Photo Tips: Portrait Pointers


How to capture your travel companions in their best light.

A good portrait is more than a snapshot—it’s a picture that captures the personality of the subject in a special way. Even better is a portrait of a loved one on vacation, when the subject is relaxed and the setting reminds you of happy times. Here are some techniques to make sure you come home with at least one frameworthy (or Facebook-worthy) shot.

START WITH THE LIGHT

People just don’t look good in harsh light, such as you find outside on a sunny day. So get your subject into some flattering shade before you shoot. Or, if there’s no cover to be had, have him or her face away from the sun. This will eliminate squinting and heavy shadows.

BACKGROUND CHECK

Look for plain backgrounds that let your subject stand out. If the busy background is necessary to the composition (say, to show off a resort’s jungle setting), find a place in the frame where the subject fits without objects like trees that seem to be growing out from behind his or her head. Pros sometimes soften a distracting background by opening up the lens to its widest setting (i.e., the lowest number f/stop) to limit the depth of focus and direct attention to the subject. (This technique works better with digital SLRs than with point-and-shoots.)

GESTURE AND MOMENT

Keep talking once you start to shoot, offering posing instructions and encouraging words that will make your sitter feel comfortable. And try to keep the camera at your eye level, so when you tell your killer joke and your subject responds with a great smile, you’re ready to shoot. Or set the camera on a tripod and use a remote to trip the shutter. That lets you maintain eye contact with the subject, allowing for easier interaction. The whole point is to be ready for that split second when the subject lets down his or her guard and the personality shines through.

THE EYES HAVE IT

A lot of things can be soft and out of focus in a portrait, but not the eyes. If your camera has a moveable autofocus target, make sure it falls right at the subject’s eye level. Try not to compose your portrait with the subject’s eyes in the middle of the frame (where your autofocus target usually rests), as it makes for a very static composition. And remember to fill the frame, even with a headshot.

SHOOT AWAY

Finally, don’t be stingy with the shutter. In the digital age, shooting more costs nothing extra. The sound of shutter clicks will reassure your subject, helping you both to arrive at that one magic moment—and the perfect portrait.

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Acapulco's Second Act


Mexico's original beach town has reclaimed its old-school allure.

Long before Cancún or Los Cabos or the Riviera Maya were even specks on the tourist map, Acapulco reigned as Mexico’s coastal queen. Acapulqueños have recently worked hard to restore Old Acapulco and the Costera, and posh resorts and malls have risen in the newest neighborhood, Acapulco Diamante. The result is a thoroughly modern vacation destination rich in culture and history. Now is the time to visit—or revisit—the place where Mexico’s tourism fame was born.

OLD ACAPULCO

In the early Hollywood days, Playa Caleta and Playa Caletilla, on the western shores of Acapulco Bay, saw the most action. Today, the ’50s have returned with the restoration of the beachfront Hotel Boca Chica. The designers faithfully retained the mid-century architecture and the tiny Coco Wash disco, which has become the hippest hangout in town. Chef Keisuke Harada creates platters of sushi and Kobe burgers for happy hordes at the hotel’s restaurants; on weekends, locals pull their yachts up to the dock and linger for hours over mescal martinis.

With Boca Chica grabbing attention, travelers are also being lured to the palapa-shaded fish shacks on Playa Caletilla. Here families gather beneath blue umbrellas, and water taxis take swimmers to the clear waters off Isla Roqueta, just 10 minutes away. At the nearby Plaza Alvarez (also called the zócalo), elderly gents study their newspapers at sidewalk cafés as kids scamper around the filigreed bandstand. Across the street, fishermen lay out their nets beside docks where party boats collect passengers for sunset sailings.

In the winding streets high above Old Acapulco, sightseers gather at La Quebrada to witness the famed clavadistas, or cliff divers. During the show, a lone diver poses atop a jagged, precipitous cliff. Below, waves crash against rocks before settling into a small swirling pool. In the blink of an eye, the diver swoops toward the sea. Onlookers applaud as he emerges from the water, and another duplicates his feat.

