Australia is one of the world’s most fascinating countries, and is a must for any travelers looking for new destinations to explore for the first time. In this guide we have selected five of the best spots and attractions for any first time traveler to visit whilst in this great country.
Sydney Opera House
Probably Australia’s most iconic building, this performing arts center majestically overlooks the waterfront at Sydney Harbour, which is itself an impressive sight. The distinctive peaked roof is the work of Danish architect Jørn Utzon and was formally opened in 1973.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the venue hosts not only opera but also a wide range of other cultural events and has hosted artists and speakers as diverse as Paul Robeson, Thin Lizzy, Nelson Mandela, Michael Bublé and Pope John Paul II.
To find out what’s on there during your visit, or to discover more about this historic building, visit their website here.
Also sometimes known as Ayers Rock, this impressive sandstone monolith lies in remote central Australia, but visitors will find its magnificent stature worth the journey. At 348m tall and with a total circumference of 9.4km, this giant rock formation is thought to have been formed by a build-up of sand deposits approximately more than 500 million years ago.
The rock is of great spiritual importance to many of the local Aboriginal communities who live around it, and features as a central part of many Aboriginal myths and legends. Visitors will also notice that the rock changes color throughout the day, glowing red at dawn and sunset.
Great Ocean Road
Australia is a huge country and to get around and see the sights, it is often necessary to take a road trip. Whilst long drives can sometimes be arduous, there is one in Australia which promises to be a great experience. The Great Ocean Road is a listed 243km highway running from Torquay to Allansford in the state of Victoria. The route has become so famous because it takes in some of the country’s most stunning scenery. Sights available on this beautiful route include the imposing London Arch and Twelve Apostles rock formations, as well as the rugged cliff formations of the Victoria coast.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, and is comprised of nearly three thousand individual reefs. Located in the Coral Sea off the Queensland coast, the reef can be seen from space and is often held as one of the greatest natural wonders in the world.
The reef, itself a living creature, is home to a vast array of wildlife, from sea turtles to clownfish, sea snakes to starfish. Because of the clear water conditions, it is very popular with scuba divers as visitors can get right up close to some of the most amazing wildlife on the planet.
Gold Coast If you love to surf, then the Gold Coast is the place for you. Home to sumptuous golden beaches and a luxury high-rise skyline, this resort on Australia’s East coast offers something for everyone, which is why it hosts around 10 million tourists each year. Originally made popular by its prime surfing conditions, the area is now also known for its nightlife, theme parks and much, much more.
Staying Safe Australia is a big country, and whilst it is a must-see for any would-be traveller, it is also important to stay safe and well informed whilst visiting. For more guides, as well as travel advice and other useful information, head over to 1Cover to find out more.
This post was published in collaboration with 1Cover.
Tahiti is a place that is synonymous with desktop backgrounds and bucket lists. When my partner and I were deciding where to take a trip last fall, we settled on Tahiti and its islands for its exotic nature and proximity to Hawaii. Plus, who WOULDN’T want to travel to a remote island chain in the South Pacific? We were ready to go!
Our trip spanned 7 days, and we split our time between Tahiti (the largest island in French Polynesia), and Moorea, a less-inhabited, more unspoiled island just a ferry ride away from Tahiti.
French Polynesia is breathtakingly beautiful and worthy of all those desktop backgrounds you’ve ever lusted over. When you first land in this far-away island chain, you’ll certainly feel like you’ve landed in another world. The air is warm and dank. The smell is sweet and fragrant. And upon landing at Papeete airport, you’ll be greeted by a live Tahitian band playing island music in a foreign tongue, dressed vibrantly, welcoming you to the vacation you’ve always dreamed about and certainly deserve.
Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia and the main business district. It’s worth mentioning that Tahiti is just one island, and French Polynesia is made up of 118 islands and atolls. Some of the most famous islands in French Polynesia include Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa.
Since the first leg of our trip was spent on Tahiti, let me recount the best things to do in Tahiti:
Rent a car Renting a car is essential during your trip to Tahiti. It’s the preferred way to get around if you want to explore. Rental cars are much cheaper if you rent a manual transmission. If you do rent an automatic, be sure to get one ahead of time and double and triple check your reservation. We witnessed one poor couple ordering an automatic car at the car rental agency at the airport and they had to pay hundreds more for their last minute rental.
