Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Palmetto Bluff, A Montage Resort set among 20,000 acres in Low Country ~ Bluffton, South Carolina

Money Magazine recently published a list of 25 of the Best places to Retire, Bluffton, SC was named one of them.  The Resort of Palmetto Bluff an entire 20,000 acres of land is literally a slice of heaven!

 According to the Palmetto Bluff information website, Natives came to settle on Palmetto Bluff back in 10,000 BC. To date,  archaeologists have found pieces of shells and pottery proving this fact. In fact, a Kayak tour out of Palmetto Bluff will take you to a small island which you will almost always walk away with a small piece of broken pottery from these times! It's pretty cool, I have one myself. The natives had landed here to harvest the area, fish and oysters.

In 1902, a wealthy banker by the name of R.T. Wilson from New York bought the land and built a grand mansion. The total history can be found on Palmetto Bluff's website at http://www.palmettobluff.com/about/history.aspx I highly recommend checking it out!

There is no way you can possibly explain this property to someone or even show pictures to really give it the true value it deserves. From the turn off the main road you see a very simple wooden sign not expecting it to be anything special at all. I really hope that sign never changes. It is about a 1 1/2 mile to the security gate. Once you are cleared to enter there is an unbelievably scenic drive about 9 miles long to reach the Inn.

We have been here a few times before and it always takes my breath away. The property used to be managed by Auberge.  We have been here once since it became a Montage property and everything seems to be going smoothly. From the moment we arrived at the Inn, we felt like we were home. The staff at Palmetto Bluff is always friendly and helpful.  Most of the staff know us by name and give us a wonderful warm, southern greeting. From bellman, to Concierge, to host/hostess, all wait staff and many many more.

On this last visit we rented cottage 33, it was on the inner water way. I would highly recommend when making a reservation to rent a cottage on the May River side if possible. They are all great cottages but the May River side is great this time of year, you can actually see teams of Dolphins swimming by. 

Golf Course

Momma Gator with babies on side of the golf course

View of the May River
The Inn at Palmetto Bluff

Whenever we have any wants or needs, they are immediately tended to. I had a service at the spa and that was great! I realize it's a temporary place while the new one is being built however, i found it to be very comfortable and relaxing! We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Canoe Club. It is always a great relaxing dinner when we visit. The staff, food, and service were all amazing. We ate at the River House a few times and we just loved it! We sat outside on the screened in porch and it was very comfortable. We were fortunate enough to be there as a new menu was rolled out. The Executive Chef did an amazing job! We really do look forward to visiting again!

The Ruins from the fire in 1926 of the original Wilson Mansion

Buffalos Restaurant

There are many activities for old and young alike at Palmetto Bluff. First of all, there are thousands of running/walking/biking trails throughout the property. A lot of the trails bring you through undisturbed preserved natural areas of beautiful, amazingly old trees, birds, deer and much wildlife. There is also two pools on the property, one is under construction at the moment but the other is near the Canoe club. I honestly cannot give an opinion on either one as I have never sat at them because we are always very active there. There are Kayak rentals available, Kayak tours, boat tours to different areas, paddle board rentals and I'm sure many more I am missing. There is a multi use studio which hosts classes such as yoga, spinning, etc. There is a bocci court in Wilson center, there is also a smaller tree house in the center near RT's Market. There are fire pits that are stocked with wood right outside of the main Inn available for guests use with supplies to make smores.

The Big Tree House at Mooreland

 On this visit we were fortunate to play golf. It was an unbelievably beautiful scenic course! We had just played in Kauai two weeks prior so it was something I was comparing it to. The huge live oaks with the moss falling from it and palm trees all around! The view is just spectacular! Our caddie, Ryan Meely was just amazing! I am a new golfer and had only golfed twice before, I was a little nervous about having someone with us the entire time! Ryan was great, he made me feel at ease and he was great about giving me tips to improve my game. We ate lunch at the golf club a couple times and both were great! I had the special open face turkey sandwich and it was amazing! The staff were all friendly and helpful. We ate breakfast and lunch at Buffalo's. We have always liked it there and this time was no different. Food, service, all top notch and staff friendly as always.

I do have to say one thing I have observed is the low turnover rate of the employees there and how much the staff really enjoy their jobs! To me this speaks volumes! There are many employees with 10+ years employment there and it appears everyone is happy with the transition to Montage. I look forward to being there in the not too distant future, in fact, my visit is already booked.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kauai "The Garden Isle", with beautiful waterfalls, scenic trails along the gorgeous Na Pali Coast!

 Kauai is my favorite island and I have been so fortunate
to visit here twice. It is amazingly beautiful with a floral aroma
throughout the island. We stayed in the town of
Princeville. It is so beautiful there on the north side
of the island. I would recommend visiting that
part of the island as it is so unique. The drive
from Lihue to Princeville is around one hour but
well worth it.

