Sequoia National Park and The General

NAQBE0369Just getting back from a two week vacation that started off in Sequoia National Park.  Seeing these gigantic trees has been on my bucket list ever since I was a little girl.  I was too busy playing softball to take a trip to a national park like this, however, I don’t regret that at all.  Sequoia National Park was the second established National Park.  The national parks were originally set up to protect certain natural and historic sites across the US.  Sequoia National Park was founded to protect the huge sequoia trees from the logging industry.  You could not imagine how much wood could possibly be processed and manufactured from these enormous trees until you see one up close.  What the logging industry came to find out is that the Sequoia wood splintered to easily and was therefore useless to them as an industry…so it worked out for all parties involved anyway.

IMG_2298I think lots of people skip over this park because you can see sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park.  I’m really glad we made the extra trek further south to see the largest living organism on earth…General Sherman!  Also, Sequoia National Park was infinitely less crowded than Yosemite!  Let me give you some details about these amazing, ginormous trees and then I’ll give you some details on the park and how we planned our trip and what we might have done differently for next time.

Sequoia trees are some of the oldest and largest things living on the earth today.  They can live up to 3,000 years…that’s no small feat!  They can live that long because they are insect resistant, resistant to fungi, drought resistant, and their bark is fire resistant.  The fire thing is what blew my mind…especially as you drive through this area of the country and see that those California wildfires are no joke!  In many of these trees, you can see where they have been burnt…but it’s just the inside…and it doesn’t kill them!  It’s crazy!  If you want more fun facts about sequoia trees check out THIS link.  Sequoia trees are not the tallest, that honor is reserved to Redwoods.  General Sherman, the largest living sequoia by volume, isn’t even as tall as he used to be.  His top got struck by lightning.  However, at the ground, his base is over 100 feet in circumference!  Sequoias only grow in a very, very specific climate.  They only grow in a 260 mile strip, in an elevation between 5,000 and 7,000 feet, on western facing slopes in the Sierra Nevada mountain chain.

photoIMG_4573Now, on to some trip details!  We flew in to San Francisco because San Francisco was our last destination on our little two week hiatus.  It’s a four hour drive from San Francisco to Sequoia National Park.  We chose to stay outside of the park a little ways on this leg of the trip.  We stayed at a Marriott in Visalia, CA because we have hotel points at Marriott and Starwood hotel properties.  For trip planning purposes…Tulare is another bigger city option in this neck of the woods.  It was a beautiful 40 minute drive from our hotel to the park entrance…it would be about 30 minutes from Tulare.  There are lodging and camping options within Sequoia National Park…I’ll link options HERE.  (if you check out this link, make sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page for lodging options that are right outside of the park)  If you plan to camp in the park, there are food options, public shower facilities and laundry facilities, but no gas station….so fill’er up before you enter the park!  Cellular service is also hard to come by inside the park and in the surrounding area…so make sure you have your maps downloaded before you get here.

IMG_4570The shining star at Sequoia National Park is General Sherman and the Giant Forest, but there are plenty of other things to see and tons of trails to hike in this beautiful park!  In one day you could easily at least see most of the well known sites, If you stayed for a couple of days you would definitely be giving yourself plenty of time to go on some beautiful hikes and even go in to Kings Canyon National Park, which is adjacent to Sequoia.  General Sherman is in the Giant Forest part of the park.   There is a large parking lot with restroom facilities at the trailhead.  It’s an easy walk 1/2 mile down in elevation along a paved path to the tree…which means you walk a 1/2 mile up in elevation, which is at roughly 7,000ft high, back to your vehicle!  I’ve never hiked at that elevation before, and even though the path was super easy…my breathing was not!  The area surrounding General Sherman has lots of fun facts, information, history, and it just pretty darn spectacular!  As for other cool sites to see in this national park…Tunnel Rock will be the first thing that you come across after you drive through the entrance, Hospital Rock has ancient Native American pictographs on it, then you start to catch glimpses of Morro Rock…Morro Rock is cool because you can climb on it…something you can’t do at Yosemite on Half Dome, unless you have a permit.  The Giant Forest Museum was definitely worth a visit!  It was super cool how they scaled the giant sequoias to things we see in our everyday life…for example, the base of General Sherman would take up three lanes of highway traffic!!!!  Still blows my mind!  Also in the Giant Forest Museum you can get directions to the Tunnel Tree, which is the only drive through tree in either Sequoia or Yosemite Parks.

