Posts Tagged ‘‘beach’


U.S.: Siesta & Bradenton Beaches

Coming from an unforgettable trip to lovely Key West and the remote yet jaw-dropping  Dry Tortugas National Park, we moved on to visit the beaches of Siesta and Brandenton, a 3.5 hours drive west of Miami.


SIESTAWe finally stepped on Siesta Beach after moving around the huge parking lot for 15 minutes trying to find a spot. One doesn’t have to pay for any parking fees here but since the beach is magnificent and it is insanely crowded,  the parking lots are always full so arriving early in the morning is highly suggested. This beach has been adjudged as the #1 beach in the U.S.A. in 2011 by Dr. Beach.




DSC_5959The entrance area has shower and changing rooms, drinks/food dispenser and picnic tables and benches.



DSC_5968We spotted some security personnel on horses.




DSC_5950We only brought in a very unique nylon beach mat from the Philippines and we settled ourselves one crowd row away from the shore.  Can you spot me sitting on the mat with a white cap and blue shorts?



DSC_5936This is how crowded the beach was.  As you can also see the water appears crystal clear and the white sand looks sugar-fine.



DSC_5949Indeed this beach is unique. Unlike beaches elsewhere that are made up mostly of pulverized coral, Siesta Beach’s sand is 99% quartz. Even on the hottest days, the sand is so reflective that it feels cool underfoot. It’s estimated that the sand on Siesta Beach and Crescent Beach on Siesta Key is millions of years old, having its origin in the Appalachians and flowing down the rivers from the mountains until it eventually was deposited on the shores of Siesta Key.



DSC_5935Here are more photos of the beach.







11013529_10206384114630278_7658242733079957749_nDSC_5923This is me just sitting on our unique beach mat from the Philippines with the busy crowd as background.



DSC_5933That is my beloved wife after taking a swim in the gorgeous waters.



DSC_5921This beach proved to be really magnificent but disappointingly crowded.  We promise we’d be back someday hoping there would be lesser crowd or we would try to base ourselves farther from the crowd either to the left or right side of the main entrance.


From Siesta Beach we drove up north to Bradenton Beach in Ana Maria Island.  Compared to Siesta this place proved to be less spectacular based on the beach sand and water clarity.  What it lacked on the whiteness and fineness of its beach sand were easily covered up by the amazing choices of the dining places especially during sunset time.


The beach is wider and less crowded.  I did not even see people swimming on the beach.

1797367_10206385784672028_9165763336539045116_nThis was taken from the Beach House restaurant where we checked in to have dinner watching as the sun would disappear into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.


11081180_10206385785432047_340022473850304856_nAs we waited for our table to be ready, we walked unto the shore and took some photos.



11081311_10206385785072038_2551777463119039881_nA very nice and somewhat tipsy lady offered to take a snapshot of my wife and me.



DSC_5969As we waited for our dinner to be served, we enjoyed the scenery around the al fresco and seaside area of the restaurant.



bradenton sunset2Sunsets are amazing and our sunset experience here in Bradenton Beach would become one of the best we ever had.

bradenton sunsetThe restaurant ran a sort of a contest for all its customers to guess what time exactly would the sun actually disappear from the horizon.  I did not win. Someone else did.

DSC_5971Ahhhh we were just amazed at the breathtaking sunset unfolding before our eyes.



DSC_5975 2Indeed it was a a day well spent.  A few more minutes after the sun had set, we drove back to our base station in Fort Lauderdale to prepare for our flight the next day back to New York.


Philippines: My Top Boracay Experiences


in central Philippines has been consistently voted as one of the world’s best islands, having one of the world’s best beaches.  In 2012, it once again went to the top of such listing, Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Islands, only to be toppled to the second spot in 2013 by another Philippine island, Palawan.  Nevertheless, Boracay still awes first time and repeat visitors alike especially during the best times to visit it, December to April.  Even with numerous visits to Boracay, I am always amazed every time I am swimming in White Beach’s amazingly clear waters and lazing on White Beach’s powdery sand, the softest white sand I have ever seen.

I first visited Boracay in 1996.  From then on, I have always come back to have a different experience of the famed island. Yes, I could say it is crowded nowadays compared to 10 or 15 years ago but its natural beauty still amazes me. So I have come up with my favorite Boracay experiences with matching snapshots taken during my different visits to the amazing island.


