Kauai, Hawaii Guide for First Time Visitors

Kauai Itinerary

I’ve been to other islands in Hawaii, but nothing beats Kauai. From all Hawaiian islands, it is by far my favorite due to its lushness, remoteness, and beauty. We planned our 5-day trip a month in advance in order to minimize expenses as Kauai is not cheap. However, my boyfriend had points to use for our hotel stay, which helped shape our Kauai itinerary. Here is a short overview of our trip.

Covid Restrictions

Traveling during these times one should include looking into COVID restrictions no matter your destination. Our trip took place immediately after Thanksgiving weekend, so Hawaii had removed covid restrictions. We did not have to quarantine or submit any covid tests other than uploading our vaccination cards on the Hawaii government visitor site. Be sure to check before you travel of any Covid restrictions as the mandates are constantly changing.

Kauai Island Breakdown and Accommodation

With the expanded access to media today, I was able to gather enough information to give me a better sense of the island and compile an itinerary based on what we wanted to do. You can choose from four areas on the island where you can stay. Here’s how it’s broken down below:

Princeville, Hanalei
Great spots for surfing
& snorkeling.

Poipu, Koloa
Known as the “sunnier side” of the island where most resorts are located. Good sandy beaches and plenty of restaurants to choose from.

Lihue, Kapaa
The main airport and helicopter tours are located here.

Waimea, Hanapepe
More local with family owned stores.

We chose to stay at the Sheraton Kauai Resort in the south of the island. It was largely based on the fact that it was our first time in Kauai, and we wanted to be able to walk to the beach from our hotel room. The resort also had other amenities we needed including restaurants, free parking, it was within walking distance to a nearby promenade, and ultimately, it was centrally located to most things.

Whenever I return to Kauai, I would stay in the Northshore and in an Airbnb accommodation (if possible) near Hanalei Bay. It rains a lot more in the northern part of the island but, there are a lot of things to see that we didn’t get to do during this trip. A trip to Kauai is likely to have the largest accommodation expense, with prices starting from $190+/day. If you saved enough points for travel, now would be a good time to use them.

Transportation and Airport

From LAX, we flew into Lihue airport. We used Uber to get to and from the airport although there aren’t many Uber drivers on the island, but we were fortunate.

People who come to the island typically rent a car. At the time when we were looking to rent a car, we found it to be expensive and there weren’t many options. Luckily, we stumbled across an app called TURO. We never heard of it before until now and I highly recommend it. Like any other app, you can choose the type of car you want to use, its pricing points and what not. The company we chose had good ratings, was affordable and had the ability to deliver the car to our hotel and pick it up on our last day. In the end, we saved at least $100 per day on transportation alone.


G's Juicebar Acai bowl
G’s Juicebar

There were plenty of restaurants and food trucks on the island. We lived off of açai bowls during our entire trip because they were so delicious. You don’t have to eat Açai bowls since they have other food types as well. Here are a few of my recommendations:

Japanese Grandmas Coffee – West
We made reservations ahead of time for dinner here. Dinner was served at their outdoor patio so, make sure to bring warm jackets as it could get very cold at night. For the food, we tried the Eel Bomb rolls, Ramen and Grandma’s Chicken Karaage with Spicy Yuzu Kosho Eel sauce. They were all very good.

Little Fish Poipu (Açai bowls) – South
This is located right next to the Poipu Shopping Village and a few minutes walk from the Sheraton hotel. They are known for their Açai bowls and having been there twice I can vouch that their Açai bowls are pretty good. Their small bowl is a good portion with all of the fresh fruits you’ll need. Make sure to head over early to avoid the long lines.

G’s Juicebar (Açai bowls) – East
A fantastic local spot that we stopped by on the way to Waimea Canyon. We saw one guy behind the counter taking orders and making the bowls. He was very patient with us since we couldn’t decide what to order but, we ended up getting the Kauai and Rambla Açai bowls that were both equally delicious.

Hanalei Bread Company (Coffee & Sandwiches) – North
This was the first coffee house we went to when we drove up to Northshore early in the morning. They had good reviews and they were one of the few places that opened early (at 7am). Their menu includes a variety of options from toasts to sandwiches. We ordered the Avocado and Fancy Toasts. Both were a good size portion for us and healthy too.


If you’re into hiking, swimming, snorkeling or surfing this island is meant for you. Kauai has plenty of hiking trails from moderate to extreme and beautiful beach that you can choose from. We opted for easy to moderate hikes due to time but, there are other trails you can find that have better views of the island.

Hoopii Falls – East
Easy to moderate hike. One of Jurassic Park’s filming locations and an absolutely beautiful forests that you walk through on the way to the falls. It is one of my favorite hike on this trip and I highly suggest that you at least see it once if you do go to Kauai. A few things to note is that one, the entrance of this area is located through a neighborhood street. We attempted to come here the first time and a local in the neighborhood turned tourists away because someone was badly hurt. Be aware that there are times the area will be inaccessible.

The second thing to note is that the pathways of this hike are not well marked. However, since it is a popular area you’ll likely see other people around. We got lost on the way there and had to ask a few hikers who were kind enough to direct us the right way. There are two falls in the area and the first one is about a 10 minute walk from the entrance; while the second fall is another 15-20 minutes further down from the first fall.

The third and last thing to note is that it rains a lot in Kauai so, expect hiking trails to be muddy. Luckily, our hikes were on a dry day and we didn’t have issues dealing with mud but, having the experience going through the trails I can see how slippery it could get. Also, people have been known to twist their ankles from hiking in Kauai so, be very careful!