We really enjoyed our day in this park!  If we had it to do over here’s a couple of things I might change.  I would probably stay in the park or at least a little closer to it.  You do a lot of driving, the roads are winding…the roads are good, but it’s not a nice leisurely drive, it’s one hairpin turn after another. I know this sounds silly, but it kind of wears you out.  By the time we got to the trailhead for General Sherman, and did the roundtrip hike…we were all ready to basically call it a day because we not only had to get out of the park…we still had our 40 minute drive home…it was just a long day in the car!  So, I would probably stay closer to the park.  I would pack a proper lunch for a picnic.  We had our normal Clif Bars, beef jerky, fruit, and plenty of water, but there were some really lovely picnic areas in the park that probably would have helped break up the day just a little better…plus you know, boys and food…food usually makes them happy!  Lastly, I think I would have liked to have stayed for at least 1, maybe 2 more days to do some hiking and go over to Kings Canyon.  Words, photos, and even videos do not do justice to the beauty and wonder of this park.  I’ll link a couple of videos that helped me prep for this part of our trip HERE and HERE.  I’m by no means a hiking guru, or national parks expert, but I’m happy to share any information that I have, especially if you are looking at planning a trip to Sequoia or Yosemite National Parks.  Happy Exploring!

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Girls Trip Ideas And Tips For Planning One

RMPDE9743 (1)If you are a girl and you do not have a couple of girl friends that you want to go escape real life with for a few days…you might reconsider your friendships.  I have been incredibly lucky and blessed with some amazing girl friends!  Women I have connected with in different ways for different reasons.  And, I think I could easily say that I would travel with each and every one of my friends and maybe even some that I might throw more in that acquaintance category.  Finding travel buddies can be an interesting dance…finding places to travel with them, can be almost as tricky!  So, in this post I hope to give you some ideas of where to go, the type of gal pal to take with you, and some tips that might make group travel just a little easier!

The idea of getting away from dishes, drama, and drudgery is appealing to most women.  So, the thought of a girls trip with friends is usually a no brainer.  The tricky part is working time into your schedule and not breaking the bank in giving yourself a break!  When things are important to us, we usually find a way to make it happen.  When you and your girl friends start imagining the possibility of a girls trip…it usually starts with very big, and very exciting plans…by the end it has whittled down into something fun and manageable and perfect for your group!  A girls trip can be sooooooo many things!  I’ll break down some ideas into categories, and hopefully get your wheels turning for your own girls trip excursion.

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Theme Trips.

Wine Tour.  This is one of those options that I think, the more the merrier!  Wine tours can be easy get-aways with large groups.  Most wine regions in the U.S. are like Disneyland for adults.  So, many options…you can cater this type of trip any way you like…and you could easily make it an annual trip, and not have the same experiences twice.  The most well known wine region is of course Napa Valley, but there are lots of regions in the U.S. making good wine.  In the same area as Napa is Sonoma, other large wine regions are Willamette, Oregon and Yakima, Washington.

Food Tour.  Find a couple of your foodie friends and get to eating!  This type of trip can be easy with a small group of  3 or 4…large groups can be nightmares for dining out.  Just a few foodie spots for thought…New Orleans, Portland, ME, Portland, OR, Charleston, Austin are all great regional food destination.  I’d also throw cities that have major culinary institutes in the mix…New York, Los Angeles, Napa, Las Vegas, and San Antonio.   These are huge cities that you will see in other lists as well, but the food scene in these places are amazing!

Retail Therapy Tour.  Who doesn’t love a little retail therapy? No retail therapy list would be taken seriously without NYC.  Most people would never associate Honolulu with shopping, but it totally is a shoppers paradise!  Other ideas…Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, and of course the Mall of America in Minneapolis.  Pay down your credit card balances and then grab a couple of girls that know how to shop til they drop!

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Relaxing Trips.

