Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Fri, 24 Mar 2017 21:39:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 Four-Day Best of Southern California Itinerary https://moon.com/2017/03/four-day-best-of-southern-california-itinerary/ https://moon.com/2017/03/four-day-best-of-southern-california-itinerary/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:27:01 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=51763 Perfect for out-of-state visitors, this best of Southern California itinerary plans for at least four days to spend exploring Los Angeles, nearby Santa Monica, and sunny San Diego.

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This Southern California itinerary starts in Los Angeles, explores Santa Monica and Long Beach, and ends in sunny San Diego.

Day 1

Fly into LAX and rent a car for your Southern California road trip. Walk down the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame and a stop at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, where you can find the handprints of your favorite movie stars. Or, for aesthetic stimulation, tour the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. End the day with a cocktail at Sunset Boulevard’s Rainbow Bar & Grill.

TCL Chinese Theatre. Photo © Valentin Armianu/Dreamstime.

TCL Chinese Theatre. Photo © Valentin Armianu/Dreamstime.

Day 2

Grab breakfast The Griddle Café before heading to the coast for a day of culture. Jump on U.S. 101 to I-405 south to visit the world-famous Getty Center. Admire Richard Meier’s soaring architecture before gazing at the magnificent works inside. Continue south on I-405 exiting towards Santa Monica. Enjoy the amusement park rides of the Santa Monica Pier or just take a break on Santa Monica Beach. Stroll along the Venice Boardwalk to take in the bodybuilders, street performers, and alternative-culture types of Venice Beach. After a day gazing at the sea, dine on seafood at Salt Air.

For the ultimate in SoCal kitsch, you can't miss the Santa Monica Pier.

For the ultimate in SoCal kitsch, you can’t miss the Santa Monica Pier. Photo © Stuart Thornton.

If You Have More Time

Kids (and kids at heart) might prefer to skip the L.A. beaches and spend a full day and night at Disneyland instead.

Day 3

Follow I-405 south, stopping off in Long Beach for a tour on The Queen Mary, an ocean liner now home to restaurants, a hotel, and a museum. From Long Beach, head south on Highway 1 through the North County beach towns of Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. Stop off for a surf or a swim, or soldier on to La Jolla Cove to go kayaking or snorkeling. Then satiate that appetite with lobster tacos from Puesto.

La Jolla Caves. Photo © Dollar Photo Club.

La Jolla Caves. Photo © Dollar Photo Club.

Day 4

Easygoing San Diego is a great place to end any vacation. Visit Balboa Park, where you’ll spend most of your time at the San Diego Zoo. Follow a day in the park with a meal in the Gaslamp Quarter, then end your day with a craft beer at one of San Diego’s many breweries, like the giant Stone World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station.

Balboa Park in San Diego. Photo © F11Photo/Dreamstime.

Balboa Park in San Diego. Photo © F11Photo/Dreamstime.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon California.

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Street Food in Morocco https://moon.com/2017/03/street-food-in-morocco/ https://moon.com/2017/03/street-food-in-morocco/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 19:55:24 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=54255 Grabbing a bite at one of the seemingly infinite snack carts in Morocco’s medinas is a wonderful way to interact with locals and indulge in some fast food, Morocco-style. For a true taste of local flavor, it doesn’t get any better (or cheaper)!

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Grabbing a bite at one of the seemingly infinite snack carts in Morocco’s medinas is a wonderful way to interact with locals and indulge in some fast food, Morocco-style. For a true taste of local flavor, it doesn’t get any better (or cheaper)! Street food in Morocco generally ranges between 1-10Dh per serving, making this ideal for those traveling on a shoe-string budget.

Evening at Jemaa el-Fnaa, where visitors can find all manner of food stands and local culture.

Evening at Jemaa el-Fnaa, where visitors can find all manner of food stands and local culture. Photo © Simon Hack/Dreamstime.

One of the more common street foods you’ll find is a steaming bowl of snail soup – a brothy treat perfect for the escargot lover. The snails are typically seasoned with a warm mix of spices such as licorice, cinnamon, bay leaves, and the eponymous ras el-hanoot.

In the north, you’ll likely see street vendors with large, round pies on hot plates. These are caliniti, derived from the Spanish caliente: a savory, flan-like treat made of chickpeas. It’s almost always generously seasoned with cumin and har (a spicy chili pepper), but if you’re up for it, dial up the heat by asking for more spices to shake on yourself.

Another chickpea treat is hoomus (from hummus). This steamed snack of whole chickpeas is generously seasoned with salt and cumin. It’s something akin to popcorn, usually served in a paper cone and made to be eaten on the go.

Street food in Morocco includes Bissara soup in the Fez medina. Photo © Lucas Peters.

Bissara soup in the Fez medina. Photo © Lucas Peters.

A more filling indulgence is bissara, generally made with fava beans, though sometimes with split peas. This is a thick, hearty soup, popular with sailors for its rumored ability to heal rheumatism and pulmonary disease. This staple is usually served with a generous half loaf of round bread, plenty of olive oil, and chili pepper.

Barbecues are also immensely popular, offering brochettes of seasoned chicken and beef, as are the fruit vendors, with tropical delicacies sold by the slice. For some energy on the go, consider the local nutjob who’ll be selling a variety of roasted nuts – such as walnuts, almonds, and cashews – that can be had for peanuts…horrible puns fully intended.

To wash it all down, consider grabbing a refreshing, energizing sugar cane juice — these are surprisingly full of proteins and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and potassium, as well as vitamins A, B-complex, and C. Of course, if sugar cane juice isn’t your thing, fresh-squeezed orange juice or a free public water fountain are never far away. Whatever you guzzle, you’ll want to pack your own bottle to wash and refill as the alternatives are plastic cups or glasses that are not always thoroughly cleaned.

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History of Traditional Hawaiian Foods (and Where to Try Them on the Big Island) https://moon.com/2017/03/history-traditional-hawaiian-foods/ https://moon.com/2017/03/history-traditional-hawaiian-foods/#respond Fri, 18 Nov 2016 18:58:07 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=49446 The origins of these four common traditional Hawaiian foods will guide you to great flavors and a greater understanding of Hawaii's cultural history.

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I was first drawn to the Big Island of Hawai‘i sixteen years ago after a lecture by Haunani-Kay Trask, a political scientist and Hawaiian nationalist who came to my university to speak about the rights of native Hawaiians. At the time, I knew Hawaii only as the place in my parents’ ’70s honeymoon photos, or as the tropical vacation getaway in ads and movies. I was surprised to learn about the rich, complicated, and occasionally tumultuous history of the state, beginning with the settlement of the indigenous people of Hawaii, the colonial period, and through to Hawaiian statehood in 1959.

