Odenza Reviews: The Great Alaska Road Trip

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Set Your Sights on Adventure in the Last Frontier

There is no more intimate of a way to experience Alaska’s true grandeur than by taking a road trip – just you, your car, and a strip of pavement leading through mile upon mile of dramatic scenery, big wildlife and friendly, down-to-earth small towns.

There’s just one catch: Alaska is so big that driving the whole state would take a month or more – and you still need a boat or plane to reach some of the far-flung communities. But if you’re clever, driving still offers the closest, most personal introduction to Alaska’s majesty.

There is no more intimate of a way to experience Alaska’s true grandeur than by taking a road trip – just you, your car, and a strip of pavement leading through mile upon mile of dramatic scenery, big wildlife and friendly, down-to-earth small towns.

There’s just one catch: Alaska is so big that driving the whole state would take a month or more – and you still need a boat or plane to reach some of the far-flung communities. But if you’re clever, driving still offers the closest, most personal introduction to Alaska’s majesty.

Southeast Alaska

All great road trips start on islands, right? That means your journey begins in Southeast Alaska, where isolated island communities are connected not by bridges but by ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System. Make sure you book your car berth far in advance; some of the ferry routes only run a couple times a week, so they fill up fast.

Most of these island towns are busy cruise ports, which means you don’t need a car to partake in most of the tours and amenities. But having your own wheels makes it much easier to explore the dozens of miles of coastal roadway each island community possesses. This is your gateway to beachside rock petroglyphs near Wrangell, pretty picnic and fishing areas near Petersburg, and totem pole parks near Ketchikan.

No car? No problem – you can rent one in most communities. But again, the key is to plan ahead before they sell out.

If you bring your passport, you can take the ferry all the way north to Haines or Skagway, then drive into Canada, turn west and cross the border back into Alaska, headed for the famous waypoint of Tok. But let’s assume you’ll take a ferry to the Southcentral Alaska town of Valdez.

Southcentral and Interior Alaska

Even in a land of superlatives Valdez is something special, backed by towering mountains and surrounded by the rich waters of Prince William Sound. Plan on at least one big tour here – perhaps a visit to one of the world’s most active tidewater glaciers – plus time to explore the small, but very interesting, local museums.

When you’re ready to move on, it’s a six-hour drive northwest to the Interior Alaska city of Fairbanks – which easily becomes eight once you add time for rest stops and taking a few photos. You’re trading the dramatic mountains of Valdez for rolling hills clad in every imaginable shade of green. Much of the land here was shaped by early gold mining, and panning for gold remains a massive tourist draw, along with unusual experiences like bathing in a hot spring or taking a nature walk with free-roaming reindeer.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, use Fairbanks as your jumping-off point for a day-long drive up the Dalton Highway to the work camps of Coldfoot or Wiseman, or even all the way to Prudhoe Bay. Let someone else do the driving on a van tour, then hop a small plane to get you back to Fairbanks in the same day.

From there, you’ll hopscotch south: another two hours to Denali National Park, where six million acres of wilderness speak for themselves; then two and a half hours more to Talkeetna, the famously quirky little town that serves as ground zero for flightseeing tours around North America’s tallest peak: 20,310′ Denali.

The next major stop is Anchorage, Alaska’s only “big city,” where you can have almost anything you want, from a true city spa day to walking hundreds of miles of city trails and parkland. You’re back in Southcentral Alaska now and just a short drive from many great tours, including glacier dog-sledding from nearby Girdwood or hopping a plane for bear-viewing in Lake Clark or Katmai national parks.

But this isn’t the end of the line. A narrow ribbon of highway continues south to Seward, a popular cruise port known for its day cruises; you can go sightseeing, whale-watching or fishing there. Or, take the other fork and end up in Homer, which is famous for its friendly people and many artsy, foodie and fishing pursuits. Along the way, you’ll pass through Kenai and Soldotna, home to some of the best freshwater salmon fishing in the world.

When to Hop on a Plane

There are a few places in Alaska where your car can’t go – at least not easily. So, although traveling by four wheels gives you the freedom to slow down and explore the state on your own terms and at your own speed, at some point, you should consider taking to the air to reach the Arctic communities of Nome or Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow). Unless you’re on a cruise, planes are also the easiest way to reach the famous fishing/crabbing city of Kodiak or the remote fishing port of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands.

But once you get there, rent a car and head out on the local roads. There are once-in-a-lifetime memories awaiting you.

