Category Archives: Travel

SUP Mexico: Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa

It was the best way to put a wrap on the coldest, snowiest winter I have ever experienced. We watched all the YOUTUBE videos on how to pack a board, flew to Puerto Vallarta and drove a cool Nissan surf truck from Gecko car rentals to our resort – The Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort and Spa. Surprises and adventures beyond our imagination awaited. Most importantly – it was the people that added so much to the experience.

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Let’s begin with the waves! After all, that’s what we came for. Day one dawned and we peeked out from our ocean view balcony to the break called Burros just to the left of the more protected swimming beach in from of the Palladium. The little jutting out of land you see on the map is where the adult infinity pool and the friendliest bar you’d ever want to find is located. Burros was a solid 8 feet with occasion much larger sets rolling. No, you’re right, we had no business going out that day – but the water was warm and we were excited. Both Ed and I got some sweet lefts (the locals sort of owned the rights) – and we also got worked. It was a LOT of fun and adrenaline laced adventure. Yes, we did relax with a tropical drink afterward.  The team at the beach shack where you can borrow boogie boards, surf boards and SUP boards were amazing. Led by Eder and Elvin, each was knowledgeable and friendly – really added to the experience.

The next day we opted for a less challenging break so we drove in to Punta Mita to try the Anclote break. Holy cow, what a day! The consistent chest high, glassy rights were uncrowded and beyond fun.  To access the beach you can park then walk through the alley near the Cinco Hotel or (surprisingly) right through the El Coral restaurant! Water shoes can help, the shore is rocky and there are sea urchins. Once you get out to the break there is plenty of water. Long rights and an easy paddle out await – it was heaven.  (Photo credit and so much gratitude for the adventure – Dennis Oliphant)

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This ride will go “into the mind’s eye images” bank. As I am about to turn 68, this will inspire me.

Each day brought a slight change in the swell – we enjoyed the break to the far right (from the map perspective) of Burros, in front of a sweet sandy beach. This day the swell was more chest to head high and came in definite sets so the paddle out was easy. There is a channel at surfer’s left of the break, so we’d paddle out there but line up to catch our waves in front of a shoreline rocky ledge. They only thing that will bring you back to shore is the out-going tide – and the thought of lunch at the Palladium.

Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa - junior suite_5Did I mention that in addition to fresh, clean rooms cared for by an incredible, friendly staff, the resort is all inclusive. We chose to visit the buffet (you do need to practice restraint) for breakfast and lunch. You can be as healthy or decadent as you wish. Egg white omelets to an expanse of fresh baked treats, or every sort of Mexican traditional delight you could ask for are there for you. Top quality yumminess and – again – friendly and attentive staff. After a strenuous morning surf session I leaped for the home baked pizza with a light and crisp crust – and a beer – most days for lunch. Salad? Yup, from fresh fruit of every kind to greens and veggies you will be happy.

We spent off water time taking long beach walks. We loved the area to the northwest of the Palladium the best. Huge cracks and fissures in the shoreline rock ledges created openings for the swells large and small to crash and spray with azure and white beauty. Tide pools large and small were host to all sorts of little critters and fish – and yes, sea urchins. Be aware.

(SIDEBAR: When you surf and play and beach explore in the wonderful sunny heat in Punta Mita you will get thirsty. One of the most wonderful aspects of what is available at the The Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort and Spa is the ever available filtered water. Whether it is cold bottled water in the all-inclusive refrigerator in every room to the cool pitchers of water offered at every meal, quench your thirst without concern about water. In addition, the filtered water ice is clear and plentiful).

It always happened that we arrived at dinner starving – and we were not disappointed. We chose to download the Palladium app so that it was easy to reserve at one of the ala carte restaurants each evening. Our favorites were Bambu, an oriental themed spot, and PortFino, which had a great selection of Italian cuisine. The Mexican restaurant perched high on the bluff had inside and outside dining choices and a magnificent view of the break at Burros.

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Above the pools and on the bluff is the Mexican Restaurant

While we enjoyed the food, again, it was the the people that made the experience. For example, we didn’t order sushi our first night at Bambu. Oh my, our waiter, Francisco, was devastated. “Ramon is a master sushi chef, please, you must try his chef special.” So we did. We were not disappointed. Ramon created a beautiful plate with three varieties of sushi, all light, fresh and delicious. And Ramon visited our table to see how we liked it – and we did. His grin could light up a room. Needless to say we returned often.

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The blue area on the right side is the adult-only infinity pool for relaxing ocean watching

After dinner a walk was always needed. From exploring the vast property or strolling the beach with a fresh drink, we passed the time until the 9 PM POP (people of Palladium) show. Talent to the max – we enjoyed each show, different every night. It was obvious that “People of Palladium” have a mission to create a great experience for us all.

