Tulum Travel Guide

GENERAL INFO

Click to enlarge & read.

GETTING AROUND TULUM

Tulum is divided into 2 different areas: Tulum town center and Tulum beach zone. Decide what kind of vacation you are looking for- relaxation? Then the beachfront is for you! If you’re off adventuring, getting out of tourist trap spots- then stay at the town center for a more authentic feel! Traffic is CRAZY since there’s only one road connecting the town center to the beach- keep that in mind. It can sometimes take 45 minutes just to go 7km to/from town center/ beach so if you’re constantly driving to explore other parts of Mexico, then staying at the beachfront will add time to your drive. Taxi ride from town to the beach is usually around 250 pesos. Always try to negotiate if they throw an unreasonably price tag at you. You can always rent a bike to get around too- only takes 30 minutes to bike the path between the 2 areas in Tulum!

ACCOMMODATION

Click here to read my review on the airbnb we stayed in! Depending on the kind of vacation you want, there are a ton of options to choose from- there’s a range from budget to luxury. Note: the beachfront properties are on the pricy end. 

RUINS

Chichen Itza

Truly a one of a kind archeological site! It is one of the 7 New Wonders of the World. The most well preserved, excavated ruin here in Mexico- you will NOT be disappointed. Because it is fully excavated, there aren’t many shady spots and the weather is oppressively hot. Make sure you bring a hat, sunscreen & stay hydrated.

Some fun facts about Chichen Itza.

  • Mayans were astronomically aligned! The main pyramid functions as one huge calendar. It has 365 steps total: 91 on each side and 1 at the top. Each side represents each season- Autumn, Winter, Spring & Summer. Coincidence? I think not!
  • Clap your hands at the base of El Castillo stairs. You will hear an echo that resembles the Mexican Quetzal- a bird that’s considered sacred in the Mayan culture & native to the Yucatan area! Mindblow!
  • The Temple of Kulkulkan forms the shadow of a serpent twice a year during Spring/Autum equinox. The body of the snake slowly moves down as the sun sets and merges with the serpents head at the bottom of the stairs. I mean, major goosebumps!!

The drive from Tulum takes about 2 hours. Come right at opening/ early in the morning to avoid crowds because this place fills up quickly with tour buses dropping off tourists. Literally over 2.5 million tourists visit Chichen Itza every year! There is plenty of space here to roam freely and local guides you can hire on the spot right as you enter. When you are putting in the address in Google Maps, type in Chichen Itza Parking Lot instead of Chichen Itza. 

Chichen Itza Entrance Fee is 533 MXN Pesos which translates to $27 USD approximately

Hours: Monday – Sunday 8AM- 5PM (last entrance at 4PM)

P.S.  Tripods are NOT allowed & GoPro’s count as a “professional gear” so they’ll charge you an extra $3 for it

Coba

Coba means “waters stirred by the wind’, which explains why this settlement is tucked in between 2 large lagoons. Coba is located deep in the jungle and not easily reached. You will truly have an authentic Mayan experience here & feel like you’re on an Indiana Jones adventure.

The main ruin (Nohuch Mul Pyramid) is deep in the jungle and requires you to trek a bit. The civilization here was a thriving so many of the sites are spread far apart. Your day at Coba can last up to 3 hours if you walk the site, 1.5 hours if you take advantage of the bike rentals or an hour if you opt for the Mayan Uber, a chauffeured tricycle where you just sit and take in the sights. Both bicycle options are inexpensive and super fun- definitely opt for it!

Some fun facts about Coba:

  • Coba structures show influences from Teotihuacan (near Mexico City) architecture- evidence that inhabitants had contact with Central Mexico.
  • It takes 120 steps up to the top of the Nohoch Mul pyramid (the main one), and reaches 137 feet in height. This is the tallest temple pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula! (unfortunately, due to the pandemic, you are no longer allowed to climb it- it may change)
  • There’s more than 50 sacbes (white roads) that have been discovered within the Coba settlement with 16 open to the public. All roads originate at the main pyramid and stretch out in the four cardinal directions; east, west, north and south.

Coba Entrance Fees: 80 Pesos // $4 Parking Fees: 50 Pesos // $2.50 Bike Rental: 50 Pesos // $2.50

Hours: Monday-Sunday 8AM-5PM

CENOTES

What are Cenotes?

pronounced “seh-no-tay”

Cenotes are natural sinkholes, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Cenotes comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes: caves, semi-open & open. The Yucatan peninsula use to be a gigantic underwater reef millions of years ago and as sea levels dropped, the limestone land mass was exposed and the network of fractures created an underground river system. As of 2021, there are over 7,000 cenotes in Mexico!

