Why Travel Writer Paul Theroux Visits Cape Cod Every Summer

cape-cod-hero-lighthouse

Why Travel Writer Paul Theroux Visits Cape Cod Every Summer

May 10, 2019

At first glance it might seem surprising to find the roving travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux spending his summers on Cape Cod. Best known for unflinching accounts of extended, gritty journeys, Theroux helped redefine modern travel writing with his 1975 book, The Great Railway Bazaar, an account of his train journey across Europe and Asia.

A sharp counterpoint to much of the travel writing of the time, Theroux called it as he saw it, and if readers found him cranky or harshly critical, so be it. That didn’t stop them from buying his books, including novels such as The Mosquito Coast, by the millions. “I think the people who read my books and like them, and there are plenty of them, wouldn’t read me if I were merely a bad-tempered person,” Theroux told Salon.com.

Into his later years, Theroux has sought rigorous overland trips, such as a journey that took him across thousands of miles of rutted roads in Africa, recounted in 2002’s Dark Star Safari. So why does this itinerant scribe keep coming back to Cape Cod? There’s fresh air, sand and sea (he’s an avid kayaker), and, of course, history (it’s where the Pilgrims landed in 1620), but most of all it’s become his home. “What a writer needs most is solitude, monotony, routine, security, encouragement and happiness—and, for me, sunshine and the comforts of home,” he tells me. “All my life I have worked to create an ideal place to live and work in, a happy house in a pleasant place.”

Theroux, who turned 74 in April, and his extended family gather on the Cape each summer; he lives with his wife Sheila on Oahu during the winter months. He wouldn’t compare his family to the Kennedys, who famously shared a compound on the Cape in Hyannis Port, but there are some similarities. Like the Kennedys, the Theroux clan has more than one shining light: Paul is the brother of authors Alexander Theroux and Peter Theroux, and his sons Louis and Marcel are successful writers as well.

Paul-Theroux-Featured-1

When I interviewed Theroux in February, the family was preparing to celebrate the 104th birthday of his mother, Anne Theroux. But she died less than a week shy of that birthday, in Brewster on Cape Cod. “My mother’s extreme longevity has kept the family together,” he tells me just before she passed. “We are still children, still siblings.” After she died, Theroux says: “The fact that she was with us for so long makes it all the harder to contemplate her passing.”

Paul Theroux says he’s been able to travel roughly for months on end because of the sense of place, of belonging, he’s found at his home, located near Sandwich on the Upper Cape, quite close to the residences of other family members. In an essay in Sunrise with Seamonsters, Theroux writes that were it not for the cozy contentment he finds on Cape Cod, “I think it would have been impossible for me to travel or stay away for any length of time.”

And in Fresh Air Fiend, he notes that the Cape has been a lodestone for him, its magnetic allure pulling him back into the fold after every extended journey. “It is my home, so it is in my dreams,” he writes, “a landscape of my unconscious mind, per- haps my mind’s only landscape.”

The writer Nicholas Delbanco, who lives part-time on Wellfleet, on the Cape’s wilder eastern side where the land juts north into the Atlantic, says that although his friend Theroux is a “high-profile” author, he doesn’t seek attention or the perks of fame. “That’s congenial to the New England sensibility and Cape Cod in particular,” says Delbanco, author of the recently released novel, The Years. “For New Englanders, that sense of rootedness is crucial. And for a guy who has spent so much of his life wandering, it’s no surprise that he would also have a place where the roots go deep.”

Naturally, Theroux isn’t the first writer to find solace on the Cape, which he calls “this handle-shaped piece of geography, swinging from the crankcase of the Bay State.” With its golden beaches, windswept shorelines, whitewashed clapboard houses, spirit-lifting vistas and promise of solitude, the hooked peninsula has long been a summertime getaway for artists, writers and others who seek to escape the hubbub and frenetic pace of urban life.

Since the formation of the Provincetown Players in 1915, the first theater company devoted to producing original works by American playwrights, the Cape has opened its arms to writers, establishing a tradition of appreciation for the arts. Among those who have spent time on the Cape over the years: Henry David Thoreau, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and poet Mary Oliver.

But perhaps none of these writers has been as intrepid as Theroux. Known locally for paddling his kayak around the Cape, he has embarked on potentially treacherous solo journeys to the nearby islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The naturalist Edward Hoagland recalled that Theroux used to paddle from Hyannis Port to the Martha’s Vineyard home of author William Styron and pull up his kayak on Styron’s beachfront yard.

Theroux said the potential dangers of paddling around the Cape tuned his senses to hazards while traveling abroad. “This complex landscape has taught me ways of measuring the world of risk,” he writes in “The True Size of Cape Cod,” an essay in Fresh Air Fiend. “But the word ‘landscape’ presents a problem on the Cape. I find it hard to separate the land from the water, or the water from the winds.”

In our interview Theroux notes that the “Cape waters, and Nantucket Sound especially, can be dangerous in a small boat—even in a big boat, if we consider the currents at Woods Hole.” The ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II ran aground 10 miles west of Martha’s Vineyard in August 1992, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,800 passengers, according to the New York Times, and knocking the ship out of commission for a year.

“The real challenges are the tides,” Theroux says in our interview, “the strong winds and the shoals. … Understanding and overcoming these facts of nature is one of the satisfactions of being on the water.”

A decade ago, when I asked Theroux (for my collection of interviews with travel writers called A Sense of Place) why he spends summers on Cape Cod, he replied, “Is that a serious question?” I responded by saying I understood that the Cape is a lovely place but that the world is full of lovely places. Why migrate yearly to the Cape?

Theroux says he enjoys spending time near where he grew up (he spent his youth in Medford, a suburb of Boston), and that he loves the sunny weather and the quality of the ocean-reflected light on the Cape. “There is something magical about marine sunlight,” he says, then adds, “I also subscribe to the ancient Phoenician belief that a day spent on the sea is a day that is not deducted from your life.”

His love affair with the Cape began when he was a boy and his family vacationed there. “It would have been the late 1940s, because gasoline rationing was still in effect. The weeks we spent there bewitched me,” he says. “I longed to go back—and we did. As soon as I made some money I bought a house on the Cape (in the early 1970s) and have spent every summer there since. I work, paddle a kayak, row a boat, grow tomatoes and am visited by my children and grandchildren, nearly always in sunshine,” Theroux tells me. “This is bliss.”

Perhaps Theroux’s enjoyment of the good life on the Cape is enhanced by the rigors of the life he’s led. In 1963, after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he en- rolled in the Peace Corps and was assigned to work in Malawi as the country was gaining its independence.

After almost two years there, Theroux was discharged from the Peace Corps amid allegations he aided a coup. When asked about this, Theroux says he was simply taking the mother of Malawi’s ambassador, and her dinner service for 12, to Uganda. On the way back he was asked to deliver some money and a message, which, though he says he didn’t know it, was part of a plot to kill Malawi’s president.

From 1965 until 1968, Theroux taught at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, where he wrote his early novels, met his first wife, and introduced himself to the author who would become his mentor, V. S. Naipaul. Theroux and Naipaul later had a falling out, a tale recounted in Theroux’s 1998 memoir, Sir Vidia’s Shadow.

Theroux has traveled relentlessly and written prolifically into his seventies. His latest book, Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads, about travels in the U.S. South, will be published this September.

But as far and wide as he’s ranged, he keeps coming back to the Cape. In his essay “Summertime on the Cape” in Sunrise with Seamonsters, Theroux says: “Most people go away for a vacation; I go home.” And that seems true for many perennial visitors—even if they haven’t grown up on or near the Cape, each time they come back they enjoy a sense of homecoming. Robert Finch, an author whose tales about the Cape are broadcast on the local public radio station, WCAI, and are collected in A Cape Cod Notebook, moved here in 1971 after spending his boyhood in New Jersey. “I grew up in a place where rivers were littered with broken glass and oil spills, and marshes were usually on fire,” he says. “So coming to the Cape was something I’d never experienced before—the beauty overwhelmed me.”

Theroux believes visitors can fully appreciate Cape Cod without spending the entire summer there. But he ad- vises vacationers to stay longer than a few days. “The only thing that matters on the Cape is that you stay a while,” he writes. “A week is not enough, two weeks are adequate, three are excellent, a month is perfect. This isn’t travel, remember; this is a vacation.”

cape-cod-featured

Spending extended time on the Cape gives visitors a sense of its rhythms and unusual attractions. Theroux has written that several towns on the Cape have auctions, and that the one in Sandwich run by the Sandwich Auction House (sandwichauction.com) since 1974, is among the best. “Inevitably, some of the items are junk, but just as many are valuable,” he writes, “and some are treasures.”

Theroux recognizes that part of the Cape’s appeal is the sense of revisiting the joys of childhood. “Ever since I was an ashen-faced tot, I have regarded the summer as a three-month period during which one swam, fished, read comic books, ate junk food and harmlessly misbehaved,” he writes in “Summertime.”

