Hawaiian Food Sucks? Think Again!

Over a plate of Pork Belly Bao, Lobster Shumai and a gigantic bowl of Ramen, we looked at each other in amazement. This is what it’s like to eat in Hawaii? My wife and I had been warned over and over. “Enjoy getting away, love the beaches, take advantage of the slower pace but don’t expect much of the food.” While not your typical Hawaiian food, Lucky Belly serves Asian Fusion Cuisine that you’ll only find on Hotel Street in the heart of Honolulu’s Chinatown. The hour-long wait is worth it.

Lucky Belly (Photo: Michelle Rae)

One of the distinctive features of the food culture in Hawaii is its unique combination of Polynesian, American and Asian cuisines (with some Portuguese influence). There are restaurants for Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Filipino cuisine but aspects of all those cuisines have been integrated into Hawaiian food such as the plate lunch, which takes the idea of the Japanese bento box, keeps the rice, but substitutes a scoop of Macaroni Salad and a protein for the rest.

In Waikiki, there is one restaurant that specializes in the plate lunches that is right up the street from the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Beach. Rainbow Drive-In’s menu is dominated by the plate lunches where you can get BBQ Beef (highly recommended), Fried Chicken among other options with rice and Macaroni salad. After we were done clearing 75% of our food, we came down with what one local termed “Polynesian Paralysis”.

Rainbow Drive-In (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Rainbow Drive-In (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Another import that you’ll see in particular abundance on the North Shore of Oahu are shrimp trucks and stands. These places serve something special that is also found in the Philippines, Garlic & Butter Shrimp. On a lonely highway, halfway between Turtle Bay Resort and the Polynesian Culture Center sits Romy’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp. If you love your shellfish, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better place or a more authentic destination to indulge.

Romy’s in the North Shore (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Romy’s in the North Shore (Photo: Michelle Rae)

DSCF1815All the aforementioned restaurants are fantastic creations unique to Hawaii but to get something a little more traditional, one should start at Helena’s Hawaiian Food. From Pipikaula shortrib to Kalua Pig and Luau Chicken, picking a favorite is not easy. Other Hawaiian offerings include Poke, the closest approximation to which is Sashimi, and Poi, admittedly an acquired taste that will separate the tourists from the locals. Don’t forget to enjoy the complementary Haupia for desert. If you’re having Hawaiian food for the first time, skip the cheap fast food restaurants and start at this James Beard winning restaurant. Oh, and bring cash.

Helena’s (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Hawaii also offers some unique options for desert. The ubiquitous shaved ice can be found just about anywhere and comes with multiple flavors, such as most fruit flavors and the more exotic Li Hing Mui, and can be served with sweetened condensed milk or a scoop of ice cream. The other must have desert in Hawaii is the Malasada or Portuguese Donut. Leave room for Leonard’s Bakery at least once or five times during your trip. Unlike most donut shops, you will order off a menu, not a display, for the Malasadas that they’ll make fresh. When you bite into these little clouds of joy, you’ll notice that they’re a little less dense and softer than a regular donut. To top it all off or to start your day, skip Starbucks and head to Island Vintage Coffee for the coconut-flavored Island Latte. And while you’re there, grab some Kona Coffee to take home.

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Leonard’s (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Leonard’s (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Leonard’s (Photo: Michelle Rae)


Helena’s Hawaiian Food. 1240 N School St., Honolulu, HI 96817 | www.helenashawaiianfood.com/
Lucky Belly. 50 N Hotel St., Honolulu, HI 96817 | http://www.luckybelly.com/
Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp. 56-781 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku, HI 96731 | www.romyskahukuprawns.org/
Rainbow Drive-In. 3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815 | www.rainbowdrivein.com/
Island Vintage Coffee. Multiple locations around Oahu | www.islandvintagecoffee.com/
Leonard’s Bakery. 933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816 | http://www.leonardshawaii.com/


Hotel Recommendations

Park Shore Waikiki Hotel. 2586 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815 | www.parkshorewaikiki.com/
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. 92-1185 Ali’inui Dr, Kapolei, HI 96707 | resorts.disney.go.com/aulani-hawaii-resort/
Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk. 201 Beachwalk St, Honolulu, HI 96815 | http://www.embassysuiteswaikiki.com/

Soaking Up the Sun: My Favorite Beaches in Oahu

When it comes to gorgeous beaches, the Pacific archipelago and youngest state wins. In Hawaii, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the irresistible pull of the ocean. This I can attest to, having spent a week exploring Oahu to ring in the New Year.

