The Great Blue Hole + Swimming With Sharks: My First Scuba Dive (+Videos!)

Scuba Diving With Sharks + The Great Blue Hole In Belize #travel #explore #belize

As I’ve mentioned, Ambergris Caye is a majestical oceanic paradise. There’s also an eerie natural phenomenon that we simply couldn’t resist… The UNESCO Heritage Site, Belize’s Great Blue Hole! Maybe you’ve heard of it, or seen pictures, but basically it’s a sinkhole in the ocean that goes down about 400 feet. In order to get to the caverns, where a variety of spindling stalactites trap air, divers have to descend 135 feet. Our trip was led by the phenomenal Amigos Del Mar, whom I highly recommend. Not only did we have the chance to see the Great Blue Hole, but we also had two additional dives that day—including swimming with an 8-foot shark. 

Diving With Sharks In Belize #travel #explore #adventure #scuba

 

Most trips leave quite early in the morning, before 6 am, in order to hit all three dive spots during daytime. The spectacularly smooth and stunning boat ride out to the Great Blue Hole is a few hours.  Amigos Del Mar, our diveshop, had tons of fresh pineapple, coffee, and pastries. If you plan to dive the Great Blue Hole, be sure to get sufficiently hydrated and nourished prior to getting in the water. Nitrogen narcosis is a serious threat, especially when diving down so dangerously deep. To put it in perspective, PADI Open Water Diver allows you to dive up to 60 ft. With additional training, you can get your Advanced Open Water, which allows you to dive 100 ft. PADI states the limit for recreational scuba diving is 130 ft—we reached 141 ft. 

Boating in Belize is particularly delightful, thanks to the abundance of sea life. Botttlenose dolphins (aka the cutest!) make their homes in these warm waters. With how pristine and preserved the area is, and the exuberance of fish, I’d probably make Belize my home as well, if I were a dolphin. But anyways, the point being a playful pod of these gorgeous creatures followed our boat for about half an hour. Tell me this isn’t one of the most adorable dolphin dances you’ve ever seen?!

 

Although the dolphins were my favorite part of the boat ride, I know I can’t get away without sharing this majestic treat of nature. We knew we would have good luck upon seeing this lovely double rainbow. My friend was wishing for sharks, and I was just hoping to make it out alive. 

Scuba Diving the Great Blue Hole in Belize || Double Rainbow #travel #belize #beautiful

 

Why?

As I’m drifting down, feeling the temperature drop by the second, I had a guilty flashback of signing an agreement on my PADI certification that I would only dive down a maximum of 60 feet. In my defense, the group I went with was extremely experienced, and my diving buddy was one of my best pals. Nothing could go wrong…

Scuba Diving the Great Blue Hole in Belize || #travel #belize #beautiful #scuba

 

And it didn’t.

Scuba Diving With Sharks + The Great Blue Hole In Belize #travel #explore #belize

Floating down to the seemingly bottomless pit of the blue hole is definitely a surreal experience. Peering into the drop sent chills down my spine, but the good way. Like…A haunted house. Or s&m. Anyways, having a flashlight would be very helpful, especially if the sun is hiding. If you’re uncomfortable diving to the 130 ft to reach the caverns, you can still scuba around the hole and try to find sharks. But I must say, the caverns were pretty cool! You can actually swim through the massive stalactites and feel dry air bubbles on the cavern ceiling. Due to the ridiculous depth, our air ran out quickly, and the first dive was pretty short.

Scuba Diving the Great Blue Hole in Belize || #travel #belize #beautiful

 

The only downside of scuba diving the Great Blue Hole as opposed to say, flying over it, is the lack of view! If you aren’t scuba certified, I highly recommend taking the Maya Air or  Tropic Air flight, which is an hour and costs $200.  Then send me photos please, because it looks absolutely beautiful!

Scuba Diving the Great Blue Hole in Belize || #travel #belize #beautiful

Trying to get a decent photo for y’all at the top on the boat…

 

The next dive proved to be a little more stressful for me. Having pretty much no experience, I was getting really freaked out by the 2-foot barracudas. Don’t know much about barracudas? They’re squirrely as hell with razor-sharp teeth and a bad attitude. Like the newbie I am, I was swimming between the underwater caves, trying to get to the fishies, when I notice the barracuda that had previously been swimming 30 feet away was now floating in front me, staring me down. Part of me is thinking, “Oh, it’s going down,” while the other part was hoping he was interested in my blinking, shiny GoPro. I wiggle my stick a few feet away from me, and to my deepest dismay, the little fucker starts swimming towards me FAST.

