The Valley of Fire was named for the magnificent 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstone. It is located in the Mojave Desert approximately 55 miles Northeast of the Las Vegas Strip. You can take a day trip from Las Vegas or stay a while longer. The park is open year-round and has numerous campsites equipped with shaded tables, grills and water. Winters are mild with temperatures ranging from freezing to 75 degrees. Summer temperature often exceed 100 degrees and vary significantly from day to night. So try to plan your trip accordingly during milder temperature months. Most attractions do meet a short distance hiking requirement, so summer temperatures can definitely cause dehydration and heat exhaustion. Make sure you bring plenty of water with you to keep yourself hydrated.
Price of Admission: $10 per vehicle.
Location: 29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, Nevada
Welcome to Mexico’s secret beach! Located off the coast of Puerto Vallarta.
Marieta Islands or Hidden Beach is a group of small uninhabited islands a few miles off the coast of Nayarit, Mexico. The Hidden Beach is rumored to be the result of deliberate bombings. In the 1960s, scientist Jacques Cousteau led a protest again harmful human activities on the islands. In 2005, the islands were finally classified as a national park, thus protecting it against any fishing, hunting or illegal human activity.
The Hidden Beach is invisible from the outside and is only accessible through a long cavernous opening that links the beach to the Pacific Ocean. During low tide, there is just enough overhead space between the water and the top of the cave, enabling swimmers to carefully swim through to access the beach.
There are only a few tour companies that the Mexican government allows to visit the Hidden beach. Upon arrival, the tour company’s permit is checked by the Coast Guard, who is stationed near the island. It is estimated that only 116 people are allowed to enter the Hidden beach per day without degrading the beach.
The entire tour takes approximately six hours. It begins at Puerto Vallarta; the boat ride to the Hidden Beach takes about one hour. During the months of December through March, you may be lucky enough to encounter humpback whales along the way. If the whales are active, your tour guide will usually stop the boat and make some time for whale watching. It is a spectacular scene to watch these beautiful whales breach the water, and we were fortunate enough to encounter two male humpback whales actively competing against each other. Small pods of spinner dolphins inhabit the area as well, so don’t be surprised if they pop up and make an appearance during your tour.
If you ever get the chance to go, here are a few need-to-know tips:
Schedule a tour that allows you to actually step inside the Hidden beach. There are some tours that may say ‘Marietas Island Tour’, but the boat only circles around the island.
You must be a good swimmer. The only way to reach the island is to swim. You are not allow to hike from the top of the island. There is about 100 yards of swimming required. You will pass through a partially submerged cave where you may have to swim under water.
You only have approximately 20 minutes to spend at the beach, so take it in and enjoy it as much as you can.
Price per person is approximately $70. The tour usually includes speed boat ride, entry to the island, snorkeling time around the island, and whale watching.
Today we got to experience one of the island’s most popular attractions: The Stingray Encounter. Grand Cayman is one of only a few islands in the Caribbean that offers this unique adventure. So if you ever take a trip to Grand Cayman, make sure you don’t miss this exhilarating opportunity.
Stingray City is located offshore of Rum Point, Grand Cayman. It is a sandbar that is situated in 3-foot shallow waters 4 kilometers offshore. At the edge of the sandbar, the water reaches a depth of about 10 feet, which is perfect for snorkeling with the wildlife that thrives within the barrier reefs.
The tour takes you on a 25 minute boat ride through the clear turquoise water on the way to the shallow sandbar. Our tour guide briefed us on a few important safety guidelines prior to getting off the boat. The southern stingrays swimming in these waters can grow up to 6.5 feet in diameter. The stingrays have a flat, diamond-shaped body, and a serrated barbed tail.
The stingrays were larger than we were expecting, which scared a few people. A few of the tour participants changed their minds once they saw the size of the stingrays; they decided to sit back and simply observe as part of the group jumped right in to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To ease the rest of the group’s collective anxiety, one of our tour guides touched the barbed-tail of the stingray to show us how harmless these creatures are if you follow the proper safety protocol. And it worked. Most of the remaining group was then ready to enter the water.
As soon as we got off the boat, the stingrays began to glide around us. At times, multiple stingrays would simultaneously swim around us in an inquisitive, yet playful manner. It was a bit scary at first, but the fear quickly transformed into excitement.
Kiss a stingray gives you 7 years of good luck.
The experience was awesome and given the opportunity, I would certainly do it again. If you ever decide to embark on this adventure, there are a few key points to keep in mind before you take the plunge.
