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Snorkeling Puerto Rico

Tres Palmas Marine Reserve
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Tres Palmas Marine Reserve in Rincon on the west side of Puerto Rico is a popular snorkeling destination on the island. We booked our snorkeling tour through Rincon Diving and Snorkeling. We met at their shop where they gave us a safety talk and explained all of the marine life that we may see. As someone who wears glasses, probably one of the best things about this tour is that they had magnifying goggles that were included in our rental. I have never been able to see so well while snorkeling. It was amazing!

After our instruction, we headed to Steps Beach and geared up for our snorkeling adventure. It was tricky getting the fins on while the waves moved us around, but eventually, we were ready to explore. Tres Palmas is a great location for beach snorkeling because of its proximity to the reef. It is an easy swim from the beach to the reef. The water was pretty calm and we saw a lot of fish and unique coral formations. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the reef and the creatures that call it home.

Elkhorn Coral at Tres Palmas Marine Reserve

The Tres Palmas Marine Reserve was founded mainly to protect the Elkhorn Coral (above). Elkhorn Coral is a fast growing reef-building coral, but its population has decreased by 97% since the 1980s due to disease and is now considered critically endangered.

One thing I learned on this snorkeling adventure is that the iPhone doesn’t work well (in a waterproof case) underwater. The touch sensitivity is nonexistent underwater and the only way to take photos or video is by using the side buttons, which are hard to access in the waterproof case. Since the touchscreen doesn’t work underwater, it is nearly impossible to get the camera to focus so I have a lot of blurry shots on my camera roll. I need to remember to pick up a GoPro or similar for our next underwater adventure!

Tres Palmas Marine Reserve

If you are considering snorkeling while visiting Puerto Rico and you will be spending time on the west side of the island, I highly recommend a tour through Rincon Diving and Snorkeling.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our time in Puerto Rico, check out my Circle Tour of the Island. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Casa Bacardí

Casa Bacardi

Our flight to Puerto Rico was scheduled to get in late, so we booked a room at the San Juan Airport Hotel. It ended up being delayed so we didn’t get to our room until after 3 AM Puerto Rico time and I was very glad we didn’t have to navigate to an outside hotel. The Airport Hotel is located inside D Terminal and it was just a few minutes walk from the gate. The room was small, but we weren’t planning on spending a long time so it was perfect for our needs. It also included a hot breakfast which was much needed after getting in so late. After breakfast, we checked out and picked up our rental car from Aqui Coqui, which is Puerto Rico’s car-sharing platform, similar to Turo. It worked well, they met us outside the Airport Hotel and we were on our way to our first stop, Casa Bacardí.

Fort San Juan De La Cruz

Casa Bacardí is located across the bay from Old San Juan in Cataño. We were a little early for our reservation so we made a stop at Fort San Juan de la Cruz, a part of San Juan National Historic Site. There were only a few other people at the park and it was very quiet, but the views of Old San Juan were beautiful. It was a great first stop on the trip to soak in the sunshine. After enjoying the views, it was time for our tour at Casa Bacardí.

On our last trip, we did a tour of a smaller distillery, Ron del Barillito. This time, I was excited to check out the biggest rum producer in the world, Bacardí through their Legacy Tour. We arrived right before our tour and received a token for a free drink and we boarded our tram for a little tour of the grounds. When we arrived at the Visitor Center, we were led into a theater where they showed up a film about the company’s history.

Inside the Bacardí Visitor Center

Bacardí was founded in 1861 in Santiago de Cuba by Don Facundo Bacardí Massó. Shortly after opening his wife, Doña Amalia, found a colony of fruit bats in the rafters of the distillery. Bats are a symbol of good health and fortune to the Spanish and Taino people of Cuba so they decided to make the bat the symbol of the company. In 1920, when prohibition became law in the United States, Bacardí began advertising Cuba as a tropical destination to escape the “dry” U.S. In 1960, the Cuban assets of the company were confiscated by the Cuban government, and the family was forced to flee. Luckily, they had already moved the company’s trademarks and yeast strain out of Cuba.

