My Itchy Travel Feet By Donna & Alan.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
At My Itchy Travel Feet, baby boomers will find inspiration and advice to help plan their next adventure. Baby boomers Donna L. Hull and Alan Hull travel the world recording their experiences with words, photos and videos so that you’ll know exactly what to expect.
I learned something new this week: applying for a Chinese visa is complicated, especially meeting the photo requirements, which are very picky. The photo size for a Chinese is not the same as the photo size for U.S. passports. Also, the photo must be against a white (not even a hint of off-white) background, no shadows, and the subject cannot be wearing glasses, a smile or hair that covers ears or eyebrows. Whew! After one failed attempt doing it ourselves, I discovered that Costco has a template for China visa photos. Guess where Alan and I are headed on Monday?
And why do we need a Chinese visa? This spring, we’re sailing on Seabourn Sojourn to Taiwan, China, South Korea, Japan and then on to Alaska. This is one trip where belonging to a medical evacuation membership program like Medjet Assist is ultra important.
Although February is drawing to a close, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy a cold weather trip. Even as someone who loves the beach, I love the sound of trekking though a winter wonderland. Take a look at some of our favorite cold weather trips:
Updated 02.16.2018: Since January 2015, we’ve been sharing our top apps for Hawaiian Travel. This is the most recent update that includes eliminating apps that are no longer published plus we introduce you to our latest finds. If you’re an app user who’s traveling to Hawaii, bookmark this page so that you don’t miss any updates. Or subscribe to the My Itchy Travel Feet Weekly Broadcast so you’ll be the first to know!
Top Apps for Hawaiian Travel
What can be said about traveling to Hawaii that hasn’t been said before? As one of the most treasured natural resources found in the US, this beautiful cluster of volcanic islands truly offers the utmost in tropical travel. Will our list of top apps for Hawaiian travel help you make the most of the Aloha State’s rich cultural heritage, expansive beaches and exotic landscape? We think so.
With so much to do and see in Hawaii, why depend on tour books that are often outdated as soon as they’re published? In today’s travel world, you need up-to-the-minute information. Visiting the best that Hawaii has to offer can be a bit daunting, but we’ve found some snazzy Hawaiian travel apps to make the most of your experience. Get ready for the trip of a lifetime!
Apps for what to do and where to go in Hawaii
GyPSy Guide Hawaii Collection – GPS Tour Guide: If you’re traveling to more than one Hawaiian island, this collection of guides is the way to go. Priced at $25.99, the highly rated audio app guides you along the way, explaining what you are seeing, plus sharing background stories, tips and advice. How easy is that? Because it works offline, you don’t have to worry about a phone connection or Wifi. Simply download the GyPSy app via Wifi before leaving home. Individual guides for Maui, Big Island, Kauai or Oahu are available at $9.99. You’ll find this app at the App Store and Google Play.
Your Guide to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park app provides everything you’ll need to visit the Big Island’s main attraction: Volcanoes National Park. You’ll find hours of operation, what to see, history and more. You’ll be lost without this app. Available on iPhone and Android for free.
Hawaii Revealed: Our favorite Hawaiian travel guide series now has an app! We’ve found so many off-the-beaten-path destinations in the Hawaii Revealed books. The app includes a GPS feature, helping you navigate on the islands to remote locations without any phone or Wifi signal. Explore hidden beaches, restaurants, hotels, activities and more. But please remember that going off-the-beaten-path does not include trespassing on private land. For the most complete Hawaiian travel experience, read the book at home then take the app with you. Free on the App Store and Google Play. In-app purchases allow for more, comprehensive information for Maui, Kauai, the Big Island and Oahu at $7.99 each.
Best Beaches on Maui is the it guide for all those Maui beach lovers out there. With so many beautiful options at your disposal, this app will help you select the best beaches for your itinerary and provide helpful information. Available on iPhone and Android for free.
