Hiking and Eating through AZ

Hiking and Eating through AZ

Over my grad school spring break in March my husband and I spent a quick 3 nights and 4 days in Arizona. We stayed in beautiful Sedona to do some hiking in the Red Rocks and made a day trip to the Grand Canyon. It was the perfect break from a stressful semester!

Day 1::

We flew from Minnesota into Phoenix and then rented a car to make the drive to Sedona. It took a little under 2 hours and we arrived just as the sun was setting. We checked into our room at Sedona Rouge. We loved our room in the updated Almeria wing. The room was spacious, clean and well-equipped with a patio door to the beautiful courtyard. We loved the location of the hotel, just outside of uptown Sedona. While Uptown is full of restaurants and shops it was jam-packed with people and traffic every time we drove through. We liked being at a hotel just outside of the main action. For dinner our first night, we headed to The Hudson. The décor was fun, the drinks tasty and we enjoyed the bruschetta board and tacos.

Hiking and Eating through AZ

Day 2::

We started the day with a hike to Devil’s Bridge. I had seen photos of this natural sandstone bridge you can walk out onto and it quickly shot to the top of my vacation to do list! There are multiple ways to get to this hike. Either, you can park at Dry Creek Road trailhead and walk on a dirt road meant for jeeps (aka zero views) or park at Mescal trailhead and take the Chuckwagon trail to Devil’s Bridge trail. We used the Mescal trailhead and this is the route I highly recommend! Chuckwagon trail was practically empty. We saw maybe 5 other people until we met up with the Devil’s Bridge trail! It was an easy mile surrounded by beautiful views everywhere you looked.

Hiking and Eating through AZ

Devil’s Bridge was a bit more challenging but nothing extreme. The very last part of the trail before you hit the bridge was a short stretch of steep climbing but there are basically steps in the rocks so it wasn’t difficult to do. At the bridge we gazed out at the red rocks and took turns with other hikers taking pictures and walking out onto the bridge. It’s a popular hike for a reason!

 

 

Hiking and Eating through AZ

We stopped for lunch at 89Agave in uptown Sedona. It seemed a little overpriced but we enjoyed eating tacos and drinking margaritas out on the patio. Next stop was Cathedral Rock. This hike is more of a climb! Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the end of the hike because the last part is a rock climb up a crevice in the rocks. I was confident I could make it up but was honestly not sure how to get down so we enjoyed the views from just below the top. I was disappointed we didn’t complete it but it was still fun to get to where we did. We stopped at Chapel of the Holy Cross on the way back to our place. It was so cool to see this church built into the rocks! For dinner we walked across the road to Pisa Lisa for some wood-fired pizza, beer and wine! DELICIOUS (: Then back to our hotel for some drinks at the bar!

 

 

Day 3::

We set off for the Grand Canyon early the next morning and upon arrival we were greeted with SNOW. Being true Minnesotans, we didn’t let that stop us from hiking down into the canyon on the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point. Unfortunately, there was zero oohing or aahing happening. With the snow and fog, we could barely see anything but it was still an experience to check hiking into the Grand Canyon off our bucket list.

 

 

After our hike, we met up with a friend from home who’s living in Arizona now and also was visiting the canyon for the day! We headed to Mather Point where the view was slightly better but still incredibly fogged over. We walked along the Rim Trail in alternating wind and freezing rain to the geological museum. Our persistence paid off and we were FINALLY able to get real canyon views! We went back to our original hike on the South Kaibab Trail to check out what we missed that morning. It was beautiful. I’m so happy we got a chance to see the clear canyon. We piled back into the car and cranked the heat for our drive back to Sedona. When we arrived back in town we got ready then went to a late dinner at Bella Vita Ristorante. It’s tucked back behind the Sedona Pines Resort with a beautiful patio I wish it would have been warm enough to sit out on. I’m still drooling over the pasta and wine. It was the perfect dinner for our last night in Sedona.

