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Island Life

    Europe Travel  --  Island Life

    Dear Chania and Western Crete

    Island Life on Greek’s Crete Island

    Location: Chania Crete Greece

    Dear Chania and Western Crete. What a lovely surprise you have been during our three week visit. I want to apologize for arriving with low expectations. You were so much more than I could have dreamed of. I also want to apologize for all the islands that have come before you…I just didn’t know how wonderful you were. You ticked all the boxes and I know I will be back. Dear Chania and Western Crete, how do I love thee? Well let me count the ways;

    1. Crete

    Rethymnos Venetian Harbor
    Olive tree outside of Chania estimated to be 3500-5000 years old

    Crete, the largest Greek island, known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, was infatuating. The home to ancient ruins and significant Minoan archaeological sites as well as beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and picturesque villages nestled in the mountains. Your cuisine is a highlight, featuring fresh seafood, olive oil, and local herbs. The people of Crete are known for their hospitality and traditional music and dance and are so welcoming.

    Rethymnos Fort offers spectacular views of the White Mountains and the Mediterranean

    2. Chania

    Chania (pronounced Han-ya) was a perfect choice for our three week stay. We had two couples joining us from the states for the first week of our stay, so we booked an amazing four bedroom historic stone home about 15 min from the center of Chania. Now we are already discussing staying in this Airbnb again. We rented a car on arrival to be able to thoroughly explore all you have to offer, having a car is recommended. Chania has an airport, and so does Heraklion and you can also arrive on the island via ferry from Athens or other Greek islands.

    Our Airbnb
    We loved our Airbnb
    Even in the cool spring the pool was beautiful

    Chania is a charming coastal town, known for its picturesque Venetian harbor, narrow streets, and historic architecture. The town has a rich history, with influences from the Venetians, Ottomans, and Egyptians. Chania offers a mix of cultural attractions, vibrant markets, and beautiful beaches, making it a one of the things we really fell in love with.

    Venetian old town in Chania
    Chania harbor
    Old Town Chania after dark with a full moon

    Things We Enjoyed in Chania

    On our first day we hired Roussos from Alma de Crete to show us the beautiful city on foot. Our four hour tour also included so much food tastes – we needed no other meals that day. We learned from Roussos the fascinating history, cultural insights and local cuisine. Thank you Roussos, your tour helped us start our love affair with Crete.

    Watching filo dough be made by hand
    Fabulous local seafood at the market, Chania
    Cathedral of Mary in old town Chania

    We also did something else special in Chania, we learned to make beautiful mosaic art from famous local artists. I highly recommend this activity when in Chania – perfect for groups, families, kids or just couples like us. Look what we made! Not only did we make a great souvenir we met lovely local people. Learn more about it here, Marinella Mosaic Workshop.

    Marinella Mosaic Workshop
    A perfect souvenir in the works
    All smiles with our Masterpieces

    3. History

    Dear Chania and Western Crete, your history is fascinating and beautiful. We loved the Venetian feel of Chania and Rethymnos, the historic stone farm houses scattered through out the countryside and mountains, the ancient amphitheater in the hills above Rethymnos. We marveled at your culturally rich monasteries, fortresses and ports.

    Rethymnos Harbor
    Mosque dome at Rethymnos Fort
    Chania Lighthouse after dark
    Historic chapel in the middle of nowhere

    Crete, your rich history dating back to the Minoan civilization makes you one of the earliest advanced societies in Europe. Who knew? The island has been influenced by various civilizations, including the Mycenaeans, Romans, and Byzantines. You played a significant role in Greek mythology and was a strategic location in ancient times.

    Aptera Amphitheater near Chania
    Dating to 1537 Gouveneto Monastery is one of the oldest in Greece. A definite place to visit.

    4. Hiking

    Chania and Western Crete offered excellent hiking opportunities for this outdoor enthusiast. The region features diverse landscapes, including mountains, gorges, and coastal trails. One of the most popular hikes is the Samaria Gorge, a stunning natural wonder that attracts hikers from around the world. We explored the White Mountains, hiked to ancient ruins, and enjoyed panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea along the way.

    Hiking at Falassarna
    Goats joined us for a hike in the White Mountains
    A beautiful day to hike at the Gouverneto Monastery high about the sea
    White Mountains

    5. Beaches

    Even during the spring, the Mediterranean beaches of Crete are beautiful. We marveled at the turquoise water of the beaches on the coast between Rethymno and Chania. We hiked the rocky cliffs along the beaches of Falassarna. And we swam in the blue ocean and walked on the golden sands of Elafonisi. Come summer we understand your beaches are packed with guests, but our love affair with Crete began with deserted beaches, and crystal clear water.

    The beach on a windy day at Falassarna
    Gorgeous weather at Elafonisi
    Elafonisi known for the pink sand, though it’s not as pink as it once was

    6. Oh the Food

    Cretan cuisine is a highlight of this island, featuring fresh and flavorful dishes made with local ingredients. Thank you Crete for the olive oil, herbs, and seafood – staples in Cretan cooking. Traditional dishes like dakos (barley rusk salad), lamb with stamnagathi (wild greens), and kalitsounia (sweet cheese pastries) were delicious, reflecting your rich agricultural heritage and Mediterranean flavors. Oh and the wine. Wow.

    Outdoor oven at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School
    Veerna helps us with the dough

    Dear Chania and Western Crete we could not get enough of your delicious, fresh and local food. We learned to cook six local dishes with Veerna at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School in Chania, one of the highlights of our visit to Crete. Veerna and her family have created an amazing place to gather, learn and enjoy. We highly recommend every visitor to Chania spend time with Veerna learning about Crete cuisine.

    Amazing stuffed vegetables at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School
    Raki with Dakos
    Boureki is one of Chania’s regional dishes, very much like Potatoes Au Gratin

    Delicious Dining

    During our island visit we ate at some remarkable restaurants that I must mention here, creating more memories of our time in Western Crete. We highly recommend all of these;

    Carte Postale when visiting the historic monasteries outside of Chania, Carte Postale is a perfect destination for lunch or dinner. With a beautiful view of Chania, the food was remarkable and so was the service.

    Braised lamb so tender at Carte Postale
    Feta and Wild Greens Salad, Carte Postale

    Raki Ba Raki we stumbled upon this place while visiting Rethynomo and what a treat it was. Great food and ambiance too.

    Meze Platter at Raki Ba Raki
    Marinated Anchovies at Raki Ba Raki

    Ntounias Slow Food – farm to table slow food cooked without electricity over wood stoves specializing in Chania regional cuisine. Don’t miss this. We almost missed it because I could never reach them on their website, but eventually called and got someone. Although when we showed up for our reservations I didn’t really think we needed it. They also have vineyard and farm educational tours. We dined on bouriki (see above), roasted goat, eggplant salad, fava beans and their own wine. Service was amazing!

    Tamam our guide Roussos recommended this restaurant for authentic food and we went as a group of six and had a spectacular meal. Located in an ancient building in the Venetian area of Chania, it was a perfect mix of delicious, historic and great service too.

