Hipmunk Hotels: California Dreaming in Half Moon Bay, Venice, Pismo Beach, and more

There’s nothing like a trip to California: dreamy coastlines, amazingly fresh produce, and a laid-back vibe. To get the most out of your stay in the Golden State, consider a stay at hotels in the following locations.

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Half Moon Bay via Flickr by mtch3l

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is located 30 miles south of San Francisco and offers some of the best sweeping coastline views in all of California. Once a place where “rum runners” smuggled alcohol to nearby inns during Prohibition, taking advantage of the area’s coves and dense fog, Half Moon Bay today thrives with a small-town coastal charm — and some of those inns are thriving restaurants today.

A historic downtown district has plenty of shops, restaurants, and galleries to peruse during your visit. You won’t be disappointed in the fresh seafood at area restaurants, either.

Venice

There’s never a lack of things to do in Venice Beach, a gathering place for hippies, beatniks, and artists. Try walking up and down the boardwalk, close to your stay at the conveniently located Venice on the Beach Hotel, eating street tacos and falling for a salesman’s latest push. Street performers abound, and this “Coney Island of the Pacific” tempts visitors with amusement attractions, specialty shops, fortune tellers, a drum circle, and more. Don’t forget to gawk at hard bodies at the world-famous “Muscle Beach,” an outdoor workout area.

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Venice Beach Boardwalk via Flickr by young grasshopper

 

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach, located in Central coastal California, is along the famous Highway 101 and is the midway point between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Known for its “Classic California” vibe, Pismo Beach offers visitors activities like fishing from its 1200-foot pier, wine-tasting, ATV sand dune riding, surfing, and more.

Come in June to walk around the annual classic car show. You can see vehicles from yesteryear in pristine condition along a dramatic coastal backdrop. Or if seafood is your thing, make a visit in October for the annual clam festival.

Oxnard

Back down in Southern California is Oxnard, home to some of the sweetest strawberries you ever tasted. Just a short drive from Los Angeles, Oxnard will have your senses pumping at the California Strawberry Festival every summer.

In addition to its delicious produce, Oxnard is home to the Channel Islands National Park, an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Just a quick boat ride from the mainland offers ample opportunity to kayak, snorkel, and bird watch around these five islands. You can take guided wildlife tours to discover this somewhat isolated island chain.

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Fresh Oxnard Strawberries via Flickr by Kimberly Mahr

Roseville

Once a railroad town, now Roseville is a major urban city in metropolitan Sacramento. Pack a picnic and listen to live music for the Music in the Park series. Old Town’s Vernon Street is the place to be Tuesday nights in the summer for music, arts, and food vendors.

Make sure you save time for the city’s largest open market, Denio’s Farmers Market and Swap Meet, to hunt for treasures untold. During your comfortable stay at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott, take advantage of Roseville’s close proximity to the Sierra Nevada Foothills, Lake Tahoe, and Napa Valley.

 

 

Spacious Hotels Near NYC in Weehawken, Jersey City, White Plains, and more

This post was originally published on Tales From a Fork by Sarah Kim on June 16, 2016.

If you’re traveling to New York City but want more space and amenities than the average Manhattan hotel, try opting for these accommodations. These spacious hotels are only a quick ride away from the Big Apple.

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View of Manhattan from Weehawken via Flickr by John Cunniff

Weehawken

Weehawken is one of the best destinations if you want to see a panoramic view of New York City, from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the George Washington Bridge. Once you’re done marveling at the expansive skyline from Hamilton Park or Gregory Park, you can head to New York City via bus, ferry, or train.

For history buffs, you can visit the infamous dueling grounds site of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, which occurred on July 11, 1804. The Weehawken Water Tower is also a sight to see as it dates back from 1884, which makes it the oldest in the state, and resembles the Plaza del Vecchio in Italy.

Jersey City

Jersey City is easily accessible to both downtown and midtown Manhattan through the PATH train, ferries across the Hudson, and busses. It’s close to attractions such as the Colgate Clock, Ellis Island Immigration Museum, and Manhattan Railroad Powerhouse, and gives you more bang for your buck with hotels like the Dharma Home Suites JC, which offers a grand view of Manhattan, a fitness center, and even a kitchenette. There are multiple boat companies for aquatic enjoyment such as boat tours, waterskiing, jet skiing, and speed boat tours.