Kauai is the oldest of the islands and is the furthest away (if coming from the mainland). There is tropical forrest covering most of the area of this island. There are many trails, waterfalls, canyons and caves to explore. The friendly people of Kauai just can't compare to anywhere else! They make you feel welcome and really appreciate your visit!
 We stayed at the St. Regis in Princeville. I love this hotel and where it is situated. It is at the north side of the island and has just amazing views. If you have the opportunity to stay at the St. Regis, inquire about a junior suite with butler service facing Hanalei Bay.

This is the amazing view we had in our room. We saw rainbows every morning we were there. One morning we saw four! One day we saw a double rainbow. The greatest thing about staying in the Hanalei bay area is all the trails close by, water sports, boat tours to take you out to Na Pali Coast. There are many waterfalls, caves, swamp area that cannot be seen on foot. You need to ride in a helicopter or take a boat tour to get to them.

If you don't stay at The St Regis, try to get over there one night for sunset. There is a ceremony of sabering of the champagne bottle. There is a great place to hangout on the Makana Terrace. There is drink and food service available with plenty of great places to sit back and enjoy the sunset.

The main restaurant is the Kauai Grill. They are open Tues-Sat 5:30-9:30. The menu is great and food is just amazing! On Wed. nights there is a dinner show (hula type). We didn't attend but it looked fun.
The St Regis has direct beach access and a pool. Drinks and lunch are served at the Nalu Kai Grill.

This is a link to a time-lapse video taken by my husband during one of the sunsets!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Looking for a place to eat? Try Dukes in Ka'anapali, it has a fabulous view with great food!

Dukes is open for Breakfast, lunch and dinner. We went for a sunset dinner.

Dukes has an amazing view of the sunset from pretty much any table! I would highly recommend making reservations if you are going for dinner. 
We arrived for our reservations and the hostess informed us they would need our table at a certain time for a larger party coming in. She gave us multiple options which I thought was great. 
I found them to be very accommodating. 
There was live acoustic music playing which was very nice. The setting is right on the ocean with an amazing view of the sunset. I would highly recommend planning your reservation for at least 30 minutes before sunset. 
I recommend trying their local fish and local greens. If it is something you wouldn't normally try, give it a shot. I had some amazing local fish in Hawaii and I just have to say, there's no way I travelled half way around the world to eat Main Lobster! Go out on a limb! You wont be dissapointed! Food was amazing, Service Exceptional!

wine and cocktails while watching the sunset and listening to great music!
Banana Leaf Steamed Island Fish and Shrimp
Made in a Sake, ginger sauce, sesame oil, coconut milk steamed bamboo rice, black bean bok choy & mushrooms. Amazing!

Maui Farm Salad

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Amazing flowers and animals of Maui!

One of my favorite things I really enjoy when I visit any island in Hawaii are the beautiful flowers all around. It always amazes me that there will be beautiful wild flowers growing from a street sign or lava rock, for instance.

Orchid Petals



I love the fact that the Hawaiians take pride in their islands and really are grateful for where they live. When speaking with them I would say about 99% have lived there their entire lives and have no desire to live anywhere else. They know they live in a beautiful place and wouldn't want to change that.

Coconut Palm Trees

Hawaiian Ginger Flower

Orchid(I believe)

Maui Cows

Bird of Paradise

 The coral reef is amazing for snorkeling. We were very fortunate to see some vibrant colored fish and these amazing turtles that just swam with us and were not afraid of us as we approached them.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Road to Hana ~ My open, honest opinion with some pretty good pics.

I have to be honest, we didn't do a whole lot of research before setting out on our journey. I was told that the road was curvy (approx 650 total curves). I had no idea that it would be similar to a Pacific Coast Highway/Devil's Slide Northern Calif area type drive over and over for approx 7 hours round trip. All this with mostly no guard rail, 59 bridges (46 which are one lane), all dating back to 1910.
With this in mind here are a few things to keep in mind:

-  Make sure you have a full tank of gas!
-  Be prepared you or someone in your party may become car sick
-  Do your research before setting out on your journey!
-  Consider downloading an app with descriptions of Road to Hana-just be prepared there will be no cell service most the way!
-  Bring lots of water and a picnic lunch or snacks to eat along the way!
-  Bring hiking shoes, water shoes or teva type shoes, water proof camera if you have one, swimsuit, and towel.
- Be sure to leave early enough to ensure you will not be driving in the dark!

