A Brainerd Zip Line high flying adventure

A Brainerd Zip Line high flying adventure

Cover: A Brainerd Zip Line high-flying adventure
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Ready for some high-flying fun in the Brainerd Lakes area? Head over to Brainerd Zip Line at Mount Ski Gull for a few hours of soaring over the treetops while enjoying spectacular views of Gull Lake!

We’d wanted to try ziplining for years, so when Explore Minnesota presented the opportunity to try out the newly built zip line course presented itself, we were all in – and it was a blast!

Greg Hull, Zip Line Brainerd
Greg Hull, Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Gearing up

Caitlin Rick gearing up at Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Caitlin Rick gearing up at Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After signing waivers, we headed out to gear up. Gear is provided by Brainerd Zip Line Tour and includes harnesses, gloves, and a helmet.

Gear is provided by Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Gear is provided by Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After getting into our harnesses and helmets, we selected gloves, which are for braking along the line. Ready to go, we boarded a van and headed to the training course.

Boarding the van to go ziplining at Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Boarding the van to go ziplining at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The guides

Amanda & Hollie, Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Amanda & Hollie, Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each group has two guides – ours were Hollie and Amanda, who were professional and, it was obvious throughout our adventure, they had been well-trained to have our safety in mind.

Our guide, Amanda, with Greg at Zip Line Brainerd
Our guide, Amanda, with Greg at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hollie and Amanda helped us gear up and taught us ziplining basics at a training course site. Once we were trained, they sent and caught us, as we moved from tower to tower along the zip line course.

Caitlin Rick and Amanda, Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Caitlin Rick and Amanda, Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

They also were a lot of fun and shared facts about the area and the course throughout the experience.

Kim Hull and Amanda at Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Kim Hull and Amanda at Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Zipline training

Amanda demonstrating on the training course at Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Amanda demonstrating on the training course at Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For anyone that would have any anxiety before ziplining, the training course sets those fears to rest. Amanda and Hollie first explained the basics, like how to hold on and how to brake, and answered any of our questions. Amanda then demonstrated how to zip line.

Next up, we each gave it a try. Low to the ground, the training zip line gives everyone a chance to try out their new skills before encountering heights. Amanda and Hollie took time to make sure everyone was comfortable before moving on.

Caitlin Rick on the training course at Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Caitlin Rick on the training course at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Training completed, we walked a short distance to the zip lines. Arriving at the course, we climbed up a five-story flight of stairs to the first tower. The reward for the climb – aside from getting to begin your zip line adventure – are the views. From the tower, you can see for miles across Agate Lake and Gull Lake.

View of Agate Lake and Gull Lake from Brainerd Zip Line Tour tower
View of Agate Lake and Gull Lake from Brainerd Zip Line Tour tower
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Let’s go ziplining!

The Brainerd Zip Line Tour course consists of 7 lines of varying lengths, a 65-foot suspension bridge, and an optional 50-foot free fall jump. Everyone is clipped in during the experience – even while waiting on the towers. Getting things started, Hollie went first to be on the receiving end tower at the end of the line. From there, she guided us as we approached on when to begin braking and was there to catch us and assist with our landing.

Hollie, Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Hollie, Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Now it was our turn. Amanda secured us, communicated with Hollie on the other side via radio, and when we were clear – away we went! As with repelling when rock climbing, the first step off is the most difficult and then, it is just a blast.

Greg Hull takes off of tower one at Zip Line Brainerd
Greg Hull takes off of tower one at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

So, what’s it like zipping along above the trees? Check it out…

Navigating the suspension bridge

Caitlin Rick navigating the suspension bridge, Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Caitlin Rick navigating the suspension bridge, Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the seven zip lines, the Brainerd Zip Line Tour includes a trek across a 65-foot long suspension bridge. Even though it sounds easy, the boards get further apart near the uphill finish, making it a bit challenging – although I did manage to pose for a photo opp…

Kim Hull on the suspension bridge, Brainerd Zip Line Tour, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Kim Hull on the suspension bridge, Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A 50-foot free fall finale

As our zip line adventure drew to a close, there was just one more thing to do – the optional 50 foot free fall jump!

Caitlin Rick in free fall at Zip Line Brainerd
Caitlin Rick in free fall at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After arriving at the last tower, there are two ways down. Walk down the stairs or opt for a 50-foot free fall finale. Of course, we jumped. Not a bungee jump, it’s a controlled free fall and a great way to end a fabulous zip line adventure!

Kim Hull doing the free fall jump at Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Kim Hull landing at the free fall jump at Zip Line Brainerd
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Dress for the adventure. Unless lightning or high winds are present, zip line tours are conducted regardless of weather conditions, including rain and snow. Given you will be zipping through the air above the tree line, dress appropriately. Additionally, closed toe and heel shoes and shirts are required. Long pants are recommended because the safety harness straps can irritate your skin. Hair should be tied back.

Mosquito repellent. Even though you don’t think about mosquitos when soaring above the trees, in the training area there were mosquitos, so put on some repellant before going to the mountain.

Age and weight restrictions. Brainerd Zip Line Tour participants must be between 70 and 250 pounds and 10 years old or older.

Photography. While we were allowed to bring our cameras during the experience for this article, guests are not allowed to bring cameras with the exception of a GoPro (which we also used) with a helmet mount, which Brainerd Zip Lines provides. If you do not have a GoPro, Brainerd Zip Lines rents units for $20.

Time. Arrive at least 30 minutes before your reserved time and allow 2 to 2/12 hours for your zip line adventure.

Wait until after your adventure for a beer.

Reservations are recommended. Find out more and reserve your spot for a Brainerd Zip Line Tour on their website.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota, Explore Brainerd Lakes and Brainerd Zip Line Tour for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Warm welcome aboard Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd Minnesota

Enjoying beautiful Gull Lake aboard Destiny Cruises in Brainerd Minnesota

Cover: Captivating views aboard Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


A couple of hours gliding on clear waters, while enjoying delicious food and a beverage under clear blue skies, makes for one of our favorite ways to spend an afternoon.

When the lake is Gull Lake, one of the largest in the Brainerd, Minnesota area, with 38 miles of picturesque coastline and sparkling waters, and the boat it is the luxury Destiny Cruises yacht, the North Star, the experience is elevated to a superb afternoon of relaxation and leisure.

The beautiful Gull Lake coastline, Brainerd, Minnesota
The beautiful Gull Lake coastline, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Destiny Cruises on Gull Lake

The North Star, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
The North Star, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our two-hour lunch excursion aboard the beautiful motor yacht began at the docks at Ernie’s on Gull, about six miles north of Brainerd. Welcomed aboard with a warm, Minnesota welcome, guests have the option of relaxing downstairs in the air-conditioned, glass-enclosed cabin, or opting for the open-air upstairs deck. We headed straight upstairs to bask in the Minnesota sunshine.

Warm welcome aboard Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd Minnesota
Warm welcome aboard Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The yacht is large – 65 feet long and 22 feet wide – providing guests plenty of room to spread out, get comfortable and enjoy the captivating views.

Custom built by SkipperLiner in LaCrosse, WI for Destiny Cruises, the North Star took a year to build and was delivered in 2014. Now in her third season on Gull Lake, the North Star was the first public cruise vessel to operate on the lake for many years. The elegant boat’s public cruises, which include lunch, brunch, happy hour, dinner and sunset cruises, have been warmly welcomed by the community and visitors to the area. The yacht is also a popular venue for private chartered events and weddings.

Cash bar on the North Star, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Cash bar on the North Star, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With two cash bars, one upstairs and one down, guests can partake of a beverage, as we did, selecting a refreshing cocktail to enjoy as we pulled away from the dock and headed out on the sparkling waters of Gull Lake.

Enjoying beverages before lunch, Kim Hull, Caitlin Rick, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Enjoying beverages before lunch, Kim Hull, Caitlin Rick, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the largest lakes in the Brainerd area, Gull Lake is three miles wide and fifteen miles long. Along the way, our captain provided some of the area’s history and facts about the lake itself. Gull Lake is 70 – 85 feet deep in most places and contains most types of fish common to Minnesota’s waters.

Our cruise aboard Destiny Cruise was entertaining & informational
Our cruise aboard Destiny Cruise was entertaining & informational
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the relaxation and fun continued, we took turns “diving the boat” and I even donned the captain’s cap while at the helm.

Kim Hull driving the boat, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Minnesota
Kim Hull driving the North Star
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lunch was a delicious selection of BBQ chicken and salmon, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad and turtle pudding for dessert.

Dining aboard the North Star, Destiny Cruises, Brainerd, Minnesota
Dining aboard the North Star, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We made our way around the lake, passing Hole in the Day Bay, where an ice fishing championship is held each winter with 20,000 pre-drilled holes created in advance for the competition. On this warm, sunny day as the lake sparkled in a thousand shades of blue, it was hard to imagine it being cold enough for ice fishing a few months earlier. The magic of Minnesota.

View of Madden's Resort from Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
View of Madden’s Resort from Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There are 19 resorts on Gull Lake, including Madden’s, where we stayed while visiting the Brainerd area, and which we highly recommend. A beautiful, sprawling resort, Madden’s has five restaurants, four pools, two lounges, three golf courses, spa, full-service marina and so much more. If you are staying at Madden’s and would like to schedule a private Destiny Cruise for your group, Destiny Cruise can even pick you up at the resort.

Madden's Resort on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As our wonderful time aboard the North Star drew to a close, we savored the last moments of peaceful relaxation and stunning views on Gull Lake.  The entire two-hour cruise was perfect thanks to the beautiful surroundings, the large, elegant yacht, and the excellent crew.

