Hacienda Dona Engracia – Puerto Vallarta

Here’s another excellent un-beach experience near Puerto Vallarta ~ Hacienda Dona Engracia. When we arrived, a Holland America shore excursion group was taking in an “authentic” Mexican experience of dancing and cowboy rope twirling, piñata bashing and tequila tasting. That was fine, but the hacienda also offers horseback riding and that’s what we were after.

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Estero El Salado – Puerto Vallarta

An eco-reserve in the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s jam-packed hotel zone? Unbelievable, but that’s exactly what I found at Estero El Salado, one of the city’s newest and most unexpected attractions.

In spite of the traffic, it took only about five minutes to drive from our beachside hotel to the incongruously green haven separated by chain-link fence from the restaurants, shopping emporiums and high-rise resorts that crowd bustling Boulevard Francisco Medina Ascencio.

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Book now if your cool 2013 travel plans include Europe, especially if you’re looking at popular river cruises or events like Holland’s tulip festival where ground zero is Keukenhof with its seven million blooms, open from March 31 to May 30.

Amsterdam is a terrific base for both and easily accessible with direct flights from Vancouver. Apart from dodging the multitude of bicycles, this is a pedestrian-friendly city where everything in the historic centre is walkable or just a short tram ride away.

To take full advantage, pick up an “I amsterdam” smart card for canal rides and free public transit plus admission or discounts on museums, attractions, food and drink.

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YLW Update

Escaping the Valley (just for a little while) gets easier every year with constantly improving air service through Kelowna International Airport—our own YLW. It doesn’t get better than direct, non-stop flights. WestJet offers seasonal fall/winter/spring non-stops to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix in the US, and Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun in Mexico, designed for independent travel or to coordinate with WestJet Vacations. For all-inclusive fans, Transat Holidays and Sunwing Tours schedule non-stop departures from mid-November to the end of April for package vacations in Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun.

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Davidson Creek/Carrot Mountain Hike

It’s awhile since I’ve done a hill-climb with the Octogenarian Mountain Goat, so a run up to the seasonal waterfalls on Davidson Creek seemed like a good idea for Saturday morning. What was I thinking. Any notion that we’d actually make it back by noon (as advertised) or that I might enjoy a mildly-stimulating bit of exercise on the last day before I hit the big 6-0 was completely out of the question. How could I not know that this hike would turn into one of Dad’s infamous adventures in bushwhacking.

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Aurora Explorer

If you’ve sailed BC’s inland coastal waters on an Alaska cruise … here’s what you missed. Read about my adventures aboard the working vessel Aurora Explorer,

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