Importance of Cenotes

The Mayans considered cenotes as entrances to the underground world where the Mayan Gods were and it was a place that provided fresh water for them. These sinkholes holds significance to them, which explains why most temples & villages are built near cenotes. Some of the cenotes became sacred sites where human sacrificial offerings were made- many had human remains & gold at the bottom (eeeek!!)

Here are my thoughts on the cenotes we visited!

Click on image to enlarge & read!

Here are some more photos for you to get a better idea of each cenote’s vibe:

DAY TRIPS

IZAMAL

Izamal is nicknamed La Ciudad Amarilla– The Yellow City. It was founded nearly 2,000 years ago by the Mayans and became a center for the worship of the supreme god, Itzamná and the sun god, Kinich-Kakmó. We were told the town was painted yellow in honor of Kinich Kak Moo, a manifestation of the Maya sun god to impress Pope John Paul II visit in 1993. Izamal is often referred to as the ‘City of Three Cultures’ due to its fascinating blend of pre-Colombian, colonial and modern cultures. Around half the town’s population speak Mayan (along with Spanish).

The drive from Tulum to Izamal takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Alot of sites in Mexico can get extremely crowded, but Izamal is a hidden gem away from the tourists. It’s a little off the beaten path, but sooo worth it! Every inch of the town is photogenic & extremely instagrammable!

Izamal Sights

  • Kinich Kakmó Pyramid, translated to ‘fire parrot’, had the head of a macaw and was said to descend to Earth to accept offerings of fruit, flowers, animals and spices when the sun was at its apex.
  • Convento de San Antonio de Padua: one of the oldest Catholic monasteries in the Americas and its outdoor atrium is the second largest in the world (after the Vatican).
  • Dine at Kinich Restaurant: Yucatan food in a beautiful atmosphere

VALLADOLID

Valladolid is a breathtakingly restored colonial town UNESCO Heritage Site) It’s listed as one of Mexico’s “pueblos magicos”, aka magic towns! My favorite activity was wandering around the streets admiring the colorful buildings, street vendors & people watching! You instantly feel the vibrant culture & it transport you back to how the Mayans use to live. This town is centrally located from all the major hotspots- Chichen Itza, Cenote Suytun, etc so it makes for a great place to stay overnight too! Everyday at 7pm you can join a free walking tour with a knowledgable guide! 

VALLADOLID SIGHTS

  • Cenote Zaci: located in the heart of the city
  • Visit Museums 

Museo San Roque – archeology lovers

Choco Story – Chocolate museum and shop

  • Walk around the main square:Plaza Central, walk the Calzada de los Frailes to the Ex Convento.
  • Convent of San Bernardino de Siena: one of the oldest colonial sites in the Yucatan, the former Convent of San Bernardino de Siena dates to the mid-16th century and even has a cenote on-site, which was used as part of an irrigation system during the time that a Franciscan order called the convent home.

Dine at El Saxon De Valladolid

RESTAURANTS in Tulum

What makes Tulum so versatile is that you can get a 25 cent taco in one corner and walk a block away to dine at a Michelin level restaurant.

Annnnnd if you’re too lazy to go out? Trust me, I get it. After a long day of exploration, you kinda just want take out. Order delivery from tomato.mx . Simply set up an account, pay a little delivery fee and you’re good to go! Below are my recommendations on the spots we went to!

VERDANT

This place was SO phenomenal I wanted to expand on my dining experience here.

The chef’s tasting menu was a culinary delight! You can taste the love and care that goes into the food and they use all locally sourced ingredients. The farm to table experience is evident – make sure to tour the garden in the back to see where they grow a portion of their herbs and vegetable. Each dish is inventive, flavorful, ingredient driven & sustainably ethos. They incorporate a whimsical twist on simple ingredients & it was worth the splurge! Make a reservation ahead of time!

