Embracing the Wild Life with 8 things to do on Bowen Island + GIVEAWAY

This post is sponsored by Sakroots to promote the launch of the new Wild Life print by Niki Pilkington.

Call us biased but we’re proud to say we live in the most beautiful province in Canada, where Mother Nature has graced us with the most comfy climate and stunning scenery! This year, we’ve set a goal to embrace the wild life in British Columbia by exploring as many islands as we can. We started with a weekend getaway on a small island just 20 minutes from Vancouver by ferry: Bowen Island.

8 Things to do on Bowen Island

1. Enjoy the scenic ferry ride

Hop on the Queen of Capilano run by BC Ferries! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenic ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove. Crossing time is only 20 minutes and passengers don’t need tickets for the return ferry.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen Island

2. Go kayaking

The kayak season runs from April to mid October. You can check out an abundance of wildlife while you paddle from beach to beach. Keep your eyes peeled for orcas, dolphins, seals, and bald eagles. We didn’t get a chance to do this as the sea was too choppy; the conditions were so bad that other ferry routes were canceled! We’ll be back again in the summer to explore the gulf by kayak.

3. Chill out at Snug Cove

Take a stroll along the picturesque marina with buildings from the early 1900’s. Snug Cove was once a summer resort where Vancouverites spent holiday time, and housed the largest dance hall in BC.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen Island

4. Visit Artisan Square

Artisan Square is a quaint cultural hub where you can find a collection of shops, restaurants, and galleries. It’s a 20-minute uphill walk from Snug Cove- or you can catch a 5-minute ride with one of the friendly locals by hitchhiking. Don’t miss organic chocolatey treats at Cocoa West Chocolatier!

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen IslandKollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen Island

5. Feast your heart out

With a population of just over 3,500, we were surprised to find the wide variety and high quality of dining options on Bowen Island. Sample Spanish tapas over vino at Barcelona, pig out on wood-fired pizzas at Tuscany, or indulge in French bistro fare at Artisan Square (legit French pastries baked onsite!). You can also find hearty pub food or sip on award-winning coffee. Eating clean is easy peasy on Bowen where many bistros use organic and garden-fresh ingredients.

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6. Zip around on a scooter

Scooter season runs from mi-April to mid-October. Weather permitting, this is by far the best way to explore the island!  Bowen Island is so small that it only takes 30 minutes to get from one end of the island to the other. Why not do it in style in a retro Yamaha Vino?

7. Attend a yoga retreat

Practicing in this geodesic dome at Nectar Yoga B&B is one of the best things to do on Bowen Island. Yoga enthusiasts from all over the world travel here to attend events and workshops immersed in nature. Namaste doesn’t get any better than this!

Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB

8. Go hiking

With over 10 walks and hikes to choose from, Bowen Island offers trails for every kind of hiker. Stroll with ease around Killarney Lake or challenge yourself by summiting Mount Gardner, where you will be rewarded with views of Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen Island

SAKROOTS GIVEAWAY – WIN AN ITEM FROM THE NEW WILD LIFE COLLECTION

I’ve partnered up with Sakroots to promote the launch of the ‘Wild Life’ print by illustrator Niki Pilkington. The winner will receive any Wild Life item of their choice.

The contest will go live on my Instagram on Monday, April 17 at 7PM PST. To enter:

  1. Follow @sakroots and @kollectingkoordinates on Instagram
  2. Post a photo showing how you live your wild life
  3. Tag and mention @sakroots and @kollectingkoordinates in your photo
  4. Use the hashtags #SRWildLife #sakroots in the caption

A winner will be selected by Sakroots and announced after 24 hours. This giveaway is open to everyone with a US-mailing address. Terms and conditions can be found here.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Sakroots. Special thanks to BC Ferries for providing us with complimentary fares to Bowen Island.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen Island

Feel, breathe, heal, and release – Nectar Yoga B&B on Bowen Island (GIVEAWAY)Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

AS and I just returned from a weekend of zen on Bowen Island, which is just a short 20-minute ride from Vancouver via BC Ferries. We’ve been wanting to attend a yoga retreat for the longest time but never had the opportunity… until we found Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island, that is!

We love our experience here so much that we want to keep it a secret. But alas, sharing is caring. Keep reading for your chance to win a yoga package giveaway!

Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

“Nature and namaste” is perhaps the best way to describe this place. Tired of the materialistic, corporate life, Andrea and her partner set off on a spiritual adventure around the world. Through their travels they found themselves. They envisioned a new life and turned their dream into reality upon returning home. Thus, Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island was born!

Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

Oreo showing us how downward dog is properly done

The space, location, and its surroundings

Tucked away in the woods on Bowen Island, Nectar Yoga B&B is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city life. It’s hard to believe this eco-friendly sanctuary is only half an hour away from downtown Vancouver. Easily accessible, yet remote enough to disconnect.

There are three units on this 1.2 acre lot, complete with a Finnish sauna and geodesic yoga dome. The entire space, including the main house, can be rented out for large group retreats. House pups Oreo and Rascal (cuties!) can be seen roaming around when the sun’s out. You might even spot a deer or two!