Like every island in Hawaii, Oahu is like a patchwork of beaches – all gorgeous, all accessible to the public (no private beaches here), all completely enticing. Still, no two beaches are alike, and I’ve come to love some more than others.

Here are, in my humble opinion, seven of the best beaches in the island of Oahu.


Hanauma Bay

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Hanauma Bay (Photo: Michelle Rae)
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Hanauma Bay (Photo: Michelle Rae)

The clear blue-green water of Hanauma Bay is home to a vast coral reef that shelters over 400 species of fish as well as some Green sea turtles. At $7.50 per person plus the cost of parking and snorkel sets (if you don’t own them), you can spend all day snorkeling in this volcano-formed conservation area, making it a cheap yet memorable snorkeling experience. What’s more, a large part of the bay is shallow, so it’s perfect for the not so strong swimmers.

The occasional Jellyfish or Portuguese man o’ war will sometimes stray into the bay, so keep an eye out and be careful. And don’t stand on the coral reefs – how would you feel if someone walked all over your apartment?


Ko Olina Lagoon

Ko Olina Lagoon (Photo: Michelle Rae)

It’s hard not to love everything Disney has created, so naturally I had to check out the Aulani Resort, nestled in the resort area of Ko’Olina about 30 minutes west of Honolulu. Unsurprisingly, the resort was wonderful – the rooms nice, the pools lovely and the spa incredible; but some of my best experiences were at the lagoon. Semi-protected, its tranquil water is great for families with kids, beginner paddle boarders (my son mastered paddle boarding within minutes) and young snorkelers. At the beach, beach chairs and umbrellas are readily available for convenience.


Aweoweo Beach

Sea turtle at Aweoweo Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Sea turtle at Aweoweo Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Aweoweo Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Looking for turtles in Oahu’s legendary North Shore? While Laniakea and Haleiwa are more famous, I prefer the lesser-known Aweoweo Beach, especially for turtle sightings. This stretch of sand in Waialua is not just beautiful, it’s also less crowded, quiet and mostly tourist-free – this means you’re less likely to deal with people more interested in taking selfies with the turtles than actually living the moment.

Please stay at least 6 feet from the turtles. They’re not there for your amusement.


Pupukea Beach

Pupukea Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Pupukea Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Also in the North Shore across the street from a roadside gathering of food trucks (another must-stop while in Oahu) is Pupukea Beach. It’s home to Sharks Cove, which stays relatively uncrowded what with nearby Waimea Bay drawing most of the traffic, where you can snorkel in relatively calm waters. The marine life isn’t as diverse as in Hanauma Bay, but it’s free and the water is warm and shallow.

Grab some garlic shrimp, tender brisket and shaved ice to go from the food trucks across the street, and find a nice, quiet spot at the beach. Don’t forget your flippers if you’re snorkeling, Sharks Cove is pretty rocky.


Puaena Point Beach

Surfers at Puaena Point Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Puaena Point Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Show off your beach bod and rub elbows with surfers and model-types at Haleiwa Beach’s neighboring Puaena Point Beach. Thanks to its great yet small waves, this is where newbie surfers go to learn the craft and practice. But you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy this spot; sometimes it’s enough to just stay on solid ground and watch all the action.

Puaena Point Beach has some pretty stunning photo opportunities too, so bring a camera and snap a few.


Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Waikiki Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Waikiki Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Yes, it’s extremely touristy. But there’s a good reason why people flock to Waikiki. Actually, there are a few. It’s easily accessible, first of all, so if you’re staying in or near Honolulu’s main tourist strip – Kalakaua Ave – a day at the beach is just a few minutes’ walk away from your hotel. Second, it’s got some great waves for surfing as well as a semi-protected area (Kuhio Beach Park) for shallow waters. And third, it has some of the best sunsets in Honolulu. Pack a picnic, head out in the afternoon and stay to enjoy the setting sun.