White Plains

White Plains is a fashionista’s playground with more than 150 upscale stores, such as Neiman Marcus, Burberry, Gucci, and Brooks Brothers at the Westchester Mall. For culinary travelers, there’s Blue Hill restaurant, which is a farm-to-table fine dining restaurant focused on local and sustainably grown foods. After shopping, dining, and exploring the beautiful Kykuit gardens, moving on to Manhattan is easy because it’s only half an hour away.

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Kykuit Gardens by Anne Hemond via Flickr

Rye Brook

Rye Brook is a picturesque village that’s a brisk 30-minute drive or hour train ride from Manhattan. It boasts five parks and lush greenery wherever you go. Its number one activity is the Doral Golf Course, where you can get in a full round of golf and stay at the Doral Arrowwood hotel.

This hotel sits on 114 acres of woodlands, providing an all-around haven for relaxation and fun with a nightclub, indoor and outdoor pool, three different restaurants, pub with pool tables, and tennis courts. It’s only 3 miles from the Westchester County airport and includes an airport shuttle so you don’t need to deal with the long lines at JFK or LaGuardia.

Stamford

Stamford is a thriving metropolis located just 45 minutes on the train from New York City. It’s a popular destination for business travelers, but because of it’s rising influx of great restaurants and trendy bars, this place is becoming the next hotspot for young professionals in their 20s and 30s.

If focusing purely on food and drink isn’t your thing, and your aquatic side wants to shine, head to the Cove Island Park to enjoy the beach, Cummings Park to fish, or Chelsea Piers to swim.

5 Must-Visit Places for Foodies

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Parmjit Parmar wrote in her Huffington Post article that the trend in ‘culinary tourism’ has grown massively, where globetrotters are now planning vacations specifically to incorporate culinary delights. With so many destinations to choose from and food to sample, it can be overwhelming to pick somewhere you should consider for your next trip. Here’s how to select a travel destination for your next foodie adventure.

Spain

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Photo by Feda Wong via Flickr

When it comes to the best seafood rice in the world, we have to hand it to Spain’s classic Paella recipe. Its savory taste mixed with the freshest veggies, shrimp, clams and squid is exactly why people flock to Valencia to try this authentic dish. Although many countries tried copying the rice recipe, there’s nothing like the authentic taste of the original Paella in Spain. It must be the crunchy rice at the bottom of the pan that makes you want to have seconds, and even thirds, of the most flavorful arroz in the world.

China

When it comes to Asian food, China has become the most common destination for food travelers in search of the best of the best. When delving into dumplings, don’t miss the “Xiao Long Bao.” This juicy spiced pork dumpling explodes with just the right amount of spice, heat and flavor. Although you can find Xiao Long Bao everywhere in China, the best one can be found in Shanghai served with other gastronomic delicacies such as the Sichuan Hot Pot which is ideal for extreme spice lovers.

India

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Photo by Paul Joseph via Flickr

Indian food consistently ranks in the top slots for foodie destinations, and is well-known for its mouth-watering mutton recipes and delectable vegan food. With plenty of delicacies to choose from, wherein each region offers a particular dish, the best way to try all of these treats together is by ordering a “Thali,” or a huge plate full of rice, bread (chapatti or naan), curries, papadums, lime pickle, chutneys and a sweet dessert. No need to order them separately as the whole plate combines each tasty dish for one affordable price.

Iran

Looks can be deceiving: The Koobideh Kebab in Iran is a must-try for carnivorous foodie. Made from ground lamb or beef with parsley and chopped onions, the Iranian kebab is reason enough to collect another passport stamp. The classic dish features deliciously fire-toasted meat on a ‘Shish Kebab’ and is served with perfectly cooked basmati rice mixed with a special sauce. Other mouth-watering kebab dishes, as featured by Dream of Iran, will make you want to come back to the country again.

 

Italy

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Photo by Lummmy via Flickr

The land of pizza and pasta has to be on every foodie’s list when in search of the best comfort food in the world. Italy is not only visited for its grand architecture, but also for their irresistible cuisine. You can never find another well-made spaghetti carbonara in the world similar to the ones you’ll taste in Italy, especially those from Rome. There are many variations to this dish, but the most popular involves bacon, cheese and pepper.

