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If you plan to visit Vancouver, then I dare you to feel an adrenaline rush at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The suspension bridge is one of Vancouver’s most popular tourist attractions for both visitors and locals alike. Not only is it a bustling place in the summer but an even busier stop in the winter as the bridge host Canyon Lights. As the title suggests, the park has a jaw-dropping suspension bridge over the Capilano River. But the park is more than just a bridge. Spend some time exploring the canopies of the trees on the Treetop Adventure. Also, test your fear of heights on the Cliffwalk, a narrow walkway suspended from a granite cliff. The park also offers complimentary rainforest ecotours, numerous forest trails and North America’s most extensive private collection of First Nations totem poles.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Hours

The Capilano Suspension Bridge hours vary depending on the time of year. In the summer (mid-May until September), the park is open 8 am to 8 pm. From late January to the end of November, the park opens at 9 am but closes anywhere from 5 pm to 7 pm. During Canyon Lights at Christmas time, the park’s hours are 11 am to 9 pm except for December 25th when they are closed. If you want to see the Canyon Lights, the best time is at dusk, but it’s also the busiest time. There is nothing more magical than seeing the park come to life as thousands of twinkling lights illuminate the trees, paths, and bridges.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Shuttle

The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park’s address is 3735 Capilano Road in North Vancouver. If you are driving, there is a pay parking lot directly across the street but fills up fast on busy days. Last time I visited in 2019, the fee for parking was $6 all day. There is little to no street parking, and at Christmas time, this area is a congestion nightmare as visitors plan to travel there on a dry day.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge free shuttle in downtown Vancouver

If you are staying in downtown Vancouver, there is a year-round, free shuttle bus to the park. The bus is available for Capilano guests on a first-come, first-served basis. Pick up points are Canada Place, outside the library at Liberty Square, Hyatt Regency Hotel, and Blue Horizon Hotel. The free shuttles run approximately every ten minutes, and the ride across to the park takes 15 to 20 minutes. After you’ve had your adrenaline rush at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, you can enjoy a leisurely bus ride back to downtown Vancouver.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Tickets

Capilano Suspension Bridge tickets cost $53.95 for adults, seniors (65 and better) $48.95, students (17+ with ID) $39.95, youth (13-16 years) $29.95, child (6-12 years) $16.95 and those under 6 years of age are free. Admission fees are subject to 12% GST. If you’re lucky enough to be a resident of British Columbia as I am, your admission ticket is good for an entire year. Do remember to bring picture ID like a driver’s license or BC resident card to receive your annual admission card.

It’s important to note, the suspension bridge, treetop adventures, and the Cliffwalk is not wheelchair accessible, but anyone arriving at the park in a wheelchair will receive a complimentary pass to the park. Also, strollers cannot be used on these three attractions either.

If you’re looking for 2-for-1 tickets or discounted rates, you’ll likely not find any. The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a top-rated attraction and doesn’t need to discount their tickets, much like Disney Parks. However, BCAA members can save 10% on one-day tickets, there is currently a 30% summertime discount if you arrive after 5 pm or tickets can be purchased through Expedia for small savings.

The Laughing Bridge

George Grant Mackay constructed the first bridge in 1889. Made of hemp rope and cedar planking, the bridge was tied to cedar trees on either side of the canyon. The First Nations people nicknamed it “the laughing bridge.” That’s because of the sound it made when the wind whistled between the planks.

In 1903, the first wire bridge replaced the hemp bridge, but it was just as shaky as the original. As a result, “the laughing bride” became known as the “nervous bridge.”

So, as you walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge, will you be laughing or will you be nervous? Well, I had to ask!

The Cliffwalk The Cliffwalk structure literally hangs from a cliff

Opened in 2011, the newest addition, Cliffwalk is not for the faint of heart. The Cliffwalk starts with a spiral descending staircase that takes you to a narrow platform below. Are you prepared for this heart-stopping walk along cantilevering pathways suspended from a cliff wall? The Cliffwalk is by far my favorite activity in the park. While I have done the Cliffwalk many times, there is always someone who gets scared silly part way. If you change your mind, the journey back is narrow, and you must navigate against the flow of traffic.

As you walk the circular Cliffwalk, take time to marvel at its construction. The suspended walkway is held up by 16 anchor points that were drilled into the cliff by hand. Some of these anchors penetrate the rock by as much as 6 meters or 19 feet. Looking up at the cliff, I couldn’t imagine anyone hanging down this rock face and drilling these holes. Woven stainless-steel mesh makes up the majority of the walkway. It is not only durable but acts as an “invisible barrier” to the spectacular views below. Making sure all your valuables are secure because anything dropped cannot be retrieved. If you are using your cell phone to take pictures, use a round-the-neck pouch or a handle.

After the Cliffwalk, the path continues through a beautiful rain forest along the sheer granite cliffs of the Capilano Canyon. The views of the canyon below are stunning. Along the walk, there are plenty of opportunities for selfies if you dare to walk on the glass floor platforms. It’s interesting to see the trees hanging from the side of the cliff walls with their roots dug deep into the soil. The one-way narrow pathway circles back to the gift shop, and center of the park. From here, you can choose to walk the suspension bridge, browse the gift shop, or grab a bite to eat.

Cliffwalk from aboveThe Suspension Bridge

Initially built in 1889, the Capilano Suspension Bridge spans 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River. A sign at the bridge explains that at 450 feet, it’s just about as long as two Boeing 747 airplanes wingtip-to-wingtip. And it’s just as aerodynamic!

The Capilano Suspension Bridge over the Capilano River in North Vancouver

On busy days, expect to queue up for your walk across this wobbly bridge. On the bridge, you are warned not to run, jump, or cause any intentional shaking. Strollers are forbidden, and small children need to be held by the hand. Also, dogs are required to be on leashes. Yes, dogs are often seen in the park during the summer months, and I was surprised that none of them minded the swaying suspension bridge. I guess dogs don’t have a fear of heights? Only humans?

How strong is the Capilano Suspension Bridge? A sign boasts its two steel cables can hold the weight of over 1,300 people or 96 elephants at one time. In all my visits, I have yet to see a single elephant on the bridge, lol.

How strong is the suspension bridge?
Treetop Adventure

Once you’ve crossed the suspension bridge, give yourself a pat on the back. If you have a fear of heights, know that the only way back is across the same bridge again. On the other side of the canyon are a series of trails that meander through the rainforest. If it’s rained recently, wear good waterproof running shoes because the trails could be wet and muddy. Also, it’s good to bring a lightweight jacket as the tree branches might surprise you with a gentle shower.

The Treetops Adventure offers a fantastic outing for both young and old alike. Built in 2004, the Treetops Adventure features a series of seven suspension bridges attached to eight 30 ton, 250-year-old Douglas-fir trees. Climb a flight of stairs to what looks like a giant treehouse. Here, you’ll find a funky looking weather station and the start of the one-way walk along the suspension bridges high up in the treetops. As you trek from tree to tree, take time to admire nature’s palette of beautiful colors, listening to the sound of, and enjoy the serenity.

  • Totem Pole
  • Treetop Adventure

The Treetop Adventure is a mastermind of engineering. The suspension bridges and support systems are crafted entirely by hand as not to damage the natural ecosystem. Surprisingly, no major machinery or nails are used to put the bridges and platforms in place. Instead, specially designed steel collars circle the trees and spread the pressure out equally around the tree. As the tree grows, the collars are moved and loosened to prevent “choking” the tree trunk. If you look up at one of these collared trees, you’ll see the markings of where the supports used to be. Almost like a growth chart………only, on a tree.

The Trading Post

The Trading Post’s gift shop is a beautiful log cabin with wooden beams that ooze so much rustic charm. The selection of merchandise comes from Canadian artists and includes handmade leather bags, woolen sweaters, handcrafted jewelry, and a variety of edibles. Be sure to check out the delicious fudges to satisfy your need for sugar after your adventures in the park.

Outside and during the summer months, guests can listen to the sweet sounds of a live band singing in period costume. Grab a latte, and a freshly made burger and rest your weary feet as you listen to the old-time songs.

Raptor’s Ridge Falconry

The Capilano Suspension Bridge has teamed up with Raptors Ridge Birds of Prey to provide visitors with an opportunity to see a raptor up close and personal. The birds of prey are viewable in the summer months, and handlers are available to answer all your questions. The selection of birds includes falcons, red-tailed hawks, barred owls, and great horned owls. The handlers are eager to share their knowledge with you and show off their feathered friends!

I have seen the beautiful birds many times and remember seeing a baby great horned owl one summer. Its fluffy ball of feathers screamed utter “cuteness.” It’s one of those moments when you want to ask “can I take him home?” It had the most enormous eyes and a huge body for just being a baby.

Near the birds of prey area, a wooden cutout depicting popular birds invites visitors to spread their arms and compare their wingspan. My daughter, Amber, has the same wingspan as a great horned owl. Who knew?

Canyon Lights

While a visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge in summer is delightful, the park really comes alive in the winter as it hosts Canyon Lights. Thousands of colorful Christmas lights are hung from the tall trees, on the bridges, and along the walkways. This is a must-see if you’re visiting Vancouver or you’re a local. Since it’s best to see the lights at dusk, remember to bundle up in a 3-in-1 jacket, and bring gloves, hat, and scarf as it can get bitterly cold wandering in the forest after sunset.

The Trading Post at Christmas time

My last trip to see Canyon Lights was in January 2019. It had rained frequently that month, and I planned a visit on a dry day and my day off work. When I finally made it, the park was jammed packed full of people. The queue to walk across the suspension bridge was over an hour long, so I decided to venture to the Cliffwalk first. Then I circled around and lined up for suspension bridge but the line was now longer. I queued for a staggering 1 hour and 45 minutes in freezing cold weather. I feared that once I had crossed, I’d be waiting just as long to come back. Luckily, there was no wait to go back. If you want to avoid the crowds and long queues, I suggest you visit on a weekday and maybe even consider a wet day.