Hawaiian apps for weather, beach conditions, sunrises and sunsets
HawaiiNewsNow Weather Now: Will it rain for tomorrow’s hike? Is today a good day for soaking up rays on the beach? You’ll find out with Hawaii News Now’s weather app. Watch the latest weather reports or find out the status of severe weather alerts. Free on the App store and Google Play.
Rise – Photographer Companion – Sunrise Sunset Calendar: If you enjoy taking sunrise and sunset photos, you’ll want this app for your trip to Hawaii. Look up sunrise and sunset times anywhere in the world. And you won’t need Internet connectivity to do it! Free at the App Store.
MSW Surf Forecast: The MagicSeaweed app shows you what to expect on the beach. Although the app is primarily for surfers, beach goers will benefit from the wave, wind and swell reports, too. Bonus points: The MagicSeaweed surf app works for destinations around the world. Free on the App Store or Google Play.
Speak the language, keep up with the news in Hawaii
Hawaiian Words – Translation and Dictionary: It always helps to speak the lingo. Learn 1700 Hawaiian words, phrases and slang with this app. Search by English or Hawaiian terms. What a great way to honor Hawaiian culture. Free on the App Store and Google Play
Hawaii NOW Local News app keeps you in the know. Discover events to attend, track storms and learn about the latest local news. Available on iPhone for free.
Wildlife watching is one of my favorite active boomer travel adventures. Alan’s too. Of course we prefer to observe wildlife in their natural environment, like we did on a South African safari. When it comes to wildlife experiences, seeing pandas in China has long been on our bucket list. But that’s not possible in the wild, so a research or breeding facility is the best opportunity to see giant pandas, which we did on a Chengdu panda tour.
Why can’t you see pandas in the wild?
Solitary animals, pandas live in the remote bamboo forests in the mountains of south-central China. Although no longer listed on the endangered species list, pandas are still considered vulnerable to extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation of that habitat. According to WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), 1,864 giant pandas live in the wild, a 17% increase in the last decade. But as good as that news is, Alan and I would have to hike long and hard through a wet, bamboo rainforest for the rare chance to see a panda in the wild. And that day may come sooner than we think. The Guardian writes that China is creating a giant panda reserve to boost the wild population of pandas.
A panda rests from his tiring job of eating bamboo shoots.
Where to visit pandas in China?
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Provence, is panda central when it comes to panda tours. But there’s much more to see than giant pandas. With a population of over 14 million people, Chengdu is the 7th largest city in the world. The metropolis has a history dating back to the 4th century B.C., which is the focus of the Jinsha Site Museum. The Changing Faces show at the Sichuan Opera is another fascinating thing to do in Chengdu. However the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Breeding (Chengdu Panda Base) is the most popular activity when it comes to Chengdu tourist attractions.
Alan and I arrived in Chengdu after completing a Yangtze River Cruise on the Yangtze Explorer. When the cruise ended in Chongqing, our group took the 2-hour fast train to Chengdu. From accommodations at the Shangri La Hotel Chengdu, the drive to the Chengdu Panda Base took about 30 minutes.
Our Chengdu panda watching experience
Alan and I visited the Chengdu Panda Base on a hazy, hot, March day. Actually that haze is pollution. Following our guide’s advice, we rode the tram up the hill to the back gate and then visited the panda exhibits as we walked down the hill. Smart.
It takes a lot of bamboo shoots to feed a panda.
Standing in front of the giant panda enclosure, we watch as the pandas eat and eat some more. One roly poly panda holds a slender bamboo shoot in his paws as he reclines against a tree. Pandas eat between 26 and 83 pounds of bamboo each day to find enough nutrition to sustain them. As you can imagine, eating is the major focus of a panda’s day—and extremely tiring from the number of lounging and sleeping pandas that Alan and I observed during our visit.
Although it feels somewhat like a zoo, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Pandas Breeding is actually a breeding and conservation facility for giant and red pandas. At the time of our Chengdu panda tour, visitors could pay around $300 U.S. for a photo opportunity with a toddler panda. Participants dressed in gowns, booties and gloves provided by the Chengdu Panda Base for a very short professional photo session with the baby panda. A stuffed panda, tie and other goodies were also included in the package. The money goes to support the center’s research.
