You can about other mountains I have climbed, including Mount Sneffels, Grays and Torrey, and the DeCaLiBron Loop on my Colorado Hiking Page!
6:00 am - Our arrival
We arrived at the trailhead at 6:00 a.m. on the dot, and the parking lot was already full. We parked down the hill from the trailhead parking lot and walked up about a quarter of a mile up the road.
7:00 am - Starting the trail
After the water, the trail started to head up the mountain and progressively became steeper. The next mile of the trail remained above the tree line and was a lush green landscape. We walked through rows of short bushes before we broke out into vast fields of blooming wildflowers.
8:15 am - 2/3 of the way up, here come the crowds
The path became more difficult to navigate as more rocks littered the ground. This caused people to slow down for the sake of safety, so things became very congested the higher up we hiked. Traversing the rocks wasn’t difficult to manage, since there was no climbing or scrambling required. We slowly continued up the trail and eventually reached the summit.
9:00 am - Reached the summit
9:30 am - Started the hike down
The descent took us just as long as the hike up, primarily because we stopped a lot to take pictures of the flowers and beautiful valley below. Now that the sun was out the views were even more spectacular!
12:00 pm - Finished!
Read about my other 14er experiences below:
We walked back down the path and made a right turn off the main trail to see a different view of the bridge. The view from underneath was, I think, more beautiful than seeing it from above. The sun was also lighting it up at just the right time so that the rocks were glowing bright red for us. It was unbelievable.
After we gazed and gawked for a good while, we found a rock to sit on and do some more viewing of the landscape. We sat and looked until we realized the time and that we needed to wrap up our time in Sedona and head to our next destination, California! We saved the best hike for last, and we couldn’t have left Arizona any happier.
See more from our entire trip to Sedona!
We began at the Boynton Canyon Trailhead and hiked roughly three miles to "The Secret Cave" also known as The Subway.
The cave isn’t really a cave at all. It is a horizontally eroded, circular space that exists between two massive, vertical rock walls. Some call it the Subway due to its similar appearance to a subway tunnel. It is truly unique and a sight to behold.
Not far from the Secret Cave, there are awe-inspiring sights of a different type. Just around the corner from the cave formation, a ledge leads to ruins built by the native people of Sedona.
Often referred to as cliff dwellings, these ruins consist of stacked blocks of stone constructed to enclose an area of the cliff. While walking around these rooms on a ledge overlooking the calley, I couldn’t help but to wonder about what it may have been like to call this place home.
As I was thinking what it may be like to live in this beautiful canyon, I began to climb around and explore the higher cliffs. Reaching the next platform of cliffs, I stopped to hear a sound that, at first, made me question my own sanity. I though I had heard a native-sounding flute, and after a few moments of listening, I knew that I wasn’t hallucinating. After soaking up the glorious sound, I started my descent to meet the flute player.
Back at the cliffs with the Secret Cave and ruins, I was greeted by the flutist. He asked how far up I’d gone and introduced himself as a Sedona local. We spoke about the serenity of the site until a loud group of people began making their way up the climb to the cave. He suggested it was time to leave given the new visitors, and I agreed. Taylor had recently joined us in conversation and the three of us made our way down to meet up with Taylor’s family.
Montezuma Castle is a large pueblo structure built high into the cliff face of riverside limestone rocks. This formation is believed to have been built between the years 1,110-1,400. It is one of hundreds of formations discovered along the lush 800 mile-long Verde Valley, but it is one of the best preserved.
The signs in the park discuss how the construction was named by explorers long after its inhabitants had abandoned the area. They are now referred to as the Sinagua people. Sinagua means “no water” in Spanish, because the watersheds were believed to be dry when the Spanish explorers arrived.
Learning about the assumed lifestyle of the time as we walked around the concrete walkways that line the park boundaries was extremely interesting. Sadly, the public can no longer explore the pueblo formations, and they can only be viewed from the ground below. What is more tragic, though, is that we learned some of the formations are recreations.
Montezuma Well is a natural limestone sinkhole filled with carbon rich water, and it is another part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also believed to have served everyday and ceremonial purposes. Plus, there is a legend that a large water serpent lives inside the well.
The well is the only place like this in this area, but just like Montezuma Castle there are ancient pueblos in the cliffside. Though these are much smaller and not as well preserved, they are located in the walls of the sinkhole itself. Just like before, the natural life of this area was more interesting than the ruins.
The most interesting part about Montezuma Well is that the well is home to some species of life that have never been found anywhere else! There are five unique organisms that call the oxygen-deprived water home.
Both Montezuma Castle and Well were very interesting to explore and learn about. We still have so many questions about the way of life back when the people of this area flourished. It also introduced us to more ancient sites to explore the next time we are in Sedona!
See more from our Sedona vacation below:
We followed the AllTrails App to keep along the trail because it was a bit difficult to find. Click here to find the route we followed!