Queens Bath – North
The hike to Queens Bath is very similar to Hoopii Falls. It has a beautiful scenery, lots of vines, lush trees, accessible through a neighborhood street but, a bit more rugged in the beginning of the path. Also, there’s only see one fall in this location and it’s not as close as the falls at Hoopii Falls.

On this hike, be prepared to get ready to use your hands and knees because the beginning of the hike has several dips through rocks and if you go on a muddy day this could be very slippery. After you go through the hike you’ll eventually reach Queen’s bath. Sadly, we did not get to see Queen’s Bath in all its glory because the tide was rough and pretty high. I was actually re-thinking about our decision of being there because it looked dangerous!

Tunnels Beach – North
This is one of the most beautiful beach I’ve seen. The beach is known for its protected reefs, which make it an excellent spot for snorkeling. It has public parking, but get here early to find a spot since the beach can get crowded.

Hanalei Bay – North
This is a large cove with benches and beach space, plenty of parking, the calmest water I saw on the island, and a place to take surfing lessons. There is a food truck nearby that serves the best tacos, but they only accept cash or Venmo. It was quite busy here so be prepared.

Wailua Falls – Lihue
It was worth stopping by to take a quick look and snap a photo of the 173 foot falls. I would’ve loved to hike to it but, the entrance was closed. There’s also parking available that goes all the way down to the dead-end with about 7-10 spots. It wasn’t busy at all when we got there.

Helicopter Tours – Lihue
Taking a helicopter tour was one of the most unique things I’ve ever done on any trips. It was my first time being on a helicopter and seeing the island from above makes the trip all worth it. On this tour, we were able to see several waterfalls that can only be seen by air. It also takes you along the Napali Coastline, and with some luck, we saw a full rainbow appear. It was a memorable moment for us.


For more recommendations see my full itinerary here.

Island Adventures in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

St. Croix wouldn’t be a trip without checking out the entire island. We rented a car for the day and mapped out our route ahead of time to make sure we used our time wisely. Our first stop was Frederiksted, one of the two towns on the island (Christiansted & Frederiksted). I enjoyed driving there and back because it was quite scenic. We saw lots of farms with horses, chickens, lizards appearing every now and then on the road. Our route was a combination of hilly, windy and remote which, eventually lead us towards the coast that overlooked the Caribbean Sea. It was a nice site and I remembered not seeing a lot of cars on the road at the time. At times, it felt like we were on the island by ourselves.


Coming from California, we’re used to crowds on a daily basis and arriving at Frederiksted was a surprise in that it was very quiet. We walked around the boardwalk and rarely saw anybody around (except the chickens). There were a few colorful buildings near the pier that probably was once a cool place, sadly, a lot of them are closed now and dilapidated. By about 11am, there were a few scuba divers and snorkelers who started making their way into the water. Apparently, there’s a ton to see near the pier area that appeals to scuba divers and snorkelers. We decided not to do either one because we had other places we wanted to see.

We stayed for about an hour at Frederiksted, had breakfast at Ci Bo Ne and contemplated after eating whether we should go to Sandy Point or not. We knew ahead of time that there’s a potential for that beach being closed due to turtle nesting. Since it was nearby we decided to check it out anyway and came to find out that it was, indeed, closed. I was sad as I read that there’s really only two nice beach spots on the island with ultra clear turquoise water, non-rocky and provides plenty of beach space. Those two are the Buck Island and Sandy Point.

Fun Fact: There’s a movie called “The Shawshank Redemption” that shows the main characters running away to an island somewhere in Mexico when it was actually filmed in St. Croix at Sandy Point! Several people on the island had mentioned the movie to us and we finally saw it once we came back home. After seeing the movie, it made our trip all the more special.

Rainbow Beach

After driving to Sandy Point we made our way to Rainbow Beach. I guess this was the spot to be in because it was crowded. We hit traffic as soon as we arrived and there were cars already piled up on the side of the road. Luckily, we found parking right away.

The beach onsite has a restaurant and a rental store for snorkeling and jet skiing. I can’t comment about either one since we didn’t buy any food and we had our own snorkeling equipment. However, we tried to jet skii and we weren’t successful since we didn’t have any reservation and they didn’t have any time slot we wanted. We ended up snorkeling instead. One thing to be careful on this beach were the rocks. When you first get in the water there’s a ton of them at the beginning then it spreads out as you further get in. I saw a few fish here in compare to snorkeling in Protestant Cay and there’s an area on the beach where jet skiers are coming in and out which, creates small waves every now and then. We stayed here for an hour before we made our way to the next beach spot.

Notes: Make sure to pack sunscreen and a hat as the sun can get pretty hot.

Cane Bay

Cane Bay was a 20 minute drive from Rainbow Beach. It is also situated right by the road but, unlike Rainbow Beach the water was calmer in Cane Bay and it hardly had any rocks (except the big chunk of reef right by the shore). The beach has a few shades and a gorgeous backdrop of the tip of the island that you can see from far away. There was also a restaurant right by the entrance to the beach and a dj was playing various types of music. Although, I could’ve done without it to be honest.

On this beach, it felt like there were more families who came here in compare to Rainbow Beach that appealed more towards a younger crowd. I liked this beach more than Rainbow Beach because it felt calmer. We swam here for a few minutes before deciding to leave in time to make it to Point Udall.