Photos with pandas are no longer offered at the Chengdu Panda Base. Now panda lovers must drive an hour and a half to Dujiangyan Panda Base to enjoy the privilege as part of the panda keeper program. If this interests you, read about Matt Long’s experience.
More to see than pandas
Younger pandas like to play.
I’ll be honest, a short visit to watch giant pandas munch on bamboo and lounge around in their enclosures is all the time you need. Taking photos is difficult because of other tourists crowding against the fence, not to mention air pollution greatly affects photo quality, which is why you don’t see many photos in this article. However you can entertain yourself for hours if toddler pandas happen to be frolicking in their playground.
Interacting with the groups of Chinese elementary students visiting the pandas is part of the fun, too. At least it was for Alan and me. While sitting on a bench, we became the curiosity for a group of exuberant school kids who were fascinated by two baby boomers from the United States. A teacher approached to ask if the children could practice their English on us. After nodding yes, a steady procession of smartly uniformed children peppered us with “Hello” and “How are you?” It was just as much fun as watching giant pandas.
Tips for taking a Chengdu panda tour:
Arrive in the morning when the pandas are most active. Feeding time is between 8:30 and 10:00 a.m.
To see panda newborns, plan your trip for August or September. Baby pandas live in Moonlight Delivery House and Sunshine Delivery House
Avoid a summer visit. Pandas retreat to their indoor enclosures during the heat.
Bring allergy medications if air pollution triggers respiratory problems.
Three hours on a morning visit is plenty of time to see the pandas as they mostly eat and sleep.
Be prepared for crowds. This is the most popular Chengdu tourist attraction.
As you know, we love active travel and although some are a little adverse to coldweather travel, we love to mix the two. And while there are many places to enjoy some wintertime travel, you can’t go wrong with our neighbor to the north, Canada. Guest contributor and Ontario resident, Kirsten Gallagher, is here to share her best tips for exploring Montreal in winter, including skiing on the beautiful Mont Royal, and eating your way through the beautiful city!
Powder white trails at Mont Royal make for some amazing ski adventures when you visit Montreal in winter.
Tourists often mistakenly shy away from Montréal during the cold months of January and February. Located in french-speaking Québec, which is lovingly referred to as la Belle Province by Canadians, Montréal endures long winters of sub-zero temperatures and mountains of snow. However, hardier travellers who enjoy the exhilaration of winter sports, will find that this cosmopolitan city makes for the perfect weekend getaway. Cross-country skiing, skating and snowshoeing are all on offer on Mont Royal, a lofty winter wonderland overlooking the city. Even better, working up an appetite by playing in the snow is a wonderful way to ready yourself to partake in Montreal’s eclectic and ever-evolving food scene.
Beautiful scenery along the way!
Montreal in winter for the active boomer traveler
Mount Royal is a small mountain; its highest point reaches an elevation of 233 meters (764 feet). From downtown Montréal, Mont Royal is only a short ten or fifteen minute car ride. Head for Lac des Castors (Beaver Lake) and look for the pavilion near the parking lot. Inside, you’ll be able to rent skis, skates and snowshoes at a reasonable price (for example, 18 CAN to rent skis and poles for three hours). The skating rink is a modest size, best for kids learning how to stay upright on skates; active adults should opt for skiing or snowshoeing on the many available trails. Dress warmly even though you’ll be working up a sweat. I bundled up in my warmest winter jacket, snow pants, a wooly scarf and a toque for a brisk morning of ski de fond (cross-country skiing).
Prepare for the “icicles on beard” type of cold before you go!
The cross-country ski trails on Mont Royal are well-groomed making it easier on beginners, who can comfortably stay within the tracks. There are seven trails in total with distances ranging from 0.7 kilometers (0.43 miles) to 5.5 kilometers (3.42 miles). On the longer trails, you’ll find a few slopes to help you pick up some speed for a minor thrill.