We eventually connected to the main portion of the trail on the eastern side of the mesa and continued our loop hike. As the sun rose, the views only improved. We could eventually see all of the familiar formations of Sedona like Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Battlement Mesa, and Snoopy Rock!
Eventually, when the trail rounded the southern and western portion of the mesa, we started walking closer to the airport. This part of the trail was not our favorite, because we had gone from wide open spaces back to short desert trees, and the trail follows close to the airport fence surrounding houses, offices, and other airport buildings. It wasn’t very nice, but it was the last bit of the trail.
We eventually arrived back at the parking lot with our car. It was around 7:30 when we finished the hike.
The Airport Mesa Loop Trail was a great introductory hike for us to see all of the places we would be exploring over the next few days.
We came to take a swim after a long day of exploring Montezuma Castle National Monument. Taylor knew that the park featured natural slides, but we were unaware of the park’s history and agriculture.
As we passed the apple orchards and historical buildings on our way to the creek, we realized the popularity of the park and wondered if we would be able to find a somewhat secluded place to swim.
After walking for about 15 minutes, we heard loud splashes and cheers and soon discovered people cliff jumping into a deep pool. We couldn’t wait to join. We climbed the cliff and waited our turn to jump into the pristine waters of Oak Creek.
After the exhilarating dip into the water and a little time spent swimming, we realized the park would be closing soon and started making our way back to the park’s entrance. We walked back downstream to the rocks where kids were sliding down the smooth rocks, and Taylor jumped right in to join them.
Taylor claimed that sliding down the rocks was more fun than cliff jumping, but I couldn’t believe it, nor did I let her prove me wrong by sliding down the rocks.
We had a great few hours in this wonderful little park. Watch our video below to see how much fun we truly had!
See more from our trip to Sedona:
We were not only able to stand on this brand new stage, but we also toured areas that most fans don’t get to see and went backstage where thousands of performers have walked and autographed before hitting the stage.
After our backstage tour, we enjoyed the acoustics of the this one-of-a-kind amphitheater filled with the groovy music of Lotus. Lotus was the last band to play on the old Red Rocks stage and the first to play on the new stage. To say the least, it was a great way to start this epic anniversary season!
Watch more from this once-in-a-lifetime experience in my YouTube video below - and book yourself some tickets ASAP before they sell out!!
Read some of our other Colorado adventures:
The Royal Gorge Bridge is The United States’s highest suspension bridge, and used to be the highest in the world!
You can see more from our exhilarating zip line across Royal Gorge in my YouTube video below.
All these fun activities being said - I must warn that the park can be very windy, and sometimes park management has to shut down the attractions.
Royal Gorge has always been a major attraction in Colorado even before the bridge and park were built! Not only are the rocks stunning, they are filled with valuable minerals. For this reason, railroad companies fought to lay track inside the gorge.
The Royal Gorge was the intersection of the Rio Grande and Santa Fe Railways, and it is a truly historical and remarkable location. You can walk around the park and learn all about the history of the bridge, the land, the wildfires, and the railroad, or you can ride the train and experience it for yourself!
Ride the scenic Royal Gorge Route Railway!
Riding the train is the most expensive way to see the canyon, but the experience is worth every dollar. We paid to have first-class, “Vista Dome”, seats with floor to ceiling windows for the best seated view on the train.
Book your own seat on The Royal Gorge Route Railway, here: https://www.royalgorgeroute.com
See more from our romantic ride on The Royal Gorge Route Railway in my video below!
Climb it or Raft it!
There are a few other ways to see the gorge that I haven’t tried. You can whitewater raft down the Arkansas River or take the Via Ferrata climbing routes up the gorge’s walls. These both seem incredibly fun, and I plan to do both soon!
Until then though, my memories at Royal Gorge will always be so special to me thanks to all the fun and excitement I've had in this unique Colorado landscape.
I hope you take a trip out there yourself to enjoy the views with your own two eyes, it's absolutely worth it!
Read some of my other Colorado Guides below:
Just take a scenic drive around and enjoy the views!
Go for a hike!
Try out rock climbing.
Given this place’s popularity, I can understand why they ask you to stay on the pavement. With a permit, it is possible to go off the less-popular trails, and if you want a much closer experience, you can rock climb some of the formations! I have never done it, but you can read about the process online at The Garden of The Gods Website here: https://www.gardenofgods.com/things-to-do/things-1/rock-climbing
Take in ALL of the views, *hint* there's more than the red rocks!
It is a bit of hike down to the main structures from P9, so I usually drive to a different lot if I want to head into the heart of the park. The main parking lot and the few just past it provide the easiest access to the primary formations and have paved leading inside. No matter what parking lot you chose, the scenes are unbelievable.
Go horseback riding!
You can see more from our fun ride in this YouTube video below!
