A slice of Paradise

Meagan and Cameron were looking for a unique honeymoon experience. Something they would remember forever, outdoorsy, and intimate. I knew the perfect slice of paradise for them: Moorea. A French Polynesian Island with stunning jungles and world-class snorkeling. Being able to swim with turtles from the balcony of their overwater bungalow at Manava Beach Resort all week was just the start of their unforgettable adventure in paradise!

Here’s their trip report:

HI Ann! I know you said I could keep it short, but there is SO much to say lol. Thank you for everything 🙂 🙂 we absolutely LOVED our trip!! Moorea is the definition of Paradise! The lush vegetation and the crystal clear lagoon had me staring at the views in awe every single day.

a view of the Moorea mountains from the sea

I must have said a million times that the views just do not get old! We knew that it was their rainy season with rain expected daily, which we didn’t care at all, you are still in paradise. We learned that the mornings are the best for activities with sunshine and the rains come later in the afternoon/overnight.

sunrise off the deck of an over water bungalow in Moorea

We were up at sunrise daily and took advantage of the deck off of the bungalow to get a morning snorkel in.


We saw and swam with the same couple of turtles and sharks right off our bungalow each morning! We brought our own underwater cameras for all of the wildlife and kayaked out into the lagoon to see everything around us.

A beautifully colored fish underwater in Moorea Tahiti

There were two Polynesian themed nights as well with a buffet dinner (oops we really wanted to explore the area and check out local restaurants and skipped this). The food is amazing! Expensive like we heard, but SO good and they give you large portions.

happy couple on a chartered boat

Cameron surprised me with a chartered boat from Moorea Ocean Adventures and I can happily say he made one of my lifelong bucket list dreams come true!

We swam with dolphins in the wild, along with sharks, rays, turtles and a TON of other fish. They were INCREDIBLE. It’s a private charter and they send you a captain and a marine biologist. They bring snorkel gear, beverages, and take a video of the entire experience–in the boat and underwater.
They edit the video for you too, we got it back a week later and I can honestly say it was better than some of the wedding videos I have seen!! It was more exciting to receive too lol.
They are so incredibly knowledgeable about the area, and the species, and you can tell they take pride in their work. They asked us our main goals and expectations for the day before we took off and were SO eager to find dolphins with us.
You could tell they loved and appreciated the sea and its creatures! I couldn’t say enough positive things about our experience with that company, even the communication Cameron had before and after with them. 5 stars for sure!

Palms, beach, and over water bungalows honeymoon paradise in Moorea

Biggest suggestions for people considering Moorea:
-If you go during the rainy season (November-February) be sure to be active morning people-the resort had umbrellas for everyone throughout the stay and we could walk to town so that was great!
– Rent a car and drive the island–it takes 90 minutes, there is one road around it, and the speed limit is either 60km or 35km if you are driving through a town or school zone.

The winding road through lush jungle in moorea


-There really is no nightlife so don’t expect any nightclubs, bars, or anything like that, besides what the resorts offer in their lounges and bars.

success at Moorea waterfall

Find the waterfall and hike to it!

– Directions [for the waterfall] are in various reviews on trip advisor, don’t listen to the reviews that say its an easy 20 min walk. It’s a decent hike
-Gratuity really isn’t part of their culture, you are told it’s not expected but can be provided for exemplary service. You find a line to leave it on the checks at the resorts, which we did of course, but at the local restaurants you just pay your bill at a counter and that’s it. We were uncomfortable with this at first and didn’t know what to do, but when one of our shuttle drivers taught us local lingo, told us the history about the various sites we were driving by, stopped at certain spot “that we had to see and take a photo at” and just made us feel SO welcomed, you knew that was someone you gave a gratuity to. We had a bunch of shuttle drivers throughout our transit between Tahiti and Moorea, you could tell this guy (Maui was his name!)was really proud of his island and happy to have us there.

happy couple overlooking the over water bungalows in Moorea


Rudy’s!! Eat there!  It will not disappoint!! Read the reviews and believe every single one you read about the parrotfish.  I read them afterward and was so glad we happened to find it.  We were supposed to go back a second night, but my nap took a little longer than I had expected ;(   
-Food and drinks are expensive on and off the resorts – but omg sooo good 
Belvedere lookout – go here!  People leave locks on the fence, but you can tell they get removed.  We saw a BUNCH in a photo before we went and there were only a few there when we arrived. 

the ocean view from an bungalow balcony

– 1 week is the perfect amount of time to see everything on the island, we saw some things twice!  We even rented a car twice and made it to other restaurants and locations.  I understand why many people spend more time and island-hop between Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora – but that sounds exhausting to us and we decided to spend our 10 year anniversary in Bora Bora instead to check it out 😉 
– Get a black Tahitian pearl 😊 we have a few now! 

WELL, I think that covers it…

enjoying the ocean view from over water balcony

can we go back now, please?!?! 

