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Golfing in Central and Suburban O‘ahu

Panorama photo of the rolling greens of the Kapolei Golf Course studded with palm trees and with large clouds hanging in the sky.
Kapolei Golf Course. Photo © University of Hawai’i – West O’ahu, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

In the master-planned communities of central and suburban O‘ahu, golf courses take center stage, and there are a plethora of public courses, especially on the ‘Ewa Plain.

Pearl Harbor

Overlooking Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, and the USS Missouri, the Pearl County Club (98-535 Kaonohi St., 808/487-3802,) combines scenery and engaging golf with challenging course conditions and speedy downhill putts. The mature course also has a driving range, practice putting green, and a short game area. Rates for 18 holes are $130, twilight (after 3:30pm) $50.

With views of Pearl Harbor, downtown Honolulu, and Diamond Head, the Royal Kunia Country Club (94-1509 Anonui St., 808/688-9222) in Waipahu is a Robin Nelson-designed course situated across an undulating landscape with abundant water features and 101 bunkers. Greens fees for 18 holes are $150, twilight rates (after 2pm) are $80.

Also in Waipahu, the Ted Makalena Golf Course (93-059 Waipio Access Rd., 808/675-6052), an 18-hole par-71 course, has a level layout and is great for beginners. The greens fees for 18 holes are $52, twilight or nine holes $26; cart rental is $20 for 18 holes and $10 for nine holes.

Situated in a planned residential development, the 18-hole golf course at Waikele Country Club (94-200 Paioa Pl., 808/676-9000) is full of water features like ponds and waterfalls, along with strategically placed bunkers for a challenging Ted Robinson-designed course. Greens fees are $130; twilight $80 after 1pm.


Wooded with Cook pine, eucalyptus, and red African tulip trees, Mililani Golf Course (95-176 Kuahelani Ave., 808/623-2222) is an 18-hole, par-72 course offering a sense of remoteness and tranquility situated between the Ko‘olau and Wai‘anae Ranges with amazing views. Visitor greens fees are $99 and $75 for twilight, after 11am.


Hawaii Country Club (92-1211 Kunia Rd., 808/621-5654) is designed into the natural landscape of the area, utilizing the hills, valleys and nearly 200 wide-spreading monkeypod trees. The course favors accuracy over long-range driving. Greens fees for U.S. residents are $70 weekdays and $80 weekends for 18 holes; rates for international visitors are $85 weekdays and $90 weekends for 18 holes. Check online for discounted rates. Carts are included. There is also a driving range and practice green.


Designed by Robin Nelson, the West Loch Golf Club (91-1126 Okupe St., 808/675-6076) is a par 72 with a short but challenging layout. It has a variety of water features including lakes, streams, and the West Loch of Pearl Harbor. The greens fees for 18 holes are $52, twilight or nine holes $26; cart rental is $20 for 18 holes and $10 for nine holes.

The Ewa Villages Golf Course (91-1801 Park Row St., 808/681-0220) is rated as O‘ahu’s toughest 18-hole course among the five most difficult courses. With the tight fairways, wind plays a major factor on this links-style course. The greens fees for 18 holes are $52, twilight or nine holes $26; cart rental is $20 for 18 holes and $10 for nine holes.

Coral Creek Golf Course (91-1111 Geiger Rd., 808/441-1112) is another Nelson designed course. Water features are prevalent, found on more than 13 holes, and the wind also factors into the course and your game. Elevated greens are protected by strategic bunkers incorporating sloping conditions. Rates are $180 for 18 holes, $80 for twilight (after noon), $70 nine-hole play after 11am. Carts are included with greens fees, and they offer a golf and transportation package for $170, club rental for an extra $20.

The Hawaii Prince Golf Club (91-1200 Fort Weaver Rd., 808/944-4567) is a 27- hole, par-72 championship course designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay. Water is a major design feature throughout the three nines that were initially carved from coral rock. Don’t be surprised to see Hawai‘i’s native waterbirds taking advantage of the lush, verdant setting. The non-hotel guest rate is $160 for 18 holes, $60 for twilight (after 2:30pm), and an additional nine holes the same day is $26. There are discounted rates for Hawaii Prince Hotel guests. They also have transportation and golf packages.

At the end of Fort Weaver Road you’ll find the 18-hole Ewa Beach Golf Club (91-050 Fort Weaver Rd., 808/689-6565). Great for all abilities, the creative course is relatively level with rolling greens set amid a kiawe forest. Housing and water features border the course. Greens fees are $140; twilight $95 after 1pm.

A former site of the LPGA Hawaiian Ladies Open, the Kapolei Golf Course (91-701 Farrington Hwy., 808/674-2227) has over 70 sand bunkers, three lakes, wide landing areas, and greenside chipping areas to accommodate all levels of golfers. Greens fees are $160.

Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon O’ahu.

Map of O‘ahu, Hawaii

Phoenix Day Hike: Mohave Trail 200

Scenic view taken beside jutting rocks of the surrounding area including midtown Phoenix.
The Mohave Trail is a short and slightly intense hike with a big payoff of views to the south. Photo © Lilia Menconi.

Mohave Trail 200

Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area, Phoenix Mountains Preserve

This super-speedy climb is the perfect option when you’re short on time and ready to work up a sweat. This trail leads to a scenic overlook, offers opportunities for wildlife viewing, and is rated as being appropriate for children. Dogs are allowed.

  • Level: Easy
  • Total Distance: 1.2 miles round-trip
  • Hiking Time: 30 minutes
  • Elevation Change: 300 feet
  • GPS Coordinates: 33.5412 N, 112.018 W

Easy hikes are generally suitable for families with small children and hikers seeking a mellow stroll. Please note that this trail has a sharp elevation climb.

The Piestewa summit may dominate the skyline of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, but many may not know there’s another, smaller summit nearby. If you want a climb to a view but don’t want to get hung up by the crowds on the Piestewa Summit Trail, Mohave could be your baby.

