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!