I turned 31 and I’d been travelling 31 days with Winnie on this Eurotrip with almost 31°C weather.
We rented a Mercedes Benz and drove the Northern coast of the island. The driving was smooth like butter but not the best vehicle to take on those windy and narrow roads.
Along this route winding up the mountains, we stopped at many spots: Banyalbufar, Valldemossa, Deia, Soller, Port of Soller, top of the crazy windy roads of Sa Calobra (looks crazy but apparently worth it to go down for what’s down there) and made it to Cap de Formentor for sunset with a few lookout points along the way. It is crazy because the roads are super narrow along the mountain with many curve but you also are dealing with mountain bikers, motorcycles and other cars speeding around corners. There are many lookout points along the way on the mountain BUT please make sure your car can clear the difference in height between the road and the side of the road to deter from scratching your rental car.
Palma, Mallorca, Spain
We left Sa Pobla and hit the road in search of beaches. We drove to the North East side of the island and drove south where we ended in Palma.
Cala Mesquida and Es Trenc. Mesquida was a smaller beach with resorts right beside it but also had many hiking trails nearby. Parking is tight and since it is near a resort, parking can be time consuming. We decided to check out Es Trenc, is a long and narrow road that winds along before you can get to the parking lot (7€). The road to get in is super narrow and can barely fit 2 cars passing one another at certain points. There are area to pull over into to let the oncoming car to go through. You walk from the parking lot a bit and it opens up to see the 3.5KM beach. When we got there, the sun was still out but within 15 minutes clouds rolled in. We hoped the clouds would break but unfortunately it didn’t.
We moved on and made our way towards our Airbnb in Palma. We walked the boardwalk of Playa de Palma. The clouds opened up for a little bit but no clear sunsets.
We realized later that the weather had called for a downpour but all we got was a little drizzle twice for maybe 15 minutes each time. Good for us I guess.
We lived the glamorous life and went to IKEA for dinner – Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes so in a way, we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in a Ikea in Spain. There are so many options of food and snacks! I was even able to grab a bag of the Bilar car candies.
Palma, Mallorca, Spain
Final day in Mallorca and we decided to start the day at Anima Beach to get our last bit of rays on a beach. Just make sure you note where you park. If you park within blue, that is 1 hour parking if zigzag it’s bus and no parking. You need the white lines or clear and you’re in the clear as we learned the hard way.
We checked out of the Airbnb and parked our car for the day and explore the main section of Palma. We started with the area around Plaça de l’Olivar and ventured down to the marina and back into the main area.
Had lunch at restaurante La Mémé. We both got the 3-course meal for only 14,50€. I got the salmon wrap and salad to start, the goulash with potatoes and ended with carrot cake and the meal also includes a drink.
As we walked around the city, we stumbled across two more of Gaudi’s buildings as well. We had planned to reach the airport later in the evening and so to kill some time, Winnie got a pedicure.
For our final meal in Spain, we went to Celler Sa Premsa – where we ate in an old wine cellar. We ordered the sobrasada (raw, cured sausage from the Balearic Islands made with ground pork, paprika and salt and other spices – this region is known for the sobrasada). I got the grilled squid and Winnie got the Tumbet and of course a nice sangria to end the trip with.
We dropped off the car rental and had the classy stay overnight in an airport. What we did learn from our travels is that if we need to sleep overnight in an airport and haven’t check in yet, you can either find a location that is close to an outlet to charge your phone or whatnot but if you want to be comfortable, try to find the “café” and they usually have cushioned seats that you can put together and form a makeshift bed (well at least when the café is not open for business).
Mallorca, Spain – London, UK – Toronto, Canada
Got into London via Gatwick and went to the New Cross area to grab Winnie’s bigger luggage from her friend Liona’s. Continued on and dropped off her stuff at her friend Tim’s place in South Kensington area. These are two very different areas of the city for sure. It was suppose to rain but the rain held off giving us a 15°C day and lovely lighting.
We had our final meal together at Squirrel – Thai me up bowl and a ginger cayenne shot for me. The interior is cute with a tree house themed design.
After lunch, we walked over to Charles Bridge and area before we bid farewell at Kensington station and I made my way to Heathrow to head home to Toronto.
And that was that. 11 flights, 2 trains, 4 car rentals, 6 countries and 16 cities (London, Madrid, Sevilla, Porto, Sintra, Cascais, Lisbon, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Munich, Berlin, Edinburgh, Isle of Skye, Glasgow, Barcelona and Mallorca) in 36 days.
Many have already asked me what was my favourite place or best memory was and to answer truthfully, we did so much that it is hard to truly pinpoint. Each city we went to had its highlights for sure. I would truly have to go through my Instagram posts or even these travel posts to remember all of it.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people along the way including some of my wonderful Yuujou friends (in person) and many of Winnie’s friends.
Thanks to my travel buddy Winnie for joining me on this month long adventure. Also for correcting my spelling errors, being the GPS and my model. We made it through without killing each other so that’s a good sign.
After an unconventional sleep in the Barcelona Airport, we picked up our car rental and drove into town. Had to take a second or 3 to recalibrate to driving on the right side. Picked up a nifty little Fiat.
Francisca was our tour guide (very spunky but also very passionate and well knowledgeable. We had a group from all over (Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, USA, Germany etc).
Some information I learned from this walk:
-1 man designed the whole outer city grid
-He tried to keep it all even and uniform but people started building taller and well, Gaudi,
-El Raval – gentrified – use to be red light district
-La Rambla – New city – chic local designers
-Barcelona was walled in – the king gave the land to the soldiers who used it to party, drugs and sex.
