Follow:
Topics:
Browsing Category:

North America Travel

    North America Travel

    Idle Away in Idyllwild, California

    Location: Idyllwild California

    It’s been five weeks since we arrived in Palm Desert California for a bit of winter sun and fun. Despite the pandemic we have found lots of outdoor activities we can enjoy in the region, while staying safe and protected. This past week we took a fabulous two-day excursion to the little mountain town of Idyllwild. What a hidden treasure. When in Southern California, you must idle away in Idyllwild California.

    Less than an hour from our Palm Desert Airbnb but like a whole different world, Idyllwild is a breath of fresh mountain air. From Palm Desert at 300 feet above sea level you climb the beautiful Palm to Pines Highway (Highway 74) into the San Jacinto mountains and to the little village of Idyllwild. At 6000 feet this area is popular with the Los Angeles crowd on the west side of the San Jacinto and the Palm Springs crowd on the east side. Locals know the secret to idle away in Idyllwild California.

    Welcome to Idyllwild

    The desert valley Cahuilla Indians came to the region for generations to escape the heat of the desert. In the late 1800’s a summer camp was opened called Idyllwilde, and later a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients. Although there is no skiing in the area, Idyllwild today attracts hikers, mountain climbers and cyclists.

    Taquits Rock also known as Lily Rock

    Two beautiful rock formations look down on the village nestled in the small valley where the Strawberry Creek runs, famously known for wild strawberries in the summer. Tahquitz Rock, also known as Lily Rock juts majestically out of the mountain while Suicide Rock is less steep but no less beautiful. Rock climbers love the area.

    On the trail over the creek

    Hikers Paradise

    We aren’t rock climbers but we are definitely hikers and we took advantage of the sunny and cooler mountain weather. We arrived on a quiet Tuesday and spent several hours exploring Idyllwild park just a half mile from town. The Idyllwild Nature Center is currently closed (check website) but the trails are open and mid-week we practically had it all to ourselves. Amazing views no matter where you look.

    Hiking Trails

    The gorgeous Ponderosa Pines and Sugar Pines as well as Manzanita, fir trees, oak and many other beautiful green flora contrast with the gorgeous blue skies and I was smitten. Signs warn of mountain lion, bears, rattlesnakes and poison oak. We did see some poison oak (educate yourself) and lots of gray squirrels and birds…but no snakes or large mammals.

    Tranquility Room at The Grand Idyllwild Lodge

    Lodging and Food

    We checked into The Grand Idyllwild Lodge, one of the premier lodging choices in the area. There are many options for overnight stays, but The Grand Idyllwild Lodge came highly recommended to us so we splurged a bit and were glad we did. We had a beautiful cozy room in the three story lodge, including an amazing “continental” breakfast. On weekends the breakfast is “gourmet” but the weekday “continental” was pretty darn gourmet in my opinion. Fabulous. Currently The Grand Idlywild Lodge is “contactless” and masks are required. They are following California Covid regulations so both guests and staff stay safe.

    Continental Breakfast

    Idyllwild is home to a wide variety of eateries from pizza and tacos to burgers and fine dining. We enjoyed an after hike beer (or two) at the Idyllwild Brewpub. We did not eat here but the food that was coming out of the kitchen looked amazing. The beer WAS amazing.

    Cafe Aroma

    The only meal we ate out was dinner, and again on recommendation from our friend we headed to Cafe Aroma just down the street from our lodgings. Outdoor seating under current California Covid rules was well done with large mega heaters keeping us toasty in the cool mountain evening. The service was incredible too. We enjoyed wine with our dinner from their extensive wine list. I had fresh-made Tomato Basil Soup, and Pork Chops with Potatoes. My husband ordered the Steak Frites special which was huge and delicious. We finished our lovely day with fresh made Beignets and coffee.

    Giant Boulders on the mountain side

    Day two we headed out for another hike along the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail. National Forest or National Park pass required, so stop in at the Ranger station before heading up Fern Valley Road. Park where the road ends and begin your walk. Here on the north facing slopes we encountered some snow from the big storm more than three weeks ago. But easy passage brought us to south and west facing trail with dry and beautiful trails. The incredible giant rocks in this region are astonishing, tumbled down from the mountains and strewn about – the rounded boulders reminiscent of dinosaur eggs.

    We returned to Palm Desert late Wednesday via the Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Hwy (Rt 243) where astonishing views nearly to the ocean welcomed us along the way. At Banning we picked up Interstate 10 east into the greater Palm Springs area and back to our Palm Desert Airbnb.

    Manzanita

    It would have been very easy to idle away in Idyllwild California for a few more days. I’m not sure how I have never been to this lovely little treasure of a town high above the bustling Los Angeles metropolis. Add it to your list. You won’t regret a day or two enjoying some idle away in Idyllwild California.

    More Palm Desert posts coming soon. Meanwhile we love it when you pin and share our posts.

    See this week’s top performing pin here – Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To.

    Island Life  --  North America Travel

    Maui Hidden Gems

    Maui Hidden Gems Treasures Throughout the Island

    Location: Maui Hawaii USA

    Most people come to Maui for the beach. And yes the beach is pretty incredible. I should say the beaches are incredible, because there are so very many to choose from. And I get it – the lure of the tropical ocean breeze and the lapping waves in the golden sand. It’s a perfect way to shed your stress and just relax. Ahhh…but you are missing Maui hidden gems.