While a vast body of literature exists detailing everything from Captain Cook’s failed exploration of the islands to the recent struggle over Mauna Kea (as it relates to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement), to me, a cultural history of the Big Island can best be learned on a plate.

The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage by Rachel Lauden is part food history, part cookbook, and it’s my go-to book to better understand how common foods found on the Big Island are deeply embedded in the history of Hawaii.

Hawaii's traditional plate lunch featuring lau lau. Photo © cokemomo/123rf.

Hawaii’s traditional plate lunch featuring lau lau. Photo © cokemomo/123rf.

Traditional Hawaiian Foods and their History

Lau Lau

Lau lau, which translates to “leaf, leaf,” is technically is a way of cooking, but it’s also the name of a traditional Native Hawaiian dish prepared by wrapping pork and/or fish in taro leaves and steaming it over an imu–an underground fire. Today the dish is prepared with any protein and steamed in the oven. Oftentimes, lau lau is part of a plate lunch.

Where to get it: Kaaloa’s Super J’s in Captain Cook. Even people who say they don’t like lau lau love it here (I can vouch that it’s delicious!).

The Plate Lunch

The quintessential local food, a plate lunch usually consists of white rice, macaroni salad, and a meat entrée. Found at food trucks, drive-ins, and parking lot pop-up stalls, this carb-filled dish originated in the late 1800s and offered a cheap, filling lunch for plantation workers. The various types of meat entrées reflect the many origins of plantation workers, including places as diverse as China, Japan, the Philippines, and Portuguese colonies.

Where to get it: The Hawaiian Style Cafe in Hilo or Waimea offers both quality and quantity in a nice (air-conditioned) setting. You can also ask for variations such as brown instead of white rice.

Malasada

Malasada, a deep fried pastry that somewhat resembles the Polish paczki donut, was brought to Hawaii in the late 1800s by Portuguese plantation workers from the Madeira and Azores islands. Traditional malasadas just are rolled in sugar, but these days, you’re more likely to taste them stuffed with mango, passionfruit, or even coconut pudding.

Malasada. Photo © Bree Kessler.

Malasada. Photo © Bree Kessler.


Where to get it: The classics are found at Tex Drive-in in Honokaa or Punalu’u Bake Shop in Naalehu.

Spam Musubi

A distant cousin of sushi, spam musubi looks like a long, uncut sushi roll with a thin-cut piece of shoyu-seasoned spam sitting on top of a layer of rice and then wrapped in nori (dry roasted seaweed). Created during World War II when spam was plentiful on the islands, the origins of musubi can be traced back to Japanese internment camps.

Spam Musubi. Photo © Kimi Owens.

Spam Musubi. Photo © Kimi Owens.


Where to get it: You can find variations on spam musubi at any convenience or grocery store. One of my favorites is at the 7-11 in Kurtistown where it’s served hot with an egg on top of the spam layer.

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Amazing Northern Baja Cuisine Experiences https://moon.com/2017/03/amazing-northern-baja-cuisine-experiences/ https://moon.com/2017/03/amazing-northern-baja-cuisine-experiences/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 17:33:04 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=53787 In the past few years, Northern Baja California has stepped into the spotlight for its burgeoning culinary scene. It’s a cuisine that focuses on fresh local ingredients like seafood, locally raised meats, regional cheeses, and native produce. Here are twelve picks from our Baja expert for sampling the region's cuisine in Tijuana, Ensenada, and Valle de Guadalupe.

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In the past few years, Northern Baja California has stepped into the spotlight for its burgeoning culinary scene. It’s a cuisine that focuses on fresh local ingredients like seafood, locally raised meats, regional cheeses, and native produce. These ingredients are prepared with Mexican traditions and flavors while adding a twist of Mediterranean and Asian influence.

Chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, and Rick Bayless have visited and promoted the region and Baja California cuisine restaurants are opening around the world. With everything from street food to fine dining and craft beer or wine to wash it all down, it’s not hard to see why Northern Baja is one of the best new culinary hot spots.

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Fish tacos are a well known food in Baja. Photo © Brent Hofacker/123rf.

Cuisine Experiences in Tijuana

Tijuana is a city that has it all in terms of food, with savory street food and beautiful, refined restaurants. Located just across the border from San Diego, Tijuana also has a growing craft beer scene that echoes that of their neighbors to the north. The city is going through a cultural renaissance, with the culinary scene leading the way.

Misión 19

No conversation about Northern Baja’s culinary scene is complete without mentioning the fine dining restaurant Misión 19. Chef Javier Plascencia is the poster boy for Baja California cuisine, and at Misión 19 he delivers dishes like filet mignon, pork belly, bone marrow, and octopus in a sleek and sophisticated setting in one of Tijuana’s most upscale highrise buildings.

Las Ahumaderas

Also refered to as “Taco Alley,” Las Ahumaderas is a series of six taco stands that have been serving up tacos to locals since 1960. Don’t miss the adobada tacos (called al pastor in other parts of Mexico), marinated pork that roasts on a spit.

Food Garden

A great way to sample a variety of local food is to head to one of Tijuana’s food colectivos (collectives). With a nice courtyard setting and a variety of options for tasty food, Tijuana’s first colectivo was Food Garden, and it remains a local favorite, with options like chilaquiles, vegetarian food, and crepes. They now have a second location in Plaza Rio mall.

Tijuana's Food Garden is a local favorite. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Tijuana’s Food Garden is a local favorite. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Plaza Fiesta

While Tijuana has a number of individual breweries with tasting rooms that are worth visiting, such as Norte Brewing Co. and Mamut, many beer drinkers will enjoy a visit to Plaza Fiesta. Here, dozens of Northern Baja craft breweries have gathered in an old defunct mall to create a collection of mini tasting rooms.

Cuisine Experiences in Ensenada

Just down the coast a few hours from Tijuana, Ensenada is a port town offering delicious seafood that comes straight out of the Pacific. There’s a large craft beer scene here as well, and everything is enjoyed with a beautiful ocean backdrop.

La Guerrerense

Called the “best street cart in the world” by Anthony Bourdain, La Guerrerense is a must-visit for any visitor to Ensenada. Here, Sabina Bandera and her family serve up sophisticated seafood ceviches and tostadas like the award-winning ceviche de erizo con almeja (sea urchin with clams).