-There are 7 beaches – all artificial with sand from Egypt
-The Olympics made the city get visitors and they had to clean up
-The square with execution – The executioner was the local butcher and chosen. His family would inherit the business. The executioner couldn’t live in or outside the wall in fears of being murdered so they would literally live in the walls and climb down each time to perform an execution and then climb back up. The perks of being Executioner was that they could keep the body parts. Hands and feet hung on the door were good luck.
-The steps where Christopher Columbus met the king and queen of Spain is in that same Square.
-Agata – breast cut off – a pastry is named after this and feature a cherry on top
-The cathedral face of Eulalia of Barcelona (also known as Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia also known as Barcelona Cathedral) was a facade getting ready for Olympics. You can also see a image of Darth Vader if you look close enough.
-Geese live in Eulalia of Barcelona as the Saint was a goose herder. They punished her for being Christian. There her into a barrel with sharp objects and threw it down a hill. She survived. They burned her at the stake. She survived. They stepped her down naked and starfish her on a cross to shame her but snow fall covered her. They cutt off her head.
-The main Plaza Reica was cleaned up and pushed all the red light district to La Raval to prep for the volume of people coming for the Olympics
-Sport – the tower – 26 ft when a little cold at the very top. Sculpture.
-The New city uses Jewish tombstone pieces in they’re walls from the Jewish mountain where they bury the dead. It was faster and cheaper than digging up the Jewish Mountain.
-The Jewish, Muslim and Catholic lived relatively harmonious together in Barcelona until at one point, the Catholic and Muslim people started to perish rather quickly to some unknown disease at the time. They thought it was a plot to kill them as the Jewish were seen to not be suffering from loss as much. From outrage that such a thing could occur, the Jewish were murdered almost wiping them all out. Turns out because of their faith, they must wash their hands before every meal which in return kept them healthier as hygiene was also a major cause of the deaths.
Francisca also gave us a link to her website that can be helpful finding many attractions and places for food she recommends seeing in Barcelona.
After the tour, I met Winnie and off we went into the mountains. We drove over to Montserrat. Windy roads up but the environment was lovely. We had originally planned to hike Sant Jeroni but we realized late that we needed to take the funicular up to do any of the hikes and we wouldn’t have been able to finish that hike before the last train down. – GET THERE EARLY IN THE DAY!
With the time we had with the car rental, we decided to drive over to Sitges. This coastal town is known for the beaches, nightlife and being very LGBT friendly. We went midday in the off-season so it was dead and we walked Passeig Marítim and admired some of the beachfront homes.
Took it real easy in the evening and bought groceries and made our own tapas.
Since Winnie had already been to Barcelona earlier on the trip, she had also set up appointments for herself upon her return which left me to explore on my own. I had a very early start to get free admission to Park Güell‘s Monument section of the park. If you get in before 8AM or after 630PM it’s free! If you make it in before 8AM, you can technically stay all day if you really wanted. It took awhile for me to get out of this massive park but I continued on and walked over to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Crazy amount of tourists and also this place is forever under construction.
Not too far away was Parc de la Ciutadella. I got a little turned around and didn’t realize that the entrance to this park was only on the North side as I continued along the east side of the wall of the park and ended up walking around the whole park but on the outside as the only entrance I saw on that side was to the Zoo (connected but not connected to the park). I did eventually make it into the park but since it was such a long walk, I quickly walked through. There is a apparently a mini Arc de Triomphe.
And not too far from that park was La Boqueria – Mercat Boqueria Barcelona in La Rambla. 1€ fruit cups and smoothies, much needed after my morning walk. As I was crossing the street, it just so happened out of all places, I just so happened to bump into a familiar face from back home who was also on vacation.
Before coming to Barcelona, I was told I should book a paella cooking class – so we did. We booked with Airbnb experiences and booked with the lovely Helina (she’s originally from Belarus and learned how to make paella the true Catalina way from her husband’s family). We were a group of 14 from all over the world (Scotland, Korea, Ecuador, South Africa, New Zealand, USA & Brasil). Helina took us through La Boqueria and explained more about jamon, fresh seafood and spices. We purchased fresh seafood and went back to her mother’s condo nearby and that’s when all the magic began.
It was a team effort as each person had a different task in the prep. We made a Spanish classic – pan con tomate (literally garlic, tomate Para pan, olive oil, a good baguette and slices of Jamon Serrano or Iberian if you want meat), sangria and seafood paella. It was such a wonderful experience and so tasty! Depending on where you had positioned yourself at the table, you were assigned a different task. My spot was in charge of cleaning the mussels, others had prepping the sangria, making pan con tomate etc.
After that wonderful cooking experience Winnie and myself parted ways as I went to Carmel del Bunkers (also known as El Turó de la Rovira, or simply The Bunker) to take in the sunset above the city. During the Spanish Civil War, this was the bunker where anti-aircraft guns were installed. I took the train to a certain point then it’s all about walking. There is a sign to a pair of stairs that leads to a lookout point and you think that this is the bunker but it is not – keep going up. I got to the top of those stairs and there is a great view up there. You think that this view is the bunkers, keep going! From these stairs, you go left and follow the bend and over the bridge. The bridge isn’t the end. Keep going up. You will definitely know that you are at Carmel del Bunkers. There will be people climbing and sitting all over the place on cement structures. You will also have a 360 view above the city and there will be people selling cervezas if you didn’t bring any to enjoy the view. The sunset wasn’t the best but for the moment, the sky opened up with a large slash across the city and that was lovely. My phone was dying and I wanted to make sure I got back to the Airbnb before it died since my phone was my lifeline so I didn’t stay until the sun went fully down. There is another alternative to get to the Carmel Del Bunkers and it is a bus route that will drop you off closer to the top and then you walk up. I walked down the street and hopped on the bus to get me home.
