Odenza Reviews: Rocky Mountaineer

Ride the Rails through North America’s Rocky Mountains in 2021.

Rocky Mountaineer is expanding its award-winning luxury train experience into the USA. The new route, Rockies to the Red Rocks, showcases the beauty of the Southwest. The two-day train journey will travel through the American Rockies, between Denver, Colorado, and Moab, Utah, showcasing enchanting hoodoos, inspiring deserts, and vast canyons. This route complements the three routes in Western Canada which connect Vancouver to the majestic Canadian Rockies.

The Experience

Rocky Mountaineer offers unparalleled journeys in its spacious glass-domed train coaches thanks to the incredible scenery, delicious cuisine, friendly service, and social atmosphere. They have been welcoming guests to explore Western Canada for 30 years, and their new route will offer everything a Rocky Mountaineer train journey is renowned for.

Onboard Rocky Mountaineer, everything is choreographed to make your journey feel special, effortless and unforgettable. On this newest route, the expansive SilverLeaf Service glass-dome coaches put you right in the heart of the stunning Southwest. From the comfort of your luxury seat, this journey of a lifetime offers impeccable service and storytelling from engaging Hosts, regionally inspired cuisine, and a front row seat to one of the most spectacular settings on the planet.

Enhance your onboard experience with SilverLeaf Plus, which includes all the benefits of the exceptional SilverLeaf Service, plus exclusive access to a newly renovated lounge car. Featuring signature cocktails, the lounge car offers additional space indoors to relax and soak in the scenery as it passes you by, as well as a small outdoor viewing area. Additionally, enjoy an elevated dining experience with an additional course during select meals, and premium alcoholic beverages.

Route Highlights

The Rockies to the Red Rocks route showcases scenic views that are unique to the Southwest United States, as it travels between Colorado and Utah with options of traveling westbound or eastbound. 

Between Denver and Glenwood Springs, guests will journey alongside the Colorado River and through a series of canyons. Highlights include the Big 10 curve, an engineering marvel built in the early 1900s, to enable trains to slowly gain elevation before reaching the Continental Divide; and a series of canyons offering rugged scenery of steep rock walls, including Byers Canyon and Red Canyon. The canyons offer opportunities to view roaming wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mountain lions, deer, marmots and birds. 

The journey between Glenwood Springs and Moab offers a variety of scenery from chromatic deserts, to red sandstone formations that twist through the bright blue sky. Glide over the great divide and take in the spectacular De Beque Canyon, Mount Garfield and glimpses of Arches National Park. Witness Mount Lincoln, the eighth-highest peak in the Rocky Mountains, on this journey of a lifetime.

Further Exploration

Rocky Mountaineer is working with local hotels and tour operators to curate custom vacation packages that feature tours, activities, and stays in Denver and Moab, so guests can experience even more of the region. The route will operate from August to October 2021 and the two-day rail journeys, including a one-night hotel accommodation in Glenwood Springs. Contact your Ensemble Travel Advisor to secure a booking with only a $25 USD refundable deposit, with flexible booking terms.

Western Canadian Routes

For those looking for views of snowy mountains and sparkling glacial lakes, join Rocky Mountaineer onboard a journey through the Canadian Rockies. Operating from April to October 2021, Rocky Mountaineer offers three distinctive rail routes in Canada connecting the Pacific city of Vancouver with the Canadian Rocky Mountains. These routes offer two onboard service choices: SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf Service.

The two-day First Passage to the West route rolls along the historic tracks of Canada’s first coast-to-coast railway between Vancouver and either Banff or Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. Journey through the Clouds travels between Vancouver and Jasper, with two days spent traversing some of the most remote landscapes in Canada, with scenery and wildlife largely untouched by humans. For those wanting to delve further into Western Canada’s history and diverse landscapes, the three-day Rainforest to Gold Rush route takes a northerly path between Vancouver and Jasper, uncovering the stories of those seeking their fortune. Can’t choose? Remember, each train journey can be travelled in either direction, or you can combine two of the Canadian rail routes for a Circle Journey.