Stock up on some local island goodies The night we landed, we went straight to our Airbnb in Papeete. We worried about not having an exact address to follow, and most directions in Tahiti are given by landmark or cross street. Luckily, we found our apartment and our host was gracious enough to put some local beer in the fridge. Score!
The next morning, Sunday, famished, we headed into town looking for a bite to eat. It’s critical to understand that in Tahiti things close sometimes all day or for several hours during the afternoon. Trying to find somewhere to eat on a Sunday morning was difficult. We resigned to McDonald’s, which was reliable and filled us up before embarking on our road trip. The staff spoke English and the price was right! After that, we stopped at the gas station for some famous baguette, cheese and charcuterie for the road.
Visit Point Venus There’s a lot of speculation about whether or not it’s beast to traverse the island going east or west from Papeete. We opted to head east, and one of our first stops was Point Venus, a beach park where Captain Cook landed in 1769 and established an observatory.
Today, Venus Point is a black sand beach park home to picnic tables, concessions and an overall chill vibe. We enjoyed sprawling out on the black sand beach and watching beach-goers swim and soak up the sun. (Click image for full size)
Explore side-of-the-road waterfalls Living in Hawaii, we see our fair share of waterfalls, but getting to them involves a forest hike of a mile or two. The best thing about Tahiti is that many of the waterfalls are either at or just near the side of the road. There’s no arduous hike, just payoff views all the way.
Rounding our way around Tahiti Iti (the upper portion of Tahiti island), we were spoiled with gorgeous twin falls. We saw a local family there praying, and after they left, we had the area to ourselves!
Enjoy the most famous surf break in Tahiti One of the most famous surf breaks in the world is called Teahupo’o located in Tahiti Nui on Tahiti’s southeastern shore. Unlike Hawaii, the wave breaks far off-shore, around a 15 minute paddle out, or a boat ride away for spectators.
Surfers have been flocking to Tahiti to surf this giant wave, which can reach upwards of 25 feet, and call it the “heaviest wave in the world.” In fact, Teahupo’o translates to “to sever the head” or “place of skulls” in English. It’s one of the world’s most dangerous waves, and it’s certainly on every surfer’s to do list!
Ehren and I enjoyed spectating from the shore. The beach park has a lazy, chill vibe, and there’s plenty of gorgeous foliage to enjoy in between watching the waves break. (Click image for full size)
Dine water side One of our guidebooks recommended we eat at a restaurant called La Plage de Maui (Maui’s Beach). This was one of the highlights of our stay in Tahiti! It’s about 40 minutes south of Papeete, but dining next to a crystal clear Lagoon makes this worth the trip!
Enter a French-speaking, true toes-in-the-sand experience. Our table was right next to the water where we observed coral reef, fish and even some snorkelers! Our table was decked out with tropical flowers and handmade table numbers on rocks. The thatched roof rustled above our head as we took in the sights and smells of our oceanside table.
In Tahiti, it’s common to feed food scraps to the sea life. In fact, we observed the chef coming out from the kitchen to throw diners’ leftovers to the fish more than once! I suppose it keeps the fish coming around and the diners happy. We even saw a giant eel swim up to our table during our stay, which we took as a good omen, as Ehren’s aumakua (Hawaiian family god) is an eel.
Visit ancient Marae A marae is an ancient Polynesian temple or meeting place, and Marae Arahurahu on Tahiti is the only one that has been completely restored in all of Polynesia.
Stone pens near the entrance used to house pigs that would later be sacrificed to the gods. The celebrated tiki statue is apparent, as well as a rectangular marae with various stones and a raised altar. This site was host to many gatherings, ceremonies, weddings and other special occasions. According to legend, the Marae even changed names after a battle between warriors!
Go pearl shopping at Papeete Market Walk into Papeete Market and your senses go wild with the sprawling bazaar offering everything from fresh fruits and veggies, to woven baskets, sarongs and made-to-order food. During our visit, we were treated to live Tahitian dancing.
Papeete Market is a place you can literally run your fingers through a dish of black pearls to take home. Prices range from a few bucks for the ugly/nicked pearls to several thousands for the gorgeous, perfect pearls, mostly found in the shops upstairs. I scored my first pair of real black pearl Tahitian earrings and a gorgeous Tahitian Pearl ring! (The ring was a steal at $20…I wish I had bought more!) (Click image for full size)
Grab lunch from one of the stalls or from somewhere else downtown. If you go on Sunday, be sure to get there between 3 a.m.-9 a.m., otherwise it will be closed.