    Wailea

    Maui has so much more than just the beach in front of your hotel or condo. And I want to convince you to get out and see the magic of this diverse tropical paradise and find Maui hidden gems.

    Kula Botanical Gardens

    So come with me on a around-the-island-tour of my favorite hidden places, businesses and vistas – Maui Hidden Gems.

    Start in Kula and head north for a full one or two day tour described below. Also start in Kula and head south to do the Going to Hana Backwards tour (see link below)

    Upcountry

    Our tour begins in Upcountry, away from the beaches. This interior area of the island offers a slower pace, a cooler climate and some of the island’s lushest and most diverse flora. Here’s our upcountry hidden gems;

    Kula Lodge – I haven’t stayed here but I hope to on my next visit. This hidden gem is a treasure. Even if you don’t stay, come for the pizza on their outdoor patio. Amazing.

    Pizza at Sunset on the Kula Lodge patio

    Kula Botanical Gardens – privately owned and beautifully presented, this hidden gem showcases tropical plants of all kinds, tucked into the mountain terrain.

    Maui Veteran’s Cemetery – located in Makawao, a brief stop here provides the visitor a peek into the reverence and respect Hawaii has for it’s veterans of all wars.

    Ocean Vodka

    Ocean Vodka – enjoy a tour and tasting, take some vodka or gin home, and marvel at the view from this mountain top distillery in Kula.

    And if you are inclined to do the Hana drive, we recommend you start in Kula and plan on Going to Hana Backwards. Learn more here.

    Kahului and Wailuku

    Most visitors don’t see more than the airport in these two island cities. Both cities are home to much of the islands full-time residents, government seat and industry. But hidden here are some of our favorite shops and one of our favorite Maui hidden gems restaurants.

    Sam Satos – low key and no website, this local noodle shop is rarely frequented by visitors. But it has become one of my favorite places to eat in Maui.

    Fabric Mart – I love picking up Aloha fabrics when in Hawaii. There are several fabric and quilting stores around the island, and the Kahului location of Fabric Mart is one of my favorites.

    Mochi from Maui Specialty Chocolates

    Maui Specialty Chocolates and Mochi – most visitors go home with Hawaiian Host chocolates. You’ll never buy Hawaiian Host again once you visit Maui Specialty Chocolates in Kahului. Try the Mochi too.

    Kahekili Highway (The North/West Tip Road) – Everyone has heard of the road to Hana, but Maui has another twisty, winding road with spectacular views – the hidden gem Kahekili Highway. Start this road in Waihee just outside of Wailuku and drive the lesser traveled route to Kapalui.

    Kahekili Highway

    West Maui

    Napili, Kapalua and Kaanapali make up the area known as West Maui and your drive around the tip of the West Maui Mountain on the Kahekili Highway will land you in Kapalua.

    Pineapple Hill – home to luxury homes with incredible views, Pineapple Hill can be walked on foot for an exhilarating hike. Watch for historic markers that explain the Maui hidden gems history of the Kapalua area, the Baldwin family and Pineapple Hill.

    Maui historic churches

    Kapalua Coastal Trail Labyrinth – Also called the Dragons Teeth Labyrinth this beautiful prayer labyrinth was built and is maintained by locals and is a true Maui hidden gem on the rugged Kapalua Coastal Trail. Walking the Coastal Trail is also a highly recommended activity.

    Labyrinth

    Historic Churches of Maui – throughout the island you will find many historic, often century-old structures. Some still in use today as places of worship, while others have been converted to other uses. West Maui has it’s share of this hidden gems.

    Lahaina

    Although it is one of the oldest Hawaiian settlements and was home to Hawaiian royalty, I am continuously disappointed in Lahaina. Over the past several decades Lahaina seems to have fallen from grace and needs someone to resuscitate it. Years ago it was home to shop after shop of local artisans including jewelry, sculpture and one of kind paintings. Today there are many boarded up windows and lots of tacky tourist tschotskis, alongside a handful of restaurants. Sidewalks are poor, paint is chipped and peeling and the town is a sad reminder of its former self. Lahaina does have some good restaurants worth a visit that keep this town alive. We really recommend Mala Ocean Tavern, Star Noodle and Down the Hatch.

    Additionally the Hawaiian government has lacked the initiative to preserve some of this island’s most sacred sites, that lie in ruin often behind chain link fences in Lahaina. These places are truly part of Maui hidden gems.

    Maui
    Maui Ghost Tours

    Maui Ghost Tours – take a walking tour of Lahaina and learn about the hidden gems of sacred sights, royal sights and lost sights important to the local Hawaiian people. It’s a fascinating tour.

    The Old Pali Road – as you drive from Lahaina south towards Kihei on today’s two lane highway called the Honoapiilani Highway, watch for remnants of the Old Pali Road built around the turn of the century. This old road remains in bits and pieces, a reminder of a simpler time on this beautiful island. You can walk parts of the Old Pali Road too.

    Koholo Brewing

    Kohola Brewing – hidden in a back parking lot of an industrial area of Lahaina, Kohola Brewing is a definite hidden gem of Maui. Maui is home to several outstanding breweries, but we loved Kohola’s industrial vibe and unpretentious operation. Go in search of good beer here.