    Perfect Moussaka at Tamam
    Meatballs at Tamam

    And Seafood

    Salis, right on the beautiful harbor in Old Town Chania, we loved the view, the food and the service was excellent as well. Great wine list too.

    Warm brocoli salad was amazing
    Local Corbfish was delicious

    Argentina Kapenekis about 30 min from Chania is the lovely beach town of Kissamos. We enjoyed a late lunch with waterside view and a wide selection of fresh caught fish and lovely preparations. If you like seafood this is the place for you.

    Spicy Shrimp Saganaki
    Beautiful view

    Dear Chania and Western Crete

    We hope you will welcome us back again with such open arms as you have during our March visit. Thank you for your kind people, and rich and full list of things to keep us busy…but also for quiet days, with filtered sunshine and the sweet smell of lemon blossoms.

    View from our Airbnb
    Greece – colorful and quaint

    How do I love thee? So many ways. I will return. Efcharistó Crete!

    Thank you for reading my blog post Dear Chania and Western Crete. We love it when you comment, pin and share our blog posts. Thank you.

    Next week I will tell you about our visit to the ancient Knossos Palace in Heraklion Crete. Be sure to come back to read about that.

    Chania Venetian Harbor after dark

    See last week’s post Athens for First Timers – A Beautiful City.

    Also you might like our post My Favorite Greek Food here and The Cyprus Test Kitchen here

    See our post Island Hopping From Antiparos here

    Island Life

    Book Review Lincoln on the Verge by Ted Widmer

    Dramatic and riveting, I enjoyed this masterful work about Abraham Lincoln and how it almost didn’t happen. Here is my book review Lincoln on the Verge by Ted Widmer.

    Thirteen Days

    In our fast paced world today it’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact it took President Elect Abraham Lincoln thirteen days to travel from Illinois to Washington DC. Widmer uses extensive research, first hand accounts, letters and telegrams to create this theatrical but factual story.

    A Country in Crisis

    As Lincoln slowly makes his way to his inauguration, the country is divided and in crisis. Multiple attempts to assassinate Lincoln are in the works. As well as multiple plans to keep Lincoln from ever being inaugurated. Eerily familiar to our recent political chaos, the United States is on the verge of collapse, anarchy and civil war as Southern states have vowed to keep Lincoln from ever taking office.

    A Man in the Making

    During the 13 day passage, Lincoln’s loyal supporters will create an incredibly well planned journey to protect him at all costs. All while Lincoln himself discovers his own strength through his eloquent voice, as he triumphs in his desire to be the man who is like the people who voted for him.

    On the Verge

    This journey, perilous and fraught, puts Lincoln on the Verge of greatness. It’s unthinkable what the United States would look like, if Lincoln had not indeed survived and become the greatest of our Presidents in the USA.

    I highly recommend this fascinating book. I learned so much about our country, our history, this President and a fascinating collection of characters who we never hear of, but who saved Lincoln on the Verge.

    Thanks for reading my Book Review Lincoln on the Verge by Ted Widmer. See last week’s book review The Council of Dolls.

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    Asia & Oceania Travel  --  Island Life

    Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia

    Location: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

    Tasmania. Where is it? I don’t think most people even know. Not that long ago I wouldn’t have known either. But today I can say it is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. And Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, is definitely worth a visit. Let me tell you why I say Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia.

    Looking down at Hobart from the top of Mount Wellington at 4400 feet

    Hobart, Tasmania

    Tasmania is Australia’s southernmost state. It’s an island too, about half the size of the state of Washington, an hour flight from Melbourne. Hobart is the capital city of Tasmania and is home to 198,000 people. The city of Hobart sits at latitude 43 south – which is equivalent to Milwaukee Wisconsin or Marseille France north. During our visit we rented a wonderful Airbnb in Hobart for an entire month over the Christmas holidays. Even though December is the beginning of summer in Australia, it never gets too hot in Hobart due to the southern exposure, and we had a little bit of everything in the weather department. It’s a perfect size city for getting around, and we had time to do so many wonderful things: from museums to hiking and more – Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia.

    Lovingly refurbished historic home
    Historic Airbnb built in 1860
    We loved this Airbnb

    Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia, has a colonial and penal colony history but natives were here much earlier. Wikipedia says “The first European settlement in the Hobart area began in 1803 as a penal colony and defensive outpost. In 1804 it was moved to a better location at the present site of Hobart at Sullivans Cove, making it the second oldest city in Australia. Prior to British settlement, the area had been occupied for at least 8,000 years, but possibly for as long as 35,000 years, by the semi-nomadic Mouheneener tribe, a sub-group of the Nuenonne, or South-East tribe. The descendants of the indigenous Tasmanians now refer to themselves as ‘Palawa‘.”

    Historic Hobart Harbor (Canva)

    Things to do in Hobart Tasmania

    In this post I will share with you all the great things we discovered to do in the city of Hobart, or less than an hour from the city. Next week’s Friday blog post, I will expand more on all the incredible attractions more than hour outside of the city. But if you are only visiting Hobart, there is so very much to do without leaving the city Let’s talk about it.


    Battery Point – one of Hobart’s oldest and best preserved neighborhoods just south of the CBD. Founded in 1818, Battery Point (so named from the cannons once positioned there) is perfect for a self-guided walking tour when visiting Hobart.

    Battery Point
    Row Houses in Battery Point
    Battery Point

    Hobart Wharf and Constitution Dock – a beautiful part of the city, this historic waterfront area is home to the fishing fleet as well as yachts and personal sailboats. Many tours leave from here and there are casual eateries and fine dining options. The cruise terminal is close by.

    Hobart Waterfront
    Mawson’s Museum, replica of early Antarctica cabins
    Lots of seafood options at the wharf

    Cascades Female Factory Historic Site – not to be missed former site for female convicts who were transported from Britain beginning in the early 1800’s. This is a great place to begin learning about this bleak time in Australia’s history prior to visiting Port Author about an hour and a half from Hobart (more on that next week). Don’t miss this fascinating, sad but also intriguing UNESCO World Heritage Sight in Hobart.

    Cascades Female Factory
    Historic Cascades Female Factory
    Cascades Female Factory


    MONA Museum of Old and New – Difficult to describe; weird, curious, eccentric. Definitely thought-provoking. I struggle to understand modern art…so some of it went over my capacity. The architecture however was fascinating. Even if you go away scratching your head, it still is worth a visit when in Hobart for its state-of-the-art concept. I also recommend arriving by ferry on the Derwent River from Hobart Harbor.

    Museum of Old and New

    Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery – Wow. This museum was a real surprise right from the start when we realized it was free. Housed in a historic building near the original docks, TMAG is home to a wide range of exhibits from art to history and nature. I was particularly impressed with the aboriginal exhibits which I thought presented that story very well…despite how disturbing it can be. A very similar tale to the plight of the Native American.


    Glow Tour with Lisa Ann – staying up past dark was worth it to do this unique tour. We walked through a city park and were astonished at the wildlife there. Using UV lights which don’t disturb the animals, we explored trees and found possums, endangered bandicoots, wallabies and pademelon. The platypus were elusive but regularly are seen after dark. A fun evening.

