Summer vacation in Tahiti: 5 reasons to visit French Polynesia’s Tuamotu Atolls

If you’ve had enough with the recent onslaught of wintertime blizzards, you’re probably ready to start your summer vacation planning. How about jetting off to a part of French Polynesia that few travelers ever visit?

Considered to offer a number of the best diving sites in the world, the Tuamotu Atolls are some of Tahiti’s lesser known islands. These remote atolls, most specifically Rangiroa and Fakarava, possess all the exotic charm of Tahiti and Bora Bora, but they have the distinction of featuring a few activities the others don’t. Since summertime in the northern hemisphere is the dry season in French Polynesia, June through August is the perfect time to plan your visit.

If you aren’t enticed just yet, then consider these five reasons to visit the Tuamotus when finalizing your summer vacation plans this year.

Visit a Winery

How about sipping wine from a winery located in the midst of a coconut grove, flanked on one side by turquoise lagoons and the deep blue ocean on the other? Rangiroa is home to Vin de Tahiti, one of the world’s most scenic wineries. While these wines may not be on par with your favorite Chateau in Bordeaux just yet, they are well-crafted and the views are unsurpassed.

Try a Drift Dive (or Snorkel)

It may surprise you to learn French Polynesia’s seemingly tranquil waters can also pull some hefty currents. Just outside the reefs await extraordinary underwater adventures. Jump in and let the currents take you on a magical journey immersed with vibrant colored corals, thousands of schooling fish, and if you’re lucky, perhaps even a hammerhead shark. And don’t worry, the boat is right there to pick you up once your adventure ends.

Learn about Tahitian Pearls

Interested in Tahitian Pearls? Take a tour of one of French Polynesia’s best known Pearl farms — Gauguin’s Pearl. After the tour, visit the store to purchase loose or set pearls to take home with you.

Rest assured, this is not your typical tourist trap — there’s no obligation to even set foot in the store. However, if you’re interested, they have competitive prices, and most importantly, the pearls come certified. Don’t fall for the scam of buying uncertified loose pearls — they will be confiscated if you try to leave French Polynesia with them.

Visit a Coral Church

Fakarava is home to the first island church built entirely out of coral back in 1862. Today, the outer structure still remains and is quite a sight to behold.

Go Fishing

If drift diving didn’t satiate your craving for adventure, the Tuamotus also offer world-class fishing. While you cannot fish within Fakarava’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the surrounding waters are rich with options — try deep sea or spear fishing, jigging, and more.

Rangiroa and Fakarava are both easily reached from Papeete, Tahiti, by either a one hour flight or as part of a cruise itinerary. Check Air Tahiti Nui for airfare specials from Los Angeles (main US airport servicing Tahiti) or visit Paul Gauguin Cruises for upcoming summer discounts.

5 Ski Adventures for Summer Vacation

Learned some new ski moves over the winter and concerned you may lose them over this year’s summer vacation? While many may try to escape the blizzards and cold this time of year by planning a warm, tropical summer vacation, those who just can’t seem to get enough of the slopes and snow have plenty of “winter” travel options for the upcoming summer travel season.

Here are 5 summer travel destinations that will keep you strapped into your boots and hucking airs throughout the entire summer season.

1. Queenstown, New Zealand
Boasting arguably the best powder in the Pacific, the town of Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island is the region’s unrivaled adventure sports capital during both the winter and summer vacation periods. Set along the spine of the Southern Alps, resorts such as Coronet Peak and The Remarkables operate throughout the North American summer, well into late September and early October. Meanwhile, the fabled slopes of Wanaka’s Treble Cone are only an hour’s drive away.

2. Bariloche, Argentina

How can you not visit a town where the only thing more famous than the ski adventures is the endless amount of chocolate? While the town of Bariloche is a popular summer vacation getaway for those in nearby Buenos Aires, during the ski season travelers from all over the globe flock to resorts such as Cerro Catedral, which is located a mere 19km from the nightlife and chocolate shops of the Bariloche city center.