Kim and Greg Hull, Destiny Cruises
Kim and Greg Hull, Destiny Cruises, Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Caitlin Rick

Know before you go

Prepare for changing weather. Except when severe weather conditions are present, cruises depart rain or shine. Wear sunscreen and a hat, and bring a light jacket, especially in the evening or on a cloudy day.

Cruises. Destiny Cruises offers public brunch, lunch, happy hour, dinner and sunset cruises. Private charters for events such as weddings, rehearsal dinners, family gatherings or corporate getaways are also available. Visit the Destiny Cruises website for more information and to book your cruise or private event.

Bring some cash. The crew provides excellent service and gratuity for the onboard staff is not included in the ticket price.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota, Explore Brainerd Lakes and Destiny Cruises for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California

Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa: A luxury Sonoma wine country hotel

Cover: Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Quietly tucked away amongst the vineyards just off the 101, Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa treats guests to a luxurious and relaxing wine country retreat when visiting Sonoma.

Vintner's Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A four-diamond luxury hotel owned by Don and Rhonda Carano of Ferrari-Carano Vineyards, the wine country inn exudes casual elegance.

Our Vintner’s Inn stay was in conjunction with the Rodney Strong Master Blender experience, one of our all-time most enjoyable adventures, with fabulous wine, amazing food, vineyard visits led by the winery’s viticulturist, sessions with Rodney Strong’s winemakers to learn about the winemaking process, a blending seminar led by Rodney Strong’s head winemaker, and luxurious accommodations at Vintner’s Inn.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Upstairs fireplace room at Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we opened the door to our upstairs fireplace room, sunlight flooded into the warm, inviting spot we would call home during our time in Sonoma wine country.

With a big Cal King bed outfitted with a featherbed and down bedding, two overstuffed chairs, an electric fireplace, flat screen TV, desk, a small refrigerator, and a complimentary half bottle of wine, the spacious room was a delightful haven.

French doors led to the balcony with a table and chairs that overlooked the gardens – and prompted me to pop a bottle of wine into the fridge for late afternoon enjoyment.

Vintner's Inn Upstairs fireplace room, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn Upstairs fireplace room, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Luxuriously appointed upstairs fireplace room at Vintner's Inn in Santa Rosa
Luxuriously appointed upstairs fireplace room at Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The large bathroom with a vanity separated from the shower and tub was furnished with white fluffy towels, olive oil themed toiletries and bathrobes.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The hotel

Fountain at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Fountain at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving early afternoon, we had plenty of time to explore the hotel before dinner.

The 44 rooms and suites at Vintner’s Inn are set in three buildings encircling a fountain and connected by brick pathways.

Walking paths at Vintner's Inn Santa Rosa
Walking paths at Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Such a beautiful Sonoma afternoon behooved a stroll, so we set out on the two-mile hiking and jogging path that winds through the 92 acres of vineyards.

Along the way, we met up with some local residents, who seemed to be enjoying the gorgeous weather as much as we were.

Goats along Vintner's Inn hiking and jogging path
Goats along Vintner’s Inn hiking and jogging path
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's Inn vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving back at the hotel, we stopped by the Bocce ball court – a beautiful area with an assortment of tables and chairs under towering redwoods.

Bocce ball court at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Bocce ball court at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Quiet enclaves are scattered about the lavishly landscaped gardens and courtyards, perfect for sharing a glass of wine, stories from the day, and plans for the next.

Vintner's Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those that don’t believe a day of wine tasting is a form of exercise, a fitness center is located near the edge of the vineyards, along side a hot tub and lounge chairs.

Vintner's Inn workout room
Vintner’s Inn fitness room
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's Inn hot tub and lounge chairs
Vintner’s Inn hot tub and lounge chairs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving back at our room, the wine was chilled, the doors of the balcony were open, and it was time to enjoy a bottle of Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay. Cheers!

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay on the balcony at Vintner's Inn
Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay on the balcony at Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The restaurants and bar

John Ash & Co at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
John Ash & Co at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

John Ash & Co. and the Front Room Bar & Lounge

When we lived in Santa Rosa briefly a few years back, we’d become frequent patrons of John Ash & Co. and the Front Room Bar & Lounge. It quickly became our go-to-spot for happy hours, birthdays, holidays – any excuse is a good one to head to John Ash.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A showcase of the best of Northern California cuisine, John Ash & Co. prepares fresh, local, creative food in a gorgeous setting.

From appetizers in the Front Room (the rosemary nuts and fish tacos are amazing) to dining excellence at John Ash & Co., the restaurant delivers some of the best food found in Sonoma County.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience dinner at John Ash & Co., Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience dinner at John Ash & Co., Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After an amazing evening at John Ash, only made more enjoyable by dining with the Rodney Strong team including winemaker, Justin Seidenfeld, we walked back to our room admiring how pretty the grounds at Vintner’s Inn look in the evening.

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn Café

Vintner's Inn lobby, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn lobby, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After enjoying our morning coffee from the coffee service, which is available in each of the hotel buildings every morning, we headed over to the hotel’s main building for breakfast.

A great place to have a coffee or tea, read, or spend time with friends, the lobby has multiple seating areas in a cozy environment.

Lobby of the Vintner's Inn
Lobby of the Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's inn, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Various items are available for sale in the lobby, such as hats, cookbooks, and the estate’s award-winning olive oil.

Vintner's Inn Estate Olive Oil
Vintner’s Inn Estate Olive Oil
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Also located in the lobby is the Vintner’s Inn Café, which serves breakfast weekdays and brunch on the weekend.

Vintners Inn Café
Vintner’s Inn Café
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Diners can enjoy a wide variety of breakfast specialties and beverages to start their day in the cheerful indoor dining room or on the heated terrace overlooking the gardens.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting there

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn is located in Santa Rosa, California. From the 101, take the River Road exit and head west to Barnes Road. Turn left on Barnes Road and Vintner’s Inn is on the left.

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Location: 4350 Barnes Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Design: Italian architecture set in Northern California wine country

Rooms: With the exception of service animals, pets are not allowed.

Toiletries: CALI from Italy

Additional services and amenities: On-site Event Center with private banquet rooms and full-service banquet kitchen that can accommodate small groups, meetings with up to 300 participants, and receptions of up to 500 guests.

Vintner's Inn Event Center
Vintner’s Inn Event Center
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

WiFi: Free in lobby and public areas, for a fee in rooms

John Ash & Co. at Vintner's Inn
John Ash & Co. at Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Restaurants & bars: John Ash & Co., Front Room Bar & Lounge, Vintner’s Inn Café

Parking: Free


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Rodney Strong Vineyards for hosting us as their guest for the Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience. The content & opinions expressed in our Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa review are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim Hull at Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Kim Hull at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort: Great skiing & boarding for all levels

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Sierra at Tahoe is a resort that covers both ends of the skiing continuum, from beginner to expert and everything in between.

Gentle green runs, a great ski school, over 100 acres of terrain dedicated to beginners, and four beginner-only surface lifts make Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort a popular destination for those just getting started on the hill.

Sierra at Tahoe base area and Broadway
Sierra at Tahoe base area and Broadway
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Top notch tree skiing and 320 acres of expert level backcountry terrain at Huckleberry Canyon have accomplished riders and skiers heading to the resort with frequency.

Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Anything for intermediates? Half the trails are rated blue, with a wide selection of groomers of varying grades and plenty of fresh corduroy.

Lower Main at Sierra at Tahoe
Lower Main at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe: Skiing and snowboarding

Top of Grand View Express at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Top of Grand View Express at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 2,000 acres and a 2,212 ft vertical drop, Sierra at Tahoe’s 46 trails cover some ground across the mountain.

Three high-speed quads, five cozy doubles, and one triple whisk skiers and boarders up the mountain, with several separate areas on the mountain primarily defined by how they are accessed: Grandview, Huckleberry Canyon, Backside, Nob Hill and the West Bowl.

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Grand View

Grand View Express lift, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Grand View Express lift, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

The Grand View Express lift, located behind the ski school, serves the east side of the mountain, delivering skiers and riders to spectacular views of Lake Tahoe.

View of Lake Tahoe from Sierra at Tahoe
View of Lake Tahoe from Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

At the top of the lift, 360 Smokehouse BBQ is a great spot to grab lunch, head up to the rooftop deck for a photo opp of the lake, and check out Huckleberry Canyon.

360 Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
360 Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the front side of the hill, skiers and riders will find a wide variety of terrain including bumps, groomers, and glades.

Top of Grand View lift, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Top of Grand View lift, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Just under the Grand View lift are some nice advanced runs or for a gliding groomer, head off toward the west to tackle the longest run on the mountain, Sugar n’ Spice, a 2.5 mile green run that winds down from the top of Grand View Express all the way to the lodge.

Sierra at Tahoe, Sugar n'Spice
Sierra at Tahoe, Sugar n’ Spice
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sugar n'Spice at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Sugar n’ Spice at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Huckleberry Gates

Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A short hike from the top of the Grandview lift, the Huckleberry Canyon backcountry terrain can be accessed from five gates.

Hike to Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Hike to Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 320 acres of Huckleberry Canyon delivers some of the most challenging inbounds backcountry skiing and boarding at Lake Tahoe.

Expert skiing and boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Expert skiing and boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With cliff drops, chutes, bowls, glades, and cornices, it’s steep, it’s deep, and it’s definitely an experts-only adventure.

Boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe
Boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

While the extreme riding of Huckleberry Canyon is out of reach for most of us – it’s fabulous to watch some of the best in the sport tackle the incredible terrain. In 2016, Sierra at Tahoe held the inaugural Huck Cup, an IFSA Free World Qualifier event.

Men's skiing finals, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Men’s skiing finals, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

For two days, more than 50 of the top freeride skiers and snowboarders from around the world competed for Freeride World Tour qualifying points and a share of $5000 in prize money. It was an awesome display of tricks, thrills, and spills on the natural, rugged terrain. Be sure and mark your calendars for the annual event!