 

Odenza Reviews: Los Cabos Awaits Your Return

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Located on the southernmost tip of Baja California, Mexico, and considered one of the world´s most inspiring destinations, Los Cabos is a hot spot year round. From the hot and wild summer to the fresh and vibrant winter, there isn’t a season when this unique destination isn’t amazing.

It almost seems unfair that one destination conformed by two towns (Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo) boasts so many incredible attractions: stunning blue flag beaches, perfect weather, remarkable biodiversity, delicious gastronomy, sophisticated accommodations, world-class night clubs, and spectacular tours along the marvelous peninsula.

Los Cabos just announced a Five-Phase approach to reopening beginning June 1st. The way we travel might have changed, but Los Cabos’ unique experiences remain the same. The goal of the phased reopening is to systematically allow companies to resume activities while protecting the health and safety of the community and travelers, and limiting the resurgence of new COVID-19 cases.

The tourism board also confirmed that 62 percent of the hotel inventory will resume operations while international airlines like Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest, and Delta have already announced their return to the destination. If you haven’t been here before, or even if you have and are dreaming about returning, here are some of the many reasons you’ll fall in love with this stretch of paradise. Los Cabos awaits your return.

Blue Flag Beaches

There are 19 beaches worthy of this distinction – no wonder Los Cabos ranks as the top destination in Mexico for visitors! When you see a Blue Flag flying, you know a beach or marina is clean and accessible, has great water quality, meets high safety standards, and is working hard to protect local shorelines and ecosystems. Along the rocky cliffs lie a great deal of bays, luxurious resorts, and soft sandy beaches. The water tonalities cover all shades of blue, from navy to turquoise, and green. When you drive along the corridor from San Jose del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas, the color palette is something else!

The Arch of Cabo San Lucas

The distinctive landmark of Cabo San Lucas is the rugged taffy-colored rock formation that erupts from the sea at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. Also known as Land’s End, The Arch is a popular tourist attraction and the central focus of countless vacation photos. A visit to Land’s End is undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do in Cabo San Lucas. Getting there is easy, and you can view the iconic golden arch from your boat. Some might call it the “land´s end,” but for us, it’s just the beginning of your next unforgettable adventure.

Whale Watching Tours

Whale season in Los Cabos occurs from December to April. Getting close to their habitat is an unparalleled experience you’ll talk about for years to come. Imagine being on the front row admiring their colossal size and extraordinary longevity. Environmental protection, non-invasive tour protocols, as well as support of both local and worldwide conservation are of great concern for every tour operator in the Cabo San Lucas bay. Please follow the instructions of your guide and enjoy this unrivaled spectacle.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

Speaking of amazing sea life, the Sea of Cortez in Los Cabos has a huge variety of sea flora including one of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. Don´t forget to partake in scuba diving and snorkeling lessons, but make sure to keep conservational rules in mind so we can preserve the reservoir for generations to come. Operators are eager to help you find the best possible tour, so go ahead and plan your trip now.

San Jose del Cabo

San Jose del Cabo´s downtown main plaza and its distinctive architecture has become an Art District where you can find art crafts from all over the world, but mainly Mexican art and local creations. It´s also a hot spot for shopping and dining. This adorable town has an interesting variety of bohemian and artistic restaurants, cafes and galleries. From November to June, it hosts the Art Walk, an event that takes you on a stunning stroll around the picturesque streets and charming stores of San Jose del Cabo. Its world-class marina, stunning gold-sand beaches, famous surf spots, and wildlife make this town a must see on your next vacation.

Odenza Reviews: Two Countries, One Destination

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Imagine standing on top of 1/5 of the world’s fresh water supply, hearing the roar of 600 gallons per second, while taking in the beauty of one of the world’s natural wonders and simultaneously looking across the way at another country.

Sound far-fetched? Luckily, it’s not! Located in northwest New York State straddling the Canadian border, Niagara Falls is the perfect domestic destination for Americans and Canadians alike. And, no matter which side you visit (it’s recommended to visit both if possible), you won’t be disappointed.


THE AMERICAN SIDE

The American side of Niagara Falls often gets overlooked and underrated. But, given that the actual Falls are on the American side, nowhere else in the world can get you closer. Consider exploring Niagara from the American side first to fully experience the sheer power of the Falls, followed by a trip to the Canadian side to appreciate its size and majestic beauty.