Guests can explore a beautiful lake, a nature reserve, two parks, and dozens of hiking trails in their down time. To get around on the island, just walk onto the main road and stick your thumb out! Hitchhiking is the norm here.

Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

inside the beautiful geodesic yoga dome

Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

Our cottage – The Nectar Loft

The Nectar Loft is the perfect marriage between cabin life and loft living. Using natural wood and aqua tones, the Scandinavian design makes guests feel right at home. The cottage comes with a fully equipped kitchen and small fireplace. Its living room boasts three large windows overlooking the garden, letting in tons of light.

All soaps, shampoo, and cleaning products are locally made and natural, in order to reduce environmental impact. If you don’t feel like going out, the cottage is stocked with books, movies, and board games. At the end of your day, let the comfy queen-sized bed lull you to sleep in the cozy loft.

Food and dining

Homemade breakfast is served daily in our cottage. Using only local and organic ingredients, Andrea ensures her guests are fully charged with yummy vegetarian meals every morning. Vegan options are also available upon request.

You can cook your own meals or dine out for lunch and dinner. Enjoy wood-fired pizzas at Tuscany, French bistro fare at Artisan Eats, or tapas at Barcelona- Bowen Island’s newest addition.

Feel, breathe, heal, and release

Daily yoga and meditation session take place in the geodesic dome. Andrea’s a fantastic instructor; her classes are challenging yet rejuvenating. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say this was the highlight of our stay ! We left feeling recharged, more aware, and inspired.

Andrea does an excellent job in guiding us through each pose and flow, beyond not only the physical aspects but also the spiritual mind. We especially loved the talks post-practice where she delves into yoga and meditation on a deeper level.

For more information on Nectar Yoga B&B, please visit their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and InstagramFollow along for upcoming workshops, events, and retreats!

Giveaway Time! Win a 2-Night Yoga Retreat

I’ve partnered up with Andrea to give one lucky follower (+ guest) a Nectar Yoga B&B weekday retreat! Enter for your chance to win a Yoga Package for 2 guests in the new Garden Suite

How to enter – you can enter as many times as you like!

The 2-night stay is valid from Monday – Thursday between October 15th – November 30th, 2017. Contest closes on April 21st at 9pm PST; the winner will be announced on Sunday, April 23rd. Good luck!


Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island. However, these honest opinions are our own and we would never recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! Special thanks to BC Ferries for providing us with complimentary fares to the island.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

Fly away to Neverland! The most whimsical afternoon tea in VancouverKollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

“All you need is faith and trust, and a little bit of pixie dust!”… Except you don’t need pixie dust to find this particular Neverland! Inspired by Parisian salons from the 18th century, Neverland Tea Salon is the brainchild of owners Teri and Renee. Treat yo’self and don’t miss this themed tea house when you’re in Vancouver.

Living up to its name, Neverland is the most whimsical tea house in town. We had high expectations after hearing about our friends’ experiences and surely enough, it didn’t disappoint! Even Peter Pan himself would approve.

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Neverland Tea Salon – high tea in Vancouver

AMBIANCE & SPACE

Much like Sir J. M. Barrie’s Neverland, the decor here is as nonsensical as it gets- in a good way, of course.

There’s something spellbinding about this tea house, from the vintage furniture to the quirky chandeliers, to the teacups hanging from the ceiling. Perhaps the magic is cast by pretty scribbles on the walls; quotes from the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up. You’ll notice that no two chairs or teacups are alike. Nothing matches and yet somehow, everything works!

Whether you’re riding solo or with your crew, there are tables for parties of all sizes. I can’t think of a venue more fun in Vancouver to celebrate a special occasion. I wish I had known about Neverland Tea Salon when I had my bridal shower!

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

READ MORE: Where to stay in Vancouver

FOOD – NEVERLAND GRANDE HIGH TEA

We each ordered the Neverland Grande High Tea: 5 savoury and 5 sweet courses. All their delicious finger sandwiches and pastries are made in-house. I gotta say, the quality of afternoon tea at Neverland Tea Salon is definitely one of the best in Vancouver.

The savoury sandwiches are tasty with a novel twist, like the egg salad combo with Thai red curry and mango chutney. AS really enjoyed the truffled croissant-wich; it was flavourful and flaky without being greasy. I loved their scones with house-made strawberry jam… so much so I ate AS’s share too.

There was so much food we had to pack a few pieces to go. Can’t eat too much in one sitting? Try the Demi-Tea option. Vegetarian and gluten-/dairy-free menus are also available if you have dietary restrictions. 

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

TEA SELECTION

The Neverland Grande High Tea menu comes with never-ending pots of teas. The teas are bottomless, which means you can try as many as you like from over 60 teas! You can also purchase packs of loose leaf tea to enjoy at home.

We sampled 4 different teas: Almond Joy, Pixie Dust, Peter’s Promise, and our personal favourite- Take Me to Neverland. Each had a distinct flavour without being overwhelming. The teas are steeped at the main counter so let your server know about your preferences in advance.