Backside

Heading off the back of the mountain from the Grandview lift, the Backside has some fun trails and is home to Sierra at Tahoe’s boarder cross features. Located on the south side of the mountain, the sunny Backside is best skied in the morning once spring rolls around.

Skiing at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Skiing at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Nob Hill

Terrain off Nob Hill lift at Sierra at Tahoe
Terrain off Nob Hill lift at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Popular with riders of all levels, Nob Hill departs near the base area and delivers skiers and riders to a variety of challenges, including access to the very wide and somewhat steep intermediate run, Lower Main, that ends in the base area.

Lower Main ski run, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Lower Main ski run, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

West Bowl

Moving to the west side of the mountain, West Bowl is a great place for intermediate and advanced skiers to play.

The high speed quad, West Bowl Express, accesses terrain ranging from long, fast cruisers to beautiful glade runs amidst the magnificent Red Fir trees for which Sierra at Tahoe is so well known.

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Terrain Parks

Sierra at Tahoe has six terrain parks, the Smokey BoarderX course, and a halfpipe.

Designed with an emphasis on advancing skill levels in appropriate conditions, Sierra’s Burton Progression Park was created with first-timers in mind. From there, freestylers can tackle jumps, boxes, rails and build their trick repertoire at the various parks located throughout the resort.

Adventure Zones

Skiing for all ages at Sierra at Tahoe
Skiing for all ages at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The kiddos love Sierra at Tahoe’s on-mountain themed adventure zones. With animated characters, educational signs and pint-sized terrain features, children are entertained as they learn their way around the snow.

Adventure zones at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Adventure zones at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe Ski school

Along with a highly-friendly environment for those just finding their way around the slopes, Sierra at Tahoe has a great ski and snowboard school for riders of all ages and all abilities.

Parents rave about the Wild Mountain children’s program, which both gets kids on skis and entertains them at the same time. Located next to the Main Lodge, programs are grouped by age and ability and are designed to encourage children’s love of the sport and their progression through skill levels.

Wild Mountain Ski School at Sierra
Wild Mountain Ski School at Sierra
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media
Yoda's Riglet Park at Sierra at Tahoe
Yoda’s Riglet Park at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe: Dining & drinking

Sierra has some tasty options for dining and drinking, both on-mountain and at the lodge…

Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the Main Lodge & Solstice Plaza

Solstice Plaza outdoor seating at Sierra at Tahoe
Solstice Plaza outdoor seating at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Java Junction – Serving a wide variety of coffee selections, as well as breakfast and lunch items

Mama’s Kitchen – With fare from breakfast burritos to soups, sandwiches, pizza and mac and cheese

Aspen Café – Grilled items and a variety of lunch options served with one hour of free WiFi access

Golden Bear Terrace – Located outside the Main Lodge, specializing in burgers, sandwiches, craft beers and goggle tans

Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Solstice Eatery – Specializing in tasty wraps, salads and whole wheat and gluten-free pizzas

Lunch at the Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Lunch at the Sierra Pub and Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra Pub & Deli – Serving sandwiches, nachos, and pizza – a great spot for après with live music, happy hour specials and “local bar” atmosphere.

Happy hour at Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Happy hour at Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media
Live music at the Sierra Pub
Live music at the Sierra Pub
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

And perhaps the best beer bargain around – join the Sierra Pub Club and get happy hour prices all day long.

Happy hour at the Sierra Pub
Happy hour at the Sierra Pub
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

On mountain

Baja Grill – At the foot of the West Bowl Express, the spot for fresh fish tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and tacos

360° Smokehouse BBQ – Located at the top of the Grandview lift at 8,852 feet, specializing in soups, BBQ and stunning Tahoe views (they have a veggie burger as well)

360° Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
360° Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Where to stay

A wide variety of hotels and resorts are available in South Lake Tahoe which is about 17 miles from Sierra at Tahoe.

The complimentary South Shore Shuttle provides transportation from South Lake Tahoe to Sierra at Tahoe – shuttle times and information can be found on the Sierra at Tahoe website or by calling 530-659-7453.

Getting to Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe’s address is 1111 Sierra at Tahoe Road, Twin Bridges, CA 95735.

Sierra at Tahoe is located 74 miles, or about 1 hour 45 minutes, from the Reno Tahoe airport. From Sacramento, Sierra at Tahoe is 91 miles, or about 1 hour 45 minutes, on Highway 50.

From the San Francisco airport (SFO), Sierra at Tahoe is 188 miles or about 3 1/2 hours.

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Greg Hull at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Greg Hull at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

Check on the Sierra at Tahoe website for discounts before you head to Sierra at Tahoe – the resort is known year after year for affordable lift tickets and great discounts on first timer lessons.

Reserve lessons and day care in advance. The kids programs are very popular, so reserve a spot for the little ones in advance. On the day of the lesson, drop off parking is available directly in front of the school.

Check the road conditions before you go. Chains are required frequently on Highway 50 so check the road conditions before heading to the resort at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

Plan on traffic on the weekends and holidays. Sierra at Tahoe draws a big Sacramento and Bay area crowd, so arrive early to spend more time on the slopes and less in your car. Or, better yet, come midweek for no lift lines and plenty of untouched pow.

JW Marriott Starr Pass in the morning light, Tucson, Arizona

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort: An oasis of luxury in the desert

Cover: JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Overlooking miles and miles of massive saguaro cacti, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort welcomes visitors to a beautiful resort filled with luxurious comforts, creating a unique dichotomy in the Sonoran Desert.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort entrance, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort entrance, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The vivid green golf course dotted with white carts and brightly dressed players winds through the arid landscape of majestic plants and fauna.

Golfing at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson
Golfing at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The azure blue waters of the pools and the lazy river sparkle against the rugged Arizona countryside.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tranquilly perched on a hill above the city, the resort offers stunning panoramic skyline views of bustling Tucson.

Sunrise on the morning hike at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Sunrise on the morning hike at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An oasis of luxury in the middle of the desert, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort is truly a destination resort, with three nine-hole golf courses, countless non-golfing activities, an array of dining options, a full-service spa, and a helpful, friendly staff – all in an upscale, relaxed atmosphere. Thank you to JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson for hosting us as their guest.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in the morning light, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in the morning light, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

Living area, Executive Suite, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Living area, Executive Suite, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d never been to Tucson before this trip, so we gladly accepted the invitation to stay at such a gorgeous resort and explore the beautiful Tucson area – both which far exceeded our expectations. During our visit to Starr Pass, we enjoyed a luxurious executive suite with a long balcony overlooking the golf course and stunning western mountain views.

View of Starr Pass Golf Club from our balcony
View of Starr Pass Golf Club from our balcony 
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upon entering the room we were greeted with a welcome note and an assortment of delectable chocolates and cookies. What a sweet arrival!

A sweet welcome treat from Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
A sweet welcome treat from Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our 900 square feet/81 square meters of relaxing bliss included a huge living area with a couch, chairs, desk and a large flat panel TV.

The large bedroom featured a king size bed with a comfy pillow-top mattress and duvet, an oversized chair and ottoman, and another flat panel TV. Both rooms accessed the balcony seating, which included four chairs and two tables.

Bedroom in Executive Suite at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson, Arizona
Bedroom in Executive Suite at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The marble bathroom included a separate bathtub and shower enclosure, stacks of big fluffy white towels and divinely fragranced Aromatherapy Associates toiletries. The room also had large closets, three robes, a coffee and tea maker, a mini-fridge, an iron and ironing board, and a large safe.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Executive Suite bath, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Executive Suite bath, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The resort

Salud Terrace, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Salud Terrace, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having stayed at JW Marriott hotels and resorts around the world, we knew that Starr Pass would deliver the exceptional service and quality for which the brand is known, but Starr Pass also included some surprises, adding their own unique flavor to the visit.

The gorgeous, expansive lobby has comfortable nooks for small groups, larger ones, and couples to share moments from the day or for those seeking a little solitude for reading or catching up on email.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort lobby, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort lobby, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Staying hydrated in the desert is crucial and Starr Pass has multiple flavors of water to make sure you do so – plain, spicy (there are jalapeños in there!), citrus and soothing melon.

Spicy, citrus and melon waters, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Spicy, citrus and melon waters, JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A sprawling resort brimming with activities, Starr Pass offers something for everyone in a relaxed, casual atmosphere.

Starr Pass Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The huge terraces outside Salud, one of Starr Pass’ restaurants and bars, are the gathering point for the hotel from the beginning of the day to end.

While the early bird may get the worm, the early risers at Starr Pass truly get the treat each morning in the form a majestic sunrise.

Sunrise by the fire pit at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Sunrise by the fire pit at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After grabbing a beverage from the Starbucks just inside, a spot near one of the fire pits is the place to be for a time of tranquility and beauty before the day’s adventures begin. As the darkness disappears, the Arizona sky transforms into a vast array of oranges, reds, golds, pinks, and purples.

Sunrise on the terrace at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Sunrise on the terrace at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those wanting to start their activities while experiencing the sunrise, Starr Pass also offers a guided hike each morning on trails that begin just outside the front door of the resort.

Morning sunrise hike

Sonoran Desert sunrise, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Sonoran Desert sunrise, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A trek through the beautiful Sonoran desert as the morning sky comes to life is an amazing way to start the day.

Greg Hull on Sunrise hike at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Greg Hull on Sunrise hike at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Winding through the Tucson Mountain District in the crisp morning air, the one hour hike is an easy trek against the backdrop of the brilliant morning colors.

The guides are great – taking the time to explain the Saguaro cacti, the native plants, and the animals that reside in the region. A not-to-be missed activity – so the night before when you are contemplating setting the alarm – do it!