 

 

 

 

Day 4::

Our last day we packed up and drove back down to Phoenix for our afternoon flight. We couldn’t leave Arizona without a visit to In-N-Out Burger of course so we stopped at the Tempe location for lunch. With some time to kill before our flight, we tasted some local beers at Four Peaks Brewing Company and then were off to the airport!

 

 

Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon or Sedona? If not, is it on your bucket list? What hikes around the US should we make sure to add to our growing list?! Recommendations appreciated!

 

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4 Days on Oahu

Hawaiian Island Hop Honeymoon-Oahu

We ended our Hawaiian honeymoon adventure with 4 full days on the island of Oahu.

Day 8::

Our first stop on Oahu was for malasadas at the famous Leonard’s Bakery. Malasadas are essentially like a fried donut. Traditionally, they do not contain any types of filling but many places do have that as an option.  We got 2 original (sugar coating on the outside, no filling), 2 custard-filled and 2 Dobash (chocolate-filled). We decided to head straight from Leonard’s to check into our hotel instead of eating them fresh on site. THIS WAS SUCH A MISTAKE. DO NOT DO WHAT WE DID. Don’t get me wrong the malasadas were still tasty but by the time we got to them they weren’t as fresh and toasty as they would have been had we eaten them right away. Chill out. Eat your malasadas immediately. You’re welcome.

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We stayed at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach. We loved that it was new, modern, spacious clean and convenient. The only downside was that our initial room was so noisy into the early hours of the morning due to a club across the street that we wound up changing rooms our second day there. If you plan on staying here, request a room that IS NOT overlooking Kuhio Ave. and you won’t have this problem. Also be aware that the ‘pool’ is only a wading pool. This wasn’t a big deal to us because Waikiki Beach was within walking distance but if you need a pool then I would recommend looking elsewhere. For dinner we headed to the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian. It was the absolute perfect place to kick off the last island of our honeymoon. My number one tip is to get your drink in a pineapple. I know it’s pricey and unnecessary and maybe a little cheesy but just splurge and DO IT. Because you guys, you’re in Hawaii and you’re worth a drink in a dang pineapple. (: We still talk about how much fun it was to sit with our feet in the sand, the ocean right in front of us on Waikiki Beach!

 

Day 9::

We woke up excited to explore the Windward side of the island! When I was on Oahu many years ago with my family we had gone to an incredible beach that I knew I had to visit again-Lanikai Beach. When researching for our trip, I discovered that it had become one of the most popular beaches on Oahu and consistently ranked in the top across beaches in the United States! Expect to walk a bit in order to get there and watch for no parking signs because it’s in more of a neighborhood location. There’s also no restrooms on site. Kailua Beach Park nearby has similar views/water but includes restrooms and more parking nearby if that’s important to you. It does make it a little more crowded though. Lanikai Beach reminds me of a beach in the Caribbean. I could spend a whole week just floating in the blue-green waters.

FUN FACT:: It was drizzling when we left and continued to rain all the way there. I was worried it would ruin our beach day but then the rain magically stopped as we got close to the beach. My understanding is that the Windward side of the island gets much more rain the rest of the island but it tends to clear up pretty quickly.

 

In the afternoon, we hiked to Manoa Falls. After a short hike through the jungle on a well-marked trail, we ended at a beautiful tall waterfall. This hike is great because it’s friendly to all skill levels. We saw people of all ages easily completing this trail. We loved looking at all the different plant life and streams along the trail. On our way back it started to downpour and we booked it outta there!

 

Day 10::

We got a late start this morning because we switched to a quieter room in our hotel-which the the front desk was happy to accommodate! We spent the rest of the day exploring the North Shore starting with the Big Wave Shrimp food truck! SO. FREAKING. GOOD. After lunch, we hit the road again to Lanikea Beach. This beach is known for glimpses at the sea turtles who lay on the shore. DO NOT TRY TO GET CLOSE. Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are endangered. Admire them from afar, snap some photos, be respectful, easy peezy. Waimea Bay was our next stop. Beautiful blue water, lazing around in the sand and reading with my favorite person-Absolute Paradise. We finished up our time on the North Shore with a stop for acai bowls at Haleiwa Bowls-yummy! (: There’s so much more to see and do on this part of the island I would love to go back some day!