Tahiti is worthy of any vacationer’s bucket list. Treat yourself to a true taste of the exotic life with a trip to French Polynesia!
Traveling to New Zealand provided ample opportunity to enjoy ethereal landscapes. Part of my draw to visiting the North Island was the geothermal activity present there. After living on Big Island and in Yellowstone National Park, I guess you could say I’m drawn to places with active volcanoes!
New Zealand’s north island is brimming with active volcanic activity! Once we set foot in Rotoura, roughly 3 hours south of Auckland, that old, familiar smell infiltrated our noses: sulfur. Sulfur smells like rotten eggs, and is part of the gasses given off by the volcanic activity in the region.
We decided to visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotoura to get up close and personal with some otherworldly geothermal landscapes. It was a rainy day indeed, but it didn’t stop us from marveling at the region’s clouds of steam, rock formations, waterfalls, and lakes the park is known for.
Here are some photo highlights of the diverse volcanic area:
We were happy to experience the Geothermal Wonderful of Wai-O-Tapu. Next time, we’ll be sure to come back to witness the famous Lady Knox Geyser, whose eruption can reach up to 20 meters!
After 3 years of living on Oahu without a car, something magical happened on Christmas Eve: I got a car!
I didn’t get just any old car. I got a Subaru Forester, my (second) dream car. My first dream car I was lucky enough to get when I was 16 – a VW Beetle. From there, I sold it in 2012 to travel the world extensively. And travel I did.
Now that I’m settled in Honolulu and my credit card debt has been paid down to a balance of $0, it was time for a car hunt.
Behold: My new (used) Subaru Forester – my new adventure-mobile!
While my boyfriend has been gracious enough to take me anywhere my heart desired in his truck, there’s just nothing like the feeling of being behind the wheel of my own car, windows down, music blaring, discovering – and rediscovering – why I love living in Hawaii so much.
The other weekend, I picked up my friend Kaylee for an epic cruise in my new Subaru.
We started the day driving up to do a hike just above Sunset Beach. We picked the Ehukai Pillbox hike for it’s short duration and relatively easy terrain.
There were some patches of the hike that had ropes to hold onto to assist you in moving up and down the mountain with ease, which came in handy, as the terrain was a bit muddy.
After a heart pumping ascension, we made it to the Pillbox! The view was gorgeous.
After our hike, we braved the bad north shore traffic back to Haleiwa town for a bite to eat. Lunch was at Cholo’s, a local Mexican restaurant. We grabbed a table for two outside and enjoyed some cervezas and Mexican cuisine. I ordered the two taco plate with braised beef tacos, rice, and beans. The price was more than fair, and the guacamole on the side was creamy and delicious. Calories well spent!
Looking for a peaceful end to the day, I wanted to take Kaylee somewhere a little more “off-the-beaten” path for sunset. To my surprise, upon arriving to Kaena Point, there were lots of cars, and even tourists! It’s a protected bird sanctuary area, and there’s opportunity to do off-roading – IF you have a county key to the gate, which we didn’t.
Alas, sitting on the beach, enjoying the sun on our skin, and talking story while the waves crashed over the shore was a relaxing end to our adventurous day.
Travel is wonderful, because unlike looking at photographs or hearing someone’s travel tales, actually being there engages all of your senses. You’re able to stand atop a mountain, feeling the breeze across your cheek; you can delight in hearing small village children laughing; you can taste the lusciousness of handcrafted local cuisine.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable things about any trip to somewhere exotic is the eating. Whether or not every single meal is enjoyable, one thing is for sure: every meal will be memorable with all of your senses heightened.
Our recent trip to New Zealand was a foray into exotic cuisine.
Normally, I rely on Yelp in Hawaii to help me find the best places to dine. Unfortunately, Yelp is not reliable or utilized fully in New Zealand.
So how did we get by? Just like any traveler, by asking the locals! We relied on our Airbnb hosts’ recommendations, asked the barefoot hippie bookstore proprietor, and yes, took some chances on some side of the road establishments.
The first day in New Zealand, waking up hungry, we walked to a local cafe recommended by our Airbnb host. A funky, artist-type retreat played host to a very memorable and tasty meal.
