Posts Tagged ‘paradise’

When I think back to our Caribbean cruise,  the day that brings the biggest smile to my face is our visit to St. Kitts!  Not only is it the most diverse of the islands (in my opinion), but our local guide, Royston, provided a fun and interesting first-hand look at this picturesque, history-rich gem of an island!


Royston was like a ray of sunshine with his friendly personality and pleasant smile. He greeted us just outside the terminal and walked us over to the Royston-mobile (as I like to call it) – a fresh air, windowless van that proved (as we would soon learn) that it could handle any terrain St. Kitts had to offer!  Stocked with ice cold beverages and 2 fun married couples from Utah, we boarded the Royston-mobile eager for the adventure ahead!




Our tour began with a drive through the charming capital city, Basseterre.


IMG_5717Built in 1883 and modeled after Piccadilly in London, The Berkeley Memorial is
an ornate clock tower and drinking fountain that sits in the heart of Basseterre.


IMG_5745The stunning Government House.

Did you know that St. Kitts has a Veterinarian school called Ross University?
I had no clue that it existed!  And an ocean view too…score!

Around the Island ~ Royston Style!

The thing I think I enjoyed the most was the spontaneity Royston provided on the tour.  We already knew what sights we’d see that day, but Royston added something special to it.  He sprinkled the day with the unexpected…like for instance, taking us to non-touristy spots that he enjoyed as a child…or gathering sugar cane so we could feed donkeys…or driving us right on the beach!  It was moments like those that made his tour better than we could have hoped for!

IMG_5969Royston gathering sugar cane.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARoyston knew exactly where to take us for superb photo opportunities!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy hubby found his Jeep twin in St. Kitts on a random cliff overlooking the ocean!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADid I mention Royston was funny?
He pulled a “photo bomb” with the Royston-mobile while I was taking a photo of hubby!


The Royston-mobile brought us up close & personal to the stunning
beaches of St. Kitts!
As you can see, our tour-mate enjoyed the drive on the beach!  🙂

IMG_5731What’s better than a flock of egrets in a tree?…

IMG_5763A flock of bottles in a tree!  😉
I’d like to introduce the “Rum Tree” – a mango tree adorned with empty
bottles from oh-so-happy men from a nearby bar!

IMG_5765I just loved holding this sweet little monkey!

IMG_5778Bath, anyone?
This oversized “tub” was really used to melt down sugar cane.


The Rainforest

Driving through the rainforest was like entering a different world.  The light rain dripping from the canopy of trees created a magical ambiance.



IMG_5873My tarzan swinging on a vine!

IMG_5868The lush rainforest was a sight to behold…

IMG_5823…and so were these cute goats…

IMG_5813…and so was my hubby!  🙂

Black Rocks

On the northeastern coast of St. Kitts is Black Rocks, a picturesque collection of lava rocks adorning the coast from the nearby volcano Mount Liamuiga.





Wingfield Estate

Back in 1625, Wingfield Estate was the first working estate on the island for sugar, molasses, tobacco and rum.  And it happened to be owned by Thomas Jefferson’s great-great-great-grandfather, Sam Jefferson!  It was fun to explore the remains and learn about how they cultivated the land that included a water wheel!














Romney Manor

Formerly owned by Sam Jefferson, this gorgeous 6 acre estate is now home to Caribelle Batik, a shop that sells a variety of popular batik products that are hand-printed in the studio using an old Indonesian wax-and-dye process.




OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAColorful batik products



Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

History buff or not, the Brimstone Hill Fortress is a marvel to behold!  A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a wonderfully preserved fortification and an architectural masterpiece with unmatched sweeping views in every direction!




Designed by British military engineers and built by African slave labor, this magnificent fortress took over 100 years to construct beginning in the 1690’s.



Looking into the horizon, I could almost see the fleet of 50 French ships coming in to storm the fortress!












If you’re ever in St. Kitts, put Brimstone Hill Fortress at the top of your list!  It’s only $10 to get in…so why not experience this rich piece of history?
Oh, & be sure to bring good walking shoes for those uneven steps up to the fortress!