Boracay can be reached from Kalibo where bigger planes can land after which you take a van or bus to travel to Caticlan jetty for 1.5-2.0 hours.  The easier but usually fully booked and more expensive way is to take smaller planes to Caticlan airport directly from Manila.  If you are in the right time, right seat and right side of the plane, you can view the island from above before landing.


The 4-mile beach of blindingly white, soft sand, just overwhelms me every time I get the chance to experience this view.


A closer look would reveal an almost saturated development but this does not stop me from enjoying Boracay.


White Beach is Boracay’s gem. The beach has the softest and finest white sand most people would have seen.  It keeps its cool even on hot summer days. The best time in the morning to take stunning photos of White Beach are from 9 am to 11am.





One of my favorite spots to take snapshots of White Beach is at the area in front of Pearl of the Pacific. It is just past Willy’s Rock where there is always a huge crowd gathered and before Discovery Shores which is also crowded most of the time.  The area around Boracay Terraces after Friday’s is also not a bad option.


Boracay has been listed as one of the world’s top places to watch sunsets. You can do anything you like during day time but by late afternoon, you ought to be at White Beach to watch the glorious sunsets.  Bars and restaurants offer buy one take one drink promotions as early as 3p.m. until 8p.m.

DSC_1011DSC_0227DSC_0122DSC_0909DSC_0866DSC_0867My favorite spots to be sipping cocktails or ice cold beer at rock bottom prices while watching the sun disappears in the horizon are Friday’s, Jony’s (second level) and Discovery Shores (if not very crowded).  You can actually just sit down on the shore along the 4-mile long beach but you have to battle your way through the sunset crowd to get the best spots.  Of course, you can also opt to go up to Mount Luho as I did one time but personally, I still prefer to be on White beach during sunset.


White Beach may have the crown but Puka Beach still gets my attention.  Here, I would spend my time adding pages to my book alternating my drinks between fresh coconut juice and San Mig Light beer.  This is also where I stay to get away from the madding crowd of White Beach. The sand is coarser and the beach slope is steeper but I always get the solitude I need on this beach. It is just a 15-min, 150-peso tricycle drive away from White Beach.



There are no resorts in Puka Beach and I only have my favorite restaurant, Puka Grande, there.  A bar adjacent to it just recently opened.  Also, a 10-min walk to the west, is a small kiosk selling drinks and peanuts in front of a huge area that is sometimes used by Shangri-la for its corporate events.  There are beach huts and benches that are available for rent.


Sure, I would always enjoy every minute of the 300-peso, 60-min massage right on White Beach and I do not have problems with the experienced therapists who perform the traditional Filipino “hilot” on me.  However, when I have the budget, I take one of the packages offered by the multi-awarded Tirta Spa Boracay.   Yes, it is not one of those cheap spas and it is certainly more expensive than those beach massage but trust me, from the oil they use to the ambiance to the therapists, everything contributes to make an unforgettable experience and a service that is always impeccable and worth your bucks. I have visited the spa twice already and I have always come out refreshed.   They have not been awarded for the third straight year as the Day Spa of the World for nothing.


You will be ushered into one of these villas where you will have a world of your own.


Choosing oil is an important part of the process as it will set the mood throughout the massage session.


An Egyptian milk bath in a tub filled with exotic flowers will prepare your skin for the massage.


Yes, you can have some banana fritters and kalamansi juice.

DSC_0305Next is the vichy shower experience. A Vichy shower is a metal arm with five to seven shoarallel to a cushioned treatment table, so you can get a shower while lying down


And it is time for that relaxing massage.

6.  FOOD 

Whether is it the biggest burger in the island or the sumptuous Italian and Mediterranean dishes or the fresh seafood, I simply love the food in Boracay.


Just for experience I ordered the biggest burger in Boracay at Nigi Nigi and it was juicy and huge.


The seafood risotto at the Ambassador in Paradise also caught my attention.

DSC_0551One of my hotel experiences in Boracay was at Shangri-la’s Vintana where I had lunch with my family  DSC_0549after watching a Pacquiao DSC_0550 match at the hotel’s Entertainment Centre.


The best dining experience for me would always be at the D’Talipapa where one can choose fresh seafoods to be cooked in one of the nearby restaurants. Fresh fish, lobster and prawns just amazingly abound.

538089_2872791465918_500245894_njonah's final lay out

The best fruit shakes are made by Jonah’s and probably Jony’s comes in a strong second.