For him, summer begins when he crosses the Sagamore Bridge, which spans the Cape Cod Canal, and lands on the Cape. What happens when he crosses that bridge? “I feel happier, more content, younger, more hopeful,” he tells me. The appeal of this homecoming hasn’t dimmed for Theroux; if anything it has brightened. “Anyone who grows tired of Cape Cod needs his head examined,” he writes, “because for purely homely summer fun there is nowhere in the world that I know that can touch it.”

Theroux enjoys simple pleasures: picking wild blueberries, taking a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard (“full of interest and beauty spots”), or walking along the shoreline and gazing out at the ever-changing sea. He’s spoken over the years of his concern that the Cape would suffer from overdevelopment, but is pleased to see that much of the Cape has retained its essence. The National Seashore has preserved the eastern Cape and zoning restrictions have limited growth elsewhere.

“The National Seashore is a great thing, but what really does the trick is severe zoning restrictions,” Theroux tells me. “Look at Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket and you will not see a McDonald’s, Taco Bell, KFC or any other fast-food chain, but you will see many mom-and-pop burger places, run by locals. This is also true of Route 6A (on Cape Cod), the Cranberry Highway that runs from Sagamore Bridge along the North Side of the Cape: no honky-tonk. On the other side of the Cape, Route 28, there is unchecked development and fast food. There are salutary lessons all over the Cape.”

Even after decades of summers on the cape, Theroux keeps making new discoveries. Delbanco, the novelist, recalls that a couple of years ago he took Theroux to a house where Henry David Thoreau, best known for the 19th-century classic Walden Pond, stayed during a visit to the Cape in the 1850s. Theroux wrote the introduction to the 1987 edition of Thoreau’s book Cape Cod, but he’d never been to this privately owned home in the Wellfleet woods. “It was wonderful to watch him sniff his way around that particular structure,” Delbanco says. “He responded as might a pointer with a bird in the bush. You could see him take in everything about the house.” Delbanco adds that “witnessing Theroux’s attentiveness enhanced my appreciation of the writer’s noticing eye.”

When Henry David Thoreau wrote about Cape Cod in the 1850s, he said he came to the Cape to get a better view of the ocean. In his introduction to Cape Cod, Theroux says that the 19th-century writer’s “modest wish” gives the book its power. “Thoreau discovered that the only way to know the sea was to study it from the shore. He seems to raise beachcombing to a priesthood,” Theroux writes about this spit of land, the eastern- most place in the United States, excluding Maine.

“When at the end Thoreau says of the Cape, ‘A man may stand there and put all America behind him,’ he is expressing the yearning of Ishmael. In this trip more than any other, Thoreau discovered a sense of freedom. To him, Cape Cod was not a territory to be explored; it was a vantage point.”

More than 150 years later, Cape Cod remains a vantage point for one of the most accomplished travel writers of our time. It’s not just a place for Theroux to relax, recover and reconnect with his family. It’s a place of perspective for him, a safe harbor where he can gaze upon tempestuous seas, reflect upon his life and plot the journey ahead.

Why Nantucket Is a Vacation Oasis

Nantucket-Hero

Why Nantucket Is a Vacation Oasis

April 22, 2019

In the summer the prevailing winds blow across coastal Massachusetts and Cape Cod from the southwest. The gentle morning sea breeze often builds throughout the day into a stiff wind that wafts across the exposed crescent that is the is- land of Nantucket. The Wampanoag were the first to ride these winds and settle Nantucket, the “far away land” in their language. European explorers used these winds to sail past the island in the 17th century, and the great whaling ships that once chased sperm whales across the globe called Nantucket harbor their home port. While this glacial remnant that juts out of the ocean 30 miles south of Hyannis is now known for its sandy beaches and stunning vacation homes, sailing—more than anything—defines the Nantucket way of life.

When spending time on the island, it is impossible not to feel the urge to hop aboard a boat and hoist the mainsail. The best place to get a sailing lesson or send the kids to sailing school is Nantucket Community Sailing, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching and providing sailing opportunities. Once you learn how to sail, the waters around the island open up to a whole new world.

Oddly enough, Herman Melville had not set foot on Nantucket before writing Moby Dick in 1851. But he knew the history of the infamous whaling ship the Essex from Nantucket, which was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in the South Pacific. And his book, hailed by some as the Great American Novel, foisted both sailing and the island of Nantucket into the national consciousness.

Nantucket was the hub of America’s whaling fleet from 1715 until the eventual demise of commercial whaling 150 years later. (The last whaler reportedly left the harbor in 1869.) At its peak in the mid-19th century, 72 whaling ships listed Nantucket as their home port. The ships had three masts that hoisted square-rigged sails; three-dozen crew-members would board and set sail from the island on expeditions that lasted as long as three years. That’s quite the contrast from the fleet of recreational day sailors that flit about the harbor or swing with the tide on moorings today.

Nantucket-1

Nantucket took to its present-day incarnation as a vacation oasis not long after those whaling ships faded into history, with visitors flocking to the island for the same reason as the original settlers—rugged yet picturesque beauty and a large protected harbor.

The island is actually part of a glacial moraine, formed at the forward edge of the Laurentide Ice Sheet that retreated at the end of the last ice age more than 20,000 years ago. It left behind a 50-square-mile chunk of land in the shape of a crescent moon off the coast of Cape Cod. Melville described it in Moby Dick as an “elbow of sand,” but that’s not exactly right. Parts of the island’s sandy shoreline are still littered with boulders and rocks from the leftover glacial till. Much of the island rises up from the beaches in the form of vast bluffs that provide high vantage points for gazing far across the surrounding waters. The opening to Nantucket Harbor sits in the middle of the crescent, facing north into Nantucket Sound and across to the Cape. There is always at least a little wind.

“Nantucket Sound is just a glorious sailing location,” says Diana Brown, the chief executive of Nantucket Community Sail- ing. “There are steady breezes every day and the water is clear.”

Founded in 1994, Nantucket Community Sailing is dedicated to teaching sailing and making it accessible to people who live in or visit Nantucket. It offers weekly classes for children in season, all taught by instructors certified by US Sailing. Adults and kids alike can sign up for private lessons. “Our primary focus is children,” says Brown. “But we work with sailors from age 5 to 95.”

Youth classes range from absolute beginner all the way up to advanced racing level, and adults can sign up for private lessons at all skill levels. There’s also a woman’s sailing clinic and an adult racing program. Last year, the organization provided sailing opportunities to more than 1,000 kids and 2,000 adults over the season, which lasts mid-June through August, with rentals available through mid-September.

For rentals and lessons, head to Jetties Sailing Center, where Community Sailing keeps its boats. It’s on the beach just off Bathing Beach Road, about a mile from downtown and the docks for the ferries from Oak Bluff and Hyannis. Prospective sailors can rent or take lessons in small one- to two-person boats such as Sunfish and Lasers or larger Rhodes or Marshall Cats or take a trip with a captain aboard a J/105.

All of Jetties Sailing Center’s introductory sailing lessons, as well as rentals, stay inside the protected waters of the harbor. From the center, you can sail past the historic Brant Point Lighthouse, first established as an aid to navigation in 1746. The interior harbor offers protected water where first-timers can learn basic skills such as how to set and trim a sail so that it works to move the boat no matter the wind direction, how to tack and jibe, control the centerboard and how to come about, which is how you change direction.

A lesson aboard the 35-foot J/105 can involve leaving the harbor and exploring the waters surrounding Nantucket. And there is no better way to see the island than from the deck of a boat.

Nantucket-2

Heading west along the shoreline leads to the smaller Madaket Harbor, which is more exposed to the elements but offers the best view of Nantucket’s sunset. Sailing farther west and to the north provides the best opportunity to see the privately owned summer community on Tuckernuck Island, or sail beyond to the neighboring Muskeget Island to view the largest population of grey seals in the United States. (Don’t try to swim near them; it’s illegal to get within 150 feet of one, and seals attract sharks.) An article from the Cape Cod Times described the seal-viewing experience this way, “On a foggy day you can smell the island before you can actually see it.” But the chance
to see roughly 3,000 seals in the wild is worth the olfactory assault.

Heading north and east outside of the harbor entrance leads to the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, a pristine stretch of grassy sand dunes and marshes that juts north into the ocean, protected at its tip by the Great Point Light, built in 1785 to guide sailors in from Cape Cod. As Ezra G. Perry wrote in his 1898 book A Trip Around Cape Cod, “The long-drawn sandy shores of Great Point are among the first land of the real island sighted on the trip across,” from the Cape. This is another place to watch seals flopping on and off the beaches into the surf, as well as several species of migratory shore birds like American oystercatchers, piping plovers or snowy egrets.

The south shore of Nantucket is exposed to the whims of the Atlantic Ocean, and subject to much larger seas. (It holds great surfing spots, if you want to try that.) But on calm days sailors can cruise along the sandy beaches and observe the famous Nantucket summerhouses perched atop the bluffs.

Sailors with serious experience can venture about 20 miles offshore to the whale feeding grounds, where it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the massive humpback and finback whales that pass through these waters throughout the summer season. And whale watching brings the Nantucket experience back full circle to its days of Captain Ahab and the majestic whaling fleet.