After learning the history, we proceeded along on the tour to learn how the rum is distilled from sugarcane and made into two different distillations that are mixed together to become the final product. Our guide explained to us that the traditional white Puerto Rican rum is filtered to get a clear color because people at the time wouldn’t drink dark-colored liquors out of fear of cleanliness or because they didn’t like the way they looked, which makes me rethink drinking white rum. We got to sample the Casa Bacardí reserve, which is a mix of rums aged 8-12 years and is only available for purchase at the Casa Bacardí Visitor Center. The tour ended at the gift shop where you could pick up a bottle of Special Reserve or any of their other rums that you could get at your local liquor store.

Overall, I am glad we did the tour of Casa Bacardí, but the tour at Ron del Barillito was so much more authentically Puerto Rican and their rum is not as easy to find back home. When purchasing tickets to Casa Bacardí, you can add the ferry from Old San Juan to your ticket, allowing you to visit without a car. But, if you have a car and are interested in something you can’t find at home, I recommend visiting Ron del Barillito instead. For tickets to Casa Bacardí and information about their other tours, visit Bacardi.com.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, visit the Puerto Rico Circle Tour page. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Hermit Crab

Hermit Crab

Puerto Rico Circle Tour

Paseo del Morro

We are back from another wonderful trip to Puerto Rico, our third visit in less than two years. It is safe to say that we love the island. We wanted to explore more of the island this time, spending time on the west side of the island as well as one of the outer islands. Here is a preview of what is to come on this trip report:

  • Night 1: San Juan Airport Hotel
  • Night 2-6: Rincon
    • Snorkeling Tres Palmas Marine Reserve
    • Day trip to Cafe Lares
    • Day trip to Aguadilla and Crashboat Beach
  • Night 7-8: Vieques
    • Paddling Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay
  • Night 9-10: Old San Juan
    • Free Walking Tour Old San Juan

Waves Crashing near Castillo del Morro

It was another wonderful trip to an island paradise. It was very hard coming back to frigid, cloudy weather. I miss the beautiful Puerto Rican sunshine! I’m sure we will be back before too much longer.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I land in San Juan and head to Casa Bacardi! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

2024 Travel Show

Rick Steves at the 2024 Travel & Adventure Show

In 2023, we went to our first Travel and Adventure Show in Chicago after seeing a billboard saying Samantha Brown would be speaking there. We had a lot of fun at the show exploring the exhibits from locations around the world and hearing talks from travel experts. We got a lot of tips that made our travels in 2023 as epic as they were. So, we were excited to visit the show again. We had train tickets and a hotel for the whole long weekend. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and a winter storm rolled in and canceled our train. We debated going a day earlier to still be able to enjoy the travel show, but I realized that if we couldn’t get to Chicago from 200 miles away, I’m sure some of the presenters we were looking forward to seeing would have the same issue.

So, we decided to do something crazy. We canceled all of our plans in Chicago (we did some tourism around home at the Motown Museum to make up for it), made our first claim against our annual travel insurance policy, and booked flights to the New York travel show just a few weeks later. We already had some plans at home that weekend so the whole trip was only about 30 hours. We didn’t have two full days to explore the show like we would have in Chicago, but we got to see Rick Steves and Phil Rosenthal which is what we were really looking forward to.

We loaded up our backpacks (because for only one night away what more do you need?) and took a cheap Spirit flight to New York. In the morning, we walked from our hotel, got some New York bagels, and walked to the Convention Center. The New York Travel show was much bigger than Chicago and had an additional stage for more speakers. We went right to the main stage when we got in to get a good seat to see Rick Steves. If you aren’t familiar with Rick Steves, he is the foremost expert on European travel and is probably the bestselling guidebook author of all time.