Point Udall

The eastern most point of the United States, Point Udall is worth the drive. From Cane Bay it took us 40 minutes to get there since it was on the opposite side of the island. We made this our last stop on our day trip as it is located closer from where we rented our car and hotel. The view from here is one of the best on the island. There’s a monument onsite, a path that leads down to a beach with limited parking spaces. When we arrived we did not find parking and decided to drive all the way up to the top where the monument was located and got out there to take photos. They say it is a perfect spot to watch the sunset or sunrise and seeing the view from here I can see why.

Parking: Even though we didn’t have issues there’s warning about car break ins in the area. On Tripadvisor, a few people mentioned that in order to avoid your car from being broken into they suggested to (obviously) do not leave valuables in your car and to keep your windows down. When we visited Point Udall we saw most cars parked did exactly what was suggested and we also followed suit. Also, keep in mind that there’s no service in the area so, getting help would be difficult. Make sure you have a car insurance that will cover car break ins in case you are the unlucky few.

Buck Island

I saved the best for last! Buck Island is a paradise haven. It’s an island off the coast of St. Croix on Christiansted side that can only be reached through an approved vessel with a permit from the city or tour boats. It’s government protected with one of the most pristine beaches I’ve ever seen in my life! We booked our tour half a month prior to our trip and let me tell you that it was every bit worth it.

Part of the tour is a guided snorkeling through coral reefs. The experience of seeing the coral reefs is unbelievable. I saw a few that were much bigger than I imagined and towards the end of our snorkel was this huge swordfish swimming nearby. He didn’t seem to be scared of us one bit. I imagine that the fish here are probably used to seeing people everyday.

After snorkeling, our group made our way to the beach of the island and we had a chance to roam around for the rest of our tour. My bf and I walked from one end of the beach and to the other where we ended our time swimming. The sand here is as white and pure as it gets. There’s not a lot of things to do on this island except swim and picnic. There’s also shades near the restroom and a few benches around however, with the water being warm and clear what else do you need?

Tropical Bites Await You On St. Croix

We ate our way around the island tasting Caribbean dish after another. From Yuca Fries to Rum Cake, I expanded my flavors that I never knew would be possible. The island time typically starts at 11am with shops and restaurants closing at 5 or 6pm (due to covid restrictions). It is important to make reservations ahead of time during peak hours if you want to make sure you have a table. There are a few restaurants that require reservations but, I think it also helps you to know that you have a guaranteed spot.

Base on my experience, a typical dish we ate on the island consisted with some sort of seafood and a side salad or veggies. It was definitely a healthy meal, one that I enjoyed and considered to be similar to how I eat at home. My favorite dish was the Cruzan breakfast, Grilled Salmon and Mahi Plate. There was something about the sauces and the whole combination of it all that I found intriguing.

One of the things to budget for this trip is spending money on food. A standard plate will cost around $15 and can go up to $30+. You can reduce food expense by buying food at a grocery store that will last you a few days. However, we stayed in Christiansted area where a grocery or liquor store was not within walking distance from us and we did not have a car. Therefore, we were left to eat at restaurants which was fine with us too.

I’ve outlined the restaurants below with links that we tried on this trip and places we recommend (or not).

Ital in Paradise

Address: 2220B Queen Cross St. Christiansted 00820-5068
Hours: Sat, Mon-Fri. 12-9pm, Sun: CLOSED

Keep your eyes open and don’t miss this place. It’s one of those restaurants that only the locals know about. Although, base on our experience I’m sure it’ll take off in no time.

The restaurant is in downtown Christiansted. It is a small establishment with two dining tables inside and is found by going up a staircase. I only knew about this place through a Youtube clip while I was doing my research on St. Croix. The restaurant is vegetarian friendly with vegan and gluten free options.

The owner was the one who helped us when we visited the restaurant. He was very welcoming and gave us a rundown on the menu and drinks. I saw different types of salads on the menu and various drinks such as ice teas. My bf and I ordered the Monday Special. It was a Grilled Salmon plate that consisted of salad, quinoa, spinach and lentil balls. Our plates was a sizable portion and hands down, it was one of the best meals we had on the island. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s a cash only place and they do accept Venmo as another payment option. We payed through Venmo and we did not have issues.

Cafe Fresco

Address: 1138 King St.
Website: FB, Site, Menu

We came here for brunch on our last day of our trip and we did not make any reservations but, we were seated right away. The cafe was located inside an area that shares the space with other businesses around. Our waitress was friendly and attentive. She sat us in the courtyard where we ordered The Cooper 15 consisting of scrambled eggs, toast, bacon with Yuca fries and a latte to drink. This was my first time hearing and trying Yuca fries. I thought it tasted like potatoes and the sauce the restaurant gave us paired well with it. Yet, since it was made in house there was no way of finding out how to replicate that sauce. That was one thing we forgot to ask. Also, my latte order came in a bigger glass than I anticipated. For some reason I thought it would come in a small cup. Nonetheless, I was pretty satisfied with the food and drink. Their menu does have plenty to choose from and the portions were quite big. In another time, I would come back and try other items on their menu.


Address: Hospital St. Christiansted, 00820
Phone: 340.713.8666
Hours: Sat, Mon-Fri. 6-10pm, Sun: CLOSED
Reservations Required

This restaurant was recently featured on Departure Magazine. I saw it, read about it and tried it.

