I began golfing a little more than a year ago, when we settled into our new summer place on a golf course. I had dabbled in a golf a long time ago, but hadn’t picked up a club in twenty years. And so it has been like starting over. Our summers in Washington have given me a great opportunity to learn while golfing around the sound. And during the year we were stuck in the USA it was a great time to take up the sport.
Learning to Golf
I’ve played A LOT since I decided to learn the game and I have also taken lessons and had a coach. Getting some coaching pointers and playing consistently (about once a week) has helped me learn and improve my game. I still have a long ways to go but I enjoy the game a great deal and especially enjoy having another activity to spend time with my husband.
It might be surprising to some, but I feel one of the best ways to improve is to play at as many different courses as possible. I know many golfers like to play their “home” course only, but I find by moving around to new courses I don’t fall into a comfortable pattern and am therefore always challenged and learning new things.
Golfing Around the Sound
Given that strategy we set out this summer to explore as many courses in the Pacific Northwest as we could. For Christmas my husband gave me a Golfing Around the Sound golf package, 11 courses included for $220. We created three golf “weekends” (we did them mid-week) and covered courses in Skagit and Snohomish County; Mason, Kitsap; Clallam and Jefferson County too.
Some courses are certainly better than others, but all the courses we played offered wonderful opportunities to learn and enjoy this crazy game. If you want to give this a try for yourself, here is our suggestions for three golf getaways in the Pacific Northwest. I imagine next summer we will try this again and expand to more courses including to the south and east.
SKAGIT & SNOHOMISH
Using the lovely little town of La Conner (Skagit Valley) as our home base, we booked a fabulous room on the water at the La Conner Channel Lodge for two nights. This unique boutique style hotel sits right on the La Conner Channel and offers spectacular sunsets. While in La Conner we visited the Swinomish Indian Reservation, did a little boutique shopping and visited the local fresh markets where we purchased blueberries, raspberries and peaches to take home.
We played three courses in the Skagit/ Snohomish region. Each course was easy to get a tee time for our dates of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday;
GLENEAGLE GOLF COURSE – This course in Burlington was nice, but some of the fairways are pretty tight and there are many houses, so it’s a bit stressful for an erratic golfer like me. Also, as first timers we wished for better signage between tees. Gleneagle has a restaurant on site.
AVALON LINKS – I liked this course in Burlington; it was pretty while still being relatively easy for a beginner. Strangely this course has 27 holes…not sure why that is, but we played 18 and had a very enjoyable game. A small cafe is available on site.
THE GOLF CLUB AT ECHO FALLS – This is a beautiful course in Snohomish, and of the three the most challenging. We had a really fun game here. I had a cart but my husband was walking and he did wish the tees were not so far apart….sometimes a bit difficult to find. The clubhouse and restaurant and the entire grounds here are very beautiful.
We recommend dining in La Conner at Nell Thorn for a delicious dinner made fresh with local ingredients. And for something a little less formal, try La Conner Brewing for excellent beer, burgers, tacos and salads.
MASON & KITSAP
Since we live in Kitsap County and near the border with Mason, we did not stay in a hotel while exploring these five courses listed below (three in our Around the Sound package and two not). But we can recommend from experience choosing to stay at the beautiful Alderbrook Resort & Spa on Hood Canal or the Silverdale Beach Hotel on the waterfront in Silverdale.
ALDERBROOK GOLF CLUB – Our friend John invited us to enjoy nine holes with him at his home course of Alderbrook Golf Club in Union. This course is not part of the Around the Sound package. It was our first time playing here and I enjoyed it very much. This course has both homes and a lot of trees along the fairways, but it was just the right amount of challenge for me (and I only lost a couple of balls!).
GOLD MOUNTAIN GOLF COURSE – One of three courses within fifteen minutes of my house, Gold Mountain is an outstanding municipal course in Bremerton. I really love playing here, although I have only played the Cascade course. The Olympic course is more challenging…maybe next year. Anyway this is a beautiful rolling course with no houses…for me I need a cart as it has a lot of hills.
TROPHY LAKE GOLF & CASTING – Not on the Around the Sound package, Trophy Lake in Port Orchard is one of my favorite courses. It’s just right for my skill level and I enjoy the grounds and the fact there aren’t any houses. It’s very close to where I live so that’s a bonus too.
MCCORMICK WOODS GOLF CLUB – Well, you can’t get much closer for me, as I live on the 6th hole at McCormick Woods. I never imagined living on a golf course but we have quickly fallen in love with this beautiful community that surrounds this beautiful course. This public course in Port Orchard also has memberships as well as an excellent restaurant. It’s challenging though, with lots of houses and lots of underbrush and water too. It’s here I have taken my lessons and had my coaching with course Pro Kyle Larson.
WHITE HORSE GOLF CLUB – One of the more challenging courses I’ve played this summer, White Horse is in Kingston and is tough but a great learning course. I was in the sand A LOT. It’s a beautiful course with only a few houses. A very nice club house and restaurant too. Very close to the Kingston Ferry.
Our getaway included playing at these three fun courses (all included in our Around the Sound package).
THE CEDARS AT DUNGENESS – I enjoyed this course a lot, even though my score didn’t reflect that! It’s a well maintained course with some beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains right in the heart of beautiful Sequim. We met friends for breakfast before we teed off and the restaurant Stymies was a great choice.
SUNLAND GOLF COURSE – I had fun at this course, even though my cart was an antique. The course itself was well-maintained and fun. The fairways are really tight though, with houses and trees, but I managed to stay out of people’s yards (for the most part). It’s a great option in Sequim.
