7 FREE must sees on Oahu

  • Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens in Kaneohe. The drive up is stunning and once you get to the actual path to walk around you will see so many plants and trees you’ve never seen before. 
  • Hiking:There are so many incredible hikes and they won’t cost you a dime. One of my favorites is the Lanikai Pillbox Hike.
  • Lanikai Beach: This spot is tucked away in a neighborhood. Parking is not easy to find but it’s worth it. The beach is beautiful and far quieter than the beaches on Waikiki. 
  • Ali’iolani Hale: This building is stunning. It’s the home of the Hawai’i State Supreme Court. In front of the building is a statue of Kamehameha the Great. There are displays that help to tell the history of Hawai’i. This is free but donations are welcome to help maintain the building. 
  • Bayer Estate: This is the house that is featured in the new Hawai’i Five O. The owners are very welcoming and love meeting fans of the show. 
  • The Byodo-In Temple: This temple is gorgeous! It’s a replica of a 950-year-old one in Japan. You need to pay attention to the etiquette though. You can’t wear shoes in the temple at all, and you will be told if you try to wear shoes.

Hawai’i has a reputation of being expensive and don’t get me wrong because it can be. But there are so many ways to travel these beautiful islands on a tight budget too.


Continue Reading

What does hiking at 10,000 feet feel like?

The summit at Haleakalā on Maui in Hawaii takes you 10,023 feet up in the sky.

There are crowds of people lined up waiting for the sunset at the summit

You are above the clouds! It’s peaceful and exhilarating all at the same time. 

The summit at Haleakala just prior to sunset

{How to get here} 

Option 1: Tour group 

This option can be great for those who aren’t a fan of driving alongside cliffs and through clouds.

It’s a challenging drive. But a tour will cost you quite a lot more. It’s also going to likely take much longer.

The most popular times to visit the summit are sunrise and sunset. But keep in mind what time you will need to be awake if you choose to do sunrise with a tour group. 

Option 2: Rent a car 

This is what we did, and I’m thankful. We were on our own time. We could stop when we wanted to at the lookouts on the way to the summit.

The drive to the summit

We also decided to leave the summit right as the sun went down {but before everyone else packed up} so we beat a lot of that traffic coming down.

It gets busy though. So keep in mind if you’re not at the top in time you won’t find a place to park at the summit {park rangers block its entrance} and you will need to hike 1 mile to get to the summit. But that second lot also fills up. Aim to arrive at the summit at least 1.5 hours before sunset or sunrise in order to guarantee a parking spot. 

Hikes at the summit

There are so many hikes to do on your way to the summit. You can opt to go for longer hikes if you have the time but there are plenty of shorter options that still give you incredible views.

There is a short hike up a lava rock path that you will find near the visitor’s center, half a mile from the summit. A bonus is there are bathrooms at this stop.
Continue Reading

The BIGGEST mistake tourists make in Iceland

Iceland is a small country. But don’t let its size fool you. Getting from one side to the other is still time consuming. 

The biggest mistake you can make is booking everything you do with Reykjavik as your starting point. If you do this, you will end up on the road for a good portion of your trip when you could be using that valuable time to explore more of the treasures in Iceland. 

We spent 6 days in Iceland but never stayed at the same place. Instead of having a home base we mapped out our trip and found places to stay along the way. 

Day 1: 

  • Fly into Keflavík Airport at 6am
  • Pick up rental car 
  • Drive 20 minutes to Blue Lagoon– Spend several hours relaxing at Blue Lagoon 
  • Drive to Grindavik for dinner and check into guesthouse 
  • IF TIME – check out the Bridge Between Continents 

Day 2:  

  • 9am: start the 7+ hour drive to Jokulsarlon 
  • Stop at Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls alongthe drive 
  • 7/8pm: arrive at horse farm guest house (located a convenient 20 min drive from Jokulsarlon) 

Day 3: 

  • Ice Caving/Glaicer walking in the morning 
  • 1pm: Drive to Vik (2-2.5 hours) 
  • IF TIME – stop at Diamond Beach for a quick walk down to the water 
  • Go to Halldorskaffi for dinner (you won’t regret this! Amazing food) 

Day 4: 

  • Explore Vik MUST SEE: Dyrhólaey
  • Drive to Laugarvatn (2-2.5 hours) 
  • Stop at Gullfoss Falls and The Great Geysir(if time do the hike to The Abandoned DC Plane on Sólheimasandur) 
  • Book an evening at Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal BathsThey have a buffet dinner there too. The perfect way to relax after a long day on the road. 

Day 5: 

  • Explore the nearby Þingvellir National Park 
  • Drive into Reykjavik 
  • Explore the city at night 

Day 6: 

  • Breakfast at the hotel 
  • Self guided walking tour– Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral, The Sun Voyager Sculpture, Harpa Concert Hall, and Reykjavík Town Hall are just a few spots to check out 
  • Drive to Keflavik Airport (45 minutes) 
Continue Reading

Where to stay in Iceland? We stayed at a horse farm!