Canyon Lights at the Capilano Suspension BridgeAn illuminated snowy owl suspended in a tree

During Canyon Lights, children will enjoy trying to spot a large number of illuminated snowy owls up in the trees. The park boasts at having the tallest living Christmas tree at over 150 feet tall. I’m not sure I’d want the job of stringing the lights on that tree, lol. When you need a break from the cold, try your hand at gingerbread cookie decorating and make your own Christmas card in the winter pavilion.

More on ForeverKaren

After an adventurous day at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, you might be looking for other activities to do in the area. Try reading “What to do in Vancouver, Canada,” which covers many of the other popular tourist spots.

Happy travels ~ Karen

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If you love to cruise like me, chances are, you’ve tried a few cruise lines. While some are quite different from the next, others have created a great brand that works for them. Celebrity Cruises marketing slogan is “modern luxury lives here,” and if you’ve sailed on a Celebrity Cruise ship, you’ll know this to be true. I remember researching a cruise line for my very first cruise, a 7-day roundtrip cruise to Alaska. When asking a few travel agents which cruise lines to recommend, they suggested Celebrity or Royal Caribbean. I booked with Celebrity Cruises, and that first cruise was not only magical, but I became hooked on cruising for life. If you’re thinking of booking a cruise vacation, here are some great reasons to sail with Celebrity Cruises.

The Welcome Aboard Champagne

The moment you step onboard a Celebrity ship, you’ll receive a welcome aboard complimentary glass of champagne or mimosa. As you wander through the elegant ship sipping your champagne, you can’t help but notice the touches of modern luxury, high-end art collection, and overall sophisticated décor.

Modern Luxury

Step onto a Celebrity Cruise ship, and be wowed by its modern luxury and swanky décor. While some cruise lines try to stand out with their outrageous color schemes and dare I say, tacky decor, Celebrity ships are timeless and elegant.

Modern Luxury in Celebrity’s Moonlight Sonata Restaurant

Their roomy staterooms remind me of a boutique hotel, and open areas have clean lines, modern furnishings, and trendy artwork. I recently sailed on the Celebrity Eclipse, and while it’s scheduled to have some updates in 2020, in my opinion, some areas don’t need it. The main dining room is timeless and classic in white and crystal. How can you ever go wrong with white, right?

Larger Staterooms

While I have done over a dozen cruises in the last ten years, I realized that not all cabins are created equal. I have tried to tour as many staterooms as possible through Cruise Critics cabin crawls and at other times, crew members have allowed me to view empty cabins on turnaround day. Comparing the same class of cabin from cruise line to cruise line, Celebrity Cruises generally offer one of the largest cabins.

I recently sailed on the Celebrity Eclipse, which is a Solstice class ship, and the veranda cabin offered more storage than any other cruise ship I have sailed. The cabin measured 185sq feet with a large closet, over the bed storage (something I have never seen before), plenty of drawers for clothes and room under the bed for large suitcases. The balcony was bigger than all the other ships I had sailed. There was no need to move the patio chairs when entering and exiting the veranda. Having a bigger stateroom is one of the best reasons to sail with Celebrity Cruises.

The bathroom was the largest I have used, with lots of storage and a large shower with no pesky shower curtain. I think having a shower door was my favorite part of the whole cabin. I always hated the plastic curtains that always wanted to stick to you like super glue. Anyone who has cruised before will understand this dilemma.

Bedtime Chocolate

After a long day at sea or a busy day in port, it’s nice to come back to your cabin or “home away from home” to a turned down bed and chocolates on the pillow. If you’re lactose intolerant like me, don’t worry. Just speak to your cabin steward, and he/she will leave you dark chocolate instead. I only had to mention once that I couldn’t eat milk chocolate, and my steward left dark chocolate every night for the balance of my 12-day cruise. And let me tell you, those chocolates disappeared before my head hit the pillow, lol.

Towels Instead Of Paper

One of the things I loved about Celebrity Cruises was their use of real towels in the public bathrooms instead of paper. Celebrity Cruises’ “Save the Waves” program makes a commitment to reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible. It was refreshing to see fresh rolled up white towels in the bathrooms instead of paper towels. Walking into a Celebrity public bathroom is reminiscent of using a bathroom in a luxury hotel. Their use of cotton towels is a small step to creating less garbage, which, in turn, protects the world’s oceans and the marine life that lives in it.

Reasons to sail with Celebrity Cruises; Real towels instead paper in the public bathrooms Hot Glass Class

Celebrity Cruises has teamed up with The Corning Museum of Glass to bring you hot glass classes at sea. Not only are the classes fun but educational too. Celebrity Cruises hot glass blowing class is offered on three of their cruise ships; the Eclipse, Equinox, and Solstice. Who would have ever imagined that you could blow your own glass out on the ocean on a cruise ship?

Individual classes are approximately 20 mins, and you can choose to make a variety of items from a simple paperweight to a fluted vase. The classes are popular and fill up fast, especially since many passengers on my ship were booking more than one class. Where else can you create your own unique art piece while at sea? Making your own blown glass has to be one of the best reasons to sail with Celebrity Cruises.

Le Petite Chef At Qsine

Le Petite Chef at Qsine offers a one-of-a-kind 3D animation dining experience. This dining experience is beautifully choreographed with an elegant menu created by Celebrity’s Michelin Star Chef. During your meal, a tiny chef is projected onto your place setting. During my cruise on the Eclipse, I watched intently as this whimsical chef magically creates each course of my dinner. After he created my course, the waiters bought out the real food for me to enjoy. There are two seating times and everyone in the dining room sees the animation at the same time.

Le Petit Chef creating my filet mignon

The food at Qsine was reasonably good, but the animation really made for an extraordinary experience. If you haven’t done this before, I would highly recommend it. This 3D dining experience is available on the Celebrity Reflection, Infinity, Eclipse, and the Silhouette. While the cost to dine at Qsine might be a little costly, consider booking on one of the first two night when they offer discounts.

Use Of Items

On my first Celebrity Cruise, the ship left a complimentary bag in my stateroom. It was nice to have an extra tote bag to use during port days. However, on my last trip, the stateroom included an umbrella to use, should you need it. While it was sunny in Hawaii and no need for an umbrella, it was great to know this was available for use on all cruises. In Alaska, this little umbrella would be much appreciated since it rains a great deal. The cruise line also leaves beach towels in your cabin to use on port days.

Martini Bar

If you love martinis, then one of the best reasons to sail with Celebrity Cruises is their Martini Bar. The Martini Bar is by far the coolest bar I’ve experienced on any cruise ship. The ice-topped bar has samples of liquor wedged into the ice and makes for quite a statement. Even if you don’t drink, the bar is a fun place to visit just for the lively atmosphere and the fun entertainment. Hang around the bar for a while and witness the skillful bartenders shaking up some fantastic cocktail concoctions like a banana split martini or a black forest martini.

A freshly created double martini flight at Celebrity Cruises Martini Bar

These are not just ordinary bartenders but high energy entertainers. If you love martinis, why not order a martini flight? It’s not just a series of drinks but an exhilarating show. Watch as the accomplished bartenders shake, juggle and twirl their tumblers before standing on the bar to pour out a round of colored and delicious martinis. It was tempting to order a martini flight even though I don’t drink, just for the entertainment, lol. One night as I stopped at the Martini Bar, I witnessed the bartenders doing a double martini flight; a total of 30 miniature martinis. And wow, was it exciting to watch!

First-Class Entertainment

Contrary to what some people believe, there is never a dull moment at sea. In fact, the best cruise ships keep you busy both day and night. What better way to start your evening than with a Broadway-like show? On a Celebrity ship, the entertainment is first-class with not only musical shows but magicians, acrobats, pianists, and comedians.

The singing and dancing are so incredible on the Eclipse that the seats would fill up incredibly fast. During one night in Hawaii, some local people came aboard to entertain us with their traditional Hawaiian and Polynesian song and dance. The tiny 4 and 5 years old mesmerized us with their fantastic hula dance.

Celebrity Cruises “Topper” musical show

By far, my favorite show on the Eclipse is called “Topper.” The musical features Sir Stuart Peabody, his giant hat and his collection of eccentric friends. If you have ever seen a Cirque Du Soleil show, this one is very similar in the way it is presented.

Celebrity’s Heartbeat Of the Operations Galley Tour

Celebrity Cruises offers its passengers the heartbeat of the operations galley tour. While cruises are climbing in price and companies are finding more ways to make money, this tour is entirely free.

If you want a peek into what happens in the ship’s kitchen or galley, I can highly commend this tour. Be sure to check your daily newsletter for the day and time. If you want more information on this very popular sea day activity, read “Celebrity’s heartbeat of the operations galley tour.

The Lawn Club
The Lawn Club features real grass

If you plan to sail a Celebrity Solstice class ship, you’ll have the luxury of being able to feel the grass between your toes. You’ll enjoy a half acre of real grass on each of the Solstice Class ships. On most days, this grassy area was not frequented by cruise ship passengers. So, it’s the perfect spot for an afternoon picnic or a quiet place to read a book. Games like bocce ball or croquet are available for use during the day.

During my Easter cruise on the Eclipse, the lawn club provided the perfect area for the children’s Easter egg hunt. The little ones were even treated to a visit from the Easter bunny.

The Easter bunny at the Easter egg hunt in the Lawn Club

There are many great reasons to sail with Celebrity Cruises but here are my top 12 reasons. If there are other reasons that keep bringing you back to Celebrity Cruises, I’d love to hear about them.

