Swimming with Whale Sharks

If you haven’t added this to your travel bucket list for 2017 yet, do it now. Whale sharks might have a terrifying name, but really they’re passive sea creatures that feed on plankton. The Sea of Cortez in Baja California Sur is a place whale sharks like to congregate, which gives snorkelers and free divers an opportunity to look in the eye of a magnificent beast of the ocean.

Whale sharks aren’t whales, and though they technically are part of the shark family (Rhincodon typus), they don’t remind you of a shark at all in their behavior or lack of teeth. Being filter feeders, they take in lots of water to filter out their main source of food; microscopic plankton (not humans!).

“A shark the size of a whale might sound like a science-fiction nightmare, but whale sharks, which are three times the size of the biggest great white shark, are peaceable creatures unperturbed by visits from curious humans.”

Why might the adventurous traveler seek out a whale shark? Because of the incredible rush to swim alongside the largest fish in the ocean. It can be a little intimidating the first time, because you can actually see a fin sticking out of the water, and the body of a huge fish underneath the surface. But once you jump in the water, your eyes will behold one of the gentlest creatures of the sea.

“But even though whale sharks are humongous, they are really just ‘gentle giants.”

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Photo taken from the video lilvikings82

Whale sharks are known to migrate to the Sea of Cortez in winter and spring, mostly between October and February. Two places you can find licensed tour companies are in La Paz and Cabo Pulmo, both a reasonable drive from Travel Raintree’s Club Regina Los Cabos.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • It is safe to swim with whale sharks, but always follow the tour guide’s directions.
  • Whale sharks are endangered, so private boats are not allowed to offer tours. Be sure to find a licensed company like Cabo Expeditions.
  • Don’t touch the whale sharks; human touch could expose the whale shark to infection.
  • Wear a wetsuit for warmth. Water temperatures could be chilly.
  • Take an underwater camera for both pictures and video. Check out this promotional video from Los Cabos Whale Shark Eco Experience.

Whale sharks are an animal to be seen to be believed. When you’re traveling this year, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more exhilarating experience.

Where to Stay

Club Regina Los Cabos is located just an easy fifteen-minute drive away from the heart of Cabo San Lucas, and even closer to San Juan del Cabo! The resort rises above the shoreline where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean. Every unit faces the ocean and you can enjoy colorful sunsets and sunrises from many of the terraces.

 

History is cool, y’all!

Vacations should be good for the body (like a hike in the mountains or an afternoon at the spa), but they can also improve the mind when we take the time to learn about our heritage, culture, history, and art. We suggest you think about visiting some museums the next time you stay in one of our resorts.

Museums do more than just make information accessible. They invite us to walk in the shoes of those who’ve gone before us for a little while, to experience the wonder and pain they experienced, to see the world through their eyes.

Heard Museum in Phoenix

“The arts matter because they touch our hearts and minds and bring us closer as we appreciate humanity in all its diversity,” says Ann Marshall, director of curation and education at the Heard Museum. When you stay at WorldMark Phoenix South Mountain Preserve, carve out some time to visit one of the “world’s preeminent” museums of American Indian Art and History.

Founded in 1929, the Heard Museum is known for its award-winning exhibits, collections, and festivals. Highly rated on TripAdvisor, visitors are always impressed by beautiful displays, friendly staff, and even the gift shop.

“The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona uniquely showcases Native arts and culture to visitors by presenting personal perspectives and first-hand narratives told by Native people.”

Alf Engen Ski Museum in Park City

Near Park Plaza is one of the most interactive museums you’ll ever find. Full of photos, trophies, ski gear, medals, and history, the Ski Museum will help you appreciate the progress of the sport over the decades. Housed in the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center at Utah Olympic Park, you can spend a few hours strolling through the museum before or after you ride the Winter Comet Bobsled or attempt the Summit Adventure Course nearby.

“Here you are more than a spectator – you’re a participant! That’s because our state-of-the-art interactive and virtual exhibits place you in the epicenter of the past, present and future of winter sports in the Intermountain Region, including an Olympic downhill course.”

ski

Palm Springs Air Museum

In southern California, when you are staying at the Cimarron Golf Resort, you don’t want to miss your chance to visit a famous World War II air museum. Founded in 1996, the Palm Springs Air Museum showcases “over 40 vintage aircraft,” including planes from both the European and Pacific Theaters during WWII. After spending an afternoon there, Avenger, Red Tail P-51 Mustang, and the Spitfire will mean more to you than just random names of aircraft.