There are many more destinations worth traveling to for their authentic delicacies, but to start with the list above will you give you a leg up in the world of gastronomical delights.


The above is a guest post.

 

 

I was published – AGAIN – in Mabuhay Magazine!

I’ve been blessed these past few months with my freelance travel writing. If I said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times: Hard work and dedication really do pay off.

This is the June feature on Honolulu for Mabuhay Magazine, the Philippine Airlines in-flight magazine. “Honolulu: Land of the Happy” is meant to convey how happy life in Hawaii really is.

For the full readable PDF, click here.

Enjoy!

I was published in Mabuhay Magazine!

Great news! I was published in the Philippine Airlines in-flight publication, Mabuhay Magazine! This March 2016’s feature about Hawaii explores why the best things to do in and around Honolulu come with a view!

Please enjoy this spread. I’m proud of this accomplishment, and I know this a testament to the fact that hard work really does pay off!

Enjoy.

How traveling made me a low maintenance girlfriend

 

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I learned the value of a dollar

When I checked my bank account before I left for a month-long backpacking trip to Australia, I had a little over $1,000 at-the-ready for everything and anything I wanted to do. What I didn’t realize before I left was how expensive traveling in Australia would be.

Instead of buying souvenirs, I routinely told myself, “I don’t need it.” As it turns out, enough “I don’t need its” turned into saving up for a trip to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.

Today I still routinely tell myself, “I don’t need it” so I can save up for a future with my boyfriend. I’m grateful that he’s mature enough to not spend frivolously, and he remarks how refreshing it is to have a girl not obsessed with just going to the mall, keeping up with the latest brands and spending needlessly.

I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and do things for myself

There used to be a time where I kept my fingers perfectly manicured: a time where my life fit neatly into a little box. Then I gave it all up to volunteer on a farm in the jungle of Hawaii.

My days transitioned from dressing to the nines at my office job to excavating and planting, weeding, and transplanting soil around the Big Island. I had more mosquito bites than I could count, and my fingernails were constantly caked with mud.

While I’ve moved on from living and working on a farm, I’ve never forgotten the value of hard work. When I need something done, whether it’s changing a light bulb, moving furniture, or simply taking out the trash, I roll up my sleeves and do it myself.

Going with the flow is often better than having a plan

It wasn’t very long ago that I was extremely caught up with having a life plan. After graduating college, I’d marry my college sweetheart and we’d live happily-ever-after in the suburbs.

After spending a year sobbing over said college sweetheart who dumped me, I decided to change my life. I packed my car up, moved away from home, and never looked back. I didn’t have a plan other than I needed an adventure. Five years later, I’m living the life of my dreams because my “plan” was foiled.

Living through that breakup caused me to appreciate what could happen to your life when you surrender control and “go with the flow.” I stopped chasing a fuzzy illusion of what I thought my future could or would look like. My boyfriend appreciates my adventurous spirit, and open-mindedness brings excitement and opportunity to our relationship.

I’m not afraid to pee outside

I traveled to some of the remotest areas in the American West without a soul, or bathroom, in sight. I trained myself to use our R.V. toilet (more akin to an outhouse than a toilet), gas station restrooms, bushes and whatever hole I could relieve myself in. I gave a whole new meaning to the phrase, “When you gotta go, you gotta go.”

One of the first times my boyfriend and I went to the beach together I remarked, “I have to pee.” He looked worried and offered to find me a bathroom. Instead of cutting our excursion short, I simply relieved myself in the nearby bushes. He was impressed that I wasn’t a prissy pisser.

Having a positive mindset is everything

While traveling, I sometimes found myself in risky and dangerous situations. Once while hiking the woods in rural Pennsylvania, I became lost and had to be rescued by the nearby fire department. I was found 11 miles off course in bear country. I vowed to remain calm and believed firmly things would work out okay. They did.

It’s that same mindset that I bring to my relationship. I believe in the good things to come for us, and when we have a misunderstanding, I realize that staying positive is definitely a choice that leads to learning a valuable lesson. This has been instrumental knowledge in growing together from acquaintances to exclusivity.

