Kauai, Hawaii Guide

Kauai Napali Coast

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:

North:
Princeville, Hanalei
Great spots for surfing
& snorkeling.

South:
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.

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

West:
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.

Food

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.

Activities

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.

Others

For more recommendations see my full itinerary here.

Experience Island life in St. Croix.

Beach Photo

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.

Frederiksted

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?

First time in St. Croix.

Beach Photo

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 😉

Language

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.

Accommodation

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.

Food

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.

Weather

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.

Flight

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

To LAX
(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.

Activities

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.

Driving

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.

Safety

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.

Winter Escape to Miami.

Miami

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.

A Few Hours in San Diego.

Me in San D iego

Lately, San Diego has been a hot spot to visit for us as it is quite easy to get to and contains a ton of places to see. On our recent visit to Old Town, I was a bit surprised why I’ve never been there before. The place had a history featuring eclectic restaurants, historical sites, colorful shops and an apparent Mexican heritage that made this place unique. We spent a few hours roaming around, eating and then headed over for the rest of the day in La Jolla and watched the sunset.

A weekend in Catalina Island.

Catalina Island
Catalina Island 2020

A hop on an express boat to Catalina Island will get you to the island in less than 2 hours. Once the boat docks, the island is in your hands. Whether you’re there to sightsee, eat, drink, or camp; Catalina Island has a bit of everything for everyone at any age.

Stay
On this trip, my bf and I stayed for a night at St. Lauren Hotel. It was his first time on the island, therefore, it made sense for us to spend a weekend in order for us to truly enjoy the experience. Our hotel (known for its pink colors) was very close to the main square (about 5 minutes walk) yet far enough from the noise. Due to COVID19, there were a few hiccups that we faced as expected. Long story short, there was lack in communication from the hotel but, once we passed the checking in issues everything turned out nicely.

Our room, surprisingly, it was decent. We had a partial view of the ocean with natural lighting illuminating from our 3 window panes. At one point, we were watching the sunset right from our bed and the issues we had at the beginning of the trip became a distant memory.

Eat
Eating at restaurants was another hurdle for us as they were only accepting first come and first serve basis. No one seemed to be taking any reservations whatsoever, therefore, if you want to eat at any particular place you’ll have to get your booty there early or find elsewhere to eat. This can be frustrating especially when you’re hungry but, again this is COVID times and nothing will be the same as it was before so, be patient and plan ahead.

A host at Descanso Beach Club gave us a helpful tip. She suggested to arrive earlier before rush hour if you don’t want to wait or come during that sweet spot after lunch and before dinner time. We took her suggestion in consideration and came back to Descanso Beach Club right before dinner. Boy, she was spot on! The restaurant was 100 times quieter than the first time we tried to get a seat in the middle of rush hour. This time, we showed up at the right time and was seated at a table that overlooked the ocean. We were definitely content.

We ordered a few items from poke over rice and wings plates to the Buffalo Milk drink. Everything we ate and drink were pretty tasty.

Another restaurant we tried was the Blue Water Grill located at the main square. We were seated on the waterfront patio where we ordered the wedge salad, calamari and the chipotle swordfish. We thought the food here were much better than Descanso Beach Club.

For breakfast, we grabbed coffee and pastries to go from Catalina Cookie. I heard about this place when I researched for places to eat and drink in Avalon, Catalina. It had good reviews and I can tell you that their coffee and pastries were delicious! Conveniently, they were located near our hotel too.

Do
If you’re not camping or on a boat in Catalina then, you’re bound to be looking for activities like we did that can be done on foot. The first day on the island we roamed around looking at stores, trying to find places to eat on a whim and basically getting our feet wet per se. We walked on the pier to check it out and on a spare of the moment we ended up going on a 45-minute Semi Submarine Tour that turned out to be quite pleasant. For $39 per person, the Semi Submarine tour allows you to feed fish from your seat. I wasn’t expecting that at all but, I liked the overall experience.