The Turkish Eggs are Queenies were a trip around the world in its own right: 2 poached eggs atop baba ganoush, yogurt, hot chili butter, and toasted pide. I enjoyed slathering all of the rich flavors over my bread, pausing only momentarily to enjoy my perfectly brewed hot black – an espresso type coffee.
Fish and Chips at Piha PHA
Piha PHA is a no-frills VFW Hall or Moose Lodge-type restaurant serving up delicious pub food. We both had the fish and chips which were battered and fried to perfection. My boyfriend added on the fried squid which was light and tasty. I washed mine down with a local red ale which was a great complement to the tartar sauce.
By far the best meal we had while in New Zealand was at Corelli’s in the Devonport, a suburb of Auckland. We came here on the recommendation of the barefoot, hippie bookstore proprietor down the street.
Their standout was the rich and creamy Seafood Chowder, which admittedly, was a meal in itself. The chowder was loaded with goodies like shrimp, scallops, squid, clams, and mussels. The New Zealand Cabernet was a great addition to my lamb bangers and mash with onion gravy, as well. We also indulged in their raspberry cheesecake served with a side of cream for dessert.
If there’s one thing New Zealand does well, it’s dairy. On our way from Auckland to Rotoura, we stopped on the side of the road at Kaimai Cheese Company for lunch. The interior of Kaimai Cheese Company had a production factory inside, a small restaurant, and a retail area for customers.
We ordered lunch from the counter and waited for it to be delivered, but in the meantime, I purchased a block of Blue Cheese and some crackers to snack on. The cheese was salty, pungent, and hit the spot as far as Blue Cheese goes. I slathered it all over my bacon and tomato omelet, as well. I loved it so much, I packaged it up and took it with me to eat during meals on the remainder of my trip!
On our Airbnb host’s recommendation, we ventured to the casual, funky Fat Dog in downtown Rotoura. My boyfriend ordered the lamb shanks, which were huge and delicious. Served over a bed of hot mashed potatoes and gravy and fresh veggies, the lamb was so tender, it fell off the bone. The icing on top was enjoying the succulent bone marrow from the shanks afterwards.
You can’t visit New Zealand without sampling some of its world class wines. The north island is brimming with vineyards and tasting rooms, and John Hill Estate was no exception. While many tasting rooms are very commercial in nature, John Hill Estate is tucked in the mountains just southeast of Auckland. This family-run estate was empty when we arrived, giving us prime seating to enjoy unobstructed views of the vineyard and rolling hills.
They offer wine flights for a very reasonable price tag. We ordered their Pinot Gris, Rose, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet. The standout? The Merlot! This was the perfect ending to a wonderful, and unexpected, culinary journey in New Zealand.
Auckland is the most populous city in New Zealand, with nearly 1.5 million people in the metropolitan area. This versatile city lends itself well to various interests: In a short period of time, one can peruse museums, discover world-class shopping and dining, and even explore Auckland’s rugged west coast beaches. Three days in Auckland is a great jumping off point to realize New Zealand’s awesome potential as a stylish and adventurous getaway.
After landing at Auckland International Airport, make sure you hire a vehicle – Auckland and its surrounding areas is best explored by car. This will maximize the time you’re able to spend in the area.
Breakfast is at Queenie’s, a relaxed neighborhood cafe in the Freeman’s Bay district, whose confines are brimming with creativity – from the Pixies playing over the speakers, to the beautiful Aotearoa (New Zealand in Maori) mural on the wall. Order the Prawn Omelet and Turkish Eggs – a flavorful and exotic way to start your morning.
A brisk walk through Victoria Park gives you the chance to digest and watch the local rugby match happening on the grassy knolls.
Spend the afternoon at Auckland War Memorial Museum, a great start to familiarizing yourself with the kiwi way of life. Here you’ll be able to walk into a wharenui, or Maori meeting house, that is intricately carved with Maori faces and inscriptions. You can explore native flora and fauna, including New Zealand’s famous and nocturnal Kiwi bird, art, war canoes, and New Zealand’s military history.
Because gambling is legal in New Zealand, take an Uber to SkyCity Casino. This casino has many of the typical offerings of a casino, from Blackjack and Roulette, but also offers some fun electronic slots and even a high rollers area upstairs. Dining options abound, but the buffet was fully booked when we arrived. Plan ahead.