PORT LUDLOW GOLF CLUB I struggled at this VERY hilly course…and lost a lot of balls too. When we arrived I asked the guy in the Pro Shop if the course was hilly, as I was trying to decide if I would walk or get a cart. He said there were a “couple of hills”. So I decided to walk. By the end of 18 I was ready to drop. There are way more than “couple of hills”. I recommend a cart. This course has a lot of water and also houses to avoid. We enjoyed our visit despite it all and enjoyed the beautiful sunny day we had on the greens.
GOLFING AROUND THE SOUND
These are a few of our finds this summer as we spent time golfing around the sound. There are many more wonderful options to golf in the Puget Sound region…we hope to find those when we return from our winter travels next spring.
Meanwhile, it’s time to clean the clubs and get them ready for two months in Maui, where we love to golf. Stay tuned for our Maui adventures starting in September (we hope…unless the PanDamit shuts everything down again).
I absolutely love writing this blog post each year, even though it takes me weeks to put it together. It is fun for me to reminisce about another amazing travel year! I hope it’s fun for you to read and enjoy the awards we bestow on our favorites and the best of the best from our year of travel; the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022.
Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022
I’m surprised that I am already talking about the “sixth annual” travel awards 2022! We are now well into our seventh year of travel as part of The Grand Adventure and still no end in sight. What a remarkable ride it has been. As I write this post, I’m in the country of Honduras – our 123rd country.
Malta was such a pleasant surprise. Beautiful, ancient and surprisingly inexpensive. We had planned to visit Malta in 2020…so that didn’t happen of course. We were very happy to get it back on our itinerary. Malta has a very interesting and ancient history. Valletta where we stayed was a fascinating walled city and we just loved everything about it. We highly recommend our favorite country of 2022 – Malta!
Favorite City – Jerusalem, Israel
Returning to Israel, after fleeing in March of 2020 when the Pandamit was closing everything, was a high priority. So it was a true blessing to get back to this fascinating country. This time we based ourselves in the astonishing city of Jerusalem and I am so glad we did. What an incredible place to visit and we absolutely loved everything about beautiful and fascinating Jerusalem.
Cutest Town – Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, USA
Sturgeon Bay in Door County Wisconsin was such an unexpected surprise as I visited with two good friends for a long weekend. We lucked out by choosing Sturgeon Bay as our home base. Colorful, centrally located and lots of wonderful things to do, July in Sturgeon Bay was a real treat.
Favorite Island – Moorea, French Polynesia
High on our list for a return visit, the small French Polynesian island is a short ferry crossing from the larger and more populated island of Tahiti. We loved our cute Airbnb bungalow in Moorea, and found the island a wonderful and relaxing destination. We really hope to return in 2024.
Most Expensive Country – USA
The United States continues to be an expensive destination for us, compared to so many places we travel around the world. Especially given our long visit to the island of Maui in the state of Hawaii which really ratchets up our daily average. We also had a long visit to New York City which is also very expensive, so all in all, this year the award for most expensive has to go to the United States on our list for the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022.
Least Expensive Country – French Polynesia
Our two months on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia was really inexpensive. Granted we were there in the off-season, but if you compare to other tropical places we have visited, French Polynesia can be downright cheap. Our choice of simple accommodations and living frugally really puts Moorea on our wishlist to return for great price, friendly atmosphere, and natural beauty.
Accommodations – 10 Airbnbs, 22 hotels and one desert camp
Favorite Airbnb – A Tie between Moorea and Valletta Malta
We have had several experiences over the years where we have become friends with our Airbnb hosts and our host Maea in Moorea was one of the best hosts we have ever had.
Most Expensive Airbnb – New York City.
Everything in New York City is expensive. Trying to find a place to stay for our two week visit was difficult, with prices in every neighborhood outrageous. Our very teeny Airbnb space in the Upper East Side was more like a closet than an apartment, but we loved the location so it certainly had that going for it. $230 a night.
Best Value Airbnb – Moorea French Polynesia
With a kitchen, two bedrooms, parking, beach access with great snorkeling and the best host, we have nothing to complain about with our Airbnb on the island of Moorea. $75 a night – which was a substantial discount for our extended two-month stay.
This very unique, but slightly expensive, lodging in the teeny French village of Giverny was a wonderful pit stop on our September whirlwind tour. Walking distance to Monet’s Gardens, we loved this rural little farm hotel and the breakfast was fantastic. Highly recommend O’ Plum ‘Art.
Most Expensive Hotel – Hilton Logan Boston
Ridiculously expensive relative to our normal hotels, the Hilton at Logan International Airport in Boston is certainly convenient but expensive. $390 a night.
With the kindest proprietor, the Riad we stayed in for the wedding of our friends in Fez was both inexpensive and very authentic. Beautiful five story old house with central courtyard and roof top area, located in the beautiful old city of Fez. $45 per night with breakfast! When in Fez stay at Dar Abdesalaam.
This was our second time doing an overnight camel trip in the Moroccan Sahara. Without realizing it, we booked a very different camp this time…with more amenities. This time we had electricity!! It was warmer too, being May instead of November so we were very comfortable. A two hour camel ride (gorgeous) a full queen bed, delicious dinner, music around the campfire and a fantastic breakfast. We loved every minute of it.
Best View Accommodations – Kihei Surfside Maui
Not a hotel or an Airbnb, the Kihei Surfside in Maui is one of our most favorite destinations in the world, precisely for the view. There really is nothing like it.
Honorable Mention – Cyprus
Returning to one of our all time favorite Airbnbs was a special treat – the ONLY Airbnb we have every returned to so far. We returned to thank our Cyprus Airbnb hosts and see the sights we were not able to see when we were locked down on the island of Cyprus early during the PanDamit. The view, the neighborhood, the hosts, the pool….we love this place so much. We just might visit again!