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Day 11::

The final full day of our trip began with an intense hike up KoKo Crater Trail. My husband really wanted to do this one and to be totally honest, I was less than thrilled about it. Straight uphill hikes are just not my thing. The trail used to be part of a railway but has not been used in that way for a long time. Now visitors and locals use the old wooden tracks like stairs (over 1000!) to climb up the monster hill and take in the views from the top. It’s short (just under two miles out and back) but challenging. I thought this was the hardest hike we completed on our trip. If you actually work out regularly (unlike me) you probably won’t find it as difficult as I did but personally, I had to stop like twelve times to rest on the way up. Haha. The views at the top were worth it though and I certainly felt accomplished!

HEADS UP:: Some people use this trail as their regular workout and pretty much run up and down the whole thing so just make sure to move aside to make room for them.

 

We showered, grabbed a quick sandwich lunch and then headed over to the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites to see the USS Arizona Memorial. It was interesting and sad to learn more about the history of the ship and it’s crew. If you haven’t been before, I highly recommend a visit to learn more about the USS Arizona and the other exhibits at Pearl Harbor Historic Sites on your trip.

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On our way back to the hotel, we grabbed dinner and beers at our final brewery Honolulu Beerworks. Parking was difficult to find but we loved the food, drinks and atmosphere at this awesome tap room. Our waitress was so friendly and chatted with us about good ol’ Minnesota. We would definitely go back if we’re ever on Oahu again! When we got back to the hotel we enjoyed a couple drinks on the deck near the bonfire and then called it a night!

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Day 12::

We woke up on our last day, packed up our remaining items, checked out of our hotel and hit one last very important stop-our final shave ice stand! On Oahu we decided to check out Island Vintage Shave Ice. A popular stand on Oahu is Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore in Hale’iwa but due to some food sensitivities I have we only visited stands that used organic ingredients. Island Vintage Shave Ice was some fancy pants shave ice! I don’t remember the exact one I got but it was delicious and GIANT-the perfect way to end our time on Oahu. Being anxious fliers (okay fine, it’s just me) we got  to the airport with plenty of time to spare before our flight, found a bar and enjoyed our last moments in Hawaii reliving our favorite parts of the trip.

If you have any questions about our itinerary, where we stayed or anything else about Maui, Kauai or Oahu just post it in the comments below. I’m no EXPERT but I will certainly do my best to help you out with what we learned from our experiences! (:

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Kauai: 3 Magical Days

Hawaiian Island Hop Honeymoon-Kauai

We continued our Hawaiian honeymoon island hop with 3 days on Kauai!

The Garden Isle is full of a lush almost rainforest type of beauty that I didn’t get with the other islands we visited. I wish we had more time here. Even just driving around the island you’re treated to amazing views from your car. Read on to see how we experienced as much of the island as we could in our short time in this stunning place. I hope it can help you plan a trip of your own!

Day 5::

We woke up and said goodbye to our beautiful home away from home at Hotel Wailea. Then we were off to the airport and hopping on a short flight to Kauai. We spent our first afternoon on the island chowing down at Bubba’s Burgers (recommend!), eating shave ice through mustache straws at The Fresh Shave (another recommendation!) and settling into our room at the Hilton Garden Inn-Wailua Bay. Most people stay on the North or South shore of the island, but since we wanted to visit both and had such a short amount of time on the island we thought it would be easiest to stay on the East side so that we were in the middle of everything. The Hilton Garden Inn-Wailua Bay was recently renovated with a beautiful open air lobby and spacious rooms. It was a clean and convenient base for exploring the island and we really enjoyed being able to walk along the beach at Lydgate State Park which was just across the hotel grounds. For dinner our first night we went just up the road to Sam’s Ocean View. We loved the cocktails and fun vibe at the restaurant where we sat with a view of the palm trees and ocean. If you find yourself hungry on the East side of the island, this tasty and fun spot should be your go to! Heads up, every day but Sunday it’s only open 4-9pm