Across from SkyCity Casino is Federal Delicatessen, a kiwi rendition of the NYC Jewish diner. Americans will quickly recognize the employees’ uniforms as uniquely American – from their soda-jerk like shirts, to the paper deli hats. The name of the game here is Pastrami, which is home made and house smoked. Order their seafood chowder which has pastrami and mussels. I enjoyed a really fabulous glass of Marlborough County Sauvignon Blanc at $14/glass.
Day 1 Tips:
Drivers in New Zealand drive on the left side of the road. Obey all traffic lays, and go slow in those tricky, and surprisingly efficient, roundabouts!
New Zealand restaurants do not deliver your bill to your table. Simple go to the front register to pay. Tipping is not customary. If service is exemplary, a 10% tip is sufficient, left in the tip jar near the register.
Before entering the wharenui, please remove your shoes and show respect while inside.
Ditch the car for inner-city excursions. Parking is extremely expensive, and Ubers are cheap and efficient.
Start your day early, because outdoor adventure awaits exploring the Waitakere National Ranges. Located just 30 minutes from the Central Business District (CBD) in Auckland, the Waitakere Ranges has endless hiking trails, and a host of world-class beaches.
Morning: Begin by a stop at the Arataki Visitor’s Center. Stunning views surround the center and are the payoff for the long, winding, road up. Inside the center, you’ll learn more about native birds and creatures, find a small, well-equipped gift shop, and encounter staff who can point you in the right direction of your next stop.
A theater downstairs shows a 10-minute film of the Waitakere Ranges and impresses upon you the awesomeness of this reserve.
We chose to hike the Mercer Bay Loop coastal hike, about 20 minutes west of the Arataki Visitor’s Center. Park in the lot off Log Race Road and take the loop, 1.4 kilometers, or about 1 mile. Allow for roughly 2 hours to finish the loop (the recommended time is 1 hour, but we took lots of photos along the stunning, sunny coast).
After the hike, drive about 2 more kilometers west to Piha for a late lunch. We opted for the Piha RSA, a members-only club (ask politely to dine in as a guest, and the cheerful bartender will find someone nearby to sponsor you) with a fabulous outdoor deck overlooking Piha Beach to enjoy your fish and chips.
Drive just around the bend and park to explore the wild and moody Piha beach. This long stretch of beach features, most famously, Lion Rock, of which the brave can hike and the spectators can marvel. This black sand beach extending into the Tasman Sea was the setting for several family pickup games of rugby and happy off-leash dogs.
Evening: After driving back to Auckland from Piha, a roughly 50 minute drive, take a breather, then head to Burger Burger in Ponsonby. Located within an alley chock-full of trendy restaurants and bars (many of the patios staying open even during the throws of winter), Burger Burger excels at one thing: burgers! We ordered the classic with all the fixin’s including a house-made tomato jam.
Day 2 Tips:
Be careful driving around the Waitakere Ranges – the roads run one way each direction and twist and turn wildly through mountainous terrain.
Bring plenty of water for your hike. Another recommended hike is the Kitekite Falls.
If using GPS, bring your USB phone charger. The roughly 50 minute drive back to Auckland (on top of a day of navigating) nearly zapped all of our remaining cell phone power.
Day 3 Your third day in Auckland is well-spent in Devonport, a harbor-side suburb of Auckland. While many opt to take the ferry over to this northeastern surburb, a short 15-minute drive over the bridge gives you freedom to explore both ends of the peninsula and everything in between.
Your fist stop in Devonport is Takarunga, or Mt. Victoria, the highest volcano on Auckland’s North Shore. Here you’ll enjoy 360-degree views of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbor and the surrounding Hauraki Gulf. Bring your camera – the views do not disappoint!
Devonport’s shops are best explored by foot and offer a variety that will keep you busy through the afternoon – from antique shops, to funky bookstores (Paradox Books is highly recommended – the eclectic selection by the bohemian husband/wife proprietors is extraordinary), make sure to spend some time ducking in and out of the boutique shops.
On a recommendation of the bare-footed, bohemian-spirited, extra-friendly proprietor of Paradox Books, lunch is at Corelli’s, an upscale cafe whose food is divine. The standout dish was the seafood chowder – a rich chowder full of scallops, prawns, salmon, calamari, and more. The lamb bangers and mash was also delicious, especially with a glass of New Zealand Cabernet. Save room for their raspberry cheesecake!