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Neverland Tea Salon

LOCATION

Situated in Kitsilano, Neverland Tea Salon is easily accessible by public transit (buses 009, 014, B-99). Those with a car can find plenty of metered parking on the streets. If you don’t mind walking a few blocks there’s free parking on West 10th.

Address: 3066 West Broadway, Vancouver

HOURS OF OPERATION

Monday-Friday: 11AM-6PM, Saturday: 9AM-7PM, Sunday: 9AM-6PM

Reservations are highly recommended, especially if you want to be seated in the comfy pink couches! To see their full menus and for more information, visit their official website, Facebook, and Instagram pages.

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Disclaimer: We received complimentary tasting at Neverland Tea Salon. However, these honest opinions are our own and we would never recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

 

The perfect winter getaway at the No.1 ski resort – Whistler

Vancouverites are really lucky. We’re not only spoiled with 3 different local mountains all within a 45-minute drive, but also a world-class ski resort just 2 hours away. Every winter calls for a Whistler getaway to escape the city life, even if it’s just for a short weekend. If you haven’t already been to Whistler, what are you waiting for?!

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

one of the runs at 7th Heaven on Blackcomb Mountain

Know before you go

  • Everything is expensive. Brace your wallet; Whistler is coming.
  • Bring a pair of rainboots. They might not be #ootd-worthy but the joke’s on you when your fancy non-waterproof shoes get drenched by nasty slush.
  • Expect long lines at chairlifts. Lines move fairly quickly but they’re inevitable.

Tip: This is why we prefer riding at Sun Peaks in Kamloops or Big White in Kelowna. I don’t remember ever having to wait more than 5 minutes to get on a lift at Sun Peaks or Big White… but then again Whistler is only a 2hr drive from home versus 5-6hrs on the dreadful Coquihalla Highway.

Photo credit: Becca at @habitat9travels

Getting to Whistler

By car

Driving to Whistler from Vancouver is easy peasy because directions and signs are clearly marked. Strap in for a gorgeous ride along the Sea-to-Sky corridor. Follow signs for the Trans-Canada Highway/BC-1 W/BC-99 N from wherever you are, and continue on BC-99 N until you see the Whistler Village on your right. 

Tip: Winter tires are required by law on the Sea-to-Sky Highway from October 1 to March 31. Make sure your vehicle complies!

By bus/shuttle

Don’t have a car or don’t want to drive? Bus and shuttle services like Pacific Coach and Snow Bus offer transportation from YVR (Vancouver International Airport) and downtown Vancouver to Whistler. Prices range anywhere from $40-70, one way.

Tip: Check Groupon for deals. I’ve seen deals on shuttle passes for around $35, round trip.

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Peak to Peak Gondola – Photo credit: Becca at @habitat9travels

Where to stay on your Whistler getaway

How do you choose which hotel, lodge, or rental property to stay at? It really depends on how many people you’re traveling with. If it’s just you and a significant other, get a hotel or 1-bedroom Airbnb. If you’re traveling with a big group of friends or family, renting a cabin is the way to go. Rates start at $300CAD/night for upscale hotels and there’s always a 2+ night minimum stay required for cabins and Airbnb.

Tip: Always check the map to see if your accommodation is close to a gondola and chairlifts. Most hotels offer complimentary shuttles if they’re not in the village. Ski-in/out choices come with a hefty price-tag but it’s worth the convenience (and view!).

AS and I stayed at the newly renovated Crystal Lodge & Suites last December and it was perfect. Located in the center of the village, we were literally steps away from the Excalibur Gondola (takes you up the Blackcomb Mountain). It was so nice not having to lug our gear for more than a 3-minute walk after a long leg day on the slopes.

Read more: Crystal Lodge & Suites – The Perfect Place to Stay in Whistler

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler

Whistler village stroll

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler

Crystal guest room in Crystal Lodge & Suites

What to eat on your Whistler getaway

Eating in

The biggest advantage of renting a cabin or Airbnb is that it comes with a kitchen. Whistler is expensive, so you end up saving a lot of money by cooking your own meals. There are two grocery stores in the village: Whistler Grocery Store and MarketPlace IGA (larger, slightly cheaper). 

Dining out

No kitchen? Don’t worry! Start your morning with a breakfast of champions at Wild Wood Pacific Bistro. The large portions will keep you fueled throughout the day. For a mid-day snack (or second breakfast!), hop on the Crystal Ridge Express chairlift for some delicious Belgian waffles at the Crystal Hut.

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Peaked Pies serves authentic Australian meat pies- hearty comfort food at a reasonable price. Head to Araxi for their famous oyster happy hour from 3-5pm. And of course, don’t miss the charcuterie board and cheese fondue at Basalt.