Tacos El Fenix

As Ensenada is one of the Baja cities that claims to be the home of the fish taco (the other is San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez), the battered and delicious street food is not to be missed here. Locals head to Tacos El Fenix, where they’ve been serving up shrimp and fish tacos since 1970.

Boules

For a nice dining experience in Ensenada, hip locals and foodie travelers head to eat at Boules (tel. 646/175-8769). Enjoy dishes like queso fundido de mar (seafood in melted cheese), crab ravioli, and tuetano (bone marrow). Seating is outdoors in a patio setting under trees with strung lights.

Baja Brews

Ensenada, like Tijuana, is home to a number of great microbreweries. Independent tasting rooms like Agua Mala and Wendlandt are favorites with locals and visitors. The beer colectivo Baja Brews features stands from a number of local craft breweries as well as stunning ocean views.

Enjoy Baja brews with a view. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Enjoy Baja brews with a view. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Cuisine Experiences in Valle de Guadalupe

Mexico’s premier wine region is located less than two hours south of San Diego. With over 120 wineries and a number of gourmet restaurants to accompany them, Valle de Guadalupe is attracting travelers, foodies, and oenophiles from all over the world. The web of dirt roads is spotted with beautiful boutique wineries, intimate B&Bs, and outdoor campestre restaurants, giving the region rustic charm and character.

Las Nubes

With incredible views, a large outdoor patio, friendly service, and wines that are easy to drink, Las Nubes is a definite crowd-pleaser. Order one their cheese plates to nosh on for a taste of regional cheeses and local olive tapenade.

Lechuza

You’ll need a reservation to visit the small and intimate family-operated winery, Lechuza. Here you’ll find a tranquil boutique winery offering personal attention, and a rare chance to talk with the winemakers themselves. With some of the best wines coming out of Mexico, Lechuza was recently picked to be on the wine list at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa.

Finca Altozano

For incredible food and a casual but chic atmosphere, locals and tourists flock to Javier Plascencia’s campestre restaurant, Finca Altozano. The food is cooked over a wood-fire grill and produces unforgettable flavors in dishes such as grilled octopus and lamb birria. After your meal, grab a glass of wine and climb up to the top of one of the giant wine barrels scattered around the property to relax enjoy the vineyard and valley views.

Dine at Finca Altozano for incredible food and a casual but chic atmosphere. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Dine at Finca Altozano for incredible food and a casual but chic atmosphere. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Malva

Diners have the option of dining a la carte or choosing from a seven or ten course dining experience at Chef Roberto Alcocer’s Malva. The beautiful outdoor deck with a tall palapa roof is nestled into a grove of trees overlooking the valley, and gives the sensation of being in an exclusive treehouse.

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Baja Road Trip: 4-Day Cape Loop https://moon.com/2017/03/baja-road-trip-4-day-cape-loop/ https://moon.com/2017/03/baja-road-trip-4-day-cape-loop/#respond Mon, 13 Mar 2017 21:29:53 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=53794 Cabo is Baja California Sur's most recognized and visited area, but a majority of Cabo visitors don’t get past the resorts and golf courses, missing out on a plethora of incredible attractions within just a few hours of Cabo. Coral reef diving, natural hot springs and waterfalls, quaint colonial towns, and beautiful empty beaches are awaiting travelers who are willing to explore just off of the beaten path.

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Cabo is Baja California Sur’s most recognized and visited area, but a majority of Cabo visitors don’t get past the resorts and golf courses, missing out on a plethora of incredible attractions within just a few hours of Cabo. Coral reef diving, natural hot springs and waterfalls, quaint colonial towns, and beautiful empty beaches are awaiting travelers who are willing to explore just off of the beaten path. All you need is a couple of days, a high-clearance vehicle, and a sense of adventure to have a truly authentic Baja experience just outside of Cabo.

Day 1: San José del Cabo to Cabo Pulmo

45 miles, 2 hours 45 minutes

Depart San José del Cabo to the east, driving along the dirt Camino Cabo Este (East Cape Road), hugging the coast. Enjoy the beautiful Sea of Cortez views as you wind around the East Cape to the small town of Cabo Pulmo. Here, divers and snorkelers will enjoy exploring the marine life of the 5,000-year-old coral reef. As one of only three coral reefs in North America, Cabo Pulmo is home to sea turtles, rays, whales, and a large variety of fish. Head to Los Arbolitos Beach (or Los Frailes if it’s windy) for some snorkeling and sun bathing. After an afternoon at the beach, the casual La Palapa restaurant in town is a great place to grab a beer and some dinner while watching the dive boats come in from the day. Stay the night at Baja Bungalows or Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort

Cañon de la Zorra. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Cañon de la Zorra. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Day 2: Cabo Pulmo to Buena Vista via Santiago

45 miles, 1 hour 30 minutes

 
Depart Cabo Pulmo and head inland to the Sierra de la Laguna to take advantage of some of the natural attractions that the mountains have to offer. First head to Cañon de la Zorra, just outside the small town of Santiago. Here you’ll find a 30-foot waterfall surrounded by natural pools and large rocks, perfect for swimming and enjoying the morning sun. If you’ve got a four-wheel drive vehicle, head to the nearby Santa Rita hot springs where you’ll find beautiful natural hot springs with sandy-bottomed pools nestled between large granite boulders. Head back to the coast for the evening to stay at one of the beautiful beach hotels in Buena Vista such as Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort or Rancho Leonero.

Buena Vista. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Buena Vista. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Day 3: Buena Vista to Todos Santos

80 miles, 1 hour 40 minutes

Leaving Buena Vista and heading northwest on highway Mexico 1, you’ll be driving inland to cross to the other side of the peninsula. Make a pit stop for few hours in the small old mining town of El Triunfo where you can walk around the mine ruins and enjoy some food and drinks at Bar El Minero. Grab some baked goods to go from Caffé El Triunfo before leaving town. Continue to the junction of Mexico 19, where you’ll drive south to arrive in the quaint artist colonial town of Todos Santos on the West Cape and the Pacific Ocean. Spend your afternoon in town perusing the boutique shops, artisan goods, and the numerous artist galleries. Check into your boutique hotel in town, La Bohemia Hotel Pequeño and enjoy a mojito or margarita under the central palapa near the dipping pool to unwind. For dinner, walk over to the town plaza and enjoy a decadent meal of lobster ravioli at the famous Café Santa Fe. For a nightcap after dinner, head the historical bar La Copa Bar with a classy setting and nice selection of wine, craft beer, and cocktails.