No matter what way you choose to visit Garden of the Gods you can't go wrong. Take your take, and enjoy all the views you can handle.
I hope my guide helps you enjoy your time in Colorado Springs! Enjoy!
Check out my other Colorado Guides, here:
The Top 5 Places to Take Engagement Picture Across Colorado
My Favorite 3 Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
Where to Take Your Family On Spring Break
The trail starts with a quick, half-mile walk to the first formations. These first formations were just a tease of what was to come and we knew it. We still stopped to take pictures but tried not to get held up at what we knew was a lesser stop.
We continued down the muddy and snowy trail a little further to finally find the the epic valley of red and orange striped spires poking out of the ground. When we came over the ridge and saw the entire layout from above, we were in awe, giddy, and stunned all at the same time.
Once we saw other people down in the canyon, we knew we had to go in and see what was hiding below.
We hiked back out and sat in the parking lot to share our pictures with one another and talk about how much fun the day had been together. We all agreed that the park was much more magical than any of the pictures or reviews had made it out to be!
We respected him, the warning sign, and the formations themselves and kept off of them this time. We still spent hours exploring around the formations and hiking the surrounding trails.
February 2021 - Our Engagement Photos
My favorite trip to The Paint Mines thus far (and probably will be ever) was when John and I went down here to take our engagement photographs!
It was romantic, picturesque, and just absolutely perfect.
If you want to see more from our engagement photos inside The Paint Mines - and from our other photoshoot locations - please check out my “Top 5 Places to Photograph Engagements” guide, HERE!
See other spectacular Colorado locations in my blog posts here:
If you would like to read more about what we did during our entire week, read this detailed “Kona Christmas Vacation” post here!
Here are the restaurants, bars, bakeries, and coffee shops that we visited during our time on the island:
Kona Farmers Market
Pine Tree Cafe and Matsuyama Market
Most of our mornings required grab-and-go breakfasts so that we could start our day off early. We found two great, local restaurants close to our Airbnb that accommodated all of our needs. Both had goodies like egg sandwiches, French toast or pancakes, and other breakfast plates. They also had things like fried rice, pickled items, and SPAM which was new to us!
Another morning, we went downtown to Fish Hopper for breakfast. We all enjoyed meals of steak and eggs, fruit bowls, pancakes, and hash browns. Though our view wasn’t as good as Island Lava Java, we got to see even more dolphins swimming on the horizon. It was another great way to start our day!
Kona Mountain Coffee was near the aforementioned Pine Tree Cafe. After ordering my meal from Pine Tree, I would run over to Kona Mountain and have a nice, hot beverage to go with my meal. I liked Kona Mountain so much I ended up buying a hat from there, and I wear it proudly!
After a marvelous day snorkeling at Kua Bay, we stopped by Quinn’s Almost By The Sea for some food and happy hour drinks. We all enjoyed a round of beers and had baskets of seafood to fill us up. It was a cute pub with a nice, fenced patio, and the prices weren’t bad for the prime location!
Our last meal on the island was at Humpy’s. It’s a little sports bar just off the main Ali’i Drive, and we stopped in for a quick bite before catching our flight. We had typical bar food like pretzels and sliders then had fresh seafood along with it. It was a decent send off for our return home.
After our big meal at Papa Kona, we walked over to Gypsea Gelato for a delicious, local desert. We each had different scoops of Lilikoi cheesecake, salted caramel fudge, mango, and starfruit sorbet! We each loved our creations and enjoyed them to the last lick.
Hilo And Southern Area
One recommended food was Malasadas. They were described to us as soft, filled doughnuts. We stopped at the United States’s southernmost bakery, Punalum’u Bake Shop, to try some out.
See more from our entire time on The Big Island, including all of the places we visited, in the detailed “Hawaiian Christmas Vacation” post here!
We purchased goggles, snorkels, and flippers from Amazon.com and stowed them in our luggage. You can find the link to the pairs we bought here.
I will note that we found the exact same pairs at Target and Safeway in Kona for just a couple of more dollars, so we could have bought them there, but we didn’t want to risk it!
One note of warning: The waves at Kua are HUGE! We were constantly badgered by gigantic sneaker waves crashing over and rushing toward us. They knocked us all over the place. Once we passed the break line of the waves, the water was very calm and the snorkeling was easy!
See exactly what it was like at Kua Bay in my YouTube Video below!
Two Step at Captain Cook
Two Step is very aptly named. The volcanic shelf that separates the beach from the ocean has two steps in the rock that lead straight into the water. Two steps, and you’re in the ocean snorkeling over a beautiful coral reef!
It was the most active area for coral, fish, and other sea life! We saw dozens of different fish, and even though we spent all day here, I feel like we only saw a fraction of the area. It was unbelievable!
You can see more from our afternoon snorkeling at Captain Cook and learning about Hawaiian culture in the video below!