As Melville wrote in Moby Dick of the Nantucket sailor, “For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires.”

Adventures Abound on Kauai, Hawaii’s “Garden Isle”

Kauai-Hero

Adventures Abound on Kauai, Hawaii's "Garden Isle"

March 19, 2019

Yes, it rains about 15 days of every month on Kauai, the northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands. The entire island averages about 43 inches of rain annually, compared to 17 inches on Oahu.

Dubbed “The Garden Isle,” 97 percent of Kauai is covered by forests or mountains—rain-fed canopies so dense, and rain-eroded valleys that you can’t imagine anyone having ever lived in (although up to several thousand people did live in different valleys as recently as the early 20th century).

But all this rain has an upside: It’s responsible for the island’s distinctive landscape. The rain helped create the Waimea Canyon, the biggest gorge in the Pacific. The rain also feeds thousands of magnificent waterfalls, while light, misty sun-showers create some of the most spectacular rainbows on earth.

Today, the island’s 67,000 residents are clustered in small, laid-back towns on the coasts. Much of the 3 percent of the island that isn’t forest or mountains is beach. Kauai residents like to claim their island has more beaches than any other in the chain. Whether this is true or not, it’s not difficult to find a small beach you can have all to yourself. And unlike some of the more popular islands, Kauai’s beaches are made up of soft sand rather than lava, and easily accessed from the road that circumnavigates the island—the island’s only road that takes about 2.5 hours to travel by car.

Kauai-Featured-1

The 4,000-foot red cliffs and cavernous canyons of the island’s north and west coasts are too treacherous to build a road on, but they make ideal locations for filming adventure movies and shows set in remote locations or prehistoric times. More than 70 Hollywood movies and television shows have been filmed on Kauai, including classics such as Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

While your own time on the island likely won’t include such harrowing adventures as these movies do, you’ll certainly find no shortage of fun excursions and breathtaking sights.

Kayak the Napali Coast

The Napali Coast is spectacular. On one side is a tangle of thick vegetation; on the other side are steep, sheer cliffs—napali means “many cliffs” in Hawaiian—that end in roiling ocean. National Geographic once described it as “the finest coastal hike in the world.” The hike, while unforgettable, is a multi-day affair that requires camping and securing a permit several months in advance.

In contrast, you can kayak the Napali Coast in just a day with much less planning, and without much ocean kayaking experience. If you’re comfortable in water and generally fit, you’ll be just fine, even if the trip is a somewhat daunting 17 miles long.

You’ll gear up at Ke’e Beach and set out onto the water with an expert guide. Along the way, you’ll likely pass sea turtles floating lazily near the water’s surface, and channel their energy as you bob up and down on the ocean’s gentle swells. Following the path of your guide will take you close enough to the shore’s soaring cliffs to wave to the hikers above, or out a couple hundred meters into the open ocean, where you can marvel at the island’s remarkable landscape from afar. You’ll stop for lunch on Milolii Beach, which is accessible only by boat, and where you might just stumble upon a Hawaiian monk seal. A few hours later, the trip wraps up at Polihale Beach State Park.

Hike the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail

Set off from Shipwrecks Beach on the flat, 4-mile, out-and-back Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail to Punahoa Point. The trail, along the last stretch of undeveloped coastline on Kauai’s southern shore, passes 350,000-year-old sand dunes, cultural and geological sites, sturdy Kiawe and Ironwood trees, hillsides blanketed in colorful ilima flowers, limestone pinnacles, rocky inlets, tide pools, and the cliff that actors Anne Heche and Harrison Ford famously jumped from in the 1998 movie Six Days, Seven Nights. Jumping from this cliff, Makawehi Point, isn’t just a movie stunt: Brave Hawaiians and tourists do it too, timing their leaps with the waves. You can decide for yourself whether to take the plunge or simply peer over its sheer edge.

Past Makawehi, groupings of fragile-looking limestone and sandstone pinnacles rise from the ocean. According to the trail guide, in the 1970s paleontologists from the Smithsonian Institution discovered bones from two extinct species of birds in these formations.

From this ruggedness, the hike takes a jarring, quarter-mile detour onto the Poipu Bay Golf Course, a temporary workaround due to landslides. While the landscape couldn’t be more manicured and civilized, families of nene, an endangered, non-migratory species of goose indigenous to Hawaii and whose population was once as low as 30, seem not to care. They wander the greens like they own them.

Back on the trail, you’ll pass a heiau, a sacred site where fish were offered to Keoniloa, the god of the sea, to ensure a good catch. And gazing out from the trail to the water, you’re likely to see humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals, and green sea turtles, along with other wildlife. The trek concludes at Punahoa Point, the apex of the oldest sand-dune system in the region.

Tube the Irrigation Canals of Lihue Plantation

Along Kauai’s East Side, also known as the Coconut Coast for the groves of coconut palms that grow there, you’ll find a truly one-of-a-kind experience: tubing down old irrigation ditches on a former sugarcane plantation.

Built deep in Kauai’s lush interior, Lihue Plantation is crisscrossed by a network of canals, tunnels, and flumes that were hand-dug all the way back in 1870. For more than a century, these ditches delivered water to irrigate the plantation’s sugar crops. But after sugarcane was taken out of production in 2000, they sat vacant, collecting rainwater for a few years before Kauai Backcountry Adventures bought the entire property with something uniquely fun in mind.

Today, tourists plunk down into inner tubes and traverse the gently rolling waterways on exclusive tubing tours. Starting near the top of Mount Waialeale, tubers descend through some of the most remote land on Kauai, passing through thick rainforest and sliding down small waterfalls.

Kauai-Featured-2

The water is decidedly more brisk than that lapping up against your favorite beach, as it comes down from Mount Waialeale, Kauai’s second-tallest mountain. But it’s not so brisk that tubers need to wear anything more than their bathing suits. Except, of course, the helmet and headlamp (provided by your hosts), which come in handy as you wind through old irrigation tunnels, which can be up to a mile long.

Ride in a Helicopter above Waimea Canyon

After kayaking, hiking, and tubing—not to mention likely bouts of swimming, snorkeling, and possibly surfing in between—you might be ready to sit back and let someone else take the reins. A helicopter tour provides just such an opportunity, though with no less excitement.

On its west side, Kauai’s tropical rainforest gives way to dryer, more desert-like conditions at Waimea Canyon, once dubbed “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific” by Mark Twain. More than 10 miles long and 3,600 feet deep, Waimea Canyon offers visitors a chance to peer at the topography of the island’s interior, marked by deep valley gorges and crested buttes. Rainbows frequently arch over the canyon, which was carved by the Waimea River long ago. The word “Waimea” is Hawaiian for “reddish water,” referencing the canyon’s red soil.

The only way to truly appreciate the unique complexity of this landscape is with a bird’s-eye view from high above. Tours depart from Lihue Airport on hourlong jaunts. As you take in the untamed land below, you’ll feel as if you’ve gone back to prehistoric times, especially as many helicopters chopper over Manawaiopuna Falls, a 400-foot-tall cascade, made popular by its appearance in the original Jurassic Park in 1993.

Dine at Tidepools

After all these adventures, you earned some time for a refreshing cocktail and a delicious meal. In general, Kauai is not a fancy place. That’s one reason the island’s devotees love it so much. The dining, like most things, tends to be low key—fish tacos, plate lunches (two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad, and a meat—often Spam—might not seem exciting but is the quintessential Hawaiian meal), fresh fruit bowls and smoothies, and shave ice. Often, the best of these places to eat are tucked away in strip malls. But if during a stay filled to the brim with rugged, outdoor adventures, you’re looking for something more formal, head to Tidepools.

Made up of a cluster of open-air hale pili (thatched-roof bungalows) that seem to float like massive lily pads atop koi lagoons within the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, Tidepools is very much “Hollywood Hawaiian.” Flickering tiki torches and dark koa wood create a retro ’60s vibe that wouldn’t look out of place in a mid-century travel brochure. This ambiance pairs perfectly with signature (and slightly over-the-top) cocktails such as the Tai Chi, made with Captain Morgan’s spiced and Malibu coconut spiced rum, along with pineapple and orange juices, and the Lava Flow, which consists of light rum, coconut crème, pineapple juice, strawberry, and ice cream all blended together. You might be lucky enough to be seated at Table #42, which the staff says is the best in the house because of its secluded location in a separate hale, but really, there’s no bad table in the house.

Chef Kevin Horan, who came to Tidepools after stints in Las Vegas at Restaurant Guy Savoy and Mandarin Oriental, presents a contemporary Hawaiian menu. He uses traditional ingredients like opah, a fish with a rich, creamy taste, macadamia nuts, fresh-caught seafood, and beef, but does not necessarily prepare them traditionally. Adventurous palates will enjoy the opah topped with papaya-habanero sauce or caught-that-morning macadamia nut-crusted mahi mahi topped with a roasted banana-macadamia nut sauce and papaya-avocado relish. Foie gras isn’t a traditional Hawaiian food, but Horan brings an island influence to the dish by pairing it with macadamia-nut mousse and strawberry-papaya jam. The fresh greens are grown on-site in the resort’s 4,000-square-foot hydroponic garden, which is open to resort guests for tours twice a week.

