MIAMI MAMI

|| Travel Date || 27 July 2017 – 31 July 2017

Typically when I travel, the purpose is to experience exotic food, beautiful culture, and incredible architecture/nature, but my intentions for Miami was simply to help throw Halu (my best friend and sister-in-law) the best bachelorette party ever. There was six of us total and although most of the long weekend was spent heavily drinking, we did experience a lot of what Miami has to offer.

We landed Thursday afternoon and headed straight to Miami Beach. We stayed on Collins Ave. at The Confidante hotel, a boutique hotel perfectly located near South Beach and just across the highway from the mainland. We quickly got ready and headed out to Wynwood for the night. Wynwood is an iconic arts district covered with graffiti and murals on nearly every touchable surface, I highly recommend walking around and exploring, even if you’re just walking from bar to bar. We started off with dinner and drinks at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, a tapas-style latin restaurant donned with a Shepard Fairey mural and mixed modern art creating a really cool, artsy vibe. We then walked over to Beaker & Gray for more drinks (late night happy hour there is great) before heading to Wood Tavern to drink and dance. The outdoor section of the tavern was really fun, it was packed all night with a live DJ and it was the best way to start our trip.

 

Friday we started off at the pool of our hotel, we rented a cabana and spent the day drinking shots of tequila and chasing with pitchers of Spicy Chinos (Mezcal, Tequila, Mango, Jalapeño, Lime, Cilantro, Agave), I’m honestly only incorporating the ingredients here so that I can remake this cocktail every summer for the rest of my life. Our hotel was located right on the beach, so we’d jump in the pool, run out to the ocean, drink some more, and repeat. Our server even got us a portable speaker so that we could play music by the pool, we essentially turned The Backyard into a full on day party. Now this was a bachelorette party, so after a quick nap and a few pink wigs later, we ended up at the strip club, LaBare… and that’s all I’m going to say about that 😉 Later that night we went to E11EVEN, a multi-level nightclub open 24/7 with burlesque dancers and bottle service. We  danced and drank until nearly four in the morning before we relocated to Heart, an after-hours nightclub just across the street. Miami does not stop. It was incredible that this was just our first full day and yet we were already having so much fun. 

  

On Saturday, the pouring rain changed our plans a bit, but it was much needed after the previous day of nonstop drinking. We took it easy through the afternoon and then headed down to Sweet Liberty for happy hour. If you’re a fan of oysters, then you should definitely stop there for happy hour with $0.75 oysters and $5 rosé. After 72 oysters and many glasses of rosé later, we (literally) waited out the storm before heading back to our hotel to get ready for the night. We went a little out of the way for dinner to Mignonette, but it was well worth it for the seafood towers and champagne, if you’re looking for great seafood without the pretentious bullshit, definitely check it out. We then headed to Do Not Sit On The Furniture in South Beach, it has a very locals-only vibe, it’s dimly-lit and all deep house music. Not going to lie, wasn’t really my scene, but it was cool for what it was!

Sunday morning we stopped at Orange Blossom for brunch before we headed out to Biscayne Bay for the day. We rented a chartered catamaran through boat.me, sort of like an airbnb service – but for yachts. The experience was incredibly seamless and our captain was awesome. We cruised through the lagoon, jumped into the ocean, and once again day-drank copious amounts of alcohol. It was truly well worth the money to do, especially split up between friends, I just wish they had something like this in LA! When we returned back to the mainland, we went to the legendary Versailles for cuban sandwiches, plantains, mojitos, and coconut flan. There’s always a crazy long line, but it moves quickly; we waited at most twenty-minutes for a table, and for a dinner under $20, I’m down. That night, the new club, Mr. Jones, opened. Although Sunday nights aren’t exactly ideal for going out, we decided to check it out as it was our last night in town. There were tray-passed hors d’oeuvres which were actually pretty tasty and vodka-infused gummies which were actually pretty disgusting. The music was fun and the crowd was chill, but by 3am, pizza and my bed sounded amazing.

