We spent three days in Reykjavik (well more like two and half due to jet lag), but we found it compact and easy to maneuver. We saw several interesting sites all within easy walking distance from our hotel. If you are passing through the beautiful Icelandic city of Reykjavik, we recommend the following – Reykjavik on foot.
Take a Stroll and see Reykjavik on Foot
Consider picking up Rick Steve’s Iceland Guide, as we found it very helpful and on our first day we did his self-guided walking tour in the downtown core. It’s compact and very easy to do this walking tour in just a couple of hours. If you don’t have the book, Reykjavik on foot is easy with our suggestions;
Start at Ingolfstorg Square – location of the original Reykjavik farm. Currently a gathering place, although somewhat drab, there are a few historic buildings near by, as is Vestiurgata which is the original shoreline. This area was filled in but a brass marker in the sidewalk marks the spot.
We enjoyed wandering the back streets and seeing the local homes. Most of the homes today, even the historic ones, are covered with galvanized steel siding that protects from Iceland’s rough climate. Homes are small and tidy and often very colorful and patriotic. Two streets we recommend are Mjostraeti and Athalstraeti.
A fascinating relief map of Iceland is available for viewing inside Reykjavik’s City Hall. We definitely recommend this if you are in Reykjavik on a week day. It’s free and really interesting.
Adjacent to city hall is the Pond (Tjornin) where on a nice day residents stroll and relax and feed the ducks. Across the pond you can see the University of Iceland and the National Museum which we recommend below. For more exercise you can extend your Reykjavik on foot tour with a walk all the way around the pond, about 2 miles.
Head away from the pond to see Austurvollur, Iceland’s Parliament Building and Square. Both historic and modern it is another gathering spot with lots of history.
Main Street Reykjavik on Foot
If you can, we recommend booking a hotel near the main street of Reykjavik known as Austurstraeti. We stayed in the very modest Hotel Fron. Nothing special, but comfortable and included breakfast for about $150 a night. The location however, is excellent for enjoying Reykjavik on foot, on one of the main streets called Laugavegur.
The Main Street area known as Austurstraeti is great for strolling and shopping. From our hotel we could head down the hill to several sites including Laekjartorg Square.
Angling off up the hill from Laugavegur is Skolavorthustigur Street, lined with a rainbow. Many shops and restaurants line this historic street. From the bottom of the street you have a great view of Hallgrimskirja Church. Head up the street to see this iconic landmark.
In the neighborhood of Hallfrimskirja you can also enjoy the Leif Erickson statue as well as Einar Jonsson Sculpture Garden just across the street.
Museums and Exhibitions
We did not see all the museums in Reykjavik but we were so glad we visited two. Both gave us a wonderful introduction to the history and geology of Iceland, prior to embarking on our camper van trek.
We highly recommend The National Museum of Iceland, just across the pond near the university and an easy walk from town. About $18 entry fee. The exhibit takes the visitor through ancient Iceland history and up to the 20th century. Superbly done and fascinating.
A bit further walk but still doable is the brand new experience known as the Perlan. The first fascinating thing about this is that it is built into two old water tanks (great use of a former eyesore). Entry fee is just under $40 but for that price you explore a variety of exhibits about the natural aspect of Iceland as well as enjoy a really well done movie about the aurora borealis. In addition you can walk through a very authentic ice cave. Upstairs don’t miss the coffee shop with the best view in Reykjavik.
On the Harbor
Just a quick mention of two sites of interest on the waterfront. If you have time take a walk through the Harpa Concert Hall, a architectural wonder. Check the schedule online for performances.
We also enjoyed a brief stop at the Sun Voyager sculpture. You will probably recognize this metal sculpture of a Viking Boat, particularly beautiful at sunset.
Eating in Reykjavik
Next week I’m going to explore more in depth the foods we discovered in Iceland, but today let me touch on a couple great places to eat. Thanks again to the Rick Steves guide we learned about the Hlemmur Food Hall – a converted bus station now housing several restaurants. We walked in and sat up at the bar of Skall without knowing anything about it. An excellent decision. Absolutely delicious and unique variety of small plates from cod to tomatoes, lumpfish roe to cauliflower.
We also had a fantastic meal at Rok. Reservations are a good idea here, but we arrived early enough that we were able to squeeze into a table. Rok is in a historic old house with beautiful wood beams and we again did a selection of small plates, sharing everything from langoustine soup (divine) to Icelandic char, reindeer and green salad. I’ll talk more about all these next week.
One thing I really recommend is to consider either a food tour (which we did) or a history tour with Your Friends in Reykjavik. Our food tour opened our eyes to some of Iceland’s most traditional (and a few bizarre) dishes. I’ll tell you about that next week.
Reykjavik on foot. Compact and easy, this city is interesting, maneuverable, colorful and delicious. I hope you will visit soon.
Have you ever considered visiting Iceland? Well, why not? Seriously, it was on our travel list for a long time, but we never managed to get there for more than a quick layover. That is until last month when we spent two weeks in this surprising island nation, about the size of Washington State. So join me as we explore Iceland by the Ring Road.
