A Quick Guide to Maui, Hawaii’s best Island

As someone with a passion for chasing waterfalls, Hawaii is somewhere I have always wanted to check out! So during a massively discounted airline sale around a year ago I booked my flights and then had plenty of time to prepare and plan for my trip, so of course I left this to last minute.

Below are recommendations from friends, fellow travellers and Maui locals that made my trip such a delight that I just needed to pass them onto you.

First things first, I recommend hiring a car for a trip to Maui, the island is quite hard to get around without one, especially if you are after that carefree and relaxing holiday vibe! It also makes it easier to decide on a whim where you will take your daily adventures!

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Magnetic Peak, Haleakala National Park

Things to See

  • The Road to Hana: You will need to leave early for the Road to Hana day trip. With 3 hours and 52 miles of winding roads, stunning waterfalls are at almost all the 617 curves of this road that lead to the most isolated town on Maui and in Hawaii. Leave plenty of time for photo stops, there will be many, and to try out some of the worlds best ice cream at Coco Glens along the way, and maybe the way back! Before you leave Maui, don’t forget to pick up your ‘I survived the road to Hana’ t-shirt, because you deserve it.
  • Red Sand Beach: Hidden away in the heart of Hana is the Red Sand Beach. A little tricky to locate and require good footwear, you will need to be careful when attempting to locate this place. If you do choose to go, I would recommend good footwear and a level of fitness.
  • Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach: Located in Wai’anapanapa National Park just before you arrive in Hana, the Black Sand Beach is stunning with the contrast of the black sand, deep blue water and greenery surrounds. This is the more touristy option of Hana’s beaches due to accessibility plus there are caves to explore, national park to walk through and of course the beach to swim in.
  • Magnetic Peak, Haleakala National Park: If nature and hiking is something that you enjoy, then hiking into the volcano to Magnetic Peak following sunrise is an experience of a lifetime. The views here had a smile on my face the whole time, even when I looked at the steep hill I had to climb back to my car. The great thing about this is you can make the hike as long or short as you would like, just make sure you have appropriate footwear and drinks, as there isn’t anywhere to fill up the water bottle in a volcano.
  • Lahaina Old Town: Lahaina Old Town is a great place to explore, whether for a spot of souvenir shopping, for dinner or just gelato dessert time. It’s even nicer first thing in the morning when not as many people are around to take some snap shots of the stunning town centre including a stop at the Lahaina Banyan Tree which is the largest tree in the state and the canopy takes over the whole square in which it’s located.
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View from Lahaina Old Town at sunset

Activities

  • Whale Watching with Ultimate Whale Watch: During the northern hemisphere winter, wales will head down to Hawaii (now the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary) to give birth and mate, making it prime whale watching season! The Ultimate Whale Watching crew have smaller boats which means a smaller group you are out on the water that allows for great photo opportunities and encounters with the whales.
  • Snorkling with turtles at Napili Bay: Pack your snorkel, you’re going to meet some turtles! Recommended by a local while at dinner, this turned out to be the best surprise of my trip. At Napili bay you can swim, sun bath and get up close to some local wildlife (just make sure you keep a little distant, these guys can be pretty heavy if they bump into you). If your accommodation doesn’t rent gear, make sure you pop into Water Works Sports and they’ll fit you out with some great gear!
  • Sunrise and a bike ride at Haleakala volcano: You will have to get up early for this one, but it will be worth it I promise. As the sun rises, you will be at the top of Haleakala overlooking the entire island of Maui, and on a clear day you may get views of neighbouring islands. Then after you grab all your insta worthy snaps you’ll cycle down the volcano, stunning!
  • Traditional Luau: There is nothing that says Hawaii quite like a Luau, and getting lei’d (insert wink face emoji)! Over a few hours you will experience traditional Hawaiian or Pacific food, music, dancing and entertainment – the perfect way to spend an evening on holiday.
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On top of the world at Haleakala Volcano