Monday morning we simply laid by the pool, had breakfast at the hotel, and then relaxed before checking out. We cruised down to South Beach to get a late lunch at Sushi Song, did some touristy souvenir shopping, then headed to the airport. I was so sad to go, but my liver and my credit card were very happy we were leaving. This was my first bachelorette party and to be quite honest, I don’t know how anyone else is going to top it.

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Over to O’ahu

oahu

|| Travel Date || 1 June 2015 – 23 June 2015

About a month prior to my departure, I was catching up with an old friend at a restaurant in Santa Barbara. At the time, she was working for a travel company that organized trips for recent high school graduates to various tropical destinations. Every summer they send their employees along for three weeks to help execute the program. Pretty amazing gig, right? It’s technically considered volunteering, therefore the chaperones aren’t paid hourly – but the flight, the hotel, and activities are covered on top of a generous weekly stipend. It seemed like the perfect situation while I was in between jobs and I grew evermore envious as she continued explaining the perks. I needed to know how I could get on board (literally). When she informed me that they still needed additional staff, I immediately leaped on the opportunity. Before I knew it, I was booking my trip back to the islands. Luckily the company was extremely flexible with the flights. As long as I was available on the day they needed me and the cost of my flight was comparable to what they anticipated paying, they didn’t mind when or where I departed to. Therefore, I managed to squeeze a vacation back to Kaua’i before working in O’ahu. All I had to pay for was my connecting flight between the two islands.

It’s impossible to summarize the days leading up to the program, the three weeks of “work”, and the final days before departing back home. There’s just way too many adventures and stories to tell. I hiked breathtaking trails, laid on every beach I could, splurged on amazing food, and I never stopped exploring. To try and simplify everything wouldn’t give proper justice to O’ahu. So rather than explaining the trip in it’s entirety, I’m going to highlight my favorite parts by category and leave the rest to your imagination.

Hikes

Although some of these hikes I did are now illegal, there are still many beautiful hikes that you can do legally! If you do choose an illegal trail, please be cautious and do your due diligence before exploring. For instance, The Haʻikū Stairs (Stairway to Heaven) and Sacred Falls are the two most popular illegal hikes, both of which are illegal because of multiple fatal incidents. While some hikes are illegal for safety reasons, many are illegal for preservation purposes and are actually legal for locals. Again, I don’t suggest breaking the law, but below are the hikes that I did:

IMG_8604 iceponds

The Kalihi Ice Ponds are located within a small neighborhood off of the Likelike Hwy and the trail head is fairly difficult to find, but it’s a quick hike and worth every moment. After a short partially paved trail is a narrow muddy pathway down to the ice ponds. Grab hold onto the supported rope as you navigate your way down the slippery path. At the bottom of the pathway are multiple layers of ponds and waterfalls with massive cliffs and bone-chilling, cold water. Ok, it’s not that cold, but in comparison to how warm the ocean is, these ponds were really, really cold. Take a refreshing dip in the ponds and explore the various paths through the jungle, it’s nice to find a hidden gem not overrun with tourists.

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Makapu’u Tom Tom Trail, where to even begin? So this hike was one of the hardest and most emotional hikes I have ever been on. We got lost, I almost slipped off a three-thousand foot cliff, I got a second-degree sunburn, I was dehydrated, I had multiple cuts and bruises, everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. With that said, it was one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever witnessed and I learned some amazing life lessons during my eight-hour trek. Do note, this hike is highly illegal for safety reasons, hence why I nearly died when I slipped at the cliff edge and held onto nothing but the mountain for dear life.

 

Lulumahu Falls, the neat thing about this hike is the amount of diversity it has to offer. You begin your voyage through a bamboo forest until you reach an open valley, within the valley are graffitied cement walls radiating an almost abandoned and untouched vibe. Just a little further is a muddy pathway along a narrow stream, surrounded by lush vegetation and massive rocks, and finally ending at a beautiful waterfall. It’s always rewarding to hike a long trail to a destination rather than just a loop. In my opinion, standing under the waterfall and letting the chilly water cool you down after climbing up a muddy trail is the best feeling ever.