Happy travels ~ Karen

The post Top 12 Reasons To Sail With Celebrity Cruises appeared first on Forever Karen.

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It’s no surprise that London is one of the most visited cities in the world. One visit there and you’ll understand why. From its deep history, stunning architecture, excellent food, and a variety of heritage sites, London makes for an unforgettable adventure. There is so much to do and see in London, that you’ll want to visit again and again. No matter how many times I travel “home,” there’s always something new to discover. Whether it’s your first trip or you’re visiting again, here are some mistakes to avoid in London. Follow these London travel tips to save money and fulfill your bucket list.

Not Traveling With Enough Money

Let’s face it, metropolitan London is dreadfully expensive. In many cases, things can cost double what they are in the United States. Hotels, restaurant meals, and entrance fees to tourist hot-spots are going to cost you plenty. One of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London is not having enough money. It would be a shame to travel all the way to England and not fulfill everything on your bucket list, right? So, don’t just bring cash, travel with a credit card too. While you might have a budget, resign yourself to the fact that you’ll go over that budget.

Not Having An Oyster Card

For most who travel to greater London, the underground or Tube is the transportation of choice. However, the fee to ride is determined by zones and can be expensive. Riders are penalized heavily for buying single journey tickets. Like other areas in the world, passengers can purchase an “Oyster card.” The Oyster card is a reusable electronic ticket that can be loaded by the user and topped up whenever necessary. Using an Oyster card in the underground can save you more than 50% off the single journey tickets.

Mistakes to avoid in London: not having an Oyster card

Oyster cards can also be used on buses, suburban rail services and some river services. If you want to buy an Oyster card, they can be purchased at the underground stations or from a variety of London convenience stores.

Not Driving On The Correct Side Of The Road

If you’re from North America and you rent a car, you need to drive on the other side of the road. For some visitors, the thought of driving on the left might scare you enough, not to rent a car. While I’m from England, I didn’t learn to drive in the UK. I only learned to drive a car in Canada. However, driving in England wasn’t so bad on the main roads because I could follow the flow of the traffic. Although, on country roads, it was a different story. Many times, when we turned a corner, the habit was to turn onto the right-hand side of the road. Only when another vehicle came the other way that it jolted us to remember, we needed to be on the left side.

English round-a-bouts are also a huge challenge when there are two or three lanes. Since round-a-bouts are rare in North America, most don’t know how to approach and navigate one. If driving a car in England scares you silly, take transit instead.

Not Traveling In Off-Peak Times

British Rail is a fantastic service that can get you all over England in a short amount of time. However, traveling on weekdays and during rush hour is horribly expensive. Check the train schedule and the cost to ride at different times. The “cheap day return” can save you more than 50% off peak rider times. So, consider leaving a little later or riding the train before rush hour starts. Your pocketbook will thank you.

London’s Victoria train station during off-peak hours

If you are traveling to London on a budget, combine your train ticket with the underground for unlimited travel on the “tube.” This will maximize your savings on the cost to travel. Also, check into the cost of riding public transit on weekends. You might find it’s significantly cheaper.

Not Looking the Correct Way When Crossing The Road

Remember the “look left, look right, look left again?” Well, in England, they drive on the other side of the road. So, when crossing the road, you need to look right, look left, and look right again. Luckily, you don’t need to remember this. It’s boldly painted on the roads as a reminder to us tourists who drive on the right side of the road.

In London, look right, look left, look right again
Not Booking Ahead For Some Attractions

Since London is a busy tourist hotspot, it’s only natural that some London tourist attractions are more popular than others. If you’re dead set on seeing something, you may want to book ahead of time. Buckingham Palace, for instance, is only open to the public for just two months in the summer and tickets sell out fast. It’s a popular place to visit, and tickets are limited. Book ahead so you won’t be disappointed.

I remember my first visit back to England after they built the London Eye. I wanted to ride it but did not book in advance. When I got to London, the wait time was a staggering five hours long. Needless to say, I didn’t ride the London Eye that day.

Thinking You Can See It All

On a map, London may seem incredibly small. However, don’t underestimate what you’ll find in that tiny space. What may seem like a stone’s throw away on a map, may actually be miles apart. So, wear some good walking shoes and be prepared to trek some mileage. One of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London is thinking you can see it all.

During your stay, some London tourist attractions may take much longer to visit than anticipated. Do your research long before your trip and be realistic about how much you can see during your vacation. England will always be there and not seeing it all, gives you an excellent excuse to visit again, right? But who really needs a reason to visit London?

Not Having Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a ritual in England that dates back to the early 1840s. During your visit, schedule at least one day to enjoy afternoon tea. Bear in mind, this is not a cup of tea and a snack but a whole meal. So, make sure you have an appetite and time to enjoy this non-rushed ritual. British afternoon tea is consists of “finger” sandwiches, pastries, cakes and delicious fluffy scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. While the clotted cream in “cream teas” might sound disgusting, it’s actually sinfully delicious. After one bite, you’ll be wanting “cream teas” every day, lol.

Not only is the food delicious, but the presentation adds to the romance of afternoon tea time. Tea is served on the most delicate china, and in some places, there is a dress code. If you plan to have afternoon tea at one of the lavish venues like Claridge’s, Browns, or Fortnum & Masons, not only will you need a reservation but the tea can set you back approximately £70 per person.

Not Adhering To Escalator Rules

One of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London has to do with the underground. When using the “Tube” in London, it’s essential to follow the escalator etiquette. If you allow the escalator to do the work, you must stand to the right. Those in a hurry and want to walk, use the left side. London’s underground is a hectic place, all of the time and 25% of the users are in a hurry. If you do not adhere to the escalator rules, a local subway rider will point out your error.

Brian adhering to the stand right, escalator rule in the London underground

While London is trying to get people to stand on both sides, stating that utilizing both sides moves more people, I’m not sure it’s working. I visited London in June 2018, and the stand right, walk left is still in effect.

Thinking You Can Use A Red Phone Booth To Make A Call

Remember those cool looking red telephone booths you see in London pictures? Well, don’t think you’ll be making a phone call from one while in England. Due to vandalism and mobile phones, most no longer exist.

While the red phone booths were as common as double-decker buses, many have now been retrofitted with life-saving AEDs (automated external defibrillators). Now, these iconic red British phone boxes are helping save lives.

  • Retrofitted red phone booth
  • Defibrillator inside a phone booth
Not Prepared For The Weather

It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit London, one of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London, is not being prepared for the weather. While London is known for its fog, it’s the rain you should be concerned about. Travel with a compact umbrella and a waterproof lightweight jacket even in the middle of summer.

Outside of London, the winds can chill you to the bone, so bring layers to stay warm and cozy. During my last visit in the month of June, I visited Stonehenge on a blustery day. While the rest of the country was experiencing a heat wave, I was shivering standing next to the stones at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Confusing The Tower Bridge With The London Bridge

When most tourists visit London, they all expect to see the London Bridge. After all, wouldn’t the London Bridge be a spectacular sightseeing attraction as it bears the “London” name? However, the original London Bridge is in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. It was dismantled and relocated in 1967. And sorry to burst your bubble but the London Bridge looks like any ordinary bridge and nothing special. However, further down the Thames, you’ll find the famous Tower Bridge near the Tower of London. This remarkable bridge with it’s soaring towers opens up to allow tall ships to pass beneath it. Many people confuse the London Bridge with The Tower Bridge, and it’s easy to understand why.

London’s Tower Bridge opening to allow a ship to sail beneath it Not Traveling Outside Of London

Known around the world as a bustling city with great history, don’t forget about the areas outside of Greater London. One of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London is not getting outside of London. Be sure to take some day trips to other areas which also offer stunning architecture, fascinating history, and unforgettable sites.

Stonehenge is a great day trip from London

Immerse yourself in the ancient history of Bath. Check out Stonehenge; one of the wonders of the world. For the shopaholics, there’s no better place than the quaint shopping district called “The Lanes” in Brighton. If you love castles (and who doesn’t?), add one or two to your itinerary. Need some inspiration? Read “Top 10 castles in England to visit.”

Forgetting A Power Adapter

When traveling to the UK, you’re going to need a power adapter if you intend to use all those electronic devices. This compact adapter will work with most of your phones, tablets, and laptops. Not only will it work in England but many other countries too.

Bear in mind that while a power adapter will work with newer electronics, it’s not going to work on all electronic devices. For instance, hair dryers and curling irons do not have different voltage settings so you’ll need a voltage and power adapter. Not having an adapter is one of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London because you would no longer have use of your cell phone or tablet.

Not Taking Advantage Of Free Attractions

Want to see London on a dime? While London has world-famous sites like the London Eye, Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London, it also offers fantastic free attractions. Savings money on insanely high admission fees doesn’t mean compromising on fun and overall experience. In fact, you could be pleasantly surprised when visiting these complimentary places.

If you love museums, be sure to check out the Natural History Museum, the Tate Modern, the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Also, take advantage of the outdoor green space in Hyde Park, St. James Park, and Regent’s Park. Are you a big fan of the Beatles? Then you must visit Abbey Road to see the world-famous zebra crossing. While there, why not recreate The Beatles Abbey Road album cover image by grabbing a few friends and walking on the zebra crossing?

If you’re looking to view the incredible London skyline from above, forget the Shard and London Eye, and visit the Sky Garden instead. The aerial views are free, but you need to make a reservation online.

Looking for something out of the ordinary to do? How about attending a parliamentary debate at the Houses of Parliament? Tickets are free, but you must make a reservation online. Other options for free attractions include attending a church service at St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey.

More on ForeverKaren

If you are staying in Greater London, you might want to check out some “Hidden gems in London.” One place you must visit is the Tower of London, which takes approximately four to five hours to covers everything it has to offer. Check out my post called “The story behind the Tower of London.”