    South Maui

    Kihei, Wailea and Makena make up the area known as south Maui and include some of the best beaches and hidden coves on the island. This desert area sits in the shadow of Haleakala and until the early 1980’s the road stopped at South Kihei where today the 5 Palms Restaurant is. Everything south of there has developed since then. It used to be a two day trip to get to the far end of the island. Today it takes about 30 minutes.

    Around the Island Trail

    Historic Around the island path – built in the 16th century the path used to circumnavigate the entire island, giving kings the power to control the island. Today remnants of the path can be found and accessed in many places.

    Hoopili Kings Highway – sometimes called the La Perouse Trail, this part of the old King’s Highway is the best maintained. Follow South Kihei Road until it ends, and you will be at the Hoopili path. Wear close-toed shoes and bring lots of water for this hot and barren landscape that crosses a 300 year old lava bed.

    La Perouse and Hoopilii Trail

    Secret Beaches – as you drive in South Kihei and Makena keep your eyes open for the many (often unmarked) beach access trails. Here you can find the secret beaches of Maui, often tiny coves and sometimes broad golden beaches.

    Wailea Path – if you aren’t staying at one of the fancy ocean front resorts in Wailea you may not know about the beautiful public boardwalk that runs the entire length of Wailea, about a mile and a half. A great place for a morning run, evening stroll and whale watching. Parking is available at several locations. It’s also a great way to get a glimpse at the beautiful resorts.

    Additional Hidden Gems

    Jolica Jewels

    Jolica Jewels – if you are looking for a perfect memento of your time on Maui, or maybe a special gift for that special someone, check out Maui based Jolica Jewels. Beautiful one of kind pieces of jewelry to fit any budget, all with a special Hawaiian flair, lovingly designed and created by local Jolica.

    Lei Making and Adventure Tours with Sarah – Learn to make a Hawaiian lei with a local. Go on a scavenger hunt for flowers then string together a beautiful lei. It’s easier than you think. Sarah also does tours of the island and guided hikes and salt gathering.

    Gathering flowers for lei making with Sarah

    Fresh Fish Maui – get the daily fresh catch report and order online with Fresh Fish Maui for the catch of the day delivered direct to your condo door. It’s the freshest and most delicious fish you can get on the island.

    And Those Are Our Favorite Maui Hidden Gems

    There you have it, some of our hidden gems of Maui. There is so much to see on this beautiful island, you can never see it all. So you’ll always need to come back for more. Maui no ka oi.

    We love it when you share and pin our blog posts. Mahalo.

    We love it when you share and pin our blog posts. Mahalo.

    The State of Hawaii and Island of Maui have strict rules regarding Covid. Please do your research when planning your trip. Learn more here.

    Island Life  --  North America Travel

    Maui Top Five Things to Do

    Best of the Best, Maui Hawaii USA

    Location: Maui Hawaii

    Hawaii has strict Covid-19 restrictions. Know before you go. Learn more here.

    Maui is hands down my favorite of all the Hawaiian Islands. We have now been on Maui for seven weeks and still have two more weeks to go! Everything about it I love. And despite the fact there isn’t anything negative I can say about this beautiful place, I do have some favorites. So today I thought I would share with you my Maui top five things to do – best of the best.

    Top Five Beaches

    Maui
    Secret Beach Makena
    1. Keawakapu – our most frequented beach in South Kihei offers a wide sandy beach, warm clear water and gentle waves
    2. Makena Beaches – Makena also in the south, is dotted with public access to dozens of beautiful and often secluded beach. Secret Beach is worth finding. MaKena Beach State Park is a wonderful huge expanse of a beach and rarely busy.
    3. Black Beach Hana – for the sheer beauty of it, Black Beach on the road to Hana is worth a visit
    4. Baldwin Beach – on the north shore Baldwin Beach is great for body surfing
    5. Napili Bay Beach – I have not swam at this beach but it is so beautiful and has easy access at the north end of the island
    Maui
    Maui Beaches

    Top Five Snorkeling

    Maui
    Keawakapu, Kihei
    1. Black Rock Kaanapali – the beach in front of the Kaanapali Sheraton known as Black Rock is one of my favorite places to snorkel. Clear and full of fish and turtles.
    2. Turtle Rock – On a guided snorkel trip a few years ago we had the most amazing time at Turtle Rock – hundreds of turtles here.
    3. Molokini – Though sometimes crowded, a snorkel tour to Molokini is a must at least once in your life to see the abundant marine life here.
    4. Makena Beaches – there are several public access beaches on this long stretch of south Maui with some of the best and easily accessed snorkeling on the island.
    5. Keawakapu – my favorite beach, and the one closest to where we usually stay, has an easy access into the water with snorkel options at the far north of the beach around a large lava reef. Wonderful sealife, turtles and fish.

