My Top 5 Favourite Beaches

I decided to finally take the time to reflect on my travel past and document some of my absolute favourite finds over the past twenty-something years.

This is the first post in a new series on my travel Favourites (yes – I am Canadian, and this is how we spell favourite!)

Since it is summer, I thought it would be apropos to begin with the best beaches I’ve been blessed to sink my toes into.

 

Top 5 Favourite Beaches

 

Bai Dai Beach, Nha Trang, Vietnam

This gorgeous beach on the South China Sea had everything: White Sand, Warm Waters, and No one around. Touted as the best beach in a country with over 3000 km of coastline… it is easy to see why people love Southeast Asia.

Bai Dai Beach

Muchavista Beach, El Campello, Spain

I was incredibly lucky to spend 3 months living just a mere 5 minutes from this expansive beach north of Alicante. The entire length of the beach is lined with a boardwalk and a tram so that even getting groceries became an exciting event.

El Campello

Lanikai Beach, Kailua, Oahu

On my second trip to Oahu, I decided to do my research and find a beach, ANY BEACH, other than Waikiki. My search landed me on lovely Lanikai in the sleepy town of Kailua where public access is restricted to pedestrians only, making it the perfect island escape. It’s also made quite a few top 10 lists so this one is a no-brainer.

lanikai

Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

Whenever I go to San Diego (which is fortunately quite often) I always look forward to spending time on the island of Coronado. I can’t believe that people actually live there all the time because it is almost too lovely to be real.

IMG_2350

Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver, BC

No top 5 list would be complete without the place that makes me happier than any other. I live about 1 minute from the Pacific Ocean and it is a frequent stomping ground for me all year long. Vancouver has a lot of great beaches that I could include on this list (English Bay, Jericho Beach, Spanish Banks, Wreck Beach) but Kits beach is home. With breathtaking views of the North Shore mountains, Stanley Park, and the Vancouver skyline, it’s my favourite walk in the city! Our version of Venice Beach is also great for people watching, dog walking, bike riding, or playing some beach volleyball all year long.

Kits

 

What is your favourite beach?

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O’ahu – Circle Island Tour

On our final day in Hawaii, we had to think of something to do until our flight left at 9:40 pm. Since we had to check out of our hotel in the morning, we were quite limited in our options so we decided to take a tour around the whole island. Groupon hooked us up with a Circle Island Tour from VIP Transportation. We got picked up bright and early and spent the day exploring the Hawaiian lifestyle outside of Waikiki.

Our first stop was the Nuuanu Pali lookout, which overlooks the 985 foot cliffs of the Koolau Mountain Range. It is by far the best view in O’ahu and also happens to be the site that King Kamehameha and his warriors defeated the O’ahu armies in 1795 to unite the Hawaiian islands by pushing them off the cliffs. That would be quite a way to go. Our favourite part of the spot was probably the incredible winds that threatened to take us over the cliffs as well… apparently we were there on a rather calm day.

View from the Pali Lookout

Trying to keep the hair off of my face long enough for a photo… very difficult.

After the lookout it was on to the Dole Plantation for the ultimate pineapple experience. We highly recommend the Dole Whip (soft serve ice cream)!

The Dole Plantation

After that we kept cruising to the North Shore where we drove by the infamous Bonzai Pipeline where you can find the best surfing in the world from November to March. We kept driving until we hit another popular surf spot called Sunset Beach. Unfortunately the waves are quite small this time of year, but the beach was still beautiful!

Sunset Beach

Our last stop before lunch was in the town of Laie to see the Morman Temple. That’s right… you heard me… Morman Temple. To me, Hawaii seems like the most random place for a Morman Temple, but then again, Brigham Young University is right next door so I guess it makes sense. Laie Hawaii Temple was the first LDS Church temple built outside of the continental United States. The temple is also the oldest to operate outside of Utah, and the fifth-oldest LDS temple still in operation. I’d also like to suggest that it’s the most beautiful… I mean seriously? There’s a reason they call it the Taj Mahal of the Pacific.

Laie Hawaii Temple

For lunch we stopped at Kualoa Ranch located in the Ka’a’awa Valley. We were given the choice of eating on the back lanai with the view of the mountains or on the front lanai with a view of the ocean… it was a tough decision but we opted for the mountains. This valley is actually best known as a film location for productions such as Jurassic Park, Mighty Joe Young, Pearl Harbor, Windtalkers, Godzilla, and Lost. After lunch we wandered around the ranch, pet the horses, and ended up at the ocean. We finally found the perfect place to get a picture of the island known as Chinaman’s Hat for obvious reasons.

Kualoa Ranch

Us with Chinaman’s Hat

The next stop was definitely my favourite. We went to Tropical Macadamia Nut Farms, which is a macadamia outlet factory. We met the owner of the whole facility and thanked him profusely for all of the free samples. You can tell that this was my favourite stop since I took so few pictures. I was too distracted by the cinnamon glazed macadamia nuts, the macadamia nut Kona coffee samples, and the freshly cut coconut that I couldn’t be bothered to take pictures. We definitely came home with some treats.

The last two stops were simple and beautiful. We visited the Halona Blow Hole, which wasn’t very exciting due to the low ocean surge at the time. But just to the left was the Halona Cove where the kiss of Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster took place in the film From Here to Eternity. I have to admit that I haven’t seen that one, but Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler also shared a kiss there in the movie 50 First Dates. I can definitely see why. Access to the secluded beach is very difficult and it certainly has a cinematic feel. Maybe next time, I’ll be brave enough to climb down.