    Endangered Bandicoot

    Parks & Gardens

    Mount Wellington, now called kunanyi in respect to the original local people of the region – It’s a very easy drive to the top of kunanyi- Mount Wellington, about 40 minutes from Hobart. Certainly the top was chilly but worth it for the amazing views…incredible from 4400 feet.

    Afterward we went back down to about 3500 feet where it was a bit warmer and did a lovely hike below the iconic Organ Pipes rock formation, and had a picnic and enjoyed so much bird life. This park is a must when in Hobart.

    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens inside Queen’s Domain Park – we spent Christmas Day walking around this beautiful botanic garden – one of many we enjoyed in Australia. The well tended and diverse 17 hectare space is housed within the more wild Queen’s Domain Park. Consecutively , worth a stroll when in Hobart. Free too!

    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
    A Beautiful day at Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

    Intercity Cycleway – used for commuting and recreation both, this wonderful paved trail runs along the old railroad tracks from Hobart all the way to Claremont. About 16 miles and we used it regularly for our morning runs.

    View of the Derwent River from the Intercity Cycleway


    Salamanca Market – held every Saturday 8:30-3:00 through out the year, this huge outdoor market offers a wide variety of food, produce, gifts, clothing, arts and crafts. On Salamanca Street right near the wharf. The area is also home to wonderful shops, restaurants and historic sights.

    Salamanca every Saturday year around
    Salamanca every Saturday year around

    Sunday Farm Gate – my favorite for locally grown and produced, this market is held every Sunday in the summer. Home to fresh bread, produce, cheese, honey and even gin and whiskey all locally made.

    Sunday Farm Gate
    Sunday Farm Gate

    Hobart Twilight Market – Happening twice a month in the summer and once a month in the winter, the Hobart Twilight Market takes place near the waterfront and Franklin Pier. Albeit you’ll find lots of yummy options for dining as well as distillery options, crafts, honey and more. Live music. Dates vary so check the website.

    Hobart Twilight Market

    Food and Restaurants

    Because we had such a great kitchen in our Airbnb, and because we work hard to stay on budget, we actually did not eat out very often during our month in Hobart. But we did enjoy the following;

    Street Eats – during Australia’s summer months (December – February) every Friday night at Franklin Square you’ll find Street Eats. This Friday night food truck festival is a great gathering place complete with music.

    Street Eats
    Street Eats held at Franklin Square
    Friday Street Eats

    Breakfast -looking for a tasty breakfast in Hobart CBD? Look no further than Criterion. A unique and tasty menu and excellent coffee with great service and a good price.

    Breakfast at Criterion

    Lunch – Cultura Espresso and Bistro is a perfect place for a quick late breakfast or lunch. Italian specialties with excellent coffee and wine too. Try the Chicken Panzanella Salad.

    Lunch at Cultura

    Dinner – We enjoyed dinner out at a handful of restaurants and can recommend all of these;

    Da Angelo Italian – this highly rated restaurant in Battery Point serves spectacular food with wonderful service too. I had veal bianco and my husband had lasagna (his favorite) and we both were really happy. Da Angelo has a great local wine list, perfect with our meal.

    Pearl & Co. – casual seafood eatery connected to the fish market and located right next to where the fresh fish comes in, a really delicious selection of seafood. Oyster, calamari, blue-eye trevally and scallop pie all were perfect.

    Delicious and authentic Italian at Da Angelo
    Pearl & Co.

    Room For A Pony – it’s a funny name but a very popular spot for both indoor and outdoor dining and perfect for groups in North Hobart. We enjoyed a delicious salad and pizza. Simple and family friendly.

    Poncho Villa – we read such good reviews about this Mexican restaurant we had to try it. Consequently, Poncho Villa is so popular it even requires a reservation. The Mexican food was authentic and delicious, while being creative too. I’m glad we went!

    Landscape Restaurant and Grill – fine dining at it’s best. This beautiful restaurant on historic Hunter Street was a perfect way to end our month in Hobart. Beautiful steak, fish, wine and service…everything you need for a perfect celebration or night out.

    Room For a Pony
    Poncho Villa
    Perfect meal at Landscape


    Cascade Brewery Tour – it’s not free but it’s really interesting to tour the oldest brewery in Australia. Fascinating building and history and your ticket includes a lovely tasting at the end. Tickets $35 Aussie (about $20 US)

    Cascade Brewery, Australia’s oldest brewery

    While in Hobart, we made a point to visit several local microbreweries. I can recommend all of them if you are a beer lover like we are. Definitely check out T-Bone, Shambles, Deep South, Captain Bligh, Hobart Brewery and Overland.

    Captain Bligh’s


    Theatre Royale – this beautiful historic theatre, built in 1837, has events through out the year. While we were in Hobart we enjoyed a fun and festive annual Christmas show. Check out offerings when you visit.

    Saint David’s Anglican Cathedral – this beautiful and historic church hosts many events throughout the year open to the public and during our stay in Hobart we attended a free (donations welcome) holiday musical event that was truly spectacular. We loved being there with all the locals enjoying the music of the holidays in a venue where the acoustics were heavenly.

    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens – in the summer the Theatre Royal presents shows outdoors at the Botanical Gardens. We enjoyed a fun production of Pinocchio the week after News Years.

    Saint David’s Cathedral performance
    Beautiful Saint Davids Cathedral

    Pinocchio in the Park


    Richmond is a tiny colonial town about 30 min drive from Hobart and definitely worth a visit. Luckily we went in the morning, before the tour busses arrived, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Czeg Cafe. Secondly we followed a self guided walk around the village following the city’s online guide.

    During our walk we visited the well preserved and interesting Richmond Gaol as well as the convict-built stone bridge – built in 1823 and still in use. Richmond has some fun shops and many other restaurants as well. In the region around Richmond you will find multiple wineries. We visited Nocton Winery and enjoyed a tasting – taking two bottles home for our holiday celebrations.

    Richmond Bridge
    Richmond Gaol
    Czeg Cafe Richmond
    Breakfast at Czeg.
    Nocton Winery


    For such a small town Hobart is home to large variety of events and festivals throughout the year. See the full list here. While we were visiting, one of the biggest events of the the year, Taste of Summer , took place the week after Christmas and first week of January on the waterfront in Salamanca. The party on New Year’s Eve was a great fit for us. Certainly the event has so much food, beverages, excellent music – and on NYE front row seats to the 9:30pm fireworks (family and old people friendly) and the midnight fireworks as well!

    Taste of Sunmer
    Happy New Year
    Taste of Summer

    See More Tasmania

    Although I spent a month in Hobart, you could explore the city easily in three or four days. Therefore giving you time to see so much of the island of Tasmania, if you don’t have a full month like we did.

    However, next week I’ll tell you about our adventures around the island of Tasmania…some day trips from Hobart (more than an hour) including Bruny Island and Port Arthur. Additionally we also did some overnight trips including Freycinet National Park and Cradle Mountain. I hope you will come back to learn all about that next week. Tasmania is an astonishing place. I think I’m in love. Meanwhile, thanks for reading my post Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia.