Thank you SO much for everything, can’t wait to plan the next one! 
Meagan and Cameron 

Girls’ Weekend in San Juan

Girls’ Weekend in San Juan (January, 2016)

I can’t remember exactly when the tradition started, but for the last 10-15 years my sisters and I have planned an annual “Girls Weekend” where we take our mom on a little getaway so that the four of us can spend some time away from work, kids, husbands, etc. Over the years, it has evolved from a simple road trip to New Hampshire, Newport, or Maine into something a little more elaborate. This year we went to San Juan, Puerto Rico!

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We left New York VERY early on a frosty Thursday morning in January, and landed in sunny San Juan about noon. From the airport, it was a quick cab ride to our nearby hotel – the Intercontinental San Juan, in Isla Verde.  Because we had arrived before check-in time, we had some lunch and sat by the pool until we were able to get into our rooms. We had booked two oceanfront rooms, and we had beautiful views over the pool to the Caribbean beyond. The rooms were spacious, though in need of some updating, but we didn’t plan to spend much time indoors, so that wasn’t really a concern. The resort has a nice pool area, plenty of lounge chairs by the pool/beach, and an assortment of dining options, from a casual toes-in-the-sand lunch spot, to a Ruth Chris steakhouse. The location was very convenient to the airport (about 10 minutes away), and the beach was lovely, but I think if we had to do it over again we’d stay in the Condado area, which has more shops/restaurants within walking distance.

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That evening we enjoyed a cocktail at the hotel before hopping in a cab to Condado (about a 15-minute ride) where we had made dinner reservations at Oceano. We sat outside, just steps from the water, and enjoyed sangria and Puerto Rican specialties including fresh seafood and delicious mofongo. It was a perfect start to our weekend!

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On the way back to the hotel, we asked the taxi driver for his favorite breakfast place, and he recommended the Bistro Café, which he said was “just down the street” from our hotel, so we made plans to walk there in the morning. The walk turned out to be a little longer – and sweatier – than we had anticipated, but it was more than worth it! We were the only non-locals in the place, and our friendly, patient waiter took the time to translate and explain every mouth-watering item on the menu (including about a dozen specials). We enjoyed some of the best coffee I’ve ever had, along with waffles, eggs, fruit and more. The owner stopped by our table to chat with us, and they seemed genuinely pleased that we had stumbled in. I would go back there in a minute!

The rest of the day was spent lazing by the pool, reading, swimming, and walking on the beach. There was a lot of seaweed, so we didn’t swim in the ocean, but the beach itself was wide and walkable, and remarkably uncrowded.

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I had made plans to catch up with my college roommate (who is from San Juan) that evening, so we met her for cocktails at our hotel and then she and I headed out to La Placita, which is apparently where all the “cool kids” go on Friday night 🙂 This pedestrian-only area near Condado is an open-air farmers’ market during the day, but on certain nights of the week it morphs into a night spot with carts selling cocktails and cigars. It reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, with all the people walking around with open containers of alcohol, but everyone was dressed up for a night out (because it’s Puerto Rico) and the music wafting out of the bars and restaurants was Latin, rather than jazz. It was very cool!

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We had a cocktail in the plaza and then headed upstairs to have dinner at Asere Cubano Kitchen and Bar. The restaurant has a really cool “speakeasy” vibe, and we enjoyed Ropa Viejo, tuna tartare, and other small plates, and then ended the evening with one last cuba libre on the second-floor verandah overlooking La Placita.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at our hotel and headed into Old San Juan for the day. It’s about a 25-minute cab ride from Isla Verde. We had the taxi driver drop us off in the main square, and then we just wandered. There are shops, galleries, museums, restaurants, bars and two historic forts — El Morro (Castillo San Felipe del Morro) and San Cristobal (Castillo de San Cristobal).  We explored El Morro (more than worth the small admission charge), and watched families fly kites on the huge grassy field outside the fort. Nearby, we sipped Pina Coladas at (supposedly) the bar where they were invented. We spied on two weddings at a gorgeous old church. We bought souvenirs at a local gallery. And then we ended the day with delicious tapas and wine at El Picoteo restaurant at the gorgeous El Convento hotel. NOTE: If you are headed to San Juan and don’t want/need to be at the beach, I highly recommend El Convento.

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Sunday was our last day, but we had an evening flight, so we checked out and stored our bags at the hotel while we did a guided tour to El Yunque rainforest.  We had booked it spur-of-the-moment through the hotel tour desk, so we did not have a chance to research the different available tour guides and companies. Our guide turned out to be terrible, so I would not make that mistake again (Pro tip: book in advance, and do some research first, LOL) but El Yunque itself was interesting, and I would still recommend it as a nice excursion out of the city. We saw waterfalls and mountains, we climbed a lookout tower for views over the countryside to the ocean beyond, and we stopped for some questionable roadside snacks. Other available tours to El Yunque do some hiking, ziplining, and swimming, so I think I’d try one of those next time.

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view of the lush green mountains of the El Yunque Rainforest in San Juan

When we got back to the hotel, we had some time to sit by the pool before using their hospitality room to get cleaned up and changed. We enjoyed one last cocktail on the terrace, and then took a cab back to the airport for our flight. We were back in New York just after midnight, and are already planning next year’s trip 🙂

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)