Happy travels ~ Karen

The post Mistakes To Avoid In London, England appeared first on Forever Karen.

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With its clean air, constant sunshine and ocean breezes, it’s no wonder most think of Hawaii as a tropical paradise. But being a group of archipelago islands in the Pacific Ocean, it’s also one of the most remote places. The remoteness comes at a cost because everything is imported, making Hawaii an expensive place to live and visit. Waikiki Beach and Honolulu can be compared with metropolitan cities like Vancouver and San Francisco when it comes to housing. While things cost a significant amount, there are some inexpensive things to do in Oahu if you are mobile.

Climb Diamond Head

One of the most spectacular views of Honolulu is from the top of Diamond Head crater. It costs $5 per car or $1 per person and payment can only be made in cash. The Diamond Head State Monument is open from 6 am to 6 pm daily. Also, the last access to travel the trail closes at 4:30 pm.

One of the most inexpensive things to do in Oahu is hike Diamond Head

It’s important to note the trail winds up a mountain where there is no shade. For this reason, most hikers arrive in the early hours. Then, the round-trip hike is possible before the sun’s rays become unbearable. If you plan to arrive early, expect a crowded trail. Wear comfortable walking shoes, bring a refillable water bottle, a hat and some sunscreen. Most guides recommend a hiking time of 1-1/2 to 2 hours round trip. I made many stops to take lots of photos and catch my breath. Yet, I completed the round-trip hike in 1 hour and 10 minutes (and I’m no spring chicken, lol).

Also, be prepared for weather changes during the trek. I hiked early in the morning, and it showered a few times making the trail slippery for the hike down. While the showers were refreshing, they’re not suitable for expensive cameras. So, it’s best to bring a rain sleeve to protect your costly investment. At $1 per person, not only is this one of the most inexpensive things to do in Oahu, but also one of the most rewarding.

Byodo-In Temple
Looking for inexpensive things to do in Oahu? Visit the incredible Byodo-In Temple

The Byodo-In Temple is situated at the foot of the soaring Ko’olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. On several trips to Oahu, I tried to find this temple without success. On my third trip and with the help on my GPS, I finally found it. It’s no wonder I couldn’t find it because it’s hidden at the back of a cemetery with no signage on the street to indicate its existence. The admission cost is a bargain at just $5, and I’d have to say, this was one of the most amazing places I’ve seen in Oahu and well worth a visit. If you have a car, this should be top of your list of inexpensive things to do in Oahu.

The red temple is impressive and looks striking against the lush green mountains that shield it. The Byodo-In Temple in Oahu is a smaller-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan. The temple was constructed without the use of nails and to mark the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The temple is surrounded by stunning gardens and a large koi pond. Near the gift shop, the majority of koi gather, waiting for the visitors to feed them. These are the largest and hungriest koi I’ve seen. My three bags of koi fish food didn’t last long, lol.

Arizona Memorial

No visit to Oahu is complete without a visit to Pearl Harbour and the Arizona Memorial. Not only is this one of the best inexpensive things to do in Oahu, but it’s also one of the free things to do in Hawaii. While the admission is complementary to the memorial, you do need a time slot to enter, and these fill up fast. It’s best to arrive early in the morning and get your free tickets, then browse the other areas of Pearl Harbour before returning for your ticketed time.

The memorial is built over the top of the sunken USS Arizona and marks the resting place of the 1102 sailors killed on Arizona. To visit the monument, you must first watch a film that shows the events that lead up to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour, on December 7, 1941. As you tour the memorial, look out into the water because oil from the sunken battleship is still visibly leaking from its hull.

The Arizona Memorial marks the resting place of 1102 sailors killed on the USS Arizona

I last visited Pearl Harbour in May 2019. It’s important to note the Arizona Memorial is currently inaccessible due to dock damage. While the dock is being repaired and hoping to reopen in October 2019, visitors can still board the boats for a sail by the memorial and up to the USS Missouri Battleship. A knowledgeable volunteer onboard gives you some additional insight into the events that happened that fateful day in 1941.

National Memorial Cemetery Of The Pacific

Raised in a military family, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was a must for me. It’s also an integral part of Pearl Harbour. Perched on a hill, this spectacular cemetery offers impressive views of Honolulu and Diamond Head. While pictures online can show the cemetery’s serene setting, they cannot capture the humbling feeling of reading all the names of young and men who lost their lives serving their nation.

The cemetery grounds are immaculately kept, and the trees that shoulder the central roadway are amazing. The setting is picturesque as the cemetery is set in the caldera of an extinct volcano. While this is not a common place for tourists, it is a place that will touch you deeply. Spend some time reading the names on the gravestones, walk up to the chapel, and learn the significant war history displayed on intricate mosaics on the walls surrounding the chapel. But most of all, pay your respects to all those that gave their lives for their country.

The immaculate grounds of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

While the admission is free, it’s best to visit by car as tour buses don’t stop in the cemetery. During my three visits to Hawaii, I had visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific several times. Nothing really prepared me for the very first time. After spending some time walking the grounds, I noticed a group of men in military regalia, gathering near the chapel. They proceeded to carry a casket draped in the United States of America flag. It was apparent this was a military funeral. With a single family member present, a woman, I still remember the haunting feeling as the “Taps” was played on a single bugle.

Lighting Of The Torches
Lighting of the torches at the International Market Place

Unlike metropolitan cities that have electric street lights, part of downtown Honolulu is lit by gas torches. These torches add a beautiful ambiance in the city at night and an understanding of why Hawaii is called the “Islands of Love.”

On my first vacation to Oahu, I wondered how these torches were lit at night. I assumed a switch was flicked and the flames came on automatically. However, one night, while waiting for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, I saw a scantily dressed man running through the street lighting the torches one by one. I soon learned this is a ritual in Waikiki and one you should see. In May 2019, I saw another lighting ritual in the International Market Place. During the summer, the O Nā Lani Sunset Stories starts at 7 pm as the torchbearers’ parade into the center court blowing a horn. After they light the torches in the courtyard, immerse yourself in the fantastic performance told through Hawaiian and Polynesian song and dance. This nightly ritual is free, so take the time to see it one evening during your Hawaiian vacation.

There are many places in Honolulu to see the lighting of the torches. So, add this to your list of inexpensive things to do in Oahu.

Visit A Macadamia Nut Farm

No visit to Hawaii is complete without sampling some Kona coffee and eating some macadamia nuts. What better way to sample than to visit a farm? On Oahu, I have stopped at the Tropical Farms Macadamia Nuts on #83 Kamehameha Hwy a few times. This farm is right on the highway with plenty of parking.

It offers visitors free samples of coffee and macadamia nuts. Gone are the days of just lightly roasted with salt. Today, macadamia nut samplings include Maui onion and garlic, Kona coffee glazed, caramel glazed and honey glazed. My favorite was the cinnamon glazed which I could have quickly eaten a whole bag, lol.

If you’re looking for a unique gift, the farm also offers a variety of inexpensive gifts that include local jewelry, scented oils, and lotions, as well as jams and preserves. During your visit, be sure to go through the back of the shop which backs onto the farm area. The farm has plenty of wild chickens who beg to be fed by breaking some of the macadamia nuts with a rock. Be warned, these chickens are quite aggressive in trying to get their fair share. The adults will fly up onto the wooden stump as you try to break the nuts.

Browse The International Market

For many years, visitors to Honolulu have enjoyed browsing the International Market in the downtown area looking for that unique souvenir. The market is open extended hours, and many of the stalls have been operating by the same families for generations. In recent years, the market was closed and replaced by a sizeable Metropolitan mall with many name brands not unique to Hawaii. While it is disappointing to see many of the tented stalls gone, there is still a small strip of outdoor vendors selling inexpensive souvenirs.

During my last trip, I stayed close to the market, so I walked through it every night on my way to dinner. If you find anything you like, don’t be afraid to haggle with the vendors to get a better price.

Visit The Dole Plantation
The Dole Plantation near the near shore of Oahu

Located on the north shore of Oahu, the Dole Plantation is a favorite place for tourists. There is plenty of parking for private vehicles and multiple bus tours that stop here if you don’t have a rental car. While admission is charged for some areas, it can still be one of the better inexpensive things to do in Oahu.

While the Dole Plantation is very “commercialized,” there are aspects that appeal to both families and adults. The little ones will enjoy the “Pineapple Express,” a train that circles the plantation. Also, the maze is popular for both the young and old.

While I did not ride the train, walk the maze, or take the paid garden tour, I did enjoy seeing the stunningly colorful eucalyptus trees at the entrance. I also walked around the pineapple planting areas to see the different species of pineapples, which was quite fascinating. There are lots of plaques to read about the growing process too. After a stroll through the gardens, be sure to visit the store to purchase a Dole Whip. A pineapple flavored whipped ice cream.

Take A Bike Tour Of Waikiki

Like many metropolitan cities, Honolulu has a bike share program called Biki. Launched in late June 2017, Biki has 1,300 bikes at 130 conveniently located self-service “Biki Stops” throughout downtown Honolulu. Sign up online, download their app, and purchase a rider plan. Plans include a $15 monthly, which includes unlimited 30-minute rides in a month; $20 free spirit plan which consists of 300 minutes of riding time and a $25 monthly which provides for unlimited 60-minute rides in a month. Alternatively, you can purchase a $3.50 single ride use for a quick trip around town.

A “Biki” bike station in Waikiki

If you don’t have a rental car during your vacation, the Biki bike share gives you the mobility to travel a little further and do an excellent tour of Waikiki. Renting a Biki bike is one of many inexpensive things to do in Oahu.