This is the first of three blogs I plan to write about our fun trip to Iceland. Today I’m going to tell you about touring remarkable Iceland by the Ring Road, (Route 1) that circumnavigates this arctic island. Next week I’ll talk about visiting Reykjavik and after that I’ll write about the Icelandic cuisine. I hope to inspire everyone to go see Iceland.
Iceland by the Ring Road
But first, Iceland by the Ring Road – after three days in Reykjavik we picked up our camper van from KuKu Caravans. We rented the medium size camper van. I knew I would not be happy in the small size, which is basically a regular soccer mom van converted with a bed. Our KuKu was larger, about 17 feet long with a tiny kitchen and a table that folded down into a bed. We were able to stand up in the van, which was really important for us. It wasn’t very comfortable but we made do. It did not have a bathroom. You see some people on the road with small RV’s and many locals have trailers. But the self-drive camper van is very popular. Our van cost about $200 per day. Diesel runs about $7 a gallon.
Pros and Cons
Pro’s and Con’s – If I did it again I’d spend more time looking at the total cost of the camper van including petrol and campground fees (around $30 a night for two people) and doing some comparative research to renting a car and staying in a hotel along the Ring Road. In hindsight I don’t think the hotel/car option would have been all that much more. However, we did save money cooking in the camper van, which we did 7 of the 9 days.
Another thing I would do differently is stay a few extra days in Reykjavik and do the Golden Circle and the Snaefellnes Peninsula as day trips from Reykjavik with a car. This way you could do the Ring Road in 6 to 7 days. Although this would mean renting a car to do the day trips, but for what we paid for our transfer from the airport ($150!) it would have been worth it.
Also consider your clothing, no matter what time of year, nights are chilly. I slept in my fleece lined leggings or my silk long underwear each night. Some nights I even wore a stocking cap to bed. The camper van does have heat, but temps in the 30’s Fahrenheit overnight were brisk. We brought our own sleeping bags but you can rent them from the camper van company. Bring lots of layers, even on sunny days the wind can be bitter. My down jacket was a lifesaver and a stocking cap a must.
So, before embarking, figure out what is most important to you, what your budget is and what your comfort level is. Iceland is expensive, but with some planning, you can make it work. Use what we learned to help.
After three days in Reykjavik we headed to pick up our KuKu and were on the road about 11:00am. We headed first to the Golden Circle, the closest area to Reykjavik. I should mention we chose not to go the Blue Lagoon, because we have visited there on a quick layover a few years ago.
The Golden Circle offers some fabulous introductions to the wonders of Iceland and its geothermal magic. Here you will also witness the first of thousands (no seriously, thousands) of waterfalls throughout the country.
Golden Circle Highlights
I recommend these five things on the Golden Circle for your planning purposes;
Thingvellir Rift – where the North American and European continents are slowly being pulled apart. Walk through the tectonic rift where ancient Icelandic chieftains met for annual governance.
Church and Cemetery – an easy walk across the river also gives you a great view back to the rift.
Oxararfoss Waterfall – easy walk to a beautiful falls in the Thingvellir area.
Geysir and the Strokkar Geyser – the word Geyser comes from the town of Geysir, a village sitting on a geothermal hot spot. Right off the road you can walk to the Strokkar Geyser, to watch it spew every three to four minutes.
Gullfoss – meaning Gold Waterfall, Gullfoss’ thundering falls can be heard from a long ways away, and the mist can be seen well before you actually make it to the viewing area at the edge of the falls. Come prepared to get a bit wet.
South Island Highlights
We left the Golden Circle and drove south to the teeny town of Vik for our first night in the camper van where we stayed at the Vik Tjaldsvaedi (this word means campground, you’ll get used to seeing it!). On our first night we enjoyed some homemade chili then bundled up and walked to the beautiful beach to see the low sun in the sky and the lava formations. We spent two nights along the south section of the island and these are our favorite things:
Black Sand Beach at Reynisfjara is stunning with giant basalt cliffs raising up from the black beach. This is where you might see nesting Icelandic puffins. Caution – the surf here can be very high and dangerous.
Svartifoss (Black Waterfall) is a great little hike with about 850 foot elevation gain. We did the 2.5 mile round trip in a downpour, but we still were glad we did it as the 60 foot waterfall that cascades through the black basalt columns was beautiful.
Skaftafell National Park is where we spent our second camper van night…a very rainy and windy night. We got cozy and ate homemade tacos in the van and went to sleep early. We woke up to a bright sunny day.
Jokulsarlon Lagoon is one of the top sights in Iceland and it’s easy to see why. The glacier lagoon is full of floating icebergs the color of turquoise. Just beautiful. You can wander around and also visit the black sand beach known as Diamond Beach where the icebergs get “beached” in the sand before melting or floating away.
The drive from here continuing east and eventually north is full of a jaw dropping beauty. Each mile presenting bucolic views with sheep and horses and cliff side coastal vistas and mountain scenery.
