Three Perfect Days: Los Cabos
Story by Joshua David Stein | Photography by Brad Torchia | Hemispheres, December 2017
Due to linguistic laziness, perhaps, the diverse cluster of settlements on the southern tip of Baja California have been bundled into one word: Cabo. But cabo simply means “cape." Dotted along this spit of land, the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sea of Cortez on the other, the towns are uniform only in their seaside beauty. Cabo San Lucas, the best-known, is commonly associated with youthful hedonism. San José del Cabo, 20 miles up the coast, has always been the shy sister with artistic ambitions. Farther still, past some of Mexico's best surfing beaches, is the village of Cabo Pulmo, whose lifeblood is a majestic marine preserve. What this all means is that while Cabo may not have something for everybody, Los Cabos probably does.
The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea
I see the marlin twice, but only once alive. Jostled from a fitful nap on the deck of a fishing boat, the Valerie, 25 miles off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, I awake to see the fish arcing in the air, its cobalt skin iridescent against the brilliant sky. The captain, a wiry 55-year-old named Roberto Sandez, and his somewhat broader first mate, 54-year-old Salvador Flores, clomp down the steep ladder from the bridge to secure the rod. The boat ride, which had previously felt like a pleasure cruise, is now a hunt.
Earlier this morning, under a sky the color of a ripe eggplant, I drove to the Cabo San Lucas Marina. My family was still asleep under comforters in the battlements of the nearby Westin as I headed toward a body of water teeming with life: great shimmering masses of tuna and marlin, dorado, roosterfish, crevalle jack, and hundreds of other gamefish that have made Cabo the sportfishing capital of the world.
The sea began it all. Before Cabo San Lucas became known simply as “Cabo" in the mid-20th century, it was a fishing village of about 100 inhabitants. In 1955, the owners of Empresas Panado, the largest tuna cannery in Mexico, brought in a young Spaniard named Luis Bulnes Molleda to manage the plant. One day, Bulnes saw a boy catch a marlin on a handline from the dock and this, so big a fish caught by so young a boy so close to shore, made an impression on him. He later bought a stretch of undeveloped land and he and a partner built a hotel, Finisterra (now the Sandos Finisterra). He was convinced crowds would come for the marlin.
Playa del Amor, next to El Arco
When I climb aboard the Valerie this morning, there are no empty slips or vacant lots near the shore. Hotels occupy every sun-kissed plot of land, like turtles on a log, and on the water all types of vessel, from huge pleasure yachts to dented old pangas, bob gently, packed tightly. As we head out to sea, a lone pelican peers from the famous rock formation El Arco del Fin del Mundo (the Arch at the End of the World) into an ocean uninterrupted until Antarctica. I wonder if Molleda could have possibly imagined how right he would be. Marlin no longer swim shoreside, says Captain Roberto, who has been running charters here for more than 30 years. “I remember when we used to fish close to the land," he notes. “Now we have to go out for miles." Knowing this, I take a quick doze on the deck.“Back at the marina, the fish causes a stir. It's nearly 350 pounds, too heavy to lift."
Then it happens: the shimmering marlin taking to the air and the clamor that follows. The men gesture for me to take my place in the fighting chair, a swiveling contraption at the stern. Rod in hand, I realize that I have no idea what to do. They mime reeling in the line, then pulling up on the rod, which is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. I vaguely recall that it took the old man from Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea three days to haul in his marlin. I ask the captain how long it might take me. He shrugs. “Anywhere from 45 minutes to eight hours." It's hot. I'm sweaty. I'm fighting an animal. I hope it doesn't take that long.
An hour or so later, the epic struggle over and the onboard selfies taken (the fish, which normally would have been released, died of exhaustion), I ask the captain what he'd be doing if not for sportfishing. “Nothing," he says, his eyes fixed on the horizon. “There'd be nothing to do."
Back at the marina, the fish causes a stir. It's nearly 350 pounds, too heavy to lift by hand. A crowd gathers as the dockmaster wraps a loop of rope around its tail and winches it up. Next, we haul the fish across the harbor to be filleted. As a guy with broad shoulders and a sharp knife gets to work, a kitten waits under the table for scraps. Outside, a wrinkled old man hangs his hands on a gate. “Nice fish you got there, brother," he says. “Can you spare any?" His name is Ernesto. He was born in Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost state, but spent 30 years in Dallas before being deported a few weeks ago. I take a small portion of the fish for myself and give the rest to Ernesto and the crew.
A sea lion hoping for fish from the day's catch
With a marlin steak in a plastic bag in the trunk—an ignominious end, I suppose, for so great a fish—I drive 10 miles north of town to the Chileno Bay resort. For the last six hours, my wife, Ana, and two children have been splashing in the resort's cascading infinity pool, which forms a sort of cabana-flanked stairway to the ocean. In our suite, which is much larger than our home in Brooklyn, my sons Auggie and Achilles—ages 4 and 5—keep repeating “This is sooo fancy," as they jump on all the beds and open every closet door.
After a delicious sunset dinner—chicken fingers my kids declare the ideal form; tremendously flavorful totoaba, a type of drum fish, for my wife and I—at Comal, the resort's fantastic restaurant, I head back into Cabo, alone, to party. Post-dusk is very different from pre-dawn. Neon signs blink. Young women in tube tops drink from outsize goblets while young men in cargo shorts gawk and sip beer. But it's not all lurid indulgence. I head past the kitschy Señor Frog's club to a new bar called the Blind Boar, which is said to have some of the best cocktails in town. These come from the hands of William Fox, a second-generation transplant from Chicago whose repertoire runs from classics like the Vieux Carré to in-house creations like the Hemingway, a play on the daiquiri.