THE COSTERA

Most visitors to the Costera devote the sunlight hours to lounging poolside, browsing in arcades and malls and playing in the bay. Pint-sized fun-seekers enjoy the rides at Papagayo Park and the waterslides at CICI waterpark.

As evening sets in, families head to the Hard Rock Cafe for burgers and ribs. Partygoers seek out tables at Paradise or Beto’s, among the best of the clubs on the sand, or retire to high-end restaurants and discos in the hills. Horse-drawn calesas (carriages) clomp along the Costera, delivering dancers to Baby ’O, one of the best-known discos. And fireworks and laser beams shoot over the bay from the hilltop clubs until dawn.

ACAPULCO DIAMANTE

Perhaps the best evidence of Acapulco’s resurgence lies in the burgeoning Diamante neighborhood. Stretching from the Costera up the steep, winding Scenic Highway, Diamante has legendary discos, championship golf courses, lavish resorts, a concert hall and a shiny new mall.

Several large timeshare resorts are also found on the beaches of Acapulco Diamante, close to attractions like the La Isla shopping center at Punta Diamante, which has lured some of the Costera’s well-known establishments (including the family-friendly yet rowdy Carlos’n Charlie’s). Kids can head to the mall’s Aqua Planet, with bumper boats and mini-golf, as well as displays that teach about water conservation. And at Mundo Imperial, an enormous development with a convention center and hotel, the stars of today appear at the Forum, a state-of-the-art concert hall. With the three sides of Acapulco all in a state of transformation, Mexico’s coastal queen is once again the biggest star on the map.

 

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Cozumel – Island of Swallows


Josef W.Walking down the stone streets of Playa del Carmen, past the numerous vendors and quaint shops, the ferry to Cozumel slowly comes into view. It looks sleek, fast and modern sitting atop the crystal clear blue water of the ocean. As we wait in line with mild trepidation to board, we watch the families play along the pristine white sand beach, bathed in the warm sunlight. Boarding the ship is quite a breeze once the gate opens and we are soon under way heading to Cozumel. As Cozumel slowly comes into focus, small droplets of ocean water cool us off during our complimentary sun tan on the 30 minute ferry ride. Arriving in Cozumel proves to be as easy as boarding was and we are soon on our way to the resort.

One of the first things that we noticed about Cozumel was that it feels like mainland Mexico, yet feels very different as well. There were numerous places to rent scooters on the side of the road, offering adventurous travelers the opportunity to explore the island on their own. They seem to be quite the popular mode of transportation to get around for the tourists and locals alike. We quickly leave the town limits of San Miguel de Cozumel, the capital, and drive along the highway towards our vacation destination. The resort staff is quickly at our service with towels and fresh drinks upon our arrival. We are quickly checked in and on our way to explore the resort. Having the ocean right outside our door along with a convenient ocean-side bar made this stay quite the treat.

The island seems to move at a slower pace than the mainland which makes everything more relaxing. We managed to spend some time exploring the local shops and dining at a quaint restaurant in the heart of San Miguel. The locals are eager to show you their items for sale and are quite friendly.  The food was amazing in both taste and presentation. We truly enjoyed spending a nice evening exploring this charming city. Don’t forget to also spend some time snorkeling at the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere, located off the coast of Cozumel. Make Cozumel your next vacation destination and enjoy the tranquility and beauty of Mexico!

We hope you enjoyed all of the great photos shared by RCI subscribing members. Be sure to check back with us next week!

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Cozumel – Adventure and Relaxation in One


Kristina W.Walking through the small streets of Playa Del Carmen, the excitement was building. We were heading towards the ferry terminal that would lead to our Cozumel journey. The process of using the ferry as transportation was quite simple and enjoyable. It was a beautiful sight to see the island coming into view as we felt the calm waves of the ocean rocking the ferry. Upon arrival on Cozumel, transportation to the resort was easy. The island of Cozumel is not an overwhelming size as it is roughly 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. There is one main road that circles the island, so if you choose to rent a car it is pretty easy to navigate.

Once you get settled in, be sure to check out the amazing water sport activities, like snorkeling. The largest reef in the Western Hemisphere, the Mesoamerica Reef, can be explored while staying in Cozumel. The ocean is crystal clear which makes for some fantastic sightings such as tropical fish and turtles.

