let freedom ring!

is anyone else obsessed with facebook memories or google photos rediscover?
both of these features help me remember what has happened on this day last year, two years ago, five years ago, etc. it has made me even more nostalgic than i already am. i am a sucker for reminiscing.

google photos reminded me that three years ago we spent fourth of july in tahoe, two years ago we spent it in pismo beach glamping and last year we celebrated in mexico. where were we this year you ask?


we spent this fourth of july weekend in the great state of montana.
the weekend was filled with family (all of b’s extended family came), guns, bbq, boats, atvs, kick ball, fireworks and mosquito bites.
so american of us, right?

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it was the greatest escape. we flew into idaho falls and then drove two hours to b’s uncle’s ranch which is close to jackson, montana. ever been to jackson? it is a town consisting of one street and a couple businesses. doesn’t get more small town than this!

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the sky feels a little closer and life is a little simpler. those clouds reminded me of wyoming.

oh and we may have gotten lost on a hike. let’s just say we were off the beaten path and my shoes may or may not have been covered in mud and i may or may not had bug bites all over my legs by the end of the hike. but, it was a memory i will always remember. it was a day with my people.


i am blessed to live in this beautiful country. happy birthday, america!


City Guide : Cartagena, Colombia (Part 2)

now that i got your stomach full of amazing colombian food, let’s talk about the best things to see and do in this coastal town.



Ciudad Amurallada – or in other words, the walled city located within cartagena.it is a protected part of the city so the buildings are the same style as they were many years ago. we roamed the city for hours.



San Felipe de Barajas Castle – castle = fortress. it was built by the spaniards and used to protect the people from attack. it was positioned on a hill so they could be defensive from the land or the sea. a deeper history of the fortress can be found here. admission fee is about $8 USD/person. bring water!


Plaza Santo Domingo – there are a number of darling plazas within the old city. they offer great people watching and dining options! the feeling of walking through these squares at night was one of the things i wish i could bottle up and save. the city was so was alive! the plazas are lit up and there are many street performers and artists lining the streets.

Cathedral de San Pedro Claver – we saw two weddings occur in this cathedral in one night so i guess it is a hot spot among locals as well. i enjoyed walking along the square and admiring this stunning church that was built over 400 years ago. it was named after pedro claver who dedicated his life to the protection of african slaves. this building embodies everything good. b and i not only went inside to see the alters but we attended a portion of one of the weekly services. i was in complete awe of the inside and outside of this cathedral. i get it locals, i would think about getting married here too.
oh and horse drawn carriages trotting around the premises? swoon.



Plaza de San Diego – oh just another plaza i enjoyed walking through. i recommend walking through all the plazas because they represent the feeling of the city so well.

Iglesia de la Trinidad - my second favorite church. cathedrals are sprinkled within old town and i enjoyed checking out each of them.


Convento la Popa de la Galera – what do you know — another church! this one is set on the highest hill in cartagena and is outside of old town so you will need to hire a taxi to get there. convento la popa de la galera offers the best views of the city! there is a fee of about $3USD/person to enter.

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Free walking tour of old town – there is a free walking tour of old town that covers most all the sites i recommended. it is a guided tour so it was fun to hear the city’s history from a colombian. sign up for your tour in advance!

Island hopping – salesmen hang out by the docks and entice you to book a trip to one of the surrounding islands. we are all for island getaways so we decided to try it out. we picked a package that included lunch and a stop over at the aquarium. the island was a little packed with tourists but we found a quaint spot we liked. there were some beach vendors offering to do massages so be sure to be firm if you are not interested. i thought it was a fun experience but not sure i need to do it again. unless we upgrade to the private island destination ;)

Oceanario Colombia (Aquarium) – we stopped over at this aquarium on the way to the island. it was a unique aquarium in that all the sea life was in the ocean and so they had more room to swim around. you could also “make out” (as b likes to say) with a dolphin for $10 USD. It was not seven minutes in heaven but it was at least four. i thought it was well worth it even though i was the only adult in the line hahaha.





so can we all go to cartagena now? i am telling you, it is bliss.