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Maunawili Valley, similar to the Lulumahu trail, Maunawili is a lush hike to a beautiful waterfall, but Maunawili also has breathtaking views of the valley from up above. It has a very Jurassic Park-esque vibe to it. Maunawili is also a much smaller waterfall and thus is one you can safely jump off of and into the cool water. I feel like this hike is pretty underrated for how amazing it is – I highly recommend this hike! Easy to access the trail head and tons of free neighborhood parking.

Beaches

Waikiki, the most obnoxiously touristy part of the island, but a must. The beach itself is overly populated and very small, but the shops, restaurants, and people watching along the boardwalk are worth checking out. Waikiki is also rich in history, rent a long board and ride the waves just like Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku.

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Waimea Bay, located up in the North Shore is a very popular, fairly crowded cove. Waimea is well known for the huge rocks to dive off of and plenty of room to bbq and make an entire day trip out of it.

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Banzai Pipeline, most people know of this beach simply because of the annual surf competition, but during the off months, it’s actually a rather quiet and very beautiful beach. Plus, the beachside mansions are pretty neat to look at too, #goals.

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Lanikai, hands down one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. There’s something magical about this place that I cannot explain, the sand is soft like cashmere and the ocean is crystal clear. Lanikai is located on the East Side of the island directly across from the Mokulua Islands or “Mokes.” Watching the sunrise over the islands is one of the most captivating, therapeutic, and potentially romantic sights ever. Gentleman, take note, a proposal here is basically a guaranteed yes.

 turtles

Papa’iloa Beach, tucked away behind some luxurious homes is the best spot for spotting sea turtles. They are everywhere. Extremely skittish, but they can be seen surfing all over the place. Palm trees lined the beach creating the perfect amount of shade to cool off under between swimming and tanning.

Food

With the exception of the occasional Ramen Bowl at the infamous Ramen Nakamura, my diet consisted mainly of fish and fruit. O’ahu is well known for their Food Trucks and understandably so – some of my best meals were served from a rusty old truck parked off the side of the highway. Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp and The Elephant Truck are my absolute favorites.

 fumis

Of course, there’s the touristy musts of the Hawaiian Islands. If it’s your first time in Hawaii, I highly recommend going to a Luau. They’re a bit expensive, but it’s totally worth it for the amazing dinner, talented performers, and the entire experience. Germaine’s Luau serves up a traditional Kalua Pig slow roasted in the ground with hot rocks until cooked to perfection. There’s a full buffet with traditional Hawaiian dishes if pork isn’t your thing or if you just want to eat everything like me. Now, if you’re a pineapple fiend like myself, you’ll have to check out the Dole Plantation or at least find a store that serves Dole Whips, aka the greatest pineapple soft serve in the world. As tasty as Hawaiian Shaved Ice is, it’s got nothing on a Dole Whip.

luau IMG_9732 fruit

If you’re on the go and looking to grab something cheap and fast, stop by an ABC Store (they’re practically on every corner) for anything from sandwiches to drinks to fruit and all your basic convenient store needs. While you’re checking out the local markets, be sure to stop by Foodland and get some fresh poké! Also, a bit harder to find, but Honey Cream Pineapple is sometimes at the Whole Foods in Kailua near Lanikai. Honey Cream Pineapple from Frankie’s Nursery is one of the most amazingly sweet and juicy trademarked fruits that I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. I even brought a few back to the mainland for my friends and family to try.

Towns

While you can easily drive around the entire island in just a few hours, there’s a few places that you need to make sure you don’t just pass through. Obviously if I haven’t stressed enough how amazing the North Shore is, you must spend as much time as possible up there. Haleiwa is a small historic town within the North Shore, check out the Old Town and bring cash! I’m not much of a souvenir shopper but there’s some really neat shopping and tasty food over there. Plus, it’s a really cute town to see even if you don’t want to spend any money. The Westside of the island is unfortunately a bit too industrial for my liking; With the exception of Aulani, the Disney Hotel, there isn’t much to see over there. As I said before, Waikiki is a touristy must. There’s so much history in Waikiki and tons to do and see, although my favorite part of the island is the nature, it’s still fun to check out the city. The Eastside is where most of the locals live, it’s stunningly beautiful and very cozy. You’ll definitely get that small town vibe when you’re driving around the east. Last, but not least, you must check out the center of the island. Some of the best hikes are just off of the Likelike Hwy. The views alone as you cruise along the highway are worth the detour.