“Basically," Fox tells me, “a bunch of us local bartenders were tired of making margaritas and shots." Later, sipping a tequila negroni, a neat twist on the classic, my thoughts turn to that marlin, caught for a moment in the light and then caught for good by my line. I step out into the hot night, amid shoals of tourists and neon lures, and quietly make my way back to my family.
Sea-to-Field-to-Table in San José del Cabo
Where Cabo San Lucas is most itself at night, the quiet cobblestone streets of San José del Cabo are best explored during the morning hours, before the sun sizzles the plazas. After an early breakfast of huevos motuleños, a Yucatecan dish with poached eggs, tortilla, and ham, at the Cape Hotel—a two-year-old Thompson property just outside Cabo San Lucas—we make the half-hour drive north to the party town's artsy sister.
Walking through streets lined with bougainvillea, we find the Gallery District, a few blocks behind the old town square. The two most prominent artists here—that is, those with eponymous galleries—are Frank Arnold and Ivan Guaderrama. Both specialize in cheerful, colorful, and crowd-pleasing paintings. Their galleries are worth a detour—especially Arnold's, as it comes with the offer of a glass of mezcal—but I'm drawn more to the traditional galleries that line the town's narrow streets.
Admittedly, the man-size fiberglass giraffe sitting on a pile of books at La Sacristía gallery is a bit schlocky. Ditto the hippo playing a tuba. But in the back room, we find some gorgeously intricate beadwork. Nearby, an elderly woman with a weathered face and nut-brown eyes sits on a folding chair, focused intently on a half-beaded mask. The woman doesn't speak English or even Spanish but Huichol, an Uto-Aztecan language used by around 35,000 people. She is here from the state of Nayarit, the gallery owner tells me, and will soon head back into the mountains. Crouching in the middle of the room is a brilliant psychedelic jaguar; she spent months turning its hide Technicolor. That piece is out of my price range, so I settle for a small beaded ornament and head into the blazing sun.
Octopus at Acre
Luckily, we spot El Tropical Paleteria on the town square, which has been selling handmade fruit popsicles, or paletas, for 50 years. There are four of us, with two hands each, and so we depart with eight popsicles. The kids wonder if this is what heaven is like. A few minutes later, under the sun's furnace-like rays, we are wandering around licking guava juice from our wrists. We are cooled and sticky but still hungry so we head off in the direction of Acre, one of the few lauded farm-to-table restaurants near San José.
A few minutes outside of town, it feels as if we're in the desert, but following the signs along a steep bumpy road we come to what looks like an Amazonian jungle. This is Acre, the project of two Vancouverites who fell in love with Los Cabos four years ago. Today, in a thicket of mango and palm trees, they've built a modern restaurant with an emphasis on local cuisine. As my wife and I eat, we let the kids wander. Eventually they return, red-faced and happy. “Daddy! Daddy! Come see!" I follow them past the pool to the shade of the palms, where a scraggly dog looks after her litter of newborn puppies falling over themselves in the dirt.“The peach-colored cliffs are at my back; the sun-dappled sea stretches before me. Who needs adrenaline?"
The kids are tired out, so I deposit the family back at The Cape to lounge poolside and to drink virgin daiquiris. I, meanwhile, quickly change into a bathing suit and head to the beach, because it would be unconscionable to come here and not surf.
Perhaps the most famous surf spot in Los Cabos is a fast right break called Zippers in San José del Cabo. But I go over to a mellow right-hand break a bit farther west, in Costa Azul, to join a class of newbies from the High Tide Los Cabos surf school. As Alex, our laid-back instructor, helps a family of South Korean beginners, I paddle farther out. We're on the watery equivalent of a bunny slope, but that's OK. The peach-colored cliffs are at my back; the sun-dappled sea stretches before me. Who needs adrenaline?
Casting shadows on San José del Cabo
Mildly amped, I head back to the family, to their pool-shrunk toes and fingers and cries for dinner. I'm ready to eat too—and particularly excited to check out Flora Farms, one of the oldest organic farms in Baja California. Founded in 1996 by expats from Sonoma, California, Gloria Wallace Greene and her husband, Patrick, it has become a Mexican Chez Panisse, a restaurant wrapped in a philosophy of something bigger. But even I am not prepared when we pull up. The owners seem to have cut a deal with Horus, because the sun filters in gold, piercing a small pond full of turtles. Off to one side, there's a mango orchard, and on the other, a boutique by James Perse.
It's hot in the sprawling outdoor restaurant, and periodically the diners are misted like produce in a supermarket. The cocktails, served in Mason jars, are photogenic and herbal. The menu nods to all of Mexico but gazes primarily at the fields a few feet away. As the night grows deeper, the children drift off to sleep in our laps, and a local band, three handsome surfers who call themselves the Shamans, break into a mellow version of “Hotel California." I sing quietly along—“such a lovely place (such a lovely place)"—and then, because those are the only words I know, I remain silent, sipping my margarita in the golden light.