City Guide : Cartagena, Colombia (Part 1)

cartagena, colombia is not the most conventional place to vacation to. i received many puzzled looks and probing questions about what made us decide to spend christmas in colombia.

would you believe me if i told you that colombia has been on my travel list for quite some time? you see, i grew up listening to wonderful and frightening stories of the country. stories about the amazing and also stomach churning food, the welcoming people, the vibrant cities and the scary situations you can find yourself in. my dad lived all around colombia for 2 years in the 70s. he lived in bogota, barranquilla, ibague, bucaramanga and cartagena. colombia will always have a special place in his heart. it is the place he grew up and found himself. it is the place he lost a couple of toenails (long story). it is the place that helped him to see how much god loves him. and because of this my heart has always been curious about colombia.

b was a little apprehensive about traveling to colombia. i will admit it holds quite the reputation for violence and drugs (just watch narcos). we decided to compromise and start out by exploring one city in colombia–cartagena. i very much hope to explore more!

cartagena is the fifth largest city in colombia. it is a coastal town with a carribean feel. there are brightly colored buildings, street vendors selling everything from hats to fresh fruit, large historic churches and a plethora of mini city squares/parks to enjoy. it is a vibrant city and i loved the energy that  i felt every day we were there. it is more quiet during the day because it is so hot but it really becomes alive in the early evening and into the night.
i felt completely safe everywhere we went. yes, we got completely scammed by some taxi drivers so i will give you some tips in those circumstances but overall the people were welcoming and accepting of my poor spanish.

one of my absolute favorite parts of cartagena was the food. i had some of the best meals of my whole life there. the prices for food can’t be beat which added to the deliciousness.



Mila – we were walking one evening trying to find a spot for dinner. i saw that there was quite a crowd for this place which made me curious. we grabbed a menu and decided to wait it out for a table. mila offers colombian cafe food with an assortment of pasteries. we sat by a couple of college girls who went to school in the states. they spoke perfect english and helped us with the menu a bit. they strongly encouraged us to try milo ( a chocolate shake type drink)– well thank you, sweet girls. my life will never be the same! we also tried arepas (corn pancake with cheese) and tacos. all the food was amazing! we may or may not have come back after dinner a second night to satisfy my milo craving :) .
the pastries looked delectable so i decided to try the cinnamon rolls. i hate to say it but, they were a let down after all the other things we had. maybe there is another pastry they are more known for?

Restaurante El Coroncoro – we stayed in the gesthamane district of cartagena so this restaurant was just a hop away from our hotel. it was filled with locals and the prices were so cheap (like $3 for an entree) so we decided to try it. b couldn’t stop raving. restaurante el coroncoro offers traditional colombian style food – meat or fish with vegetables, rice and fried plantains. nothing fancy but so tasty!
there is a similar restaurant located right across the street that serves the same type of food and was also good.  we preferred el coroncoro though.

La Plaetteria - the days are hot but the plaeta options are endless. stop by here for a quick treat to cool you down!

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Peru Fusion Sushi – another place that we just happened upon one evening. they serve amazing sushi and ceviche. everything tasted so fresh and was seasoned to perfection. it is on the smaller side so i would recommend reservations (we were very lucky to get in).

Cuzco – shout out to the college girls we met at Mila! i had heard of this place through my research and then they said it was their parents’ favorite place in cartagena so i knew we couldn’t miss it. cuzco offers amazing peruvian style food. we ordered a number of things (sushi, fish, ceviche, ice cream dessert) and all of it blew my mind. not a single item was below 5 stars in my book. it is a fancier place so no shorts are allowed and the prices are a little higher but completely worth it. it is still far cheaper than a similar style restaurant in the states!



i researched restaurants heavily via trip advisor prior to coming to cartagena. i have to say that none of the research really paid off. we went to one restaurant recommended online and were disappointed. it was mostly american food and definitely not worth the hype. prices were high too. we didn’t want that one instance to shape our experience so we tried two other highly rated trip advisor restaurants and studied the menu when we got there. it looked like more losers with high prices so that is when we took a different approach and decided to find restaurants based on what we saw. best thing we ever did!

next up, best things to do and see!

5 Reasons to Visit Cartagena

b just asked me, “would cartagena be in your top 5 places you have visited?” and i immediately answered, “yes”.

here are 5 reasons why you should visit cartagena!