East and East Fjords Highlights
Our third night in the East was spent in tiny Atlavik campground on Lagarfljot lake. It was a bit out of the way, with no services anywhere near, so I was glad we stopped and picked up a few essentials. Spaghetti on the menu this night. A very quiet campground too.
Hengifoss Double Waterfall Hike – we were up very early and the first ones on the trail for this beautiful hike, across the lake to Hengifoss Waterfall. It’s a two-fer waterfall and for me one of the prettiest hikes we did. Leaving we took the road on the other side of the long lake and enjoyed beautiful views of forests and fields of lupines.
Seydisfjordur was our next destination, about an hour detour off of the Ring Road. This tiny village is home to the ferry terminal to Denmark. Getting there you drive over the top of a mountain with a moonlike landscape then drop down into the stunning narrow fjord where Seydisfjordur sits peacefully minding its business. It’s a fun detour to see life in a small Iceland Village. We walked around and enjoyed lunch then drove back over the mountain to the Ring.
Fourth night we stayed in a campground that was on a farm called Modrudalur. It claimed to be the highest altitude farm in Iceland. Driving there we went through another moonlike landscape, sitting inside a vast gray crater. The campground was quaint and quiet. There was a tiny restaurant and some cottages, but we cooked a frittata for our dinner in our camper van.
We headed out early the next morning as we had a long drive today, but the sun was shining and the landscape was incredible.
As we swung to the west and north we were now at the furthest north section we would travel, only about 63 miles from the arctic circle. At this point we were having 23 hours of sunlight each day, and even during sundown it never got dark. At night we would black out the windows in the camper van with coats and clothing as it never got dark the entire time we were in Iceland.
Dettifoss detour – an hour on a gravel road we were wondering if it was going to be worth it as we bumped along rattling everything in the camper van. But oh yes. It was worth it. Only a couple of other people at this site, and on this crystal clear sunny day we not only got to see the spectacular waterfall but a glorious full rainbow over the falls as well. Stunning.
Namafjalal Geothermal Area is right on the Ring Road just as you approach the Myvatn Lake area. It’s kind of like a miniature Yellowstone. Lots of midge flies here too, so if you have netting wear it. It’s also very stinky. The sulfur fumes can be overwhelming. But it’s also interesting and unusual.
We learned a lot about the geothermal and volcanic history of this region with visits to both the Skutustadir Pseudocraters and the Dimmuborgir Lava Formations area. Easy hikes at both give you views to both the ancient and the ever evolving Icelandic volcano activity.
Myvatn Geothermal Baths is one of the best and most popular baths in Iceland. This is a great option to experience bathing in a geothermal pool. We had planned to come back to the baths the next day…but unforeseen weather kept us from it.
We arrived in Akureyri at the end of this day and we loved our large and beautiful campground called Camping Hamrar where we planned to stay two nights. We finally got to do laundry here so I was very happy about it! On our first night we ate Pesto pasta in the camper van and headed to bed early after our full day.
The next day we received an email from the Kuku folks asking us to not drive this day, and all of Iceland was under an extreme wind watch. The government was asking folks not to drive on the Ring Road until the storm passed. Luckily we had some flexibility in our schedule so we took this day to enjoy the town of Akureyri with a few fun activities that didn’t require a long drive.
Akureyeri Botanical Gardens – it was very windy, but this beautiful, free city-owned park was a highlight. So unexpected. I have seen a lot of botanical gardens in my day and it was one of the best. Highly recommend.
Bjorbordin Beer Spa – since we weren’t supposed to drive very far, and I was nervous about it, we only traveled about 45 minutes north of Akureyri to this beer spa. It wasn’t something we had planned to do, until we had a day with nothing scheduled so we took the “plunge”. At $80 a person it was extravagant for us, but it was also really fun. The price includes all the beer you can drink.
In the camper on this night we cooked a delicious dinner of local Icelandic scallops and couscous.
Day Seven dawned bright and beautiful and the wind abated. We started our day getting a Covid test at the local medical center…still required for our return to the USA. It was well organized and we were done in a jiffy. The windstorm had passed so we took a hike in the mountains outside of Akureyri before heading west. About a five mile hike on the Lambi trail gave us some of the most spectacular views we had anywhere in Iceland. And we didn’t see another hiker the entire time.
West Iceland Highlights
After our hike we spent most of the day driving west and south, as we headed to the Snaefellness Peninsula. The drive was so beautiful. We stopped at a tiny campground/hostel called Saeberg, right on the fjord, and enjoyed both a geothermal hot tub and a wonderful conversation with a local woman who was a guide for a group on horseback who were staying at the hostel. We ate in a restaurant on this night, enjoying wonderful local Icelandic lamb chops.
Day 8 we arrived on the Snaefellnes Peninsula. We spent a leisurely two days seeing the sights here, some of the most beautiful in Iceland. It would be easy to see the Snaefellnes in one day, but we were happy to not be in a hurry.
Stykkisholmur Fishing town – this tiny town is another great example of how the locals live. Most Icelandic homes are modest one story houses. Near the port are the majority of the historic buildings and we enjoyed a coffee and croissant in a sidewalk cafe in the sun. The port is home to the ferry that goes across from the Peninsula to the West Fjords.