Food and Drink
Favorite Country Cuisine – Israel
Mediterranean style food is always my favorite, and the amazing combination of Mediterranean, middle eastern and everything fresh and local makes the foods of Israel the best. Israel has the best hummus in the world and I could (and did) eat it everyday.
We try to do food tours in as many countries as we can, so we definitely have some experience in this category. And our food tour, and our guide in Marrakesh was one of the absolute best we have ever had in any country. At $50 per person we more than ate our weight in every Moroccan delicacy learning so much about food, culture and history. We loved our guide Yahya who made the tour so much fun!
I’m so glad I stumbled on to Food Cook Lab Tahiti, a local, organically focused cooking school. Arne and I took a Tahitian cooking class, which was so phenomenal, I signed up for a second class about fish. Everything I learned was amazing, delicious and so much fun. I loved the flavors of French Polynesia.
Our lovely boutique hotel in Giverny was associated with this restaurant Le Jardin de Plumes and though more expensive than we would usually choose…it was worth every penny. A very unique tasting menu of the chefs choice. The best way to describe it is food as art. Beautiful and delicious.
Best Beer – Bend Oregon
Our third visit to Bend Oregon, we always make time to try new breweries when we visit this lovely town. One of the best beer towns in the Pacific Northwest and that is surely saying something.
Last year we visited a different Maui distillery, Ocean, but this time we discovered Hali’mail’e Distillery in Upcountry where they use local pineapple juice for their products. We enjoyed it and recommend it.
Best Coffee – Morocco
As you know I love my coffee, and real Moroccan coffee is right up there with some of the best in the world…deep, dark, rich Arabic coffee often lightly spiced.
This experience, having Shabat dinner with a local Jerusalem family, is not only our fondest memory of Israel, but one of fondest memories of all our travels. I am not Jewish but always hope to understand all faiths, particularly when in a country. Warmly welcomed by Osnat and Shaul into their beautiful home with a handful of other visitors as well as students from the local university. This lovely, authentic, delicious and religious experience will live forever in our hearts. I highly recommend it to everyone.
Most Authentic Cultural Experience – Kayar Fishing Village Senegal
As we drove several hours to this unknown destination in terrible Senegalese traffic I began to regret this tour. But in hindsight, it was the most amazing thing we did in the country of Senegal. The thousands of locals processing millions of fish on the beach…men, women and children…was colorful and almost like a festival. Our guide Oumar from Senegal Odyssey Tours was excellent and took exceptional care of us during our two days with him.
A couple years ago, one of my favorite books of the year was The Dove Keepers by Alice Hoffman , a fictional book about the factual siege of Masada in Israel. So visiting Masada was a top priority for me, and it did not disappoint. We visited on a scorching hot day but the Masada National Park is truly remarkable, a UNESCO World Heritage site with astonishing history.
Most Unexpected Ancient Ruins – Cyprus
Cyprus is so full of surprises…so much ancient history that rivals some of the best known historic ruins around the world. We really found the UNESCO Paphos Archeological site beautiful and staggering.
Long on my bucket list, and one of the things we canceled due to the PanDamit, to finally see this astonishing gardens was a dream for me. I loved the raucous and riotous collection of flowers, and of course, the ponds so famously depicted in Monet’s work. This was an easy choice for the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022, Monet’s Giverny and a Wee Bit More.
We could have done this walking tour self-guided, but I am so glad we decided to have a guide. Our guide was in the city on September 11th and had so much amazing insight for us to understand about Ground Zero prior to us going into the 911 Museum.
There are many, many options for group tours that take you across the disputed border from Jerusalem to Palestine. But I thought a private tour, for such an important event would be better. I wanted a local who could really guide us expertly through the eyes of a Palestinian. It was a fascinating day. I highly recommend Michael of Michael Tours.
If you are ever in Morocco, absolutely hire Lhoucine with Marrakesh Camel Tours. Doing this four day tour with our two adult sons was as memorable as it could be, and our tour guide was one of the best we have ever had anywhere in the world.
We were recommended to this tour by another tour guide who we met two years before in Cyprus. It sounded like a fun way to see the interesting capital of Cyprus, Nicosia. And we had a blast. I highly recommend Nicosia Segway Tours.
Best Sunrise – Moorea
Every morning I had my solitary moment with The Mug and the sunrise.
Best Sunset – Maui
Every night we watched the sun go to bed and it was always an amazing performance.
Best Beach – Moorea
Yes the beaches of Hawaii are amazing, but Moorea really was something special. Our favorite beach was a crystal clear white sand park called Ta’ahiamanu Public Beach.
Best Hike – tie; Washington State, Jersey
Hiking is a big part of our life, and we try to hike once a week no matter where we are. Our home state of Washington is one of the best places in the world to hike and we have half a dozen favorites we go back to over and over. Our time on the tiny island of Jersey in the English Channel also offered us one of our most memorable day hikes in September.
We spent several days on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands off the coast of France. Though the weather was wet, we did the low-tide crossing hike from Guernsey to the tiny island of Lihou. This was a very unique experience and worth getting drenched for.
Best Natural Sight – Sahara Desert
Not our first venture into the Sahara, but it still is a mind-boggling sight to see and the overnight camel tour is something everyone should do at least once in their life time.
Again, gratitude to the beauty of my home state and all its national sites, including the National Monument of Mount Saint Helens. We hadn’t visited Mt. St. Helens in many years and thoroughly enjoyed our day hiking in this national monument. Fascinating.
Best Wildlife Viewing – Maui
From whales to sharks, turtles to wild pigs, tropical fish to deer and the omnipresent chickens, Maui is a surprising place for wildlife viewing.
