Category Archives: Nature

The Picture-Perfect Beaches of Puerto Rico

Yo sé lo que son los encantos
De mi borinquen hermosa
Por eso la quiero yo tanto
Por siempre la llamaré Preciosa

-“Preciosa,” Rafael Hernandez

Marc Anthony’s rendition of the song, “Preciosa,” a love song to the island of Puerto Rico, still gives me goosebumps. If you ever want to know why I love the beach so much, all you need to know is, it’s in my blood. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, I always have been and always will be most at home near the ocean.

Visiting my family on the island is a rare, special treat these days, but every time I go, I try to see someplace new. If you’ve never been, here’s some of what you’re missing out on: some of the world’s best beaches, three bioluminescent bays, the third largest cave system in the world, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, the world’s best food (I’m only a little biased), historic Spanish forts, lush green mountains with awesome hiking trails, tiny coquí frogs (our version of crickets at night), “coco, piña, parcha” ice cream at the beach, and so much more.

Our trip to PR in August 2016 was just what I needed — and by that, I mean, lots of beach time. Here are some highlights of our time at Cerro Gordo Beach, on Gilligan’s Island in Guánica, and on Vieques Island. If you’re looking for paradise-like beaches, read on!

1. Balneario Cerro Gordo

Located in Vega Alta, PR, about an hour west of San Juan along the northern coast, this is a government-run beach, part of the Parque Nacional de Cerro Gordo. We went on a Monday, so there were hardly any other people at the beach. I was excited to see the crystal clear and perfectly calm waters. My dad quickly found some palm trees from which to tie our two hammocks. (That’s one thing I love about PRican beaches — there are plenty of palm trees for shade and hammocks. You just have to watch out for falling coconuts!) Continue reading The Picture-Perfect Beaches of Puerto Rico

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6 Summer Things to Do in Northern Virginia

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here in Northern Virginia, it already feels like summer. The weather has been incredible. So, in the spirit of feeling like summer is just around the corner,  I’m going to share six of our favorite things we did last summer in the NoVa, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas.

1. Luray Caverns

We visited the Luray Caverns on Memorial Day weekend, which, sure enough, meant it was ridiculously crowded. We waited in line for about 1.5 hours! But I’ll tell you what — it was absolutely worth it. (By the way, on the same grounds, they have a garden maze, rope adventure park, snack bar, and train and toy collection, among other attractions, to keep you and the kids busy during the wait.)

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The Luray Caverns are a registered U.S. Natural Landmark, and the largest series of caverns in the eastern United States. To call them breathtaking would be an understatement. We have been spelunking and visited caves in other parts of the world, but the Luray Caverns are unlike any of them. Magical. Continue reading 6 Summer Things to Do in Northern Virginia

Shenandoah National Park: Scenic Views, Waterfalls & a Special Surprise

In honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, celebrated just a few days ago on Aug. 25, 2016.

I’m starting to fall in love with our National Parks. We’ve only been to a handful — Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion, Arches — but I don’t think I could ever get tired of them. So much to see! So little time. This past Memorial Day weekend, we added one more to our list: Shenandoah National Park, which spans 300 square miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the southern Appalachians.

We entered the park on the southern side through Skyline Drive, a scenic road that runs the entire length of the park. I had heard it’s a popular drive among motorcyclists — the road twists and turns for 105 miles, and there is no shortage of places to stop, rest, and soak in the magnificent views. In fact, there are 75 total overlooks!

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20160528_102525 Continue reading Shenandoah National Park: Scenic Views, Waterfalls & a Special Surprise

Strolling Among the Cherry Blossoms in DC

Last year, we were fortunate enough to be living in Asia during cherry blossom season. We saw the beautiful blooms in Seoul, Tokyo, and Osaka, along with the large, excited crowds that flocked to view and photograph them. We’re talking tripods and selfie sticks everywhere. But when you see them in person, it’s easy to understand why. The white and pink petals brighten up any landscape, as if straight out of a fairytale.

So when spring finally reared its head in Northern Virginia, we knew we needed to make the trip to Washington, D.C. to experience the short-lived cherry blossoms.

First, a little history on how these cherry blossoms even ended up in the United States. The existing 3,000 cherry trees arrived in D.C. in 1912, a gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo. (The first batch of 2,000 trees arrived diseased in 1910.) According to the National Cherry Blossom Festival website, “in a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.” The annual festival celebrates the lasting ties between both countries.

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I have to admit, we weren’t expecting much. After all, we’d seen “the real deal” in Japan — how could these possibly compare? I’m happy to say we were pleasantly surprised. We rode the motorcycle into D.C. to avoid any parking headaches, and made our way to the Tidal Basin, where we found eager throngs competing for the best photo ops. Continue reading Strolling Among the Cherry Blossoms in DC

Deserts, Mountains & Prairies: Our Cross-Country Road Trip

Now that it’s almost Christmas, I finally have some time to blog about our cross-country road trip back in September. (Life happens.) For those of you who haven’t seen our photos yet, picture this — Will, me and our cat riding in the snug cab of a 16-foot Penske truck housing all our belongings (including Will’s Harley), pulling a trailer with our car on it. This is how we made the move cross-country during a warm September. Why? Because, how could we not take the opportunity to explore America the Beautiful? Our move was the perfect excuse.

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We followed Interstate 70 for most of our journey from Los Angeles to Virginia. It took us 11 days, but only because we stopped for three or so days to visit Will’s family.

The weather was perfect, the cat behaved wonderfully (despite spending long hours in her carrier every day and being shuttled from one hotel room to another), and it was fascinating to see the landscape change from desert to endless prairies to verdant. If you’ve never driven cross-country, here are some of the highlights from our trip for you to consider checking out someday. Continue reading Deserts, Mountains & Prairies: Our Cross-Country Road Trip

Yosemite National Park – Our Last California Adventure

Quite a few things have happened since our travels across Southeast Asia. We finally returned to Los Angeles from living abroad and were just getting settled in and readjusting to life in America, when, several weeks later, we got news we would be moving to Virginia. Yes! On the move, again.

When you’ve lived somewhere for 10 years and then find out you’re moving in just a few weeks, reality hits. Wait, I haven’t done this! Or been there! Or seen that! Thankfully, we were able to check off a couple of sights before leaving SoCal. Can you believe I’d never been up to the Hollywood Sign? So we finally hiked up to the sign, starting at the Griffith Observatory trailhead. Check. Phew.

Hollywood Sign hike - you can either hike to the front of the sign, or behind it.
Hollywood Sign hike – you can either hike to the front of the sign, or behind it.
Hollywood Sign hike - finally!
Hollywood Sign hike – finally!

I wish I’d made more of an effort to visit the many national and state parks in California. One of our last weekends in LA in late August, we drove up to Yosemite National Park. Let me tell you — it may not have been peak waterfall season, but it was still absolutely breathtaking.

Our plan was to spend a full day there, including the four-hour drive up.  We headed straight into Yosemite Valley, where you can basically loop around multiple viewpoints and trailheads.  Once you drive through the park’s main entrance, you still have to drive another 45 minutes or so to get up to the valley. No complaints there.

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20150829_115448 Continue reading Yosemite National Park – Our Last California Adventure