Simply put, Rocky Mountaineer is a must-do travel experience that offers an unparalleled journey through some of the world’s most sought-after travel destinations.

*Images of the interior and exterior of the train are from Rocky Mountaineer’s Canadian route.

Odenza Reviews: Riviera Maya

Content shared from Fairmont Mayakoba.

A Destination of Healing Experiences

As locals, we see Riviera Maya as a spiritual destination where you can energize, relieve your daily stress, and reconnect with your loved ones. During times of uncertainty, when unexpected events impact our lives, there are various ways in which we reconnect with the wonders of mother nature to gain energy, heal and find balance.

Temazcal

Temazcal, meaning “house of hot stones,” is a group ceremony where participants enter a sweat lodge similar to an igloo-shaped hut where they experience high temperatures through hot stones and water to release tensions and toxins, and to purify their souls. It also clears skin and aids blood flow.

According to the scientific journal Age and Ageing, the Temazcal practice can also help decrease the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Tip: Forget about your makeup because the steam will take it all off. Once you complete the ceremony, you will feel your skin and your body differently as the ceremony includes aromatherapy with healing plants allowing your mind to reach optimal clarity.

Cenotes (Sinkholes)

“Cenote” is derived from the Yucatec Mayan word “dz’onot,” which is used to indicate where water is accessible.

There are over 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula, and most of us locals, as well as tourists, go swimming in them because they are rich in nutrients with an excellent source of minerals, vitamins, and protein that nourish the body. When traveling to Riviera Maya, we suggest visiting the Cenote Ik Kil, in Chichen Itza, not far from the ruins, Cenote Dos Ojos in Tulum, and the Grand Cenote.

Tip: If you are getting married in Riviera Maya, visit a cenote during a full moon and ask to receive a blessing of cenote water to pray for thankfulness and harmony in your marriage.

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is not just another archeological place; it is a wonder of the world. The Pyramid of Kukulkan, the 80-foot stone, is set where the sun creates shadows down the steps of the pyramid resembling a snake descending. This event drags big crowds during the March and September equinox.

For those who have traveled the world connecting to sacred spiritual places, Chichen Itza is a magical place where many ask for humanity and for individuals who struggle in life.

Tip: We suggest visiting Chichen Itza during the equinox as some people say the sacred energy expands and contracts then. And, they claim that is when you can manifest incredible healing or well-being for others.

Mayakoba

When visiting the Riviera Maya, make sure to visit Mayakoba. Enjoy family dinners at our El Puerto overlooking the waterways. Enjoy yacht charters and catamaran tours. Go snorkeling and kayaking in the Caribbean Sea. Shop in downtown Playa del Carmen for that perfect souvenir. A vacation in Mayakoba comes naturally!

Top Things to Do on Vacation in Mayakoba

Whether you want to hang at the beach, play championship fairways, or dive in the colorful coral reef, a vacation in Mayakoba is a magical experience. Create your own family traditions and feel the Mayan spirit rejuvenate your soul.

Water Sports in the Caribbean Sea

Play in the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea with complimentary stand-up paddleboards and kayaks. Enjoy jet skiing, reef snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, boogie boarding and kitesurfing, or go on a guided catamaran tour. Swim with green turtles and dolphins, dive in cenotes, and spot corals, rays, and giant sponges for miles along the Riviera Maya coast.

Private Yacht Charters

Cruise the Caribbean Sea on a private yacht charter. Enjoy the ultimate adventure with family and friends on Mayakoba’s luxurious 55’ VanDutch Yacht. Sail into the sea and enjoy water activities, snorkeling stops, food and drink experiences, and amazing Riviera Maya scenery. Fairmont Mayakoba offers three yacht packages and custom excursions.

Odenza Reviews: Walking on the Wild Side in Costa Rica

A two-week trip is all it takes to discover a nature lover’s dream destination.

