Explore the rich history and culture in the colonial ports of Ponce and Old San Juan where host-kids Nathan and Seamus find adventure playing pirates in the old colonial fort of El Morro. Then it's off to find frogs in El Yunque, the Caribbean National Forest and explore the underground caves of Rio Camuy. Finally, The Roberts family finds time to relax on the beaches of Vieques Island, a small enclave that exudes the ambiance of a by-gone era in the Caribbean.
There are two very different sides to the island of Oahu – the fast-paced, activity packed Waikiki and the laid-back North Shore and the Roberts family are determined to discover both. The confluence of cultures in Hawaii is apparent at the International Marketplace where the host family tries different cuisines ranging from Japanese noodles to Hawaiian traditional dishes. To learn more about the history and culture of Hawaii, the Roberts head over to the Polynesian Cultural Center, where they taste coconut bread and learn to throw a spear. For a more recent view of history, it’s on to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. With all this land activity, it’s easy to forget that Hawaii is known for its undersea life. But our hosts have you covered with excursions below the waves at SeaLife Park where they come face to face with dolphins and stingrays.
Packed with family-friendly attractions and plenty of sunshine, Cancun is a perfect family destination, but is there more to this rugged coast than just fun in the sun? The Roberts find out as they explore the city of Cancun with aquariums, pyramids and late-night turtle encounters and venture across the ocean to Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres, a tiny island is what Cancun was like decades ago. Drive around the small villages in a golf cart to snorkel and swim with dolphins.
The Big Island of Hawaii is big and the Roberts family is determined to see every part of it. As the newest island in Hawaiian island chain, the Big Island is still growing with lava constantly steaming into the Pacific Ocean to form land. The host family gets face-to-face with the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea, at Volcanoes National Park where they hike through lava tubes, feel heat oozing through hardened lava fields, and learn about Pele, goddess of fire. To find out more about ancient Hawaii, the Roberts head to the City of Refuge where they’re greeted by tiki heads and play lava rock checkers. After scouring through the fresh fruits at Hilo’s farmer’s market, the Roberts find the perfect food, the malasada. To finish their feast, the Roberts head to a sunset luau.
Mexico's Yucatan peninsula is the site of major clashes between the indigenous Mayan people and the Spanish colonialists and the attractions here reflect it. The Roberts learn the Mayan history at the huge pyramid complex of Chichen-Itza where they research the acoustics on a Mayan ball court, climb the pyramids and study a colony of leaf-cutter ants. Then it’s on to soak in the culture at Spanish enclaves like Izamal, Valladolid and Merida where Mayan traditional dances take place in centuries old colonial squares. Explore lively markets and take horse drawn carriages through the colonial centers.
On Maui, the progression of Hawaii's economy becomes apparent as our host family discovers Lahaina's whaling history before boarding the sugar cane train. Then it’s on to explore the island's amazing natural beauty by land on Ka'anapali Beach and on the winding Road to Hana where the Roberts picnic by waterfall and discover secluded black sand beaches and by sea at the Maui Ocean Center and on a snorkel cruise to Lanai where spinner dolphins leap from the water in a graceful dance. A sunset luau where cliff divers plummet from Black Rock to the ocean below and fire dancers strut their stuff provides the perfect ending to their Maui adventure.
Jeremy I. Simmons
© 2008 Janson
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