    Do you want more posts about Australia? Click on these Visit Beautiful Brisbane, Visit Marvelous Melbourne, Caravan Travel Australia Part One, and Part Two.

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    Asia & Oceania Travel  --  Island Life

    Our Favorite Things to do in Panglao/Bohol, Philippines

    Location: Panglao/Bohol, Philippines

    We spent an entire month relaxing on the island of Panglao in the Philippines, a tiny island connected to the larger island of Bohol by a bridge. We came with few expectations. In fact, after a three week whirlwind of Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong, we were looking for some peace and quiet. We certainly found it, and a whole lot more. Panglao/Bohol is one of the most underrated destinations we have found. We loved it and will be back. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines.

    Panglao Sunset

    Keeping it Simple

    We originally thought we would rent a car for a couple of days to see some sights. But our wonderful Airbnb host suggested we not. He explained how crazy the drivers were, and we had to agree after just a few days of walking around. So instead we hired a private driver on two occasions to spend the day seeing sights. We also went by Tuk Tuk or Tri-Cab to a couple other sites and beaches close to our bungalow. The hired driver was safe and economical. Our host helped us secure a driver rather than going with a tour. Total cost of an entire day for two people was less for a private tour with driver than it would have been for us to go on a group tour on a bus. And we could pick and choose the sights we wanted to see.

    Alona Beach

    Since we were in Panglao/Bohol for four weeks, we had lots of time to enjoy the sites as well as time to just do nothing. We like to do both! I understand most people probably won’t have a whole month, so I’m listing the things we did and how we liked them and you can pick and chose what works for you.


    We spent the month of October, and every day was hot and humid. During the month we saw a couple of cloudy days and a couple of torrential downpours with thunder. Weather changes quickly so be prepared all the time. October is considered the end of the rainy season, with the dry season being December to May, however the high temperature does not fluctuate much throughout the year. It was 87 degrees Fahrenheit pretty much every single day.


    So let me tell you our favorite things to do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines;


    Our hands-down favorite was visiting the Philippine Tarsier Foundation Sanctuary in Corella on the island of Bohol. If you only do one thing here it must be this. There are other places to see tarsiers on this island but the Philippine Tarsier Foundation is the one that is working to protect, save and conserve these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat for all to enjoy for generations to come.

    Our visit included an informative video and then a guided tour into the forest to see up close and personal four Tarsiers who had bedded down for the day. Tarsiers are nocturnal, and because they feel safe, they return to the sanctuary each morning and spend the day. I was smitten by these darling, tiny and highly endangered little beauties. PLEASE don’t visit places that put Tarsiers in cages. These beautiful creatures only survive a very short time if in a cage. Visit the Philippine Tarsier Foundation.

    Philippine Tarsier Foundation

    Our second favorite was snorkeling the Napaling Reef with Freedive Academy Panglao. This reef is off the Northwest side of Panglao. This snorkel tour does not involve a boat, instead you are swimming right off shore in a beautiful protected reef. The highlight of this is to swim with millions of sardines…I am not kidding MILLIONS! There’s also many other tropical fish, and amazing coral. It was very cool, the water is clear and clean and our guide took so many great photos and videos for us to take home. Cost was only $20 per person. A must do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines!

    Millions of sardines
    Napaling Reef, Panglao
    Napaling Reef, Panglao

    PLEASE NOTE – we chose not to swim with the Whale Sharks because we did not feel this activity was eco-friendly or sustainable for the health and welfare of the whales. We discourage you from doing this activity.


    We made our way to two waterfalls, both on Bohol. The first one is not far from the Chocolate Hills, but is down a long dirt road. Because the road to Pangas Falls is rough, not as many people visit. Our driver managed it and we were thrilled to arrive and find we were the only ones there. The set of small falls create a beautiful pool to swim in. Ropes are provided to pull yourself through what is a pretty strong current. It was a lot of fun and I am so glad we got to do this all by ourselves. Turned out to be one of our favorite things to do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines.

    Pangas Falls
    We had the place to ourselves

    The second falls we went to was much taller. Can Umantad Falls is located a lot farther away from Panglao and it took us about two and a half hours to get there. We did not swim here although we could have and there were lots of visitors enjoying swimming. To get to the falls you have to pay a guy on a motor scooter to take you down the steep hill to the entrance of the falls. I wasn’t expecting that so I had to psych up to get on the back of that scooter. But it was very pretty and I’m glad we visited.

    Can-Umantad Falls
    Can-Umantad Falls


    We visited two caves, one on Panglao close to our Airbnb and one on Bohol, more than two hours drive away. We loved the one on Panglao, but didn’t really love the second one.

    On Panglao only about 15 min drive from where we were staying is Hinagdanan Cave. Entrance fee was under $2 and you walk down some dark stairs and then suddenly you are deep in the earth with the most crystal clear beautiful pool of freshwater. Life jackets are available if you need a boost of confidence, but we enjoyed a swim in the cool refreshing pool with the filtered sunlight coming through the top of the cave and the tiny bats flitting around. A definite must visit.

    Hinagdanan Cave
    Crystal clear at Hinagdanan Cave

    On Bohol, and about two hours from Alona Beach is the Cabagnow Cave Pool. This cave is deep but with a complete open top. You have to go down a steep ladder to enter. We were there right after a big rainstorm and the water was not very pleasant looking. I’ve seen photos where it is not so brown, but the day we visited it wasn’t very appealing. Also the care of the surrounding area is very poor, very muddy and rocky with no facilities, so we really thought we could have left this off our itinerary altogether. Disappointing. We only paid about $1 each so no great loss!

    Cabagnow Cave Pool
    Cabagnow Cave Pool

    Popular Tourist Sights

    There are several other miscellaneous sights scattered about with numerous options for getting to these sights. We did not do all the sights, some of them seeming a bit tacky to us, but here is what we did do;

    Cadapdapan Rice Terraces – these beautiful terraced rice fields stretch golden across the landscape on the hill above the Can-Umantad Falls. When we visited rice was in harvest and along the stretch of road throughout the region rice is laid out to dry. Very pretty and worth a stop if you are in the region, easily combined with a visit to the falls. There is also a restaurant here.

    Cadapdapan Rice Terraces
    Cadapdapan Rice Terraces

    Chocolate Hills – these geological formations are fascinating. And although the vantage to view them is very touristy, we are glad we went to learn. Wikipedia says – The Chocolate Hills form a rolling terrain of haycock-shaped hills—mounds of a generally conical and almost symmetrical shape.[5] Estimated to be from 1,268 to about 1,776 individual mounds, these cone-shaped or dome-shaped hills are actually made of grass-covered limestone. The domes vary in size from 30 to 50 metres (98 to 164 ft) high with the largest being 120 metres (390 ft) in height. One of Bohol’s best known tourist attractions.

    Definitely worth a stop on Bohol.

    Chocolate Hills
    Chocolate Hills

    A Few More Sites

    Tigbao Bamboo Hanging Bridges – I had seen some photos of these twin bridges that hang over the Sipitan River and I wanted to check it out. So we did. To cross the bridge you pay less than $1, and the view is very pretty. Although the bridges sway, I felt completely safe.