[pullquote align=”right”]As the trail continues to climb for the next 0.2 mile, be aware of unofficial trails spurring from Trail 200. When in doubt, continue to favor the option to the right, remaining in a southwest direction.[/pullquote]That said, the hike is quite brief. At only 1.2 miles round-trip, it’s finished before you know it. But don’t let the low mileage mislead you—this trail is no piece of cake. With a quick elevation climb of 300 feet, the huffing and puffing comes on fast.

The Mohave Trail trailhead sits on the east side of Squaw Peak Drive, just north of the Mohave picnic area, and is easily accessed by a small parking lot on the east side of the street. If you choose to park near the picnic ramadas, look to the north side of the lot for signs that lead you to the Mohave Trail 200, which is just a short walk away.

Once on Trail 200, the path quickly turns south as you march up a gradual incline. Continue past the wood hitching rack to encounter a fork in the trail at 0.2 mile. Veer right to remain on Trail 200 heading southwest. As the trail continues to climb for the next 0.2 mile, be aware of unofficial trails spurring from Trail 200. When in doubt, continue to favor the option to the right, remaining in a southwest direction.

At just over 0.4 mile, follow a couple sharp-turned switchbacks. Here, it’s easy to lose sight of the trail. Stop, stand on your tippy-toes or a rock, and you can soon
find the path again. Most likely, you probably just hit a sharp turn.

The final 0.2 mile is a short climb that heads southwest until you come upon a large pile of stones surrounding a metal post. This marks the end of your short journey. Catch your breath, wander around the summit area, and take in this generous view, looking south to midtown Phoenix with South Mountain Park in the distance.

The return trip is merely a matter of retracing your steps and descending your way back to the parking lot.


Summiting the Mohave Trail 200 could make a great finish to a longer trek by combining it with Trail 202. Start on Trail 200, only this time take a left onto Trail 202 at 0.2 mile, heading south and then east. Follow Trail 202 for 1 mile until it runs into Trail 8A. Turn around here and retrace your steps along Trail 202 for the return mile until you reunite with Trail 200. Now, turn left onto Trail 200 heading southwest. It’s just a short 0.4 mile to the summit from here. To return, simply retrace your steps along Trail 200, heading northwest for a return leg of 0.6 mile. This option totals 3.2 miles.


From downtown Phoenix, take I‑10 east toward Tucson for approximately 2 miles. Take exit 147B to merge onto AZ‑51. Follow it north for 5.5 miles. Take exit 5 for Glendale Avenue. Turn right, heading east onto Glendale Avenue. Continue as Glendale Avenue becomes Lincoln Drive. Follow Lincoln Drive for 0.3 mile and turn left, heading northeast, onto Squaw Peak Drive for 0.8 mile, through the Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area entrance gate (2701 East Squaw Peak Dr.) and past the Mohave picnic area. The small Mohave Trail 200 parking lot and trailhead is on the right (east).

Information and Contact

There is no fee. Dogs on leash are allowed. Maps are available online at For more information, contact City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Main Office, Phoenix City Hall, 200 West Washington Street, 16th Floor, Phoenix, AZ 85003, 602/262-6862.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Take a Hike Phoenix.

Moving to South Korea: Bringing or Buying a Pet

Benson, a small white poodle-chin cross scampers in the grass next to a chainlink fence.
Rooftop antics in Seoul. Photo © Damon Garrett, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

It may sound callous, but it’s worth thinking carefully before deciding to bring a pet to South Korea. The procedures can be troublesome and stressful for pet and owner alike, and when your pet arrives, it is likely to find less space to run around in than it had back home. Many apartment complexes and landlords simply won’t accept pets at all. The whole idea of animals as companions rather than pests or sources of food is relatively new in South Korea, and therefore facilities for pets and veterinary standards are relatively undeveloped. Nonetheless, there are plenty of people who do bring their furry companions over and do just fine.

Bringing a Pet to South Korea

Anyone bringing a pet into South Korea has to obtain clearance from the Animal, Plant and Fisheries Quarantine & Inspection Agency, which has inspection stations at major ports of entry. Since December 2012 any animal imported to South Korea has to be implanted with an ISO-compliant microchip, which allows authorities to verify its identity and vaccination records. Animals should be accompanied by the (positive) results of a rabies-neutralizing antibody test administered by a competent authority in the country of origin from 30 days to 24 months prior to travel, unless they’re from a handful of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, that are designated “rabies-free regions,” in which case no test results are required. Provided no health problems are apparent, animals older than 90 days meeting the requirements are typically released immediately, and animals younger than that subject to one day of quarantine. Animals arriving without the proper chips and papers will have to be treated and quarantined, or shipped back, at the owner’s expense.

Pets in South Korea

Pets such as dogs, rabbits, birds, and hamsters are readily available at pet stores or at some markets, although there tends to be less variety in terms of breeds than in places like Canada and the United States. Cats are less common since many South Koreans still view them as slightly malevolent. The variety and availability of pet food, supplies, and veterinary care is increasing, but it is still limited compared to most Western countries.

If you’re planning on bringing or buying a pet, be sure to make that clear during the house-hunting process; many buildings and landlords do not allow pets due to concerns about noise or hygiene. Dogs are welcome at most parks and walking trails, and since indoor space is likely to be limited, their owners should try to find an apartment close to some green space.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Living Abroad in South Korea.

Phoenix Day Hike: Siphon Draw Trail to the Flatiron

In the distance the low sun hits red rock cliff faces.
See the flat rock on the left? That’s your final destination. It’s called the Flatiron and it will blow your mind. Photo © Lilia Menconi.

Siphon Draw Trail to the Flatiron

Lost Dutchman State Park, Superstition Wilderness

Crawl your way up to The Flatiron and complete one of the best hikes in The Valley, as well as one of the best hikes of your life. This trail has wildflower displays and climbs to a high overlook with wide views. Dogs are allowed.