BEACH CLUBS

EXTRA TRAVEL TIPS

  • FLIGHT: Book an overnight flight to Cancun & find a flight that lands in the early morning. CUN Airport is the second busiest airport and immigration/TSA takes FOREVER. The airport is a lot less busy when you land in the morning.
  • SUNSCREEN: You’ve got to wear lots & lots of sunscreen, but please make sure we keep our ocean life happy by using non toxic chemicals. Here is a guide breaking down on what types of chemicals to look out for when purchasing sunscreen.
  • WATER: Bring your own canteen to prevent buying plastic bottles. DO NOT drink from the tap in Mexico!!  I personally don’t even like to brush my teeth with tap water. Take precautions, stay on the safe side and avoid spending your whole trip in the bathroom. My Zojurushi bottle is vacuum insulated which keeps the water SUPER ice cold all day. Highly recommend!
  • SAFETY: Yucantan peninsula is considered one the safest place to drive around in Mexico in the daytime. Make sure you get to your destination before it gets dark. Walking around Tulum center/ beachfront at night is okay as long as you are not traveling alone. Also, don’t leave things in the car- hide it in the trunk!
  • HAVE FUN: You’re on vacation!! Go with the flow and channel your inner child mode. Plans might change, things might not go according to plan, but stay open minded & enjoy the time off!

Tulum Airbnb

Hola Tulum! A year later (that darn pandemic), we were finally able to get married and go on our honeymoon! In this post, I share the Airbnb we stayed at & damn, it was absolute perfection. I know there are SO many options to choose from on Airbnb, but this spot is truly a one of a kind! 

Firstly, we wanted an intimate & private space to celebrate our wedding shoot/honeymoon for this trip. We craved a space that was aesthetically breathtaking, simple and architecturally unique all at the same time. It was important for the space to incorporate lush natural elements in a luxurious way, but also provide that cozy feel!

The moment I saw the staircases next to the 20 ft living room windows looking out to tropical trees, my heart instantly knew this was where I’d celebrate my once in a lifetime moment.This airbnb has impeccable designs in every corner, the hosts adds special touches- from fresh bouquets of flowers in every room to all the amenities you’d need. The kitchen has a reverse osmosis water filter, in house washer/dryer and effective air conditions in the rooms, safe/secure area with parking spot included. The host is extremely responsive through messaging, he was happy to coordinate, answer any questions we had, and provided very clear/detailed directions. They even arranged for a nurse to come to the home to do a private COVID-19 PCR test for us! Here is the link to the airbnb! Enjoy!!

CHINO HILLS STATE PARK

CHINO HILLS STATE PARK

Spring is in full bloom! Chino Hills is thriving in Black Mustard flowers & it has caught everyone’s attention. Life doesn’t get any better than this. Being out in nature admiring blooms, hearing the birds chirp, bees buzzing with excitement & soaking in the sunshine. This is the perfect day trip for those living in LA- takes about 1 hour from Santa Monica and is a doable weekend venture to get in touch with mother earth.

When you do decide to visit, please stay on the trails. Be mindful of not stepping on any flowers/ destroying the wildlife, leaving behind trash & always remain respectful of the rules mandated at this state park. Be aware: that there are rattlesnakes!!!

Entrance Fee: $5 per vehicle , $4 seniors 62+

ADDRESS: 4721 SAPPHIRE RD. CHINO HILLS, CA 91709

PARK HOURS: October-March 8:00AM- 5PM // April-September 8:00AM-7PM

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Silver lining to the 2020 pandemic? Taking the whole year to PERFECT my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’ve gone through so many batches that would come out too dry, too fluffy, too thin and overall just not right. I have finally created a fail proof recipe that will leave your guests thinking you’re Betty Crocker! I think we can all agree, there really isn’t a more quintessential baked good than a classic chocolate chip cookie. One bite of this ooey, gooey, chewy cookie will leave you wanting to eat the entire batch in one sitting. Follow my simple, straightforward recipe and you’ll be crowned the queen of baking!

QUICK BAKING TIPS

BUTTER: Melt the stick of butter SLOWLY in the microwave. We don’t want a messy explosion… Trust me… You don’t want the butter to be sizzling hot- stop every 15-20 seconds and stir it around to get melted butter.

CHOCOLATE CHIPS: If you like it more chocolatey, add 1 whole cup instead. Feel free to use dark chocolate, semi-sweet or white chocolate. Your cookie= your preferences!

COOKIE DOUGH: Do NOT skip this step! You must set the cookie dough in the fridge for at least 45 minutes BEFORE baking it!!! Cover the bowl with saran wrap, pop it in the fridge, clean up the mess in the kitchen and the time will pass quickly before you know it.