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yummy charcuterie board at Basalt Wine & Salumeria

Things to do on your Whistler getaway

Ski / snowboard

Duh, if you’re not going to Whistler to ride why are you even going? Jokes. There’s actually a lot more to Whistler than just skiing and snowboarding, but you’re in for a treat if shredding fresh pow is your main goal. Connected by the Peak-to-Peak Gondola, Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are comprised of 200+ marked runs, 8000+ acres of terrain, and 16 alpine bowls.

Tip: 1-Day lift passes are $139CAD but you can save by purchasing at least 3 days in advance. The more days you buy, the more you save. Children (7-12yrs), youths (13-18 yrs), and seniors (65+) also receive discounted rates. Check this page for more information.

Tip: Canadians and residents of Oregon and Washington States are eligible for the EDGE Card, which offers discounts on lift tickets and activities. It also links your credit card, allowing guests to pay easily at shops and restaurants.

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Go tubing at the Coca-Cola Tube Park

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the tube park! When I was younger, Papa Ko would spend the day cruising down the tubing hill while I learned how to snowboard. This fun activity is family-friendly and for people of all ages.

Tip: Rates are $23/hr or $31.50/2hrs for adults, but EDGE Card holders receive 20% off. Find out more about pricing and hours of operation here.

Go snowshoeing

If neither riding nor tubing is for you, slap on some snowshoes and hike through a winter wonderland. Tours start at $49CAD per person; check out the different tour options here.

Treat yo self at Scandinave Spa Whistler

You’re missing out on life if you haven’t tried hydrotherapy! The Scandinave Spa is the cherry on top for your Whistler getaway. Eucalyptus steam rooms, wood burning saunas, Nordic waterfalls, cold baths, and outdoor hot pools in the snow… what more do you need? Relax, rejuvenate, and recharge with the health benefits of hydrotherapy. You can also take your experience to the next level with a massage treatment.

Tip: They open at 10am- get there right when it opens so you’re the first ones to use the pools. It can get pretty busy in the afternoon, especially on weekends.

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Photo credit: Becca at @habitat9travels

Ball out on a helicopter tour

If you have a fat wallet, why not splurge on a heli-ride to make your Whistler getaway extra special? Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the glaciers, snowy valleys, and coastal mountains. You can even add a hike or glacier trek to your package to make it a full-day activity. Prices range from $170-715CAD depending on your tour.

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Photo credit: Becca at @habitat9travels

Special thanks to Becca at @habitat9travels for providing some of these amazing photos of Whistler! Follow her on Instagram for more stunning travel photography.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Crystal Lodge & Suites – The Perfect Place to Stay in WhistlerKollecting Koordinates - Whistler

Named ‘The Best Ski Resort in the World’ for many years, Whistler is only a 2-hour drive from home. Although there are slopes closer to Vancouver for us, AS and I make an effort to drive up to Whistler every ski and snowboard season. And this year is no different! We usually do it in a day trip but we decided to stay overnight this time at Crystal Lodge Whistler, or Crystal Lodge & Suites.

Read more: The perfect winter getaway at the No.1 ski resort – Whistler

Crystal Lodge Whistler Location

Situated on the corner where the two main paths meet in the Whistler village, Crystal Lodge and Suites is really at the center of it all. We were literally a stone’s throw away from everything: tons of shops and restaurants, the liquor store, a market, and most importantly- the gondolas and lifts.

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

We’ve stayed at other locations in the past but it was always a hassle getting to the gondolas. We either had to walk a few blocks in our ski and snowboard boots (which is super uncomfortable even just for 10 minutes!) if we rented a cabin, or wait for complimentary shuttles if we stayed at a hotel. It was amazing being able to hop on the gondola as soon as we stepped outside Crystal Lodge Whistler! 

Rooms at Crystal Lodge Whistler

With 158 guestrooms and 16 room types, it doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo, as a couple, family, or a large group of friends. The largest are the Three Bedroom Suites; you can also link the traditional Crystal Rooms together if you’re traveling as a group. Since it’s just the two of us, we stayed in one of the 85 newly renovated Crystal Rooms in the South Wing. 

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

These rooms have been redesigned with contemporary decor using blue and grey hues. Each features bright lighting, plush bedding, flat-screen TVs, and huge soaker bathtubs. Ours also had a large balcony that would be perfect for sunbathing in the summer.

Amenities at Crystal Lodge Whistler

Traveling with your fur baby? The lodge is pet-friendly and your four-legged family member can stay at no extra charge!

There’s complimentary ski/snowboard valet in the winter and bike valet in the summer. If you don’t participate in alpine sports, you can spend your day relaxing at the outdoor heated pool and hot tub, working out at the 24-hr fitness center, or browsing and eating your way through 20 on-site retail shops and restaurants. There’s even a sauna and a games room!

If you need to be online at all times while traveling (bloggers and IGers, I’m looking at you!) you’d understand the struggle in staying connected. Well, you don’t have to worry about that here. The folks at Crystal Lodge aren’t lying about their complimentary high speed Wi-Fi!

Guests also receive the Crystal Advantage Card, which offers discounts on many dining, retail, and salon establishments in the Whistler village. This includes complimentary yoga on Sunday mornings at Lululemon, which is just downstairs.

