A Weekend in Avalon

Sunset in Avalon

Last night as the sunset, we said “see you later” to Avalon, New Jersey and headed back to NYC for three days of work.

It is hard to describe the joy we experienced this weekend as 11 people crammed into a small, bay facing shore house in Avalon for 48-hours. You know those weekends that you just want to enjoy as long as possible, hoping that it won’t come to an end? That was this weekend.   Even though the air conditioning didn’t exactly work and there was only one bathroom, the laughter was constant, the dock served as a second living room and a jump into the ocean waves or off the dock was the perfect way to cool down. In fact, I don’t think any of us would change a thing about the weekend. It was so wonderful to create new memories with the group. Here is a hilarious picture from 1996 that the cousins (Bo, Meg, Sarah and Katie) recreated last night before we drove back to NYC.

cousins 1996

cousins 2016

Many shore rentals, including ours, are Saturday to Saturday, which means that we didn’t leave for the shore until bright and early Saturday morning. We left Brooklyn at 6 AM with hopes of being in Avalon by 9, allowing us to enjoy a full beach day. Our plan worked perfectly and we were exploring the area on two wheels, with iced coffee in hand, by 9:30.

Bike riding through Avalon

Since the rest of the group wouldn’t arrive until Saturday afternoon, we spent Saturday squeezing in a few activities. Bo and I took a surfing lesson together before meeting Russell and Meg at Primo Hoagies for huge, delicious hoagies. Their special, fresh bread was delicious and exactly the way I like it – crispy on the outside and chewy inside.

Surfing in Avalon

Primo Hoagie

Avalon Dunes

After lunch we spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach, body surfing through the waves and taking an afternoon beach nap before hopping on our bikes in search of a cool treat. Opened in 1957, Avalon Freeze was Meg and Bo’s favorite dessert spot growing up and I now understand the obsession.  This chocolate chip cookie cone was filled with soft vanilla ice cream then dipped in rainbow jimmies (sprinkles) and peanut butter crunchies.

Avalon freeze

We spent the rest of Saturday catching up with everyone, jumping off the dock and enjoying a late dinner. Bo’s mom brought a batch of her famous sauce and paired it with fresh shrimp, sausage, pasta, garlic bread and italian salads for our first meal together. After the day of fresh air and a dockside beers, our group was fast asleep by 10pm.

Bo and I kicked off Sunday with a long run which allowed him to give me a tour of Avalon and Stone Harbor.  Unfortunately the sightseeing combined with an uneven sidewalk resulted in a pretty nasty spill across the sidewalk and pebbles during mile 2. It looked worse than it felt and we were able to continue through our run until reaching our finish line – the beach!

Falling when running

Avalon long run

After our run, I spent the rest of the day relaxing on the dock. When I wasn’t reading, I was hanging doing cannon balls off the dock, stand up paddle boarding and laughing as we used tubes and boogie boards as makeshift floats. We headed back inside every hour to enjoy a brief break from the sun and follow the British Open golf tournament which ended up being far more exciting than anyone imagined!

Avalon dock picture

Late in the afternoon we took one last bicycle tour of the island together, heading to Stone Harbor to explore and visit some favorite spots. We played video games and skeet ball at the arcade, treated ourselves to local fudge, and explored the shops before riding back home for a final dinner with everyone and heading back to New York City.  Luckily, I only have to make it through three busy work days in Cincinnati before Bo and I get to head back to Avalon for a long weekend with his cousin and parents.

Avalon and Stone Harbor Recommendations: 

 

 

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Hiking Haystack Mountain

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When Vermont delivers sunshine, blue sky and beautiful 80 degree temperatures, there is nothing to do except lace up our hiking shoes and head out for an afternoon hike. Over the years we have done a few short hikes in the area but nothing like yesterday’s hike at Haystack Mountain.

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Haystack Mountain is the a 3,445 foot mountain located in Wilmington, Vermont just 30 minutes from my family’s home in Manchester. The hike to the summit is 2.5 miles and includes a portion on an old farm road followed by a steep climb through the dense forest.  Knowing that it was a warm day we carried two water bottles per person and two extra for Samantha, their Samoyed who accompanied us on the adventure.

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During the hour and a half hike towards the summit we crossed a few small streams and carved out logs.

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Staying on the trail was easy since there were trail markers every few hundred feet.

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The second half of the trail was far more technical than the first, requiring us to stop a few times and catch our breath as we scrambled up the rocks.  Luckily in this same section we were able to start seeing glimpses of the view waiting for us at the summit. As the trees grew thinner we could look out across the valley as well as be rewarded for our efforts with a slight breeze.

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An hour and a half after starting our hike we reached the summit and were rewarded with incredible sweeping 360 degree views of New York and Vermont.

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View from Haystack Mountain
We relaxed at the top for a few minutes before heading back down towards the car. By the time we reached the car we had covered 4.9 miles and were drenched in sweat.

 

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Four Days in Paradise at Half Moon Resort Jamaica

Half Moon Bay Jamaica

After four days of rest and relaxation, today is my first day back to work and the real world which included a 5:30 AM alarm. The good news is that our quick trip down to Half Moon in Jamaica left me rested and energized. This trip was unlike any trip I’ve taken before. There were no husbands, no large group of friends, no excursions or even dinner reservations. Instead, the relaxing girls trip for two included lots of sleep, long conversations during beach walks, reading by the pool and making last minute dinner decisions based on the recommendations we received that day from the staff or guests. We chose to stay at an all-inclusive property for this trip as it allowed us to minimize expenses and relax more. While I realize many people would say that staying at an all-inclusive resort doesn’t allow you to get the true taste of the island, for this trip we prioritized rest and relaxation over culture.