While on the island, we made reservations ahead of time to dine in their courtyard. As soon as we walked in we immediately loved it. The dining room had a romantic ambiance with low lighting and interesting decors. We started off with Chicken Lollipops as an appetizer. It is a fried pulled chicken breast with Gorgonzola cream wrapped in crispy wontons. It was so good! As for our main dish, I ordered the local Mahi served with herbed rice and broccoli and my bf got the Half Duck Two Ways. We both tried each other’s plate and were pretty satisfied with our meal.

The service was good in that our waiter checked in with us. They also followed covid protocols with tables spaced out across the room. Lastly, we ended our night with a Vanilla Rum Cake. If you stayed long enough on the island, you’ll know that it is a signature dessert of the Virgin Islands. Various places sell them and yes, it contains rum.

Savant articles or reviews read here, here, here.

40 Eats & Drinks

Address: 1101 Strand St., Christiansted
Hours: Sat. 10am-2pm, 6-9pm, Sun. 10am-2pm, Mon. CLOSED, Tues. Weds. Thurs. Fri. 6-9pm
Reservations is highly recommended

We came here for brunch and sat outside next to a hotel. They also have indoor seating but, we preferred seating outdoors. When we arrived they were already busy but, we never had issues with the service. I ordered the Healthy Banana Split while my bf got the Vodoo Shrimp & Grits. Both orders were pretty good. They had a wide variety of options on their menu and I’d definitely go back again if I get another chance. On a random note, I loved watching the chickens roam around while we ate.

The Mermaid at The Bucaneer

Hours: Call to make reservations ahead of time for either lunch or dinner.
Reservations Required

We came to The Mermaid during lunch hour. Even though we had reservations they weren’t busy at all. We got seated right away next to the beach. Their menu had plenty of options to choose from salads, sandwiches to burgers. Since I wasn’t too hungry I ordered the Conch Friters appetizer with a Mango Smoothie. The Friters are radish sprouts with cilantro aioli. It was ok.

My bf ordered a burger with fries and the portion was quite big. He didn’t end up finishing everything, although, he looked content.
I thought the food and service was ok. Our waitress came by a few times but, it didn’t feel welcoming nor did the food taste in the same level as the other restaurants we’ve been to on the island.

Ci Bo Ne

Address: Frederiksted, St. Croix 00840
Phone: 340.719.2663
Hours: Tues.-Sat. 6-10pm, Sun. 10am-3pm, Mon. CLOSED
Reservations is highly recommended

I think we got lucky on this one. We arrived too early for breakfast according to island time. We were greeted by a woman at the door who told us to come back at 11am as they do not start serving until 11:30am. I appreciated her courtesy and we did return to the restaurant at 11 on the dot. We came to find a different woman at the door who told us that they were still not open. Luckily, the first woman we spoke to intercepted and graciously let us in. It turns out she was the owner and had explained to us that their restaurant had been closed for a few months due to construction and that was their first day of re-opening. She went further to explain that they had a new cook who’s prepping now and that the waitress will take our order but, it will take a few minutes for the food to be served. I appreciated that the owner provided us such an extensive detail and I have great respect for it.

For breakfast, I ended up ordering The Cruzan Style that had Cucumber Salad, Avocado, Smoked Herring, Bread and Spinach. The fish had a salty taste combined with veggies made this breakfast refreshing. My boyfriend got a simple Fried French Toast that was a portion too small for him. I liked my dish but, my bf was left hungry. As for drinks, we had mimosas and that was good. We’d go back again and try their dinner menu.

The Courtyard

Address: 54 King St., Christiansted

We came to The Courtyard many times during our trip and ordered their smoothies. It’s a spot located at a fitness center and they offer smoothies, açai bowls, juices and chia seed puddings. I loved coming here when it got too hot outside and the Peanut Butter Smoothie sure helped me cool down every time.

Brew STX

Address: 55 King’s Alley Walk, Strand Ln.
Links: Menu, Yelp, Tripadvisor
Reservations is highly recommended

This was the first restaurant we went to when we arrived in St. Croix. It’s located on the boardwalk with a nice view of the water as well as a good spot to people watch. Due to the location they draw a big crowd and most people do make reservations ahead of time to get good seats. As far as the food goes, we ordered the chicken wings, coconut curry muscles and tried the painkiller drink that a few people on Tripadvisor suggested. It did not disappoint. We didn’t stay long but, this is a good place to come for drinks and enjoy a good view.

Other restaurants on our list that we did not make it to:

Galangal: Fine-dining Thai food

Address: 17 Church St.
Phone: 340.773.0076
Reservations Required

Beach Side Cafe: American, Caribbean, Seafood

Address: 127 Smithfield Rd.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11am-8:30pm; Sat. & Sun. 10am-3pm, 4:30-8:30pm

Cafe Christine

Address: 6 Company St. Christiansted
Hours: Tues-Thurs 11:30am-2:30pm, Sat-Mon: CLOSED
Phone: 340.713.1500

Twin City Coffee House

Address: 1 Company St.
Hours: Sat, Mon-Fri 7am-2pm, Sun. CLOSED
Phone: 340.773.9400

Polly’s at the Pier

Address: 3 Strand St.

Rythms at Rainbow Beach

Address: Frederiksted, St. Croix 00840

Jet Off to the Caribbean: My First Time Visiting ST. Croix.

