Torrey Pines

La Jolla is a beautiful hilly seaside area by San Diego. It has the most scenic hike by the beach at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. The hikes are easy and it gives you an amazing view of the Pacific Coast.

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Torrey Pines State Reserve

Take your time to explore all the trails as each of them is offering something beautiful from a viewpoint to direct access to the beach.

Follow the map.

Broken Hill overlook has the best viewpoint.

Broken Hill Trail to the Beach, as its name indicates, takes you to the beach and the Flat Rock.

 

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South of Italy

The Best way to see South of Italy is by Public Transportation; train, buses and boats.

I started my Italy Journey in Venice and got to Naples by Train. For the big city connections, I made all my reservations online at trainialia.com. But for the one day trips it is better to just get the ticket once at the train station. The Italian trains, frecciarossas, Red Arrows in English, are the best way to visit different cities in Italy. They are indeed as fast as an arrow.

Naples

I got to Naples by train then. Naples can seem chaotic compare to the other Italian cities like Florence; cars are double parked, everybody in honking and the streets are so narrow. But somehow, it is charming. By the train station stop eat Da Michele Pizzeria, you will have the best pizza in the world.

Da Michele Pizza
Da Michele Pizza

Naples Old Town, protected once by the walls is now a very busy charming historical center of the city full of souvenir shops, cafes and pizzerias. Make sure to have a pizza at Sorbillo, one of the most famous pizzeria in Italy. Have the local pastry called Sfogliatelle at Scaturchio café right in the heart of the historical center in front of one of the most prominent churches of Naples, San Domenico Maggiore. You can get lost in the small streets and just enjoy the different churches. If you walk towards Piazza Dante, you will pass by few bars by a square; that square gets very animated at night and it is a lively place to go after dinner and grab few drinks with locals and students. Continue your walk; you will pass by the booksellers streets. You can start seeing why Naples, despite being a big busy city, it kept its southern charm.

The other great neighborhood in Naples is the port area. Take the metro to Castel Nuovo. You can visit Castel Nuovo from where you can have a great view of the port. Stop at Piazza de Plebiscito to admire the architecture of that square with the colorful houses behind it that makes a great contrast. From there you can visit the Royal Palace. Walk down toward the port. In front of you the ocean with when the sky is clear Mt Vesuvius on the background, on the right Castel Dell’Ovo and behind, those narrow streets with, at every window, linen stretched for drying.

Last neighborhood in Naples worth going is Vomero. Take the funicular all the way up to Vomero. Skip Castel Sant’Elmo and continue your walk toward the view point. From there you will have Naples under your feet. You can now take the stairs, Scale della Pedamentina, down .The view from the above of Naples doesn’t get any better. On your way down, you will have to take Spaccanapoli the narrow straight street that literally splits Naples in 2 parts.

 

Pompeii

From Naples, there is a train every 30 minutes to Pompeii. Only one hour away from Naples, the ruins of Pompeii “provide a complete and vivid picture of society and daily life at a specific moment in the past that is without parallel anywhere in the world”. Despite the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 that destroyed a lot of the town, there are still a lot of remains of that ancient Roman civilization that show us how they used to live. As I walked  through the streets well structured, pass by the very first pedestrian crosswalks ,the houses, temples and  theaters , I could see how smart and sophisticated they were , how they were managing their city and how they gave importance to art, religion and politics. We did learn from that civilization and it is indeed important to preserve that past.

 

Amalfi Coast  

Only few hours away with train from Naples, the Amalfi Coast is formed by small villages that are clinging to the mountain. The bus ride between the villages through the very curvy road can be hard to handle for some people but the view is priceless.  The famous villages that you can go to with the SITA bus are Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello and Salerno. Each village will dazzle you with its colorful houses, breathtaking costal view and amazing food. ‘Costiera Amalfitana is an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape, with exceptional cultural and natural scenic values resulting from its dramatic topography and historical evolution.

