When planning family trips, it's best to keep kids busy with activities from crafting and music lessons to hiking and swimming. (No one wants to hear, "Mom, I'm bored" while lounging beach side with a cocktail in hand.)

Travel is one of the most fun ways for a parent to share the cultures and natural wonders of the world. These destinations are safe for kiddos, catering to the picky eaters, adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, and beach bums too. Not only will kids be welcome, they'll find programs and excursions designed just for them on each of these global adventures.

Adventurous Resorts

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Koloa, Hawaii

While it may sound like a lazy beach vacay, this beautiful resort is on one of Hawaii's most exciting islands – and one of the world's top resorts for families. The resort offers tons of kid-friendly activities (think ukulele lessons and lei making) in-house. But families can also find breathtaking hikes, ziplines for the token daredevil, horseback riding and kayaking to name a few. For something more low key, splash in a two-tiered pool or the saltwater lagoon that meanders through the hotel's property. By nightfall, kids will definitely be ready to crash.

Waterfalls at Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

River Kwai Floating Hotel, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

For the boy (and girl) scouts who are looking for a back-to-nature experience, this Thai getaway won't disappoint. Thailand is one of Asia's best destinations for kids. With a drive and boat ride to this hotel, they may start to feel a bit like Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Bamboo guest rooms float on top of the River Kwai and offer visitors a taste of Mon culture. It's a bit rustic (as in there are wick lamps instead of electricity. But don't worry, in-room bathrooms are a part of the deal). Kids love exploring the nearby jungles atop of a gentle elephant, or visiting natural wonders such as the Lawa Cave or the Sai Yok Waterfall. Get a few thrills without leaving River Kwai by river jumping or bamboo rafting — something to excite even the most adrenaline-seeking tweens.

Morgan's Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Nicaragua makes for an affordable, and adventure-filled, Central American trip (and many parents are choosing it over the equally kid-friendly Costa Rica). Visitors won't see nearly as many expats and will get a great taste of the local culture, plus tons of hiking and swimming! In a bungalow at Morgan's Rock, guests are nestled in the treetops and have easy beach access. One of the more exciting excursions to make is to Ometepe Island, formed by two volcanoes, which can be reached by ferry. Explore ancient rock art and petroglyphs and brave the hike up the dormant Maderas Volcano. Parents will appreciate the beaches known for waves that are safe for first-time surfers, zip-line excursions, and an insider look at the lodge's sustainable farm where kids get to collect farm eggs and milk the cows for an awesome family breakfast!

The beaches of Queensland, Australia are a great way to relax

One&Only Hayman Island, Queensland, Australia

A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is an incomparable adventure. While a flight to the Aussie coast may not be ideal for many faraway travelers with tiny tots, the experiences offered through resorts like One&Only can change a nervous parent's mind. If your bucket list includes snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, water skiing or a helicopter adventure above the reef (which is the largest living thing on Earth, mind you), then book a few tickets to Hayman Island. Of course One&Only also offers an entirely kid-centric program called KidsOnly full of excursions and meals from 9am to 6pm if parents need a break.

Traveling Adventures

Camping and cruising may appeal to families that seek adventure on-the-go. Many of these trips welcome first-time campers and those who are especially interested in learning the lay of the land, whether that's in sunny California or rugged Maine. Nature lovers, budding botanists and eager explorers will get animal interactions, sparkling night skies and a new set of skills when signing up for one of these trips.

Trekking the Appalachian Trail in the United States of America

Appalachian Trail

For North Easterners, this trip will make an exciting escape from the bustling city, but any visitors will be in awe of the natural beauty of the Appalachian Trail. Eager hikers can find programs like the Appalachian Mountain Club's Family Camps, which take families with kids as young as five years old around New Hampshire and Maine, near beautiful mountains and full of sleepaway camp-style fun. Expect canoeing, fishing, stream exploration and a classic campfire sing-a-long.

