Happy New Year!!!!!
Oh 2016, what a year you were! We had our good times and we had our great times, and then we had those confusing well-gee that was super awkward and now what should I do with my hands times, but then again, doesn’t everybody? No? Just us. Weird.
We’re really looking forward to all our travels in 2017, but it would just seem wrong to roll the calendar over on 2016 without taking a good look in the review, relive a few memories, and share with you the best of the best from this year’s fantastic trip around the sun!
The Best Of 2016
The Best Hike: Juan Diego Falls, El Yunque National Forest
Nike’ our host at El Escondido Guest House, tipped us off on this secret little local gem of a hike. Nearly every well known waterfall in the rainforest we visited was jam packed with people- walking out of the serenity of the rainforest to the seclusion of this gorgeous fall without another soul in sight was like walking into Neverland its self. This is an experience we’ll never forget.
The Best Paddle: Weedon Island Preserve, Pinellas County Florida
We spend a lot of time talking to locals. While sometimes you’ve just got check off that touristy “to-do list” ( we all do it) it goes without saying that talking to locals almost always lands you in some of the coolest spots. That’s how we found Weedon Island Nature Preserve. We paddled through mangrove tunnels, hung out with manatees, and had an incredible time.
The Best Beach: Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel Island Florida
If you’re a sea shell horder and or have a general solid appreciation for these magnificent little wonders of nature than this is the spot!! I think we would have been content to have done nothing more on gorgeous Sanible than to browse the beach and waters of Bowmans for treasures!
The Best Camping Spot: Fort Desoto Park, St. Pete Florida
Nestled into the heart of one of the Gulf Coast’s very best county maintained parks is this perfect little campground that makes biking to the beach easy, and has access to paddling trails around every corner. If you’re planning a trip here ( and we really think you should) BOOK WELL IN ADVANCE, these spots are hard to get, and if you’re brining a 4-legged friend with you, the few pet friendly sites they have are always in high demand!
The Best Hotel: El Convento, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Have you ever wanted to describe something and thought, “damn it, the right words just don’t exist”. That pretty much sums up our stay at this magical hotel. Right in the very heart of Old San Juan housed in what once was a nun convent, this is five star luxury perfection and beyond. All I can really say is you just have to pack up and stay there to really understand what a visit to El Convento means.
The Best Burger: The Mac and Cheese Burger at The Copper Bull, Navarre Florida
This is our serendipitous addition to the list. We didn’t plan it, in fact when we stopped here for a quick bite, I was so hungry and tired that I think if DJ had said, ” lets go chew on some old shoe leather” I would have been ok with that. The very first night we slept in Johnny Utah was spent in Gulf Breeze/ Navarre Florida, where we purchased the van… the part of town we found ourselves in, well lets just say there wasn’t a whole lot there- except for this teensy weensy, little building on the side of the road putting out the most delicious smells ever. This juicy half pound or my case quarter pound hunk of yumminess was topped with THE BEST mac and cheese and piled into a bun. Yeah, it was pretty awesome.
I’ve talked about this pizza a lot on our posts about our trip to Puerto Rico. I don’t know what kinda magic they did to make this pizza taste the way it did, but damn and I glad they did it. Its late December as I type this our trip to PR was in July, and I am still dreaming about a slice of this!
The Best Beer: Stone Imperial Russian Stout, On A Nitro Pour
We snagged this little sip of heaven while visiting with family in Morehead City, NC over Thanksgiving. The Down East NC area has for a very, very long time in this admitted foodies’ opinion been in desperate need of a good brewery/ pub. They finally got that in Tight Lines Brewery- offering their own small batch brews along with an array of other tasty ( not their own) options on tap you can try one or pick 6 for a flight to remember- thats how we stumbled on the Stone Imperial Russian Stout- when poured on Nitro…. yum.
The Best Cocktail: Quinepa Margaritas at Prillo Pizza Rustica, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Are you tired of hearing about this place? Please tell me no. Seriously, Prillo Pizza Rustica won us over with their chorizo pizza and they completely stole our hearts with this Quinepa Margarita. Made from “Puerto Rican Limes” – they look and taste nothing like limes- this is a specialty drink I would think can only be gotten in some very special places around the world. If you go, you need to get one!
The Best Restaurant: Prillo Pizza Rustica, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
It’s already hit our best list twice, and we did break one of our golden rules of travel (never repeat a place) in going back to this more than once while we were in Old San Juan so naturally there is no avoiding naming this as our best restaurant of 2016! Anything and everything we ate there was amazing. I would go back to PR just to eat here again.
The Best Bar: The Rail Pub, Savannah GA
When we decide to sit still, Savannah, is where we sit. And when we want to sit still with a frothy beverage from a seedy looking bar in the heart of one of the South’s most beautiful city’s we do it at the Rail Pub. It’s not fancy, and it’s not pretty, but we love it!
The Best Adventure: Diving Desecho Island just off of Rincon, Puerto Rico
We love to dive, and we’ve dove in a lot of places. But few can top our amazing experience diving Derecho Island. This tiny little hill of an island just off of Rincon, PR was once an US military testing ground and has in recent years been cordoned off as a National Wildlife Sanctuary . You can’t step foot on the island, but take some time to explore the waters below and we can promise you, you won’t be sorry. We dove with Tiano Divers in Rincon. The crew was amazing, the dives were beautiful, and our fellow divers were wonderful!
The Best Wildlife Encounters: Grayson Highlands State Park, VA
Can you imagine a magical place with rolling hills, beautiful tree lined mountains and wild ponies roaming free? If you can than you’re probably imagining Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia. We got to hang with the wild ponies of Wilburn Ridge as the sun was sinking low in the sky, the whole experience was one of those moments where you look around and are so incredibly grateful just to exist to experience things like this.
The Best Sunset: Rincon, Puerto Rico
Key West is our home away from home. Long known as the home the sunset, in our minds it is mighty hard to top watching that beautiful ball of light dip down below the water line in any other place, but Rincon, PR just might beat it. Might. If you’re ever in town wander to the Rincon lighthouse and celebrate the end of a day well lived watching this miraculous scene.
* Travelers Tip: If you go in April you might also catch a breeching migrating whale in the background!
That’s a lot of best’s! We are so incredibly grateful for another trip around the sun and all that it has gifted us with. Celebrate your wins with us! What were your bests, we want to know so we can add them to the “to do” list for 2017!
Grayson Highlands, VA
Cumberland Island, GA
Gulf Breeze, FL
Outer Banks, NC
Saint Petersberg, FL
St. Augustine, FL
Jekyll Island, GA
Hunting Island, SC
Cocoa Beach, FL
Sanibel Island, FL
Pittsburgh, PA ( before the year is over)
Asheville, NC ( squeezed this one in just before Christmas)
Key West, Florida ( a post Christmas/ New Year’s getaway)
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