Mexico

And that sunset by the beach in Mazatlan, Mexico

Although I converted some of my USD to Pesos, you can use USD or credit cards everywhere in Mazatlan. Small vendors may not accept credit cards, but they will always accept US dollars.

Time of Travel: We went to Mazatlan during my kids’ spring break at end of March, 2019. We traveled with another family friends and their kids, which made this trip extra fun for all of us. We enjoyed moderate tropical weather during our stay. It was around late 80s daytime but got a bit colder at night. It’s a good idea to carry a light sweater, especially for the kids.

Eating and Shopping: What to eat in Mazatlan? Short answer is shrimp, shrimp, and more shrimp. The quality and freshness of shrimp in Mazatlan is unbeatable. Our first lunch was at Mr. Lionso Restaurant during our city trip. The food was average here but it’s location by the beach, colorful decors, and live mariachi music make this an ideal place to enjoy weather and food. They have all the traditional Mexican food at Mr. Lionso with lots of seafood options, quesadillas, fajitas, ceviche, soup, and lots more.

Mazatlan_March20191.jpg

Since we stayed in a an all inclusive resort, most of our meals were at the resort, except for when we took excursions. Our Last dinner was at Casa Canobbio in Plaza Machado. I was inclining more towards Mexican cuisine since it was our last night in Mazatlan but the kids picked this Italian place “Casa Canobbio”. We sat outside to enjoy the live music. The food was good, nothing extraordinary but loved the atmosphere. Having a dinner in Plaza Machado on a Friday is the best, you get to be be part of an energetic atmosphere with the locals and other foreigners.

Mariachi band at Mr. Lionso in Mazatlan, Mexico

Mariachi band at Mr. Lionso in Mazatlan, Mexico

Mazatlan is known for it’s silver jewelries, and Real McCoy is one of the best (and expensive) places to shop for the good quality silver, opal, and mother of pearl. We were taken there during our city trip and I bought a silver bracelet for about $100 and few earnings and rings for friends and family. But bargain…they initially asked $450 for my bracelet and I ended up getting it for $100. Also, buy Mexican vanilla…it’s the best I’ve tasted so far. Lots of other colorful decorations like wooden bowls and Day of the Dead souvenirs are very popular too.

Our Hotel: We stayed in Pueblo Bonita Emerald Bay Resort in Mazatlan which is more than half an hour drive from the downtown or Centro Historico and close to an hour drive from the airport. There is another Pueblo Bonita near downtown but their Emerald Bay Resort is in the newer one in Zona Nuevo or New Mazatlan. We could see the Pacific and gorgeous sunsets over the ocean from our balcony . The best part of this resort was the sound of native birds, especially early morning. I used to wake up at 6:30am just to hear their loud chirping from the balcony.

Pueblo Bonita Emerald Bay Resort in Mazatlan, Mexico

Pueblo Bonita Emerald Bay Resort in Mazatlan, Mexico

Places We’ve Visited:  We had about 4 full days in Mazatlan and we didn’t rent any car. To get around the city, ride Mazatlan’s signature white open-aired taxi “Pulmonia”. Some of them have only doors and no windows while others have none. Although they are everywhere, do ask for the price before you get onto one. They are very cheap compared to US dollars and the drivers always appreciate a little tip.

Taxi in Mazatlan, Mexico, called Pulmonia

Taxi in Mazatlan, Mexico, called Pulmonia

Some places we couldn’t visit but worth making a trip would be Deer Island, Durango, and Copala. Deer Island can be done in half a day but Durang and Copala by the Seirra Madre are full day, 12-hour excursions. If you have extra few days, there is also a daily ferry that leaves Mazatlan everyday late afternoon and reaches Cabo San Lucas the next morning, within 14 hours. But if you want to stay locally, there are tons of water activities to do in Mazatlan, like Jet skiing, water-skiing, or parasailing.

Here are some of the things we did, saw, and visited while we were in Mazatlan.