Sitting here, cocktail in hand, watching the colors of the sunset streak across the sky behind the gently swaying palms makes for a fitting end to a day exploring this natural-born island paradise.

How Country Music Star Brett Young Likes to Vacation

Brett-Young-Hero

How Country Music Star Brett Young Likes to Vacation

February 27, 2019

Three years ago, Brett Young was just another anonymous singer/songwriter hoping to make it in the country music business in Nashville. Today he’s the owner of a platinum album, Brett Young, and the recently released Ticket to L.A. He’s also newly married to his long-time girlfriend, Taylor Mills. Days after returning from his honeymoon and before he kicked off his winter tour across the United States, Young took some time to share how his overnight success, 10 years in the making, was due to hard work and the generosity and resolute support of Inspirato members Rutherford and Rhonda Polhill.

You were born and raised in Huntington Beach, California, aka Surf City, U.S.A. How did you ever become a fan of country music?

It was because of my older sister. We’d battle for shotgun in the car, and when I’d win she’d kick the back of my seat to annoy me. To get her back, I’d turn on the country-music station in the car. She hated country back then. (Now, she loves it.)

Then I heard Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl,” and I was like “Whoa, what’s going on here?” And I started listening to the storytelling in the songs and soon enough I was getting into artists like BlackHawk and Shenandoah. Country music just made sense to me.

It went from there. I was a bit of an outlier among my friends who were all into Southern California punk.

Brett-Young-Featured-1

Where and how did you develop your love of writing and performing music?

My dad is a pastor, so I grew up going to church and playing guitar at church services, learning to play worship songs. When I got to high school, which was a church school, I was performing in front of the whole student body on Friday mornings, playing worship songs, so that’s how I grew into a performer.

But music wasn’t my thing. I was on track to play pro baseball.

I was a pitcher for Fresno State University in California, but an elbow surgery put an end to that. About that time, I heard Gavin DeGraw’s Chariot, and he doesn’t do country, but I still fell in love with the songwriting—to be honest and vulnerable like he was.

It showed me that there was a path out there to write the songs I wanted to write. So, I set out to do it.

How did that go?

I was making a living as a bartender and resident musician in restaurants and bars around Los Angeles, mostly playing covers. One of the gigs was in the lobby bar of the Montage Beverly Hills, playing every Wednesday night from 8 to midnight. After paying my backup band and buying dinner, I nearly always lost money playing there, but I kept at it because everyone who was anyone would come through that lobby eventually.

One night, Rutherford “Ruddy” Polhill, a guy from Atlanta who was in town for an eye-surgery consultation, sat down to listen and told me he believed I could make it in the music business. Then a month later, he brought out his wife and daughters to hear me play, and soon after that, they flew me to Atlanta to perform at their birthday party. That’s how much the whole family believed in me.

We worked out an arrangement where they staked me, and we were going to figure out how to hack the Nashville music scene and get a recording contract for me.

What’s the first step to hacking Nashville?

Well, we eventually figured out you really can’t hack the system. It works like it does for a reason. What we did figure out, though, was that success starts with songwriting. In June 2015, we set up a weeklong songwriting retreat at a huge beachfront Inspirato house, Casa de Colores, outside Puerto Vallarta, figuring it’d be easy to get great songwriters to come down to Mexico for a free beach vacation and to collaborate with me on new material. And being an Inspirato set-up, we didn’t have to worry about anything except getting to know each other and writing music.

We had two songwriting teams come down for three days each, and we had a production engineer recording every session. First was Trent Tomlinson and Tyler Reeve. That first day, we wrote “In Case You Didn’t Know.” That song was released as a single about a year later and went to No. 1 on the charts and became a multi-platinum-selling single. [To date, the song’s YouTube video has been viewed more than 210 million times.]

The next songwriting duo to come in was the husband-and-wife team of Ben Caver and Sara Haze. We didn’t get too far, though, as I got my first and only case of sun poisoning in my life on the second day with them. But they’ve stayed close—they even recorded a cover of “Forever Young” for my wedding. Two months after that trip, I signed a record contract.

My career’s been going nonstop in the years since that week in Mexico. Except for a weeklong Inspirato vacation to Cabo last year with the Polhills, my then-fiancée Taylor, and two other couples who are special to us, my wedding and honeymoon this past November was the first time I’ve taken an extended break from music.

Speaking of your honeymoon, how did you and Taylor pick St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands as the destination?

Taylor and I love being warm and near the ocean, and she’d been to the British Virgin Islands before and wanted to show me the Caribbean. We saw the house that Inspirato had available on St. Croix and said, “That’s it!” We arrived in St. Croix and it was just perfect. Warm and sunny, and then we’re driving out to the house, and it’s at the end of this long drive, situated on a cliff with the waves crashing below. It’s just an insane property. The photos of it are incredible, but they don’t do the setting justice.

Brett-Young-Featured-2

And then it started raining—and it never really stopped. But whenever there was sun, we’d dash out to the beach for the hour or two it was out. We did have one perfect beach day at Judith’s Fancy, lounging on the beach with drinks in our hand. That was pretty special.

But as I said before, Inspirato thinks of everything. To distract us from the rain, Sarah, our Destination Concierge, set us up with massages right before dinner on the first night. The second night, we had a chef come to make us anything we wanted. I know it sounds corny, but I wanted chicken parmesan. That paired with a special bottle of wine I’d brought made it a special meal.

The weather wasn’t ideal, but it was still pretty dramatic, and when it’s your honeymoon, it was super romantic, as well. It’s not the worst thing to be stuck inside a gorgeous house over the ocean for a week, knowing that every last detail is, and will be, taken care of.

Can we expect a song to come out of the adventure?

You never know!

Why Baja, Mexico Is Unlike Any Other Destination in North America

Cabo-Hero

Why Baja, Mexico, Is Unlike Any Other Destination in North America

February 25, 2019

From where I sit on this jazz cruise, a “luxury sailing excursion,” I can see pale tourists onshore posing with two caged lion cubs at a pop-up photo stand. And across the bay, at Jack’s Bar & Grill, the faux-swaggering, paste-on mustachioed Captain Sparrow accosting tourists is hardly the exotic character I travel to meet.

Authentic, it turns out, isn’t always a good thing.

This crassness is precisely why I have never before ventured to Baja’s Cabo San Lucas, which I’ve long associated with everything base about Mexican travel. Like its Nevada doppelganger, Vegas, this tourist town at the tip of the Baja peninsula is so hip that it goes just by Cabo. But while the place might be as graceless as the border towns of Nogales and Laredo, it still attracts some 1.5 million visitors each year. And judging by kitsch Cabo San Lucas proper, they’re not coming for the culture.

Proximity is surely an appeal. Hop a flight from L.A. and you can be pink from sun exposure before you’d have even touched down on flights to Hawaii or Costa Rica. And then there are the beaches, which rival the Caribbean. On the 18-mile-long corridor of coastal highway stretching to the northeast, hundreds of hotels and resorts have carved out pristine space on rocky headlands and sugary strands that are inarguably stunning.

Cabo-Featured-1

That’s where I’m staying, at a resort called Esperanza that’s part country club, part beach hideaway; the sort of place you could settle into for a week and never leave. “Many of our clients eat here, sleep here, sun here, and then fly home,” says Lucas Williams, my Destination Concierge. And while that sounds perfectly anesthetizing, I’m curious to know if there’s more to Baja California Sur.

That’s what led to the evening jazz cruise, which at first doesn’t give me much hope. But then the local Kool-Aid starts to kick in. The boat motors into Bahía Cabo, where the Arch of San Lucas, a natural limestone passage cut from the sea, is backlit in golden God-light, and everyone quiets the genuine awe. The moment is legitimately stirring. There’s authenticity to be found in Cabo if you’re willing to look for it.

I go searching up the west coast the next morning on a day trip to the village of Todos Santos. The Cabo circus act disappears as soon as I crest the first hill out of town, and I’m suddenly speeding through desolate high desert scratched with thorny acacias and topsy-turvy cardón cactus reminiscent of Arizona’s saguaros.

Little more than a pocked double track a couple years ago, the road has lately been paved and widened to four lanes. The hope is that once the bypass around Cabo San Lucas is complete, developers will be inclined to build on this stretch of coast since travelers could reach it from the international airport in about an hour. For now, it’s just open highway with the occasional dusty side road trailing off to the Pacific.

Todos Santos is dozy too, with a single strip of pavement through town and a quaint little Catholic church the color of whipped egg yolks overlooking a cobbled plaza. Three wrinkly old men in scuffed boots and battered cowboy hats sit so still on a palm-shaded bench that I have to walk closer to make sure they’re not statues.