Learning about the saguaro cactus on the morning hike at Starr Pass
Learning about the saguaro cactus on the morning hike at Starr Pass
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Following a morning of desert adventure, the hike arrives back at the resort just in time for the Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual.

Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual

Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the key elements of enjoying travel is gaining an appreciation for the culture of the area visited.

Tuscon’s unique and rich cultural fabric is woven from a blend of the Hispanic, Old West and Native American traditions that have been passed down through the generations. Starr Pass celebrates this history each morning, inviting guests to participate in the Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual.

An interconnected world, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Tucson
An interconnected world, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Tucson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the sun begins to warm the day, the traditional Native American ceremony pays tribute to the world view of interconnectedness.

Sage prayer tie, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Sage prayer tie, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With words of wisdom, the playing of the Native American flute, burning of a sage prayer tie and receiving of the eagle feather blessing, the ceremony is a beautiful time for reflection and connection for all.

Kim Hull, burning of a sage prayer tie, JW Marriott Starr Pass in Tucson
Kim Hull, burning of a sage prayer tie, JW Marriott Starr Pass in Tucson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Activities, activities and more activities

Flowers on hike at Starr Pass
Flowers on hike at Starr Pass
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The only challenge with regard to activities at Starr Pass is how to fit them all into your stay.

For those that didn’t set their alarm for the sunrise hike, multiple trails leave from the front of the hotel (remember water and sunscreen – the Arizona sun is very strong mid-day). Trails can be used for hiking or mountain biking and when out in the desert, be sure to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and javelina, which look like wild pigs, but are actually members of the peccary family.

Hiking trails, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Hiking trails, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If lounging poolside or splashing about is more what you have in mind, Starr Pass has a multi-level outdoor pool, the Starr Canyon lazy river, and the Monsoon Falls waterslide. All are heated and towel service is provided.

The fitness center is located at the Hashani Spa, with a wide variety of cardio equipment, free weights, and a lap pool.

JW Marriott Starr Pass resort fitness center, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass resort fitness center, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Speaking of spas, the Hashani Spa offers a full range of services, including massages, wraps, and other rejuvenating treatments.

Hashani Spa, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Hashani Spa, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The shops at Starr Pass go way beyond bottles of water and some aspirin. Items range from local artisan wares to clothing to cycling kits.

Starr Pass Resort shops, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Resort shops, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, last but certainly not least, is the renowned Starr Pass Golf Club.

Golfing at Starr Pass

Starr Canyon lazy river, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Golf Club
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

72 holes across three courses deliver a lush golfing paradise for those with a penchant for swinging a club.

Starr Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Arnold Palmer designed Rattler Course (3,490 yards/par 36) is considered the most challenging of the three and offers stunning views and the exceptionally challenging 5th hole. The Roadrunner Course (3,241 yards/par 35), which is closest to the resort, offers ambitious holes, impressive elevation changes, and more gorgeous views. The Coyote Course (3,512 yards/apr 36), is more tranquil, surrounded by natural beauty and is frequently visited by wildlife.

A good spot for more shopping for golfers and non-golfers alike, the Starr Pass Golf Club pro shop has a great assortment of clothing and accessories.

Pro shop at Star Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Pro shop at Star Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Be sure and download the Starr Pass Golf Club app, where you can book a tee time, get the weather forecast, keep score, and even connect with Starr Pass on Facebook and Twitter within the app.

Arriba, Abajo, al Centro, al Dentro, Salud!

Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each evening as the sun winds down for the day, Starr Pass guests gather on the Salud terrace for a tequila toast and the nightly telling of the legend of Arriba, Abajo.

Toast to the legend of Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Toast to the legend of Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The story is one of love and one of tequila, of which Salud has over 150 artisan varieties, with the fable ending with a toast – “Arriba, Abajo, al Centro, a Dentro, Salud!” (Up, down, out and in). I won’t spoil the story – so you have to visit to learn the legend and enjoy one of the infused tequilas. Salud!

The restaurants

Signature Grill bar at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Signature Grill bar at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We had the opportunity to try most of the Starr Pass restaurants while visiting. Casual & comfortable, each restaurant offered fresh, modern dishes and outstanding service. We loved them – so much so that we never left the resort, visiting some of the restaurants multiple times because they were so tasty!

Here’s a day’s worth of favorites…

Breakfast at Starbucks

We love hotels that have Starbucks. We are usually up early to catch the sunrise and we don’t typically eat a large breakfast, so having the ability to grab a chai tea and a muffin fits our routine perfectly.

Starbucks at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Starbucks at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those looking for something more substantial – Signature Grill serves breakfast specialties both a la carte and on a buffet.

Breakfast buffet at Signature Grill at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Breakfast buffet at Signature Grill at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lunch… and dinner at Signature Grill

Dining on the patio in the evening at Signature Grill combines stunning starlit views as Tucson twinkles in the distance with outstanding cocktails and cuisine.

Night view from Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Night view from Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Starting off the evening with lemon drop martinis, we then progressed through salads (try the Knife & Fork salad – it’s seriously good), and on to expertly prepared main courses of Ahi Tuna and Salmon. Both were splendid! After dinner, we lingered, savoring our wine next to one of the patio fire pits before retiring for the evening.

Lemon drop martini, Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Lemon drop martinis, Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The next day we were back at Signature for lunch at the bar (which is really cool) for the incredibly delicious vegetarian enchiladas.

Appetizers and drinks at Salud

Salud at the JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Salud at the JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The de facto meeting place for the hotel, Salud, is lively all day long both inside and out on the terraces.

Cantina-style cuisine, signature cocktails, and the 150+ tequilas are the specialties. The open faced quesadillas are killer and the nachos looked fabulous as well.

Salud Terraces at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Salud Terraces at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dinner at Primo

Primo, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Primo, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

James Beard award-winning chef, Melissa Kelly, serves up local, fresh and modern cuisine at Primo – it even says it on the door – and I couldn’t think of a better description. Farm to table fresh, with many of the ingredients grown at the resort.

Primo bar at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Primo bar at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having enjoyed appetizers at Salud a bit earlier, we headed straight into main courses of scallops and bass. So good and creative!

Whether you dine at one or all of the Starr Pass restaurants, the artfully crafted cuisine and fabulous service will be a culinary experience you won’t forget.

Primo dining room, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Primo dining room, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Top 5 things we loved about JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort

Tucson Mountain District, Tucson, Arizona
Tucson Mountain District, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
  1. Stellar staff. The staff was friendly, helpful, and went above and beyond to get it right, without intruding.
  2. Stunning location. I love how it’s as if someone delicately picked up a luxurious, grand resort and oh so carefully placed it in the middle of the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert.
  3. A celebration of the local culture. The unique activities – the guided sunrise hike, the morning ritual, and the tequila tasting – all highlighted the pride in the local culture and surroundings.
  4. Great dining options. The food was stellar, with multiple restaurants and options, so we didn’t have to get the car out once.
  5. Not stuffy. The atmosphere is upscale, casual without the pretense and stuffiness found in many high-end resorts. Visitors can simply relax and enjoy their time at Starr Pass.
Starr Pass resort pools, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass resort pools, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim Hull at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Kim Hull at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California

Ski in two states in one day at Heavenly Lake Tahoe Ski Resort

Cover: Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


It’s not every day you hit the slopes for a day and ski from Nevada to California.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With the state line between Nevada and California running down the middle of Heavenly Ski Resort at South Lake Tahoe, you’ll do just that – ski in two states on one day. It may take you awhile though, considering the fact that Heavenly is massive.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly is without a doubt one of the most appropriately named ski resorts in the world. With many runs providing sweeping views of the sapphire blue waters of Lake Tahoe, the experience is simply… Heavenly. While most all of the Tahoe resorts have beautiful lake views, Heavenly’s are the most expansive, with a photo opportunity around every bend. So, grab your skis or board and your camera phone, and plan on an incredible day on the snow.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Lay of the land

A giant of a resort, Heavenly’s 4,800 skiable acres make it the largest ski resort at Lake Tahoe and the fourth largest in the United States. Understanding how to access all that terrain is important for making the most of your time at the resort.

Gondola/Heavenly Village area: The gondola departs from the Heavenly Village area at Stateline, where numerous hotels, casinos, restaurants, equipment rental shops, and retail stores are located. The Tamarack Lodge is at the top of the gondola and all levels of skiing can be accessed from this point. However, parking is limited near the gondola area so one of the other lodges may provide a better starting point for those arriving by car.

Gondola at Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Gondola at Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The California Lodge, Heavenly’s original mountain base, is located and about two miles from the Heavenly Village gondola area.

California Lodge, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
California Lodge, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at the bottom of the Gunbarrel run (a very long, double black, mogul run – don’t freak out, there are other ways down), the California Lodge has free & premium parking, an equipment rental shop, The California Bar, a ski school and the Aerial Tram.

Gunbarrel, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Gunbarrel, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Aerial Tram, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Aerial Tram, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The World Cup ski area, where race events are frequently held, is also near the California Lodge.

Racing events, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Racing events, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Oh, and, that way to get back down without tackling the Gunbarrel bumps – near the base of the Powderbowl Express and Patsy’s take the intermediate Round-a-Bout down, or just simply download on the Tram or Gunbarrel Express.

Nevada side lodges: Boulder Lodge and Stagecoach Lodge are located on the Nevada side of the mountain about 4-6 miles from the Heavenly Village gondola area. Both have free parking and offer equipment rental. Boulder has an adult and children ski school and provides access to the entire mountain for all levels of skiers and riders. Stage Coach also provides access to all of Heavenly but is only appropriate for intermediate and advanced skiers.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Skiing and snowboarding

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

How big is Heavenly? 97 trails, two terrain parks, 28 lifts (14 in California & 14 in Nevada), a gondola, a tram, and great skiing and boarding for all skill levels.

