I began golfing a little more than a year ago, when we settled into our new summer place on a golf course. I had dabbled in a golf a long time ago, but hadn’t picked up a club in twenty years. And so it has been like starting over. Our summers in Washington have given me a great opportunity to learn while golfing around the sound. And during the year we were stuck in the USA it was a great time to take up the sport.
Learning to Golf
I’ve played A LOT since I decided to learn the game and I have also taken lessons and had a coach. Getting some coaching pointers and playing consistently (about once a week) has helped me learn and improve my game. I still have a long ways to go but I enjoy the game a great deal and especially enjoy having another activity to spend time with my husband.
It might be surprising to some, but I feel one of the best ways to improve is to play at as many different courses as possible. I know many golfers like to play their “home” course only, but I find by moving around to new courses I don’t fall into a comfortable pattern and am therefore always challenged and learning new things.
Golfing Around the Sound
Given that strategy we set out this summer to explore as many courses in the Pacific Northwest as we could. For Christmas my husband gave me a Golfing Around the Sound golf package, 11 courses included for $220. We created three golf “weekends” (we did them mid-week) and covered courses in Skagit and Snohomish County; Mason, Kitsap; Clallam and Jefferson County too.
Some courses are certainly better than others, but all the courses we played offered wonderful opportunities to learn and enjoy this crazy game. If you want to give this a try for yourself, here is our suggestions for three golf getaways in the Pacific Northwest. I imagine next summer we will try this again and expand to more courses including to the south and east.
SKAGIT & SNOHOMISH
Using the lovely little town of La Conner (Skagit Valley) as our home base, we booked a fabulous room on the water at the La Conner Channel Lodge for two nights. This unique boutique style hotel sits right on the La Conner Channel and offers spectacular sunsets. While in La Conner we visited the Swinomish Indian Reservation, did a little boutique shopping and visited the local fresh markets where we purchased blueberries, raspberries and peaches to take home.
We played three courses in the Skagit/ Snohomish region. Each course was easy to get a tee time for our dates of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday;
GLENEAGLE GOLF COURSE – This course in Burlington was nice, but some of the fairways are pretty tight and there are many houses, so it’s a bit stressful for an erratic golfer like me. Also, as first timers we wished for better signage between tees. Gleneagle has a restaurant on site.
AVALON LINKS – I liked this course in Burlington; it was pretty while still being relatively easy for a beginner. Strangely this course has 27 holes…not sure why that is, but we played 18 and had a very enjoyable game. A small cafe is available on site.
THE GOLF CLUB AT ECHO FALLS – This is a beautiful course in Snohomish, and of the three the most challenging. We had a really fun game here. I had a cart but my husband was walking and he did wish the tees were not so far apart….sometimes a bit difficult to find. The clubhouse and restaurant and the entire grounds here are very beautiful.
We recommend dining in La Conner at Nell Thorn for a delicious dinner made fresh with local ingredients. And for something a little less formal, try La Conner Brewing for excellent beer, burgers, tacos and salads.
MASON & KITSAP
Since we live in Kitsap County and near the border with Mason, we did not stay in a hotel while exploring these five courses listed below (three in our Around the Sound package and two not). But we can recommend from experience choosing to stay at the beautiful Alderbrook Resort & Spa on Hood Canal or the Silverdale Beach Hotel on the waterfront in Silverdale.
ALDERBROOK GOLF CLUB – Our friend John invited us to enjoy nine holes with him at his home course of Alderbrook Golf Club in Union. This course is not part of the Around the Sound package. It was our first time playing here and I enjoyed it very much. This course has both homes and a lot of trees along the fairways, but it was just the right amount of challenge for me (and I only lost a couple of balls!).
GOLD MOUNTAIN GOLF COURSE – One of three courses within fifteen minutes of my house, Gold Mountain is an outstanding municipal course in Bremerton. I really love playing here, although I have only played the Cascade course. The Olympic course is more challenging…maybe next year. Anyway this is a beautiful rolling course with no houses…for me I need a cart as it has a lot of hills.
TROPHY LAKE GOLF & CASTING – Not on the Around the Sound package, Trophy Lake in Port Orchard is one of my favorite courses. It’s just right for my skill level and I enjoy the grounds and the fact there aren’t any houses. It’s very close to where I live so that’s a bonus too.
MCCORMICK WOODS GOLF CLUB – Well, you can’t get much closer for me, as I live on the 6th hole at McCormick Woods. I never imagined living on a golf course but we have quickly fallen in love with this beautiful community that surrounds this beautiful course. This public course in Port Orchard also has memberships as well as an excellent restaurant. It’s challenging though, with lots of houses and lots of underbrush and water too. It’s here I have taken my lessons and had my coaching with course Pro Kyle Larson.
WHITE HORSE GOLF CLUB – One of the more challenging courses I’ve played this summer, White Horse is in Kingston and is tough but a great learning course. I was in the sand A LOT. It’s a beautiful course with only a few houses. A very nice club house and restaurant too. Very close to the Kingston Ferry.
Our getaway included playing at these three fun courses (all included in our Around the Sound package).
THE CEDARS AT DUNGENESS – I enjoyed this course a lot, even though my score didn’t reflect that! It’s a well maintained course with some beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains right in the heart of beautiful Sequim. We met friends for breakfast before we teed off and the restaurant Stymies was a great choice.
SUNLAND GOLF COURSE – I had fun at this course, even though my cart was an antique. The course itself was well-maintained and fun. The fairways are really tight though, with houses and trees, but I managed to stay out of people’s yards (for the most part). It’s a great option in Sequim.
PORT LUDLOW GOLF CLUB I struggled at this VERY hilly course…and lost a lot of balls too. When we arrived I asked the guy in the Pro Shop if the course was hilly, as I was trying to decide if I would walk or get a cart. He said there were a “couple of hills”. So I decided to walk. By the end of 18 I was ready to drop. There are way more than “couple of hills”. I recommend a cart. This course has a lot of water and also houses to avoid. We enjoyed our visit despite it all and enjoyed the beautiful sunny day we had on the greens.