I’m walking on the wild side in Costa Rica’s most remote and unspoiled national park. The jungle trail is a bit slippery with moisture from the surrounding rainforest, and it’s surprisingly dark. Sunlight filters through the thick canopy, creating dappled splotches on the verdant forest floor. Yet somehow our guide sees Costa Rica’s most dangerous venomous snake, the fer-de-lance, coiled up beside the path asleep. He says the snake is digesting and, therefore, not dangerous at that moment, much to our relief.

We continue walking to a waterfall and take our hiking boots off to splash among the black rocks. We are in Corcovado National Park, the most biologically intense place on earth in terms of biodiversity, according to National Geographic. It comprises 13 major ecosystems, including mangrove swamps, a highland cloud forest, and the last old growth rainforest on the Pacific coast of Central America. Corcovado is also home to some of Costa Rica’s endangered species such as jaguars, three-toed sloths, Baird’s tapirs, and red-backed squirrel monkeys.

As we reach the end of our hike, on the beach, we see scarlet macaws swooping among the palm trees, their massive red plumage a feast for the eyes. A boat picks us up to take us back to our tiny resort, far from the reach of roads and electricity. The boat stops as close to the beach as possible and we jump out. There isn’t even a wharf.

The next day, we travel 12.5 miles across the ocean to Isla del Caño Biological Reserve. Mysterious Isla del Caño is a protected island with artifacts dating to pre-Colombian times – though all the indigenous graves were long ago plundered by pirates for the gold objects they once contained. We hike up to the highest point for a commanding view of the hilly island and the turquoise sea that surrounds it, filled with coral reefs and an enormous number of marine animals. On the way to the beach to go snorkeling, we see lizards, known as Jesus Christ lizards, skimming across the surface of a river as if they are walking on water.

After snorkelling among a myriad of colorful fish, we head back across the water to our resort in Bahía Drake. We see flying fish and a school of dolphins, and I catch a yellow fin tuna. The tuna is served for dinner as sashimi, and I feel I am having the best day of my life.

After a few days in the Osa Peninsula, we travel back to what seems like civilization to begin exploring the central and northern parts of the country. Our first stop is Arenal Volcano National Park within a few hours’ drive of the capital, San Jose. The volcano last erupted in 1968; it’s still active but carefully monitored, and there is a lot of geothermal activity resulting in natural hot springs and even a hot water river.

Hiking up the side of the volcano, our guide spots a green pit viper hidden among the trees, as well as many spectacular butterflies, including the huge blue morpho butterfly. Eventually, we come out onto the hardened, black lava fields and must be careful of the jagged rocks. The volcano itself is shrouded in clouds, giving the scene a kind of primeval Jurassic Park look and feel.

Finally, our last stop of the trip is to hike the Monteverde Cloud Forest, an ethereal place shrouded in mist. More than eight miles of trails wind through this unique ecosystem. We see a very large stick insect, completely camouflaged among the tree branches, clouds of hummingbirds, and a few of the many species of glorious orchids that grow abundantly in Costa Rica.

On my last morning in Costa Rica, I open my eyes and see the trees outside are filled with white-headed capuchin monkeys. They are playing in the trees, swinging from branch to branch, and calling loudly to each other, which they often do at dawn. I feel I am in a natural paradise surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of the dense tropical rainforest. My trip was a great introduction to the natural beauty of Costa Rica, which the Central American country has gone to great lengths to protect. And seeing those monkeys was a magical way to end my trip to paradise.

This article was written by Mariellen Ward and reproduced from the Ensemble Vacances magazine.

Odenza Reviews: Make the Most of Your First Trip to Iceland

No matter what time of year you’re looking to vacation, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a destination as adventure packed as Iceland. But, despite its surge in popularity over recent years, the tiny island nation is once again taking the forefront of travelers’ minds.

These days, the land of fire and ice is drawing attention because it’s an ideal destination for social distancing. For starters, Iceland’s population is a mere 360,000. Couple that with the country’s proactive pandemic planning and testing, and you have what may arguably be the perfect getaway.

