Things To See and Do on Marco Island, Florida

Wednesday April 24, 2013 at 8:08 AM | 8 Comments

Marco Island, the largest of the 10,000 islands south of Fort Myers, Florida, is a wonderful place to visit with families.  It offers beautiful beaches, waterfront activities, fabulous resorts, and delicious food.

Things to Do on Marco Island

Despite the fact that Marco is the largest of the 10,000 Islands, it’s still relatively small.  As you’d expect from an island getaway, most of the things to do revolve around the ocean.  Spend the day at the beautiful, shell-lined beaches.  Looking for more action?  Head down to the beach to set up a parasailing adventure, or rent a jet ski.  Would you rather do some learning?  Book the Dolphin Explorer Eco-Tour and learn all about the dolphins living right off the coast of the island, and take a quick trip to a private island to do some shelling.

If you are willing to do a drive, visit nearby Naples for the Naples Zoo, Naples Botanical Gardens, and the Children’s Museum of Naples. All are about a 30 minute drive from the island.

Places to Stay on Marco Island

Marco Island is home to two upscale chain hotels – a Marriott and a Hilton.  There’s also numerous condo complexes along with the hotel we stayed at – the Marco Beach Ocean Resort.  Whether you are traveling on a romantic getaway or as a family vacation, I’d recommend the Marco Beach Ocean Resort for its amazing service and fabulous location right on the beach.

The View from the Snook Inn

Restaurants on Marco Island

As you’d imagine, much of the local cuisine on the island revolves around seafood.  Conch fritters, fish sandwiches, and peel and eat shrimp are the specialties.  Visit CJ’s on the Bay or the Snook Inn for the most gorgeous views.  Hidden gems the Crazy Flamingo and Philly’s Grill offer great food but are tucked away in mini malls.  Another great pick is Captain Brien’s, a seafood restaurant within walking distance of most of the hotels.

Whether you want to enjoy the beach or see something new every day, there are lots of options on Marco Island, Florida.

This is a guest post by Jodi Grundig of Family Travel Magazine. Photos are courtesy of Jodi Grundig.

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Things to See and Do in Loreto, Mexico

Monday April 22, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 4 Comments

Pitaya Cactus

Pitaya Cactus in Loreto, Mexico

Are you visiting the Islands of Loreto, Mexico, on the Sea of Cortez? The city of Loreto was founded in the 17th century and was the first Spanish settlement on the Baja peninsula.

If this is your first time visiting this part of Mexico, I have some “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in Loreto.


Typically, the first place visitors want to see is Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, the first mission of Baja California Sur, but I also take them to San Javier Mission – for a more local, authentic experience.


Sea of Cortez

Visit Coronado and Danzante Island, on the Sea of Cortez, in Loreto, Mexico

The Islands of Loreto, Mexico


When I want to get away from the tourists, my favorite place to visit is the Malecon (boardwalk) or the Islands of Loreto.


If this is a romantic trip, I recommend Honeymoon Beach.


Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the nearest islands, Coronado and Danzante. Walk down to the marina and hire a boat for a half day tour. You might see dolphins during your boat ride and you may snorkel on the island of Coronado. Stop and see the local birds – did you know the Blue-footed Booby was local to Loreto, Mexico? Visit sea lion rock.



Domingo's Restaurant, Loreto, Mexico

Musicians play guitar at Domingo’s Restaurant in Loreto, Mexico

Islands of Loreto Food


If you are looking for chocolate clams, which are typical of the Islands of Loreto, I recommend The Concho´s Restaurant and “El Pangalapa.”


The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat is Loreto Islas beach front, located in the Malecon.


Looking for cheap food in the Islands of Loreto? Go to El Farolito de Loreto or Orlandos Place, where you can have typical Mexican food.


The Mita´s Gourmet located in the main Plaza is the spot for late night dining.


For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to La Palapa restaurant, 1697 Restaurant and Domingo´s Place. Domingo’s had strolling guitar players during my visit.

Loreto, Mexico woman

Visit the Hand Crafting Alley in Loreto, Mexico

Authentic Loreto, Mexico

Seeing a lot of marine life? The islands of Loreto  were named  “The Aquarium of the World” by Jacques Cousteau, as they host 80%  of the world’s marine species.


When you come to Loreto, get your picture taken at the Hand Crafting Alley near the Main Plaza.


The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Mirador Frida next to Juncalito beach, a 15 minute drive from Loreto, or climbing the hill right on the beach of Nopolo Bay.


The Islands of Loreto offer great views. Villa del Palmar is the best place to watch or experience the constellations.  As a matter of fact, Villa del Palmar is well known as the million stars resort.


In Loreto, outdoor enthusiasts will want to hike the giant mountains in Tabor or Tecomajac and see oasis and waterfalls. Do you like sport fishing?  “La Mision Tournament” is a great one to watch and contributes to a great cause. Kayaking, paddle boarding, scuba diving, snorkeling, horseback riding, bird watching, island hopping and whale and dolphin watching are all “must do” activities for outdoor lovers. For those of you looking to simply relax, enjoy a drink in “El Santuario” beach shack while admiring Danzante Bay.