Beserkjahraun Lava Fields – you will drive right through the middle of this vast ancient lava flow of unusual shapes covered in a pale yellow lichen. Formed more than 4000 years ago, Icelandic folklore tells a tale of Viking warriors going to battle without armor, that the lava fields are named for.
Kirkjufell View Point – Kirkjufell Mountain and the waterfall adjacent to it is one of the most picturesque views in all of Iceland. In fact, this photo often graces guidebooks and websites. Be sure to stop and see it, even if it’s not a good weather day. It’s stunning.
We stopped in the teeny fishing village of Rif where we had a delicious early dinner of Fish and Chips, Icelandic Potato Salad and Coleslaw.
Skarthsvik Yellow Sand Beach – worth a quick stop if only for the uniqueness of the color of the sand against the black basalt cliffs. This is the only beach we saw on the island that was not a black sand beach.
Saxholl Crater – is a nearly 400 foot crater that juts out of the landscape very close to the road. It’s red and black conical shape is impossible to miss. A set of rust colored steps lead you to the top where you can peek into the crater and enjoy a remarkable 360 degree view. If Snaefelljokull Mountain is out, this is place to enjoy it.
Our campground on night 8 was a tiny but brand new spot in the town of Hellissandur called Hellissandur Camping, with sparkling clean bathrooms and common area. It was a treat. We woke up in the morning to a crystal clear view of Snaefelljokull Mountain (the name means ‘snow mountain glacier’), which we never expected because it is usually hidden in clouds. Special treat.
Hellissandur Murals – the teeny village of Hellisandur is all residential with almost no services, but it is proud to be Iceland’s Mural Capital. If you have time take a stroll through the tiny village and look at the many murals.
Djupalonssandur Black Sand Beach – worth a stop and walk through the lava formations out onto the beach. This used to be a thriving fishing spot where hopeful fisherman had to do a strength test by lifting stones from the beach. You will also see the remains of a British fishing trawler that crashed in 1948.
Hellnar to Arnarstapi walk – this was one of the funnest things we did on our trip. A short four-mile round trip walk along the fascinatingly beautiful ocean side basalt cliffs. The cliffs are home to thousands of nesting seabirds as well as an abundance of wildflowers. If you start in Arnarstapi you can take a break at the tiny historic seaside cottage turned small cafe called Fjoruhusid at the halfway point in Hellnar. Enjoy a pastry with coffee of tea, or order the authentic and delicious Iceland Fish Soup which is what we did. With fantastic bread too. We splurged on the “cheesecake” made from Skyr, a popular yogurt/sour cream-like favorite of the Iceland people.
Rauthfeldsgja Gorge – A literal gash in the side of the mountain is a short walk from the parking lot. Crawl over a few boulders and across a tiny creek to walk into the mouth of this gorge and look at the green moss and beautiful light.
Budir Black Church – a tiny settlement is home to one of the most distinctive church landmarks in Iceland.
Gerthurberg Basalt Cliffs – fascinating interlocking row of basalt pillars that look like a row of black piano keys. Worth a quick stop for a photo, or with more time climb to the top.
We spent our final night in a facing the beach in the Akranes Campground about 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik. We returned the camper van the next morning and took the shuttle to the airport.
Final Thoughts Iceland by the Ring Road
We did not tour the West Fjords, which are off the Ring Road. With two to three more days you could add the West Fjords, but the roads are rough and winding and you can not be in a hurry.
The Ring Road can get crowded during peak season with camper vans, cars, cyclist, hitchhikers and sheep! This two lane road has no shoulder and certain sections of the road are gravel. You will cross countless small bridges, many of which are one lane. You just can’t be in a hurry. Take that to heart and plan some extra days for bad weather or potential mechanical difficulties etc. Take it slow when doing Iceland by the Ring Road.
We did not see everything…not even close, despite our 13 days. So good planning is important to see the things of most interest to you.
The photos don’t do it justice…one of the most uniquely beautiful places I’ve been. See it now before the word gets out. Check out Rick Steve’s Iceland Guide – we found it very helpful. And visit www.visticeland.com the official tourism website for Iceland.
Be sure to check in next Friday for our Reykjavik recommendations.
We welcome questions if you are considering visiting Iceland. Ask away in the comments. We promise to respond.
A thirty-minute ferry ride from Seattle, or a thirty-minute drive from Bremerton, Beautiful Bainbridge Island Washington is a well kept secret.
Home to 25,000 full-time residents, the island is one of several that call the Puget Sound home, and is one of the most populated. Only ten miles long and five miles wide, Bainbridge is connected to the Kitsap Peninsula by a bridge over Agate Pass and to Seattle and King County by Washington State Ferry.
History of Beautiful Bainbridge Island Washington
For thousands of years the island was home to the Suquamish people who lived in nine separate villages around the island. The Vancouver expedition visited the island in 1792 and the Wilkes expedition in 1841. It was Wilkes who named the island after Commodore William Bainbridge.
In 1855 the Suquamish relinquished their claim to the island to the US government in exchange for reservation and fishing rights at Port Madison.