GOLFING AROUND THE SOUND
These are a few of our finds this summer as we spent time golfing around the sound. There are many more wonderful options to golf in the Puget Sound region…we hope to find those when we return from our winter travels next spring.
Meanwhile, it’s time to clean the clubs and get them ready for two months in Maui, where we love to golf. Stay tuned for our Maui adventures starting in September (we hope…unless the PanDamit shuts everything down again).
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We had a wonderful ten day stay at the beautiful Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos a few weeks ago. It’s incredibly rare for us to stay in a resort, or even in a hotel. We usually are in an Airbnb or VRBO, with our hotel stays limited to one night here and there usually at an airport. But we gave this a try and we were not disappointed. Here is my review of the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos.
Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos is a small Caribbean country in the Atlantic only 736 miles off the coast of Florida. The country has a population of 39,000 within its collection of 40 small islands, of which only eight are inhabited. They use US dollars, drive on the left and are a British territory. Queen Elizabeth names a Governor for the country.
Most of the population are descendants of slaves, who were forcibly brought here to work the salt flats and cotton fields. More recently many people have immigrated from The Bahamas. Today the economy is based on tourism and off-shore financing.
Grace Bay, Providenciales
We spent our time on the island of Providenciales, home ot the international airport (by the way, the airport is the worst thing about the island, sadly in need of an upgrade). Our lodgings were in a small town known as Grace Bay. Grace Bay has an astonishingly beautiful long white sand beach where the lovely resorts sit, including the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos.
The town of Grace Bay seems to be fairly recently developed, with resorts, shops and restaurants spread out over a few miles and all easy walking distance from our resort. A really nice grocery store was less than a mile, dozens of restaurant and shops about a mile or less. Everything seems practically brand new. Sidewalks are good, and roads too. I felt very safe doing a five mile run each morning.
Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos
This resort was far better than I expected, which of course was a great surprise. We booked the least expensive room, a “studio” for $260 a night via Expedia. With all the taxes and fees, the actual cost was closer to $300. The “studio” is basically a large hotel room that included a table and chairs for two, small sitting area, small kitchen with fridge and microwave (see last week’s blog about hotel microwave cooking), a bathroom and a washer and dryer. Having a washer dryer was a big bonus we weren’t expecting. Our room also had a very large deck with table, chairs and lounge chair over looking one of the two pools.
The Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos also has one bedroom suites. In addition you can combine a one bedroom suite and a studio like ours to create a two bedroom space.
Made up of 8 buildings with 15 units in each, the buildings are spread out around beautifully landscaped grounds. All units either overlook one of the pools or the beach.
There is no elevator, but a very nice and strong bellhop carried our bags up to the third floor on our arrival. Staff also secured the taxi for our return trip to the airport. Taxi’s are different here…usually shared vans.
First Rate Amenities
We were pleasantly surprised to find such beautiful pools as well as access to a beautiful beach area on Grace Bay that included lounge chairs and umbrellas just for the guests of our hotel. Beach and pool towels also available from the friendly staff.
In addition the hotel offers guests the free use of Hobie Cat sailboats, kayaks and bikes.
Pelican Bay Restaurant and Bar sits poolside at the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos. It is highly rated and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition they had one of the most generous daily happy hours I’ve ever encountered offering half off all drinks from 5-7pm. Special weekly Fish Fry and BBQ are also popular. On Sunday nights they have live music and it was so good.
We cooked in our room five of the nights we stayed and ate out four nights. In addition to enjoying the Pelican Bay Restaurant and Bar for breakfast we walked to four more dinner restaurants and one lunch that we really enjoyed.
More We Enjoyed
Coco Bistro and Coco Van – When we couldn’t get a reservation at the highly rated and very popular Coco Bistro we ended up having a really good meal at their food truck called Coco Van. We had Chicken Fried Burger, Duck Tacos, Egg Roll, two side salads and four beers. $80.
Another highly rated restaurant we tried was called Caicos Cafe. I was expecting it to be Caribbean food but it actually was Italian with lots of pastas and other things too. I had a spinach salad and grilled octopus. Arne had the local specialty Conch Chowder and BBQ Ribs. With one beer and water $120
A short walk down the beach we discovered The Flamingo Cafe, a tiny beach shake with great water view. Not much to look at but the food was great and inexpensive. Conch Salad and two Grouper entries $60.
We ate lunch out one day at the local food truck called Roosters just a block from our resort. Fish Tacos and burgers on the menu but we also tried a local Caribbean pork dish called Griot. $18
We splurged a little on our final night on the island and went to Coyaba, one of the highest rated restaurants in the area. Fantastic service. Cute space. Excellent food. Two fish entries, one salad, beer and water total was $160.
Visiting Turks and Caicos
We chose not to rent a car and not to wander beyond Grace Bay during our visit. But for those interested there are great beaches around the island (some remote), a national park, snorkel and dive tours, sailing tours, sunset tours, kayaking, parasailing, golf and more. Although groceries and dining out were quite expensive, overall we had a really positive experience and would definitely recommend it, as well as a stay at the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos.
Now enjoying our sixth week in French Polynesia, we are smitten with the island of Mo’orea. Just a 30 minute ferry crossing from Tahiti and the country’s main city of Papeete, Mo’orea is convenient and has everything we look for in a relaxing destination. We like it way more than Bora Bora and hope to come here again. Here are our favorite seven things to do on Mo’orea French Polynesia.
We originally chose Mo’orea because we found a wonderful Airbnb. Arriving with high hopes it would be as good as the reviews and photos – we were not been disappointed. It’s very comfortable, affordable, waterfront, and a great location. Another bonus is our host Maea is one of the best hosts we have ever had in our 102 Airbnb’s around the world – yes I said 102!! Perhaps it’s time to update this post Our Favorite Airbnb’s Around the World.