We had looked into going inside Sagrada Familia early morning but there weren’t anymore tickets online. Many of our friends had recommended that we go inside but since we had a short period of time, we just searched up videos of the interior since we couldn’t go in. Also, we would have to wear clothing that covers our shoulders and almost to our knees and well, it’s hot weather for us and tights we’re a no go for us.
We went to Brunch & Cake to start the day. I got the Acai bowl with peanut butter and Winnie got the brekkie board. There are multiple locations.
As we were walking to brunch, we had started to see people walking the streets in costumes and we got curious. October 12th is Spain’s Fiesta Nacional de España – Hispanic day. It is the day Christopher Columbus discovered the America’s in 1492. It is a national holiday and obviously a huge parade with so many people dressed up in colourful costumes dancing their hearts out in the heat.
The sun was finally out majority of the day so we made our way to the beach. Platja del Bogatell had beach volleyball and some cute restaurants on the beachside. We decided to just lie down and take in the sun and do nothing else. The clouds did roll in after a few hours so we left and walked around. Since it was the weekend and also a holiday, the streets were filled with so many cute families and people going to the movies.
We went to Xemei for dinner (early celebration of my birthday). My friend had recommended this Italian restaurant in Barcelona and it did not let us down. We got the Fish assortment to start and I got the Pappardelle with beef cheek ragu and Winnie got the Grilled octopus tentacle with eggplant. We finished off with Almond and orange ice cream and tiramisu.
6AM wake up call to drive through the fog from Porto to Sintra. The drive from Porto was roughly 3.5-4 hour drive to Quinta da Regaleira. Honestly, I was following the speeds of the other drivers and at certain points I was driving a consistent 160KM/HR on the highway.
Originally planned to visit both Quinta da Regaleira (€8) and Palácio da Pena (there are 2 ticket options – Park & Palace €14 OR just Park ticket €7.50). For those heading to Quinta da Regaleira – Parking – there really isn’t much parking nearby Quinta and if the spots that are close are not empty, it’s only a one way road that takes about 30 minutes to circle back around. We found out the hard way and on the second time around, we found a spot where people had made their own spots on the side of the road about a 15 minute walk past Quinta da Regaleira.
We ended up just going to Quinta da Regaleira. We walked around the site to the infamous Initiation Well and cave system as the main attraction. Continued to the Fountain of Youth and the palace. We decided to nix Palácio da Pena and head to the beach side. We figured out that both myself and Winnie aren’t as big into Castles and Museums as many other travellers tend to be. Also, the weather was lovely and back home in Toronto the weather was starting to get cooler and we wanted to soak in the sun as much as we could.
We drove to Azenhas do Mar to take in the views and that’s where we overheard a guide mention of this beach town Cascais and decided to drive over. We situated ourselves at Praia dos Pescadores but not before getting ourselves some acai bowls. Took a few hours to catch some rays on the sand before heading to our Airbnb in Caxias.
Our Airbnb location was about a 15-minute drive over to Lisbon where we met up with my friend Kat who I originally met through Yuujou and had the opportunity to meet in person in NYC back in July. Timing wise, she literally just moved there the day before but happily met up for dinner with us to show us one of her favourite places.
We had an amazing dinner at Noobai, which is a 3-tiered restaurant that overlooks the city and is a great place for sunsets. The food was amazing as well! I got the codfish loin, Kat got the prawn curry and Winnie got the mango salad. We shared a lovely pitcher of sangria as well.
After dinner, Kat walked us through her old neighbourhood before leaving us for a conference call. We ventured off to continue our quest for tasting pastel de natas. We stopped at 3 spots: Alcoa, Fabrica da Nata and Pastelaria Casa Brasileira. I think for me, the flaky buttery crust of Fabrica won but the custard of Casa Brasileira won for that night.
Portugal is also known for this codfish croquette called Bacalhau but we were so full we did not have the chance to try one for ourselves.
During this adventure, we also walked by Santa Justa Lift (you can pay to get an above roof top level view right in the middle of the city), MUDE and Timeout Lisbon Market. And finally to end the night, went to pink Street where we met back up with Kat at 4 Caravelas and met all her Remote Year friends for drinks. Sam, Victor, Austin and Scott were the ones we chatted with the most.
Lisbon – Porto, Portugal
Sama Sama – same same but different.
After being in Lisbon for less than 48 hours, I can definitely see how Lisbon is the San Francisco of Europe. Incredibly hilly, by the water, impacted by earthquakes and has it’s own version of the Golden gate Bridge (same architect) and has the tram system.
First thing we did that morning was to get up and goto Pastéis de Belém for the OG (if you will) for pastel de nata. To be very honest, it was good but not my favourite. I stand by my choices the night before of the custard of Pastelaria Casa Brasileira and the flaky crust of Fabrica with Manteigueira as a close second overall. Right across the street is Jerónimos Monastery and on the other side of the road that we kept driving past was Belém Tower.
We drove into Lisbon city centre and walked around during the daytime since all the places we saw the previous day was in the evening. Had breakfast at Fauna and Flora where I ordered the Spicy Pumpkin pancakes.