Spa Retreat.  There are amazing spas all across this great country!   Arizona is loaded with them…Pheonix, Scottsdale, and Sedona are all great spa vacation getaway destinations.  Napa, CA has great spas.  If you are a mid-westerner like me, you’ll be happy to hear that a spa in Lake Austin, TX makes many, many top 10 spas in the US lists. Do a little research, I’m sure you can find an amazing spa retreat not to far from where you live!  Bring your friend that loves to be pampered or is a little into alternative medicine with you here!

Beach Vacay.  Easy, breezy, and beautiful!  Grab your swimsuit, your weekender bag, and your best girl friends and head to the beach.  Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Punta de Mita, anywhere in the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, or South Carolina…just book it and go!

The Great Outdoors.  Lots of women find hiking, horseback riding, skiing, and other outdoor adventures relaxing.  I get it!  Just being in the great outdoors surrounded by fresh air and out of the chaos of the city can be super relaxing.  A few unconventional girls trip ideas…National Parks in Northern California or Utah, hiking in Colorado, Arizona, or Arkansas, or go work a dude ranch in Montana.  Grab you workout buddy for this trip.  No doubt these would be memorable get-aways!

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Big City Living.

There are plenty of big metropolises to visit in the U.S.  The draw of the big city vacations is that they often offer a wide variety of activities, which can be useful…especially if the group is large.  Again, a quick easy no-brainer list…NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, Miami, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas!  Bring your walking shoes and your credit card…you’ll need them both!  This trip is for your trooper friends…the girls that are up for anything!

Posh, Over-The-Top.

Thought I’d throw this in there just for fun.  With enough time and money anything is possible…charter a yacht in the Caribbean or Croatia, rent a penthouse in NYC, how about an oceanfront beach house in Malibu…there’s always Paris, the Tuscan region in Italy, or Santorini!  When one of you girls gets something in this category planned…count me in!!!

IMG_3046So, hopefully by now I’ve gotten your girl trip wheels turning…let’s talk about how to get it planned out!  As in all things, communication and flexibility are key if you actually want to make a girls trip happen.  There is no “right” time.  You just need to pick a date that is far enough in advance of everyone’s schedule that the trip ends up being almost the only thing on the schedule, and then let life work itself around your trip!  It’s easiest to let one person be the “lead point”, otherwise there is too much confusion.  Make sure to pick someone who has great communication skills AND THE TIME to invest in keeping the trip organized.  Delegation skills are also sometimes useful for your “lead point”, just make sure that if a task is delegated that the info goes back to your lead to communicate out to the group…I promise it just makes it easier!  I’ve recently come across an app that I seem to really like that is for group travel.  It’s a place where itineraries, reservations, and expenses can all be easily found and tracked.  It’s called Coordin8.  It’s a little work on the front end, but I think worth it for what it provides.  A couple of thoughts for good measure…large groups require more advanced notice and more planning.  I know that’s a no-brainer statement, but if you have never traveled with a large party, it’s something you have never even thought about…I promise!  I’m all for preparedness and schedules…in fact, I love structure!  But, make sure to schedule in some downtime and BE FLEXIBLE!  Also, if there is something you really want to do…speak up, and vice versa.  Things can get sticky in group travel.  Girls trips go so much better when we drop our expectations about the place we are going or the plans we’ve made, and are so much more enjoyable when it becomes more about spending time with dear friends and just having an experience with them that you’ve never had before!  Make sure to set at least a “ballpark” budget before you book anything.   You want everyone on the same page on approximately how much they will be responsible for.  Spending more does not always directly correlate to a better trip.  There are lots of ways to travel on the cheap if money is tight.  An amazing girls trip does not have to be anything extravagant…in my opinion the most important thing to have for your girls trip is a comfy place to hang out!  If your traveling somewhere by plane, 4-5 days is the sweet spot as far as longevity of the trip.  If by car, 2-3 is usually plenty of time to catch up, reconnect, and not break the bank!

There are lots of decisions to be made.  All of those decisions about how you will get there, where you will stay, and what you will do will all unfold as you whittle your wants down to the perfect girls trip for your group!  Half the fun is planning and just having something to look forward to other than what you’re going to make for dinner and who is picking up the kids from soccer!  Text your best girlfriends and get something on the schedule…I promise you will not regret it!!

Just for fun I’ll throw in some good shoe options for girls trip travel!  If you’ve ever tried to walk the Las Vegas strip or vineyard fields in heels you know that shoes can make or break your trip!  And, you are not allowed to take ugly shoes on a girls trip…these things are important people!