Stay at Park Shore Waikiki across the street from Kuhio Beach Park. The family-friendly hotel not only provides complimentary use of beach towels and beach chairs, it also boasts guest rooms with a stunning, unobstructed view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.


Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Lanikai Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)

It’s one of Oahu’s most popular beaches, which means that it can get pretty crowded, but Lanikai is still one of our favorite swimming spots in Oahu. We cannot get enough of its calm, shallow waters and soft, fine sand, both of which make up for the fact that finding a parking spot can be a pain. While this is far from being a surfing spot, it’s perfect for paddle boarding or simply floating around on a swim tube.


(Originally published on Huffington Post)

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Ten Important Things to Know When Traveling to Mexico

The enchanting land south of the border is one of the best destinations you’ll ever explore in your life. But like any other destination, there are things you must keep in mind during your visit to Mexico to guarantee your health and safety as well as to avoid unfortunate incidents that might ruin your vacation.

We’ve been to and explored different parts of this beautiful country now, and we’ve learned quite a few things during those visits that we’d like to share with you. Here are some important things you should keep in mind when traveling to Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta | Photo: Michelle Rae

Plan out (and book, if possible) your transportation before you go. Unlike in first world countries, finding transportation in most parts of Mexico does not come easy. Public transportation, even in big cities like Cancun, while extensive, is not as modern and easy to figure out. And in some places, driving is not recommended for tourists. Do a lot of research before you go. Determine if it’s safe to drive a rental car around the area you’re visiting (the Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta are great examples) or figure out which public buses you can take to get you places and whether cabs are available for convenience. Better yet, have your hotel arrange drop offs and pick-ups for you.

Roaming plan goes a long way. Mobile service providers usually offer fairly inexpensive roaming plans that should cover you during your visit. Don’t make the same mistake we made and purchase one before your trip. It comes very handy if you’ll find yourself stuck somewhere because you missed the last bus or if there’s an emergency.

Don’t drink the water. Unless you’re staying at a resort that treats their water (Velas Vallarta, for example), don’t drink tap water in Mexico. Don’t drink it, don’t brush your teeth with it. Just don’t. It’s probably safe for the locals, but not for you. Buy bottled water from the grocery store and use that as if your life depended on it… because it probably does.

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Las Tlayudas de Playa, Playa del Carmen | Photo: Michelle Rae
Tlayudas from Las Tlayudas de Playa | Photo: Michelle Rae
Carnitas with chicharron in Playa del Carmen | Photo: Michelle Rae

Eat at local, non-touristy restaurants. Mexico has some of the best dishes we’ve ever had in our life – carnitas with chicharron as well as roasted chicken in PlayaCar, battered fish and shrimp tacos AND ceviche in Ensenada, carne asada tacos in the Riviera Maya, simply because we braved eating at local restaurants and food stands that most tourists don’t usually go to. Just make sure to do research beforehand and eat at those spots that get more traffic, so you don’t risk food poisoning. Travel and eat smart!

Our short list of Mexico restaurant recommendations to come soon!

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Local fishermen in Yelapa, Jalisco | Photo: Michelle Rae
Staircase in Downtown Puerto Vallarta | Photo: Michelle Rae
Guadalupe Valley, Baja California | Photo: Michelle Rae

Go off the beaten path. Don’t miss out on wonderful finds simply because you’re too afraid to stray just a little. Yes, some parts of Mexico are dangerous, but what most people do not realize is that the country is massive and most of it is safe, with locals who are warm, friendly and welcoming. Again, stay smart and do your research; but don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful beaches, adorable small towns, and probably some of the best memories.

Chichen Itza | Photo: Michelle Rae

Learn some Spanish. It doesn’t matter whether you’re visiting a town under the radar or staying in a resort destination – it’s very likely that you’ll come across non-English speaking locals who you’re going to have to communicate with, even if it’s for something as simple as asking for plastic utensils at a restaurant. And learning a few basic words and phrases will help a great deal.

Carry cash. Small restaurants, some shops, taxis, buses and food stands especially do not accept credit or debit cards, so do make sure to carry enough cash around. Having cash around also makes it easier to tip your servers as well as the hotel staff. (And yes, they do tip in Mexico!)