  • Level: Butt-kicker
  • Total Distance: 5.8 miles round-trip
  • Hiking Time: 6 hours
  • Elevation Change: 2,750 feet
  • GPS Coordinates: 33.4594 N, 111.4797 W

Butt-kicker hikes are suitable only for advanced hikers who are very physically fit.

So whenever you hang around the west side of the Superstition Wilderness and see that absolutely amazing mass of cliff faces jutting from the floor, you’re looking at The Flatiron. (Specifically, The Flatiron is the cliff that boasts a practically 90-degree angle.) While the official Siphon Draw Trail may not take you all the way up to the 4,861-foot high point of The Flatiron, hikers have forged a popular scrambling path to this vantage point that offers unbeatable views of The Valley to the west and equally mind-boggling views of the entire Superstition Wilderness to the east.

[pullquote align=”right”]For the first 2 miles, the popular Siphon Draw Trail is a wide path with a subtle gain in elevation. It offers stunning views to an endless field of wildflowers as you march toward the dramatic cliff-like mountains.[/pullquote]For the first 2 miles, the popular Siphon Draw Trail is a wide path with a subtle gain in elevation. It offers stunning views to an endless field of wildflowers as you march toward the dramatic cliff-like mountains. The Siphon Draw Trail ends at the mouth of a smooth rock basin in the Siphon Draw Canyon, but this spot is really just the start of the real hiking. The rest of the trail to The Flatiron is hard-fought and recommended only for experienced hikers in good shape. It’s almost a solid mile of scrambling on all fours as you inch your way up steep piles of rock and boulder. No switchbacks. No cleared trail. No flippin’ mercy. You must follow the spray-painted arrows that guide you through a virtually vertical gouge in the mountain—a natural drainage choked with prickly vegetation. Bring gloves and your courage, and start early because this one’s gonna take a while.

The hike has an innocent beginning as you enter the trail at the Siphon Draw trailhead (on the southwest end of the parking lot) and follow a small portion of the Discovery Interpretive Trail heading south. At 0.2 mile, turn left (east) to follow signs leading to Siphon Draw Trail. At 0.5 mile, pass a large kiosk with the park map and veer southeast to follow the official start of the Siphon Draw Trail. From here, make a subtle elevation gain of 1,100 feet spread over the next 1.5 miles.

By mile 2, you’ve reached the base of the mountain and are greeted by a smooth rock basin carved by rain drainage. This beautiful, shaded basin marks the beginning of the Siphon Draw Canyon and the start of possibly the most rewarding hike of your life. Put on your gloves because you’ll need them as you start pawing at the rough rocks for the next 0.7 mile, during which you ascend 1,650 feet. Ouch. This consumes so much energy, it feels like 5 miles even to the fittest hiker.

The trail is not maintained for this stretch and follows a shallow drainage path straight up the side of the mountain. Be sure to make calculated moves as you follow spray-painted arrows and dots that mark the way. Remember to lean into the rock as you climb and take your time. There are a few tricky spots that most experienced hikers have no trouble clearing. But just before you reach the final stretch to The Flatiron at 2.6 miles, you run smack into a 12-foot rock face. There’s only one way to clear this: Go up. Move slowly, using the cracks in the rock to anchor and wedge your feet. There’s also a very handy (and sturdy) tree on the left side that makes for a much-needed grip. Once this rock face is cleared, there’s just a few more feet of not-scary-at-all-by-comparison scrambling before the trail suddenly enters a serene clearing at 2.7 miles. You can finally stand upright to follow this easy bit of trail for the next 0.2 mile as it traces the edge of the mountain and leads west to the top of The Flatiron.

The top of The Flatiron is a wide clearing littered by low-lying agave, prickly pear, and buckhorn cholla. It. Is. Breathtaking. Lose your mind as you walk all over the flat top of rock and gaze at the impossibly miniature city to the west. To the east, you’re equally blown away by this high-perched view of the rocky peaks and ridges that stretch as far as the eye can see into the Superstition Mountains. It’s nuts. It’s just totally nuts.

Once you’ve regained your composure, scarfed a snack, and snapped some photos of your journey to the top of the world, turn back and retrace your steps. Get down on your butt and use your hands to lower yourself during the scrambling descent. Once you return to the smooth rock basin, it’s a mere 2-mile walk back to the trailhead.

There you have it. You just completed the best hike of your life.


The Siphon Draw Trail ends at 2 miles and makes for a perfect stopping place (perfect, that is, if you’re not in the mood for the best hike of your life). Simply stop at the smooth rock basin. This version makes for a shorter total of 4 miles and skips the scrambling to the top of The Flatiron. Still, the hike climbs up approximately 1,100 feet and makes for a worthy experience as you stop at the gorgeous base of the mountains and the dramatic rock basin.


From downtown Phoenix, take I‑10 east for approximately 5 miles. Take a slight right onto eastbound US‑60 and go east for 24.7 miles. Take exit 196 for Idaho Road (eastbound AZ‑88) and follow the exit ramp for 0.4 mile. Turn left onto Idaho Road and go north for 2.3 miles. Make a slight right onto Apache Trail (still AZ‑88) and go northeast for approximately 5 miles. Turn right at the sign for the Lost Dutchman State Park. Pay the fee at the park entrance and continue for 0.7 mile, following the signs for Siphon Draw trailhead as the road curls south, then west. Park in the westernmost parking lot and find the Siphon Draw trailhead on the southwest corner of the lot.

Information and Contact

There is a fee of $7 per vehicle. An annual pass is available for $75. Dogs on leash are allowed. Maps are available at the park gate; there is a visitors center (8am-4pm daily) and a gift shop. For more information, contact the Lost Dutchman State Park, 6109 North Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85119, 480/982-4485.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Take a Hike Phoenix.