  1. Centro Historico: This is a nice walking district of Mazatlan and a charming cultural center of the city. This old part of the town is a must see for any visitors.
Centro Historico in Mazatlan, Mexico

Centro Historico in Mazatlan, Mexico

      2. City Bus Tour: This was half a day tour of Mazatlan that we did on our first day there, focusing mainly on the older part of the city. The cost was $19 per person and we were picked up from our hotel around 10am and were dropped off around 3:30pm. This trip was organized with a small group of 3/4 families and consisted of little bit of walking and little bit of driving. My teenage daughter said that was her the most favorite part of this trip.

                           a. El Mercado or Mercado Pino Suarez: Our first stop of this trip on day 1 in Mazatlan is El Mercado in the Centro Historico. It’s a large indoor market place consists of countless small shops where you can find everything from fresh produce, to meat and fish, to household stuff, to Mexican handcrafts, and other souvenirs. It was a bit crowded with the locals and lots of tourist groups, but this was a great Mexico experience and a fun way to check out localities. I bought couple t-shirts for very cheap prices (2 kids t-shirts for $7). But do bargain before buying anything here.

Mercado Pino Suarez in Downtown Mazatlan, Mexico

Mercado Pino Suarez in Downtown Mazatlan, Mexico

                           b. La Inmaculada Concepcio or The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception: This grand architecture has been standing in the heart of Mazatlan since 1899 with its magnificent interior and exterior elements. There was a service going on inside the cathedral at the time we entered the building, so we couldn’t walk around and see all the details. But from its marvelous ceiling to stained-glass windows and the gorgeous alter, it’s pretty obvious why this is on the must-see list of Mazatlan.

La Inmaculada Concepcio or The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mazatlan, Mexico

La Inmaculada Concepcio or The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mazatlan, Mexico

                            c. Plaza Machado: This is the main public square and the heart of Centro Historico. It’s surrounded mainly by lots of restaurants and some old and colorful buildings, like historic hotel, theater, old book store, and other commercial buildings. It’s a trendy place in an old setting with lots of young local crowds…a great place to do some people watching.

Loved those windows and doors in and around Plaza Machado in Mazatlan, Mexico

Loved those windows and doors in and around Plaza Machado in Mazatlan, Mexico

We came back to Plaza Machado on Friday which was our last evening in Mazatlan. It was very lively with lots of people, local performers and dancers, vendors, and loud music at almost every restaurant. We came here for dinner because this is the best place to enjoy any meal in the city. You will find Mexican, Italian, and other kinds of cuisines in this square.

Plaza Machado at night in Mazatlan, Mexico

Plaza Machado at night in Mazatlan, Mexico

Taxi from Malecon Beach to Plaza Machado is about 90 Pesos and is about 180 Pesos if you are coming from Pueblo Bonita Emerald Bay Resort or that area.

3. The Lighthouse: We didn’t go near the lighthouse, just saw it from a distance. But this is the world’s natural highest operating lighthouse (515 feet above sea level).

4. Cliff Divers: This was our last stop before we were taken to souvenir shopping and to the lunch venue at Mr. Lionso. As soon as our van parked and we stepped out, one of the divers approached us to see him diving from 45 feet high rock formation to a really shallow water area. They will climb up the stairs and will dive to a water area that is only 5-6 feet deep. The divers will have to wait for the right waves and time for this stunt. But they are there all day and only have to wait few minutes to see the jump right in front of your eyes. usually a nice medium size of crowd will gather to see them, take photos with these brave men, and tip them.

A cliff diver ready to jump to a shallow water body in Mazatlan, Mexico

A cliff diver ready to jump to a shallow water body in Mazatlan, Mexico

Visitors can also climb the stairs for a better view of the surrounding ocean. Check out the beautiful mermaid statue while you are there.

Mermaid by the beach in Mazatlan, Mexico

Mermaid by the beach in Mazatlan, Mexico

5. Malecon and Olas Altas Beach: Few miles away from Plaza Machado, Malecon is a hustling place for the tourists as well as for the locals. The beach below Malecon is Olas Atlas Beach. The famous “Mazatlan” structure is at one end of Malecon. Few iconic statues can be seen while walking on Malecon and many street side vendors can also be found selling small trinkets in the evening.