Night Snorkeling with Manta Rays
This experience was the only one for which we paid. All of the other places I have, and will, mention were free to enter and snorkel. That being said, night snorkeling with manta rays was completely worth the cost!
I booked a night time excursion with My Kona Adventures to go snorkeling with manta rays and my parents were very nervous. I surprised them with the plans, because I knew they would be hesitant, but in the end, they agreed it was an incredible experience!
P.S. I was able to get an AWESOME deal for the four of us by emailing ahead of time and asking about the packages they were offering. So don't be shy and ask ahead (and let them know The Traveling Tacos sent ya)!
See more from this nighttime snorkeling trip in my “Night Swimming with Manta Rays” blog post here and in the video below!
Places We Wish We Had Snorkeled:
Queen’s Bath / Kiholo Bay
You can read more about Queen’s Bath and our day of looking for petroglyphs in my “Kilauea-Kona Christmas Vacation” post here!
Sadly, we did not have time to get in the water at Kahalu’u Bay on our way down to Papakōlea’s Green Sand Beach. We were following the “Gypsy Tour Guide” app and it encouraged us to stop. From the shore, we could see brightly colored fish everywhere. It looked incredible, but we just didn’t have time to jump in.
Magic Sands was another stop our “Gypsea Tour Guide” app recommended, but this time, we did things a little differently and enjoyed happy hour drinks by the water. We didn’t get in the water here, but we could see a fair amount of snorkelers.
It looked like a nice spot. Instead, we cheersed our cocktails and watched the sun set!
Overall, we loved snorkeling in Hawai’i. It was extremely easy everywhere we went, and we always found the most interesting things to see. I hope, one day, we can come back and explore more!
Hilo is the United States’s most wet city accumulating over 100 inches of rainfall annually. Compare this to the Kona side, where we were staying, which only gets about 30 inches! This excessive rainfall creates an extremely lush landscape, and we were pumped to explore it!
See our entire day in Hilo in my YouTube video below to get an idea of just how beautiful this side of the island truly is!
Our first stopping point was Waipi’o Valley. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to hike or ride down into the valley, so we just stopped at the overlook and dreamed of what it looked like down below. From atop the view point, it was stunning. After taking it all in, we headed south down Highway 19.
Akaka Falls State Park
See more from the lush Akaka Falls State Park in my YouTube video here!
You can read all about Pineapples and the other places we ate across the island in the “Where We Ate on The Big Island” post here!
Both Rainbow Falls and the Boiling Pots were nice, quick stops just outside of downtown Hilo.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
You can read more about Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and our two trips in this more detailed blog post here!
We packed a lot into our day trip to Hilo and saw every highlight we could. There was a lot more we could have seen, but our day chasing waterfalls and volcanoes was perfect for us, and we drove back to Kona overjoyed with our day.
See every place we went in Hilo in my Youtube video below, and if you like it hit subscribe to see even more from our time on The Big Island!
If you would like to read more about our entire week on The Big Island, visit my Hawai’i Page, HERE, to read posts about every place we snorkeled, stayed, and ate.
You can read about that Hawaiian Cruise in the “Nannying on a Seven-Day Hawaiian Cruise” blog post here!
We could not have planned our trip much better than we did. We were very fortunate to be on the island when Kilauea erupted on December 20th, 2020.
We were inside the park almost exactly 24 hours before the earthquake and ensuing eruption occurred. At first, we were so upset that we hadn't seen anything, but we returned 72 hours later for one of the most awesome experiences of our lives!
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park - First Visit
Our first trip to the national park was pretty uneventful. We arrived way too late in the afternoon to do the things we wanted after visiting South Point and Papakōlea’s Green Sand Beach earlier in the day.
You can read more about each different colored beach, here in my detailed "Hawaiian Christmas Vacation" itinerary post!
I was really hoping we could make it all the way to the end of the road to see where the lava blocks the road, but that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, we stopped at a few overlooks to see Lau Manu and Pauahi Crater before turning around to leave the park.
We were a little disappointed with the experience, but we were glad we tried. Luckily, it wouldn’t be our only trip to the park!
See more from both of these visits in my YouTube video below!
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park - Second Visit
We were able to make it back to the park Tuesday evening after our day in Hilo.
Before we went back to the park we spent the day in Hilo hiking to several waterfalls and had the absolute best lunch downtown. Read more on my “Things We Did in Hilo” post here!
All day, we had been following the national park’s social media accounts and ensuring that the area remained safe to visit. These outlets provided a great piece of advice: visit in the evening to see the glow of the lava, because the lava is very deep inside a crater with unstable edges.
Their social media accounts also tagged photos from the same Steam Vents area we had visited before, so we knew exactly where we were going!
This sight more than satisfied every dream I had ever had of coming to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. When I finally got cold and met up with my family, I was happy that we were able to see one of nature’s greatest forces at work just below our feet.