Best Bird-Watching – Antigua
As we travel we have become amateur birdwatchers and really enjoy it. We were very surprised by the variety of beautiful birds we found on the island of Antigua.
Best City Park – Central Park NYC
We plan to return to NYC next spring, and staying near Central Park is a high priority. New Yorkers cherish this park and it really is the heart of the city. I love it too for morning runs, afternoon strolls, people (and dog) watching, live entertainment and bird watching just to name a few reasons.
Best Snorkeling – Moorea
We LOVED our little bungalow on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia for many reasons…including access to snorkeling. Stepping right outside our door we could swim out about 60 yards to a remarkable reef with some of the most astonishing coral I have seen anywhere in the world.
Best Golf – Maui
Our home course of Maui Nui in Kihei is where we golf every time we visit this island and I had my best score ever this year!
Best Place to Run – Maui
I trained for and ran a half marathon (again) while on the island of Maui. Sidewalks, street lights, safe and beautiful, Kihei is my favorite place in the world to be a runner.
Hottest Day – Palestine
Our day trip from Jerusalem to Palestine was one of the hottest days of our year with temperatures well over 100F. The desert was still and treeless and we swooned.
Coldest Day – Maine and Washington
Just days before departing for two months in tropical French Polynesia we had a giant snowstorm at our home in Washington State. And when we arrived in Maine in September for a college reunion/camping trip, Hurricane Fiona off the coast pounded Maine with rain, wind and very chilly temperatures. My body responded with one of the worst colds I’d had in years – made a pilgrimage to Walmart to get some warm clothes!
Wettest Day – Moorea
Arriving in Moorea mid January to monsoon conditions our first week created a lake in our front yard, massive mosquitos and cool temperatures. Luckily it cleared and we loved our time in Moorea.
Windiest Day – Maui
Thanksgiving Day was one of the windiest Maui had seen in a long time with gusts blowing everything around including people. The only time in our two months on the island we ate our meal indoors with the doors closed.
Longest Travel Day – Cyprus to Seattle
Returning to Seattle from Larnaca Cyprus involved two flights and a stop in London for a total of 6840 miles.
Shortest Flight – Guernsey to Jersey
Originally we were going to take a 3 hour ferry from Guernsey to Jersey, but when we realized the flight was only slightly more expensive we booked it. Total flight time take off to touch down: 10 minutes 30 seconds.
Craziest Travel Day – Morocco
We flew to Dulles Airport from Turks and Caicos where we met up with our two sons who flew in from Seattle. We should have only had a three hour layover but due to a terrible storm we ended up being delayed for another 5 hours. Amazingly when we finally arrived in Casablanca our driver was still waiting for us. What a sight for sore eyes that was.
Weirdest Event – Shark Attack
A very sad and scary event while we were on the island of Maui was the death of a snorkeler who was attacked by a Tiger Shark. We felt so bad for her husband and family.
Strangest Experience – Disputed Border Crossings
This year we crossed two disputed borders; Israel to Palestine where Israelis soldiers were heavily armed and a bit rude as they guarded a 40 foot wall; and Cyprus to Northern Cyprus where UN forces keep the peace between Greek Cyprus and the disputed occupied Turkish Northern Cyprus.
Bucket list – Palestine and Israel
Since I was 12 years old I had wanted to go to Israel and Palestine. I feel very blessed to have visited.
Best Celebration – 40th Anniversary
While in Maui we had a wonderful 40th wedding anniversary celebration, in fact two. The first with our friends from home who were on the island as well as our friends from Molokai who came to join us at Mama’s Fish House. The second, just Arne and I, at the incomparable Merriman’s at Kapalua. I hope to do that again on our 80th anniversary.
Favorite Photo – Senegal
I take thousands of photos…I mean it – thousands. So choosing a favorite is hard. This year I choose this one. The color. The culture. The authentic feel of hard work and community. And that baby.
Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022
There you have it. The best of the best of My Fab Fifties Life travel of 2022. Amazing, memorable and unique experiences with new cultures and experiences around the world. What a grand adventure it is. We sure hope you will consider visiting some of these places and enjoying some of these unique experiences too.
As I post this annual awards I am in the country of Honduras…my 123rd country. Our travels in 2023 currently are planned for us to visit at least a dozen and maybe more as we explore and find the rich and rewarding destinations, people, experiences, foods and beauty of this amazing planet we call home.
I hope you have enjoyed the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022. We hope you will continue to follow us around the globe, comment, pin and share this post so others can follow as well. Thank you and be fabulous. Our blog is nearly ten years old…it wouldn’t be possible without all of you.
Enjoy this one again or for the very first time. Originally published October 2021.
We love to hike and when we are traveling we always set aside at least one day a week to hike and get out into nature. And during our recent visit to Maui we discovered another great hike to add to the many favorites we already have on this beautiful island. So today I thought I would share with you six great hikes on the island of Maui.
The area known as West Maui is home to Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili and Kapalua. We spent six weeks exploring this area recently. Here are two of our favorite hikes.
Kapalua Coastal Trail
This trail can be busy but it’s worth it because it is so beautiful and definitely one of the six great hikes on the island of Maui. Parking can be difficult but look for street parking near the Napili Kai Resort, or paid parking at Kapalua Golf Course. Start the hike right at Merriman’s Restaurant where the trail heads north. The trail then winds through spectacular lava flows where you can see crashing waves and nesting shearwaters birds nesting. Follow the trail along the road at the Kapalua Golf Course and out to the Dragons Teeth Labyrinth. Round trip about 4 miles. Learn more here.