Hiking, Biking, and Bird-Watching in Leeward O‘ahu

A fledgling albatross stands with its wings outstretched with another younger bird and the ocean visible in the background.
Laysan Albatross fledglings at Ka’ena Point. Photo © David D., licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The leeward side is notoriously dry, sunny, and hot, so hiking or biking is best done early in the morning or late in the day. No matter when you go, bring plenty of water, a hat, and sunscreen.

[pullquote align=”right”]The volcanic coast is breathtaking, with tidepools, natural stone arches, and surf surging onto rock outcroppings.[/pullquote]

In Ka‘ena Point State Park, hiking out to Ka‘ena Point is a special experience. The rough and rocky trail, a little over five miles round-trip, follows a well-worn dirt road along the cliff out to the point. The volcanic coast is breathtaking, with tidepools, natural stone arches, and surf surging onto rock outcroppings. The road has washed away not far from the point, so follow the narrow side trail around the cliff. You’ll reach a formidable fence designed to keep out invasive species; enter through the double doors. Once you are inside the Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve, an ecosystem restoration project, it is of the utmost importance to stay on the marked trails as not to disturb the seabird nesting grounds. The dunes are covered with native Hawaiian plants and home a handful of Hawaiian and migratory seabirds. Continue down to the shoreline past some old cement installments and look for Hawaiian monk seals basking in the sun. There are no facilities along the hike and no water, so bring plenty of fluids. To get to the trail, follow Farrington Highway to Yokohama Bay. Drive along the beach till the paved road ends. Park in the dirt parking area and proceed down the dirt road on foot. The state park is open from sunup to sundown.

Explore the deep valley behind Wai‘anae, in the shadow of O‘ahu’s tallest peak, Mount Ka‘ala. The six-mile Wai‘anae Kai loop trail is full of ups and downs with a final climb to an overlook. It then follows an ancient Hawaiian trail back to the main route. You’ll find native Hawaiian trees, shrubs, and herbs along the hike and the likes of the Japanese bush warbler. There are views of Wai‘anae, Lualualei, and Makaha Valleys. The trail is unimproved and rough, so proper footwear is essential. To get there, follow Waianae Valley Road to the back of the valley. Continue on it after it turns into a one-lane dirt road. Park in the dirt lot across from the last house at the locked gate. Continue past the locked gate and followed the dirt road on foot.


The leeward coast does have a gem of a mountain biking trail, the road to Ka‘ena Point. Part of Ka‘ena Point State Park, the trail is flat, so there’s no climbing or downhill involved, but the rocky, rutted, and curving cliffside dirt road is a challenging ride none the less. At 2.7 miles one way from the parking area to the point, the ride is extremely scenic, passing rocky coves, sea arches, and crashing waves. Once at the fence to keep out invasive species from the natural reserve portion of the park, you can bike around the point along the perimeter of the fence to the Mokule‘ia side and continue up the North Shore, or you can walk your bike through the double doors in the fence. However, the trails inside the reserve are narrow and sandy. The sun is intense, and there is no shade in the area, so bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen.

To get to the trail, follow Farrington Highway to Yokohama Bay. Drive along the beach until the paved road ends. Park in the dirt parking area and proceed down the dirt road on foot. The state park is open from sunup to sundown.

Hale Nalu (85-876 Farrington Hwy., #A2, 808/696-5897, 10am-5pm daily), in Wai‘anae, rents mountain bikes for $30 per day, $60 for three days, or $90 for one week.


The Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve inside the Ka‘ena Point State Park is the premier bird-watching area on the leeward coast. The 59-acre reserve is an active ecosystem restoration project designed to restore the native ecosystem on the point and bolster the number of endangered species, both flora and fauna, that call the area home. Look for Laysan albatross, wedge-tailed shearwater, and white-tailed tropicbird that nest in dunes. Nesting begins in November, with the adults departing in late spring and juveniles leaving the nests by late June. The area is also home to several species of native Hawaiian birds including the great frigatebird, red-footed, brown, and masked boobies, sooty and white terns, and the Hawaiian short-eared owl. Other migratory birds like the wandering tattler and the Pacific golden plover also frequent the area.

Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon O’ahu.

Map of Leeward Coast
Leeward Coast

Phoenix Day Hike: Waterfall Trail

Petroglyphs marked on exposed granite.
The Waterfall Trail offers close-up views of some of the best petroglyphs in town. Photo © Lilia Menconi.

Waterfall Trail

White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Take this interpretive and wheelchair-accessible trail to discover some of the most incredible petroglyphs in the area. This trail offers waterfall views and visits the waterside and a historic site. It is rated as being appropriate for children. Dogs are allowed.

  • Level: Easy
  • Total Distance: 1.9 miles round-trip
  • Hiking Time: 1 hour
  • Elevation Change: 150 feet
  • GPS Coordinates: 33.5901 N, 112.507 W

Easy hikes are generally suitable for families with small children and hikers seeking a mellow stroll.

The Waterfall Trail is just filled with delights. The graded-dirt portion includes educational plaques with details about surrounding plants, animals (bobcats, ringtails, bats, and hawks), and petroglyphs. Along this trail, you also find a massive collection of some of the best petroglyphs in town. Interpretive plaques explain how native peoples created these incredible rock drawings almost 7,000 years ago. It’s truly inspiring to explore this area and nearly impossible to keep your imagination from running wild.

[pullquote align=”right”]Winter and spring offer the greatest chance to see water actually falling (not trickling).[/pullquote]As if that isn’t motivation enough, the trail leads to a waterfall. Say what? It’s true! Winter and spring offer the greatest chance to see water actually falling (not trickling). And though you may not see a constant torrent of water around here, there’s been enough of it over the centuries to erode the park’s granite, creating the deep pools or “tanks” that give the area its name. Even in the dead of summer, the Waterfall Trail leads to one of these pools of water—with water still in it. The pools will be green and buzzing with bugs in the hotter months, so this trail is at its best in winter or spring.

