Posts Tagged ‘Beach’

Exploring Ukraine: The Pearl of the Black Sea, Odessa

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Sunrise fishing 

Ukraine isn’t a particularly popular tourist destination, although it has a plenty of wonderful sights- like the Black Sea coast with sandy beaches and great local wineries, and the Carpathian Mountains with their striking natural scenery and beautiful small villages.

Odessa, a beautiful city in the south west part of Ukraine, is a longtime favorite spot for a getaway. It has very distinct culture and its inhabitants even have a region specific accent. It is very different from any other Ukrainian city, yet as welcoming as the others.

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Passing Vorontsov Lighthouse on a boat

Port

First and foremost, Odessa is a seaport. It started as a port and it still holds it’s privilege of a free port and free economic zone. During the 19th century, it was the fourth largest city in Imperial Russia, after Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Warsaw.

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Port of Odessa

It’s port (locally known as Morskoy Vokzal) is a great place to get oriented with the city. From impressive hotel buildings reaching towards the skies to fast and elegant motor boats in Yacht Club, it offers quite a few photo ops.

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Yacht Club

Once you are at the port, don’t miss a chance to go further – by a scheduled or private boat tour. The prices start as lows as $4 for a group option, and from $30 for a private hire. It is also the only way to see the 27 meter (88 foot) red-and-white Vorontsov Lighthouse, one of port’s famous landmarks.

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Selfie on Board

The Port is also a good point to start a nice city walk. Go climb (or use funicular!)  the recently renovated Potemkin Stairs considered a formal entrance into the city from the direction of the sea. This giant staircase 142 meters long is the best known symbol of Odessa. As a bonus you get the greatest view of the harbor.

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Viewing machine at the top of Potemkin Stairs

Architecture

Odessa’s historical architecture has a style more Mediterranean than Russian, having been heavily influenced by French and Italian styles. Some buildings are built in a mixture of different styles, including Art Nouveau, Renaissance and Classicist.

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Inside the museum of Western and Eastern Art

If you’re dreaming to get away from the crowd, try going to museum instead of a beach, try Museum of Western and Eastern Art (entry fee $2). Not only it is located in a beautiful 19th century building, it also has a magnificent collection of paintings, sculptures, porcelain, furniture and more. The exhibitions include ancient, western European and eastern arts, and western European collection of exhibits.

 

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Keep walking towards second most famous symbol of Odessa it’s Opera Theater. Its neo-baroque building was constructed in 1887 by two Viennese architects, Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer. It was also the first building in Odessa to use electric illumination.

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Fountains Near Opera Theater

Beach

Although Odessa has a few public beaches, they become overcrowded in the summer. For a more pleasant experience I would advise to pick one of the numerous beach clubs. The entry is usually free, but you have to pay for a beach chair ($5-10/a day), towels or umbrellas, if you’re using any.

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Early morning at Bright On Beach

My choice was Bright On Beach club, for bright girlish design, reasonable prices and perfect peach sangria at the bar!

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Peach Sangria at Bright On Beach

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Oh, and don’t forget flamingos!

Food

Summer is the season of open terraces and cold coffee in Odessa, my all time favourite it a White Whale, where you can find the best cappuccino in city and  a variety of alternative brews. For a fancy cup with vegan options try order Coconut Latte at Moloko Bar. Their specialty is actually a trifle yogurt with a broad list of add-ons, so it’s a perfect place to indulge yourself with healthy and yummy breakfast before heading off to the beach.

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Trifle yogurt with blueberries and coconut latte at Moloko Bar

Eating local is a must at Odessa. And here it means you should try the seafood. I woulds advise you skip Forshmak (a combination of pickled herring and apples is not for everyone, or at least not for me), but local mussels are a dish of choice. While you can find mussels at almost every cafe in the city, I advise visiting the place that specializes in bivalve molluscs, like Kotelok Mussels Bar.