Places to Eat

  • Paia Fish Market: At Paia Fish market you will get the freshest Hawaiian fish of the day straight from the market, with your choice of market fresh fish will be cooked to your preference. Try the Ono, it means ‘delicious’.
  • Aloha Mixed Plate: Situated near the beach, this is the perfect place to unwind at the end of the day with a cocktail or two as the sun goes down, before tucking into some local dishes. Try the ALI’I Plate for the ultimate Hawaiian feast!
  • Coco Glen’s Ice Cream: If you do one thing on the Road to Hana, you must stop at Coco Glen’s Ice Cream to have a scoop or two of their incredible, award winning and totally delicious ice cream. Situated on a family run coconut farm, Coco Glen’s is made from coconut milk, so all you lactose’s can get stuck in! All the flavours are incredible, so you know you’ll be going back for thirds!!

 

Best Acai Bowls

Acai bowls are something that I just love, so going to Hawaii I knew I would be in for a treat, and boy did Maui deliver. To make sure that I got the most out of this tasting opportunity, I did try one per day, I mean, why not?!

  • Choice – Lahaina: Most definitely the best Acai bowl I had on my whole time on Maui, the guys at Choice take these seriously. With the perfect smoothie, granola and fruit proportions, ‘the o.g.’ is a definite menu winner!
  • Surf Ripper – Lahaina: A mom & pop owned acai stall by day and shaved ice stall by night, the guys that own this place are so lovely and up to chat about their product plus they deliver on the flavour. And once I heard their Acai bowls described as phat!, I had to sample the product.
  • Baya Bowls – Lahaina: Located in a parking lot on a side road, these guys could be hard to miss, but you definitely want to try a Baya bowl. I am almost drooling thinking about their incredible bowls.
  • Paia Bowls – Paia: Paia Bowls is located at the start of the Paia town centre, perfect to fill you up before a big day on the Road to Hana or a day of activities in the Hawaiian sun. While there you can take a stroll through the adorable town centre.

Best Poke Bowls

Poke Bowls are the latest Hawaiian dish to take the world by storm, this deconstructed sushi salad is so delicious and simple and a great cheap travel meal you can have on the go! Here are my local faves.

  • Kobe Japanese Steak House – Lahaina: At Kobe’s I recommend taking a seat up at the sushi bar, where you’ll see the chefs prepare the fresh sushi and poke bowls before your eyes. They are more than happy to talk about the produce and make recommendations.
  • Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquor – Kahului, Lahaina & Kihei (also Oahu locations): You wouldn’t have thought that this liquor store would sell incredible poke, but Tamura’s have probably the best poke I enjoyed on my trip and was voted by Hawaii’s Magazine Readers Choice Awards as the Best Place for Poke in 2015.
  • Foodland (All over Maui): Foodland store are in all the major Maui towns, so you can pick up some poke to take in the car between activities or to enjoy while soaking up some rays on the beach.

 

If you are heading to Hawaii, let me know what you are most looking forward to and if you’ve been, share any tips in the comments.

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Tips for travelling with Friends

Throughout my early solo travel years, I struggled to find friends who had enough money to travel and wanted to embark on the same adventures that I did. So finally when it came to travelling with a group of my nearest and dearest friends, I had a couple of things to consider.

This was a great opportunity to spend being adventurous while exploring the world and creating memories to last with those I value most, but having heard many tales of ruined friendships and falling outs I knew I didn’t want this to happen to me, and I wouldn’t want it to happen to you either.

Which is why when travelling with friends, it does requires some compromise and transparency to ensure that you have a great time and arrive home with your friendship still in tact!

 

1. Be upfront with your finances

Before you even book a thing, it’s best to have a conversation about your holiday and travel expectations including budget, transportation and accommodation preferences. If you are expecting to stay in hostels to save money but you friend is planning 5* all the way, you might have different trips in mind.