 

 

Day 6::

I was excited to spend a day exploring the north shore of Kauai after obsessing over So. Many. Pinterest. Photos. Getting there was half the adventure! We drove down many narrow, bumpy roads passing over one-way bridges and literally drove to the end of the road which was the beginning point of our hike. I was definitely thankful we had decided to splurge on renting a Jeep! We started our day with a 4 mile roundtrip hike on the Kalalau Trail to Hanikapai Beach. If you do one thing while you’re on Kauai it should absolutely be this! The beginning of the hike is a bit of a climb over boulders but if you push through it you’re rewarded with a gorgeous view over Ke’e Beach and the Napali Coast. The trail was easy to follow and I loved feeling like I was hiking through the rainforest.

A WORD OF CAUTION: Even though it looks tempting, do not attempt to swim at Hanikapai Beach. It’s known for sweeping people out into the open ocean and it’s difficult to get help there quickly since there is no road access to the beach. In fact, many of the beaches on Kauai are often not safe for swimming due to some serious riptides. Pay attention to the signs and don’t risk it

 

 

After our hike we drank all the water and ate lunch at Calypso. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much, but my fish tacos were delicious and the perfect fuel for our afternoon! I felt the food was also very reasonably priced-SCORE! After lunch, we set out to find Tunnels Beach. SPOILER ALERT, we were not successful. I thought we had but we figured out later we were actually right next door at Haena Beach Park which was still relaxing and gorgeous. We ended our day on the North Shore at Hanalei Pier, taking in a new view of the beautiful Napali Coast. Hanalei Pier seemed to be the place to be for the locals. It was fun watching people lounge with their dogs and jump off the pier. Full of sun-soaked happiness we made our way back to our hotel to get ready for dinner. We went to dinner at Pizzetta in Koloa. The food was delicious and I loved how the restaurant was lit dimly with candles throughout to give it a cozy and romantic feel. Looking back, this whole day had to be my favorite of our entire honeymoon.

 

 

Day 7::

The other major destination on Kauai is Waimea Canyon. It’s known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and man, was it stunning! We were going to do some hiking here but I was feeling like I needed to take it easy after all our adventuring the past week so we stopped at the two most popular (for good reason!) lookouts-Waimea Canyon Lookout + Kalalau Lookout-and then just pulled over when we saw something interesting. It was fun to drive leisurely through the canyon and look out over the incredible landscape. I couldn’t believe all the green. Waimea Canyon is a uniquely beautiful place. A stay on Kauai would be incomplete without a visit to this gem.

 

 

Once we had our fill, we checked out Kauai Brewing Company to continue with our goal of visiting a brewery on every island. As usual, I got a flight to test out some new beers and we split the Kalua Pork nachos. I loved the laid back atmosphere and to check another island brewery off our bucket list. Before heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner, we stopped in at Poipu Beach Park because the ocean was calling my name. This beach is located on the South Side of the island and it has some great amenities like bathrooms and a snack stand. I felt much safer swimming here due to the lifeguards and location in a bay. The beach had a large stretch of sand and we had no trouble finding a place to lay out and soak up some rays for a while. For dinner, we headed to the island classic-Duke’s-located in the Marriot property on the east side of the island. It was a fun restaurant located right on the beach with a very island feel. We gobbled down the legendary Hula Pie for dessert and then returned to our hotel to get ready for our final island hop to Oahu in the morning!

 

 

 

4 Incredible Days on Maui

When Ryan and I began planning our honeymoon there was very little discussion that needed to be had-we were going to Hawaii-agreed, end of discussion. The only difficulty was deciding which islands to visit! After much back and forth, we decided on Maui, Kauai and Oahu-three islands in twelve days. Although it’s probably not everyone’s style, this worked out perfectly for us. We were able to see many of the highlights of each island and had an unforgettable trip!

We began our honeymoon with four days on the island of Maui.