Climb The Aloha Tower
Oahu’s Aloha Tower welcomes visitors to Honolulu

The Aloha Tower stands as a welcoming beacon to visitors coming to Honolulu through its harbor just 15 minutes from Waikiki Beach. Most don’t know that you can ride the elevator to the observation deck on the tenth floor for spectacular panoramic views of the harbor and cityscape. Visitors are allowed entrance to the observation deck from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm daily. There is no entrance fee.

Built in 1926, the tower still has a vintage art deco feel. If you are cruising into Honolulu Harbour, the Aloha Tower will stand out among the city landscape. Browse the local shops in the shopping center or have a bite to eat at one of the restaurants.

Watch The Sunset

Since you’re vacationing on the “Islands of Love,” what better way to end your day than watching a Pacific sunset on the beach. Grab a Mai Tai or a Blue Hawaii and head out to Waikiki Beach with a loved one. Is there anything better than watching the orange glow of the sun reflecting off the water, feeling the tropical breezes on your faces and listening to the tranquilizing sounds of the ocean waves?

If you have a car, head over to Ala Moana Beach Park for a more picturesque view of the sunset. This is a far more romantic spot and void of the large crowds on Waikiki Beach. Head out to the end of Magic Island to watch the sun lower behind the palm trees.

More on ForeverKaren

If you plan to visit the Hawaiian Islands by cruise ship, you might be interested in “Cruises from Vancouver to Hawaii.”

Happy travels ~ Karen

The post 11 Inexpensive Things To Do In Oahu appeared first on Forever Karen.

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The Byodo-In Temple at the Valley of the Temples was one of the highlights from my last vacation to Oahu. While I had been to Oahu before, I was not able to find the beautiful red temple by address alone. However, on my last visit, I found it by my car’s GPS. The temple is not visible from the highway, and neither is it marked. But nestled in the back of the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, it’s a treasure worth waiting to see. So, I highly recommend you visit Byodo-In Temple, Oahu’s best-kept secret.

Byodo-In Temple In A Cemetery?

As mentioned, I did not find the Byodo-In Temple on my previous visits to Oahu because I did not expect to see it in a cemetery. Located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains on Kahekili Highway, it’s a relaxing 30-minute drive from Waikiki.

As you enter the Memorial Park, the attendant in the little hut will direct you to the narrow winding road that leads to the back of the cemetery and the much-anticipated Temple. I still remember driving up to the parking lot and catching my first glimpse of the Temple through the trees. Its stunning vista at the foot of the lush green mountains took my breath away, and I was instantly transported to Japan. Excited, I couldn’t wait to park the car and explore this little treasure. The Temple is open between 9 am and 5 pm daily, and admission is a bargain at just $5 per adult, $3 for seniors and $2 for children.

Walking across the wooden footbridge and approaching the Temple, I felt a sense of peacefulness and harmony. A large reflecting pond surrounds the Temple and meanders around the beautiful temple grounds. Black swans, small turtles, frogs and an abundance of koi also known as carp co-exist in the waters while wild peacocks roam the grounds. For a moment, I forgot I was in Hawaii. If you’re looking to escape the crowds in Waikiki and wanting a little serenity, this is it.

History Of The Byodo-In Temple

The Byodo-In Temple in Oahu is a non-functioning half-size replica of the Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. This smaller temple was commissioned in 1968 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. While the original was built of wood, this modern-day version is constructed mostly of concrete. However, this temple is a stunning piece of architecture, so be sure to check out the intricate roof, rafters, and small details found everywhere.

Also, there is a replica of the famous bon-sho bell to the left of the temple, near the entrance.

The Sacred Bell

Arriving at the temple, take the left path along the pond to the temple. You will first encounter a wooden structure containing the bon-sho or “sacred bell.” This sacred bell was cast in Osaka, Japan, with the assistance of the Japanese government. This large three-ton bell measures six feet high and almost five feet wide.

My husband, Brian ringing the sacred bell

Like it’s counterpart in Japan, it is housed in a bell house or kanetru-ki-do. Renowned for its shape, sound, and calligraphy, the bell is separated into four sections depicting the Buddhist concept of heaven.

Visitors are invited to ring the impressive bell using the soft wooden log called a shumoku before entering the temple. It is believed that the unique tones of the bon-sho clears the mind of negativity, imparts deep peace and brings happiness, blessings, and long life. With this in mind, my husband and I took turns ringing the bell and listening to its calming tone.

Meditation Pavilion

As you continue along the path towards the temple, a short trail leads off to the left and up to the meditation pavilion. Located next to a narrow section of the pond, the Tusri-Dono, as it was initially called, translates to Emperor’s fishing pavilion. Nestled amongst the trees and beautiful gardens, it’s the perfect place for meditation and being one with nature.

The Meditation Pavilion at the Byodo-In Temple

Heading down from the meditation pavilion, you get a first glimpse of the sizable koi in the pond below. While the koi gather, waiting to be fed; do not be tempted to feed them human food. The small gift shop on the other side of the temple sells small bags of pellets to feed the hungry fish.

The Byodo-In Temple

While the Byodo-In Temple is not a practicing temple, it’s still important to be respectful and quiet at all times. Before entering the temple, you must remove your shoes at the door. Inside, be amazed by the stunning architecture and impressive nine-foot golden statue of the Amida Buddha sitting on a lotus leaf. According to temple staff, it is the largest Buddha outside of Japan.

The Amida Buddha sitting on a lotus leaf

I lit some incense in front of the Buddha and took some time to really appreciate this special place. In front of the temple entrance, the zen rock gardens are immaculately manicured. It is said that practicing raking of a “dry garden” teaches priests the art of concentration.

The Reflecting Pond

As I left the temple and walked across the lovely bridge to the gift shop, I was startled by the number of large koi in the reflecting pond. I soon came to realize these fish were well trained and knew exactly where visitors would feed them. Be sure to purchase a bag or two of pellets and watch the frenzy of fish flipping around in the water trying to get their fair share. While we bought three tiny bags, they were gone quite quickly as birds, black swans, koi and even a lone turtle came to eat a few pellets. Alternatively, you can buy koi pellets at a much cheaper price online. I felt sorry for the small turtle who was getting bashed around as the koi thrashed in the still waters.

A frenzy of koi in the reflecting pond A small turtle getting pushed around by the large koi

Seeing these koi brought back memories of when I had my own koi pond a few years ago. However, the Byodo-In Temple pond held the largest number of koi I had ever seen in my life. Is Byodo-In Temple, Oahu’s best-kept secret? Visit there and judge for yourself. For me, the temple is a Hawaiian treasure that I will surely see again.

The feeding frenzy
More on ForeverKaren

If you plan to visit any of the other Hawaiian Islands, check out “Hawaii Volcano National Park, a visitor’s guide” and “The complete guide to Haleakala National Park.

Happy travels ~ Karen

The post Byodo-In Temple, Oahu’s Best-kept Secret appeared first on Forever Karen.

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So, you’re booked an Alaska cruise, and now you’re frantically reading everything on what to pack for an Alaska cruise. I’m fortunate enough to live within driving distance of Vancouver’s cruise terminal so I can overpack and I sometimes do. If you’re flying from Australia, Europe, or anywhere in between, you don’t have that luxury. Like many of you reading this, I did not know what to expect on my first Alaska cruise. However, after four trips to Alaska, I now know the best things to wear and pack without taking the kitchen sink. If you’re looking for ideas on Alaska cruise outfits, read on.

It’s important to note that regardless of what month you are sailing, Alaska weather can be unpredictable. While I have sailed in May, July, and August, my first cruise in July experienced rain every single day. On the other three vacations, Alaska had a heat wave with almost no rain. To be prepared, it’s best to expect any weather, especially the rain because it’s no fun doing anything when you’re soaking wet. I’ve packed everything from a bathing suit and shorts to a winter jacket and gloves. Surprisingly, I’ve used it all.

Cruising Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska Alaska Cruises Outfits To Wear Onboard
Alaska cruise outfits for women

Today, cruise ship attire is relatively relaxed, so gone are the days dressing up for dinner. When choosing your Alaska cruise outfits, the essential factor having layers and lots of them. Just remember, cruise ships are air-conditioned, and if it’s chilly outside, it’s still going to be cool or even colder inside. For the men, bring a couple of pairs of fleece pants, t-shirts, polo shirts, sweaters, and a hoodie or fleece zip-up jacket. It’s fine to wear a nice dark pair of jeans or casual pants and a polo shirt for dinner.

For the women, pack a couple of pairs of thicker leggings, t-shirts, lightweight cardigans and a hoodie or fleece layer. While most travel with a pair of jeans, I find these to be colder than fleece leggings or fleece pants. However, jeans or black leggings, layered with a casual top and cardigan are acceptable for dining. If you’re a frigid person like myself, a down vest or jacket might be a blessing as well as a thermal top. Down layers roll into a tiny pouch and take virtually no space in your luggage.

On my first trip to Alaska, I did not pack enough layers to stay warm. Many other passengers like me, did not have the layers and rushed to the onboard shops to buy Alaska sweats and hoodies to sustain them for the seven-day trip.

Also, remember to pack a bathing suit and cover-up. If it’s cold the entire seven days, you can still use the indoor pool and hot tubs. On glacier viewing days, I quite enjoyed the steam rooms and saunas to warm my achy bones. If Alaska experiences a heat wave, you can use the outdoor pool.

Alaska Cruise Outfits To Wear In Port
Alaska cruise outfits for men

When walking off your cruise ship, it’s crucial to have a good pair of waterproof shoes or boots. After all, you’re in a rain forest, and liquid sunshine can shower you at any moment. For the women, if you’re looking for a low-rise walking shoe, these ECCO Aspina Gore-tex shoes are ideal at keeping you dry. I love the Ecco brand because they are well-made and stand the test of time. If you plan to do some hiking and need some ankle support, these Columbia Newton Ridge hiking shoes are waterproof, breathable and very comfortable. 