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2. Set itinerary expectations

While you may not want to plot out minute by minute of your trip, at least discussing what you would want to do at each destination will set up expectations for the trip.  This way you could compromise on what you want to see before hitting the ground at your destination and not seeing those things you desperately want to.

 

3. Do that thing they suggest

Be mindful that you won’t necessarily want to see exactly the same things on your holiday. Your travel buddy may be super keen to go and see a museum that doesn’t really interest you, but when you really want to go on that third brewery tour they might want to call it a day. So you can either tag along to try a new experience, hell you might even enjoy yourself or you can do your own thing while they are doing what will make their holiday!

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4. You will get on each other’s nerves

Travel is tiring and frustrating, especially when you are in another country that possibly speaks another language. After a long hot day of walking and lining up in queues with hungry bellies you may get on each other’s nerves at some point. Just make sure you each take a break for a few moments by going for a walk or even spending part of a sightseeing day doing your own thang.

 

5. Checking In on Social Media

Some friends will travel and post every moment and others would prefer a limited presence. Make sure you are aware of your friends preferences and you check anything that might rub them up the wrong way before hitting the post button and tagging them across Twitter, Facebook, Insta and Snapchat.

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6. Create memories

Make sure you have a fun time and be adventurous with your friend. Create those incredible life changing memories from hiking to the top of a mountain and accidentally taking the long way round to eating that incredible French macaroon you saw on Instragram or even skinny dipping in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

7. Reflect on your day

Make that time once a day when you reflect on how awesome the day was. Even if there was conflict, tears or other travel woes, there is always something incredible in a travel day. This could be on your long train journey or while have a glass of wine at the end of the night.

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I’m still new to this travelling with friends situation so let me know your travel tips for travelling with friends.

Guide to London: Shoreditch

The East End of London has become famous for it’s soaps, cockney slang, the 2012 summer Olympics and even being the location of the Jack the Ripper murders. But in recent years it has been undergoing a gentrification that has made it one of the most popular places to visit and stay in London, or if you are so inclined, to move.

On my recent trip to London, I spent some time in my favourite part of London, Shoreditch in London’s East End.

As London’s burgeoning hipster and alternative community, where you will find street food markets, a cargo box shopping district, some of the best coffee & best curry in London. And it’s conveniently located right next to Liverpool Street Station a.k.a The City.

So here is a guide to my top things to do in Shoreditch and East End to make sure you get the most out of your visit.

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What to Eat & Drink

Brunch

As an Australian, I love brunch with good coffee. So no matter when in the world I am, I will fine the ultimate place to score a good brunch offering and incredible coffee. London has started to adopt a brunching culture, which I’m sure in influenced by the Australian invasion of the UK shores. Here are my top picks for brunch in Shoreditch, perfect to fuel you for a day of vintage and designer shopping.

  • The Attendant: If coffee is your thing then The Attendant is great for you. With everything from your standard cup of coffee to cold brew they have the caffeine to keep you on your feet all day or an afternoon pick me up. Plus, they don’t skimp on the brunch menu, I don’t remember a better avocado smash!
  • The Vintage Emporium & Tea Rooms: There is almost nothing more Brick Lane than the Vintage Emporium where you can shop for amazing vintage pieces while sipping tea and grabbing a bagel and watching the world go by outside.
  • Lantana Café: The origins of Lantana come from the land Downunder, set up in London by Australians and Kiwis who wanted to deliver great coffee and smashed avocados to Aussies living in London. Must have item, the Lantana Blowout with unlimited Bloody Mary’s, Prossecco or Mimosa for weekend brunch.
  • The Breakfast Club: Besides being named after a great 80’s cult classic, The Breakfast Club is one of the best places for a spot of brunch, if you can get to the front of their line. With both a weekend and weekday brunch menu, there is plenty of choice from breakfast burritos to fried chicken & waffles to your standard bacon and eggs!
  • Albion: This café, bakery and grocer all in one features all your favourite brunch and lunch favourites at superb quality. Located close to Box Park, this bright and delightful eatery will be a hit with everyone. Plus the coffee is pretty great!