I duck my head down, start scuttling as fast as possible, and go… nowhere. My scuba gear had gotten caught on a crevice. After panicking for a few seconds, I finally caught up to Michelle and desperately tried to get my shit together before they made me turn back. I refuse to be the weakest link in group activities, especially when my dear, brave friend is my diving buddy.

So, there is basically no communication underwater because you can’t speak.  I knew I couldn’t explain my freakout with the barracuda, so I just kept pointing to my mouth as I tried to do the deepest yoga breaths I could possibly manage. She promptly took my hand signal of, “I’m just trying to catch my breath” as “I vomited in my regulator.” Which I guess happens often. We had a good laugh on the boat about that one.

Scuba Diving the Great Blue Hole in Belize || #travel #belize #beautiful

Plenty of fish were interested in our scuba group, drawn to the bubbles and noises of our equipment. A sweet, plump little grouper was following us around, trying to be our pet. I’m not even kidding, one person would give it a little belly rub, then the grouper would move along to the next person in the group and hover around until he got what he wanted. Which was a belly rub.

We unfortunately caught the attention of a baby black-tip shark. You might be thinking, “Stop being a lil bitch, baby sharks ain’t nothing.” But with every baby shark, comes a momma shark. And this one was circling us.

 

 

Okay, I’m being ever-so slightly dramatic on this one. As the least experienced diver, and a Florida girl, I’m still a little frightened of all sharks except nursing, whale, and leopard sharks. Basically, I like the sharks that are known for being docile. Can you blame me? They did get pretty close to us though…

We took a pit stop on the gorgeous Half Moon Caye for lunch, hermit crab chasing, and red-footed boobies! Seriously, the palm tree lined island is home to hundreds of these adorable little flatbill birds. The feet turn bright red in adulthood, so it’s easy to tell which birds are still young. Walking along the path to where the boobies live are thousands of hermit crabs, with colors from deep purple to tangerine orange to sky blue. Have to admit I was SO tempted to bring one of these little hermits home, but it wouldn’t be very ecofriendly of me, would it? And I certainly wasn’t drinking, so I had no excuse. You’ll just have to go see these creatures by yourself!

Half Moon Caye + Scuba Diving In Belize || #travel #explore #belize

Six hours after we started,  I was struggling to keep up with the rest of the group. If the crew hadn’t been so patient and reassuring, I might’ve had to tap out for a nap on the last diveI’m SO glad I didn’t! Have you ever wanted something, even though it was kinda scary and could be potentially dangerous? That’s exactly how I felt on my last dive, hoping for more sharks. And we got em! Using the reef on the left side to keep eyes on the sharks, we watched as the massive black tips became interested in a lion fish that had been speared by another group’s divemaster.

Once the feeding frenzy was over, I started to panic. The sharks seemed to believe we had more food, and continuously circled us. Unfortunately, being so inexperienced, my buoyancy was askew and I kept floating above the group and sharks. Since sharks enjoy attacking from the bottom, I was rightly terrified and starting to flail around to stay level with the group. Shell grabbed my hand to hold me still and calm me down because she’s the best. At one point, we had our backs against the reef (sorry mother nature) as an 8-footer rushed us—I totally thought he was going to take my flipper! Everyone else was calm as a sea cucumber, and here I am, sucking my air so hard that I had to use the dive master’s spare regulator on every.single.dive. You can see it in the video above.

This is one of the reasons I’m against chumming—the practice of using dead fish to attract larger aquatic species. But that’s another rant for another time. Although I highly recommending joining the wild world of scuba diving, Ambergris Caye provides nature adventures for every level of traveler. You can even swim with sharks at the worlds second largest reef.

 

 

What do you think? Is the Great Blue Hole on your bucket-list? What’s the craziest UNESCO Heritage Site that you have visited?

The One Thing I ALWAYS Regret Packing: 7 Travel Bloggers Tell All

The One Thing I Always Regret Packing #travel #explore #packingtips #traveltips

What’s worse, being jealous or crazy overpacked or underpacked? Y’all already know, from personal experience, I believe it’s better to underpack. Let’s think about two different experiences on the same trip.

