By Greg Aragon
The New Year is here and as I look ahead to some fabulous upcoming trips, I would first like to look back on a few of my favorite getaways of 2018.
One of the my favorite excursions of the past year found me in Marina del Rey, where I spent a couple nights at Jamaica Bay Inn, a tropical island-like resort located on the city’s beautiful marina. With great views of sand and water, the boutique hotel is a true West Indies-inspired experience, complete with rattan furnishings, warm colors, rich textures and lush flora. And like a Caribbean resort, the water is only few steps away.
When not relaxing in my room, I was exploring town. Built in the early 1960s at the site of an old salt marsh, Marina del Rey is a modern wonder of construction. As one of the world’s largest man-made small craft harbors, it features eight basins and is home to approximately 6,500 boats.
To get an up-close look at things, I rented a kayak from the Pro SUP Shop. During my harbor tour I paddled past million-dollar yachts and old wooden sloops. I waved to small boats passing by and barking seals sunbathing on rocks.
After playing on the water, I had a great dinner at the hotel’s Beachside Restaurant & Bar and then walked to “Mother’s Beach” to listen to live music at Marina del Rey’s “Food Truck Thursdays” weekly event. In the morning I rented a bicycle from the hotel and rode to Venice Beach to lounge on the sand.
Another memorable California beach trip took me to Oceanside. My getaway began at The Fin, a charming little hotel which originally opened in 1927 as the Keisker and was one of the first hotels in Oceanside.
Once checked into my room I took a walking tour. This was highlighted by a stop at the “Top Gun” house, the cottage made famous in Tom Cruise’s 1986 fighter pilot movie. The Queen Anne Victorian residence was built in 1887 and is one of the oldest houses still standing in Oceanside. It’s located across from the 1,942-foot-long Oceanside Pier, one of the longest wooden piers on the West Coast.
From here I visited California Surf Museum. Celebrating the history and lifestyle of surfing, the museum showcases exhibits and displays numerous popular surfers and the boards that made them famous, including Bethany Hamilton’s shark-bitten board.
That night I went on a moonlit kayak tour of Oceanside Harbor. The paddling sessions take place on full moon weekends during warmer months and allow visitors to revel in the beauty and romance of Oceanside’s quaint harbor under moonlight.
The next morning I drove to Oceanside Municipal Airport and checked in at Waverider Helicopter Tours. The company specializes in helicopter tours of the beaches and backcountry of San Diego County, coastal Orange County, and Temecula Wine Country. Waverider also rents three-wheeled cars called Polaris Slingshots. During my ride in the space age convertible, I cruised by the beach and pier, listening to the Beach Boys and turning heads.
My last Oceanside adventure was a ride around town on an electric, Fat Tire from Ride O’side. The scooter has a top speed of 20 miles per hour and includes Bluetooth, 18-by-9.5-inch fat tires for added stability, and a front hydraulic shock that yields an unbelievably smooth ride.
For a journey outside the country I flew to Dubrovnik, Croatia to experience the city’s fortified Old Town. Founded by the Romans in the seventh century, Dubrovnik’s walled village is located on a rocky cliff overlooking the Dalmatian Coast of the Adriatic Sea, in the Southeastern part of Croatia. The city was known as Ragusa until the end of WWI, when it took its present name.
Jetting 100 feet high from the rocks that line the coast, the 20-foot-thick city wall stretches more than 6,350 feet long as it wraps around medieval ramparts, draw bridges, and other castle features. The barrier took nearly 500 years to complete and was built to protect the town and its prized location from ambitious invaders. Today it is considered one of Europe’s finest surviving fortress walls. It’s easy to understand why George Bernard Shaw once said “if you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik.”