Get a fast pass when crossing the border. Driving into Mexico from the US is so easy it’s kinda eerie, but driving back is a completely different story entirely. In fact, you might spend a few hours waiting in line in your car at the border crossing station with hundreds of other cars, and that’s not at all fun. See if your hotel offers fast passes for their guests; you’ll still have to wait in line but these fast passes can get you on the “fast lane” and cut a couple of hours off your wait time.

In Baja California near the | Photo: Michelle Rae

Skip the souvenir shops and buy the more authentic products instead. Trust us, most products you’ll find at a souvenir shop in Cancun, you’ll most likely find at a different souvenir shop in Cabo. When shopping for mementos to take home, look for stores that sell the more authentic products – Catrina sculptures, locally produced coffee and indigenous artworks are a few examples.

Cool metal sculptures on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta | Photo: Michelle Rae

Don’t pay to take photos with the animals. During your explorations, you’ll meet a couple of locals who will invite you to hold and take photos with an adorable lion or panther cub they happen to be carrying for a few dollars. It’s hard to resist, we know, especially if you’re an animal lover like us. However, the sad truth is these cubs are drugged to keep them tame and safe for tourists to handle, probably mistreated, and then dumped when they’re too old. We actually called a couple of animal rescue centers in the Riviera Maya the first time we encountered such activity, and they told us that some of these people are employed by drug cartels. Please, please do not support and encourage this type of activity.


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10 Things You Absolutely Have to Do in Puerto Rico

It may be a small island, but Puerto Rico is arguably one of the most beautiful and lush destinations in the Caribbean that afford diversity in attractions and activities. You can go hiking in a tropical rainforest one minute and exploring the old forts of a historic coastal city the next, and still have plenty of time to squeeze a little bit of R&R in a private island.

Here are ten of the best activities you absolutely have to do when visiting Puerto Rico.


Explore the Rainforest, Muddy Hiking Trails and All

Waterfalls at El Yunque National Forest | Photo: Michelle Rae
Waterfalls at El Yunque National Forest | Photo: Michelle Rae

El Yunque (http://www.fs.usda.gov/elyunque) is the only tropic rainforest in the United States, and it just so happens to be in Puerto Rico. But don’t let its title intimidate you – it has a plethora of attractions that even the kids will find easily accessible. Start by visiting the roadside La Coca Waterfalls (but do be careful on those slippery rocks) then climb the Yokahu Tower for its sweeping views of the forest and the coast and then take a trail, the muddier the better, to one of the forest’s more hidden attractions.

Tip: Pack a picnic basket, plenty of water and your best hiking shoes.


Stay at El Conquistador Resort, For a Day or Two or However Long You Want

El Conquistador Resort | Photo: Michelle Rae
El Conquistador Resort | Photo: Michelle Rae

Even non resort-loving travelers will LOVE this piece of paradise located only about 15 minutes away from the town of Fajardo. El Conquistador (http://www.elconresort.com/) will capture any traveler’s heart, families with kids especially, what with its stunning location at the top of a cliff, its waterpark that comes with lovely views of both the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea, as well as its private island, Palomino, which comes with its own sandbar that made movie history. Looking to sample the island’s traditional dishes? The resort makes a point of not only integrating the Puerto Rican way of cooking but also adding local dishes on the menus.

Tip: Allocate an entire day on Palomino Island, as there are many things to do there, including snorkeling, kayaking, jet skiing, and horseback riding.


Kayak Through a Mangrove Forest to a Bioluminescent Bay, in Darkness

Kayaks in Las Croabas | Photo: Michelle Rae

You’ll love navigating your tandem kayaks through a mangrove channel, in darkness, to see the dinoflagellates perform one of nature’s miracles. Drive to Las Croabas where kayak tour agency Yokahu Kayak Trips (https://www.facebook.com/YokahuKayak/) will take you on this guided adventure into Laguna Grande, one of Puerto Rico’s three bio bays where you’ll witness firsthand the water light up and sparkle when disturbed. In the bay, stop and listen as your guides tell you about how these fascinating microorganisms work and the efforts being done to preserve their dying ecosystem.

Tip: Go on a moonless summer night for brighter illumination. And don’t be afraid to slosh you hand in the water to see it sparkle.