Just Me and the Seals
A long and bumpy car ride takes us from San José to Cabo Pulmo, a tiny village about 60 miles up the coast. We could have jumped on the highway, and it would have been smooth sailing. But at Flora Farms last night, Cecilia Escribano, a tall, stylish Argentine who handles the restaurant's media, told us to snake up the coast: “You'll find the most beautiful beaches in the world."
So, crabbity-scrabble, we bounce up the unpaved road that runs alongside the beach. Our rented sedan complains of the bumps, though not nearly as loudly as the kids. We pass scrub brush and tall cardón cacti, but luxury resorts are nowhere to be seen. This is exactly what I had hoped for.
The story of Cabo Pulmo is uplifting. In the mid-1990s, a group of fishermen, realizing local fisheries were in danger, petitioned the government to preserve the area. In 1996 they prevailed, and Cabo Pulmo, with its astonishing coral reef, was declared a National Marine Park. It's now home to more than 200 species of marine animal.
A surfer ready to hit the waves at Costa Azul
As we sit in the second-floor restaurant of Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort, owner Cole Barrymore tells me how his dad, Dick, first came across the area. Barrymore is something of a local celebrity, although that isn't hard when there are only 130 people in town. He calls for a Tecate and begins: “My dad was a ski filmmaker, but he loved to come down here. One day in the early 1980s, we were flying our little Cessna, and we looked down and saw a small runway. We landed, pulled everything out of the plane, pumped up the boat, and went out to the first reef." Barrymore remembers the welter of fish just below the surface. His father dove in, forming caverns as the fish fled. He then surfaced, demanded his spearfishing gun, and said, “It's lunchtime!"“I can see my wife and kids walking the shoreline, their tiny figures hopping inch-high waves, peals of laughter in the air."
A few years later, Dick Barrymore bought a tract of land and built many of the thatch-roofed, open-sided, palapa-style houses that make up the village today. In the '90s, Cole joined him, and today he runs the Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort. (Dick passed in 2008.) With fishing off the table, activities in the sea are confined to SCUBA diving and snorkeling. Untrained in the former, I opt for the latter. As I head out to sea, I can see my wife and kids walking the quiet shoreline, their tiny figures hopping inch-high waves, peals of laughter in the air.
A few minutes later, I'm facedown in the water, peering at a shoal of big-eye jacks. I trail the fish for a while, interested to see how those on the periphery act as bouncers, herders, and guides. I also come across a shoal of black-striped sergeant majors that, collectively, look like a jailbreak. I poke my head above water, and for a moment the vastness of the mountains on the shore, the sky above, and the sea all around is overwhelming. I climb back into the boat.
In Brooklyn, where I'll be tomorrow, there are a few sea lions at the Prospect Park Zoo. My kids and I go see them sometimes and watch them gulp fish from the trainer's hand. But those sea lions and the ones who live here are very different. As I jump back into the water, a few feet from a colony, their amusing ungainliness is gone. A large male clambers off the rock, becoming immediately graceful as he hits the water. I duck my head under the surface to watch him dart and loop. We're only a few hundred feet from the shore, but it feels otherworldly. Then he surfaces and I do too. Both of us blink a few times to accustom ourselves to the brilliant sun, the jagged rock crashed upon by the roiling sea, and the vibrant blue sky above. For him, it is home. For me, it's as close to paradise as I'll ever get.
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Independence Day celebrations in 5 countries
Every country celebrates a birthday, and some celebrations are bigger than others. Here are five of the biggest birthday celebrations, which also happen to occur in the summer months in places worth paying a visit, birthday or not.
Canada Day – Canada
July 1 in Canada has a lot in common with its southern neighbor's celebration three days later. Many Canadian cities stage concerts, carnivals, parades and fireworks to celebrate the British Empire's 1867 recognition of the Dominion of Canada. Canada Day festivities in the capital city of Ottawa are the most robust, as the city center shuts down for the day for an acrobatic air show by the Snowbirds (the Royal Canadian Air Force's version of the Blue Angels), 10 hours of free concerts, a big fireworks show and a speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Even the color scheme is similar: red and white, but skip the blue.
Independence Day – USA
July 4 was the date in 1776 when colonists declared their independence from England—and Americans have been commemorating it since 1785 in Bristol, Rhode Island. That's the site of the oldest and longest celebration—three weeks of events that climax with a big parade and fireworks over Bristol Harbor. America's most-watched pyrotechnic spectacle is the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Show, best viewed from Manhattan's Lower East Side (or on NBC). The Fourth is also celebrated with a massive fireworks display in Washington, D.C., where crowds pack the National Mall to see them illuminate the monuments, and in Chicago where they're admired from Navy Pier as they dazzle over Lake Michigan.
Bastille Day – France
July 14 is the day when the 1789 “Storming of the Bastille" is celebrated. The rebellious act to free seven political prisoners was the flashpoint for the French Revolution, which ended the monarchy of Louis XVI. Celebrations in Paris conclude with fireworks that gush dramatically from the Eiffel Tower, best viewed from the adjacent Parc du Champ-de-Mars or from one of the nearby bridges over the Seine. A morning military parade on Champs-Elysees is also a Bastille Day tradition. Fireworks and other celebrations are enjoyed in many other French cities, too, including a big pyrotechnic show in Marseilles over the Mediterranean Sea.