Galapagos Islands

While this isn't exactly a family vacation, road trip style, there is so much kids can learn by a trip to this incredible archipelago. National Geographic is one of the few to organize a cruise to these islands near South America that is geared specifically at budding scientific minds. In the day, kids can snorkel in crystal blue waters and hike the shores among animals like giant tortoises and sea lions, all of which are completely unphased by the presence of humans. Parents will leave with zoologists and nature photographers on their hands.

Klamath River, California is perfect for family camping and trekking

Klamath River, California

This is a fabulous spot to dive into the world of camping as a family for the first time. Whether you're interested in nesting up in an unassuming lodge or setting up a tent under the stars, a trip to this natural Cali beauty guarantees great views and swimming. Several programs like Orange Torpedo and Oars set up multi-day whitewater rafting ventures, but there are hikes to take and plenty of beach lounging to be done as well. On Orange Torpedo's Klamath River Wild and Scenic trip, kids will get to swim in warm water and calm side creeks (the rapid on this trip is exciting, but never dangerous) and the guides will introduce anyone from five years old to the basics of both rafting and camping. These trips can also be as short as two or three days, ideal for any locals or those not wanting to commit to any extensive travel with kids.

  This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on July 19th.

Published in Travel Inspiration

Kailua-Kona is the jewel of West Hawaii. This breathtaking tropical paradise is on the leeward side of the island and as such receives much less wind and rain. As a result, it's a great place for scuba diving or practicing your surfing skills before tackling the tougher waves on the eastern shore. But where to stay in Kailua-Kona? That depends on what you plan on doing while you're there.

Location is Everything

Want to be right in the center of Kailua-Kona and have everything you need mere footsteps away? Look no further than Uncle Billy's Kona Bay Hotel. Situated right in the center of the bay, Uncle Billy's offers both rooms with a view and ground-floor suites with direct access to Hale Halawai Park. The massive Kona Inn Shopping Village is located right across the street and can satisfy almost all your shopping needs. Beyond that, Uncle Billy's is surrounded by water-based sights and activities, ample restaurant and bar options, tons of shopping, and, of course, the best cultural events.

Stay Cliffside

The cliffs of Kona Bay, Big Island, Hawaii
The cliffs of Kona Bay. Photo by Robert Linsdell via Flickr

Perched on the cliff edges 1 mile south of Kona Town lies Aston Royal Sea Cliff, one of the most beautiful properties in the area. With spacious suites that include a full kitchen with all the appliances and utensils, as well as a washer and dryer, this is the perfect choice for guests planning a longer stay, families, or other large groups. Two pools on site enable you to enjoy a salt-free swim while basking in the tropical sun and enjoying the magnificent view.

Bigger & Better

Bigger isn't always better, but in the case of Royal Kona Resort, nothing could be more accurate. This massive resort has been one of the area's premiere accommodation options since 1968 and now consists of three huge oceanfront buildings with nearly 450 rooms, sprawling grounds, multiple pools (including a kids' pool), tennis courts, and a fitness center. Located just a short 10-minute walk from the town center, Royal Kona Resort is close to the action but not too close.

Save a Few Dollars

Don't plan on spending much time in the hotel room? Then don't waste any more money than necessary when paying for lodging. Kona Seaside Hotel is one of the cheapest hotels in the Kailua-Kona area, and you won't have to sacrifice on service or cleanliness just to stay to budget. The hotel has a large pool and even owns the Splashers Grill next door, which means you can have delicious dishes and thirst-quenching drinks delivered poolside.

  Featured photo by Robert Linsdell via Flickr.

Published in United States

Life is stressful. It shouldn't be, but it is. Work, money, relationships, family responsibilities...all can be daily sources of stress in our lives. Over time, this stress can build to unbearable levels and cause serious health issues. But there is a cure -- one that is easier than you might think, and does not require a doctor's visit.

Take a vacation!

More and more studies are showing that vacations actually improve health by reducing stress. A change from the normal routine combined with a new, relaxing location, can do wonders to improve your health and lowering your risk of heart disease.

Wyndham Coffs Harbour Terraces Resort pool in Australia
The rooftop pool of the Wyndham Hotel in Melbourne, Australia

I thought vacations are stressful?