Before heading back to Auckland, take the short drive from the shops to Maungauika, or North Head, at the other end of Devonport (Mt. Victoria its counterpart). Here you’ll discover even more sweeping views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. You can sit on a bench and watch the world slowly go by admiring the sunset, the few passing boats, and views of Rangitoto Island.
Day 3 Tips:
Parking in the shopping district of Devonport is limited to 1 hour. For more flexibility, simply drive a street or two up into the residential neighborhood and park there. We found a 120-minute time allowance.
Traffic may be a little heavy returning into Auckland after sundown. Do not let it deter you: sunset from North Head is not to be missed.
Auckland is a great getaway at any time of year. There’s always something to see, do, and discover. Do yourself a favor: book the ticket, and take the trip.
A trip to New Zealand has been on my bucket list ever since I began traveling internationally in 2012. I dreamed of visiting this Pacific Island nation and looked forward to exploring its gorgeous landscapes and learning more about the people and culture.
Finally, my dreams came true. My boyfriend Ehren and I were able to plan a trip to New Zealand during our summer: July. Things became a bit tricky upon learning July is New Zealand’s winter. Luckily, the north island’s winter is more temperate and rarely sees snow. The best comparison I could think of is Portland in January, maybe a bit warmer.
This is a packing list for the North Island of New Zealand during winter. Our trip was 9 nights, 10 days, and would feature a variety of activities:
The weather ranged from sunny to windy and rainy. Weather in New Zealand can change dramatically day by day. The average temperature was mid 50s. 50s and sunny felt different than 50 and rainy, so my best advice is to pack warm clothing and options for layering.
Here’s a list of what I packed (asterisk items are what I call “life-savers!”)
(1) Light cargo jacket
(1) Rain jacket* (Recommendation: don’t go cheap here! Thicker is better, something with a hood, and something that will cover the top of your legs as well if possible)
(1) Zip up fleece* (Great for layering and extra warmth)
(4) Knit sweaters (One included for sleeping/lying around the house in the evenings)
(1) Jean jacket* (Perfect for casual chic, boutique shopping, museums)
(2) Tank top blouses
(7) T-shirts* (great for layering!)
(3) T-shirts for sleeping
(1) sleep shorts
(1) pair of black cargo pants
(1) pair of jeans
(2) pairs of leggings* (One thick one for cold weather. These were lifesavers!)
(1) pair of black pants (Good for dressier days out)
(1) pair of black tights
(1) pair of flats (good for plane, but sadly, nothing else)
(1) pair of ankle boots* (Waterproof is key if you can!)
(1) pair of gym shoes (Something you can use hiking/walking)
(2) pairs of warm socks* (These are essential to keeping your feet warm. The more you pack, the better!)
Miscellaneous other socks
Have you ever had the pleasure of visiting the Island of Hawaii? Also known as the Big Island, Hawaii Island is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, falling south easternmost in the chain.
Not to be confused with Oahu (where the state capitol Honolulu is located), Big Island is far from metropolitan – in fact, you can’t even drive around the island in one day.
Big Island is my favorite Hawaiian Island due to its sheer enormity. Its varied landscapes are home to not only 2 active volcanoes, Kilauea and Moana Loa, but also a myriad of enchanting, unspoiled places. Word to the wise: Rent a 4×4 vehicle if you ever visit.
Just returning from a 3-day trip, my boyfriend and I had the pleasure of exploring the east side of Hawaii, or Hilo side. Hilo is a city on the bay and a jumping-off point for pleasures ranging from exploring the active volcano, hot springs, black sand beaches, a beautiful coastal drive and more.
Here are some highlights from our recent trip:
Exploring Volcanoes National Park:
This National Park is not to be missed. Have you ever seen a live, active volcano? Kilauea is actively erupting, and luckily enough for us, a trip to the visitor’s center was enough to see the active lava spurting from the Earth.
Usually, a trip to see the lava flow is an 8 mile round-trip hike through treacherous lava fields, but the day we visited was our lucky day: The lava was spewing from Kilauea Caldera, nearby the visitor’s Center!
After getting our fill of watching red hot lava, we exploring a cavernous lava tube and basked in the mists of volcanic steam vents around the park.