Walking on Malecon at night in Mazatlan, Mexico

Walking on Malecon at night in Mazatlan, Mexico

6. Stone Island: This was our another half-day excursion that we booked on our 3rd day in Mazatlan. After we were picked up from our hotel, we drove thru the city in a no-window bus, and arrived at the marina about in an hour to board the catamaran. This was a fun boat with loud Mexican music, fun attendants, and cold beverages. The catamaran took us around some beautiful seascape with old rock formations and caves. Our first stop was to meet some sea lions on a giant boulder in the middle of the sea who originally migrated from California.

On our way to Stone Island in Mazatlan

On our way to Stone Island in Mazatlan

After arriving Stone Island, we were taken to our chosen activities by the beach or riding thru the island. Buggy ride with my little daughter gave us a taste of the culture of the island and the locals’ lives.

Buggy ride thru Stone Island in Mazatlan, Mexico

Buggy ride thru Stone Island in Mazatlan, Mexico

The trip was $35 per adult and $17 for a child. The price included lunch and 2 activities on the island  from banana boat, kayaking, horseback riding and buggy ride.

Stone Island beach in Mazatlan, Mexico

Stone Island beach in Mazatlan, Mexico

 

 

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Joshua Tree National Park

My kids and I were in Palm Springs, California over the Thanksgiving weekend. And one of the highlights of this trip was visiting the magnificent Joshua Tree National Park. We stayed in the city of Indio in Coachella Valley and It was about little more than half an hour drive to the Southern Entrance/Cottonwood Entrance of JTNP from our hotel.

Beautiful landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, California

Beautiful landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, California

Ticket per vehicle is $30 which can be used for the next 7 days. You can spend from half a day to few days or weeks in this park. We bought few water bottles, some protein bars, luncheables, chips, and candies before entering the park. We arrived the Southern Visitor Center around 10:30am and stayed until about 3:30. If you have time and energy, staying longer is highly recommended to enjoy dramatic sunsets or to camp or if you love star gazing…to experience a stunning desert sky from the park. JTNP is a paradise for the hikers, rock-climbers, photographers, nature-lovers, kids, adults, and many more.

If you follow the JTNP map, it’ll take you to all the spots and parts of the park that you want to visit. We made it to most of the places that we planned to visit. These are some of the really cool and beautiful places of JTNP that we loved and the kids enjoyed:

Ocatillo Patch: Ocatillo is not a true cactus but a beautiful plant indigenous to Sonoran and couple other desert in the USA. JTNP has an area, called Ocatillo Patch, (follow the sign). It’s a nice place to take some pictures, walk around, and explore the nature.

Ocatillo Patch in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Ocatillo Patch in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Cholla Cactus Garden: This was one of our favorites. A whole big area on the both sides of the road is covered with cholla cactus, a beautiful looking but very thorny cactus. Be careful with kids here. We ended up spending more than half an hour strolling thru the cacti, taking pictures, and having fun looking at these plants in the desert. We even saw couple small lizards here.

Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Jumbo Rock Campground: This was our number one in the park. Jumbo Rock campground and the surroundings are the places with really huge boulders. My kids couldn’t get enough of rock climbing and the stunning view of everything…the trees, big rocks, mountains, blue sky, everything was part of a big piece of this beauty. It’s a big playground for any age. We stopped at different sections of Jumbo rocks and still couldn’t see all of it.

Jumbo Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Jumbo Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Camping in JTNP is a very popular activity and we saw bunch of tents and RVs parked in Jumbo Rock Campground. I can imagine the beautiful night sky from here. Tourists can spend days among these boulders for rock climbing, photography, or just hiking.

Skull Rock: Skull rock is another jumbo rock which has the shape of a human skull. We didn’t spend much time here other than just taking some photos. But there are other big rocks that can be climbed and trails that can be hiked.

Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Keys View: Keys View is another must. Even if you don’t visit other spots in JTNP, Keys View deserves some attention. This is a view point from where you can see the mountains and Salton sea. Although we didn’t stay too long since it was getting a bit cold, sunset from this spot is very famous…just bring some extra clothes.

Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Once we were done, we left the park thru “Joshua Tree” visitor center, which is about 20 miles from Keys View. JTNP doesn’t have any running water, restaurants, café or snack bars or vending machines inside the park. It’s better to bring lots of water bottles, sandwiches or bars, extra clothes, or even maybe first aid kits (just in case you are that unfortunate or clumsy tourist who may have a bad luck with the cacti there).

Got One Day in Irvine, CA?

My girls and I were in Palm Springs, California for the Thanksgiving weekend. It was a sudden trip and urge to visit California. We were in Palm Springs for 4 nights and 31/2 days. We had a rental car, so planned to drive 2 hours to Irvine to visit some friends and spend some time in Irvine.

Laguna Beach in Irvine, CA

Laguna Beach in Irvine, CA

As far as the landscape and heat, Irvine is very different from Palm Springs. We stayed in Coachella Valley in Palm Springs which is a part of the Sonoran Desert. There aren’t any beaches here, only mountains and oases. Irvine, on the other hand, is more crowded, has lots of beaches to hang out, and milder weather.

 

We spent about 7 or 8 hours in Irvine with my high school friend, her sister, and her husband. Since my friend and her husband are local there, they took us to some not-so-touristy places where we did avoid some crowed and had a very relaxed time.

 

Lunch & Dinner – When you are in California, eating burger at In N Out is a must…or at least for me and my kids. Our lunch was animal style burgers and fries from In N Out. For dinner, my friends took us to California Pizza Kitchen. It’s a local Italian place with really good food. Their flatbread with chicken, shrimp and zucchini pasta, mac ‘n cheese fried balls, and cauliflower crusted pizza (no carb at all) are not only healthy, but also very tasty. Even my girls loved the carb free, cauliflower crust pizza.

 

Crystal Cove State Park: This was our first stop. It’s a small free public beach near Irvine. We took some pictures from the cliff side at first, then walked down to the beach. There were bathrooms and showers for the kids to change and take a shower after the beach time. Opposite of the park, there is a big shopping center with some restaurants and etc.

Crystal Cove State Park in Irvine, CA

Crystal Cove State Park in Irvine, CA

Crescent Bay Park/Laguna Beach: Crescent Bay Park was absolutely a charm. It’s a really small park on the cliff of Laguna Beach. Some really beautiful houses stand in this neighborhood. We spent about 10 minutes in the Crescent Bay Park, took some pictures, then walked 10 minutes down the stairs to go to the Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach itself was a bit crowded. And since we already went in the water in Crystal Cove, we just hung out for only a few minutes and came up to go to the Top of the World before the sunset.

Crescent Bay Park in Irvine, CA

Crescent Bay Park in Irvine, CA

 

Top of the World: This is where the local or tourists come to enjoy beautiful sunset over the city. On one side, you can see the mountains and other the ocean. It does get a bit chilly in the late afternoon. We stayed there until the sun went down and it was a beautiful sunset indeed.

Sunset from Top of the World in Irvine, CA

Sunset from Top of the World in Irvine, CA

Things To Do In Order To Have An Amazing Vacation In Hawaii

6th

Hawaii seems to be on every traveler’s bucket list, and why not? From the luscious landscaping to the crystal-clear waters, each of the six islands feels like a paradise. It’s a place where you can hike to hidden waterfalls, spearfish in the ocean, attend a luau and watch the sunset, all in the same day. No matter where you go, adventure awaits. Here are the must-do activities to get the most out of your Hawaii vacation:

Stroll the Lavender Farms in Maui

This mesmerizing farm attracts visitors from around the world. In addition to seeing the lavender and gardens, you’re like to see camouflaged geckos and astonishing views of upcountry and beyond. It’s a popular spot for romance, Instagram worthy photos, and lavender scones. You can attend one of the many events they host, book it for your own special occasion, or spend a few hours exploring the stunning grounds. For only a few dollars, it’s worth the trip.

Visit the Famous Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is one of the most popular tourist spots of Oahu, for good reason. It’s home to legendary surfers, warm waters, and astonishing sunsets. Families are welcomed here, as are other respectful tourists looking to have fun in the sun. If you’re looking for a room with a view, you’ll be happy to know you can find a hotel near Waikiki Beach in a snap.