Walked through Alfama area and all the way to the top of Miradouro da Senhora do Monte for the best view of Lisbon. There are steep streets to get up there but well worth it.
A pitstop we needed to goto before leaving Lisbon was for pastel de nata from Fabrica. We ate lunch at Sama Sama. I got the Maggie crepe and the Lemon drop smoothie and we got to eat in their affiliated bar on the corner called Crafty Corner.
We drove 3.5 hours to get back to Porto and returned the car rental by the afternoon. Got to the airport and dropped off our bags in the storage lockers. On our way out of the airport since our flight wasn’t until the morning, we decided to head back into the city however we looked up and saw on tv that they were playing volleyball, albeit a very fuzzy quality screen. We ended up standing there for an extra hour watching before we finally left.
We decided to hop on the metro line and get back into town for one final meal. Walked around a bit trying to find food and ended off at Casinha Baixa Do Porto. We ordered the codfish with creamy potato puree, mini-francesinhas, tripinhas, folded egg with spinach and manchego cheese on bread and finally a smoked salmon salad. We had also looked into this food market type of establishment called Food Corner that housed a different cuisine per floor but we didn’t quite like the options at that time.
The accommodation for the night: Porto airport. One thing we learned about travelling and sleeping in an airport is that if you haven’t checked in yet, you can find the closed cafes and push the chairs together to create a bed. We observed others doing the same and followed suite. We have also slept on floors by power outlets.
Porto, Portugal – London,UK – Stockholm, Sweden
3 airports, 3 countries. Porto – London – Stockholm.
We slept in the airport overnight to catch our 630AM flights. Winnie and myself parted ways (but only for a few days). She wanted to stay in the warmth while I decided to head to the Scandanavian country of Sweden to visit a friend in Stockholm. I landed into Stansted airport in London early in the morning to 14°C but in the sun, felt amazing. Since Stansted is further out of the main city centre and I had another flight to catch in the evening, I stayed put but found a good spot outside of the airport by the bus meeting room by a power outlet. I also found a good spot on the hill in the sun.
I was able to charge up all my devices and catch up on backing up photos. When I travel, I always bring my mogics powerbar so I can share the charging with others. During my charging time, I was able to make friends with a man named Vullant. He is an army chef who lives in London and was coming back from Izmir, Turkey from visiting his mother.
Having plenty of time and the weather cooperating at 22°C, I took back to the hill to catch the rays before I had to go through security.
Ryanair is the cheap budget airline but it can afford to be because it doesn’t fly right into the city centre’s. During my evening flight, luckily I took out my earbuds earlier near the end of the flight as I made friends with the girl beside me – Jamila. She is originally from Holland but lives in London. She was travelling to Stockholm to attend a family wedding.
She was even kind enough to offer me a ride into the city centre however timing wise, her cousin was running late and the bus I originally booked was more feasible. Coming out of the airport, the weather was drastically different from what I had experience so far into the trip at 5°C.
I took the Flygbussarna from Skavsta to the city centre. It took 1.5-2 hours but at least the bus has outlets and USB plugs. I got off the bus around midnight to 2°C but briskly walked to Centralstation and was able to get a glimpse of 2 of the metro stations. I purchased the 72-hour metro card pass for unlimited travel on their transit system.
Through my experience with the travel experiment Yuujou, I was able to connect with what I call the Yuujou 25 family (my digital family from around the world). And in Stockholm, I finally got to meet Isabelle in person finally! (She hosted me during my short stay in Stockholm).
To start our day right, we stopped by Ha Coffee Bar for breakfast. I got the Hacienda Acai bowl and picked up locally roasted coffee beans.
After breakfast, we drove to the west shore to take in the wonders of Waimea Canyon State Park. We made it to all the lookout points and past many trails that would be ideal if we had more time. We also drove through Koke’e Statepark which is attached to Waimea Canyon State Park. You can camp in these areas with loads of trails to take. Waimea Canynon State Park brings you up to an elevation of 3600FT.
Many hikes that I would have liked to do in Waimea/Koke’e Park:
We finished our drive up and unfortunately the last 2 lookouts were for the most part covered in cloud coverage so we couldn’t see the Na Pali Coast from there but we were able to see into the canyon.
We drove about 30 minutes back to Kekaha to catch our Na Pali Coast boat tour with Na Pali Experience. We booked the 2-7PM sunset boat tour of the Na Pali Coast for $179USD. We had Captain John lead us plus a family of 3 on this 5-hour adventure down the coast. For those who aren’t the best with motion on waters, bring medication for it. I did not and apparently couldn’t handle the motion. To be fair, we came from a 3600FT elevation and the pressure from the elevation change was already messing with my head.
Take everything that they recommend you take including a long sleeve or something to keep you warm during the ride in and out. When you are on the boat, it takes about 45 minutes from where you board at the Kikia’ola draft boat harbour past the military base before appearing around the right corner of the Na Pali coast. The cloud coverage was pretty much over our ride. We saw the spots where Mary J Blige and many others have filmed music videos and movies.
The skies might’ve been dark but the waters gave us appearances of dolphins and turtles. Our sea captain also navigated us into some caves like a pro. We had a little bit of time to also snorkel in the waters. Being in the water was my safe haven for this 5 hour tour – bobbing in the water with a life jacket felt like bliss for me and my body that was suffering motion sickness. We hopped back on the boat after about 30 minutes in the water to a nice treat of freshly cut fruit and other little snacks before heading back to land. The ride back was bumpy and cold – a dry long sleeve or wrapping a towel is a good choice.