IMG_5916The Royston-mobile sure got around!


Did I mention the a-ma-zing views?

The Peninsula

Did you know that Royston has an adventurous side?  Yep!  The Royston-mobile was not afraid to take us off the beaten path and into places other tour companies would not go!  We’d be driving along a paved road, and he’d suddenly veer off into the brush and drive us somewhere simply stunning!

Others may have tried, but only Royston will get you there in one piece!  LOL!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can’t tell from looking, but Royston pulled that van right up to the edge for a simply stunning outlook of the Peninsula!
The parking area for the “other” tour vans was well below us!

Behold – the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea!
Simply stunning!



IMG_1900If this is a dream, don’t wake me!

Lunch at South Friar’s Bay

Lunch was included in the tour, and Royston stopped at his friend’s little eatery to pick up 7 ‘rotis’ – a wrap with potato, mild curry, spices, and a choice of beef, chicken, conch or veggie.  With lunch in tow, Royston drove us to “The God Father” – an empty beach bar by day (but not by night!) that acts as the perfect place to enjoy the delicious food and gorgeous views of South Friar’s Bay!



IMG_1912South Friar’s Bay



IMG_1927During the tour, Royston stopped by his dad’s house to pick something up.
As the van pulled away, we could hear his dad shout out,
“You hired the best man!”
We couldn’t agree more!


Our wonderful day in St. Kitts was over, but as our ship pulled away,
there was one more surprise awaiting us…

IMG_6022Until next time St. Kitts…

What part of this tour would you enjoy the most?

St. Kitts is lucky to have Royston represent them!

If you’re ever in St. Kitts, please consider taking Royston’s Tours!
For $45, this is a quality tour that you won’t soon forget!

Royston Tours


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The breath-taking island of St. Thomas was the first stop on our Carnival Valor Caribbean cruise, and we were excited for the adventure ahead!

Months prior, my hubby decided that he would cross off his bucket list item of scuba diving in the Caribbean, and so he booked a scuba diving excursion at the Coki Dive Center located on the eastern end of the island.

Knowing that the excursion would take about 5 hours from start to finish and that I would be on my own, I decided to find something fun to do, and as luck would have it, I discovered Sunny Liston Tours online.

All I was looking for was something light-hearted, fun-filled and informative that would include shopping, sight seeing and beach time, and for $40.00, Sunny provided all of that and more!

Let me start by saying, if you don’t like to sing, laugh and make instant friends all while exploring the island, this tour is not for you!

We started off at 10:00am by boarding the open-air cab (otherwise known as a “safari”) and being driven to the most popular outdoor market in Charlotte Amalie where we got to enjoy 1.5 hours of duty-free shopping. I instantly hit it off with Shirley and Vick, a sweet couple from Canada, and we spent our time exploring the rows and rows of many Caribbean souvenirs and gifts.  Shirley gave me some pointers on how to bargain with the shop owners, and I was able to walk away with some amazing deals!  Did you know you can get freebies at the jewelry shops just by asking? I walked away with several unique charms…for free!


IMG_5166Me, Shirley & Vick

On the way up to our first scenic vista, Sunny turned up some upbeat Caribbean music that pulsed out of our safari that got everyone clapping and singing along. He interjected his personality to the music by adding “uh-huh uh-huh’s” and “wooh-wooh’s” to every song!  As other tour vans passed us, we made sure to cheer, wave, scream and sing…and watch as their expressions turned to “I wish I was on THAT tour instead!”

IMG_5153Our colorful safari!

Sitting on the very edge of the seat, I had to brace myself during those hairpin turns or else I would have exited the tour a little too early!  The gentleman sitting in front of me who went by the alias of “Lieutenant Dan” turned out to be a fun addition to the tour group. He, too, was sitting on the edge, and would make sure I didn’t roll out of my seat each time we rounded those tight corners.  There were lots of screams and “Whoas!” along the ride, and some people even threw their hands in the air as if they were on a roller coaster ride.  At one point, “Lieutenant Dan’s” hat flew right off his head and landed in my lap!  An adventure indeed!