Back on the island, the town of San Miguel offers many unique shopping prospects. While we were visiting, we enjoyed a night out in Cozumel with a phenomenal dinner at a local restaurant. Additionally, Cozumel provides many choices for spa treatments. Whether you are looking for a relaxing vacation, or an exciting getaway full of adventure, Cozumel offers the perfect trip for any family.

We’re continuing to share RCI subscribing members’ Cozumel photos. Stay tuned, there’s more to come!

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Winter is Right Around the Corner!


Dave TWith temperatures beginning to fall and the holiday season right around the corner, it is time to break out the heavy coats and embrace the season. As winter is knocking at the door and Jack Frost is nipping and your nose, I can’t help but think of all the things I love about this time of year. The first snowfall, sipping hot chocolate by the fire, freshly baked cookies, there are too many to name.

While it can be hard to step away from all the distractions and running around that are associated with the season, I find winter to be the perfect time to escape and explore my adventurous side. A snow filled vacation is an awesome opportunity to take part in these activities or even try new ones! Some of my favorite activities include skiing, ice-skating and snow tubing. And after I’m done with the day’s activities there is nothing better than relaxing at a beautiful snow covered resort in a warm outdoor hot tub or in front of a roaring fire.

Some may beg to differ, but winter is my favorite time of year. Whether it’s cruising down the slopes or curling up by the fire with a good book, it doesn’t get much better in my opinion. Check back to the RCI Blog for great stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who also share my love for this time of year!

 

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Family Holiday Fun in Mazatlan


What better way to connect with family than to spend a week together in Mazatlan, on Mexico's west coast, and with the Christmas holiday as an added attraction. With El Cid El Moro Beach Resort as our base, three generations enjoyed an all-inclusive vacation, which made sure our grandsons never went hungry! The beach itself provided sunny days of swimming, ping-pong, water sports, and parasailing for a perfect view of the city, the coast line and the nearby islands. Shops and restaurants, within easy walking distance, made life easy for the older generation. One day we all boarded a catamaran and sailed to Deer Island, passing sea lions that lazed on the rocks, oblivious to our squeals of delight. We swam, snorkeled, rode the giant banana, kayaked, and picnicked on the beach until the magnificent sunset told us it was time to return to reality.

Christmas Eve is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. We traveled by local bus to Juarez Street in the heart of the city. Over 100 stalls at the outdoor market provided souvenirs, tee shirts, leather goods, pottery, and every food imaginable from goat to chicken feet (not legs)! The Mexicans shop there every day, but for us it was an unusual treat. Nearby the cathedral shone with its majestic spirals and stained glass windows. Christmas carols pealed from outdoor speakers and decorated Christmas trees reminded us of the holiday. A cantina lodged in the park somehow seemed out of place until we remembered where we were!

We slept with our balcony door open to hear the breaking waves and see the gorgeous sunrises. We were up at dawn every day, as we did not want to miss a thing: kids, parents, and grandparents alike.

-Karen I. from Greenwood, SC

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Deep Sea Fishing in Puerto Vallarta


One of my favorite vacations through RCI was a deep sea fishing excursion in Puerto Vallarta. At 5:00 am we departed from the marina, started fishing around 6:30 am and by 9:30 am I had a good bite. I caught a 320-pound black marlin, which took me over an hour to land. When we got back to the dock, the fisherman cut off the main meat and rest was donated to the locals. We then took the marlin to the resort chefs where they prepared it for 40 people. The staff at Club Velas Vallarta was excellent. It is a vacation I will never forget.

-Allan D.

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Divine Girls Trip!


Upon opening the door to our room, my friends gasped at the sight of our accommodations! I had booked an Extra Vacations Getaway, requesting at least three bedrooms. The suite had this and so much more. Puerto Vallarta, our huge and beautiful suite, the balcony right over the beach, and the resort being an all-inclusive was an experience out of this world. I took five of my best friends and they were in total awe of the accommodations and location we were treated to through my RCI subscribing membership. It's still one of my favorite trips.