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Cheap Eats

  • Poppies Fish & Chips: Traditional British fish & chips is a must try while in London. This traditionally authentic eat in & take-away restaurant is located in Spitalfields, and will have you dreaming for yesteryear as you served to you by waiters dressed in 1950’s attire…even if you were born after 1990.
  • Pump Street Food Markets: If you are looking for a filling, cheap eat for lunch or dinner then Pump Street Food Markets is your place. With a BYOB, which you can pick up a beverage of choice next door before deciding between Falafel, Turkish, Argentinean, Popcorn Chicken, Italian and many more.
  • Brick Lane Curry: It’s safe to say that Curry is pretty popular in the UK, especially in Brick Lane. Brick Lane is where you will be spoilt for your choice of curry and quality, so stop by and take your pick for the best curry in the UK.
  • MeatMission: If you are after something hearty or indulgent then MeatMission is your place. Serving Jack Daniels onion rings, cheesesteaks, Jagermeister ripple ice cream, buffalo wings and all the American diner favourites this place doesn’t disappoint or leave you wanting more.

 

Drinks

  • Be At One: Meeting up with friends for some low key drinks without losing the atmosphere, Be At One offers in spades. Here you can meet u with mates for a drink and as it gets later you can enjoy watching the bar staff and patrons get into the mood of the evening or get involved yourself!
  • All Star Lanes: Always a favourite, All Star Lanes offer a cute cocktail bar setting if that if your preference or you can step into a pair of bowling shoes and take on a friend in a game of 10 pin bowling!
  • Barrio East: The Latin attitude of Barrio East give this the perfect atmosphere for a drink at the end of the day or to hang with mates all evening! Plus, the Mexican Cantina themed food and drinks menu will have you salivating!
  • Bar Kick: Bar Kick has a casual vibe for that Friday night party vibe where you can get a cool drink to chill with mates and bring out your inner Joey & Chandler with a game of Fuseball.

 

Shopping

  • Beyond Retro: One of Brick Lane’s draw cards is the vintage on offer and Beyond Retro has this is spades. This underground of a warehouse room has vintage and second hand pieces from almost every decade and fashion trend that you can think of.

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  • Box Park: A series of storage containers converted into a series of boutique fashion & lifestyle stores and food stalls. Throughout the year they also host different series of music events from coffee sessions to busking gigs.

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  • The Laden Showroom: While Spitalfield’s market showcases lots of different fashion and goods, the Laden Showroom profiles up and coming designers! There is always well produced fashion to be found at great prices.

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  • Spitalfield Markets: This permanent market is always bustling, especially at weekends! It’s a great place to find a gorgeous London print as an alternate souvenir, a cute new outfit or gift for loved one back home. Plus, there is always some delicious cake stall to treat yourself with!

 

Things To Do

  • Jack the Ripper Tour: It took me a while to get around to taking this tour and now I recommend it to anyone going to London as a must do, especially for anyone still intrigued by this unsolved case. Pop your detective hat on and spend a few hours walking around the Whitechapel & Shoreditch area picking up clues!
  • Tower of London & Tower Bridge: While not located in Shoreditch, the Tower of London & Tower Bridge are both located a mere 30 mins stroll away. These iconic structures are a must visit to get that perfect tourist shot, and to take a squiz at the crown jewels to see what you could have access to if you were to marry Prince Harry.

 

Where To Stay

A stay in Shoreditch wouldn’t be authentic without giving Airbnb a try. Not only will, you in most cases, save a load on accommodation but you will be at the heart of the action as there aren’t too many hotels located right in Shoreditch. Airbnb offer many amazing accommodations from the current fad of warehouse style accommodation to penthouses, lofts to traditional London flats.

If you are staying further away and want to experience the nightlife in Shoreditch, the night tube does run on weekends from Liverpool Street on the Central line.