See Old San Juan, from its Massive Forts to its Adorable Houses

San Cristobal in Old San Juan | Photo: Michelle Uy
San Cristobal in Old San Juan | Photo: Michelle Uy
San Cristobal in Old San Juan | Photo: Michelle Uy
Old San Juan from San Cristobal | Photo: Michelle Rae

With a hint of European flair, a touch of culture, and a dash of history, Old San Juan is an incredible and picturesque city to explore, even with kids in tow. Walk the blue cobblestone streets, taking your time, and discover how the port city was once an important stronghold in the Caribbean. Start at the Capitol and the Plaza de la Barandilla across the street and work your way to Fort San Felipe del Morro and its neighboring cemetery, stopping at Fort San Cristobal along the way. Then head inland to visit Hotel El Convento, Catedral San Juan Bautista, La Fortaleza, and Parque Las Palomas and its old chapel.

Old San Juan | Photo: Michelle Rae
Old San Juan | Photo: Michelle Rae
Old San Juan | Photo: Michelle Rae
La Fortaleza at Christmas Time | Photo: Michelle Rae
Catedral San Juan Bautista | Photo: Michelle Rae

Tips: Bring plenty of water on this walking tour, and do take your time exploring the forts. And remember to bring your camera, as there are plenty of photo opportunities.


Zip Line at ToroVerde, Even if You’re Afraid of Heights

Zip line at ToroVerde | Photo: Michelle Rae
Zip line at ToroVerde | Photo: Michelle Rae

Those who suffer from mild to moderate acrophobia need not worry. Zip lining on one of the world’s longest single run line (4.745 feet) may be a little unnerving at first, but when you’re on it zipping over the beautiful valley below belly down like a bird, it’s the best feeling in the world. At ToroVerde (http://www.toroverdepr.com/) ecological park, you’ll be walking and soaring over trees, streams and rivers like there’s no tomorrow. And you’re gonna want to do it all over again. Young kids (8 and over) can participate too, thanks to the park’s kid-friendly Bull Maze rope course, which features suspension bridges, monkey bars and rope nets.

Tip: Allot an entire day for this excursion.


Feast on the Local Cuisine, Devil (and Diet) May Care 

Local food | Photo: Michelle Rae
Local food | Photo: Michelle Rae

Sampling the local dishes is perhaps one of the best ways to truly experience a destination, and Puerto Rico has plenty of those. Dishes that even the pickiest eaters will enjoy are served at most restaurants on the island, even in the new area of San Juan, so they’re not hard to find. Some of the dishes the whole family must try are arroz mamposteao or arroz con gandules, mofongo, brandade and pasteles. The island is also known for its roast pork as well as its Latino-style grilled steak served with chimichurri. Must try restaurants include Café Puerto Rico and The Parrot Club in Old San Juan, the French-inspired Cocina Abierta (http://www.cocinaabierta.com/home), which serves one of the best mofongos (Duck Confit Stuffed Mofongo) in San Juan, and Chops Steakhouse at El Conquistador Resort.

Tip: For those who don’t eat meat, many restaurants serve delicious seafood and vegetarian options.


Explore New San Juan, Especially the Street Art Scene

Street art in San Juan | Photo: Michelle Rae
Street art in San Juan | Photo: Michelle Rae
Street art in San Juan | Photo: Michelle Rae

Surprisingly, Puerto Rico has some of the best urban and street art scenes in the Americas, if not the world; and a visit in San Juan is not completely without exploring Santurce, home to city’s vibrant and thriving street art movement. Spend an hour or two discovering the district’s murals and sculptures on walls, under bridges and on the streets. Start on Fernandez Juncos Avenue near Hospital Pavia Santure.

Tip: Go in the morning or early afternoon.


Visit the Children’s Museum in Carolina, and Go on a Boat Ride

Boat at Museo del Nino Carolina | Photo: Michelle Rae

The Museo del Nino de Carolina (http://www.museodelninocarolina.com/), whose aim is to encourage kids to discover and pursue their passion (or passions) as early as possible, isn’t like any other children’s museum. Besides its interactive, kid-friendly exhibits on math, science, arts & crafts, theater and more, it also boasts a mini zoo, where kids can witness firsthand the hatching of duck and chicken eggs if they’re lucky, a go kart track, a boating tour of the nearby mangrove channel where they can see wild iguanas, birds and alligators relaxing on tree branches, and a real commercial plane that visitors can board and explore.