Tips: Stop in the visitor’s center to find out pro tips from the park rangers, and pack a raincoat…it always rains on the east side!
Traversing Lower Puna (including Volcanic Hot Springs):
Puna district is southeast of Kilauea volcano, and its proximity to an active volcano can be felt in all senses of the word: Wild, untouched rain forest, volcanic hot springs, funky people, and plenty of room to play.
For a relaxing afternoon, we visited Ahalanui Beach Park, a volcanic hot spring which is about 88 degrees. It’s perfect for taking a relaxing swim and enjoying the rugged coastline it’s nestled up against.
Tips: Bring your snorkeling mask! There’s plenty of fish to observe in the warm pond. Also, stay out if you have any open cuts – a staph infection could easily ruin your trip.
Finding a hidden black sand beach and hunting for opihi:
Some places are just meant to be kept for the locals, and Secret Beach is one of them. We were lucky enough to meet up with my friend Matt who showed us an incredible secluded black sand beach.
Around dusk, we all hunted for shells and opihi: a snail delicacy found exclusively on seaside rocks in hard-to-reach places. Wild quantities are a pipe dream on Oahu, and sell for an expensive buck ($18/pound). It was such a treat to harvest and enjoy our own fresh opihi!
Tips: Respect the land. Just because you find an open road doesn’t mean you have the right to travel down it. There is a LOT of private land, much of it ancient and spiritual. When in doubt, “Kapu,” or keep out!
Visiting Hilo’s Farmers Market:
Imagine a place where 200+ vendors gather to sell farm-fresh produce, baked goods, bento lunches, Kona coffee, artisan breads, jams, and handmade jewelry, clothing, and house goods. Enter Hilo’s farmers market!
The farmers market technically takes place daily in downtown Hilo, but for a really good display of goods, we went on a Saturday. We were able to sample all sorts of local treats: from Ka’u district coffee, to taro chips, to roast pork and more, your buck goes far at Hilo’s farmers market!
Tips: Visit on a Saturday between 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. to really enjoy the full spread of vendors. Bring cash and an open mind for sampling local goodies!
Driving the Hamakua Coast:
Just north of Hilo begins a drive that’s full of lush greenery, waterfalls, valleys, and scenic ocean views. We drove it roughly 40 miles west to reach Waipio Valley, our destination. In the interim, we couldn’t believe how gorgeous the views were.
This relaxing stretch of driving fed our lust for a road trip with epic eye candy all along the way.
Tips: Fill up on gas before you go, pack snacks and turn up the radio. Also: Don’t expect to be able to drive around the entire island in a single day…it’s too big!
Exploring an ancient valley of the gods:
Waipio Valley is a glimpse into Old Hawaii. Two-thousand foot cliff walls encompass a lush, green valley with taro fields and wild horses. A black sand beach spans the entirety of the valley, and giant waterfalls cascade from the mountains’ sides. Interested yet? Read on:
A trip down to the valley floor means:
A treacherous 2 mile hike down a very steep road you must share with vehicles
Paying around $60/person to jump in a tour van; or
Driving down the 4-wheel drive road on your own and braving the elements.
We opted for choice number 3. It was not easy! The grade is EXTREMELY steep and the road is so narrow, only one car can pass in either direction at a time. We even had to BACK UP the road along the cliff edge to let people pass!
Once at the bottom, you have to ride through several giant mud puddles. Finally on the valley floor, we were rewarded with dipping our toes in the water and observed wild horses in awe. We felt immense respect for a place that used to be only for ali’i – or Hawaiian royalty.
Tips: All visitors can enjoy the lookout for a scenic vantage point and photo opp above the valley. Brave soldiers can take a 4×4 (That means 4-wheel drive ONLY!) down, observing the local “law” of yielding to traffic going up. Take nothing in and leave nothing behind!
Overall, a trip to the Big Island is for the adventurous-at-heart. Pack your best slippahs, hiking shoes, rain coat, and bathing suit, and get ready for whatever adventure heads your way!
Morning: Fly into LAX, rent a car, and drive the 30-mile stretch to Anaheim. Once you arrive in Anaheim, have breakfast at the Scratch Room, a brunch house serving up breakfast burgers on brioche, pancakes bigger than your head, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. You’ll need the fuel for your day at Disneyland.
