April 12, 2017

Cartagena, Colombia (April, 2017)

We flew from Santiago, Chile one way to Cartagena, Colombia on Avianca in business class for 20,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles per person (160,000 KrisFlyer miles for the 8 of us). Avianca had a nice, lay-flat Boeing 787 Dreamliner for both segments of the flight (Santiago to Bogota and Bogota to Cartagena). We stayed a very quick 2 nights in Cartagena at the Hilton that is right on the beach and very near the old city, redeeming 40,000 Hhonors points per room per night.

We spent some time at the hotel and the pool before heading out to get some Colombian food for dinner at a nearby restaurant. We had a very busy day planned the next day, so we headed to bed relatively early. 

The next morning we woke up early and had some breakfast in the hotel (complimentary for Hilton Diamond guests). There were a group of fishermen out on the beach, pulling in their nets and stacking up the fish they had caught in the early morning...it was interesting to see them pulling in their haul.

We left the smaller kids with Sawyer in the hotel for a couple hours and as adults (and Ryder) we headed to the old town for a Segway tour before the heat of the day came. We had an amazing time learning to ride the Segways and taking them all over the old town. We all felt that this was the absolute best way to take in the sights of this historic place and the guides we had were cool and let us have a bit of freedom to go where we wanted to go.

The old town is a walled city right on the Carribbean coast of Colombia which was founded in the 16th century (1533). It is full of colorful buildings, colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, historic churches, and squares/plazas. We learned a bit about some of the buildings and the history of the city and enjoyed taking in the sights and especially in the morning when the tourists and crowds hadn't arrived yet.

After a couple hours on the Segways, we headed back to the hotel to grab the kids and then we were off to catch the private boat we had booked for the day to go out and explore the Coral Islands of Rosario, which are about 100km off the northern coast of Colombia. There are about 30 islands in total, and we got to see 3 of them. We headed out of the protected harbor in Cartagena and the ocean turned from green to a crystal blue color. We enjoyed jumping the waves on the open ocean and before we knew it we had arrived. We enjoyed a local lunch on one of the islands and bought a few souvenirs from the locals, then headed to another, more secluded island for some snorkeling and swimming. We had a relaxing day in the sun out on the boat and at the end of the afternoon, the boat dropped us off right at our beach at the Hilton where we walked right to our rooms...great service!

After a long day of riding Segways and taking a private boat out to the Coral Islands of Rosario, we swam/relaxed by the hotel pool for a bit, then got ready and headed back to the Old Town to find some dinner and take in the sights at night. Cody was able to reunite with a friend, Richard Aragón, from his mission (Bogotá, Colombia South) 18 years earlier. Richard gladly showed us around the city and we had another tasty Colombian dinner. We enjoyed the night in the Old Town, then headed back to the hotel to get some sleep since we had to get up early the next morning to fly to Costa Rica for the next portion of the adventure.

Grandma and grandpa with the kids on the balcony at our suite at the Hilton Cartagena.

View of the hotel pool and the beach from our room at the Hilton Cartagena.


Enjoying an appetizer of plantains and sour cream at a local joint near the hotel.

Generous dinners of meat, rice, plantains, yuca, and coconut lemonade in Cartagena, Colombia.


Local fishermen bringing in their haul in the early morning near the Hilton, Cartagena.

A pile of fish that the local fishermen brought in near the Hilton Cartagena.

One of the churches in the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

Grandma, grandpa, Eliza, Ryder and Cody riding Segways in the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.


People selling Fernando Botero art on the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

Ryder and grandpa next to the foundation of an old church (made from coral) in the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

Statue of Simón Bolivar in the plaza of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

Riding Segways through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

Riding Segways through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.


Our crew posing in front of a Fernando Botero sculpture in the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

Old Town, Cartagena, Colombia.

Riding Segways through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

Our crew on our Segways tour through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

Church in the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

Our crew atop the fort riding Segways through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

Eliza and grandma Toni on their Segways.

Ryder, loving every minute of the Segway tour.

Riding Segways through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.


Our crew on Segways in front of the entrance to the walled city in Cartagena, Colombia.

Riding Segways through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

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Riding Segways through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

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Riding Segways through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

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Riding Segways through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

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Riding Segways through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

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Riding Segways through the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

Mom and dad with the kids at the front of our boat as we head out to the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.

Grandpa Scott and grandma Toni on our boat as we head out to the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.

Nash and Ryder on the front of the boat with the fortress in the background as we head out of the harbor towards the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.

Cody and Ryder looking at the old fortress heading out of the harbor towards the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.

Grandpa Scott, relaxing on one of the wooden benches at the Rosario Islands, off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.

Ryder and Nash, snorkeling at the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.


Our boys, Zander, Nash, and Ryder on the boat at the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.

Grandma Toni, with Sawyer on the boat as we head away from Cartagena, Colombia (in the background) towards the Coral Islands of Rosario.

Ryder, Cody and Nash at the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.

Snorkeling off the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.


The boys playing in a  fort and having fun with coconuts and sticks on the beach at the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.

Ryder, Zander, and Nash at the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.


Cody and Sawyer, relaxing in the shade on one of the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.