Looking for a little exercise? Walk along the boardwalk or rent a bike from Hotel Santa Fe and explore the colonial town. If shopping is more your style, stroll along the tourist corridor while checking out the artisans shops.


Nuestra Senora de Loreto mission

Nuestra Senora de Loreto mission

If you are a museum lover, visit the Loreto Museum of the Jesuits Missions. It’s next to the Nuestra Señora de Loreto Mission.


Looking for night life in Loreto, Mexico? Go dancing at Bichos Bar or Bikers Bar for live music. If you are looking for wild parties and dancing, you’ll need to head to Los Cabos, Mexico.


In the winter, visit Magdalena Bay and see the Grey Whales winter breeding grounds with all the new baby whales.


In the summer, visit Isla del Carmen and see Punta Arena Beach; the underwater cave & the “Pueblo Fantasma.”


San Javier Mission

San Javier Mission

Come to the San Javier Anniversary Celebrations in the winter. The Mission of San Javier is one of the best preserved Jesuit missions in southern Baja. The The locals grow a variety of fruits like Mangos, papayas, figs and guavas and craft them into artisan candies.


Insider Tip: Check out the often over-looked Giant Mountains in The Islands of Loreto.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that the Islands of Loreto is considered a National Marine Park. The 800 square mile conservancy consists of a string of five unique islands and is the largest of Mexico’s marine sanctuaries.

Just outside of  The Islands of Loreto you can visit  Mulege and have lunch while enjoying the view of the river which flows into the sea.

What are your favorite things to see and do in Loreto, Mexico? Thanks to Villa del Palmar for assistance with this post.

Article and photos by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown.

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Hilton Hotel San Jose Review, Excellent Downtown Location

Friday April 19, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 1 Comment

Hilton Hotel San Jose

A review of the Hilton Hotel San Jose in California

Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area the majority of my life, I feel that I know the area fairly well. However, I recently had the opportunity to explore San Jose, California for several days and was pleasantly impressed at what this Silicon Valley city had to offer. My home base for city exploration was the Hilton Hotel San Jose.

Hilton Hotel downtown location

Within walking distance to the Center for the Performing Arts, The Tech Center, The California Theater, restaurants and sporting venues, the Hilton Hotel offers and excellent and convenient downtown San Jose location.

Pet-friendly Hilton Hotel

For those who like to travel on vacation with their dogs, The Hilton Hotel San Jose is pet-friendly, offering a $50, one-time, non-refundable pet fee. Large dog owners rejoice; while there is a 75 weight limit on pets, the front desk staff said this is not an issue.

"Hilton Hotel Standard Double Room"

The Hilton Hotel Standard Double room in San Jose, California

Clean rooms at Hilton Hotel

What can business and leisure travelers expect in a room at the Hilton Hotel San Jose? My room, #814, was a standard double with two Hilton-branded Serenity Beds, down pillows and 250 thread-count sheets. In addition, it offered an in-room refrigerator and coffee-maker. It rented for $229, plus tax, during a week day. Check the website for further details.

My standard hotel room offered a view of the freeway, and I did hear planes fly overhead,(the San Jose International Airports is nearby) but the rooms are well insulated and the hills of San Jose, California may be seen in the distance. I liked the fact that the large window in my room could actually be opened, yet it was child-safe.

Bathroom cleansing amenities were from PeterThomasRoth clinical skin care and a hair dryer was supplied. While water is a precious resource in California, I confess that I am not a fan of the reduced water flow shower heads in some hotels. I’m pleased to report that the water pressure on the combination shower bathtub in my hotel room was excellent.

Palm trees lined the street below and there are parks nearby (one offering the largest Monopoly board in the world) but keep in mind that we are in Silicon Valley – this part of San Jose, California is not about open space.

Hilton Hotel San Jose lobby

Hilton Hotel San Jose lobby

Extras at Hilton Hotel

For those who like to stay in shape while they travel, the Hilton Hotel San Jose offers a gym, jacuzzi and small outdoor, heated swimming pool on the third floor.

There is a full restaurant and bar on the lobby level, in addition to a business center that is open 24 hours. If you don’t want to pay $9.95 each day for internet access, there is complimentary WiFi in the lobby and on the second floor.

Parking will cost you at the Hilton Hotel – $21 daily with unlimited in and out privileges.


Hilton Hotel San Jose view

View of San Jose, California from the Hilton Hotel

Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors has its privileges and is certainly worth signing up. In addition to a complimentary bottle of water upon check in, Gold and Diamond level Hilton Honors members receive complimentary hotel room upgrades when available. Members have access to the Executive Lounge on the 18th floor (with key code) for complimentary hot breakfast, honor bar and evening hors d’oeuvres and desserts.

Check in: 3:00 p.m.

Check out: 12:00 p.m.

If You Go:

Hilton Hotel San Jose (408) 287-2100

300 Almaden Blvd.

San Jose, CA 95110

Article written by and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Hilton Hotel San Jose.

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