If a vacation is stressful, that means you are not doing it right. A proper vacation should require minimal planning and be more of a joy to plan that a burden.

That's where Wyndham vacation Resorts Asia Pacific comes in handy. They remove the stress from vacation planning by having everything already covered. Become a member of The WorldMark South Pacific Club by Wyndham and their resorts are your resorts, available whenever you need them.

I don't have time for a vacation.

That is where you are wrong. A vacation doesn't have to be a grandiose two week round-the-world trip. It can be as simple as a weekend away from home. Even a brief change of scenery can do wonders to impart new vigor and re-energize yourself.

The average Australian household takes 3.3 vacations a year, but households with The WorldMark South Pacific Club take 5.2 annual vacations -- more than a 50% increase. They have made vacations a regular part of their stress-reducing routine and you should too.

The rooftop pool of the Wyndham Hotel in Melbourne, Australia
The rooftop pool of the Wyndham Hotel in Melbourne, Australia

But where do I go?

With 26 properties scattered across Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, there are plenty of picture-perfect destinations that await. You don't even have to escape the city to find relief. The WorldMark South Pacific Club by Wyndham also has resorts in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane -- as well as everywhere in between. These are perfect for short weekend getaways that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated at work on Monday morning.

What are these resorts like?

In a single word: heaven. First class amenities. Top-notch locations. Breathtaking views and exquisite facilities to make you feel right at home. Wyndham's resorts are furnished with gyms, pools, spas and saunas, meaning that just because you are on vacation, you don't have to disrupt your traditional exercise routine. Just imagine how much better it will feel hitting the gym or going for a steam or taking a morning run at Seven Mile Beach, Hobart's only beach resort. Or on Denarau Island in Fiji. This could be your reality.

Gym at the Ramada Resort on Phillip Island, Australia
Gym at the Ramada Resort on Phillip Island, Australia

Dazzle your senses and improve your health.

The word medicine makes people think of bitter pills or uncomfortable procedures, but going a regular vacation is the best medicine you will ever take. It will improve your health, lower your stress, increase your happiness and give you an overall rejuvenation like no other.

No matter is holding you back from your vacation The WorldMark South Pacific Club by Wyndham has the answers.

  This post was brought to you by Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific

Published in Australia

Few Caribbean destinations are as spectacular as Punta Cana, the furthermost eastern point of the Dominican Republic. The name means "Tip of the White Cane Palms" and from the minute visitors arrive it is easy to see why: Punta Cana is where the palm trees and beautiful blue of the Caribbean Sea converge together in the most pristine white sand beaches you will find anywhere. Hundreds of resorts are located here and choosing the right one can be difficult, so I've put together a guide on all the best Punta Cana hotels no matter what type of vacation you are looking for:

Romantic Getaway

Majestic Colonial resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

When it's time to whisk the love of your life away for a romantic Caribbean vacation, The Reserve at Paradisus Punta Cana is arguably the best destination in all the Dominican Repbulic. Their spacious and luxurious suites are second to none. However what truly makes them the ideal place for a romantic rendezvous is the private in-suite whirlpools.

Family-Friendly Retreat

Majestic Colonial resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

When taking your family to a tropical paradise like Punta Cana, it's important to stay at a hotel that is the epitome of "tropical paradise." The Majestic Colonial is one of the most pristine and impressive hotel resorts that I have ever seen. Immaculate grounds, breathtaking views, helpful staff, and of course plenty of children's activities to keep the little ones amused all come standard. However my personal favorite is the overwhelming choice of food; nearly every type of cuisine imaginable can be found in the restaurant!

All-Inclusive Fun

The only thing that makes paradise better is not having to deal with any bothersome restaurant or bar bills. Plus there is nothing quite like the thrill of an open bar or never-ending buffet, two things that quickly become clear to those staying at Barceló Bávaro Beach, one of the top-rated all-inclusive luxury resorts in Punta Cana.