-Dixie R. from Dalzell, IL

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Terrific Time at Tamaracks


The Tamarack Resort was a beautiful resort community with lovely accommodations. The condos felt like luxury townhomes with bedrooms upstairs and the living quarters on the first level. My family had the best time using the on-site amenities like the fitness center, swimming pools, and racquetball courts. We barbequed right outside of our condo and enjoyed the spacious kitchen and living room. My husband and I had a great time, and our children were just in heaven because there were endless activities between the Dells' waterparks and the fun at the Tamaracks Resort. We are so thankful to RCI for providing these wonderful vacations for our family to enjoy.

-Carol W. from Chicago, IL

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Family Fun in the Dells


We took a vacation with my in-laws, my husband's brothers and sister, their children, my mom and step-dad, and our kids. Looking back, I have never been more pleased to have taken the trip. Eighteen of us went and had three units at Christmas Mountain Village. It was awesome for all of us to be able to be at the resort at the same time and have the option of eating there together instead of eating out everyday and trying to find room to fit all of us. Now my father-in-law has been diagnosed with COPD and has had a tough go of it and most recently is bed bound. My mother-in-law finds it difficult to get out the house now with her medical conditions. It was our only vacation we every took with all of my husband's siblings and his mom and dad. I am so happy that we have that memory because we could never do anything like that now. We were thrilled that RCI made it so easy to arrange to have so many people come down with us. Thank you RCI. To many members of our family it one of the best vacations they have ever had.

-Julie B. from Sterling Heights, MI

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81 million people in the US live within 600 miles of the Wisconsin Dells, "The Waterpark Capital of the World!®"


Beth SDid you know that more than ¼ of the total US population lives within a 600 mile radius of the Wisconsin Dells?  For many, this is less than an 8-hour drive to a destination that delivers endless hours of activities for people of all ages!

My family of five has been traveling to the Dells nearly every October for the past eight years, and we’re planning a return visit over Fall Break this year.  With three boys ages 3-14 years old, our interests change daily, and the Dells is one of the few drive-to destinations that the whole family looks forward to. Here is a list of what you can do during your trip to the Dells!

At the waterpark:

  • My 14-year old –LOVES the wave pools, surfing, water slides and sometimes a hot tub to (in his words) “chillax”J
  • My 6-year old – He’s crazy about playing basketball and getting his feet wet riding the big kid slides!  With zero-degree entry pools, water guns galore, and plenty of splashing water, there are endless kid-friendly areas to play.
  • My 3-year old – Last year he loved floating on the lazy river, chasing his brothers and gliding down the tot sized slides. 
  • Where can you find all of these amazing water park activities in the Dells?  Our personal favorites are the Wilderness Resort, Kalahari, and Mount Olympus
     

Away from the waterpark:

This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have also traveled to the Dells. Be sure to come back to take a look!

Have you vacationed in the Wisconsin Dells, what other recommendations do you have (for me and the other 81 million people living within 600 miles)?

Here’s a pic of my 2-oldest boys at the wave pool. 

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35th Anniversary


My husband and I wanted a vacation to celebrate our anniversary and we wanted something close to home. We chose Christmas Mountain Village in Wisconsin Dells. We used our resort as a base and took several day trips over the course of our week. Wonderful vineyards that offered wine tasting just a couple of hours away. We visited House on the Rock in Spring Green and spent time at the resort. We had a fireplace in our cottage and made great use of it during the chilly October evenings! What could be better than a warm fire on a cold night with my husband of 35 years? What a relaxing and fantastic trip.

-Lynn C. from Oconomowoc, WI

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A Dream Trip to Hainan


Jenny U.As a child, I pictured Hainan as a mysterious and remote island waiting for courageous visitors to reveal its nature. It was not until many years later that my parents planned a spontaneous family trip which uncovered a fascinating and mind-soothing journey in my memory.

We took a ferry to Haikou, the northern point of Hainan. On arrival our family headed directly to a local seafood restaurant where I had steamed red crab meat, juicy shrimps and tender large yellow croaker. Never had I tasted seafood as sweet and luscious. It is said that the pristine south seawater has gifted Hainan with the most delicious seafood. The next morning, we drove alongside the East Coast national road to Sanya Bay. For miles along the road, there were people riding bicycles passing high-reaching coconut trees, cycad and palm trees swaying along the sea breeze.  Behind us, the clear blue sky stretched far to meet the edge of the dazzling seawater.