The train from Naples will take you to Sorrento and from there you can take the bus to go to the other villages. Then take the train back to Naples at the last village, Salerno. My favorite village is Positano so if you only have a day , spend it mostly at Positano. The bus will drop you off on top of the village. Walk down to the village; enjoy the view of that city snugged to the mountain. Stop at the Il Capitano for lunch. No other restaurant will beat that view. At the village, you can enjoy some sun at the beach or shop at the small shops in the alleys.

At Sorrento , check out the unusual  Vallone dei Mulini an old sawmill that has been abandoned and surrounded by nature and sea now. At Amalfi, admire the Amalfi Cathedral, imposing in the middle of the square or the fountain that is also a nativity display scene.

 

Capri

Take the boat to Capri form Naples Port. It is only a 50 minutes ride. You can’t see everything in 1 day in Capri so you have to choose between seeing the Blue Grotto and have a tour of the island or go to Anacapri and Capri Village.

I’ve heard so much about the Grotta Azzurra that as soon as we got to Capri main port, Marina Grande I took the island tour that also takes you to the famous cave. There is always a wait to go inside of the cave but it’s worth it. You will get on a small boat and go inside of that cave where the water is unbelievably blue.  You will get to stay in that magical place for few minutes. Take time to admire that water, your rower might start singing some old Italians songs and make the moment even more dreamlike.

You will then make a tour of the island , passing by one of the oldest Lighthouse at Punta Carena. You will then stop at Grotta Verde, a sea cave where the water seems green.  You will pass under the natural arches and the Lover Arch.

You can take the funicular to go to Capri Village. It has a main square with all the restaurants and shops around it. Take the stairs down back to the port; you will have a great view of the island on your way down.

Hiking at Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre National Park situated in Northern Italy is probably the most famous hiking area in Italy. Trails connect the colorful fisherman villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. The most popular trail is the Blue Trail; it will take you to the perfect hiking journey in that Rainbow Land.

Take the train to La Spezia. At the train station, go to the Cinque Terre National Park Office to get your 24h pass. You will need that pass to be able to access the trails and take the train and buses between the villages.

For a while now, the trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola called Via del Amore and the trail between Manarola and Corniglia are closed for security reasons.

Cinque Terre Hiking
Cinque Terre Hiking Trail Start

 

You should then start the hiking journey at Corniglia. When you get off the train at Corniglia, you can walk to the village or take a bus. You are here to hike so start to walk to the village by taking the Lardarinato stairs. You will have a taste of what that hiking adventure will be; sometimes hard but the rewarding is so worth it. You should visit Corniglia before starting your hike. You can already sit down and catch your breath at Largo Taragio square or enjoy the best lemon Gelato at Alberto Gelateria.

 

Before starting the hike make sure you get your pass stamped at the village. All the hikes will start with an uphill since the villages are at sea level, then flat and finally downhill to the next village. The hikes between each village will take about 1h30min each. They are not that difficult at all, take your time during the uphill parts and enjoy the view. There are a lot of people on the trail and it is very easy to follow.

Corniglia to Vernazza– On that hike, you will have the sun behind you. The reward is when you get close to Vernazza and you can see the colorful village and port from far.

 

Stop at Vernazza for lunch at any of the seafood restaurants by the port/beach or grab a seafood cone and seat down by the beach to enjoy the view. You can also go to the castle called Doris Castle. You can go up that castle for a colorful view of the village.

 

Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare – On the way to Monterosso, you will pass by some wineries. If you are planning to spend few days in Cinque Terre, you can take a tour of those wineries. You will have breaking view of the ocean during the whole hike. Approaching Monterosso, you will see the private beaches with their colorful beach umbrellas.

 

Monterosso Al Mare has amazing beaches especially the private ones with their hypnotic blue and orange beach umbrellas. Seat down at one of the cafes now that you finished your hike.

 

You should now go back to the first two villages by train.

