Tag Archives: beach

Nags Head, North Carolina MUSTs

3 Jan


RelaxInn B&B  – We LOVED this place.



Sam & Omie’s Restaurant – We LOVED this restaurant.  It has a nice neighborly atmosphere.  I recommend having your drinks and food at the bar.


–  Fat Boyz Ice Cream & Grill

Pamlico Jacks – Beautiful sunset.



– We liked hanging out at the beach near Jennette’s Pier.


– Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial and fly a kite.


– Shop at the outlets in Nags Head, NC.

– Walk around Manteo, NC.

– Visit the beach near Oregon Inlet Fishing Center and on the side of the camping area.  We bought snacks and waters for the day at the fishing center.

– See the house that was used for the movie “Nights in Rodanthe.”   The Inn is in Hatteras Island, NC and can be rented.

Cape Cod MUSTs

3 Jan

Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod – The wine tastings are $10 per person and you try 5 wines.


White Crest Beach in Wellfleet, MA – the cliffs and beach are beautiful.

The Beachcomber – It’s a bar & restaurant in Wellfleet, MA.  The drinks are great and the nachos are even better!

Cape Cod Chip Factory – The tour is really not all that great since you just walk down a hallway while looking through windows into the factory and reading the history of the factory.  However, at the end you can buy a lot of different types of Cape Cod chips that I have not seen in stores.

Provincetown – Visit the art galleries, walk around, and see a show.


Eat dinner at the Lobster Pot in Provincetown, MA.  I don’t even eat seafood and I loved the food here.

South Africa and Mauritius Itinerary

10 Dec

Are you interested in traveling to South Africa and Mauritius?  Well, check out my 2 week itinerary!

Day 1:  Depart for Cape Town.

Day 2:  Arrive in Cape Town.  Hotel:  An African Villa.  Transportation from airport provided by Discovery Tours.

Day 3:  Cape Point morning tour with Hylton Ross (penguins, Cape of Good Hope).  Lunch at V&A waterfront (in particular, the market).  City & Table Mountain afternoon tour with Hylton Ross of Cape Town including Table Mountain, Camps Bay, City Hall, a market, and Malay quarter.  Dinner at V&A Waterfront.



Day 4:  Great White Shark cage diving with Great White Shark Tours.  4:10am pick up.  Returned to Cape Town around 3pm.  Dinner near hotel – Sawadee (Thai food).


Day 5:  All day wine tour with lunch through Wine Flies.


Day 6:  All day Cape Town cultural and Robben Island tour through Hylton Ross.  Visited District Six Museum, Langa Township, and Robben Island.  Dinner at Raj in Camps Bay.


Day 7:  Depart Cape Town for Kapama Game Reserve.   Hotel:  Kapama Karula.  Afternoon game drive.


Day 8:  Morning elephant-backed safari.  Afternoon game drive.


Day 9:  Morning game drive.  4+ hours at the spa.  Afternoon game drive.


Day 10:  Morning game drive.  Afternoon depart for Johannesburg.  Hotel:  D’Oreale Grande Peermont.


Day 11:  Depart Johannesburg for Mauritius.  Hotel:  Sugar Beach Resort.


Day 12:  Beach day.


Day 13:  Beach day.


Day 14:  Catamaran – snorkeling, see dolphins, visit an island and lunch.


Day 15:  Beach day.


Day 16:  Depart Mauritius.  Return home.   7 hour layover in Johannesburg was spent exploring airport shops, lunch at City Lodge Hotel, and working out at Phela Live Wellness Centre.

Day 17:  Arrive home.


Our Honeymoon to South Africa and Mauritius

2 Dec


I created a video of our honeymoon to give you an idea of what can be done in two weeks in South Africa and Mauritius.   Soon I will be posting our itinerary and more detailed information about each of the locations.  Stay tuned to CourtneyMara.com!

Iberostar Rose Hall Suites Review

1 Jun


Arrival/Check In – B

We never got a welcome drink!  We also arrived at 1pm and were not able to check in until 3pm.  This is one of the few times where a resort really has not allowed us to check in before the designated check in time.  However, you are allowed to enjoy the resort (including the restaurants) until check in time.  You just leave your luggage at the front door with the bell hop.