Mo’orea might not get the same marketing push that Bora Bora gets, but we think we like it better…at least for us. We enjoy a quiet place with a less touristy vibe. Mo’orea has that, especially during the shoulder season. Authentic ambiance is another thing we look for, and Mo’orea has that too. Our experience here has been incredible.
Seven Things To Do On Mo’orea, French Polynesia
Unless you are staying only for a couple days in a resort (we recommend longer) you need to have a car on Mo’orea. Public transportation is non-existent. There are a few taxis and of course tours, but having your own wheels will make all of the suggestions below accessible. It’s worth the expense.
So here are our seven things to do on Mo’orea, French Polynesia. In no particular order;
There are many snorkel options on the island. Mo’orea is surrounded by a reef that creates a shallow and beautiful lagoon nearly the entire circumference of the island. You can take a snorkel tour in a kayak, small boat, large group tour with lunch or an outrigger. Or you can bring or buy your own snorkel and fins (what we did) and snorkel from any public beach on the island. You will see remarkably beautiful coral of all shapes, sizes and colors. Of course you will see a fascinating collection of sea life including rays, black tip sharks and a rainbow of tropical fish. Want to see more of our favorite Snorkeling Around the World? Click Here.
2. Coco Beach
Coco Beach is a fun day trip, even though we had better snorkeling elsewhere. You need to call ahead for a reservation. A small boat will meet you at the parking area and ferry you over to the tiny island. Then you will be shown to your outdoor table, which is yours for the day. Have a tropical drink, then enjoy the beautiful warm water before feasting on delicious lunch. Last boat back is at 3:30pm. It makes for a wonderful day. Total for our day was $116.
3. Tahiti Street Food Tour
One of the first things we did our first week on the island was to take a tour with Tahiti Food Tours. It’s always a good way to learn about local cuisine. Our tour included stops at 7 local “snacks” (Tahitian Fast Food or Street Food) as well as a distillery. This tour was delicious and opened our eyes to some of the local specialties. Our local guide was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and funny. Cost per person $120USD
4. Food and CookLab Cooking School
Another thing we do in many of our travel destinations is take a cooking class. Thanks to our guide on the food tour (above) we learned about the Food and CookLab, a sustainable and organic cooking school on the island. We took their Polynesian Foods cooking class where we learned to make poisson cru, manioc chips, po’e – a plantain pudding cooked in banana leaf (also a sweet potato version), breadfruit and hibiscus leaf wrapped coconut bread. Cost per person $75USD lunch included.
I enjoyed the class so much I signed up for a second class, presented by a local chef on the island. In this second class we took beautiful local tuna and oyster muscles and created multiple dishes including gravlax, rillettes and fume (smoked fish). $125 USD lunch included as well as doggy bags of delicious fish to take home.
5. Tiki Village
If you have been to a luau in Hawaii, Tiki Village is the Polynesian version. The entertainment is different than Hawaii, as of course it focuses on the Tahitian dress, music and lore. The food is cooked in a pit including a whole pig but includes breadfruit, po’e (see above), poisson cru and local fish. The meal also included some international dishes from the French influence including pate, salads and dessert. The sunset view was amazing. Cost $110USD
Airport/Golf Course Hike – Starting from Temae beach you can hike the flat sandy road along the tiny Mo’orea Airport and the Mo’orea Golf Course and back. Round trip about three miles. Easy.
Three Coconuts – Starting at the Belvedere Lookout this ascent is gradual except for the final mile. But the beautiful view is definitely worth it. Wear proper shoes. Total round trip 3.5 miles. Difficult.
Magic Mountain – most of the tours drive up to the view point on Magic Mountain but if you want a good work out then you can walk up. It’s steep but the road is in fairly good condition and the view is spectacular. Park at the fruit stand at the bottom for $2. When you come back have a fruit smoothie. Very nice lady here. Total round trip less than 2 miles but 700+ feet vertical. Moderate.
Waterfall Hike – there wasn’t much water in the waterfall when we visited, but it was a good sweaty work out nonetheless. This was the most junglesque hike we did, beautiful deep jungle as we trekked a sometimes rough trail to the waterfall. To find this hike go just past the hospital in Afareietu and turn into a small road and park near the Veterans Memorial. Walk up the dirt road and keep left, it becomes the trail. 3 miles round trip and moderate.
Post Office – from the right side as you face the tiny yellow post office building at the Temae beach turnoff, there is a hidden trail that takes you up to the radio towers and then scoots up to a peak. This trail is very steep. Bring lots of water. The view is amazing. You can go back down the way you came or continue on the trail through a thickly forested area where the trail is sometimes difficult to find. Watch for flags tied to trees to keep to the trail. Total distance 2 miles if you head back down the way you came up; 4.5 miles if you complete the loop. Very difficult.
Pineapple Fields – From Pao Pao follow the “Route de Ananas” road inland until it becomes dirt. Park and walk staying to the right to the beautiful pineapple fields. Pineapple is a local cash crop Mo’orea is known for. The tiny and sweet little golden fruits are delicious. On this hike you can see the beautiful plants both in flower and in fruit. You can make this hike short (about 1 mile) or longer (above 3 miles). Easy.
7. Drive Around the Island
It’s 30 miles or 48 km around the island on the “main” road. This is bigger than the island of Praslin we stayed on in the Seychelle Islands and smaller than our favorite Hawaiian island of Maui. It definitely makes my list now of my favorite islands around the world.
There are a few side roads, like the one to the Belvedere and to the Pineapple Fields. But mostly it’s the main road. Locals drive pretty fast and crazy and there are bicycles, pedestrians and lots of dogs. But a tour around the island is a must with stops along the way.