Majestic Colonial resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Beyond their obligatory beaches and pools lies everything that guests could ever need: fitness center, casino, multiple bars and restaurants, golf course, even babysitting services. Wrap it all up with a bit of Punta Cana sun and a warm, friendly staff and it's no wonder that the worst part about Barcelo Bavaro is actually leaving.

Nothing But The Best

When only the finest all-inclusive five star luxury will do, look no further than Iberostar Grand Bavaro Hotel. This award-winning hotel resort is consistently ranked as one of the best resorts in all the Domican Republic. A sprawling complex of buildings, beaches, pools and palm trees, Iberostar Grand Bavaro is large enough that even when fully booked the property never feels crowded.

Majestic Colonial resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Budget-Friendly Options

Although Punta Cana is not what one would describe as a budget travel destination, there are several budget-friendly options available that will allow visitors to enjoy paradise without breaking the bank. Backpackers will feel right at home in the Punta Cana Hostel, which has a community kitchen, restaurant, bar and pool. among other amenities. Another great option is the Hotel Cortecito Inn Bavaro with beach-side views and complimentary breakfast.

  flickr //   sackerman519   ianbruce   dbrekke   drewott

Published in Dominican Republic

South Padre island is an amazing island with a variety of fun activities and over thirty miles of beaches just begging for you to stick your toes in the sand and relax in the sun. Of course the only thing that makes a trip to this beautiful island better is staying directly on the beach and only having to walk a few steps from the hotel lobby to the golden sand. That having been said, these are some of the top beachside hotels and resorts in South Padre Island, Texas.

Schlitterbahn Beach Resort

This sprawling 25-acre water park and hotel is one of the prime highlights of the island. Schlitterbahn South Padre is home to over a dozen gigantic indoor and outdoor water slides, nearly two dozen blood-pumping and water-spraying attractions, and several slow-moving rivers that are perfect for a lazy tube ride. Staying on-site offers the added convenience of being able to enjoy the beauty of the beach, the excitement of the water park, and the privacy of your hotel room all in one place, not to mention plenty of dining options.

Schlitterbahn South Padre Island, Texas

Isla Grand Beach Resort

This picturesque resort is known for throwing some of the best beach parties, most notably their annual Spring Break bash. Regardless of the time of year, every day and night the week Isla Grand has themed activities and events to keep guests entertained. This includes family fun like sandcastle building on the beach and arts and crafts, as well as evening shows in the nightclub. Other seasonal options include parasailing and banana boat rides. There is also plenty of year-round fun to be had at the tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, and hot tubs.

Pearl South Padre

Nestled on the beach right across from the bridge, the Pearl South Padre is one of the island's gems. All rooms have a balconies and amazing oceanfront views, plus there is even a large pool featuring a swim-up bar and grill for guests looking to avoid the salt water. Another popular feature is the Pearl's collection of packages and daily trips designed to make the most of your stay on the island. The hotel is also located right next to Schlitterbahn, making it a breeze to get the best of both worlds.

Hilton Garden Inn

One of the most popular and well-reviewed hotels on the island, the Hilton Garden Inn is located mere footsteps from warm white sand and sparkling blue water. As the northernmost hotel on the island, guests can enjoy a large and less-crowded portion of the beach. Windsurfing and jet-skiing are popular with guests here, as are snorkeling and fishing. Above all, do not miss out on the breakfast buffet, easily the best breakfast in all of South Padre!

La Copa Inn Beach Hotel

La Copa ia a pet-friendly hotel and ocean side restaurant, and it offers one of the best values for the price on the entire island. It has an intimate, almost family run atmosphere and helpful staff. However, during Spring Break, it does have a tendency to be overrun by college students lured in by the cheap price. All the exciting water-based activities from parasailing to dolphin-watching can be booked through the concierge, and the Schlitterbahn water park is less than a five-minute walk away.

The beach at South Padre Island, Texas

The Palms Resort

If a laid back resort with a "mom-and-pop" feel is what you crave then look no further than The Palms Resort. Located a little further north up the island, this resort is all about relaxation, whether on the beach, in their indoor heated pool, or the Cafe on the Beach. The only thing better than the food is the breathtaking Gulf view.