Idyllic warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean left me wanting more. For the longest time, I’ve always seen beautiful images of the Caribbean islands from Bahamas to St. Lucia and remembered thinking of wanting to go there at some point in my life. If, only the Caribbeans wasn’t so far away from California I most likely would’ve been there by now. Well, dreams do come true!

St. Croix fulfilled everything we hoped for on this trip. We swam in warm clear waters, watched the varying colors of the sunset from our beach chairs, and enjoyed the fact of how easy it was to hop out of bed everyday and head to the beach. After being on the island for full 4 days I can say it was enough for us to see what we wanted and fulfill our first experience of being on a Caribbean Island.

Since I’ve returned from our trip, I’ve had a chance to reflect on our island adventures. Like any other first time trips I always do some form of research prior to jetting off somewhere new. There were a few things I discovered along the way that were quite worth noting.

Covid Restrictions

St. Croix is by far much better in following the Covid restrictions in compare to the mainland. Prior to our departure we needed to submit a negative test result 5 days before our flight and uploaded it on the USVI Travel Screening Portal for an approval that takes 24-48 hours. I waited 24 hours before my nerves started kicking in. We literally had a day left before our departure and I couldn’t wait any longer to find out my status of approval. I decided to call the hotline phone number but, I was not successful. I also sent out an email directed to: travelportal@usvitravelportal.com and info@usviupdate.com and that went through. It took about 10 minutes to receive my approval status which, you can probably imagine I was overjoyed in receiving this message.

Before our trip, we had several documents we printed and one of them was our approval status message. This is probably one of the most important documents to print out and bring with you as the airline requested when we checked and again we had to present the same document at the airport in St. Croix. Recently, USVI has been cracking down on fake covid test results being submitted through the screening portal. Please, make sure you have a legit approved test results from a trusted resource and that you have the approved letter from USVI that showed the barcode and the message that said “APPROVED”. You will have to present this upon arriving to the island.

St. Croix Airport: Baggage Claim, Car Rentals & Taxi

After we landed in St. Croix, everyone went through screening at the airport. You’re basically entering a room (limited amount of people at a time) where there are people behind desks with computers and the people behind those desks are wearing hospital gears with gloves on, masks and all. They asked for our IDs and the barcodes that I mentioned earlier. Base on our experience, I would assume that the barcode pulled up our approval status on their end. It took about 5 minutes before we were cleared. We exited through another door that lead us outside of the airport where you’ll find baggage claim, car rentals, parking, restrooms, etc.

The airport itself is small. You check in the same area where you arrive and it is outdoors. You’ll find car rentals onsite as well as a taxi stand next to the baggage claim. Uber, Lyft or any other form of car rideshare doesn’t exist on the island. Typically, people rent a car or use a taxi to get around. Originally, we had scheduled with our hotel ahead of time for a taxi pick up. Sadly, there was a mix up with our taxi that left us stranded at the airport leaving us fetching one from the taxi stand. It wasn’t a good way to start our way into the island but, we made it.

The cost to get to our hotel from the airport was $30 (not including tip). Make sure to ask the cost of the ride with the taxi driver upfront before leaving the airport in order to avoid any mix-up. Our ride was shared with a family of 3 who also just flew in. They were dropped off before us at a rental car spot and paid the same rate.

As far as downtown Christiansted, covid restrictions were also implemented. We found that every restaurant seemed to require reservations ahead of time as seats are currently limited. The only time you will find it easier to “dine-in” (typically it’s in a courtyard, patio or balcony) is during downtime like late afternoon. The shops, hotels, stores and gas stations around the island typically have signs that says “No Mask” “No Service” and also tour operators will require you to wear masks. If that’s not enough, they will re-iterate this verbally prior to starting any activity. So, no Karen’s allowed on the island 😉


There are 3 main languages spoken on the island. English, Spanish and Creole. We never had issues speaking in English and the locals are one of the friendliest people I’ve met. They’re laid back, respectful and welcoming.


I think a resort is ideal for this type of trip because everything is within reach. You don’t need to worry about transportation, security, food, activities (i.e. beach access) etc. Otherwise, you can see the island in a day by renting a car to see other beach areas, see Frederiksted (the other major town) and go to Pt. Udall and find other activities (like ziplining) that may not be available at your resort. This is exactly what we did, we stayed in Christiansted during our trip but, we rented a car which allowed us to see Frederiksted and stopped along the way to see other beach areas. Also, since there weren’t any grocery or liquor stores near where we stayed in Christiansted this limited us to strictly eat at restaurants. Luckily, our hotel had a small convenient store where we were able to buy a gallon of water for $2 while it cost $2 for a bottle at the boardwalk; definitely, something to keep in mind.


The food on the island were pretty good. I will do a separate post regarding what we ate, the restaurants we went to and so forth. Anyway, since mostly everything is imported from the mainland, the prices are a bit high depending on how you look at it. A standard plate per person is around $15 not including tax and tip. On Christiansted side, you’ll find restaurants along the boardwalk and a few others within walking distance.


The sun in St. Croix was hot. It went up to 82F. I’m happy that I brought my bucket hat with me because I wore it everyday. We tried to stay under a shade if it was available. In the Buck Island, there’s no shade (except by the bathroom) and a few other beach spots rarely had any either.