Floral Themed Photoshoot

I’m back with another 1 Prop= 5 Shots and this time, the prop is my beautiful wisteria tree located right in my front yard. You can apply this concept to any flowers you have in the neighborhood, park, garden or just head to your local grocery store to buy a bouquet for less than $5! Make sure to tag me on Instagram if you recreate any of these looks!

XO,

Soph

POSE WITH IT

The easiest one out of alllll these photoshoot ideas- simply lay down or sit next to the flowers and smile! All you’ll need to bring is your big beautiful smile & it’s that easy. I wanted to create a monotone look by matching my outfits with the flower color theme. Feel free to wear whatever you’re most confident in!

PETAL LASH

This photo idea takes quite a bit of practice, but for those makeup lovers out there, you’ll LOVE recreating it. Take a bunch of petals, carefully use lash glue and apply it on your lash line! I matched my eyeshadow with the purple theme, but feel free to do your own makeup however you like. This concept gives you an instant glamorous & effortless look! Perfect for an unclose self portrait headshot. I wrapped a couple wisterias around my camera lens to give this photo some depth during the shoot.

HOLD THE FLOWER

Cut a couple pieces or take a whole bouquet and hold it in front of you. You can use the flowers to block a part of your body from revealing, cover your face with it and it instantly gives you a candid, editorial looking shot!

FLOWER CROWN

Why not wear the flowers on your head? I grabbed a headband (any type will do) and some tape and used the pieces I cut to create a flower crown! You can tape as little or as much flowers on for a unique look. I wanted the wisterias to look as if they were drooping over my head so I taped the branches down at the top of the headband for this look.

FLORAL BACKDROP

Use it as an easy backdrop! Any kind of flowers can instantly turn a photo dreamy, romantic and feminine. Set up a small table, lay out a book, a cup of tea, and you’ll have a fancy photograph!

ST. PATRICK’S DAY THEMED PHOTOSHOOT

Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone! Are you feeling extra lucky today? I will find any excuse to celebrate a holiday!

I want to start a new series both on my blog & IG & the theme is 1 Prop = 5 Shots. As a creator, you constantly have to purchase new props for photoshoot ideas. So I wanted to be resourceful, economical and squeeze the most content I can with only using 1 product. The prop for St. Patrick’s Day themed photoshoot was a box of Lucky Charms Cereal! If you’re stuck and don’t know what content to create, check out my ideas below and give it a try. Enjoy this lovely Wednesday & remember, don’t forget to wear green to avoid getting pinched 😉

BRIDGERTON EDITION

Is anyone else going through Bridgerton withdrawals or is it just me?? I binged all 8 episodes, rewatched the entire season AGAIN with David and now I’m sitting here missing the whimsical, steamy plot line.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Bridgerton is a Netflix original show produced by the one and only, Shonda Rhimes. Um Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, pretty much all of ABC Network shows! Bridgerton was adapted from Julia Quinn’s bestselling novels (there’s 12 books in this series… So fingers crossed for 12 more seasons of Bridgerton!) Of course any Shondaland production is going to be over the top, intentional and very well executed. It’s a period drama that focuses on powerful families, specifically the Bridgertons and we watch the eldest daughter make her debut on Regency London’s competitive marriage market.

Back to what I was saying… All that’s been running through my mind since the show are location scouting the historical castles, thinking of ways to rent some fabulous ball gowns, & looking up properties in London on Zillow. You can definitely call me Bridgerton obsessed. My favorite part of the show was most definitely the wardrobe. I don’t think there is another show out there that can top the custom made clothing. Although it was centered around the Regency period, the clothing was a blend of tradition and modern styles and it was aesthetically pleasing. I loved that there was meaning behind each family’s color palette (it just shows you how intentional every detail in the show was) The show has inspired me to dress up more for everyday mundane life and below are some of my looks for each character! Enjoy!

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

DAPHNE BRIDGERTON

The Bridgerton blue- you see it everywhere. In their London home with blue carpets, drapes, flowers, and decor. Of course the entire family’s clothing has incorporated the color in every single piece of wardrobe . It’s a pale, pastel like shade of blue, which symbolizes their class and standing in high society.

I’ve linked below some of the dresses that I’ve found to be aligned with Daphne Brigherton’s style. They are more modern and wearable versus an uncomfortable tight corset that takes forever to put on/ take off.

Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Dress 3 | Dress 4 | Dress 5 | Dress 6 | Dress 7

PENELOPE FEATHERINGTON

The Featherington’s in general are seen to be wearing very bold and vibrant colors , always wanting to scream for attention. Penn is seen in yellow ALOT and throughout the show, she shows her disdain for the color. Yellow symbolizes the sun and cheerfulness and was a very popular color during the Regency period. It’s a common color worn by marriage seeking women . However, the color yellow also reflects jealously, deceit, and betrayal, which is very telling of her other personality. The over the top wardrobe from the Featherington’s symbolize new money and the vibe of outsiders trying hard to fit into the upper class.

Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Dress 3| Dress 4

QUEEN CHARLOTTE

Queen Charlotte’s character was actually written into the show and is based off of  Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1744. She fell in love with King George and married him within 6 hours of meeting him and actually had one of the more successful, loving royal marriages. In the show, she’s seen sniffing drugs and it’s a real depiction of Charlotte’s addiction to drugs.she had the nickname Snuffy Charlotte and always had a whole room stocked with drugs in Windsor Castle.

Dress 1 | <a href=”http://&lt;!– wp:embed {“url”:”https://tjmaxx.tjx.com/store/jump/product/Fit-And-Flare-Cocktail-Dress/1000652564?colorId=NS1448848\u0026pos=1:100\u0026Ntt=floral%20dress”,”type”:”rich”,”providerNameSlug”:”embed”,”className”:””} –> <figure class=”wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-embed wp-block-embed-embed”><div class=”wp-block-embed__wrapper”> https://tjmaxx.tjx.com/store/jump/product/Fit-And-Flare-Cocktail-Dress/1000652564?colorId=NS1448848&pos=1:100&Ntt=floral%20dress </div></figure> Dress 2 | <a href=”http://&lt;!– wp:embed {“url”:”https://tjmaxx.tjx.com/store/jump/product/Floral-Printed-Frill-Hem-Dress/1000643098?colorId=NS1003538\u0026pos=1:95\u0026Ntt=floral%20dress”,”type”:”rich”,”providerNameSlug”:”embed”,”className”:””} –> <figure class=”wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-embed wp-block-embed-embed”><div class=”wp-block-embed__wrapper”> https://tjmaxx.tjx.com/store/jump/product/Floral-Printed-Frill-Hem-Dress/1000643098?colorId=NS1003538&pos=1:95&Ntt=floral%20dress </div></figure> Dress 3 | Dress 4

SIENA ROSSO

The opera singer with a secret affair with a prominent lord. She’s longed for that status. Back in the day, it was shameful and scandalous to be an opera singer because being a part of an opera house meant having a patron. who in exchange for sexual favors, would fund a young woman’s career.

Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Dress 3 | Dress 4

LADY DANBURY

As for Lady Danbury, she projects iconic energy and represents the color purple so well in all of her outfits. She is the ultimate queen of the social order and no one dares to mess with her. I’ve found some modernized, trendy versions that is Lady Danbury inspired and a lot more wearable on a day to day basis.

Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Dress 3 | Dress 4

VALENTINE’S DAY PHOTOSHOOT IDEAS

Valentine’s Day is coming up and I know alot of us are still trapped indoors due to the pandemic. BUT, that shouldn’t stop you from celebrating and changing up the scenery at home for a fun filled weekend. Whether you’re hosting a galentines zoom party with your girlfriends or you want to surprise your partner, here are some photo inspiration for you to easily recreate them right at home!

BALLOON BATH

This photoshoot is probably one of the easiest I’ve ever done! Blow up a bunch of balloons ( you can find them at Michaels, 99cent store, Amazon, etc), tie them up, toss it into a bathtub and plop right in! I do want to kindly remind you to tie your balloons in a REUSABLE way to be more environmentally friendly. Here is a video you can watch to learn how. Now I know not everyone has a bathtub, so you can fill up your shower too or even buy a blow up kiddie pool! My tip is to not blow up the balloons too much to prevent it from popping when you get into the tub.

XOXO

Did you know tic tac toe can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt? The game was found on roofing tiles dating back to 1300 BCE! Soooo historical right?! Well let’s modernize this game by drawing it on your mirror with a hot pink lipstick! This is perfect for a Valentine’s Day shoot to do with your partner!

