National Parks Visit

December 17, 2008

For those who love nature and would like to visit some national parks (Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Point Reyes, Channel Islands…), it is advised to buy the anual pass, for a $80 fee (available at any park entrance).  This pass was released last January 2007 and gives you access to all national parks (400!) and federal parks (like Muir Woods) across the United States for a one year period.   This pass is nominal (you write your name and the name of your partner) and gives free entrance for the entire car whatever the number of passengers.


Otherwise, each time you want to enter a park, you pay a fee per car valid for a couple of days (between $20 and $25 for national parks and less for federal parks).  In other words, as soon as you visit 3 parks in a year, it is worthwile to subscribe to the anual pass.

Tip: In order to prepare your visits in the national parks, official web sites (National Park Service US departement) are gold mines.  Go simply to your favorite search engine, type in the park’s name and check that the address starts with


Hawaii : Big Island

September 11, 2006

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We just spent a wonderful week in Hawaii. We went in Big Island as we are told the nature is still unspoiled in comparison with the other islands. We took a flight from San Francisco to Kailua-Kona (on the West coast of the island). We booked a rental car for the week at Hertz (Alamo is less expensive but the service at Hertz is excellent and we have corporate rates with them). We drove directly from the airport to Hilo (2,5 hours drive) on the East coast.

At Hilo, we stayed 3 nights in Dolphin Bay Hotel (which is the best deal in Hilo according to Lonely Planet). This family-run hotel owns comfy apartment units with full kitchen. Fresh-picked fruit from the backyard and free morning coffee are available to guests. From Hilo, we visited:

  • Volcano National Park: we spent a full day in the park which contains Kilauea, the youngest and most active volcano on earth. The landscape is amazing with dozens of craters and hardened lava. To visit the park, you will drive 2 roads:
    • Crater Rim Dr circles the crater of Kilauea. The drive with stops will take you an hour.
    • Chain of Craters Rd leads to the coast, ending at the site of the most recent lava activity. It will take you 3 hours down and back, with stops along the way.
    • Tip: Go to the visitor center to ask updates on volcanic activity and trail conditions.
    • Tip: Don’t expect to see geyserlike fountains of lava. From near the end of Chain of Craters Rd, you might see ribbons of lava pouring into the sea or only steam clouds. If you go after sunset, you might see red lava in the night sky.
    • Tip: Don’t forget your binoculars.
  • Akaka falls: very impressive waterfalls.
  • 4-mile scenic drive: don’t miss the 4-mile scenic loop between Honomu and Hilo (on Hwy 19 between the 7 and 8 mile markers)
  • Rainbow falls is worth seeing for the massive banyan tree next to the falls.
  • Boiling pots: water cascades swirling in bubbling pools.

After 3 days, we went back on the Gold coast (West coast) which is reputed to be sunny the whole year. We were in Mauna Kea Beach hotel which owns the most beautiful beach of the island. It is a paradise for swimming and snorkeling. We saw sea turtles but missed manta rays. Mauna Kea Golf course ranks among the top 10 courses in the world.

Tip: at Mauna Kea Beach hotel, make the reservation by phone and ask for corporate deals. As our employer company is listed on their corporate list, we got a discount of 35% on a mountain view room. If you can afford for an ocian view room, we can tell you that’s worth!! You will have a full view on the beach and sunset…

Tip: Mauna Kea hotel is a sister hotel of Hapuna Beach prince Hotel. Guests may benefit amenities of both hotels. Free shuttles transport guests between the two (10 min drive).

Tip: If you play golf, don’t miss the Mauna Kea Golf course. Guests pay green fees of $130.

We didn’t get time to visit Mauna Kea (astronomical observatories) and Waimea Valley … maybe next time!

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Day trip: Point Lobos

August 18, 2006

You don’t know what to do this WE?

Point Lobos is a great State Reserve where you can hike, watch whales (when you are lucky – from January to April), look to sea lions or seals.

On the central coast of California in Monterey County, the entrance is located three miles south of Carmel on Highway 1. Click here to see on the map.

When we were in  Point Lobos in February, we saw a group of whales passing along the coast. It was quite impressive to see their blows. There are several hiking trails following the shoreline and leading to hidden coves.

Tip:Don’t forget your binoculars to watch the sea lions and the grey whales.

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San Francisco

August 14, 2006
  • We visited the Golden Gate Bridge by bike. It’s amazing and worth to do it. With Blazzing Saddles, you rent a bike in Fisherman’s Warf (you have other choices if you want) and bike the bridge to Sausalito/Tiburon and return via Ferry. It is 8 miles/13 km to Sausalito and the ride is fun for beginners to advanced.
  • You will have a astonish 360 degrees view on San Francisco from the Coit Tower. The tower can be reached by foot from Fisherman’s Warf.  It will cost you 3.75$ to go to the top of the tower.
  • Another “incountournable” is the Painted Ladies in Alamo square at Steiner and Hayes streets. These colorful Victorian houses with the San Francisco skyline in the backdrop have graced many postcards.
  • You don’t have to miss a ride on the cable car. What we suggest to friends coming to San Francisco is to start at Powell Street Station and go until Ghirardelli Square. On the way, stop to the Lombard Street to see “the crookedest street in the world”.
  • Alcatraz Island, famous penitentiary, is worth to visit because it’s a myth (Al Capone was prisoner there) and for the view on San Francisco City. The visit takes a long time (2-3 hours) because of the boat trip. Alcatraz cruises is the exclusive provider of transportation. Ferry starts from Pier 33 (new!). We recommend you to buy tickets on internet to avoid sold-outs and crowds.

Tip: Download maps of San Francisco and coupons (it will save you dollars for attractions, bike rental, restaurants,…) on Bay city guide.

Tip: Because of the wind, fog and other ocean currents, San Francisco might be cold!  especially if you come from other places in the valley that have a very warm climate.  Make sure you bring some warm clothes with you!


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View from Coit Tower      Painted Ladies                Alcatraz