The base elevation on the California side is 6,540 feet/1,995 meters and 7,200 feet/2,195 meters on the Nevada side.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you think the sights are great on the lower trails, head to the summit where you’ll feel like you just stepped into a Heavenly ad with its panoramic views. Reached via the Sky Express lift (not suitable for beginners as trails are blue and black), the summit sits at 10,067 feet/3,069 meters, the highest at Lake Tahoe.

Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While at the summit, be sure to stop by the Ski Patrol, pick up a Heavenly Avalanche Rescue Dogs t-shirt, and say hi to the friendliest group of Ski Patrollers you’ll meet on a mountain and their fabulous four legged companions – who by the way, star in their own Heavenly video…

Now, that we have the sightseeing finished, it’s time to get down to business with 3,500 feet/1,067 meters of vertical to explore.

Well-known for their wide-open, blue cruisers, 45% of Heavenly’s trails are intermediate.

Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From the top, you have two choices – ski toward Nevada along the spectacular Skyline Trail, linking to the Big Dipper which lands you in an assortment of tree-lined intermediates serviced by Dipper Express and Comet Express.

Or, continue to play in California, heading out on Ridge Run, then taking Liz’s or High Five, both which are pure fun.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Experts and advanced skiers have 35% of the terrain to navigate with steeps, chutes, moguls, and some of the best tree skiing in North America. The expert areas of Mott Canyon and Killebrew Canyon on the Nevada side, really are expert, so don’t attempt these double blacks unless you have the skills to pull it off. Last, but not least, the above mentioned Gunbarrel is a huge mogul hill leading down to the California Lodge.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the beginners, 20% of Heavenly’s runs are gentle green groomers. Near Powderbowl Express, Mombo and Maggies are enjoyable runs and Easy Street can be accessed close to the Tamarack Lodge at the top of the gonodola. For those just starting out, Boulder at the Boulder Lodge is a good option.

Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

But, an even better choice is to spend some time with the Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School. With schools located across the mountain for children and adults, including a First Timer option at the California Lodge, a few lessons will greatly improve both your skill and enjoyment of snow sports.

Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: On mountain dining and drinking

From microbrews & burgers to pizza & paninis, to snacks & warm beverages, the multiple dining options spread across the mountain offer something for all tastes.

The Sky Deck, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
The Sky Deck, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our favorites: The Sky Deck at the foot of the Sky Express lift, with grilled fare (try the black bean burger), a bar and plenty of space to catch a few rays and relax during your lunch break.

Steins, near the Patsy’s and Powderbowl Express lifts – also a great place to grab a beer and a soup and soak up the sun.

Steins, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Steins, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Additional mountain activities

For skiers and non-skiers alike, a wide variety of mountain activities are just a 2.4 mile, breathtaking gondola ride up to the Tamarack Lodge.

Observation deckTake the Observation Deck stop on the gondola ride and take in the panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and grab a drink or bite to eat at Café Blue.

Tubing and sledding at Adventure Peak. With five lanes of tubing and sledding fun on a 500-foot long course with a 65-foot vertical drop, Adventure Peak offers great family fun.

Unbuckle après ski party. A perfect spot for skiers and non-skiers to meet and share some on mountain fun. Located at the Tamarack Lodge at the top of the gondola with drink specials, live DJs, and dancing.

Ice skating. Near the base of the gondola in the village, the Heavenly Village Ice Rink is an open-air ice skating rink which is open daily throughout the ski season.

Ice rink at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Ice rink at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Where to stay

Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From luxury hotels to casino hotels to rustic cabins, South Lake Tahoe has a wide variety of lodging options. Hotels located in Heavenly Village, nearest to the gondola, include Grand Residences by Marriott, Marriott’s Timber Lodge, and Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel.

Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Getting there and parking

Heavenly Lake Tahoe’s address is 4080 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150.

Heavenly Ski Resort is located 58 miles or about 1 hour, 8 minutes from the Reno Tahoe airport or about 200 miles from SFO airport in San Francisco. From Reno, take I-580 south to Carson City, then take US-50 W in South Lake Tahoe.

Heavenly offers a complimentary ski shuttle service throughout South Lake Tahoe and Stateline, making stops at most major facilities, from 8:00am-5:00pm.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Know before you go

Bring the sunscreen. While you may want to go home with a goggle tan, you don’t want a sunburn. With over 300 days of sunshine and the highest elevation of all the Tahoe resorts, sunscreen should be applied often.

Drink lots of water. According to experts, you lose water through respiration at high altitude twice as quickly as you do at sea level. Whether you’re skiing on the hill all day, shopping in Heavenly Village or out for an evening in the casinos, you need to drink extra water to combat the effects of higher altitude.

Dress in layers. Conditions change quickly on the mountain and what starts out as a warm, bluebird day on the mountain, can quickly change to cold and snowy conditions. We ski with a small backpack for different gloves, hand warmers, and other items.

Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Weather and road conditions change quickly in the Sierra and chains are frequently required. Check out the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Heavenly or better, hire transportation, so you can relax and enjoy the trip.

Learn more about Heavenly Lake Tahoe on their website.

Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California

Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Olympic skiing for everyone

Cover: Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


It doesn’t take too long on your first visit to Squaw Valley to see why it was selected as the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With its six peaks, varied terrain, stunning alpine and lake views, and average annual snowfall of 450 inches, Squaw Valley is a snow sports paradise. Add to that natural skiing perfection the Village at Squaw Valley (with nearly 60 restaurants, shops and galleries), a wide variety of activities off the snow, world-class lodging, and lift tickets that grant unlimited access to both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, and you have today’s Squaw Valley Ski Resort, one of the top ski resorts in the world.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Skiing and snow boarding

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 3,600 skiable acres, 29 lifts, 170 trails, 16 bowls and 4 terrain parks, Squaw Valley has a lot to offer in sheer size. Spread across six peaks in the Olympic Valley about 10 miles from Lake Tahoe’s northwestern shore, Squaw Valley has skiing and boarding for all ability levels.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While well-known for its extreme terrain with 30% of its runs ranked advanced or expert, the remaining 70% of Squaw’s trails range from mild to challenging, with 25% suitable for beginners and 45% intermediate – making it a perfect resort for everyone.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Beginners can learn with a view at Squaw Valley. A scenic tram ride to High Camp lands beginners in the middle of numerous gentle, groomed green runs, as well as a skating rink, swimming pool and the Terrace restaurant and bar.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For beginners of all ages, Squaw Valley has created first time and beginner programs with dedicated learning zones and teaching methodologies designed to reduce obstacles and accelerate progression to more advanced skiing. The Squaw Valley Ski School also offers intermediate, advanced, expert, children and family programs.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has the reputation of not having much intermediate skiing. Yet, nearly half of the trails at Squaw are blue runs. If you like blues, jump on the Gold Coast Funitel and head up to some beautiful runs (a funitel has two steel cables versus the one on a classic gondola, allowing it to tolerate higher winds). Many of the trails off the Siberia Express, Emigrant, Gold Coast Express, and Shirley Lake Express chairlifts are intermediate with varying levels of steepness and difficulty. The 360° views at the top of Emigrant are stunning and not to be missed.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The longest run at Squaw Valley is Mountain Run, a 3.2-mile intermediate trail that winds down to the base of the mountain. The Red Dog lift, at the base, delivers some tree skiing and riding opportunities, as well as a good ride down the intermediate Champs Elysees.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the experts – KT-22 and Headwall are legendary for their jaw-dropping descents, steep chutes, moguls, cliffs and bowl skiing.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has four terrain parks – Gold Coast, High Camp, Snow Ventures and Belmont – with 44 features between them.

Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: On mountain dining & drinking

Squaw Valley has some amazing restaurants and bars, but we have to start this section with my favorite place on the mountain – a ski in/ski out Starbucks!

Squaw Valley Starbucks
Ski in / Ski out Starbucks, Squaw Valley Ski in-Ski out Starbucks
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at the top of the Funitel, it is one of the best places to grab a chai or latte and enjoy the view. Also at the top of the Funitel are Funi’s On-mountain Market for a quick sandwich, soups and Funi Crepes and The Arc, with assorted food stations offering soups, salads, pizzas, grilled fare, and Asian cuisine.

At High Camp, Silvey’s Cafe offers quick fare with paninis, soups, and snacks and the Terrace is a sit-down restaurant and bar that serves tasty lunch offerings with panoramic views.

The Terrace, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Terrace, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Village at Squaw Valley

The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Village at Squaw Valley’s 60 restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries provide a wide variety of shopping, dining and après ski options at the base of the mountain. Especially on weekends and holidays, the Village has a bustling, jovial and diverse atmosphere, where upscale Bay area residents mix with powder-seeking ski bums.

The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Other activities

In addition to the world-class skiing, the resort has numerous other activities to enjoy during a stay at Squaw Valley including:

The Tram at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Tram at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A scenic ride on the Aerial Tram, climbing 2,000 vertical feet to High Camp at 8,200 ft elevation, can be enjoyed year round by skiers and non-skiers alike.

At High Camp, the Olympic Ice Pavilion offers ice skating with panoramic views for adults and children. Hockey or figure skate rentals are available at the rink.

Ice skating, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Ice skating, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Snow tubing is located at SnoVentures Activity Zone at the base area of Squaw Valley near the parking lot. A popular activity, tubing tickets are limited per session and sold on first come, first served basis. Also at Squaw Valley’s SnoVentures Activity Zone, kids ages 6-12 can take a mini snowmobile for a whirl around the mini snowmobile course.