This map shows the island and the main road. Starting at the ferry terminal in Vaiare follow the road counter clockwise. Teavara is the village our bungalow is. Continue up the hill to a spectacular viewpoint called Toatea, down the hill to the entrance to one of our favorite beaches Temae (also the location of the Airport Hike above). Continue around through the main town of Maharepa (don’t blink you’ll miss it) and to the first bay called Cook’s Bay. The village of PaoPao has some tiny eateries and a fabulous view of Rotui Mountain. Beautiful spot here includes a historic church. Pao Pao is also where you turn to the Pineapple Route. Continue on you’ll come to another gorgeous beach called Ta’ahiamanu – my favorite beach on the island. Plenty of parking and a great snorkel spot.
Next you’ll arrive at the head of Opunohu Bay. This is where you turn to the Belvedere lookout and hikes as well as Magic Mountain. As you round the Westside of the island it is quieter and more rural. There is a beautiful public beach here at Hauru and this is also the location of Coco Beach (above). Continue further to the location of Tiki Village (above) and a couple more beautiful historic churches at Haapiti.
At Afareaitu is the start of the waterfall hike (above) and is also home to the island’s administrative center and hospital. Finish your circle tour back at Vaiare. Along the way there are plenty of local “snack” shops, food trucks and restaurants as well as a hand full of souvenir shops and pearl shops and locals selling goods and fruit along the roadside. It’s a beautiful drive and a beautiful island. Take your time and enjoy.
Fresh Food Glorious Food
There are some surprisingly good places to eat on this tiny island, and I am putting together a separate blog post about that for next week. So you’re gonna want to check back about that. Meanwhile, check out our latest Tasty Tuesday video on our YouTube channel. Your introduction to Poisson Cru the national dish of Polynesia – we try to eat it everyday. It’s amazing, healthy and very local.
Thanks for following along on our Seven Things to do on Mo’orea, French Polynesia tour. Please come back next week for more about Mo’orea.
I was trying to write a blog about the local food for this week, but oh my goodness there is so much excellent food and I am still experimenting and eating my way through! So, instead I will wait and have a foodie post next week. I should be ready by then so be sure not to miss it – the flavors of French Polynesia are wonderful. Meanwhile, this week, we have been happily exploring and settling into our long stay on this remarkable island. And so I give you Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two.
Week two provided us exactly the weather we had expected when planning this trip. No more monsoons! Just showers now and then with lots and lots of sunshine in between. We are very happy about all of that. We know we will have more rain, but Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two has provided us many opportunities to be active and explore in the warm (and humid) temperatures. We are now into a regular running and hiking schedule. No golf though, as we left our clubs at home this time.
Food and Culture
Week Two we discovered so much about the local food and culture and this is why it needs its own entire blog post. The local influence of French and Chinese to the Polynesian foods has created a wonderful and delicious as well as eclectic cuisine. I’ll tell you more next week. Meanwhile, the local people are incredibly friendly and helpful. On more than one occasion we have had locals drop what they were doing to help us find our way or interpret for us. They are kind and sweet and make us feel very welcome.
Life is pretty simple on Mo’orea. People live in simple homes and live simple lives. I’m sure on Tahiti it’s a bit more citified…but here it’s very laid back and slow.
The culture of these islands is influenced by many factors. The Polynesian people, known as great navigators, migrated to these islands from all over Southeast Asia starting in 500BC. They managed to govern themselves fine, but the French arrived in the 1600’s and took over. C’est le vie. Today French is the official language but English is spoken by many and the native language of Tahitian is spoken by many. There are still about 2 million people who claim Polynesian ethnicity.
This week we took a food tour, a cooking class, ate in a couple of restaurants and went to a Polynesian cultural show and dinner. All of these experiences will get pulled into next week’s post.
Mo’orea is an ancient volcanic island, about ten miles from its larger sister of Tahiti. This beautiful and lush island is very reminiscent of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Kauai is estimated to be about 5 million years old while Mo’orea is closer to 2 million years old. The green mountains rise dramatically out of the incredible turquoise water with spires and peaks and craggy rocks jutting here and there. This makes for difficult but beautiful hiking options.
The coral reef that surrounds the island was described by Darwin as like a picture frame and helped him solidify his theory about atolls. The coral was originally part of the island’s lava flow. Over the millennia it pushed it way out to ring the island and the coral thrived in the environment. It makes a beautiful lagoon around the island and provides safe snorkeling, paddling and swimming opportunities as well as a wonderful home for sea life.
Although Mo’orea is not an active volcano, the recent volcanic explosion and ensuing tsunami in Tonga (1200 miles west) reminds us how our planet is in constant evolution. Following the tsunami we went in search of information regarding the local tsunami procedures and warning systems here on Mo’orea and learned where we are to go in such an emergency. We feel prepared.
There are however a few negatives, but they are hardly enough to mention. But here they are anyway;
Dogs – like many places we have traveled around the world there are ALOT of feral dogs and clearly there is no spay-neuter program in place. It’s sad to see the condition of many of these animals.
Speed – people drive REALLY fast on the two lane road that rings the island and often pass. Yikes. However, over the past couple of years a bike lane has been added on both sides of the ring road all the way around the island. This gives me a safe running lane, although staying alert with the speeding cars is important. Many people use bikes to get around an Motos too, but the bike lane is a nice addition for all of us.
Mosquitos – not the worst place I have been for bug bites (Seychelles Islands wins that award) but the mosquitos have been pretty annoying. Hopefully now that the sun is back, the mosquitoes will go!
Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two
We are relaxed and enjoying our new little island life. I promise next week we will have lot of foodie information to share! So I hope you will check back! Merci!
Well. Here we still are…that crazy PanDamit just won’t give up. If you had told me a year ago when I wrote last year’s 2020 Travel Awards that I would actually travel LESS in 2021 I would not have believed you. And yet…. But nevertheless, we are presenting to you our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021.