But, if you’ve never been to Iceland, don’t fret. To make the most of your first trip, here are three things to consider:

Choose whether you’ll visit Iceland during summer or winter.

Deciding when to visit Iceland can be difficult because it’s one of few destinations that offers a variety of incredible experiences year-round, most of which are only offered during their respective season. Ultimately, choosing what time of year to visit will depend on a few different variables:

  • Are you comfortable driving in winter conditions? The best way to explore Iceland is on a road trip with you as the driver. It offers you the chance to take your time and sightsee as much as you’d like. Although driving in Iceland is easy (if you’re from North America, you’ll be driving on the same side of the road and the same side of the car), weather conditions can change in the blink of an eye, especially during winter. If you aren’t comfortable driving on snow/ice, consider visiting Iceland during the warmer months.
  • Would you rather have more daylight hours? During the winter, Iceland has approximately four-nine hours of daylight. While the winter months provide exceptional opportunities, such as potentially viewing the Northern Lights, if you’d rather have more time to explore during the day, you may want to visit during the summer (when Iceland has approximately 20-22 hours of daylight).
  • What are your preferred activities? Seeing the Northern Lights is never guaranteed; however, as mentioned above, if seeing the aurora borealis is on your bucket list, you’ll need to visit during the months of September-March. Additionally, anything ice-related, such as glacier hiking, will only be offered in the winter months. On the contrary, if activities such as campervanning, whale watching, or viewing the Midnight Sun are on your bucket list, you’ll want to visit during the summer months.

Decide how long you’ll visit.

The duration of your vacation may not be flexible, and that’s okay (there’s plenty to do in Iceland no matter how long you’re there). But if flexibility is an option, consider the following when choosing the length of your trip:

  • Seeing Iceland requires a lot of driving on winding roads with unpredictable weather and no passing lanes. This means getting from point A to point B can take more time than you expect. Also keep in mind the limited daylight hours if you’re traveling during winter months. Typically speaking, the more time you have in Iceland, the better.
  • How much do you want to see, and what do you want to see? If your main goal is to see the Golden Circle and/or the South Coast, anywhere from five-seven days is doable. But if your must-see places or must-do activities take you anywhere else, you’ll want to consider spending more time on the island (who could complain?).

Enjoy all Iceland has to offer (even if it’s touristy).

Simply put — Iceland’s hotspots are worth it. Would you visit New York City for the first time without catching a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building? No. Would you visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower? Probably not. So, when visiting Iceland, don’t miss out on the Blue Lagoon. However, the perk to visiting Iceland’s most popular attraction is that, contrary to many other famous attractions around the world, the Blue Lagoon is clean, relaxing, and utterly magical. As for Iceland’s other hotspots (the Golden Circle, Seljalandsfoss, Jokulsarlon Lagoon, etc.) — they’re worth it, too! So, make sure to visit as many places as you can. Additionally, don’t miss out on the following:

As if Iceland could get any better, a bonus is that it’s the perfect stopover between North America’s northeast coast and Europe. So, even if you simply extend a Europe trip by just two or three days, visiting Iceland is always worth it.

Are you ready for the road trip of a lifetime? Iceland awaits you.

Odenza Reviews: Finding Aloha on Molokai

Biggest isn’t always best – particularly in the travel world. On tiny Molokai, you’ll soon discover everything you always dreamed Hawaii was, but could never find on the other islands.

The fifth largest of the islands, Molokai is less than 40 miles long and less than 10 miles wide, and it doesn’t have a single skyscraper or shopping mall. In fact, you can drive all over the island without ever finding so much as a traffic light. Seven small hotels offer 140 rooms – that’s it – and in most of them, your wake-up call will be the sound of a rooster crowing under your porch. Don’t look for glitzy beach bars, t-shirt shops or casinos. You won’t find a single one.