View from our window when we woke up

This is what accommodations in Iceland look like. I’m not sure the country was prepared (or, honestly, ever wants to be prepared) for such an influx of travelers. 

The UN estimates Iceland’s population at 338,000. The Icelandic Tourist Board estimates 2.2 million tourists visited the country in 2017.  

That’s a big number for such a small country! 

So where do all those tourists stay? 

We stayed at a horse farm one night! It was the closest place to where we planned to go ice caving the next day (Jokulsarlon). 

They just walked right up to us!

This was in a very rural, but still accessible part of Iceland. This was on the south eastern shores near Hofn. 

If you need room service, a heated pool, a spa and valet this might not be your style. But the benefit to staying in guest houses, like this horse farm, are that you will meet people from across the globe. 

In just this one night stay…we met a family from France, a couple from Taiwan and 3 childhood best friends from South Africa.

We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning drinking gin and tonics and admiring the Northern Lights together. It was an unforgettable night. And thanks to social media we still stay in touch with many of them. 

RELATED: The 3 waterfalls you can’t leave Iceland without seeing!

I won’t lie. This place was hard to find. We got distracted stopping at waterfalls on the way there. And whatever Siri told us was wrong, it took much longer to drive to this spot. We had not seen a building or light (other then our own headlights) in 3 hours. But when we saw lights up on a hill we knew that was our horse farm. 

This may sounds absolutely crazy to some people. But for me, I find this far more exciting than staying at a fancy hotel. Though we do make sure to fit in a few nights here and there because let’s be honest, we all love those amenities sometimes too. 

Continue Reading

Snorkeling for FREE on your vacation is possible!

You don’t always have to book with a tour group. Now, sometimes that’s the only way, or the safest way to do something. BUT when it comes to snorkeling…often times you can handle this one on your own. 

Chileno Bay, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

What can I say, we often end up making new friends when we travel. We met a group of friends from California at our resort in Cabo San Lucas who taught us a trick we didn’t know, our resort would let us borrow (for FREE) gear to go snorkeling.

We checked out the gear and then took a quick car ride to Chileno Bay and we saved a ton! 

Chileno Bay is one of the top spots to snorkeling in Cabo. We were surrounded by tourist boats. So we knew we were in the right spot. 

Chileno Bay, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

A snorkeling adventure in Cabo can run anywhere from $20-$150 a person. 

If you want to keep costs down on your beach vacation, just check if the spots you want to snorkel can be accessed easily from shore, and if so…maybe skip that pricey tour. 

Continue Reading

Falling for Iceland’s waterfalls

The signs are small. The waterfalls are not. You will see the waterfalls before the signs.

It’s best to map these must see spots out in advance to make sure you don’t drive by them without stopping. 

The 3 waterfalls you can’t leave Iceland without seeing…


My favorite by far, and we nearly skipped it, was Gullfoss. I rode the Maid of the Mist boat at Niagara Falls, but to me this waterfall was more impressive. 

Gullfoss is on the Golden Circle in southwest Iceland in the canyon of the Hvítá river.


You walk up to Gullfoss Falls and the falls appear to open into the earth out of nowhere. 

The steps down to Gullfoss

One thing that makes Iceland’s massive waterfalls so unique is how close you can get. On the flip side, be careful not to get too close. 

Ice forms on some of the paths in the winter. But all that separates curious tourists is a polite thin metal chain with a sign that says ‘closed.’ As you can tell…not everyone listens.  

Don’t expect much at these sites when it comes to amenities. A toilet is likely to be a portable style – if there is one at all. Hot water, guess again. My advice, keep hand sanitizer on you. 

The view at the top of Skogafoss

Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are very close together. Which makes it easy to see both on the same day.

Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are in the South Region of Iceland. Both are right off Route 1.

Seljalandsfoss is near the road that leads to Þórsmörk Road 249. FUN FACT: This waterfall is part of the Seljalands River, which starts in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull —- Yes, this is the volcano that erupted in 2010 and shut down air travel across Europe.

Skogafoss is on the Skoga River just about 20 minutes further east down Route 1.

Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are also on the way to Vik, which is one of my favorite spots in Iceland. Along this route you will also pass the US Navy DC3 wreckage which is still laying mostly intact on a black sand beach. Though you really need to know where to look so you have the right path – more to come on that soon in another post.


At Skogafoss, you can take a walk up the stairs and see the waterfall from above. The path also continues if you’re up for a hike. The views are incredible. 

The stairs up to the top of Skogafoss

At Seljalandsfoss you will see the main waterfall right away. You could snap a selfie from the car park and say you’ve been. But if you walk for a bit you will come across some unique spots formed into the same cliff. I say it’s worth a bit of a walk, if you have the time. If not, I would say the walk at Skogafoss is more of a must. 

