Have you put off planning that summer vacation because you need some fresh ideas? Read about some of our staff’s favorite vacations in this month’s feature. From adventure to foreign countries, beach lounging, road trips and family vacations – even if you have just unpacked your suitcase, these may just leave you itching for more.
Adventure in Paradise; Destination: Puerto Rico
CWA Managing Partner Dan Wicker, his wife, and two young adult children headed 30 miles outside of Old San Juan to explore the natural assets, urban diversity and cultural treasures that make Puerto Rico one of the most visited islands in the Caribbean.
There were plenty of exciting things to do on and around Bahia Beach, with zip lining through the forest, nighttime kayaking in Fajardo Bioluminescent Bay, to getting immersed in the culture by walking the city streets lined with centuries old Spanish colonial buildings and restored forts.
Their most memorable adventure was when they traveled to the Caguas Rainforest, located 45 miles south of San Juan. More than 100 billion gallons of rain fall here each year creating a lush rainforest and natural preserve known for rare trees and birds, as well as steep hiking trails. These adventure seekers not only hiked 2,000 feet up a river in the rainforest, but experienced the thrills of rappelling 80 feet down the beautiful El Salto waterfall. After the four-hour hike, waterfall and zip lines they got to enjoy a home-cooked Puerto Rican meal prepared in a local home in the mountain setting.
Insiders Tip: Eat at the local spots. Specifically, visit Gladys at the Las Vistas Café to enjoy the best breakfast you’ve ever had. Perched on top of a hill surrounded by panoramic views of Las Caroabas, this is a real farm-to-table experience, boasting a garden nestled in the back where fresh fruits and vegetables are picked each morning.
Mother/Daughter Unwind; Destination: Destin, FL
When both mother and daughter are in the thick of managing everyday life, you never seem to get that quality time you want (and need), with those whom are the most special to you. (went from talking about “mother and daughter” to talking about “you”. Changed referents in the middle of the sentence. Should be talking about they and them. Otherwise change subject to you.) That is why Client Coordinator Suzanne Campling and her daughter decided to head to Florida for a week and just escape it all.
Stunning white beaches, challenging golf courses, and world famous fishing define the city of Destin, located on the Gulf of Mexico in Northwest Florida. Highlights? There were plenty. For starters, they sailed the emerald waters on a 74-foot custom built schooner, with dolphins leaping and swimming right next to them. A perfect night that concluded with cocktails and a beautiful sunset.
Their love for animals took them to an unforgettable experience at the Seacrest Wolf Preserve. They became part of the pack as they journeyed by foot into large natural habitats that are home to Gray, Arctic and British Columbian wolves. In this three-hour tour they had the rare opportunity to touch wolves, look in their eyes and have their hearts stolen when they got to hold a one-month-old baby Gray wolf.
Insiders Tip: Their favorite place to eat and drink was The Back Porch Seafood and Oyster House. A Gulf Coast tradition for over 40 years, this local spot offers spectacular views, beachfront dining and fresh seafood.
Suzanne’s tip for a perfect vacation: “Don’t try to fit in too many things,” she said. “Relax and enjoy the down time, which is what vacations should be for. The best moments for me were sitting out on the condo’s balcony sipping my wine, and engaging in long conversations with my daughter.”
History and Historical Sights; Destination: Israel, Palestine and Jordan
CWA Planner Bradley Blasingame and his father immersed themselves in the history and culture of the Holy Land on an unforgettable expedition inspired by the Old Testament. They have been dreaming of taking this trip for a long time, and alongside 40 other church members, an archeologist and local tour guide, they embarked on a 13-day adventure across Israel, Palestine and Jordan. From the moment they landed in Tel Aviv, their itinerary was packed full of visiting the villages, temples, synagogues, wells, gardens and mountains that brought the stories of old back to life.
One of the most unique experiences they had was visiting Masada, an ancient fortress overlooking the Dead Sea, located in southern Israel’s Judean Desert. Its unique geographical formation, challenging hike and tragic story combine to make Masada one of the most popular tourist destinations in Israel.