Start the hike from the Waterfall Trail trailhead on the southwest side of the parking lot. The entry to the wide path is flanked by cases filled with maps, park information, and signage for mountain lion warnings. The firmly packed dirt makes for a very easy cruise. As the trail heads southwest, it offers ample opportunity for pit stops to read each plaque. Read them. Learn. There’s no point in rushing this trail. Benches line the path, so embrace the leisurely vibe and enjoy your experience.

The main site, Petroglyph Plaza, appears on the right side of the trail at 0.4 mile, and it’s worth your while to spend a moment here. Contemporary Native Americans consider petroglyph sites sacred. After a few seconds viewing the overlapping mass of spirals and designs etched into the rock, it’s easy to understand why.

At 0.5 mile, unfortunately, the wheelchair-accessible portion of the trail comes to an end. If you’re not on wheels, feel free to keep moving as the terrain becomes slightly more rugged. Soon, you’re walking alongside a rocky creek. If you’re lucky, flowing water will be weaving in and among the granite boulders. Notice the dramatic change here as the canyon walls begin to jut high on either side. They will collide at the site of the waterfall, which sits just shy of 1 mile in. After a good rain, you may see anything from a trickle to a rush of water cascading down the vertical drop of rock to splash into a deep tank.

When you’re ready, simply turn around and follow the trail back to the parking lot.


For a longer hike, take a little detour from the Waterfall Trail to the Black Rock Long Loop via the signed connecting trail at 0.4 mile. Take a left turn (southeast) for a very short jaunt until you meet up with the Black Rock Long Loop. Veer right on the loop and follow it counterclockwise as it boomerangs back to the connecting trail. This detour adds 1.2 miles to the trip with minimal elevation gain.


From downtown Phoenix, take I‑10 west toward Los Angeles for about 18 miles. Take the exit for Sarival Avenue and turn right, heading north, onto Sarival Avenue. After 0.2 mile, turn left onto McDowell Road. Take McDowell Road west for 2 miles and turn right, heading north, onto Citrus Road. Take Citrus Road for 7 miles and then turn left onto Olive Avenue. Take Olive Avenue west for 3 miles until it turns into White Tank Mountain Road. Pass through the park gate and pay the fee. Take White Tank Mountain Road for 2 miles as it curves and heads north. Turn left onto Waterfall Canyon Road heading northwest. After 0.4 mile, turn left into the Waterfall Trail trailhead parking lot. The Waterfall Trail trailhead is on the southwest side of the lot.

Information and Contact

There is a fee of $6 per vehicle. An annual pass is available for $75. Dogs on leash are allowed. Maps are available at the park entrance. The park is open daily (6am- 8pm Sun.-Thurs., 6am-10pm Fri.-Sat.). For more information, contact White Tank Mountain Regional Park, 20304 West White Tank Mountain Road, Waddell, AZ 85355, 623/935-2505.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Take a Hike Phoenix.

Learning and Speaking Spanish in Mexico

View down a cobblestoned streets in San Miguel de Allende with cathedral spires visible in the distance.
There are many inexpensive and high-quality language schools throughout Mexico. Photo © cezzie901, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Many people hope that moving to a foreign country will automatically rewire their brain for high-speed language learning. Just a few months in Mexico, and you’ll be chatting casually in Spanish with your next-door neighbor! Unfortunately, learning to speak a foreign language isn’t so easy for most of us. Learning Spanish takes time, patience, and practice. If you are starting from scratch, you’ll probably need to take classes, spend some serious time repeating your verb conjugations and practicing grammar, and tuck away your initial self-consciousness as you practice your halting Spanish on (hopefully) understanding strangers.

[pullquote align=”right”]Yes, it takes some work, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Learning to speak Spanish will offer you a much richer and more fluid experience in Mexico.[/pullquote]

Most people come to Mexico with the intention of learning or improving their Spanish. The biggest stumbling block for most well-intentioned foreigners is the prevalence of English spoken in Mexico. Because the country’s gross domestic product (and many local economies) relies heavily on tourism, most people in the service industry speak at least conversational English. Many of Mexico’s primary and secondary schools are bilingual (and those that aren’t usually require English classes), so even those who don’t work in the tourist industry are likely to know a little bit of English. Among the educated classes, speaking English is almost universal, and many people take frequent trips to the United States. Especially in social situations, it’s tempting to simply chat in your native tongue rather than plow slowly through verb conjugations.

For the same reason, learning to speak Spanish isn’t a necessity in Mexico. Plenty of foreign residents live in the country for decades but have never moved beyond the basics required to order food in a restaurant or direct a taxi to their home. Many of these people love Mexico, have Mexican acquaintances, and have taken beginning language classes. However, most of these people would tell you that they’re missing out by not being able to use the language.

Yes, it takes some work, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Learning to speak Spanish will offer you a much richer and more fluid experience in Mexico. To begin with, Spanish is the official language used in all contracts and official documents. Being able to understand and read a bit of Spanish will help you navigate immigration paperwork, housing negotiations, and daily chores without making too many mistakes or hiring someone to help you. Despite the prevalence of English in Mexico, you may still find yourself in a position where you absolutely need to explain something to someone— say, an immigration official at the airport—in Spanish. For anything official, it helps to have some ability with the language.

Socially, speaking Spanish will open up the possibility of creating friendships in the local community without being limited by your language skills. Speaking only English does not preclude the possibility of having Mexican friends, but it certainly limits you to English-speaking people and functions. Finally, learning to speak Spanish is a matter of respect. Anywhere in the world, immigrants are expected to learn the basics they need to communicate with locals. And, just like anywhere else, Mexicans wonder at people who live a long time in their country without learning to speak Spanish.