The flight was rough! There’s no direct flight from Southern California. It was around 9-10hrs. long each way. Here’s the breakdown:

To St. Croix
(4.5hrs.) LAX – Fort Lauderdale
(6 hrs. layover) in Fort Lauderdale
(2.5 hrs.) Fort Lauderdale – St. Croix

(2.5 hrs.) St. Croix – Fort Lauderdale
(2 hrs. layover) in Fort Lauderdale
(4.5hrs.) Fort Lauderdale – LAX

Other airlines flew to St. Croix such as American, Delta, Cape Air and Spirit. Checking in at LAX via Spirit was a hot mess but, had nothing to do with the island except for the fact that the person who checked us in was confused about what documents was required to get in to USVI (U.S. Virgin Islands). We explained what we submitted and showed our approved status with the barcode. She seemed confused at first but, eventually was ok with what we presented. Our return was a breeze without issues whatsoever.


A few things we did on the island was see the Port Christvaied, go on a Buck Island Tour, window shop in downtown Christiansted, eat at various places, visit The Bucaneer Resort, rent a car for the day and visit Fredriksted and beach hopped. One thing St. Croix is known for is snorkeling and scuba diving. I highly suggest doing one of the two (or both) to see one of the best coral reefs around.


They drive on the left lane of the road. It took us a few tries before we mentally accepted it. The right turns on a 4 way stop light or signs is a bit of a “I can’t believe this” moment but, we eventually got the hang of it.


Personally, we never had issues with safety in St. Croix. However, like anywhere else I would keep your wits about you especially when you’re visiting somewhere new. I read the local news in St. Croix before our trip as part of my research and they also have their own issues relating to drugs, poverty, corruptions, etc. Tripadvisor also has a few old reviews from travelers to St. Croix you can read here, here or here to gauge safety. Again, everyones experience will be different.

If you want to read up on the U.S. Virgin Islands local sources check out here, here, here and here.

Sunday Stroll at Rancho Santa Margarita Lake

After a long work week and flipping through movies after another, Netflix finally got the best of me. I knew I had stayed home far too long as I was starting to feel a bit crazy. I had to get out of the house so, I drove to Rancho Santa Margarita Lake for a dose of sunshine and nature.

Rancho Santa Margarita Lake is probably one of the best lakes around in Orange County. It has an easy 1.1 mile loop trail with outdoor fitness stations, free parking, benches, a recreation center with a pool and is within walking distance to restaurants (yes, they have Starbucks too!). My favorite part of the lake is the backdrop view of the Santiago Peak or Saddleback Mountain while strolling through the paved pathways.

I mean, how gorgeous is that?!?

After my 2nd loop of the lake I sat down in one of the benches and watched the birds and turtles swim in the water. It was a much needed break from the daily routine.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day the Julian Way.

Surprisingly, I’m not a fan of celebrating Valentine’s Day but, my bf likes it and had made plans for us to go to Julian for the day. He thought I would actually like the town and since I’ve never been before it was a perfect getaway for both of us.

Julian is about a 2 hour drive from Orange County. It is a gold mining town, with approximately 1,000+ population, and 1 hour east of San Diego. The town is famous for its apples which explains the amount of options to find apple pies and apple ciders in town varies.


We arrived by noon in downtown and the traffic was already visible. Even though there were a ton of street parking, our luck was not on our side and opted for a paid parking lot for $5 (not too bad). After we parked, we walked through downtown perusing through stores and restaurants. I was surprised of how busy it was in town. I saw people crossing the streets everywhere, lines formed outside the restaurants and car jams on the streets. It seemed that everyone had the same idea in coming to Julian that day.

The downtown area itself had a ton of restaurants to choose from. We saw various types of shops that sold soaps, guns, clothes, jams and food. If you want a quick order of an Apple Pie go to Julian Cafe. There’s a to-go order section where you can buy a whole Apple Pie or slice (they have other flavors too), drinks and other types of food. I am not a big fan of pies in general so I can’t speak for the taste of their pie. However, this was the only place we saw that didn’t have a very long line in compare to other places nearby.

Julian Grille

Finding a restaurant in town was tricky because everyone was busy and had a wait of 30 min. to an hour long. Also, I was picky in wanting an outdoor dining with a quieter scene, good food and with a shorter wait. We looked at a few places and decided on Julian Grille. They seemed to have the shortest wait, definitely an outdoor dining option and had great reviews online. As it turned out, we were not disappointed.

Julian Grille is a mix of French, Italian and American classics with a bungalow style restaurant. I enjoyed the ambiance there and the food was pretty good! We ordered their Trout special with mushrooms and caper sauce, a starter with a Butternut Squash Soup and an Apple Cider to drink. I definitely enjoyed our meal and I can’t seem to stop thinking about how good the hot apple cider was.

Eagle Mining and Co.

After lunch we decided to do the mining tour. It was located a few minutes away from downtown, through narrow streets and hidden behind a few residential areas. The overall tour took about 40 minutes long that started with a bit of history, followed by a walk through mining tunnels and finally the tour ending outside showcasing how they used to dig for gold. The mining tunnels were cool and probably the best part of the tour.

One thing to note is to double check the admission fees prior to visiting the site as the website may not reflect the current rate. We were lead to believe that it would cost $10 (as promoted on their website) but, once we got there it was actually $15 pp. That part was disappointing, although, not the end of the world.