Tip #1: If you decide to join in on the tour’s opportunity to feed the sting rays, make sure you hold the frozen squid like you would an ice cream cone. As the stingray glides over your hand, you will feel a sucking motion as the squid disappears from your grip.
Stingray Back Rub
Tip #2: Choose a tour operator that caters to smaller groups. Fewer people means more time to interact with the stingrays. We were lucky enough to book a tour with only a few people on our boat, yet we saw a few other tour boats with almost 40 people.
Tip #3: Do not touch the barbed tail. This can trigger the stingray to go into defensive mode and you run the risk of becoming injured. While stings from its barbed-tail are rare, they do have the potential to be fatal in some cases.
Tip #4: Shuffle your feet as you walk through the sand. There will be multiple stingrays of all sizes swimming around you; make sure you do not step on them. This is really the most important thing to keep in mind. Avoid stepping on the barbed tail, and the experience is perfectly safe.
Location: Sting Ray City, Grand Cayman Island
Price: Approximately $40 per person. Prices may vary depending on your tour company and the features of the tour (food, drinks, hotel pickup & drop off, etc.)
Tour Frequency/Length: Boats leave twice a day. The tour is approximately 3 hours.
What about you? Is swimming with a stingray on your bucket list?
See you on our next adventure…until then, happy travels!
Las Vegas: Party Capital of the World! OK, so for those who know us, we are not truly party people; however, with some good company, we don’t mind sitting at a lounge and having a drink or two. That’s what makes Vegas perfect for everyone. Las Vegas is not only a place to party, but it is a wonderfully diverse setting offering creative architecture, breath-taking natural terrain, and seemingly endless retail shopping and sight-seeing. Here is a list of several reasons to pack your suitcase and head out for a weekend in Las Vegas.
How awesome is that view from the 52nd floor of the Cosmopolitan Hotel?
10 Fun Things to Do in Vegas
1. Ride the High Roller
View Las Vegas from the world’s tallest and largest observation wheel. Rise 550 feet high above the Strip while taking in the incredible 360 degree views of the city. There are 28 surprisingly spacious cabins each with a capacity to hold 40 passengers. Fortunately, at the time we went, we were able to get a cabin all to ourselves. The ride lasts approximately 30 minutes, giving you plenty of time to snap some great photos.
TIP #1: Groupon is offering discounted tickets until January 2, 2018. Click here for the link.
TIP #2: If you know someone who works on the Strip, ask them for tickets. Employees receive 4 free tickets to ride the High Roller. We were lucky enough to meet a friendly Casino employee while in line at the High Roller and he graciously offered us free tickets.
Location: The Linq Hotel & Casino
Price of Admission: $35 dollars per person
Hours of Operation: 11:00 am – 2:00 am 7 days a week
2. Eat at a Buffet
Vegas is famous for its colossal buffets and most major hotels offer one all day long. We opted to try the Wynn Buffet due to its high reviews. The Buffet at Wynn Hotel was recently voted the “Best Buffet” in Las Vegas by the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association. Wynn Hotel also happens to be one of our favorite hotels in Vegas; it is beautifully designed, with an elegant attention to detail.
The Buffet has 15 stations and over 120 dishes from all over the world. So no matter what cuisine you are craving, you can almost guarantee they will have a dish to satisfy your palette.
Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday: Breakfast 7:30 – 11 am/Lunch 11 am – 3:30 pm/Dinner 3:30 – 9:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday: Brunch 7:30 am – 3:30 pm/ Dinner 3:30 pm – 9:30 pm
3. Walk the Strip
The best way to see Vegas is to walk the strip. The Strip is a little over 4 miles long. It is pedestrian-friendly with many shops, restaurants, and free attractions along the way.
Here are a few things to experience along the way:
Watch the Fountain at the Bellagio Hotel
Visit the Bellagio Conservatory
Watch the Volcano Show at Mirage Hotel
Visit the million-dollar floral carousel display at the Wynn Hotel
Tip #1: Wear comfortable shoes.
Tip #2: Stay hydrated to avoid heat exhaustion. Vegas is situated in the middle of the desert, so the weather gets extremely hot during the summer months.
4. Visit the Grand Canyon Skywalk
The Grand Canyon. This is the one absolute must-see when taking a trip to Vegas. The Grand Canyon West Rim is approximately 2.5 hours drive from Vegas, and it is well worth the drive.
Location: Grand Canyon West. Hualapai Indian Tribe.