We learned that Kauai is slowly deteriorating. The whole island is actually a pancake but because it is so lush and tropical and tons of water falls, the water needs to find or make ways to drain back into the ocean. With that being said, all the ridges that are seen on this island are places where water flows out.
It felt so great to be back on land. We started our drive back from Kekaha to Kapa’a with Gypsy Guide on. It led us to try the most famous Saimin spot on the island – Hamura Saimin. You seat yourself around the W shaped counter or the big table. I got the small saimin and a chicken skewer. They are also known for their Lilikoi Chiffon Pie.
I really wish I went through with booking the helicopter tour over the island but I guess I will have to come back and do it. These were the helicopter companies I looked into and are highly rated. Helicopter tour gives you a new perspective of the island that many miss and wouldn’t be able to see from the ground or waters especially a view of Waialeale – Weeping Walls. Kauai also has the 2nd wettest place in the world called Waialeale – The Weeping Walls. The wettest place in the world is in India.
On facebook Market – You can post that you are interested in doing the Waialeale – Weeping Walls hike and hopefully a local will respond to take you OR you can look for a guy named Mark Woogie Kracht on Facebook – apparently he is a local who has done that hike multiple times and offers to take people.
Princeville – Hanalei
We had breakfast at Java Kai. The bright teal just draws you in. I ordered The Beetnik $9USD (toasty bagel with cream cheese, housemade pesto, local beets, & sprouts) and a Golden Sunrise shake (turmeric, dates, coconut milk). The food and drink were incredibly delicious. The coffee shop is also attached to a cute boutique called Shipwreck Kauai.
Our first stop after breakfast was Kīlauea Lighthouse – $5 – It’s just a lighthouse really but the money goes towards a good cause. If you don’t care to help a good cause of preserving land and refuge for wildlife – SKIP THIS IF YOU DON’T CARE TO HELP OUT. There is a little information house on the property to the left side of the lighthouse. Before we continued our trip to the North shore, we stopped by a fruit stand. There are a bunch of fruit stands around the islands which are not manned with a person but its an honest system where you take what you want and put money into the box that you think is fair.
We made our way to Hanalei Bay Beach and found the beach courts. We asked the lifeguard to borrow their ball. We peppered for a few hours. We got food in Hanalei and took in the quaint little town. I grabbed a chicken katsu mini from L&L.
We tried to make our way to Queens Bath but there are only 8 parking spots in a very posh neighbourhood where you cannot park on the side of the road and only in the designated spots. It is recommended to get to Queen’s Bath really early to claim a parking spot because the closest legal parking is quite a walk away.
Defeated from not finding parking to see the Queen’s Bath, we drove from Hanalei/Princeville to Koloa/Poipu. It was such a beautiful drive through the tall tree tunnel to Koloa. Koloa is a small town that is only a few blocks but is where the workers for the plantations use to reside.
We continued on to the Spouting Horn to watch the power of water currents apply pressure into the caverns and have water burst out of the blowholes.
We continued down the coast heading east to Shipwreck Beach & jumping cliff. The waves at Shipwreck beach are strong and great to catch a quick wave. To the left of the main beach area, you will see the cliffs and possibly someone brave enough to jump off the rocks. We decided to climb up and explore that area. When you get to the top, there is a lot of space and different layers of rock formations. Many people fish from up there. We were only able to witness 1 person jump from the rock but it took him much courage and talking up to jump.
To Poipu Beach – the beach is very populated by tourists. The view was nice with a large parking lot but nothing special.
The sun started setting so we decided to head back towards home and find dinner. We settled with Coconuts – Fish Cafe where I ordered the Local Style Seared Ahi Plate. Walked across the parking lot to Tropical Dream Ice Cream for some Thai Tea Ice Cream.
After all the hiking we had done the previous days, our clothes and shoes weren’t looking the best so we decided to head to Kapa’a Laundromat – open 24/7 to do laundry before we started our travels back home. We met a traveller from Montreal and met some locals who told us the history of Kauai during our laundry adventure. This one gentleman in particular told us how Kauai was never conquered by King Kamehameha so they are their own island before USA. His family owned land on Kauai so he has a different passport to show his is a true native of Kauai. His best suggestion for us was to just meet a nice Hawaiian man and move to the island. Those are fine words or wisdom to live by.
For once, we slept in and “we took it easy” (as Herbie would say). Started off our morning going to Kamehameha Bakery. They are famous for their – poi glazed donuts. I also got a poi haupia donut as well.
In this same plaza, if you really enjoy ube, Ubae is situated. I grabbed a ube crinkle cookie.
The plan for today was to explore the city and take a break from hiking and beaches and explore the city. I’m an avid fan of graffiti and have been following the whole Powwow movement that gathers artists in different cities to create giant art murals around cities. Similar to what Miami has with Wynwood. The place to go for this Powwow Hawaii movement is Lana Lane in Kaka’ako. The Lana Lane Studio is a good starting point which also houses some art exhibits as well. The murals are all different in terms of style and look but definitely brighten the areas and give it more flavour. The area is mainly industrial in terms of car distribution warehouses but it’s like a hidden gem. There are some really cute boutique shops nearby called SALT at Kaka’ako.
Kaka’ako is relatively near Ala Moana Mall. We decided to leave the mall to another day but stopped by Don Quijote. Don Quijote is a major chain in Japan that has a bit of everything and where you stock up on food and souvenirs and other little nicknacks. For lunch, I wanted to take my friends to a local spot called Rainbow Drive-in. Its the typical fast food that Hawaiians love – you can get mixed seafood plates, loco mocos, burgers etc. I got myself a mini loco moco bowl and a salad (because we weren’t really eating greens).