For the men, these North Face Gore-tex shoes will do the trick. Nothing beats Gore-tex for keeping your feet dry and cozy. Alternatively, these Columbia Newton Ridge hiking boots are high top if you require ankle support. Partner your shoes with merino wool blended socks which have a significant amount of warmth and loft even when wet. 

It’s best to carry a compact umbrella with you on port days just in case liquid sunshine should show up. Also, wear the outside liner from your 3-in-1 jacket to keep you dry and comfortable. If you plan any excursions and need to pack extra layers and expensive camera equipment, protect it with a waterproof backpack.

Glacier Viewing

Whether you have warm weather or colder temperatures in town, one thing is for sure, it’s going to be cold next to a glacier. Even if the sun is shining, the winds off the ice can make for a bitterly cold day out on the deck. While you might be tempted to view the glaciers from inside your cabin, the best place for observation is outside. Why? Because there is nothing more spectacular than hearing the cracking of a glacier as it readies to calve. The cracking sounds like thunder amidst the almost silent surroundings. This is an experience you can only get from being outside on the deck.

  • Beautiful blue glacial ice
  • Glacier calving in Glacier Bay National Park

When choosing your Alaska cruise outfits, be prepared for the cold by bringing a 3-in-1 jacket, hat, scarf, gloves, and my favorite, hand warmers. You want to be comfortable and warm. Wear all three pieces of your coat next to the glacier, the outside waterproof shell on port days and the fleece liner on board to keep you warm. Also, having a multipurpose jacket helps cut down on the amount you pack for your vacation. The must-have hand warmers are inexpensive, take little room in your luggage, and your hands will thank you when you’re standing next to a bitterly cold glacier. Wearing your wool socks will keep your toes warm and cozy.

Formal Nights

Alaska cruise formal wear isn’t what it use to be. Since most cruise lines are moving further away from formal nights and often calling them something else, it’s not necessary to wear full formal outfits. Men can wear black pants and a button shirt without a tie and jacket.

I found it very cold to wear something strapless so if you plan on bringing that favorite little black dress, pack a warm shawl or dressy wrap to help take away the chill. Alternatively, wear an elegant pant and stylish blouse.

More on ForeverKaren

Since Alaska is a unique place to cruise, it can also require more planning. Are you looking for more ideas of what to expect? Read “The complete Alaska cruise guide” which will help better prepare you for a fantastic adventure. If you need some ideas on what excursions or activities to do, read “Top 5 Alaska bucket list experiences.”

Happy travels ~ Karen

The post Alaska Cruise Outfits For Men And Women appeared first on Forever Karen.

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With all new cruise ships comes the latest and greatest ideas to keep the passengers entertained on sea days. Gone are the days of just swimming pools and hot tubs. Today, new mega-ships come with ice skating rinks, bumper cars, zip lines, climbing walls, and skydiving simulators. However, Celebrity Cruises hot glass blowing class allows passengers the opportunity to create their own work of art. Having sailed the Eclipse, I’d recommend you not miss this unique experience.

Celebrity has teamed up with The Corning Museum of Glass, the premium authority on glass and glassmaking history. Not only is the class fun but educational too. Celebrity Cruises hot glass blowing class is offered on three of their cruise ships; the Eclipse, Equinox, and Solstice. While the hot glass demonstrations have been on the Celebrity ships for about ten years, the concept of participation is relatively new. It was only in 2018 that cruisers were allowed to work with the experts to make their own masterpiece. Having recently sailed on the Celebrity Eclipse, I watched the glass blowing several times and was fascinated that this experience is available on a cruise ship seeing as fire is a ship’s worse nightmare.

Celebrity Cruises Hot Glass Blowing Demonstration

Once on board your ship, check your daily newsletter for days and times of the hot glass blowing demonstrations. On the Eclipse, head to deck 15 and you’ll find the hot glass blowing class next to the Lawn Club. If you’re already booked on either of the ships offering the hot glass class, the class is found in the Celebrity excursion section online. Individual sections are 20 mins, which is plenty of time to create your one-of-a-kind art piece and special souvenir from your cruise. This unique activity is available for both adults and children over 8, so long as they are accompanied by an adult.

The hot glass class studio on deck 15, next to the Lawn Club

If you’re unsure about blowing your own glass, it’s best to watch a demonstration first. After the hot glass blowing demonstration, a free draw allowed one lucky audience member a chance to book a class for at a 50% discount. Glass experts Jeff Mick and Victoria (Torey) Buckland show you the ropes of blowing glass. In the glass blowing spacious studio, a furnace keeps the molten glass liquified, ready for use. The furnaces don’t shut down as it would take too long to fire them up each day. The elements are turned down at the end of the day but not turned off.

Hot Glass Blowing Class

Passengers can select from a variety of art pieces from ornaments and paperweights to vases and bowls. Prices start at about $59 for a small ball ornament to approximately $177 for a sizeable fluted vase. I personally thought the heart paperweight and the pumpkin ornament were especially lovely. The starfish paperweight is extremely popular amongst cruisers.

Hot glass blowing class samples

During my 12-day cruise on the Eclipse, it was evident this was a favorite activity. The 20-minute classes fill up fast, especially as some passengers blew several pieces of glass.

The Hot Glass Blowing Studio

In the hot glass blowing studio, there are three large pieces of essential equipment. First, the glass melting furnace which melts the glass at 2,100F (1,150C). Secondly, molding glass must be done with the use of the glory hole. The glory hole keeps a constant temperature of 2,050F (1,120C). The annealer’s cooler temperature, at 950F (510C), allows the freshly blown glass to cool slowly for 12 hours before you can collect them.

Working With Hot Glass

Once you have selected your art piece, you must decide on colors. You can select up to two colors from a choice of about twelve. It’s important to note, most of the colors look the same orange tone when hot. The true colors of glass shine through once your art piece has cooled. The only exception is white, which still looks white when heated.

Colored glass chips made from colored oxide and glass chips

While you work with an instructor to blow your own glass piece, you are required to wear safety glasses for your personal protection. After all, that hot glass is over 2,000F. Be prepared to get a little sweaty, especially if it’s a warm, sunny day. I watched a few glass blowing sections during my cruise and noted that some of the pieces did not allow a cruiser to participate too much. The ornament required the instructor to do the majority of the work. However, the starfish paperweight allowed cruisers to do a fair amount of work from shaping the starfish’s arms and elongating them to the required length.

Torey holding a finished piece; a beautiful starfish paperweight
Shaping The Hot Glass

Glass is blown on a stainless-steel rod which is a poor conductor of heat. The rods are preheated to 1,000F, so the glass will stick to it. Once your chunk of glass is heated and shaped, the colors are added. Colour oxide is added to small glass chips which are rolled into the molten glass. The glass cools down very quickly, so it needs to be continuously reheated in the glory hole to mold it. Should the molten glass drop below 1,000F, there is a high chance the glass will crack. Should the glass crack, the used glass is discarded and cannot be reused? Only clear glass is reusable again.

Working with the hot glass The instructors made this incredible fish.

As you work with the glass, the heating process creates air bubbles. By blowing air into the rod, the glass expands. To control the temperature of the glass, the piece is rolled on a marver which is a steel-topped table.

Once, your masterpiece is molded, shaped and completed, it is removed from the stainless-steel rod and placed in the annealer overnight to cool. When it’s time to be collected, the glass studio will bubble wrap your item so it can be safely transported home.

More on ForeverKaren

Are you looking for other activities to do on sea days? Read “Cruising: what to do on sea days,” which is packed full of interesting ideas. to keep you busy for hours or days.

Happy travels ~ Karen

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If you’re planning on sailing with Celebrity Cruises in the near future, consider the heartbeat of the operations galley tour. While cruises are climbing in price and companies are finding more ways to make money, this tour is still free. Yes free, however, who knows how long it will stay complimentary as the tour becomes popular. Be sure to check your daily newsletter for the day and time. The heartbeat of the operations galley tour is surprisingly fun and a fantastic activity to do on a sea day.

Our heartbeat of the operations galley tour guide, Xavier

The Celebrity Cruises tour of the galley is top-rated and popular amongst guests. While I’ve done three galley tours, the last, on the Celebrity Eclipse had a turnout of over 300 people. But don’t worry about the number of passengers attending because the tours take place in smaller groups. In fact, each group tours through the different areas of the galley at intervals to prevent overcrowding. Your guide will show you several areas of the kitchen and will answer all your questions.

Staffing The Galley

During my 12-day cruise to Hawaii, the head chef on the Celebrity Eclipse was Kenny Ramos. It took a large team of 630 food and beverage staff to feed the 3,000 hungry passengers and 1250 crew. It’s fascinating to see that half of the staff work in the food and drink departments. With all those people preparing food every day, it makes you wonder who drives the ship and cleans the cabins? Lol.

Heartbeat of the Operations Galley Tour: Inside the Galley

The first thing that’s noticeable inside the ship’s galley is the amount of stainless steel. Literally, there is stainless steel everywhere. The floors are concrete with lots of drains. A cruise ship galley is designed this way to make sanitization and clean up effortless. One of the biggest nightmares on a cruise ship is the Norovirus, so there are protocols about sanitization and cleanliness. The galley is thoroughly cleaned after each mealtime.

Stainless steel galley

As I walked through the galley, I was astonished to know that 15,000 meals are prepared there every day. While I was trying to comprehend that number, I was thinking of how many clean dishes they would need for rotation. Yes, it’s crazy what goes through my brain sometimes, haha. We never got to see the industrial-sized, but I can imagine those run all day and all night. I certainly wouldn’t want the job of loading and unloading the dishes.