Watch more from this bucket-list experience here, in my YouTube video below!
If you would like to read more about what we did on The Big Island, check out the separate “Kailua-Kona Christmas Vacation” blog post here!
It turns out that there are plenty of others in the world, but supposedly, their size and mineral content don’t qualify them as true “green sand” beaches. Regardless of technicalities, we loved the area!
When we arrived at Papakōlea, we chose to hitch a ride instead of walking the rough 2.5 miles of road. We didn’t have enough time for both hiking and swimming, so we chose to spend our time swimming instead of walking.
It took about 20 minutes to ride out to the edge of the crater, and the road was very bumpy!
I would never ever recommend anyone drive the road unless you have a suitable off-road vehicle. It is a very rough road!
See just exactly how bumpy the ride was in my YouTube video down below - my Hohem Gimball make it look pretty smooth but you can still get a feel!
This area was very different from any other beach I've ever been too! Up above the ocean the land is healthy grassland with lots and lots of green rolling hills, but down below, it's a green-sand treasure.
We walked a path along the cliff’s edge before walking down to the sand. We wanted to see the whole area before getting in the water, and we found an incredible 360-degree view of blue water and lush landscape. We stood at the windy tip then finally headed down the crater wall to the sandy bay.
The whole area was carved out by a volcanic eruption that occurred thousands of years ago, and that’s what made the sand green! Mineral deposits of Olivine were exposed by the eruption and are eroded by waves and wind.
We swam around, laid in the sand, and really enjoyed the afternoon before it was time for us to leave. We rode the bumpy trail back to our car and raved about the time we had just had.
Walking or not, I would recommend this glorious beach to anyone!
See more from our entire trip to Hawai'i on my Hawaiian Islands Blog Page, where I lay out every where we went!
Our first time, we had planned to visit Manini'owali Beach instead, but Kua Bay came highly recommended by our Airbnb hosts. When we googled it, we found that they were effectively the same place! It felt great to be reassured by a local that the place we wanted to visit would be worth it.
Check out the separate blog post about the “Ohana in the Back” that we stayed at and the help they provided to us, here!
We loved how the black, volcanic rocks broke up the shoreline and made a very unique ocean view. Plus, those rocks created small outcoves which made entering the water easier and created tide pools full of fish. The water was unbelievably crystal clear and bright blue! We spent hours floating, swimming, and snorkeling in it.
We loved this place for so many reasons. Beside its sheer beauty, it was convenient to get to! It was only about 15 minutes from downtown Kilauea, and the parking lot was just steps from the beach. There is also plenty of space! In the three times we visited in December, we never had an issue finding a place for our chairs and towels!
Kua Bay and Manini'owali Beach was our very favorite spot of the entire week in Hawai’i. We were so glad we found it early in our trip so that we could visit as many times as we did.
Read a little more about Kua Bay and the other places we snorkeled in the blog post titled, “Where We Found Snorkeling on The Big Island” here!
One of the most memorable things that we did during our Hawaiian Christmas Vacation was go night snorkeling with manta rays through My Kona Adventures!
None of us had ever done anything like this, and I don’t think any of us had ever been in deep ocean in the dark. This experience had come highly recommended by several blogs and websites, then our Airbnb host and another local recommended it, so we were sure to go.
Read more about where we stayed on The Big Island in my "Where We Stayed near Kona" blog post!
I had reached out to My Kona Adventures before our arrival to The Big Island and asked about their availability and packages. I found a good deal on Groupon and was hoping to use it, but it turned out that they were running a better promotion on site. We ended up saving nearly 50%!
If you plan to book your excursion in advance, be sure to email email@example.com and ask about current deals!
We booked a 7 p.m. slot for Friday night and arrived at the boat ramp in the pitch-black darkness. We all got our snorkels, and I asked for a wetsuit for warmth before we boarded the boat. While we took the five minute ride out to the bay, we strapped on ankle floaties to help keep us near the surface.
Our captain explained that our guide, Taco, would meet us in the water, and we all hopped in. Taco was holding onto a special floating board with bright lights attached to the bottom. The bright, blue lights help attract plankton which is what the manta rays eat 22 hours of the day. He informed us that the rays will come within what he called “licking distance”. He told us that absolutely no touching is allowed and that we needed to protect the animals in their natural habitat.
Once he was done talking, we looked down and, right away, could see the majestic beasts somersaulting by another group. We were amazed. The manta rays can have wingspans up to 20 feet, and Taco said they can weigh as much as two tons!
See exactly what we saw under the water in my YouTube video below!
Not long after we put our faces back in the water, the rays started to come closer to us. They found the lights below us and started to work up toward our raft. Before long, they were right under us, and I mean only feet away. These humongous animals came right up under our board, and like Taco said, they came within inches of us. It was incredible, unbelievable, and unreal.
