Real Honeymoon: Moorea & Bora Bora

I had the privilege of helping my friend planned her dream honeymoon too Moorea & Bora Bora! Here’s what she has to say about her honeymoon:

Bora Bora honeymoon

Where did you go on your trip?
French Polynesia: We spent 3 nights on the island of Moorea and 4 nights at Bora Bora.

How did you decide on those destinations?
Often when you see pictures of “paradise” in books, magazines, calendars and you look at the fine print; you realize that you are looking at a picture of Bora Bora. We also left for our honeymoon a day after our wedding, so we wanted to go somewhere that is fairly easy to get to and where we wouldn’t experience terrible jet lag. Our priority was to find a location where we could truly maximize our honeymoon without travel weariness stealing away from the experience. Tahiti is a relatively “short” flight from LAX (8 hours) with only a 2 or 3 hour time difference from the west coast. Also, the flight patterns from LAX had us arriving in the morning to enjoy almost a full day on the island and departing in the evening so that we enjoyed our time at the beach up until an hour or two before going to the airport at sunset.

Which hotel/resort did you stay at?
We stayed at the Hilton Lagoon Resort and Spa at Moorea and the Four Seasons resort on Bora Bora.

What activities did you do?
We took advantage of the resort’s several “free” activities such as snorkeling and kayaking. We also went on an ATV tour of Moorea which took us through the heart of the island experiencing the amazingly lush landscapes along with panoramic views of air,land, and sea. On Bora Bora, swimming in both the lagoon and pools was a daily activity. We also booked a Jetski tour around the entire island which was an amazing experience. The beautiful spas provided amazing service and treatments so you could relax and unwind.

What was the highlight of your trip?
1) Staying in the beautiful overwater bungalow at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora which had a stunning view of the water,mountain and sunsets.
2) The ATV tour on land and the Jetski tour on water was so much fun and very memorable.
3) Experiencing the clear blue water in the lagoon which was incredibly calm and warm. The unique topography of Bora Bora make it the perfect place to swim and enjoy water sports.

Any advice for anyone thinking of going on a honeymoon to French Polynesia?
The local guides recommended that “shoulder” season is the best time to visit French Polynesia. They live there year-round so they can attest that anytime is a good time to come visit, but summer tends to be dry and cooler but also very windy and the winter tends to be wetter. They recommended that April/May and October/November were the best times to come visit in terms of weather and you also can look for travel deals during this time since its not the busy season. The overwater bungalow is definitely worth the splurge even for just one night…its one of the most unique aspects of coming to French Polynesia. Bring lots of sunscreen since it is more than double the price on the island. If you stay at the Four Seasons, they do provide free sunscreen at the pool, laundry services and free bottles of water at turndown each night or available at the front desk,business center, or spa.

Any parting words?
Even if you are a seasoned traveler who does lot of their own travel research on sites like “Trip Advisor”; having Marcela be your travel agent/guide/consultant will be one of the best decisions you make when planning for an important vacation. We felt like we saved ourselves countless hours of time,stress, and money by having Marcela plan our honeymoon. She also helped advise us on which resort would fit our needs best and areas where we could save money and maximize our budget. She was also able to get us the best table at the local restaurant at Bora Bora where people book months in advance and she gave us really helpful information about activities/excursions. We were so grateful to experience all the details come together so smoothly due to Marcela’s due diligence and planning. We truly had an unforgettable and amazing honeymoon!!!

Real Honeymoon: French Polynesia

I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful couple, Hersh and Poonam, to plan their dream honeymoon to French Polynesia. Hersh contacted me after reading my personal blog post and wanted to book a similar trip for his honeymoon.

Here’s what they have to say about their trip:

Where did you go on your trip?
We went to the French Polynesian Islands of Moorea and Bora Bora.

 

Le Meridien Bora Bora

Le Meridien Bora Bora

 

How did you decide on those destinations?
We fell in love with the pictures we saw online and were convinced after hearing personal stories from friends who visited. We were debating between Bora Bora and Thailand and actually decided on Bora Bora because of the pictures and personal experiences posted on your blog!

 

Which hotel/resort did you stay at? 
We stayed at The Sofitel on the island of Moorea and Le Meridian at Bora Bora. We absolutely loved Sofitel. We had amazing service there and the people were just very friendly and homely. It was a rather older group of tourists however. Mostly visiting for their anniversaries or retirement vacations. The bugs were also ruthless on Moorea. 