No story about our Punta Mita experience would be complete without mention of the unique service and team at Gecko car rental. We were collected at the airport with VIP service with boards and bags quickly loaded into an air conditioned van for the 20 minute ride to the Gecko office. In no time our boards were on the truck – and we were handed a book. Little did we know how valuable that book would be. It was the most comprehensive and well-written guide to an area I have ever used. truck

In addition, we had trouble with a sensor light (the truck was new and the sensors were finicky). In no time a driver from gecko met us at our hotel with a different truck – no problem at all. Smiles ruled the day.

 

Lake Powell Paddleboards: Bucket List to Wonder List

imageIt’s a tried and true, well-known aspiration – let’s see, do, experience or visit (fill in the blank) and check it off our “bucket list.” Ed and I headed to Lake Powell with our Starboard inflatable touring boards and a bucket list- slot canyon paddling experience in mind. Fortunately we had contacted Joe and Jordan at Lake Powell Paddleboards beforehand to schedule a one-day private trip.

img_0980From the first moment we walked into their shop we knew that Joe and Jordan had created a very special culture and vibe in Page, Arizona. The store was built out of a number of shipping containers, paneled with wood reclaimed from pallets and insulated with environmentally sound materials.

The photos just begin to tell the story.  Joe (behind the counter) is under a custom painted board, just one of many unique, one-of-a-kind objects and posters that tell the story of connection with community and water-athletes.

 

After falling spontaneously in love with the canyons and waters that make Lake Powell, they made a move based from their heart and a passion for standup paddling. Check out their website often. While they have an incredible service-based operation now – they envision so much more Lake Powell exploration and coolness coming in 2017.

img_0998We were so lucky to grab the last full-day adventure of their season. After a long and  busy spring-summer, Joe told us to be at the marina at 6:30 am because the beauty and glassiness of the water is prime at sunrise. No burn out or fatigue from Joe after all those busy weeks – he was no less in awe of the oranges that welcomed our day or the full moon setting as we hopped on the boat.img_0999

We got a “whack on the side of the head” from a day that turned all expectation on its ear. The best words I can use to describe the energy and magic that Joe and the team at Lake Powell Paddleboards brought to the experience are “a sense of wonder.” That and an absolute respect and love for Lake Powell.

We hadn’t motored 100 yards before Joe pulled out a fish net and picked up a floating bag of chips that apparently blew off a boat.  There was very little litter but he nabbed the few we saw. Not a word was said, but the respect was evident. And the “talk story” continued without a hiccup. We learned so much – what a day!

Our destination for the day was Labyrinth Canyon, a spot we could have reached in maybe a third of the time if we zoomed over with a focus on “arriving.” That’s not the experience we got – and for that we were beyond grateful. We meandered up river and learned the names of landmarks and formations along the way.  Boundary Butte and Dominguez Butte became familiar, as did Navajo Rock, Tower Rock and Gunsight. Joe shared so much insight about the water, the rocks, geology and canyons.img_1012

More than what we learned, we connected to the energy and awe in the magnificence of where we were.  Joe couldn’t hide   his enthusiasm if he wanted to.

We arrived as the solitary adventurers at the mouth of Labyrinth Canyon and secured the boat on the sand.

img_1013Yippee! It was paddle time. We got on our Riviera Voyager 12’6″ boards (awesome tracking and glide) and began the paddle into the canyon that became more narrow, incredible and “full of wonder” as we went. Maybe 2 miles into the canyon and it narrowed. The water ended at a small beach with a path that wound into the canyon ahead.

We left the boards and donned water shoes for what would be the most unexpected, amazing experience – again – instilling us with a child-like sense of “WOW!” that increased with every step.

The photos barely do justice to the texture, colors, ever-changing light and shadow. The vibration of the ages seemed to radiate from the twisting and turning serpentine hallways of ancient stone. image

At one point the air filled with a low thumping sound. We looked up and saw a Great Horned Owl swoop up then land on the canyon wall just overhead. As curious about us as we were about him, we enjoyed several minutes of shared stares. What a bonus.

Back to the water we began our paddle out of the more narrow canyon slots to the wider areas where the wind had picked up a bit.  With maybe 500 images captured by our cameras we were still remarking at every turn – “amazing!!!

imageAs we began our journey back to the dock enjoying lunch and “talk story” time we fully expected Joe to be more than ready to close down this final guided trip of the season. Not so. He had a few other spots to share.  We came around one rock outcropping to see a section of sky and clouds that dazzled.

Joe had seen the shot and let us snap more photos. At another area the water was more shades of absolutely clear blues and greens than you could imagine. Yes, it was October, but the day was warm, sunny and we had to leap in.img_1010

As we docked the boat at the end of the trip we knew this was not just a bucket list experience. We had a different spirit of wonder, a deeper respect for the area. Suddenly we wished for more time. You can schedule a multi-day guided experience for you and your friends and family. Don’t miss out.

You may be able to take a guided standup paddle trip in many different beautiful places. But if you are ever in the vicinity of  Lake Powell  don’t miss the chance to gain that kid-like grin, the custom experience and the customer service expertise that comes with a special discovery – Lake Powell Paddleboards.