That same day the group was able to float in the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea’s unusually high salt concentration (8.6 times saltier than the ocean), is what allows people to easily float due to natural buoyancy.
Jordan’s most memorable time for Bradley? Spending the night in Wadi Rum. This protected desert wilderness in southern Jordan features dramatic sandstone mountains and natural arches. It’s lunar-like landscape and majestic cliffs made for a once in a lifetime night as they popped up their tents, cooked chicken in an underground well and slept under the stars.
Insiders Tip: In addition to comfortable shoes and clothes, due to the desert climate, water is a must. They were instructed to drink at least two liters of water a day.
Most importantly, take a local guide. Not only is this person able to elevate your learning experience with behind the scenes insights, but most importantly the guide keeps you out of danger by ensuring you are heeding warnings, following security guidelines, and staying alert to changing events.
Road Trip Warrior; Destination: New Mexico
Fueled by coffee and Twizzlers, Associate Planner Joey Kinney and his significant other jumped in the car to drive 10 hours west out to New Mexico.
First stop of the tour of Joey’s home state is meeting up with his father at his cabin in Angel Fire. Nestled in the Southern Rockies, this town is most known for its winter ski resorts, but Joey claims it’s just as great in the summer. Days here can be spent hiking and mountain biking, but you can find Joey wading in the Cimarron River fly fishing for Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout. For the 4th of July, they enjoyed fireworks at nearby Eagle Nest Lake, a yearly tradition he tries not to miss.
Next it’s off to Nambe Lake Trail outside of Santa Fe for some hiking. It’s a 5-6 hour hike up to Lake Peak, one that is sometimes rocky and sometimes muddy, and definitely has you on hands and knees on the uphill. Once at the top, you are rewarded with spectacular views of the lake.
It’s back to the car after that to head back to Joey’s hometown of Albuquerque. True it’s a lot of driving, but when you have good company and all your favorite podcasts downloaded and ready, one hardly notices the time. Plus, it will all be worth it to visit with family and see old friends at an alumni weekend at Joey’s high school, celebrating the retirement of the school’s Athletic Director. Bonus, they get to stop at Frontier Restaurant, his favorite spot near the University of New Mexico for the state’s best burritos.
Insiders Tip: The altitude in the mountains can be really tough on people who are not used to it. If you plan to hike, ensure you have plenty of water with you, and take an experienced hiker alongside. Also, check the weather often. The mountains are known for changing weather in the summer. Afternoon thunderstorms can be very dangerous and leave you stranded if you are not prepared.
Traveling with Toddlers; Destination: Coronado, CA
There comes a point in the season of parenting where we love those kids, but cannot stand the thought of another amusement park. Marketing Director Erin Jeffries, her husband and two (very) young boys headed out for their yearly trip to Coronado– a vacation spot that everyone in the family can enjoy. This island paradise is located across the bay from downtown San Diego, and boasts white sandy beaches with gentle surf, a charming main street, and great hotels including the famous Hotel del Coronado.
A typical morning is spent strolling alongside the little ones on their scooters down Orange Avenue, Coronado’s main artery lined with shops and art galleries, heading to Tartine for coffee for the parents, and pastries for the kids.
Afternoons are spent throwing schedules to the wind and bike riding along the beachfront boardwalk. Then they hit the ocean for a day filled with building sandcastles and chasing the ocean waves. The 70 degree weather is a nice break from the Texas heat for Erin and her family. If they tire of beach days, it is a short ride on the ferry to get across the bay to Petco Park for some Padres Baseball.
Insiders Tip: Even if you don’t stay there, there are plenty of fun things to do at the historic Hotel del Coronado. Erin says her kids wake up early anyway, so they all put on their water shoes, grab a few buckets and head to the Del beach to catch sand crabs. First stop for some coffee, then head to the rocks, and while the tide is still low the kids really enjoying crabbing, while the grown-ups can catch a few moments soaking up the ocean views. Night attraction? You can reserve a private full-service beach fire pit out on the sand. Cuddling around the cozy beach bonfire, while the kids make s’mores always makes for a memorable last night on the island.
Safe travels and enjoy your summer from CWA!