Featuring three hangars, engine displays, mechanics working onsite, and even tours inside the B-17 and C-47 airplanes, the museum continues to grow with plans to expand and include more warplanes from the Korean and Vietnam wars in the near future.

“The Palm Springs Air Museum is a living history museum dedicated to educating the public about the role Air Power played in preserving American liberties and way of life.”

A day at a museum is just one way to fully engage the places you visit. Being a world traveler brings certain perks (like photos to make your friends jealous), but it can also bring unexpected benefits like greater appreciation for military heroes and greater cultural awareness of peoples of the past and present.

Springtime is for Nature Lovers!

When you think of the upper northwest corner of Washington State, I doubt your first thought is of gorgeous flowers! But spring pushes out the gray clouds of winter and ushers in a season full of life. Nature lovers come here year-round, and in spring they come especially to see the birds and the tulips.

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Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival

Blaine, Washington, a little town sitting right next to the U.S.-Canadian border, hosts its 15th annual Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival March 10-12, 2017. Birdwatchers come to take in the “incredible variety of migratory birds” and join in the festivities. Festival participants can take a guided field trip to Reifel Bird Sanctuary in British Columbia, Canada, enjoy the All Day Birding Expo, go on a Birding Field Trip to Semiahoo Spit, and see a Live Raptor Presentation.

“The sheer number of birds that winter here is one of the key elements that led to this area being designated as one of the premier sites on the Washington state Important Bird Areas program. This is an international effort to recognize and protect areas that are vital to life cycles of migratory birds.”

One of the best ways to view the birds is on the Salish Sea Open Water Birding & Wildlife Cruise. The Festival always features an artist—this year it is Kay Dee Powell, a silk painter and resident of Blaine. The featured speakers will focus on photography and wildlife.

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

If you come to Skagit Valley in April, you will see more tulips than you’ve ever seen before. RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town have acres and acres of picturesque tulip fields. Over 1 million tulips of all different colors and over 150 flower varieties are on display for your viewing pleasure.

“The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is the largest festival in Northwest Washington State. Each year more than 1 million visitors come to experience over 300 acres of brightly colored tulips.”

Visitors can enjoy the tulips where they have been planted, or purchase some to take home. Among the numerous events from February – April include a garden show, scrapbooking, art festivals and exhibitions, wine festival, 5K run, street fair, princess party, children’s art, cycling, wood crafting, and barbecue. The best time to come is based on when the flowers bloom. Check the bloom status at http://www.tulips.com/bloommap. Download the festival brochure here.

Check this incredible video!

Where To Stay

Sandcastle at Birch Bay is a comfortable condominium resort located directly across from Birch Bay’s picturesque shore. During your stay, you’ll enjoy unbeatable views of the shimmering blue waters of Birch Bay or the towering Mount Baker from the resort’s rooftop terrace or your own private balcony. In addition to all the eye candy, you’ll enjoy on-site amenities such as a heated outdoor pool and a fitness center. Your well-appointed one-, two-, or three-bedroom condominium has everything needed to comfortably accommodate up to six guests.

Each unit features a full kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, a washer and dryer, a flat-screen TV with a DVD player, and a fireplace.

 

2017 Bucket List Adventure: Our top 5 picks

Our bucket list for 2017 is geared for the travel adventurer. At Travel Raintree we know that most of you include excursions as part of your stay at a Raintree resort. So doing something outdoors might not be much of a resolution for this new year, but there’s probably something on this list that is new to you. When you’re traveling in 2017, put these on your bucket list:

  1. Surfing in Oaxaca

When you find the conditions in Oaxaca coming together at the right time (weather and tides), you’ll be treated to some killer waves. Many of the hottest spots take a little more effort to reach, but they’re worth your time if you’re passionate about surfing. Chris Wilson’s experience was incredible:

“The culture, weather, people, food, and (of course) the waves all added up to this being one of the best trips I have ever been on.”

Stay: Casa Divina Oaxaca

  1. Releasing turtles in Puerto Vallarta

Add some education and eco-tourism to your life! Travelers to Puerto Vallarta can attend a lecture on the turtles’ breeding and then join in the fun of preserving these courageous animals, including visiting the newborn turtles in the nursery, scouring the beach in search of newly laid eggs, and helping the baby sea turtles release into the ocean at night. This New Year’s resolution helps the environment and gives your family a memory of a lifetime.