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

Service at Crystal Lodge Whistler

What really makes Crystal Lodge & Suites stand out is its commitment to guests. The staff go out of their way to make guest experiences warm and welcoming, with huge smiles on their faces. We had very pleasant encounters with all their staff, especially the front desk and ski valet.

If you take a quick look on Tripadvisor you’ll see that the General Manager takes time to respond to each review. The redesign of the South Wing was completely based on guests’ reviews and feedback that they’ve received over the years. Now that’s dedication!

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

Dining at Crystal Lodge Whistler

There are six on-site restaurants and bars, including a Starbucks for those that need daily caffeine fixes! Guests can receive discounts on their meals with the Crystal Advantage Card.

WILD WOOD BISTRO & BAR

Using Pacific Northwest ingredients, Wild Wood offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus in a cozy bistro setting. We ordered the ‘Eggs Rockefeller’ and ‘Wild Breakfast Bowl’ for breakfast- the portions are huge! It was enough fuel for an entire day on the slopes. Check out their website for the full menu.

BASALT WINE & SALUMERIA

This is a new restaurant within the Crystal Lodge building, which can also be accessed from Village Stroll. The patio is the perfect place to chill with some vino and fondue, both in the summer and winter (it comes with a fire pit!), and the interior is super trendy. Featuring European-style cured meats and cheeses and international cuisine and wines, you can enjoy a 3-course meal for just $25 CAD!

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler - Basalt

We had a characuterie board to share, followed by 3 courses which were all delicious and beautifully presented. Our favourite of the night was the ‘Thyme Basted Cornish Game Hen Breast’. Chicken breast is usually dry but this was so tender and juicy!

 Other Tips and Info

  • Check-in is at 4pm; check-out is at 11am. The front desk will call you if your room is ready early.
  • Rooms with an odd number have a view of the Village Stroll.
  • Self park is $22CAD + tax in a heated underground lot; valet parking is $26CAD + tax. Hybrid vehicles receive free parking.
  • Dining at Whistler can get pricey; the $25CAD 3-course menu at Basalt is an absolute steal.
  • Whistler is expensive in general, so make use of your Crystal Advantage Card.
  • The lodge donates $5 per day to the AWARE program when housekeeping is not required- stay green, folks!
  • For more information and current promos, check out their official websiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages.

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Crystal Lodge & Suites. However, all opinions are our own and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

Opus Hotel: The most WOOF-derful staycation in VancouverKollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

AS and I both work full-time (he studies too, actually, that monster) and we still have a month to go before our next adventure. So we thought- hey, why don’t we do a staycation right here in Vancouver? Better yet, why don’t we bring Navi with us? We found the perfect place that catered to our needs: Opus Hotel.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

“Hi! Welcome to Opus Hotel. Would you like some prosecco and bottled water while we check you in?”

Why, we’d be rude had we refused! With a spacious lobby and staff with huge smiles on their faces, we couldn’t have felt more welcomed. Excited, we grabbed our room keys and made our way to this gorgeous suite.

Location

Situated in Vancouver’s trendiest neighbourhood, Opus is an award-winning luxury boutique hotel with a location difficult to beat. Yaletown is home to many of Vancouver’s best restaurants, all within walkable distance from Opus Hotel. Cafes, grocery stores, drug marts (forgot your toiletries?), and nightlife are also within a few blocks’ radius.

Want to go shopping? No problem- Pacific Centre and Robson Street are only 1 skytrain station away. The skytrain station is literally across the street! You can go anywhere you want to go in the lower mainland.

Two gorgeous parks by the sea, David Lam Park and Coopers’ Park, are both under 10 minutes away on foot. Granville Island, one of Vancouver’s top attractions, can easily be accessed by hopping on a ferry at the dock.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

Amenities

Opus Hotel has everything that comes with a luxury hotel- plus moreLuxury car service is available to take you anywhere in Downtown Vancouver via a Jaguar. You can also take their full-suspension mountain bikes out for a spin if you want to stay active. The gym on the second floor is also open 24-7.

Each room comes with an iPad that can be used on and off property. Need to dial a long-distance number? Don’t worry, Opus has you covered for the first 30 minutes to any number world-wide.

And last but not least… the hotel is pet-friendly!

Pet-friendly

I think most can agree that our fur babies are family. Why should they be left out on a stay as amazing as this? As soon as we entered our suite, we saw a dog bowl with treats and a squeaky toy for Navi. How cute is this?! She and her sushi have been inseparable ever since.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

We love how pets are treated like royalty here. Look at Queen Navi high on her throne!

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

Suite

All of the 96 rooms are tastefully decorated, each with a personality and style of their own in vibrant colours and contemporary furniture. With 9 different room types and 5 styles to choose from, you’ll find something that’s just right for you.

We stayed in the OPUS Signature Suite, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and balcony that wrapped around our entire suite. Using dark, bold tones, the interior is glamorous and chic. A two-sided fireplace separates the living room and bedroom with a comfy king-sized bed- it kept us cozy and toasty on a cold day.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

AS was really impressed with the high-fidelity sound system in our living room. A cool CD player mounted on the wall has 6 discs ready to be played, or you can connect your own playlist via Bluetooth.