Afternoon: Prove to yourself that you’re still a kid at heart with a visit to Disneyland, Walt Disney’s original theme park. Start with the Indiana Jones Adventure, followed by a tour through the Haunted Mansion. Take a spin on the magic teacups, and leave time for a cruise through the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Be sure to stick around for the evening fireworks outside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and let the magic happen.
Evening: All that Disneyland activity will surely work up your appetite. After you indulge in some theme park food, treat yourself to a glass of wine and dinner at Calivino Wine Pub. The late-night happy hour goes from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and offers $2 off select glasses of wine. You’ll also find a host of appetizer specials, such as boneless wings, bacon-wrapped dates, spinach wontons, and pork belly sliders.
Check into your room at the Anaheim Camelot Inn & Suites and enjoy a king-size bed, an outdoor heated pool, and close proximity to Disneyland. The added perk of free breakfast takes the guesswork out of your morning so you can enjoy more of Anaheim.
Morning: Luckily, Orange County is home to some of the prettiest beaches in the world. Take a drive to Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City, USA. Enjoy a quiet morning roaming the white sands and watching surfers catch their waves.
Afternoon: Spend a lazy afternoon exploring Center Street Anaheim, a place chock-full of funky shops, restaurants, and the city’s farmers market. Looking for eco-friendly home goods? Check out the aptly named Home Eco:Nomics, a place to pick up candles, jewelry, and more. For lunch, spice things up and dine at Pour Vida Latin Flavor. Try the blackened fish taco on top of handmade black squid ink tortillas.
Evening: Have some good, old-fashioned fun at Bowlmor Lanes at the Anaheim Garden Walk. This modern bowling alley boasts 41 backlit lanes for your enjoyment. Have dinner at the bowling alley, and order the Party Pretzel, a gigantic soft pretzel served with mustard and queso.
Check into your room at the Hilton Anaheim, where you’ll sleep like a baby in your king-size bed. You’ll dream of all the fun you had during the last 48 hours in Anaheim as well as the complimentary breakfast that awaits the next morning.
From Disneyland to great restaurants to close proximity to the beach, all of Anaheim’s fun offerings make this 48-hour foray worth every minute.
It’s been 4 years since I’ve traveled full-time using Helpx.net, but after curiously poking around on their site again, it looks like things have only grown and gotten better and better for them – and for the travelers who use their site.
You might remember this throwback post: Workaway vs. Helpx: Which do you use when planning a working holiday? This post is actually my most popular to date, and it’s easy to imagine why: Who wouldn’t want to live in and work in paradise (From Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Austria, France, the U.S. and more) for a nice family/farm in exchange for somewhere to stay…all while having the time and money to explore?
I’ve used Helpx twice and had the best experiences of my life.
In Australia, I stayed with a family in Ipswich, Queensland, not a far train ride from Brisbane. For two weeks, I had my own room, was fed gourmet meals (the dad was a chef!), was taken to locals-only swimming holes, parks, and beaches. I had the time of my life. All I did was work 4 hours a day/a few days a week, and I had the richest, most local experience ever. I remember one day, while relaxing on their outdoor porch, seeing a flock of wild cockatoos fly by. I’ll never forget it!
Then there was Hawaii, a Helpx experience I loved so much, I still live in the state 4 years later! I lived and worked at a eco-hostel on the Big Island. I picked fruit, built trails, planted trees, but best of all, made amazing lifelong friendships and one-of-a-kind memories. I had free WiFi, and it was under the thatched roof my dwelling I published some of my first travel stories. My time at Hedonisia Hawaii will go down as some of my best memories to date.
If anyone is on the fence about a Helpx experience, I highly recommend you go for it. Pay the membership fee: it’s totally worth it. Weigh the following options:
Proximity to a city
Accommodations (Plenty of places offer private rooms and even private bathrooms!)
Are meals included? My stay in Australia had meals included, but I was on my own in Hawaii. There were always plenty of shared meals, though.
Responsiveness/helpfulness of host
Will there be other travelers there to meet?
Is there WiFi? Many places have it.
How long are they looking for you to stay? Many hosts actually prefer longer guests.
With all the talk nowadays of being a digital nomad, Helpx is certainly a viable way to achieve that. If my lifestyle hadn’t shifted and I was still on the road, I’d do Helpx again in a heartbeat. Please use it and travel deeply!
This post was not sponsored, nor am I getting compensated for it. I really just love Helpx and the memories it helped me create.