The Village Course and Duck Pond
The Kapalua Golf Club closed one of their three courses in 2007. Today the cart paths of the defunct Village Course are a unique and somewhat eerie (and steep) walk through a golf ghost town. It’s astonishing actually how quickly nature has reclaimed this course, making the fairways essentially unrecognizable only fourteen years later. The walk is about four miles round trip at the top is Duck Pond, a nice stop to rest or picnic before returning down. Learn more here.
South Maui is usually defined as Kihei, Wailea and Makena. We have spent a great deal of time in this part of the island and we love it.
La Perouse/Hoapili Trail
This is one of my favorites of the six great hikes on the island of Maui, but also a bit rough and difficult. Traversing over sharp lava beds, come prepared with the right shoes. It’s a hot and arid trail but provides some stunning views across to the Big Island of Hawaii. The trail is also a sacred trail for Hawaiians, once part of the King’s Highway that circled the island. Crossing the 300 year old lava field is a unique experience, if you are up for it I recommend it highly. Wear a hat and bring lots of water. Learn more here.
The region sometimes referred to as Central Maui is home to the airport in Kahului and the government seat city of Wailuku as well as malls, shopping and industrial areas.
About a 7 mile drive north and west from Wailuku you find the parking area for the Waihee Ridge Trail. We have done this trail several times and had a wide variance in weather each time. Come prepared for rain, wind, fog or clear blue skies…you never know. Arrive early for parking. The trail goes up and up the green and beautiful ridge for about 2.5 miles and if you are lucky the views are phenomenal. Learn more here.
The astonishing volcano Haleakala rises 10,000 feet (3048 meters) out of the island and can be seen from almost anywhere on the island. If you go to do either of these suggested hikes get an early start. Often the volcano is clear in the morning but clouds roll in later in the day. BE PREPARED, Haleakala can be very cold in the morning…cold enough to warrant a stocking cap and warm coat.
This is one of my favorite hikes on the island. Starting at the top of the volcano at the Visitor Information Center, Sliding Sands, as it’s name implies, is a red sandy trail that goes down inside the volcano crater. Don’t do more than you are capable of on this eleven mile round trip trail, because you need to come back up! Along this trail you will feel like you are on the moon. It’s beautiful, and you will also see the rare and endangered Silver Sword plant known only to grow in this volcano and the two volcanoes on the Big Island. Learn more here.
Approximately 14.2 miles up Highway 378 but before you reach the summit, you will see the Halemau’u Trail parking on the left side of the road. This trail often starts in the mist and clouds, but don’t despair. As you walk the ridge and then go down the rock face trail into the crater the weather usually warms and clears. There is a picnic area that is a good turn around point. Or you can hike all the way through to Sliding Sands and back up to the Visitor Center. But you will need to either have two cars or someone to bring you back to the Halemau’u parking area. Learn more here.
These are just a few of the many hikes available on the beautiful island of Maui. No matter your hiking skill level you can find a walk or hike on this island. If you are looking for additions to the six great hikes on the island of Maui check this out.
I had a wonderful time in beautiful Palm Springs California recently with a group of women I went to high school with. We try to get together every year to celebrate our long friendship and our continued comradery. This year’s reunion was a Palm Springs Weekend.
Palm Springs Weekend
Our annual reunions have been everywhere from Las Vegas to Nashville, Scottsdale to Seattle and once we did a cruise. We look for places with a variety of activities to fit everyone’s interest. Palm Springs fit the bill. Three days is not a lot of time but we squeezed a lot in and had a really fun time. Here are some of my recommendations for a Palm Springs Weekend with a date or with girlfriends.
Where to Stay
The Renaissance Marriott Palm Springs – I’m so glad we chose this hotel. It’s very close to the airport and an Uber is only $16. For our Palm Springs Weekend we did not rent a car, because the Marriott is so strategically placed. We joked that it was a half mile walk to everywhere. Very easy to get around. The Marriott rooms are spacious and comfortable and the pool side rooms have an amazing view. We also enjoyed the coffee shop and the bar. The staff was very helpful. Rooms start around $250 and up.
Where to Eat
We enjoyed dinner out at several great restaurants. Several of the girls also went out for breakfast or walked to coffee places nearby each morning. I recommend the following for dinner;
Boozehounds – a fun place with indoor and outdoor seating. You can bring your dog to the outdoor seating and they even have a special menu for the pooch.
Lulu’s Palm Springs – one of the most popular and most diverse restaurants in downtown Palm Springs. I had my favorite meal here. We all enjoyed this restaurant and our server was one of the best I’ve ever had.
Las Casuelas Terraza – one of Palm Springs oldest restaurants, family owned and run and authentically delicious. We all enjoyed a variety of Mexican specialties from Tacos to salads and Ceviche. And of course Margaritas.
Things To Do
Spend time at the Pool – the pool at the Renaissance is wonderful.
Go to the Thursday night Village Fest – back after two years on hiatus during the pandamit, the Village Fest is all about food, music, crafts, art and people watching.
Check out the Drag Show at the Copa Nightclub. I had never been to a drag show, but if you want to give it a try, Copa is great for Drag Show newbies. It was loud, colorful and pretty fun. C
Gamble or eat or both at the Agua Caliente Casino – a couple of my friends walked away with some serious winnings…but not me. But I did enjoy the drinks and appetizers which are much less expensive here than most bars or restaurants. The casino is also smoke free. Bonus.
Much More To Do
Check out my blog posts from when I spent two months in the desert. I wrote about lots of things including;
We spent a week in Central Oregon last month with my husband’s family, enjoying the beautiful city of Bend and the resort of Sunriver. It was our first time in Sunriver, but we had visited Bend several times. Bend and Sunriver are about 20 miles apart. The high desert area of Central Oregon is one of my favorite places in the Pacific Northwest. I wish we had more time, but here are some of the things we recommend on a visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon.