Snowshoeing on Squaw Valley’s trail system is a fabulous way to explore nature in the Olympic Valley. The Nordic Center rents snowshoes for adults and kids and snowshoe trails originate at the Resort at Squaw Creek.

High Camp pool & hot tub, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
High Camp pool & hot tub, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, that’s just a start. Also available are dog sledding, climbing walls, visiting the Olympic Museum, taking a dip in the High Camp pool & hot tub (seasonal), bungee skyjumping, and yoga.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Where to stay

The Village at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has a variety of lodging options including the Village at Squaw Valley, Squaw Valley Lodge, Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn, and the Resort at Squaw Valley. Additionally, hotels are available in Tahoe City and Truckee, with each town located about 12 miles away.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Getting there and parking

Squaw Valley’s resort address is 2600 Alpine Meadows Rd, Tahoe City, California 96145.

Located off Highway 89, between Truckee and Tahoe City, on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley is just 47 miles from the Reno Tahoe airport, 96 miles from Sacramento and 196 miles from San Francisco. From Highway 80, take the CA-89 S (exit 185) exit and continue on Highway 89 for about 10 miles. Turn right on Squaw Valley Road.

Free parking is available next to the Village, with a short walk to the Funitel.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Know before you go

Ski conditioning will make your ski vacation more enjoyable.  Some time in the gym and/or using a ski conditioning program before your ski vacation will improve your time on the slopes.

Don’t ski above your ability. Warren Miller films have been shot at Squaw Valley – and extreme is really extreme here. Watching a film while throwing back a beer is one thing; hiking a ridge and heading down one of Squaw’s steeps is something else. There are many expert skiers and riders at Squaw – they aren’t on vacation. Don’t get caught up in it all, overdo it and put yourself and others at risk.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dress in layers. Consider skiing with a small backpack for storing layers as the day moves from cold to warmer temperatures and also take gloves of various weights and hand warmers. Mountain conditions can change from warm to cold and back again quickly. Another option – day use lockers are available at the top of the Funitel, providing easy access throughout the day without going all the way down to the base.

Rent gear. Renting provides a good chance to try out new skis or boards and simplifies travel, especially in airports.

Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Squaw Valley has so many restaurants and activities, a car isn’t really needed. Hiring transportation lets you enjoy the scenery as a professional navigates the weather and road conditions that can change quickly in the Sierra. If you choose to drive, remember that chains are required frequently on Highway 80 and Highway 89 and be sure to check the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Squaw Valley.

Kim Hull at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Where the locals ski

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


A locals’ favorite, Alpine Meadows offers 2,400 skiable acres with stunning views in a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere.  Why is it a locals’ favorite? It’s a drive up, get on a lift, and go ski amazing terrain without a touristy village kind of place.

Yes, in 2011 Alpine Meadows merged with its more well-known sister resort, Squaw Valley, which sits just 10-15 minutes down the road in all her splendor, and one lift ticket provides access to both resorts. But, so far, Alpine Meadows has retained that purist feel and is really just about the skiing.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Skiing and snow boarding

Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Quietly tucked away with over 100 trails, 7 bowls, and a terrain park, Alpine Meadows is located on the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe and normally receives the most snowfall of all the Tahoe resorts with an average of 450 inches per year. Alpine Meadows actually has two peaks, Ward Peak at 8,637 feet and Scott Peak at 8,289 feet.

Alpine Meadows first opened in 1961 as Ward Peak Ski Resort with three lifts. Today, Alpine Meadows operates 13 lifts with an uphill capacity of 18,700 per hour.

Alpine Bowl, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Alpine Bowl, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alpine Meadows is an intermediate skier’s paradise with 40% of its trails providing diverse intermediate options on both the front side and the back side of the resort. The Summit Six, Roundhouse, Hot Wheels, and Lakeside lifts provide access to most of the intermediate terrain. Wide-open with expansive views of Lake Tahoe, intermediate groomers offer top to bottom skiing from Alpine Bowl to the base with a vertical drop of 1,802 feet.

Alpine Bowl, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Alpine Bowl, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

More advanced terrain can also be found on both the front side and the back side, with 35% of the resort’s runs classified as expert. The Pacific Crest Bowls, which descend from the Pacific Crest ridge line, include the Beaver Bowls, Estelle Bowl, and Wolverine Bowl, rewarding the most adventurous on the mountain with gladed trees, chutes, spines, wide-open bowls and an abundance of untracked snow.

For the beginners, all terrain is accessed from the Subway Chair or the Meadow Chair, keeping beginners very close to the base of the mountain near the day lodge.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Dining & drinking

Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The day lodge at Alpine Meadows is located at the base of the mountain and is the hub of activity with restaurants and bars, day lockers, a ski and snowboard gear shop, and a huge deck overlooking the mountain.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Two resorts for the price of one

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One lift ticket or pass at Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows provides access to both mountains and their 6,000 skiable acres, 42 lifts, and 270 trails.

If staying at Squaw Valley, with its nearly 60 restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries, having the ability to ski at Alpine Meadows provides a great option for additional terrain and a completely different atmosphere.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Currently, Alpine Meadows is connected to Squaw Alpine via a free shuttle between the mountains. However, in 2015, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC, the owner of both resorts, announced plans to create a gondola connecting the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski areas.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Where to stay

While there are no hotels at Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley has numerous options, as does Tahoe City, which is about 10 miles away and Truckee, about 14 miles from Alpine Meadows.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Getting there and parking

Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alpine Meadows’ resort address is 2600 Alpine Meadows Rd, Tahoe City, California 96145.

Located off Highway 89 between Truckee and Tahoe City, Alpine Meadows is just 49 miles from the Reno Tahoe airport, 98 miles from Sacramento and 198 miles from San Francisco.

From Highway 80, take the CA-89 S exit and continue on Highway 89 for about 10 miles. Turn right on Alpine Meadows Road.

Free parking is available next to the resort and an overflow lot with shuttle bus is used during high season.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Even Santa skis at Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort at Tahoe: Know before you go

If you’re looking for a destination resort, stay at Squaw Valley. There are numerous lodging options at Squaw Valley and, if you are looking for a resort destination – i.e., no need to drive – stay at Squaw Valley and use the free shuttle to commute between the two resorts. If you stay in Tahoe City or Truckee, you probably need a car for commuting back and forth to the resort.

Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Weather and road conditions change quickly in the Sierra and chains are required frequently on Highway 80 and Highway 89. Check out the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Squaw Valley / Alpine Meadows or better, higher transportation, so you can relax and enjoy the trip.

Get in ski shape. Ski conditioning before you head to the slopes can greatly improve the enjoyment of your ski vacation. Check out the ski conditioning program a personal trainer put together for us for ideas.

Rent gear. Check into renting gear instead of bringing gear with you. Renting can make your travel easier and also provide a good chance to try out new skis or boards.

Dress in layers. Conditions change quickly on the mountain and what starts out as a warm, bluebird day on the mountain, can quickly change to cold and snowy conditions. We ski with a small backpack for different gloves, hand warmers, and other items.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: A great destination resort

Cover: Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Originally known as The Timber Farm near Truckee, California on the north side of Lake Tahoe, skiing first began at Northstar Resort in 1972. Acquired by Vail Resorts in 2010, Northstar California has fabulous skiing, luxury accommodations, the beautiful Village at Northstar at the foot of the mountain, and plenty of things to do for the non-skiers in the group – making it truly a great destination resort.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Skiing and snow boarding

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 100 trails and 3,170 skiable acres, Northstar has something for all abilities with 13% beginner terrain, 60% intermediate and 27% advanced.

At an elevation of 8,610 feet (2,624 meters) at the summit of Mt. Pluto, Northstar has a vertical drop of 2,280 ft (695 meters) to the Village at the base of the mountain (elevation 6,330 ft/1,929 meters). The longest run on the mountain is Logger’s Loop, which is 1.4 miles long.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While Northstar’s average snowfall is 350 inches (9 meters), 50% of Northstar’s trails are covered with snowmaking capabilities, the most in North Lake Tahoe and a good safeguard for a skiing vacation in non-El Nino years.

Northstar is very easy to navigate and well laid-out. Following a short gondola ride from the Village to mid-mountain, there are three lifts providing access to different sections of the mountain, with a total of 20 lifts overall.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull, Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the summit, the East Ridge (blue) is to the left when exiting the chair lift, offering amazing views of Lake Tahoe and leading to multiple short, fun black runs off the left and a variety of blues at the end of the trail.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A hard right from the lift takes you to West Ridge (blue) which heads to a mix of longer blue and black tree-lined trails, with some nice mogul runs as well.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Straight ahead and slightly to the right off the summit leads to the backside of the mountain, which are all black runs that are serviced by the Backside Express lift.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: On mountain dining

In addition to a variety of restaurants and bars in the Village, dining and drinking options can be found at multiple places on the mountain.

The Lodge at Big Springs is located mid-mountain at the top of the gondola with a full bar and serving a variety of lunch options including grilled items, salads, pizza, and baked potatoes (the California baked potato is a personal favorite of ours). Next door is Chilly Peppers Cantina serving burritos, tacos, and other hearty Mexican dishes. Both restaurants are adjacent to a large deck just steps from the Vista Express, Arrow Express, and Tahoe Zephyr Express lifts, a very popular place on the mountain, especially on sunny days.

The Zephyr Lodge is located at the top of the Tahoe Zephyr Express and is the spot for seasonal, local-inspired dishes, crafted cocktails and phenomenal panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the top of Mt. Pluto, the Summit Deck & Grille serves breakfast and lunch and has a large selection of craft beers.

Euro Snack stands can be found at various locations on the mountain and in the Villages offering Belgian waffles, French hot dogs, and hot and cold beverages.