A traveler is getting ready for her first trip to Thailand with a good friend. Volunteering with elephants, doing yoga in lush green fields, and maybe some aquatic adventures are all in the gameplan. She decides to go on the lighter side, with a few yoga pants, sneakers, sandals, light jacket, two tank tops, two bikinis, and a good attitude.

Traveler two has done her research. She actively tests the three different types of shoes she brought along, including rain boots. The medical kit she packed rivals that of an emergency room nurse. Upset stomach? Check. Malaria? No problem.

First thing the girls realize is the fabric of sundress they both brought was not going to fly— the humidity is causing some unsavory, stare attracting sweat stains. Thank god, Bangkok has thousands of markets and stalls, with eager to barter owners. The light packer figures out she could get about four forever 21 quality items for the price of one, and carefully selects some weather appropriate attire.

The prepped traveler couldn’t help herself—rompers for $5 USD?! She made sure to only purchase half of what the light packer did.

Reserved as she felt she was with her purchases, upon the last day, she realizes her suitcase won’t zip. Both girls start layering up, hoping they can avoid any issues with the airline. They go to weigh the bag, only to discover the suitcase has gained 11 pounds on the trip, bringing it 10 pounds over the limit. She gets hit with an over-the-weight limit fee for $100, taking the last of her travel funds and banishing her to a food-less and wine-less multi-day trip home.

One of the most delightful activities of travel is being able to bring back gifts for others… And maybe ourselves. Overpacking brings unnecessary stress to an otherwise fascinating adventure. In fact, I’ve witnessed and participated in tossing weathered items during a long trip. Not very environmentally friendly! So what’s the one thing I always regret packing?

High Stilettos!

The One Thing I Always Regret Packing #travel #tips #explore

When I first started traveling, when I was younger and braver, I would pack a pair of heels and then make myself wear them. Why? Probably so I wouldn’t feel bad about taking up a good portion of my suitcase with them. Oh, Italy. You are one slick beotch,  seeming romantic enough to call for heels at each dinner, only to make many an American study abroad students tumble to the ground shamelessly. But seriously, out of the 23 countries I’ve visited, I have never appreciated packing a pair of heels. Even when I’ve gone to more club scenes, like Barcelona, the heels only make an appearance less than 5% of my travel time.

And now, six travel bloggers tell the one thing they always regret packing! Take notes y’all, these are good.

The one thing I always regret packing #travel #explore #tips

Wherever I travel in the world, I always bring Swiss chocolate. Coming from Switzerland, it’s great gift to bring for friends & family abroad. But the number of times it’s leaked in my suitcase or melted in the car is more than I can count… and I quickly regret my decision. It’s easy to underestimate weather in other countries and also the luggage handling. So if you must bring gifts along on your travels, try to think ahead and if possible, unload them as soon as you can — especially if they are messy or fragile. Now I bring treats from Switzerland that can withstand some heat and turbulence such as Kambly cookies, marzipan, and Ricola instant teas.”
Christy from Something Swiss 
Facebook

The One Thing I Always Regret Packing #travel #tips #explore

For some reason, my idea of looking good involves having perfect hair. Every time I travel, something inside me says, “Andrea, you need your hair straightener & curling iron.” So, I always pack both, and you know what? I probably use them 30% of the time. In reality, during most of my travels, I’m too busy to even remember I have hair. On a trip, there are places to see, food to taste, people to meet and first-time experiences to be had. Doing my hair to make it look “perfect” can last about 2 hours! Thankfully, I’ve been learning lately that there are things far more important than what you look like, so those two hair supplies are getting very little love these days. If there’s one thing I’m certain about is that sitting in my room doing my hair isn’t going to help me create any memories.

Andrea from It’s a Travel O.D.
Facebook
Instagram

The one thing I always regret packing #travel #explore #tips

I always regret packing my books. At the beginning of the trip, I always think “I could use a Kindle, but it’s so much nicer reading actual books that you can hold”… Fast forward a few weeks when I’ve walked from one side of a city and back again trying to find my hostel and all of a sudden, the idea of those five books weighing down my already heavy backpack is not so appealing. I almost always end up getting rid of all but one of them and vowing that I will just bring a Kindle the next time!

