Staying in Po’ipū and Kōloa, Kaua’i

To kick off my traveling for 2019, my grandma, aunt, cousin, and I departed to Kaua’i, Hawai’i, in late March for a weeklong break of school and work. We were fortunate enough to tons of fun activities outside, including seeing ocean critters and hiking to waterfalls. Afterwards we were quite burnt, but happy and ready to take a big nap. 

This being said, this is the first of six articles on Kaua’i, not including my video summing up the week. Hopefully amongst my end of the school year commitments, I will be able to publish them in a timely manner, but time will tell. 

Flowers near the resort

We were lucky enough to stay in Po’ipū, which is at the south end of the island and near Kōloa, which is the oldest sugarcane plantation town on the island. It is a half hour-ish drive from Līhu’e, which is the biggest city and home the airport you would fly to. The drive is super pretty, especially because you drive through the tunnel of trees you see on Pinterest and Instagram, which is super pretty. You might also see a bunch of clear cut areas. Don’t worry, it isn’t another example of dangerous deforestation; the people are actually harvesting the trees (that actually aren’t indigenous and serve little purpose to the ecosystem) for biofuel, which they will shortly replant for future use. 

End of the tree tunnel towards the resort

The actual resort we stayed at was Kōloa Landing, which was a big set of buildings bordering the ocean. In the suite we stayed in, we were right by one of the many pools and the soccer and volleyball fields. We used the fields more than the pools and started pick up games with kids from all over the United States, which was a great experience. 

The path outside of the resort

The resort also offered many events and classes throughout the week including but not limited to: lei making, a viewing of Moana by Disney, s’mores sessions, painting lessons, and crossfit and yoga classes. Unfortunately we were out and about during the lei making, which I wanted to do, but my cousin utilized the gym and workout classes, which she enjoyed. 

Birds by the poolside

Also offered there were numerous breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. We ate breakfast there once, but weren’t too enamored with it and soon sought food elsewhere. The lunch was better and I got to try poke which is a raw fish salad. It was super filling and I actually enjoyed it, even if it wasn’t something I would eat all the time. 

Poke

Kōloa Landing was also within walking distance of several shopping centers. Many of these were posh, upscale stores that we had absolutely no budget for, but it was nevertheless fun to look. I bought a puka shell anklet and a few of us bought clothes, but that was about it. These open air stores were pretty common across the island, which was nice in comparison to the stuffy mall complexes we employ in the mainland United States. Not to mention, we went to Lappert’s Hawaii, which had super good and super rich ice cream and sorbet. There are a few of these stores across the island and I would recommend trying it at least once. Shave ice is also common in the centers and are a huge hit. Also in the Po’ipū center, we also went to Savage Shrimp, which had really fantastic shrimp and shrimp tacos, which I would totally recommend. 

Within a brief driving distance or a longer walk, Kōloa itself is nested against the forest. This little town has some more shops, which we bought lots from, a bunch of food trucks, and even a farmers market on a few days. Many of the souvenirs and goods here are homemade or from cheaper brands, making it the perfect place to bring home gifts for family and friends. There are also great opportunities for pictures, especially with the forest nearby. 

Trees in Kōloa

So would I recommend staying Kōloa Landing? Absolutely! It is a great, family friendly resort with fantastic staff, who welcomed us kindly, and has the proximity to any great activity you could want to do. We felt at home and didn’t have anything we wished we had but didn’t. Even if you don’t specifically stay at Kōloa Landing, I would totally recommend this area since it offers a lot of beauty and activities on the south, west, east, and even north coasts, if you are willing to make a day trip. It was absolutely beautiful and the people were super welcoming. 

A Road Trip in Upper Peninsula Michigan

The upper peninsula of Michigan is a beautiful and often underrated place to spend time. I didn’t grow up there, but a large portion of my family did, so I spent many of my vacations there as a youth and it is a place with its own culture that isn’t seen anywhere else. The people, who are called Yoopers (I am completely serious, it stems from the sound pronounced from reading “UP” aloud and then antonym would be Trolls since those in Lower Peninsula live under the Mackinac Bridge) enjoy a lifestyle of outdoor living since the area is beautiful. There are no major cities in the UP and the biggest town is Marquette with only around 16,000 people. In fact, only three towns reach above 10,000 people in population. Overall the place is very rural, but it is home to many rivers and water way, as is expected when one is sandwiched between the Great Lakes.

Because of this, there are some awesome sights to take in and it is super road trip friendly. During one of my stays there, we decided to take this little loop and make it into a super scenic little loop. In total, it took about 14 hours, but we were walking and exploring a bunch too.

