Growing up on a tropical island, my image of beaches has always been that of coconut trees dotting the white sand shoreline, the harsh sun painting the sky a highly saturated blue, and a sweltering heat that makes the clear water a welcome respite.
That certainly wasn’t the case when we drive up to the beach at Carmel-by-the-Sea, a city in the Monterey Peninsula. For one, the group was balled up in sweaters for the late afternoon chill, and large cypress trees hold onto the last bits of soil before the grass gave way to the sand. Dogs were the only ones who dared going into the icy cold water—they cheerfully chase after the sticks their owners toss into the waves, shaking off the moisture as they bring their prized possession back for another go.
This was the kind of charm that permeated through the Monterey Peninsula, a row of cities that dotted this stretch of coast on Northern California. With its picturesque natural sights—including several hiking trails and a bay with thriving marine life—it’s the perfect escape from the frenzied days in the big cities.
PEBBLE BEACH AND 17-MILE DRIVE
A resort destination and a community with some affluent people in residence, Pebble Beach is a gated community that’s home to eight golf courses—courses that have some of the best views of the world—and the 17-Mile Drive. The scenic road requires a $10 toll fee, but it sure is worth it. Entering the gates lead you on a winding path through tall trees before running alongside the shore.
The 17-Mile Drive provides plenty of opportunities for photo ops, with markers and picnic tables to designate points of interest. Some of our favorites include the harbor seals at Fanshell Overlook, the rock formations at Point Joe (which we’re told is where many early mariners mistakenly crashed into the shore, thinking it was the entrance to Monterey Bay), and the rows of beautiful houses that overlook the shoreline—but the most notable would have to be The Lone Cypress. An iconic image in the region, the cypress has been growing on the graphite cliff for more than 200 years, and after being damaged in a fire, had to be reinforced with cables to help keep it in place. Standing over the thundering waves below, it’s a majestic sight that has become a symbol for Pebble beach.
MISSION SAN CARLOS BORROMEO DE CARMELO
Located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Mission San Carlos Borromeo was built by Franciscan missionaries—headed by St. Junipero Serra—in 1770. Listed as a US National Historic Landmark, it’s one of the oldest missions in California and still has its original bell tower. With its stone façade, clay tile roofs and surrounding foliage, the complex also houses a museum that chronicles the history of the mission and the area.
LOVER’S POINT PARK
If you’re lucky enough to be in the area during the spring, you can’t miss a visit to Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove. That’s when a section of the 4.4-acre stretch is in bloom, with pink and purple flora covering entire fields and some of the rock outcroppings. It’s a beautiful sight, and certain areas of the park are popular for weddings.
Sure, the famous one’s in San Francisco with its rows of restaurants and herds of tourists—but the one in Monterey Bay is quaint. The wooden pier is lined with charming store fronts, many of which offer a free taste of their clam chowder. A visit to the wharf is definitely not complete without the chowder, served in a sourdough bread bowl—hearty and warm, it’s the perfect companion in the chilly sea breeze.
The chowder is best enjoyed from the viewing deck at the end of the pier, which features views of the marina—yachts floating in their slips, and harbor seals lounging on the rocks jutting out of the water. Just make sure to hold on to your food, because the sea gulls flying overhead are all too eager to snatch it out of your hands.
MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM
Of all the places I’d visited in the Monterey Peninsula, the Monterey Bay Aquarium would have to be my favorite. Located at the end of Cannery Row, the aquarium has a number of sea creatures in residence—jellyfish, penguins, seahorses, and the most varied species of fish I’d ever seen in one place. It’s easy to lose an entire day in the establishment; the different sections have markers with all the information on each specie to satiate any curiosity. And if that weren’t enough, the aquarium’s staff are happy to answer any questions.
The Ocean’s Edge Wing is one of the best stops, a 28-foot high display that showcases marine life native to California. It houses the Kelp Forest, which was arranged to mimic how kelp grew naturally. The jellyfish exhibit is displayed in colorfully lit tanks, making the entire experience visually spectacular. Younger visitors love the Splash Zone, where there’s a petting pool and the penguin exhibit.
Make sure to spend some time by the Open Sea exhibit, which has the world’s largest single-paned window. With 1.2 million gallons of water, the tank has sardines, sea turtles and sharks. In fact, the aquarium has hosted several great white sharks temporarily—these were sharks caught in the bay and kept in observation before they are released back in the wild.
Popularized by the John Steinbeck novel about workers in the sardine canneries in the area, Cannery Row is now a major tourist destination. The former sardine canneries have been transformed to house restaurants, inns and gift shops, all of which enjoy views of Monterey Bay.