1. cartagena is vibrant and visually stunning. the old town is a protected part of the city so it looks just the same as it did many years ago. it has large cathedrals, brightly colored balconies, perfect doors and an abundance of bougainvillea.






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2. there is always a slight scent of fresh arepas con queso (corn cakes with cheese) in the air. i can say without a doubt that i have had some of the best meals of my life in cartagena.

3. the people are so kind and welcoming. b speaks spanish but i just know the basics. i figured people would still know some english so i could get around. wrong! what a stupid american i am. the majority knew no english so i learned spanish as i went and the colombian people encouraged me every step of the way.

4.  there are gorgeous islands just a short boat ride away when you feel the need to escape the city.

5. the atmosphere. i took many videos because i wanted to remember what it felt like to walk around the city (especially at night). there was music playing, people dancing, lights twinkling, horses trotting. i wish i could bottle up that feeling. i will be back for you, cartagena!




hello there 2016

i know we are three months into 2016 but i think i am just now catching my breath and
welcoming the new year with open arms.

in january, i was able to travel down to southern california and visit my best friend in the hospital after she gave birth to her second daughter. i still can’t believe it — her second daughter. she is such a wonderful mother and i felt so lucky to be able to sit by her on her hospital bed and cuddle her newborn, lucy. it was the sweetest moment to be with someone i love so much on one of the biggest milestones of her life. i get chills thinking about it. i really hope she can sit by me when my day comes.


that same day, i was able to visit my two nephews while they were in town from colorado. i treasure every moment i have with these sweet boys because they are rare and they grow up so fast! i wish i could be there in their every day life but i will take what i can get. it was also amazing to be with my sister. my bond with my sisters is something i could never explain but will try. it is loyal, forgiving, encouraging, empathetic. it is constant and unwavering. it is passionate and intense.

getting too heavy for you? i think i may be getting too heavy for myself haha.

january ended by me giving my two weeks at my job to pursue a career at facebook. i am now a month into it and am still giddy when i think about it. what an incredible company!

in february, i learned to ski, took a calligraphy class, enjoyed a couple weekends with b’s family and hosted a galentine’s day brunch (thank you leslie knope).


last weekend, i traveled to phoenix to see my newest nephew, caleb, be blessed. it was great to have the family all together.

so many things happened the past 2+ months. when will time slow down?


City Guide : South Beach, Miami

miami has been on my short list for quite some time.
the south american + cuban influence , picturesque beaches and art deco architecture are a few reasons why i knew this city would be great — just didn’t know how great!

let’s jump to it – a 36 hour city guide with the best things to do, eat and see in sobe.

City Guide to South Beach Miami

6:30pm – dinner at colette little french bistro 

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miami is full of immigrants. like we literally did not speak with a single person who was from the states. i think that may be one reason why their food is so amazing.
my favorite cuisine is french and colette’s did not disappoint. the flavors, preparation and presentation were all on point (including a waitress originally from the south of france!). oh and do save room for dessert as their chocolate souffle was heavenly!

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side note… my guilty pleasure is bravo’s real housewives. anyone with me? i kept my eyes peeled the whole trip for a miami housewife spotting and although i did not see one i did run into a husband. remember frederic  (adriana’s husband)? well there he is in the corner. i sneakily took his picture because i was so excited. also if you remember, he is french which made me that much happier that he picked colette’s for dinner.
and then we took a selfie.

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8pm: walk along lincoln road
lincoln road is filled with great shopping, street performers and people watching.
on another note, b forgot to bring a swimsuit this trip and so we thought it would be simple enough to find a cheap swimsuit in the area. NOT! we went to miami in september (so technically after summer season) and there was not one swimsuit for men anywhere. we searched up and down lincoln road without success. there was plenty of options for women but not men. can you believe that?

10pm: ice cream at frieze ice cream factory

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9:30am: breakfast at yardbird southern table
yes, there is also a yardbird in vegas but i had never eaten at that one so this southern style restaurant was all knew to me.
located near lincoln road, yardbird southern table is the perfect brunch spot for benedicts, grits, chicken+waffles, homemade donuts and flaky biscuits.
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why yes, that is a perfect maple donut topped with bacon and a side of extra glaze.