What you will find are roughly 7,400 proud, friendly people ready to tell you that they’re true Hawaiians. According to state statistics, more people on Molokai have Hawaiian blood than on any other island, but it’s more than genetics that gives this island its authentic feel. It’s all about an attitude of simplicity and a dedication to maintaining the Hawaiian way of life – of living aloha.

“Aloha” is the first word you’ll learn on any of the islands and you’ll instantly find yourself using it as your standard hello and goodbye. But the word – particularly on Molokai – means far more. “Aloha” translates to: ‘al’ – face-to-face, and ‘ha’ – the breath of life. In its fullest interpretation, aloha means love, friendship and responsibility, extended not just to your fellow human beings but also to the earth. The Hawaiian Islands are one of the most isolated places on the planet, which means in order to survive, their inhabitants must foster harmony and preserve their natural resources.

The Hawaiian “Aloha Spirit” law was officially enacted in 1986 and it’s taken very seriously. Aloha is both a state of mind and a way of life – it’s the essence of Molokai. You’ll feel it when you meet Anakala Pilipo Solatorio, the last survivor of a 1946 tsunami that virtually turned Molokai upside down, sweeping through beaches, rocks, trees, homes and anything else in its path. Perhaps because he survived when so many others did not, Anakala feels he was chosen to be the protector and the keeper of traditions in his lifelong home – the beautiful, isolated Halawa Valley.

As you walk down the narrow pathway through the lush green fronds and grasses to his home, Anakala blows his conch shell to welcome you. He stands solemnly encouraging you to come close and to lean towards him until your foreheads touch. “Now,” he says, “we will share the ‘ha’… the breath of life.”

You might feel unsure as you place your forehead against that of a relative stranger and even odder to breathe deliberately into his face and inhale his breath – but the practice is strangely calming and welcoming.

Together, you’ll sit on his palapa-covered porch, and Anakala will tell you his stories of the valley, the tsunami, his family, and his belief in the Hawaiian way of life as he knows it. As you listen to his soft voice and look at his treasured collection of handmade leis, newspaper clippings from 1946, family photos and more, you’ll begin to relax – perhaps like never before. In the background, the sound of a waterfall adds to the ambiance, and you’ll feel as if you’re now understanding aloha a little better.

the “harbor” at Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai where the sufferers of Hansen’s Disease (called leprosy at the time) were taken off the ships to live in the isolated area

One of the stories Anakala usually shares with visitor doesn’t take place in his valley, but rather miles away at the base of the cliffs at Kalaupapa. There, in 1866, the first Hawaiian victims of Hansen’s disease (then called leprosy) were shipped by government health officials to quarantine them from the rest of the islands. Cut off on three sides by ocean and on the fourth, by 1,600-foot sea cliffs, Kalaupapa became first, their prison and ultimately, their home.

Being exiled to Kalaupapa meant never again seeing your family, friends or home, but strangely, the story was less tragic than you might expect. A visit to the museum that commemorates the Kalaupapa colony showed that a town was built, marriages happened, children were born, and new families were created. There were dances, parties, celebrations and a sense of real community in a place where there might only have been death and despair. In 1969, the mandatory quarantine order was lifted, but many residents refused to leave, choosing instead to stay where they had built their lives. There are still a handful of people living there, in what is now Kalaupapa National Historical Park, and they plan to remain.

You must see it for yourself, so after leaving Anakala in his beautiful valley, drive to the cliffs overlooking Kalaupapa. The ocean surrounding the settlement is a brilliant cobalt blue, with a bright sun and a soft breeze that will play in your hair. The Kalaupapa residents may have chosen to stay since the ravages of their disease made integration into a larger society uncomfortable, or perhaps they were simply unwilling to leave the pristine retreat the colony had become – a place of quiet, of sunshine, of waves, and of acceptance. Perhaps, they’d created their own version of the aloha way.

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: Beauty in Your Own Backyard

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Both meditative and mind-blowing, the magnificent national parks of Canada and the United States offer travelers breathtaking views while simultaneously protecting natural heritage for generations to come. From snow-capped mountains and turquoise lakes to lush forests and red rock canyons, there is wonder to be found from sea to shining sea. And, while you might not be able to visit these parks in person now, we encourage you to immerse yourself in these lush locales to inspire your future travels.