Todos Santos Plaza. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Todos Santos Plaza. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Day 4: Todos Santos to San José del Cabo

65 miles, 1 hour 15 minutes

Enjoy breakfast at one of the favorite locals’ spots, La Esquina. Surfers will want to take advantage of one of the beautiful surf spots along the West Cape such as La Pastora or San Pedrito. Non-surfers can enjoy a walk along any of the stunning and mostly empty beaches. Have lunch at the new Jazamango restaurant where Chef Javier Plascencia is bringing Northern Baja’s incredible culinary scene to the region.

After lunch, continue south 15 minutes to the small town of El Pescadero and grab a coffee at the popular Baja Beans or a specialty cocktail in the beautiful garden setting at Hortaliza Hierbabuena. Drive another hour south on highway Mexico 19 to arrive back in Los Cabos.

Travel Logistics for your Baja Road Trip

  • Fly into the Los Cabos International Airport (SJD, tel. 624/146-5111), located near San José del Cabo. Direct flights arrive regularly from the U.S., Canada, and other areas of Mexico.
  • Most car rental companies in Cabo will quote you at a price that does not include the mandatory auto insurance. Many travelers are surprised to arrive and find out that the cost of their car rental is four times more expensive than they thought it was going to be. Either be prepared for this, or go through a rental company like Cactus Rent a Car that will quote you with the insurance and all costs included so that there are no hidden surprises when you arrive. It’s best to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle for this trip if possible, but a two-wheel drive with high clearance will suffice.
  • Many small towns outside of Cabo operate on a cash-only basis and have no banks or ATMs in town. Be sure to get pesos out of the ATM before leaving Los Cabos.

 

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4-Day Northern California Road Trip Itinerary https://moon.com/2017/03/northern-california-road-trip-itinerary/ https://moon.com/2017/03/northern-california-road-trip-itinerary/#respond Fri, 10 Mar 2017 19:02:01 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=51756 Spend four days touring San Francisco and the coast with this Northern California road trip itinerary from local SF-based author Elizabeth Linhart Veneman.

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Spend four days touring San Francisco and the coast with this Northern California road trip itinerary.

Day 1

Start your trip in San Francisco, where you can fly into San Francisco International Airport and rent a car. If you’d like to explore the city, try these suggestions for spending a day in San Francisco like a local.

Cable car in San Francisco.

Photo © vadimsto/123rf.

Day 2

Your journey north begins with a drive on U.S. 101 over San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. After five miles, turn off U.S. 101 to Highway 1 at Mill Valley. On the slow, four-hour drive up the coast (around 160 miles), make time to stop at Fort Ross State Historic Park to explore the re-constructed Russian settlement.

End the day in the community of Mendocino with a view of the sunset at Mendocino Headlands State Park or a pint at the lively Patterson’s Pub. At night, dine at the historic MacCallum House Restaurant.

California's rocky Mendocino Coast. Photo © Elizabeth Linhart Veneman.

California’s rocky Mendocino Coast. Photo © Elizabeth Linhart Veneman.

Day 3

Follow Highway 1 north to Fort Bragg then continue inland to connect with U.S. 101 (about one hour). Take the Avenue of the Giants, a breathtaking drive through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Even though it’s only 31 miles, the trip could take a few hours if you get out of your car to ponder the big trees.

Get back on U.S. 101 and head an hour north (60 miles) to Eureka. Stop to wander the Blue Ox Millworks and Historic Park before continuing north another 10 minutes or so to charming Arcata. Wander through Arcata Plaza, then grab a drink at The Alibi. Afterward, dine at one of several restaurants surrounding the lively plaza.

Avenue of the Giants. Photo © Suppavut Varutbangkul/123rf.

Avenue of the Giants. Photo © 
Suppavut Varutbangkul/123rf.

Day 4

Start your morning with a tasty crepe from Arcata’s Renata’s Creperie before hitting U.S. 101 north on your final day. About 20 minutes (15 miles) north of Arcata, exit to the scenic coastal city of Trinidad. Walk down to the beach at College Cove or explore the rugged coast by kayak.

After another half hour north on U.S. 101 (26 miles), turn onto Newton B. Drury Scenic Drive to explore Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. If you have the energy, drive out Davison Road to Gold Bluffs Beach, where Roosevelt elk roam the sands. Continue on the dirt drive to hike the one-mile round-trip up Fern Canyon, which passes through a steep canyon draped in bright green ferns.

Fern Canyon is draped in bright green ferns. Photo © Igors Rusakovs/123rf.

Fern Canyon is draped in bright green ferns. Photo © Igors Rusakovs/123rf.

Head back out to U.S. 101 to drive the 45 minutes (38 miles) to Crescent City, where you can get a hotel room and a full night’s sleep.

Northern California travel map

Northern California

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon California.

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5 Great Cheap Eats in Barcelona https://moon.com/2017/03/great-cheap-eats-in-barcelona/ https://moon.com/2017/03/great-cheap-eats-in-barcelona/#comments Wed, 08 Mar 2017 21:41:14 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=51782 Barcelona on a budget doesn't mean missing out on great food. Discover five great places to score cheap eats in Barcelona's El Poble-sec neighborhood.

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An urban pearl on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is known for its picturesque beaches, unique architectural masterpieces, and delectable cuisine. The city is bursting with Catalan tradition—just take a stroll down Las Ramblas, through the Gothic Quarter, or up the hill to Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell. These points of interest will introduce you to the culture and history of this spectacular city, but will require patience as you’ll most likely be waiting in lines or threading through bodies on crowded cobblestone streets.

El Pobla-sec in Barcelona

El Pobla-sec in Barcelona. Photo © Corn Von Oosterhout/123rf.

Your wallet will also take a hit. Escape from the tourist areas by visiting the quaint El Poble-sec neighborhood, only a 15–20 minute walk from the city center. Once there, take a walk through the lush gardens of the Greek Theater at the base of Montjuϊc Mountain, browse the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (free on the first Sunday of every month), or simply snack your way up and down the historic streets.

El Poble-sec has some of the best food in Barcelona for the price. Spend anywhere from €1–€10, and you can indulge in a variety of traditional Catalan flavors. When your tummy starts to rumble, be kind to your bank account and patronize one of the following options.