Halona Cove

And the last stop of the day was Hanauma Bay, which is a marine embayment formed within a volcanic cone. It has some amazing coral and a vast assortment of tropical fish, which makes this a prime snorkeling location. Unfortunately, the bay has suffered some to do overuse and now it is highly regulated, but for a small fee and some conversation education, you can still spend a highly enjoyable day down by the bay.

Hanauma Bay

I had a marvelous time in Hawaii and I can’t wait to return and maybe check out some of the other islands in the future!

I’m Sailing!!!

“Isn’t this a breakthrough, that I’m a sailor? I sail? I sail now?” – I can’t help laughing at these memorable quotes from What about Bob? every time I’m out on the open seas. But, it’s true… there really is something remarkable about sailing. If I could splurge on one really expensive item, I wouldn’t even hesitate – SAIL BOAT!

So, when my mom and I were casually walking along Waikiki beach after another glorious breakfast at the Hula Grill, it didn’t take much persuading to get us on a 1.5 hour catamaran cruise. We went for a late morning sail through Honolulu harbor out to the open water just off of Diamond Head. With the fresh Hawaiian breeze, the gentle spray of sea water, and an icy Mai Tai to keep us cool, we lay back and enjoyed our perfect view of the entire southern coastline. It was so rejuvenating and relaxing to be at sea, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I definitely think I could get to used to this lifestyle.

Our catamaran – Maita’i

My mom

Me with Diamond Head in the background

How to Visit 6 Islands in 1 Day

How does one experience the unique and varied cultures of six different Polynesian islands in merely a day? Well… the Polynesian Cultural Center in the town of Laie, Oahu makes it easy. I was able to spend a glorious afternoon visiting replicas of villages from Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Hawaii, plus the exhibit of Rapanui (Easter Island). To me this was a cultural Disneyland. I can’t really think of something I enjoy more than pouring over a map and exploring new cultures. We were able to watch shows and demonstrations in each village, take a canoe ride through the massive lagoon, watch a canoe pageant, eat at a fantastic buffet, and watch the amazing finale show called “Ha – Breath of Life.” All of the performers are actually from the islands they represent and are passionate about sharing their culture with visitors. It was educational and highly entertaining, which is probably why it ranks as Hawaii’s #1 paid attraction.

Rapanui (Easter Island)

Diamond Head Rediscovery

Memory is a funny thing. With the passing of time you can practically rewrite history with the power of your mind. You can simply remove the boring or painful parts and choose to recall only the most exciting and enjoyable memories from the past. Of course, the opposite is also possible.

To those of you who know me well, it’s no secret that hiking has not always been my favourite pastime. However, while I was traveling in South America last year I had a complete, 180 degree change of heart. Now my new travel wish list includes trekking in Nepal near the very top. I attribute this transformation to the power of positive thinking and mental preparation. Don’t pretend that you’re going on a nature walk; be prepared for the worst but take the time to appreciate the astounding beauty of your surroundings. Hiking is a privilege and the most amazing vistas in the world often come at a price.

So, in a roundabout way, this leads me to my most recent “hike” at Diamond Head State Park in Oahu. The last time that I climbed to the top of the Diamond Head Crater was in 2004. I remembered being exhausted afterwards so this time I was prepared for a tough workout. Well, a short 30 minutes after starting our ascent we were at the lookout point on the top. We even passed ladies in high heeled shoes on the path, although they didn’t seem to think the hike was too easy. But, nevertheless, I was completely shocked and couldn’t understand how my memory had gotten it so wrong. The hike seemed more like a nature walk to me but fortunately it still had the payoff with some absolutely stunning views of Waikiki beach and the crater below. It’s definitely a must-do if you’re in Oahu, but for the avid hikers, I hear that Mariner’s Ridge in nearby Hawaii Kai is the real deal.

Hau’oli la hanau – Birthday on the Beach

I can’t think of a better way to spend a birthday than lying on the beach in Hawaii. And, that’s exactly what my mom got to do on our recent trip to Oahu. As I wished my mother “Hau’oli la hanau” (Happy Birthday in Hawaiian) we found ourselves in the town of Kailua on the windward side of the island. It took a 45 minute bus ride followed by a 45 minute walk to get to Lanikai Beach but it was well worth the trip to see if National Geographic had rightly rated it as one of the top ten beaches in the world. What we found when we got there was white, powder-like sand far away from the crowds that constantly swarm Waikiki. This is mainly because Lanikai beach is only accessible through public access paths that cut through the upper-class homes that snake along the coastline of this residential area. In a place that is so infested with tourists, a day of peace and quiet with the locals was a true delight, although we’ve both seen better beaches in the past.

A day on Lanikai Beach

We ended our celebratory first day in Hawaii with a delicious meal at House without a Key at the Halekulani Hotel. This unique restaurant showcases authentic Hawaiian music and hula dancing from 5:30 – 8:30 pm every night. Many people come to enjoy the live music and watch the sun go down from the outdoor patio. We made sure to get there early to secure a table with a view as the restaurant doesn’t take reservations. After the most beautiful and delicious cocktails, our fill of gourmet seafood, and some coconut cake to finish it off, we could easily say we had the perfect evening.

House without a KeyCoconut Cake

House without a Key