Japanese immigrants made their way to the island starting in 1888 and began much of the agriculture of the island, some of which remains today. But the Japanese were removed to internment camps during WWII…many never returned. A very beautiful Japanese American Exclusion Memorial is located just outside of the town of Winslow.
In 1991 the entire island was named the City of Bainbridge Island.
A Perfect Day Trip
Spending more than one day on beautiful Bainbridge Island Washington would be amazing, but if you only can get here for a day trip there is plenty you can do. We offer up some suggestions below. If you are walking from the ferry the village of Winslow has much to offer. And if you have a car there is even more to see and do further afield. Here are our suggestions:
Close to the Ferry
If you are driving, parking is usually available either on the main street called Winslow Way or on one of the side streets. But if you are walking from the ferry it’s a short five minute walk to the area known as Winslow.
You will never go hungry on Bainbridge Island. So many wonderful places to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Photo below is dinner at Restaurant Marche, one of my favorite restaurants in Kitsap County. We also love both Cafe Hitchcock and their new sister restaurant Burgerhaus. Streamline Diner is great for breakfast, Blackbird Bakery has the best lemon blueberry scones and San Carlos is one of the best Mexican/Southwest Restaurants in the state of Washington.
It’s not a long walk but the Bainbridge Waterfront Trail is a beautiful walk along both a paved path and a raised boardwalk. Definitely worth a few minutes of your time to enjoy the wind and salt in your hair, the thousands of masts and to hear the horn of the ferry in the distance.
Unfortunately the day we were on Bainbridge the Bainbridge Historical Museum was closed, currently having limited hours due to the PanDamit. I do encourage you to check it out though when you visit. Learn more about it here.
We were, however extremely surprised and impressed with the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. What a revelation to find such an outstanding museum in this small town. And it was FREE!! We spent about an hour here, enjoying both the permanent and temporary exhibits as well as marveling at the beautiful architecture of the building. A must visit when on the island. Learn more here.
GRAND FOREST PARK – an astonishing variety of trails offered in this park located in the forested interior of the island. A beautiful spot.
BLOEDEL RESERVE – not to be missed. This 150 acre reserve is located on the historic property of Virginia and Prentice Bloedel. Today the spectacular gardens are astonishing to say the least and open to the public by timed tickets available online. Adults $20. Worth every penny.
BAINBRIDGE BREWING – always in search of microbrew, we found it on Bainbridge. Bainbridge Brewing has it’s brewing headquarters and a tasting room on the interior of island and also has a tasting room in Winslow.
Worth a day or a weekend, beautiful Bainbridge Island Washington will sooth your senses – forest bathe in the green forests, inhale the salty air from the multiple waterfront locations, relax. Experience a friendly neighborhood island of socially active residents who make nature, art and sustainability a priority on their island. Take it down a notch on beautiful Bainbridge Island Washington. I’ll see you there.
While spending more than two months in Maui we were blessed with the freshest most wonderful local seafood. When back in Washington State we get a monthly fish delivery from Alaska. That fish is incredible. And luckily in Maui we came upon a fish delivery service that sends the catch of the day right to our door – making it simple to cook Hawaiian at home.
Fresh Fish Maui is an awesome little business with a superb product. You can also buy frozen fish and even fish that has been partially prepared such as coconut crusted or teriyaki. But we stuck to the fresh catch of the day. Each day I received a text telling me what the boats were heading in with. What could be more fresh than that? During our time on Maui we enjoyed fresh onaga, mahi mahi, ono, mong chong and ahi. It was all amazing.
So today I am sharing two Mahi Mahi preparations here, a video I did for my weekly Tasty Tuesday series on YouTube. Both of these turned out so delicious and both recipes are unique and easy. As good as the local restaurants if I may say so myself!
Check this out – Mahi Mahi two ways;
Steamed Mahi Mahi
Two 6 oz mahi mahi – steam on stove top for five minutes
Lightly saute 1 T chopped garlic, 4-5 shiitake mushrooms and one chopped leek. Put on top of steamed fish. Finish cooking vegetables by pouring 2 T hot sesame oil over each piece of fish.
Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi
Soak two 6-7 oz pieces of mahi mahi for 20 minutes in 1/3 cup coconut milk. In food processor combine one cup panko with 1/3 cup macadamia nuts and a little salt and pepper. Dip wet pieces of fish in the crust. Fry on stove top, medium heat about five minutes each side. Top fish with toasted coconut for last minute of cooking.
To round out your Hawaiian fish dinner consider this salad that I have made so many times while here in Maui. I found this recipe in a forty-year old Hawaiian cookbook in our condo. I had to modify it but boy is it ono (delicious)!;
Papaya and Greens Salad with Cantonese Vinaigrette
1 head leaf lettuce, half papaya chopped, 1/4 cup walnuts or almonds, 1/4 cup toasted coconut.
Mix above ingredients just before serving. Toss with vinaigrette.