Our plans were very much in the air for the afternoon so we messaged Herbie to see what they were up to for the day and in Herbie style he told us he was “taking it easy”. They went to the zoo earlier in the day but also mentioned that a beach volleyball court is usually set up at Waikiki Beach. We slowly made our way to the beach (word to the wise, Kuhio St is a one way and you need to loop around again if you miss the parking. There is paid parking closest to the beach but there is a lot that is slightly further away which is closer to the zoo where locals park for free). It turns out the beach court is set up sporadically when they feel like it nearby the pier in the middle of the beach where people jump off to boogie board from. It turned out that that day they indeed did not set up a volleyball court. Luckily Herbie and Elvia showed up with Tristan and a volleyball to pepper with for a bit and we did “take it easy” with the Ku’s on Waikiki beach for the afternoon.
We stayed at Waikiki Beach and took in the free Hula show called Kuhio Beach Hula Show that occurs every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, weather-permitting from 6:30pm to 7:30pm (6:00pm to 7:00pm Nov-Dec-Jan), free to the public at the Kūhiō Beach Hula mound on Kalākaua Ave near Uluniu Avenue across from the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī. It was very fitting and ended with the sun setting.
To end the night off, we stopped by the Mall and had dinner in the The Street food Hall. I got the largest bowl of greens I have had in such a long time from Indie Girl. I ordered the Kailua Sunrise bowl – $15.99USD (Baby kale, Quinoa, sunflower butter, roasted purple sweet potato, pomegranate dressing). The best part of this meal was most definitely the salted roasted sweet potato. It took me such a long time to eat it that I was entirely stuffed and the girls finished it off.
4AM wake up call on the 4th of July. The plan was to hike the Lanikai Pillbox but the parking area that I read was the place to park was actually blocked off by the security guard of the country club.
There were signs all over saying no parking so we decided to opt out of the climb up and went straight to Kailua beach to watch the sun rise. After the sun had risen, we got back into the car and stopped by McDonalds before making our way back to the beaches. Originally I wanted to goto Mokes and Bread for breakfast however it being the 4th of July, it wasn’t open. The roads around Kailua & Lanikai beach had signs everywhere saying no parking because of the parade but after looking at it more closely, we realized we could park up until 8AM. Since we had gotten there at 6AM, our day was still early that we parked near entrance 6 for Lanikai beach and stayed for about 30 minutes before continuing with the days itinerary. Down the Southeast coast of Oahu. Our next stop was Makapu’u Lighthouse trail. Super packed with cars everywhere and after 3 rounds of circling, we found a parking spot at the lookout point. We walked over and did the up trail for Makapu’u. I wore sandals/flip flops but shoes would be more comfortable. The path up is rather flat and is a paved trail going all the way up. The last time I was here, we did detour on the trail and at first, we walked towards the little white and red house and took the path to the actual lighthouse (well outside of the fenced government property) and also a few of my friends went down the side to the tide pools. The tide pools from what I recall was a trek to get down to so we opted out of that. I’ve heard great things about the tide pools but not worth it to climb down to eventually have to climb back up especially with my bum knee.
By the time we had finished the trail, it hadn’t even hit 10AM yet and it was turning into a scorcher. We continued down the road to Halona Blowhole and Beach. The blowhole was ok but the waves were so big that the blowhole didn’t compare. To get to the actual beach, you have to climb down some rocks but it’s worth it. The waves come in with a strong current but because of that, it creates the perfect opportunity for people to jump in off the side when the tide is high. Halona Beach was made famous by a 1950’s movie. It is also known as cockroach beach. You can go into the water but be warned that the current is strong because the waves come crashing in and pull out quickly so its not for the faint of heart to go deeper in than you need to and swim in the middle so you don’t get pushed into the rocks on the sides. There is a tunnel on this beach as well but it doesn’t quite lead to anywhere.
After a quick hour at the beach, we turned back down the road and stopped by Sandy’s Beach where they had food and drink trucks. Punchbowl Coffee truck was parked there and my attempt to see Eric from Terrace House was shattered as he wasn’t working. So far, no Terrace House sightings. I did pick up a Kobe style Milk tea $3.50 from Punchbowl truck.
Back on the road we went to our next destination and the final spot on my itinerary – Spitting Cave. The location on the map is correct and it takes you into a residential area (a posh area to say the least). It is on a dead end street and its seems like it led you to the wrong location similar to the Hollywood sign directions for LA. The directions are correct. You will see 2 poles with signs that seem quite inconspicuous and maybe some garbage in front of it but it is indeed the path down. It is a little alleyway that has reddish clay going down between houses. There is a makeshift rock stairway to get through and watch your step as it gets wet. This path leads you to the wonderful rock formation that houses the Spitting Cave. For those not faint of heart, you will find an arrow at the point where you are to jump off the cliff into the mouth of the spitting cave. You need to wait until the tide pulls in to jump and must climb the rock face to get back up. It is called Spitting cave because the formation has an inner cavern that collects the strong waves coming in and pushes it back out with the same amount of force that it spits it back out.