Where are Bend and Sunriver
Located about three hours from Portland Oregon and six hours from my summer home in Port Orchard Washington, Bend and Sunriver are in the high desert of Central Oregon, offering a lovely dry climate with warm days and cool nights in the summer. Winter brings snow and cold but still dry compared to the area we live near Seattle. Bend and Sunriver are year-round playgrounds for hiking, cycling, water sports, downhill skiing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing as well as many other activities.
Incorporated in 1905 Bend historically was a quiet logging town on the Deschutes River. Today however, Bend’s population has grown to just under 100,000 with many newer residents moving to the region for its outdoor recreation and beauty amongst the ponderosa pines. The city has a historic downtown, with shops and restaurants, many parks and is known for its many microbrewery options.
Golf in Bend
Bend has many golf courses, but we only have visited a few with our favorite being the Rivers Edge Course right near town.
Restaurants in Bend
A huge variety of restaurants are available in historic downtown Bend as well in the surrounding area. We have not been to as many as we would like, but our favorites currently are Wild Rose for its amazing northern Thai Cuisine, Longboard Louies for a quick Mexican lunch, McMenamins for burgers and beer, El Sancho Taco for the best Mexican in Oregon, Sintra for breakfast and Pine Tree Tavern for the history.
Beer in Bend
Because we love beer, we always make an effort to try some different breweries when in Bend, as we work our way through the more than 25 breweries in the greater Bend area. During this visit we enjoyed checking out Good Life with its great outdoor beer garden, Sunriver Brewing with some delicious looking food although we didn’t eat there, and The Yard located in the courtyard of the Bunk and Brew Hostel.
The first explorers filtered through the area in the early 19th Century and homesteaders started farming the region in the late 1800s. Sunriver is located on the grounds of the former Camp Abbot, a World War II training facility. The U.S. Army camp opened in 1942, but by June 1944 the camp was abandoned and most of the settlement was razed.
In 1954, state highway 97 was completed in its current location and four years later, the Mt. Bachelor ski area opened. Both served to make Central Oregon a prime vacation and recreation area. Portland land developer John Gray acquired what would become Sunriver in 1965 and transformed the landscape into a residential and resort community.
Today about 1700 people are full-time residents of Sunriver, but the population expands on weekends, holidays and in the summer.
Raft the Deschutes
Since we were on a family vacation with a total of seven people, renting a raft at the Sunriver Marina seemed like a perfect activity for the family. Our raft for seven was meant for as many as ten, but I think ten people would have been uncomfortably crowded. We enjoyed the leisurely drift down the Deschutes on a beautiful day. Ten person raft was $330 (about three hours and includes transportation back to the Marina) but many options are available including kayaks and tubes.
Cycle and Run or Walk the Paths
Our giant Airbnb (five bedrooms and six bathrooms) was located right on one of the main paths that meander through the Sunriver resort. So every morning at sunrise I was the first one up and after the obligatory coffee, I was out onto the path for a run. Flat, paved and absolutely beautiful, I loved having that available. The rest of the family enjoyed it for running and long walks as well.
Several of us brought our bikes and a few rented bikes, and we enjoyed a couple leisurely rides through the forest and along the river on the safe and well maintained trails.
Golf and Activities in Sunriver
We did not golf while in Sunriver but there are four courses available as well as several swimming pools, a Nature Center and Observatory, horse stables and a shopping and restaurant center with events, concerts, markets and art fairs.
About seven miles away back towards Bend on Hwy 97 you’ll find the High Desert Museum. Fun and interesting especially for families.
On our final day we did two easy hikes that were perfect even for my 88 year old mother-in-law. Both these hikes would be good for kids and families too. I recommend the Benham Falls hike and the Lava Lands State area hike.
If you are interested in more strenuous hiking there are many options near Mount Bachelor.
A Visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon
We had such an enjoyable time in both Bend and Sunriver – a perfect place for a family vacation. I certainly would love to go again. You should consider a visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon for your family or for couples too. There is so much to do.
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We had a wonderful ten day stay at the beautiful Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos a few weeks ago. It’s incredibly rare for us to stay in a resort, or even in a hotel. We usually are in an Airbnb or VRBO, with our hotel stays limited to one night here and there usually at an airport. But we gave this a try and we were not disappointed. Here is my review of the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos.
Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos is a small Caribbean country in the Atlantic only 736 miles off the coast of Florida. The country has a population of 39,000 within its collection of 40 small islands, of which only eight are inhabited. They use US dollars, drive on the left and are a British territory. Queen Elizabeth names a Governor for the country.
Most of the population are descendants of slaves, who were forcibly brought here to work the salt flats and cotton fields. More recently many people have immigrated from The Bahamas. Today the economy is based on tourism and off-shore financing.
Grace Bay, Providenciales
We spent our time on the island of Providenciales, home ot the international airport (by the way, the airport is the worst thing about the island, sadly in need of an upgrade). Our lodgings were in a small town known as Grace Bay. Grace Bay has an astonishingly beautiful long white sand beach where the lovely resorts sit, including the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos.
The town of Grace Bay seems to be fairly recently developed, with resorts, shops and restaurants spread out over a few miles and all easy walking distance from our resort. A really nice grocery store was less than a mile, dozens of restaurant and shops about a mile or less. Everything seems practically brand new. Sidewalks are good, and roads too. I felt very safe doing a five mile run each morning.
Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos
This resort was far better than I expected, which of course was a great surprise. We booked the least expensive room, a “studio” for $260 a night via Expedia. With all the taxes and fees, the actual cost was closer to $300. The “studio” is basically a large hotel room that included a table and chairs for two, small sitting area, small kitchen with fridge and microwave (see last week’s blog about hotel microwave cooking), a bathroom and a washer and dryer. Having a washer dryer was a big bonus we weren’t expecting. Our room also had a very large deck with table, chairs and lounge chair over looking one of the two pools.
The Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos also has one bedroom suites. In addition you can combine a one bedroom suite and a studio like ours to create a two bedroom space.
Made up of 8 buildings with 15 units in each, the buildings are spread out around beautifully landscaped grounds. All units either overlook one of the pools or the beach.
There is no elevator, but a very nice and strong bellhop carried our bags up to the third floor on our arrival. Staff also secured the taxi for our return trip to the airport. Taxi’s are different here…usually shared vans.
First Rate Amenities
We were pleasantly surprised to find such beautiful pools as well as access to a beautiful beach area on Grace Bay that included lounge chairs and umbrellas just for the guests of our hotel. Beach and pool towels also available from the friendly staff.
In addition the hotel offers guests the free use of Hobie Cat sailboats, kayaks and bikes.
Pelican Bay Restaurant and Bar sits poolside at the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos. It is highly rated and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition they had one of the most generous daily happy hours I’ve ever encountered offering half off all drinks from 5-7pm. Special weekly Fish Fry and BBQ are also popular. On Sunday nights they have live music and it was so good.
We cooked in our room five of the nights we stayed and ate out four nights. In addition to enjoying the Pelican Bay Restaurant and Bar for breakfast we walked to four more dinner restaurants and one lunch that we really enjoyed.
More We Enjoyed
Coco Bistro and Coco Van – When we couldn’t get a reservation at the highly rated and very popular Coco Bistro we ended up having a really good meal at their food truck called Coco Van. We had Chicken Fried Burger, Duck Tacos, Egg Roll, two side salads and four beers. $80.
Another highly rated restaurant we tried was called Caicos Cafe. I was expecting it to be Caribbean food but it actually was Italian with lots of pastas and other things too. I had a spinach salad and grilled octopus. Arne had the local specialty Conch Chowder and BBQ Ribs. With one beer and water $120
A short walk down the beach we discovered The Flamingo Cafe, a tiny beach shake with great water view. Not much to look at but the food was great and inexpensive. Conch Salad and two Grouper entries $60.
We ate lunch out one day at the local food truck called Roosters just a block from our resort. Fish Tacos and burgers on the menu but we also tried a local Caribbean pork dish called Griot. $18
We splurged a little on our final night on the island and went to Coyaba, one of the highest rated restaurants in the area. Fantastic service. Cute space. Excellent food. Two fish entries, one salad, beer and water total was $160.
Visiting Turks and Caicos
We chose not to rent a car and not to wander beyond Grace Bay during our visit. But for those interested there are great beaches around the island (some remote), a national park, snorkel and dive tours, sailing tours, sunset tours, kayaking, parasailing, golf and more. Although groceries and dining out were quite expensive, overall we had a really positive experience and would definitely recommend it, as well as a stay at the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos.
Now enjoying our sixth week in French Polynesia, we are smitten with the island of Mo’orea. Just a 30 minute ferry crossing from Tahiti and the country’s main city of Papeete, Mo’orea is convenient and has everything we look for in a relaxing destination. We like it way more than Bora Bora and hope to come here again. Here are our favorite seven things to do on Mo’orea French Polynesia.
We originally chose Mo’orea because we found a wonderful Airbnb. Arriving with high hopes it would be as good as the reviews and photos – we were not been disappointed. It’s very comfortable, affordable, waterfront, and a great location. Another bonus is our host Maea is one of the best hosts we have ever had in our 102 Airbnb’s around the world – yes I said 102!! Perhaps it’s time to update this post Our Favorite Airbnb’s Around the World.
Mo’orea might not get the same marketing push that Bora Bora gets, but we think we like it better…at least for us. We enjoy a quiet place with a less touristy vibe. Mo’orea has that, especially during the shoulder season. Authentic ambiance is another thing we look for, and Mo’orea has that too. Our experience here has been incredible.
Seven Things To Do On Mo’orea, French Polynesia
Unless you are staying only for a couple days in a resort (we recommend longer) you need to have a car on Mo’orea. Public transportation is non-existent. There are a few taxis and of course tours, but having your own wheels will make all of the suggestions below accessible. It’s worth the expense.
So here are our seven things to do on Mo’orea, French Polynesia. In no particular order;
There are many snorkel options on the island. Mo’orea is surrounded by a reef that creates a shallow and beautiful lagoon nearly the entire circumference of the island. You can take a snorkel tour in a kayak, small boat, large group tour with lunch or an outrigger. Or you can bring or buy your own snorkel and fins (what we did) and snorkel from any public beach on the island. You will see remarkably beautiful coral of all shapes, sizes and colors. Of course you will see a fascinating collection of sea life including rays, black tip sharks and a rainbow of tropical fish. Want to see more of our favorite Snorkeling Around the World? Click Here.
2. Coco Beach
Coco Beach is a fun day trip, even though we had better snorkeling elsewhere. You need to call ahead for a reservation. A small boat will meet you at the parking area and ferry you over to the tiny island. Then you will be shown to your outdoor table, which is yours for the day. Have a tropical drink, then enjoy the beautiful warm water before feasting on delicious lunch. Last boat back is at 3:30pm. It makes for a wonderful day. Total for our day was $116.