The feeling of being close to these giants was like no other. We felt like we were observing aliens in a foreign world. All of the sudden, a dolphin swam under us too! It was completely unexpected! Everything about the tour was just absolutely incredible. We could not have asked for a better night in the water.
Like all great things, our touring time had come to an end, and it was time for us to get back on the boat. The hour we had spent in the water went by too fast, but we loved every single second of it. Truth be told, it was the perfect amount of time, because our arms started to get tired, and I started to get cold! It was a good thing that our boat ride was only a few minutes long.
Once on the land again, we couldn’t stop raving about how spectacular that experience had been. My parents, who were nervous at first, even said that it was one of the most fun things they had ever done. We highly recommend checking out My Kona Adventures and taking one of their tours. It was fantastic!
If you would like to see more from this snorkeling adventure and our entire trip to The Big Island, please check out my Hawaiian Islands page to see everything!!
Check out the listing for yourself here, as the "Kona Amazing Cottage - Pool/AC/Great Location" on Airbnb.com
Looking back on our booking process, we probably should have looked into things more closely before booking.
If we had read the description, which states, “Two people can feel very comfortable inside. Our unit will accommodate up to 4 people, but please be aware that it will be tight.” We probably would have booked somewhere else, but I’m glad we didn’t!!
They specifically recommended:
They also recommended many more things to do as we explored the island. You can read about it all in the, “What We Did For A Week on Hawai’i” post here.
Check the Airbnb’s availability HERE if you would like to book a stay at this wonderful home!
The White River National Forest is located outside of Minturn, Colorado, just south of Vail. It is about two-and-a-half hours from Denver. We left home early Saturday morning and arrived around 9 a.m. and discovered a few surprises.
Watch more from the entire weekend in our YouTube video below - and don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up to date with our latest adventures!
We knew it would be cold, but the temperature was only 9 degrees Fahrenheit according to my Jeep when we pulled down the road. That was about 20-degrees colder than we anticipated, but we kept going.
That was, until we also discovered that the road we were supposed to take was closed by a gate 8 miles from the trailhead! We parked the car and began reviewing our options and the posted maps. Hoping we could still get out to camp.
The maps showed that there were trails off Homestead Road and campgrounds along the way, so we decided to hike the road and find a scenic place to camp for the night. Easy alternative!
We put on our packs and snowshoes and started walking. We didn’t know, at all, what to expect, and we didn’t know how beautiful our surroundings would be!
No Name Gulch:
The night was one of the most difficult we’ve experienced. Temperatures reached 8 degrees, and we didn’t have the proper gear. We struggled, fully clothed and shivering, through the night. We had even stuffed the feet of our sleeping bags with excess clothing save one jacket we draped over our dog Maria. We learned a lot that night and have already begun researching our upgrades.
Here are some items we wish we'd had better versions of:
If you want to see in more detail all of the gear we carry in our backpacks, check out the detailed blog post from Yellowstone National Park here!
We woke up the next morning with frost stuck to everything inside the tent, including my hat. We laughed at how ridiculous the situation we’d put ourselves in was, snuggled up with our pup, and waited for the sunshine to hit our tent and warm us up.
Once the sun was high enough in the sky, we stood in its rays and briskly packed up camp. After stuffing our bags and making one final sweep of the campsite, we started our hike back to the car. The trail was just as beautiful as the day before, but we were motivated by the warmth of my car.
The hike back was much faster than the wandering stroll the day before. Both of our hungry stomachs and frozen toes were encouraging us to make it back as fast as we could. We arrived at my car in about two hours, and we couldn’t have been happier with the heat or the trip we’d just had. It was an incredibly fun and beautiful weekend, but we would have loved it that much more if we had been properly prepared.
Similar blog posts:
Read more about our entire trip to Puerto Rico in our "Puerto Rico Road Trip" blog post, here!
Taylor and I noticed the canyon rising out of the beach, and we immediately headed toward it. We climbed up the stark, white canyon finding a beautiful view of the surrounding mountainous jungle. There were people floating below, so we asked where the carvings were - no one knew.
We kept exploring, hopping from rock to rock, and keeping our eyes out for carvings in the stone.
See more from our adventures around the canyon in our YouTube Video below, and subscribe to our channel for more videos!
Read more from our entire trip to Puerto Rico, including our tours of local coffee farms and our sightly unfortunate "event" that happened in the jungle. Check it all out below or on our Puerto Rico page!
We had two more nights to plan, and we were torn between the beaches and the jungle.
You can read more about all of our other planned trips in Puerto Rico including plans to visit Ponce, Rincon, and El Yungue National Forest in the “How We Planned a Trip to Puerto Rico” blog post - coming soon!
Old San Juan 360-Degree View Room
Robert and his beautiful apartment were our first welcome to the island. We flew into San Juan late at night and Robert accommodated our midnight arrival graciously. He greeted us with a tour of his home, located in the hear of Old San Juan, then showed us our bedroom for the night.