Northstar Ski School & Burton Snowboard Academy

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Northstar’s Ski + Snowboard School offers lessons for skiers of all levels, from day one beginners to advanced using the Northstar Teaching System to ensure teaching styles and methods are consistent from one instructor to another.

Northstar partnered with Burton Snowboards to develop the Burton Snowboard Academy, a first-of-its-kind snowboard program for all levels designed around a terrain-based teaching methodology. The program is a “full-immersion snowboard experience” and includes access to the Burton Snowboard Academy Village and Mid-Mountain Lounge.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Village at Northstar

Located at the base of the mountain, The Village at Northstar is a collection of restaurants, wine bars, cafes, shops and activities including a skating rink and outdoor couches with fire pits.

Surrounded by luxury lodging accommodations, spa, yoga and massage services are available as well as movies at the Village Cinemas.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Other activities

In addition to skiing and snowboards, Northstar offers…

Tubing, located mid-mountain just above the gondola, with a tow lift for tubes and riders to the top of a 200 ft hill. Be sure and book early – space is limited and frequently sells out.

The Cross Country, Telemark + Snowshoe Center with classic and skate skiing, snowshoeing, and telemark skiing on 22 miles (35 kilometers) of groomed, scenic trails.

Summer Village activities that include roller skating, miniature golf, a bungee trampoline and rock wall climbing.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Where to stay

Multiple accommodation options are available in the Northstar Village area including Northstar Lodge, Great Bear Lodge, Iron Horse, Catamount, Big Horn, One Village Place, Northstar Lodge Hyatt Club Residences and the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe.

Additionally, Northstar is located approximately 6 miles from the town of Truckee, California with a variety of hotel options.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Getting there and parking

Northstar California’s resort address is 5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, CA 96161.

Northstar is located 44 miles or about 53 minutes from the Reno Tahoe airport in Reno, 194 miles from Francisco and 111 miles from Sacramento.

From Highway 80, take the CA-89/CA-267 exit toward Sierraville/Lake Tahoe. Turn right onto CA-Hwy 267. Continue for 5.5 miles, then turn on Northstar Drive.

Free parking is available in two lots with shuttle bus access to the Village. The parking is quite a distance from the Village – you definitely want to wait for the shuttle.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Know before you go

Hit the gym before the slopes. Time in the gym before you head to the hill will greatly improve the enjoyment of your ski vacation. Check out the ski conditioning program a personal trainer put together for us for ideas.

Dress in layers. Conditions change quickly on the mountain and what starts out as a warm, bluebird day on the mountain, can quickly change to cold and snowy conditions. We ski with a small backpack for different gloves, hand warmers, and other items.

Rent gear. Having done it more than a few times, we can attest that hauling loads of ski gear through an airport is not a fun task. Check into renting gear instead of bringing gear with you. Renting can also provide a good chance to try out new skis or boards.

Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Weather and road conditions change quickly in the Sierra and chains are required frequently on Highway 80 and Highway 267. Check out the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Northstar or better, higher transportation, so you can relax and enjoy the trip.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull, Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba in Bonaire

Cover: Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Driving over on our way for a horse ride and swim at Rancho Washikemba in Bonaire, we had no idea what a cool morning we would experience.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We expected a horseback ride along a trail, followed by a brief swim, then a ride back to the stables. Boy, were we surprised!

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rancho Washikemba in Bonaire offers a chance to ride a horse while the horse swims in a lagoon and it is truly an amazing experience.

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rancho Washikemba

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located on the rugged, eastern side of Bonaire in the Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba is a horse ranch offering ride/swim tours, riding lessons, and children’s parties.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We arrived a little early to get a chance to meet the horses and the owners, Bregje and Marc. Originally from the Netherlands, they moved to Bonaire 12 years ago, built the ranch in 2010, and now operate the only official, fully licensed and certified horseback riding ranch on Bonaire.

Lady, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Lady, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sophia First of July, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Sophia First of July, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upon our arrival at the ranch, some of the horses were finishing their breakfast, amidst wandering chickens and the ranch dog, Vlek, while others were playing in the horse pen.

Vlek, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Vlek, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Blaze's Joseph, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Blaze’s Joseph, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 10 horses at Rancho Washikemba live in cheerful bright yellow stables that were exceptionally clean and the horses are very well cared for by Bregje and Marc.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d never ridden a horse before and the only horses we’d been around were racehorses at the track so this would be a first experience.

Bregje and Marc had selected horses for us that fit our riding experience level, which obviously was none, and provided riding instructions, such as the distance to keep, how to tell them to turn, etc.

Kim on Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Kim on Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We then mounted up and headed out into the gorgeous Bonaire countryside.

Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Rancho Washikemba Lagoon Tour

We did the Lagoon Tour, which winds through the Bonaire backcountry to the eastern coastline and Lagoon Bay, then back to the ranch. Bregje led the way on Allreckdup, also known as Tango, an American Thoroughbred born in Maryland and now living in Caribbean paradise.

Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Along the way, Bregje would point out things along the trail and shared information about Bonaire and the Washikemba area.

Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I rode Blondy Studebaker, who was born on Curacao and is a crossbred Paso Fino mare. Greg rode Poco Blonde Princess, an American Quarter Horse mare who was born in Florida.

Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We both took photos throughout the ride and both horses were very easy to ride and gentle, making a first time horseback riding adventure a breeze.

Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Along the way, we saw iguanas and a few goats, who generally kept a safe distance, but for the most part, it was a quiet ride through the peaceful, natural environment.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we reached the top of a small hill, Lagoon Bay suddenly appeared – a very quiet, beautiful body of turquoise water rimmed with mangroves and rocky ledges.

Lagoon Bay, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Lagoon Bay, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We rode to a large rock formation next to the lagoon and dismounted.

Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Greg was staying on shore to capture shots of me riding in the water, so Bregje and I stripped down to our swimsuits. Marc, who had met us at the lagoon unsaddled Greg’s horse, Poco, who they told us loves the water and would be the horse I would ride into the lagoon.

Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bregje led us into the water and told me to hold onto the mane. When we got into the water, she told me I’d feel Poco push off when she started swimming.

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It was truly spectacular! Poco loves it so much that when Bregje would try to lead her back out, she’d pull back and wanted to stay swimming.

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After our swim, they saddled Poco back up, we got dressed, and continued our ride.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In the distance, the Spelonk, Lighthouse, which was built in 1910, stands regally above the rough waters and barren landscape.

Spelonk, Lighthouse, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Spelonk, Lighthouse, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After heading down the coastline, we turned inland, past the oldest tree on Bonaire, then by the rumored-to-be haunted, Plantation Washikemba, then continued on the trail back to the ranch.

Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Oldest tree on Bonaire, Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Oldest tree on Bonaire, Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Plantation Washikemba, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Plantation Washikemba, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go to Rancho Washikemba

Location: Rancho Washikemba is about 8 km /5 miles from Kralendijk on the eastern side of the island.

Booking a tour: Reservations are required and can be made by calling +599 788 8668 or +599 786 7321, via email at info@rancho-washikemba.com or by visiting the Rancho Washikemba website.

Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Attire: Wear a swimsuit under your clothes. The ride is more comfortable with long pants and closed-toe shoes, preferably with heavier soles to keep your feet from getting sore from the stirrups.

Sunscreen and a hat: The ride is fully exposed with no shade and the Bonaire sun is very hot, so sunscreen is a must and taking a hat and water are probably also a good idea.

Watch the video: Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba

Rancho Washikemba captured my ride/swim on video – see for yourself what a cool adventure swimming with horses is!

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Rancho Washikemba for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Il Tigretto - Hank the Tank, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Il Tigretto – Hank the Tank, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Red Sail Sports, Aruba

Red Sail Sports Aruba

Cover: Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Gliding through the waters aboard a catamaran watching the golds and oranges fill the sky is about as perfect an ending to a day in Aruba as one can experience.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The heat gives way to a cool sundown breeze and the lights in the hotels along Palm Beach and Eagle Beach twinkle against the dusk sky. Clouds turn pink and yellow, matching the rum punch in your hand.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the catamaran gently cuts through the water, the romance and relaxation of an evening at sea quietly encapsulate the boat as the day’s rays slowly disappear on the horizon.

Red Sail Sports Aruba Sunset Sail

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If I were to advise someone headed to Aruba on one not-to-be-missed activity to experience, it would be a sunset sail.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always a fan of a boat ride with an open bar, watching the day wind down on a sunset cruise is both a beautiful and fun experience. And, our Aruban adventure outfitter of choice has long been Red Sail Sports Aruba.

Our typical Red Sail Sports Aruba Sunset Sail begins with a happy hour drink on the pier near the Hyatt where the boat departs.

Palm Beach, Aruba, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Palm Beach, Aruba, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Even if you aren’t sailing, this is a great spot to enjoy a happy hour beverage and watch the dive boats return and the crew set up the catamaran for the evening sail.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When it was time to sail, we boarded the boat with the assistance of the crew. Our hosts for the evening were Firstmates Randy Commenencia and Gerald Nicolaas.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After some boat safety instructions, the bar opened, and Captain Darcy expertly maneuvered the catamaran away from the pier.

Firstmates Gerald Nicolaas and Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
First mates Gerald Nicolaas and Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The sails went up and off we went over the waters toward the waning sun.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the nicest parts of choosing a provider with a large catamaran is that there’s plenty of room for couples and small groups to find a spot on the boat and enjoy the stunning views.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to pouring tasty libations, Firstmate Gerald periodically distributed an assortment of appetizers, stopping to chat with passengers as he did so.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we reached the end of Eagle Beach, the sun was beginning to mellow.