Us meeting Phil RosenthalLast year the experts hit home how important it is to travel light and be carry-on only. Rick Steves also talked about avoiding crowds when you travel by traveling off-season and when that is not possible, getting out early and late. Avoid being in the tourist areas in the middle of the day. He inspired me to plan a trip to some of those crowded European cities that I want to see, but have been avoiding because of the crowds. As he said, there is a reason everyone wants to go there. After his talk, I had him sign one of his books for me.

Phil Rosenthal is the host of the Netflix show, Somebody Feed Phil and his presentation was a Q&A format about his travels and his favorite foods. While I didn’t leave his presentation with a whole host of travel hacks, it was very enjoyable and he seemed just as genuine as he does on TV. After his presentation, we waited in a crazy long line to meet him and have him sign his book. It was worth waiting in line for this picture (left)!

Times Square

We spent a little time walking the exhibit booths after we met Phil, but it was so crowded you couldn’t even get close to most of them and they didn’t seem to be doing as many giveaways as last year. We ended up walking the whole floor and then leaving the show to get some lunch. This is the first time since we were in college that we really had time in New York (we did a cruise out of New York back in 2015, but we pretty much just went right to the ship and then drove home immediately after) so we wandered until we found a Dim Sum restaurant for lunch. We weren’t too far from Times Square so we wandered over there and found all of the people. Then, we pretty much took a taxi back to the airport and flew home. All in all, it was a crazy day but it was worth it! We will have to keep our eyes on flight prices to New York for the future because, with those prices, it’s not an unreasonable weekend getaway.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Revisiting Whitefish Point

Whitefish Point Lighthouse

Whitefish Point is a cape on Lake Superior and is known as the most dangerous shipping channel in the Great Lakes. The area is even known as the Graveyard of Great Lakes. I have visited Whitefish Point many times over the years but I had never been to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. I have to admit that I wasn’t interested in visiting until my favorite television show, Expedition Unknown visited on an episode looking for missing French Minesweepers from World War I. Since Josh Gates visited, I figured I should visit as well, so when we were up in St. Ignace for Labor Day, we made the trek to Whitefish Point.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum consists of many historic buildings that were built by the Coast Guard. The Lighthouse Keepers Quarters from 1861 is furnished as it was in the 19th Century. The Surfboat House from 1923 is also available for touring but was closed when we visited. The Motor Lifeboat House from 1923 is also open to the public and that is where the film about the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald is played. The Whitefish Point Lighthouse (top) is the oldest operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes, built in 1861.

Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum SignThe Main Museum building features exhibits about shipwrecks throughout the history of Lake Superior. The biggest display was dedicated to the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank 17 miles off the coast of Whitefish Point in 1975 with all 29 crew members on board. The museum displays the bell from the ship and you can hear the 1976 Gordon Lightfoot song while you browse the exhibits.

The museum is pretty small and costs $15 per adult ($11 per child) to visit so I understand why I had never visited before. I would have been more interested in the video if it talked about more of the nearby shipwrecks, not just the Edmund Fitzgerald. Overall, I recommend visiting Whitefish Point for the views, but it’s hard for me to say if the museum is worth it or not. If this is your only stop in the Upper Peninsula, it is probably worth it, but if you are continuing to Soo Locks or Pictured Rocks, I would suggest you save your money for a boat tour at one of those locations.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Sign

Sign at Tahquamenon Falls

Revisiting Tahquamenon Falls

Tahquamenon Upper Falls

Tahquamenon Falls, located near Paradise, Michigan is a common stop for travelers of the Upper Peninsula. Since my first visit to the park in 2010, not much has changed in the park. But recently, the Lower Falls area of the park got a big upgrade. During our time in St. Ignace for Labor Day, we made the drive to Tahquameon Falls State Park to check it out.

When you picture Tahquamenon Falls, I’m sure you picture the iconic upper falls (above). The lower falls area, while just as picturesque, was always less crowded. There were a few trails there and you could rent boats to paddle the river to explore an island between the falls. On our trip in 2021, we took our kayak and paddled out to explore the island where there were a handful of other people exploring.