4 Incredible Days on Maui - Lost in a Good Direction

Day 1::

The first day we caught a mid-morning flight from Minnesota with a layover in Denver. With the five hour time change we arrived on Maui in the late afternoon. We grabbed our checked luggage at the baggage claim, picked up our car and were on our way to our resort in Wailea. We had a goal of hitting a brewery on all three islands and we got to it right away by hitting Maui Brewing Company on our way to our resort. Luckily, Outrigger Pizza Co. (a food truck I was excited to try) was parked at the brewery for the afternoon. We put in our orders for Kalua Pork pizza (when in Hawaii!) and a pepperoni pizza, grabbed a flight of beers for me and a pint for Ryan and the relaxation had officially begun! The wood-fired pizza was a perfect complement to the beer and the combination was a wonderful welcome to Maui!

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Mau Brewing Company//Outrigger Pizza Co.

From the brewery, we headed to our resort on the South side of Maui – Hotel Wailea. We decided to splurge on a five-star resort for our first island and were not disappointed! As we entered the beautiful open air lobby we were greeted with leis, flutes of champagne and a gorgeous ocean view. After we were checked in and escorted to our room, we did a little bit of exploring around the resort grounds and then headed to an early bedtime.

Day 2::

We woke up at the crack of dawn on our second day on the island because of our early bedtime the night before. We got ready for the day and headed out to breakfast in a nearby town just north of Wailea – Kihei. We had read raving reviews about Kihei Café and knew that we needed to try it out! To be completely honest, it was a bit of a letdown. It was a good breakfast but didn’t measure up to the excellence of what we were expecting. After breakfast, we decided to work off our meals by walking the Wailea Beach Path. It was a perfect introduction to some of the island’s beaches and we had fun taking a peek at all the resorts that lined the path!

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Stop along the Wailea Beach Path

From Wailea Beach Path, we headed to Makena Beach State Park (Big Beach). This beach is more secluded than many on the rest of the island with wide open sand to spread out on. We didn’t get in the water much here beyond our ankles because of the strong shore break the lifeguards consantly reminded visitors of but it was a beautiful place to get our feet wet, gaze at the tall cliffs and marvel at the sparkling blue-green water. After a few hours in the sun our sensitive Minnesota skin (and our not yet adjusted to the time change stomachs!) were begging for a break from the rays. We headed back to Kihei to find South Maui Fish Company-a food truck with fresh caught fish and one of Hawaii’s local favorites, poke bowls. We found the food truck set up in the corner of a parking lot. It had a small eating area with patio tables. We ordered the poke and fish tacos and found a spot quickly as we were the first customers of the day. Although the place looked like nothing special, the food was AMAZING. The owner said that all the fish had been caught only the day before! Everything tasted so fresh and was perfectly seasoned! At the end of our honeymoon, we both agreed that it was our favorite meal of the trip! After South Maui Fish Co. we hit another foodie success, Ululani’s Shave Ice also in Kihei. We loved that they used all organic ingredients to flavor their syrups and that you could pick any combination that you wanted!

We headed back to our resort for some relaxing before our big plans for the night – Old Lahaina Luau. When we arrived back we found that Hotel Wailea had left us a special honeymoon gift! We traveled to the West side of Maui for the luau where we observed the end of a pig roast, saw traditional dances and feasted on a giant buffet. We loved meeting new people, learning more about Hawaiian culture and eating some delicious food under the stars to end our first full day on Maui!