We arrived at one luxurious resort in Sanya Bay and spent half the day sitting among the sublime tropical plants and vibrant flowers. As far as I could see, I was able to spot two islands amongst thin mist and motorboats sailing around them. People can go angling, a type of fishing, on one island where the best angling club of Sanya rests.  In the afternoon, I took a walk along the bay and touched the warm sea water while fishermen were trawling (another type of fishing) and singing in the distance. People can join in and take trawling lessons, then take their self-caught fish home. Our short stay came to the end as the sun settled below the sea, leaving a golden lining in the sky.

This week on the RCI Blog we’ll be sharing a lot of great information about China. I hope this will help you plan your next vacation to China!

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Take a trip and never leave the farm!


Take a trip and never leave the farm!

Milking a cow while visiting Silver Dollar City near Branson, MO...just one of the many places to go when vacationing in the Ozarks and staying at Silverleaf's Ozark Mountain Resort.

-Kenneth R. from Hope, KS

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Friends/Laughter/Shows/Places


We had never heard of Branson, Missouri and little did we know what we were in for. When I did some research about how wonderful it would be, as well as how different it would be, people would ask me why I would want to go out there. However, after I booked it and read more about it, we decided to go with another couple. Not only did we stay at a fabulous resort that received a high rating, we had the best time ever. We booked show after show and I got to see Bobby Vinton's Blue Velvet show. It was the best. I even ran to him for a hug... Every night we went to a different show and the people there were so friendly and caring. Branson was so beautiful, surrounded by mountains, and the city was immaculate. In fact, it was was so wonderful there that we went back a second time with other friends. On top of all the fun, the shows were very affordable compared to New York. We saw a lot of famous people as well. There are some beautiful theaters in Branson. This was my best vacation ever. We have a lot of beautiful pictures and memories of Branson and will go back there again someday.

-Anna S. from Fairfield, NJ

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Once In A Lifetime


My boyfriend of three years and I decided to take a spontaneous vacation in July. We were in our early 20's and living together for a little less than a year. We found a fantastic deal and booked a trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Our excitement was palpable.

As a young couple in love, off we went to Cancun International Airport on our first trip to Mexico, to an all-inclusive resort and to a beach not on the US eastern coast. We were thrilled to just be away together in such a lovely place.

After settling into a room, squeezing in a little pool time, and enjoying a delicious dinner at the buffet, we decided to take a walk on the beach. Hand-in-hand we went as we took a seat on two loungers under a tiki hut. The stars twinkled above us on this dark night, the ocean lapped the sand, and we enjoyed the silence that surrounded us in this peaceful moment.

I said to my boyfriend, "What a perfect place, what a perfect dinner, what a perfect night." At that moment he replied "It's the perfect time for me to ask you to marry me." I stared in awe as he got down on one knee and opened up a box showing my sparkling engagement ring. I smiled and cried tears of joy as I replied "Yes!” We shared an emotional and happy moment under the romantic sky.

As it turns out, he had done an impressive job asking my parents for their permission, receiving the delivery of the ring, and getting through the airports' security and customs departments. I was excited, beaming, and still in shock when we went to the lobby. We celebrated with champagne as we watched the live Mexican band play along with couples and children dancing about...

We immediately got moved to an oceanfront room and spent the rest of our vacation in bliss as we relaxed, got massaged, sunbathed, dined, drank, danced, and laughed together. During our remaining days, we frequently visited Jack and José who shared in our happiness as a newly engaged couple and new timeshare owners. This was a very special vacation for us and I will never forget the once in a lifetime memories that were created at Ocean Maya Royale.