    Tigboa Hanging Bridge
    Tigbao Hanging Bridge

    Baclayon Church – historic and beautiful old Catholic Church built in 1727 of local limestone coral blocks, this is a favorite stop on most local tours. There is a museum, but we did not go inside, we just admired the exterior.

    Baclayon Church built in 1727
    Historic Bacylon Church


    We visited several tourist beaches during our stay and there are many more we did not visit. The most beautiful beach we thought was Dumaluan. There are many resorts on this stretch of white sand but we visited through a small private park and paid 100 pesos (about $2) for access to the beach for a day. Alona Beach, which was the closest one to our Airbnb, is also the most crowded and home to lots of resorts and departure point for dive boats. The Alona area of Panglao is definitely the tourist base, but it’s also pretty and a nice place to swim.

    Dumaluan Beach a beautiful long stretch of white sand
    Alona Beach is home to the tourism base on Panglao

    Doljo Beach is also nice, but very shallow. Much of the island is surrounded by coral reef and you can walk hundreds of yards in shallow water. Doljo was like this but also beautiful. We spent a couple of hours on Momo Beach, where lots of locals and no tourists were enjoying the white sand. It was very swimable but a bit remote to get to.

    Doljo Beach
    Momo Beach

    Resort Day Use Pass

    We discovered how inexpensive it is to visit local resorts on a day use pass and we took advantage on three occasions. All three were amazing and we definitely recommend this if you are staying in a place like our Airbnb that, although it has a pool, is not located near the beach. All passes included food and drink. We recommend the following;

    Close to our Airbnb in Dinao

    BE Grand Resort – This beautiful resort was about a mile from our Airbnb. There was a gorgeous pool, a lovely manmade sandy beach with stairs down to the ocean. We had one of the best meals we had all month in their restaurant. We paid 1200 pesos (about $22 USD) and that included $15 towards food and drinks. I really appreciated the beautiful and large locker room with showers.

    Nightly rate at the beautiful BE Grand mid November starts about $140. This beautiful hotel would easily cost $600 a night in Maui.

    The pool at BE Grand Resort
    The bar at BE Grand Resort

    Two on Doljo Beach an Easy Tuk Tuk Ride

    Modala Resort – We really loved this beautiful beach resort as well. The pool was busy but very nice. A very shallow but long white beach fronts the property. Our lunch here was delicious and the service was great. We paid 950 pesos (about $18 USD) and that included $12 for food and drinks.

    Nightly rate for mid November at Modala is around $253 per night.

    Infinity pool at Modala
    Swimup bar at Modala

    The Bellevue Resort – not far from Modala Resort is The Bellevue Resort. We liked the pool here but the beach is very shallow. We had a nice relaxing day. Cost was 950 pesos (about $18) with 600 pesos for consumables. Restaurant was more expensive than the other two resorts but the food and service were excellent.

    Nightly rate mid November at The Bellevue Resort is around $135 per night.

    Clearly if you want the full resort experience but you are on a budget…Panglao is the place to go.

    Morning Bloody Mary beach side at The Bellevue Resort
    Authentic and delicious lunch at The Bellevue.


    We used the tiny kitchen in our Airbnb most days as we usually do to stay on budget. However we did eat out a few times during our month on the island. Here are our favorites;

    A Little More Upscale

    The Pearl – located in the Linaw Beach Resort walking distance from our Airbnb. Our host recommended we visit and also made a reservation for us so we could sit with our toes in the sand at sunset. The service and view were impeccable. We had a full meal with several drinks and it was only $30. A lovely evening.

    Beach dining at The Pearl
    Sunset Dinner at The Pearl

    BE Grand Resort, The Food Hall – while visiting on a Day Pass to the BE Grand Resort we had what was possibly the best meal during our month. The service was amazing, and the food was on point, beautifully presented and absolutely delicious and authentic.

    Our favorite meal in the Philippines at BE Grand

    Gerardas Family Restaurant – our Airbnb host recommended this very authentically Filipino family restaurant and we are so glad he did. It was very inexpensive, (huge meal with drinks and desert $25) the service was great and we were able to try several delicious Filipino favorites. Several locations throughout the Bohol area. We enjoyed this place so much we went again on our final night on Panglao.

    Gerarda’s Family Restaurant
    Halo Halo is a favorite local dessert of evaporated milk shaved ice and fruit at Gerarda’s

    Very Casual

    The Garden Cafe – my deaf friend Veronica, who used to live on Bohol, recommended this restaurant. It is a restaurant that employs deaf people from Bohol. We liked this concept and wanted to support their cause. We enjoyed our meal especially the lumpia. $28 for a big lunch.

    Lumpia at The Garden Cafe
    Crispy Pork Garden Cafe

    Toto e’ Peppino Pizza and Italiano Restaurant – we went looking for a Taco place we had heard good reviews about, but when we found it closed we ended up at this wonderful little Italian spot. Pizza was authentic and delicious, service was great and as usual…so inexpensive. $18 dollars for pizza, salad and beer.

    Toto e’ Peppino

    Garlic n’ Lemon Bistro – this highly rated Alona area restaurant says it’s Thai, but we actually didn’t find much Thai on the menu. However we did find delicious food, giant portions, lovely service and great prices. Our dinner was $25 and we took lots of food home.

    The Signature Dish – Garlic Shrimp at Garlic n’ Lemon Bistro

    Guitarwoodhouse – We came to the Guitarwoodhouse just because it was a must see. We only had a beer and an appetizer (an authentic Filipino pork dish called sisig), but the Guitarwoodhouse has a full menu, bar and nightly music in a unique setting.

    The Guitarwoodhouse, Panglao
    Trying Sisig for the first time

    Much More

    There is much more to do on this beautiful island, and we think we should come back and visit again. We did not get out to any of the outlying islands but there are multiple options to do this. Diving, snorkeling and free diving are very popular activities and draw the most visitors.

    Our Airbnb bungalow was perfect for a long stay, complete with pool, bottled water and a kind and helpful host. We paid with tax and fees $69 per night. Rate varies by season. With a long stay it included a weekly house cleaning. We would definitely stay here again.

    Our little bungalow in Danao, Panglao
    Enjoying the pool

    How To Get Here

    Originally we had booked an Airbnb in Cebu City on the island of Cebu. But that got canceled, and in hindsight we are so grateful it did. Otherwise we would not have ended up on Panglao/Bohol. But we already had a flight to Cebu City from Manila that we couldn’t change. So from Cebu City we took the two hour ferry to Bohol. See it here.

    However, there is no reason to go through Cebu. You can fly direct to the newly opened Panglao Airport from Manila. There are also direct flights to Panglao from Korea.

    The Bellevue Resort

    We Will Be Back

    We did not meet any other Americans. This surprised us given how popular Vietnam and Thailand are with American travelers, why not here? Likely the Americans here are staying at the resorts or are full-time expats we did not encounter. It’s a very inexpensive place to retire. We only met a couple of Europeans. Most the visitors are Korean, Japanese and Chinese. We thought it was an outstanding destination.

