6 Day Switzerland Ski Trip — March, 2012

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The Swiss Alps are legendary for beautiful scenery, chic resorts and the most varied skiing in the world. Here are some tips for making your trip one to remember.

Depart: Washington, DC on the evening of March 3 and arrived in Geneva, Switzerland the next morning
Return: Left Geneva on the morning of March 11 and arrived at JFK later that afternoon

Our itinerary: Three days skiing in Crans-Montana (a magnificent ski resort in southwestern Switzerland) and two days in Verbier. We loved it so much we went back for one more day in Crans-Montana.

It’s probably not worth it, price-wise, to carry skis all the way to Europe. Just bring your boots and rent skis there. The skis for rent were great and made life a lot easier for traveling.

If you can, definitely rent a car. It made it much easier in getting from town to town. Give Auto Europe a try for a great selection of cars, including luxury vehicles. The train is fairly limited in terms of where you can go and when it travels. A car was extremely useful in getting between Crans and Verbier.

Make sure you plan to get a mountain guide in Verbier. It was well worth the money and very much needed in order to truly see the mountain and everything it had to offer.

Where to Stay
Breathtaking views and impeccable service make Le Crans one of the best hotels in the region. It’s a bit like having your own personal chalet in the Alps. The hotel restaurant, LeMontblanc, serves exceptional food and has an extensive wine list.

In Verbier, Le Chalet d’Adrien offers ski in/ski out service and charming, comfortable rooms with fireplaces.

Where to Eat in Verbier
For lunch, Fer a Chaval is a relaxed place with good pizza. It’s also a traditional stop for après-ski, with most of the clientele still dressed in their ski pants. Daily specials are also good and cheap for the area.

A bit off the beaten path, La Marlenaz is a hidden gem. Delicious food with a great view from the terrace.

If you’re tired of raclette and fondue, give Nomad Sushi a try. The sushi is fresh and delicious, but it’s often packed.

The best restaurant in Verbier — and probably the best restaurant in the whole country — is Le Restaurant Pierroz in Hotel Rosalp. The food is light and modern with many locally-sourced specialties. Extremely pricey and reservations are required.

Where to Eat in Crans Montana

Cafe Cher-Mignon has a fun pub-like atmosphere and delicious food. Can be a bit noisy and rowdy as it’s one of the area’s most popular eateries. Not actually in town, you’ll need to drive here.

You might not think of the Swiss Alps as a great place for Thai food, but Le Thai is a must-visit. Fun and modern atmosphere. The place is small so make your reservation in advance.

Partly named for its location at an altitude of 2006 meters, Amadeus 2006 is the perfect stop for lunch after a morning on the slopes. Enjoy a cheeseburger or panini while you take in the amazing views.

5 Days at Sundance 2013

Sundance is the world’s best independent film festival — but it’s so much more. Here are our secrets to making the most of your trip.

Getting There

January 17-21, 2013

This year’s festival started Thursday, January 17 and ended on Sunday, January 27. We flew Delta from LAX to Salt Lake City. Something to keep in mind: Delta charges more for each bag you book if you don’t have status — $25 for the first bag and $35 for each after. There is Wi-Fi on the Delta flights from LAX to SLC.

We strongly advise private transportation for getting from Salt Lake City airport to Sundance. When we arrived on Thursday, the lines for the shared shuttle services were all the way across the airport. Even the private cars are a mess to find. If you booked in advance, be sure you have their phone number to locate, as there are massive amounts of them. Private cars are usually waiting outside door 13 by luggage claim.

Book your car far ahead of time — if you don’t, you may end up in a regular car or SUV, not a black car or town car. The private cars get sold out for Sundance so they must call in backup drivers. We used Peak Transportation, about $140 up to Deer Valley. Arrive early in the day to avoid some of this congestion at the airport and also choose a better room when you get to the hotel.

Where to Stay

Almost all hotel rooms must be booked through the Sundance website. Sundance books out all the rooms except for some at the major high end resorts. Since the festival takes most of the rooms, the hotels don’t give much priority except on a first come first serve basis — get there early in the day to snag your room. You’ll pay for the lodging upfront, usually just the first night and then the balance before you arrive. Expect rates around $800-$900 per night.

We stayed at what we think is the best lodge in town, Stein Ericksen Lodge in Deer Valley. Call Stein’s directly and they usually keep aside a few rooms. It’s even better to do this a little later, as they get some cancellations from the festival they try and backfill. Stein’s boasts the best ambiance and service in the state (it’s Utah’s only five star hotel) and has an old school charm that is unparalleled. The well-appointed rooms are equipped with mini kitchens so you can keep groceries in the room for breakfast and snacks. Shuttles to and from town every half hour make getting around a breeze. Stein’s is the best if you want the best ski in/ski out spot in Deer Valley. The hotel has ski in/ski out access in the center of the mountain and sells lift passes — you can literally ski right on the lift from the hotel! The après-ski scene at Stein’s is also fun, with great food and drinks.