Carrer de Blai

Carrer de Blai is not a restaurant—it’s an entire street lined with pintxos bars. And what is a pintxo exactly? Typically, a pintxo is a portion of one or more ingredients served atop a slice of bread, all skewered together with a toothpick. Ingredients range from simple to elaborate, and include everything from salmon and avocado to goat cheese and caramelized onions. Think of it as a mini half-sandwich. Pintxos are more common than tapas in Barcelona, and Carrer de Blai might have the highest concentration of options. You can spend the entire night pintxo-hopping from bar to bar, enjoying a caña (small glass of beer, €1) and a pintxo (€1–€2) at each establishment. Blai Tonight, La Tasqueta de Blai, and Blai 9 are all fantastic choices. They operate on the honor system—take as many pintxos as you like from the bar, and pay at the end of your meal by calculating the number of toothpicks left on your plate.

A pintxo is a portion of one or more ingredients served atop a slice of bread. Photo © Alex Salcedo/123rf.

A pintxo is a portion of one or more ingredients served atop a slice of bread. Photo © Alex Salcedo/123rf.

Quimet & Quimet

There’s no argument that Quimet & Quimet (Poeta Cabanyes 25, +34 934 42 31 42, 12pm-4pm and 7pm-10:30pm daily) will be our first stop in Barcelona next time we’re in town. A meal at this small, lively tapas bar is deliciously gluttonous, but won’t break the bank. Order an array of items from the small sandwiches menu and indulge! The combinations are nearly endless and range from tuna belly with sea urchin to salmon with yogurt and truffled honey to mussels topped with caviar. For the heavy eater, this might not be considered a full meal, but for a small price tag of around €10 per person, this is sure to hold you over until your next meal.

Tacos Tacos

We know what you’re thinking—I can’t eat Mexican food when I’m traveling in Spain! Trust us, you can and you should. This casual spot just off of Carrer de Blai has some superb happy hour deals (€1,50 per taco every day from 5pm to 8pm), but is still affordable anytime of day (€1,80 per taco). The meats at Tacos Tacos (Calle Tapioles, 9, +34 931 79 11 20, 6pm-12am daily) are the standout ingredients—cochinita, beef neck, chicken with mole sauce, and the list goes on. The tacos are simple but impressive in their textures and flavors. Don’t miss out on €1 tacos all day on Tuesdays!

Rekons

A warm, cozy cafe just steps from Carrer de Blai, Rekons (Calle Comte D’Urgell, 32, +34 934 24 63 83, 10am-12am daily) specializes in homemade empanadas. The mini-pies are stuffed with fine cheeses, vegetables, meats, and seasonings. Rekons also offers tasty salads, sandwiches, and other small plates, including a very respectable version of patatas bravas. The atmosphere is charming and the service is friendly and prompt. However, the empanadas are what you’ll write home about. And at just €2 each, you’ll be back to try them all.

Any Market!

Almost every market in El Poble-sec will have some budget snack options for on-the-go travelers and homebodies alike. If you’re looking to cook your own meals or take a picnic to The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, you can pick up an €.80 box of wine (which tastes better than most $5-$10 bottles in the states), fresh fruits, and cheese. If you’re in need of a freshly baked baguette for your picnic, visit one of the many bakeries in the neighborhood: Forn de Pa Artesà or Pa Sarra are great places to start.

Culturally diverse, bohemian, and the ideal place for cheap yet delicious refreshments, El Poble-sec is a hidden gem in a sprawling metropolis. Avoid the tourists, save a few Euros, and eat and drink to your heart’s content.


Pick up a copy of Andy Steves’ Europe: City-Hopping on a Budget for more European travel tips.

cover Andy Steves Europe

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


Cheap Eats in Barcelona

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Southern California Family Vacation: Alternatives to Disneyland https://moon.com/2017/03/southern-california-family-vacation-alternatives-to-disneyland/ https://moon.com/2017/03/southern-california-family-vacation-alternatives-to-disneyland/#respond Wed, 08 Mar 2017 20:58:00 +0000 http://moon.type5.co/?p=768 Many families are lured to Southern California by Disneyland, but if you're seeking something a bit different for your family vacation, try these alternatives to the mouse.

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Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo © fcarucci/Dreamstime.

Universal Studios Hollywood puts visitors into the action of their favorite movies. Photo © fcarucci/Dreamstime.

Universal Studios Hollywood

The longtime Hollywood-centric alternative to Disneyland is the Universal Studios Hollywood (100 Universal City Plaza, Los Angeles, 800/864-8377, hours vary, adults $85-95, children under 48 inches tall $72, parking $10-15) theme park. Kids adore this park, which puts them right into the action of their favorite movies. Flee the carnivorous dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or quiver in terror of an ancient curse in Revenge of the Mummy. If you’re more interested in how the movies are made than the rides made from them, take the Studio Tour. You’ll get an extreme close-up of the sets of major blockbuster films like War of the Worlds. Better yet, be part of the studio audience of TV shows currently taping by getting tickets at the Audiences Unlimited Ticket Booth. If you’re a serious movie buff, consider buying a VIP pass—you’ll get a six-hour tour that takes you onto working sound stages, into the current prop warehouse, and through a variety of working build shops that service movies and programs currently filming.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic Mountain (Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia, 661/255-4100, hours vary, adults $73, children $48) provides good fun for the whole family. Magic Mountain has long been the extreme alternative to the Mouse, offering a wide array of thrill rides. You’ll need a strong stomach to deal with the g-forces of the major-league roller coasters and the death-defying drops, including the Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom, where you plummet 400 feet at speeds up to 85 mph. For the younger set, plenty of rides offer a less intense but equally fun amusement-park experience. Both littler and bigger kids enjoy interacting with the classic Warner Bros. characters, especially in Bugs Bunny World, and a kids’ show features Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, and more. Other than that, Magic Mountain has little in the way of staged entertainment—this park is all about the rides. The park is divided into areas, just like most other major theme parks; get a map at the entrance to help you maneuver around and pick your favorite rides.

Knott’s Berry Farm

For a taste of history along with some ultramodern thrill rides and plenty of cooling waterslides, head for Knott’s Berry Farm (8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, 714/220-5200, hours vary, adults $38, seniors and children $34, parking $15). From the tall landmark GhostRider wooden coaster to the 30-story vertical-drop ride to the screaming Silver Bullet suspended coaster, Knott’s supplies excitement to even the most hard-core ride lover. For the younger crowd, Camp Snoopy offers an array of pint-size rides and attractions, plus Snoopy and all the characters they love from the Peanuts comics and TV shows.