11am: beach & bikes
soak in the ocean views in south beach but don’t forget an umbrella because there is no shade and that sun is strong! you can also rent an umbrella on the beach like we did but they will charge you an arm and a leg.
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the water is crystal clear and so warm. and those clouds? perfect beach day.
there are also bikes to rent all over south beach (sobe). it is a fun way to see the city but prices are steep.
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2pm: lunch at las olas cafe
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olas is not trendy or cutesy but it is good cuban food and the prices can’t be beat. we tried a traditional cuban sandwich stuffed with french fries, empanadas (best i ever had) and key lime pie (all of which i would recommend). it is walking distance from the main beach.

3pm: paddle boarding with miami beach paddleboard
so i found an amazing deal through groupon that pushed me over the edge to try paddle boarding — $10 for one hour rental with instruction. it was a no brainer. another bonus — we got to paddle around the bay of miami beach so it is easier to find your balance and the homes lining the bay are drool worthy.
i brought an underwater disposable camera (yes like the 90’s) and still need to get the film developed but trust me, paddle boarding in miami was awesome not to mention a work out!

7pm: learn the art of flying trapeze at the flying trapeze school
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yes, my hands had blisters after and yes, my arms were sore for a week but learning the art of flying trapeze was one of the biggest thrills. it was an adrenaline rush. i felt so alive and the team at the flying trapeze school were amazing instructors. i felt completely safe and like i was learning the true technique that circus performers use. it was also an added bonus that we were the only 2 to sign up for the class that day so we got to fly a number of times and see the instructors practice. definitely an experience i will never forget!
thanks to my older sister for recommending!

9:30pm: dinner at shake shack
i like shake shack. i have been to the one in new york and was excited to introduce b to the franchise. the burgers are good and very similar to in-n-out. the fries are easily forgettable but that shark attack concrete? heavenly. i like how shake shack has more options than just hamburgers and i feel like the food is very quality but, in-n-out will always have my heart in a burger taste off. i am a west coast gal, what can i say?


9am: breakfast at sofi cafe
after all the rich and heavy food, all i needed was a good acai bowl. that’s all i was craving and sofi cafe is just the place. i absolutely could not get over how darling the furniture was. it was definitely a spot where i would become a regular if i ever live in miami.
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after breakfast, we walked around south pointe park. it offers scenic views and flat paths. then you can walk back to main beach and grab some of the most amazing tacos before you head out of the magic city.

12pm: lunch at my ceviche
there are a few different locations for this place but we went to the one on washington ave. my ceviche is literally a hole in the wall but it offers the best ceviche and tacos! i got an ahi taco and octopus taco. both were fresh, flavorful and packed with fish (you get your moneys worth).
there is no seating but the restaurant (or food stand) is located next door to a hostel that offers outdoor seating if you order a drink from them. so grab your tacos from my ceviche and a drink from the hostel and bask in your last moments under the miami sun.

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miami was one of my favorite adventures.

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in preparation for any trip, i research (especially restaurants) for hours upon hours. i like to have lots of different options and then choose based on our mood. below are a few places i heard good things about but did not have a chance to try.
true loaf – cookies, pastries
puerto sagua – cuban diner food (my sister highly recommended but it was closed due to fire when we were in town)
pubbelly – asian fusion
a la folie cafe – crepes
joe’s takeaways – crab, key lime pie
oliver’s bistro – breakfast / brunch
athen’s juice bar
the bazaar by jose andres – spanish cuisine, tapas style
michael’s genuine food & drink – new american eatery
cena by michy - new american eatery

on a personal note, you may be wondering why we went to miami (and i want to always remember for our own history). i was getting a little anxious of my upcoming birthday. i had talked about how fun it would be to travel on my birthday as to keep me excited for this milestone and less anxious. b sure listened because i opened his card on my birthday that said “put together the puzzle to find out where we will continue the celebration of your birthday”. i couldn’t put together the puzzle fast enough. i jumped up and down. he provided a way then he let me still do my favorite part of traveling (research and make an itinerary). so here we are a month after my birthday in miami continuing the celebration. it is a memory i will cherish forever.
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a year in review : 2015

i was sad to see 2015 go.
i called 2015 the year of travel.
it was the year i promised myself to work out consistently and see more of the world. i am happy to say that i did both!