CONVERSATION HEARTS

Conversation hearts are the symbol of Valentine’s Day here in the US. Growing up, I remember buying a bunch to pass out to all my classmates at school. So of course, I headed to the grocery store to buy some for myself! As I stared at the products trying to think of a creative way to use them, I began to find the sayings on there boring and plain. I wished the messages would change from just the basic phrases to more meaningful deeper messages. It inspired me to make DIY life size conversation hearts with personal messages that we should all preach and spread more of- from choose kindness, to goal digger, to my favorite, dream big! Check out my IG video here for a step by step guide!

VALENTINE BACKDROP

I wanted alllll things pink for Valentine’s Day so I flipped our entire living room completely! Hang up some banners, blow up a balloon that says “love” or “XOXO” or any lovey dove phrases and hang it up as a backdrop. Remember those balloons you blew up for another shoot? Well hopefully you saved them and reuse it for this shoot!

SWEET TOOTH

One of my biggest hobby is baking! I made some sugar cookies, decorated them with pink icing and thought why not use it as a prop! I filled a cup with sugary conversation hearts, laid down on the floor for a fun picture!

WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK

HISTORY

The 62nd official national park in the U.S, located in the Chihuahuan Desert in Southern New Mexico, is White Sands National Park. It’s filled with soft and white sand dunes comprised of gypsum making it the world’s largest gypsum dune field. The entire area used to be underwater 250 million years ago! The dunes were created from selenite crystals that formed during the Ice Age and over time, the selenite crystals eventually wore down into gypsum sand. The effects of wind and rain leaves the pure gypsum sand to blow around and create these incredible dunes.The dune fields cover about 275 square miles with 115 square miles located within White Sands National Park, and the rest is military land that is often used for missile testing (crazy right!)

WHERE IS WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK?

White Sands is a bit out of the way & kinda in the middle of nowhere. Located near the border of Mexico and Texas, the closest airport is located in El Paso, Texas (1.5 hours away) FYI The first first 5 miles of the road is paved and the last 3 miles are made of compact gypsum sand (might want to think about what kind of car you take) 

WHERE TO STAY

Alamogordo The closest town to White Sands National Park. I would recommend staying at a simple Holiday Inn or Motel 6 located in this small town. You will spend the majority of your time out and about exploring White Sands so all you really need is a clean bed and bathroom! However, if motels aren’t your thing (trust me, I get it) then there are a couple airbnb options!

Las Cruces A larger city with more options . Downside is the 1 hour drive to White Sands . This is where we chose to stay since the first leg of our trip was a direct drive from LA — Las Cruces (12 hour driving) If our driving day wasn’t that long, I would’ve much rather prefer staying in Alamogordo!

Airbnb Options
Las Cruces Charming Casita with Hot Tub & Patio
Wish we stayed here over motel 6… 100% booking this the next time we visit White Sands!
One Bedroom Apartment
AlamogordoTwo Story Guesthouse
Cozy Home

WHEN TO GO

Temperatures vary greatly throughout the seasons so make sure you research the weather patterns ahead of time. Spring is the best season to go with the most stable weather patterns or even September October in the Fall. Summer // Winter- You will deal with extreme weather that’s unbearable. The average weather during the summer is 95F and can spike to 110. Winter nights can get so cold to 20 F. In September, there is an annual White Sands Balloon Festival! How cool!

P.S Did you know w there are free national park days? Click here to find out what day is free to visit!

WHAT TO DO THERE

  • Camp

Campsite 5 is the gem with untouched sand dunes. Like the ones you see in movies without any footprints. Keep in mind you do have to hike 1 mile each way to get to the camp site. I would not recommend camping during the winter or summer time (due to the extreme temperatures) 

  • Chill & Picnic

Soooo much space to explore and spend the day just enjoying this incredible space. Bring a blanket, food and have yourself a dreamy little picnic!

  • Hike

The park has 5 established trails ranging from easy to strenuous:

  1. Interdune Boardwalk – easy stroll, 0.4 miles round trip, accessible to wheelchairs and strollers
  2. Playa Trail – easy trail, 0.5 miles round trip, at the end you have the opportunity to see what this area looked like 10,000 years ago and learn about the giants that once roamed this area!
  3. Dune Life Nature Trail – moderate hike, 1 mile loop, kit foxes, badgers, birds, rodents, and reptiles all live in this area and you can often either see them or their tracks
  4. Backcountry Camping Trail – moderate hike, 2 mile round-trip, hike through the heart of the dunes
  5. Alkali Flat Trail – strenuous hike, 5 mile round-trip, you’ll be hiking up and down dunes along the edge of the final remnant of Lake Otero

  • Photogenic Opportunities

I mean nowadays, we are all about instagrammable shots & hands down, you can’t go wrong with a photo here. The bright white sand pairs perfectly with any color outfits. Hopefully you witness an epic sunset on top of that. 