“In Puerto Vallarta, hotels, restaurants and also tour operators, have joined forces making the annual turtle breeding season (which runs from about July to December) . . . a new sustainable eco-tourism event.”

Stay: Club Regina Puerto Vallarta

Turtle release

  1. Wildlife viewing at Grand Teton

This is why we come to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park: to experience wildlife. Anytime of year you can view wildlife in Wyoming. Grand Teton is especially known for its moose, mule deer, bears and bison. You might also encounter mountain lions, wolves, wolverines, and long-tailed weasels, although these are a bit harder to spot. Spending a day in the presence of such creatures gives us a thrill and helps us understand their environment and what they must do to survive.

“No matter the season, Jackson Hole teems with wildlife.  The 17 million acres that comprise the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem enable visitors to see many of the species that have come to define the West, including the iconic grizzly bear, wolves, moose, pronghorn and elk.”

Stay: Teton Club

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  1. Swimming in Cancun’s cenotes

A cenote (suh-NOH-tee) is a deep natural sinkhole in Mexico.

“These secret underground caverns are formed when limestone caves in, leaving a hole in the earth that leads to a pool of often gorgeous turquoise-colored water.”

There are just under 7,000 cenotes already discovered in the Yucatán Peninsula. These pools are almost Cancun’s best-kept secret. You don’t have to be an expert cliff jumper or scuba diver to enjoy these hidden caves. These beautiful underground attractions often have staircases and lighting to make them more accessible to tourists. The crystal clear water must be seen to be believed.

Stay: Club Regina Cancun

  1. Rafting in Park City

With over 8 miles of river terrain, a rafting trip on the Weber River near Park City, Utah, includes class II rapids your whole family will enjoy (children ages 4 and up). If you go with a company like All Seasons Adventures, your trip down the river will be led by a trained guide. Floating down the Weber is all about the rapids, but don’t forget to take in the spectacular scenery around you.

“The river cuts though a stunning canyon comprised of red and orange sandstone conglomerate rock that has formed arches, caves and precariously balanced rocks.”

Stay: The Miners Club

New year: Snorkeling in Kona

Snorkeling invites you to discover and relish the secrets of the underwater world. When you don the mask, breathing tube, and flippers, you become immersed in a whole other world, seeing what lies beneath come alive right before your eyes. Snorkeling is better to experience first-hand than to take someone else’s word for it.

snorkeling

Snorkelers come to Kona, Hawaii, to experience some of the best snorkeling available on the planet. What makes Kona so special? You might say . . . everything! Incredibly clear water (visibility up to 50 feet or more in some places), various depths, variety of sea life, warm weather, and availability of rental gear make Kona, the leeward (or dry side) district on the western coast of the Big Island, a must-see for snorkelers.

“The best snorkeling spots of the Big Island are concentrated at the west coast beaches of the Big Island.”

Snorkeling Hot Spots

When nature lovers travel to Hawaii Island, they’re looking to dive (literally) into the wildlife around them. Snorkeling is a water sport that has its own special place among the many ways to experience nature. Here are some of the best places to go in search of manta rays, cauliflower coral, and spotted puffer fish.

Kealakekua Bay, a 24-minute ride south from Kona Reef Resort, is frequented by locals and tourists alike. If you spend enough time there, you’re likely to see “whales, manta rays, spotted eagle rays, sea turtles, and more.”

“Kealakekua, also known as “Captain Cook” is an underwater marine sanctuary, with dolphins and sea turtles.”

La’aloa Bay Beach (or Magic Sands Beach Park) is a bit closer to the resort. Snorkelers can find coral arches and caves. Beware of tidal shifts and sea urchins. Body surfing is especially popular here.

The closest snorkeling haven is Kamakahonu Beach, just a mile from the resort. By swimming out to the right, beyond the pier into Kailua Bay, you can avoid the boats. Here you’ll find coral, fish, and sea turtles.

“Kona snorkeling offers dozens of truly great spots to see hundreds of species of fish–from small yellow tangs and rock sitters to larger parrot fish, peacock groupers, and jacks. You may even see manta rays, spotted eagle rays, turtles, dolphins, and moray eels.”