If you would like to book your own stay at Robert's room in Old San Juan, check his availability here!
If you have never booked with Airbnb before, use this discount code on your first stay and save up to $60! https://www.airbnb.com/c/taylorc1809
You can see more from all of the places we stayed in our YouTube video below, and in more videos on our channel, here!
Lago Caonillas Lake View House
The apartment itself isn’t much.There is a kitchen table, couch, and kitchenette with a coffee pot, minifridge, and microwave in the main room; a bedroom with a bathroom, closet, and queen sized bed; and a TV room with a large couch and closet. Though the necessities are on the inside, the main amenity is on the outside.
If you would like to book your own stay at in Utuado, please call Danny at 787-616-8949 or check his Airbnb calendar here!
Hotel La Terraza
Eventually, we had to return to San Juan to catch our flights back home. We booked our second stay in Old San Juan at a place fit for wandering the area, but when we suffered a flat tire in the jungle, our plans changed dramatically.
Read all about our wild experience driving through the jungle in our “What It’s Like To Drive In Puerto Rico” blog post here.
If you would like to book your own stay at Hotel La Terraza check their Airbnb site to see what's available here!
All things considered, we chose great places to stay through Airbnb and can’t complain about a thing. A good place to call home-away-from-home can make or break a trip, and all of ours made the trip even more special.
We loved every place we stayed and visited in Puerto Rico. Read more about every where we went in Old San Juan, Utuado, and Arecibo in our blog post HERE!
We traveled west out of San Juan to Arecibo and south to Utuado stopping wherever we wanted along the way.
We rented a car through Enterprise Rental Cars and had quite an experience with it! Read all about what it was like driving around Puerto Rico here.
La Plaza del Mercado de Santurce.
We booked an amazing stay in Utuado through Airbnb and could not have picked a more dreamy jungle getaway. Read all about it here!
Sabor Isleño by Los Paneles
Cafe El Bohio
The next morning, we woke up and grabbed an early, traditional Puerto Rican lunch from Cafe El Bohio along the shores of Lago Caonillas. We were staying just up the road at Coanillas Lake View House, and it was too convenient to not try.
We enjoyed our fried pork, beans, and rice before hopping in the car and exploring around Utuado. The meal wasn’t anything special, but it tasted great and fueled us for the day!
Cafe Gran Batey
See more from this great tour in our YouTube Video below and in our more detailed blog post here!
La Placita del Vivi
After learning about the native Taino culture at the Caguana Ceremonial Indigenous Heritage Center, we grabbed a bite from the roadside cafe, La Placita del Vivi.
Carbon y Leña Beach Restaurant
Read more about all of the Airbnbs we stayed at across the island in the “Where to Stay in Puerto Rico” post here!
Every single meal we had in Puerto Rico was absolutely delicious! We branched out, tried new things, and were never disappointed. Each place had such friendly staff who were willing to help us, and we appreciate all of their kindness and all of the fantastic meals. We only got a taste of Puerto Rican cuisine, but we loved every bite we had!
Read more about our entire Puerto Rico road trip in this more detailed post here! We share were we stayed in San Juan and Utuado and give details about all the amazing places we went and saw.
Read all about it HERE!
We waved to a gentleman who was sitting in the shade outside, and then we walked inside and discovered a busy lady serving coffee, cornbread, and carrot cake to a family of visitors.
Finally, the beans are aged and roasted before they’re packaged or ground.
He was Lotty’s husband and owner of the Gran Batey Coffee Farm. He told us about growing up on the farm, working away from home, then returning to run the farm as his own. The man had done an incredible amount of work in his life and it showed. He and Lotty had grown the farm’s business to the point of partnership with major coffee brands, but the work was wearing on him. He still loved the place, but you could tell it was hard on him.
We will be drinking Cafe Gran Batey coffee for a long time to come, and we are very excited!
See more from our entire tour of Cafe Gran Batey in our YouTube video here!
Check out more of our blog posts from Puerto Rico below!
We chose Utuado for its nearby attractions like Cerra De Punta, Torro Negro State Park, El Cemi Museum, and all of the white canyons. Even though we only made it to one of the later, we loved every moment of our time in the Puerto Rico mountains.
If you would like to read about our entire trip, including two nights in San Juan and our afternoon in Arecibo, read our “Long Weekend Road Trip in Puerto Rico” blog post HERE!
Read more about our entire experience dining at Sabor Isleño by Los Paneles and other restaurants across the island in our “Where We Found Great Food in Puerto Rico” blog post here!
Driving around in Puerto Rico was an experience in and of itself read all about what happened with our rental car in our "How Safe Is It To Drive In Puerto Rico?" blog post HERE and watch our YouTube video below!