The only real action is down the street at The Hotel California, which owner Debbie Stewart claims (but can’t prove) is the establishment that inspired the song, though she’s quick to emphasize that’s where the connection ends. “We’re not selling the Eagles. We’re selling real Mexico,” she says, explaining that Todos Santos is part of a Mexican tourism initiative called Pueblos Mágicos to promote the country’s most culturally compelling towns. The plaza was recently spruced up, several new boutique hotels have opened in renovated, 100-year-old buildings, and a few art galleries have popped up in anticipation of the increased traffic. “Mostly though people still just come here to surf and relax,” Stewart says.

She suggests a trip to Playa Los Cerritos, 10 minutes down a sandy track from the highway. When I arrive, 30 or so cars are parked beside a thatch-roof bar, with a dozen white umbrellas facing the sea. I take my place under a free umbrella among the crowd of mostly Mexican families, and a waiter is soon plying me with margaritas, icy bottles of Sol beer and totopos and guacamole. He keeps up a steady flow of refrescos as I read, nap and listen to the thrum of the sea, and before I know it evening has come.

Back in town, the trio of gauchos on the plaza hasn’t moved. I take their cue and settle in on the covered, street-front arcade to watch life go by. Stewart tells me that if I’d come a month ago, I could have watched whales steaming past town from shore, but they’ve already moved north for the summer.

A stooped old man leads a donkey down the opposite side of the road by a frayed rope. Then a procession of churchgoers singing hymns in Spanish tread slowly the other direction toward the church. It’s nothing but everyday life here in Baja, but to me it’s both exotic and deeply quieting.

“Cabo is about the party. La Paz is about the water,” Stewart says.

“We’re just a quiet little town with history and a sense of place.” This laidback vibe is exactly why Todos Santos is seeing an increase of both development and visitors. And the sublime mix of vast desert and sea helps, too. It’s the same trifecta—sand, sea, culture—that has always drawn people to Baja, long before, and perhaps in spite of, the development of Cabo. On the dark desert night’s drive back, I roll down the window to get the cool Pacific wind in my hair. Cabo San Lucas might be only an hour down the road, but it feels decades away.

The next day, I drive the other direction up the highway to San Jose del Cabo. And I’m glad I do. If Cabo San Lucas is the Disneyland of Baja, San José del Cabo is Santa Barbara, with a prim little downtown, endearing shops that don’t revolve around T-shirts or gaudy ceramics, and a modicum of self-respect. Even the local tequila shop, Los Barilles de Cuervo, forgoes the overbearing eat-the-worm bravado and pours up tequila tastings from its 260 varieties.

Cabo-Featured-2

Midmorning, I walk down quiet avenues admiring pink bougainvillea that climb up whitewashed Spanish revival façades and stop to pet the occasional cat—even the strays here feel approachable. I like to think that it’s just this charming, small-town atmosphere that brings so many foreigners to Baja, both as travelers and expatriates.

I start to notice galleries all around, full of paintings that make you stop and look, such as the mod, mixed-media piece at the O Gallery that depicts, among other things, an anthropomorphic Easter Bunny on a crucifix. It’s weighty stuff, especially in a country as Catholic as Mexico, and I can’t resist going inside. The owner, a stubbly, ponytailed Parisian transplant from Los Angeles who goes only by François, describes a nascent art scene in San José del Cabo. “We still get the tourists coming here looking for cheap ashtrays, but there are more and more proper buyers,” he says. “Most of Baja is just stunning physically. The desert next to the sea … it’s like another planet.”

In that sense San José is still catching up. With the art and the investments in the place, it’s becoming beautiful. He invites me back in two days for the monthly Thursday-night art walk, promising cocktails, good conversation, and a handful of openings.

Around the corner, artist Frank Arnold’s airy home is part of his gallery, and it’s not until I’m leaning across a bed staring at a dark interpretation of a bull that it occurs to me that I might be intruding. Then Arnold’s assistant, a short little Mexican fellow who speaks so fast I never catch his name no matter how many times I ask, appears from around a corner and assures me that I’m welcome to traipse all over the home and admire the artwork. Arnold has stepped out, though a palette sits waiting on a side table and the canvas he’s painting is still wet. His assistant introduces me instead to his Bichon Frisé poodle named Picasso, and encourages me to sample from any of the decanters of tequila (Granada, almond, and regular) around the studio. When I try to beg off because of the early hour, he acts almost wounded. “It is past 11 o’clock,” he says.

In the end, what I appreciate most about San José isn’t the friendly reception or the significant artwork—though both are a pleasure. What’s nice is coming across something unexpected. For me, travel is about experiencing things I couldn’t otherwise at home: sipping fine liquor in the morning, listening to François’ story of driving a moving truck down the Baja peninsula and simply knowing that Los Cabos isn’t only about spring break hedonism and tropical escape. You can find something true here if you’re willing to scratch around for it.

After my tour of town, I stop at a taco shop called Rossy’s and gorge on fresh tortillas stuffed with smoked marlin, tempura fried fish, and marinated octopus. The seafood is so fresh I go back for a second serving. I also order an Ojo Rojo, the classic Mexican cocktail I’ve always wanted to try that blends Tecate and Clamato, that strange-sounding mix of tomato and clam juices. When it arrives, I’m as expectant as a serious buyer waiting for a new piece from my favorite painter. I taste it, and I almost spit it out.

Authentic, it turns out, isn’t always a good thing.

The only thing left is to experience Cabo as most visitors do: From the comfort of an all-inclusive resort. And it’s easy at Esperanza, where a concierge caters to everything.

When I mention that I’d like to go kayaking, Williams, the Desination Concierge, selects a nearby trip and has a guide waiting for me at 9 o’clock the next morning. We put in at a limestone-protected cove 10 minutes east of the resort, and though I imagine that waters this close to town will be turbid and denuded of any marine life, I see fish flash like sun-catching prisms below my hull as soon as we push off.

At Bahia Santa Maria, another calm bay, the corals are vibrant shades of blue and green, and schools of striped grunt flicker in the morning sun. I follow a pair of bumphead parrotfish as big as dorm-room refrigerators and try to catch up with a sea turtle, which easily fins away. “Jacques Cousteau didn’t call the Sea of Cortez ‘the world’s aquarium’ for nothing,” the guide says. It’s a line he must use often.

After a few hours on the water, I’m ready for lunch, and Williams encourages me to try the resort’s beach club. I’m convinced I’ll get a better meal if I drive back to San José and seek out a local joint, but the sun has made me lazy. So I order lunch at the resort club and settle into a fluffy, bleach-white towel under a thatched palapa. And if I’m honest, the grilled fish and I wouldn’t trade my meal at Rossy’s—nor the tequila with Picasso the poodle or my classic rock desert sojourn to Todos Santos. But neither would I give up a single bite of these luscious Esperanza tacos, not even if my wife begged. Baja is a place of sharp contrasts—the craggy, little-explored desert peaks of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains tumbling straight into crystalline seas—and no trip here would be complete without the push and pull of these natural and man made forces.

After picking over the taco plate for every last morsel, I order a margarita. And as I’m lingering on the sun-splashed, cloudy-brain edge of a nap, I’ll be damned if I don’t see three whales breaching a few hundred meters out at sea. I consider rushing back to the villa to get my binoculars. Instead, I just watch them steam away to the south until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer and drift asleep.

Experience Florida Through the Eyes of Novelist Carl Hiaasen

Florida-Hero

Experience Florida Through the Eyes of Novelist Carl Hiaasen

February 8, 2019

The real Carl Hiaasen doesn’t seem like he could be the novelist Carl Hiaasen. He has bleach-white teeth and Gulf of Mexico-blue eyes. His cheeks are dimpled, and his voice is soft, measured. He wears polos and button-downs, almost always in neutral tones. His silver hair, parted to the side, could exist on the head of a banker. Friends, who sometimes compare his look to that of a choir boy, say he is polite, seldom swears and drinks like a Baptist—so, almost never.

He is known to never be more thrilled than on the bow of a boat, with a fly rod in his hand, overlooking the still, emerald waters off the islands of Islamorada in the Florida Keys—possibly his favorite place on earth. The sight of a tarpon’s shadow makes him happy. The squeal of a reel’s drag makes him blissful. Hiaasen knows those waters so well that, if he wanted to, he could make a living quietly guiding other fishermen through them.

This is not the image of a hardened newspaper columnist who has described politicians in the following ways: “bum,” “cockroach,” “head clown,” “worthless blowhard,” “pernicious little ferret” and “affable, back-slapping, ribbon-snipping blob.” Nor is it the image of a fiction writer who, in his latest work, begins chapter one with a severed arm on the end of a fishhook, later highlights a spell-casting voodoo witch named the “Dragon Queen” and eventually introduces a bad monkey (for which the best-seller is named) that bites a man, well, in a bad place.

Take a moment to cringe, then consider that the innocuous image of Carl Hiaasen described above might also not seem fitting for one of Florida’s—real Florida’s—greatest crusaders…but it is.