My favourite part? This gorgeous bathroom with a separate walk-in shower and a massive jacuzzi tub. Even the floor is heated! If this isn’t luxury I don’t know what is.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

Other useful info

  • Complimentary Wi-Fi during your stay.
  • Secure underground valet parking is available at $39CAD a night.
  • Rooms on the 7th floor are slightly smaller, but come with a terrace.
  • La Pentola, the restaurant on site, serves Italian fare using only fresh ingredients.
  • There are TONS of services available: dog-walking, babysitting, dry cleaning, shoeshining, massages, physio, spa treatments… just ask! Their staff will be more than happy to help.
  • For more information and current promos, check out their official websiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel
Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Opus Hotel. However, all opinions are our own and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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7 Must-Do’s in NYC for First TimersKollecting Koordinates - New York City

We’ve heard lots about New York City before going. The amazing food, the bright lights, and the majestic skyscrapers- we were so stoked until our friends told us not to get too excited. Friends who have gone had mostly negative things to say, like how dirty and smelly the streets and subways are, how unfriendly the people are, and how overpriced everything is. With this in mind, we prepared ourselves for the absolute worst.

After a delayed flight from Vancouver and a hectic connection in Toronto (ugh, I hate flying Air Canada), we finally landed in the Big Apple and made our way to our airbnb in Times Square. Food prices are steep, yes, but that’s standard in big metropolitan cities. We expected to be shoved around and yelled at but none of that happened. We were actually pleasantly surprised at how friendly people are! (Well, the ones we interacted with, anyway, hah)

Our friends were right about one thing- what they said about the filthy streets and subway is an absolute fact. We walked by heaps of leaking, overflowing garbage bags on different occasions and it staaaaank. But other than that, we loved everything else about New York!

Maybe it’s because we had such low expectations that we enjoyed NYC so much. Here are seven things we think all NYC first-timers should check off their list!

1. People-watch in Times Square

Times Square is a no brainer. You can’t really say you’ve been to New York City without seeing one of the most iconic crossroads of the world, right?

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2. Attend a show

This is the main reason why we were in New York: The Lord of the Rings in Concert. I’m a huuuuuuuuge fan of LOTR (nerd alert- our wedding was Middle Earth themed haha), so how could I miss the epic trilogy live in concert?! Experiencing the marriage of motion picture on a giant screen and film score performed by 250 musicians on stage was life-changing.

Because we spent a total of close to 10hrs at Lincoln Center (no joke lol), we didn’t have time for other shows. We’ve heard people rave about The Phantom of the Opera so we’ll be going to that next time. Whatever it is- a musical, concert, or Broadway show- do yourself a favour and get tickets to a show.

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3. Take a stroll in Central Park

We had some time to kill in between the second and third LOTR shows. There was no better way to spend this time than to visit Central Park since Lincoln Center is close by. I love skyscrapers and all but I was also relieved to escape the concrete jungle for a little while, especially with a hot cocoa in my hand on a cold day!

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4. Stuff your face at Smorgasburg

Located on the Williamsburg waterfront on Saturdays and Prospect Park on Sundays, Smorgasburg is an outdoor foodie paradise. With over 80+ vendors to try, you’ll need to go on an empty stomach! Our personal favourite? These bomb garlic fries from Home Frite. They were sooooo damn good.

5. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Get yourself on the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade and make your way across the bridge. Allow yourself at least an hour to walk from one end to another, while soaking in the beautiful Manhattan skyline. Oh, and watch out for cyclists!

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6. Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant

We usually travel on a tight budget but on the rare occasion we do like to treat ourselves to a fancy smancy meal. The only other times we’ve eaten at a Mchelin starred restaurant were in Paris and Las Vegas. Because we were blown away both times, how could we leave one of the world’s culinary capitals without splurging a little? After studying all the menus and reviews, we made lunch reservations at Bouley.

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The lunch tasting menu includes five courses at 59USD. That ain’t bad at all! Everything was cooked to perfection and service was impeccable. And ohh man, the porcini flan was out of this world!

7. Catch the sunset at the Top of the Rock

Okay, paying 32USD just to go up an elevator sounds pretty silly, right? That’s what we thought, too, but that 360 degree view of New York is breathtaking! We were on the observatory deck during golden hour- we can only imagine how mesmerizing the view would be at sunset.