  • Sand Sledding

Embrace that inner child in you and get a work out in! Bring or buy a sled/ smooth saucer- they sell it at the park for a higher price, but if you plan ahead you can purchase one at a Walmart for an affordable deal 

  • Sunset Strolls 

The national park offers a 45 min- 60 min ranger guided sunset tour for FREE! You learn first hand about the geology, animals and plants. The hike is a leisurely 1 mile long. Bonus: pets are allowed to join! Meet near the sunset stroll sign parking area, a 5-mile (8.05 km) drive from the fee station. Click here for more information

THINGS TO BRING WITH YOU

  • Sunscreen: There is absolutely zero shade here, it might feel like you’re under the sun burning
  • Water: you never want to be dehydrated out in the middle of a desert so load up on a ton of water in the trunk for emergencies
  • Snacks: there aren’t any restaurants anywhere in the national park so bring your own so you don’t get hangry!

TIPS

  • $20 Entrance Fee // $40 annual pass // US Military members remains free
  • You can easily get lost in the sands… I know it sounds a bit ridiculous but pay attention to markers and where you’ve parked your car. Once you explore deep enough, the entire area blends in
  • Check for closure before you go. The national park closes for military uses aka missile testing.
  • Do NOT hike in the heat. Don’t even try it…. There is zero shade there and extremely unsafe to hike in the heat.
  • Cell service is a bit unstable there so if you are expecting an important call or need service, you might not be able to do that here
  • As a safety precaution, drop a pin on Google maps to wherever you need to get back to, whether that’s a tent, parking lot or start of the trail. 

SNOWY GETAWAY IN LA

Stuck in LA and NEED to get out of here? Wishing you were on winter wonderland trip in Finland? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with a hidden gem! This location is not your typical Big Bear Mountain or Mountain High… It’s a lot more secluded, quiet and delivers just as gorgeous of a snowy backdrop view. Depending on what season you’re visiting you can expect a full on winter wonderland or a lovely camping ground during the summer.  Yessss I know we are in a pandemic… BUT that should not stop you from exploring your backyard SAFELY. This is the year to spend more time and develop a stronger connection to nature.

LOCATION 

Mount San Jacinto, located in Riverside county east of LA is a California state park perfect for a day or weekend getaway. It’s tucked next to Palm Spring/ Coachella Valley. The drive is relatively easy and it doesn’t get too windy. There was ice on the road, but as long as you are going slowly and carefully you should be ok. Multiple times throughout the day, there are snow plow trucks going back and forth cleaning the roads and keeping it well paved.

WHERE TO STAY 

You can easily do a day trip, however there are plenty of beautiful A-Frame cabins to stay at through Airbnb or bed and breakfast! 

LuxuryModerateBudget
AIRBNB Upscale Cabin
AIRBNB Treehouse
AIRBNB Modern A-Frame Cabin
AIRBNB Creek Cabin
AIRBNB Lakeview Lodge
AIRBNB Cozy Home
AIRBNB A-Frame Cabin
AIRBNB Romantic Log Cabin
AIRBNB Studio Cabin
Boutique Hotel
AIBNB Guesthouse Cottage

WHAT TO DO THERE

There are plenty of pull off points to hop out and play with snow. It’s the perfect destination to social distance during this pandemic and who doesn’t love a day out playing in nature. You can make snow angels, build a snowman, do a photoshoot or have a snowball fight! In the other seasons, there’s plenty of hikes to do! 

We came after a full night of snowfall and by morning, the entire mountain was covered in fresh snow. Every inch was untouched, the snow was fluffy/ clean and it was truly a winter wonderland! Bring your own food, hot cocoa/coffee and set up a cozy picnic inside the car and have a romantic day watching the snowfall! 

WEATHER CONDITIONS 

P.S Be mindful of the weather conditions BEFORE you start your journey here. Check the Cal Trans App or online maps for the travel restrictions here. You will see on the map that each point of destination will have a tire restriction. R2 means you can drive up in a 4 wheel drive without any chains (however you MUST carry them in the car) and R3 means chains are REQUIRED. This is for your own safety so please do your research before you put yourself in a dangerous situation.