    Top Five Activities

    Maui
    Maui Zipline
    1. Old Lahaina Lu’au – the creme de la creme of Lu’aus, Old Lahaina has just recently reopened after being closed for 8 months due to the pandemic. I have enjoyed this Luau several times, and although expensive, it is worth every penny. Reservations are required.
    2. Maui Zipline – Maui Zipline is where it all began, the first zipline in the USA. Safe and fun and now reopened with even more safety features.
    3. Whale Watching – from November to April Maui is home to some of the earth’s most amazing creatures, the magnificent humpback whales. A must-do activity while visiting Maui is enjoy a guided tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation.
    4. Ghost Tours Lahaina – more of a history lesson than a ghost encounter, this walking tour with a local will open your eyes to some of the hidden history and mystic Hawaiian lore. Very informative and entertaining.
    5. Chef Prepared dinner – many local chefs are available to bring dinner to you, cooking and serving a beautiful Hawaiian meal for two to ten or even more in your condo or local hale.

    Top Five Hikes

    Maui
    Kapalua Coastal Trail
    1. Waihee Ridge – mid island, five mile roundtrip with incline to spectacular views but weather can be unpredictable.
    2. Kapalua Coastal Trail – hugging the coast from Kapalua to Napili this rugged and beautiful hike has views of Molokai, Lanai and the ocean. Windy.
    3. Halemau’u Haleakala – hike down into the crater starting at 8000 foot level where you will find easy parking. The trail is a switch back and easy for most fit hikers. Temperatures can be very cold at times.
    4. Sliding Sands Haleakala – this is a work out let me tell you, but if you are fit it’s spectacular. Bring lots of water, be prepared for wind and cold or heat and sun you never know. A great place to see the rare and beautiful Silver Sword plant.
    5. Hoapili, La Perouse – past Makena where the road ends you will find parking and the trailhead of the Hoapili, the historic Kings Road. The rough trail takes you over a 300 year old lava field to the far south end of the island. Bring lots of water, it is a hot and dry trail.

    See a great article here with more great hikes from Pride of Maui.

    Top Five Fine Dining

    Mamas Fish House Maui
    Mamas Fish House
    1. Mama’s Fish House, Paia – one of the supreme dining experiences anywhere in the world
    2. Mala Ocean Tavern, Lahaina – Tiny but local chef has created a wonderful menu
    3. Sea House, Napili – One of the best pieces of fish I have ever had
    4. Roy’s Kaanapali – Celebrated chef Roy Yamachuchi’s restaurant never disappoints
    5. Ko, Wailea – we celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary at Ko. It was incredible. Beautiful location and great service.

    Top Five Casual Dining (six in this category!)

    Star Noodle Maui
    Star Noodle, Lahaina
    1. Sam Sato, Wailuku – tourists don’t know about this hidden local gem. Best noodles anywhere
    2. Paia Fish Market (Kihei, Paia and Lahaina) – favorite among visitors and locals
    3. Three’s Bar & Grill Kihei – creative menu of delicious small plates
    4. Maui Brewing (Kihei and Kaanapali) – simple pub food with a healthy twist
    5. Star Noodle, Lahaina – simply incredible. Be sure to have the Vietnamese pancake
    6. Cafe O’Lei – Various locations. Great food, great price and prix fix menu daily.

    We have also heard great things about Kula Lodge, Kimo’s and Down the Hatch.

    Top Five Take Out Foods

    1. L & L Plate Lunch, Kihei – quintessential Hawaiian plate lunch
    2. Maui Taco, Kihei – fish tacos!
    3. Island Gourmet Market, Wailea – great selection of local cuisine as well as sandwiches, pizza and more
    4. Honolua Store, Kapalua – similar to above as well as a great gift shop
    5. Food Trucks, Everywhere and for every taste bud

    Top Five Breakfast Places

    Paia Maui
    Island Fresh Cafe, Paia

    There are several breakfast places we have heard are great (The Gazebo Kapalua and 808 Grindz Lahaina to name two) but these are the ones we have enjoyed so far.

    1. Kihei Cafe, popular, casual spot in Kihei
    2. Sugar Beach Bake Shop, North Kihei – you gotta try the malasada donuts
    3. Kula Bistro, Upcountry great Eggs Benedict
    4. Island Fresh Cafe, Paia worth the trip, healthy and inexpensive
    5. 5 Palms, Kihei, a great view of Keawakapu. Try the lox and bagel.

    Top Five Places for Drinks

    Lahaina Maui
    Waikiki Brewing Co, Lahaina
    1. Maui Brewing, Kihei
    2. Merriman’s for Sunset, Kapalua
    3. Hula Grill Kaanapali
    4. Waikiki Brewing Co, Lahaina
    5. Tommy Bahama’s Wailea (try the Mai Tai here)

    Top Five Just For the Heck of It

    Maui
    Nakalele Blow Hole
    1. Ocean Vodka, tasting and tours, Kula – an innovative entreprenueal effort on Maui worth your support. I love the gin.
    2. Spend a day shopping in Paia and Makawao
    3. Nakalele Blow Hole, Napili – a wonderful site. Don’t get too close.
    4. Sunrise or Sunset Haleakala (sunrise reservations required. Learn more here.)
    5. Drive Hana Backwards (counterclockwise) – miss the crowds by doing this drive the opposite way most people go. Read what we wrote about Going to Hana Backwards here.

    Top Four Inexpensive Golf

    Maui Nui Golf Club
    Maui Nui Golf, Kihei

    Golf can be very expensive on Maui, but if you know where to go, you can play nine or 18 holes on a budget. Here are our favorite budget friendly courses (we can’t find five, so four will do).