    We had the best day snorkeling Napaling Reef

    Our Favorite Things to do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines

    Thank you for reading our post Our Favorite Things to do in Panglao/Bohol Philippines. We definitely think more people should visit here. It is so inexpensive, and also beautiful. The beaches are clean and the food is good and the people are friendly. It is now the most, budget friendly place we have ever visited since we started our world travels more than seven years ago. It beat out Bulgaria by about $15 per day. You should get here before the secret is out.

    Our next stop is Australia for two months…we hope you will continue to follow us on our Grand Adventure.

    See last week’s post Cooking Class in Hong Kong with Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio

    Our Pinterest followers are loving this post this week Birds of Papua New Guinea. Have you engaged with it yet?

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    Asia & Oceania Travel  --  Island Life

    Birds of Papua New Guinea

    Birds of Papua New Guinea: A Paradise for Avian Enthusiasts (most of the photos in this post are from Canva)

    PLEASE see Special Note at the bottom of this post about Woodland Park Zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Survival Program

    Papua New Guinea, a country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, is renowned for its stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and incredible biodiversity. Among its many natural wonders, Papua New Guinea is home to an astonishing array of bird species. It is a paradise for avian enthusiasts and ornithologists alike. My husband and I consider ourselves amateurs, but are nonetheless enthusiastic about spotting and tracking birds in our travels. The birds of Papua New Guinea were fascinating.

    So Many Unique Birds

    With over 700 recorded bird species, Papua New Guinea boasts one of the highest avian diversities in the world. Its unique geographical location, encompasses both tropical rainforests and highland habitats. This provides a wide range of ecosystems that support a remarkable variety of bird life. From the lowland jungles to the misty mountain peaks, Papua New Guinea offers a birdwatching experience like no other.

    Raggiana Bird of Paradise

    One of the most iconic bird species found in Papua New Guinea is the Raggiana bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea raggiana). This striking bird, with its vibrant red and yellow plumage and long, elegant tail feathers, is the national bird of Papua New Guinea. The male Raggiana bird-of-paradise performs elaborate courtship displays, showcasing its magnificent plumage and unique dance moves to attract a mate. Witnessing this spectacle in person is an unforgettable experience that highlights the beauty and diversity of Papua New Guinea’s avifauna.

    Raggiana Bird of Paradise (Canva)

    King of Saxony Bird of Paradise

    One of the most amazing birds we had the opportunity to see was the King of Saxony Bird of Paradise. Although he stayed very high up in the tree, we spent a long time in a raised “blind” built for bird viewing and watched the display of the King of Saxony’s incredible head feathers.

    King of Saxony and his showy head feathers
    Watching King of Saxony high in the tree showing off his very long feathers

    Victoria Crowned Pigeon

    Another fascinating bird species found in Papua New Guinea is the Victoria crowned pigeon (Goura victoria). This large, ground-dwelling bird is known for its regal appearance, with a beautiful blue-gray plumage, a fan-shaped crest, and bright red eyes. The Victoria crowned pigeon is endemic to the island of New Guinea and can be spotted in the lowland rainforests. Its unique appearance and gentle nature make it a favorite among birdwatchers and photographers.

    Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Canva)

    Papuan Lorikeet

    One of my favorites we spotted high in the mountains was the beautiful Papuan Lorikeet which we saw at the very end of our birdwatching days. It gave us a brief show and we were so impressed.

    Papuan Lorakeet (Canva)

    Stephanie’s Astrapia

    Papua New Guinea is also home to a wide range of bird species that are endemic to the region, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world. These include the stunning Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia (Astrapia stephaniae). This bird-of-paradise species has iridescent green and purple plumage. We got up close and personal with the Astrapia and although the IPhone isn’t great for wildlife photos I did manage a video of this illusive bird. Exploring the remote and untouched habitats of Papua New Guinea allows bird enthusiasts to encounter these unique and rare species up close.

    Stephanie’s Astrapia (Wikipedia)
    My video capture Stephanie’s Astrapia

    Where to View Birds of Papua New Guinea

    In addition to its diverse bird life, Papua New Guinea offers a variety of birdwatching opportunities for enthusiasts. The country is home to several national parks and conservation areas, such as Varirata National Park and the Tari Gap, which provide excellent birdwatching trails and observation points. Local guides and birding tours are available to assist visitors in spotting and identifying the numerous bird species found in these areas.

    Brown Sickle Bill wasn’t shy and he was fun to watch his unique feeding style

    Conservation of Birds of Papua New Guinea

    However, it is important to note that Papua New Guinea’s avian paradise faces numerous challenges. Deforestation, habitat loss, and illegal wildlife trade pose significant threats to the country’s bird populations. Conservation efforts, such as the establishment of protected areas and community-based initiatives, are crucial. Efforts that will preserve Papua New Guinea’s unique avifauna for future generations.

    Bird watching in Papua New Guinea offers a remarkable diversity of bird species in breathtaking natural settings. From the vibrant Raggiana bird-of-paradise to the regal Victoria crowned pigeon, the country’s avian inhabitants never fail to captivate and inspire. By exploring Birds of Papua New Guinea we not only gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world but also contribute to the conservation of these magnificent creatures. I am so grateful I had this unique opportunity.


    Because many of my readers are from the greater Seattle area I want to point out something about the Woodland Park Zoo. I often see people criticizing zoos. While this was a valid position in the past, in today’s world it no longer is. Today’s reputable zoos, such as Woodland Park, are NOT animals in the cages. Woodland Park is a conservation organization focused on preserving endangered species of the world and educating humans on their impact to wildlife. Woodland Park is home to a renowned Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program focused on the endangered Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo of Papua New Guinea. Begun in 1996 the program helps the people of PNG understand and protect the Matschies. It also educates on how deforestation and mining can cause extinction.

    Tree Kangaroo (Canva)

    The program at The Woodland Park Zoo is run by Lisa Dabek, Phd, Program Director and Senior Conservation Scientist. Originally from New York City, Lisa started studying Matschies tree kangaroos in 1987 as part of her graduate studies at the University of Washington.

    The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) is the umbrella name for the partnership between the Woodland Park Zoo’s TKCP and TKCP-PNG, an independent non-governmental organization registered in Papua New Guinea. THIS is why zoos are important.

    Do Your Research

    Thank you for reading Birds of Papua New Guinea. I hope in your travels you will seek out conservation programs to learn and get up close with local wildlife. These are the opportunities to see wildlife but in a way that is safe for both animals and humans. We have done this in many countries around the world and never engage in unethical tourist -wildlife encounters.

    Be sure to read my post from the rest of our experiences in this remarkable country My Adventures in Papua New Guinea.

    We are always grateful when you comment, pin and share our blog posts.

    Island Life  --  North America Travel

    Maui Top Five Things to Do

    Best of the Best, Maui Hawaii USA

    Location: Maui Hawaii

    MAUI is open for business and needs your support. Although Lahaina has years and years of recovery, the rest of Maui welcomes you. PLEASE consider supporting the aid efforts for the residents of Maui. We suggest the following;

    Maui Food Bank

    Maui Strong

    American Red Cross of Hawaii

    Maui United Way

    Maui Humane Society

    A re-share from October 2020 – Please check current status of individual suggestions as the situation is fluid.