Resort – A

Beautiful grounds, beach was beautiful, lazy river is super lazy, but still a ton of fun to go around with a big group, the pools were awesome, there were always activities going on from dancing next to the pool, volleyball on the beach, volleyball in one of the pools, etc.  The lobby and other areas inside the resort are very classy.


Room (Oceanfront) – A

The beds were comfortable, the balcony was huge and had a gorgeous view.  I only turned on the TV once but was able to find our home baseball game on and the show “Friends.”  The shower and tub are big.

Nightclub – A

Best all inclusive night club I have ever been too.  Good music, fun lights, big bar.


Breakfast Buffet – A

Lots of choices and really good.  Great fruit, bacon is crisp, and LOTS of fresh juice choices.

Lunch Buffet at Aunt Rubys – B+

Food was good, just not so many choices.   Although, my brother was able to get a huge turkey sandwich one day, which I don’t think is that common at all-inclusive resorts.  Convenient location (next to beach).

Dinner at Aunt Rubys – B

My pork was ok.  My husband and his mom didn’t like the tenderloin.  Most everyone else seemed to order the rib eye and really enjoyed it (it was HUGE).  Plus, the dessert was the best for any of the restaurants.  I LOVED the apple pie.

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Dinner at Calabash Gourmet Restaurant – C

My husband’s steak was really good.  The lamb was only ok.  The appetizer of asparagus soup was really good and so was the salad they gave us.   My husband who is the pickiest eater and doesn’t like to try new things even liked the asparagus soup.  The dessert they gave us was some chocolate soft thing – it was terrible.


Dinner at the Mexican Restaurant – A-

Loved the special tacos.  The appetizer bar is really good with a lot of Mexican and non-Mexican options that I almost didn’t need to eat the meal.  The dessert table was really lacking.  Nothing I wanted to eat.

Dinner at Iberostar Rose Hall Beach’s Japanese Hibachi Restaurant – B

The atmosphere and experience deserve an A, but the actual food deserves a C.  The chicken was really good, but the rice was burnt and the steak was terrible.  SAM_6370Pool Bar – A

The drinks were great.  I recommend the Dirty Banana.

Beach – B

Beautiful.  I just wish there was more room to swim out and around.  There are a lot of parts with seaweed or maybe it was coral – but where you couldn’t swim too easily.   Lying on the beach is awesome though.  Lots of shade and sun areas.


Pool – A

Multiple pools.  Lots of activities.  The pools really made my husband and me into pool people.


Water Activities – B

The kayaking is fun and relaxing.  Just reserve it in the morning for your afternoon time.  Parasailing was $120 per couple.   Our friends liked the sailing which was free.


Spa: A

Get a long massage!  I had the best massage I have ever had and I tend to be picky about massages.  Plus, the atmosphere they have in the room and rest of the spa makes you feel that you are at a five-star spa.  Also, they have spa pools that are free to use.  Check them out.

Fitness Center:  C

We didn’t use it because I like to run with a TV and they didn’t have it set up so you can do that.  I remember there being one TV, but either you couldn’t see it from the treadmills or there was no noise.

Assateague Island, MD

22 Jun

A few weeks ago Matt and I camped with some friends at Assateague (MD).  It is an island near Ocean City that is a state park on the Maryland side and a national wildlife refuge on the Virginia part.  However, the island is most well known for the wild ponies.

You are able to camp on the Maryland side and there are great facilities and campgrounds that include a picnic table and fire pit.  For anyone that likes to camp, I highly recommend this adventure. Click here for information on the campgrounds and to find out how to book a site.

The activities on the island could include swimming, reading on the beach, walking, running, fishing, and much more.  It is a perfect place for people that just love to lay on a nice beach and not have thousands of people, noise, and boardwalks.


12 Jun

I lived in Brazil for a year from 2003-2004 and I traveled back to Brazil for five weeks in 2007.  I have seen a lot of the country, but I still have a lot more to see.  Here are my recommendations of the MUST SEE spots in Brazil:

Iguacu Falls:  Cute animals.  Beautiful waterfalls.  Easy to get to Paraguay for a day of shopping.

