It was the ultimate game of cat and mouse – or human and monkey, in this case. Rested and wide-eyed from a blissful sleep at the Grand Formosa in Taiwan’s Taroko National Park (www.taroko.gov.tw), I woke up earlier than usual. Nightlife was no issue on this five-star stay, which proved an indulgence in an eight-day sojourn that typically found me up later than usual. I had slept with the doors opens, lulled to la-la land by a babbling stream that actually enhanced what would have been an eerie silence in an unusually dark setting – which was such a deviation to my normal sleeping regime. Camera in hand, I headed out to prowl around the property that was swallowed in darkness when I arrived the evening prior. As I wandered toward the stream lying directly below my balcony, I came across one of the most intriguing – and eventually amusing – scenes I’ve encountered in quite some time. And I was ecstatic that I opted to let my inner photographer rule the morning rather than my typical breakfast buffet lust. Initially, I thought I’d spotted a caravan of cats tight roping across the stream on cables once supporting a bridge. Closing in for a better view, I realized these creatures were sure-footed rather than sure-pawed. I had actually stumbled across a pack of Formosa Monkeys in a nose-to-tail balancing...Read More
Author: Dawna L. Robertson
I’ve hunted and collected beach glass ever since my days of beachcombing the Windward and North shores of Oahu. So when I came across a mother load in the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Angel, this heavenly slice of Mexico’s Pacific Coast shot even higher up my list of great south of the border retreats. Waiting for lunch at Cordelia’s on Playa Panteon, I decided to check if the water was as pleasant as it had been in Huatulco’s Tangolunda Bay the day prior. The temperature was much the same. But it came with a bonus that sparkled in the mid-day sunlight. Interspersed among small seashells, a bounty of sea glass was ripe for the plucking. I filled my pockets with some three dozen shards that were mostly white – likely from old Coca Cola bottles that had been carelessly discarded on the beach rather than placed into one of those red crates for recycling. With rounded edges and heavily abraded surfaces, these rapidly vanishing jewels were in abundance that day. If your travels take you to Huatulco or Puerto Escondido, be sure to check out this sweet little village. Cordelia’s has tasty seafood that’s served in an enormous dining room that sprawls out to tables standing in the sand and shaded by a thatched palapa. It’s part of Hotel Cordelia’s, one of the newer and most expensive hotels...Read More
OK. Maybe I’m a bit biased when it comes to Hawaii. While I’m not the least bit surprised that National Geographic Traveler has named Kona Village Resort to its annual “Stay List,” I’m surprised that only five Hawaii properties were actually tapped for this prestigious group. Regardless, I have included this wonderful retreat on my own personal roster of Hawaii favorites since my first visit during the 1980s. Each time I’m fortunate to stay at this Kohala Coast icon, I find some new aspect that wows me – not that it’s something new, but it’s something I hadn’t necessarily encountered during a previous stay. The first time, I embraced Kona Village’s “tele-free” aspect –- no telephones or televisions in my guest hale. Mind you, this was during the pre-cell phone era. So I missed my weekly episode of Dallas and couldn’t call my friends to brag about the spectacular time I was having. What bliss! On my last stay, it was while snorkeling about ¼ mile off shore and coming across a “turtle cleaning station.” Diving in from an outrigger canoe trek guided by a resort naturalist, I came across a slew of reef fish literally cleaning a mellowed-out honu that was in no rush to get through the process. Toss in some dozen turtles basking on Kona Village’s shore as the sun sank into the Pacific, and this...Read More
My fingers are crossed. When visiting Huatulco, Oaxaca last week, I was told by various visitor industry contacts that Mexicana Airlines plans to launch much-needed nonstop service from LAX to HUX this summer. The destination certainly warrants the convenient West Coast access with its emerging eco-tourism options, remarkable cuisine, sparkling bays, rich cultural diversions, roster of fine accommodations and commitment to continue development on a very well conceived path. For me, the only downside to this destination is that lack of accessibility. If you live in Houston, you’re in luck since nonstop service is operated via Continental out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport several days a week. The schedule fluctuates with the season. From the West Coast, however, it makes for a very long day of traveling. I had to change planes in Phoenix, and switch from the International to Domestic terminal in Mexico City (an airport I purposely avoid when I have an option) before finally reaching this jewel some 13 hours after my initial San Diego flight departed. And that’s a shame since I arrived at the Crown Pacific after dark and was unable to soak in all the beauty of the setting for another 12 hours. Bear in mind that the distance is a mere 1,756 miles. I can fly 2,600 miles from San Diego to Hawaii in about five hours. There needs to be an...Read More
For years, New Caledonians have used the catch phrase “France in the Pacific” to promote their country to the international tourist market. It’s certainly that, with fashionistas crossing paths with the more casual clad in brightly colored clothing reflecting an island lifestyle. It’s that softened, exotic Pacific attitude that makes this destination even more appealing, especially among travelers into warm tropical weather, captivating culture, inspiring landscapes and water that’s as intensely turquoise as it is rich with marine wonders. While Aussies, New Zealanders, Japanese and French have flocked to this South Pacific paradise for years, no one I knew could offer me any firsthand advice before I journeyed there myself. In fact, I wasn’t exactly certain where it was in the South Pacific. By the time I returned, however, I realized it was in a place that defines natural beauty. For perspective, New Caledonia is composed principally of the Isle of Pines, Loyalty Islands (www.Iles-loyaute.com), and mainland divided into Northern (www.tourismeprovincenord.nc/US/index.php) and Southern (www.newcaledoniatourism-south.com) provinces. The archipelago is splendidly tucked amid a trio of better-known getaways. Its capital city of Noumea lies 1,224 miles northeast of Sydney, 1,122 miles northwest of Auckland and 805 miles southwest of Nadi, Fiji. So it’s a perfect stop for travelers heading to any of these more prominent destinations. But for those into diving, there’s little need to go elsewhere. The mainland is cocooned...Read More
Sure, I can spot the Big Dipper. And while I love a full moon, nothing beats the promise of wishing on a shooting star. But those iconic nighttime wonders aside, my knowledge of a darkened sky is basic at best. Determined to heighten my celestial sense, I knew few Earthly viewing venues could top Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island. So on a recent romp to this remarkably diverse island, I decided to shoot for Hawaii Forest & Trail’s (HF&T’s) stargazing tour to this renowned astronomical observing site. Our group of eager star-trekkers boarded a 12-passenger van at HF&T’s Kona Coast headquarters. Interpretive naturalist Greg Brown had packed parkas and provisions for the eight-hour excursion. Not accustomed to lengthy transit, I had my concerns. They faded away, however, as our adventure began to unfold. Well versed in Hawaiiana, Brown shared both fact and folklore on the dramatic evolution of our surroundings. Midway to the summit, we stopped at historic Humuula Station, an abandoned sheep outpost geared with a dining tent, tables and extremely clean porta potties. It was cool and foggy at the Parker Ranch post – quite a contrast to coastal conditions earlier in the day. Aside from sustenance, the dinner stop also helped acclimatize us for our final ascent. With a hearty meal under our belts, we continued our star quest. Near the 9,000-foot level, the van...Read More
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