Julianna from The Discoveries Of
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook

The one thing I always regret packing #travel #explore #tips

Excessive drugs! Yes, drugs – it’s exactly what I just said. I’m a mountain-fanatic who hikes up mountains. Any loving parent would nag their child to bring all medication possible when going on a trip. So, I went trekking in the mountains in 20 plus countries for a year and brought almost 2 pounds of drugs with me from cold medicine to prescription antibiotics for whatever kind of illness I could humanly think of. I came back from that one year trip without even touching any of it. Of course, I’m grateful for being healthy the entire time but the experience made me rethink how potential illness on the road should be approached. And the kind of culture that exists in the U.S. where I’m from when it comes to medication. Since then, I have taken a different approach – preventive, rather than treatment. For subsequent treks and travels, I now rely on my yoga practice, cardio routine, sleep, meditation and living a stress free life as the things I put in my backpack – less pack weight, cheaper, safer, and more effective!
Marinel from Brown Gal Trekker
Facebook
Instagram
Twiter
Pinterest

The one thing I always regret packing #travel #explore #tips

I always pack 3-4 pair of jeans thinking that I will wear those. Daily a different one. But in reality, that doesn’t happen. Once I am at the destination, I don’t even give a care of what I have brought with me, I just need my shorts and a t-shirt, and I can happily get over with my whole trip. It makes me feel free to travel in, unlike those tight skinny jeans, which limit my flexibility and moreover too uncomfortable under the sun’s scorching heat. In case it’s cold, I choose a warm track-pant, t-shirt, and a jacket, if needed. But always on the way back from the trip, I regret as to why I carried those extra load of jeans, and they never return home in good condition.
Mohit from Mohit Arts
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter

The one thing I always regret packing #travel #explore #tips

“I always regret packing my jewelry box when heading to Europe during the winter. I never end up wearing them as the winter clothing always cover them anyhow or I just forget I even packed them. My advice is to only pack your most frequently used jewelry, those you never take off. And never pack any valuable items! When I take my expensive ring or necklace with me, I always regret packing it because it’s one more thing to worry about and make sure it doesn’t get stolen or forgotten in one of the hotels.”

Hadas from The Fashion Matters
Instagram

Okay, we shared, now it’s your turn! What’s the one thing you always regret packing?

Ambergris Caye Belize: A Mermaid’s Paradise

Ambergris Caye #travel #belize #mermaid

Flying over Ambergris Caye #belize #travel

The trip was pretty unBelizable. Okay, now that we’ve gotten that joke out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Ambergris Caye is the most majestic mermaid-haven I have ever visited. From riding co-pilot on the flight from Belize City, to my departure with new puppy in tow, I was smitten with Ambergris Caye.

Ambergris Caye || #travel #explore #belize

But let’s back it up a little.

What was I even doing in Belize?

A few months ago, a dear friend and grad program classmate and I had agreed if I could afford to join her on her global exchange, I definitely would. Last month, she decided last minute to change her global experience (basically a short international internship) from northwest India to Belize. Besides being a boss-ass bitch in general, Shell adores animals and runs her own non-profit for their benefit. As a vet tech, she would be working with Saga Humane Society in Ambergris Caye, the only humane society on the island. Taking care of dogs and kittens? I gladly offered my services. The deciding factor was the flights, which were less than $350 from San Diego. It would’ve been foolish to pass up the opportunity.

Things have been a little quiet on the blog, but there’s good reason! Y’all might know I’m pretty invested in education reform and passionate about chillren. I’ve been working on developing a non-profit that will allow caring individuals to support eager learners across the world. After visiting two schools in Ghana, which I briefly discuss here, I raised money to purchase school supplies and books to be delivered to them.Personally seeing the school and all the hard work that the teachers have put in warmed my heart like no other. Half of the money went as a scholarship girl who had recently lost her mother and couldn’t afford school.  With Belize being so last minute, instead of raising money, I quickly ran to Target to stock up on supplies for a school (Holy Cross Belize) that keeps a running needs list online.

Dropping off supplies #travel #impact

The school has been resourceful by establishing relationships that lead to things like a Dell computer lab, but that doesn’t fix all the issues. Education is far from free in the majority of the world, and schools are strapped for cash. They do not want to turn students away, so they have to cut corners elsewhere like snacks or even teachers. A big issue for donors is tax exemption, which cannot be done with most international donations. By having a U.S. Based nonprofit, gifts are eligible for tax exemption.