Who’s ready to take to the slopes???
Whatever your level, the scenery is magnifique – on a cool, sunny day, the light filters through the trees lining the trails, lending a certain quietude to the mountain. Keep an eye out for some great views of the city from atop Mont Royal; it’s the best vantage point from which to visually take in all of Montréal.
Montreal in winter for the hungry boomer traveler
Montréal boasts a creative food scene that attracts fearless foodies from all over the world. There is a strong French influence, of course. If foie gras is to your taste, you’ll be delighted with rich offerings at restaurants like Au Pied de Cochon (536 Duluth E). Here, foie gras is incorporated into a number of dishes. You can even order an entire pig’s head with various garnishes.
Classic dining environment at L’Original.
Unfortunately, I found the food at this claustrophobic local haunt far too heavy and overpriced for my liking (and I was in an eating mood after my day of skiing). I vastly preferred both the food and the cozy cabin atmosphere of L’Original (479 St. Alexis), located in charming Old Montréal, where I devoured a generous plateful of lapin à la moutarde (rabbit in a tangy mustard sauce). But the standout eatery of my time in Montréal was Le Virunga (851 Rachel E) which blends French and African cuisine to great gastronomic success. Le Virunga is one of the best examples of the diversity and creativity coloring Montréal’s multicultural food scene.
My dish at Le Virunga. Just look at that plate! Yum!
Staying in Montréal allows you to experience city life and outdoor adventure in the span of a few days. You can spend mornings skiing or snowshoeing on Mont Royal, afternoons delving into culture by visiting the array of museums and galleries, and evenings feasting on some of world’s best food. What are you waiting for? Allez-y!
Looking for a place to stay in Montreal? Start your search for hotels in Montreal with us!
Does skiing in Montreal sound like a fun boomer travel experience? Have you done it? Would you? Come join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook. Or send us an emailwith your thoughts.
Disclosure: Affiliate links are included for your convenience. However My Itchy Travel Feet receives a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your business!
It’s snowing in Montana. Yay! Now that we’ve returned from the Oregon coast, Alan and I are anxious to enjoy winter fun like snowshoeing the trails at Chief Joseph (they have cross country trails, too). If you’re looking for an easy way to enjoy a winter trip, experience a destination on snowshoes.
We’re reminded each morning of our time at Triple Creek.
What does luxury travel mean to you? I see many experiences and companies referred to as luxury, but they aren’t. One of my guidelines for measuring luxury travel is when a company goes above and beyond with personalized extras. Those small touches add up to a big experience. Case in point: the two mugs that Triple Creek Ranch sent to Alan and me after our New Year’s visit at the ranch. The gift was totally unexpected. But each time we enjoy a cup of coffee from these mugs, we’ll be thinking about our time at Triple Creek. Do you think it will have anything to do with us booking another trip to the ranch? You bet.
Hello, travelers! This month, we’re talking Hawaii travel tips. If you’re getting ready to see these beautiful islands, or any tropical destination for that matter, you might want to check out our recs for Tropical Travel Gear. A while ago, Donna also let us in on how she updated her tropical cruise wear just before heading out on a recent cruise to the South Pacific. With just a few key essentials, you’ll be all set!
If you’re not signed up yet for our monthly travel newsletter, get on it! March’s edition features Spain! Don’t miss our best travel tips, ideas, and deals for taking a European trip.
This Week’s Articles
Do you love to try the local cuisine while traveling to a new spot? Well, Donna is taking us to her favorite places to enjoy Slow Food Dining in Hawaii.
Looking for a warm weather getaway in Florida? The Chicago Tribune suggests Pineallas County.
Pardon us while we brag a little this week. We’re so thrilled to be honored by the 2017 North American Travel Journalists Association Awards, who recognized us with a Silver Award in the cruise category for Journey to the Arctic Ice (this article was also named a Finalist in the 50+ category), a Bronze Award in the 50+ category for Visit Lamar Valley, and Finalist for Ice burg Hunting in Greenland in the cruise category. And My Itchy Travel Feet was also named as a Finalist in the Online Magazine category. Who’s ready for some champagne?