Vineyard Shoe Optionsherehere, and here.  It’s agriculture ladies…heels are no bueno here!  But you still need something nice for amazing dinners out!

Beach Shoe Optionshereherehere, and here.  It’s the beach!  Don’t be overdressed!  Cute, comfy and casual is key!

Great Outdoors Options:  herehere, and here.  Functional, comfy, then cute in this category!

Big City Options:  herehere, and here.  Any kind of fashion slip on sneaker will do here…your feet will thank you!  Save your heels for dinner!

Safety Tips For Your Girls Trip

My generation (Gen X) and any generation of women after me has been told…you are capable, you can do anything you set your mind to, you don’t NEED a man for anything.  And, while I absolutely believe this is true, I do believe that in some ways women have to work smarter and harder than their male counterparts.  There is a huge movement in the travel industry for solo female travel.  While some women must travel solo for work or some choose to travel solo for pleasure…myself…well, I whole-heartedly believe travel is best when it’s shared!  All of that said, there are some smart things that women should be doing in their travel, be it solo or with a group of gal pals, to make their trip safer and therefore more enjoyable.  Safety should be a priority in travel, period.  And that safety begins in the planning phases before you ever spend on dime on booking your trip!  Here are 5 tips that I hope help your travel safety game.

Research

This one to me is a no brainer.  Do your homework…gather information on where your going..especially if it’s out of the country.  Check The State Department for travel advisories.  Other good resources to check out…read reviews on Trip Advisor, find Facebook travel group…they are everywhere, general travel and travel specific to where you are trying to go.  Do you follow someone on Instagram that lives where you want to travel?  Send them a message, most are more than happy to give you the inside scoop.  My point is, it’s so easy to gather information…you just have to look.  Figure out what part of town your hotel or AirBnB is in.  Will you be able to safely travel to and from your accommodations to the things you want to do while you are there?  Will you be using public transportation?  Figure out your safest means of getting around.  Check with your accommodations to see if they offer in room safes.  Having a safe inside your room is a must.  Lastly, spend the extra money to be safe. If you are traveling solo or with a small group of girls, spend the extra money to stay in a safer location, in a place that offers valet service…if you can’t afford to spend the extra $20 here and there for your safety…you probably need to save a little more before you go.  DO YOUR RESEARCH!  You might find that you enjoy the research part almost as much as the trip…almost.  Often times the research part will get you even more excited about your upcoming excursion.

Don’t Travel With Valuables

In all transparency, I struggled with this one for years.  I had some jewelry that hubs had bought for me that I never wore unless we went somewhere fancy…which generally only happened on vacation.  I left this jewelry in our hotel safe once.  My heart sank so low, I felt like I was going to puke.  The jewelry was bought for me on our very first trip together…so not only would it have been an expensive loss, but it also was an irreplaceable memento from a very special trip.  I did recover the jewelry, Thank God, but I learned my lesson…don’t pack anything that you can’t live without, and make hubs take me to nice places at home so I can wear my “good” jewelry!  I understand that sometimes you can not avoid traveling with valuables.  In those cases, make sure to pack them in your carry on, not your checked luggage.  Always keep them on you or locked up in your room safe.  There are lots of good travel bag options with anti-theft type features like this cross body bag, this messenger type bag, or this cute backpack.   All of these options are slash resistant and come with RFID technology to keep your credit card information safe!

Blend In

When traveling alone or in a small group, try to blend in.  If you can’t blend in do your best to not stand out!  When I travel without hubs I leave my designer purses, clothes, and accessories at home!  I don’t even take my designer dupes with me.  Designer dupes have gotten really good, and it’s hard to tell the difference from a glance, examples herehere, and here,  which is great at home…but I don’t want to give the appearance that I have more than what I actually do on the road.  Part of your pre-trip research should be about how you should dress and pack for your vacation.  Being overdressed or underdressed paints an unnecessary target on you…unless that is your goal.  On my last girls trip to Grand Cayman my friend and I were slightly, and I do mean very slightly, overdressed for a very casual dinner out at a place that the locals frequent.  We were enjoying our dinner when we were approached by a couple of pirates…yes, I said pirates.  WJOKE1050