january :

date nights at the stanford theatre, oakland temple and go karting.
assisted in hosting a baby shower for a new friend.
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february :

said good bye to my little sister for 18 months as she went to serve the lord in houston, texas.
spent valentine’s day with my whole family eating chinese food and donuts.
my city hating husband surprised me with a staycation to san francisco. 
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march :

crafted my way through st. patrick’s day.
my second nephew was born.
got glasses – wait what? yah, i finally accepted that my vision was fading and i needed glasses (all in time for thailand).
traveled to the wonderful country of thailand where a piece of my heart will forever be!
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april :

said good bye to my sweet best friend. that little pup’s spirit will always be felt in my family’s home.
celebrated easter with my family and darling niece.
threw a french garden baby shower for my dear friend.
celebrated b’s birthday with donuts in bed, hikes, salmon and cuddle sessions. simple pleasures.
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may :

croquet dates in the garden
visits from b’s sister, brother-in-law & niece
visits from my sister and niece
celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary.
filled the house with fresh peonies

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june :

traveled to cody, wyoming to spend a week with my family
met my newest nephew, james
saw bryan regan live!

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july :

traveled to mazatlan to spend a week with b’s family
ate at gary danko’s with my parents (yes, it was a highlight)

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august :

celebrated my birthday with airline tickets, french gardens & bundt cake.
said good-bye to b’s brother for two years while he serves the lord in slovakia
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september :

spent labor day weekend in the city and ate my way through the city.
my niece was born.
traveled to miami to continue the birthday celebrations – lots of sun, trapezing & snacking.
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october :

camped in big sur
traveled home to attend the wedding of one of my oldest friends
dressed as queen mahal and taj mahal
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november :

s’mores and sunsets in half moon bay.
hosted my first thanksgiving.
my third nephew was born.
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december :

celebrated the life of donald kirk.
spent christmas in colombia & new years in panama.
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i got big plans for you, 2016.

october recap

how was halloween two weeks ago? i think i say this every post but time is just rushing by me as i am running to catch up.
this halloween was a mellow one. we went to a party the weekend before and then passed out candy to our cute neighbors on the day of. we also may or may not have binge watched walking dead (got sucked back into that show after missing 1.5 seasons).

as i mentioned previously, b recently took a trip to india for work. while in india, he picked up a few souvenirs since i am obsessed with all things indian. there is something about their vibrant culture that intrigues me. b knowing this, picked up a saari for me. a perfectly pink saari that made me feel like royalty. this feeling is what inspired me with our halloween costumes this year.
can you guess what we went as?

presenting queen mahal and her taj.

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the taj mahal was made for queen mahal by her husband. and i do think we represented them both quite nicely. what do you think?
few people got that i was queen mahal but usually recognized the taj fairly quickly.

what were some of your favorite costumes you saw this year?

until we meet again, halloween.
next year i promise to decorate the exterior of my house as much as the interior.

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falling into the weekend

i have been a bit mia this summer. it was a busy one filled with family travels, long work hours, birthday celebrations and summer loving. but let’s just pick up right where we left off, shall we? like that friend from middle school / high school that you haven’t seen in some time. you get a little nervous to reconnect and then once you start talking it is as if no time has passed at all.

i honestly can’t even believe it is already fall and only a couple weeks away from halloween. there are no truer words than ” the days are long but the years are short”. at least that is how i feel now.

facebook recently reminded me that it was 5 years ago yesterday that b and i took our first road trip to las vegas for fall break. one of my church leaders growing up always encouraged us to date at least four seasons and a road trip. i love this woman and cherished her guidance to me.

b and i took our first road trip in our third season of dating. it was only a 5 hour road trip but i do agree that road trips can let you get to know a person even better (especially if there are a few travel hiccups). this las vegas road trip made me further realize how lucky i was to be dating a man like b. we not only completely fit together in day to day life but we also vacationed the same way (lots of activities but a good amount of down time). i will never forget our week in vegas. i actually cried a little when we had to head back to salt lake city. i didn’t want to go home and be apart from him.
when we arrived back in salt lake city late that night i remember b dropping me off at my apartment. he grabbed my luggage and gave me a kiss at the door. then he said, “i just have to go home and drop off my luggage and i will be right back.” it was the best feeling to know that he wanted to spend every second of every day by my side too. happy to report that even after four years of marriage, the same is true.