Two other popular hotels for Sundance are St. Regis and Montage. St. Regis has a younger vibe, and the hippest après-ski bar in the area. It draws a lot of non-skiers as well. Montage has a much sleepier feel and, in our opinion, not as much character.

Restaurants

Best restaurants in town in this order: Talisker on MainRiverhorse, Yuki Arashi and Shabu. Dinner reservations during the festival are a must so start booking them as early as possible — most reservations start on January 1. If you don’t want to handle it yourself, your concierge can book them for you. If you couldn’t get a reservation, try the sushi places. They’re the best spots without a reservation because they have bar and table space. Our favorites are Shabu and Yuki Arashi.

Nightlife

Each year brings pop-up bars, out-of-town bars that rent the actual bar and restaurant spaces on Main Street just for Sundance. This year’s pop-up bars were Nikki Beach, Tao, Gansevort and House of Blues among others. Tao operates every year and is the only place in town that can serve alcohol after 2 a.m. It’s by far the biggest and craziest party in town. It’s also very difficult to get in — this is the favorite party spot for all the celebrities in that scene — and you must know someone involved. Worth the effort though! Parties in Sundance wind down about Tuesday in the first week and town becomes much more mellow. Need a ride back to your hotel after a late night? Uber car service now works in Park City!  Make sure you download it on your phone before you go.

Skiing

The real secret of Sundance? The skiing is amazing. There are no lift lines at all since most people are at the festival. You can even get a free lift ticket at any of the ski resorts if you fly in and ski the same day.  Just make sure you keep your boarding pass! Deer Valley has the best skiing (and great food) but doesn’t allow snowboarders. If you’re with snowboarders you have to go to Park City or Canyons.

 

4 Days in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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With its scenery and beautiful people, Rio is the perfect getaway for the guys (or girls). 

Getting There and Back

Departed: JFK to GIG
Returned: GIG to JFK
Took a much-needed winter vacation with friends, leaving chilly North America for the sunny beaches of Rio de Janeiro. We flew out from JFK and arrived at International Airport Galeão in Rio at 10:40 the next day. It’s a long trip, so book your seats in business class for seats that recline like beds. I advise catching red-eye flights each way to avoid missing any days.

Food at the Rio airport stinks! Eat before you leave for your flight or on the flight home.

We paid $300BRA for a van for our group of 10 from the airport to the hotel. It’s $90BRA per person for a single reserved ride from the airport to Marina All Suites.

Hotels

We stayed at the Marina All Suites in Leblon — the most exclusive neighborhood in Rio. It’s hard to beat this hotel for price and location. It’s right on the beach, with beach service available (chairs, towels and umbrella). The rooftop pool and fitness center  has a great view and there’s a fun bar scene — Bar d’Hotel and Bar do Lado are very popular, chic nightspots.

Beware of a possible bait-and-switch on the Marina All Suites and the Marina Palace. We read this in the reviews and it was certainly true. In our booking, we only discussed the Marina All Suites but when we received the confirmation they put us in the Marina Palace. We were able to move some of our rooms back over to the Marina All Suites.

The Marina Palace is not a bad hotel, but it’s inferior to Marina All Suites. Located just two buildings over from Marina All Suites, Marina Palace is also located on the beach but it doesn’t have a fun bar or nightlife scene. There are renovated and non-renovated rooms available. The renovated rooms are nice and clean.

Another hotel to consider is Fasano Hotel, with its modern design and efficient service. The hotel offers a fitness center, a great spa and a very fun bar scene. However, the location is inferior to the Marina Hotel and you need to taxi everywhere.

What to Do

Located between Pedra da Gávea and Tijuca Forest, Gavea Golf and Country Club is a beautiful private golf course in a jungle setting, just a $20BRA cab ride from our hotel. On our cab ride to the club we passed through some of the poorer Rio neighborhoods — it was pretty hard to imagine such a prestigious club in the area. However, be wary of the cost. They charge for every single thing you could possibly imagine — they even tried to charge for umbrellas when it was raining! But if you’re into golf, a trip here is highly recommended. We paid $350BRA per player for one round, $50 for golf club, $100 for a caddy for each player (required) and $200BRA per golf cart.