Originally we started in Iron River, a very small town in Iron County. Here is where I spent most of that time as a kid, when my family would go on trips. We woke up where we were staying on Sunset Lake and headed north to Ishpeming, where we had more family. This place is also home to a fabulous destination called Yooperland. You should absolutely stop here if you want to get a grasp of Yooper culture. It is an absolute tourist trap place but the sheer corny-ness of it is what makes it so fabulous. Many of the jokes play on the UP’s strong desire to be the 51st state or the Yooper accent, which is a mix of Finnish, Ranger (the Minnesota type accent), German, French Canadian, and Native American dialects filtered into English (if you really want to get into the linguistics, there is an entire Wikipedia page on the dialect). There are many souvenirs and crude jokes all around the store. I have never seen a place like it and it’s definitely worth the stop, especially if you want something to commemorate your trip.

Sunset Lake in Iron River

We then drove through Marquette, which is the largest town. We didn’t spend time here, but one certainly could. There’s a lot to do, from the historical down town district to the many lighthouses to snow related festivities and more. It reminds me of my hometown and would make a nice place to stay and use as a base for other adventures.

Continue traveling to Munising, where there are many sights to see. We started with Lake Superior, where we stopped and looked at the views. Honestly, as one of my friends stated, this place looks like the Oregon Coast. You can hardly tell its a lake because it’s so huge! There was a huge freight ship that was turning around, which was also cool to see. We drove nearby to a white sand beach where we could play in the water a little bit more. I absolutely loved it!

One of the beaches on Lake Superior

After Lake Superior, we drove to Munising Falls, which is a smaller waterfall hidden by a small walking path. There is also a parking lot and restrooms at the start of the trail and the path itself is very well cleared and packed. This waterfall is not large and actually freezes into a column in the winter. Luckily, there are even some platforms available making viewing the falls easy and pets are also allowed. I would definitely take the brief time to see it, especially if you are visiting nearby.

Munising Falls

Afterwards, we drove to Miner’s Falls, which was much larger. This hike is a little more extensive (although it is fully graveled) but goes all the way to the waterfall. The distance is just over a mile, but is pretty flat and pets are not allowed. There is an upper and lower platform, but both have fantastic views.

Picture Rocks is not far away and is also an exceptionally scenic place. In the winter there is ice climbing, fishing, and Nordic skiing. In the summer, the bay is gorgeous and there are numerous tours, but even the lookout alone is super cool. We just went to two of the points and looked at the greenish-blue waters and the orange carved rocks. There was a family swimming at the bottom (whether or not that was allowed, I don’t know) and tons of kayakers. I wished we could have stayed here longer!

Next we moved on to Escanaba, where we got a glimpse of Lake Michigan, another one of the five Great Lakes. Here, we stopped at a small, white sand beach, which was easily one of my favorites. It was so peaceful and absolutely gorgeous! It would be a fantastic spot for a picnic. Escanaba itself is also quite beautiful and a grand place to spend time, much like Marquette.

Also in Escanaba we stopped for pizza at Sidetrack Pizza. My family has gone here a few times and like always, the food and service was great!

However, after this, we decided to call it a day and head home to Iron River, but we did stop to watch a phenomenal sunset! This trip, although only a day, was one I would recommend to anyone and hopefully will take again someday, perhaps including some more historical sights and waterfalls if possible!

All photos courtesy of my awesome aunt!

The Infamous Tube of London

Note: This is one of six articles on my time in England, United Kingdom from December 2016 to January 2017. Not every one of them follows what I did during that particular day, but also follows the culture, lifestyles, and interest in the area. Articles will be published twice a week until complete.

If you step foot into a British souvenir shop you will find a plethora of items, including: snow globes with Big Ben, royal guard rubber ducks, figurines of the iconic telephone booths, and shirts saying “Mind the Gap.” That same phrase is used throughout the entire underground metro system, or the Tube, which is one of the most interesting aspects of London in my opinion. It sprawls underneath the entire city, going from neighborhoods to Piccadilly Circus to Waterloo to King’s Cross Station and helps people get to and from everything they could possibly need in their daily lives.

For my experience in London, this method of transport was exceptionally useful. From our nearest station at Highgate, we could go anywhere, from Platform 9 3/4 to Tower Bridge to Big Ben. It was my first time on a metro, so that was new and exciting for me!

A sign for an entrance to the Underground

There are eleven lines used by the Underground, in addition to the bus and train systems. The spread from the central areas of London to neighborhoods like Muswell Hill, Notting Hill, South Bank, and more. For example, the nearest station to Muswell Hill was Highgate, which was a short bus ride away from where we stayed. Some of the stations even take you straight up to some of the big sights, such as Westminster which opens right up to Big Ben and Parliament. Most lines are open generally open from 05:00 to 00:00 throughout the week (except for Sunday, which has different hours), with some select lines running with night services on weekends too. Each station typically varies slightly so it is important to check that out before you go! Maps are also helpful and can be downloaded for no charge.

