Category Archives: Caribbean Travel

San Pancho

San Pancho

 

San Pancho is a cool, laid back town on the Nayarit coast of Mexico.   Isla Mujeres had been my fav chill place in Mexico until this past week in San Pancho.   I’ll let my photos below tell the story of San Pancho.  But do yourself a favor.  Check it out.  Unless all-inclusives are your deal.  Then don’t.   But if you love laid back places, great restaurants with a chill vibe, with locals who are friendly despite our often hateful rhetoric about Mexico, then visit San Pancho.

 

If you’re looking for an amazing place to stay in San Pancho, check out Vista Celeste. The owners are great people and all about providing the perfect place to relax and experience San Pancho.   It’s less than an hour ride from the Puerta Vallarta airport.

 

The sunsets were spectacular. For a small village, it seemed like half the people were sitting on the beach, taking in the sunset. Mt kind of people.

The sunsets were spectacular. For a small village, it seemed like half the people were sitting on the beach, taking in the sunset. My kind of people.

We mostly had the beach to ourselves.

We mostly had the beach to ourselves.

This lady was meditating every morning we were there. a nice reminder.

This lady was meditating every morning we were there. A nice reminder for me.

Killer beach scene. Friendly dogs, awesome locals, and not a spring break type American in sight. Heaven.

Killer beach scene. Friendly dogs, awesome locals, and not a spring break type American in sight. Heaven.

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San Pancho is the Un-Cancun.

San Pancho is the Un-Cancun.

Coconut dog!

Coconut dog!

Headed down main street.

Headed down main street.

For a small village, San Pancho has a great restaurant scene. We had a tasty lunch at a taqueria for a total of $4 and I think the most we spent was $40 for an awesome seafood dinner and drinks.

For a small village, San Pancho has a great restaurant scene. We had a tasty lunch at a taqueria for a total of $4 and I think the most we spent was $40 for an awesome seafood dinner and drinks.

...and cool coffee shops.

…and cool coffee shops.

And tolerant locals given the vitriol directed their way during our election.

And tolerant locals given the vitriol directed their way during our election.

The grocery store.

The grocery store.

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A huge Thank You to my friends Denice and Nils for hooking us up with their amazing vacation home in San Pancho. Killer views of the beach just fifty meters away to take in the sunsets. And a pool we struggled to pull ourselves away from.

A huge Thank You to my friends Denice and Nils for hooking us up with their amazing vacation home in San Pancho. Killer views of the beach just fifty meters away to take in the sunsets. And a pool we struggled to pull ourselves away from.  It was perfect.

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This was pretty much sunset every night.

This was pretty much sunset every night.

Headed home.

Headed home.

 

 

Travel Reflections

Travel Reflections

 

Turning 50 seems like a great time to recommend some of my favorite places and share a few travel reflections and some lessons learned from my travels.

 

Here’s my number one travel tip:  travel as light as you possibly can.  Go with just a carryon.  I’m down to 20 liter backpack that weighs less than 8 kilograms when it’s fully loaded that will fit in the small overhead bins of  the regional airlines.    As a good friend told me years ago, all you really need to travel is your passport, a credit card and a little cash.  I’d add that you must have a camera, too.  But I’m a photographer : )    Here is a little known secret: other countries have washing machines and dryers.  Better yet, drop it off at a full service laundry and pick it up the next day.  All you really need is enough clothes for a week or so no matter how long your trip is.   Having a bunch of luggage with you is like carrying a millstone with you on your travels.  Be free!

 

Favorite completely touristy thing I love to do in Paris:

Climbing the Tower of Notre Dame in Paris.   Something amazing climbing up stone steps that are worn down by 500 years of foot falls.   And the view?  Stunning.   I do this every time I'm in Paris.

Climbing the Tower of Notre Dame in Paris. Something amazing about climbing up stone steps that are worn down by 500 years of foot falls. And the view? Stunning. I do this every time I’m in Paris.

 

 

Most Important Travel Lesson Learned…

Don't let the wine run out!

…don’t let the wine run out!

 

 

You can work out anywhere!

Even in the jungle in the middle of nowhere in Haiti!

Even in the jungle in the middle of nowhere in Haiti!

 

 

The best part of the journey is often just relaxing and taking it easy.

My buddy Tim shot this of me relaxing during our backpacking trip in Glacier National Park.

My buddy Tim shot this of me during our backpacking trip in Glacier National Park.

 

 

My favorite place in the world is still the North Shore on Kauai.  

Hanalei Bay, Kauai.  The incredible hiking, snorkeling, awesome beaches, and laid back vibe make the North Shore of Kauai a pretty amazing place.   And no snakes...did I mention no snakes?

Hanalei Bay, Kauai. The incredible hiking, snorkeling, awesome beaches, and laid back vibe make the North Shore of Kauai a pretty amazing place. And no snakes…did I mention no snakes?

 

 

Teenagers are similar the world over.

Hmong girls checking Facebook in Sapa, Vietnam.

