Kayak Camping in Baja Mexico

A kayak trip in Baja has been on my bucket list for quite a few years now.  So, when I decided to make it happen, I first turned to my favorite adventure outfitter, OARS.  Having used them on 4 previous trips, I always check their catalog first!  OARS is a whitewater company, but they also contract in other countries for various adventures like the Galapagos trip I took a few years back.

The trip is billed as the Quick Getaway by Mar Y Aventuras, and by OARS as Sea Kayaking Espiritu Santo Island.  The OARS package was more comprehensive and included a night before and after at Posada Luna Sol, the guesthouse associated with Mar Y Aventuras, as well as some additional meals.

Trip Orientation

The trip kicked off with an orientation and equipment fitting at the inn.  Due to high winds, we shuttled to a farther beach (Pichilingue) for a shorter boat ride to Espiritu Santo Island.  It was about an hour ride before we entered Candellero Bay, our home for the next 4 nights.

When I first heard there would be 17 guests on the trip, that sounded like a crowd, but it was a great group.  There were 3 of us solo ladies, 2 travel buddies, 2 families with 2 kids each, a father/son and one married couple.  Many people are wary of group travel, but I find that adventurous, rugged trips like this tend to weed out the high maintenance types, and you meet people who have some incredible travel tales.  I’m always adding to my bucket list after meeting these explorers!

Candellero Bay Camp

My tent

We all settled in to our cabins, enjoyed the first of many meals, and had a practice kayak run.

More cool rocks!

Each day had a nice rhythm, with what I thought was the perfect balance of activity and down-time.  If you are looking for a full-on adrenaline packed week, I’d suggest one of the circumnavigation trips rather than the base camp option I chose.  (Options vary by time of year)

Coffee was ready each morning at 6am, breakfast by 8:00.  The first morning activity (a kayak or snorkel outing) started around 9am.  We’d then return for lunch and a few leisurely hours before the afternoon activity around 3:00.  Upon our return, Happy Hour snacks and cocktails were served around 6pm, followed by a delicious dinner.

Happy Hour ceviche

Activities included a snorkel, hike or kayak outing, sometimes a combination of those.  We visited the sea lion colony twice, and were amazed at how friendly and playful the sea lions were!  A little too friendly for my taste – I kept my distance!

This trip was a great little getaway from work, winter and internet.  I found it to be the perfect combination of down-time and activity, although 1 more day would have been great!  I highly recommend this trip!

Trip Cost:

  • OARS cost: $1282 (includes single supplement for hotel and camping)
  • Airport Shuttle from Cabo: $47
  • Guide Tips: $100
  • Snorkel Rental:  $15 (wetsuit and sleeping bag rental also offered)

For all of my pictures from this trip, click here!

To read about my time in La Paz, check out my post on Travelettes!

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Kayak Camp Baja

Condesa and Polanco: Two Mexico City Neighborhoods

When I visited Mexico City, I split my visit and stayed in both Polanco and Condesa, two wonderful Mexico City neighborhoods.  The instant I read about the Red Tree House, I knew I wanted to stay there.  However, with solo travel, lodging can be the biggest expense and I’m not a hostel girl!  (Hostile, maybe, if I’m hangry! ) I had a Hyatt gift card that I received for my 10-year anniversary at my company, so I decided to stay two nights at the Hyatt Regency Mexico City, and then two nights at the Red Tree House.  Normally, I find changing hotels mid-trip to be a pain, but in this case, it actually worked out really well and I would recommend this approach for urban vacations as you get a better feel for different neighborhoods.

Hyatt Regency - Polanco, Mexico City

Polanco Neighborhood

Mexico City Polanco

The Hyatt ($149/night) is in the Polanco neighborhood, which I likened to the Gold Coast of Chicago.  The street also has a W Hotel, JW Marriott and Intercontinental, all lined up against the greenery of Bosque de Chapultepec. (You can see the hotels just left of the park in the first photo above)  A few blocks away is Avenue Maseryk, the DF’s equivalent of Michigan Avenue – from Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and plenty of luxury car dealers.  This is also where I had a food tour with Mexican Food Tours.

My room at the Hyatt was very comfortable, with a king bed and a window overlooking the park. Shortly after my arrival, I watched a thunderstorm roll over the city, from my large picture window.

Hyatt Regency - Polanco, Mexico City

I felt very safe wandering the Polanco neighborhood, and it was very easy to find my way around.  The streets are lined with mansions and lots of parks and restaurants.  You are in walking distance to so many attractions, as well as the Auditorium which is the starting point of several bus tours.

9/10 Polanco neighborhood

Two of the restaurants I tried in Polanco that I would recommend are Agua y Sal and Guzina Oaxaca, where I sampled several moles and had sope (not sopa) for the first time – where has this been my whole life?!

Polanco Food Tourhttp://www.mexicanfoodtours.comFirst Stop:  Guzina Oaxaca - mole!

Condesa Neighborhood

After two nights, it was time to check out and move on to the Condesa neighborhood, where a garden room at the Red Tree House awaited me.  I read that Condesa is comparable to London’s Notting Hill, or NYC’s East Bay.  For a Chicago comparison, it had a Lincoln Park/Bucktown feel, although without the chain stores.