    Maui is hands down my favorite of all the Hawaiian Islands. We have now been on Maui for seven weeks and still have two more weeks to go! Everything about it I love. And despite the fact there isn’t anything negative I can say about this beautiful place, I do have some favorites. So today I thought I would share with you my Maui top five things to do – best of the best.

    Top Five Beaches

    Secret Beach Makena
    1. Keawakapu – our most frequented beach in South Kihei offers a wide sandy beach, warm clear water and gentle waves
    2. Makena Beaches – Makena also in the south, is dotted with public access to dozens of beautiful and often secluded beach. Secret Beach is worth finding. MaKena Beach State Park is a wonderful huge expanse of a beach and rarely busy.
    3. Black Beach Hana – for the sheer beauty of it, Black Beach on the road to Hana is worth a visit
    4. Baldwin Beach – on the north shore Baldwin Beach is great for body surfing
    5. Napili Bay Beach – I have not swam at this beach but it is so beautiful and has easy access at the north end of the island
    Maui Beaches

    Top Five Snorkeling

    Keawakapu, Kihei
    1. Black Rock Kaanapali – the beach in front of the Kaanapali Sheraton known as Black Rock is one of my favorite places to snorkel. Clear and full of fish and turtles.
    2. Turtle Rock – On a guided snorkel trip a few years ago we had the most amazing time at Turtle Rock – hundreds of turtles here.
    3. Molokini – Though sometimes crowded, a snorkel tour to Molokini is a must at least once in your life to see the abundant marine life here.
    4. Makena Beaches – there are several public access beaches on this long stretch of south Maui with some of the best and easily accessed snorkeling on the island.
    5. Keawakapu – my favorite beach, and the one closest to where we usually stay, has an easy access into the water with snorkel options at the far north of the beach around a large lava reef. Wonderful sealife, turtles and fish.

    Top Five Hikes

    Kapalua Coastal Trail
    1. Waihee Ridge – mid island, five mile roundtrip with incline to spectacular views but weather can be unpredictable.
    2. Kapalua Coastal Trail – hugging the coast from Kapalua to Napili this rugged and beautiful hike has views of Molokai, Lanai and the ocean. Windy.
    3. Halemau’u Haleakala – hike down into the crater starting at 8000 foot level where you will find easy parking. The trail is a switch back and easy for most fit hikers. Temperatures can be very cold at times.
    4. Sliding Sands Haleakala – this is a work out let me tell you, but if you are fit it’s spectacular. Bring lots of water, be prepared for wind and cold or heat and sun you never know. A great place to see the rare and beautiful Silver Sword plant.
    5. Hoapili, La Perouse – past Makena where the road ends you will find parking and the trailhead of the Hoapili, the historic Kings Road. The rough trail takes you over a 300 year old lava field to the far south end of the island. Bring lots of water, it is a hot and dry trail.

    See a great article here with more great hikes from Pride of Maui.

    Top Five Fine Dining

    Mamas Fish House Maui
    Mamas Fish House
    1. Mama’s Fish House, Paia – one of the supreme dining experiences anywhere in the world
    2. Mala Ocean Tavern, Lahaina – Tiny but local chef has created a wonderful menu
    3. Sea House, Napili – One of the best pieces of fish I have ever had
    4. Roy’s Kaanapali – Celebrated chef Roy Yamachuchi’s restaurant never disappoints
    5. Ko, Wailea – we celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary at Ko. It was incredible. Beautiful location and great service.

    Top Five Casual Dining (six in this category!)

    Star Noodle Maui
    Star Noodle, Lahaina
    1. Sam Sato, Wailuku – tourists don’t know about this hidden local gem. Best noodles anywhere
    2. Paia Fish Market (Kihei, Paia and Lahaina) – favorite among visitors and locals
    3. Three’s Bar & Grill Kihei – creative menu of delicious small plates
    4. Maui Brewing (Kihei and Kaanapali) – simple pub food with a healthy twist
    5. Star Noodle, (Currently Closed) Lahaina – simply incredible. Be sure to have the Vietnamese pancake
    6. Cafe O’Lei – Various locations. Great food, great price and prix fix menu daily.

    Top Five Take Out Foods

    1. L & L Plate Lunch, Kihei – quintessential Hawaiian plate lunch
    2. Maui Taco, Kihei – fish tacos!
    3. Island Gourmet Market, Wailea – great selection of local cuisine as well as sandwiches, pizza and more
    4. Honolua Store, Kapalua – similar to above as well as a great gift shop
    5. Food Trucks, Everywhere and for every taste bud

    Top Five Breakfast Places

    Paia Maui
    Island Fresh Cafe, Paia

    1. Kihei Cafe, popular, casual spot in Kihei
    2. Sugar Beach Bake Shop, North Kihei – you gotta try the malasada donuts
    3. Kula Bistro, Upcountry great Eggs Benedict
    4. Island Fresh Cafe, Paia worth the trip, healthy and inexpensive
    5. The Gazebo Kapalua (Currently Closed)

    Top Five Places for Drinks

    Lahaina Maui
    Waikiki Brewing Co, Lahaina
    1. Maui Brewing, Kihei
    2. Merriman’s for Sunset, Kapalua
    3. Hula Grill Kaanapali
    4. Tommy Bahama’s Wailea (try the Mai Tai here)
    5. Gannons Wailea

    Top Five Just For the Heck of It

    Nakalele Blow Hole
    1. Ocean Vodka, tasting and tours, Kula – an innovative entreprenueal effort on Maui worth your support. I love the gin.
    2. Spend a day shopping in Paia and Makawao
    3. Nakalele Blow Hole, Napili – a wonderful site. Don’t get too close.
    4. Sunrise or Sunset Haleakala (sunrise reservations required. Learn more here.)
    5. Drive Hana Backwards (counterclockwise) – miss the crowds by doing this drive the opposite way most people go. Read what we wrote about Going to Hana Backwards here.

    Top Four Inexpensive Golf

    Maui Nui Golf Club
    Maui Nui Golf, Kihei

    Golf can be very expensive on Maui, but if you know where to go, you can play nine or 18 holes on a budget. Here are our favorite budget friendly courses (we can’t find five, so four will do).

    1. Maui Nui, Kihei – well cared for grounds at a great price
    2. Waiehu County Golf, Wailuku – county run course with a magnificent ocean view
    3. Pukalani, Makawao, upcountry course with beautiful views, sometimes wet
    4. The Dunes at Maui Lani, Kahului, beautiful course built on natural dunes.

    That’s My List

    So if you are thinking about visiting Maui for the first time, or are planning to return for another visit, check out some of my top fives – you can’t go wrong with any of them.

    Wailea Sunrise

    Be a Kind & Generous Visitor

    And remember, Maui took a big hit during the pandemic and is now dealing with an unprecedented disaster. The local people have lost lives, family, homes, jobs, income and businesses closed permanently, on this island that depends on tourism. If you can afford to visit Maui, you can afford to make a donation while you are there. Please be generous.