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Grilled mussels with cheese and tomato sauce at Kotelok

For a good dinner with live music head to Odessa City Food Market. The newly established local food hall is the one and only in Ukraine. With an open floor plan; fresh food prepared in front of your eyes; a post-industrial space, and good-looking people sharing communal tables or sitting on stools around countertops this place is a perfect pick for a night out.

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Oysters and Wine

Welcome the Sun

There is something special about sunset and sunrises at the seaside. Odessa is facing the East, so sunsets are quite boring here, yet seeing the sun rising from the water is very special experience.

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Sunrise colors of Odessa Port

My favorite sunrise spot is Langeron beach. It is the closest beach to the city center, and has unobstructed views of the sun. On weekend mornings, you’ll always find here late party goers, fishermen, tourists, local park workers, all of them gathered with a single purpose: to witness the first light of the day. So why not join?:)

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Chasing the sun

Odessa International Airport (ODS) has daily direct connections from and to Kiev, Vienna, Istanbul, Ankara, Warsaw, Budapest, Minsk, Prague,Tel-Aviv. Several days a week there are also scheduled flights to Athens, Dubai, Milan, Sharm-El-Sheikh and Saloniki.

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Exploring Maui, Hawaii: Ho’okipa Beach, Paia and Mama’s Fish House

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The beach outside of Mama’s Fish House

If you’re looking for something different from the mega resorts on Maui, I’d highly advise spending a day exploring Ho’okipa Beach Park and the charming town of Paia.  Ho’okipa is one of the best windsurfing spots on the island if not the planet. It’s also a favorite of surfers and people who just want to watch them while enjoying a day at the beach.

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Summer day at Ho’okipa Beach Park

I am particularly fond of the mix of locals and tourists at Ho’okipa Beach. There are even a few interesting food trucks if you need a quick bite to eat.

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Food trucks at Ho’okipa Beach 

Drink a coconut or grab a nibble, but don’t spoil your appetite. You’ll want it later.

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Another view of Ho’okipa Beach 

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Left: Getting ready to surf at Ho’okipa Right: Surfing rush hour

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Windsurfing at Ho’okipa Beach

Ho’okipa is located close to Paia, which a charming spot to browse, go shopping, or grab a shave ice.

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Sun’s out/buns out at Ho’okipa Beach

Bathing suits are cheeky this season. If you’re doing the sun’s out/buns out thing, don’t forget your sunscreen!

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Kampachi Ceviche at Mama’s Fish House

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After you’ve worked up an appetite at the beach, head to nearby Mama’s Fish House for a meal. Be sure to book ahead… there is a reason Mama’s is so popular!

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Left: Blue Hawaiian at Mama’s Fish House Right: the cute pineapple I found blended right in with the Hawaiian decor

While fresh fish is the specialty at Mama’s they also serve excellent short ribs as well as some island specialities like fresh poi and kalua wild boar.

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Grilled shrimp at Mama’s

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img_9419Left: Ahi poke Right: Fresh poi comes complimentary at Mama’s

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Mahi mahi and ahi Panang curry

This is great place to try a tropical cocktail. Mama’s version of the Mai Tai isn’t too sweet. The Blue Hawaiian is probably more photogenic than it is my taste.

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Tiki pineapple goodness at Mama’s Fish House

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Mama’s menu + pineapple = art

After a mai tai or two, I got creative and noticed my pineapple felt like part of the menu art at Mama’s Fish House.

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View from a table at Mama’s Fish House

Mama’s Fish House also has The Inn at Mama’s right next door, should you wish to stay in this charming part of the island. I plan on doing so on my next visit to the island.

Ho’okipa Beach Park

Located at Mile #9 on Hâna Highway (36).

Mama’s Fish House

799 Poho Place,
Paia, HI 96779
TEL (808) 579-8488
FAX (808) 579-8594

OPEN DAILY from 11am to 9pm

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Exploring the Riviera Maya: Andaz Mayakoba, Mexico

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The Cenote-inspired lobby of the Andaz Mayakoba

I recently spent a few days at the brand new Andaz Mayakoba just north of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The chic beach resort, located within the Mayakoba Eco-Resort, opened in December 2016.