Wherever you decide to stay on South Padre Island, don't forget to check out all the cheap hotels and resorts in South Padre Island on Hipmunk.

  As a blogger ambassador for Hipmunk I have written several articles for their site and am now taking part in Hipmunk's #citylove campaign, where they have given me the opportunity to share some of my favorite locations with you.

Have you ever been to South Padre Island?

Published in United States

Nothing ruins a family vacation faster than accidentally booking a room at a "party hotel" full of young people drinking and running wild all night. To help avoid that, here are my top family-friendly hotels and resorts in the amazing beachside town of Carlsbad, California.

Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

This amazing resort is home to Kidtopia, the ultimate in resort entertainment for kids 12 and under. In addition to an extensive playscape, games, puzzles, and books, Kidtopia also has a nursery for toddlers and a "night camp" on weekends – the perfect way for adults to enjoy a night to themselves. Omni La Costa is also conveniently located mere minutes from plenty of shopping and dining options, not to mention the kid-centric Legoland California.

Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Spa & Golf Club

Kids 10 and up will feel right at home in the Park Hyatt's game room. It comes complete with an arcade center, six PlayStation consoles, air hockey, foosball, and a large selection of board games. There is even a billiards table and shuffleboard court. Meanwhile, the younger ones can live it up at Camp Hyatt, a fun and entertaining option for children ages four to 12. Once the children are entertained, parents can pamper themselves as they see fit.

Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, California

Tamarack Beach Resort Hotel

The recreation room at Tamarack Beach Resort Hotel was crafted with family fun in mind. In addition to a large selection of board games, puzzles, and DVD movies, the recreation center also comes fully stocked with several pool tables and a ping pong table. The hotel also has complimentary planned activities that are fun for the whole family. For families looking to escape the hotel and have some outdoor fun, the beach is a short walk away, or take a short drive to Legoland.

Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara

For parents wishing to spoil themselves – and their children – Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara is the resort to choose. The resort has an extensive and ever-changing collection of kids activities that will enthrall and entertain children of all ages. After all, when the kids are happy, the parents are happy! Once they are occupied, parents are free to escape and unwind with a visit to the spa, one of their many pools, or a trip to the fitness center and steam room.

The Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara in Carlsbad, California

West Inn and Suites

The number one rated family hotel in Carlsbad, West Inn and Suites is devoted to providing first class hospitality for families. They have cribs and Pack n' Plays ready at a moment's notice, an interactive library full of games and books, and even an on-site park. When bedtime approaches, the younger ones are treated to milk and cookies while the adults are rewarded with the Seasonal Pour. And when it comes time to venture out, the hotel offers shuttle service to Legoland, as well as beach toys for the kids, and umbrellas and chairs for the parents.

Legoland Hotel

Last but certainly not least is the Legoland Hotel, conveniently located inside Legoland California. Everything about this place was designed with the kids in mind, from custom Lego kids sleeping areas complete with an entertainment console in each room to the welcome treasure hunt with Lego prize that every child receives upon check-in. Kids are also welcome to use the hotel's collection of Lego bricks to build whatever their heart desires.

The Legoland Hotel in Carlsbad, California

No matter where you decide to stay find the best prices on hotels in Carlsbad with Hipmunk.

Have you ever been to Carlsbad?

  As a blogger ambassador for Hipmunk I have written several articles for their site and am now taking part in Hipmunk's #citylove campaign, where they have given me the opportunity to share some of my favorite locations with you.

  flickr   //   spookyamd

Published in United States

I have been to Mombasa on several occasions; visiting family, friends or just for fun on a holiday. I have had guided tours through the city, seen some historical sites (Fort Jesus in particular), gone for a swim in the ocean, visited marine park, been on a food hunt, rode a tuk-tuk for the first time, had long walks on the stone paved streets, shoe shopping the list is endless.