The rest of our trip was spent riding on a golf cart where we went in a loop around the island for an hour. I highly recommended it as it allows you to see viewpoints of the island that are worth taking photos of. In one of the stops, you can also see the botanical garden if time allows for it. We decided against it on this trip because we wanted to do other things but, the botanical garden will be on our list for the next time we return.

Transportation & Tickets
To get to the island make sure to reserve your spot in one of those express boats ahead of time. Each ports have scheduled trips and some are more limited than others. Also, look for ticket deals. At the time I was researching for our mini getaway, I found one or two deals. Make sure to read the fine print as some might no longer be available. See links below.

Ports: Newport Beach, Dana Point, Long Beach or San Pedro
See Catalina Express
Newport Beach Catalina Island Groupon Deal (read the fine print)
See Costco Catalina Island Deal

Lastly, if you want to enjoy the island without the crowds it is best to come in the weekdays or Sunday. We arrived in the middle of Saturday on this trip and the island was jam packed with tourists. It was quite difficult to get a table in the restaurants we wanted or even a spot to sit on the beach without rubbing elbows with other people. However, Sunday was quite the opposite. We were able to do everything we wanted and had plenty of time left for anything else we needed to see. In short, come when the island is less crowded if it is feasible.

Visiting Oceanside, CA

oceanside california

Another day another beach town visited. I arrived late afternoon seeking for a few hours of sunshine at a beach that’s open which I found at Oceanside, CA., a coastal city located in San Diego county. San Diego was among the first counties in California to reopen their beaches, parks, and a few businesses since the “Stay At Home” order was lifted last week. To me, seeing an open beach for the first time in a month and a half felt quite strange. There seem to be a huge unspoken uncertainty in the air as I watched a few people at the beach surfing, swimming, bodyboarding in the water and people rollerblading, jogging, walking or riding bikes with or without masks worn.

Signs about social distancing and staying home were still seen in the area. Despite the beach being open, activities were limited from tanning, bringing chairs at the beach, to anything relating to gathering of any kind. Police patrolled the scene a few times in a given hour to insure that people were following the social distancing rules. Those that didn’t were told to keep it moving.

Much of my time was spent walking around the neighborhood. There seem to be new apartment buildings built in the area with a hefty price tag attached to it. I found a few coffee and juice shops in the area. Since nothing else was open I decided to head home.

Several hours in Carlsbad, CA.

Carlsbad Beach

Carlsbad has been on my radar for quite some time now; however, I’ve never made it down here for a variety of reasons. After just an hour, I finally made it to downtown Carlsbad where I roamed the beach and the village areas.

Carlsbad Village, the commercial district right off the Pacific Ocean, was my favorite part of the city. There was plenty of parking, the public restrooms were clean, and there were a number of boutique shops and eateries to explore. A store in particular caught my eye because it sold handmade face masks, which the owner claims was the only reason they were open. Even though they were a bit expensive, I bought two to support local businesses. As opposed to my handkerchief, I was pleased to finally wear a mask.

In Carlsbad, the coast line was busy with people riding bikes, skateboarding, jogging, and much more. It was hard not to love the view of the ocean from the sidewalk. Walking along the coastline, I couldn’t help but stare out into the horizon of the ocean. At some point, I turned around and headed back to the village.

Carlsbad Beach

Other nearby attractions in Carlsbad are:

The Flower Fields
Experience fifty acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers bloom at best from early March through May. One can easily spend 2 hours here so, make sure to bring plenty of water and an umbrella or a cap.

Admission $18
$1 discount on AAA

GIA Museum
If you like gems and jewelries this is a place for you. The museum holds a free self-guided tour (reservations are required) to learn more about the stones and minerals.

Premium Outlets

Legoland

The Sunset Sea Cliffs, San Diego. (Video)

sea cliffs in san diego

I have seen my share of sunset views and I can tell you that watching it from the Sunset Cliffs is quite a unique experience.