Day 3::

We woke up around 6:30am today (still not adjusted to the time change) and headed straight for one of the natural wonders of Maui – Haleakala. Many people highly recommend going to Haleakala for sunrise but we were just not feeling driving up a mountain in the pitch black on little sleep so we opted for a self-guided day trip and felt it was the perfect style for us! We leisurely drove up the winding hill side with me telling Ryan to “GO SLOW AROUND THE CORNERS!” every five minutes, stopping when the views called to us. Although the summit was clouded over when we arrived it was a beautiful site. Wanting to get everything we could from the experience, we had decided to do some hiking down into the crater on Sliding Sands Trail (Keonehe’ehe’e). The trail is just over eleven miles so we opted to do only a portion while we were there. From the very beginning, being on the trail felt like another world – like what I would imagine Mars is like! We had dressed in layers because while the top of Haleakala is pretty chilly, even in August when we went, as we hiked down into the crater the temperatures increased and the sun beat down on us. If you decide to hike this trail – beware. The views will trick you into going around ‘just one more bend’ and when you finally do decide to turn around you’ll realize how far you’ve come and that the way back is (although gradual) all uphill. I took many breaks on my way back up due to the beating sun, uphill grade and thin air. Ryan, on the other hand, had no problems and handled it like a pro. In total we hiked in the canyon for about three hours with lots of rests and stops for pictures. We also brought sandwiches, granola bars and most importantly LOTS OF WATER. It’s essential to stay hydrated and wear lots of sunscreen. Even though you probably won’t feel too hot keep in mind being up high puts you closer to the sun and more likely to get burned. I left with some bright red shoulders because I forgot to put on sunscreen in that area for about an hour and Ryan earned a peeling face for much of the rest of our trip. Reapply often. If you’re traveling with little ones, not wanting to spend a lot of time or just not feeling the uphill trip back to the visitor’s center, walking the trail for about five minutes will still reward you with some incredible views down into the canyon.

After our exhilarating morning we had earned some cheese and time with animals so we headed to Surfing Goat Dairy. The drive was windy from Haleakala and gave me a bit of a headache but the goats and cheese (two of my favorite things) were totally worth it. We got a cheese flight to sample some of the product they made on site then fed some of the goats and headed out to an early dinner. Although there’s not a lot to do at the farm, this would make a great stop for families or cheese lovers (like me!). I thoroughly enjoyed the farm atmosphere which was so different than the rest of Maui. We had dinner at Kula Bistro where we gorged on pasta to carbo-load after our big day. I loved the ambiance at the Bistro. Although they don’t have alcohol on-site, if you want wine or beer you can bring your own and they will open and serve it for you! They also had a delicious looking dessert case I wish we would have had the room to try!

Day 4::

Our final full day on Maui ranked among my favorites of our whole trip. We woke up early for a snorkel sail to Molokini Crater and Turtle Town. I was so excited to see some fish up close and for my first sail that the early wake up time didn’t bother me. We decided to go through Ali’i Nui for our trip and could not have been more impressed. They picked us up  from our hotel and drove us to Maalaea Harbor. I loved that we didn’t need to worry about finding our launch slip or parking and could just focus on relaxing for the day. The Ali’i Nui was the largest catamaran in the harbor and the crew was spectacular! Full breakfast and lunch was served on the ship and everything was delicious. We loved sitting at the front of the catamaran on the trampolines feeling the wind and water spray us. The crew was equipped with all sorts of floatation devices for beginners and less confident swimmers. Passengers who were feeling adventurous (like me!) could jump off the side of the ship into the water instead of taking the stairs. I felt completely in my element swimming around the ocean at Molokini Crater, but there were instructors in the water keeping an eye on safety and helping out passengers who were new to snorkeling. I saw so many schools of fish and reef life. When we got back on the ship after our first stop we headed straight for the bar to grab some Maui Brewing Co. beers and relax on the catamaran trampolines. Another bonus of Ali’i Nui was that beer, wine and sparkling wine was included with our trip-perfect for honeymooners looking for a fun time! Our next stop was Turtle Town. Although this stop was less exciting we did see one green sea turtle up close which was so cool!

After our incredible trip we were dropped back at our resort and headed straight to the pool for some Mai Tais and more relaxing (anyone sensing a theme on this day? ;p). We napped in the lounge chairs in the afternoon sun and floated around in the pool to cool off. We decided to eat our leftovers from Kula Bistro on our lanai with the ocean in the distance rather than go out to dinner. It was a perfect end to a perfect day (and our final day) on Maui.