Tip: While ducks and chicken roam free, teach the kids not to chase them or attempt to disturb their nests. Wear long pants and apply bug spray generously before going on the boat ride.


Drive to the Smaller Towns, or Just Drive

Local restaurant in Piñones | Photo: Michelle Rae
Beach in Piñones | Photo: Michelle Rae
Beach in Piñones | Photo: Michelle Rae

Beautiful small towns that mostly slip under the tourist radar are an easy drive away from Puerto Rico’s cities and resort areas, so rent a car, round up the gang and make that drive. Just less than an hour from San Juan and you’ll already find yourselves in small towns that draw surfers, foodies and locals. Keep an eye out of quiet, kid-friendly beaches, idyllic scenes worthy of a stop, local restaurants and maybe a small town fiesta.

Tip: Many roads and towns – even parts of the El Yunque rainforest – in Puerto Rico have good cellphone reception so it’s impossible to get lost.


Swim, Of Course

Palomino Island | Photo: Michelle Rae
Beach on Palomino Island | Photo: Michelle Rae

Warm waters, lovely stretches of beach and lots of natural barriers that break the massive waves far from shore make Puerto Rico’s beaches some of the best places in the Caribbean to swim in. Go to a beach near San Juan or at the resort you’re staying or to an off-the-beaten path one in a small town, slather on some sunscreen and just spend an entire day there. You’ll regret it, if you don’t. And on the northern part of the island, the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic so you’ll even have an opportunity to enjoy both.

Tip: El Conquistador’s Palomino Island has an islet called Palominito where a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was filmed. It’s a lovely spot, especially if you’re looking for quiet and isolated.



Caribe Hilton. 1 San Geronimo, San Juan | 787 721 0303 | www.caribehilton.com

El Conquistador Resort. 1000 El Conquistador Ave, Fajardo | 787 863 1000 | www.elconresort.com


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Step out of Your Comfort Zone at Club Med CREACTIVE

From afar, it looks like your usual kids’ playground, what with its vibrant, fun design and printed words on the walls and on pathways aimed to inspire and motivate. However, a closer look reveals towering pole buidings, some with tarp roofs, all with unusual contraptions and long, massive ropes and cords hanging from their frames – it looks more like an outdoor practice arena for circus routines and performances. And in essence, it is.

Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana
Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana

Typically, I’m terrified of heights. I’m not one to go skydiving or bungee jumping or even crossing glass skywalks that show great depths under my feet, no matter how much you assure me that it’s completely safe. I’ll go on a rollercoaster, but I’ll still get that feeling of impending doom right before I get on. A few days ago, however, I was able to step out of the confines of my comfort zone and quell my fear of heights.

Granted, it probably wasn’t a typical week at Club Med Punta Cana. The kids were still splashing around in the pools and the adults were trying their luck with windsurfing and sailing as usual, but there was something distinctively different. It was a more inspired kind of different, with the resort having recently launched this exciting open play space they aptly call Club Med CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil, located not far from the nice stretch of sand on property.

It’s Club Med’s inaugural collaboration with Cirque du Soleil and simply phenomenal, offering an interactive and fully immersive circus experience for resort guests in a fun, gets-the-creative-juices-flowing-and-the-adrenaline-pumping kind of way.

Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana
Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana

CREACTIVE features over 30 activities from wild acrobatic endeavors like the flying trapeze, acrobatic bungee, wall scaling and trampoline to artistic pursuits like dancing and mask and face painting, and acting. Of course, an amazing crew of talented, well-trained, experienced AND multi-lingual Gentils Circassiens is there to show you the ropes, make things easy, and put minds of the less dauntless (including me) at ease. And in case there’s still a lot of hesitation to try on the acrobatic activities, the crew also puts on showcases to make the activities look even more appealing.

Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana
Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana

This new addition to the resort presents a perfect opportunity for kids (seriously, I’ve seen 5-year-olds do the trapeze) and adults (there were older adults doing triple flips!) to push limits and reach glorious heights. It’s here that many, from little daredevils to grandparents looking for new experiences, are now flocking to learn and do cool new tricks they wouldn’t have access to in most other resorts in the Caribbean.