That’s all for now but we really want to hear from you. If you have a question about travel or suggestions for our next boomer road trip eguide, please send an email through our contact page.
“Wait! I thought you were cruising to Maui. What does Lanai have to do with it?”
The answer is easy. Visiting Lanai from Maui is as simple as stepping onto the Expeditions Maui Ferry for the 45-minute journey across the Auau channel to Lanai. You’ll discover a comma shaped island that offers secluded beaches, golf, skeet shooting, hiking and plenty of dirt roads for exploring.
“Of all the things to do on Lanai, is this the best choice?”
In our opinion, a Lanai jeep safari offers the opportunity to see parts of the island that you can’t reach without 4-wheel drive. With 400 miles of dirt roads, there’s a lot to explore, although you won’t be able to cover all of those roads in one visit to Lanai. And for cruisers, after numerous sea days on the Pacific Ocean, aren’t you ready for a land adventure?
This is more of a driving adventure than safari as you won’t see much wildlife. After all, Lanai was once a private pineapple plantation. Have you heard of Dole pineapples? Well, this is where they were grown until the company moved production to the Philippines. Now tech mogul Larry Ellison owns 97% of the island and tourism is the island’s bread and butter.
It’s not often that we see shipwrecks from a beach.
How to take a Lanai jeep safari on a Silversea cruise excursion
Alan and I join a small group of Silversea guests on the pier at Maui. A guide escorts us to the Expeditions Maui Ferry for the ride to Lanai. Although this is also an opportunity for some Maui whale watching, we don’t see any on the 9-mile journey across the channel or upon our return. We cruised to Maui in late March so some of the whales could have already been migrating back to Alaska. Whatever the reason, we didn’t see any.
Arriving at Lanai’s Manele Harbor, we quickly spot our Lanai jeep tour company. As the guide drives up the hill toward Lanai City, we learn more about the island’s history. Hawaiians settled on Lanai around 1400 A.D. The island evolved into a sugar cane plantation, ranching operation, pineapple plantation and now a tourist’s playground. Although the guide mentions Larry Ellison’s plans for the island, he’s very careful to avoid discussing any controversial topics about Lanai’s future.
The unique landscape at Garden of the Gods.
Exploring Garden of the Gods
We eventually end up in a landscape on the northern part of Lanai that looks like the dessert of the American Southwest. Some have even compared it to a Mars’ landscape. The guide parks the vehicle in the dirt parking area for Garden of the Gods (Keahiakawelo in Hawaiian) so that we can explore on foot. Stretching our legs while taking photographs makes for a nice break from the jeep.
Of course there is a myth associated with Garden of the Gods. Two priests—one on Lanai and the other on Molokai—participated in a contest to see who could keep a fire burning the longest. The island of the winner would receive abundant riches. The Lanai priest used up all of the island’s vegetation when making the fire, turning this area of Lanai into a dessert.
Shipwreck watching on a beach
Although paved, the narrow road to Shipwreck beach is peppered with big potholes (so beware if you’ve rented a four-wheel-drive-vehicle for an independent Lanai tour.) After parking the jeep in a sandy lot surrounded by dense vegetation—and a few mosquitos—our group walks a short path to the beach.
How many years will it be before the sea reclaims this shipwreck?
The highlight and namesake of Shipwreck Beach is, you guessed it, the hulking shipwreck that juts out of the water close to shore. But it’s not really a shipwreck. The Navy intentionally grounded the fuel barge, YOGN-42, after WWII. Now the rusting hull is a landmark and photo opportunity. If there had been more time, we could have hiked along the six-mile beach to view more vessels claimed by the dangerous channel or intentionally grounded in this out-of-the-way spot.
Driving back through green valleys forested with ironwood trees, the tour returns to Lanai City for a deli lunch of sandwich, chips, dessert and drink.