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Las Vegas – Sin City GetawayLe Reve in Las Vegas

Everyone needs a Las Vegas getaway at least once in their lifetime! The first time we went to Vegas together was for EDC in 2013. 6 months after, we hopped on the plane again for a quick Christmas getaway. This time without the partying and brutal hangovers…

Kollecting Koordinates - Las Vegas Getaway

Getting around on your Las Vegas Getaway

Don’t bother with a car. Cab it and walk it. Traffic is insane along the Vegas strip and you’ll have nowhere to park. Besides, strolling down the strip with a drink in your hand is the best way to take Vegas all in! Unlike Amsterdam, washrooms are free to use and there are plenty of them around 😛

Where to stay on your Las Vegas Getaway

With so many 5* hotels to choose from, the world is your oyster. The closer you are to the middle of the strip (like Bellagio) the more convenient it is, but it doesn’t matter as long as you’re ON the strip. With so many fancy hotels priced competitively, I would shy away from older properties and those that are fewer than 4 stars.

We stayed at Aria for free from cashing in our myVEGAS points (we only had to pay for airfare and food!). This is the view from our room. If you want a sweet view overlooking the Bellagio Fountain, book a balcony suite at Cosmo.

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What to do on your Las Vegas Getaway

We love exploring the strip a little tipsed. Even if you don’t drink, people watching is still a good time. The Coca Cola Store and M&M World are fun to browse too. Made us feel like kids again!

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SHOP

Shopping and clubbing are the obvious so I won’t go into detail. You can spend days burning your wallet at The Forum at Caesar’s Palace and Fashion Show Mall across from Trump. Take a shuttle to the outlet if malls aren’t enough.

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PARTY

As for partying and nightclubs, there’s something for everyone. The popular ones like Marquee and XS (not sure if they have the same status today) have world renowned DJs spinning every week. I believe the newest, hottest one in town is called Omnia- this place looks solid for a good night out.

CATCH A SHOW

This is a MUST DO. There’s only one show that you need to care about in Vegas. Don’t waste your time and money anywhere else. Le Reve at Wynn Theatre is where it’s at.Kollecting Koordinates - Las Vegas Getaway Kollecting Koordinates - Las Vegas Getaway Kollecting Koordinates - Las Vegas Getaway

It’s not part of the Cirque de Soleil company, but it is the best thing you can watch in Vegas. There are no bad seats in the house and there are no words to describe how amazing the production is.

We got complimentary tickets to see Zarkana but it was just like any other Cirque du Soleil show. Nothing special if you’ve already been to a couple of Cirque shows. We fell asleep during Zarkana… it just couldn’t compare to Le Reve.

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Where to eat on your Las Vegas Getaway

Hohoho now we’re talking! The good stuff!

Earl of Sandwich

This place is bomb. We wish we had this in Vancouver! Open 24 hours, it’s inside Planet Hollywood. It’s great for a quick bite and the pricing is very affordable. Avoid coming here during normal meal times because the lines can be reallllly long.

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Eiffel Tower Restaurant

We came here wanting to catch the Bellagio fountain show over lunch. Unfortunately we missed the memo that the show doesn’t start until 3pm on weekdays 🙁

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Kollecting Koordinates - Las Vegas Getaway

Gordon Ramsay BurGR

Not gonna lie, but I’m a huge fan of Ramsay. I was pretty stoked! Their Farm Burger and yam fries sauce were delicious, but AS’s Hell’s Kitchen burger was way too spicy. It’s pretty darn expensive for what you’re getting ($16 for just a burger). We also thought it was unprofessional that the waitresses wore skin-tight uniforms/mini skirts that are… well, too short and tight. Great Farm Burger, though!Kollecting Koordinates - Las Vegas Getaway

Jean Phillippe Patisserie

Expensive, yes, but you gotta do what you gotta do when you’re craving pastries! There’s one right downstairs in Aria so it was a must during our stay. I’d say it’s above average, but you can’t compare this to Patisserie Stohrer in Paris!

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Joel Robuchon

This is a beautiful 3-star Michelin restaurant inside MGM that picks you from your hotel in a gold limo. We had a cozy table in the faux-courtyard area where it’s more quiet (I don’t really know what that was but we really liked the privacy). The rest of the interior was beautiful, so was the plating. My goodness- each dish was a masterpiece in itself! The bread and dessert carts are heaven for pastry addicts. Expensive meal, yes, but it was well worth it.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Las Vegas Getaway

Waiting for the gold limo to drive us back to Aria! Even this room was fancy smancy.

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Check out Renata Pereira’s video on more Vegas fun!

 

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Maui: The Ultimate Guide

We visited Hawaii for the second time in fall 2013- to Maui! This time for 7 nights. A lot of people ask us, Oahu vs. Maui? Maui wins, hands down, no challenge. There’s just so much more to do here.

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rainbow right in our backyard on Kanaapali Beach

Getting Around

Rental car all the way! The freedom that comes with renting a car is sweet and we wouldn’t have done it any other way. The island is easy to navigate and the roads are nice and wide! (except for the Road to Hana)

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Wher eto Stay

You can’t go wrong with Kaanapali (too expensive for us) and Wailea or Kihei (cheaper but further), but Lahaina was the perfect homebase for us. Whalers Village is right next door- perfect for a lazy romantic stroll down the beach after dinner.