I realize that some of the best pleasures in life are the simplest

It wasn’t until I was floating on my back in a volcanic warm pond in Hawaii did I realize some of the best things in life are free.

My boyfriend and I enjoy similar pleasures in one each other’s company. We like to go out, see movies, and dine out like the next couple. But the most gratifying moments happen when our wallets are buried deep within our pockets, when we sit side-by-side watching sunset with our arms around one another’s waist.

A day at the Waikiki Aquarium

When one comes to visit Hawai’i, the last thing on their mind is visiting an aquarium. “Why would I visit the aquarium when I could just jump in the ocean and see a living aquarium?” Great question, but let me answer you this way. The Waikiki Aquarium showcases dozens of coral species and fish, crustaceans, sea horses, sea dragons, pipefish, predators, and ocean life from the Northwestern Hawaiian islands you just can’t see on the main islands.

The most impressive spread were the variety of colorful living corals. All the corals are thriving under conditions simulated to be the ocean in its most pristine, healthy state. The key takeaway for me was that I have never seen such beautiful, developed, colorful and healthy coral in the wild. It was amazing to see what coral could look like in the more remote reefs and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It was equally amazing to imagine what our reefs on O’ahu can and will look like when we are ready to transplant species back to where they belong.

Here are some photos I took at the aquarium. I would highly recommend this visit for any visitor to Hawai’i, especially before jumping into the ocean. It’s great to learn about the underwater world and its fragile ecosystem before diving in.

The Waikiki Aquarium is the 2nd oldest public aquarium in the country
The Waikiki Aquarium is the 2nd oldest public aquarium in the country
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An angelfish indigenous only to the Hawaiian islands swims by a colorful reef
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Sea anemone attract clown fish and other species of fish to its predatory confines
Hawaiian island reef life
Hawaiian island reef life
South Pacific reef life
South Pacific reef life

Yellow striped pipefish
Yellow striped pipe fish
Jellyfish in the "drifters" exhibit
Jellyfish in the “drifters” exhibit
Beautiful coral exhibits
Beautiful coral exhibits
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A sampling of the vibrant underwater world you can experience through thriving coral reefs
This Hawaiian Monk Seal has been at the aquarium for 31 years!
This Hawaiian Monk Seal has been at the aquarium for 31 years!

Next time you have a rainy day in Hawaii, or are just looking for a getaway to see something beautiful, check out the Waikiki Aquarium. You won’t be disappointed! They also have a predator exhibit with sharks and a vast educational/conservation exhibit, as well.

Tips for Exercising with your Dog

Fido is man’s best friend for a reason. He is loyal, cute and a fur ball of energy. To keep your beloved four-legged friend his happiest and healthiest, exercising your dog must be in your daily routine. Dogs have special needs when it comes to staying active. Follow these steps to ensure you’re getting the most out of your time with your pup.

Pono and I on a hike together in Hawaii
Pono and I on a hike together in Hawaii

Check the weather: This sounds like a no-brainer, but often times dogs are left in hot cars for long periods of time unattended causing overheating and even death. Also, while on a run or a hike, a dog is exerting him/herself just like you. Cold winter months can be brutal on not only you, but on your pup. Visit your local pet store and buy a coat for you dog if necessary. In areas where it snows, salt might be dropped on the sidewalk or street to prevent people from slipping. Be mindful that winter salt is hurtful and harmful to your dog’s paws. Always think about how you like to dress and prepare for the day outside and make sure to follow suit with caring for your dog.

Pono loves the snow, but we had to limit how long he could stay out
Pono loves the snow, but we had to limit how long he could stay out

Mind your city’s off-leash rules: It might be tempting in some areas to let your dog off the leash for a full-blown run, but before you free Fido, learn the local leash laws of your area. Leash laws are not meant to limit the fun you and your furry friend can have together, but actually work to protect the two of you. Factors such as aggressive dogs, small children, wild animals and traffic can turn even the most innocent run or hike into a chaotic situation. In many areas if you’re caught by the authorities with your dog off the leash you’ll likely face a hefty fine. Do yourself a favor and follow the rules.