Address: West Rim Trail, Grand Canyon Village, Arizona 86023
Price of Admission: Legacy Gold Pass | $79.00 per person
This package includes your admission and the following:
Skywalk ticket to walk on the glass bridge
Official Hualapai visitation certificate
Photo opportunities with Hualapai tribal members
Hop-on/hop-off shuttle to all viewpoints, including Hualapai Ranch, Eagle Point, and Guano Point
5. Minus 5 Degrees Ice Bar
This is probably the best way to beat the desert heat while in Vegas. Minus 5 Degrees Ice Bar is a sub-freezing indoor bar with walls, furniture, sculptures, and even drinking glasses all made from ice.
Tip: Groupon is offering a discounted price for 2 until August 27, 2017. Click here for the link.
6. SkyFall Bar and Lounge
If you want the best view of the Vegas Strip, Skyfall is the place to be. It is located on the 64th floor of the Delano Hotel. The lounge has its own dedicated elevator so getting up to the lounge is quick and easy. While the main attraction of SkyFall is clearly the absolutely stunning view, the lounge also serves a nice array of specialty beverages, cocktails, beers, wine, and appetizers. The price of drinks and appetizers is relatively budget-friendly for Vegas, making the experience that much better. We like to arrive just before dusk to watch as the sun begins to set over Vegas, transforming the desert sky into an almost hypnotic display of red, yellow, orange and blue hovering above the mountain tops.
The Bellagio Fountain is probably one of the most famous landmarks in Las Vegas. One cannot go to Vegas and miss this spectacular attraction. It’s a free show. It’s marvelous. It moves with the music. You have to go see it for yourself. Enough said!
Monday – Friday
3:00 pm – 8:00 pm : Every 30 minutes.
8 pm – Midnight: Every 15 minutes.
Saturdays (and Holidays)
Noon – 8:00 pm : Every 30 minutes.
8 pm – Midnight: Every 15 minutes.
11:00 am – 7:00 pm : Every 30 minutes.
7:00 pm – Midnight: Every 15 minutes.
Here’s a video of the Bellagio Fountain, recorded from our balcony at the Cosmopolitan Hotel:
8. Visit Valley of Fire National Park
Valley of Fire was named for the magnificent 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstone. It is located in the Mojave Desert, approximately 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Valley of Fire is the oldest Nevada State Park and was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1968. The park is open year-round and has numerous campsites, equipped with shaded tables, grills and drinking fountains.
Winters are mild, with temperatures ranging from just below freezing to 75 degrees. Summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees, but vary significantly from day to night. So try to plan your trip accordingly during milder temperature months. Most attractions at Valley of Fire require a short hike, so summer temperatures can definitely make dehydration and heat exhaustion a concern. And if you have ever been told that the heat in this part of the country is a “dry heat”, this is a bit misleading. While it may be dry, these are some of the most scorching hot temperatures anywhere in the nation. This heat can certainly pose some health risks, so take precautions and plan accordingly.
Tip#1: Wear light clothing.
Tip #2: Keep hydrated.
Tip #3: Wear comfortable shoes.
Price of Admission: $10 per vehicle.
Location: 29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, Nevada
9. Eat at Morimoto Restaurant
One thing Vegas is well-known for is the food scene. There are cuisines featured from all around the world. Numerous celebrity chefs have also established restaurants here. So Vegas is the perfect place to authenticate that mouth-watering dish you saw on television. Sushi is one of our favorite cuisines, so we chose to make reservations at Masaharu Morimoto’s restaurant located in the MGM Grand. The restaurant is only open for dinner, so try to make reservations in order to avoid missing your chance; nonetheless, walk-ins are always welcome!
So, how it did it measure up? The food was fresh, fun, and incredibly delicious; the presentation was absolutely stunning! Morimoto, you are a creative genius!
Location: MGM Grand Hotel
10. Ride the Gondola at the Venetian Hotel
You no longer have to take a trip to Venice to experience a Venice gondola ride; the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas offers indoor and outdoor authentic gondola rides down the Grand Canal. Escape from the bustling environment of Las Vegas and float beneath the Venetian bridges and balconies, alongside cafes and shops, and through the vibrant streets with your singing gondolier.
Location: Venetian Hotel
Gondola Ride Price: Shared (Seats 4): $29.00 per person // Private (For 2): $116.00
Hours of Operation:
Indoor: Sunday – Thursday: 10:00 am – 11:00 pm // Friday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 12:00 am
Outdoor: Daily: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
There you have it. There’s tons of reasons to visit Vegas. I would certainly go, with a plan in hand, or on a whim. With Vegas, it just doesn’t matter. You will have fun no matter what.
Hope you enjoyed reading and see you on our next trip!