Anyway, Jonah’s also offers delectable Filipino cuisine such as longsilog, tapsilog and all the other “-log”.


Finally, I would never visit Puka Beach without having lunch at the long standing restaurant in that area, Puka Beach Restaurant.  I always order the reasonably -priced fried grouper and fresh coconut juice.


Boracay has been voted as one of the top party beaches in the world even beating perennial favorites like Ibiza in Spain, Kuta Beach in Bali and South Beach in Miami!

“When night falls, this incredible beach comes to life. There are amazing fire dance shows and fireworks, live bands and parties that last from dusk until dawn. There’s a great variety of clubs and bars along the beach, so no matter what kind of music you’re interested in, you’ll find a great place to hang out where the dance floor is never empty.”  – Huffington Post


Top places to hangout at night in Boracay are Club Summer Place, Epic Bar and Club Paraw.  There are also countless choices of acoustic bands playing pop, reggae and rock. Station 2 is the center of Boracay’s nightlife.


Boracay is a very popular wedding venue.


Since my friends and I watch sunset at Friday’s Boracay most of the time, we always had the chance to watch countless weddings took place in the resort.


This could be quite an expensive experience if this will not be planned a year or months earlier as most hotels are charging higher than any time during the year and flights are at its most expensive too. Thank God, even if my first New Year’s Eve trip to Boracay was hastily planned, my friend was able to secure a room at his friend’s place in Boracay and he was able to tag me along and oh yes, we wisely took a boat from Batangas pier direct to Caticlan for just less than a thousand pesos, one way. It was my first time to take the boat to Boracay and my first also to spend New Year’s Eve. It was absolutely amazing.



Despite negative things being said about Boracay, I will always be coming back and loving this amazing island.  I am always amazed at how beautiful the island is as if every time is always my first time.

Lately, concrete fences within 50 meters from the shore have been torn down to give a more natural beachfront ambiance. I just encourage everyone to be responsible in everything they do in the island as God has given us this amazing island to enjoy and not to destroy.



Philippines : Kalanggaman Island, Again!

Kalanggaman is a stunning Philippine island destination located between Leyte and Cebu. During my  first visit to the island in 2011 the town of Palompon in Leyte served as our jump off point to Kalanggaman.  In 2013, I planned my second trip to the island from Malapascua in Cebu where I was spending holidays with my friends, a Dutch and Filipina couple, with their two adorable kids.  I wanted them to experience the island too.

IMG_7331It was a lovely day as we left our base, Malapascua Island in Cebu.


We took a boat right in front of our beachfront hotel.


Oh yes, we were all excited. Our boat was small so it took us around one and a half hours to reach the island.  A bigger boat can reach the island from Malapascua in one hour or less.


The approach to the island gave me goosebumps.  The aquamarine waters around the island were stunningly clear.  The eastern sandbar was visible creating a thin white line along the horizon.

The sun was almost mid-morning high and it made the stunning sandbar shimmered as we passed through it. I was caught between fainting and taking the perfect shot of the breathtaking view while the boat was drifting fast, curving the sandbar towards the northern shore.
And this was the end of the sandbar.
The north shore approach was also thrilling because of the glass-like waters.
Finally, a signage of the island.  It was not there yet two years ago.
As usual we situated ourselves near the northern beach.
The scenery was just a feast to the eyes!
CSC_0597 CSC_0596
And it was time to dip in the crystal clear waters!
Then it was time to take our lunch.  The tour  operator included our food in the tour package. Chairs and tables were available for rent.
After lunch, we rested for a while and the sandbar caught my attention again.
The next activity was to take that long walk to the end of the sandbar.
It was time to take my self shot on the sandbar.
A few more minutes and I would be at the end of the island.
Finally I reached the end of the sandbar.  My camera stand was not with me so I positioned the camera on top of a coconut husk, set the timer on, ran to the side of the  sandbar and  this photo was created.  Me and my favorite little island in the Philippines!
It was already past noon time and with the sun slowly venturing down to the west, I went back to the main shore as we prepared to leave.
We approached Malapascua as the sun was setting.
As we reached Malapascua and alighted from the boat we were treated to a stunning display of yellow, pink, red-orange and purple in the skies.
I’d love to take this Malapascua route again to Kalanggaman, an island that I will never get tired of visiting.  My every visit to the island is always entirely a different experience.
Click HERE for my first visit to Kalanggaman in 2011 where we experienced an unbelievable sunset when we had an overnight stay in the island.

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