The pirates ended up being harmless enough, but they definitely had us on high alert!  Couple of things about unwanted attention.  If you are out, and for any reason you feel uncomfortable make sure that you can be seen and heard by others.  Speak louder, so that others around you can hear what’s going on.  Don’t be afraid to say no or hurt someones feelings by  declining a drink, help, or unwanted attention.  In this particular situation, I had my eye on both pirates, our personal belongings and the waitress….who I made eye contact with frequently.  Being cautious is not rude…it’s necessary.  No one has ever died from hurt feelings.   That being said, if my friend and I would not have been overdressed for this establishment, we may have gone unnoticed, and may not have been the recipients of some unwanted attention by a couple of guys who were clearly bigger than us and knew the area much better than we did!  Do your homework, and blend in!

Technology…The Blessing And The Curse

Technology is truly the double edged sword in every occasion!  That being said, when traveling alone or with a small group, check in frequently.  Schedule check-ins, or make sure to let someone know when you are leaving your accommodations, where you are going, and how long you expect to be.  I do this whether I’m going shopping. out to lunch, or doing something more adventurous like hiking, zip lining, or going on a boat tour.  If you are traveling internationally make sure that you add international service to you cell plan.  Most companies will charge you a certain amount by the day for data and cellular use…but having access to data while traveling is vital anymore!  Make sure to have at least 1 portable charger.  Other options are here or here.  Technology can not help you if you have no juice!  There are plenty of location finder apps like Find My Family, that you can share with loved ones not on the trip with you.  But, as I said technology can also be a safety hang up.  Technology can be a huge distraction.  Distracted individuals can easily be taken advantage of.  DO NOT BE DISTRACTED BY YOUR TECHNOLOGY!  If you get turned around or flat out lost, slip into a store or a coffee shop to use your phone to get your bearings.  Remain cool and confident and let Google Maps save your booty somewhere outside of absolute public scrutiny.  Let your technology help you, not hinder and distract you.

Common Sense

Ah, the dying art of common sense.  This will be my catch all category of things that are just good to be aware of, or ideas you might want to give a try.  Never travel with original copies of important documents except for your passport.  Make 2  copies of things like passports, insurance cards, important phone numbers and credit card info.  One copy can stay in the safe in the room, the other can stay in your purse or day bag.  Another idea for this is to make a document or take pictures of these items and save them to a cloud, like Google Docs or Dropbox.  Then, you can have access to them even if all of your physical information gets taken.  Always keep a little bit of cash stashed back at your accommodations…keep it in the safe, or some suggest stuffing it in socks or in the bottom of a tampon box, just somewhere that isn’t obvious.  I think travel insurance can be a good idea, especially for international travel.  Policies are cheap and there are several good companies out there like Travel Guard or World Nomad.

As for personal safety items…pepper spray is allowed in checked baggage as long as it’s under 4 fluid ounces.  Items like a personal alarm or a whistle can be life saving!  I know that there is a stigma with selfie sticks, but there is an element of safety that comes with not giving you phone to a stranger for that perfect instagramable picture.  Lots of women whether single or married wear fake wedding rings as an easy deterrent for unwanted attention.  Be mindful of how much alcohol you consume.  Also, if someone wants to buy you a drink, get that drink directly from the bartender.  Stay in control.  Most of all, try to use some common sense, trust that feeling in your gut, don’t put yourself in isolated situations…meaning, stay with crowds, don’t sit on the empty train car or in the part of the bus that isn’t crowded.  There can be safety in numbers, even if they are not your numbers.  Do all that you can to put yourself in good situations.  Do your homework before hand, and then go and enjoy your trip!

I hope these 5 items have brought some awareness to you, and that they get you thinking about  incorporating safe habits into your travel!