Marina da Gloria is just 25 minutes from hotel so we thought a day on the water would be fun. You can rent a boat for a 6-hour tour and lunch stop in Itaipu (home of the world’s largest dam). Half the deposit is required upfront to reserve the boat. The approximate cost for 10 people is $1,300. Although we booked a boat trip — we rented a 36’ speed boat named Cheers — we opted not to take it due to rainy weather. It seemed like they were available every day, so you don’t necessarily need to book them ahead of time since you must put up half of the deposit upfront.

We had a great time taking in a soccer game at Rio’s Maracana stadium. We signed up for the group experience which was very costly, but still great fun. If you go through the hotel, which seemed like the only option, they definitely rip you off. We paid $350BRA per person for the tickets plus transportation and a guide. Then we found out it wasn’t private transportation and the actual tickets we got were $30BRA per person. We ended up just paying for our own transportation and ditching the guide. It was great actually seeing the championship team. Things to know: there is no assigned seating in the stadium and no alcohol for sale. Eat before or after the game because the food sold in the stadium was awful. While it’s safe in the stadium, it’s not safe to walk around outside the stadium, which is located in a favela. Leave early to avoid the crowds emptying the stadium.

On the Beach

Leblon and Ipanema are the best and safest beaches to sun, swim and watch the girls walk by in Rio. Leblon beach was right across from our hotel, and our hotel had stations where they set up beach chairs and umbrellas. The water isn’t extremely warm but on a nice hot day, it feels great. Beware of the sun, it’s really strong by the equator. Everyone in our group got burned, even applying sunscreen. We highly recommend using California Tan SPF 30 Broad Spectrum. Stay hydrated! The fresh coconut water on the beach in Leblon was safe and delicious.

Restaurants

Bibi Café is the perfect place to grab a quick breakfast in the morning in Leblon. Get the Acai yogurt with granola and a coconut water each morning for a healthy start to your day. For lunch, try the Café at the Leblon Design Mall. The café boasts quick service and good Italian food.

For dinner, a must-visit is Sushi Leblon.  This is the best sushi restaurant in town, as well as the place to see and be seen. The sushi was fresh and fantastic. If you can’t get into Sushi Leblon, because it does get crowded each night, there are several other restaurants across the street. Most are a mix of Italian and tapas food. All are pretty trendy and fun with a good scene.

Brazil is meat-eating country. Rio’s Brazilian steakhouses — called churrascarias — are all pretty similar, so pick the one in Leblon or Ipanema. We made the trip to Porcao’s but didn’t find it worth the 30-minute drive.

Nightclubs

Clubs get going around midnight in Rio. Be aware of the special process they use in nightclubs in Brazil: You get an entrance card to use to rack up your tab all night at the bar, then you pay the cover plus your tab as you leave. This process is to avoid the people inside handling cash and stealing money. There is a long line when leaving the club because you have to pay to leave the club so try to make your exit before the club closes. Champagne and bottles of vodka were about $100 per bottle.

We had heard a lot about Melt, a live music club with a great location, but we didn’t think it had a great scene. Rio Scenario was another we didn’t think worth the drive or long line to get in. Miroir is a very cool club with great clientele, but it’s really crowded. The location is awesome with a cool view — directly in front of the statue of Christ. They play fantastic house music and feature a rotating lineup of the hottest up-and-coming DJs. Another bonus is it’s just a 20-minute drive from Leblon on the lagoon.

Our favorite spot was probably Barzin, which is fun and trendy. Located on the third level of a restaurant, Barzin has good music and a vibrant atmosphere. There’s an upstairs VIP area where you can hang with your friends. The nightclub also has a great location in Ipanema not too far from our hotel.

For drinks, the bars around Leblon are definitely worth a visit. It’s fun and safe all over Leblon, and there are great spots to hang out from 10 p.m. to midnight. Plus, you can actually have a conversation prior to hitting the loud, later hours clubs.

Quick Tips While in Rio:

  • Most places, including your hotel, let you put things on your room and pay by credit card (extra charge of 10%). If you pay in cash you can avoid this 10% surcharge.
  • Look for Citibank ATMs or ATMs that say “24 hour” on them — the 30 hour ATMS and others will not work with US debit cards.
  • American Express doesn’t charge you foreign charges when traveling abroad.
  • Admirals Club in Rio was decently comfortable and had showers, but I wouldn’t say it was very nice (Note: A new Admirals Club is being built in 2013 in preparation for the Olympics)
  • Make sure you leave plenty of time to get your visa for Brazil (this can be quite a hassle).
  • Use Wi-Fi at hotels and restaurants to avoid roaming charges on your phone.
  • Don’t wear nice watches or flashy jewelry and don’t carry too much cash on you at one time.
  • Get corporate rates on the hotels and you can get 50% off the room rates (JP Morgan rate works great).
  • It’s a three-hour time change from New York.

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.

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.