sorry for the sappy post. b left yesterday for a work trip and i guess i am just missing him like crazy. i should be used to this by now but it never gets easier.

while b is away i decided to binge watch the mindy project and decorate our home for halloween. i have a few more things to add (there are pumpkins currently wet with paint in my backyard and i am trying to find a good hallows inspired drink stirrer) but so far i am pleased with the outcome and honestly all the crafts were so easy!


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those ghosts are just styrofoam balls, cheese cloth, string and brads.

i am still working on a costume this year. think i can top last year?
what are you being for halloween? have you started to check things off your fall bucket list?

Guide to Mazatlan, Mexico

hello again.
b and i returned from mexico a couple weeks ago and i have been playing catch up ever since.

it was a trip with b’s family and it was a great one.
b’s family loves mexico and loves all inclusive hotels/experiences. b was the one who introduced me to both (i had been to cabo before meeting b but that was it for mexico).
we went to cancun for our honeymoon and i absolutely loved it. those white sand powder beaches were a dream. b would go back to cancun every year if i let him but i am always wanting to go somewhere i have never been before. i live for the feeling of exploring the unknown.

b’s family decided this year, they would stray a little bit from the known cancun and explore the beaches of mazatlan. i had not heard a lot about mazatlan so i quickly researched everything there was to know about this old mexican city.
let’s dive right in, shall we?

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pueblo bonito emerald bay resort –  stunning all inclusive resort located about 25 minutes outside of the city. the grounds are gorgeous, the water warm and there are a number of pools to choose from.
i am not a lover of all inclusive experiences. i am a lover of food so i may be a bit bias but if we were to do this experience again, i think we would still stay at the hotel but not pay for all inclusive. yes, it is great to get all the food you want all the time but when the food is just decent, i would rather pick and choose my meals. pueblo bonito has two restaurants onsite and a couple more restaurants at their city location that you are also able to eat at. all the restaurants taste the same though. very ordinary food.
i will say, i did not have this problem in cancun because there were far more restaurants at our hotel to choose from and the food was above average. so i am not throwing away the thought of all inclusives all together!

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the grounds of pubelo bonito are stunning though and i think all food tastes a bit better as you eat it ocean side :)


plaza machado - central plaza located in the heart of the city that has the best restaurants in mazatlan. it is a vibrant square with beautiful bright architecture.
*i was only able to drive by because we were traveling with such a big group but would have loved to dine at one of the restaurants in the square. it was definitely one of the cleanest parts of the city.

cathedral of the immaculate conception – absolutely stunning cathedral located in the center of the city. we were lucky enough to visit during mass.
fun fact: this is the only catholic church to have a star of david featured in it. apparently, a few jews donated a large sum of money for the church to be built so the church council agreed to put the star of david in the church as a symbol of their gratitude. look carefully to see if you can spot it!

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el faro lighthouse – “The lighthouse has the distinction of being settled in what was formerly an island and has a length of 641 meters by 321 meters wide and a height of 157 meters, making it the highest natural lighthouse in the Americas and one of the highest operating lighthouses in the world.” it is a steep hike to the top but i read that the views make it worth it. we, again, saw the light house from afar but i would have loved to walk to the top (usually takes 30-45 min).

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cliff divers – caution! this may be a tourist trap but while in mazatlan, right? there are divers hanging around the rocks and they offer to dive 40 feet for you for $20. we were suckered in. the diver had to time it just right with the tide as to not dive directly on the rocks. it was pretty intense.



mazatlan is a place to relax. i was hoping to do a couple excursions but when you are with a big group it is sometimes just easier to hang by the beach and pool and play some games. so enjoy the warm pacific ocean and sip on your pina colada because if you are lucky enough to be at the beach then you are lucky enough (and even more lucky to be surrounded by people i love).


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mazatlan, you were fun to explore but i think one visit is good enough for me.