Canada

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Atlantic Canada’s second largest national park is a starkly beautiful expanse of craggy, mist-shrouded mountains, wind-swept highlands and landlocked fjords on the eastern coast of Newfoundland. From its rocky beaches and lush coastal forests to its barren lands, this geologically fascinating and breathtakingly scenic park is punctuated by the panoramic peak of Gros Morne Mountain and the ancient glacial and geological formations called the Tablelands. Here, you can ascend from flower-filled lowlands high into the alpine tundra in search of caribou, ptarmigan (also known as a snow quail) and snowshoe hare. Paddle past the sheer cliff sides of Western Brook Pond, a waterfall-fed freshwater fjord, and explore coastal pathways and trails leading to beaches hidden among sea stacks – all the while soaking up the colorful traditions of the charming seaside communities that make Newfoundland so unique.

Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario

Sitting on the St. Lawrence River, on the border between Canada and the United States, Thousand Islands National Park is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Ontario. Its rugged shoreline and islands are dotted with opulent estates, including the famous Boldt Castle. The European style mansion, on Heart Island, is one of the main attractions, but its history is mired in sadness. The castle was the dream of millionaire George C. Boldt, an American hotelier who built this summer home as a display of his love for his wife, Louise. Unfortunately, she passed away suddenly before the castle was completed, and the broken-hearted Mr. Boldt stopped construction and never set foot on the island again. For over 70 years, the structure was vacant, left to mercy of the elements until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property. Today, visitors who embark on a Thousand Island cruise can visit the castle (a passport is required to disembark on the island) and enjoy the stunning views of the St. Lawrence River. Other islands offer visitors hiking trails, canoe or paddling excursions and overnight accommodations.

Jasper National Park, Alberta

The largest of Canada’s seven Rocky Mountain National Parks, which together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage site, Jasper is an alpine wilderness teeming with wildlife, including bighorn sheep, moose, eagles, elk, wolves, lynx, cougars and grizzly bears. Here, nature is writ large – from massive glaciers and snow-capped peaks to towering waterfalls, deep canyons and pine scented valleys. In summer, you can stroll through meadows carpeted with brilliant swathes of delicate wildflowers, soak in the restorative waters of natural hot springs and paddle across pristine emerald lakes, or camp, hike, bike and even backcountry horseback ride over rugged mountain trails. In winter, there are opportunities for canyon ice walks, cross-country and downhill skiing, pond skating, snowshoeing and wildlife watching.

Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia

Saturated in millennia-old indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth culture and famed for its rugged coastline dotted with enormous beaches and old growth rainforest, Pacific Rim National Park is one of Canada’s most popular National Parks. Stretching south from the whale-watching center of Tofino, the park spans part of Vancouver Island’s wild west coast – famous for its spectacular Pacific storms that draw awed visitors from around the world. Take an easy interpretive stroll along the picturesque Wild Pacific Trail near Ucluelet or a challenging multi-day trek along the legendary West Coast Trail. Learn to cold water surf like the pros. Paddle among the Broken Islands, one of the world’s premier sea kayaking destinations. Whale-watch from shore or on a boat, keeping an eye out for some of the estimated 20,000 grey and Orca whales that transit past here each year. Explore one of the world’s oldest temperate rainforests at Clayoquot Sound. Or kick back and relax while watching a ferocious winter squall pummel the shoreline while you dine in style on classic west coast cuisine.