We did a slight detour to Hanauma Bay but with an entry fee of $7.50USD pp we decided to opt out and head back to Waikiki. I’ve been told this place is beautiful to see the national fish and also the view and snorkelling are great but not for us that day especially it being 4th of July and overcrowded. One last stop before heading home was Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas. I picked up the original and Li Hing Mui. $1.25USD ea (no filling). BUT PLEASE DO TRY THE FILLED ONES. The flavours are all great and each month there is a monthly feature. The shop might be small but it is mighty and flavour with its iconic sign outside leading you in with droves of people sitting outside eating their malasadas.
We rested back at the Airbnb before attempting to have Marukame Udon for late lunch/early dinner. Since it was an odd time (4PM) the line was short and we finally got to taste what everyone was raving about. There usually is a line up outside and the place is open from 7AM-10PM. I ordered the Nikutama Udon – Regular $6.25USD. You can also choose to add on tempura options and drinks as well for a few dollars. The line is long because they make the noodles fresh in house and you have to wait for them to cook while also waiting for the people to get their food, eat and leave. The actual restaurant seems to look like a food court style seating area. The turnover is rather quick though. For the quality and price, it is no wonder this place is always packed.
After dinner, we grabbed Matcha Cafe Maiko – I got the matcha soft serve with hojicha powder $5.50USD + $0.50USD for the powder. After our delicious meal, we walked around our area and did a bit of shopping. I wanted to check out a cute little coffeeshop/boutique called Olive & Oliver at the SurfJack Hotel. We stopped by other little cute shops before walking a bit to Waikiki Beach. Being 4th of July, we had messaged Herbie & Elvia to see what they were up to and arranged to meet to watch fireworks at the beach. The fireworks were ok but I think we also situated ourselves far away from the firing point. The beach was super crowded and we didn’t get that far in but we took in the fireworks. Connor was on my shoulders but didn’t seem too impressed with them and wanted down off my shoulder and immediately went into his stroller and went to sleep. If you do want to experience fireworks in Waikiki – 4th of July or every Friday, you need to goto the West side of the beaches closer to the Hilton.
We finished off the night back at the Mall and getting Magnolia Ice Cream. I got the single scoop of Macapuno Ube (with Coconut). It was a good idea at the time but a single scoop was just too much for me that night.
After a late night coming in, we slept in a bit and decided to take out 1 beach visit from our itinerary. Our plan was to travel to the North shore for beaches and food. We drove to the very top to Ted’s Bakery for breakfast and their famous Haupia Pie. I ordered the Loco Moco mini $8.87USD which was still large for my standards.
Our first beach that we went to was Sunset beach. Parking spots are on the side of the road. We hung out in the water and on the beach for awhile until the rain came down. The rain kept going in and out that day.
After the rain fall became too steady at Sunset Beach, we hopped back in the car and went back down the road a bit to Foodland to grab food and luckily the Coffee Bean had my favourite – Bubbies – Ice Cream Mochi. Across the road was Pūpūkea Beach Park – Shark’s Cove. We didn’t end up staying in this area but it is a mention worthy view to see.
I had visited Waimea Beach in my previous visit to Oahu but we decided to skip it as there were droves of people there and parking looked full. Waimea is known for their jump rock which you can view on the drive to and from North shore and south to Waikiki. Our next stop was Laniakea Beach. Laniakea Beach is the beach in which you need to park on the inner side of the road and cross traffic to get to the beach. It is also known for turtles. We saw one. The traffic was incredibly built up around this area and finding parking was difficult. Also, be warned that the spots also lower from the main road and there is a good chance you will scratch the bottom of your rental car depending on the spot. It also started to rain again as we made this pitstop so our stay wasn’t long. Our drive to Haleiwa gave us views of full rainbows.
Haleiwa is such a cute little town that has everything you need but I mainly know it for the food spots. In Hawaiian culture, w’s are pronounced as v’s so Haleiwa is pronounced ha-leh-ee-vah. Our first stop was to the famous shrimp truck called Giovanni’s Shrimp truck. NOTE: This is the second location – the Northeast shore location is much better and less crowded. There is a parking lot but it does get crowded. Giovanni’s is only opened to a certain time so we made sure that would be our first stop. Renee & Lulu ordered and we waited for about 20-30 minutes. There are plenty of picnic tables to eat at but we took it to go and onward to our next feat – the line for Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice. This is the same location as previous but they have done a big remodel. The line was long but well worth it as I ordered a small for $3USD (3 flavours) lilikoi, pineapple and yuzu with the addition of mochi for $1. The yuzu was my favourite.
We had passed the Dole Plantation on our drive up to the North shore and thought maybe we had time to stop by the gift shop on the way back to get pineapple soft serve however they close at 530PM and we were in line at Giovanni’s around that time. We drove back to Waikiki and walked over to the International Centre and went to the Marketplace – Mitsuwaya to grab some food. I ordered from MODO – mochi donuts. I picked up 3 flavours and they are little balls of mochi really that attach to one another and easy to pull apart to eat. Rather light in doughiness and not too intense flavouring. Strawberry and the Earl Grey were my favourites. We ended up going downstairs to The Street Food Hall for dinner. I ordered the Kailua Sunrise bowl (Baby kale, Quinoa, sunflower butter, roasted purple sweet potato, pomegranate dressing) $14.99USD from Indie Girl and I have to say I was defeated by a bowl of greens and salted sweet potato.
My leg had been in pain and swollen (no resting really) and seemed to have gotten worse as the trip went on. Renee who is a chiro had been working on my leg during the trip and in the span of the first 3-4 days, I had developed jumpers knee and possibly meniscus irritation. I had to drop by Longs Drugs to pick up a patella band and athletic tape as well as a ice pack. (NOTE: When I returned to Toronto, my Chiro gave me a full diagnosis and the knee pain I was experiencing was from overcompensation from over pronation trying to avoid pain as a walked. What this really meant was my alignment was way off causing my knee to have pains from not walking properly with my knee rotated inwards as I walked to avoid pain and messing up my alignment.