This is non-profit portion of my master’s programs final project—a mere portion. Which is why I’ve been so quiet on the web. Forgive my absence over the next few weeks, I swear to make it up to y’all.

Besides doing what I love most, traveling and promoting education, I took some time to get PADI certified! Having done Discovery scuba a few times and promising myself for years, I decided it was a necessity for the Belize trip. Thanks to the flexibility of the program, I chose the e-Learning option. Instead of sitting in a physical location for a few hours a week, e-Learning allows you to complete all the modules at your own pace online. After you display content knowledge, your instructor will bring you into a pool for two full days to practice skills in full gear. This is the perfect time to address any concerns or questions, like which brand the instructor prefers. To complete certification, your instructor will take you on four open water dives, reaching at least 30 feet deep. I had the luck of training in La Jolla, CA with leopard sharks and halibut, but my instructor requested I not take my GoPro during training. Getting scuba certified is the perfect way to upgrade your travel adventure, especially if you prefer warm places like I do. Not ready to take the plunge? Start with Discover Scuba through PADI on your next trip.

But let’s get back to the travels…

Where is Ambergris Caye?

Belize as a whole has plentiful types of terrain, from beach to mountains to farmlands. On the northern district, a few miles south of Mexico, lays Ambergris Caye. Besides the gorgeous beaches and pleasant people, Ambergris Caye is an underwater wonderland. The world’s second largest reef is located a short boat’s ride away, with rainbow parrotfish, stingrays, dolphins, and everything else you can imagine. Including black tip reef sharks, like this big boy that circled us while scuba diving. Thrilling.   I was scared shitless, but that’s another story for another time…

Swimming with sharks in #belize #travel

The main town, San Pedro, is surprisingly well-stocked. There’s stores for pet grooming, books, salons, and a host of restaurants. I was absolutely smitten with colorful architecture! Plenty of buildings, especially downtown, were a mix of tangerine, coral pink, and deep blue. Like this adorable pink hotel lined with conch shells!

Hotel in San Pedro Belize #travel

Give me the details…

Maybe you’ve heard of the Great Blue Hole? You now, the massive underwater sinkhole that ends about 400 feet into the earth. It’s absolutely insane, and I had the chance to scuba dive in it! There’s also Shark Ray Alley for snorkling and free diving. Besides being a natural treasure, Belize is super easy to deal with.

Swimming in Hol Chan #explore #travel

Belize is the only country in Central America with English as the national language. This makes doing business and making plans a breeze. However, the majority of Belizeans speak Spanish in the home and personal affairs. If you know even a phrase or two, I highly recommend trying to communicate in the Belizean language of choice. Creole is also spoken, but Spanish might be a little easier to pick up with a translator.

Additionally, U.S. currency is accepted pretty much everywhere. There is a fixed rate of 2:1 for U.S. to Belizean dollar, which is pretty much the easiest conversion rate I’ve ever had to do!

True to a mermaid’s paradise, Ambergris Caye had amazing food. We’re talking fresh conch ceviche with limeade. Lobster caught 30 feet away from the restaurant. The most appetizing vegetarian refried beans and juicy chicken burrito for $2.50. Full fruit smoothies. These delectable shrimp tostadas for $3 USD. We were in heaven.

Food in #belize #travel

Getting Around The Island

Ambergris Caye is very thin and only gets about a mile wide. From the northernmost point to the very southernmost tip is 25 miles. The main roads are paved, including all of downtown San Pedro. However, if there’s a good chance you might be staying in an Airbnb, I have to mention the side roads get gnarly. The majority of streets are sign-less with numerous rocky potholes. Walking, taxi, golf cart, and biking are all viable options. Personally, bikes were a little rough for me. The golf carts are gassed up with off-roading wheels, and account for about 95% of all vehicles you see on the road. Instead of using blinkers, drivers are expected to use hand signals to help out the other drivers. The only issue with the golf carts were the illusive speed bumps. Every few hundred feet, sometimes less, sometimes more, there are unmarked bumps or dips in the road. After nearly breaking our necks a few times, we learned to pay very close attention to how fast we were going. Cabbies and policemen were driving the only true automobiles I saw.