This wasn't our only amazing airbnb in Puerto Rico, we also stayed at two great places in Old San Juan - which you can see more about here!
We warmed up the hot tub and unpacked our gear before starting to plan out an itinerary for the next day. We sat outside and gazed at the stars while reading DiscoverPuertoRico.com’s article about Utuado. We did a little more research before deciding to go west and visit some coffee farms, learn about the native people of the land, and do a little hiking.
Lotty, who gave our tour, did not speak English! Fortunately, another family was on the premise, and their father spoke English well enough to translate.
If you want to learn more about Cafe Gran Batey, check out the detailed blog post here!
See more from Cafe Gran Batey in our YouTube video below!
You can see more from this interesting site in our YouTube video here!
Read about all of the Puerto Rican mofongo and mojitos we had in the “Where We Found Great Meals in Puerto Rico” post here!
If you want to see more from our adventure through Canon Blanco, check out our YouTube video below!
We tried to continue to our next stop, La Piedra Escrita, but were halted when the road we had been following on Google Maps ended! The pavement turned to jungle floor, and we had nowhere to go. It was quite scary and was only worse when one of our tires popped.
We knew it would be best to act with haste, and John replaced our tire so fast that I swear he could have been trying out to be a NASCAR pit crew member.
Read about what it was like to drive around the Puerto Rican rainforest in this more detailed driving blog post, here!
We had SO much else we wanted to see while in Utuado, here are just a few of the place we wanted to visit:
- Cerro de Punta (PR's highest point)
- Chorro de Doña Juana Waterfall Or Cascada Las Delicias
- Museo De Nuestros Martires
- El Cemí Museum
- La Piedra Escrita
We loved every minute of our time in Utuado, and have ever intention to come back to explore more one day!
Here are some of our other blog posts from our entire trip to Puerto Rico. Enjoy!
Where to Stay In Puerto Rico - Beaches or Rain Forest??
How to Plan a Vacation to Puerto Rico!
Where We Found The Best Food On The Island - Lots of Mofongo and Mojitos!
Read more about our entire road trip to Utuado, Puerto Rico in this outlined "Puerto Rico Road Trip" blog post, HERE!
Taylor arranged our rental through Enterprise Rent-A-Car. She booked us for an SUV, but it was a little unfortunate that we couldn’t select exactly which car we wanted. It also was crazy how much more expensive off road and 4WD drive vehicle got!
See more of what it was like to drive around, watch our YouTube video below!
The first drive in the Rogue was from Old San Juan to La Plaza del Mercado de Santurce. The city streets were narrow, but not confusing or difficult to navigate.
Check out where all we stayed in San Juan and Utuado in our "Where to Stay In Puerto Rico" blog post, HERE!
Once we got through Utuado the roads got narrow and started winding with a consistent, steep grade.
While driving through the mountains we learned it is common to hear horns honking to notify anyone around the curve that a car is coming. It’s also common to turn a curve to find a relaxing dog in the middle of the road or a group of people gathered near the roadside!
The views of Puerto Rico’s mountain ranges are stunning, but I couldn’t afford to take my eyes off the road for any amount of time.
For two days, Taylor and I explored the mountain roads on either side of Utuado. It was exhilarating to drive up and down these steep and lush roadways. When researching routes around the Utuado Area, I had read that some mountain roads in Puerto Rico are impassable and that GPS directions are not to be trusted.
Read more about all of the planning we did before arriving in Puerto Rico, please read our detailed post - coming soon!
Even though I had gone as far as drawing certain intersections and sections of road map in my notebook, Taylor and I forgot the warnings about GPS.
We accidentally hit this trail pretty hard, and to make matters worse, something in the grass punctured our passenger’s side front tire.
After a speedy tire change, the Rouge sported an emergency spare as Taylor and I limped it back to a tire shop.
No matter what day or time we were on the highway, traffic never seemed to slow. Commercial trucks and older vehicles kept a slow pace, some vehicles cruised at just above the 55 mile per hour speed limit, and a few zipped by everyone. This remained true in a steady downpour.
The last piece of driving the Rogue in Puerto Rico consisted of dangerous water pockets and flooded interchanges. As we neared San Juan, the edge lanes of the highway became more and more likely to hold water pockets that would jerk the steering wheel. The streets of San Juan were flooded, but Taylor and I returned the car safely to Enterprise.
All things considered, driving in Puerto Rico was a great experience, but a little bit more Spanish and familiarity with certain routes would have helped tremendously.
It is not a task for the faint of heart, and constant diligence is required, but the exhilaration while speeding around a mountainous curve kept me in a state of bliss while driving in Puerto Rico’s mountains, and the suspense of never knowing when an oncoming vehicle would appear, made those mountains one of my favorite places to drive.
See what it was really like in our YouTube video below, and see more on our entire channel HERE!
More from our road trip in Puerto Rico:
Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read!