National Day – Switzerland
August 1 was the date in 1291 that the Swiss Federal Charter was signed, uniting the three original cantons (states) of the Swiss Confederation that would become modern-day Switzerland. The Swiss only began observing the occasion on the 600th anniversary in 1891, but it's become a big deal. Parades, carnivals, traditional folk music performances and fireworks enliven many Swiss cities and towns on National Day, as do special brunches in many restaurants, public bonfires and the ringing of every church bell from 8:00 to 8:15 p.m. Festivities in Zurich are the biggest, although celebrations in Geneva, Bern, Lausanne and Basel are also exuberant.
Independence Day – Mexico
September 16 is Mexico's Independence Day—not May 5, the date of a heroic battle and the excuse for so many Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the U.S. It was on September 16, 1810, when the rebellion that eventually toppled the Spanish colonial rulers began. The holiday is observed most heartily in Mexico City, where the biggest celebration, following a speech by President Enrique Peña Nieto, takes place in the massive Zócalo Square. But there are also celebrations in every part of the city and in every city in Mexico, typically featuring a parade, street parties and fireworks.
If you go
United Airlines offers numerous flights to all of these countries. MileagePlus® Rewards can help pay for your hotel room and rental car once you arrive. Go to united.com or use the United app to celebrate the birthday of a country.
United offers Star Alliance flight status information
We're expanding the availability of flight status (FLIFO) information for our customers and employees. On June 14, we began offering access to flight status information for all Star Alliance member flights within the United app, and through Google Home and Amazon Alexa (e.g. "Alexa, ask United to check the status of my flight on Lufthansa").
We're committed to providing our customers and employees with the tools they need to ensure a seamless journey when connecting with our partners," said Alliance Partner Operations Senior Manager Katie Russell. "These enhancements will allow our employees to make real-time decisions for customers with connecting flights and provide our customers with easy access to information from partner carriers without requiring them to use another app.
While onboard United flights, customers can even check the most current status of their connecting Star Alliance member flight utilizing our complimentary access to the United app through United Wi-Fi℠, available on all mainline and two-cabin regional aircraft.
After a tragic accident, a father's lessons resonate with his daughter
As far as fatherly wisdom was concerned, there were a few things that Ramp Service Employee Allen Gullang was determined to pass along to his daughters, Heather and Amanda.
Under his guidance, they learned the importance of hard work and the virtue of putting the needs of others first. They also developed a love of the outdoors and of travel that bonds them as a family to this day. But it's what they learned from their dad when he didn't think they were looking that made the biggest impact of all.
On a snowy March afternoon 12 years ago, Allen and two of his ramp colleagues were driving home from their shift at O'Hare International Airport when a car drifted over the center line and hit them head on. The next thing Allen remembers is waking up in a hospital bed weeks later, lucky to be alive but left with permanent disabilities.
Heather, who was 10-years-old at the time, watched as her father fought his way through a year-long rehabilitation, re-learning how to walk and talk, slowly regaining his memories and putting his life back together, piece by piece. Though his frustrations mounted at times, his will never waned, a lesson in perseverance that Heather has not forgotten. It's one of the attributes that she brought with her when she joined United herself last December, realizing a life-long dream of following in Allen's footsteps.
In honor of Father's Day, watch the video above to hear the Gullangs' story of how a single moment forever changed their family, leading Heather to a greater admiration for the man she not only calls Dad, but also her colleague.
A final farewell to the Queen of the Skies
Have you ever wondered what happens to an aircraft after the end of its useful life? Well 13 lucky MileagePlus® members and two of our employees got to find out after winning an Exclusives auction.
The auction prize was a behind-the-scenes trip to Universal Asset Management's (UAM) facility in Tupelo, Mississippi, where our last four Boeing 747s are being disassembled and the parts prepared for recycling. It also included a champagne toast onboard N118UA, our last 747, and dinner under the stars with the Queen of the Skies.
As we arrived at the facility, adjacent to Tupelo Regional Airport, several of us were a little emotional when we saw the aircraft in different stages of disassembly. But in the company's lunch room — decked out with Malaysia Air first class seats, airplane art and a table made from a stabilizer — Keri Wright, UAM's CEO was firm about her company's mission. “We don't tear down or scrap aircraft. We focus on recycling," she stated. “Think of it like organ donation. These parts can help other aircraft continue to fly. And you are among the few people in the world to see all of this from behind the scenes."
We then headed to the facility's Global Distribution Center warehouse. The lobby of the facility featured our first class seats and galley carts, along with a tire rim-and-glass coffee table and a credenza/bar made from the window section of a 737 fuselage.
Wright, along with Senior Manager, Fleet Transactions Jim Garcia walked us through the warehouse and explained how parts were tracked and cataloged. Among the items we saw were two wrapped helicopters, Boeing 777 landing gears, 747 tire rims, thrust reversers and a cowling from the center engine of a McDonnell Douglas DC-10.
When the warehouse tour ended, it was back to the airport facility. We went out on the tarmac and took pictures of the 747s, including the star of the show — N118UA. Though, all four jets' engines had been removed already.
After a series of photos, we climbed the air stair onto N118UA, where we were able to walk around. I had the honor of being on the last United 747 flight in November 2017, so I grabbed a glass of champagne and sat in my seat — 8C — one last time. We all joined in a final champagne toast to the jet, then deplaned for dinner.
