Union Square Hotel Kids’ Suite

Wednesday April 3, 2013 at 3:03 PM | 0 Comments

The Kids’ Suite at Hotel Union Square.

Last week during Spring Break, my family was invited to spend a night at the Kids’ Suite at the Union Square Hotel. We packed our overnight bags, hopped on the 21 Hayes toward downtown San Francisco, and checked in just in time for wine/live music hour.

The California hotel was built in 1913 and combines classic San Francisco style with an Art Deco aesthetic. In true SF character, there was once a speakeasy during Prohibition on the lower level, and outside the cable car still lurches and clangs its way up and down Powell Street as it has for much of the past century.

Springtime shopping at H&M in Union Square.

After listening to acoustic guitar in the lobby, we stepped out for dinner. I had my heart set on Katana-ya, having heard great things about this little ramen house around the corner. We were not disappointed. There was a wait out the door and eventually the four of us crammed into a tiny corner table for three, but it was well worth it. We slurped the excellent soup and nibbled on gyoza and poke. Highly recommend.

After, we did a little shopping in San Francisco’s Union Square — H&M, Rasputin, Uniqlo, and Urban Outfitters are all on the hotel’s block, plus big department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom are just beyond. Roman was smitten with a white button down with a tie and after he put it on referred to himself as a “rich boy.” Someday, baby…

We bought the shirt and tie plus a cute waist-length jacket for Parker and went home to our suite — a colorful corner room with high ceilings and games that range from a toddler’s rocking chair to Twister, Scrabble and a Nintendo Wii.  A trundle bed is separated from a king-sized bed with a partition filled with books. We enjoyed reading a book about Gustuv Klimpt’s life enhanced with shimmery gold images of his work. There is also a writing desk, computer, and an honor bar that reflects children’s tastes. On the walls are cute mixed media collages of iconic San Francisco scenes.

Dan had to check out early the next morning and catch a plane to Los Angeles, but due to the highly civilized checkout time of noon, the kids and I lounged around for a few hours playing Wii bowling, people watching above the corner of Powell and Ells, and sharing a room service omelet (prepared by Tad’s Steaks next door).

A great start to Spring Break 2013!

Insider Tip

430 Geary St
(at Mason St)

Do yourself a solid and stop here for affordable sushi, sashimi, and ramen.

Hotel Union Square
114 Powell Street, San Francisco, California 94102

Contributed by Lisa Dion of Friscomama

Photos by Dan Dion and Lisa Dion

Villa del Palmar Resort Spa with Free Airfare to Loreto, Mexico

Monday April 1, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 3 Comments

Villa del Palmar

Villa del Palmar All Inclusive Hotel Review, Loreto, Mexico

Off the Eastern coast of  Mexico’s Baja peninsula, at The Islands of Loreto, sits Villa del Palmar. Opened in the spring of 2011, this 181 room property overlooks the uninhabited Danzante Island. With views looking out to the Sea of Cortez, or La Giganta mountain range, you will be surrounded by nature, as well as shimmering stars at night. In addition to the Sabila Spa, four swimming pools, an outdoor Jacuzzi, and beach access, outdoor lovers will be attracted to this mild year-round climate.

Free airfare from Los Angeles, to Loreto, Mexico

Yes, you read that headline right. Anyone who calls Villa del Palmar and references Nancy D. Brown’s hotel review will receive FREE round trip airfare for two from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Loreto Airport (LTO.)  Travel must be completed by May 19, 2013 and is based on availability. You must contact the resort for this special offer.



Villa del Palmar

Rooms at Villa del Palmar Resort & Spa in Loreto, Mexico

Worry free Loreto, Mexico

While the flight from Los Angeles, California to Loreto, Mexico is quick, you’ll feel miles away from big city life at Villa del Palmar Resort. In fact, the sleepy fishing village of Loreto is rather slow paced, as is the Baja Mexico resort. Villa del Palmar is a safe place to relax, unwind and  take in the scenery, sea life and stars. Evening entertainment ranges from Karaoke, to Mexican Fiesta themed-dinners and dancing. A golf course is included in the resort master plan, as well.

Not feeling comfortable with your high school Spanish, the attentive Villa del Palmar staff speaks both English and Spanish. Menus at Villa del Palmar’s Danzante Restaurant, The Market Restaurant, Casa Mia and room service are written in Spanish and English.

Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto

Danzante Island view from Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto

Villa del Palmar all-inclusive or a la carte

There are several ways to experience Villar del Palmar. I experienced the all-inclusive plan that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, 24 hour room service, unlimited cocktails and beverages, internet access, themed dinners, all resort activities and daily turn down service.

If you select a la carte dining, there is always the option to upgrade ($89 per person, per day) kids, ages 5-13 are 50% off and children 0-5 years old are no charge; a good value if you are staying on property for meals. As the property is a bit isolated, the resort offers Palmita Market for any items you may have forgotten to pack.

Rooms at Villa del Palmar Resort and Spa

Rooms at Villa del Palmar start at $216.13 for a studio. My room #2514, rented for $359.10, per night US (check website for current pricing. This one bedroom deluxe, ocean view suite, featured a king bed with balcony, shower and separate Jacuzzi bath tub in one room and a sofa bed, desk, coffee table, dining room table, kitchen, bathroom with shower and washer/dryer combination. Both rooms offered flat screen tv’s. The one bedroom suite would be ideal for a family of four to share, as the living room offers a balcony, as well.

Two bedroom and three bedroom suites and penthouses are also available, as well as the Presidential suite. Villa del Palmar also offers a time-share program in Loreto, Mexico.