3. Portillo, Chile

Only a 2 hour drive from the international airport in Santiago, no conversation of skiing in Chile is complete without mention of Portillo. Perhaps South America’s most well known ski resort, Portillo offers 35 runs that range from beginner to heli-skiing options, and the hotel associated with the ski resort is notorious for its homegrown Chilean atmosphere.

4. Falls Creek, Australia

Another summer vacation destination for local Aussies during the warmer months, during the beginning of June this section of Australia’s highlands becomes blanketed in white. The nation’s largest alpine resort, Falls Creek offers everything from downhill skiing to cross country terrain, and is located just 4.5 hours from Melbourne’s international airport.

5. Mt. Hood, Oregon

The only year round lift-serviced ski resort in the United States, Oregon’s Timberline Lodge offers summer skiing options for those in the States who may not have the time or travel budget to venture far from home. While the glacier offers spring-like snow conditions throughout the entire summer travel season, public access is somewhat limited due to the large amount of summer camps taking place on the salted slopes.

10 summer trips to America’s greatest natural treasures

A visit to a national park conjures up views of lush landscapes, dramatic skylines and lines of honking cars. While the National Park Service estimates that nearly 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year, you don’t need to join the throng to experience a national wonder. Consider visiting one of the following American treasures instead:

1. Arches National Park/Canyonlands National Park
A trip to Arches National Park and the nearby Canyonlands National Park in Southwest Utah can feel like visiting another world. This high desert is home to odd red-rock formations, vast canyons and some of the most delicate flora and fauna. Take a guided tour and learn about cryptobiotic soil, a black crust that covers much of the desert floor but contains live organisms that are vital to keeping the desert healthy.

2. White River National Forest
Home to the Colorado ski resorts of Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge, eight wilderness areas and Gold Medal trout waters, the White River National Forest is an outdoor sports enthusiast’s playground. Backpackers can explore the national forest by reserving a hut trip through the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.

3. Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Located in Southeastern Missouri, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways are known for their clear, clean water, elaborate cave system and eight spring water systems. The national park is nestled near the Mark Twain National Forest and the Ozark mountains.

4. Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Since its dramatic eruption on May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens in southwestern Washington has become one of the most studied volcanoes in the world. Visitors can hike and climb the mountain. Take a guided tour and learn more about how volcanoes work.5. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is located in a remote area near the Minnesota-Canada border. It is a beautiful, tranquil area meant to be navigated by canoe, so those looking to visit a park by car will need go elsewhere. But if you are looking for adventure, some prime fishing and a cool refuge from the summer heat, the Boundary Waters has much to offer.

6. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
The Appalachian Trail is more than 2,100-miles long and wanders through many of the states on the Eastern seaboard. One of the best ways to access the trail is by going to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in West Virginia, which also is home to several Civil War battlefields.

7. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Located in western Texas, the Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to a stark, dramatic desert landscape, an interesting array of plant life and fossilized reef. There’s plenty to do here for hikers and campers. It’s also within driving distance for many Americans living in the Midwest.

8. Everglades National Park
Best known as a home for alligators and snakes, the Everglades in southern Florida also are unlike any other national park. The swampy, grassy wetland is easy to tour by foot or canoe. It’s also home to several endangered species, including the manatee. A guided tour can help ease any jitters about alligators, while also help to guarantee that you’ll see one.

9. Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park offers a great escape from the hectic pace of Southern California’s cities. Located off the shore from Santa Barbara, the boat ride to the islands alone makes the trips worth it. Expect to see dolphins chasing your charter boat and if the timing is right, you may even see a few whales. The Channel Islands are home to bald eagles and sea lions. The best way to tour the islands is by sea kayak.

10. Acadia National Park
Located on Maine’s southern rugged coast, Acadia National Park is a haven for outdoor recreation enthusiasts looking to beat the heat and the crowds in many of the country’s national parks to the West. You can canoe fresh water or take a kayak along the Atlantic shoreline, or hike along the coastline bluffs.

Tamara Miller is a writer based in Portland, Ore.