-Erin D. from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania

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It'll never top Mexico


Our first RCI vacation took us to Playa del Carmen on the Yucatan Peninsula. We were excited to be able to exchange our timeshare in the Berkshires for a vacation outside of the US in order to give our two young boys some exposure to other cultures. We rented a car so that we could explore the surrounding countryside and possibly see some of the Mayan ruins while in Mexico. The resort was nice enough and offered a number of activities... The food was great; we tried a number of different options and the kids even tried some new things (a small miracle). The resort’s many pools provided some variety as we spent a chunk of time swimming and joining in on some resort-sponsored pool football...

-William H. from Coventry, Connecticut

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Playa del Carmen is like Paradise


SoniaThe first time I ever visited Playa del Carmen, I immediately fell in love with this magical little town by the beach.

As you walk down the streets in beautiful Playa del Carmen, you will see “locals” from all around the world that decided to stay here for good after vacationing in paradise themselves.

There is nothing like spending the day at the beautiful and famous Mamita’s Beach. It is one of the best beaches in the world. There is plenty of fun to be had for everyone visiting.

Staying in downtown Playa del Carmen is your best bet to experience everything the town has to offer. You will find everything you can think of from local restaurants that serve the best Mexican food throughout the region to upscale gourmet restaurants, led by internationally recognized chefs. There are also small hotels and luxury resorts, as well as cozy little bars and huge night clubs, such as the famous Cocobongo. Everything is right here!

Make sure to stop at Quinta Avenida, located on Fifth Avenue. There are people walking down the street all day long shopping, sipping coffee, eating ice cream, enjoying a cold drink, sitting at the bar or restaurant and going to church.

If you enjoy sports, there are plenty of activities to try during your visit: fishing, snorkeling, and a lot of other water sports are very popular.

There is also a ferry for those that would like to visit La Isla de las Golondrinas (Island of Seagulls) located on Cozumel Island just 25 minutes away. Here you can explore some of the biggest coral reefs in the world.

Whether it’s day or night, there is always something going on in Playa del Carmen. And if you visit, you will have the time of your life right here, and who knows … maybe you will end up becoming a local too! Come back to the RCI Blog this week to read stories and see photos from RCI Subscribing members who vacationed in Playa del Carmen.

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40th Anniversary


We had a beautiful trip driving down the coast of Spain to Malaga. The resort was wonderful and we met some very nice people from England, as well as other counties. They had very good entertainment at night, which we enjoyed. We found a lovely beach restaurant, called Max Beach. We spent our 40th anniversary there, with a lovely table overlooking the ocean, great food and great entertainment. It was a very special week, with lots of sightseeing and fun. The next week we went to Albufeira, Portugal. We had a very memorable and lovely vacation. Ended it all by spending three days in Frankfurt, Germany. My husband surprised me with First Class tickets for all our flights. Who could ask for a better 40 anniversary!!!

-Carolee A. from Mississauga, Canada

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Relaxation or Adventure? Key West is great for both!


Emily SA few months ago, my boyfriend Blake and I planned a trip down to Key West. After a lot of research (on my part!), we arranged for our accommodations, booked our flights, and began our trip.

We flew into Miami and, at the urging of many articles and reviews, we opted to rent a car to drive to our resort in Key West instead of hopping on another plane – wow, were those authors and reviewers right! The 3+ hour drive on Highway 1 from the Florida mainland to Key West, while lengthy, was incredible! The views of the water were incredible, especially when we went over the Seven Mile Bridge.

After arriving at our resort in Key West, we headed over to a restaurant for dinner and then over to Mallory Square – an open area on the water with all kinds of street performers and vendors – to see an amazing sunset. If you want a front row view, get there early because it gets very crowded!

Our next few days were filled with catching some sun at the resort’s pool, seeing the action on Duval Street and exploring the town. We rented bicycles on two of the days to help us get around quickly to all of the Key West must-do’s: Southernmost Point, the Ernest Hemingway Home, the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum. Another Key West must-do, in my book, is breakfast at Blue Heaven on Thomas Street – great setting and even better food.

Key West is a wonderful vacation destination. Whether you want to just relax by a pool and watch beautiful sunsets or take small adventures exploring the town – or a combination of both – Key West has it all! Come back to the RCI Blog this week to read stories and see photos from RCI Subscribing members who vacationed in the Florida Keys.

 

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