One of the lucky winners was Eric Chiang, an economics professor at Florida Atlantic University, who brought his friend Vicky Chiu, who flew in from Hawaii. “We've been friends for years and we love to travel. I was onboard a flight to London and read a short newspaper article about this auction," he recalled. “We were about to take off and I called Vicky and asked her to bid on this event. I bid 168,000 miles, but got it for less.
Chiang and Chiu are both 1K flyers on United. “I expect to do around 15 international trips this year. I love United because they're able to reach more global destinations than any other airlines," said Chiang.
They both appreciated the chance to attend such a unique event. “Experiences like these are different. We really appreciate the chance for this behind-the-scenes event," said Chiang. “It was also a great chance to meet United executives and share feedback on what's going on at the airline."
John Ikeda, a United Global Services member who is approaching two million miles, brought his partner Michael Phelps to the event. He also read about the event in a newspaper article, but he also had a special reason for wanting to attend the 747 farewell.
At the last MileagePlus® Experiences auction, I won an altimeter that was on an older 747, and I wanted to see if I could trace where it came from," said Ikeda. “Jim Garcia was able to trace it for me. I was thrilled that I was able to see other parts from that same 747 in the UAM warehouse.
The event exceeded Ikeda's expectations. “I thought it would just be a warehouse tour, a walk on a plane and not much else," he said. “It was great to hear Keri and Jim discuss this side of the business. It was fascinating to learn that this place wasn't about scrapping aircraft, but giving them new life."
Although this event has passed, it's not too late to bid on hardware from N118UA, including single window and American flag cuts out and tail numbers. Join the MileagePlus® Exclusives email list to stay in the know on the hardware auction and other future events.
Bay Area youth surprised with spots in Warriors championship parade
San Francisco-based Customer Service Manager O'Morris Adams has volunteered at local Boys & Girls Clubs for more than 20 years, so it wasn't a surprise when he stopped by one of the Bay Area clubhouses Monday afternoon.
This visit was about more than just spending time with local youth, though. O'Morris knew he would be in the Golden State Warriors championship parade on Tuesday, since as the official airline of the Warriors, United would have a float in the parade. So this particular visit to the club was to let two of its kids know they'd be joining him and two dozen of his United colleagues on the float, in the parade. Coolest field trip ever.
Watch the surprise and the unforgettable day that followed.
3 under the radar places to travel to in July
July is a popular travel month, which means you may be sharing your vacation with scores of fellow travelers if you choose to travel to a popular destination. This summer, expand your horizons and travel to these under-the-radar destinations for a more off-the-beaten-path experience.
When you think of Sweden, Stockholm and Gothenburg might be the first cities to come to mind, but Malmö is an underrated gem. Sweden's third-largest city blends medieval Scandinavian charm with modern urban appeal. Malmö sits on the southeast coast and is a 45-minute train ride or drive from Copenhagen, connected by the iconic Øresund Bridge.
This picturesque beach-side town was first established in the 13th century, but Malmö has undergone a massive revitalization over the last two decades. Walk along the cobblestone streets and take in beautiful old buildings and centuries-old statues alongside cutting-edge architecture, public art and plazas. The city has an abundance of greenery and parks, including five public beaches. Ribersborg Beach is the most visited beach and is a leisurely walk or bike ride from the city center.
Some of the city's most popular attractions include Malmö City Square, which you'll find in the heart of old town (Gamla Staden); St. Peter's Church, the oldest building in the city; and Malmöhus Castle, a 16th-century fortress and the oldest castle in Sweden. Explore the history of the castle and Renaissance art in the Malmö Art Museum inside the castle. The nearby Moderna Museet Malmö and Malmö Konsthall house permanent collections and exhibitions.
Malmö is also a worthwhile destination for foodies. National Geographic named it one of the best places to visit in 2018 thanks to its global food culture. From casual cafes and food carts to a few Michelin-starred restaurants, you can sample a variety of cuisines during your stay in Malmö.
Many flock to experience the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, but the high traffic of visitors is threatening the sustainability of the site. For those who want to visit an ancient marvel that's less trodden with tourists, Chachapoyas fits the bill. Archaeological and natural wonders abound in this region once inhabited by a pre-Incan civilization. Chachapoyas stands for “The Cloud Warriors," who called this region home about 1,500 years ago.
The town of Chachapoyas serves as a home base to explore several breathtaking sites of ancient Peru. This town is nestled in a valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains and a cloudy forest in northern Peru, and offers an opportunity to explore waterfalls, archeological ruins, burial sites and even a mummy museum.
There are also numerous treks for experienced hikers, including the Chachapoyas' mountaintop fortress Kuelap, built 600 to 900 years before Machu Picchu. Kuelap has largely flown under the radar because this region is so remote and it's difficult to cover much ground by foot or car. But cable cars installed last year make it possible to cover about 2.5 miles of Kuelap in just 20 minutes. When you disembark the cable car, you can explore the vast complex and the remains of hundreds of structures, homes, buildings and other remnants of the ancient Chachapoyas civilization.
Other attractions close to Chachapoyas include hiking to the Gocta Waterfall. It's one of the tallest waterfalls in the world and was only made known to the public in 2005. The Leymebamba Museum is also well worth a visit, housing mummies and other remains from the civilization that once thrived here.