Getting There

For the easiest access to the American side of Niagara Falls, fly into Buffalo, New York. From there, rent a car from the airport and explore. (Pro tip: Car rentals are typically inexpensive in the area as long as your pick-up and drop off locations are the same.)

If you fly into Buffalo in the evening, it’s recommended to stay at a hotel near the airport and get started on your adventure in the morning. If you arrive mid-day, consider exploring Buffalo for the remainder of your first day as the lines at Niagara Falls will already be long.

What to Do at Niagara Falls

You’ll want to arrive at Niagara Falls as soon as it opens to try and beat the lines. And, if possible, try to purchase tickets beforehand so you don’t miss out on any of your preferred activities. On the American side, these main attractions are recommended:

  • Observation Deck
  • Maid of the Mist
  • Cave of the Winds

But, do make sure to allow for spare time as the park on the American side offers several walking trails with exceptional lookout points.

Where to Visit in the Area

Whether you explore the surrounding area before or after your trip to Niagara Falls, there’s plenty to do nearby. Consider spending a day in Buffalo and exploring Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Darwin Martin House, and Anchor Bar on Main Street, home to the original Buffalo Chicken Wing. You could also take a 1.5-hour drive to Rochester, New York, spend a day relaxing at a public beach on Lake Ontario or Lake Erie, or explore the beautiful countryside of the Niagara Wine Trail, USA.


THE CANADIAN SIDE

If getting up close and personal with 600 gallons of rushing water per minute isn’t the adrenaline rush you’re looking for, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls will be more your speed. Tourists flock to the Canadian side of Niagara, and it’s easy to understand why once you experience its full view of the entire Falls (typically with a rainbow in sight) and beautifully landscaped Falls-side pathway.

Getting There

For the easiest access to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, fly into Toronto, Ontario. You can also rent a car from the airport there and then begin your trip. If you don’t feel like driving, consider other scenic options such as the GO train or bus, or the VIA Rail train. There are plenty of transportation modes available, including tour operators offering small-group private tours around the Niagara region.

What to Do at Niagara Falls

If you’ve already experienced the rush of the Falls from the American side, it’s recommended to spend lunch on the Canadian side (Queen Victoria Place restaurant offers Fall-side views and casual dining in a historic setting), then let your meal settle with a nice pathway stroll. But, if you’re experiencing the Falls fully from the Canadian side, these main attractions are recommended:

  • Journey Behind the Falls
  • Hornblower Niagara Cruises
  • Skylon Tower

And, if you want an outdoor bird’s eye view of the Falls and aren’t afraid of heights, you can also soar from a 220-feet high vantage point for more than 2,000 feet on the WildPlay Zipline. Take flight if you dare!

Where to Visit in the Area

If you have the time, you should consider exploring Toronto – the capital of the province of Ontario, Canada’s largest city, and the fourth largest city in North America. But the true gem of Canada’s Niagara region is Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Niagara-on-the-Lake sits just 30 minutes north of Niagara Falls on the shore of Lake Ontario. This quintessential town boasts 19th century buildings, a picturesque old town and waterfront, and a wine country that has taken a backseat to its neighbor, Niagara Falls. Although underappreciated, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a destination that should be on everyone’s radar. Home to rolling vineyards with chateaus, iconic ice wine, and more than 20 wineries in a five-mile radius (with nearly 100 wineries in the entire Niagara region), Niagara-on-the-Lake is the perfect relaxing getaway that rivals California – but without the crowds.


RECOMMENDED ITINERARY

For the perfect four-day trip to Niagara Falls, here is a “tried and tested” itinerary:

DAY 1
  • Arrive to Buffalo, New York in the evening.
  • Rent a car from the airport and stay at a hotel nearby.

 

DAY 2
  • Embark on your Niagara Falls adventure early in the morning.
  • Visit the American side: Start with the Observation Deck followed by a Maid of the Mist boat ride and the Cave of the Winds (it’s recommended to book your tickets in advance). End your time on the American side with a stroll through the surrounding park.
  • Next, head to the Canadian side for lunch and a scenic stroll along the Falls-side pathway.
  • Then, drive north to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Enjoy an afternoon drive around town stopping along the lake or at a winery (most of the downtown shops will be closed by this point).
  • Finally, end your adventurous day with a quaint dinner in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Notes:

  • Recommended hotel: Woodbourne Inn
  • Recommended dinner: Treadwell Cuisine

 

DAY 3
  • Start your day off with breakfast at your hotel (especially if you stay at Woodbourne Inn).
  • Then, spend your day exploring Niagara-on-the-Lake’s wineries.