In the heat of the summer, many park visitors adjourn from the coasters to Knott’s Soak City (hours vary daily Memorial Day-Labor Day, adults $28-34, seniors and children $24, parking $15-20), a full-size water park with 22 rides, a kid pool and water playground, and plenty of space to enjoy the O.C. sunshine.

Convenient to the parks, Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel (7675 Crescent Ave., Buena Park, 714/995-1111, $155-222) is a high-rise resort with a pool and spa, a fitness center, and several on-site restaurants.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon California.

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Best Craft Breweries in Southern California https://moon.com/2017/03/best-craft-breweries-in-southern-california/ https://moon.com/2017/03/best-craft-breweries-in-southern-california/#respond Wed, 08 Mar 2017 19:15:07 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=53765 In the past ten years alone, hundreds of craft breweries have sprung up in Southern California, and on any given day, you might be tasting the best beer of your life at (nearly) any one of them. But your chances of finding the best go up significantly if you know where to look–enter local expert Ian Anderson.

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In the past ten years alone, hundreds of craft breweries have sprung up in Southern California, and on any given day, you might be tasting the best beer of your life at (nearly) any one of them. But your chances of finding The One go up significantly if you know where to look.

The hip areas in and around downtown Los Angeles boast a rapidly advancing beer scene. But to find the best brews in LA County, turn westbound and down. Heading into off-the-beaten-path sections of LA’s South Bay region, the first stop sits just below the airport, in El Segundo, at its namesake El Segundo Brewing (140 Main St, El Segundo). The small, Main Street brewery specializes in a style of beer commonly associated with SoCal: the West Coast IPA. The strong hop aromas practically burst out of each crisp pint, rising to the high ceilings of the often-packed tasting room.

About ten miles south you might head to another unlikely destination: Torrance’s Monkish Brewing (20311 S Western Ave, Torrance). When the small brewery opened, it focused exclusively on Belgian-style beers—they even posted a sign proclaiming “No IPAs.” That sign came down in a big way in 2016, when Monkish joined the craze and quickly mastered the hazy Northeast style of IPA. These days, hundreds of devoted fans often lead to hours-long lines.

Beer at Beachwood. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Long Beach brewpub Beachwood BBQ offers a great variety of incredible IPAs; it’s tough to go wrong, but check out Citraholic, Amalgamator and Pride of cHops. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Only twenty minutes from Torrance, Long Beach’s Beachwood Brewing & BBQ (210 E 3rd St, Long Beach) stands in a class of its own. The brewpub has emerged as one of the best IPA producers on the entire West Coast, yet reigns as World Beer Cup champion on the strength of its excellent stouts. Both styles happen to pair extremely well with smokehouse BBQ, so good news! Beachwood’s just as adept with ribs and pulled pork as it is with malts and hops.

Orange County hasn’t long been recognized as a craft beer destination, but a spate of breweries in and around Anaheim have very much changed that. Noble Ale Works (1621 S Sinclair St B, Anaheim) also reigns as a World Beer Cup champion, even claiming gold medal in the uber-competitive American IPA category. Its hoppy beers are outstanding, and a new beer garden will make the tasting room a prime destination on warm nights.

The Bruery in Orange County. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Orange County’s highly regarded brewery, The Bruery, offers the area’s most colorful tasting flights. Photo © Ian Anderson.

The OC’s most venerable brewery is The Bruery (717 Dunn Way, Placentia), and it specializes in—well, having no particular specialty. Barrel aged, sour, and experimental beers tend to be this creative brewer’s bailiwick, but intense variety is what keeps its tasting room packed. DIY tasting menus next to the bar make for more efficient service—simply tick off five beers you’d like to try, and a beertender will set you up with a colorful flight.

Call me biased toward my hometown, but any craft enthusiast will tell you San Diego is the capital of craft beer in SoCal (and possibly the entire American Southwest). AleSmith Brewing Company (9990 AleSmith Ct, San Diego), for example, has set the bar for world-class beer since opening in 1995. It boasts the largest tasting room in town, plus a vast patio, a small museum celebrating local baseball legend Tony Gywnn, and a one-of-a-kind blending bar where you can mix and match various beers to taste, just like professional brewers do.

In San Diego’s North County, Stone Brewing is another godfather of the beer scene, often credited for introducing the region’s brashly hopped specialty—the West Coast IPA—to the world. Its Escondido restaurant and beer garden (2816 Historic Decatur Rd #116, San Diego) is a veritable Disneyland for craft beer drinkers, and you’ll find a second, Liberty Station location just behind San Diego Airport.

Lost Abbey Silo. Photo © Ian Anderson.

The Lost Abbey shares its tasting room and brewery with Port Brewing, which makes several classic San Diego beers, and The Hop Concept, devoted to new IPA trends. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Stone originally opened in San Marcos, but when it outgrew its original brewery, The Lost Abbey (155 Mata Way #104, San Marcos) moved in. Named for its devotion to the style developed by Trappist monks in Belgium, Lost Abbey made a name for itself crafting the most highly-sought sour beers on the West Coast, in addition to exquisite farmhouse ales. Since it shares brewing space (and talent) with sister brand Port Brewing, you’ll also find a few of San Diego’s most classic IPAs on draft and in bottles.

Societe in San Diego. Photo © Ian Anderson.

San Diego’s Societe Brewing serves a variety of IPAs as well as old European style beers, which is why its tap handles offers old-timey silhouettes. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Unlike every hop powerhouse on this list, you won’t find Societe Brewing‘s (8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego) IPAs in bottles. The brewers who launched the Kearny Mesa business strongly believe freshness and proper handling are crucial to enjoying their beers. Consequently, its old-timey tasting room and patio has become a local favorite and a destination coveted by beer geeks across America.

Modern Times tasting room. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Quirky design elements within Modern Times’ tasting room include a mural of Michael Jackson and his pet chimp, made using post-it notes. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Savvy marketing and quirky, stylish branding has helped Modern Times Beer (3725 Greenwood St, San Diego) grow at an unprecedented rate (open only three years, it’s expanding with breweries in both Anaheim and downtown LA within the next year). But ultimately, the fantastic flavors of Modern Times’ boundary-pushing beers have ushered in a new approach to SoCal craft that embraces hybrid styles, barrel aging experiments, and copious use of the word rad.