Sabila Spa

After a day outdoors, soak in Sabila Spa

Nature lovers unite at Villa del Palmar

Kayaks and paddleboards, as well as snorkels and fins are available to guests. On-site,  water aerobics, volleyball, hiking and bicycles are offered, as well as the complimentary fitness center. Additional activities are available to book via the concierge.

Sabila Spa at Villa del Palmar

The Sabila Spa is a welcome addition to Villa del Palmar resort. With 17 treatment rooms, a fitness center, wet area featuring plunge pools, hot tubs, saunas and Swiss showers with six different temperatures of hot and cold, this is the place to relax after a day of outdoor activity.

During my visit, I tried the Hot Candle Ritual. This 80 minute treatment blends warm oil massage with Aroma therapy to bring balance and harmony back into your life. I highly recommend this unique massage treatment during your Loreto, Mexico visit.

Need to know

Check in: 3:00 p.m. (Greeting includes a ritual hand cleansing to wash your tensions away, cold towel, non-alcoholic drink and three minute neck and back massage.)

Check out: 12:00 p.m.

Villa del Palmar hammock

Relax at Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto

Insider Tips

Guest are given wrist bands with water-proof smart chip technology. No more fumbling with card keys, simply swipe your wristband at the door and welcome to paradise!

The resort offers complimentary wifi in the lobby and pool-side. Try your balcony, as well, for wifi coverage.

Alaska Airlines offers non-stop flights from Los Angeles International Airport in California, to Loreto Mexico Airport.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow Villa del Palmar on Twitter.

If You Go:

Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa  (866) 209-0726

Ensenada Blanca, 23880

Loreto, Mexico

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa.

Related Post:

Things to See and Do in Loreto, Mexico

Things to See and Do in Hana, Maui, Hawaii

Friday March 29, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 5 Comments

"Hana waterfalls"

Look for waterfalls in Hana, Maui.

Are you visiting Hāna for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in Hāna on Maui, Hawaii’s eastern shore.


Visitors from out of town want to see Maui’s Seven Sacred Pools, but a hike through the bamboo forest is a more local, authentic experience. Afterall, Hāna is best known for its Black Sand Beach and bamboo forests.

If this is a romantic trip to Hawaii, I recommend staying in a Sea Ranch Cottage at Travaasa Hāna for kissing with an ocean view.


Are you traveling to Hāna with a pet?  The best place to walk the dog is Hāna Bay or Koki Beach. For those who don’t have the time to drive the road to Hana, why not fly to Hana in 20 minutes. Mokulele Airlines will take you from Kahului Airport to Hana for $59 one way. Check the website for details.


Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids to Maui, you’ll want to visit The Underground Lava Tubes.



"Macadamia Nut Pancakes"

Macadamia Nut Pancakes with bananas and bacon at Travaasa Hana Maui

Hawaiian food in Hāna, Maui


If you are looking for typical Hāna cuisine, I recommend visiting the local food stands outside of Hāna Town. Some of the fruit stands have honor boxes where you take what you like and leave the money in the box. Have you tried the apple bananas?


The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat is The Ka`uiki Dining Room at Travaasa Hāna.


Looking for cheap food in Hāna? Go to the Hāna Fresh Market. For the best Thai restaurant, all the Hāna locals eat at Prawnee’s.


The Hāna Ranch Restaurant at Travaasa Hāna is the spot for late night dining on this part of the island. I recommend the bbq ribs and Macadamia Nut pie.


"Hana Hawaiian dancer"

Watch Hawaiian dancing in Hana, Maui

For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to the Ka`uiki Dining Room at Travaasa Hāna. Order a Mai Tai cocktail; it comes with a chunk of pineapple,  the little umbrella and plenty of rum. Every Sunday, Monday and Thursday night there is live Hawaiian music and hula dancing.


When you come to Hāna, get your picture taken at Waimoku Falls.  It’s a 2.5 mile hike through  the bamboo forest to Waimoku Falls.  Another great outdoor activity is going horseback riding along Hāna’s pristine coastline.

For the water lovers, take an ocean kayak and snorkel reef watch with Hana Bay Kayaks. Owner Kevin Coates takes out beginning paddlers, as well as non-swimmers (with flotation devices.)

I brought my underwater camera, but my camera skills don’t do this legendary cove justice.


Hana, Maui views

Travaasa Hāna offers great views and Fagan’s Cross (you can walk to the top) is the best place to watch or experience the sunrise.


If you are a museum lover, Hāna’s best historical museum is the Hāna Cultural Center.


The Hāna News will keep you posted on what’s happening in Hāna.


You can tell a lot about Hāna from visiting the Hāna Cultural Center.


In the spring you should attend The East Maui Taro Festival.  In the summer you should attend the Hāna Film Festival.


Did you know that Hāna is known for Cultural Events? Plan a visit to Hāna in the fall during the Aloha Week Festival.


"Hana horseback riding"

Go horseback riding on the coast with Travaasa Hana Riding Stables in Maui, Hawaii.

Come to Hāna for the Christmas Fun Fair in the winter or celebrate New Year’s Eve with fireworks that light up the Hawaiian sky.


Insider Tip: Check out Prawnee’s for Thai food. This is where local Hāna folks go for lunch.


Just outside of Hāna Town you can visit The Hāna Health Center and have lunch at Hāna Fresh Market.

What are your favorite things to do in Hāna ?

Photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau and Travaasa Hāna.

Related Post:

Things to See and Do in Maui, Hawaii

Things to See and Do in Paia and Makawao, Hawaii