Notes:

  • Recommended wineries: Inniskillin (for ice wine), Ravine Vineyard, and Two Sisters Vineyards
  • Recommended lunch: Ravine Vineyard Winery Restaurant (request to eat outside if weather permits)
  • Recommended dinner: Kitchen 76 at Two Sisters Vineyards (request to eat on the patio if weather permits)
  • Pro Tip: If visiting in the summer, consider not exploring Niagara-on-the-Lake’s wineries on a Saturday, as many wineries close early for weddings.

 

DAY 4
  • Enjoy breakfast at your hotel in the morning.
  • Then, drive back across the border to catch your flight home from the Buffalo, New York airport.

Note: If you’re starting your trip on the Canadian side, or if you can’t visit both the American and Canadian sides, this itinerary can easily be adjusted.

Whether you’re looking for an adventure or simply needing a relaxing weekend getaway, Niagara Falls and its surrounding area is the perfect North American vacation. Get soaked, sip on wine, explore two countries, and take in the beauty of one of the world’s natural wonders – all within one iconic destination that attracts visitors from around the world.

Odenza Reviews: Hawaii by Bike

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Biking – a growing sport in Hawaii – is compelling, refreshing, and exciting. While island-hopping, you’ll discover a rich variety of biking terrain, from volcanic mountain slopes to twisty single tracks. Whether you prefer riding mountain bikes, city bikes, or hybrid bikes, there’s no shortage of routes. With fresh air, lush greenery, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, bike trips in Hawaii make for an unforgettable workout. For both competitive cyclists and casual riders, it’s worth booking a trip with a reputable travel agency and coming to Hawaii to find the best rides.

Haleakala, Maui

Book a mountain bike tour with Bike Maui and ride 23 miles down the iconic Haleakala volcano after watching a magnificent sunrise. This outing starts off early, as you check in between 3:00 am and 4:00 am. You’ll first head up in a vehicle driven by a guide and check out the volcanic crater, learning about Maui nature and geology and admiring the heavenly rays of purple and orange to the east. The total elevation change is 6,500 feet as you bike back to sea level, and it’s a comfortable pace, as the average grade of the route is just five per cent. In all, it takes about eight hours.

Old Mamaloa Highway, the Big Island

Ranches teeming with cattle and cowboys give Waimea its character, just south of the Kohala Forest Reserve in the northern part of the Big Island. Bike east on the Old Mamaloa Highway, riding through the historic, 1847-founded Parker Ranch and old sugar plantation lands, and checking out the Mauna Kea volcano. Stop at the Tex Drive-In to refuel with a hearty grilled ahi burger. Another 20 miles will bring you to the magnificent Waipio Valley Lookout, overlooking where the legendary Hawaiian king Kamehameha I lived as a child.

Ke Ala Hele Makalae Trail, Kauai

If you have no desire to climb Mont Ventoux as a Tour de France competitor but love relaxing, scenic coastal bike rides, the Ke Ala Hele Makalae Trail in Kaui is for you. Extending more than seven miles, the multi-use, paved trail follows Kauai’s eastern shores, known as the “Coconut Coast.” Check out interpretive signs along the route, which highlight local nature, archeology, and history. Or stop for a swim at Lydgate Park, which offers two enclosed lagoons and a picnic area. Bikes can be rented at Kauai Cycle.

Peacock Flats, Oahu

Are you an avid mountain biker who’s looking for some challenging, technical single tracks? Then it’s time to bike Peacock Flats. Nestled in the northwest corner of Oahu in the Kuaokala Forest Reserve, the route includes a thigh-burning 1,500-foot climb that kicks off at the Mokuleia Access Road. Tight switchbacks on the cliffside Kealia Trail command your attention even when there are views of huge surfing waves and Dillingham Air Field to be enjoyed.

Honolulu Century Ride, Oahu

Biking in Hawaii is a wonderful solo escape, but it can be even more enjoyable when you do it in a group. Check out panoramas of Kapiolani Park and Diamond Head on the coastal Honolulu Century Ride. Hawaii’s largest annual bike ride, with more than 2,000 participants, will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2021. It’s a fun event, and you can choose to bike anywhere from five to 100 miles.

Odenza Reviews: Castles, Gardens and Battlefields: The Historic Isles are Calling

the-british-islesYou don’t have to be a history buff to be intrigued by the traces of the past that linger everywhere in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Roman ruins, Neolithic standing stones, Norman keeps, palatial Georgian homes, Victorian monuments – they all remind us of other times and other lives.