Lake Cuyamaca

Our last stop was Lake Cuyamaca. We decided to do a mini picnic here for the rest of the day and we were well prepared for it with a basket full of foods and drinks. The lake was quite a beautiful scene. The water was serene, birds were chirping, kids were playing, the trees all around us reflected in the water and there were fishermen at the small dock waiting to catch fish. We were ready to relax ignoring the fact that there was still snow and the weather was very cold. A few minutes into our snacking we started shivering under our sweaters and tried to brush off the cold except it was unbearable. Sadly, our picnic outside ended and had to move everything back in our car. We finished off our picnic in warmth of the car heater and eventually headed home. All in all, I’d come back again to Julian on a different day and try out a few other restaurants. I think the town is not enough to explore in one day.

Escaping to Miami, Florida in the Winter.

Miami in December is like a bite out of summer. It’s sunny and warm when it’s freezing cold almost anywhere in the world (an exception to Southern California and Baja California too). Besides the weather, Miami has more to see than just another place for tanning. Here are a few places that I thought was worth the visit.

The Everglades National Park
Price: $29.00
Visiting one of America’s largest subtropical wilderness was definitely on my list. The beauty of the natural landscapes I saw and the unforgettable experience of seeing wild alligators in their natural habitat was an awesome experience. We took an airboat ride that lasted 40 min. followed by a short show explaining about alligators in the park. The park alone offers other activities you may be interested in such as hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, camping, boating and much more. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try their alligator bites. It tasted like chicken but, something about it felt wrong. One thing to note is to bring cash for tips if you decide to do the airboat ride. I did not see any atm machines around.

Miami Design District
Price: varies
This is a neighborhood with high end shopping area, design, architecture and dining experiences. It reminded me of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, CA. where you can find luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Céline or Dior. Currently, Louis Vuitton is holding an installation there for Men’s Spring-Summer Collections and we thought the fitting rooms turned to storage containers was pretty darn cool. There are a ton of restaurants in the area and even though we didn’t get to go to Dior Pop Up Café, I think it would be good to try at least once. Yes, this is a busy area so, make sure to plan ahead to find parking.

Viscaya Museum & Gardens
Price: $18.00 (weekdays & weekend rates vary)
A former villa and estate of a businessman James Deering which includes Italian Renaissance Gardens, more than 70 rooms of architectural interiors with antiques, decorative art and furnishings. It felt like I was in Europe for a hot min. The garden area was my favorite part which, you can literally spend an entire afternoon here walking aimlessly.

Wynwood Murals
Price: FREE (as of 2021, there’s a new entrance fee of $10/person)
This outdoor spot features colorful murals by artists from all over the world. I love art, and I think anyone who visits this place must see it in Miami. Walking through the area will lead you to discover more murals that are inspiring with details that moved me. The Wynwood neighborhood, in general, has lots of bars, restaurants, interesting art concepts, street arts that you can easily get lost in while wondering around. We found a juice spot there called OOH Raw! and ended up coming back again for their smoothies.

Key Biscayne: No Name Harbor
One of my memorable experience on this trip was driving out on a whim to catch the sunset in Key Biscayne and ended up on a harbor called No Name Harbor. I don’t know much about this area except it hit all of my checklist. There weren’t a lot of people at this time, we had a great view and it felt remote. While walking around, we saw a few sailboats passed by or docked. There’s also a restaurant onsite which, we bypassed and ended up staying in a corner of a dock until the sun went down.

Simple Christmas Gift Ideas

Personally, I’m not a big fan of Christmas. I enjoy seeing Christmas lightings, decorations, markets and such. However, current huge sales happening at the moment was hard to ignore. Here are a few items or ideas I found while perusing online.

Under $20

Ceramic Soap Dispenser $12.99
Automatic Soap Dispenser $12.79
Mini Bag Sealer – $6.99
USB Lighter $11.99
Indoor Wifi Smart Camera (1 pack) – $19.99
Magnetic Rings Key Holder – $9.99
Dental Floss – (6 Pack) $9.99
Pet Pawprint Hanging Keepsake – $13.97

Vista Print
Personalized Mugs – $9.08

Anthropologie (30% off today)
Mini Glass Candle – $16
Warmth Mug – $14

Macys (extra 20% off)
Packing Cubes (set of 6) – $42.49
Packing Cubes by Travelpro – $33.99
Spice Jar Rack – $26.24

All 50 States Screenprinted Pint Drinking Glasses – $30
Custom Paw Print ring – $21.75 (sale ends in 6 hrs.)


If you’re looking for something that will last a while the ideas below may help. Prices will vary.

Online Courses

Drive Thru Movie Tickets: Double check on dates
O.C. Drive-In Events
Trip 101

Amazon Prime – $119 / yr.
Walmart Plus – $98 / yr.
Lynda.com – $25 per month for basic option
LinkedIn Learning – $29.99 monthly subscription

Where to Find Christmas Lightings in O.C.?

From Christmas decorations to lighting displays, it feels to me like the holiday spirit is in full effect around here. Last night, I decided to see a few Christmas lightings near my neighborhood. It was something that I’ve never done before and I thought the one in Dana Point was done quite nicely.

If you’re interested in viewing a few neighborhoods that have lighting decorations up you can see a list on this map. Pls. keep in mind that I haven’t seen every single one on this map to vouch for how they look and all. Although, I can confirm for the Dana Point Harbor location. Happy Lighting Hunting!

San Antonio Texas Trip Itinerary

As the 2nd largest city in Texas, San Antonio had plenty of things to see or do. I admit I was well prepared for this trip and created a list. To this day I’m certainly glad for that list because there were times we needed to make adjustments at the last minute due to weather, limited hours and travel mistakes.