Manarola is the smallest village. Go down towards the beach with its colorful fisherman boats and the fact that there is no sand beach but only concrete sections don’t stop anybody from laying down and tan.

Cinque Terre Manarola
Manarola
Cinque Terre Manarola
Manarola
Cinque Terre Manarola
Manarola
Cinque Terre Manarola
Manarola

was one of the favorite villages. Grab some seafood in a cone and go on top of the port to enjoy the food and the unique view. On top of the train station, at the start of Via del Amore, there is a restaurant called Bar e Vini a Pie de Ma and no other restaurant can beat that view. Finish your day with a glass of wine and the sunset.

 

 

 

 

Which beach is for you ?

Los Angeles and California are full of beaches back to back. You can go to different ones depending on what you want to do.

For biking: Hermosa Beach 

There is a bike rental right by the pier called Hermosa Cyclery and a biking path that will take you all the way to LAX.

Hermosa Beach
Biking by Hermosa Beach

For Volley Ball: Redondo Beach

Redondo Beach has a lot of beach volleyball nets and they have tournaments and MeetUps every weekend.

For tourists: Venice Beach 

Venice is the touristy beach. Beside the beach,  you need to walk down Venice busy Boardwalk. If you like to skate there is a skate park. If you want to work out, there is the famous muscle park. After the beach, head towards Pacific Ave to see the famous Venice sign and get some amazing food and drinks.

Venice Beach
Venice Beach
Venice Muscle Park
Venice Beach Muscle park

The most emblematic: Malibu 

If you want to feel like you are in a Baywatch episode and look at some of the famous stars beach houses head to Malibu. The Malibu area along the PCH is full of great ( and mostlt expensive) restaurants.

Baywatch Malibu
Baywatch

For hiking: Zuma Beach 

There are numerous hikes that start on PCH in Zuma. After the effort, head down to the Beach for some relaxing time.

Zuma Beach
Zuma Beach

On the way to the South: Laguna Beach 

Laguna town is a small,  cute and happening town between LA and San Diego. You can walk through the small streets, go to the beach and play beach volleyball.

Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach

On the way to the North: Carmel

It won’t be as hot as the LA Beaches but it has that romantic feeling. You can head to the little town for some shopping or venture along the famous 17-mile drive.

carmel beach
Carmel Beach

What is your favorite beach?

Cancun Escapade

Whether you live on the East Coast or the West Coast, Cancun is the perfect getaway vacation for a long weekend or for a Spring Break.

As soon as you land in Cancun you can feel the heat and the humidity. Cancun Hotel Zone is a street with all the hotels back to back. The Hotel Zone ends in Downtown Cancun. I stayed at Royal Solaris All Inclusive Resort. It’s the perfect combination of a budget-friendly hotel with a great pool and area.

You can enjoy Cancun at the Hotel Pool with again the all-inclusive service which means as many Margaritas and Daiquiris as you want by the poolside or at the pool bar. You can also escape the hotel and go to the Hotel Beachfront. That white sand and clear water is so tempting.

What I loved about Cancun is that it offers a tropical paradise; you can relax and tan by the pool or at the beach, but also an adventure. Cancun is the closest city to Chichen Itza, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO Heritage site.

Chichen Itza Day tour can be booked online or at the hotel, where they offer great deals. They picked us up at the hotel. First stop Sacred Cenote, Cenote Sagrado. What a natural wonder. We entered the Cenote, welcomed by locals. It was impressive to see the depth of the Cenote. Down in the Cenote, we got to assist at a traditional dance. Cenotes were used by the ancient Maya Civilization for sacrificial offerings.  A lot of people were diving and swimming; I got scared by all the small fishes that one could see in the water. We then headed to Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza which means “at the mouth of the well of Itza” is one of the largest Maya cities and our tour guide walked us around the whole archeological site. We saw the Bail Court, where they sometimes have special concerts, the Group of Thousands Columns, the Temple of the Warriors and of course dominating the site, El Castillo, the famous Kukulkan Pyramid. The tour gave us ample time to wander around on our own and take pictures. We ended that day tour at a local traditional buffet style restaurant where we had great food and great show by traditional dancers.