Kluane National Park, Yukon

Kluane National Park and Reserve is truly an extraordinary destination, set within the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. On top of being home to the largest non-polar icefields in the world, the park is a hiker’s paradise as it comprises 17 of Canada’s tallest mountains – including Mount Logan, the highest peak in the country. Two modern highways allow visitors access to the park, where they can enjoy scenic drives and watch Dall sheep grazing or resting on the mountainsides, black bears roaming in search of food, and herds of mountain goats climbing to the summits. For visitors seeking adventure, the park offers numerous hiking trails from short family friendly paths to multi-day expeditions. Rafting is also available on the Alsek River to see grizzlies, eagles and glaciers. For a behind-the-scenes look at the wildlife, flightseeing tours offer a great opportunity for some unique encounters with nature and spectacular photo ops. A visit to the Thachäl Dhäl Visitor Centre is a must to get historical details of the region and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

The United States

The South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon encompasses just over one million acres and three distinct forest environments, measuring 277 miles long. From Grand Canyon Village, the drop measures a vertical mile, or approximately 5,000 feet from Rim to River. (No, there is no elevator to the bottom!) The width ranges 10 to 18 feet across. Putting that in practical terms, if you hike the canyon or go down by mule, it takes two days. If you hike from the South to North Rim, the trek is three days one way. For a real adventure, raft through the Canyon; the trip can take up to two weeks. That said, the park offers a variety of sight-seeing opportunities for people of all ages and fitness levels. Scenic rim tours by motor coach are an excellent way to maximize your time and see the key viewpoints.

The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

For a quieter, less crowded visit, make the 4.5-hour drive to the North Rim. North Rim is open May 15 to October 15 and there is only one lodge in the park, so reserve well in advance. The North Rim offers numerous hiking trails and mule rides from 1 hour long to 2.5 days.

Petrified Forest National Park

The Petrified Forest was designated a national park to preserve and protect multi-colored stones, trees, plant and animal fossils, Native American sites and petroglyphs, and portions of the Painted Desert, along with a section of Historic Route 66. The landscape is diverse in color, wide open and somewhat flat with plateaus spanning miles. Visit the Hoodoos, natural stone towers at Devil’s Playground, or do some geocaching. The National Park Service set up a series of geocaching clues that can be accessed from your own GPS system through the park website. The visitor’s center displays some amazing samples of petrified trees and clearly explains the evolutionary process of fossils – great for the kids if you are traveling as a family.

Arches National Park

Here you will find the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world, with over 2,000 documented arches! A special experience is the park’s night skies program. Here, the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye, except on nights of dense cloud cover. Arches offers visitors the opportunity to view dark skies from dusk till dawn, and there are ranger-planned night sky programs on set dates. A unique moment in time here is when the earth and sky blend into the darkness, allowing you to wonder at the beauty and vastness of the universe.

Bryce Canyon National Park

From Arches, it will take around five hours to drive to Bryce Canyon, where you will be awed and inspired by towering stone hoodoos and cliffs in dazzling shades of orange, pink and gold. The hoodoos, according to Paiute legend, were once human before a powerful god called Coyote became angry with them and turned them all to stone. Take in the formation called Thor’s Hammer on the Navajo Trail – a must-see for movie and comic book fans. The park is open year-round, but access may be restricted during winter months due to road conditions. There is nothing more beautiful than snow covering the glimmering red rocks at sunrise. The park even offers snowshoeing in winter months as part of their planned ranger program.

Zion National Park

Zion was Utah’s first National Park. The name means “Place of peace and refuge”. The Narrows, truly the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, has white and pink walls as high as a thousand feet tall, and the river is sometimes just 20 to 30 feet wide. It is one of the most popular areas in the park and can be seen by hiking along the paved, wheelchair-accessible Riverside Walk for one mile from the Temple of Sinawava. If you wish to see more, you will be walking through the Virgin River, which can involve wading upstream for a few minutes or become an all-day hike. There is only one historic lodge inside the park and two restaurants, so dining is limited. If the lodge is sold out, your agent can find a variety of lodging options nearby. From April to October transportation through the park is by shuttle only, but private cars can take the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway year-round.

There is so much more to see throughout North America, and the national parks of Canada and the United States offer a variety of opportunities to get out and explore the great outdoors. So, start planning your future exploration now – we’ll be back out there before you know it.

Odenza Reviews: Hawaii by Bike

hawaiibike

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.