    1. Maui Nui, Kihei – well cared for grounds at a great price
    2. Waiehu County Golf, Wailuku – county run course with a magnificent ocean view
    3. Pukalani, Makawao, upcountry course with beautiful views, sometimes wet
    4. The Dunes at Maui Lani, Kahului, beautiful course built on natural dunes.

    That’s My List

    So if you are thinking about visiting Maui for the first time, or are planning to return for another visit, check out some of my top fives – you can’t go wrong with any of them.

    Maui
    Wailea Sunrise

    Be a Kind & Generous Visitor

    And remember, Maui took a big hit during the 7-month closure during the pandemic. The local people lost jobs, income and businesses closed permanently, on this island that depends on tourism. If you can afford to visit Maui, you can afford to make a donation while you are there. Many local agencies can use your support now. The Maui Food Bank is one that is helping some 32,000 local residents who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

    Help breathe life back into the local economy by shopping and dining at locally owned stores, supporting locally run activities, taking time to talk to and understand the local people and their culture, and donate to a local non-profit agency that is helping the local people.

    Mahalo!

    Read My Favorite Islands Around the World here.

    Read Maui Now – Open for Business here.

    We love it when you pin and share our blog. Thank you.

    See this week’s top performing pin here.

    North America Travel

    My Favorite Thing To Do On Each Hawaiian Island

    I’ve spent the majority of my Hawaii vacations on the island of Maui, and it is my favorite of all the islands. But I have been lucky enough to visit each of the islands, most for several days and one for just a day. So I thought I would share with you my personal favorite thing to do on each Hawaiian Island.

    My first visit to Hawaii, 1977. I was seventeen.

    The Island of Lanai

    Sailing around Lanai with my son

    With only two hotels on this island, known as the Pineapple Isle, you might consider a day trip from Maui. It’s a great way to visit this tiny island, where Hulopoe Beach is my favorite thing. The marine preserve at this beach is home to tide pools, turtles and wonderful marine life. The golden sand beach is beautiful and it’s a perfect snorkel spot.

    The Island of Kauai

    Na Pali Coast Kauai

    The oldest and lushest of all the islands, beautiful and green Kauai is known as the Garden Isle. There are many amazing things to see and do on this beautiful island, but my favorite is Na Pali Coast Wilderness. There are several hikes to get into this beautiful but very remote area. However, don’t attempt hiking here unless you are an experienced hiker.

    The Island of Hawaii

    Manta ray night swim on the Big Island

    The Big Island is the youngest of the inhabited island and is an amazing sight with the recent lava flows and stark and barren landscape. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is amazing, but my favorite thing to do on the Big Island is to do a night swim with the manta rays in Kona. Swimming with the manta rays is one of the most amazing things I have ever done.

    The Island of Oahu

    Koko Head Crater Hike Oahu

    The most populous of the islands, nicknamed The Gathering Place, Oahu is home to the state capital of Honolulu. This is the first island I visited back in 1977 and I fell in love with Hawaii. There are so many things to do on this island, but it is also very crowded with tourists. Shopping and dining are popular and of course going to the beach and snorkeling. I loved the quieter and more laid back North shore. But my favorite thing I have ever done on this island is hike up the Koko Head stairs. This “hike” is a scramble up a very steep, uneven, ancient railroad track. It’s 1048 stairs up. It is hard but it’s still my favorite thing to do on Oahu.

    The Island of Molokai

    Mule ride Molokai

    The Friendly Isle is very much that. This island feels the most like what I imagine Hawaii was sixty or so years ago. There is lots to do on The Friendly Isle, but my favorite thing, unfortunately is currently closed. Taking a mule ride down to the Kalaupapa Leper Colony is an amazing experience. The history is fascinating and the beauty is sublime. I hope this attraction can reopen. You can get to the colony by flying, but the mule ride is just so awesome. While on Molokai be sure to visit Kamoi Snack-n-Go ice cream shop! It’s owned by my dear friend Kimberly and you will love the ice cream!

    The Island of Maui

    Maui – heaven on earth

    Maui no ka oi. The Valley Isle. My favorite island and one of my favorite places in the world. I love Maui. I just tried to count how many times I have visited Maui and I think it’s about 8…but maybe 10. Anyway in all those visits we have done pretty much every attraction and seen every destination there is. I have a favorite beach (Keawakapu), a favorite restaurant (Mama’s Fish House), a favorite place to run (Wailea Beach), a favorite hike (La Perouse), a favorite farmers market (Upcountry), a favorite snorkel spot (Blackrock Kaanapali) and a favorite public golf course (Maui Nui). I even have a favorite yoga studio (Maui Yoga Path).

    But what is my most favorite thing to do on the beautiful Valley Isle? Absolutely Nothing. I love to sit with my morning coffee or my afternoon gin and listen to the waves and breath the clean fresh air and count my blessings.

    Lucky girl that I am.

    My favorite thing to do on each Hawaiian Island. Fabulous Hawaii. Aloha.

    We love it when you pin and share our blog. Thank you.

    See this week’s top performing pin.