Offer plenty of water and food: Just like when you go for a jog or swim, you burn calories and work up to chugging about a gallon of water. Given that your dog is right by your side, make sure you bring water and a small bowl for them to drink out of. Water should be kept cool if possible and must absolutely be clean. Try to discourage your dog from drinking any stagnant or running water you don’t know to be bacteria-free. Also, when possible, bring snacks or food with so they can replenish their energy as they go.

An active dog is a hungry and thirsty dog
An active dog is a hungry and thirsty dog

Carry around plastic bags for clean up: Nothing’s worse than a steaming pile of dog doo-doo- especially if it doesn’t belong to your dog. One of the best signs of a great dog owner is one that diligently picks up after their dog. Carry some small plastic bags with you on your excursions so that when your pup relieves himself you can tidy up after him and move forward.

Let them rest: After a long hike or fetch session, your dog is zonked. Give them a space in your home that is their sanctuary: whether it’s a nook in the corner with a special pillow or a doghouse they can relax in and recharge, it’s important to give your dog time to rest their batteries in between excursions.

Just relaxing on the beach after a long hike
Just relaxing on the beach after a long hike

Offer rewards: Dogs are extremely loyal and respond well to rewards. Given your dog was well-behaved and focused during exercise, immediately rewarding them with a small treat or new bone is an excellent way to reinforce continued good behavior. It’s also a good way to see their tale wag and watch them trot off to their happy place.

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Cities Less Traveled: 3 Craft Cocktails Worth the Trip to Brooklyn

New York City teems with enough bars to never imbibe the same drink twice. While Manhattan undoubtedly sees its fair share of new cocktail joints, a burgeoning era of experimentation is brewing in the outer boroughs. The slightly more adventurous beverage aficionados might want to experience what’s going on in the city’s most populous and beloved borough, Brooklyn. Known for its eclectic, hipster vibe after undergoing a funky urban renaissance, Brooklyn is a mecca for the artisan-at-heart. Check out these 3 craft cocktails worth the trip over the bridge.

Photo by Dylan Magaster via Trover.com
Photo by Dylan Magaster via Trover.com

The Dear Chicago at Dram

Chicago’s nickname may be the “Second City,” but that doesn’t mean it can’t inspire one of the best cocktails in the Big Apple. Dram, a mixology bar in Brooklyn, serves up The Dear Chicago – an elixir made of up Citadel Gin, Merlet Pear, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Pierre Ferrand dry Curacao, Letherby Malort, and celery bitters. Always stirred, never shaken, this drink pays tribute to Chicago when it features artisan gin inspired by moonshining. A standout cocktail among many notable creative pours in Brooklyn, The Dear Chicago allows drinkers to enjoy two great cities at once.

The Clover Club at Clover Club

Tucked in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill, Clover Club is long-time New York City bar owner and world-renowned bartender Julie Reiner’s brainchild.  A no-frills atmosphere to enjoy a solid beverage program is what Reiner’s after, and she wholeheartedly delivers with a cocktail so aptly named, it begs for a second round. The Clover Club is simple yet refined with its 5 ingredients – gin, vermouth, lemon, raspberry, and egg white. The raspberry is sweet, but never overpowering, and the egg white’s frothy consistency makes for an excellent, mouthy finish. Perhaps Brooklyn’s best-kept secret among locals, snag yourself a seat at Clover Club’s bar and ask for the house specialty.

Papa’s Pride at Ba’sik

There’s something great about a place that doesn’t forget the old classics and turns their bar offerings up a notch with hand-crafted, ingenious craft cocktails. Meet Ba’sik, the neighborhood Brooklyn joint on Graham Avenue pouring up Papa’s Pride – bourbon, ginger, mint, lemon, soda, and bitters. They even divvy out bar snacks like spiced nuts and the ba’sik bar pie served grandma style. If you don’t know what that means, just go for their Papa’s Pride first, then try to crack grandma’s secret recipe later.

Brooklyn might not be the first place that comes to mind when envisioning a hip scene to indulge in a handmade alcoholic beverage, but its reputation as a leader in the craft cocktail community is gaining popularity.

Whether you live in Manhattan or halfway across the world, sampling these cocktails gives you a good reason to check out and check into a cheap New York City hotel for a great night’s rest. You won’t have to cut the night short at your favorite Brooklyn watering holes with so many New York City hotels to choose from. ♦

This article is part of the #HipmunkCityLove Project.