Tahquamenon Falls Bridge

In 2022, a bridge opened that connected the island to the main viewing area at the Lower Falls. This accessible bridge connected the 4-acre island for people of all abilities to explore. There are now places on the island for people to swim in the falls, making this one of the few waterfalls in Michigan that you can swim in. It was great seeing people of all ages exploring the island in a way that was not possible when it was only accessible by boat.

When we first heard about this project, we were worried they were going to ruin the beautiful landscape of the Lower Falls, but they were able to tuck the bridge out of the way so it didn’t block the beautiful view (below).

Tahquamenon Lower Falls View Point

If you are planning a visit to Tahquamenon Falls, don’t skip the Lower Falls. With the addition of the bridge, there is so much to see and explore there. If you are there on a warm day, bring your swimsuit and plan to dip your toe into the Tahquamenon River!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Lower Falls

Tahquamenon Lower Falls

Motown Museum

Hitsville U.S.A. Exterior

Since writing the Ultimate Michigan Bucket List, I have crossed off many items on the list but there was one that was only an hour away that I still had not visited. After wanting to visit for years, I finally made it to Hitsville U.S.A., The Motown Museum.

Located on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, The Motown Museum is housed in the former home of Motown Records. Berry Gordy Jr. founded Tamla Records in 1959 after receiving a $3 royalty check for a song that he wrote. His friend, Smokey Robinson, suggested that if he was going to make so little, he would be better off going into business for himself. Gordy bought the home that would become known as Hitsville U.S.A. The Gordy Family lived on the top floor and the first floor was converted into an office and recording studio. The home is now connected to the home next door where the museum and gift shop are located. Within 7 years of purchasing Hitsville U.S.A., Gordy would purchase 6 additional homes on the block and convert them into a publishing office, finance department, artist personal development, and administration offices. The Museum owns most of these houses today.

Motown Album Covers

Gordy moved Motown Records to Los Angeles in 1972 but his sister, Esther Gordy Edwards refused to relocate so she stayed behind and was put in charge of what remained of Motown in Detroit. She received several requests from fans wanting to visit Hitsville U.S.A. so she hung posters and gold records and by 1985, The Motown Museum opened to the public.

Michael Jackson's Fedora and Glove

In 1988 Michael Jackson donated a black fedora and a rhinestone-studded glove (left) along with $125,000, the proceeds of the first show of his Bad World Tour to the Motown Museum.

In 2011, Paul McCartney visited the museum and wanted to play the 1877 Steinway Piano in Studio A only to find that it was not in playing condition. McCartney had the piano shipped to Steinway and repaired and returned to play it at a charity event with Berry Gordy in 2012.

Claudette Robinson: A Motown Her-Story

As of January 2024, the current exhibit is Claudette Robinson: A Motown Her-Story. Claudette Robinson was one of the founding members of the Miracles, the first group to be signed by Motown. Before beginning her singing career, Claudette served in the Marines during the Korean War. Claudette married bandmate Smokey Robinson and had two children Tamla and Berry.

Hitsville U.S.A. can only be seen on a guided tour. Our guide was very knowledgeable and passionate about Motown and its history. The tour ends in Studio A with a song and dance session to My Girl. So, I can say that I have sang and danced in Studio A. As of January 2024, admission to the museum comes with a copy of Berry Gordy Jr.’s autobiography. The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday 10-6 and admission is $20 for adults and $17 for children and seniors.

Motown Studio A Control Room

Studio A Control Room

It is important to note that the museum is planning on expanding. The expansion will include interactive exhibits, a recording studio, a performance space, and a cafe. A guided tour will not be required in the new space. They are anticipating opening in 2025, but since it has yet to break ground, I am skeptical it will be open by then.

If you are planning on coming to Detroit, I highly recommend a stop at the Motown Museum. While I knew some of the history as the child of a music nut, I learned a lot on the tour (Did you know Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have a Dream Speech at Cobo Hall in Detroit before Washington D.C.?). We got very lucky walking in and getting the last two spots for the next tour so I do recommend purchasing your tickets online in advance at MotownMuseum.org.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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