    You might also like Snorkeling Around the World

    North America Travel

    Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest

    Summer and Fall a Great Time to Hike

    Location: Pacific Northwest

    Hiking is one of our most favorite activities and it is so good for you too. We love everything from walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain (almost 500 miles) to short day hikes close to home. Spending our summers in the Pacific Northwest where we grew up, we are spoiled by so many great day hikes close by. So I thought I would put together a list of my favorite day hikes in the Pacific Northwest.

    Olympic Peninsula

    Definitely one of the most beautiful places to hike anywhere in the world, the Olympic Peninsula is the closest to my home of the regions I’ve listed here. Located in Washington State’s upper Northwest region, it offers both day and overnight hiking options for the novice to the advanced. Listed here are a handful of my favorite day hikes on the Olympic Peninsula.

    South Fork Skokomish RiverMap it

    South Fork Skokomish River

    Beautiful and relatively easy with minimal incline (there is some but nothing too strenuous) this well-maintained trail skirts the South Fork of the Skokomish River in a region just Southwest of the lower Hood Canal. To walk the entire out and back it can be eleven miles or a bit more, or turn around at any point. Keep your eyes open for some beautiful and massive old cedar and Douglas fir trees. There are a handful of areas to access the river for your picnic or a place to rest and enjoy this peaceful location.

    Parking is available

    Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass Required

    Learn more about Lower Skokomish trail here.

    Storm KingMap it

    Storm King view of Crescent Lake

    We hiked this for the first time this past July and it is a climb! If you don’t want incline this one is not for you. But boy do you get some beautiful views from the top. The trail is steep and in places rocky as you traverse the 2 miles to the top. It’s popular on weekends so consider off season or mid-week. The last part to the peak requires use of ropes to conquer the top. Or just sit on the rocks and eat your lunch and let the young kids do that last part.

    Parking is available at the Crescent Lake parking area

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Storm King and Crescent Lake here.

    Lena LakeMap it

    Lena Lake

    I have hiked this trail all my life, since I was a little child and we used to hike overnight for our summer vacation. Some elevation to lower Lena, but it’s a perfect day hike at about 7 miles round trip. The incline is gentle and most anyone can do it. The trail does have some rocky areas and lots of roots but you will marvel at the beautiful old growth Douglas Firs. The turquoise blue lake is perfect for your lunch and then head back down. Overnight hikers can consider continuing on to upper Lena another xx miles.

    Parking available

    Northwest Forest pass or America the Beautiful Pass required

    Learn more about Lena Lake here.

    See more Olympic Peninsula Hikes here.

    Close to Seattle

    Visitors and locals in the Seattle area are lucky to have great day hikes a short drive or even a walk away. We often urban hike around Seattle and Ballard or head east of the city into the Cascade foothills for easy, accessible hikes.

    Discovery ParkMap it

    Discovery Park

    A hidden gem in the City of Seattle, Discovery Park is just that – a surprising discovery! Suddenly you find yourself in a beautiful wooded park, on a bluff high above the Puget Sound or on the shore of a driftwood-littered beach. If you are in Seattle and are looking for the perfect day hike close to the city, this is it. Multiple hiking options through out this beautiful 534 acre city oasis. Who knew day hikes in the Pacific Northwest would include one in the heart of a city?

    Parking is available.

    Free

    Learn more here about Discovery Park.

    Franklin FallsMap it

    Franklin Falls

    Less than an hour East of Seattle just off Interstate 90 is an easy little 2 mile hike to Franklin Falls on Denny Creek. This popular day trip from Seattle can get really crowded on a summer weekend. But check it out in the fall for a beautiful getaway with fall color, or in the spring when the falls are crashing from the winter melt. It’s a great multi-season destination and perfect for the whole family.

    Limited Parking

    Washington State Discover Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Franklin Falls and the Denny Creek campground here

    See more close to Seattle hikes here.

    North Side of Mount Rainier

    The North side of Mount Rainier is easily accessed from central and south Puget Sound and is one of my most favorite places to hike. There are many choices but the ones listed below are some of my favorite.

    Tolmie PeakMap it

    Tolmie Peak

    I love this hike, even though the road getting to the trailhead can be rough. Start at the Mowich Lake campground and hike the 7 miles round trip to one of the best views in all of Washington State. Passing by Eunice Lake and continuing up to an abandoned fire look out where you will not only enjoy a stunning Mount Rainier view but on a clear day you will also see Mount Baker, Glacier Peak and Mount Saint Helens.

    Parking Available

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Tolmie Peak here.

    Spray ParkMap it

    Spray Park

    This trail also begins at Mowich Lake on the south end. The first quarter mile your are walking on the Wonderland trail before the Spray Park trail branches off. This trail (6 miles RT) takes you through a beautiful and delicate sub-alpine meadows and along to Spray Falls. In late summer an abundance of wildflowers make the trail popular especially on the weekend. Gentle incline and this is easy for most anyone.

    Parking available

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Spray Park trail here.

    Summit LakeMap it

    Summit Lake

    On a clear day you can see forever. No joke. This hike is worth the elevation gain of about 1300 feet over about 3 miles. It’s just gorgeous. The road to get there is not so gorgeous though so be sure to have a all-wheel drive if possible. The road often has snow into June. The best time to hike here is June through October.

    Parking Available

    Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass required.

    Learn more about Summit Lake here.