Florida-Featured-1

Though Hiaasen, 61, has been a journalist at the Miami Herald since the mid-1970s, he is best known for his zany, swift-moving novels, packed with sex and laugh-out-loud one-liners and detestable characters getting their comeuppance in all sorts of cruel, entertaining ways. Despite selling close to 14 million books in North America alone, he has never won a National Book Award, and he doesn’t seem to be trying. “His books are built of [flimsy] balsa wood, but they are beautifully constructed all the same,” said New York Times literary critic Janet Maslin. “And if they call for more comic distraction than honest emotion? Forget it, Jake; it’s South Florida. The truth is always stranger than fiction.”

But don’t be fooled by the parade of strange. The themes of his work, nonfiction or fiction, are profoundly serious. He is and has always been on a mission for which he cares deeply. Hiaasen wants to protect Florida—its Everglades, its beaches, its mangroves, its wildlife, its natural beauty—and for decades he has employed a sardonic wit to relentlessly fight on the state’s behalf.

“When you don’t speak up and when you don’t fight back and when you don’t raise hell, that’s the ultimate act of cynicism, and it’s effectively surrender,” he said in the introduction to Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen. “It’s saying, ‘Things are so bad that it’s now acceptable.’ It’s not acceptable, it can’t be acceptable.”

In 1953, Hiaasen was born in a place that, in many ways, no longer exists. Plantation, Florida, is 30 miles north of Miami, sandwiched between the Atlantic coast and the Everglades. The city was incorporated the year of Hiaasen’s birth with a population of less than 500. Now, it’s home to almost 90,000.

Back then, that area of the state was a wild, swampy place; ideal for a child with an affinity for things that creep and crawl. “He represents a dying breed of the people who were born and raised there,” said William McKeen, a historian of literary journalism and chairman of the Department of Journalism at Boston University. McKeen, who also spent time growing up in Florida, described Hiaasen’s youth as a “Huck Finn” childhood.

But much of that wild didn’t last. Hiaasen watched as the dirt-bike path that once led him into the swamp where he and his friends caught water moccasins was turned into a road lined with shopping malls. He watched the Everglades shrink as development boomed. He watched animal species go extinct as their habitats were paved over. “It was just rampant destruction,” said Tim Chapman, a photographer whom Hiaasen met years later at the Herald.

Hiaasen, however, couldn’t just watch. In perhaps a first effort to protect his beloved home, he and friends would pull surveyor’s stakes out of the ground. “We were kids,” he said in Kick Ass. “We didn’t know what else to do. We were little and the bulldozers were big.”

He compared their rumble to the sound of greed, “the engine that has run Florida ever since there was a Florida.” Chapman shared in his youthful frustration. He used to cut down billboards with a chain saw and, once, even filled a developer’s storm drain with a cement plug to prevent pollutants from seeping into Biscayne Bay. “I realized I was going to be arrested and go to jail, so I picked up a camera,” Chapman said. “Carl, of course, wielded the sword of the pen.”

Hiaasen had been sharpening that blade almost since birth. The Herald’s sports pages taught him to read. At age 6, his father bought him a typewriter, and he used it to punch out stories about neighborhood kickball games. In high school, he produced a newsletter, More Trash, that, among other things, satirized his teachers and administrators. All the while, Hiaasen was developing his now-distinct world view, and it didn’t just result from the demise of Florida’s innocence, but also from the nation’s.

He grew up in the 1960s and bore witness to John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Vietnam War, and Watergate. “It was a poisonous time to be coming of age,” he said in Kick Ass. “It seemed to me there was so much wrong in the world. I felt such outrage for so many years over those things happening that it wasn’t a hard thing to carry into journalism.”

Florida-Featured-2

Hiaasen arrived at the University of Florida after transferring from Emory University in Atlanta. He had intended to work in broadcasting, but a news reporting class taught by legendary journalism professor Jean Chance helped alter the course of his future. “He was a very special student, no question about that,” said Chance, now retired.

She immediately recognized the gracefulness of his writing and the ease with which he completed assignments. “I would have to stretch to find some nitpicky thing to give him a hard time about,” she said. Chance told Hiaasen that TV journalists tend to focus less on writing and more on presentation. A career in front of a camera, she thought, would be a waste. She pushed him to work at the student newspaper, the Independent Florida Alligator, where he began to write a column. “That,” she said, “was when he saw the light.”

He began his professional career at Cocoa Today, a small paper in Brevard County now known as Florida Today. Every few Saturday nights, Chance said, he would call her to complain about the owner’s rule that any time his wife’s name appeared in the paper—she was a state senator—he be told, so he could change or kill the article on her behalf. He wanted to do something bigger, more meaningful. She told him to be patient. He listened. After two years, in 1976, he got a job at the Herald.

In the late 1970s, Chapman recalled, Hiaasen got a tip that someone was illegally digging out mangroves near Key Largo. The two men hired a fishing guide with a boat to take them down to see for themselves. “They were literally selling properties and digging a huge marina, and conveniently no one who had the power acted against it,” Chapman said. “No permit, no nothing.” Hiaasen wrote a story that forced state officials to kill the development. Such scoops became a staple of his early career.

Years later, Chapman said, Hiaasen learned that a wealthy man in the Keys had hired someone to chop down the mangroves around his house so he could better see the water. “The owner of the house blamed it on some wayward surfers,” Chapman said. Hiaasen didn’t buy it. He wrote the story.

“Various counties in South Florida have always been subject to corruption,” Chapman said, “and it takes people like Carl to stand up to them.”

In 1985, Hiaasen started writing his column for the Herald. It began a nearly 30-year (and ongoing) career of keenly pointing out wrongdoing, those who were responsible and, most memorably, the weird and wacky and plain wrong ideas that make Florida so entertaining. In a March 1988 column, for instance, Hiaasen skewered the city of Miami Beach for its ridiculous plan to host horse races on its beaches.

On the topic of what the animals might leave behind, his biting sense of sarcasm was in top form: “It’s not so big a crisis, really. Tourists on South Florida beaches are used to quick-stepping around all kinds of daunting obstacles, from poisonous jellyfish to gobs of tar, to the occasional human torso. A horse dropping would hardly make them dash for the hotel checkout. Before allowing such a minor drawback to squelch an otherwise brilliant idea, why not try to turn it around and make something positive? One obvious solution is to ask the city commissioners themselves to clean up after the horses. They are, after all, vastly experienced in this area.” The horse races never came.

“I think Carl was probably the most hated man by the chamber of commerce in Miami history,” Chapman said. “They just hated the fact that Carl told the truth.”

Certainly, Hiaasen’s columns had a substantial impact on South Florida, but it was the novels that spread his message to the world.

So, how well does Carl Hiaasen really get South Florida? Consider the evidence in just the first four chapters of his latest sprawling crime novel, Bad Monkey, some of which might seem cliché, but only because the details are so consistently indicative of life in the Sunshine State.

On page 5, Hiaasen’s main character, Andrew Yancy, sits in a plastic lawn chair and drinks rum as he experiences one of the most repeated gripes of long-time residents: “the offensive buzz of wood saws and the metallic pops of a nail gun” on the obnoxious, view-disrupting house being erected next to his own.

On page 7, it’s explained that the local sheriff won election only because his two opponents were in jail on racketeering charges.

On page 8, the aforementioned sheriff orders Yancy to dispose of a severed arm caught by a fisherman for fear of the negative publicity that might befall his community, though Hiaasen quickly notes the greater truth: “Nothing short of a natural disaster discouraged people from going out on (or into) the water.”

On page 18, readers are introduced to a doctor who made his fortune by investing in a series of pain management clinics “that dispensed Percocets and Vicodins by the bucket to a new wave of American redneck junkies.”

On page 23, traffic is jammed on Florida State Road A1A because a gravel truck crashed head-on into a southbound rental car. Typical.

On page 34, Yancy, now a health inspector, gets served a plate of fries and a coffee by the manager of a restaurant: “By Keys standards it could hardly be considered a payoff.”

No doubt, Hiaasen understands that he has tapped into and perhaps even helped create the national perception that his home is an odd place. Type “why is Florida” into Google, and the first completed response ends in “so humid”—the second is “so weird.” That search returns 29.9 million hits. But it could be argued that all the allusions to Florida wackiness (and his novels’ wackiness in general) are merely a means to an end.

Millions of people devour Hiaasen’s novels because they’re fun and entertaining, but buried not so deep within his prose are the ideas he really wants readers to remember. “[St. Petersburg Times columnist] Jeff Klinkenberg once said of Carl’s writing that ‘People respond better to ice cream than to broccoli,” Keen said. “Hiaasen has mastered preachy-less preaching.”

“These are fanciful characters, but there’s an underying truth to what he’s talking about … these are morality plays in many ways,” said Thomas Fiedler, former Herald executive editor and now dean of Boston University’s College of Communication. “They are really rooted in the issues that he believes are important for Floridians to understand.”

Take page 35 in Bad Monkey, for example. Before the wealthy newcomer razed the lot next door, Hiaasen writes, Yancy spent almost every evening watching the white-tailed Key deer pick at hammock scrub and red mangroves. He explains that just a few hundred of the deer remain on the islands, but that motorists, ignoring warning signs, often run them over. He talks of the refuge created for the surviving animals and that Yancy, knowing what’s in their best interest, had left them alone. “He didn’t snap pictures, or whistle, or make up cute names for the fawns. He just sat there sipping rum and watching the deer do their thing.”

