travel tips

my 3 favorites from kauai

Kauai, man. It was everything I had hoped it would be - easily one of the most extraordinarily beautiful places I've been yet. Although I only spent three full days on the island, I felt like I squeezed in the right amount of exploring. Here are my three most memorable from Kauai...

1. acai bowls

Wherever you are in Hawaii, no matter what island, make sure to do some research on the best local spots to experience this sweet, fruity deliciousness. My first objective after hopping off the plane at the Lihue Airport was to find a breakfast place that makes a mean AB, and oh man did I score. If you're ever on the island, stop by the Hippie Cafe / Caffe Coco and get a bowl - you will not be disappointed. This adorable little restaurant and cafe has a really special, homey atmosphere and is the perfect spot to post up to do some reading and writing - which is exactly what I did. Although they are a vegan spot, you definitely don't have to be a vegan to appreciate the great food - I'm the essentially the exact opposite of vegan and I loved it.

acai bowl from hippie cafe / caffe coco

acai bowl from hippie cafe / caffe coco

2. waimea canyon state park

Whether you spend some time hiking in this beauty of a state park or you simply drive to the view points for just that - the views - make sure you stop here. According to Google, the Waimea Canyon is considered the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. There are tons of great trails to explore, so I'd say carve out a full day for adventures.

3. na pali coast

Before I even knew where or what Kauai is, I had already fallen in love with the Na Pali coast. I had a seen a picture on Instagram, of course, and instantly added it to the bucket list. This couldn't have been more than six months ago - it's crazy how things fall into place, isn't it? I digress... I decided to see Na Pali by boat, but you can also go by kayak, helicopter, or by hiking - but no driving! I decided to go the touristy route and booked a day trip with Holo Holo Charters. We were lucky enough to see whales, dophins, manta rays, and even sea turtles, all while soaking in the beauty of the NPC. It was a pretty special.

Despite being a small island, there's a seemingly endless amount of things to do on Kauai. I went in knowing I wouldn't have enough time to see it all, so I picked the top few things I wanted to do and made it happen. The only thing I wish I would have been able to do while on the island was make the 11 mile hike to Kalalau Beach. I guess I'll just have to come back!

Friends who have been to Kauai, what are your most memorable from the island?

Stay tuned for a very belated post on my time in Honolulu and around Oahu, and my Maui adventure. Coming soon! Cheers.

milford sound

The narrow, winding road from Queenstown, to Te Anau, to Milford Sound (MS) is a stunner. If you’re car-less like yours truly, the bus is a great way to experience it. Your bus driver is a built-in tour guide, and you’ll get the chance to hop off and take some pictures at a few points along the way. #tourist

I chose to stay at the Milford Sound Lodge for the weekend – the only accommodation in the remote area – where you can bring a campervan, stay in the bunks or book private rooms. Being the backpacker on a budget that I am, I chose the bunks. The lodge has a total summer camp kind of vibe – wooden, creaky bunk beds and shower stalls in the bathrooms – I highly recommend a pair of flip-flops.

I arrived at about 2pm on Friday and it was raining – which I would soon learn is pretty classic for MS – so I spent the afternoon reading in the lounge and planning yoga classes. There is no cell service in the area and the Wi-Fi does not come cheap – I paid $50 for 250 MB. Mhmmm. #citygirlproblems

After a couple hours, I called it an early night to rest up for the next day’s activities – or at least I tried to. Let me tell you, when you’re in a room with 11 other people, the odds of you having a snorer are much higher than the odds of not having one – that's the most important thing hostel living has taught me. Naturally, the guy in the bunk directly above me was sawing logs like he was on a mission to tear down every tree from New Zealand to Canada, my lord. I think it took me 4 hours to fall asleep. Noted: invest in a pair of earplugs. Stat. Side note: there were 2 outlets (4 plugins) for a room of 12 people. You do the math. Luckily, the odds were ever in my favor and I got there first and was able to lay claim on one of the plugins. Chyeah.

When Saturday morning rolled around, it was still raining. I woke up early to go and cancel my kayak adventure, but the guy at the reception desk somehow convinced me to go. It rained the entire 3 hours. Can you picture ME paddling around in the rain for hours? I’m sure it was a sight to see. The rain had two gears that day: raining heavily and pouring. Admittedly I was pretty miserable, but I had a special friend’s voice on repeat in my head, “You’ve just got to look on the positive side of things.” So look on the positive side I did – I was in freaking Milford Sound, in New Zealand, kayaking. I’m a pretty lucky lady. In the end, I was really glad I did it - what an experience.

(The next three photos were taken with my phone/it was raining so they're not the best quality.)

After getting back to the lodge, I spent another couple of hours in the common room reading, writing and chatting with other travelers. I met a few Canadians, some Germans, and even another girl from Minnesota. After dinner, the sun finally decided to come out to play – the perfect way to wrap up a rainy weekend. Thank you sweet baby Jesus! So I grabbed my camera, slipped on my sneakers and went for a walk around town before the sun set.

If you’re in New Zealand, make sure that Milford Sound is on your list. It’s pretty extraordinary. And make sure you take a couple days to stay at the lodge and hopefully catch one day of sun – it’s beautiful in the rain with all of the shadows, waterfalls and whatnot, but there’s nothing like the fiords in the sun with the backdrop of bright, blue skies. This way you can explore MS on your own terms, not just on the deck of a cruise ship like most people tend to do.

Based on my personal experience, here are some tips for traveling Milford Sound:

  • Like I said, no cellphone service. So grab your Sudoku, a deck of cards, and a big fat book.
  • Book a night or two at the Milford Lodge – the only accommodation in the area – and book early because it fills up quite quickly, at least in the warmer months
    1. If you’re on a budget, buy groceries in Te Anau or elsewhere before heading down. There are no grocery or convenient stores. There is however a café that is open all day that serves snacks, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and coffee and bevies.
    2.  Wi-Fi costs $50 NZD per 250 MB – you can buy a smaller amount if you so choose. Sorry, but Netflix won’t be tucking you in during your stay.
    3. Don’t forget your flip-flops (for the shower) and earplugs (if you're bunking it).
    4. If you choose kayaking and it’s pouring rain (which it tends to do about 200 days out of the year), suck it up and paddle. You’ll be happy you did it – if not during, you will be after once you’ve had a hot shower and dried off. Pinky promise.
  • Weather permitting, get the F outside! Cruises and tours aren’t the only way to experience Milford Sound. You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy it. There are trails within walking distance of the lodge and plenty more within a short drive. Nature is calling, so answer.
  • Be prepared for any kind of weather – bring layers, and stay open-minded. Enjoy the chance to unplug and experience such a wondrous place. You could have bright blue skies, but you might also get dumped on from dawn until dusk. Either way, it’s well worth the trip.