Top 5 Dive Restaurants In Maui And What To Order There (As Seen On TV)

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Maui has sooooo many good food options…seriously, we’ve been to Maui 8 times and I can only think of one epically bad meal in all of those 8 trips.  It was Beach Bums…don’t go there…it’s bad!  But, like I said there are so many good choices that it can often be hard to narrow down your options when it comes meal time.  So, in my next few blogs I will try to break them down into categories.  I do love a fancy meal…I am part time foodie…married to a foodie…and Thing 2 is an aspiring chef and full-on foodie…so there is that.  But my favorite types of restaurants are more casual and dive-like, with dishes I can try to recreate at home!  So, without further ado…in order…here’s my

Top 5 Dive Restaurants In Maui

  1.  Da Kitchen.  This place has been featured on Food Network’s Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives.  This is down-home cooking done island style in monstrous proportions!  It’s located just a mile or two from the airport and is a regular stop for us, usually as a last meal before we head to the airport on our way back home.  It’s a greasy little spoon with no view, but OMG I can not even begin to describe how amazing the food is here!  If it were sitting in a location with a view…you’d never be able to get a table…like ever!  We have ordered lots of different items from here, but hubs and Things 1-3 swear that the Saimin is possibly one of the greatest things to eat on the island.  Thing 4 is picky and always orders a burger because that’s a safe bet for him.  But for me it’s this…IMG_E2824the Loco Moco!  So, Loco Moco is available on lots of menu’s on the island…it’s a local favorite.  It’s basically a hamburger topped with a fried egg and then smothered with gravy, served on or with rice.  Yes, I know that may not sound appetizing to some of you…but I promise, it is HEAVEN!!!!  At Da Kitchen that onion and mushroom gravy is to die for and it’s served with potato-macaroni salad, another island treat that can not be missed!  This meal is so epically big…I’m pretty sure 3 grown adults could be satisfied from it…so feel free to split this one with whoever your dining with or box it up and take it back to your room for leftovers if you’re still staying on the island after this meal.  No matter what you do while you’re on your Maui vacation…DO NOT MISS DA KITCHEN!!!!
  2. Down The Hatch.  Down The Hatch has been featured on the Travel Channel’s Booze Traveler…small side note, if you are not watching this show…you are missing out….even if you are not a Booze kind of girl or guy!  It’s also been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  This is easily Thing 4’s favorite place to eat, and it’s a favorite of mine and my parents as well!  It’s become a bit of a ritual to swing by Down The Hatch after playing golf on the south side of the island.  It’s Lava Lava Shrimp (kind of like Bang Bang Shrimp if you’ve had that), grown up grilled cheese sandwiches, like a lobster and crab stuffed grilled cheese or a spicy chicken grilled cheese, shrimp po boys, and Ahi sandwiches.  Quick easy food with a touch of a gourmet twist!  So good!  Anything you order from here is really yummy!  The bonus to eating here is that Breakwall Shave Ice is right inside, or next door???  Kind of hard to explain…so let’s see if these will help…photo (1)IMG_2755 (1)So, Down The Hatch is a block away from the Harbor in Lahaina…you walk down some stairs and it opens up to a large patio/courtyard type area.  You walk up to the counter…order your food…take a number and someone brings you what you ordered.   Well, right next door to where you order your food for Down The Hatch is Breakwall Shave Ice…you can kind of tell that’s what’s going on in the top picture.  The bottom pic and the pic at the very top of this post are of the BEST SHAVE ICE on Maui from Breakwall! Trip Advisor has this one wrong in my opinion.  Breakwall makes their natural flavors in house…so they are a tad bit healthier and taste so much better than any of the other shave ice places we’ve been on the island.  And for the record, shave ice is not a snow cone…do not go there!  Shave ice is so much better!  Plus, you can add ice cream in the bottom of it…mind blowing!  The consensus favorite in our family is the strawberry guava shave ice with macadamia nut ice cream in the bottom.  This place makes me want to buy one of those machines and open up a little place here in Oklahoma, just so that I can have one whenever I want!  I believe Breakwall is the only place on the island where you can add some adult beverages to your shave ice…we haven’t ever excersized our option to do that…but I can see the appeal for it, if that’s your thing.  Down The Hatch and Breakwall are local favorites, and Down The Hatch offers one of the longest happy hours on the island.
  3. Captain Jack’s Island Grill.  This restaurant was new to me on my last trip, and came as a recommendation from Thing 1, now a Maui resident!  We’ve always kind of steered clear of this place because it’s super theme-y (is that a word?) and felt a little cheesy.  I mean it’s as Pirate’s Of The Caribbean as it gets in there.  But, when I tried their Ono fish and chips and one of their signature drinks, I quickly got over it!  They probably have the best fish and chips I’ve tasted on Maui!  Hubs and I went during happy hour…which was a great value, and they had excellent live music, and a much cooler vibe than I would have ever imaged!  This place pleasantly surprised me!
  4. South Maui Fish Co.  South Maui Fish Co. is actually a food truck with a courtyard.  With the owner at the grill, this place truly felt like a backyard barbecue at a friend’s house.The owner of this place has my physician husband’s dream job!  Ha!  Hubs is an epic grill master in his own right!  But, this place was phenomenal!  The fish is fresh caught…you can even charter a fishing excursion with the fisherman that they get their fish from…his number was plastered on a cooler that held all the drinks that was in front of the food truck!  Doesn’t get much more dive-y than that!  But, like I was saying…fish is fresh, and grilled to order…hubs had the blackened catch of the day and I opted for the fish of the day curry style with rice…oh man was it good!  South Maui Fish Co. is in Kehei in a parking lot with several other food trucks…this was by far the busiest of all them out there…for good reason!  They open at 11am and close when they run out of fish for the day…so come early and come hungry!
  5. Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop.  This is a family favorite.  It sits right off the highway that takes you from the airport into Lahaina.  There is nothing but this restaurant, a general store and a fruit stand on a little stretch of highway after the public beaches, but before you get into Lahaina.  Do not get your fresh fruit from this fruit stand…it’s terrible! I’ve never see good looking produce there. But, Leoda’s is an amazing little breakfast and sandwich shop that also has a small bakery with the best and most beautiful little individual pies!  So, yummy!