3. Tahiti Street Food Tour
One of the first things we did our first week on the island was to take a tour with Tahiti Food Tours. It’s always a good way to learn about local cuisine. Our tour included stops at 7 local “snacks” (Tahitian Fast Food or Street Food) as well as a distillery. This tour was delicious and opened our eyes to some of the local specialties. Our local guide was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and funny. Cost per person $120USD
4. Food and CookLab Cooking School
Another thing we do in many of our travel destinations is take a cooking class. Thanks to our guide on the food tour (above) we learned about the Food and CookLab, a sustainable and organic cooking school on the island. We took their Polynesian Foods cooking class where we learned to make poisson cru, manioc chips, po’e – a plantain pudding cooked in banana leaf (also a sweet potato version), breadfruit and hibiscus leaf wrapped coconut bread. Cost per person $75USD lunch included.
I enjoyed the class so much I signed up for a second class, presented by a local chef on the island. In this second class we took beautiful local tuna and oyster muscles and created multiple dishes including gravlax, rillettes and fume (smoked fish). $125 USD lunch included as well as doggy bags of delicious fish to take home.
5. Tiki Village
If you have been to a luau in Hawaii, Tiki Village is the Polynesian version. The entertainment is different than Hawaii, as of course it focuses on the Tahitian dress, music and lore. The food is cooked in a pit including a whole pig but includes breadfruit, po’e (see above), poisson cru and local fish. The meal also included some international dishes from the French influence including pate, salads and dessert. The sunset view was amazing. Cost $110USD
Airport/Golf Course Hike – Starting from Temae beach you can hike the flat sandy road along the tiny Mo’orea Airport and the Mo’orea Golf Course and back. Round trip about three miles. Easy.
Three Coconuts – Starting at the Belvedere Lookout this ascent is gradual except for the final mile. But the beautiful view is definitely worth it. Wear proper shoes. Total round trip 3.5 miles. Difficult.
Magic Mountain – most of the tours drive up to the view point on Magic Mountain but if you want a good work out then you can walk up. It’s steep but the road is in fairly good condition and the view is spectacular. Park at the fruit stand at the bottom for $2. When you come back have a fruit smoothie. Very nice lady here. Total round trip less than 2 miles but 700+ feet vertical. Moderate.
Waterfall Hike – there wasn’t much water in the waterfall when we visited, but it was a good sweaty work out nonetheless. This was the most junglesque hike we did, beautiful deep jungle as we trekked a sometimes rough trail to the waterfall. To find this hike go just past the hospital in Afareietu and turn into a small road and park near the Veterans Memorial. Walk up the dirt road and keep left, it becomes the trail. 3 miles round trip and moderate.
Post Office – from the right side as you face the tiny yellow post office building at the Temae beach turnoff, there is a hidden trail that takes you up to the radio towers and then scoots up to a peak. This trail is very steep. Bring lots of water. The view is amazing. You can go back down the way you came or continue on the trail through a thickly forested area where the trail is sometimes difficult to find. Watch for flags tied to trees to keep to the trail. Total distance 2 miles if you head back down the way you came up; 4.5 miles if you complete the loop. Very difficult.
Pineapple Fields – From Pao Pao follow the “Route de Ananas” road inland until it becomes dirt. Park and walk staying to the right to the beautiful pineapple fields. Pineapple is a local cash crop Mo’orea is known for. The tiny and sweet little golden fruits are delicious. On this hike you can see the beautiful plants both in flower and in fruit. You can make this hike short (about 1 mile) or longer (above 3 miles). Easy.
7. Drive Around the Island
It’s 30 miles or 48 km around the island on the “main” road. This is bigger than the island of Praslin we stayed on in the Seychelle Islands and smaller than our favorite Hawaiian island of Maui. It definitely makes my list now of my favorite islands around the world.
There are a few side roads, like the one to the Belvedere and to the Pineapple Fields. But mostly it’s the main road. Locals drive pretty fast and crazy and there are bicycles, pedestrians and lots of dogs. But a tour around the island is a must with stops along the way.
This map shows the island and the main road. Starting at the ferry terminal in Vaiare follow the road counter clockwise. Teavara is the village our bungalow is. Continue up the hill to a spectacular viewpoint called Toatea, down the hill to the entrance to one of our favorite beaches Temae (also the location of the Airport Hike above). Continue around through the main town of Maharepa (don’t blink you’ll miss it) and to the first bay called Cook’s Bay. The village of PaoPao has some tiny eateries and a fabulous view of Rotui Mountain. Beautiful spot here includes a historic church. Pao Pao is also where you turn to the Pineapple Route. Continue on you’ll come to another gorgeous beach called Ta’ahiamanu – my favorite beach on the island. Plenty of parking and a great snorkel spot.
Next you’ll arrive at the head of Opunohu Bay. This is where you turn to the Belvedere lookout and hikes as well as Magic Mountain. As you round the Westside of the island it is quieter and more rural. There is a beautiful public beach here at Hauru and this is also the location of Coco Beach (above). Continue further to the location of Tiki Village (above) and a couple more beautiful historic churches at Haapiti.
At Afareaitu is the start of the waterfall hike (above) and is also home to the island’s administrative center and hospital. Finish your circle tour back at Vaiare. Along the way there are plenty of local “snack” shops, food trucks and restaurants as well as a hand full of souvenir shops and pearl shops and locals selling goods and fruit along the roadside. It’s a beautiful drive and a beautiful island. Take your time and enjoy.
Fresh Food Glorious Food
There are some surprisingly good places to eat on this tiny island, and I am putting together a separate blog post about that for next week. So you’re gonna want to check back about that. Meanwhile, check out our latest Tasty Tuesday video on our YouTube channel. Your introduction to Poisson Cru the national dish of Polynesia – we try to eat it everyday. It’s amazing, healthy and very local.
Thanks for following along on our Seven Things to do on Mo’orea, French Polynesia tour. Please come back next week for more about Mo’orea.
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