The good news is, Mexico is an excellent place to learn Spanish. People in Mexico are generally friendly and patient when newcomers are practicing the language. Despite some regional accents, most Mexicans speak clear and easy-to-understand Spanish, with nice phonetic pronunciation. You might also notice that Mexicans often tell stories with animated hand gestures, which can make it all the easier to follow the course of conversation. Best of all, there are many inexpensive and high-quality language schools throughout the country where you can get excellent Spanish instruction at any level.

Language Schools in Mexico

Mexico City

  • Centro de Enseñanza Para Extranjeros (Foreign Student Teaching Center): Av. Universidad 3002, Ciudad Universitaria, México D.F., tel. 55/5622-2470, fax 55/5616-2672
  • Frida Spanish School: Insurgentes Sur #307, Colonia Hipodromo, México D.F., tel. 55/5264-7018
  • Instituto Chac-Mool: Privada de la Pradera #108, Colonia Pradera, Cuernavaca, Morelos, U.S. tel. 530/622-4262 or 866/439-9634, spanish@chac‑

Guadalajara and Lake Chapala

  • Centro de Estudios Para Extranjeros (Foreign Student Study Center): Universidad de Guadalajara, Tomás V. Gómez 125, Colonia Ladrón de Guevara, Guadalajara, Jalisco 44600, tel. 33/3616-4399
  • IMAC Spanish Language Programs: Donato Guerra 180, Guadalajara, Jalisco, tel. 33/3613-1080, U.S. and Canada tel. 866/306 5040

Puerto Vallarta

San Miguel de Allende


  • Instituto Amigos del Sol: Pino Suárez 802, Calzada San Felipe del Agua 322, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, tel. 951/133-6052
  • Instituto Cultural Oaxaca: Av. Juárez 909, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, tel. 951/515-3404 or 951/515-1323, fax 951/515-3728

The Yucatán Peninsula

  • Playa del Carmen Language Institute: Condominio Hacienda del Cármen Depto. A2, Calle 14 bis, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
  • Institute of Modern Spanish: Calle 15 #500B X 16A y 18, Col. Maya, Mérida, Yucatán, tel. 999/911-0790, U.S. tel. 877/463-7432
  • Habla: Calle 26 #99 B, Col. México, Mérida, Yucatán, tel. 999/948-1872, U.S. tel. 401/374-3237

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Living Abroad in Mexico.

Phoenix Day Hike: Spur Cross and Elephant Mountain Loop

A red dirt trail cuts between brush and cacti.
On the trail on the Elephant Mountain loop. Photo © Lilia Menconi.

Spur Cross and Elephant Mountain Loop

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

Explore the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area with this lengthy loop. This trail visits the waterside and a historic site. Dogs are allowed.[/column]

  • Level: Strenuous
  • Total Distance: 6.9 miles round-trip
  • Hiking Time: 4 hours
  • Elevation Change: 1,600 feet
  • GPS Coordinates: 33.8864 N, 111.9518 W

Strenuous hikes are suitable for very fit hikers who are seeking a workout.

After visiting so many of the other regional parks with their fancy bathrooms, picnic tables, and running water, Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area is just kind of…cute. Still in its infancy as the one of the newest additions to the Maricopa County Regional Parks System, there’s a respectable humility to the dirt road, minimal trailheads, and well-maintained portable bathrooms. With a visit during its humble beginnings, you can be one of the first in The Valley to travel these new trails just north of Cave Creek’s main drag.

[pullquote align=”right”]This trek crosses Cave Creek (the body of water, not the town), climbs up and over Elephant Mountain, and offers a visit to a working water spring and an ancient ruin. Heck yeah![/pullquote]This loop (a combination of three trails) creates a 6.9-mile, lasso-shaped route that travels the heart of the Conservation Area’s land. This trek crosses Cave Creek (the body of water, not the town), climbs up and over Elephant Mountain, and offers a visit to a working water spring and an ancient ruin. Heck yeah! To begin, walk from the Spur Cross Ranch gravel parking lot north to the park’s entrance, pay the entrance fee at the station, then continue north to a large clearing with portable bathrooms and a small nature center. Find the Spur Cross trailhead to the northwest of the main kiosk. The Spur Cross Trail immediately splits, so be sure to veer left to follow the Spur Cross Trail northwest. At 0.2 mile, cross over the (most likely) dry bed of Cave Creek and ignore the turnoff for Metate Trail as you begin a subtle ascent.

Continue hiking along the ascent on Spur Cross Trail, heading northwest until reaching the intersection with Tortuga Trail at 0.6 mile. This is the beginning of the loop. Start the north side of the loop by veering right to follow the Tortuga Trail as it continues northwest. At 1.1 miles, and after a 250-foot climb, you plunge into a dry gorge. As you climb out of the gorge, look for the signed Elephant Mountain Trail at 1.5 miles. Hop on the Elephant Mountain Trail, which continues northwest. After a brief 0.2 mile, the trail splits. Ignore the signed turnoff leading to the Tonto National Forest, and instead, veer left to continue along Elephant Mountain Trail heading west. Almost immediately, the trail makes a steep descent into the Boca Grande Wash and follows the wash for the next 0.3 mile. Be on the lookout for footsteps, cairns, and branches flagged with bright pink plastic ties as the trail meanders in and out of the sandy wash. The final exit of the wash occurs at 2.1 mile and is marked by a brown post.

A narrow red dirt trail winds between scrub and cacti with a rising peak in the distance.
Climb the “elephant” on this hike. Photo © Lilia Menconi.

From the end of the wash, climb a steep shale ascent for just 0.1 mile. This is the start of the main climb up the northeastern slope of Elephant Mountain. When the trail briefly mellows out at 2.4 miles, look for a small trail marker and a narrow trail that descends north. Take it! After a short 25 feet or so, you find the Ringneck Spring, which is now an old-timey water pump and metal bucket. The water is supposedly clean (maybe let the dog test it). Anyway, it’s a short detour, which leads to the rare novelty of a water source in the desert. When ready, turn around and retrace your steps back to the Elephant Mountain Trail and turn right to head southwest.