I came without too many expectations, but it turned out to be more than I expected. Initially, I thought I would walk along the cliffs and see the sights. I was able to look over and enjoy the view as I walked. I was quite mesmerized by the expansive views of the ocean and the dramatic formations of the cliffs. 

In the distance, people were walking down a staircase that led to the water. Curiosity got the best of me and I followed them. There was a tiny cove with the waves of the ocean literally moving under your feet at the bottom of the stairs. In this area, surfers made their way into the water, which didn’t look safe to me. However, they were pros at this and made the process look seamless. After a short stay in the area, I decided to return to where I started.

sea cliffs in san diego

After returning to the top, I walked even further down the coast, which led me to another area where I could descend to the bottom. This time, I thought this path was more risky than the staircase route I had just taken. After seeing people reach their destination, I decided to do the same.

In essence, you have to walk through large boulders of rock and then you have to make your way down to a beach area by pulling a rope. I do not recommend this at all, but I did it to find a cave I saw online. I thought I would find here, unfortunately I didn’t.

What I did find was a secluded beach area and tide pools that allowed me to have a closer look at the rock formations. That part was pretty cool.

On my way back, there was a bit of traffic using the rope. Please note that this is the only way back up; which is what makes this beach so secluded. Once I made it back up I decided it was time to go. At this point, the amount of visitors had increased in preparation to watch the sunset. I stayed for a few minutes and then, decided to head home.

See my previous posts on Visiting Sunset Sea Cliffs, Visiting the Skyline & the Gaslamp District, Staying in at Hotel Del Coronado and must see spots in San Diego.

San Diego Skyline and Gaslamp District visit.

After checking out of my hotel, I walked around Orange Ave. street for a bit. It was near the hotel and thought it was worth exploring. I found out that they actually had quite a few shops and cafès. I took a break and got a latte at 1134 Coffee shop. Orange Ave. has a ton of stores and restaurants to see but, on this trip I did not have enough time to see everything. I left and made my way down to the skyline that I hear had a great view of the city.

The view here is definitely not to be missed! I found myself approaching the edge of the harbor and looked out into the water. I saw boats, kayaks and jet skiers along the water passing by with a backdrop of the skyline buildings in the back. It really was one of the best view around.

After I was done at Skyline, I made my way to the Gaslamp Quarter. About 20 minutes drive from Coronado was a neighborhood town known for its nightlife, Victorian-style buildings, a mix of chain and independent restaurants, pubs, cigar bars, cafes and shops. I walked down the main area where a few blocks were blocked off. It looked like they had a mini fair going on and a few vendors were situated selling various items from food, fashion to paintings. At some point, I made it up to the Hard Rock Hotel and walked around the lobby. I didn’t find anything too interesting, therefore, I left and decided it was time to eat.

I found myself having lunch at the Searsucker restaurant. The food was very tasty. I highly recommend going here if, you’re ever in town. I ordered the Green Eggs and Ham which consisted of poached eggs over a bread with pork inside it. It was very good. I ended my meal with a gelato as a dessert a few doors down at the Ghirardelli store. Totally worth it but, on to the next!

From one district to another, I thought Little Italy was the hip family hangout that everyone should visit. They have a square where everyone gathered, ate, hung out and basked in the sun. I felt like I was back in Italy for a minute sitting outside in the open air and enjoying myself as I watched people go by.

There’s a food hall at the square with various food options. However, I ended up eating a pizza to go from a restaurant across the street (sorry, I did not get the name) and it was very good. Too bad there’s no pizza places around where I live that can match its taste. In any case, if you want good food you’ll sure find it here.

To be continued…

A trip to Venice Beach.

Yesterday, I drove early in the morning to L.A., trying to by pass the rush hour traffic. The sun was already bright and shining; providing a moderate temperature of 75 degrees F by 9:30am. Ah, you gotta love Southern California weather, you can map out your day with no problem and you’re almost guaranteed to have a consistent weather throughout the day. As my friend and I wondered off to Venice Beach, we made a stop at my bro’s solo art exhibit at Superba Restaurant. Continue reading “A trip to Venice Beach.”