IMG_5117Our first vista overlooked the lush island, harbor and all of the magnificent ships.
The water couldn’t have been any more blue – it was breathtaking!

IMG_5124Sunny was such a friendly and gracious tour guide.  He ensured everyone had a great time!


Our next stop was Mountain Top where we got to empty our wallets again, enjoy a banana daiquiri, get to know our tourmates better and be in awe of the crystalline views of Magen’s Bay Beach, one of the top ten beaches in the world!










After our fun-filled afternoon of shopping and sightseeing, it was time for my new friends and I to part ways as Sunny dropped us off at our pre-selected beaches of choice.  I decided to go to Coki Beach since my hubby would be there.  Everyone else either went to Magen’s Bay Beach or Sapphire Beach.


Coki Dive Center was right off the beach, so it ended up being perfect!  For $5.00, I rented a chair, and the attendant even put it in the shade upon my request. You can also rent umbrellas and snorkel equipment…whatever your heart desires. Everything that was needed was right there, and I got to spend about an hour relaxing, gazing out into the water, and swimming! (Just be careful, the undertow is a little strong!)





As I strolled along the beach taking pictures, I heard “JENNNNN!!!”  Looking up, I saw my hubby waving to me from the Coki Dive Center. We had about 30 minutes left before Sunny would come back around to pick us up, so we spent that time enjoying the water, soaking up the sun and talking about our adventures. And yes, he thoroughly enjoyed his scuba diving experience! 


As scheduled, Sunny picked us up around 3:15, and he even let my hubby join the much smaller group even though he wasn’t part of the tour.

On our way back, rhythmic Caribbean music filled the air, and the fun continued all the way back to the ship. As we drove by the cruise-goers waiting in line, our tour group cheered, clapped and screamed, “SUNNY LISTON’S THE BEST!!!”

And on the island of St. Thomas, he is!

Sunny Liston Tours
P.O. Box 9108
St. Thomas, VI 00801

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Towering lush greenery surrounded our car as we carefully navigated down a steep, winding road covered with rocks and uneven terrain.  Wide enough for one car, we prayed for no oncoming traffic.  A sigh of relief filled the air when the parking area appeared.  After 7 hours of navigating the curvy Road to Hana, we found our evening retreat 30 minutes south of Hana in a town called Kipahulu at a sanctuary called…Halemano.

HalemanoIn Hawaiian, Halemano means “Many Houses.”

We parked our car, and per the instructions from our host, started to explore the expansive 7 acre eco-friendly grounds in search of someone to assist us.  The marked path took us by cozy cabins, an open air, shared bathroom and the outdoor, communal kitchen overlooking the ocean.

“Jennifer?”  Tanya happily emerged from the kitchen.  “Welcome to Halemano!”

Tanya, the daughter of the owner, Manju, was filling in while Manju was away.  She and her boyfriend, Stephan, were very friendly and immediately gave us a tour of the cliff side paradise.

Our accommodation for the night was called the “Ridge Cabin.”  More like a tree house, this simple, charming cabin consisted of a bed with mosquito netting, a small light, windows, an outlet, artful touches and a jaw dropping view of the tropical landscaping from the lanai.

The Ridge CabinThe Ridge Cabin

The Ridge Cabin

Ridge Cabin

The Ridge Cabin

Halemano had other sleeping accommodations to choose from consisting of a yurt or a hotel room with private bathroom.

If you require cell reception or wi-fi 24/7, this is probably not the place for you.  Part of the charm of Halemano is that you are totally disconnected from the outside world.  It gives you a chance to unwind, decompress and become immersed in nature.  Just be sure to bring insect repellent!

Before entering our cabin, Tanya explained the 2 house rules:

  1. Remove your shoes before entering the cabin to keep the rug clean.
  2. No food in the cabin because it attracts ants and bugs.

