Heli-Ski Trip in Canada

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Powder snow, stunning mountain terrain, long descents — all with a trained guide and a helicopter to take you there and back. There’s nothing in the world quite like heli-skiing in the Canadian wilderness. Plus, the food, drink and fun are amazing when you get back to the lodge.

Depart: San Francisco Day 1 and fly into Spokane or Castlegar, Canada
Return: Spokane or Castlegar, Canada to San Francisco

We booked our stay and heli-ski package through Snowwater Lodge, perched high in the Selkirks and accessible only by snowcat, snowmobile or helicopter. The lodge books just 12 guests at a time but boasts every creature comfort you’ll need for the best “getting away from it all” trip ever.

Snowwater is accessible by either flying to Spokane or into Castlegar, Canada, which the locals call “Cancelgar” because the flights get cancelled so often. If the skiing is any good — meaning it’s been snowing — chances are you’ll get redirected to Spokane. You can only fly there privately and it defeats the point if you have to re-route, but many Snowwater guests just fly into Spokane and rent a car for the 3-hour drive north.

As you can imagine with its remote location, the skiing here is simply incredible. There is plenty of steep terrain, and even without new snow in a couple of weeks you can still find knee-deep powder. If the weather is clear, you can also make it to the Valhalla Powdercats which is very worthwhile, and the highlight of any trip there.

Even if you’re a seasoned skier, you’re going to get sore. Thank God the Lodge has an excellent massage therapist on staff. Book massages early so you can get a key spot. Many in our group didn’t book early only to find them completely booked up. You’ll need one every night after skiing — you don’t think you’ll need it ahead of time, but you will!

And lastly, bring plenty of Advil or your pain reliever of choice. Not only will you get pretty sore from skiing but hungover from the unlimited supply of alcohol! Especially on your last night at the Lodge — trust me, you’ll have so much fun the hangover is worth it.

7 Day Fly Fishing Trip on Christmas Island

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The endless flats and amazing diversity of fish around Christmas Island make it one of the premier destinationsfor fly fishers. These fly fishing tips on Christmas Island will make your trip truly memorable.

Christmas Island — or its official name, Kiribati — is just a tiny blip in the Indian Ocean, and many people have never even heard of it. But if you’re serious about fishing then this place is a little bit of angling heaven on Earth.

We booked our seven day trip to Christmas Island through Fly Water Travel. If you want to book a fly fishing trip of a lifetime, Fly Water Travel are the experts to trust.

Our trip lasted seven days, April 23 through May 1, 2012, because there is only one flight in and out of Christmas Island per week. We flew through Honolulu on our way to Christmas Island. On the way out, we had to stay overnight at the Best Western at Honolulu airport. Unfortunately, there is no way to skip staying the night on the way out. We would have done it a bit differently and at least stayed somewhere near where you could go out or get drinks in the evening. It’s only an extra 20-minute drive in the morning to stay somewhere closer to Waikiki Beach.

Once on Christmas Island we stayed at The Shark Place, a cozy little lodge run by Christmas Island Outfitters. The rooms are simple and clean, with fridges, fans and a casual dining table. The food is extremely simple since the island receives one cargo shipment of food per month, mostly canned foods except for the raw sashimi. There was no air conditioning, but The Christmas Island Resort has AC and it would be very worthwhile to try and stay there. After a day of fishing in the equatorial sun, AC is a godsend.

Christmas Island is home to an amazing variety of animals — including an estimated 120 million Red Crabs — but it’s also home to less savory critters like roaches and mice. If you’re very uncomfortable with this then Christmas Island may not be the travel spot for you. You may also want to check out the nuclear testing they did back in the 194os-60s before you leave for Christmas Island. While it’s said to be much better now, the island still has the highest cancer rate in the world.

A very important thing to remember: Bring sun-protective clothing and lots of sunscreen. Christmas Island is only about 110 miles north of the equator and fishing in reflective water means the local red crabs will have nothing on the color of your skin if you don’t protect it.

While our outfitters provided things like lodging, meals and transportation, it’s up to each angler to bring appropriate gear. Here’s the list of items we were required to bring on the trip:

  • 8 weight, 9′ fly rod (a second backup is highly recommended)
  • A matching 8 weight reel with a sturdy drag
  • Two to three dozen bonefish-appropriate flies
  • 12 weight, 9′ fly rod (a second backup is highly recommended)
  • Matching high-end sturdy 12 weight fly reel
  • Six 9′ tapered  bonefish leaders – 10 lb  and 12 lb
  • Spool 10 lb tippet
  • Spool 12 lb tippet
  • Spool 15 lb tippet
  • 15 yard spool of 100 lb fluorocarbon
  • Sturdy pair of saltwater pliers
  • Nippers
  • Forceps
  • UV-protective Sun Gloves
  • UV protective Buff
  • Two pairs Flats pants
  • Three Flats shirts
  • Pair of Flats boots
  • Neoprene socks
  • Hat
  • Two tubes of sunblock (recommend 30 or higher SPF)
  • High-quality polarized sunglasses (if you can’t see the fish, you can’t catch them) —  we recommend  bringing at least two or three pairs

Last but not least make sure you bring lots of extra flies and lines. We ran short on fly lines and backing as when you’re using 100 lb tippet, everything else breaks except the 100 lb tippet!