Activities

It’s an obvious must to rent a surfboard or snorkel gear and get out in the crystal clear ocean, but there are so many other water activities worth checking out too. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, check out H2O Water Sports, a few of my coworkers and I went parasailing and conquered the banana boat. Parasailing is as epic as I imagined, being up in the air and looking over the island with a birds-eye-view was really breathtaking. I could not stop smiling the entire time I was up there.

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On the other hand, the banana boat was the exact opposite of what I expected. I cannot even put in to words how much f**king fun that was. A large inflatable raft pulled by a high-speed jet ski seems like it could be a good time, but when Tony drove up with a cigar in his mouth and a huge smirk across his face, I immediately knew that we were in deep shit. Of course, I mean that in the best way possible. The goal as a rider is to hold on as tight as possible and to not fall off, but good ol’ Tony’s goal was to make sure we didn’t see the light of day. Usually the drivers are playful, drive safely, and will take the occasional sharp turn to knock off a rider, everyone laughs, the rider hops back on, and the fun continues. Instead it was a vicious high-speed battle of Tony whipping back and forth until each and every one of us eventually launched off into the water. Now, if you’re looking for something a bit more mellow than that, check out the sunset catamaran rides in Waikiki. The picturesque views and Friday Firework shows are worth every penny.

With that said – I must wrap this up. If you have any questions or want to hear more about anything above, please feel free to comment below! As always, have fun and happy traveling!

Tenerife, Islas Canarias

|| Travel Date || 4 December 2014 – 16 December 2014

Tenerife is beautiful, mysterious, and filled with many different destinations and adventures, but similar to my experience in Madrid, it wasn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, I shared some really great memories there and I am truly glad I went – but without a car, it’s borderline impossible to get around and without a decent understanding of Spanish, communication is limited. The bus system is completely faulty and like Los Angeles, places aren’t exactly walkable. I arrived at the South Airport around 5pm and not one person spoke English. I dragged my luggage back and forth across the airport and repeatedly asked various employees, “Do you know where La Laguna is?” “Hola, do you speak English?” “La Laguna?!” Finally a woman pointed to a bus and said, “Go Santa Cruz, find bus La Laguna.” Everything had really fallen into place up until this point and I was not used to being that helpless. Around 7pm I arrived in Santa Cruz where thankfully a woman there spoke some English. She informed me that my hostel wasn’t exactly in La Laguna, but that I needed to take a bus to La Laguna, then switch onto another bus, then take that bus to a specific street, then request that the bus driver pull over, and then walk a couple miles to my hostel. A couple hours later, unsure if I was even dropped off at the correct street, I began to walk down a lightless road. It was now around 9pm, I was at my breaking point when suddenly, extremely aggressive dogs started to approach me. Supposedly, the Canary Islands are known for their ferocious wild dogs or “canaria” that inhabit the island. Not knowing what else to do at this point, I embraced my suitcase, and started sprinting while tears streamed down my face. I eventually spotted a small wooden sign laying on the ground with the name of my hostel painted across it and an arrow pointing down a rocky dirt road. At the end of the road was a large shack with a single light on. I stumbled into the unlisted building, unsure if I had just walked into a stranger’s home. I asked with mascara smeared down my face, “Please tell me this is the Lagarto Hostel.” A worried man nodded and immediately handed me a very full glass of wine.

 

The next morning I was invited to go hiking with some of the hostel volunteers. Before we left, they shyly asked if I was in good shape. I laughed and gave the ol’, “Ya-yeah of course.” Honestly, I hadn’t really worked out since I left America. I ran one time in Paris and I was being cocky. My idea of “in shape” was A LOT different than theirs. I learned this the hard way after 14km (8.7mi) of intensive terrain hiking. Luckily, they were really cool about my lack of conditioning, as I crawled along the path staring at their bulging calves and chiseled quads. Even though I was slowly dying, the hike was completely worth it. We hiked Macizo de Anaga, the oldest part of the island, formed 7 to 9 million years ago by a volcanic eruption. The jagged cliffs and lush vegetation created an unreal landscape, reminiscent of the equally surreal hike I did across the Nā Pali Coast last June. After a long day of hiking, we eventually made it back to the hostel and I melted into the couches refusing to move for the rest of the evening. The next day I was completely wrecked. I crawled out of bed and made my way back to the same couch. A warm rain was passing through, so it was the perfect excuse to have a lazy day.