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Birds of Paradise in the Andaz Mayakoba Lobby

Located about 45 minutes from the Cancun International Airport (CUN), It’s the just the sort of spot on Mexico’s Riviera Maya that appeals to luxury travelers who want the golden sand of Caribbean beaches without the spring break vibe of a mega resort.

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One of the three pools at the Andaz Mayakoba

I was suprised to find that Cancun was only 4 1/2 hours from Los Angeles by plane, and my flight had tail winds and landed thirty minutes early. The user-friendly nature of Mayakoba makes the resort geographically desirable from both US coasts, since Miami is only 90 minutes away by plane.

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Colorful octopus mural by Senkoeat the Andaz Mayakoba

I was amazed by how well-oiled the resort Andaz Mayakoba ran after being open less than a month. The service was surprisingly seemless. We were the first guests to occupy our suite. The only “tell” I could find of the property’s newness was trying to find out how to adjust the fan in my suite’s bedroom. Matainance showed up and we figured it out together in less than a minute.

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Fun floaty toys at the Andaz Mayakoba

All the construction on the property was finished and there are a few murals that were not yet complete, but that also allowed guests to have a chance to spot Playa del Carmen-based street artist Senkoe on the property.

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Left: Pool side at the Andaz Mayakoba Right: Colorful patio furniture on the suite’s patio

Keeping with the clean, contemporary, and cool vibe of the Andaz brand, the Andaz Mayakoba also has some cool Mexican touches. There are some local snacks in the complementary mini-bar.

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The Mayakoba Resort is technically located in Playa del Carmen, but it’s a destination unto itself. Mayakoba features luxury hotels from Fairmont, Banyan Tree, and Rosewood and now the Andaz. It’s less than 15 minutes to the main drag of Playa del Carmen, but you won’t want for anything if you never leave the resort.

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Rainbow in paradise at Mayakoba 

Mayakoba also has a Greg Norman-designed golf course, El Camaleón, a tennis center, and a nature trail and bike path that connects all the individual hotel properties. This helps the resort feel big but not overwhelming. It’s not a mega-resort and it’s low profile makes it feel more connected to lush mangrove jungles and Mexican landscape.

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Ferry service at the Andaz Mayakoba Resort

There is even a ferry service connecting all the properties, making it easy for guests to stay at one property and dine at another. Complimentary bikes are available for guests to cruise from the Andaz to the any of the other Mayakoba properties. There is even a cenote, or water-filled sink hole, right on the Mayakoba property.

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Guest rooms at the Andaz Mayakoba

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In-room tequila set up at the Andaz Mayakoba

The rooms at the Andaz are contemporary Mexican chic with lots of light and colorful accents. Each building of the resort boast colorful bird murals painted by Senkoe.

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Interior of a bedroom at the Andaz Mayakoba

Our suite was spacious with a huge bedroom, walk in closet, bathroom, living room, two balconies and plunge pool.

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Mayan whimsical touches in the interior of the Andaz Mayakoba

I really like the laid back luxury of the Andaz brand. Service is top notch but not intrusive. The staff at the Andaz Mayakoba is very friendly. Jorge, who was in charge of taking care of us at the property, introduced himself to me as “your new best friend.”

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Another view of the Andaz suite living room

The Andaz has 214 guest rooms, 41 of which are suites. It is a family-friendly resort and has a kids club called Kimbo that hosts a killer movie night under the stars that adults are known to crash.

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Set up for movie night at Kimbo, the Andaz Mayakoba’s kids club

With three pools and generous stretch of white-sand beach, the resort doesn’t feel cramped. Of course there is also bright and airy spa with outdoor rooms that I did not have time to visit during my brief stay at the property.

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Margarita with lemon at OllaTaco

There are four restaurants on the Andaz property, with my favorites being the seafood-centric OllaCeviche. I was also delighted to lear that OllaTaco serves tacos for breakfast on extremely cute Mexican wrestler plates.

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Patron tequila at OllaCeviche

OllaCeviche also has a nice cocktail menu featuring Mezcal and tequila-based cocktails. It’s patio boasts a nice view of the beach.