For those Terrace House fans, i stopped by 88tees in hopes I would see Avian from Terrace House. I first started at the 88tees on Kuhio but her swimwear line ILA swim was at the other location on the main strip that you have to go up the stairwell to get to. Alas, she wasn’t there. After checking social media, I found out that majority of the people from Terrace House Aloha State were together in Japan. Not meant to be. I also loosely was trying to see if I could spot some Terrace House people when I was in Japan but they were vice versa and in Hawaii during the time I was in Japan.
Our second full day in Maui, we tackled Iao Valley (opens 7AM-6PM) for our first hike of the day. $5USD for parking. After we parked, a gentleman came up to us and started talking to us as he had just finished his hike for the morning. He mentioned to us about the trail at the top of the hill behind the hut closest to the needle. Fun fact, the needle is taller than the Eiffel Tower. There is a sign that says do not pass but that is where you continue past and start your way going up. The path was relatively dry (until you get higher up – also if it hasn’t been raining) and it is narrow in certain spots with low hanging branches and some prickly twigs. There are sections of elevation and some downhill. I’m unsure of how long it took us to climb but the hike is well worth it for that view. You definitely travel away from the needle but you travel inward towards a lookout point that is in the centre of the valley. There are other trails that you can take to get down but for us, we took the same way we came up from. Not sure if it was timing or not, but we only interacted with another group of 3-4 at the top and maybe one other group on our way up and down so it’s a hidden little gem for those who want to take on the hike.
After that view, there was no need for us to venture down to the river so we continued on into town. We found ourselves at a coffee shop called Wailuku Coffee Company. I love to support locally sourced and made product when I travel so this place was perfect. I follow Roxy Surfer and model Kelia Moniz who had recently posted about this all natural organic suncream which was locally made in Hawaii by Kuleana Sun Protection and this coffee shop was selling them – small tin $12USD and 2.5OZ for $20USD. I also picked up a bag of fresh local roasted coffee beans for my father. They also have a fun staff who has good taste in music.
Originally, I wanted to goto Sam Sato’s for lunch however it was closed that day, so we ended up going to McDonalds. Especially in the states, I love getting 20 McNuggets because it’s so much cheaper than buying it in Canada and also exclusive to the islands – taro pie. The pie is so good!
After lunch, we drove an hour to Haleakalā National Park. You will see the sign for the road that leads you up to Haleakala and just continue to take this road. There are no lights on this road and at certain points, it hits residential. We went from 2000 feet to 10000 feet and along with that the temperature dropped a significant 20 degrees the further we went up. Luckily we have the annual national park pass. The road up has markers for 1000 feet elevations and as you get higher, you literally are driving in the clouds and then above the clouds. The roads are not as narrow and bendy as the Road to Hana but surely it is still a trek up. There is a sign that marks the last gas station before starting the trek up. We first stopped at the visitor center where we asked the ranger what ideally we should hike as we arrived to that visitor site at 230PM. She recommended we drive up to the last trail before the summit and try to hike as much as we could before making our way to the summit for sunset. Sunset was called for 715PM. We parked at the last trail before the summit and the view is beautiful. The crater looks out of this world. We mistakenly took the path that led you up the hill to a lookout point and made our own path down to the right trail (do not do this – stick to the paths).
Up that high, with the sun beaming, it makes it incredibly hot but once that sun starts to hide behind clouds, the temperature dips. Make sure to layer and bring clothing to keep warm. Wind makes it even chillier, so remember even though you are in Hawaii with average of 30 degrees C + humidity, 10023ft high will significantly be colder.
We walked the trail down into the crater and with the angle of the trails, the momentum just easily takes you down the trail. We made it to a certain point that overlooks the crater which a trail that keeps dipping lower but we decided to turn back to find a good parking spot up at the top of the summit. The hike back up was more difficult. Definitely recommend walking in zigzags to alleviate pain on the legs and work other muscles. We made it back to our car and followed the path up to the top. There is an observatory area that overlooks the crater where you can stay warm and where many would watch the sunrise from, However, for us, the sun sets on the opposite side of where the observatory is located. Being 10023ft up, the winds are strong and the temperature drops. We found the perfect spot for sunset. Along the top ridge overlooking the island below, there are lava rocks that jolt out on an angle that looks like a cave – that is where we planted ourselves. You should also bring something to sit on or grab one of the larger rocks to create a seat as you watch the magic of the sun setting and the changing formation of clouds dance which form shapes and figures. We claimed our spot in our “caves” rather early (around 6PM) and watched as everything shifted.
Once 7PM hit, everything went fast and the wonderful colours that appeared were pretty indescribable and I’m not sure if the photos will do it justice. Once that sun fully dipped, we bolted back to the car and drove back down. Luckily the roads here are lined with those reflectors on the ground. My original plan was to stay for sunset and then star gaze but we were chilled to the bone. Our GPS took us the back root to get back to our Airbnb in Kihei. We arrived back to the main level of the island and the temperature shift changed drastically 20 degrees. We peeled off our layers and back into shorts and tank tops.
Finished off our night eating dinner at Paia Fish Market – South Kihei. I got the Ahi burger with fries and an Maui Brewing Pineapple Mana Wheat beer $18USD. You order inside but you seat yourself and they will bring the food to you.