9/12 TuribusCondesa neighborhood

When I arrived at the Red Tree House ($90/night – discount for cash payment), I was given an upgrade from a garden room to an upstairs suite, which was super nice.  As we entered the courtyard, I knew already I was going to love this place!

Red Tree House B&B - Condesa

My room was lovely, with a sitting area, dining and small kitchen in addition to the bedroom. I could just move right into this room!

The Red Tree House B&B - Condesa

The Red Tree House B&B - Condesa

And of course, the house dog was a welcome addition!

Red Tree House B&B - Condesa

Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time to explore Condesa as one full day was taken up by my trip to Teotihuacan, but the neighborhood had a lot going on in terms of places to drink and dine!  I did find the streets a bit more confusing – they were not on a grid as they seemed to be in other neighborhoods, but I was still able to find my way to Maque bakery and back after dark!

Maque bakery in Condesa - stocking up for the next day's breakfast

I really enjoyed getting a feel for these two Mexico City neighborhoods and will consider this approach again for other city vacations.  While Polanco offers a more upscale, sterile environment with the comforts of chain hotels and retail stores, Condesa has more of a “boutique” atmosphere.  I feel that the Red Tree House is not to be missed on your visit to Mexico City.

Red Tree House B&B - Condesa

A 3rd neighborhood, if you can call it that, is along the Avenue Reforma.  I saw several big name hotels here as well, including Le Meridien, Sheraton and Marriott.  This area has a lot to offer if you like the comforts of home wherever you are – I saw lots of chain restaurants, shopping malls, etc.  It’s centrally located, and also felt safe at night, plus the various monuments are quite beautiful when lit up at night.

Mexico City

Whenever you go, wherever you stay, I can’t recommend Mexico City enough as a destination for a long weekend.  I think a 3rd night in Condesa would have been the perfect itinerary for my trip and hope I’ll be back again someday!

For all of my Mexico City photos, click here!

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Mexico City Neighborhoods

 

Visiting the Teotihuacan Pyramids in Mexico

When planning a short visit to Mexico City, I naturally turned first to see what Viator had on offer.  I knew I’d want to get out of the city at least once, when I realized there were ancient pyramids nearby at Teotihuacan, I decided to check them out.  I chose the Early Morning tour as that sounded like a good way to beat the heat and the crowds.

The day before the tour, I received an email from Amigo Tours, the local tour operator, letting me know that my pickup time would be at 5:50 the following morning.  Keeping my travel tradition of waking up way earlier on vacation than I ever do in my real life.

The tour bus arrived before dawn, and I was the first one to be picked up.  I snoozed on the bus while we picked up the other 20 or so tourists all over Mexico City and then headed out of town towards Teotihuacan.  We stopped for gas and snacks about halfway there, and I took the chance to snap a photo of the local area.

9/13Bus ride to Teotihuacan

When you arrive at Teotihuacan, there is a small plaza area with shops and restrooms.  The shops were all closed this early, and our bus met us at the other end of the pyramids, so the shoppers in our group were disappointed we didn’t come back this way.  (As if there is a shortage of souvenir shops in the touristy areas!) I had to laugh as one girl in our group was dripping in Mexican clothing and turquoise and silver jewelry; she made a great decoy for the rest of us as all the peddlers aggressively followed her around.

9/13 Teotihuacan

We quickly made our way to the first temple area, where our guide explained the history of the area, as well as how the pyramids were built in layers and how those layers were exposed upon excavation.  Teotihuacan was once the largest pre-Colombian city, with a population estimated at 125,000.

9/13 Teotihuacan

9/13 Teotihuacan

Next, we approached the largest pyramid, Pyramid of the Sun, and had plenty of time to climb to the top, catch our breath and enjoy the views.  As you can imagine, the top of this pyramid afforded excellent views in all directions, including towards the Pyramid of the Moon, which was our next and last stop here.

9/13 TeotihuacanMoon and Sun pyramids

9/13 Teotihuacan

9/13 Teotihuacan

While we had strolled the main plaza, our van drove to meet us at the other end, and we headed off to a nearby restaurant and store.  Before we sat down for lunch, we had some demos on how the plants of the area are used, sampled some tequila and pulque, the sweet fermented juice that becomes tequila.

9/13 Teotihuacan - Agave demo

Lunch had a menu option, and a buffet option, with performers to entertain us, and of course, another gift shop on site. I had to partake in the cheesy tourist photo op.  At least they don’t try to sell you a photo!

9/13 Teotihuacan

With full bellies, we all slept most of the way back to Mexico City, where we arrived just in time for rush hour.  The younger folks jumped out of the van to continue their adventurous day rather than sitting in traffic, but I waited it out and got dropped off at The Red Tree House, where I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing with my new pal.

Red Tree House B&B - Condesa

For the price of this tour, less than $40, I thought it was a really good value.  We had a fantastic guide, who was very knowledgeable and spoke excellent English, and we missed the most crowded part of the day – always a bonus in my book!

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Teotihuacan Pyramids

For the rest of my Mexico City photos, click here!