Step Inside Kauai’s Festival of Lights

If you’re looking to escape the cold, but still enjoy the holiday season, Kauai’s the island for you. Their annual Festival of Lights runs throughout the month of December and boasts of holiday cheer. You can step inside the Winter Wonderland and be greeted by the sound of carolers or visit Santa’s Workshop. You’ll feel like you found a dazzling snowflake in the middle of paradise.

Hike to One of Hawaii’s Most Remote Settlements

Kalaupapa is a small town located on the coast of Molokai. You can spend a few hours hiking the 2.9-mile trail to the peninsula and seeing the magnificent views before landing in this remote settlement. This isolated and peaceful retreat is worth the trip through the Kalaupapa National Historical Park. If anything, this scenic trail is an added bonus!

Zipline on the “Garden Island”

Kauai has been named the Garden Island for its lush landscaping. When ziplining here, you’ll be able to enjoy an array of backdrops. Feel the cool ocean mist as you zip along the coast. Take in the scenery of breathtaking mountains. You may even find yourself exploring a hidden jungle on Hawaii’s oldest island.

Dive Underwater Cathedrals off the Coast of Lanai

If you’re a scuba enthusiast, diving the lava caverns known worldwide as the Cathedrals is probably already on your must-dive list. This is your chance to see the unique formations created when molten lava cools underwater. You’ll be accompanied by an array of rare fish and other marine creatures. Depending on the season, you may even see humpback whales or spinner dolphins.

There’s an abundance of activities and sightseeing in Hawaii. Your next trip could and should be filled with fun adventures that cross items off your bucket list. No matter which island you visit, there’s something fun for you and your travel companions to do.

Planning A Vacation To California

Wonderful California understandably makes an excellent choice for a vacation. From the glories of the northern forests to the delights of the shore and bit city living, California surely enjoy a place on any travel bucket list. Before leaving, make sure that everything like your San Ramon hotel booking, itineraries, and suitcases are all in order.

Getting There

California is easy to get to by many different highways, airports and trains. Major cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles have many connecting flights with other parts of the United States and the world. Amtrak offers rail service to many destinations in the state. People can get to parts of the state from many American cities including Chicago and Denver.

Finding a Place to Stay

It’s essential to find decide where to stay and then locate places to stay. The state is home to lodging ideal for any budget. High end travelers can opt for a luxurious stay in the center of a vibrant city. Those on a smaller budget can find many equally enjoyable places to stay including motels and budget inns. Those who love nature may want to think about camping in a state park overnight or longer.

Exploring the State

The state extends from the Oregon border to Mexico. In between lie hundreds of places to explore. It’s a good idea to think about what is most important to each traveler well in advance. One person may be content with hitting the highlights while another prefers a more leisurely pace. Keep in mind that distances are long between places. If traveling around the state, it’s best to get there by driving or rent a car.

Large Cities

Travelers who love large cities will find plenty to explore here. Relatively compact San Francisco lies in the north. It’s a city of upscale pleasures but also a Bohemian bent and one of the centers of gay life. Los Angeles sprawls across dozens of miles. San Diego is noteworthy for many things including the famous zoo and lively mix of cultures and cuisines.

The Coast

Coastal California is a huge draw for many visitors. Given the area’s many beaches, warm waters and impressive surfing, it’s no wonder so many people make this part of their trip. Hundreds of unique beaches dot the coast so it’s easy to find at least several worth a trip. Beaches in California are not only home to human visitors. They’re also home to lots of amazing sea creatures. Seals and sea lions are common in many areas along the coast and can be seen from a distance. The same is true of other sea creatures including otters, dolphins and whales.

Interior Beauty

The interior region of California is home to many worthy attractions including wineries, incredible national parks and magnificent Desert Valley. The Inland Empire offers year round pleasures including pristine lakes for swimming during the summer and world famous ski resorts like Big Bear Lake. Sequoia National Park is the ideal place to see the state’s huge redwood trees and visit the Crystal Cave. Buses bring people to places like Moro Rock with incredible views that stretch for miles. Peregrine falcons make their home here during the summer, making this area a true must for any birder.

 

 

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