After getting settled into our cabin, I decided to experience the open air shower before dinner.  At first, I felt a little uncomfortable showering without the privacy of a door, but it’s not like I was out in the open for all to see.  You walk into the open air restroom, round a corner, and the shower is tucked away in a little nook…so if you hear water running or see clothes lying on the bench, you know it’s occupied.  For the toilet, Tanya advised that we remove our shoes and leave them out before rounding the corner to show that someone is there.  It all worked out fine, and the refreshing breeze felt wonderful as I showered.  The property operates on solar power and water catchment.  Be sure to bring a head lamp or flash light in case you need to use the restroom when it’s dark, like I did!

That evening, we enjoyed a special vegetarian Indian dish prepared by Tanya.  For $20 per person, this delicious feast, comprised of rice, beans and squash, was the perfect way to end a long day on the Road to Hana.  Since the closest restaurants were about 30 minutes away, we decided to place our order ahead so we could just relax, unwind and enjoy our dinner as the sun went down.

The kitchen is an experience in itself.  Everything you need is there!  Avocados, papayas, bananas and any other fruit you find on the grounds is yours for the taking (and enjoying!)  Everything is recycled, and leftover food is used as compost.  The kitchen is open air, so you are sharing it with little critters.



After dinner, we explored the grounds and spent a good part of the evening sitting on a small bench positioned a few feet away from the steep cliff.  The view of the ocean crashing into the rocky shore below was hypnotic.  It’s easy to fall under the spell of the magnificent view and sounds of the water.

Bliss Bench


Both mornings, I unintentionally woke up before dawn, so I grabbed my camera and headed outside to take some photos while the early morning light painted the grounds.

There is a magical garden to explore and photograph.  Secret artfully decorated paths take you through perfectly manicured tropical landscaping with exotic plants, small benches and even an open air yoga studio tucked away to sit, relax, take in the scenery or participate in a yoga class.







Yoga Studio

Surrounding Halemano is a fence, and attached to this fence is an inconspicuous little door leading to a neighboring state park.  Walk down the length of the park until you come across a cemetery that is home to the grave of the great aviator Charles Lindbergh.  Charles loved this particular part of Maui so much that he decided to be buried here.

Charles Lindbergh GraveInscribed is:  “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uppermost parts of the sea…”
From Psalm 139

If experiencing paradise, unplugging from the digital world, and letting tranquility fill your soul sounds appealing, then Halemano is the sanctuary for you!  

Prepare to be transformed.

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At 8:45am on a Friday morning, my hubby and I took to the skies on our 5 hour United flight to the island paradise of Maui.

About an hour into our journey, the pilot announced that there would be an in-flight game and the winner would win a great prize.  The mission:  Figure out the exact time we would be midway between the mainland and Maui.  He gave us some useful information to get us started like time we left, time in Maui, headwind stats, etc…

…and honestly…it wasn’t in any way useful to me!

As for my hubby, he got to work right away & had his answer written down before I knew it.

I decided to add a few minutes to my hubby’s answer (I know I know…cheaters never prosper…) and handed in my answer.

About 15 minutes later, the winner was announced.

The flight attendant walked down the aisle and with a big smile stopped at our row.  “Congratulations!  You were less than 45 seconds off the correct answer!”  And with that, my hubby happily accepted his well deserved Lonely Planet Guide Book to Hawaii!

In addition to our new guide book, we became fast friends with our row mate named Larry who was on his way home to Maui.  “Come visit me at the Sheraton, & I will fix you the best drink…on the house!”  Larry is a bartender there at the Grotto Bar and was as nice as they get!  Unfortunately, time did not permit us to visit Larry during our brief stay on West Maui, but we spoke fondly about his aloha spirit during our trip.

After a pleasant and fun flight, we arrived at the Kahului Airport around 11:30am, collected our luggage & proceeded to Hertz to pick up our wheels.

Once we exited the airport, a blast of humid wind engulfed us.  The strong winds blew our hair, as well as the palm trees, in every direction.  I resigned to the fact that for the next week, good hair days would be a rarity, and I would soon find myself enjoying the carefree days of hats and pony tails.