 You start out on Route 36 which then becomes Route 31. When we set out, we honestly didn't have the commitment to follow through with the complete drive to Hana. We talked about driving out to the twin water falls then coming back. We did know that the drive would be at least 3 - 3 1/2 hrs there if we did choose to do it. We were in a convertible camaro (rental car).  I would highly recommend driving a jeep for this drive! Of course, you have the option to take a tour. Many people like that then they don't need to worry about driving themselves.

 Another suggestion I have is to make sure you research which stops you would like to stop at prior to leaving! We stopped in a little town before heading out and we bought water and a CD with explanations of where to stop along the way. As we started out, we realized our rental car had NO CD player!! We felt like fools! We ended up giving it to one of the bellman at our hotel and asked him to give it to someone who could use it!

 I believe our experience would have been a lot different had we of done more research or had the CD to listen to! The drive was quite beautiful and I would say I think it would have been totally different in a tour van rather than in our own car with the ability to go at out own pace.

 If you have ever seen any waterfalls on Kauai or even on Oahu, I would really recommend just skipping the twin water falls (that will be your first stop). The first set of falls was more like a trickling stream but there was a spot people could jump into a pool of water. You need to hike further in to reach the second waterfall. It is about .75 mile hike. It is mostly shaded, flat, easy hike. The unfortunate thing is when you almost get to the end to reach the actual waterfall you need to walk through water to get to it. Lots of people walked through it if they had water shoes on. It's a pretty unsteady walk. I saw a few people fall over. It's not really a big deal, the water is only about knee deep but if you are carrying a nice camera you might not want to take the risk. I didn't. I also didn't have water shoes, I was wearing hiking shoes. You most definitely can get great shots of the waterfall from the point before crossing the water.

                                         An example of the side of the road along the drive

One of the things I liked the most about the Road to Hana was being able to really experience the different climates of the island of Maui. It was amazing to see desert one minute then lush forest the next. I have to say I was a little disappointed in the town itself. I thought we were going to  see something more spectacular there.

We continued our drive right past Hana and journeyed on. The road back was much more scenic. We later found out about the Seven Sacred Pools and the Bamboo Forrest. I would have definitely liked to have stopped there had we of known about it ahead of time and allowed enough time for it.

                                                        Volcanic Rock on the side of the road,
                                          also an example of he dry climate area side of

                                               One of the great hikes along the road to Hana

                                                   This is one of the waterfalls along the way
                                                   well worth stopping for!

                                           Examples of the lush tropical side of the island

                                              Cute store on the way back. They have clean
                                               bathrooms and do ask for a donation if you
                                               aren't purchasing anything at the store. The
                                               store sells food, antiques, jewelry, and local
                                               handmade crafts. There is an amazing view
                                               across the street.

                                         This is a great example where the rain line can be
                                       This shot shows not only the amazing scenery on the way
                                        back but the condition of the road! It is very bumpy in
                                        many places. One final note, if you do choose to drive past
                                        Hana and keep on driving, there are some areas of unpaved road.
                                        I guess it's much better than what it used to be.


The Gazebo Restaurant at Napili Shores, well worth the wait!!

Someone tipped us off on the Gazebo Restaurant, they also warned us there would be a wait. It was tucked away at the back of a little apartment/condo complex and really you wouldn't even know it was there unless you were looking for it.

The restaurant opened at 7:30 am and we arrived at 7:20 to find a decent size line. To our surprise, there was a coffee stand all set up which I thought was a very nice gesture. There is also an umbrella stand with many umbrellas available for rain or sun! There are plenty of chairs around so i'm sure if someone in your party needs to sit then it's not an issue. There is also a very nice pool right next to the Gazebo and we saw some kids sitting at the edge just dipping their feet in the water.

I have to say, I did notice there was a party of 3 people in front of us for about 15 minutes and then all of a sudden one by one they went to the front of the line and they were gone! I noticed a few others do that as well. I'm not sure what happened and really have no idea because I'm not "in the know".

We stood in line and both my husband and I had the same thoughts, it could be worse, we were looking out at an amazing view while we waited! I will say this, we waited for a total of 60 minutes and it was worth every minute! The food was amazing and the service was excellent! We had a great view from where we were and I think there is a great view from every seat in the Gazebo. We also saw many people order and take their food "to go" and sit outside overlooking the water.

There are many choices on the menu and my husband ordered the Fried Rice dish. The dish was enormous! It could have easily fed 3 people!

                                                             The Gazebo
                                                        The View from inside the Gazebo
                                                             Me inside the Gazebo
                                                                   Fried Rice Dish

There is also a little hut outside of The Gazebo where they sell T shirts, clothes for infants, coconut syrup, jewelry and hand made wood carvings. I highly recommend visiting The Gazebo, just realize you will be there for a period of time and make an experience out of it!