How to make the most of your stopover in Iceland

What do you think of when you hear about Iceland? You probably know it as home to volcanoes, the mythical Blue Lagoon and that place Walter Mitty visits briefly in the film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. But what you might not know is that this island is home to an incredibly sustainable culture, epic landscapes and the friendliest people you will meet.

Oh and they also have some of the best hot dogs in the world! (We’ll get to that in a minute).

So if you don’t know where to start but are planning a trip there or a stopover on your way between Europe and the USA, here my tips to get through your stopover and will leave you wanting more.

 

The Blue Lagoon

A visit to the Blue Lagoon is definitely worth the trip, but try and remove the expectation that this is a completely natural hot spring haven, but rather a geothermal spa turned day spa. It a great place to relax in natures beauty while enjoying a delicious detox juice or cocktail with your girlfriends (like I did) or your significant other. You can either go for the basic package which will allow you to spend all day relaxing in the lagoon with the mud masks, or you can make additions on top from massages, facials to full body masks and everything in between. Plus it’s a great place for people watching.

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located right between KEF airport and Reykjavik city, making this an easy activity to complete on your way to or from the airport but you could also spend a whole day there relaxing.

Activity timing: half a day

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Golden Circle Tour

The Golden Circle was definitely my favourite part of my trip to Iceland, the incredible sights we stopped along the way were like no other and got me much more interested in geology that I ordinarily would be.

The Golden Circle tour stops at the Güllfoss Falls, a set of waterfalls that are so large you can’t really tell where they start and end, and while they may look like the earth could start caving in any minute! Then the tour takes you to the Strokkur Geyser, one of very few natural geysers with frequent eruptions every four minutes, making it really easy to get that picture prefect Snap Chat pic to make your friends jealous back home. And the finale of the day is Thingvellir National Park, where you will be able to see the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates or as I understand it, where the tectonic plates of Europe and Northern America meet! It’s so incredible to stand on this fault line and take in the scenery of these two different continents!

Activity timing: a full day

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Northern Lights Chasing Aurora Borealis

If you happen to be in Iceland from September to April then you may be lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights. You will need to leave the city to see the lights, you can either go via a tour or if you have hired a car. Most tours take tourists to the national park where there is a lot of space and limited lighting.

Note that coming at that time of year, seeing the Northern Lights isn’t always guaranteed, so if you are unsure of the weather or where to go, make sure you ask a local or tourist office. Oh and don’t forget your tripod or your photos will look something like this.

Activity timing: full evening activity

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Hallgrimskirkja

A trip to the Hallgrimskirkja is a must do and not only is this church a great piece of architecture, it kind of looks like a Viking, but it also offers incredible views of Reykjavik! Make sure you take a trip to the Hallgrimskirkja tower, there are incredible views across the entire city which is a great place to get those panoramas! On your visit you may even catch the organist rehearsing, adding to the atmosphere, aren’t you lucky!

Activity timing: half a day

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Baejarins Beztu Pylsur

Baejarins Betzu Pylsur has become a local institution for the city of Reykjavik, this Hot Dog stand is popular with both locals and celebrities alike, they even had a visit from former United States president Bill Clinton! From the outside this appears like any street food vendor but the product speaks for itself. So no matter how long your stopover is, you will definitely have to make time to enjoy a trip to try the infamous hot dogs, and make sure you get it with the lot!

Activity timing: lunch or snack

Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach

If you are sick of all the black sandy Reykjavik beaches, then you can stop by and relax on Reykjavik city’s only white sand beach. As well as being Reykjavik’s only white sand beach, Nautholsvik geothermal beach is a great way to experience the thermal activity of Iceland without the trip out to the Blue Lagoon or the cost! Located just a short trip away from the Reykjavik city center, this beach is frequented by locals, so you know it’s good!

Activity timing: half a day

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Have you spent time in Iceland on a stopover? Tell me about your experience in the comments below.