 

Sofitel Moorea Garden Bungalow

Sofitel Moorea Garden Bungalow

 
Le Meridien and Bora Bora itself was just plain beautiful, but we did find that the people on this island were much more closed off. It definitely had more of a tourist-y feel to it.  We found a few couples that we really enjoyed hanging out with, but for the most part, the service there was average, especially following the treatment we received at Sofitel. Our last night, we even managed to host a party on the beach with all the friendly honeymooners. We grabbed all our alcohol and took the ipad and speakers and really made a lasting impression as the fun couple of the resort!🙂

 

Balcony at Le Meridien Bora Bora

Balcony at Le Meridien Bora Bora

 

What activities did you do?
Our entire trip was an adventure. We did everything from Kayaking in the oceans to ATV riding through the Island’s lush Tropical and Mountainous Terrains. Started the trip with swimming in the beautiful Reef at Moorea’s Sofitel Hotel. We took a lovely couple’s massage there followed by a private Spa Jacuzzi evening before a beautiful dinner at the Hotel’s restaurant. We rented a Vespa and traveled around the islands to beautiful spots to take pictures and adore the view. The ATV ride was my absolute favorite on Moorea. We were able to ride through the heart of the island to see the private Pineapple Plantations and the Volcanic Ring that once created the land.

 

ATV in Moore

ATV in Moore

 

At Bora Bora, we also had a couple’s massage, went snorkeling, kayaking, and canoeing, played volleyball, table tennis, smashball, and many other activities.  Their main attraction is the Turtle lagoon which is amazing.  We were able to swim with the turtles and many types of fish. 

 

Turtle at Le Meridien

Turtle at Le Meridien

 

The weather worked in our favor for the most part. It did rain, crazy rain and thunderstorms, but nothing that did not contribute to the beauty and the experience. On one of the days, we were in the pool when it began to pour, and it was just beautiful to see the raindrops falling on the water.
 
Tips for future travelers:
– Lunch can be thrown off of timings because of all the activities, so to be safe, we would always make some PB&J sandwiches at the breakfast buffet as snacks through out the days. 
– If you are staying at the Le Meridian and Intercontinental, the shuttle cost is around$60 round trip for two people every time you need to go to the main island or for an excursion. The Hilton, from what we found out was only about $9 per person.
– Bringing water bottle to fill up at the fitness center was a genius idea!
– When you arrive at Papeete to check into the connecting flight, there are Red Computer stations along the lines that you can print out your boarding passes for FREE. You do not have to wait in the hour (hour and a half) line to check your luggage in. This was pointed out to us by another traveling couple. 
– Also, buy alcohol from the market or duty free, it is so much cheaper!! 

 

Honeymoon in Paradise


Thanks Hersh & Poonam for sharing your honeymoon with us🙂
I’m glad that you both had a truly memorable honeymoon in paradise!

Real Vacation: Secrets the Vine Cancun

My husband and I had the opportunity to visit the brand new beautiful Secrets the Vine resort in Cancun. We were looking for a place to relax for a couple of days and neither of us had been to Mexico or stayed at an all inclusive before, so it was  a great opportunity to try!

Beautiful water in Cancun

Since it’s our own personal trip, I’ll have my husband answer the questions🙂

Where did you go on your trip?

Cancun, Mexico

Beautiful pool & ocean in Cancun

How did you decide on Cancun?

We wanted to go somewhere relaxing, not too far away, not too expensive, and that we had not been to before.

Which hotel/resort did you stay at? 

Secrets The Vine — a very new all-inclusive resort (just opened in October 2012) in the Cancun hotel zone.

Secrets The Vine lobby

Secrets The Vine Cancun – Deluxe Ocean View room

What activities did you do?

Can Cook in Cancun cooking class, Chichen Itza tour, walked along the beach, and most importantly relaxed poolside–read books and swam a little.

Chichen Itza

What was the highlight of your trip?

A few highlights (in random order):  (1) Amazing ocean blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, (2) All-inclusive meals (food and drink) was super convenient–not having to think about prices or sign a bill after every meal or trip to the bar felt weird, in a good way.  (3) The fantastic authentic Mexican lunch feast from Chef Claudia’s cooking class.

Any advice for anyone thinking of going on a trip to Cancun?