GARRAPATA STATE PARK
This climb is not for the faint of heart—and it’s a miracle I did it. Located south of Carmel, the 2,939-hectare park is a popular spot for hiking. The trail begins through dense foliage and some small streams, before the trees clear out into a steep meadow. From there, it’s a challenging two-hour hike to the top. The view, though, is definitely worth it. On a clear day, you can see the bay stretching out below, and on more overcast ones, the summit stands over what looks like a sea of clouds.
We made the hike at sunset, where the sun bathed the horizon in shades of orange and pink. Just make sure you have someone who knows the hike well if you do. The downhill hike is extra challenging in the dark.
For those a little wilder at heart, the Garrapata beach is a favorite for nude sunbathers.
With the cliffs lining its rugged coastline, Big Sur is unarguably one of the most beautiful drives you’ll ever take in your life. The Bixby Creek Bridge is a notable spot, its arch standing high over the ridge. Big Sur is also popular for camping and hiking, with many parks offering trails that enjoy spectacular views of the mountain and ocean—the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park with the picturesque McWay Falls, one of only two waterfalls in the Pacific Coast that fall directly into the ocean.
This is How the M.I.C.E. Alliance Initiative will Lift Boracay to New Heights
Leveling up Boracay in more ways than one
by Ryan Daniel R. Dablo
Saying the name “Boracay” instantly casts a spell, taking the listener to a daydream of immaculate, pale beaches, swaying palm trees, the music of breaking waves, and the vacation of a lifetime. The tropical island Eden is storied and renowned – a difficult enchantment to lift from any wayward tourist’s mind. But what if we were to tell you that Boracay is so much more? Can you build upon perfection? Yes, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is how.
After the difficulties of the past few years, the stage is finally set for a massive Boracay reboot. The creative gears turn once more, and this time they will catapult our favorite beach capital to new heights. The cornerstone of this renaissance is the M.I.C.E. Alliance initiative, short for meetings, incentives, conferences and conventions, and events and exhibitions. The establishment of the Boracay M.I.C.E. Alliance will allow focused efforts in creating sustainable and eco-sensitive tourism development projects while synergizing with stakeholders to create long-term solutions and opportunities for all partners. The alliance is set to drive awareness, readiness, and expansion of product offerings that will be crucial in making the island competitive with other M.I.C.E. destinations. Working closely with the Department of Tourism Region VI and the Tourism Promotions Board, the alliance is primed to provide support to the areas that are involved in this major undertaking.
No one is more emphatic than M.I.C.E. Alliance chairperson Cleofe Albiso in describing how the different sectors of Boracay are pivoting from tourism to tourism plus. In brief, Boracay is challenging its own boundaries to become not just the pre-eminent tourist destination but also a corporate and business mecca. Turns out, if a venue is grand enough to host a wedding, wouldn’t it be just as grand to host a white-collar conference? Sky’s the limit for possibilities like this. At this moment, the island is abuzz with networking and making connections, training and empowering the hospitality services, polishing the infrastructure, revving up the transportation facilities, and all-around gearing up to go toe-to-toe with other M.I.C.E. hubs and be worthy of the tagline, “the best place for M.I.C.E. in a tropical paradise.” All hands are on deck and – after the extended global hiatus thanks to the pandemic – everyone is ready, nay, eager to meet and greet the guests. And, of course, we would be remiss not to point out that Boracay is more than halfway through completing such a tall order. The island is as well-oiled a machine as it could be, boasting 294 DOT-accredited hotels and resort, a staggering 4,500 seating capacity for meetings and conventions, and 12,400 room keys available in the island. Talk about volume! Plus, Boracay is already postcard-perfect, the very stuff that vacation dreams are made of. Why not turn the dial up to eleven and let it become a compass point for more than a summer getaway? This is the logical next step in realizing its vision of being not just a place to be, but the place to be.
So, yes, by all means think of the idyllic strolls on the beach, the luxurious caress of the ocean as you free-dive, the sheer delight of sand and surf while island-hopping, the adrenaline rush of aquasports, parasailing, cycling, or driving an ATV up Boracay’s foothills, the psychedelic glow of fire-dancing and party lights at night, the breathtaking sunsets, the larger-than-life adventures, or the hundred other ways it can lavish or reinvigorate your soul. Think of all of that, and then some. Because Boracay has its eyes on something greater: it is poised to become the premier starting point and last stop for tourism, entertainment, corporate gatherings, exhibits, and any other event the imagination can dream of.