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It looks like a cute little country kitchen from the south that they just plopped right down on the island!  The breakfast here is super yummy!  We usually do sandwiches at lunchtime…and grab pies for dessert for after dinner back at our condo!  DO NOT MISS the MAC NUT CHOCOLATE PIE!  The crust is so light and flakey…so good!!!  For sandwiches…the boys love the rueben and the pork, pork, mmmm pork!  Everything from here has been really good…I’d venture to say anything you ordered would hit the spot!

Honorable Mention

Without getting into much detail…there are a couple of restaurants that also need to be noted.  Top Chef contestant Sheldon Simeon has opened Tin Roof…we have not yet been there, but it looks amazing…I think that it’s just a pick up lunch kind of place, so that generally doesn’t work well for us…especially when we have all of the boys and my parents with us on our travels.  Sheldon also started Star Noodle, which is very popular.  It’s excellent…it’s a hard restaurant for Thing 4, but the noodle bowls and kimchi are amazing, and Thing 4 does love the pork buns, which are heavenly, but it’s literally the only thing we could find on the menu that he was willing to try. And lastly Aloha Mixed Plate…it’s been featured on the Food Network.  It’s tiny, but the food is good and it’s a great place to be able to try lots of local dishes.  It can be hard to get into because of it’s size!

So, that’s it!  Hope this helps you in your culinary endeavors on your trip to Maui!  Did I miss anything?  What are some of your favorite dive restaurants on the island???

10 Must Have Items From The Grocery Store While On Your Hawaiian Vacation

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As my last post suggested, the best way to enjoy your Hawaiian vacation is in a condo, villa, house, apartment…something with access to a kitchen.  If your family is anything like mine, we love to grill out…so extra bonus if you have a place to stay that has grilling accommodations as well.  I’ve mentioned before that I have weird food allergies…I have some of the more normal ones like wheat and dairy, but then I also have things like pineapple and coffee that I don’t do well with either…it’s stupid, I know!  But, it is what it is.  At any rate, cooking for ourselves makes life a little easier for me.   We don’t do it every night…I mean who wants to be cooking and cleaning every night of their vacation, right?  However, I am super lucky that I married a good cook, and in a couple of years when Thing 2 graduates from Culinary School I will likely be kicked out of the kitchen all together!