2 T Sesame Oil, 1 T Olive Oil, 1 T soy sauce, 1 T brown sugar, 1 T rice wine vinegar, 1 T Stone ground mustard, 2 t minced ginger and 2 minced garlic cloves. Make an hour ahead and refrigerate.
And here is another delicious side dish for cooking Hawaiian at home;
Okinawan Sweet Potatoes (often called Hawaiian Purple Potatoes)
I made this dish with both purple and orange sweet potatoes for our Thanksgiving Hawaiian feast. So good;
2-3 sweet potatoes, 1/3 cup coconut milk, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1/3 t sea salt, pepper to taste.
Peel potatoes and boil about 45 min (they will take longer than regular potatoes to get soft).
Drain and return to pan. Add coconut milk and mash to desired consistency. Stir in garlic, salt and pepper.
Cooking Hawaiian at Home
Although there are so many wonderful restaurants here on the island of Maui, we cooked and ate most of our meals at home during our nine weeks on the island. Partly to stay on budget, partly to social distance but mostly because this is the way we travel, making each destination feel like home.
Delicious Maui. Delicious, fresh and local. Mahi Mahi – Cooking Hawaiian at Home. Ono.
Enjoying my time on Maui I’ve been thinking about all the island’s I have been blessed to visit. It’s a long list. My favorite islands around the world are usually remote and small. But I have also loved some larger, populated and sometimes touristy islands. We are doubtful we will travel international in 2021, but as soon as we can we will be heading to some of the world’s best islands. So many islands, so little time.
Our sudden disruption to our 2020 Grand Adventure last spring due to the virus, eliminated our visit to many islands we have long desired to see; Malta, Guernsey, Jersey and the archipelogos of Finland. We spent seven unexpected weeks on the beautiful island of Cyprus, but in total lockdown and so nothing more than our tiny neighborhood in the village of Argaka. So each of these islands remain on our to visit list.
Over the past five weeks we have been living on the island of Maui, and have just extended our stay another four weeks. So in 2020 we spent six weeks on Mauritius, seven weeks on Cyprus and will have a total of nine weeks on Maui. A total of 22 weeks on islands in 2020. It’s one of the few good things about 2020.
So in today’s blog I thought I would share some of my favorite islands around the world, and a brief description of why they make my fav list. There are several other islands we have visited I don’t mention here…I had to narrow it down. But if you have ever considered traveling to any of these – here are my recommendations;
Very quiet but also expensive. Beaches are nice but having a car at least part of the time is a must if you need to shop. Groceries are very expensive and produce is difficult to get. The people are quiet but nice and it is just beautiful. Boats available to visit other islands.
Don’t miss swimming at Gold Beach Anse Volbert-Côte D’Or,
In October Antiparos was really quiet as the season ends in September. But we had exceptional weather. Some restaurants and businesses in the tiny town were closed for the season but we found everything we needed at reasonable prices. Ferries available to surrounding islands.
By far the tiniest island we have been on, this very low lying Maldivian island is actually an atoll, made up of coral. The weather was incredible and we had the most relaxing three weeks of our life here. Best one day snorkeling of my life off of Huraa. Very little to do, and nearly no shopping. Note that there is no alcohol on this Muslim island!
Size 150 X 500 miles (12th largest island in the world)
Population 1.3 million
Best time to visit December to May
Where we stayed – we rented a caravan and traveled around
New Zealand is downright amazing. We loved both the North and South Island and we would really love to go back and visit again. This is not a laying in the sun island. Rather it is an island for all things recreational: hiking, walking, cycling, bird watching and more. Absolutely stunning. And ridiculously expensive.
It’s been a long time since I visited magical Mackinac and I sure would love to go again. It is so unique, especially in the USA, to find a place with no motor vehicles. Both times I was there in the summer with beautiful weather. Renting bikes and riding around the island is a highlight.
I’m lucky to count myself as one who has visited every Hawaiian Island that isn’t privately owned, and hands down Maui is the best. It is expensive but beyond that everything about it is perfect – the weather, the water, the beach, the food, the activities and the fact for people who live on the west coast of the USA, it’s really easy to get to.
Don’t miss whale watching for humpback whales in the winter months
We loved our time on both of these beautiful islands. Bali is very popular with tourists for its beauty, beaches and vibe. Lombok on the other hand is a unique, tiny and non-touristy island where we spent six glorious days doing nothing but laying in a hammock.
Don’t miss an authentic Balinese Cultural performance in Ubud
I visited Zanzibar with my sister after spending a week on a safari in mainland Tanzania. It remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It is also the second worst sunburn I have got. The white sand beaches are amazing. The people are quiet and kind. The seafood delicious.
Don’t miss a ride in an authentic Zanzibar Dhow Boat
Definitely one of the most interesting places I have ever been. This tiny island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is difficult to get to and expensive but worth it. We loved our time here learning about the Moai and the history of Rapa Nui. I highly recommend.
Don’t miss touring with an authorized tour guide to understand the amazing statues and history of this island
We did a five day tour with a guide around the major sites of Sri Lanka seeing some of the most amazing things including the astonishing Sigiriya ancient mountain fortress. Then we kicked back for more than two weeks in a tiny hut on the beach in Hikkadua, which ended up being “interesting” but super fun and the weather and the beach were perfect. The Sri Lankan people are some of the kindest on the planet.