The return ferry ride to Maui proves to be a bit rocky—a great reminder to always bring your choice of seasick medication or sea bands on boat rides or water excursions.
Solo travel. It’s one of those things that everyone says you have to do at least once in your life. If you’ve never traveled without your partner, family members or group of friends, the thought of solo travelcan be pretty intimidating, but it can be a wonderful experience. If you’re looking to take your first trip alone to a beautiful destination, guest contributor, Sophie Kate Baker, is recommending solo travel to Hong Kong as a perfect trip to get out of your travel comfort zone.
Hong Kong is the perfect place to experiment with solo travel. It has so much to offer, with an incredible fusion of East and West making it a city full of history, culture, food and nature. Hike up to Victoria Peak for the best view in the city, take a day trip to Lamma Island and go for a hike and a swim, lose yourself in the hustle and bustle of the Mong Kok markets, or revel in the beauty of the light displays from the comfort of a boat during a night cruise across the harbor.
Not so different…
If you’re used to Western culture, there’s just enough familiarity to keep you comfortable but just enough difference to excite you. Let’s take eating alone for instance. Coming from Europe, the US or the UK you might worry that people will stare at you, laugh at you or wonder what you’re doing. You’ll soon find that it’s not uncommon at all to eat out alone in Hong Kong. The locals often eat lunch alone and tables at a small local restaurant are generally made up of five or six individuals eating at one table, but still eating alone.
What does that mean for you? Eating alone is not a “big deal” like it might be in your home country. You can head into any restaurant with your head held high and order whatever you want, without feeling awkward. Hong Kong is a city where foodie dreams come true, so take advantage of it! Sample dim sum from an authentic tea house, eat char sui with a group of strangers, feast on noodles and do it all with reckless abandon!
Hong Kong has no shortage of great views and city lights. This photo was taken from inside the swanky Excelsior Bar.
Talk with the locals
Stepping foot into Myanmar or Bolivia for your first ever trip by yourself could be amazing, but it also could be seriously daunting and even disorienting. Hong Kong on the other hand is familiar enough and small enough to navigate confidently. There’ll be plenty to challenge you, but you’re unlikely to end up panicking and breaking down in tears because you’ve got off the wrong stop on your bus and you have no idea where you are, nobody speaks English, and some dodgy “helpful” local is possibly trying to scam you out of tons of money to get you back.
Everything is posted in both English and Cantonese, so you’ll be able to find your way around – with the help of Google maps. The public transport systems are easy to understand and fairly extensive, covering most of the island. If you somehow do manage to get lost or hit a crisis despite this, you could get a taxi across basically the entire of Hong Kong island and because they are so affordable, it still wouldn’t break the bank. Taxis are readily available and run on very clear metered systems, and will never scam you. And although the local population is predominantly Chinese, English is an official language so most shopkeepers or people you pass on the street (all 7 million of them) will speak enough English to be able to help you out in a pinch.
The city is fondly nicknamed the “New York of the East” because Hong Kong, like it’s American cousin, is a city that never sleeps.
Another reason that Hong Kong is perfect as a first solo travel destination is that it’s safe. An incredibly low crime rate means that even as a woman by yourself, you can walk the streets late at night or get a taxi alone without having second thoughts. As with any place on earth, it’s probably wise to take the usual precautions of being aware of your surroundings when walking, not flashing money around and so on but – ask pretty much anybody – it’s hard to feel unsafe in pretty much any situation in Hong Kong.
Locals line up to get their fix of another Hong Kong delicacy, Milk Tea.
If you’re considering your first ever solo travel trip, Hong Kong doesn’t disappoint. You get to try dim sum, explore local markets, get totally taken aback by an unfriendly local woman ushering you out of her Char Sui shop as soon as you’ve put down your chopsticks after your last bite and dip your toes into Asian culture while still being able to have a glass of wine and pasta in a familiar, Westernised setting in the evening followed by a taxi home to an apartment with all the mod-cons you’re used to, if you so wish.