 

New Year’s Eve in St. Barts and 3 Days in Anguilla 2013

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St. Barts New Years Celebration

Party like a VIP in St. Barts. The favorite New Year’s Eve spot of the rich and famous is just as much fun for the less rich and non-famous.

We arrived a few days before New Year’s Eve for one of the most famous parties in the hemisphere. St. Barts completely dies after New Year’s Eve and only starts to pick up again just after Christmas, when all the mega yachts arrive in Gustavia Harbor. Consider Gustavia Harbor the center of everything there is to see and do. The party culminates with a fireworks show in the harbor on New Year’s Eve. Either rent a villa or come via boat. Taxis are horrendous on the island so call way in advance to have a driver set up or rent a car. Don’t expect to be able to hail a cab at all that night, but you may be able to hail one during the day.

Best Spots for Dinner
Reservations are a MUST for fine dining in St. Barts. Here are our favorites:

Maya’s
French-inspired Caribbean cuisine. Not within walking distance of the port, but it’s on the water and has a great view of the harbor.

Bonito
Fantastic seafood spot with incredible ceviche. It’s within walking distance of the port and has great views.

L’Esprit
Expensive, but the best Italian food on the island. It’s not within walking distance, so you’ll need to take a cab. It’s close to Gouverneur Beach.

L’Isola
Expensive and the highest-rated restaurant in St. Barts. Within walking distance and in the harbor.

Bagatelle
Located in center of Gustavia Harbor, this spot serves amazing truffle pizza and other Mediterranean cuisine. The location is the best but watch dinner service as it gets overwhelmed — turns into a nightclub each night.

Baz Sushi
This is the best sushi on the island, with a great location and casual atmosphere.

Lunch Spots
Nikki Beach
This trendy beach spot also has the best lunch scene. It’s right on the sand on St. Jean beach, so must take a cab here. There’s even a DJ during lunch.

Taiwana
This is the best spot for brunch with great views. Must take a taxi here.

Nightclubs
The nightlife in St. Barts is exciting and fun. For something completely different, take a cab to Le Ti. Tucked away up in the mountains, Le Ti has a must-see cabaret show at midnight and guests dress in costume. You can also have dinner there but we didn’t hear good things about the food. Yacht Club is where everyone ends up every night except New Year’s Eve. It’s within walking distance from the harbor and right on the water. The party starts about 1 a.m. and goes until 5 a.m. Bagatelle is a chic dinner spot that turns into a table dancing nightclub (the table dancing is encouraged!) The club atmosphere starts around 10 p.m. and goes until about 1 a.m.

Best Beach Scene
Do Brazil  is a fun place on Shell Beach in walking distance from the main port. It has a very cool, laid back atmosphere. If you’re really feeling adventurous, there is cliff jumping into the ocean if you swim about 100 meters out to the left. The main beach scene in St. Barts is Nikki Beach. You must drive here as it’s in St. Jean, but it’s worth the trip. Sunday is the main party day which includes champagne spraying, saxophone players and live dancers and often includes a fashion show. You’ll need to buy a lot of rosé or Champagne here so be prepared to do so if you want a table on the beach. La Plage is nearby and offers a similar feel to Nikki Beach, but it’s not as fun.

Best Beaches
Gouverneur Beach is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich but he allows the island to use it. It’s the most beautiful beach on the island, with perfect sand and water with amazing rock formations. You can visit by car or by boat. The beach is a must for a day trip. A bit more secluded is Colombier Beach. This beautiful beach is only accessible by boat or by long hike. Most people go by boat here and it’s very close to the main harbor. There are some great hikes up through the rocks above and good snorkeling along the sides of the bay. Sea turtles roam throughout as the sea grass has grown back in this bay. St. Jean Beach is the party beach. You can take either a car or the boat depending on the swell and party on pristine sand.

New Year’s Eve Parties
The biggest, best and most famous party on the island is the Abramovich party, hosted by billionaire Roman Abramovich. Everyone who is anyone will be here — so good luck getting an invite. Kings of Leon played this year and Jay Z and Beyoncé the year before.

Nikki Beach usually has some performance and dinner followed by a full club atmosphere, but the dinner is outrageously priced at close to $20k Euros. Just come after dinner for the party. Bagatelle offers another outrageous dinner but you can just come after the fireworks for the party for free. Le Ti also hosts a big New Year’s Eve dinner, but it’s the most reasonably priced of the rest at around $2k Euros per person.