Taking on the acrobatic bungee at Club Med CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil. (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Taking on the acrobatic bungee at Club Med CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil. (Photo: Michelle Rae)

And it was here that I conquered the trapeze, albeit not without screams of trepidation, and did acrobatic bungee flips a good 10 feet off the ground. Yes, me who gets paralyzed when I have to look over a balcony despite the presence of stable railing. The experience was scary at first, but then it was fun and then it was exhilarating.

And then it was something I wanted to do over and over again.

(Originally published on Huffington Post.)

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Going Beyond the Magic: Disneyland Exceeds All Expectations with 24-Hour Diamond Celebration

One of the really cool things about my job is getting invites to fantastic events and awesome trips that I probably wouldn’t have access to if  I weren’t working in the travel publishing world. It’s one of the many perks of the job that I’m truly grateful for as it definitely opens doors to new experiences for me.

This week, I’m headed to Disneyland – along with many bloggers and members of the press – to help the original Disney park usher in their 60th anniversary with their Diamond Celebration extravaganza and 24-hour event, which I am super excited about. They’ve got a lot of awesome things planned for the celebration and it’s going to be epic.

I’ll be sharing the latest updates before and during the Diamond Celebration event through the MiniTime website and social media as well as on my Twitter and Instagram accounts, but for now read on after the jump to find out more about what Disney has in store for the festivities.


Something simply amazing is happening at Disneyland this May.

With July 17, 2015 marking the 60th anniversary of the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, is beckoning Disney lovers everywhere to take part in theDisneyland Diamond Celebration festivities that starts on May 22, 2015. And as is Disney tradition, the resort is going all out!

Going beyond bedazzling Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park and their iconic landmarks and locations – including the Sleeping Beauty Castle, Main Street, U.S.A, and Carthay Circle Theater – to usher in the new era, Disney has prepared a multitude of incredible events, attractions and surprises that kicks off with a 24-hour event, starting at 6am on May 22nd.


With this all day/all night party comes an array of entertainment, new attractions, and commemorative merchandise, including the debut of three nighttime spectaculars:

  • “Disneyland Forever” Fireworks – Disneyland ups the ante of their traditional pyrotechnic display by using Main Street, U.S.A, the Matterhorn, Rivers of America, and “it’s a small world” and featuring some of Disney’s most beloved fairy tales like Lion King, Finding Nemo, and of course, Frozen, to take their guests in a spectacular, full-on magical experience from the street to the sky.
  • “Paint the Night” Parade – Dazzling lights and music will excite and astound guests, especially the little ones, with this new after dark parade at the Disneyland Park. “Paint the Night” will showcase favorite Disney characters like Tinker Bell, Lightning McQueen, Ariel, Buzz Lightyear, Belle, and Anna & Elsa like you’ve never seen them before – magically illuminated as the revelry shimmies and shimmers down Main Street, U.S.A.
  • “World of Color – Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney” – An even more impressive version of World of Color, this outdoor nighttime display, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey, will showcase the best Disney moments – from Walt’s earliest creations to the newest feature, presented in an breathtaking package topped with a water, fire and laser show that will leave spectators in awe.

It’s going to be an unforgettable Disney visit for you and your kids and a wonderful way to welcome the warm days of summer. So buy your park hopper tickets, book that hotel room, and get ready to celebrate!

See you all there!

(Originally published on MiniTime.com.)

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Being back in LA has not been easy, mostly because I have come to a realization that getting out of the city for a week or so every few months is just not enough for me. I have come to a realization that I was born a wanderer and will die as one, belonging on and to the road, ever pressing, never stopping. I’ve been reading this blog by someone who has been traveling through Europe and Asia on his bike, with nothing but the clothes on his back, the roof of his single tent above his head, and his camera around his neck; he’s made me realize that somewhere between my childhood and the now, I have lost myself, that I have lost my wide-eyed wonder and replaced it with cynicism. I am have become bitter and withdrawn, my light slowly dimming into nothing. But tonight my head is so full of images, images of the places I need to breathe in, of faces I need to meet, of things I need to feel. It’s time that I participate in life again, this much is true. But where do I begin?