    Help breathe life back into the local economy by shopping and dining at locally owned stores, supporting locally run activities, taking time to talk to and understand the local people and their culture, and donate to a local non-profit agency that is helping the local people.


    Read My Favorite Islands Around the World here.

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    Island Life  --  South & Central America Travel

    Rhapsody of the Seas Southern Caribbean

    Location: Southern Caribbean

    At the end of this seven month travel itinerary, we found ourselves on board a cruise ship for the first time in five years. Over the past thirty years we have cruised about a dozen times. There are some really great things about cruising….and some not so great things. But overall our one week aboard Rhapsody of the Seas Southern Caribbean (Royal Caribbean) was a good experience, and a relaxing week after our whirlwind in Bolivia.

    Rhapsody of the Seas

    Let Me Be Honest

    So I’m going to be brutally honest about the things I enjoy about cruising and the things I don’t. So if you are a big fan of cruising fair warning…you might get defensive. But this is my opinion and you can take or leave it, so here we go.

    Rhapsody of the Seas

    Not Like It Used to Be

    Alas, cruising is just not like it used to be. Our very first cruise, in 1992, still to this day remains one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. The service was impeccable. The food was unforgettable. The ship, though small (we were on Norwegian Cruise Line) was spotless.

    In port in Grenada

    Today service and food both are not near up to the standards of that first cruise. Unfortunately I would say the food on this cruise on the Rhapsody of the Seas was the weakest I’ve had. And although our nightly wait staff ( Emily and Princess) were lovely…the dining room seemed understaffed and a bit harried. Our room steward on this cruise was Roxanne and she was great.

    I loved our balcony

    Today the cruise lines nickle and dime you for everything. Years ago a cappuccino was part of breakfast…not anymore. Pay extra. Years ago yoga or cycling class was free in the fitness center…not anymore. Pay extra. Years ago room service was included if you wanted it. Not anymore…pay extra (except for continental breakfast). Back in the day everyone dined in the dining room and a buffet was a special event…now its a cafeteria style all day long feast where people over indulge to excess. But at least you don’t pay extra.

    We had a great room steward

    Relax and Enjoy

    Today we cruise from time to time (last one was pre-pandamit in 2018) and when we cruise we approach it with low expectations. We enjoy the pool and always get a room with a balcony if possible. We love sitting on our private balcony. We enjoy the dining room, but are not fans of the buffet. We enjoy the Broadway style shows, but aren’t big fans of comedians or magicians.

    There were a couple of good shows on board


    This seven day cruise on board Rhapsody of the Seas Southern Caribbean departed from Barbados where we had spent a relaxing week in an Airbnb. We docked in five island ports over the seven days; Grenada, Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao and Trinidad & Tobago. Three of these were new to us, bringing our country total to 125.


    We chose to do only two excursions during the week. We did a bicycle tour in Bonaire, which was really beautiful but difficult due to the high winds. And we did a kayak bird watching tour in Trinidad & Tobago which we loved. On the kayaking tour we saw an astonishing array of birds and wildlife in Caroni Wildlife Sanctuary on the island of Trinidad. In the other ports of call we enjoyed just strolling around the colorful Caribbean ports.

    Cycling on Bonaire
    Kayaking in Caroni Wildlife Preserve

    My favorite cruise itinerary was eight years ago when I took my mom on a cruise for her 75th birthday. My sister came too and we visited St Petersburg Russia, Copenhagen, Sweden, Estonia and Finland. It was great.

    The longest cruise I’ve ever done was 28 days! This was when my husband and I used a cruise ship that was repositioning to get from Australia to Seattle. Even though it was LONG, it still was one of the funnest, most relaxing and most interesting cruises we have done. We made stops in Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Hawaii. I would consider a repositioning cruise again.

    My Favorite Things on Rhapsody of the Seas

    This ship is one of the smallest in the RCL line. For a short cruise like this one I like a smaller ship. I loved our dinner wait staff, but like I said before the food was unfortunately just mediocre.

    Some pool time

    Our room was very spacious and surprisingly had a lot of storage. I am always amazed how they squeeze storage into every nook and cranny in these rooms. We were very comfortable; thebed was great and the balcony was awesome. Our room steward was fantastic, and the room was very quiet.

    We only went to a couple of the shows, but the ones we saw were just okay. I think the larger ships tend to have better entertainment. On our one day at sea the cruise staff had so many different things to do and that gave us lot of choices. I enjoyed the cake competition and the parade of flags the most.

    Cake Competition
    Over sixty countries represented in the crew Parade of Flags

    Everyday we played trivia at least once, it’s one of our favorite things to do on board any cruise.


    I love formal night in the dining room, although most people don’t dress to the nines like back in the day. But since I don’t really have much of a reason to get dressed up very often, I like to have fun in a pretty dress. On this seven day cruise we actually had two formal nights on board Rhapsody of the Seas Southern Caribbean.

    Formal Night

    My Least Favorite Things

    The buffet is annoying to me…people get so worked up over food. I only ever had the salad bar in the buffet during this cruise because fighting for food is not my idea of a good time. There was never a line for salad bar…hmmm. I must point out though, this buffet on this smaller ship was extremely small compared to some ships, so that played into my annoyance.

    I’m not a big fan of dining with strangers, so we always try to get a table for two in the main dining room on our cruises.

    Great sunsets

    Anytime you throw a couple of thousand people together there are going to be people who are entitled. This is a big issue for me in any group situations…loud, pushy, or just plain rude. I do my best to take a deep breath and move along.

    The ship seemed understaffed, particularly in the dining room during breakfast. One morning we waited 45 min for our food. Not acceptable.

    On the final day disembarking was the most disorganized I have ever seen. What a cluster! No signage and no helpful personnel as we tried to find the right bus to the airport.

    Royal Caribbean

    I’ve cruised enough times on RCL to have Platinum status. It’s a low ranking frequent cruiser status that comes with a couple of minor perks. But the really big time cruisers are Diamonds and they get some awesome perks. Because cruising is not something I want to do very often, I have no plans to reach Diamond. But for those who do love cruising, all cruise lines have great loyalty programs including Royal Caribbean. I suspect we would choose Royal Caribbean again, although we usually choose based on itinerary not cruise line.

    Platinum status perk

    For the price, cruising is an economical way to explore multiple destinations and is particularly good for families, singles or the elderly. It has a lot of advantages, and despite some of the disadvantages you can’t beat the price per day for what you get. It’s also really nice to wake up in a new place each day without having to pack your bags. However, a short port of call will never give you the opportunity to really get to know a country deeply – which is something we value highly. So we will only cruise occasionally.

    Caribbean sunsets

    Thanks for reading my post Rhapsody of the Sea Southern Caribbean. However you like to travel, it’s time to get back out there people…start making some travel memories today.

    Our next stop is the USA. We begin with a three week tour from Atlanta to Boston before returning to our home state of Washington for the entire summer. Looking forward to being home in the USA for four and half months before heading international again mid September. Blog posts coming about our Eastern USA stops.

    See last week’s post Barbados Beaches and Beyond.

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