Best known for its vibrant fall foliage and top-rated ski resorts, Vermont can be easily overlooked as a summer destination. But there's still plenty to experience in July, especially in and around Burlington. Vermont's largest city is also home to the state's largest university. Visiting in July means you can expect fewer students crowding restaurants and bars, but no lack of shopping, entertainment and festivals. Burlington serves as an excellent hub for outdoor activities in the region.
The center of downtown Burlington is Church Street Marketplace. The open-air pedestrian-only mall spans four blocks and has over 100 major retailers, boutiques and restaurants with events and live entertainment. July's events include free concerts sponsored by Burlington City Arts, a farmer's market every Saturday, fitness classes and the month's biggest event for craft beer drinkers: The Vermont Brewers Festival, which features breweries from all over the state.
Nearby beaches include the beautiful sandy Blanchard Beach, the secluded Oakledge Cove and the picnic-perfect Leddy Beach with its grassy picnic areas, grills and tables. North Beach is Burlington's largest beach and the only one with active lifeguards on duty. You can also rent kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards at North Beach.
United Airlines offers service from U.S. cities to Burlington International Airport. To travel to Malmö, it's more direct to fly to Copenhagen than Stockholm. Lima is the closest international airport to Chachapoyas. United and our Star Alliance™ partner airlines offer service to Copenhagen and Lima from multiple U.S. cities. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your vacation to one of these under-the-radar destinations this July.
Guide to Singapore: An island apart
Singapore is about the size of New York City, and like The Big Apple, it's a small place surrounded by water, but packed with people, intriguing attractions and great restaurants.
Singapore is more densely populated than New York City with 5.6 million people packed on the island, but tucked in the shadows of its 4,300 high-rises are two world-class gardens that have helped Singapore earn its nickname of “The Garden City." The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a 200-acre oasis of green established in 1859 where the revered National Orchid Garden is one of dozens of unique gardens. In 2015, it became one of only three gardens to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An equally impressive contemporary take on botanic gardens is Gardens by the Bay, a waterfront collection of gardens, massive glass conservatories and the awe-inspiring Supertrees.
The National Gallery Singapore opened in November 2015. The gallery holds the world's largest public collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art displayed inside two stately buildings that previously served as City Hall and the Supreme Court during Singapore's British colonial days. A few blocks away on the waterfront are two iconic contemporary landmarks: the bowl-shaped ArtScience Museum (part of the $8-billion Marina Bay Sands casino and resort that opened in 2010) and Singapore's honeycomb-like performing arts center, Esplanade Theatres on the Bay.
Fusion of flavors
Singapore has a long history of colonization, occupation and trade with European and other Asian countries, which is reflected in the variety of cuisines expertly presented in its best restaurants. Of 37 Michelin-star restaurants in the city, five serve Japanese fare, eight serve Chinese food and, oddly enough, eight serve French cuisine. Surprisingly, none of the restaurants on the list serve uniquely Singaporean food, although you can get a taste of local favorites like Bak kut teh (pork rib soup) and Wanton Mee (noodles with pork dumplings) at the city's open-air street food markets.
For a place that's so compact, Singapore offers a wealth of outdoor-activities. Most are found at the 10-mile-long, beach-hugging East Coast Park, where you can choose to hike, bike, swim or wakeboard. Further inland, you can take advantage of Singapore's distinction as one of only two cities in the world with a significant rainforest inside its boundaries. Hike the trails in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to reach the island nation's highest point, 537-foot Bukit Timah. Although there are more than 50 Singapore skyscrapers that are taller than this hilltop, taking the elevator to a top-floor bar just isn't the same.
The island of Singapore has many of its own islands and islets, and the small islands of Kusu and Sentosa just off its southern shore have a lot to offer. Kusu, which means tortoise in Chinese, can be reached by ferry in one hour — the perfect day trip to escape Singapore's urban buzz. Kusu is known for its swimming lagoons, quiet beaches, Malay shrines and a tortoise sanctuary. Sentosa is quite different — a buzzy resort island accessible by monorail or a pedestrian bridge. It has its own beaches, spas, a world-class golf course and several adventure-oriented theme parks.
Singapore's equatorial location ensures warm weather year round as the average highs range from 86 to 90 each month. The monsoon season from November to January brings the most rain with about 11 inches per month compared to 6 inches the rest of the year. Singapore is also known for safety, and Tokyo is the only city worldwide that's considered safer. Hotel prices are comparable to New York City and London, and English is one of the official languages. Most Singaporeans speak English as their primary or secondary language, so no need to worry about anything being lost in translation.
If you go
United Airlines offers flights to Singapore from numerous U.S. cities, including nonstops from San Francisco and Los Angeles, and from cities worldwide. MileagePlus® Rewards can help pay for your hotel room once you arrive. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your Singapore vacation.
Tips for traveling with children
Flying with kids can be a source of anxiety for parents. In addition to all the details you have to remember for yourself, you're also responsible for tiny travelers whose schedules and comfort zones can be disrupted when they take a trip.
We welcome families with children, and we do our best to make the experience smooth and comfortable. But, as many of our employees who travel with kids can attest, a little information goes a long way. We've outlined a few of our policies on child and infant travel here.
Ticketing and seat assignments
When you're looking at United's reservation system or policies, an infant is any child under two years old. Children under two can travel on an adult's lap without a seat assignment.
You'll need to add all children to your reservation regardless of their ages, but whether or not your infant gets a ticket depends on your itinerary. If you're traveling within the U.S., Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, your infant will not be a ticketed passenger; for all other destinations, you'll purchase an infant fare.