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Carnaval Dominicano: Masks, Traditions, and Culture https://moon.com/2017/02/carnaval-dominicano-masks-traditions-and-culture/ https://moon.com/2017/02/carnaval-dominicano-masks-traditions-and-culture/#respond Wed, 15 Feb 2017 20:06:51 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=52415 Meet the diverse (and devilish) cast of characters that make up the myriad and ongoing party that is the Dominican Republic's Carnival.

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The single biggest celebration of culture in the Dominican Republic takes place during the month of February. Carnival celebrations unite Dominicans from all walks of life and of all ages as everyone takes to the streets as participant or spectator. Parades kick off in the country’s main regions and cities pre-Lent on the first Sunday of February. They continue every Sunday of the month, culminating with Independence Day festivities on February 27.

Carnival celebrations unite Dominicans from all walks of life and of all ages. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Carnival celebrations unite Dominicans from all walks of life and of all ages. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

A tradition that dates back to the Spaniards, who brought it to the island in the 15th century, Carnaval Dominicano is the oldest carnival in the Caribbean region. It metamorphosed after contact with indigenous and African influences, as residents used it to make fun of the colonial masters in their elaborate costumes. Over the years, it turned into a Dominican version comprised of characters that tell the history, and folklore of the country’s various provinces, and reflect Dominicans’ mixed heritage. Diversity is indeed the cornerstone of Carnival in the DR. From the more Taíno influenced north coast costumes to the African influenced southwest, it’s a vibrantly cheerful part of the Dominican Republic’s history, culture, and people.

The cities with the oldest Carnival traditions in the country are Santo Domingo, La Vega, Santiago, Montecristi, and Cabral. Although former dictator Rafael Trujillo prioritized the “social carnivals” for the elite and created separation of the classes with private club performances, the Dominican people rose above and turned it into a celebration for all.

Each city or province has its main Carnival character: a limping devil or diablo cojuelo with respective masks. Why is it limping? The legend says that this devil was so mischievous that it was banished and pushed down to Earth, and left with an injured leg turned lame.

If you don’t see some form of devil at Carnival, you’re not in the Dominican Republic. In addition, parades include Dominican folklore personalities and comparsas groups in varying costumes, with specific messages that range from the comical to the political. No two parades will be the same, allowing you to hop around the entire month across the DR’s thirty-one provinces to see the range in roots and traditions.

Carnival ends the first Sunday in March with the grand Desfile Nacional, or National Parade in Santo Domingo—on the heels of Independence Day celebrations. The most popular Carnival devils and groups from the thirty-one provinces descend on the Malecón (the city’s seafront boulevard) and compete for national prizes. This final parade is the longest, most spectacular display of diversity and creative costumes you’ll see anywhere in the Caribbean. In 2016, over 170 groups paraded, from 2pm to about 9pm.

Below are thirteen of the main carnival characters from around the Dominican Republic, and the meaning behind the elaborate masks, costumes, and personalities of Carnaval Dominicano.

Dominican Republic Carnival Masks and Characters

La Vega’s Diablo Cojuelo

Diablo cojuelo (“limping devil”) is instantly recognized because of the exaggerated mask features with protruding eyes and teeth. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Diablo cojuelo (“limping devil”) is instantly recognized because of the exaggerated mask features with protruding eyes and teeth. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Dating back to the 1500s, Carnaval de La Vega or Carnaval Vegano is the biggest, most vibrant carnival celebration in the Dominican Republic. Its principal character, the diablo cojuelo or limping devil, is instantly recognized because of the exaggerated mask features, with protruding eyes and teeth.

Dressed in a cloak, shiny shirt and broad trousers covered with bells, mirrors, and ribbons–all meant as a mockery of the Spanish medieval knights–the devils scare the crowd away with their giant masks and their whips. Each group of these limping devils from La Vega design and handcraft their masks every year, months ahead of Carnival, and hidden from the competitors.

Carnaval de La Vega is also one of the most commercially sponsored carnivals in the country. Masks have evolved over recent years to become more oriental and baroque in their features, which many criticize. But they still impress with their larger-than-life costumes as crowds spill all over the streets for one big, small-town party.

The Vejiga: The Devil’s Weapon

A defining characteristic across the country’s carnivals is the devils’ use of <em>vejigas</em>, which are made of a cow’s dried, inflated bladder, cured with lemon, ashes, and salt. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

A defining characteristic across the country’s carnivals is the devils’ use of vejigas, which are made of a cow’s dried, inflated bladder, cured with lemon, ashes, and salt. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

A defining characteristic across the country’s Carnivals is the devils’ use of vejigas, inflicting pain on anyone in their path. These aren’t your regular whips: they are made of a cow’s dried, inflated bladder, cured with lemon, ashes, and salt. They are so hard to the touch that anyone who receives a vejigazo on their buttocks may be bruised for weeks. Watch your behind! The sisal rope seen in this image is used by Santiago’s devils as an additional weapon; the Cachúas from Cabral also use their own version of a fouet.

La Vega’s Carnaval de La Boa

Carnaval de La Boa in La Vega. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Carnaval de La Boa in La Vega. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Held in the morning, prior to the main La Vega Carnival a couple of streets away, is the less publicized Carnaval de La Boa. This is a traditional version of how Carnival used to be celebrated in La Vega 50 years ago–with simpler costumed devils with whips, who dance, leap, and pose with children. It stretches just one block, but is a popular pick for families.

Los Lechones of Santiago

Santiago’s reigning carnival characters are Los Lechones or “piglets”–devils in masks that resemble the face of a pig. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Santiago’s reigning carnival characters are Los Lechones or “piglets”–devils in masks that resemble the face of a pig. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Carnaval de Santiago is the second most popular Carnival in the country after La Vega. It’s one of the most creative and colorful, and among the liveliest in crowd participation around the city’s iconic Restoration Heroes Monument. Santiago’s reigning carnival characters are the lechones or “piglets”—devils in masks that resemble the face of a pig (Santiago’s pork is renowned). They aren’t scary because of their tall horns, but rather have a curved, long snout. There are hundreds of participating lechones groups–with variances in their masks and costumes to denote their neighborhood.

The two most popular are Los Pepines, with tall, pointed snouts but smooth horns, and Los Joyeros, with masks that are spiked with numerous thorns. Their clothing is similar, and consists of a long-sleeved shirt and pants made of silk, adorned with sequins, beads, and mirrors, and fitted with a wide belt.