Hiaasen spends two-thirds of a page on the plight of white-tailed Key deer, which have exactly nothing to do with the story’s plot, but he still makes certain readers know they matter. “I think,” Fiedler said, “Carl is the voice for what is right in Florida, and he’s particularly the defender of Florida, not just as it used to be, but Florida as it should be.”

In this modern era of storytelling in which anti-heroes are so often celebrated (see: TV’s Breaking Bad or The Sopranos), Hiaasen’s novels offer little room for gray. Characters are either good or evil. They’re either destined to triumph, or they’re destined to die in heinous, hilarious fashion. Those clear outcomes may again well be rooted in the alternate reality of Hiaasen’s own world.

South Florida’s crusader has won his share of the battles, to be sure, but it’s hard to argue that he is winning the war. The state has continued to develop, and swampland has continued to disappear. Corruption still thrives. Many animal species and natural resources remain threatened. Recently, Hiaasen argued in his column that state politicians have allowed billions of gallons of toxic water to be dumped into Florida’s rivers because of the money their campaigns are getting from big business.

“Those people are always going to win in real life,” McKeen said. “I think he writes the books as therapy, and I think he wants the good guys to win somewhere.” And perhaps the idea is that, like Hiaasen, his legion of readers will someday want as badly as he does for the good guys—for real Florida—to win. And maybe, just maybe, one day it’ll actually happen and the state’s crusader can put down his sword.

A St. Barts Honeymoon Is Perfect to Recharge and Grow Closer

St-Barts-Hero

A St. Barts Honeymoon Is Perfect to Recharge and Grow Closer

February 6, 2019

I was working on writing and recording my new album at the same time my now wife Linda and I were planning our wedding in California and, as anyone who’s planned a wedding knows, it quickly becomes overwhelming. And then we remembered that we had to plan our honeymoon as well. It was the last thing we had time to think about. But I looked at her and said, “Let me do it.”

That’s where Inspirato came in. I got in touch with Jill, my Personal Vacation Advisor, and she and I narrowed down the list of destinations that would involve a beach in paradise at a resort where we didn’t have to go anywhere if we didn’t want to and, to minimize jet lag, didn’t require more than a day of travel. I ended up picking St. Barts and Inspirato’s villa within the Le Sereno Hotel.

But I didn’t tell my wife. It was my surprise. At our wedding reception, instead of numbering the eight tables, I named them after potential honeymoon destinations; all of them places where Inspirato has properties. Mexico, Hawaii and the Caribbean were all represented. It kept everyone, and especially Linda, guessing all night. At the end of the night I revealed we were going to St. Barts, and we left the next day.

After finishing my album and all the effort that went into our wedding, I wanted a place to sit and relax and not have to do anything for a week, and that’s what we got. We flew from Miami to the airport on St. Martin, getting there at night and boarding a ferry for the short trip to St. Barts under the stars. It was such an incredible way to arrive.

Inspirato’s villa was perfect. We had a private pool and deck and private couple’s massages on our patio.

Jean-Paul, our beautiful French chef, made us wonderful meals each day in our villa’s kitchen. The days he prepared freshly caught lobster and sea bass stand out. And his desserts were outrageous—he made a banana and mango tart that was delicious.

Each morning, we woke up to our valet Laurent making us fresh smoothies for breakfast that were incredible.

Linda and I sunbathed by the pool and on the beach and explored Anse de Grand Cul de Sac bay on sea kayaks, but for the most part we were content to stay in our beautiful house. Someone at Inspirato knew that I loved jigsaw puzzles and there were several waiting for me when we arrived. I happily spent time each day working on them.

At night we sat under the incredible canopy of stars enjoying the warm tropical breeze and the perfect setting.

If I needed anything, I just called Jill at Inspirato and it was taken care of. Due to the language differences—neither one of us speak French—I called Jill in the middle of the night to ask for fresh mangoes in the morning and it was done. She was constantly in touch making sure everything was taken care of. And it was. Both Linda and I live very large lives and even with assistants it can be hard to get stuff done. There’s no way we would’ve been able to do what we did without Inspirato.

St-Barts-Featured-2

I’d never been to the Caribbean before this trip and it was beyond what I’d expected. After a couple of days I started to get the whole Jimmy Buffett/Margaritaville thing. There’s such a nice pace to life down there. I even started thinking of how I could do a mini-tour and play every island in the Caribbean.

St. Barts has a serene vibe to it unlike the party and festive atmosphere I think you’d see elsewhere in the Caribbean. The people have a deep respect for the specialness of the place, and I could tell that they thoroughly enjoy it. The combination of French and Caribbean cultures works so well. The island is ideal for any adult looking for tranquility. I doubt we’d ever bring our children there, but for a honeymoon where nothing is all you want to do—well, I’m missing it already.

Enrich Your Senses While Vacationing In The Dominican Republic

Enrich Your Senses While Vacationing in the Dominican Republic

January 14, 2019

Sipping the strong Dominican coffee and watching the dawn crack on this easternmost tip of the island, I realized paradise is more than one’s surroundings. It’s a product, too, of the personalized service and unrivaled accommodations that literally define luxury.

After a short golf cart ride toward crashing waves, I kicked off my sandals and took a leisurely walk along the beach. Discovery was the theme of the morning as I strolled northward, aware of nothing but my footprints and undisturbed seashores looming ahead. The beauty both heightened and calmed my senses. It would become the trademark memory of my weeklong visit to Punta Cana. Returning, refreshed, to the Casa Cana residence, I received a warm and friendly greeting from Felicia—one of the caretakers. “Hola!” she beamed with a smile. I felt immediately at home.

I entered the grand entrance of the Inspirato residence, where the aroma of breakfast permeated the halls. From then on, I craved the home-cooked, handcrafted cuisine of the Dominican, the thoughtful combination of foods that are at once nutritious and mouthwatering. The influence of local cuisine was apparent, but the comforts of my American spoils remained. Everything was impeccable; everything was gratifying.

Such delicate details collectively made the difference between an ordinary vacation and my newly discovered home away from home. Rather than fantasize about owning a picturesque beach residence, I reveled at every turn in knowing that I can return. It’s a benefit of club life. Completely Inspirato. Your true welcome to Punta Cana is delivered by a friendly smile and handshake from Inspirato’s Destination Concierge upon arrival at the Puntacana Resort & Club. Within moments of entering the gate, you find yourself enjoying a glass of mint-garnished Perrier and a cornucopia of fresh fruits.

The resort is an intricate amalgamation of La Cana Golf Course, Tortuga Bay Villas and The Estates at Punta Cana. Each unique feature boasts a genuine synergy with the others, creating an ambience of perfection. Families are welcome. Couples on retreat are made to feel at home. A large group of friends can delight in time together. Inspirato’s two homes in the Puntacana Resort & Club are regal in stature and boast unparalleled luxuries. From the Agraria Lemon Verbena-scented bath products to the complimentary use of golf carts to get around the resort, fabulous amenities enhance this vacation Eden.

When the Puntacana resort was developed more than 40 years ago, the idea of environmental awareness wasn’t part of everyday vernacular. Today it is a basic tenet adhered to by all those who live, work and visit. Sustainability is gospel here. Unifying a pursuit of responsible development and environmental stewardship, the resort’s social programs assist in maintaining the area’s natural ecosystems and preserving the surrounding beauty. The PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation, PUNTACANA Foundation, and the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve are each an integral part of the larger mission of running a sustainable resort.

This recipe of programs helps Punta Cana remain a tour de force for preservation of a treasured resource. It also lends to the joy and pursuit of outdoor activities that go beyond a walk on the beach or golfing. You can try stand-up paddleboarding adventures, a Segway tour of the resort, kite surfing, snorkeling, diving, and so much more.

Perfect for families, the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve is a 1,500-acre park owned and maintained by the PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation. The Reserve has a network of trails leading to 12 freshwater lagoons. Additional trails feature distinct attractions related to the natural and cultural history of the Dominican island, including an iguana habitat, petting zoo, sugarcane exhibit and a fruit tree garden.

Inspirato members who want to enjoy 18 holes of golf at La Cana will pay only the cart fee of $25, with all green fees waived. It’s just another perk of a Punta Cana vacation, 100 percent handled by Inspirato. And prepare yourself for golf nirvana—La Cana is nothing short of remarkable. To the north of the resort, the Tom Fazio-designed Corales Golf Club takes the sport to a new level. The fairways hug the shoreline and the sea spray intensifies as the ocean waters crash into rocky outcroppings.

Golfing at Corales is untainted in its pristine beauty. Each scenic hole is a tribute to the joy of the sport. It’s where golf is experienced. And you take a lead role among a flawless lineup of Mother Nature’s best works: the Caribbean Sea, the coral shoreline, the infinite natural horizon, the emerald green splendor, the sprawling turf. In its entirety, the Punta Cana vacation experience vividly illustrates the difference between a luxury travel club and the gambles of Google searching. Standing on the shores of Punta Cana, I rinse my hands in the saltwater of the Atlantic and pay homage to paradise: tranquility, timelessness and harmony. This is the point to which all things flow, best illustrated by the exacting standards of a vacation that stands alone as perfection. Presented in a manner that only Inspirato can deliver.