Cancun also offers a lot of Beach activities like Jet Skiing or snorkeling. I took a day tour to Isla Mujeres. We left the port in the morning. On the way to Isla Mujeres, we stopped for snorkeling. It was magical to see all those colorful fishes.  We stopped at a small beach for lunch and got to touch a shark. I was scared but it was a lot of fun. I wish I had more time and could actually spend a night is the island. It is definitely a little paradise on earth.

At night, even if the resort offers a lot of activities, DJ, and dancing, you need to go to Downtown Cancun. It’s a very small downtown with few clubs but a lot is happening at night. There is a party bus that stops at every hotel in the Hotel Zone and takes you to the clubs. What a way to start the night. The most famous club is Coco Bongo. You will have to pay to get in but it’s worth it. Coco Bongo is NOT your average club; it’s a club and a concert place. The main room is huge with about 5 levels and everybody has eyes on the stage. No DJ on the stage but your favorite singers’alikes coming to perform. And if you like 90’s music you will love. From Michael Jackson to the Spice Girls, all of the most famous singers alike will come and perform all night long. Oh and I almost forgot, it’s all you can drink. It is a crazy experience that you need to live while in Cancun.

 

Ultimate Guide to Cartagena

I stayed in Boca Grande, the Miami Beach of Cartagena. The other good place to stay is inside the walled city, in the old town.

 

Day 1: The walled city and the fortress

Enter the walled city. The clock tower, Puerta Del Reloj, is the symbol of the city. When walking around, you will see colorful Fruit Ladies. Tip them and you will be able to take pictures. The old town has the most famous ice cream shops. If it’s a hot day, you will need to go to Gelato Paradiso for a threat. For lunch or happy hour stop at Plaza Santo Domingo to enjoy a drink, traditional food and at happy hour time, the Colombian dancers gather and you can admire the Maple Dance, the traditional dance by the slaves.

After the visit of the old town, head first to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, the old fortress and then to La Popa, a cathedral on top of the city. You will need to get a cab to go to those 2 places.

At night, have dinner at the sophisticated restaurant La Vitrola. It is a dressy spot for both locals and tourists. Then walk to Café del Mar at the entrance of the walled city. The huge outdoor lounge offers the best view possible of the sunset. Grab a Club Colombia Beer and enjoy the best DJ. That lounge is my favorite lounge is the world.

 

Day 2: The Rosario Islands and Playa Blanca

You will need to book a tour to get to that beach. Every morning the boats leave for Playa Blanca from the main port. Note that you will have to pay for a port tax. It is a 45min ride and you will found yourself in paradise. The Water is clear and the sand white.  The Seafood lunch is part of the tour and it is so good. The downside is the beach is full of locals that are trying to sell you items. Be patient and politely say no.

If you want a private beach, you will have to go to a resort.

At night, you can party on a Chiva Party Bus. Book the party bus at your hotel or online. The Chiva Bus is a typical Colombian Party Bus. They pick you up at the hotel; there are music and local alcohol on the bus. Everybody is dancing and singing. After partying in the bus, all the Chiva buses stop at the walled city before dropping everybody off at a club in Getsemani. They come back around midnight to pick you up.

 

Day 3:

  • You can go to the beach in Cartagena.
  • You can go to Santa Marta Beach by boat or taxi but it is 4h away! You might want to stay the night there to fully enjoy the beach and relax
  • You can so go to the Lost City – El Pueblito, the archeological remains of a lost city in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in The Tayrona´s National park. Again, it will be better to stay in the area for the night to fully enjoy the experience.
  • You can go to the Mud Volcano and enjoy healing powers of the mud baths