Walking along the cliff at Seljalandsfoss

Iceland has many more amazing waterfalls but these 3 are on the main path most tourists find themselves on. You won’t have any issues driving to these spots. But for the more adventurous types there is a lot more to explore if you head into the more desolate areas further into the center of the country. Keep in mind there are what’s called ‘F roads’ and you need an off-road vehicle to legally drive on these roads. 

Continue Reading

Let’s talk bargains! Exploring Oslo in 2 days AND for only $50

If you do all of the things on this list you will spend about $50 USD a person and it will take about 2 days. You can cut it down and still see a significant amount of the city in 1 day.

Frogner Park, Oslo
  1. Get a daily pass for the public transit system. This will not only help you navigate the city but it gets you on board the ferries – I’ll explain why this is so cool later – $12
  2. Climb on the roof of the Oslo Opera House – FREE 
  3. Hop on a ferry and go to Hovedoya to see the monastery ruins. It’s also fun just to hike this island. You will see some amazing views of the fjord – FREE (included with your daily public transit pass)
  4. Akershus Fortress– FREE These medieval ruins are fun to explore on your own or with a guide. It’s amazing so much is still standing since this castle was built in the year 1300. 
  5. Frogner Park – FREE The sculptures are so unique and the park itself is beautiful to just walk around. 
  6. Viking Ship Museum – $12 I learned so much about the culture of the Vikings. I found it surprising how many customs were similar to that of ancient Egyptians. Accessible by ferry or bus (included in the public transit ticket) 
  7. Aker Brygge is a must. This area is right in central Oslo. There are several nice restaurants right on the water. It’s also just a nice area to walk around and grab an ice cream (no matter the weather Norwegians like their ice cream). When the weather is nice (and honestly even when it’s not) you can sit outside and take in the beautiful view along the boardwalk. Most of the restaurants have heat lamps outside so you can still be comfortable even when the weather isn’t ideal. 
  8. Noble Peace Center $14 – This is something you want to be able to set 1-2 hours aside for 
  9. The changing of the guards at the Royal Palace happens at 1:30pm daily 
Viking Ship Museum, Oslo
Views from the ferry in the fjord

Monastery ruins at Hovedoya
Continue Reading

Feeling like royalty in Norway

Simplicity is the best way to describe the feeling when you walk toward the Royal Palace in central Oslo. And it is so refreshing.

The walk to the Royal Palace, Oslo

There aren’t many royal palaces where you can get so close it feels like you could knock on the front door, and be invited in for tea. Of course, the guards are still stationed in front of the door to prevent that from happening. 

Royal Palace, Oslo

The feeling as you walk down the gravel covered road is almost like you’re walking up to a friend’s house, albeit a friend with a very nice house. It was such an up close and personal feeling. 

It’s refreshing that Norway can still do this. Though in a world of increasing threats and heightened security it makes me wonder…for how long. 

The changing of the guards, Royal Palace, Oslo
The changing of the guards, Royal Palace, Oslo

Tradition still holds strong. You can see the changing of the guards daily at 1:30 pm.

The changing of the guards, Royal Palace, Oslo
Continue Reading

Hey parents! Best car seat for those long plane rides

The Diono Radian car seat is by far a favorite for us when we take our little guy abroad. This picture says it all! Compact and convenient. It allows our arms to be free to wrangle the kids.

Our first flight with the Diono Radian car seat, Toronto Pearson International Airport

It folds flat and coverts into a backpack, no extra bulky bag needed. We can set it up on the plane in a matter of minutes and our toddler sleeps like a baby in it. 

Bonus: These seats are narrow so they don’t take up a ton of room. So feel free to rent that compact rental car and save a few bucks. 

Continue Reading

Rafting underground through the Waitomo Caves

For the adventure seeker heading to New Zealand’s north island this is the perfect activity to plan. 

Waitomo Caves, North Island, New Zealand

The day I went black water rafting is one I will never forget. It was one of the most amazing experiences. 

The view as you belay down into the cave

You belay from a beautiful green landscape down into a system of underground caves. Grab a tube and go for one of the best rides. 

Belaying into the cave system

Once deep inside the caves with no natural light your guide will use a noisemaker to bring out the glow worms. They instantly light up the caves. 

At some spots on the journey you have to find unique ways to get through certain areas
Even though we had just met these people you quickly end up working as a team
The glow worms are not easy to capture on camera but those dots above us, those are the very long glow worms hanging from the top of the cave
Limestone formations inside the caves

Waitomo is a bit off the beaten path. So you need to rent a car to get there. Not much around. But worth the journey through all New Zealand’s windy roads. 

The victorious picture of our group after we rock climbed out of the cave
Continue Reading