In winter 2021 we did some USA exploring, staying away from most people and out of most restaurants. Our USA travel revolved around activities outdoors in sunny places. In April we got our vaccine and we celebrated that milestone by booking our first international trip in more than a year to Iceland. But as summer waned, variants persisted. We continued to travel in the USA and got our booster shot in October, just in time to spend a month in Mexico.
So there was some travel…most of it in the USA, but all of it wonderful. Making the most of a bad situation we continue to live My Fab Fifties Life with courage and caution. For me and my husband, we refuse to be victims or feel controlled by the virus or those who don’t believe in science. Instead, our life is evolving to be happy in this situation that is beyond our control. Doing our best we had some great adventures this year, as you will see in our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021.
And so, we plan to travel in 2022. But in the meantime, we present our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021. I hope it will inspire you to be brave, be smart, be happy and be safe. Happy New Year!
And the winner is…
We visited three countries, plus nine states in the USA.
Favorite City – Mexico City What a fabulous surprise Mexico City was. Huge but with great transportation, this ancient and beautiful city is colorful and remarkably clean and astonishingly delicious. I now rank it as one of my favorite cities in the world. We didn’t have enough time to see it all, so we are considering another visit in 2022.
Cutest Town – Ogunquit Maine We visited Ogunquit in September spending a week with our friends in their summer home and we had the best time. It’s everything you imagine an Eastern Seaboard village to be with beautiful architecture, nice restaurants and shops and beaches too.
Favorite Island – Maui, Hawaii It’s no secret our love for the island of Maui. Of the hundreds of islands we have been blessed to visit around the world Maui remains at the top of our favorite island list. Although it is expensive and can be incredibly crowded, we try to visit during the shoulder season and always fall in love with it again. Read about our Maui adventures here.
Most Expensive Country – Iceland We spent fourteen fun days in Iceland enjoying it’s jaw dropping scenery, with ten of those days in a camper van. We avoided restaurants most of the time, but groceries are expensive, fuel is expensive and the camper van was expensive. But as you will see in the blog below there is a lot to love about Iceland. Read about our Iceland adventures here.
Least Expensive Country – Mexico We were surprised and delighted about the cost of things in Mexico from restaurants and groceries to transportation and lodging. Even our four day food tour was well worth the money and we can’t wait to visit Mexico again. Read about Mexico here.
Favorite Airbnb – Tucson this year we stayed in the fewest Airbnb’s in our entire Airbnb history. Only five. Usually it’s more like thirty. But most of them were great and our favorite was the beautiful house in East Tuscon. It was comfortable and well laid out in a really nice neighborhood where we could run and really get outdoors, right next to Saguaro National Park.
Favorite Hotel – The Red Tree House B&B Mexico City For many reasons, but mostly due to Covid, we ended up in more hotels than Airbnb’s in 2021, a total of 16. Many of these were for only one or two nights as we were just passing through. But The Red Tree House in Mexico City was hands down our favorite. One of the best, if not the best service hotel I have ever stayed in. Beautiful and with excellent breakfast we are already talking about going back next winter.
Most Unique Accommodations – Camper Van Iceland our second time traveling in a camper van in a foreign country. This vehicle was not laid out as nicely as the one we had in New Zealand, but for ten days it worked out fine. And it gave us lots of flexibility to see all the great sights on the fascinating Ring Road in Iceland.
Best View Accommodations – Puerto Escondido Mexico although we found this very open air Airbnb pretty noisy, you just could not beat the view of the Pacific Ocean and the swaying palm trees. Lovely.
Best Food Tour – Mexico City Eat Like a Local Four days of touring with Eat Like a Local Mx opened our eyes to the hidden treasures of this amazing city. We loved every minute and every bite as well as all the history and culture. We also loved our guides Astrid and Rocio and hope to see them again some day. Read about it here.
Weirdest Food – Iceland Fermented Shark We also enjoyed our food tour in Reykjavik Iceland. Iceland has some delicious food, but also some weird food too, like fermented shark. Not my favorite thing ever…tasted like ammonia.
Best Cooking Class – Casa Jacaranda Mexico City Our full day cooking with Casa Jacaranda in Mexico City was one of the best cooking classes I have ever taken…and I have taken a lot of cooking classes over the years. Learning about the ingredients, cooking in the beautiful home kitchens of Casa Jacaranda and enjoying a meal together at the end was just the perfect way to end our visit to Mexico City.
Most Unique Food Experience – O’O Farm Kula Maui during this long visit to Maui we set out to really find some deeper hidden and authentic treasures of this beautiful island (read about it here) and discovering the O’O Farm was one of the most amazing finds. We will definitely visit there again.
Unexpected Food Trend – Sonoran Dog Tucson this unexpected food trend in Tucson was something I had never heard of, but apparently Sonoran Hot Dogs are well loved by those in the know. We did a Tasty Tuesday all about it.
Best Alcohol Tour – Puerto Escondido Mexico a few years ago I was introduced to Mezcal for the first time. Since then, I have learned a bit more about Tequila in general and Mezcal in particular and while in Puerto Escondido we did our first Mezcal Tour. We learned so much from Puerto Mezcal Tours and highly recommend this tour company if you are in the area. Really fun.
Best Micro brews – This one is a tie: Tucson Arizona, and the Breweries of Kitsap Peninsula. While visiting Tucson last winter we set out to taste test all the local microbreweries. During this time there still was no indoor dining, but finding lots of outdoor dining and drinking opportunities we discovered a wide variety of really good beer in Tucson. Back home in Washington State in the spring and summer we spent 8 weeks visiting 24 local microbreweries of the Kitsap Peninsula…if you live anywhere near the Kitsap Peninsula you really need to check this out.
Best Sunrise – Ogunquit Maine – we loved our week in Ogunquit with dear friends and enjoyed the spectacular sunrises each and every morning. Stunning.
Best Sunset – Puerto Escondido Mexico and Maui Hawaii Sunsets over the Pacific Ocean from these two locations never disappointed and we looked forward each evening to the experience.