This is why I wasn't surprised when I hit Google search for "Mombasa activities" and had about 4,210,000 results. There is simply too many things that you can do in Mombasa but when I recently travelled there, it wasn't so that I could go about Mombasa town doing 'this and that' rather to rest in a beach resort in Nyali, watch time go by and let my worries sway.

Nyali Beach is an attraction in its own right and has won this year's Traveler's Choice Award. A clean beach with clear, powdery, white sands; sapphire blue waters with just the right balance of waves and breeze; perfect for lazing around on those white plastic beds under an umbrella, walking along the shore, wind-surfing or going for a refreshing deep.

This time around, I stayed at the Reef Hotel

The reef is not a luxury place and not a budget place either but is an absolute delight with great customer care and lots of activities to do or watch others do. The hotel has a special event every day after dinner and during the day they have an ‘animation’ team that is responsible of coordinating the games for both children and adults. There are over 180 pictures from travelers who have stayed at the Reef on Trip advisor and over 40 professional photos. I was happy with everything about it, the food buffets, the quiet surrounding, the staff and especially the serenity it commands.

5 things I learnt at the Reef that can make you a smart traveler:

  1.   Even though the ‘All inclusive’ may seem like a bargain; for someone who doesn’t eat as much and doesn’t drink as much between meals leave alone doesn’t drink alcohol, it’s not worth it.
  2.   Everything is negotiable, including the prices for the room; you will not get it unless you ask for it.
  3.   The tours arranged by the hotel may be convenient and assuring but the private tour guides by the beach (beach boys) can offer a good deal and a great tour experience at a lower price if you are the type to take a leap of faith.
  4.   Don’t feed the monkeys -- for your own safety.
  5.   Respect the ‘No Smoking’ signs, your cigarette smoke can be enjoyable to you but is irritating to others. I was thoroughly abhorred by the people who kept smoking in the ‘NO SMOKING’ section.

Read what other travelers thought.

Published in Kenya

I handed the clerk our reservation forms and in exchange boarding cards and an assortment of anti-nausea medication was firmly pressed into the palm of my hand. So far, it was just as the brochure had promised: A picture perfect day, glass-like aquamarine water, and our sleek, modern, and ultra-fast catamaran was docked and ready to whisk us away. I was near heady with the romantic anticipation of traveling at high speed in luxury while gazing out over the expansive Coral Sea, visions of playful dolphins racing along port-side as we made our way to Heron Island. Lost in this constructed utopian thought of mine, I clutched the small pills which should have been the clue of the real adventure that was about to unfold for us.

 

Once past the shelter of the harbour, the Reef Voyager accelerates dramatically with exhilarating speed.  Mere minutes into our journey we discover that a catamaran can actually become airborne as it hurdles and bounces itself like a bucking bronco over the waves.  The Reef Voyager claimed the stomachs of more than a few of it's passengers that day.  While each table offered a supply of wipes and handy paper 'catch bags', not all were fortunate enough to use them in time.  The captains announcement of our imminent arrival feels like near spiritual salvation.

 

When your green to the gills, your bodies natural response when stepping onto land is to draw in a deep cleansing breath of air to calm the demons in your belly.   This would work for any place other than Heron Island where you're greeted with the overwhelming stench of bird guano that is powerful enough to give your nostrils a full brazilian at no extra charge.  When the brochure stated that Heron Island was rich with bird life, they failed to mention that 100,000 Black Noddy Terns would migrate during December to this small seventeen hectare coral cay island paradise.  My first mental note was to never look up with my mouth open.  

 

Heron Island is located on 'One of the Seven Wonders of the World', The Great Barrier Reef.  It is listed as a World Heritage area and rightfully so, protected at all costs. The reef was to be observed and respected and minimally disturbed.  This policy was in place for all things on the island as well, including the smelly Black Noddy Tern.  At that point, I really was of two minds regarding the Terns.