Welcome to the final climb of the day! Grunt your way up the 350 feet to the Elephant Mountain saddle at an elevation of 3,215 feet. Take in the breeze and glance west to see the (what’s thought to be) Hohokam ruin of a wall. To the southeast, notice the riparian cottonwood trees poking out from the Jewel of the Creek Preserve. Then continue south along the Elephant Mountain Trail for a sweet, sweet (and steep) descent of 775 feet along the south side of Elephant Mountain.

At 3.5 miles total, the steep stuff is over and so is the Elephant Mountain Trail. Hop on the Spur Cross Trail, which forces a sharp left turn to head north, then immediately east. The rest of the hike is super-easy and flat. Ignore the turnoff to Dragonfly and Tortuga Trails at 5.3 miles. At 6 miles, you once again ignore the Tortuga Trail (this is where you started the loop). Take a right turn instead to head east along the Spur Cross Trail, taking the familiar route back over Cave Creek and to the Spur Cross trailhead. Haul south along the dirt road to the gravel parking lot and congratulate yourself—someday, you can say you knew Spur Cross Conservation Area “way back when.”


Cut this hike into a short lasso-shaped loop that skips the climb to Elephant Mountain by combining the Tortuga Trail with the Spur Cross Trail. Begin this hike following the Spur Cross Trail to the northwest. At 0.6 mile, veer right to follow the Tortuga Trail, which continues northwest. At 1.3 miles, the trail splits. Take a sharp left turn to continue along the Tortuga Trail (ignoring the Elephant Mountain Trail) and head southeast. After 0.5 mile, the Tortuga Trail runs back into the Spur Cross Trail. Turn left onto the Spur Cross Trail as it zigzags its way back to its original juncture with Tortuga Trail. Continue along the Spur Cross Trail heading southeast, crossing Cave Creek to the Spur Cross Trail trailhead. This option totals 3.6 miles.


From downtown Phoenix, take AZ‑51 north for approximately 16 miles. Take exit 15B on the left to merge onto westbound AZ‑101 Loop for 1.7 miles. Take exit 28 for Cave Creek Road and turn right onto Cave Creek Road, heading north for 12.3 miles. Turn left onto Spur Cross Road and head north for 0.2 mile. Turn right onto Grapevine Road and go east for 160 feet. Take the first left onto Spur Cross Road and follow it north for 4 miles. The Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area gravel parking lot is on the right (east). Park, then walk north along the dirt road. Pass through the park gate and pay the fee at the self-pay station. After 0.2 mile, find the Spur Cross Trail trailhead to the northwest.

Information and Contact

There is a fee of $3 per person. An annual pass is available for $75. Dogs on leash are allowed. Maps are available at the entrance or online. The park is open daily (6am-8pm Sun.-Thurs., 6am-10pm Fri.-Sat.). For more information, contact the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, 44000 North Spur Cross Road, Cave Creek, AZ 85331, 480/488-6601.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Take a Hike Phoenix.

Korean Superstitions

An infographic featuring illustrations of a brush with red paint, running shoes, and a pig in coins.

Behind South Korea’s modern veneer there are a number of beliefs handed down from antiquity that continue to hold sway. Here are some common superstitions to be aware of—and though they might seem irrational, so is discomfort with the number 13 or black cats.

  • Names in red: Avoid writing names (including your own) in red ink—this is the color traditionally used to write the names of the dead and could imply that you wish the person the same fate.
  • The number 4: As the number four shares the same pronunciation (“sa”) as the word for death in Korean, it has negative connotations, and in many buildings and elevators fourth floors are omitted altogether.
  • Running shoes: Shoes should never be given as a gift, particularly to a romantic partner, as shoes are designed for movement and will cause them to run away.
  • Lucky pigs: Pigs are a symbol of wealth and abundance, and if you’re lucky enough to dream of one, it means there’s some money headed your way—time to buy a lottery ticket perhaps?

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Living Abroad in Korea. Infographic by Carrie Hirsch.

Take a Guided Tour of Savannah, Georgia

Carriage horses in harnesses and blinders drink from tubs as they await riders.
Carriage Tours of Savannah‘s horses waiting at City Market where tours begin. Photo © Ron Cogswell, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Savannah’s tourist boom has resulted in a similar explosion of well over 50 separate tour services, ranging from simple guided trolley journeys to horse-drawn carriage rides to specialty tours to ecotourism adventures. There’s even an MP3-player walking tour. Fair warning: Although local tour guides technically must pass a competency test demonstrating their knowledge of Savannah history, in practice whatever they learned is often thrown out the window in favor of whatever sounds good to them at the time. I’ve heard the craziest, most untrue things said from passing trolleys and horse carriages. By all means go on a tour, but do so with the knowledge that much of what you’re likely to hear won’t be true at all.

Here’s a listing of the key categories with the most notable offerings in each. Don’t forget to tip your guide if you were satisfied with the tour.

Jump down to: Specialty Tours, Carriage Tours, Water Tours, Ecotours

Trolley Tours in Savannah

The vehicle of choice for the bulk of the masses visiting Savannah, trolley tours allow you to sit back and enjoy the views in reasonable comfort. As in other cities, the guides provide commentary while attempting, with various degrees of success, to navigate the cramped downtown traffic environment. The main trolley companies in town are Old Savannah Tours (912/234-8128, basic on-off tour $25 adults, $11 children), Old Town Trolleys (800/213-2474, basic on-off tour $23 adults, $10 children), Oglethorpe Trolley Tours (912/233-8380, basic on-off tour $22.50 adults, $10 children), and Gray Line Tours (912/234-8687, basic on-off tour $15). All embark from the Savannah Visitors Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard about every 20-30 minutes on the same schedule, daily 9am-4:30pm.