Sao Paulo:  Huge city.  Tons to do.  Recommend exploring for at least a day!

Santos, Sao Paulo:  Beautiful beach town with few non-Brazilian tourists (since most everyone goes up to Rio).  Highly recommend.

Northeast Brazil:  If you love beaches and culture then you must head to the northeast of Brazil.  I especially love the state of Bahia.  Amazing culture, beaches, and food.  MUST MUST MUST!

Rio:  MUST SEE.  Obviously go to Sugar Loaf Mountain.  Hang out on the beaches.  Just explore!  Amazing city!

Florianopolis, Santa Catarina:  Another amazing, beautiful city that does not get a lot of non-Brazilian tourists.  There is an island and main land and so much to do including eating seafood, sand boarding, and tons more.

Curitiba, Parana:  I love this city.  Not a huge tourist destination, but nice to visit if you have time.  Can get really cold in winter.

Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais:   Must see if you like history and/or historical towns!  Lots of culture here!

Enjoy Brazil!

Virginia Beach, VA

2 Jun

Every summer Matt and I go to Ocean City, MD for one night – just to get away.  Well, this summer we decided to switch it up and try Virginia Beach, VA.  Neither of us had ever been there so we thought it would be a great, new ocean adventure.  We booked one night at the Econo Lodge on the Ocean and drove down the four hours from DC.

Things to know about Virginia Beach, VA:

  • If you need some place quiet, reasonably priced ($200/night holiday weekend in summer), conveniently located (on the ocean with balconies – if you are a non-smoker – see our view below), and you are ok with a motel, then the Econo Lodge on the Ocean is a good option.  They offered us free bikes to use one hour a day, which was an added bonus.
  • The boardwalk has great biking and walking paths that are separated so you don’t have to worry about hitting anyone.  The boardwalk is three miles long, so it is very bike-able and there are no real “boards” that are coming apart or nails sticking out so it is also walk- and run-able. We spent a lot of time just walking up and down the boardwalk exploring.
  • If you are used to Ocean City, MD or Atlantic City, NJ, get ready for a completely different layout of a beach town.  The cheesy beach shops, eats, and amusement rides aren’t really on the boardwalk.  Instead, they are on a street over called Atlantic Street.   The actual boardwalk is a lot cleaner, smoother, and really just has the hotels with a few hotel restaurants.  Different layout, but easy to learn – just walk the boardwalk for relaxation and walk Atlantic St. back to see all the shops.
  • If you like frozen yogurt, try Sweet Frog.  It was the BEST frozen yogurt I have ever had.
  • There are A LOT of free events in the summer.  The one night we were there, we were able to see two outdoor concerts (there were more, but we only went to two of them) and watch a movie on the beach.  Check out the schedule that they post near the beach and in their local magazine and take advantage!
  • Beach chairs near the ritzy hotels are more expensive.  Two beach chairs + an umbrella in front of our motel was $39 for the day.  The same set up a couple blocks down in front of the Hilton was $50 for the day.
  • Nightlife:  We were told about “the block” where the 21 age group goes = around 21st Street.  We were recommended to go to Calypso.  It was ok.  Can’t really speak to any of the other places.
  • Parking in the Hilton parking garage for the day is $10.  The Hilton is on the beach, so it is a great location.

Enjoy Virginia Beach, VA!

