Kauai

If I ever move away from Florida theres a 100% chance it’s because I’m moving to a Hawaiian island. After visiting maui last spring I knew I had to go back to see another island, and Kauai has always been my #1 pick. It’s the least developed of all the islands, and if you’re outdoorsy, probably the best island to go hiking/exploring on from everything I’ve heard. While none of the cool hikes we did were even remotely “easy”, they were all 100% worth the view… even if at the time we were dying on our 6th mile or slipping down waterfalls we didn’t think so (right Elizabeth?).

My friends and I visited Kauai at the beginning of September, when the flights looked most empty considering we all flew standby. This was a good time to visit because we were able to easily get on a flight and the island wasn’t swarming with tourists, but the weather was still AMAZING.

First things first, we arrived to Kauai and rented a car (if you can afford it I’d recommend getting an SUV or a jeep, but we opted for a midsize car (cause we’re broke just-out-of-college graduates) and still managed to get around). We stayed at a bungalow in Poipu which we decided was pretty central to everything we wanted to do, and we didn’t want to keep moving hotels while we were there for only 5 days. We found out bungalow on air b&b and got a great deal all things considering. Our place could have easily slept 10 people but there was only 3 of us and it was still pretty cheap, so with a big group it would’ve been even cheaper and still comfortable.

On our first day we basically spent most the day settling into our place and renting snorkeling gear, grabbing lunch, etc. Our bungalow was next to a super cute shopping plaza with a ton of restaurants, boutiques and stores so that’s where we decided to eat first. If you love sushi or Poke’, Dolphin Fish Market at The Shops at Kukui’ula is the place to go. I got the Avo Bowl and it was soooo good. After lunch we rented snorkel gear nearby for about $2 a day for each set (super cheap!). We grabbed our things and went over to beach house to snorkel but the water was kind of rough and not as clear as I would’ve expected. We still managed to see a ton of fish though! The two snorkeling spots recommended to us that we visited were Beach house and Whalers cove (Koloa Landing).

Day two we got more adventurous. We drove up to Princeville early in the morning to do a boat tour around the Na’pali coast with Go Blue Adventures. We snorkeled, saw playful dolphins, went into sea caves and learned about the history of Kauai. I feel like I could post endless photos from this boat tour- it took up half our day and was probably the best thing we did on the entire trip.

 

After the boat tour we decided to do the Awa’awapuhi trail because the trailhead was near where the boat dropped us back off at. While this was the easiest trail we did, it was also the longest at just over 6 miles. The way there is easy as it’s mostly downhill- but that meant the hike back was almost entirely uphill. The whole thing takes about 3-5 hours depending on how much time you spend once you get to the view at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another cool hike that everyone suggest we do was the path to Queens Bath. Queens Bath is a series of large tide pool s at the coastal cliffs. At low tide they are protected from the oceans splashing waves (for the most part), and you’re able to swim and jump into the pools to relax.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we were tired of hiking we stopped by Waimea Canyon Lookout, one of the only scenic overlooks that we could actually drive right up to and not have to hike to get to. It honestly just looks like a greener version of the Grand Canyon, its crazy when you’re looking at it to think that you’re on an island in the middle of the pacific.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing I knew I had to do while visiting Hawaii this time around was go to a Luau. I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about them, and after going to one I can see why. I think it really depends which one you attend, the weather, and how far you book it in advance. The luau we went to was at the Hyatt in Kauai only 15 minutes from where we were staying, and it was the only luau we could book on such short notice. Due to the chance of rain they held our luau in a small courtyard in the middle of the hotel. I think if it had been held overlooking the ocean I would’ve enjoyed it more. While the food and drinks were great and the show was cool, the fact that we had paid over $100 each to sit on plastic chairs and tables in the middle of a courtyard was kind of disappointing to us all. While I don’t regret seeing the show, I highly recommend doing a lot of research before picking a luau. The hotel itself was stunning so before the dinner and show we walked around and took some photos

 

 

On our fourth day we decided to check out turtle cove, another snorkeling spot recommended by several people. Its a bit confusing to get there, and you basically have to park and walk around several private condominiums and then down the side of the cliff to get there, but once there you most likely won’t find too many other people. We made the mistake of going during low tide, when it was almost impossible to snorkel because of all the reef barely being covered with water, so we ended up just swimming in the deeper areas and walking around, but the cove was still beautiful.