Best Beach – Maui it’s no secret how much I love the island of Maui, even though it has changed so much in the forty plus years I have been visiting. This year we spent the majority of our time in West Maui, a change for us from past visits, and discovered so many new and lovely beaches…our favorite, Kahana Secret Beach. Shhhhhhh….don’t tell anyone.
Best Waterfall – Iceland – when you first arrive in Iceland you pull over on the road for every waterfall. Until you realize there are tens of thousands of waterfalls and you just can’t possibly see them all. But during our two weeks in Iceland we had three favorites; Dettifoss, Svartifoss, and Hengifoss
Best Natural Site – Antelope Canyon Utah it’s been years that I have wanted to visit Antelope Canyon. I also have tried to get in on the lottery to visit “The Wave”. Still working on that one. But Antelope Canyon is absolutely stunning and it was a definite bucket list for me. I am so glad we finally made it.
Honorable Mention – Kirkjufell Iceland – it was our lucky day to visit this beautiful site on such a clear and sunny day. Kirkjufell is one of the most photographed places in all of Iceland, and it was just stunning.
Best Wildlife Sighting – Grey Wolf Grand Canyon Arizona – a rare and chance siting of a wild wolf on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was such a fluke. I just happened to be looking across a field as we were driving and I yelled Stop! I wasn’t exactly sure what it was I was seeing but we got out the long lens and binoculars and while other cars zoomed right past, we enjoyed seeing a Grey Wolf in the wild. Good eyes Laureen!
Best Wildlife Exhibit – Maui Ocean Center Humpbacks of Hawaii 3D Exhibit it had been many years since we had visited the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium, but their brand new 3D film entitled Humpbacks of Hawaii intrigued us and so we went. Boy were we glad we did. The 3D movie is worth the price of admission, while you can also enjoy the other marine life exhibits. If you have ever hoped to swim with whales, well this is the next best thing. So real.
Best Historic Church – Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson This historic and beautiful old mission just outside of Tucson Arizona was a beautiful surprise both inside and out and I am so glad we took the time to visit it.
Best Modern Architecture – The Chapel of the Holy Cross Sedona Wow. We could see this church from a couple of miles away and even though we weren’t looking for it we headed that way to get a closer look. This Roman Catholic Church is a stunner built into the red rock of Sedona.
Best Museum – Frida Kahlo Mexico City Outstanding small museum in Mexico City, also known as Casa Azul, is the home where Frida Kahlo was born, lived her entire life, and died. The museum dedicated to this strong woman and her fascinating life was our favorite this year.
Best Outdoor Museum – Arizona Sonora Desert Museum one of the best things we did in Tucson, was driving out of town to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, a beautifully laid out outdoor museum. With interpretive signage for the wide variety of plants, wildlife and birds, we spent several hours enjoying this remarkable place.
Best Garden – Sunnylands Palm Springs, Akureyri Botanical Gardens Iceland visiting botanical gardens is a favorite thing we do everywhere we travel. This year we visited several in Arizona, California and Maui. But these two were are favorites for their distinct beauty, surprising colorful blooms (especially in Iceland) and easy accessibility for the visitor. I highly recommend them both. Sunnylands and Akureyri Botanical Gardens
Best Kitsch – Tombstone, Arizona we don’t often fall for the kitsch, but sometimes it’s fun to do the touristy things. In Arizona we spent a day driving from Tucson to Tubac, Bisbee and Tombstone enjoying some history and shopping as well as the touristy kitsch in Tombstone, home to the OK Corral and Wyatt Earp. We were glad we went. Tombstone
Most Unique Experience – Beer Spa Iceland I never did see this activity in any of the research I did for our visit to Iceland, until I stumbled on a brochure. It wasn’t cheap but it was certainly unique and close to where we were spending several days in Akureyri. Bjorbodin was about an hour’s drive. Drinking beer, soaking in beer and having a wonderful time on a very memorable day.
Best Outdoor Art – Borrego Springs California we spent seven weeks in the Palm Springs California area, and one day while driving around we stumbled onto these incredible outdoor sculptures in Borrego Springs. There are dozens of these…perhaps even hundreds. Some small and some huge and all fascinating and fun to see. Worth a side trip if you are in the area.
Best Interactive Exhibit – Wonders of Iceland & Planetarium although this brand new museum and exhibit is pricey, it is really well done and a perfect introduction to Iceland. We learned a lot about the history, geology and geography of the island nation at this exhibit while in Reykjavik, prior to setting out on our 9 day driving tour.
Honorable Mention Van Gogh Immersive Experience Seattle – this traveling exhibit has been getting rave reviews all of the world. We saw it in Seattle and really enjoyed it. Especially if you have never had the opportunity to visit European museums that house Van Gogh, you might find it entertaining.
Best Hike – Tucson, Sedona, Washington State, Maui, Utah if you follow My Fab Fifties Life regularly you know that we hike one day a week, nearly every week of the year. Hiking is a big part of both our travels and when we are at home in Washington State. This past year we have had so many amazing hiking adventures enjoying new hiking experiences in Tucson and Sedona and Page Arizona as well as Utah. We also revisited our favorites in Maui and Washington State. I can’t choose a favorite. I just can’t! So if you are looking to hike in any of these locations click on the live links above to learn more.
Best Place to Run – Maui as I write this I am snowbound in Washington State and unable to keep up with my running schedule. Boy do I miss running in Maui. It’s hands down my favorite place to run in the entire world. I often run before it even gets light, I always feel safe, and I adore the island breeze.
Best Place to Golf – Maui Nui Maui because we were in Maui for two months again this year, we decided to get a membership to Maui Nui in the Kihei area. It’s such a great place to golf if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars for some of the fancier courses. We golfed every Monday for eight weeks with our membership and made vast improvements in our game. I can’t wait to go back next fall.