    Crystal MountainMap-it

    Crystal Mountain

    The Mount Rainier gondola at Crystal Mountain ski resort is open in the summer and zips you up 2400 feet to the top of the ski area for a spectacular view. On a clear day you can see a succession of mountains including Rainier, Saint Helens, Adams and Baker through out the Cascade range. Hikers can hike down the mountain enjoying the wildlife and subalpine meadows, small lakes and creeks along the way or you can ride the gondola back down.

    Parking Available

    Gondola price ranges from $19-34. Online reservations are available.

    Learn more about the gondola here.

    South Side of Mount Rainier

    More remote than the North side of Mount Rainier, the Southside, including the Sunrise Visitor Center, has fewer visitors so is a good choice during peak season. But it does take longer to get there. Overnight in the Ashford or Packwood area makes for a nice multi-day visit.

    Sheep Lake and Sourdough Gap Map it

    Sheep Lake

    We just did this hike for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I loved it. The weather was not very cooperative however, so we did only about five miles. This trail, part of the Pacific Coast Trail, goes on and on, and I really would like to return and see more of it next summer. The first part up to Sheep Lake is very easy as the trail wanders along the ridge and then inland to the lake. Continuing on you have several options to Sourdough Gap as well as Crystal Lake. This hike skirts Mount Rainier National Park and falls within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

    We had the place to ourselves on a fairly stormy fall day, but this hike can be very busy on a nice summer weekend. Consider midweek or fall. The fall colors were excellent.

    Parking Available

    America the Beautiful or Northwest Forest Pass Required

    Learn more about Sheep Lake here.

    Burroughs MountainMap it

    Burroughs Mountain

    On this five mile hike that leaves from the Sunrise Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park you will get as close as possible to Mount Rainier without actually climbing the mountain. There are three Burroughs peaks on this hike, and snow is often on or near the trail well into the summer months so come prepared. It feels like a moonscape, and yet a few flowers and plants flourish as do several small mammals.

    Parking Available

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass Required

    Learn more about Burroughs Mountain here

    Silver FallsMap it

    Silver Falls

    This very easy 3 mile round trip hike starts at the Ohanapekosh campground and leads you to one of the prettiest waterfalls in Mount Rainier National Park. Easy meandering trail through beautiful forest, offers a great option for families or those looking for less incline with a big impact. Spectacular hike.

    Parking Available although limited

    America the Beautiful or Day Pass Required

    Learn more about Silver Falls here.

    Grove of the PatriarchsMap it

    Grove of the Patriarchs

    One of the most magical hikes in Mount Rainier, Grove of the Patriarchs is a wonderland of old growth trees, some as old as 1000 years. This easy 1.5 mile round trip hike can be done by anyone, including children. It’s a remarkable oasis of nature’s beauty and a reminder of the importance of preservation and care of our natural wonders.

    Parking available but limited

    Learn more about Grove of the Patriarchs here.

    Summerland TrailMap it

    Summerland Trail

    This beautiful alpine trail is 8.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2100 feet as you traverse from wildflower meadows up into subalpine tundra admiring views of Mount Rainier along the way. Steady incline and occasional rough trail make this better for more experienced hikers. Snow can be present into early summer. Very popular on weekends and parking is limited so come midweek, fall or early in the day.

    Parking available on the road but limited

    America the Beautiful or Day Pass required

    Learn more about the Summerland Trail here.

    Learn more about all hikes in Mount Rainier National Park here

    And Many More

    mount rainier
    Hiking with the family Summit Lake

    There are many more hiking options both for day and overnight that I have not listed here including trails North and farther South. Two great websites to learn more about day hikes in the Pacific Northwest are Alltrails.com and Washington Trails Association wta.org.

    Be sure to check the weather before setting off on any hike in the Pacific Northwest, as even in the summer it can be unpredictable. Be prepared to encounter wildlife, bring bug spray and sunscreen and plenty of water. And always make sure someone knows where you are going.

    With a little preparation, day hikes in the Pacific Northwest are rewarding, invigorating and always stunningly beautiful. Go outside!

    See our blog about My Favorite Things in Washington State here.

    See this week’s top performing pin here.

    We love it when you pin and share our blog.

    North America Travel

    Aloha & Time to Disconnect

    Time to Disconnect and Recenter

    Location: Maui Hawaii

    We made it. I wasn’t sure we actually would but we have arrived safe and sound in Maui. My first flight since leaving lockdown on Cyprus on April 30th. Feeling grateful for Aloha and time to disconnect.

    Getting here was a trial. Arriving on the first day Hawaii reopened to tourists meant jumping through a lot of hoops, waiting for test results, and stressing when those did not appear. We boarded the plan without test results. But when we landed my negative results were in my inbox, but my husband’s were not. What to do?

    Arrival at the airport was well thought-out and and easy. They allowed us both to proceed, with Arne needing to quarantine but at our condo and not at a hotel as we had feared. But only I could rent a car. Luckily at least one of us could get the car. When his results arrive (hopefully soon) he will need to download the information to the tourism site. In the meantime he can not leave the condo and if he does and gets caught the fine is $5000. Whoa.

    But I have no doubt all this will be worth it for five weeks on the most beautiful island in the world.

    As much as we have loved being home with family, the past months have been stressful indeed as we all have tried to figure out how to operate in this world of Covid. Even though I feel safe at my house, I still have a lot of worry for my family and friends and for the question of what the future will look like.