Hmong girls checking Facebook in Sapa, Vietnam.

 

 

Havana is the best place to experience a time warp.

All the American cars from the 1950's make for a surreal vibe in Havana.   Cuba is one of my favorite places to visit for the photography, the people, and laid back vibe.

All the American cars from the 1950’s make for a surreal vibe in Havana. Cuba is one of my favorite places to visit for the photography, the people, and laid back vibe.

 

 

Angkor Wat in Cambodia is the most surreal place I’ve visited.

If I had to recommend just one place in SE Asia to visit, it would be Angkor Wat.  The ruins are amazing.

If I had to recommend just one place in SE Asia to visit, it would be Angkor Wat. The ruins are amazing. And if you get started before sunrise, you can beat the crowds to the outlying ruins.

 

 

But if you want to watch the sunrise over the main temple at Angkor Wat, you may have company.

I hate crowds but it was actually kinda cool being with so many people excited to take the same photo.

I hate crowds but it was actually kinda cool being with so many people excited to take the same photo.

 

 

Venice is the best city in the world to get lost in.

Even when Venice is crazy busy with tourists from the cruise ships, you can take a turn off the main streets, take another turn, and it'll just be you and the locals.  Stay lost for a few hours.  And when you're ready to get back to your hotel, just ask a local for directions.  Or better yet, flag down a water taxi.

Even when Venice is crazy busy with tourists from the cruise ships, you can take a turn off the main streets, take another turn, and it’ll just be you and the locals. Stay lost for a few hours. And when you’re ready to get back to your hotel, just ask a local for directions. Or better yet, flag down a water taxi.

 

 

This is what D Day and WWII are about for me…

...a French child flying his kite on one of the D Day beaches.

…a French child flying his kite on one of the D Day beaches.

 

 

The best gift I give myself before I travel is learning just a bit of the local language.

I met these two ladies in Moduli Village in Tanzania.  They got a kick out of my attempts at speaking Swahili.  And I got a cool photo I wouldn't have gotten if I'd been speaking English.

I met these two ladies in Moduli Village in Tanzania. They got a kick out of my attempts at speaking Swahili. And I got a cool photo I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d been speaking English.

 

 

“Strange Days is playing on the jukebox, the Amsterdam bar cat is waiting and the beer is great…where are you?”   This was the message letting me know my kids had arrived in the Netherlands and were inviting me to hang out at a local bar they’d found.   Evenings like that are the reason I travel.  The perfect moment you can’t possibly plan.

The Amsterdam bar cat.

The Amsterdam bar cat.

 

 

And the Honfluer collie…

Not as compelling as the Amsterdam Bar Cat but what a cute collie.

I shot this in Honfleur, France last year.

 

 

Cinque Terra – my fav place in Europe to hike, eat amazing food, drink tasty wine and relax.

Vernazza was my favorite village in Cinque Terra.   It's the perfect base to hike to other villages.

Vernazza was my favorite village in Cinque Terra. It’s the perfect base to hike to other villages. And if you have too much wine with lunch, you can just hop on a train back to Vernazza.

 

 

Hallstatt is the Austrian version of Cinque Terra.    Which means it’s cleaner and more orderly and the beer is awesome.  But the wine and food…well, it’s not Italy.   The train ride from Salzburg to Hallstatt is stunning and the hiking above the village is steep and beautiful.

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

 

 

Favorite National Parks.   Yellowstone and Grand Teton are my favorite national parks.  Killer mountains, grizzly bears, buffalo, wolves…no shortage of reasons to love YNP and GTNP.   YNP can be crazy in the summer but once you’re a few miles into the backcountry there is plenty of solitude.   And as stunning as GTNP is, it gets only a fraction of the visitors as it’s neighbor to the north.

Mustang  in the Grand Tetons.

Mustang in the Grand Tetons.

 

 

Elephants are amazing…

...and volunteering at Elephants World in Kanchanabari, Thailand was a wonderful experience.

…and volunteering at Elephants World in Kanchanabari, Thailand was a wonderful experience.

 

 

An African safari is even more amazing than you might imagine.

I was shooting a non-profit in Tanzania and I almost didn't go on a safari because I was so focused on the work.  I'm glad I did it.  Nothing like flying into the Serengeti and seeing elephants and giraffes below us.  And lions and tigers, oh my!

I was shooting for a non-profit in Tanzania and I almost didn’t go on a safari because I was so focused on the work. I’m glad I did it. Nothing like flying into the Serengeti and seeing elephants and giraffes below us. And lions and tigers, oh my!

 

 

St John is the best Caribbean island for snorkeling, hiking and killer beaches!

Kauai is still my fav island in the world but it's tough to beat St John's combination of perfect powdery sandy beaches, hiking and snorkeling.

Kauai is still my fav island in the world but it’s tough to beat St John’s combination of perfect powdery sandy beaches, hiking and snorkeling.

 

As much as I love to travel, it’s tough to beat Colorado in the summer!