Things To Do In Miami by Jeff

27 May


  • The Catalina Hotel on South Beach has a free happy hour from 7pm-8pm.  All well drinks are free, so throw ’em down before dinner.
  • Miami restaurant hot spots ($$$$) are: Joe’s Stone Crab (now in season if you like crabs), Prime 112 (steak), Nobu (japanese), and Barton G’s (high end continental with great presentations)
  • A Fish Called Avalon is right on Ocean drive and has really great seafood.  If you can sit outside, they have a great live band and is also great for people watching.
  • Walk around Lincoln Road for lunch/dinner.  Menus are all outside and many times the owners come up and try to convince you to eat at their restaurant.  Just go for the type of food you want and/or the best people watching spot.   Make sure to catch some street performers.
  • On the way, stop by Espanola Way  just before 15th street (if you’re heading north) between Washington and Drexel.  There is a great Spanish tapas restaurant on the corner called Tapas and Tintos.
  • Late night food: Best sandwich I have had on Sobe (and maybe ever) is from La Sandwicherie on 14th and Washington.  It’s open until 6am.
  • The nicest part of the beach (not sure where your hotel is) is up by 15th and ocean or down by 1st, 2nd.  If you’re down by 2nd, make sure to stop by the famous south beach establishment Big Pink’s for whatever type of food you can imagine because they’ve got it all.
  • Wet Willie’s is an icecream shop for frozen alcoholic beverages. Do it! At least once.  As the great Ludacris says “if you wit me ain’t no time to sleep, especially at Wet Willie’s on Miami Beach.”
  • Jazid has great live music
  • The Room is a great little bar with an amazing selection of beer on tap.  Then head to Primo’s pizza for the best slice on SoBe.
  • In terms of clubs, as I was leaving school in May 2010, the hot new clubs Liv and Louis.  Liv is the most exclusive.  Set is also really cool.  Mansion is the big ticket.  I’ve also been to Cameo.  These are both huge, impersonal clubs, but if you just want to dance you’ll have a good time.  There will be promoters trying to drag you into their clubs, and a lot of times they can get you in at a reduced cover, if that’s something you want.


  • My favorite restaurant (both for the food and value) is Perricone’s in Brickell.  Perhaps one night, make a reservation to sit in their outside deck where they sometimes will open up the roof on a nice night while a jazz band plays from the second floor loft.  Really amazing setting.
  • Then there are a number of bars where most young professionals hang out at (i.e. Irish Pub, Blue MartiniTobacco Road (oldest bar in Miami-but not centrally located), and for a great view of Brickell (on the Miami River), head to Waxy O’Connor’s.  I would cab to Waxy O’Connor’s though because the neighborhood becomes dicey along the walk.
  • If you want an “authentic” Miami club experience, try taking a cab to Gloria Estefan’s Bongos (it’s close to the American Airlines Arena).  It’s more of a Latin crowd, along with Segafredo’s in Brickell.


  • The best Cuban food I know of is Havana Harry’s (located by University of Miami) and Versailles if you’re feeling adventurous and want to cab to Calle 8.


  • Monty’s in Coconut Grove for happy hour (I would suggest going Friday).  ½ price drinks and raw bar, tiki set up on Biscayne bay, music, etc.  (4pm-8pm)
  • Beach at Key Biscayne (South)


  • If you happen to be there for a full moon, head up to the beach on  82 and Collins (North Miami Beach) around 10-11pm for the monthly drum circles.  it is usually just a random group of people with drums, fire dancers, singing, screaming, whistles, dancing, drugs, booze, and oh-the police generally come and break it up but don’t give too many problems as long as you’re respectful!

Hard Rock Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) REVIEW

12 May

Matt and I celebrated his golden birthday (27 on the 27th) at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  We had an amazing time and wanted to share our experience with you all.  So, the following is our review of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana (& related trip features):

AIR TRAN:  We flew with Air Tran.  There were no films and two of the flights they seated us separately (thankfully the first one we were able to move, but the second one we had to sit with someone between us who refused to switch with us – didn’t make sense, especially when we offered for him to sit next to his wife, but oh well).

AIRPORT:  The line to buy the tourist card was a bit chaotic with people cutting in line, but it all works out once you realize that you can cut the line as well.  After that, it was smooth sailing, even with getting a cab.

CURRENCY:  If you buy Dominican pesos at the currency exchange, make sure to use them all.  I exchanged US$100, saved the pesos for an emergency, never used the pesos, and then exchanged them back for dollars upon return to the airport.  I only got back US$67!!   I lost $33!!  Don’t do what I did.  The cab we used accepted dollars.  The hotel accepted dollars and had a currency exchange.  Next time I will be all in or all out (in other words, only use pesos and use them all, or no pesos at all).