Don’t miss out on Hong Kong’s famous wonton noodle soup. Mak’s Noodles are some of the best in the city.
Editors note: We first wrote about slow food dining in Hawaii on October 16, 2011. Since then, the slow food movement has grown (and one or two restaurants have gone out of business). So we’re updating our report so to provide the latest information. Updated 02.05.2018.
When planning a boomer adventure to Hawaii’s Big Island, what comes to mind? Sun. Surf. Relaxation. Aloha. What about dining at restaurants to experience locally sourced food? Are you ready for a healthy dining adventure? Step away from the resort scene to follow this off-the-beaten-path boomer slow food tour. Your taste buds will thank me.
Enjoy a locally source dinner at the Holuakoa Cafe on Hawaii’s Big Island
Slow food dining on the Kona side of Hawaii
If you’re staying in one of the resorts on the Kona coast, take a drive into coffee country in the hills above Kailua-Kona to Holuakoa Cafe and Gardens in Holualoa Town. It’s here that Alan and I experienced our first locally sourced meal on the island of Hawaii.
Alan and I enjoyed a meal in Holuakoa’s garden setting. But first we walked the town of Holualoa, stopping in the shops and galleries that line Mamalahoa Highway. Located in the middle of coffee country, Holualoa Town has become a haven for local artisans. Have you visited a ukulele gallery? Holualoa has one. On our next visit, we’d like to stay in town at the Holualoa Inn. We hear that it’s delightful.
But let’s get back to the food. Holuakoa Gardens & Café takes the slow food concept to the highest level. The management focuses on food products that are grown within a 5-mile radius of Holualoa Town. Now that’s locally sourced food. The menu changes often to reflect local availability and freshness of ingredients. Alan and I think organic never tasted so good.
My “Grilled Local Ahi Tuna” was served over lemon risotto, accompanied by the sweetest oven-dried tomatoes. Alan sampled the “Red Wine Braised Local Beef Shortribs” with red bliss potatoes, rainbow carrots and heirloom turnips. Even the wine was organic. Our dinner at Holuakoa Gardends & Café reminded me about the tasty benefits of eating local. I plan to put it into practice at home.
Merriman’s Restaurant, the birthplace of Hawaiian regional cuisine
Slow food dining in Hawaii high country
Boomer visitors who drive from Holualoa Town to Waimea might think they’ve arrived in the wrong state. You certainly won’t find palm trees or a sandy beach. This is Hawaii’s high country where old lava flows reveal evidence of former volcanic eruptions and grasslands feed the cattle at Parker Ranch. Be sure to stop for lunch or dinner at Merriman’s Restaurant in Waimea. Twenty years ago, owner Peter Merriman joined forces with 12 other Hawaiian chefs to encourage local vegetable and fruit production. The result—the birth of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine.
Of course you don’t have to drive across the range on Parker Ranch to enjoy a meal at Merriman’s. It’s a quick jaunt into the high country from resorts on the Kohala Coast to your meal. Expect to dine on produce and fish that are 90% locally grown using only sustainable methods. You’ll find a Merriman’s Restaurant on Maui and Kaui, too.
I like to think that I learn something from each trip that I take. My journey to Hawaii reminded me of how good home grown tastes. The flavors are more intense—the color of the produce more vibrant. And of course there are the environmental benefits of locally sourced food grown on an island that depends on fuel-hogging ships and planes to import products.
Today, Alan and I leave the Oregon coast to fly back to Montana—just in time for a rain/snowstorm. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for snow as we’ve yet to break out the snowshoes this winter. And here’s a tip for you if the Oregon coast is in your February travel plans: make a reservation for a storm watchers supper at Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay. You’ll be rewarded with a delicious pre-fixe dinner (choices for every course) plus a view of waves crashing against the rocks. That’s a winner in our book.
Happy February, everyone! Maybe, like me, you think the month of February is drab and dull, but it doesn’t have to be! This month we’re talking Hawaii Travel and well, let’s all sit back and imagine exploring the beautiful islands under blue skies and warm sunshine, shall we?