Additionally, some stations are only for the Tube, but some of the larger ones include train access as well. One of those is King’s Cross/St. Pancreas, which is one of the most beautiful stations and home to Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4. This place also has some super cool architecture as well, so make sure to stop by. Another popular train station is Waterloo, which is the one that we used to travel to Bournemouth. Even though we had never been on a train, it was easy to navigate and figure out where we need to be.

King’s Cross/St. Pancreas

If there is any piece of advice I can pass on to you, it would certainly be to download Tube Map – London Underground. This app is made by Mapway Limited and is absolutely essential for easy travel around the city. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without it. It doesn’t use data if you are only navigating the Tube -which is helpful if overseas phone plans are a concern- and is compatible with Apple Watches too. You can not only see a map, but also enter a desired destination and it will give the fastest route, making travel simple and stress free. If you opt for notifications, it can also let you know if there is an issue causing delays.

If the metro isn’t your only travel option, the app will also share information on the bus and Uber prices, providing you with the cheapest or fastest routes, which is helpful for tight budgets. Overall, this app was a complete lifesaver and I would highly recommend using it. Mapway Limited also has apps for other cities and their metros like New York, Madrid, Dubai, and more.

Another tidbit of advice would be to get some form of the Oyster card, which is London’s underground and bus pass. The visitor card is the most convenient and saves a lot of money and time. When we were there, we borrowed actual Oyster cards from our hosts and they allowed us to get through much more smoothly than the clumsy paper single tickets that people had. You can get different levels of credit, ranging from £15 to £50, but luckily, there is a price cap, so you won’t spend more than £7 a day in Central London. Other Oyster options can include visits to the main attractions as well, so you could save money that way as well. Either way, getting the card in advance would be exceptionally helpful during your trip.

Also, I have never been on other metro systems yet, so I don’t have a comparison, but the London metro seemed exceptionally clean to me. I never felt gross and there wasn’t overflowing trash or grimy benches. Overall it felt super well organized and put together. If you are in London, I would totally advise using this method of travel wholeheartedly to save money and time!

6 Underrated Activities to Add to Your Bucketlist

Out of all the trips and travels I have had, some of my best times have actually been doing random things you wouldn’t necessarily think to add to your list of stuff you want to do. Even in my small hometown, there are plenty of things that I have done that I wouldn’t have thought of if one of my friends hadn’t suggested it. So I guess now its my turn to pass that on to others, in the hopes you get the opportunities to try some of these as well.

1. Cliff or Bridge Jumping

Although its fairly common in my area, I never thought to try this until my summer between sophomore and junior year. At Green Bay, mentioned in my article 6 Beautiful Beaches in Sandpoint, Idaho, my friends and I will go and jump off of cliffs ranging from ten to forty feet high. While this wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, I did it anyways and came to enjoy it the more I tried. I also tried jumping off of bridges this year, which provides the same thrill from jumping from such heights (although, I advise you check the legality of this before attempting, as well as the safety, i.e. depth, lack of rocks, other people, etc.). It provides a simple adrenaline thrill during the summer.

2. Berry Picking

Although for some areas of the world, this may be limited, but certainly in North Idaho, if you hike high enough, you will stumble upon huckleberries. Not only do you get to experience their purple deliciousness, but berry picking gives you the opportunity to explore new places and hike to some stellar views. Also, if you are wanting to earn a little cold hard cash, selling them can produce quite the profit. However, check to make sure you are picking non toxic berries. Poisoned customers typically are not pleased.

3. Night Paddle Boarding/ Canoeing/ Kayaking

I honestly don’t think I have felt more relaxed than when I was in the canoe on Sunset Lake with Ki. We just took it out with our mismatched paddles and floated around the glass-like lake. On another occasion, I kayaked aways with some friends to an old cabin with a massive boardwalk. We spent hours trekking up the rotten wood and it was a grand adventure, and one I will not forget.

4. Hammocking

Ok, let’s be fair, hammocks are the best place to take a nap. They are even better when you hike to wherever you strap up, or if you have a hammock stack with some friends. They can be combined with any other adventure, whether it is backpacking or boating or even just taking a break to read. They are small and light, perfect for cramming in a suitcase or backpack last minute.

5. Rock Climbing

If you are looking for a good workout, complete with challenges and blisters, look no further. Whether you are bouldering or top rope climbing, inside or outside, rock climbing is a rewarding workout that can be done pretty much anywhere. It is best accompanied by apple cider, loud music, and of course, friends.

6. Exploring Trails

Wherever you are, make sure to check out local trails because they could lead to anything, such as the mill ruins shown above. You never know what’s around the next corner and it gives an opportunity to relax and appreciate the area you are in. Not to mention that there is usually cute dogs present.

 

What else should be on this list? Comment your thoughts.