Think of your company meeting. Now, think of your company meeting and the fun that’ll ensue right after. Picture that in the most scenic of vacation spots. Tempted already? Who wouldn’t be? You’re already in paradise. With business here and leisure literally just a stone’s throw away – heaven on earth, wouldn’t you say?
For Our Next Travel Destination, We Dream About Koh Samui in Thailand
Mayenne Carmona discovers the Four Seasons Resort in Koh Samui is a quiet oasis to recharge and rejuvenate…
What does one expect from a Four Seasons Resort? Everything! Firstly, it will definitely be ranked no less than a five-star hotel or resort. Most importantly, it would not fall short of all your expectations: excellent cuisine, topnotch comfort at your fingertips in a well-appointed villa, courteous staff who offer impeccable service, and every other detail you could possibly need—down to the last cotton bud. After all, a Four Seasons Resort is always designed by a top-rated architectural team and interior designers.
The moment I stepped into the Four Seasons Resort at Koh Samui, I felt all my cares washed away by the soft waves of the bluest sea. The fresh air cleared my sinuses in no time, and the gentle breeze was a much needed caress to a tired mind and body. It was truly paradise regained for me and my friends. We were a motley group of career-oriented people who needed a much-awaited break from work, and this was the perfect choice for us.
Each Villa has a butler to cater to the guests’ every whim. The afternoon we arrived, we requested a sunset dinner by the beach, and much like a genie, our butler whipped up a romantically set candlelit dinner for six. A five-course delicious Thai dinner was prepared by their well-trained chef.
Our days were spent languishing by the beach, having daily massages, attending yoga classes, doing water sports and enjoying every bite of Thai cuisine. Golf carts transported us wherever we wanted to go within the resort. This vacation brought all my senses to another realm, and restored a weary soul to perfection.
Four Seasons Koh Samui, I look forward to seeing you again!
Koh Samui is the third largest island of Thailand in the scenic Gulf of Siam. It is a 45 minute flight from Bangkok. Sandy beaches, coral reefs, coconut trees and abundant tourist resources make it a popular holiday destination.
For more information on Four Seasons Resort, visit their website at https://www.fourseasons.com/kohsamui/
(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s March 2016 Travel Issue, “Silent Sanctuaries” written by our columnist Mayenne Carmona for La Vie En Rose on pages 32-33.)
Get Lost in this Not-so-distant Island Safari Paradise
LOST IN PARADISE
Tao Philippines Crusoe-style deserted island camp paradise is perfect for those who understand the luxury of simplicity and disconnection.
by Melo E. Esguerra photography by Scott Sporleder
Just when you think Palawan is fast becoming a second Boracay, where congestion of concrete buildings and human bodies have begun to define the island experience more than the pristine beaches of white powdery sand, the Lostboys of Tao Philippines came up with a new island project that guarantees an escape to paradise. They call the island Camp Ngey Ngey.
The Lostboys have taken over the abandoned resort of Manguengey in Busuanga, a remote island in Palawan. They have kept the ruins from the typhoon and built their signature bamboo Tuka huts around the main beach of the island, which serves as the camp area. Just a short walk away you’ll find jungle trails that lead to three other wild beaches, preserved reefs and windswept cliffs encompassed by crystal blue waters. And on certain days, when the winds are strong, one side of the island becomes a good site for surfing.
Eddie Brock, one of the founders of Tao Philippines, explains how this concept of an island safari came about. “When we took over Manguengey Resort, we were stuck with the idea of how to run it. We do not know how to cater to resort guests, the individual choices and needs, and menus,” he admits. “Tao’s expertise is to show travelers something new, something more raw and adventurous. We decided that we will not worry about things we don’t understand, and stick to what we do best. One of the best aspects of a Tao trip is creating an atmosphere of connecting with other travelers, disconnected from digital clot—without the worry of planning, wallets and keeping a status. Five days out in the remoteness with the islanders in control leads to a positive attitude: guards down, inhibition is off and open to meet new friends.”
The camp is accessible through the three day/two night boat safari from Coron, with beach and reef stops en route the camp and back. Guests will be joining other travelers, staying in individual Tuka huts dotted along the beach. There are lounges, a dining and kitchen area, and open hang-out places. Currently, the big mansion from the old resort is being restored into a villa that can accommodate a family or group of friends.
The island can be reserved for big events like weddings, parties and other meaningful gatherings.
In the island, there is no room service, no menus, no WiFi. You will arrive as strangers, you will eat together, swim together, laugh together, drink together, and get to know each other offline. Become part of the magic of Tao, and see what happens!
For more information on how the trip to Camp Ngey Ngey works, log on to www.taophilippines.com
(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s June 2017 Men’s Issue, “Lost in Paradise” on pages 110-113.)
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