    Hawaii
    Hawaii (photo from Canva)

    Time to Disconnect for Awhile

    Finally making it to Hawaii, a week later than our originally scheduled trip (scheduled 14 months ago, long before Covid), we feel happy we didn’t need to cancel at least. Maui is one of my favorite places in the entire world (that’s saying a lot considering how much I have traveled) and I am absolutely thrilled to be back here again. My last visit was in June 2016. While here we don’t plan to do much, other than relax, so social distancing will be easy. I’ve been here enough times I don’t need to do anything touristy.

    I have decided to make this a real vacation as much as possible, including a social media vacation. I’m not saying I am never going to check in – I’m sure I will. But I am unplugging and letting my hair down for awhile. Stepping away from the fray.

    Hawaii
    Hawaii (photo from Canva)

    Lots of Blogs and Tasty Tuesday Scheduled in Advance

    But the great thing about technology, is if you plan well enough in advance, you can schedule blog and social media posts so my faithful audience won’t really notice a thing. In the weeks prior to our departure I set up Tasty Tuesday, Reading Wednesday and Inspire Friday to post automatically as much as possible in the weeks ahead.

    My Time to ReCharge

    I’ll be checking in to make sure everything is running smoothly and I hope you will all continue to enjoy My Fab Fifties Life while I take a little breather. A re-charge, re-access, re-center, re-juvenate breather. For this I re-joice.

    See ya on the flip side peeps. Take some time for yourself too. And be kind.

    I love you all. Thanks for your continued support. Aloha.

    photo from Canva
    photo from Canva
    North America Travel

    Discovering Packwood Washington & The Surrounding Area

    Sanity Staycation #3 – Summer 2020

    Location: Packwood Washington

    Our third and final close-to-home Sanity Staycation for summer 2020 had us searching for new hiking adventures south of Mount Rainier. And we found what we were looking for by discovering Packwood, Washington and the surrounding area.

    The tiny town of Packwood, founded in the early 1800’s, has long been a jumping off point for Mount Rainier National Park. The first National Forest Service Ranger Station was here, and today most people make their living from summer tourists and winter skiers. But Packwood also was a logging community back in the day, and neighboring towns of Morton and Randle still serve in this capacity.

    Packwood Washington
    Moon Mountain Lodging

    We loved the little cabin we rented at Moon Mountain Lodging, a collection of four cabins on a quiet and beautifully wooded piece of property about a mile from the town of Packwood. We stayed in the one bedroom Cedar Cabin and because of Covid, we used the small but efficient kitchen for all of our meals in the cabin. See this lovely spot here.

    Packwood Washington
    Packwood Brewing Co.

    We got takeout one night at the White Pass Taqueria and it was amazing. And we visited the Packwood Brewing Company where social distancing was really easy on a week night. The beer was excellent and we played Scrabble while we drank our beer, and watched the giant elk walk right through the outdoor beer garden.

    Packwood Washington
    Elk

    We have good friends who have a home in Packwood and we enjoyed one evening with them, and also played nine-holes with them at the members only High Valley Golf Course. Cutest little golf course I ever played at.

    Packwood Washington
    High Valley Golf Club with my friend Janet

    We enjoyed four different hikes during our visit to the area and I recommend all of them;

    SNOW LAKE – a beautiful hike with a bit of elevation but only about 4 miles round trip, the hike to Snow Lake just inside Mount Rainier National Park near Paradise takes you to a beautiful turquoise lake surrounded by forests and hills.

    Mount Rainier National Park
    Snow Lake

    GROVE OF THE PATRIARCHS – anyone can do this easy and flat 1.5 mile loop trail within the National Park where 1000 year-old old-growth trees are a sight to behold. I’ve done this hike many times and every time I am dazzled by the majesty of it.

    Mount Rainier National Park
    Grove of the Patriarchs

    LAKE PACKWOOD – unfortunately we did this 9 mile round trip hike on a very wet and cold day, but we persevered through a beautiful forest trail that is well maintained. The lake used to house many Forest Service cabins and a handful still remain.

    Lake Packwood
    Lake Packwood Trail

    SHEEP LAKE – the trail to Sheep Lake is easy and it’s about 4 miles round trip. The lake is stunning and we visited on a fall day when the colors were at their best. The trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail and continues on past the lake for many miles to Sourdough Gap and eventually Crystal Lake. You can make this hike a full day or just a short hike.

    Sheep Lake
    Sheep Lake Trail

    We did not continue up to White Pass Ski Area but it is about 20 minutes from Packwood and is a wonderful winter playground. Packwood is home to a handful of restaurants, bars, a wonderful bakery and one grocery store. There are many lodging options too. Learn more about visiting Packwood here.

    Discovering Packwood Washington and the surrounding area turned out to be a perfect Staycation for us. I learned a lot about this area and hope to return again.

    Grove of the Patriarchs
    Grove of the Patriarchs

    Check out our previous Sanity Staycation #1 to Whidbey Island and our Sanity Staycation #2 to a tree house in Fall City.

    Despite my Summer of Miscontent, we have seen and done a lot, all while social distancing. It looks like this will be our life for awhile.

    See this week’s top performing pin here.

    We love it when you share and pin our blog. Thanks.