Talk all you will about “Cool Britannia” with its trendy designers and of-the-moment pop stars. But sometimes, it’s just more interesting to meander down the lanes of the past. And if there’s one thing the British Isles have plenty of, it’s the past.

For North American visitors, the big draw is often genealogy, tracing the stories of ancestors who may have fled the Irish famine of the 19th century or the Scottish rebellions of the century before that. Genealogical travel is huge business these days, with dozens of companies offering tours and vacation packages, and often including research assistance as well.

This renewed fascination with the past has only been helped by a slew of historical dramas, both films,and television series, that have brought the past alive to new generations. The Starz TV series, Outlander, has drawn countless visitors to Scotland’s Culloden Battlefield, where the Jacobite dream died in 1746. ITV’s Victoria has ignited a fascination with the first modern monarch, a woman who not only encouraged scientists, artists, and free thinkers but mastered the art of personal brand management long before it was a thing. And numerous Second World War dramas – Foyle’s War, The Bletchley Circle, Their Finest, and Dunkirk among many – keep our fascination alive with dark conflict, heroes and villains.

The past lingers in the castles, palaces and stately homes, as well as abbeys and cathedrals, that dot the land. Wales, for instance, is often called “the castle capital of the world” for its sheer number of structures – 600 of them, of which 100 are still standing. And each era leaves its mark on its buildings through architectural embellishments. The Gothic flying buttresses of the Middle Ages aren’t just beautiful; they reflect an advanced technology of the time. The same goes for the stately structures of the Tudors, the symmetry and plastered ceilings of the Georgian era, the ornate detailing of the Victorians, and the clean minimalism of contemporary design.

But in this green and pleasant land, the historic gardens are as renowned as the buildings they surround. The most distinctive are those designed in the 18th century by Capability Brown, “England’s greatest gardener,” whose “gardenless” landscapes of rolling lawns broken up by clumps of trees and serpentine lakes ushered in the Romantic wildernesses of the 19th century. It’s estimated that he was responsible for more than 170 gardens surrounding some of the greatest estates, including Belvoir Castle, Croome Court, Blenheim Palace and Harewood House – all places where his work still endures.

Of course, many of these great homes also have royal connections, making the UK a “must-visit” destination for those fascinated with the monarchy, both past and present. But even before William the Conqueror arrived in 1066 and started construction on Windsor Castle, there were the Romans who ruled over Britain for nearly 400 years starting from Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. They laid down roads, built baths and erected walls. There are still plenty of ruins to be seen in the sceptered isles, from Hadrian’s Wall in the north to Chedworth Roman Villa in the Cotswolds to the Roman baths in Bath. And one of the best places to discover Londinium’s Roman history is the Museum of London, which boasts more than 47,000 objects in its Roman collection. But even before the Romans, there were the Neolithic peoples whose memory lingers through the standing stones at Stonehenge or Craigh na Dun, as well as hill figures like the Uffington White Horse.

In the British Isles, it seems no matter where you wander, the past is never very far away.

Odenza Reviews: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Known for its amazing safari tours, Zanzibar is a city that will leave travelers breathless. From watching beautiful sunsets on the finest beaches to views of some of the most amazing coral gardens, Zanzibar is a popular tourist destination for so many reasons.

Famous for scuba diving, Zanzibar is a tropical archipelago and can be easily accessible by ferry departing from Dar Salam. Once you arrive in Zanzibar, roaming around Stone Town, an ancient city that is regarded as a cultural heritage site, is an absolute must.  Stone Town became a UNESCO World Heritage site in the early 2000s and is the oldest part of Zanzibar. Due to its rich cultural fusion of Arab, Indian, Persian and European cultural elements, Stone Town will leave tourists in awe of the food and the interesting narrow alleys with small and quaint markets.

For tourists seeking out serene beaches with turquoise waters, both Paje and Kendwa are hot spots for relaxing and scuba diving. For full moon parties, Kendwa is a great choice for those looking for a night out.

Overall, Zanzibar is a beautiful city with lots to offer on both the scenic and historical aspects. Because of its rich and unique cultural elements, Zanzibar has the best spice tours for foodies and the maze-like structure of the town will leave an imprint on travelers. Famous for its turquoise waters and white sand, the beaches in Zanzibar are out of this world and should be enough of a reason to travel to Zanzibar!