Of course there are dozens of other bays and coves worth exploring. Several are farther north of Kailua-Kona. If you’re willing to drive a bit, you might explore the east coast as well. Outfitters can take you on a variety of snorkeling tours, even promising you’ll encounter a manta ray or two. Snorkeling is the way humans can act like a fish – to learn about them, we must become like them!

Where to Stay

Kona Reef is a comfortable four-story resort located on the lush western coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. The resort features a swimming pool, hot tub, and barbecue grills, and each unit has either a patio or balcony. From some units you can enjoy views of a verdant garden or the crystal clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. Kona Reef is just a 10 minute walk from the historic fishing village of Kailua Kona, a quaint town home to many wonderful restaurants, cafes, shops, and art galleries.

 

When in Rome (or Oaxaca) Try This!

Traveling to exotic locales opens up a world of opportunity to experience new things. You might not plan for it, but grasshoppers, ant larvae, and mezcal de pechuga are all things you must try when you come to Oaxaca. Mexico is the home of Mexican cuisine, and even though Mexican restaurants can be found all over the U.S., it’s likely you’ve never tried these Mexican foods before.

Chapulines

Chapulines with guacamole

Chapulines (grasshoppers)

No, these are not the mint and fudge Keebler elves cookies. Chapulines might sound like something only foodies would enjoy, but ignore the fact that these are grasshoppers for a moment. Think protein. And then remind yourself of what a good Mexican chef can do with a protein. Mexican spices. Deep fried. Crunchy. Chapulines are often sprinkled on other foods (like guacamole), featured in a taco, or eaten straight from the bag as a salty, chile-lime flavored snack.

“Mexican fried grasshoppers, chapulines, will knock you out of a taco rut faster than a speeding mouse in a sombrero.”

Escamoles (ant larvae)

Let’s be honest. Ant larvae was probably featured on Fear Factor: contestants had to eat it to win the big prize. But sometimes delicacies are those foods that are the most foreign to us, maybe even lacking in appeal. So it takes a little more gumption even just to try it. This weird food is really an ancient delicacy of the Aztecs.

“Ant larvae, or as it is often lovingly described, insect caviar” aren’t very sexy, but you’ll find the taste and texture might surprise you in a good way. Served in tacos, omelets or by themselves, escamoles have a nutty taste and soft texture.

Mezcal de pechuga

Tequila is not the only Mexican spirit that comes from the agave plant. After harvesting and roasting the agave plant (usually the espadin variety), mezcal is distilled in clay or copper stills. After two distillations, a third distillation is necessary to produce mezcal de pechuga, which involves usually a raw chicken or turkey breast which cooks in the vapors, giving the mezcal a unique flavor. Other ingredients include fruits, nuts and grains, “a melange of flavors that some pechuga drinkers swear they can detect when sipping.”

“Mezcal de pechuga (pechuga translates to breast), is made when a finished mezcal is redistilled with local fruits, grains, and nuts, and a raw chicken or turkey breast is hung over the still, cooking in the emanating vapors, supposedly adding to the spirit’s final flavor.”

While not every experience in your travels is noteworthy, you’re bound to have memories of the exotic foods you taste.

Where to Stay

Casa Divina Oaxaca is a charming and intimate resort located four blocks from the many fascinating historic sites and wonderful restaurants of downtown Oaxaca. The resort, located within a lovingly restored 19th-century Oaxacan home, reflects the culture of this fascinating city. Authentic Oaxacan art hangs from sun-dried clay walls, making Casa Divina Oaxaca truly feel like a home away from home. Oaxaca is a historic and cultural marvel famous for its spectacular architecture and delicious food. Immerse yourself in this magical place at Casa Divina Oaxaca.

Adrenaline Rush Winter Adventures

Every skier and snowboarder is looking for the ultimate experience on the side of a mountain. That experience must involve fresh powder and some serious vertical drops. Throw in some moguls, the possibility of catching some air in the Stash parks, and probably a few wipeouts here and there, and you’ve got another ski trip to remember.

Jackson Hole has all that and more, inviting skiers of all shapes, sizes, and skill levels to come and find their ski adventure. In case you’re wondering where to spend your next snowcation, just take a look at all that Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has to offer.

“Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is notorious for steep terrain and gorgeous scenery, the perfect stomping grounds to many of the world’s best freeskiers”. http://www.onthesnow.com/wyoming/jackson-hole/ski-resort.html

3 World Class Ski Resorts

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain Resort, and  Grand Targhee Resort are all within driving distance of the western town of Jackson. Combined, these resorts have 5,502 acres of skiable terrain, complete with quad chair lifts, gondolas, and trams servicing the trails. And that doesn’t count the 3,000+ acres of backcountry terrain for the freeskiers in your family.

Besides skiing and snowboarding, there’s also tubing, night skiing, Nordic skiing, Alpine ski racing, and snowshoeing. Forbes selected Jackson as one of the best choices for expert and extreme terrain for skiers in the U.S. For the extremely daring, be sure to consider Corbet’s Couloir, the famous drop-off at the top of Jackson Hole Mountain.

“While Jackson Hole is known as being a natural playground of terrain, the natural features are complemented by two terrain parks, four Burton Stash parks and a halfpipe.” http://www.jacksonhole.com/terrain-parks.html

Snowboarders especially appreciate the Burton Stash parks. The Deer Flat Stash, Campground Stash, and Stashley Ridge, all made of local wood, are all favorite spots of skiers and snowboarders alike, testing their skills and video recording those awesome jumps, grabs, and stunts.

If you’re particularly adventurous, and you prefer to explore the less tame, less trodden areas, then look no further than heli-skiing. High Mountain Heli-skiing operates A-Star helicopters, taking brave skiers and snowboarders to the “ranges south of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, including all of the Snake River and Palisades Mountain Ranges, and portions of the Hoback, Teton and the Gros Ventre Mountain Ranges. Vast open bowls, steep chutes, enchanted forests and glades can all be yours to explore.” They fly in groups of five (one guide and four guests), giving these snow explorers a full day on the open slopes. Six runs, 12,000 – 15,000 vertical feet, and transportation to the heli-pad are all included.

Jackson Hole Can’t Miss Winter Events

While you might spend most of your time making fresh snow tracks on your favorite ski runs, there are some incredibly fun events in Jackson that you’ll want to check out. Ever heard of skijoring? How about cutter racing? Here’s just a bit of what’s going on this winter in Jackson Hole.

December 1

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Resort Opening Day

December 3

Snow King Mountain Resort Opening Day

December 17

National Elk Refuge Sleigh Rides Open

Double H Bar, Inc. will take sleigh riders on an unforgettable ride through the thousands of elk that make their home on the refuge. Dress warmly for this adventure for the whole family!

January 27

International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race

The 21st annual sled dog race takes place in stages, crossing the state of Wyoming from January 27 to February 4. The race practically starts in Jackson, so head out to cheer on the dogs and mushers on January 27 as they begin the 8-day trek across the beautiful terrain of the Cowboy State.

January 29 – February 15

6th Annual Jackson Hole WinterFest

Come join in the festival that “highlights the best of winter in Jackson Hole with two weeks of snowy fun. It features events on skis, on horseback, on the dance floor, in the theatre, under the iconic elk antler arches, and under the bright lights of Snow King Mountain.”

February 11-12

5th Annual Skijoring Championships

You’ve never had an adrenaline rush quite like skijoring. Skijoring involves a skier, holding onto a rope, pulled by a horse. Part water skiing, part rodeo horsemanship, this event features some small jumps, gates, and obstacles. There are always some wipeouts, too. Check out this video.

February 18-19

46th Annual Cutter Races

The cutter races are chariot races on snow. Just picture Ben-Hur in a Patagonia 3-in-1 jacket, commanding a chariot pulled by two horses in a quarter mile drag race. Sponsored by the Shriners, the races benefit kids with various medical conditions in the local area.

February 18

Moose Chase Marathon

Held at Trail Creek Nordic Center, this Nordic ski race on the snow beckons all interested racers (no matter how experienced) to join the competition. The trails are groomed at night to give the best race conditions the next morning. Racers can choose the distance they want to compete in: 30 km, 15 km, 5 km, 3 km, and ½ km.

Where to Stay

Teton Club combines unparalleled luxury with rustic Western aesthetics to create an unforgettable vacation experience. Teton Club offers a wide range of amenities you can enjoy during your time in Jackson Hole, including ski-in/ski-out access, an underground parking garage with valet service, a private lounge, library, and a Great Room ideal for relaxing after a long day on the slopes.