Eagle Beach, Aruba
Eagle Beach, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

By the time we neared the Aruba cruise port, it was nearly gone.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Under a moonlit sky, we turned to head back.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As darkness surrounded us and we sailed back to the pier, the music cranked up, the drinks continued to pour, and the dancing began, where Firstmate Randy showed us some of his moves on the dance floor.

Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The entire two-hour sail was perfect thanks to the beautiful surroundings, the large, clean Red Sail Sports catamaran, and the excellent crew.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sunset Sails last 2 hours and are available on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm.

Red Sail Sports Aruba

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having provided water and land-based adventures to thousands of visitors for over 25 years, Red Sail Sports is the most experienced tour company on the island, with a wide selection of activities available from the adventurous to the relaxing.

In addition to the Sunset Sail, Red Sail Aruba offers…

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dive excursions for all skill levels, from beginner to expert, that provide opportunities to explore Aruba’s best dive locations. Red Sail Sports Aruba is a PADI 5 Star Dive Resort and operates dive programs aboard three custom-designed dive boats and, in addition to diving excursions, offers diving courses and night drives.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Catamaran sailing options that include snorkeling and dinner sails along Aruba’s beautiful coastline. Sails include hors-d’oeuvres, beverages and snorkeling equipment, where applicable.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hoverboard – a surf board that is attached to a jetski that propels the hoverboard above the water’s surface. Operated by Red Sail Sports’ Hoverboard Certified Instructors, who communicate with hoverboard riders from the jetski during their ride. Some participant restrictions apply.

JETLEV – a water-propelled Jetpack, enabling riders to fly over the ocean up to 30 feet above the water. A flight assistant accompanies each JETLEV participant and some restrictions apply.

ATV Tours that explore Aruba’s north coast off-road in the open air with numerous stops on the rugged back roads.

Beach Tennis combines tennis, badminton and beach volleyball with players using purposely built paddles and a slightly depressurized tennis ball. Both court reservations and lessons are available through Red Sail Sports.

A variety of Jeep Safaris are offered in four-wheel drive Land Rovers to various points around the island.

Red Sail Sports Jeep Safari, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Jeep Safari, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tour Fofoti and Tour Kini Kini each provide an opportunity to explore Aruba in the comfort of an air-conditioned tour bus. Tour Kini Kini runs daily and Tour Fofoti is offered on Fridays.

Deep Sea Fishing excursions provide those wanting a chance to catch Tuna, Blue Marlin, Wahoo, Barracuda, Shark and Sail Fish a perfect day of fishing on the beautiful Aruba waters with a captain who knows where to find the biggest catches.

Learn Kite Surfing or Windsurfing in one of the best spots in the world. Aruba’s winds combined with the flat waters at Fisherman’s Huts. Swimming capability is required.

Hop on the Kukoo Kunuku buses for a pub crawl or dinner and nightlife tour aboard the colorful party buses.

Kukoo Kunuku, Aruba
Kukoo Kunuku, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mountain Biking in Aruba aboard Trek aluminum frame mountain bikes with front shock suspension. Helmet, non-alcoholic beverages and light snacks are included with the tour.

Learn more about these and more Red Sail Sports activities at the Red Sail Sports Aruba website or stop by one of their shops around Aruba.

Kim Hull, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Kim Hull, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Red Sail Sports for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim and Greg Hull, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim and Greg Hull, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba

Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba, an Aruba boutique hotel

Cover: Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


We love boutique hotels done well. The seclusion, the personality, the charm – a great boutique hotel turns a hotel stay into a unique experience.

But, it’s funny, we haven’t found many good boutique hotels in the islands. We’ve found them in the French countryside, in small towns in Belgium, in ocean side getaways in California – but not in the Caribbean.

Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Boardwalk Hotel Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

That changed recently when we arrived at the Boardwalk Small Hotel in Aruba – a boutique hotel that gets it so right. We’ve been to Aruba countless times and have stayed in most of the high-rises along Palm Beach. They are very nice, and Palm Beach in Aruba is one of the prettiest beaches on the planet, but it can be so touristy and busy.

The last time we came to Aruba we rented a private house. With a pool, palapas, and tons of room – it was pleasant but very isolated. This time we were looking for something secluded and relaxing – but still close to the beach, the restaurants, and the casinos. So, when Boardwalk Aruba asked us to stay with them, we decided it sounded just like what we were looking for and – it exceeded our expectations. Here’s why…

Poolside at Boardwalk Aruba
Poolside at Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A boutique hotel with a fabulous location in Aruba

Located across the street from the Ritz Carlton, the Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba is tucked away on a former coconut plantation that is lush, quiet and casual and only a three-minute walk to the beach.

Common areas, Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Common areas, Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An oasis in the midst of the most desirable area of Aruba, we were instantly in love with the little jewel. As the wind rustled through the trees, the bright play of tropical colors served as a cheerful invitation to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings at the Boardwalk.

Quiet pool at Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Quiet pool at Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 14 studio, one or two bedroom casitas, or apartments, the hotel is small enough to be charming but large enough to support hotel features – like maid service, breakfast delivered to your room, and a pool.

Boardwalk Aruba
Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our tropical casita

One bedroom casita at Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
One bedroom casita at Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upon entering our one bedroom casita, we both said the same thing – “It’s immaculate!” As 100+ nighters per year in hotels, we’ve seen the gamut of cleanliness from good to, well not so much, and the Boardwalk was the most pristine of them all.

Living area in one bedroom casita, Boardwalk Aruba
Living area in one bedroom casita, Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A beautiful combination of bright whites and warm colors, the decor is the definition of a tropical oasis. From the comfy, rattan couches to the plush, white bed linens on the cushy bed, every inch of the casita was well-thought out. The fully equipped kitchen included a microwave oven, blender, toaster, coffeemaker, and, inside the fridge was the most amazing iced tea.

Bedroom in one bedroom casita, Boardwalk Aruba
Bedroom in one bedroom casita, Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The bath was quite large with a walk-in rain shower, vessel sink, Aruba Aloe toiletries, and tons of storage.

Bathroom, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Bathroom, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It’s in the details

A peaceful retreat at Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
A peaceful retreat at Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we continued to explore and discover, we found a cooler to take to the beach – and if we wanted, the hotel had snorkeling gear and beach chairs we could borrow. Additionally, fresh beach towels are delivered daily to your casita.

Fresh beach towels delivered daily at Boardwalk Aruba
Fresh beach towels delivered daily at Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If heading to Palm Beach, Boardwalk Aruba hotel guests have free access to Moomba Beach Club, which includes the use of lounge chairs and discounts on the restaurant’s food offerings.

Then there’s the Treasure Box.

The Boardwalk Treasure Box
The Boardwalk Treasure Box
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Filled with suggestions for the best things to do in Aruba, the Treasure Box highlights activities and dining recommendations on the island. Each tip described in detail on laminated cards ranging from restaurants to yoga to beach tips.

Hammock on casita patio, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Hammock on casita patio, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a bottle of wine in hand and a couple of glasses from the kitchen, we next headed outside to our private patio with a hammock and teak patio furniture.

Patio time at Boardwalk Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Patio time at Boardwalk Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the Boardwalk’s cats came by to say hello and, as we enjoyed the setting sun, the smoky fragrance of our neighbor’s barbecue was quite enticing. In addition to the full kitchen, each casita is equipped with a charcoal BBQ but we decided to just head across the street and enjoy a dinner at the Marriott, located next to the Ritz.

Arriving back at the hotel, we took a last stroll by the pool before turning in for the night.

Boardwalk Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Boardwalk Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The best breakfast in Aruba

Breakfast delivered to your casita, Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Breakfast delivered to your casita, Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After a fabulous night’s rest, we awoke to enjoy breakfast delivered to our patio. From the multiple selections offered, we chose the local breakfast, which included a cappuccino, fruit smoothie of the day, pastries, home-made arepa (corn-based bread) with cheese, jam, butter and, since we don’t eat eggs, they substituted fruit and yogurt with granola. The entire breakfast was fresh and delicious – the yogurt was divine.

A quiet morning by the pool

Flowers, Boardwalk Aruba
Flowers, Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After breakfast, we spent some time wandering around the hotel grounds. Nestled amongst the tropical gardens are a quiet swimming pool and Jacuzzi with lounge chairs for those seeking a quiet spot to relax.

Common area seating, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Common area seating, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Near the pool is a common area with couches and a hammock – it would be a great place for larger groups to gather and share the events of the day or just to spend some quiet time reading.

Stopping by the lobby, which is open daily from 9am to 5pm, except on Sundays, we found Kimberly and Stephanie, the Aruban-born sisters who discovered the property in 2008. Following a major renovation that transformed the hotel into the tropical oasis it now is, Kimberly, Stephanie, and their staff now manage the property and are on hand to dispense advice and suggestions on how to get the most out of a visit to the island.

Boardwalk Hotel Aruba lobby entrance
Boardwalk Hotel Aruba lobby entrance
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The two have truly created an exceptional boutique hotel. It’s no surprise they’ve been recognized by the New York Times and have also received TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award as a 2015 Top 25 hotels in the Caribbean for service as well as the Certificate of Excellence from 2011-2015.

Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba

An exceptional boutique hotel in Aruba
An exceptional boutique hotel in Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Reservations & more information: Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba website

Location: Bakval 20, North, Palm Beach, Oranjestad, Aruba

Design: Tropical

Rooms: 14 guest rooms and casitas

Facilities: Pool, jacuzzi, complimentary Moomba Beach Club access, free use of snorkeling gear, coolers and beach chairs, Nespresso coffee and library in the lobby, pet-friendly

Casita amenities: Barbecue grill, hammock, daily beach towel refresh, breakfast service, daily housekeeping except on Sundays, daily newspaper,

WiFi and parking: Free


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Boardwalk Aruba for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba entrance
Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba entrance
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media