Obamas will spend summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard

When you’re the President, it’s easy to vacation in style. And that’s just what President Obama plans to do this summer. The President and his family are renting a secluded 28.5 acre retreat called the Blue Heron Farm in the small town of Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard.

The waterfront home has a main house, 5 bedroom guest house, and a small boathouse on the water. The grounds feature a 300-yard fairway and putting green, basketball court, vegetable garden and reconstructed Pennsylvania barn. There’s also a private saltwater pond, beach, pool and dock, and a catamaran and several kayaks for the Obamas to use.

The house, which was sold in 2005 for over $20 million, is the second most-expensive piece of real estate ever sold on Martha’s vineyard and is no stranger to Presidential visits – the previous owners hosted the Clintons in 1998.

There’s no word on how much the property rents for, but comparable houses cost $35,000-$50,000 per week. The rental fee will come out of Obama’s pocket.

[via New York Post]

Road Trip Forecast: The Cost of Gas

This news from CNN shouldn’t be surprising or
shocking. Vacation drives are looking to be a lot more expensive than last year, with regular gas averaging at 25 cents
higher than 2005. However, AAA predicts folks
won’t be cutting back
on driving and that the summer travel season will be a busy one. Now I’ll leave it right
there for now in terms of what they’ve got to say. We all know what the situation looks like in our own neck of the
woods, so you tell me how the gas is affecting your travel plans. Is it? To some, 25 cents is quite a hike, especially
if you’re trying to push your vehicle coast to coast on I-10. That kind of money adds up. Should we not even bother to
think or worry about the gas cost and take the scenic route on our summer drives? For those of you who find money an
issue and are unwilling to compromise your dreamy drives down the unknown road, here are a few money and gas-saving

Before the Trip:

  • Air filter -Make sure your air
    filter is clean. Air filters are easy to check and change and can help the performance and economy of your vehicle by
    allowing good air flow to the engine.
  • Tire pressure – Tires that are under-inflated can
    cost you 2 to 3 MPG and then some. Keep a reliable tire gauge handy and be sure to keep tires inflated properly.
  • Rims – I highly doubt many of you will be taking to the highways with 24" chrome and
    spinners on your wheels, but should that be the case you may wish to reconsider. If the rims widen the tire stock you
    could decreasing fuel economy by creating more rolling resistance. (See
  • Evaluate your load – Clean out your car before adding all your travel necessities. Roof racks and carriers can help provide additional space, yet
    keep in mind they decrease your fuel economy by 5 percent.
  • Vehicle selection – Sure you’re
    only using your summer whip for a couple of weeks, maybe months, but when it’s time to rent or take one of your vehicles
    aim for the one with the best fuel economy. Use to find and
    compare vehicles. The extra hundred dollars could become quite useful elsewhere.

During the

  • Slow down – You’re on vacation, there is absolutely no reason to
    rush, plus traveling 55mph gives you 21% better mileage.
  • Roll down the windows
    Gasp! No A/C? Mother Nature’s air is often the best kind of air to help give your vehicle a break. Consider keeping the
    A/C off a good portion of your trip when driving at reduced speeds around town or in city traffic.
  • Keep the A/C going – Confused? Well, many studies show that keeping the A/C going isn’t all that bad when driving at increased
    speeds on highways. The air conditioner will still consume fuel, but having the windows up will decrease the drag on
    your vehicle created from wind resistance.
  • Gas purchases – Always try to buy gasoline
    when it’s cooler. notes that gas tends to be densest
    during the early morning and late evening, where gas pumps measure volumes of gasoline, note densities of fuel
    concentration. You are charged according to "volume of measurement."
  • Brand and
    – Don’t be fooled into thinking high
    octane gasoline
    is going to give you stellar mileage or performance. While very few cars require the use of premium
    gasoline, most vehicles only need regular to fill up the tank. When in doubt, thumb through your owner’s manual.
  • Carpooling and friends – A road trip wouldn’t be a road trip without a few close pals.
    Bring them along and plan to save on fuel together.

After the trip make plans to do it all over again
and if you’ve got a few tips of your own pass them this way.