The Weather…

…is extremely similar to the southern U.S., toasty, moist, with a bit of afternoon rain showers. Ambergris Caye has a wet (June-December) and a dry season (February-May). Tourists tend to flock to the island during the dry season, but we had a superb time even with the rain. I would not recommend taking a very short trip (less than three days) during the wet season. Give yourself enough time to have all the nautical adventures you came for. We can’t really blame a snorkeling tour for canceling when it’s pouring out. Sandals, yoga pants, and a t-shirt are perfectly appropriate attire.

Another option is purchasing an adorable sun hat! I snagged this one for about $20 USD. Sun hats are also great on travel days because it effortlessly jazzes up any outfit. Seriously got a dozen compliments including from the passport control people.

Boating in Ambergris Caye #belize #travel

The Bad Stuff

Mosquitos. Our room was located on the ground floor, receiving no sea breeze. This allowed the mosquitos to post up outside of our room, patiently waiting to sneak in and harass us. Armed with coils, a mosquito net, and heavy-duty bug spray, we survived. Shell had gotten eaten up the night before I had arrived, but luckily she hadn’t contracted any illnesses.

Sun poisoning. As a Florida girl, I totally understand the power of the sun. It’s not to be f****d with. We reapplied sunscreen constantly on the boat and any time after getting out of the water. This allowed me to come home with a lovely tan instead of pealing burns.

Liquor prices. For being away from the mainland, Ambergris Caye is affordable, and pretty well stocked. The exception is liquor. Highly recommend grabbing what you need duty-free from the airport in Belize City.

Stay tuned for new posts on swimming with sharks, visiting a local chocolate factory, and bringing home the best souvenir ever. I’ll give you a hint on the last one– it has fur 🙂

 

A Mermaid's Paradise  || Ambergris Caye, Belize || Everything you need to know! #tips #travel #explore #mermaid

Chasing Waterfalls: Unreal Helicopter Ride Over Na Pali Coast, Hawaii (+Video!)

Flying high over the Na Pali Coast in Hawaii! +Videos || #travel #wanderlust #hawaii #napali #traveltips

Hawaii is more than coconuts and pineapples, surfers and hula girls. Although these are aspects are all pretty lovely,  and tasty, these luscious islands have so much more to show and preserve. The area has a longstanding tradition of living off of the land through fishing and hunting wild hogs. People respect mother nature and rejoice in her gifts nearly every day. The ocean is a perfect example, filled with little heads bobbing up and down, getting smaller and smaller out to the endless sea.

I had been to Hawaii in 2012 and absolutely fell in love. The speed limits were 35, macadamia nut pancakes were everywhere, and the people were lovely. Heaven on earth is Kauai, and more specifically, the Na Pali Coast. Maybe you’ve seen, and lusted over, scenery in Lilo and Stitch? Oh yeah, that’s what the movie was designed after.

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

The headphones are multipurpose- first and foremost, for aesthetic pleasure. We look pretty badass decked out in our ‘copter gear, yeah? Realistically, we had them on because the helicopter gets QUITE loud. Notice the little headset as well? Press a button and the rest of the crew can hear your, “Ooos” and “Aaahs.”

img_5050

The rain started to trickle, then proceeded to come down in rapid ping-ping-pings. Generally, weather issues tend to rattle my senses in flight, but it was so gorgeous I didn’t even care.Okay, maybe I was a little nervous. The massive waterfalls between ethereal clouds was a prime distraction though.

img_5057

Any guesses on how large that waterfall is?

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Canyon in Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

The canyon was a magnificent pumpkin orange with flecks of brass, that went on for miles. Allegedly, Mark Twain called it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” but it truly is stunning enough in it’s own terms. Could you imagine having a little home tucked away in these crevices? With all the canyons and waterfalls I almost forgot what we had came for- the Na Pali Coast.

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Canyon in Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

Y’all remember the Care Bears? Every time I fly through clouds, my heart is filled with mixed feelings. On one hand, I feel bad for cutting through the homes of such lovely little imaginary creatures. The other part of me can’t believe how fun it is! There’s something thrilling about not really being able to see where you’re going.

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Canyon in Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

The ridges in the cliffs were so striking!

img_5093-1

Emerald green leading into turquoise blue. We could see thousands of trees scattered throughout the island, but the best part was the moment we saw the big ole blue ocean.