Expensive But Worth It – White Pocket Utah we paid to take a tour to White Pocket in Utah (about two hours from Page Arizona) because getting there requires a four wheel vehicle. Despite the nearly $400 cost, it was worth it…truly one of the most amazing geological sights I have ever seen. The world is strange and wonderful and Arizona and Utah have more than their share of fantastic geological sites!
Best Yoga – Maui Goat Yoga well I saw this on Trip Advisor and without telling my hubs I signed us up. So much fun! For something completely different, spend a morning with the goats in Maui’s Upcountry area of Kula. It was fun. Maui Goat Yoga.
Hottest Day – Puerto Escondido Mexico we love hot weather, and often find ourselves in places without AC, which was the case in Puerto Escondido Mexico where the temperatures daily reached into the upper 90’s Fahrenheit. But we are used to sleeping with open windows and fans and that is what we did in Puerto Escondido.
Coldest Day – Sedona Arizona we knew Sedona could be chilly and we were mostly prepared, although the morning we woke to a blanket of snow we were a little surprised. We still got out and did our hikes and enjoyed the beauty of the low 30’s temperatures and the white snow blanketing the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona
Honorable Mention – Port Orchard Washington unusually cold weather the week after Christmas kept us housebound with 8 inches of snow at our home in Port Orchard Washington.
The Oopsie That Happened Award 2021
Sea Urchin Attack Maui – every year something weird happens that is worth a mention but doesn’t fit into any category. This year it’s the Sea Urchin Attack. When I got caught in a small wave and my foot was dragged across a bed of sea urchins I ended up with 25 sea urchin spines embedded in my foot. And it hurt like hell. Gratefully we learned the remedy is soaking your foot in vinegar for days and days and eventually the spines dissolve. Who knew?
That’s a Wrap
As you can see, despite it all we had some memorable travel experiences in 2021. We no longer carry many expectations for what 2022 will look like. We will just wait and see and be grateful for whatever comes.
I hope you are healthy and safe. I’ll be blogging in the next few weeks about our impressions and experiences in French Polynesia – our 111th country! We will be in French Polynesia for two months! Life goes on – PanDamit be damned!
Thanks for reading this post Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021. Thanks for your continued love and support of this blog. We love it when you pin and share our blog posts.
We love to hike and when we are traveling we always set aside at least one day a week to hike and get out into nature. And during our recent visit to Maui we discovered another great hike to add to the many favorites we already have on this beautiful island. So today I thought I would share with you six great hikes on the island of Maui.
The area known as West Maui is home to Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili and Kapalua. We spent six weeks exploring this area recently. Here are two of our favorite hikes.
Kapalua Coastal Trail
This trail can be busy but it’s worth it because it is so beautiful and definitely one of the six great hikes on the island of Maui. Parking can be difficult but look for street parking near the Napili Kai Resort, or paid parking at Kapalua Golf Course. Start the hike right at Merriman’s Restaurant where the trail heads north. The trail then winds through spectacular lava flows where you can see crashing waves and nesting shearwaters birds nesting. Follow the trail along the road at the Kapalua Golf Course and out to the Dragons Teeth Labyrinth. Round trip about 4 miles. Learn more here.
The Village Course and Duck Pond
The Kapalua Golf Club closed one of their three courses in 2007. Today the cart paths of the defunct Village Course are a unique and somewhat eerie (and steep) walk through a golf ghost town. It’s astonishing actually how quickly nature has reclaimed this course, making the fairways essentially unrecognizable only fourteen years later. The walk is about four miles round trip at the top is Duck Pond, a nice stop to rest or picnic before returning down. Learn more here.
South Maui is usually defined as Kihei, Wailea and Makena. We have spent a great deal of time in this part of the island and we love it.
La Perouse/Hoapili Trail
This is one of my favorites of the six great hikes on the island of Maui, but also a bit rough and difficult. Traversing over sharp lava beds, come prepared with the right shoes. It’s a hot and arid trail but provides some stunning views across to the Big Island of Hawaii. The trail is also a sacred trail for Hawaiians, once part of the King’s Highway that circled the island. Crossing the 300 year old lava field is a unique experience, if you are up for it I recommend it highly. Wear a hat and bring lots of water. Learn more here.
The region sometimes referred to as Central Maui is home to the airport in Kahului and the government seat city of Wailuku as well as malls, shopping and industrial areas.
About a 7 mile drive north and west from Wailuku you find the parking area for the Waihee Ridge Trail. We have done this trail several times and had a wide variance in weather each time. Come prepared for rain, wind, fog or clear blue skies…you never know. Arrive early for parking. The trail goes up and up the green and beautiful ridge for about 2.5 miles and if you are lucky the views are phenomenal. Learn more here.
The astonishing volcano Haleakala rises 10,000 feet (3048 meters) out of the island and can be seen from almost anywhere on the island. If you go to do either of these suggested hikes get an early start. Often the volcano is clear in the morning but clouds roll in later in the day. BE PREPARED, Haleakala can be very cold in the morning…cold enough to warrant a stocking cap and warm coat.
This is one of my favorite hikes on the island. Starting at the top of the volcano at the Visitor Information Center, Sliding Sands, as it’s name implies, is a red sandy trail that goes down inside the volcano crater. Don’t do more than you are capable of on this eleven mile round trip trail, because you need to come back up! Along this trail you will feel like you are on the moon. It’s beautiful, and you will also see the rare and endangered Silver Sword plant known only to grow in this volcano and the two volcanoes on the Big Island. Learn more here.
Approximately 14.2 miles up Highway 378 but before you reach the summit, you will see the Halemau’u Trail parking on the left side of the road. This trail often starts in the mist and clouds, but don’t despair. As you walk the ridge and then go down the rock face trail into the crater the weather usually warms and clears. There is a picnic area that is a good turn around point. Or you can hike all the way through to Sliding Sands and back up to the Visitor Center. But you will need to either have two cars or someone to bring you back to the Halemau’u parking area. Learn more here.