  • Highly recommend the cooking class (www.cancookincancun.com)–such delicious good food in an educational, but relaxing format in an authentic Mexican home.
  • Bring lots of $1 bills for tips, especially if staying at an all-inclusive hotel or resort.  Also bring at least one set of nicer clothes (pants, collared shirt, and shoes for men; blouse or dress for women).  Many restaurants at these all-inclusive hotels have dress codes.
  • Chichen Itza tour was ok. I suppose it’s a must-see. And our guide was very good, but if you can afford it, we would recommend a private or small group van tour. The large coach bus tour took the entire day and we found ourselves waiting around a lot throughout–picked up from our hotel at 7:15am, dropped off around 7:30pm.
  • Most places we went to (touristy spots) took US dollars, but it was slightly better (cheaper) to pay in Mexican pesos. So we’d suggest paying with a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees, or withdraw local currency from an ATM or exchange some cash beforehand.
Any parting words?
We really enjoyed our Cancun trip and would definitely consider going back.  It was super relaxing, food and drink were decent (considering it was all-inclusive), and pretty affordable–as a comparison, it was much cheaper than if we wanted to go to Hawaii.

Real Vacation: India, Singapore, Bali, Australia, and South Korea

I had the pleasure of helping Natalia plan her 7.5 weeks sabbatical. She went to Asia and Australia, and needed help with hotel accommodations for some of her stay. I worked with her to make sure the options given would fit her need, and also sent her a couple recommendations on things to do and eat at each place.

Here’s what Natalia had to say about her trip:

Where did you go on your trip?

I went to India (New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Mumbai), Singapore, Bali, Australia (Sydney and Melbourne), and South Korea during my 7.5 weeks sabbatical.

Taj Mahal blog

Taj Mahal in India

How did you decide on those destinations?

I took my sabbatical towards the end of the year (November-December) partly because one of my girlfriend was getting married in Bali around that time. So I knew I would be making a stop in Bali.  Singapore to Bali is only a 2.5 hour plane ride so why not? Plus I was already familiar with the country. I’ve traveled to South Korea a couple of years before and loved the country- it’s a fun gastronomical shopping heaven- and I knew my sister, who I was traveling with, would love it too.

Bali Picture Collage

Bali Picture Collage

As for why I decided to go to India, well…I’ve always wanted to go after seeing a picture online of the colorful and vibrant country and people. As I did more research on India, I learned about its rich history and the amazing amazing monuments which made me even more excited to go. But I’ve also always been scared to go and would rather go elsewhere to relax or vacation. India is not necessarily a “vacation spot” but it is the spot to go if you want to go off the beaten path. So glad I went!

I had time to go to another country but wanted to go somewhere in the region to make flying more convenient. I’ve been to pretty much all the other countries in SE Asia and I wanted to somewhere new so, Australia it is! It was easier (and cheaper) to get to from Bali than from the US. I also had friends that I haven’t seen in forever in both of the cities we went to in Australia which gave all the more reason to go!

What activities did you do?

India was a lot of sight seeing and taking in all the culture and history. The monuments was, again, AMAZING! I was already impressed by the ones we saw but after seeing the Taj Mahal, I was b-l-o-w-n away. There is none like it in the world. The feeling you get when you are in front of the Taj and just admiring its beauty and its surrounding…it was indescribable. I kinda sorta wished it was my house! =P I loved the Taj and it made my trip out to India so worth it. The shopping in India was also great! We got a lot of cute, colorful, and cheap accessories, jewelry boxes, beautiful padmini scarves, rhinestones sandals, and a silk Alibaba pants that I hope I can pull off wearing in the States once summer is here.

Singapore was pretty much eating. We were in Singapore during Thanksgiving so we had a 14 course feast at Newton for about $20 per person. Food in Singapore is super affordable and very tasty! I was in Singapore with some friends who were there for their first time and who are big time Anthony Bourdain fans, so he wanted to eat everything Anthony Bourdain ate when Anthony Bourdain filmed the “Layover in Singapore” episode. We ate about 4 times a day! It was horrible but the temptation was too much and we blamed it on the mouth-watering food and our weak belly who just couldn’t resist.

Singaporean Chili Crab

Singaporean Chili Crab

The main reason for our Bali trip this time around was for my friend’s wedding. So it was all about spending time with friends, eating spicy Balinese food, going to the spa, hanging out at the beach and swimming in our villa. If you are ever in Bali, you need to definitely get a spa at least (at least!!) once. We were there for a total of 6 days and we went to the spa every other day. My favorite was the 4 hour spa we had which included a 2 hour full body massage and scrub, a facial, and a milk bath for $30. We also got our mani and pedi done at the beach for $2! Beat that!

tanah lot bali

In Australia, we saw so many animals we haven’t seen before- Koala bears, Kangaroos, Wallaby, Wombat, Emu, Tasmanian Devil, and an albino peacock among many others. We also saw the Twelve Apostles and the Three Sisters, drove along the beeeautiful Great Ocean Road just as the sun was setting in and made a trip to Phillip Island to see the tiny penguins coming back to shore- it was so adorable! I also tried ‘roo meat and let’s just say I still prefer cows.