Don’t miss Sigiriya Fortress one of the most incredible things I have ever seen
Size 50 x 80 miles (Isla Isabela, the largest of the archipelago)
Best time to visit January to June
Where we stayed – we were on a small 12 person cruise
My first dip into my bucket list was this trip to the Galapagos Islands to celebrate my 50th birthday. Living on a boat for five nights we saw many islands and the most amazing collection of wildlife and sea life. We loved every minute of it and although it’s expensive, we recommend it to anyone!
We only had a couple of days in Singapore, the teeny island city/state that is one of the most expensive places in the world. It is also one of the cleanest and most colorful, particularly at night. I hope to return.
Don’t miss the Singapore Gardens by the Bay at night and the amazing Singapore Botanic Garden
We only had a couple of day on Nantucket but we were traveling with our young children at the time and it was a great little place for a family vacation. We were there in spring before the hoard of tourists descend in the summer and it was peaceful and beautiful and historic.
Don’t miss a Clam Bake and riding bikes around the island
We drove up to the Maritimes from Boston and enjoyed the drive as much as the islands. Prince Edward Island was still at that time very quiet and we enjoyed riding bikes, eating lobster and learning about history.
Don’t miss searching for sea glass at Souris Beaches
Average temperature – Honshu is a big island with multiple climates but Tokyo average summer high is 80 F
Size 150 x 500 miles
Population 104 million (2nd most populous island after Java Indonesia)
Best time to visit – March to May and September to November
We spent five weeks exploring the island of Honshu. Our kids were little and it was a magical time for us as a family. Japan is one of the most unique and beautiful places in the world. I hope to go back some day.
I have visited these islands many times as they are in the backyard of where I grew up
Average Temperature 55 F
Size – there are nine islands in varying sizes. The two largest are Orcas and San Juan
Best time to visit – Summer months
We have traveled to nearly all of the islands over my lifetime growing up in the Pacific Northwest. The islands are a great place for family camping or romantic getaways. Hiking, cycling and kayaking are popular.
Don’t miss getting up close and personal with the famous J-Pod of Orca Whales on a whale watching tour.
Hawaii has strict Covid 19 regulations. Educate yourself before planning a trip. Learn more here.
Since international travel is out of the question at the moment, we have been working on a plan to continue our Grand Adventure without leaving the USA. Hawaii of course was at the top of our list and when they began welcoming guests again on October 15th, we were on one of the first planes to land that day. Maui now – open for business.
To Travel or Not to Travel
I can’t answer this question for anyone but myself. Nor should you judge me for my personal decisions. We, as highly skilled and practiced world travelers don’t take travel or the virus lightly. We have spent a lot of time considering what and how our future will look and how travel will continue to be a part of it.
Maui, and other places like it, where you can spend 16 or more hours a day outdoors, and easily social distance even if dining in a restaurant, is the kind of destination we are looking for. And since we have been to Maui so many times, it was easy for us to plan and execute a five week visit to a place we know well.
Maui Now – Open for Business
It’s like someone flipped a switch. The lights are on and Maui is back in business.
We arrived on October 15th to our 86 unit condo to find only two other units occupied. The first few days or even weeks it was so quiet. Beaches were empty, resorts were closed, very few stores and restaurants were open. Four weeks later, more than half of the 86 units are occupied. Nearly all the resorts are open. This week marked the opening of several major restaurants and attractions. In the coming weeks even more attractions will come back on line as Maui prepares for holiday crowds. Maui Now – Open for Business.
Lahaina and other shopping areas are starting to reopen with more than half the stores restocking and welcoming visitors. All the stores are being very diligent about staff and visitors wearing masks – a mask law is in effect throughout Maui County.
But not everything survived the seven month closure. Like many places around the USA, restaurants and shops have closed permanently. It was just too much.
Social Distancing Easy
Is it safe? For me, I probably wouldn’t choose to go to a luau, but I have felt very safe at the handful of restaurants (all locally owned) that we have visited and sat outside. I have felt very safe getting take-out too. Again, for me I probably would not choose to do a group snorkel tour, although they are in full-swing. But I feel safe golfing with my husband, hiking on nearly deserted trails, and running every morning in my neighborhood. I feel safe at the beach where it’s easy to distance. We actually have avoided the collective BBQ at our condo, only using it twice in a month, in an effort to not stand around with other people we don’t know. We usually have the pool to ourselves when we go there, as most people go to the beach instead.
Gathering with Friends
Completely unplanned but fun nonetheless, we happened to be here at the same time as several friends from back home. I have felt safe spending time with them in small groups. Each of them had to be tested before arriving, and each of them are practicing the same safe distancing and mask wearing rules we are. So we socialized with a hand full of dear friends and it made our visit all the more special.
A Real Vacation and Taking a Break
Being here for a month (with one more week to go) has felt like a real vacation for me. More relaxing than many of the places we travel. Taking a social media break was a wonderful cleanse and I really needed that. I’m so glad I was able to plan and schedule many blogs and book reviews before leaving home – leaving me time to just be present here in Maui.