With 4 hours to spare before check-in, we decided to drive about 20 minutes south of the airport to explore the Iao Valley State Park which contains the 1,200 foot towering emerald peak known as the Iao Needle.

Iao Needle
It’s hard to believe that in 1790, this beautiful location was the site of the bloody battle between King Kamehameha and Maui’s army in an effort to unite the Hawaiian Islands.  Needless to say it didn’t end well.

Now it’s a place of tranquility and peace offering 10-miles of easy hiking paths, streams, lily pad-filled ponds, tropical foliage and idyllic photo opportunities.

Iao Vallay National Park

Pepper in some low-lying clouds and you get a very mystical wonderland.

Iao Valley National Park

After taking in the glorious views, it was time to head to our Maui home for 3 days.  We decided to take what we thought was a shortcut, but had we looked closer at the map in our Lonely Planet guide book, it would have shown the white knuckle adventure we were about to embark on…complete with narrow twists, turns, hands covering eyes, imaginery brake pressing and one way roads with unintentional games of chicken.

It put the Road to Hana to shame! 

Evil Road!Construction on Maui’s northwest coast road from Kapalua to Wailuku
(or as I like to call it –
the Road to Hana’s evil big brother!)

But I can say this about Maui’s northwest coast –

Maui's northwest coastthe scenery is beautiful!

The next day on our Trinity catamaran snorkeling adventure, a crew member confirmed that we weren’t alone in our sentiments: “Even the locals don’t take that road!”   Um, good to know.

A sigh of relief filled the car when we found our way out of the labyrinth an hour or so later and enjoyed the wider, straighter lanes taking us to our paradise getaway at The Napili Bay condos.

The Napili Bay Condos
The condo we rented was recently renovated and just as lovely as the photos shown online.  It came complete with full kitchen, laundromat, beach chairs, boogie boards, comfy bed, ceiling fan, wifi and tv…

Napili Bay Condo

…and the view from the lanai wasn’t too shabby either!

View from lanai

15 years ago, I experienced Napili Bay for the first time with my best friend and her family.  Let me just say, the water is just as clear and the atmosphere is still as idyllic as I remember it to be!

Napili Bay

That evening, we dined at the popular “Sea House” restaurant.  Reservations are recommended, and luckily my hubby was one step ahead and reserved our table a few days prior.

Not realizing we could actually just take a short stroll down the beach to get there, we took a less than 30 second car ride to the parking lot instead.

A bit early, we enjoyed some tropical beverages in the lounge, and at exactly 5:30pm, the patrons  were allowed into the main open air dining hall complete with refreshing breezes, sounds of crashing waves,  and a gorgeous view of Napili Bay…the perfect ambience for our first night in Maui.

Tropical drink

Only having eaten 2 granola bars since we landed, it was time to indulge!

We both opted for the 3-course “Early Bird Special.”

It started off with the Island Salad comprised of fresh Upcountry greens, tropical salsa and Lilikoi vinaigrette.

The main course followed.  I opted for the Macadamia Nut Fresh Catch while my hubby chose the Sea House Mixed Grill.

Dinner at the Sea HouseMacadamia Nut Fresh Catch

Our meal concluded with the Pièce de résistance:  Pineapple Tiramisu…

Pineapple Tiramisuneed I say more? 

Although I was growing uncomfortably full by the minute, it was too good to stop, so I forged ahead and cleared the contents of my plate.

So much for those ab exercises…

The vibrant colors of a painted sky were on display that evening, and so with stomachs full and happy, we took a leisurely stroll on the beach…

Napili Sunset

…and a kind passerby took our photo.


After our promenade, we stocked up on dinner fixings, vino and snacks at a local market for the days ahead.

Relaxing on the lanai was the perfect way to end our first night in Maui.  As the last bits of sun bid adieu, we looked forward with half-opened eyes to the 8 fun-filled, blissful days ahead.

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