PUNTA CANA:  Beautiful beach.  Matt and I want to retire there.  Such a calm, beautiful place.

PRICE:  The hotel was A LOT.  However, I really wanted to stay there so I didn’t fuss about it.  And, some thing that did help us out was the $750 resort credit that we were given.  We used it on a special bottle of wine, a nice painting that is now hanging in our bedroom, a massage for Matt, a pedicure for me, and for two excursions (we only ended up taking advantage of one of them).  Do realize though that prices at the hotel for non-all-inclusive items are ridiculous!   For example, the same sunscreen I bought at CVS for US$11 was US$50 at the hotel!!  .

HOTEL GROUNDS:  Absolutely amazing!  Well maintained.

ROOMS:  Amazing!  We had a huge jacuzzi in the middle of the room.  The shower was its own room.  The only compliant I have is about noise.  They didn’t create thick enough doors/walls.  We could hear everything, including the next door’s TV.  For someone that is a light sleeper, bring ear plugs!

NIGHTLIFE:  The performances at the theater are disappointing.  Oro, the nightclub, was super nice but it was disappointing that the night club was not included. We paid US$40/pp.  We did get to see a Reggaeton concert that was really great.  Besides going out to the club, there are a lot of bars.

ACTIVITIES AT RESORT:  There were a lot of activities during the day, including beach volleyball, beach soccer, dance classes, live music, mini golf, and much more.  Lots to do during the day.  Night time there is not so many options.  The performances in the theater were terrible.  But, we were so tired after a day on the beach that we didn’t need much besides dinner.

GYM:  HUGE!  There were a lot of machines and workout classes.  However, I did not understand the need for all the TVs when there was no way to hear the TVs.

SPA:  Matt loved the spa. We used resort credit for his 50 minute massage.

SALON:  I used resort credit on a pedicure.  It was amazing.  They gave me hot tea, put a warm pillow around my neck, and gave me a foot massage.

CASINO:  If you like casinos, there are quite a lot of options.  However, we did not have any winning hands on this trip.

ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE RESORT:  The resort credit can be used on five different excursions.  We ended up booking the horse back riding on the beach and the snorkeling excursion.  We ended up skipping the snorkeling excursion because we just did not want to get up early (hey, it was free!), but we did do the horse back riding one, which was totally worth it.  The guides were super helpful with the horses and made us feel confident.

POOLS:  The lazy river was ok.  The adults only pool was really nice especially with the hammocks and beds.  We didn’t really go to any of the other pools because we were in love with the beach.

BEACH:  Absolutely breathtaking.  One of the best beaches I have ever been too.

Let’s talk about the RESTAURANTS:

BEACH/POOL BAR:  The food and drinks ordered at the pool were awesome for lunch and snacks.  The food and drinks ordered to the beach were ok, but the frozen drinks turned liquid quickly.

DELIs: We actually did not eat at any of the delis.

ICE CREAM:  Not so great.

CIAO (Italian):  The pasta we had was made by using a huge parmesan cheese wheel.  Super good!

IPANEMA (Brazilian):  We hated this place.  We didn’t really like anything there.

ISLA (Caribbean):  Great breakfast!  We only ate breakfast there.

LOS GALLOS (Mexican):  Great hosts.  Great entertainment (tequila man, singers).  This was one of our favorite restaurants.

PIZZETO (pizza):  If you think that no one can mess up pizza, think again.  This was terrible!  The food was so crappy that we left half way through the meal and went to the Italian restaurant.

THE MARKET (buffet):  We only ate breakfast there.  Great breakfast!

TORO (American):  We only ate lunch there but it was great.  Lots of options.  And, the chimichanga was amazing!  Favorite food I ate.

ZEN (Japanese):  Best meal!  Chicken, beef, shrimp (for Matt), rice, spring rolls, and more.  Yummy…

IN-ROOM DINING:  We only ordered chocolate cake and it was terrible!  Yucky!

Will we return to Punta Cana?  Yes.  For sure.  Will we stay at the Hard Rock again?  If there is a good deal.