Having a kitchen and being able to create your own meals not only saves you a little money, but it also gives you the opportunity to live like the locals a little.  I love a good grocery store or farmer’s market!  I highly suggest that you go to a local market for your produce and meats…you don’t want to miss out on that local goodness.  We often go to Wal-Mart to get some of our staples like bottled water for the room, bread, cereal, coffee filters, clorox wipes, and even toiletries because it is much cheaper there.  But, you definitely want to buy your produce and meats at either a farmer’s market like Kumu Farms on Maui, or a local grocery store.   I also highly recommend going to visit the Maui Farmers Market in the Upcountry on Saturdays, it’s a feast for your eyes in every way possible…some of the biggest and weirdest and prettiest produce I’ve ever seen…and the Upcountry Farmers Market tops my hippy list!  Ok, back to groceries…sometimes it’s hard to know which brands are good and which aren’t and food is too expensive in Hawaii to be playing that guessing game!  Maui has a variety of grocery stores…Foodland and Safeway are the ones we frequent most…and on Kauai, it’s only Foodland that we frequent.  So, without further ado…here is my ten must have grocery items from the Hawaiian grocery stores…in no particular order!

  1. Big Island Bees Honey.  Big Island Bees is the brand of honey.  They have several varieties, which come from the type of flower that the bees pollenated.  Macadamia Nut is our favorite flavor!
  2. Honey Cream Pineapples.  I have only found these at Foodland on Maui.  This is a varietal of pineapple.  It is much smaller than a regular pineapple and they have cut the leafy tops off.  The flavor is less acidic and more sweet than normal pineapples.  Also, if given the option on normal pineapples…Maui Gold over Dole…and generally speaking the smaller the pineapple, the sweeter.  If you need to learn how to pick a ripe pineapple, head over to my Girl You Tripping Facebook page and watch a video from a Maui farmer on how to do just that!
  3. Coconut Macaroons from the  Foodland Bakery Department.  You do not even have to be a fan of coconut to love these little macaroon cookies!  We love the chocolate dipped ones the best!
  4. Fresh Fish.  Please, please, please try local fish when you are on the Islands!  Try Ono, Wahoo, MongChung, Opakapaka…do not miss out on the stuff you can not get anywhere else in the world!  My very best tip for buying fish in Hawaii is to talk to the person you are buying your fish from…they know us mainlanders are clueless and they want to teach you about their fish and their food!!!  They will tell you about the fish and the best way to prepare it!  For fresh fish on Maui…this will probably only apply to the west side visitors…Lahaina, Ka’anapali, Kapalua…Safeway in Lahaina gets their fish in daily at around 8AM and most of the good stuff is gone by 2pm. There is also the Maui Fish Market in Kahana.  On Kauai, you’ve got to go to the Dolphin in Princeville!  It’s a restaurant, but they also run a fish market on the back side of it!
  5. Hawaiian Kettle Stlye Chips.  Orange bag…Luau BBQ Flavor!  I’ll throw Maui StyleMaui Onion Potato Chips in here as well…but they are not as good as the BBQ ones and you can almost pick those up anywhere in the states now…I saw them at Sam’s in Oklahoma last week.
  6. Hawaiian Sun Teas & Juices.  These come in 6-pack cans.  The boys favorites are Lilikoi Passion and both the Island and Tropical Teas.  I can not keep these stocked while we are there!
  7. Roselani Tropics Ice Cream.  Do yourself a favor and try any of the Hawaiian-y flavors…they are all delicious!
  8. Aloha Spice Company Sea Salt.  I swear by this stuff!  I promise it makes a difference in the taste of your food!  Lots of varieties…black, red, grey…all are fantastic!  I like this brand because of the packaging….I can take what I do not use home with me because it’s in a ziplock type container…no glass…and no spilling.
  9. Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts.  This is a no brainer…they are everywhere.  I’m gonna get a little specific with you though…if you like these with caramel…Hawaiian Host is your brand.  If you just like them covered in regular or dark chocolate I like Mauna Loa for the same reason I like that Aloha Spice salt…more packaging options and you can take home anything you don’t eat while you are there!
  10. POG.  My boys are POG hounds, and it is yummy!  For those of you that don’t know what POG is, it’s Passion-Orange-Guave juice.  Meadow Gold is as good a brand as any for POG.

Well, that’s it…my 10 Hawaiian grocery store must haves!  You can actually save a little bit more money if you enroll in the reward programs at the grocery stores.  Foodland rewards program will even let you link back to your Hawaiian Airlines account…meaning you can earn flight miles by shopping there.  Most stores have in-store specials and coupons that are available online…so you can print them out from the comfort of your own home before you even leave!  Hope this has been helpful!

What are some of your grocery store must have’s that I have been missing out on all this time?