Directly outside our room was a small tree that was home to about fifty of these nesting Terns. Luckily, the two sliding doors off the patio offered an ocean breeze that gave us some reprieve from the astringent smell of the bird guano.  In fact, it actually gave us a unique opportunity to observe these sleek black birds and come to appreciate their docile behaviour without needing to carry an umbrella or plug our noses. Perhaps things were looking up for us and we could venture out and explore the rest of the resort and beaches.  

 

The resort is laid out as a series of buildings, with each offering stunning vistas of the ocean, and are connected by a boardwalk and series of groomed dirt pathways.  The lounge is contemporary and the glass walls completely open up towards the ocean. I could envision relaxing in the comfy deep-seated chairs with a cold beverage after a long day of snorkelling.  The kids fell in love with the pool that overlooks the turquoise ocean. Just below off the side of the boardwalk is a crystal clear natural tidal pool where during the early evening hours when the tide has come in you can spot all sorts of marine life such as stingrays, wrasse, and even the occasional shark are spotted.  It feels surreal to know that tomorrow morning, with my husband as our guide and teacher, the kids and I will be attempting our first snorkel ever in this magnificent setting.

 

Being an insomniac at the best and worst of times, much to my amazement I found my eyes closing the second it made contact with the pillow.  It was to be one of the best nights sleep that I had in a very long time.  I woke feeling rejuvenated and even found myself whistling along with those Black Noddy Terns outside.  I could barely wait for the Marine Centre to open so that we could get ourselves outfitted with snorkelling gear.  

 

Our wetsuits and gear made us feel like a pack of seals. I seriously hoped a shark wouldn't mistake us for a tasty meal.  We submerge our masked faces into the warm, clear water and swim out along the jetty to discover the real beauty of this island actually lies below the surface of the ocean.  It's an underwater universe with coral gardens, flourishing marine life both big and small, in an abundance of colour far beyond my wildest imagination.  I now understood why Jacques Cousteau named one of the dive sites, 'The Heron Bommie', as being one of his top ten favourite dive sites.  Heading back towards shore, with a child in either hand we float over a smooth bank of white sand  and a mere six feet below us is a pod of a dozen or more stingrays hovering in the oceans gentle current.  The vision was an expansion of consciousness and the rare opportunity to share it with my children brought tears to my goggled eyes.  I wish could stay here forever.

Sadly the final day had come and the staff kindly reminded us not to forget our anti-nausea medication before departing for the voyage home.  We wait in queue for the clerk behind the counter who is doling out the small pills for eagerly awaiting hands.  We pop them into our mouths and hope they do a better job this time.  Somehow the impending voyage feels like a very small price to pay for having experienced one of the best and most memorable vacations of my life.

 
Published in Australia

My first year of trips back and forth to the Phils to be with my [then] girlfriend I always stayed at Mango's Resort in Subic Bay. I did this for two reasons: 1) my friend Tom is the owner and I always get a discount on my room; and 2) my ex is the boss of the morn/early afternoon shift.

For you however, I would recommend (depending on the length of your stay) either a hostel or a furnished apartment. A hostel will run you less than $10/night but an apartment will only set you back $200-$250 a month, tops. But because of what I mentioned before, I am afraid I am not able to give my usual nice listing with pics/reviews. Except for Mango's, of course.

Mango's Resort at Subic Bay, Olongapo, Philippines

Mango's Resort at Subic Bay, Olongapo, Philippines

Mango's Resort at Subic Bay

Mango's is a small establishment with only three guest rooms which are located directly over the restaurant/bar portion of the resort. The lower floor is popular with the locals (both native and ex-military) and they hold pool tournaments twice a week. But the best part is the food is fantastic and the drinks are cheap!

There is also an attached disco at the front of the resort, Rock Lobster. At eleven/midnight when the kitchen and bar closes, you are forced to get your drinks from the disco if you want to keep the night going. It's not a bad little disco, but it is small. There are several better ones within just a couple blocks.

Mango's Resort at Subic Bay, Olongapo, Philippines

Mango's Resort at Subic Bay, Olongapo, Philippines

The rooms themselves are very well done. They come with a kitchen area including mini fridge (which does come stocked with beer, soda, and water), closet, safe, and as you can see from the picture, a small living room with coffee table, extra chairs, a desk, and a large television.