I’m sharing you a few activities and food choices below but, my list is much bigger than what’s listed here as San Antonio had so many places to see and do that we didn’t have enough time for.

When visiting San Antonio for the first time, I suggest to rent a car. San Antonio as I mentioned is the 2nd largest city in Texas. Everything is spread out like it is in L.A. with the exception of The Riverwalk area. Now, unless you plan to stay in the Riverwalk area during your entire trip, having a car to get around is highly recommended.

Things to See or Do:

Natural Bridge Caverns & Wildlife Ranch
Address: 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd. 78266
: $30 | Parking: FREE | Hours: 9am-4pm
Make reservations ahead of time

This cave exploration was one of my favorite experience in San Antonio given the fact that it was my first time in a “real” cave. Approximately 18 stories deep below the ground, the cave is home to bats, stalagmites, stalactites and will challenge your fit going up about 180 steps. You can choose individual Cavern Tours and for us, we decided on a combo tour to get more time in the cave. Personally, I liked the Hidden Passages tour better because it was a smaller group and it felt more personal. Additionally, we were also able to have a conversation with our guide, ask questions and came out with a better idea about the cave’s history and its current situation. If caves aren’t your thing, they also offer “surface attractions” onsite such as zip trails, ropes course, maze and much more.

The Missions of San Antonio
: FREE | Parking: FREE
Reservations required to get in to the Alamo Church
You’ve likely heard people say that ‘You can’t come to San Antonio without visiting The Alamo’. It’s true! On our Mission expedition day, we started our way first to see the church of The Alamo and it truly is a sight to see. Photos and videos are not allowed inside the church but, it is well worth seeing it in person to get an appreciation for its history, its architecture and the major restoration efforts they’ve done to keep the historic site up to date. Our exploration continued to see the other 4 Missions nearby. We drove from 1 Mission to another eyeing each one intently, walking through their arches and simply taking in their beauty. Without a doubt all 5 Missions well-deserved to be listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

McNay Art Museum
Address: 101 Emporia Blvd. TX
: $20 per person | Parking: FREE

At Pearl
Address: 200 E. Grayson St.
: varies | Parking: FREE
A cool industrial open market style with a food hall, brewery, hotels, shops, eateries and apparently some apartments all right next to the River walk. This area alone we could’ve spent hours roaming around and still feel like we didn’t see everything. Let’s just say this would be the place I’d see again if, I am back in the area. The time we did have was spent on eating. We ordered food from Mi Roti located inside the food hall and ate outside their patio munching on some yummy Grilled Jerk Chicken bowl, a side of fries and salad. After that we walked over to La Boulangerie to order macarons with Panna Cotta desserts. Every calorie intake was worth it.

Pearl District

The Riverwalk
: Public Parking or metered spots (prices will vary)
Known as the “Venice” of U.S.A. It is one of the most picturesque spots I’ve seen in U.S.A. with one canal after another making this a hot spot for tourists. There are plenty of things to see or do in the area from hotels, restaurants to retailer shops on the river. We stayed at the Palacio del Rio Hotel with access right on the canal that I highly recommend. Moreover, in keeping up with the holiday spirit, there are over 1000 Christmas lights set up throughout the Riverwalk right now making the boat rides through the canals extra special.

San Fernando Cathedral (“The Saga”)
418 Villita St. TX.
Hours: Tues. and Sun. 7:30-8pm & 8:30pm | Fri. and Sat. 9-9:30pm & 10pm
If you want a break from The Riverwalk, walk over to see the laser light show in front of San Fernando Cathedral which depicts the history of Texas. It’s free and the light show takes about 30 min. long, so be sure to bring or wear something warm.

La Villita Historic Arts Village
Address: 418 Villita St. TX
: varies | Parking: varies

The Japanese Tea Garden
Address: 3853 Broadway
: FREE | Parking: FREE
You’ll have to drive to this location but, it is worth seeing. The garden was previously an old limestone quarry and it was converted to a garden with lily ponds, waterfalls and bridges. We strolled through the walking paths while stopping here and there to take photos. There’s also a small shop with a restroom onsite where you can buy souvenirs. It was quite a peaceful afternoon, a change of pace and bit of tranquility in compare to the busy life on The Riverwalk.

Tower of the Americas
Address: 739 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.
: $14.50 | Parking: $8-11

Places to Eat:

Pharm Table
Address: 106 Auditorium Cir.
: see menu

Originally, we never had this restaurant on our list but, I’m glad we found it at the last minute. It was one of the restaurants on the list that met our cravings for something organic. As a restaurant known for their “inflammatory” food, I knew I was in for something good. We ordered The Vegan Sweet Potato Waffles and Avocado Collar Bowl that definitely hit the spot. Overall, we enjoyed the ambiance of this place down to their food.

La Panaderia
Address: 301 E Houston St.

La Boulangerie
Address: 207 Broadway St.


Hilton Palacio del Rio
Address: 200 South Alamo St.
I loved our hotel and its accessibility. Our room had a mini fridge, tv, and bathroom essentials we needed throughout our stay. Besides sleeping comfortably, the balcony was the main focus of our room providing us front row seats to sunrise and sunsets. There’s a balcony in every room of this hotel overlooking either the river side or the city and luckily, our view had both. The only minor tick we faced with their service was the umbrella availability. It rained hard for a day in San Antonio and the hotel did not have one we could use. Other than that, we could easily explore the city within the few steps from our hotel door.