These are just a few of the many hikes available on the beautiful island of Maui. No matter your hiking skill level you can find a walk or hike on this island. If you are looking for additions to the six great hikes on the island of Maui check this out.
We have always stayed in Kihei when visiting Maui. Kihei is in the southern part of the island, with a dry and almost desert like climate. But this time we are house sitting for our friends, and are finding we are loving the west side and the experience of many new things. Although I have spent so much time on the island of Maui, it never ceases to surprise me! Here are some thoughts – Napili Surprise Our New Favorites.
Napili is a tiny hamlet tucked in between Kahana and Kapalua about three miles north of the more well-known and touristy Kaanapali area. Technically all these places mentioned above are part of the city of Lahaina, but each has a distinct flavor of its own.
Napili is book ended by Kapalua on the north, which I would describe as affluent and upscale, home to the renowned Kapulua Golf Club. On its south flank Napili borders Kahana, more simple and family oriented with condos but also many local residential neighborhoods.
It’s actually hard to define where Napili begins and ends, but for my purposes in this blog post, my reference points are from Kapalua Beach to Kahana Sunset Condos along the Lower Honoapiilani Hwy.
Climate and History
Napili has a long and rich history going back to its first Polynesian settlers arriving in the 8th century. Wet and lush, the region was and still is a prominent agricultural area for native islanders.
Although not the rainiest part of the island, Napili’s annual rainfall is four times that of the arid Kihei area. While we were here we saw spits of rain nearly everyday, but only two times was it significant enough to keep us from our plans. Much of the rain happens overnight or early morning from my observations. And due to this, there are rainbows every single day. So beautiful.
During our six weeks living in Napili we have loved the low-key local vibe, especially since we have been living in an apartment complex of locals rather than in a tourist resort. The school bus comes each morning and neighbors are friendly and it feels very much like home.
The Napili surprise – finding our favorites in this small little village has been very easy. There are a few ocean side resorts, and I hope when people stay in one of those, they get out and see some of this tiny town. For instance;
Napili Plaza – the only shopping area in Napili, the plaza is home to a small but great grocery store (the Napili Market), as well as hair and nail salons, mail services, a coffee shop and bakery, a boutique and a handful of small restaurants which are all worth a visit.
A’ A Roots – I’m not vegan, but I am very much into healthy eating and sustainable food and that is the mission of A’ A Roots, a small vegan restaurant in Napili Plaza. When we visited the inside was still closed due to Covid, but they had a few outside tables and take away as well. We had a fantastic meal for lunch and it’s a not-to-miss spot in Napili.
Slack Key Show – Grammy winning George Kahumoku Jr and a group of very talented local artists perform twice a week at the Napili Kai resort. This fabulous series is in its 18th year and is a great way to learn about Hawaii’s love of the slack key guitar, as well as the ukelele. This concert was an amazing Napili surprise and we enjoyed it very much.
Kapalua Coastal Trail – Although named after Kapalua, the trail begins in Napili and heads north through Kapalua. This trail offers astonishing views of the ocean, the island of Molokai and sometimes whales and dolphins. At the northern end of the trail you will find the Dragon’s Teeth Labyrinth, definitely worth a visit. If you are up to it, from the Labyrinth take Office Road up the hill past the Honolua Store to Pineapple Hill for a beautiful view and work out.
Napili Farmers Market – walking distance from our apartment and Napili Plaza is the twice-a-week Napili Farmers Market. Held every Wednesday and Saturday, the market changes regularly but offers local produce, honey, baked goods and crafts. We purchased some delicious Baba ganoush and flat bread.
Sunset at Honokeana Bay – This rocky bay is a bit difficult to access (look for the gravel trail between Honokeana Cove and Napili Point Resorts), but is a beautiful place for spotting sea turtles and for watching the sunset. Check it out.
Honu (Sea Turtles)– The native Hawaii Green Sea Turtle is protected under the endangered species act since 1978. It is against federal law to touch or harass these beautiful creatures either in the water or on land. Every beach we visited in Napili offered a great way to view the turtle population from the beach. The Honu have increased in number since they became protected, and as frequent visitors to Maui we definitely have noticed an increase in Honu sightings. Napili is a great place to watch these beautiful creatures from a respectful distance.
Check out this link below of a video we posted on Instagram of a green sea turtle.
Napili Bay – This beautiful bay is a great place to snorkel, swim and enjoy the sandy beach. There is a small public parking area on the south end of the beach. A handful of small condos front the beach as well as the historic and beautiful Napili Kai Resort.
The Sea House Restaurant – One of my top restaurants on the entire island, the gorgeous beach front restaurant The Sea House is in the Napili Kai resort on the north end of beautiful Napili Bay. Make a reservation and don’t miss a beautiful evening at The Sea House. Funny story, when we ate there it started to pour down rain but my food was so delicious I carried under the eaves to finish it…I didn’t want to miss a bite!!!
The Gazebo – So this is one of those places that gets a reputation and then it explodes…some people waiting hours to eat macadamia nut pancakes or a mountain of fried rice with eggs. I’m not sure it warrants a two hour wait, but the view is nice, it’s fairly inexpensive by Maui standards and it’s kind of a local icon. If you don’t want to wait for hours arrive by 7am for the 7:30 opening.
On the Fringe
Technically not in Napili, we also spent a lot of time at Kapalua Bay and Secret Beach in Kahana. Additionally we frequently visited The Fish Market on the border between Kahana and Kaanapali as well as the long stretch of Kaanapali Beach. Our favorite beach was Secret Beach in Kahana, because, as it’s name implies, we usually had it to ourselves, except for the dozens of green sea turtles that call this beach home.
Through the years and our many visits to this beautiful island I continue to be astonished by the variety of hidden gems we find each visit. You will never see everything because Maui constantly changes and evolves while remaining graceful and beautiful and friendly. Maui – The Valley Isle. Napili Surprise – Our New Favorites.
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