New Year’s Eve Tips

  • Eat dinner in or on the boat and then watch the fireworks show
  • Depending on where you are, St. Jean beach or the main harbor, we recommend staying there for the night
  • Getting around the island is almost impossible that night
  • If you meet a lot of people the week before, you should have plenty of places to just hang out right where you are

Anguilla
After a few days of parties on St. Barts to ring in the New Year, we made a stop on the exclusive island of Anguilla. The only place to park a boat and clear customs here is Road Bay. It’s a nice little port and has a great beach with fun low key beach bars. All the dive shops are located here if you want to do any diving. If you ask around, they can call a taxi for you if you want to go to any of the resorts for dinner.

The two must-see places for dinner and sunset views on the island are the Viceroy Resort and Cap Juluca. The Viceroy Resort is newly built with the most stunning design on the cliffside. The restaurants feature great food and wine, but expect to pay a lot for taxis and for the food. However, we thought the experience was worth the price. You have two different options at the Viceroy, the formal dining room called Cobà and Sunset Lounge. Sunset Lounge had great sushi and is outside with amazing views. Cobà is located off the cliff, but depending on the swells they need to cover the open air walls with curved protective plastic that disrupts the view. It was still an amazing atmosphere if you are looking for a more formal dining experience. The wine list is extensive.

Cap Juluca is a beautiful resort at Maundays Bay with interesting architecture. Beachfront villas open onto gorgeous white sand beaches. The sand on the beach was the finest on the island and the resort was very welcoming to guests coming off a boat. Cap Juluca has several award-winning restaurants with excellent food, but we found Blue — with beachfront dining — particularly hard to beat.

Day Tours
Sandy Island and Coral Island
It’s very tricky to take the boat here — we actually saw a wrecked catamaran on the island. The food here was great and definitely recommend it as a good lunch spot — the lobster was delicious. They also have beach volleyball and all sorts of games.

Prickly Pear Cays
You need to make a reservation here if you want the restaurant open, but it was nice to have it quiet and all to ourselves. You can’t park a boat in front, you can only park on the other side of the island and dinghy in. Prickly Pear has a great remote feeling and the beach is quite long and perfect for a walk.

North Point
One of the best beaches we saw was at the northern tip of the island on a little unnamed island across from the mainland. It’s hard to miss if you are circling the island and we highly recommend stopping here.

Bypass customs with the Global Entry Program

The Global Entry Program is a must for the seasoned traveler. This program allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers. Cost is a non-refundable application fee of $100. Often airlines will pay the application fee if you’re a constant traveler and a Premium Platinum Member or Premier 1K member, meaning your travel costs are or in excess of $100,000/year.

Jacksonville Golf Trip

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Jacksonville Golf Trip, October 2012

You can fly into Jacksonville and most flights connect from the west coast in Atlanta or Texas.  There are many direct flights from the east coast.  It’s about an hour drive from the airport to the resort where we stayed. Take a taxi, as the private cars and shuttles can be much more expensive given the distance.

We stayed at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. If you can find a member of the beach club to refer you, you can get a pretty substantial discount off your stay here. Or if you buy the golf packages, the rooms can be pretty reasonable as well. Get a room by the ocean and you can walk right out your back door onto the sand and swim in the ocean. The water was quite warm in the fall when we went and warm enough for swimming into the early evenings.

There is no shortage of dining options at the resort, from a casual lunch with an ocean view at Seahorse Grille to an elegant dinner in the Seafoam Dining Room. Grab a drink at High Tides Bar or sip afternoon tea at The Lodge. Also at the resort is a little concession stand to grab Starbucks in the morning and other small breakfast items.

The resort also boasts a huge sports facility that is great for working out. Definitely plan on using the gym as it is comparable to a huge Equinox state-of-the-art facility with great views of the water.

There are two golf courses at the resort, the Lagoon Course and the Ocean course. The Ocean Course is by far a better course and the Lagoon Course isn’t worth playing given all the other great courses in the area. We recommend a warm-up day on the Ocean course, perfect for using your golf package from the hotel.

Plan to play a couple of times at TPC Sawgrass. Be careful of weather depending on the time of year. It’s better to play in the morning as you might not be able to finish in the afternoon due to lightning and thunderstorms. Hole 17 on the championship course is quite impressive and one-of-a-kind. Bring plenty of golf balls.

We recommend playing at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island on your way back to the airport as it’s close by. The course was made through the swamp/jungle and was in great condition.

One that we didn’t play that is also a must is Pablo Creek in Jacksonville. This Tom Fazio-designed course is a private club so you must know a member.  However, if you’re a pro at your home country club they can probably get you on if you want to play.

For dinners, we recommend the Ruth’s Chris by the resort, Bonefish Grill, any of the options at the resort or head up to Jacksonville Beach for a more lively evening. There are many places with live music here on Friday and Saturday nights. Check out Jax Live for where the best local and up and coming bands are playing.