   

Throughout the week I continued to explore the northern part of the island. I trekked back to Santa Cruz to see the futuristic spaceship-esque, Auditorio de Tenerife. Unable to find an open cafe on a Sunday, I settled for a slice of carrot cake for lunch. The next day I caught a ride in a van with a few German surfers to a local beach. I briefly swam in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in my life and watched as the monstrous, ice-cold waves crashed along the black sand beach. The following morning I rented a bike from my hostel. I cruised through small towns, abandoned plantations, and continued until I found a small cafe on the side of a cliff. Once inside, to my left was an old man sipping scotch at the bar and to my right was a display case full of freshly caught fish. There wasn’t a menu, so I just sat down and proceeded to eat whatever the waiter brought me. I’m not even sure what I ate, but at that point, I had hardly eaten since I arrived on the island, and I wasn’t going to turn down a warm meal. Back at the hostel, I relaxed… a lot, which was sort of difficult for me, because without a solid form of transportation I felt really stranded.

 

After six days in the north, I decided to move down to another hostel in the southern part of the island. The south has a much more desert-like climate with barren vegetation, not as aesthetically pleasing, but much warmer. Upon arrival to the Los Amigos Hostel, I was greeted by some new faces and surprisingly some familiar faces. I ran into one of my roommates from my first night at Lagarto. She was very happy to see that I didn’t have mascara on my chin and requested that I stay for dinner. She had worked out a deal with another guest at the hostel (who just happened to be an Italian chef from Milan) that if she bought the groceries, he would prepare whatever she wanted. He made an unreal seafood pasta with fresh herbs and various spices. I ate more food that night than I had all week. The next day, we all drove down the road to the beach and explored the tidepools. Within an hour, we drove from the beach, through the desert, all the way to the snow-capped volcano, Teide. None of us were prepared for the cold climate, so we snapped our obligatory touristy photos and drove right back to the beach. We sipped mojitos by the seaside and called it a day.

The only attraction that I had researched before my arrival to Tenerife was Siam Park, Europe’s biggest waterpark. Feeling rather adventurous, I dragged a friend with me to relive my childhood. We tubed through the lazy river, slid down aggressively steep slides, and body surfed the wave pool. I got yelled at multiple times for sneaking in my GoPro and played dumb by simply saying, “Lo siento, no hablo español!” repeatedly. Of course, Karma’s a bitch, and I look like a crippled turtle in every single photograph.

After avoiding the bus system like the plague, I took a day to visit the town of Los Cristianos. I discovered that this was the epicenter for tourism. Suddenly, I began to miss my extreme isolation… until I found Zara. Since Zara was founded in Spain, everything is cheaper and the stores are huge. After a mild shopping spree, I enjoyed another mojito by the shore, and returned to the hostel. For my last couple of days in Tenerife I did everything I could to keep myself busy. I slept as much as possible, watched multiple movies on Netflix, and counted down the hours until my flight. Now to some of you (with the exception of my first day) this trip may have sounded pretty good. Laid back, lazy days, just roaming around an island doesn’t seem too bad. Well, I would have loved that for maybe four or five days. After nine days I was calling my airline trying to leave sooner, by my twelfth day I could not be happier to leave the island. One thing I’ve really learned from traveling, is that just because a lot of people like something, doesn’t mean you will too. It’s looked down upon and even seen as ungrateful to explore a new area and not be absolutely excited about it. I didn’t even want to admit that I didn’t care for Tenerife because of these expectations. But I’m just being honest, I gave it a chance and I’m glad I did. I was able to see a new place and I truly appreciate that I have the ability to do that!