poolside in puerto vallarta.

poolside in puerto vallarta.

friends, fun and sun…

Earlier this year, I went to Puerto Vallarta with one of my old friends from highschool that I rarely see. Vacationing with friends can be a bit of a gamble because it’s like you’re married for the week. Fortunately, Michelle turned out to be a perfect partner.

Puerto Vallarta Cocktails
We all know how much work it takes to maintain a healthy marriage, even when you only see each other a few hours a day. Vacationing with friends means you are together 24 hours a day for an entire week. Every decision you make, from breakfast to what you will do for the day, to what time you will go to bed requires flexibility, consensus and compromise. If your decisions don’t coincide with your partner’s on vacation, things can get ugly fast.

Our ideas of vacation that week were 100% in agreement. Lots of relaxation and reading, share the occasional two for one happy hour cocktails at the pool, take some leisurely scenic strolls, share some nachos, and have a few nice dinners together, but nothing too fancy or over the top. I leave the kiteboarding, surfing, and extreme hiking to my husband. I can be adventurous sometimes, but it’s hard to beat a day at the pool with your girlfriend.

PV jill - 1

PV jill - 2

PV jill - 3

poolside puerto vallarta mexico

puerto vallarta mexico pool

drinks at the beach pool vallarata

puerto vallarta tacos mexico

adventures in maui.

adventures in maui.

exploring nature’s beauty in Maui, Hawaii


My husband just got back from a kitesurfing trip in Maui.  I haven’t been there yet so I asked him to share his impressions…


Maui is the windy island.

The wind generally picks up in the afternoon which helps keep you cool out on the beach.  However, the beach is more beautiful in the morning when the water is flat and the wind is calm.


Not a lot of native Hawaiians –

the entire population of Maui is only about 150k (only about 6% of which is native Hawaiian), yet the island sees around 3 million tourists per year, mostly from the US and Canada.

Best Things to do as a tourist there –

“the road to Hana” is a 2 hour must do drive in all the guidebooks. It has lots of easily accessible cool waterfalls, swimming holes, hiking and scenic picnic areas.  Sandals and swimsuit are sufficient for the well marked trails. Hiking shoes become useful if you want to explore beyond the end of trail signs.


Not sure why but abandoning your car is very popular in Maui.  You’ll see this all over but I don’t recommend it.

When you hit the beach,

bring a snorkel mask to enjoy the beautiful and very calm clear blue water filled with fish and turtles.   Snorkel in the morning before the wind stirs up the water.  In many spots, the ocean was so calm in the morning that it reminded me more of a lake. This and small gentle waves attracted a lot of paddleboarders.

Watch out for tiger sharks, a near shore predator that is attracted to the many turtles in Maui.   Non-fatal shark attacks seem to be averaging almost once a month recently.  However, most attacks have only resulted in minor injuries or a bite out of a surfboard.   During our first day kiting, a fellow kiteboarder surfed right over a 12 foot tiger shark about 50 yards from shore at kanaha state beach park.  We wished he hadn’t told us, and you’ll probably wish we hadn’t told you.

Maui’s heavy winds are great for Windsurfing and kitesurfing.

Lessons are available there but it’s expensive and really not a good place for a beginner to learn.   When there was wind, we kitesurfed in mostly flat water with some small 1-2 foot waves.  The regular surf season (without a kite) is in the winter, and even the tiny offseason long boarding waves were very crowded.


When it was calm, we hiked, snorkeled, and drove around the scenic island. We stopped at a melaleuca tree (tea tree) on one of our hikes, but we weren’t quite sure how to extract any essential oil from it for our surfer’s ear aches.


The freakishly narrow winding northern road to Honolua bay and Lahaina is also well worth doing if you want to see the blowhole, local art galleries hidden in the hills, or clifftop scenic photos.  Take the safer southern route if you just want to see the towns and bay.  Or take the helicopter tour which is only about $100/person.



Accommodations are expensive and a car rental is necessary.

We booked a condo and a house in advance through vrbo.  However, next time I think I might camp or just wing it on Hotel Tonight (excellent mobile app that hotels use to fill their rooms last minute at heavily discounted rates).    I noticed several nice hotels on the app for $100-150 while I was there. (If you’d like $25 free toward your first Hotel Tonight stay, use the code: JWILEY46 when you download the app.)


It’s a small island.

You can drive to most of the towns in one day.  We stayed in Kihei for half the trip which is one of the most popular/touristy towns with large beautiful accessible beaches along the big main drag, calm water, lots of semi-oceanfront condos, restaurants and nightlife.   Be sure to have some poke (raw seasoned ahi tuna) while you’re there (it’s definitely better there than what we get in California).


The other half of the trip we stayed in Paia, which is more of a small local “hippie” town with no beachfront hotels or condos, and smaller, less accessible but still beautiful beaches within 20 minutes walking distance (although expect some nudity and tent homes).

Paia is an eclectic mix of local Hawaiians, transplant hippies, and a small main drag that mostly seems to cater to tourists stopping by for some shopping on their way to “the road to Hana.”  After returning from a long day of muddy hiking in the humid hills, our long-haired friend threw on some patchouli oil and was pretty sure he was all good to hit the town for a night out.


Just one rule when in Paia – be sure not to smoke brah.


And don’t steal the locals’ sandals.



adventures in maui essential oils

maui view coastline doterra

beach adventures in maui

maui view essential oil

natures traveling secret maui

maui essential oils

summer camp for parents?!

summer camp for parents?!

friendly pines camp: a family tradition

No, we don’t go to summer camp, but our daughter has for the last seven years. This basically means we get a six week break from being a parent every summer. So, it kind of feels like summer camp is for parents too! Our daughter loves it, and so do we.

FPC Summer Camp
Sure, we miss our child during that time, but my husband and I both grew up going to the same camp that we send our daughter to – Friendly Pines Camp in Prescott, AZ. Far be it from us to deny our child the same incredible opportunity to develop independence, ride horses, waterski, and make lifelong friends. Nearly all of our best childhood memories come from our experiences as campers there. The same people have been running the camp for decades, and they do an amazing job.
summer camp cabin

Camp is where I met my husband. While we were both campers there at the same time, we didn’t really meet as campers. However, I do have a memory of him lip synching “Great balls of fire” at the talent show when I was about 11 years old. The short story is… We met later when we came back as counselors, had a summer romance, and got married a few years later.

If you can afford to send your children to camp, we highly recommend it. Your kids will love it, and it’s a great opportunity to give you and your husband some alone time to re-connect. However, they’ll have a very full and tiring day in close quarters with lots of other kids so we find it “essential” to send our daughter with some of her oils to support her immune system and to repel mosquitos.

If you can’t afford to send your child to camp, ask about the family/employee discount. If you can donate your time at the camp as a nurse or something they need, your children might be able to go for free. My parents both work at the camp, so our daughter goes for free!

Friendly Pines Summer Camp

Friendly Pines Camp

FPC friendly pines camp summer camp

summer camp for parents

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