View from Mango's Resort at Subic Bay, Olongapo, Philippines

View from Mango's Resort at Subic Bay, Olongapo, Philippines

View from Mango's Resort at Subic Bay, Olongapo, Philippines

Out back is a balcony that runs the whole width of the building and can be accessed via sliding doors in each guest room. There are tables and chairs there too, which make it a great li'l place to look out onto the bay or smoke a couple bowls and relax.

Jared's Thoughts On Mango's: "If you're looking for a quaint bar and hotel this is the place for you- limited rooms so book early. Since there are not scores of guests the wonderful staff spends all its time making sure you have a great stay."

Mango's Resort @ Subic Bay Official Web Site

[ UPDATE ]   As of my last trip back in 2014, my old friend Tom has partially retired and sold several of his properties, including Mango's. While the name remains the same, the attached Rock Lobster disco has been turned into a more adult-themed "Bunny Ranch" and several new suites have been built. There is also a new beachside bar.

Published in Philippines

The last few days I have been staying at Badladz Adventure Resort and Badladz Beach Resort in Puerto Galera, Philippines. Owners Sean and Mylene Cooney have put together two great locations for travelers to Puerto Galera that cater to both the diving crowd and those that just want to get away and relax.

View of Puerto Galera Harbor from Badladz Adventure Resort
View of Puerto Galera Harbor from Badladz Adventure Resort

Puerto Galera Resorts normally cater to the diving crowd with most facilities in Sabang but Badladz has made it easy for you to step off the ferry at Muelle Pier in Puerto Galera turn left and walk 50 meters to their Adventure Resort which offers PADI certification, fun dives, open water dives and more. Puerto Galera has long been known as one of the finest diving spots anywhere and Badladz Adventure Resort is known as one of the best places for divers to go.

Bar and Restaurant at Badladz Adventure Resort
Bar and Restaurant at Badladz Adventure Resort

After a day exploring underwater caves and wrecks you can relax at the Restaurant and Bar for a nice cold beer. The Restaurant offers great Mexican food along with traditional Filipino dishes, Sandwiches, Burgers and Breakfast. The Combination Mexican Plate is really good I can attest to that. Badladz Adventure Resort offers 13 rooms from single to double occupancy and has a great view of Puerto Galera Bay. The rooms offer comfortable and affordable accommodations and the staff is attentive to guests needs.

Badladz Beach Resort, Puerto Galera, Philippines
Badladz Beach Resort

After spending 2 days at Badladz Adventure Resort I moved over to the Beach resort. Recently finished in December 2011, the Beach resort is tucked away on a semi private beach a short drive from the Adventure Resort and has 9 rooms. Badladz Beach Resort is still expanding and construction is underway for some larger double rooms since more and more people are finding their way here and enjoying the hospitality.

Restaurant at Badladz Beach Resort, Puerto Galera, Philippines
Restaurant at Badladz Beach Resort

If you are looking to get away from the crowds and tourist attractions this is the place to go. The Beach resort offers the same menu at their Restaurant along with the same friendly and attentive staff. Here you can dine at the restaurant and look out onto Varadero Bay, relax in the beach chairs under the coconut trees or have a BBQ. When you are ready, head out onto the beach and have a swim in the bay. When I went the water was clean, cool and the waves were just right so as not to get a face full of salt water.

Badladz Beach Resort, Puerto Galera, Philippines

Whether you stay at the Beach Resort or the Adventure Resort there is a Van that will provide transportation between the two and also Sabang and White Beach along with other various attractions such as the waterfalls.

After checking in and dropping off my bags I went down for a cold beer and was greeted by name and since that time the experience at both the Adventure Resort and the Beach Resort have been fantastic with the owners and staff making sure all the guests were attended to and satisfied.

I can highly recommend Badladz Resorts for a truly great stay. If you are headed to Puerto Galera you can contact Badladz, one of the best resorts in Puerto Galera at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call +63 919 577 2823

Published in Philippines

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