Saint Lucia: Beach Meets Rainforest in the Caribbean

Sugar Beach Saint Lucia

The southwestern coast of Saint Lucia is dominated by the magnificent Piton peaks.

If someone blindfolded you and put you on a plane to Saint Lucia, you might think you were in the South Pacific upon landing. Much more than the clear blue waters and powdery beaches commonly associated with the Caribbean, Saint Lucia is a land of striking diversity. Only 27 by 14 miles, this gem of an island has verdant mountains, lush rain forests, and even a dormant volcano with skin-smoothing sulfur mud baths. And yes there are lovely beaches, but they share the stage equally with these other attractions. It’s the perfect destination for anyone looking for more than water sports and sunbathing from their Caribbean vacation. Continue reading

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Peru: Tips for the Perfect Trip

Machu PicchuFrom impressive archaeological ruins and stunning landscapes, to lively culture and world-class cuisine, Peru has the perfect blend of sights and activities for those seeking a meaningful travel experience. I spent two amazing weeks there in June 2016 with my husband and two teenage daughters. Here are tips to help you plan the perfect Peruvian adventure. Continue reading

The Hofsas House in Carmel-by-the-Sea: Perfect Location for the Perfect Price

A trip to Carmel is a true family affair.

A trip to Carmel is a true family affair.

Carmel is one of our favorite weekend getaways, in part because we’re able to bring our dog Lucky and make it a true family affair. Lucky adores every moment of it – from the winding car ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains and our early morning walks to the local coffee shop (where even he gets a treat), to his favorite Carmel hangout, the beach!

The downside of Carmel is the cost. This coastal gem may be priceless, but it’s also pricey, especially if you want to stay in town to be close to the boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. While there are many unique and wonderful places to rest your head in Carmel, the really nice ones will cost you $300 and up.

A few years ago though, we discovered the very affordable, family-run Hofsas House. It met my seemingly pie-in-the-sky criteria of being within walking distance of town and cost less than $200/night. It’s not the most luxurious place we’ve stayed, but as the expression goes, “location, location, location!”

Retro-alpine charm defines the Hofsas House décor.

Retro-alpine charm defines the Hofsas House décor.

The Hofsas House is located on San Carlos Street, just a couple of blocks from the main drag and is about a 15-minute walk to the beach. It’s quiet (as is most of Carmel), and from the hotel’s upper levels on a clear day, you can catch a slice of the ocean and one of Carmel’s hallmark sunsets (assuming you’re not at the beach, which is THE place to be for this event!)

Carmel's famously spectacular sunsets draw huge crowds every evening to the town's beach.

Carmel’s famously spectacular sunsets draw huge crowds every evening to the town’s beach.

Turning onto San Carlos from Ocean Avenue, you can’t miss the bubblegum pink building with its kitchy alpine accents. The hotel was built in the 1940’s by the owner’s grandmother, Donna Hofsas, and much of the décor is reminiscent of this earlier generation. Gradual upgrades are being made, so a room might have new granite in the bathroom, but wallpaper and bedding that the late Grandma Hofsas probably picked out!

While the Hofsas House may not be the Four Seasons, the combination of quirky charm, friendly staff, and affordable rates, makes it one of the best values in Carmel. It’s an especially great deal for families because many of the hotel’s 38 rooms are so unusually spacious; they even have a few connected rooms with kitchenettes that we’ve booked when my parents were in town. Imagine four adults, two kids, and one dog being able to stay in downtown Carmel for about $250 (total for both rooms!). It’s pretty much unheard of. There’s free wi-fi and delicious homemade pastries for breakfast. Some rooms have fireplaces and balconies, and there are dog-friendly rooms for only $25 extra per night.

One downside to the hotel is that it may not be the best choice for guests with mobility issues. Because it’s built on a steep hillside, getting from the street level office to the rooms and parking lot requires climbing lots of stairs and navigating a bizarre labyrinth of exterior hallways (yes, it’s all part of the charm!) The walk to the shops and restaurants in central Carmel, while just a couple of blocks, can also be a tricky because the sidewalks are uneven and not well lit at night (nothing to do with the hotel of course.) None of this was an issue for us, but it was for my mother-in-law when she joined us for one of our visits. It’s definitely something to consider.

To get the best room for your situation, it’s best to call and speak to someone in person or check out the room descriptions on the hotel’s web site. Enjoy!