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Canyon in Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

There was one thought that kept rolling through my mind. Our planet is so beautiful and we (okay, fine, I) have to take better care of it. Hate to admit that out of all the consciously proactive behaviors to have, environmentalism is not my strong point. The state I live in now, California, makes very easy while out in about, but honestly my home life is lacking.

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

The flight continued further down the Na Pali coast, and we could see people on boats and cars driving below. Crazy to think how isolated of a place Hawaii is. The flight was over 6 hours from San Diego. The closest country to the west is Japan and even that’s at least a nine hour flight. The helicopter wouldn’t even be able to transport us that far!

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Canyon in Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

Even crazier to me, Hawaii has only been a state of the U.S. since 1959. Even visiting briefly, you can see that Hawaii doesn’t really adhere to the culture of the mainland. People pluck fruit on the side of the road for breakfast, fish for lunch, and hunt pesky hogs for dinner. Unfortunately, there has been an influx of recent transplants to the area who attempt to illegally block off public beach access. In plenty of countries, it is illegal to block beach/ocean access for food and navigation reasons. Our cab driver, who we spent quite some time with, was stressing how difficult it was becoming to continue their traditional lifestyle of living off the land. To them, it’s disrespectful to mother nature to ignore her gifts.

img_5119

After the helicopter ride, my brothers and I went met up our buddy/taxi driver who had invited us out earlier and given us a bomb breakfast spot, called Tip Top. Definitely make a stop and order their macadamia nut pancakes- the tastiest I’ve had thus far!

img_5104

Hawaii is one of those places where almost everyone is named XYZ, and our buddy Jon, was not there when we arrived. My family is great, but they go pretty hard. By day 8, I had sworn off hard liquor. But, y’all know I’m weak so long story short, after a dozen or so shots, losing a pool game, and some tears, my night got turned around.

The bar began to close down, kicking the ten or so patrons out into the pouring rain. Plot twist- I like rain when it’s warm outside. It’s like a spa treatment from mother nature. Additionally, we picked up a friend along the way. The best kind of friend. The friend that has a…

PUPPY!

Needless to say, I was a happy girl.

But back to the Na Pali Coast…

Traveling to beautiful places, natural or man-made, always makes me appreciate what I never noticed prior to leaving. Na Pali Coast is a must visit for ANYONE. You know what they say, you only conserve what you love, and you only love what you know.

Have you ever visit Kauai? Did you love Lilo & Stitch?

Sharing is Caring: How I Always Plan The (Almost) Perfect Trip

Planning The Perfect Trip #explore #travel

Plotting short-term, last-minute trips can seem unattainable for some budgets, but I swear to you, it can be done.

 

Plenty of bloggers focus on the budget aspect, but this post will be about the tools I personally use to save money without adding stress.

 

If you haven’t signed up for reward miles on at least three airlines you use frequently, you’re basically throwing away free vacations! Southwest Airlines is one of my favorite rewards programs, and I’ve used miles for roundtrip from Florida to Colorado and Florida to Hawaii. Alaska Airlines is another generous rewards program. Programs that are popular internationally are American Airlines, British Airways, and Delta. Why not sign up for each airline when you purchase a ticket?

 

No idea where to begin? Meet The Points Guy. This site has all the rewards points resources you could ever need. Complete beginners can begin here and sign up for every major loyalty program. Perfect site for finding info about free flights!

 

Picking A Destination

Pinterest

Unless it’s for an academic paper, Pinterest is the first resource I use for pretty much everything. Planning a trip usually involves searches like “colorful” +”beach” under the travel category. Once I find a destination,  Don’t forget to actually click on the pins to get the most info! This is also the perfect way to find new travel blogs (remember those experts I mentioned?) to follow.

Pinterest Burano Travel Planning Arsenal #travel

Visit Expert Pages

Y’all know those blogs where you know exactly what the blogger knows well? Let them lead the way! A few of my favorite expert bloggers are:

Heart My Backpack Sylvia has an excellent collection of information on what she now claims as her home country, Norway.

Alex In Wanderland Alex has multiple intensive posts on the land of smiles (and elephants) Thailand.

Travel Alphas Maddie and Mauricio seem to get all around the world, but I never skip visiting their site before planning anything Europe-related. 