Our crew on the streets of the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia at night.

Sawyer, giving Eliza a piggyback through the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

The kids, enjoying one of the street performances in the Old Town in Cartagena, Colombia.

January 14, 2017

San Alfonso Del Mar and Algorrobo, Chile (January, 2017)

With Eliza's parents in town, and knowing of Eliza's mom's love of the ocean and the beach, we decided to take a quick weekend trip out to the Pacific Ocean and check out one of the items on our Chile bucket list, the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile. It was a quick 90 minute drive from our house in Santiago, Chile and in no time we were enjoying the hot weather and beautiful views from our 12th floor, 3 bedroom condo facing the beach and pool. We were able to book it for about $250/night, which is hardly a bargain, but there are no other options if you want to have access to the largest pool in the world. We spent 2 nights at the resort and had a very relaxing weekend together. 

Basically, San Alfonso del Mar is a private resort complex with 10-12 large buildings with condos that face the pool and the ocean. The only way people can come in to check out the pool is to rent or buy a room at the resort. There are gates and guards all around the complex, and, although many people try to get in (we witnessed dozens of instances of people trying to sneak into the complex from the beach just to snap a photo of the pool), they do a great job with security. Consequently, the pool is pretty private and you pretty much have the place to yourself.

The pool is 1,013 meters long (3,323 feet) and covers 20 acres of land. It contains 66 million gallons of seawater (water is pumped from the ocean, filtered, and treated). The maximum depth of the pool is 115 feet (35 meters). The big pool is not for swimming, but you can kayak and paddle board on it. Each one of the buildings has a smaller (but still very large) pool that is sectioned off from the large pool where people are allowed to swim. The pools are not heated, but with the sun as hot as it was, this was not a problem for us. The pool is between the hotel/condos and the beach. There is a wide boardwalk all the way around the pool and a couple places where you can exit the pool area and head to the beach. The resort has brought in sand from the beach and put it between the hotel/condos and the pool and there are beach chairs and umbrellas for the guests to enjoy. This is an enormous resort (it takes like 30-45 minutes just to walk around the pool). In addition to the giant pool and the smaller swimming pools, there are smaller baby/child pools that are about knee depth as well as showers to wash off the sand/seawater.

We spent the first afternoon and the next morning at the pool, just swimming and exploring. We were able to do some paddle boarding and all that wanted to were able to try their hand at it. Even paddling out to the midpoint of the pool was quite a bit of exercise and from the paddle boards it was amazing to see how huge this pool actually is. We had excellent weather, blue skies and sunshine, with gentle breezes coming in from the ocean. We spent the next afternoon at the beach, playing in the water and the sand and just enjoying the breeze and the sunset. One one of the nights, the adults headed into Algorrobo and had some dinner and dessert and explored the night markets on the edge of the beach. 

We pretty much had the resort to ourselves and it wasn't until Saturday afternoon that we really started seeing other families begin to show up and enjoy the facilities. We headed back to Santiago on Saturday to get Eliza's parents and Savannah ready for their flight back to the US that night.

The pool (largest in the world) at San Alfonso del Mar, near Algorrobo, Chile.

The pool (largest in the world) at San Alfonso del Mar, near Algorrobo, Chile.

Burying Ryder in the sand at the beach at San Alfonso del Mar, near Algorrobo, Chile.

Eliza with her parents at the beach markets in Algorrobo, Chile on a summer night in January.

View of the pool (largest in the world) and the beach from our balcony on the 12th floor at San Alfonso del Mar, near Algorrobo, Chile.

View of the pool (largest in the world) and the beach from our balcony on the 12th floor at San Alfonso del Mar, near Algorrobo, Chile.

Sunset at the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

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Video of a time lapse of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean (view from our 12th floor balcony at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile).

Hotel beach on the edge of the pool at the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

Cody, paddleboarding on the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

 Cody and Ryder paddle boarding in the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

Savannah, Sawyer, Nash, Ryder, and Zander at the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

The kids on the edge of the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

Ryder, Cody, Nash, and Zander at the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

Looking back from one end of the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

The kids wading into one end of the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

Sawyer, paddle boarding on the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

Nash, paddle boarding on the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

Cody, swimming in one of the small pools on the edge of the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

Sawyer and Savannah paddle boarding on the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

Sawyer and Savannah paddle boarding on the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

12 year old, Sawyer paddle boarding on the largest pool in the world at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

Sawyer and Savannah at the beach at San Alfonso del Mar near Algorrobo, Chile.

Savannah, Sawyer, and Ryder, relaxing at the beach at San Alfonso del Mar, near Algorrobo, Chile.

The kids relaxing at the beach at San Alfonso del Mar, near Algorrobo, Chile with the hotel/condos in the background.

Our crew, including grandpa and grandma Haws (Eliza's parents) at the beach at San Alfonso del Mar, near Algorrobo, Chile.

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Playing at the beach at San Alfonso del Mar, near Algorrobo, Chile.

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Playing at the beach at San Alfonso del Mar, near Algorrobo, Chile.

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Playing at the beach at San Alfonso del Mar, near Algorrobo, Chile.