We have spent a lot of time in the sun, although I have made a conscious effort to be more careful with my tanning (hard for me as my skin is a sun sponge). We have been just active enough and just lazy enough and just social enough and just the two of us enough to make it exactly right. Just enough as we head back to rain and dark and upcoming stress back home – where the Covid numbers are surging.
Where Do We Go From Here
We continue to work hard to stay healthy but of course who knows what the future holds. If Covid has taught me anything it’s that I am not in control. In fact I just read a line in a book that I loved – “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” That’s a quote from Anxious People by Fredrick Bachman. And ain’t that the truth. Making plans you have no idea if you can keep is the new way of life in the time of Covid.
So we head home November 20th and prepare to be with our family for the holidays, deal with some medical issues and prepare the house and ourselves once again for a departure. Mid January we head to Palm Desert where we plan to spend two months, Arizona for another month and Utah for a few weeks after that before heading back to Washington State in May.
These are our plans…hahahaha.
The Grand Adventure, a bit of a kink in the road, but it goes on.
We love it when you pin and share our blog. Aloha.
Here we are. Day ten already, Maui Musings on Island Time. So blessed to be here and feel safe and healthy here. Realizing now how hard hit this place is economically. I’m glad we didn’t cancel and can contribute in a little way to bringing it back to life. Here is our story, day ten.
Getting Here Wasn’t Easy
We came so close to canceling so many times. We didn’t want to lose any more travel money, and we had made these reservations so long ago…back in the days of carefree travel and no pandemics.
Neither myself or my husband had received our negative test by the time we boarded the plane. On arrival my negative test was in my inbox. Arne was still waiting. In fact he would wait another 12 hours until it arrived. So Hawaii told him to go into quarantine and stay put. When his tests arrived he immediately uploaded it to the Hawaii website per all the instructions but it would be another 36 hours before he received his official release from quarantine. My advice would be NOT to come unless you can get the rapid test because the red tape seems to be taking a long time. We talked to a woman today who has been waiting four days…and she is ignoring quarantine.
By the way when Arne received the email that he was free to leave quarantine we ran down the stairs and jumped in the ocean. A perfect celebration.
Where We Are
We call it the Lund Condo, owned by Arne’s uncle, at the Kihei Surfside, as far south as you can go in Kihei at the Wailea entrance. We have been here many times over the past 23 years. It’s a remarkable place and we are blessed to have access to it. The view is unsurpassed. In fact the unit had some major work done to it last February, and then everything shut down. So we are the first guests to enjoy all the new and beautiful tile work.
Since we have been here so many times, we know the area well and it feels like home turf. We are very sad to see one of our favorite restaurants next door has permanently closed. I know there are more too that didn’t survive the shut down.
Even though we have been here many times, we have never stayed as long as we will stay this time. It will really feel like home by the time we say Aloha in late November.
What’s Open What’s Not
Since we were one of the very first visitors to arrive on opening day, the first two days the island was so quiet. Our condo which has 85 units only had one other occupied unit. The beach was empty.
Ten days later the condo now has about a dozen occupied units but the beach and pool are still lightly populated. When walking around most people are wearing a mask, but not at the beach where it is very easy to distance. Everyone is masked up inside the stores. But if I’m being honest here, visitors are more resolute with mask wearing than locals…so far.
The large and fancy resorts near us in Wailea are all closed, with opening dates in early November. There is a beehive of activity at these resorts as the staff prepares the grounds and insides for guests. There have been no guests since March.
Small restaurants are open, but most of the large restaurants are still closed. The famous Mama’s Fish House is scheduled to open November 6th. Old Lahaina Luau is scheduled to open November 20th. Today for the first time we saw some snorkel tours heading out from the harbor next to our condo. Slowly, slowly things will come back to life.
We have not been to any restaurants. We went to the grocery store on our first day and stocked up and went again today on day ten. We have been cooking and eating clean and healthy and delicious.
We have been running and doing yoga on our own each day…very easy to distance. In the past I have taken yoga classes here but this time I will continue my own practice to be safe and solo.
We took a hike where we saw only three other people. We went golfing and it was easy to distance. So far, we have just done a lot of things quiet and easy. Beach time, pool too. All distanced. Feeling safe and healthy. In fact, it’s really not any different than home…well except the weather. That’s a lot different.
We have several friends on the island, some from back home and some who are here permanently. We plan to get together with them, in pairs so to keep it easy to distance. We hope to invite several couples over to watch the sunset with us here at the Kihei Surfside. It’s a great place and makes a perfect evening with friends…distanced of course.
Social Media Purge
Over the past ten days I have had great success staying off social media…it’s actually easier than I thought it would be. I’ve checked in a couple of times, but not every five minutes per usual, and it feels good to just take a break. My blog posts will continue to post automatically and I will check in from time to time.
Meanwhile, time for a gin and tonic I think. A little Aloha and down time is just what the doctor ordered. Maui Musings, on island time. Wish you were here….
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