Travel Planning Arsenal Visit Expert Pages #traveltips

 

Getting There

Before you leave…Male sure to get some form of travel insurance. It can be quite cheap if you already have health insurance. Kayak, Booking.com and other booking companies often offer the option of insurance which includes everything from health issues to emergency evacuation. 

Rome2Rio 

Everytime I visit a country, I like to see what my day trip options are. Ideally, visiting more than one country on a trip. For example, I’ll be spending 9 days in Belize, and am planning on trying to stop by Guatemala. This is how my love and I got from Italy to Croatia, one of our favorite destinations. Instead of flying, we took a train from Naples to Bari. Then we hopped on an overnight ferry and sailed away. The ferry is massive, and some people brought cars! We lucked out and got a room to ourselves and a shared bathroom, which I saw not one soul during our overnight trip. Highly recommend bringing snacks if you’re a picky eater, I vaguely remember eating a burger and french fries. It was one of the most unique travel experiences I’ve had thus far.

Rome2Rio Travel Planning Arsenal #travel #explore

Google Flights

Unlike 3rd party sites, Google Flights gives you real-time ticket prices. It never hurts to clear your cookies, but google flights has yet to price-gouged me. Not only does Google Flights help you out financially, other useful options include ‘exploring’ multiple destinations, ‘discovering’ destinations, and receiving alerts for pre-planned flights.

Travel Planning Arsenal Google Flights #travel

 

Seat Guru

Have you ever received the only no-view window seat in the plane? Or chosen emergency aisle only to discover the seats do not recline ? I have, and it sucks. Flights longer than 2 hours must be checked on Seatguru. Don’t be afraid! A few considerations are proximity to restrooms and galleys, exit rows, and leg room size. For example, on long flights, I love to chat with the flight attendants in the galley. Always have a hilarious story or two.

 

 

Travel Planning Arsenal Seat Guru #traveltips

 

Airbnb

I absolutely adore a nice hotel, but nothing beats an amazing apartment at city center. Europe has a particular abundance of flats for rent, many with balconies and private outdoor space. If you are absolutely not going to clean on your trip, you might want to consider a private room in a hostel or boutique hotel.

Travel Planning Arsenal Airbnb #traveltips #explore

HostelWorld

HostelWorld’s filter features are quite brilliant. My favorite one being the “Private Room” options. Particularly in Europe and parts of South America, private rooms in hostels are a much cheaper (and often nicer) option. If you have any issues like wanting A/C or a specific neighborhood, you can figure it all out before you book on HostelWorld.

Travel Planning Arsenal Hostelworld #travel #explore


Kayak

If nothing sticks out to me, I’ll venture over to Kayak to scope out the best hotels. Don’t forget to clear your history/cookies if you do more than one or two searches. One of my favorite features of Kayak is the map view. If I’m traveling to a new city, I’ll do a little neighborhood research to see which one has late night dining, pharmacy, public transport, and any other aspect I find necessary to happiness. Then, I visit Kayak to see if any accommodation is near my goal neighborhood.

How To Plan The Perfect Trip #explore #travel

 

 

Vayable

This website is interesting because it connects you with locals in designated cities to have adventures. You select where you plan on going, and find an itinerary. A few interesting ones are a 3-hour graffiti tour in San Francisco and visiting a Paris flea market. Personally think it’s amazing because it supports local economies at the most basic level.

How To Plan The Perfect Trip #explore #travel

Bandsintown

Is the perfect website for any stage in your travel planning. Simply put in your tentative dates and location, and you have a list of all the upcoming music shows. Type A personality? Look up any potential venues on Instagram and judge away.

Travel Planning Arsenal Bandsintown #travel #explore

Road Trippers

Is a surprisingly helpful site when planning trips in the USA! Unfortunately, the site seems to only feature North America. Luckily, North America is HUGE and contains plenty of interesting stops. The site has excellent quirky stops and city guides. We’re talking everything from Seattle grunge to “ghost-tours” quirky. My favorite? The Michigan Fall Leaves guide. So pretty! You can also choose a beginning and final destination and select points of interest, like shown below.

 

Travel Planning Arsenal Roadtrippers #travel #explore

 

 

And that’s how we do it! Are there any other secret travel websites I should know about? Has anyone used a travel agent for planning a trip?