I noticed there were quite a few electronic terminals which kept track of passengers’ orders. At one preparation area, I was surprised to see a colossal recipe book and computer printed pages in protective sleeves. I reminded me a lot of my grandmother’s cookbook.

While I had previously done a galley tour on the Celebrity Mercury (no longer in service) and Coral Princess, the galley was slightly different on the Celebrity Eclipse. The Eclipse used elevators to transport its cooked food to different levels of the main restaurant and specialty restaurants. The other galleys I had seen used escalators.

  • Clean dishes in the galley kitchen
  • Peeling eggs for egg salad
Preparing The Food

Preparing and cooking food in large quantities is done very differently on a cruise ship to a land-based restaurant. There is a separate area just for the butcher to carve the meat into individual portions. Seasoning is done in large batches, the meat put into large containers then taken to another area for cooking. Fruits and vegetables are also prepared in different locations. Desserts are made by the hundreds and stacked in large coolers until they were put out for consumption. Every day, the bakery produces hundreds of loaves of bread and thousands of bread rolls. No day-old bread on a cruise ship!

Preparing lunch salads for thousands of passengers

For safety reasons, open flames are banned on a cruise ship and rightly so. The only exception is the use of small Crème Brulee torches used for that fantastic dessert. Since there are no gas burners in a galley kitchen, that ribeye steak isn’t going to taste quite the same as the one you get at your local steak house restaurant. However, with those scorch lines on the meat, it certainly looks like a steak perfected on a grill.

One of the toughest jobs for the head chefs is guessing the passengers’ palettes and deciding what to cook. It’s a guessing game each meal trying to predict what cruisers will order. Ideally, meals are prepared with little waste, but there is always waste. And what happens to the food waste on a cruise ship? Anything uneaten is mulched and dehydrated into fish food and released into the ocean more than 12 miles from shore.

Food Allergies

Over the years, the number of passengers with food allergies has grown substantially. However, modern cruise ships try their very best to cater to your dietary needs. Menus and some of the buffet food is marked with gluten-free, milk-free, sugar-free, and vegan signage. Anyone with severe allergies should contact the Maître D and discuss your food options each day. Meals are generally chosen one day in advance, and these are prepared and cooked separately from other food to avoid cross-contamination. I suffer from celiac disease and have several severe food allergies, yet it doesn’t deter me from vacationing on a cruise ship. If you suffer from food allergies too, be sure to read my post, “How to cruise with food allergies.” There are many tips on how to stay healthy with cruising the high seas.

Mixing batter for sponge cakes

On the Celebrity Eclipse, all bread, pastries, and cooks are baked from scratch. Only the gluten-free bread and sugar-free ice cream are purchased.

Restaurant Tours

At the end of the heartbeat of the operations galley tour, each group is guided through the specialty restaurants. In the Qsine, passengers are shown a mini-clip of the 3D animation presented during Le Petit Chef. In the Murano, a cooking demonstration of the Murano Lobster entrée. This cognac flambeed warm water lobster tail is served with fresh basil, applewood smoked bacon and Dijon cream. The stops at the restaurants are a way for the cruise line to try to sell specialty restaurant dining.

More on ForeverKaren

Since we’re on the subject of food, you might be interested in “What you never knew about cruise ship food.”

Happy sailing ~ Karen

The post Celebrity’s Heartbeat Of The Operations Galley Tour appeared first on Forever Karen.

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Vancouver is the largest city on the west coast of Canada. Additionally, its cruise terminal at Canada Place, in the heart of Vancouver ferries passengers to Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, and California. If you are sailing in or out of the Vancouver cruise port, it’s best to add a few extra days. That way, you can enjoy all this fantastic city has to offer. Generally speaking, the Canada Place cruise terminal operates on a short season. The cruise ship season usually runs from April to September or early October. Alaska season operates during the summer months, from May to September. Hawaii, Japan, and California repositioning cruises are scheduled when cruise ships are coming to and from Vancouver for the Alaska season.

Getting To The Vancouver Cruise Port

If you are flying into Vancouver, you will land at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on Sea Island in Richmond. A taxi ride to the cruise terminal will take approximately half an hour depending on the traffic. The cost is $30 to $45 or more depending on rush hour.

I prefer to travel to the Vancouver cruise port by Vancouver’s rapid transit system called “Skytrain”. It’s quick, inexpensive and hassle-free.

As you leave the airport, walk across the road and take the escalator to the right. This escalator will bring you the Skytrain’s departure platform. Here, you can purchase a ticket at the self-service machines for a direct route to the Vancouver Waterfront station. It costs $7.75 to $9 per person (depending on the day and time). In addition, the ride takes 25 minutes and trains leave approximately every six to seven minutes.

  • Skytrain’s Canada line to Waterfront station
  • Skytrain arriving at the airport

Once you arrive at the Waterfront Station, go up the escalators, exit the building and turn right. Then, walk about one block to Howe Street and turn right. Canada Place and the Vancouver Cruise Terminal is straight ahead. Additionally, you may even see your cruise ship docked in front of you. To access the cruise terminal, you need to follow the sidewalk down the ramp into the parking area. Signage clearly marks the route for cruise ship passengers, and there are plenty of people to assist you.

About Canada Place And The Vancouver Cruise Port

Canada Place is a recognizable landmark with its five white sails that have topped the building since 1986. Each night from dusk to dawn, the Sails of Light illuminate with seasonal, vibrant colors, displays, and animation.

Canada Place and the Vancouver cruise port in downtown Vancouver

Canada Place was designed to be multifunctional since the cruise ship season is very short (May to September). Not only does it have a cruise ship terminal, but also a hotel, convention center, movie theatres, shops, and cafes.

A Regent ship docked at the Vancouver cruise port

The Vancouver Cruise Port welcomes approximately 900,000 passengers a year. The cruise terminal can accommodate four cruise ships at a time. Furthermore, each one of those cruise ships adds $2 million to the Vancouver area economy.

Where To Stay In Vancouver

It’s important to note, Vancouver is the most expensive city in Canada. Staying in the downtown core is much like vacationing in Miami Beach or New York City. However, if you are seeking a hotel close to the cruise terminal, the Pan Pacific Hotel, Hotel Fairmont Pacific Rim and Hotel Fairmont Waterfront are within steps. However, these hotels come with the convenience of being walking distance to the cruise terminal, but they come with a hefty price tag. If you are mobility challenged or money is of no concern, the Pan Pacific is literally at the cruise ship terminal. Staying there allows you to sleep in on embarkation day, check out of your hotel and check in to your cruise ship without leaving the building. Can it be any more convenient?

More economical options with a cab ride away are Sutton Place Hotel, Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront, Sandman Hotel Vancouver City Centre, or Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver.

However, if you are flying in the night before and need the most economical hotel, stay in Richmond near the airport and travel into downtown Vancouver the morning of embarkation. The best options are the Holiday Inn Express Vancouver Airport, Coast Vancouver Airport Hotel, or the Pacific Gateway Hotel near the airport.

What To Do In Vancouver

Vancouver is a diverse city on the coast, surrounded by picturesque mountains. Its downtown core offers a thriving art, music and theater scenes. Also, Vancouver has become a foodie heaven with its vast selection of worldly cuisine.

Olympic Cauldron close to the Vancouver cruise terminal

Vancouver’s Stanley Park is renowned for being one of the best urban parks in the world. Why not rent a bike and explore the park by pedal power? The downtown core is easy to explore on foot, by transit or rental bikes. There are lots of hop-on-hop-off buses and plenty of taxis should you want to explore a little bit further. For more ideas of what to do, read this extensive guide.

Stanley Park totem poles Embarkation

Every cruise ship leaving Vancouver stops at a U.S. port, so every passenger needs to go through screening and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Even if you don’t intend to get off in port, you must still clear customs and immigration.

If you are not traveling with a Canadian or United States passport, you are required to get an ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization. ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The application to get an ESTA is made online. If you have not already got one when you reach the Vancouver cruise port, there are several computer terminals available to complete your application.

Also, if you are flying into Canada, Canada has now introduced a new entry requirement, known as eTA or Electronic Travel Authorization for visa-exempt foreign nationals. Exceptions include U.S. citizens and travelers with a valid visa. Like the American ESTA, applications are made online.

More on ForeverKaren

If you are sailing from Vancouver, chances are you are cruising to Alaska which hosts one million passengers a year. As you prepare for your vacation, you might want to read “The complete Alaska cruise guide” and avoid mistakes by having a packing list and taking these essential items.

Happy sailing ~ Karen

The post Cruising From Vancouver – Vancouver Cruise Port Guide appeared first on Forever Karen.

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A visit to Maui is not complete without a day trip to Haleakala National Park. While there are multiple tour companies offering excursions, I found the best way to visit is with a rental car. Going “freestyle” allows you to stop along the way and hike one of the many trails inside the national park, and do so at your own pace.

Haleakala (meaning “house of the sun”) is the only National Park on Maui, and it’s known for its spectacular sunrise. If you plan to make the trip for sunrise, do note this is a bustling place in the morning. Be prepared for the long, winding road up to the summit in the dark.

The park itself comprises of two areas. Firstly, the region up to the summit which takes approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours one way. Secondly is the Kipahulu district which is accessible by driving the road to Hana, along the coast and beyond. A one-way drive here is about three hours. There are some areas of the park that are not open to the public and not accessible by road or on foot.

Preparing For Your Day At Haleakala National Park

If you are driving to Haleakala summit, make sure you gas up because there are no services inside the park. There are also no concessions so bring plenty of water and snacks to ward off the hunger pangs.

