Jan 172011

The last time we were in Orlando we took a day out from making the rounds at Disney World and hopped a cab to Discovery Cove.  It turned out to be a magical day playing with dolphins, swimming with stingrays and relaxing in the most amazing lazy river we have ever experienced.   If you are planning a spring trip to Orlando consider splurging on a day at Discovery Cove.  Our teen and tween thought it was the highlight of the week.

A Quick Discovery Cove Overview

For those not familiar with Discovery Cove, it is an idyllic, all-inclusive, capacity controlled resort that features a 30-minute dolphin encounter, up close and personal snorkeling and swimming with tropical fish, stingrays, and sharks and interactions with free flight exotic birds in a state of the art aviary.  The price of admission also includes  all  required equipment and meals – just bring your swim suit and sun tan lotion.  Rates range from $199 to $299 a day per person during the winter and spring depending on demand.   Rates are lower for kids under 6, who are not permitted to swim with the dolphins, or for anyone else who opts out of the dolphin encounter.

The Beach, courtesy Discovery Cove

This is one resort where it is definitely worth booking ahead to make sure you get the day you want.   In planning your visit to Discovery Cove we recommend booking your dolphin encounter early in the day, when you don’t have worry about tearing yourselves away from something else and will have plenty of time to find your way around the complex.  Check in begins at 8 am and we arrived shortly thereafter.  We were able to find appropriate wet suits and get our bearings and still be in one of the first groups out with the dolphins.

Small groups of 6 to 8 people venture into waist deep water to touch and kiss the well trained dolphins.  Then its into the deeper water for a little bit of a ride.  We found the trainers to be very friendly and helpful.  And we had plenty of photo opportunities as well.    After the dolphins it was on to snorkeling and swimming with the stingrays and multiple trips around the park in the lazy river.

Swim with the stingrays, courtesy Discovery Cove

Coming Soon – The Grand Reef

It has been about two years since we visited Discovery Cove so we were excited to learn that the resort will be expanded in June 2011 with the addition of The Grand Reef, which will provide new opportunities for both shallow and deep water animal interactions.  The most unique element of The Grand Reef will be the SeaVenture underwater walking tour wearing dive helmets to allow for extended underwater encounters.

Discovery Cove frequently offers discount ticket packages that include passes to one or more of its sister parks:  SeaWorld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens and Adventure Island.  You can have a whole week of water adventures with this family of Orlando Parks.  The teens and tweens are sure to love them all.

Orlando Things To Do on raveable

Place of Refuge – History and Tidepools

 Posted by on December 23, 2009  Comments Off
Dec 232009

     This is another in our Top 10 Hawaii posts.   The Place of Refuge is a sacred historic site located on Honaunau Bay south of Kona and 4 miles North from Kealakekua.  In ancient times Hawaiian sacred laws, the Kapu, were harsh, and the penalty was frequently death.  If an offender could reach the Place of Refuge before being arrested, he would be set free. 

The wooden statues set the tone

Since the only undefended access was across a shark infested bay, few were successful. 

The Walking Tour

     The site offers a self-guided walking tour of restored walls, buildings and life size wooden gods.   The inner Great Wall 10 ft high and 17 ft thick.   Large green sea turtles, locally known as Honu, frequently pull up onto the beach to rest and sun themselves.

The sacred wooden statues at the Place of Refuge

Tidepools Hold Teen’s Interest!

     To be honest, the actual historic site was not real interesting to our teen and tween and after a short walk through the grounds they were ready to head out.  Given that the Refuge is a bit off the beaten path we had brought a cooler and lunch and took advanatge of the very attractive picnic area that is part of the grounds.  The tables are shaded with a delightful view of the ocean and lava rock tide pools. 

      It was those tide pools that held our kids interest!  They spent at least an hour climbing around the rocks and pools investigating.  

Tide pools held more interest than historic sites for our teen and tween

     The grounds also include a rustic 2-mile trail blazed in 1871, known aptly as the Trail of 1871.   A good snorkel spot, know as Two-Step, is located just outside the grounds. 

     As usual on the Big Island, bring sunscreen, lots of water and be flexible.  Having our own picnic and an easy going schedule that left us time to enjoy the unexpected tide pools made this a highlight of the trip

Family Snorkeling – Big Island of Hawaii

 Posted by on December 23, 2009  Comments Off
Dec 232009

This post is another in our Top 10 Big Island Adventures for families with teens and tweens.  You can also check our Big Island Overview for additional ideas! 

     Kealakekua Bay located south of Kona is a pristine, protected Marine Life Conservation District and is truly a snorkeling paradise.  It is also the location of the death of Captain James Cook in 1779.  A white obelisk on the shore marks his death.    

The Captain Cook Memorial overlooks beautiful Kealakekua Bay

The Bay abounds with marine life including a number of species that make coral their home.    

Turtles, Fish, Dolphins and More!

     We saw sea turtles, moray eels, and a wide range of colorful reef fish and schools of dolphins.  The Bay is usually calm and the water temperatures are comfortable.  The water ranges in depth from 5 to over 100 feet.

     In order to protect the environment very few boats are permitted to anchor in the bay.   Kayak and snorkeling gear can be rented nearby but be sure you understand restrictions on land access.  In order to protect the fragile environment the state limits where you can put ashore.  Strict rules are also in place to protect the sea turtles and dolphins and you are asked to stay a respectful distance from both.

Snorkeling Trip Options

     The site is accessible via a number of chartered boats that range in size  from the large, Fair Wind II catamaran party boat to small 16 seater zodiacs offered by such firms as Captain Zodiac.  We opted for the Dolphin Discoveries tour as it left earlier than many others and allowed us more time in the Bay before it got crowded.

Checking out the lava cliffs on our way to the Bay

     This was an adventure that the whole family really enjoyed.  Number One son opted to explore the Bay on his own, spending a lot of time watching sea turtles.  Hockey princess explored the whole Bay with mom and dad.  Most boat trips include all snorkeling gear and many offer extra flotation devices for those who are not strong swimmers.   Larger boats will offer a full lunch while smaller ones will offer just drinks. 

     The trip from Kona was beautiful and included views of cliffs pock marked by lava tube caves.  The spinner dolphin pod, including a baby, that followed us back to Kona was a special treat.   Bring sun tan lotion and a towel and be ready for a great day.  This is a MUST activity for families that enjoy the water.

Hawaii’s Big Island Top 10 Adventures

 Posted by on December 15, 2009  Comments Off
Dec 152009

     It is hard for even the most jaded teen to be untouched by the beauty and mystery of Hawaii’s Big Island.  From volcanos to hiking, snorkeling, beaches, swimming, and of course shopping there is something for everyone. 

Top Ten Activity Links

     If you want to learn more we have created a post with details, links and pictures for each of our top 10 activities so click the links below to learn more.  We are also providing some book recommendations at the bottom of this post if you need more resources to help plan your own trip.  Enjoy! 

Please add comments or links to your own favorites below