 

That night we decided to venture over to Polihale state park to watch the sunset. Our boat guide a few days prior had told us it was the best spot to watch the sunset, and it did not disappoint. The road is unpaved getting down to the beach and many people warned us it might be difficult in a car and not an SUV but we managed just fine, we just had to drive extra slow. Once we walked down there were already a few people setting up bonfires and cooking out with friends and family, but it wasn’t too crowded!

 

By the time our last day in Kauai rolled around we were all exhausted, but couldn’t pass up fitting one more adventure in, so we decided to rent kayaks at the Wailua river (near the waterfall we had hiked just a few days earlier).

Of course our kayak adventure wasn’t complete without yet another hike to yet another waterfall, so we parked our kayak and made our way towards one more spot.

 

After we were done kayaking, we headed back to a beach near our air b&b to relax and get some hawaiian shaved ice before we made our way to the airport to head home later that night.

Until next time Kauai!! I’ll be back soon!

Visiting Austria in November

This month, I decided to take advantage of the week off I managed to get the first week of November, and head on over to Austria.

Anyways, I actually didn’t fly direct to Austria because American Airlines doesn’t fly there, so my parents and I flew into Zurich from JFK, rented a car, and drove the 6 hours to a little town near Salzburg. Grundlsee lake might be out in the middle of nowhere, and you probably have never even heard of it, but it sure is beautiful. We stayed at a wellness spa resort here for the week, and ventured out into nearby towns when we could.

Our first day at Grundlsee lake we explored near the hotel, walking around the 10 kilometer like and into the woods that led us to a smaller lake and cute little restaurant. Surprisingly for November, Austria really isn’t as cold as I expected, averaging about 40- 50 degrees the whole time we were here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day two we spent inside at the spa most the day as it was raining outside, only venturing out for a late lunch to a nearby town called Bad Ausee. Again, not much to do while its raining but it was nice to check out a new place and we had a delicious pastry at a small- but busy cafe-bar.

 

On the third day in Austria we decided to make the hour and a half drive over to Salzburg, one of the bigger towns nearby us. We parked at a “Hypo Park” and made our way towards the  Fortress on a hill that overlooks all of Salzburg. On our walk over to the staircase we ran into a lot of cathedrals, horse drawn carriages and plenty of cute cafes. Entry to the fortress was 11 euros per person, and included a few free audio tours if you made your way all the way to the top, along with a museum with a lot of interesting history about Austria in general, and everything that has happened at the fortress. We spent a good 2-3 hours there, and eventually made our way down to the city again to find lunch. I had my mind set on a few lunch spots I had found on pinterest, but we stumbled across this restaurant Zipfer Bierhaus, which had traditional Austrian dishes, and it ended up being amazing. The Zipfer tavern is one of the last ancient taverns of Salzburg, and has housed at one point a famous historian along with Mozarts own sister. A few other places worth visiting in Salzburg include the Mirabellgarten and the street where Mozart lived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day four we ventured on over to Hallstatt, less than 40 minutes away from us at Grundlsee, to explore the world famous salt mines. Over 1/3 of the world’s salt is produced in Austria, with the majority of that being dug up in the world’s oldest salt mine in Hallstatt. The beginning of our tour started with us riding hundreds of feet up a mountain on a cable car to the entrance of the salt mine. The view from the ride was incredible, and it only took about a minute. Once up there they had us all change into these ridiculous looking outfits as not to get our clothes dirty and salty walking through the mine. Our tour guide was super informative and fun and the whole thing lasted about two hours start to finish. For more info on the salt mine check this out. At the end of the tour and on our way out we stopped by the world heritage walk which overlooks the lake and the town of Hallstatt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our last day in Austria we explored two more small towns nearby: St. Wolfgang and Mondsee. We walked around St. Wolfgang and explored the lakeside streets some before stopping to have a bite to eat at a cute waterfront restaurant, that was part of a hotel. After lunch we drove 20 minutes over to Mondsee, to see the St. Michael cathedral where Maria got married in The Sound of Music. It’s funny because much of Salzburg, and it’s surrounding cities have a lot of tourist attractions relating to the movie, but locals told us that most Austrians have never even seen the movie.