Besides an Antarctica cruise, an Ulva Island guided walk may be the closest Alan and I will get to the end of the world. As we stand on the beach, gazing at the scenic Pacific Ocean view, the guide tells us that if the water sweeps us away, Antarctica will be our next destination. That’s a chilly thought.
The tender delivers us to Ulva Island
Getting to Ulva Island: Where is it and how did we come to be here?
Ulva is a small island off Stewart Island. That doesn’t tell you much does it? Stewart Island—and Ulva—is as far south as one can travel in New Zealand, unless you’re on an expedition cruise to New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands, on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Located 20 miles across the Foveaux Strait from the end of the South Island, Stewart Island is home to about 360 permanent residents who live at Halfmoon Bay, also called Oban.
The Maori people know Stewart Island as Rakiura, the land of the glowing skies, aptly named for the island’s vivid sunsets and the aurora australis, the Northern Lights’ southern sister. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the Southern Lights on this cruise, but we did enjoy spectacular sunsets (and sunrises).
We like wearing convertible pants and shirts on hiking excursions in temperate rainforests. If the clouds sprinkle a few raindrops or the humidity causes dampness, we’ll dry out quickly. I tuck my iPhone into a pants pocket when I’m not taking photos with it. Yes, I bring a camera and an iPhone.
How to take an Ulva Island guided walk
Alan and I arrive at one of the remotest spots in New Zealand on a 62-day South Pacific cruise with Silversea Cruises. When considering the best thing to do on Stewart Island, we agree on an Ulva Island guided walk to explore the small portion of Rakiura National Park located on Ulva. You’ll find most of Rakiura National Park on Stewart Island.
A 10-minute tender ride transports our Silversea cruise excursion to Ulva Island and the beginning of an active boomer travel adventure. The Maori people call it Te Wharawhara. A tour leader splits the group into two—one for fast walkers and the other for those who need to take it slower over the undulating terrain. We choose the faster group.
The forest on Ulva Island includes a thick understory of ferns.
For the next two hours, the group walks through an unspoiled temperate rainforest that’s home to diverse and abundant birdlife, including rare species such as kiwi, saddleback and yellowhead. An Ulva guided walk offers the rare opportunity to experience a pristine natural environment. The island has never been logged, and is mostly unchanged by human habitation. Birds thrive because no animals have been introduced to the island, with the exception of rats. But a vigorous rat eradication program rendered the island pest-free in 1997.
Sometimes, the birds are on the ground rather than in the trees.
Birdcalls and beaches
The sounds of birdsong, chirping and birdcalls fill the air as we walk the well-maintained hiking trails. Although hilly in spots, hiking poles aren’t necessary. And there’s no need for hiking shoes, tennis or walking shoes will do just fine.
Ulva Island’s flora is just as impressive as its fauna. Large ferns create a thick, green understory—a lush habitat for all those birds. The thick bush also makes it hard to spot them.
The guide explains the geology of rocks on the beach.
Our Ulva Island walk moves at a moderate pace. The guide stops to lecture about birds she spots along the way or the geology of the rocks on the beach. And the trails bring us to several beaches where there’s time for exploring. I particularly like the mix of forested trail and open beach. It’s like having the best of both worlds.
One of the scenic beaches on Ulva Island.
After the sea days on this cruise, putting our feet on the ground offers a welcome change. It’s also a much-needed opportunity to be out in nature. Did you know that a walk in nature is even better for your health than a relaxing day at sea?
If you’re looking for a Stewart Island cruise excursion, I highly encourage active boomer travelers sign up for the Ulva Island guided walk.
After tendering back to the ship, Alan and I enjoy a quick lunch before heading back to Stewart Island for some independent exploring. The hilly walk into Halfmoon Bay gives us the chance for more exercise, another scenic view, and to imagine what life is like at the end of New Zealand. It may not be the edge of the world, but close enough.
Thinking about an independent trip to Stewart Island? Start your hotel search with us.