Koala bears, wallaby, kangaroos, and wombats

Koala bears, wallaby, kangaroos, and wombats!

I’m glad Korea was our last stop since all we did was wake up late, eat, shop, do some sight seeing, more shopping and more eating until the wee hours. It was a fantastic way to end our trip.

What was the highlight of your trip?

See above. Everything I did in those counties had a highlight in them. It was the best sabbatical ever! But the most memorable part of the whole trip was seeing the Taj Mahal and celebrating with my friends at the wedding- and that amazing villa she put us in! My gosh, staying at Alila itself was a major highlight within a highlight!

Any advice for anyone thinking of going on a long vacation such as yours?

Do your research to save money. I knew the countries I wanted to go to and decided to search for an airline that had the same route. We flew Singapore Airlines which took us to India, Singapore, South Korea and back to SF for less than $1,500! The tickets to Bali ($100) and Australia ($600) was separate since Singapore Airlines did not connect to those countries using our route but we still got a pretty good deal on the flights in my opinion.

Plan ahead. Booking the flight was the easy part, but planning where to stay and what to do was harder and took a lot more time. Thankfully I have Marcela who loves to plan! She helped us research on hotels in each cities we were in, provided options, and even booked the hotels for us. It was definitely helpful since I was busy at work closing all the loops before I had to leave for 1.5 months. I trusted Marcela’s judgement and I think she knows me well enough to know which hotels I would/ wouldn’t mind staying in. She also knew what type of traveler I am so she provided a list of interesting things for us to see, do, and eat  based on my style of traveling at each destination. TripAdvisor was another great source for planning as was travel blogs, online articles and books.

A lot of basic things can be lost when you’re planning for such a big trip. So make sure you are aware of the country’s basic 411 like visa, currency, voltage, and take all the necessary medical shots. We weren’t aware that we had to take our shots at least a month before our trip so we went to India without any immunization! Thank God we didn’t get sick or had any problems.

Lastly, don’t over pack. If you are traveling to countries with different climates, make sure to bring some clothes that you can layer and are versatile for both weathers. Bring at least one comfortable shoes that you can wear both in the hot/ cold weather. It was a challenge for me especially since we had to bring a couple of dresses for the wedding. But It’s okay if you don’t look cute everyday =) Comfort over cuteness when traveling! Of course looking cute while being comfortable is always ideal haha but then again, you can always shop when you are there!

Korean Food

Korean Food

Any parting words?

Don’t freak out! Just ask Marcela to help you =)  Or even if you have a simple question, you can always reach Marcela. She is knowledgeable and is always there to help. So glad I asked for help…she made planning for my sabbatical stress and hassle free and a lot of fun! Thanks again La!

Real Vacation: Turks & Caicos

I had the pleasure of helping Christine & her family book a Christmas vacation to the beautiful Caribbean island of Turks & Caicos! We looked at a couple different options but in the end decided that Turks & Caicos would best fit her need.

Here’s what Christine had to say about their trip…

How did you decide on Turks & Caicos?

I saw photos in a travel magazine and was mesmerized by the turquoise water! I had never been to the Caribbeans and had seen several other friends who had recent trips to Turks & Caicos. Everyone had great things to say about it, so I knew that’s where I wanted to go.

Turks & Caicos vacation

Turks & Caicos

Which resort did you stay in?

Coral Gardens in Grace Bay which provide 1-2 bedroom suites with living room and kitchen. It was also in front of a snorkel site

What activities did you do?

Snorkeling, Snorkel trip to the barrier reef/Iguana Island, Horseback Riding, Day trip to Middle/North Caicos

Turks & Caicos Rainbow

Rainbow in the distance

What was the highlight of your trip?

Just what most people go to Turks and Caicos is for the beaches. Relaxing on the beach after a swim in the warm waters is the best way to spend your time!

Ruins in Turks & Caicos

Conch Bar Cave

Any advice for anyone thinking of going to Turks & Caicos?

There are tons of mosquitoes and they will love you! So make sure you bring spray and wear long clothing. It becomes a bigger problem right at dusk. Taxis can be expensive as they have fixed fees per person, so if there are more than 2 travelers within your group, it’s more economical to rent a car.

Love the turquoise water

Thanks Christine for sharing your trip with us! I’m glad you and your family had a wonderful time!