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Chilaquiles + Mexican wrestler plates = win

Two days was not enough time to stress test all three pools and the beach. I did make a point of taking the nature hike and cenote tour, which is offered daily. It’s a cool way to check out one of the natural limestone sink holes and learn about their lore without too much effort.

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Left: a spicy Mezcal cocktail at OllaCeviche Right: broiled lobster tail for lunch

After spending a few days at the property my husband told me that he could “stay here a week.” This is high praise coming from a notoriously fical guest who usually gets sick of every property’s food after three days.

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Portrait of Jorge, my new best friend at the Andaz Mayakoba

One thing I especially liked about the Andaz Mayakoba experience was that while it had all the bells and whistles one needs in a Mexican luxury beach resort, it wasn’t isolated. You can easily head to a different hotel for lunch or dinner without requiring a taxi.

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The chapel interior in El Pueblito

The resort has El Pueblito, a small traditionally inspired Mexican village, complete with a cooking school, a church, art gallery, and a coffee shop that Jorge told me had the best coffee in the area. He was right!
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Left: exterior of the Chapel Right: a statue in the Chapel

The chapel hosts a Catholic mass on Sundays that is attended by guests as well as employees.

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Dappled light in the Mayakoba cenote

Two days wasn’t enough to fully explore all the Andaz has to offer and I’m certain I’ll be back soon to check out that spa. Room rates start at about $450.

ANDAZ MAYAKOBA RESORT RIVIERA MAYA

Carretera Federal Cancun-Playa Del Carmen Km. 298

Playa del Carmen-Solidaridad, Quintana Roo, Mexico, 77710

Tel: +52 984 1491234

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Exploring the Riviera Maya: Tulum, Mexico

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Bohemian chic vibes at Be Tulum

Tulum, a small resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, has been a much buzzed about destination for a while. It’s developed enough to have great food and some chic eco-resorts, but still intentionally off the grid and understated to keep the vibe low key.

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Gorgeous pool at Be Tulum

For those who want a dose of Mayan culture with their vacation, it’s even got the Tulum Ruins, right on the beach.

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Sandy white beach of Tulum

My husband and I recently visited Tulum for a  couple of days, and two nights wasn’t really enough to explore the area and chill out. Confession– I did not even get to explore the ruins on this trip. But I loved the area so much I’m planning a return visit as soon as possible.

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Bicycles are the preferred form of transport in Tulum

For luxury travelers like me, wifi access is a necessity and not a privilege and many of the resorts in Tulum are intentionally devoid of it. We chose to stay at Be Tulum, a luxury eco-resort that had strong wifi and great reviews.

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Interior of a suite at Be Tulum

While not a true business hotel, I was impressed that the wifi signal worked all the way to the white sand beach.

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Interior of a suite at Be tulum

Be Tulum also has next level margaritas, chic rooms, and a lovely beach with multiple daybeds. It’s not a business hotel so you won’t find a proper desk in your room, but if you can handle the distracting ocean views while checking email, it’s a lovely place to spend a few days.

Greetings from #Tulum is today's virtualvacay #Mexico

Sunhat in Tulum

Friends of mine have also spoken highly of the rustic chic Azulik and all-inclusive luxury resort Kore Resort Tulum, although I did not get a chance to check them out for myself.

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Morning walk on the beach in Tulum

My favorite places to visit are those with a vibe or spirit. Tulum definitely has a vibe. There is a effortlessly chic thing going on that is sort of hard to describe but easy to spot.

Cloudy morning time lapse from Tulum

Watching the sun rise one morning, I saw a lot of toned legs and dogs get walked on the beach. You can’t help but notice that there are a lot of beautiful people in Tulum. It’s a gorgeous spot where pretty people gather. I enjoyed people watching here and would like to spend a few more days doing that.

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Cloudy sunrise in Tulum

Located about an hour and forty five minutes by car from the Cancun airport, Tulum is fabulous destination on it’s own or combined with another spot on the Mayan Riviera. I split by time in Mexico between Mayakoba and Tulum.