As soon as your child turns two, the child must have a ticket and occupy a seat. That means if you leave for your vacation before your child turns two, but return after the child's second birthday, the child will require a ticket for the return portion of your flight.
Another reason your young child might need a seat? Only one infant is allowed to sit on each adult's lap during the flight. That means if you're the only adult traveling with two or more children under two years old, you'll need to purchase seats for all but one of the children.
For all families that want to sit together, we recommend booking in advance and either choosing a fare category that lets you select seats, or purchasing advance seat assignments if you're flying on a Basic Economy ticket.
FAA-approved child restraint systems, child safety seats, and car seats manufactured after 1985 are safe to use, and necessary if your infant is traveling in his or her own seat. Booster seats, belly belts attached to adult seat belts, and vests or harnesses that hold an infant to an adult's chest cannot be used for safety reasons.
Traveling with strollers, breast pumps and other necessities
In addition to your normal baggage allowance, you can check a stroller free of charge. Some travelers prefer to use their strollers in the airport and check them at the gate, but be sure your stroller is collapsible. Strollers can't be carried onto the aircraft — you'll be able to pick up your stroller at the aircraft door in your connecting or destination city.
Nursing mothers are welcome to breastfeed or pump on United aircraft or in our facilities. In fact, many of our airports have dedicated rooms and Mamava nursing pods. Breast pumps are also allowed in addition to your normal carry-on baggage allowance.
Staying comfortable during the flight
Changing tables are available on many of our larger aircraft. Your flight attendant will be able to direct you to the correct lavatory.
On international flights, a complimentary bassinet may be available for use in flight, when the seatbelt sign is off. You can request bassinets by calling the United Customer Contact Center, which we recommend doing early since there are a limited number available.
For more on our policies, visit https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/special-needs/infants.html
The comparisons between New Zealand and California are inescapable. Both are long and narrow with Pacific coastlines that seamlessly combine cliffs and beaches. Both boast some of the world's most spectacular national parks in the mountains and some of the most prized wine regions in the hills and valleys.
Some similarities are flip-flopped, because NZ straddles the 38th parallel south of the equator while California is on the 38th parallel north. That's why New Zealand's North Island shares Southern California's warm, dry climate and the South Island shares Northern California's cooler, wetter climate. That may also be why New Zealand's two largest cities (Auckland and Wellington) are in the sunny north, while California's (L.A. and San Diego) are in the south.
There are differences, too, and they favor New Zealand. Although it's about two-thirds the size of California, NZ is only about one-tenth as crowded (4.5 million compared to 40 million people). And NZ is surrounded on all four sides, not just one, by the Pacific.
But don't take our word for it — visit New Zealand to make your own comparisons and with new nonstop service between Auckland and Chicago, New Zealand is even easier to get to. Starting November 30, Air New Zealand will operate nonstop service between Auckland and Chicago, and vice versa three times weekly on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. And beginning in April 2019, we will extend our service between San Francisco and Auckland to year-round with service three times weekly on the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft between November and March, and on the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft between April and October. Now that you have your travel plans set, read on for what to do while you're there.
From the 1,076-foot-high Sky Tower that dominates the Auckland skyline, you'll behold a city bordered by bays and peppered with parks. Locals take full advantage by sailing in the city's two harbors (Auckland is the “City of Sails") and participating in almost every other type of water and land sport — especially rugby, cricket, golf and tennis, all imports from the British who founded New Zealand.
Auckland's literal high points besides the Sky Tower include Mount Eden, Mount Victoria and One Tree Hill, three of the dozens of small dormant volcanoes with 360-degree views that punctuate the city. Another is Auckland Harbour Bridge across Waitemata Harbour, where you can climb the span or bungee off. Additional Auckland attractions include the Auckland Museum and Auckland Art Gallery; the family-friendly New Zealand Maritime Museum and Sea Life Aquarium; and sprawling Cornwall Park, where cricket enthusiasts share the grass with sheep.
Wellington and Christchurch
These two coastal cities south of Auckland are each about a quarter of the population of Auckland, making them favorites of visitors who prefer compact cities. In the capital city of Wellington, most attractions are along the waterfront promenade, always teeming with walkers and runners, while others are in the steep hills. Be sure to visit the Museum of New Zealand and ride the Wellington Cable Car. Christchurch is still recovering from the big 2011 earthquake, but the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park are still lush and lovely, and Quake City at the Canterbury Museum is both educational and moving as it chronicles the devastation of the quake and the rebuilding efforts.
South Island Mountains
New Zealand may be best known for its mountain hiking, known to the locals as tramping. The highest peaks are in the Southern Alps, topped by 12,218 foot Mount Cook, but surely the most famous hike is the Milford Track — so popular that reservations are required to tackle the 33 mile hut-to-hut walk through glacially carved mountain passes, fjords, majestic waterfalls and rainforests in Fiordland National Park. But you needn't hike at all to appreciate the beauty of New Zealand's mountains. Driving past them or through them, such as the drive to Milford Sound where the Track begins, or to Mount Cook Village, does the trick.