The road to Haleakala National Park’s summit is very windy. So, if you suffer from motion sickness, you may want to use a motion sickness patch, take ginger pills or use some motion sickness remedy.

It’s also good to note, the drive to the summit will incur dramatic temperature changes. It can get quite cool above the cloud line. So be prepared by bringing a lightweight jacket, fleece hoodie or a windproof jacket. During my visit in late April, the temperature fluctuated from 89F at the base to a very cool 54F at the top. In winter, the summit temperatures can be freezing due to the wind chill factor, and you could possibly run into snow and ice. Also, because this mountain is very high, sometimes cloud and fog can impair visibility so you may arrive at the summit and not be able to see anything. If this happens, don’t despair, because the drive to the top is still quite enjoyable. If you have the time, hang around. The clouds can move quite quickly 10,000 feet in the sky.

Going For Sunrise

If you want to see the Haleakala sunrise, you now need a reservation if you are traveling by private vehicle. Bookings are only available online and can be made up to 60 days in advance at recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777 to make your reservation over the phone. The $1.50 reservation fee ensures you will have a parking spot at one of the four sunrise viewing locations and your permit must be displayed on your car’s dashboard during your visit. The sunrise reservation is valid from 3 am to 7 am. Yes, you read right, 3 am! While this might seem ridiculously early, you’d be surprised at how many people plan to be there at this time.

Haleakala sunrise

While there are four sunrise viewing locations, some are better than others. The parking spots at the preferred locations will fill up first. So, if you arrive late, you may be forced to watch the sunrise at a less desirable spot.

If you’re not an early bird (like me) or want to avoid the crowds, visit in the afternoon and maybe plan to watch the sunset. While the sunset is not as spectacular as the sunrise, it’s still worth seeing.

Lunch Before The Drive

Since I’m not an early bird and was staying in Lahaina on a cruise ship, my preference was a leisurely drive without the crowds.

We planned a stop in Paia to have an early lunch at the Flatbread Company which is located on the Hana Highway. I should mention that it’s a challenge to pack in this small town. Street parking is at a premium. It’s best to park in the larger parking lot across the street and to the west one block.

The Flatbread Company in Paia

Walking into the restaurant, we were immediately struck by its charming ambiance, colorful artwork, and rustic style decor. We were met by Karen, the assistant manager who gave us the rundown of the menu and made some recommendations. I have celiac disease and other significant allergies, and it’s often (or should I say always) a challenge to eat out anywhere. To my surprise, the Flatbread Company not only had gluten and lactose-free pizzas, but they were incredibly delicious.

The Flatbread Company clay oven

The Flatbread Company uses local grown fruits and vegetables to make its food, organic when possible. The menu changes regularly depending on the local produce available. There are two daily specials listed on a large chalkboard, and the selection of local ingredients determines these. One of these is a carnivore pizza and one a veggie. I loved the fact that the restaurant has an entirely open kitchen where you can watch the whole process from kitchen to table. The pizzas are cooked in a traditional wood-fired clay oven which is the showcase in the middle of the restaurant.

The Flatbread Company daily specials The Menu
A sample of the Flatbread Company menu

The Flatbread Company doesn’t have a big menu, but everything on it sounded terrific. The most popular flatbreads on the menu are the Mopsy’s Kalua Pork and the Pele Pesto. Additionally, the restaurant allows you to select two different halves on one pizza at no extra cost. This is a nice bonus for those who can’t decide or want to try something new.

Our Picks

We went with both the signature pizzas on one gluten-free flatbread. Anyone who eats gluten-free will know that wheat free food is either hit or miss. All I can say is WOW; these pizzas are to die for. I especially liked the Pele Pesto which had the right amount of garlic and a unique pesto made from macadamia nuts instead of pine nuts. Where else can you travel in the world and have macadamia nuts on your pizza? To say this pizza is heavenly is no exaggeration.

Half Pele Pesto and half Mopsy’s Kalua Pork pizza

The Kalua Pork satisfied my sweet tooth with its delicious mango BBQ sauce, yummy pulled pork and melt-in-your-mouth goat cheeses. Other pizzas included a traditional pepperoni and mushroom, Pa’ia Bay Ohana (caramelized onions and mushrooms), and a vegan option. It’s important to note that the gluten-free flatbreads are prepared and cooked in a separate area of the kitchen to ensure they do not get cross-contaminated with gluten ingredients.

On Karen’s recommendation, we also ordered the organic salad which was phenomenal, with its amazing Maui pineapple vinaigrette. If you’re not fond of salad, this is a salad that would make you love greens again. The salads are incredibly fresh, made with local organic ingredients and so flavorful. As I said to Karen, you know the food is excellent when the restaurant is full, and the plates are empty. While I arrived at the Flatbread Company with a small appetite, I left with a full and happy tummy and a burning desire to visit again.

The Flatbread Company’s organic salad

If you’re planning a trip to Maui, the Flatbread Company is an absolute must if you love pizza.

The Drive To The Summit

After our delicious lunch, we set out on the ride to Haleakala National Park. The drive to the summit is 38 miles and takes 1-1/2 to 2 hours depending on how many times you stop and amount of traffic. The switchback road rises from sea level to an elevation of 10,023 feet and possibly makes it the steepest vehicle road in the world. The fascinating drive allows you to view many different climatic zones from the tropical area at the base of the mountain to the subalpine desert at the top. The journey is a botanist’s paradise. Along the route, there are pullout stopping points which provide magnificent views of the coastline below, should the skies be void of thick clouds. During my drive, I spotted a number of Ringneck pheasants and feral goats as well as a Chukar partridge at the summit.

A Chukar partridge spotted at the Haleakala National Park summit

The landscape of Haleakala National Park rises from a lush valley beneath a waterfall at sea level to a red desert of cinder cones at the summit. At approximately 7,000 feet, you will arrive at the park entrance, and it’s another 3,000 feet and another ½ hour drive to reach the summit.

Haleakala National Park sign

The entrance fee is $25 per vehicle and is suitable for three days. Alternatively, you can buy a Tri Park annual pass for $50 which gets you into Haleakala National Park, Hawaii Volcano National Park and, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. Once you reach the park, you are in the “Kua Mauna,” the land above the clouds, where people never dwelled for long.

Facts About Haleakala National Park

While the summit is 10,023 feet above sea level, the actual height of the volcano from the bottom of the ocean is about 30,000 feet. This makes it one of the tallest mountains in the world.

Of the 20 recognized climatic zones on earth, Maui has 17 of them. Many of these can be experienced by visitors on their visit to the park. While some can be experienced on route to the summit and inside the crater, others are found lower down on the ocean side in the Kipahulu districts of the park.

At the summit and on a clear day, look to the southwest. You may be able to see Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island over 100 miles away.

Haleakala National Park is a favorite place for amateur astronomers. If you want to experience some fantastic star gazing, you can rent telescopes and binoculars from local shops in the area. Since there are no city lights nearby, the mountain offers amazing star gazing opportunities.

Endangered Species

At one of the last parking lots, there is a short hike to the summit. Don’t be deceived by this short walk. The air is thin at 10,000 feet so don’t be surprised if you get out of breath quickly. Pace yourself slowly and be careful of the very large steps on the route to the top. The White Hill Trail climbs to the top of a volcanic cinder cone for views of the Haleakala wilderness area. At first glance, this dormant volcanic seems quite barren. For the most part, it is, but there are signs of life amongst the dirt and rocks. Living amongst the rocks are nesting silverswords, a haven for wolf spiders, flightless moths, and yellow-faced bees.

There are more endangered species in Haleakala National Park than in any other United States national park. The Haleakala Silversword is a rare plant only found in Hawaii. It’s easy to spot with its very striking silver long leaves that grow in a unique rosette shape. These delicate plants once dominated the area but are now rare due to overgrazing of cattle and goats. Now almost extinct, these fragile plants rely on park management to keep them thriving in Haleakala National Park. Other rare species include the Hawaii Petrel and the Hawaiian bat.

The Haleakala Silversword – one of many endangered species in Haleakala National Park

Another rare species is the Nene, a native Hawaiian goose which resembles a smaller version of the Canada goose. Please drive slowly in the park and look out for these rare birds. While great efforts have been made to preserve endangered species, these efforts are ongoing. Please stay on the trails, take nothing but photos and memories and help to protect the fragile habitat. It took two trips to Hawaii before I spotted my first Nene and in three visits, I’ve only ever seen the one.

Haleakala National Park Viewing

The view from the Haleakala crater rim is indescribable and unforgettable. Many visitors describe the aspects as moon-like. As the clouds shift, the layers of earthy tones come into view, and the colors are magnificent. The vibrant reds blend so brilliantly with the browns, greens, and grays that Claude Monet himself, could not have painted a better vision.

If the weather is favorable and the skies are clear, the views from rim to rim are quite spectacular. Look down to the right, and you can see the trail that meanders into the crater. Should you have the time, this is worth the time. Standing at the rim of the crater gives you a feeling that you’re on top of the world, considering clouds surround you.

Looking into the Haleakala crater, a popular hiking trail is visible on the right The views into the Haleakala crater are quite mesmerizing Hiking In Haleakala National Park

There are almost 40 miles of trails in the park, ranging from easy to rugged and strenuous. Most of these trails are in the summit area of the park. It’s important to note that hiking off designated trails and cutting across switchbacks are prohibited. These actions cause erosion and damage to many of the endangered species in the park. Also, wilderness area water needs to be treated before it’s drinkable.

When hiking in the summit area, it’s essential to know that most trails are very strenuous. This is due to the high elevation which can cause altitude sickness. Also, since you will be starting your hike going downwards, allow for twice the time to hike back upwards. Remember to wear sturdy shoes, use sunscreen, carry plenty of water and be prepared for drastic weather changes. Hiking in the..

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