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 Day beds on the beach

NOTE: I’ll cover my stay at the new Andaz Mayakoba in a future post.

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 Vacation vibes at Be Tulum

As relaxed as Tulum is, you still need reservations if you want to get dinner at some of the interesting restaurants. We got to Hartwood before 6 pm and did not manage to get a table.

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The chilled out bar at Be Tulum

According to the concierge at Be Tulum, Hartwood only take reservations by email and it usually takes a few days to get a response so if you wan to eat there be sure to book ahead.

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Shrimp tacos at Be Tulum

But there are plenty of good dining options in the area. Be Tulum’s restaurant had a great menu for breakfast and lunch, with the shrimp tacos being a standout item.

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Mezcal cocktail at Gitano

Foodie friends suggested Gitano. It’s a gorgeous space and has the prettiest cocktails in town.

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Basil guacamole with jicama at Gitano

Gitano’s menu of modern Mexican food, includes small plates with nice touches. Like the basil guacamole with jicama served with roasted corn tortillas. Their Sopa de Lima and ceviche were also delicious. 4v1c5961

Laid back romantic atmosphere at Gitano

Be sure to have cash on hand when going out to eat in Tulum. Many of the small restaurants only take cash. Both pesos and US dollars were accepted.

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Gitano exterior in Tulum

The food scene is getting more exciting in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera and I’m sure there are more small spots to check out in Tulum.

 

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Come with cash!

For those who can only spend an afternoon in Tulum, local institution Ziggy’s Beach Club  allows diners to use their sun loungers and amenities for $25 USD per person per day. Ziggy’s also has wifi.

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Magic hour in Tulum

Tulum is a place I look forward to getting to know better. I think I’m going to be coming back here soon.

Be Tulum

Address: Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km.10, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Ziggy’s Beach Bar

Address: Carretera Tulum – Boca Paila Km 7,5, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Gitano Tulum

Address: Beach Road Km. 7, Boca Paila, QRO, Mexico

reservations@gitanotulum.com

Hartwood

Address: Carretera Tulum Boca Paila 7.6Km, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

open for dinner only, 6-11pm closed Monday and Tuesday

 

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Exploring Norway’s Lofoten Islands: Utakleiv Beach

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Gorgeous scenery at Utakleiv Beach

Of all of beaches I saw in Norway’s Lofoten Islands, Utakleiv had the most diversity. It’s a photographer’s dream with it’s creamy white sand, green grass, jewel toned tidal pools and rocky coastline.

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Tidal pools and emerald seas in Norway

Utakleiv Beach is also easy to reach by car and doesn’t require a hike, making it one of the most photographed spots in the Lofoten Islands.

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Portrait of Ana at Utakleiv Beach 

While Ana and I explored Utakleiv Beach during the day, it’s also a popular spot to watch (and photograph) the northern lights.

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We had Utakleiv Beach all to ourselves

While we heard that the beach was popular during the summer months, one of the benefits of traveling during shoulder season is that we had the place entirely to ourselves.

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Ana on a grassy knoll at Utakleiv beach 

The clouds were moody, adding to the dramatic and craggy scenery.

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Clouds, water, rocks, and sand 

The light was soft and flattering during our visit so I used the opportunity to shoot a few portraits of Ana using the depth mode (aka portrait mode) feature on my iPhone 7 plus. I love the results.

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Ana at Utakleiv beach (portrait mode)

The beach is also a favorite spot for photographers in winter when the rocks along the coastline are covered in snow.

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Portrait of Ana among the rocks (iPhone 7 plus)

There were a few picnic tables on Utakleiv, and it’s a popular spot for camping when the weather is suitable.

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Jewel toned tidal pool at Utakleiv Beach 

Directions:

From Leknes, it is about 20 minutes out. Follow the E10 out of Leknes and turn right onto Vikveien. Then take the Fv826 to Uttakleivveien. At the intersection, take a left to stay on Uttakleivveien until you see a parking area on the right and the beach right next to it.

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