Santiago’s devils open up the parade as they were originally considered the guardians of carnival or vejigantes, warding off the crowds and keeping order in the streets.

Fear of the lechones is due to their signature fouet or sisal rope, which they swing mercilessly up in the air at high velocity above their heads, before it hits the ground with a loud bang. You will shudder at the sound of the air whistling above you. You don’t want to be within its range–remain behind the sidewalk barricades for safety. They also carry a vejiga in the other hand to swing at participants’ rear ends if they are in their way. Between cracking whips and hitting bottoms, the lechones dance a style of African dance, swinging their legs side to side and lunging forward.

Los Taimáscaros of Puerto Plata

Los Taimáscaros of Puerto Plata. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Los Taimáscaros of Puerto Plata. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Puerto Plata’s most popular devil characters are Los Taimáscaros, made of the words Taíno and “mask.” A group of young men from Puerto Plata created this identity in 199 to help uplift the community spirit while reinforcing the trio of cultures that represent them as Dominicans: Taíno, African, and European. To date, there are about thirteen active tribes forming the Taimáscaros group. Within that group, the most popular are Tribu Yucahu, who have won multiple awards over the years for their ingenuity in costume and dance, including the highest national Carnival prize. The Taimáscaros’ masks reflect the face of a Taíno god or deity, while the costumes incorporate their other heritage.

Los Guloyas of San Pedro de Macorís

UNESCO classified Los Guloyas in 2005 as a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

UNESCO classified Los Guloyas in 2005 as a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

A unique Afro-Caribbean group in the Dominican Republic are the Cocolos: the descendants of enslaved Africans who were brought to the DR in the late 19th century from the British islands of the Caribbean. Approximately 6,000 originally came from Anguilla, Barbados, St. Kitts, Nevis, Tortola, Turks and Caicos, and St. Croix, among other places, to work in the DR’s sugar industry. Dominicans first gave them the name Tortolo—assumed to have derived from Tortola in the BVIs—which later evolved into Cocolos. Their dancers, known as the Guloyas, participate in the Carnival and wear gorgeous, beaded costumes with feathery hats. They dance to their own drums and twirl happily in the streets in their unique Afro-Caribbean moves. UNESCO classified the Guloyas in 2005 as a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Los Pintaos of Barahona

The southwest town of Barahona is known for Los Pintaos–the painted–a group created in 1997 by Francisco Suero Medina, locally known as El Gato. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

The southwest town of Barahona is known for Los Pintaos–the painted–a group created in 1997 by Francisco Suero Medina, locally known as El Gato. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Some of the comparsas or carnival groups have more recent origins yet carry great cultural significance. The southwest town of Barahona is known for Los Pintaos–the painted–a group created in 1997 by Francisco Suero Medina, locally known as El Gato. They made their debut in the national parade in 2000, and in 2008 were awarded the highest Carnival award granted by the Ministry of Culture: the Premio Nacional de Carnaval Felipe Abreu. The Pintaos represent the Maroons, who rebelled against Spanish colonialism and slavery and took refuge in the mountains of Bahoruco, southwest of the DR, in the early 16th century. Their costume is the intricate paint that covers their naked body, save for a piece of cloth covering their private parts. They dance in the street, sometimes holding sticks, and spread their joy and rebellious nature to the crowds, celebrating the Maroon heritage. They’re unmistakable at Carnival and are a cultural icon of Barahona.

Las Cachúas of Cabral

The southwest also has a devilish character inspired from the days of Maroon resistance in the mountains of Barahona: Las Cachúas, from the town of Cabral. The Cachúas make an appearance at the National Parade, but are mostly known to participate in the Carnaval Cimarrón or Maroon Carnival, spanning three days at the end of Holy Week. It’s the last of all the carnivals to be celebrated in the country, as it’s held during Easter. They wear a mask made out of vibrant papier mâché, as they roam all weekend with whips starting at midnight on Holy Saturday. It all ends with a big, loud folkloric ceremony on Monday after Holy Week, when they burn Judas in effigy in the village cemetery.

Los Indios

Los Indios represent the first people to inhabit the Dominican Republic. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Los Indios represent the first people to inhabit the Dominican Republic. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

In areas such as Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata, and La Vega, you will see various groups representing the Taíno, first inhabitants of the Dominican Republic who were exterminated by the Spaniards through disease and murder. Adults and children dress up in grass skirts and feathers, bodies smeared in brown paint, torsos bare for the men. They carry bows and spears.

Los Brujos of San Juan de La Managua

Los Brujos of San Juan de La Managua. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Los Brujos of San Juan de La Managua. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

It was believed that there once were witches living in the southwestern city of San Juan de La Managua. Witchcraft was a common practice, hence the name of one of the Carnival troupes from this region.

Los Chiveros de Dajabón

Los Chiveros de Dajabón wear masks resembling goats to showcase the importance of farming. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Los Chiveros de Dajabón wear masks resembling goats to showcase the importance of farming. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

To showcase the importance of farming in the area and its gastronomy, participants from this border town with Haiti wear masks resembling goats.

El Roba La Gallina: The Hen Robber

It’s not all about scary devils and whips in Carnival. Some are fun folkloric characters that are meant to evoke laughter. The most beloved is El Roba la Gallina or the hen robber. This is usually a man dressed up as a woman in an extravagant layered dress, with huge breasts, hips, and elaborate makeup, who goes around the neighborhood colmados or shops begging for food, money, or sweets for her pollitos or children. She carries a big purse, handing out candy to the crowds, while she would later steal chickens and shove them in that emptied bag. Crowds burst into laughter as Roba La Gallina performs at Carnival, dancing and shaking her bottom as she parades down the streets and sings the rhyme, “ti-ti manatí, ton ton, molondrón, roba la gallina, palo con ella!”

The Comparsas

The Comparsas Zoomorfas are just one of the troupes that bring life to Carnival. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

The Comparsas Zoomorfas are just one of the troupes that bring life to Carnival. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

These numerous carnival dance troupes bring a lot of life and fun to Carnival. Each has its theme–often a dramatic, comical representation of political, social, or religious issues. While there’s no record of how far back the carnival troupes have existed, they are thought to have come from Cuban influences, during their migration to the DR in the late 19th century. The above is a member of the Comparsas Zoomorfas.

Other groups to look out for at Carnival Dominicano are the Platanuses from Cotui, whose devils cover themselves in plantain leaves, the Toros from Montecristi, with masks representing bulls, and the Travestis (the Transvestites), who are crowd favorites.

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