Buzzin’ Around Cozumel in our VW Bug

Beyond diving, the highlight of any visit to Cozumel is jumping into one of the island’s convertible VW Bugs and driving the southern loop road.

You might assume that world-famous Cozumel is loaded with perfect white-sand beaches. Bizarrely, it’s not. Quite apart from the mainland, much of western Cozumel is dominated by narrow, grainy, gold-sand beaches, rocky coast, and mangroves. Those postcard moments are spread out around the island and you have to drive if you want to see them.

With the wind in our hair, we bounced from beach to beach and explored some of Cozumel’s very modest Mayan ruins. Portions of Cozumel are Continue…

Nomads of Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

We won’t claim Playa del Carmen is an undiscovered gem known only to a few. It’s not. The once pristine backpacker hideout has exploded into a sprawling city which in some ways rivals Cancun in terms of tourist overload. Expat housing developments, malls, posh restaurants and designer shops have replaced the solitary dune-backed beaches of yore. There’s even a huge Walmart!!!

So why does the town pop up over and over again on so many travel blogs from Wandering Earl to Never Ending Voyage to Travel with Bender? The answer to that question is that the town Continue…

The Glamorous Life

Cancun beach

TnT at a resort in Cancun? Yes, in the name of a long-overdue honeymoon, we decided to indulge in the more glamorous side of travel. We booked four nights at the beautiful Royal Islander on a gorgeous stretch of Cancun’s epic white sand beach. The water is insanely blue and the white sand runs for miles.

Of course, although this is an unofficial honeymoon, we made sure to do our blogger research. We tested the pool, the beach chairs, and the tropical waters. We sampled the margaritas, the piña colada, the mojitos Continue…

Re-Learning a Valuable Lesson in the Costa Brava

Llafranc harbor, Costa Brava

I’ll admit that before I came to Catalonia, I had a rather bad impression of the Costa Brava. (We all have our prejudices, right?) Having lived in Germany for many years, I associated the area with mass tourism, package holidays and overdevelopment.

So you can imagine my shock as we sailed the beautiful, rocky coastline between Palamós and Llafranc past isolated coves, golden beaches, cliff-top villas, weatherworn castles, lush forest, and picturesque fishing villages. It was NOT the picture I had in my mind. And the water in those coves was like liquid glass. Pure fantasy.

Descending in Llafranc, I hiked a portion of the perfectly manicured coastal trail that runs the length of Catalonia connecting its coastal towns and villages. It was all just so Continue…

Ocean Beach

Locals and visitors alike often bemoan the fact that old-world California has been lost under a cement sea of commercialization and homogenization which has eroded the once-so-famous California character. While there is some truth to these complaints, islands of “real” California still survive. One of my favorite is Ocean Beach.

For Thomas and me, Ocean beach is a ritual that goes way back. We always start with early-morning coffee and donuts at one of our favorite San Diego institutions, O.B. Donuts. We proclaim O.B. Donuts the best donuts in all of San Diego – it certainly has the most eclectic mix of customers. (Sometimes, in Tibet or Sumba or some other exotic location Continue…

Home Exotic Home

On ContemporaryNomad.com, we’re used to showcasing exotic destinations around the world. But today, these scenes are from my home turf in La Jolla, California. I grew up hanging out at the beaches in La Jolla, I went to La Jolla High School, and I worked in La Jolla for years. Somehow, after years of living abroad, my home seems like an exotic destination in Continue…

Bali Pictorial

Those who know us well – especially fellow nomads – have expressed surprise that we spent so much time in Bali, a destination they associate with package tourism and sprawling resorts. In all honesty, I avoided Bali on my first trip to Indonesia ignorantly dismissing the island as little more than tourist central. But guess what, Bali is beautiful.

While it’s true that portions of Bali have embraced the dark side of tourism and a visit to Kuta can leave you cringing as hordes of drunk Australians stumble their way through the streets, the larger island provides plenty of room for off-the-beaten-track exploration. There is much to discover here: Bali’s unique Hindu culture and architecture is visually stunning; colorful festivals and parades occur throughout the year; the sand runs the spectrum from powder white to glistening gold to charcoal grey to jet black; and the lush tropical center of the island provides for great walks. Perhaps the greatest discovery for us was that the scuba diving is absolutely world-class (and I don’t say that lightly.)

We liked Bali so much that we decided to put together a pictorial to share some of the island’s unique beauty. (I’ll admit the pictorial is a bit culture heavy, but – hey – how many more pictures of rice terraces can we post?) 🙂

Sumba’s Lonely Beaches

Few tourists make it to Sumba’s cultural sites – and even fewer to the island’s stunning beaches and world-class surfing spots. Largely unexplored by tourists, vast stretches of undeveloped, golden sand beaches line the shore. And they are eerily empty. As you can see in the picture above, Tony and I were the only people on Pantai Marosi in western Sumba – the void seemed to go on for miles. Needless to say, that’s how we like our beaches. 😉

But the lack of roads and beach access as well as limited public transportation can make visiting the coastline quite a challenge. We rented a motorbike and, in between village visits, took several side trips to the coast. More often than not, we had to meander along sandy dirt tracks to get to the actual beaches. And once we got there, we couldn’t really spend too much time frolicking before we had to turn around.

In all of Sumba, coastal accommodation is limited to a couple of seasonal, high-end surf resorts and two or three very rough homestays. Until more accommodation arrives, day trips out of Waikabubak, Waingapu, or Waitabula are the best way to enjoy western Sumba’s lonely beaches.

One Rockin’ Beach

I do wonder sometimes if it’s all worth it. Our recent face-off with a bunch of immigration bureaucrats, the ethical dilemma of visiting a whaling village, and our grueling overnight ferry trip left me a bit down in the dumps. So it came as no surprise that I reflected on those experiences during our latest outing in Alor.

“Why do we put ourselves through all of this?” I contemplated aloud as we walked along the forest trail. But the moment I uttered those words, the most amazing beach came into view. “That’s why,” Tony announced.

The unnamed piece of paradise, about 30 kilometers from Kalabahi in the southwest corner of Alor, was the ultimate reward for a few days of discomfort: beautiful white sand, a giant mushroom-shaped rock, and pristine, crystal-clear water perfect for snorkeling.

But that’s just the nature of travel, isn’t it? For every amazing thing we see, there’s an obstacle (or a dozen obstacles) that we have to overcome. In the end, it’s that very challenge that makes the reward so much sweeter.

Blue at Blue Stone Beach

On our way from Riung to Moni, we broke up the long journey at Blue Stone Beach on the southern coast of Flores. Famous for the colorful baby blue rocks which wash up on a stretch of black volcanic sand, the beach is featured on every tour itinerary. Blue Stone Beach, Blue Stone Beach, Blue Stone Beach. It sounds incredibly exotic. I couldn’t wait to see this masterpiece of nature.

But it wasn’t there.

Dozens upon dozens of Indonesian entrepreneurs Continue…