Pampering tropical treatments, Asian-inspired therapies and holistic sensory journeys make up the vast menu of services at the Six Senses Spa at Puntacana Resort & Club, on the eastern shore of the Dominican Republic. But it’s not just the incredible treatments at this environmentally friendly Caribbean spa that beckon visitors. The 20,000-square-foot facility pampers guests with eight indoor treatment rooms, each with its own changing area and steam room, as well as two outdoor suites with private baths set amid a fragrant herb garden. The serene setting on a pristine white-sand beach, a skilled staff, and body products made from all-natural ingredients, ensure that all who enter Six Senses Spa achieve the ultimate in relaxation and rejuvenation.

In fact, the name of the spa represents the state of elation that occurs only after one’s five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) have been wholly satisfied. Gifted therapists strive to heighten guests’ senses through decadent treatments, such as the full-day Six Senses Signature Package. With this extravagant series of services, you experience a Floral Foot Ritual, Volcanic Hot Stone Massage and Signature Facial, accompanied by lunch, tea and a few other tantalizing surprises, in the beach spa pavilion. This combination of enchanting experiences, enhanced by undivided attention from caring attendants, represents the ultimate indulgence for a Caribbean spa vacation. Even if you don’t spend an entire day at Six Senses Spa, there are so many other ways to sample the divine services. Consider the 90-minute Sensory Spa Journey, a full-body massage and customized facial – plus a luxurious footbath and calming scalp massage – performed by two therapists at once. If that’s not a slice of heaven on earth, I don’t know what is!

The Six Senses Spa is renowned for its therapies influenced by Asian cultures. A Vietnamese massage includes traditional cupping to relieve stress. With a Thai massage, you remain fully dressed while experiencing acupressure and guided yoga-style stretches to promote flexibility. 

Of course, since you’re in the Caribbean, it’s only appropriate to sample the Tropical Fruit Body Smoother. A blend of papaya, pineapple, watermelon and rice grains make up the main ingredients of this cleansing treatment. The naturally occurring enzymes provide gentle exfoliation, while nourishing and moisturizing skin.

Other interesting therapies include ear candling, crystal chakra balancing, reflexology, reiki and meditation. Facials and hot-stone therapies, body wraps and aromatic baths, yoga classes and Tai Chi round out the phenomenal services offered at the holistic Six Senses Spa. When you choose to unwind completely in the hands of the spa’s talented team of therapists, rest assured that you’ll leave Six Senses Spa feeling more balanced—mind cleared, body relaxed and soul renewed.

Why Surfing Is the Hobby You Didn’t Know You Needed​

Surfing-Hero

Why Surfing Is the Hobby You Didn't Know You Needed

December 18, 2018

When people are drawn to the ocean, it’s typically to the edge where water meets the shore. Most ocean lovers are actually beach lovers, enamored by the border zone between the solid and liquid worlds — waves tossing themselves onto sandy expanses, seagulls cawing and calling as they wheel in the air, sunlight glinting off the water. For some reason, gazing at that flat expanse of water is fulfilling in a way that staring at the flats of Kansas can never be.

The lure of the ocean is indescribable, and for many it’s enough to merely approach its shores. Even standing neck deep in the water, it’s comforting to realize the shore is close at hand. But others long for a more intimate interaction with the sea. Wave riding is one of the simplest forms of recreation. With as little as a swimsuit and a board, you can catch a wave standing up, kneeling or lying prone. The simplicity is part of the attraction. There’s not a lot of gear to contend with; it’s just you and the wave, period.

Surfing-Featured-1

Body surfing is arguably the most basic and harmonious interaction we can engage in with a force of nature. Stand-up surfing is “The Sport of Kings” for reasons both historical, per the ancient Hawaiian royalty, and visceral, because that’s how you feel when you’re up and riding. “Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world,” —the Beach Boys weren’t lying. 

To surf is to be engaged with your environment. Whether it’s your first time out or you’ve been surfing for years, when you are in the water you are aware of your surroundings. It’s an invigorating sensation to feel the surge of water, the salt on your skin, to shake the water from your hair. 

To surf is to return to the rawest element of nature; to dance delicately upon the power of the sea. Motion, sound, the feel of water sliding through your toes, the glare of the sun … birds, fish, constant movement – watching, waiting. You banter with your friends, your kids, your spouse, whoever’s in the water with you, all the while keeping your eye on what’s coming. Then the right bump appears on the horizon and it’s time to fly. Carving turns on top of moving water is an adrenaline rush. Finding yourself wrapped in that water, being propelled by the wave’s own intensity, is like nothing else.

For many sports-minded individuals, surfing holds a special place, partly because the highs are so elusive. The surfing experience is incredibly dependent on the vagaries of swell direction and strength, wind, crowds, beach contours — the list goes on. For all of the variables to come together in the right combination is something rare and wonderful. And yet it happens. And it keeps happening.

As special as surfing is, period, it’s exponentially better with someone else. Not only is it safer to surf with friends or family (always a good idea to have someone in the water who will notice if you’re not there) but when you catch that wave and take a ride, it’s good to have an audience who understands what you just did and how it felt. And if you feel compelled to brag, well, that’s good, too. 

Big waves get all the press — those perfect tubes of turquoise water, the famous competitors who so often ride them. But the truth is, even the little ones are worth paddling out to meet. And, especially for beginners, the rush of riding a knee-high wave can be a mind-blowing experience. It only takes one ride to get hooked. 

There’s a reason they say a bad day surfing is better than a good day doing anything else. They say it because it’s true. Inspirato destinations are ideally situated in some of the prime surf spots all the world over.

Surfing-Featured-2

Though surfing was invented in Hawaii, surf culture came directly out of Southern California. There are a variety of breaks ranging from beginner to advanced within 30 minutes of Newport Coast. Water temperatures in the summer range from mid-60s to mid-70s; in the winter they drop to mid-50s to mid-60s.

Blackie’s, on the north side of Newport Pier, is great for beginners. It’s named for Blackie’s Bar, which has been there for ages. It’s generally a very forgiving wave, so it’s not only softer but also there’s a long window in which to catch it. It’s a popular spot for longboarders, too, both beginning and advanced. 

Trestles requires a 15-minute hike from the car, so it’s a bit of a commitment for boardtoting surfers. There’s a river that becomes an estuary, and it’s one of the few places on the Southern California coast that is not surrounded by a lot of development. Thanks to the cobblestone reef, it’s a classic break for advanced surfers with clean, solid waves. Several pro contests are held at Trestles, which, because of the hike, is sometimes less crowded than other spots. 

San Onofre is a state park that draws longboarders attracted to its consistent, mellow waves. Like many surf spots, there’s a wave called Old Man’s. Recently, locals have begun referring to it as Old Woman’s, as female surfers are almost beginning to outnumber male. 

Surrounded by jungle, Punta de Mita is known for rights — meaning waves that break to the surfer’s right. Rights are best for regular footers, or those who surf with their left foot in front. Various peaks jut along the rock reef, which stretches for miles and miles down the coast. Because of the various resorts on the coastline, it may be easier to hire a guide and boat to take you to some solid, less-crowded waves. Water temperatures are in the 80s year-round.

Punta Burros draws both locals and visitors. With peaks for both shortboarders and longboarders, it’s also one of the easier breaks to access. The waves are better at high tide.  Sayulita is 25 miles to the north, and is an excellent beginner spot with primarily beach breaks. It’s a draw for longboarders and shortboarders, and seems made-to-order for goofy footers, or people who surf with their right foot forward. Sayulita feels like a traditional Mexican town with lots of old buildings, churches and history. It’s quaint with a relaxed vibe, and a fun destination for surfers and non-surfers alike. 

The Cove and El Faro at Punta Mita Point are found in the southernmost bay. Though you can walk there in about 40 minutes, it’s easiest to hire a ponga. It’s a consistent break, but is better before the off-shore winds kick in. Los Cabos is at the southern end of Baja California. It has several world-famous point breaks, as well as a variety of beach breaks. It’s a special place with secluded beaches balanced by abundant nightlife. Water temperatures fluctuate from the 70s to the 80s year round.

The south-facing East Cape is designed for the adventurous soul, but is best in the summer months during south-swell season. The area lies just past the town of San Juan del Cabo, on the Sea of Cortez, and seems almost mystical. The desert runs right to the shore, and is both beautiful and uncrowded.

The West Cape, which is just northwest of Cabo San Lucas, has surf year round. With both beach and reef breaks, it has several consistent waves. In addition to breaks that can be accessed on foot, there are several breaks that can be accessed via sea kayak.

Todos Santos on the Pacific side is not just a fun surf spot, but it’s a draw in its own right. A funky art community, Todos Santos is loaded with galleries, artist studios and artists. It’s about an hour’s drive from Cabo San Lucas.