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my fav places in Colorado for hiking!

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my fav places in Colorado for hiking!

 

Also posted in Africa Travel, Asia, Europe Travel, Humanitarian, USA Travel

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres

 

I shouldn’t love Isla Mujeres.  There’s not any hiking.  There aren’t any long stretches of isolated beaches.   Locals are trying to sell you stuff when you walk through town.  It’s a tiny island.  Less than 700 meters wide at it’s widest.  And it can’t be more than four miles long.   So there not much exploring to be done.  But I absolutely love Isla.  It was the ideal place to spend a week relaxing on our way back home from Cuba.

 

Isla Mujeres is the perfect, do nothing, lay on the beach vacation.  And there are 15-20 great restaurants, most of them located in the historic old town.  Another plus for Isla is there is no need for a car.  Get off the ferry.  Walk to your hotel.  And then just walk from your hotel to the beach.  From the beach to a restaurant.  Go take a nap.  Grab a few beers and walk back to the beach to watch the sun set.  Repeat daily.

 

Getting there is easy.  Fly into Cancun and take the twenty minute ferry ride from Gran Puerto in Cancun to Isla.   Ferries run every thirty minutes and only take about twenty minutes to reach Isla Mujeres.

 

I recommend staying on or near Playa Norte.  It’s the best beach on the island and most of the great restaurants are within an easy walk.  And no need to ever rent a golf cart or take a taxi.   We’ve stayed at different places on all four of our visits but our current fav is Elements of the Island.  They have three studio apartments and the best breakfast place on Isla is right there, too.  And they have yoga classes on the rooftop deck.

 

A part of my soul will always be in Hawaii, but Isla, you are a pretty awesome respite.

 

Don't drop the camera, don't drop the camera...

Don’t drop the camera, don’t drop the camera…

Love on the Malecon.

Love on the Malecon.

The beachs on Isla Mujeres have that perfect Caribbean sand.

The beachs on Isla Mujeres have that perfect Caribbean sand.

The sunsets are pretty awesome.

The sunsets are pretty awesome.

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Woof!

Woof!

I love the chill vibe on Isla Mujeres.  A mom playing with her kid while working at a store.  Why not?

I love the chill vibe on Isla Mujeres. A mom playing with her kid while working at a store. Why not?

Even when it's a downpour, Isla rocks.  Mogogua is our fav coffee shop to chill out in.

Even when it’s a downpour, Isla rocks. Mogogua is our fav coffee shop to chill out in.

Mural Cat.   Isla is covered with tons of awesome murals.

Mural Cat. Isla is covered with tons of awesome murals.

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I love the illusion that the peacock is standing on the motorcycle.

I love the illusion that the peacock is standing on the motorcycle.

I've always loved this mural of Che.  But it wasn't a cool photo until I could add a human element connecting with the mural.

I’ve always loved this mural of Che. But it wasn’t a cool photo until I could add a human element connecting with the mural.

isla-mujeres-sisteenisla-mujeres-twoisla-mujeres-three

Sunset on the Malecon on Isla Mujeres.

Sunset on the Malecon on Isla Mujeres.

The Malecon, Havana

The Malecon, Havana

 

The Malecon, Havana was one of my favorite places to hang out in Cuba.   Especially at night.  It’s a great vibe with people hanging out, walking their dogs, drinking a beer…  And it’s just a great place to meet Cubans.   The Malecon is an eight kilometer esplanade  in Havana that runs along Havana Bay.   If you’re looking for laid back Havana, this is it.   The Malecon was one of the places in Havana I was most looking forward to seeing.  To go for morning run along the Malecon in Havana was recurring thought as I planned the trip.   Partly because the Malecon is synonymous with Havana.  I’m sure there are hundreds of malecons in the world but google the word “malecon” and the first three results are of the Malecon in Havana.   It is Havana at it’s most relaxed.

 

I’d recommend staying near the Malecon and Havana Vieja.  The casa particular we stayed in was just a few blocks from the Malecon so I went for a run or walk along Havana Bay almost every morning.   And then Havana Vieja was a short walk away.   Havana Vieja is the old quarter of Havana and it’s a Unesco World Heritage Site.

 

Most of the images were shot with the Fuji X100T.   A few were shot with the Sony X1ooIII.   The Sony is the camera I most often recommend for travelers looking for a pocketable camera.  It has great files and smoking fast autofocus.

 

Cruising along the Malecon.

Cruising along the Malecon.

The architecture along the Malecon was amazing.

The architecture along the Malecon was amazing.

Life along the Malecon.

Life along the Malecon.

Locals taking in the view.

Locals taking in the view.

malecon-havana-seven

The Malecon was the place to relax in Havana.

The Malecon was the place to relax in Havana.

Making friends on the Malecon.

Making friends on the Malecon.

Fisherman headed home.

Fisherman headed home.

Sunset fishing.

Sunset fishing.

Sunset on the Malecon, Havana.

Sunset on the Malecon, Havana.

 

Also posted in Cuba