Beaches and volcanoes
Stellar surfing and sunbathing beaches are found throughout the country, even in Auckland, although keep in mind that “beach weather" is more likely on North Island. NZ's Volcanic Zone, however, is concentrated in one North Island region, not far from Auckland. It's there, especially in Tongariro National Park, that you'll discover recently erupted volcanoes, lava flows, steaming geysers and hissing ponds — plus thermal pools, springs and baths in the towns of Rotorua and Taupo. You may recognize some of this region's mountains, where the hiking is nearly as splendid as on the South Island, from scenes in “The Lord of the Rings" movies.
Towns, villages… and sheep
Sheep are everywhere in New Zealand, even in the cities. You can even observe them being herded and sheared at SheepWorld near Auckland, but mostly you'll see them in the countryside while driving between cities and national parks, such as on one of NZ's 10 themed highways. You'll also go past farms, vineyards, mountains, coastline and dense wilderness. But don't drive straight through. Your fondest NZ memories after the trip may be of conversations with locals at a village café over coffee or a country pub over a Double Brown beer.
New Zealand's 14 wine regions blanket the east coast of both islands, but the Marlborough region near Blenheim at the top of South Island has the most wineries, including dozens that offer tastings. This region's Sauvignon Blancs are internationally acclaimed. While you're in the area, you should also stop by the charming town of Nelson and visit Abel Tasman National Park, a marvelous mix of rainforest paths and beaches.
Sauvignon Blanc pairs nicely with fish — and that's a good thing, because New Zealand fishermen operate in the sixth-largest fishing zone in the world, making seafood a NZ specialty. While myriad fish choices fill menus in coastal restaurants, expect a wide variety of cuisines (often broadly called “Pacific Rim cuisine") in the cities. That's especially true in Auckland, where nearly half of residents are non-natives from China, India, Fiji, Samoa and elsewhere. Wherever you dine, the food was probably grown or raised locally because importing ingredients is expensive — the nearest continent, Australia, is 1,300 miles away.
Besides New Zealand's two main islands, smaller islands off their shores are a treat to visit. The largest (about the size of Maui) is Rakiura/Stewart Island, a one-hour ferry ride from the southern tip of South Island, where a national park occupies 80 percent of the land. NZ's most populous small island (pop. 9,000) is Waiheke, a 45-minute ferry ride from Auckland, which features forest trails, beaches, restaurants and wineries.
Don't forget that the seasons are reversed in New Zealand, so their “summer" starts in December. Plan a trip between November and April to enjoy mild temperatures and to avoid too many rainy days. When you arrive, driving a rental car is the best way to see the country. (You'll soon get used to driving on the left side.) And driving won't be tortuous within the country because there are no “boring" stretches of road — and a scenic, 3 1/2-hour Interislander or Bluebridge car ferry connects Wellington and Picton, letting you travel freely between North and South Islands.
If you go
Service between San Francisco and Auckland operates three times weekly with year-round nonstop service launching in April of 2019. Starting November 30 of this year, Air New Zealand will operate service between Auckland and Chicago, and vice versa three times weekly. Air New Zealand code share service will be offered on around 100 flights across the U.S. for convenient connections to Auckland via Chicago. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your trip.
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If a United beverage cart could talk, it would tell you how we select the brands we serve in the sky. But since they can't talk, host Phil Torres will have to spill the proverbial beans. Join him as he visits an illy Caffè and the family behind Colby Red wine.
"Many years ago at an air show, I saw a T-shirt that said 'Chicks fly,'" said Orlando-based Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor and Chix Fix team coach Laura Spolar. "And I told my husband, 'Chicks can fly, but chicks can also fix!' A lot of people don't know that women are aircraft mechanics."
Laura didn't know it at the time, but that conversation would serve as the inspiration for the team name of our history-making, all-female team of technicians that competed in the
2018 Aerospace Maintenance Competition (AMC). Of 69 teams at this year's AMC, only three were made up entirely of women, and Chix Fix was the only one representing a commercial airline.
"It's so important for us to show young girls and women that this is a career option for them," said Airframe Overhaul and Repair Managing Director Bonnie Turner, the Chix Fix team captain.
Chix Fix is made up of technicians from five stations. As a group, they only practiced together three times before the competition, but they bonded instantly.
"I feel like I've known these women my whole career," said Denver-based Line Technician Janelle Bendt. "It's been a lot of fun getting to know them and learning from them."
"As a team we just communicate really well; we all respect each other," said San Francisco-based Base Technician Katrina Oyer. "The biggest thing I've taken away from this experience is confidence. Working with these ladies is an eye opener. We really can do anything."
Watch the video above to learn more about Chix Fix and their journey to the AMC.
On March 8 we announced a new global relationship with Special Olympics, an organization we've partnered with for many years focusing on supporting the spirit of inclusivity with our employees through local communities and through our Charity Miles Program. Through our expanded relationship, we are proud to be a part of the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago, the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle and we're excited to also engage with local programs in our key markets and around the world.
Special Olympics embodies our shared purpose to connect people and unite the world. With more than five million athletes and one million coaches and volunteers in 172 countries, our employees and customers will join forces with Special Olympics to achieve our shared vision of inclusion. Together, we hope to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities.
Working to break down barriers and promote inclusion begins with offering the best possible service to all of our customers. We will work together with Special Olympics to ensure new employee training recreates real-life situations that individuals with intellectual disabilities face when they travel. By the end of 2018, more than 60,000 United frontline employees will participate in new training modules that reflect Special Olympics' insights as United takes steps to lead in inclusion.
Check back this summer for coverage from Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago and 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.