Frankly there’s not much difference between them, as they all offer a very similar range of services for similar prices, with most offering pickup at your downtown hotel. While the common “on-off privileges” allow trolley riders to disembark for a while and pick up another of the same company’s trolleys at marked stops, be aware there’s no guarantee the next trolley will have enough room to take you on board. Or the one after that.

Specialty Tours in Savannah

Besides the standard narrated Historic District tours, all the above companies also offer a number of spin-off tours. Samples include the Pirate’s House Dinner & Ghost Tour, Belles of Savannah, the Evening Haunted Trolley, and multiple Paula Deen tours.

The copious ghost tours, offered by all the companies, can be fun for the casual visitor who wants entertainment rather than actual history. Students of the paranormal are likely to be disappointed by the cartoonish, Halloween aspect of some of the tours. A standout in the ghost field is the Hearse Ghost Tours (912/695-1578), a unique company that also operates tours in New Orleans and St. Augustine, Florida. Up to eight guests at a time ride around in the open top of a converted hearse, painted all black, of course, and get a 90-minute, suitably over-the-top narration from the driver-guide. It’s still pretty cheesy, but a hip kind of cheesy. Two very popular ghostly walking tours are found with Cobblestone Tours (912/604-3007, $20), a “Haunted History” tour and a “Haunted Pub Crawl.” Another fun paranormal/ghost tour is at Blue Orb Tours (912/665-4258, $25-50), which offers a—you guessed it—“Zombie Tour.”

Storyteller and author Ted Eldridge leads A Walk Through Savannah Tours (912/921-4455, $15 adults, $5 6-12, free under age 6) and offers all kinds of specialty walking tours. To learn about Savannah’s history of filmmaking and to enjoy the best of local cuisine, try a Savannah Movie Tour (912/234-3440, $25 adults, $15 children), taking you to various film locations in town, and a newer Savannah Foody Tour (912/234-3440, $48) featuring 6-9 local eateries.

For a more enlightened take than you’ll usually get on a local tour, contact licensed guide Orlando Montoya (912/308-2952, $20) for a personalized walking tour. His regular job is as a journalist with Georgia Public Radio, so expect a higher level of taste and information with this journey. Another offbeat tour option is Savannah’s Uncommon Walk (912/358-0700, $20), a two-hour exploration of little-known Savannah leaving at 9:30am and 1:30pm daily from Chippewa Square.

To see downtown Savannah by bicycle—quite a refreshing experience—try Savannah Bike Tours (41 Habersham St., 912/704-4043, $15 adults, $10 under age 12), two-hour trips through all 19 squares and Forsyth Park with your “rolling concierge.” They leave daily at 9:30am, 12:30pm, and 4pm Rent bikes from them or ride your own.

The unique Negro Heritage Trail Tour (912/234-8000, $19 adults, $10 children) takes you on a 90-minute air-conditioned bus tour of over 30 of Savannah’s key African American history sites. Pick up the Negro Heritage Tour at the Visitors Center downtown (301 MLK Jr. Blvd.) Tuesday-Saturday at 10am and noon.

Carriage Tours in Savannah

Ah, yes—what could be more romantic and more traditional than enjoying downtown Savannah the way it was originally intended to be traveled, by horse-drawn carriage? Indeed, this is one of the most fun ways to see the city, for couples as well as for those with horse-enamored children. Yes, the horses sometimes look tired, but the tour operators generally take great care to keep the horses hydrated and out of the worst of the heat. There are three main purveyors of equine tourism in town: Carriage Tours of Savannah (912/236-6756, pickup in City Market), Historic Savannah Carriage Tours (888/837-1011, pickup at the Hampton Inn), and Plantation Carriage Company (912/201-0001, pickup in City Market). As with the trolleys, the length of the basic tour and the price is about the same for all—45-60 minutes, about $20 adults and $10 children. All offer specialty tours as well, from ghost tours to evening romantic rides with champagne. Some will pick you up at your hotel.

Water Tours

The heavy industrial buildup on the Savannah River means that the main river tours, all departing from the docks in front of the Hyatt Regency hotel, tend to be disappointing in their unrelenting views of cranes, docks, storage tanks, and smokestacks. Still, for those into that kind of thing, narrated trips up and down the river on the Georgia Queen and the Savannah River Queen are offered by Savannah Riverboat Cruises (912/232-6404, $19 adults, $10 ages 4-12).

If you’ve just got to get out on the river for a short time, by far the best bargain is to take one of the three little Savannah Belles (daily 7:30am-10:30pm, free) water ferries, which shuttle passengers from River Street to Hutchinson Island and back every 15-20 minutes. Pick up one of them on River Street in front of City Hall or at the Waving Girl landing a few blocks east.


The 35-year-old nonprofit Wilderness Southeast (912/897-5108, $10-35) offers guided trips, including paddles to historic Mulberry Grove, birding trips, and beach explorations. Regularly scheduled “Walks on the Wild Side” run the gamut from “Alligators to Anhingas” to the “Urban Forest” to “Explore the Night Sky” to the “Blackwater River Float.” Custom tours are also available.

The most highly-regarded local canoe and kayak tour operator and rental house is Savannah Canoe & Kayak (912/341-9502), run by the husband-wife team of Nigel and Kristin Law. They offer several kayak trips, including a short jaunt to Little Tybee Island. On U.S. 80 just as you get on Tybee is another quality tour service, Sea Kayak Georgia (1102 U.S. 80, 888/529-2542, half-day tour $55). Run by locals Marsha Henson and Ronnie Kemp, Sea Kayak offers many different types of kayak tours. Run by Captain Mike Neal, an experienced local boatman and conservationist, Moon River Kayak Tours (912/898-1800, $50) focuses on 2.5-hour tours of the Skidaway Narrows and scenic Moon River, departing from the public boat ramp at the foot of the bridge to Skidaway Island. No kayaking experience required.

Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Georgia.

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