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In case you all are planning a tropical trip anytime soon, I highly recommend using Expedia to search for resort specials. We changed resorts just weeks before our trip as we received a price drop email informing us that the top resort on the island, Half Moon Bay, had cut their price in half. The zika virus has limited the number of people traveling to the Caribbean and therefore many resorts are offering unheard of discounts. If you’re curious whether it’s safe for you travel to Jamaica or other Caribbean countries, I recommend you consult the CDC website as well as your doctor, which is what both Amy and I did before this trip.

Half Moon Jamaica Bikes

So while I dream of yoga overlooking the ocean and the delicious rum drinks, sit back and enjoy a glimpse into my long weekend trip to Jamaica.

Our Room

Steps away from the beach, our junior suite included two queen beds, a deep sinking tub, large living room and a balcony perfect for watching the sunset. Decorated in traditional, Jamaican colonial style the space was very comfortable. We were greeted with a local delicacy, rum cake, as well as a full mini-bar which was included in our all-inclusive plan. While we didn’t spend any time in the living room, we did spend a few hours reading on the balcony during the afternoon rain storms and each enjoyed hour-long bubble baths in the evening.

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Beach

There are two large beach areas at Half Moon Bay, one closer to the main property and another one about a mile walk from the main area.  Due to the proximity, we spent our time on the main beach which allowed us to enjoy lounging in the beach chairs, swimming in the clear water and sandy walks from our villa. This main beach, Sunset Beach, is the swimming beach and also where all non-motorized water sports are rented. Snorkeling, kayaks, pedal boats and beach floats are included in the resort rate. While we didn’t rent any of these due to the choppy waters, watching others navigate in a kayak for the first time or try and stay on their float provided hours of entertainment. Since this beach is also near the main bar, you are able to easily bring both food and drink to your beach chair. The other beach, Sunrise Beach, is strictly for walking, lounging and motorized water sports. There is no swimming at this beach nor chair attendants.

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Half Moon Jamaica beach

Pools

There are three pools on property, each with their own character. The pool we frequented, the Hibiscus Pool, is popular due to the swim-up bar. This pool also has a staff who will bring you water, towels and even freshly chopped and cracked coconuts throughout the day. The pool is quite large and naturally has an adult section towards the bar and a children’s section near the fountains and shallow end. The other two pools are the nearby 50 meter Olympic lap pool which features five lanes and the smaller Oleander Pool which is on a terrace near Sunrise Beach. While the pool wasn’t heated, it was warm enough to enjoy in the Jamaica weather which was 85-90 degrees each day.

Half Moon Jamaica swim up bar

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Spa & Gym

As soon as you walk through the gate to Fern Tree Spa you are transported to an oasis of relaxation. The 68,000 foot space includes multiple relaxation rooms, over water bungalows, lush gardens, sauna and steam rooms as well as a full gym. We avoided the rain showers on Friday afternoon with three hours in the spa, including an hour of reading in the large relaxation room and time in both the steam and sauna rooms. While the spa is not included in the all-inclusive package, we both decided to add a 60-minute signature Swedish Massage which included lemon grass tea and a foot bath before the massage even started. An added bonus, ff you choose to have a massage, this allows you access to the spa area for the rest of your stay.  The gym was modern and well appointed offering a cardio room, weight room as well as two studios where 4-8 group fitness classes take place daily. We enjoyed over water sunrise yoga on our first morning which was breath taking and one of the most memorable of yoga experiences. The 60-minute Vinyasa flow style yoga was taught in a three-walled bungalow over the ocean, allowing the view and sounds of the water to merge with our practice. The teachers strong Jamaican accent was also a relaxing touch as she guided us through the poses.
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Half Moon Jamaica Spa 2

half moon jamaica yoga

Food & Alcohol 

As part of our all-inclusive plan we truly had everything included whether that was a meal, beverage, snack or mini-bar treat. The highlights included the breakfast buffet which included freshly cut fruit, omelet station, made to order smoothies, mimosa and bloody mary bar and all the breakfast options anyone could imagine. Each morning we dined a la carte while sipping coffee and chatting. For lunch, we walked to the beach shake, Monchies, to enjoy freshly grilled Jamaican specialties like jerk chicken and fish. Paired with a Red Stripe, this was our favorite meal at Half Moon Bay. The dinners were only okay compared to the breakfast and lunch. While the new Sugar Mill Restaurant is beautiful and highly recommended, our meal wasn’t the best. Our final meal at Il Giardino, the Italian restaurant was by far our favorite dinner. In regards to the alcohol, this all-inclusive resort does not skimp when it comes to the liquor drinks. The liquors used were all considered mid to top-shelf choices and many of the fruity drinks included fresh fruit.  The wine by the glass options weren’t to our liking though their wine by the bottle offerings were far better and included in the all-inclusive.

Half Moon Jamaica restaurant

Half Moon Jamaica breakfast

Half Moon Jamaica Food

Staff

The staff at Half Moon Bay took the resort to the next level. From the moment we were greeted at the airport to our wave goodbye when we left, everyone greeted us with a smile as well as asking if there was anything they could do or anything we needed. Bartenders offered specialty cocktails made based on our tastes and you could tell that everyone on site was passionate about their role in making the resort experience enjoyable for guests!

Half Moon Jamaica bartender

Is it too early to plan our next trip to Half Moon Bay?

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