That wraps up my trip to Austria! Even though we went in November, when many attractions and hikes are closed to the public, we managed to see a lot and avoid the crowds.

 

Dublin, Ireland & The Wild Atlantic Way

Last week I was able to visit the very green and beautiful Ireland. I was only able to be there for three full days (a 5 day trip including the travel) but we managed to see a good bit Ireland including Dublin, Galway, and much of the west coast!

We flew from Charlotte to Dublin on a Monday afternoon and arrived in Ireland on Tuesday morning super early.  I usually don’t sleep much on airplanes, but with the time difference and our limited days my family and I all did our best to sleep as much as we could on the overnight flight over so that we could start our tour of Dublin as soon as we got there.

 

 

 

We rented a car at the airport, got our bags, and went straight to the Guinness Storehouse to take a tour of Guinness museum, brewery & bars inside. We chose to buy tickets for the regular tour, not the connoisseur tour which cost a little bit more and oversold when we got there. If you do plan on doing the connoisseur tour you do get a lot more out of it but for almost three times the price. For 20 euros (14 in advance if purchased online) we got to do a self guided tour through the storehouse, learned to pour our own perfect glass of Guinness, did a short tasting class on how to properly taste beer, and drank our very own pint of Guinness in the gravity bar on the top level of the storehouse. If you have time to kill in Dublin, I definitely recommend checking out the storehouse for a few hours (especially on a rainy day).

 

After spending about 3 hours at the storehouse my family and I started to feel extremely jet lagged and tired since we only slept about 4 hours max on the plane, so we decided to jump on one of the “hop on hop off” busses to take a tour through the city. Conveniently the storehouse is one of the stops, so when we walked outside there was multiple different busses we could catch. If I remember correctly it was about 15 euros for the day per person. Our bus driver happened to be hilarious and as we passed each stop not only gave us a lot of background and history but made us laugh along the way too. We only got off the bus about three times because we were so tired, but one of my favorites was a cathedral we saw that looked like a castle.

 

At around 6pm we decided to have dinner inside a random pub. Guinness and fish & chips were my go to, and did not disappoint. After dinner we walked back to the car, got a coffee and made our way to the hotel.

Since we planned on visiting the west coast of Ireland for our next two days we decided not to stay in Dublin, but instead drive a little bit closer to the west side. The town we stayed in, Athlone, pretty much in direct center of Ireland. It was small but the Hilton we were at was connected to a huge mall with a lot of stores so if you did have some time to kill you have something to do. We were exhausted so we went to bed so we could get a fairly early start again the next morning.

In the morning we took the Wild Atlantic way down to the cliffs of moher. Entrance per per person was 6 euros and there’s plenty of parking right across the street. It looked sunny when we parked so we figured we’d take our chances and start our hike with no umbrella, rain jacket or boots. I highly advise against this! Always bring rain gear no matter how sunny it looks… In the middle of our hike a rogue rainstorm found us and completely drenched and ruined our clothes. We didn’t even end up going back after it stopped because we then were so cold. The cliffs were beautiful but it was a shame we couldn’t walk all the way to the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food inside the cafe was amazing and very reasonably priced, also there’s not too much nearby so if you didn’t eat before going I’d recommend trying something there! I tried the goat cheese quiche.

For the rest of the day we continued along the Wild Atlantic Way towards Galway, a cute little town directly west of Dublin, on the opposite coastline. We actually didn’t have any plans on where to stay this night, so as we arrived in Galway I searched hotels in the area, and most of them were booked. Lucky for us we ended up finding THE CUTEST bed and breakfast, within 5 minutes walking distance of the heart of Galway. Saint Martins only cost us about 30 euros per person if I remember correctly and our host Mary was AMAZING and so sweet, even making us a traditional Irish breakfast when we woke up. Yum! She doesn’t book in advance much- but here’s a link to lonely planet who wrote a quick review on her.

 

 

On our last full day in Ireland we spent the morning eating breakfast at Saint Martins and then walked over to Eyre Square,
where a lot of the pubs, restaurants, shops and bars are located. Even with the rain it was fun walking around this area and exploring the town. Once we’d seen all we needed to see we made our way again along the Wild Atlantic Way, exploring even more of the west coast.

 

 

When night fell, we made our way back towards Athlone where we stayed before we caught our flight home early the next morning. I hope you find Ireland as beautiful as we did! Cheers!