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Priceline bidding landed us Westin Maui Resort & Spa at $168 a night. Because they were undergoing construction at the time in the tower we were staying in, we got upgraded to a king-sized ocean view room in the nicer tower. Such a steal considering that regular price is over $400 a night! The property is gorgeous and the amenities are sweet. The best part? Kaanapali Beach is right in our backyard.

What to Do

Road to Hana

We started our day early with a GPS and headed for the Road to Hana. This 5-6hr long journey was not a difficult drive, but the roads are full of bends and turns so it’s a good idea to pop a few gravols if you get carsick easily. Your butt won’t hurt from sitting for too long since there are so many stops along the way for you to stretch and soak in amazing scenery.

After a slippery trek down the side of the road, we were at the bottom of Three Bears Falls!

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Wai‘ānapanapa State Park is a must visit! There’s a small trail here and it’s an easy and quick walk.

Wai'anapanapa State Park COMING SOON

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The Black Sand Beach at Wai‘ānapanapa State Park… was more stony than sandy. But the contrast in colors is beautiful!

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Koki Beach Park – the sand here is ridiculously soft.

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The last stop was Seven Sacred Pools and O’heo Gulch Waterfalls. I think you can also hike down the Pipiwai Trail from the bamboo forest but I was just not having it at this point. Period cramps and mood swings don’t mix well with a long drive…

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Ziplining

This was our first time ziplining and it was SO FUN. Expensive, BUT SO FUN. These guys have the fastest and longest zipline course in Maui with 8 ziplines ranging from 250 – 3600 feet. We zipped through 20 ridges and valleys and were treated with panoramic views of this beautiful island.

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The ATV ride back down was intense. These guys drove like maniacs down the rugged terrain but it was AWESOME (and slightly scary). As if the zipline course wasn’t exhilarating enough. Look at that view!1234653_10151613061732441_374654278_n

Luau

There are a couple of places where you can attend a luau but we decided on Feast at Lele for its intimacy. Instead of sharing the table with strangers and food served buffet-style, you get your own table to yourself and the food is brought to you (it’s still all you can eat/drink!). This is more of a Polynesian luau than a traditional Hawaiian one so you won’t be digging roasted pork out from an underground oven. Romance and privacy were what we leaned towards so the Feast at Lele was perfect! The performers are SO JACKED.

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Pro-tip: book early and request for a center table right in front of the stage for an unobstructed view. I mean, just look at that- the perfect setting for a dinner!

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Snorkeling

Honolua Bay is a short 20min drive from Lahaina. You’ll have to go early because parking is limited, and will have to trek trough a ‘jungle’ to get to the bay. There are no facilities around and the shore can be quite rocky. Marine life can be a hit or miss depending on the weather. We were unlucky the morning we went 🙁

HOWEVER, we took a boat excursion to go snorkeling and THAT was awesome. When we were dropped off at Mala Wharf, we saw 3-4 turtles and one swam super closer to me!

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This was one of the coolest moments of my life!

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Sunrise at Haleakala

We failed miserably at this- snoozed our alarm and totally slept in! Don’t miss this if you’re able to wake up early to make the drive!

 

Where to Eat

Leilani’s on the Beach

If you want a nice romantic dinner with the best sunset view, Leilani’s is it (second to Feast at Lele). Make sure you make a reservation beforehand to be seated on the 2F deck 30min before the sun sets!

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Gazebo Restaurant

This is the spot for breakfast- fried rice breakfast that is! It’s a cute little place close to Napili Beach with a great view. We had to share the fried rice because it was literally a mountain on our plate! Apparently their pancakes are to die for too but we couldn’t have stomached that. The downside is the limited parking and long line- we had to wait half an hour for an available table.

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Coconut’s Fish Cafe

We drove down to Kihei after ziplining and stopped by for dinner. The fish tacos here are ON POINT! Prices are very reasonable too and the portions are huge.

The Fish Market Maui

We stopped by this place on the way back from the Road to Hana. It has really good reviews on Tripadvisor and it was good, but we thought Pajo’s back home is much better.

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Oahu – A Quick Guide in HawaiiWaikiki Beach

December 2012 marked my first adventure with AS. Before this trip, I’ve always thought that Honolulu is the island name, not Oahu. Actually, before this trip, I had no idea that Hawaii is made up of 8 different islands… How embarrassing.

After scoring round trip flights for $198 per person from Bellingham to Honolulu, we packed our bags and flew off to Hawaii two weeks before Christmas. This was such a steal with the CAD to USD exchange rate floating around 1:1 at the time. Those were the days! We picked up our rental car (they gave us a complimentary upgrade to a Mustang, sweet!) and made our home base in Waikiki.

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Where to Stay

Accommodation is fairly expensive in Waikiki. Areas outside of Waikiki are a lot cheaper, but we wanted to be within walking distance to the strip. We thought about staying at an airbnb near Lanikai where it’s cheaper, but there’s nothing to do in that area at night.

There are a lot of vacation rentals in Honolulu. If you’re staying for more than 3 nights (the usual minimum requirement) it usually works out to be cheaper than hotels. On top of the lower nightly price, you also save on food bills and valet. The good thing about rentals is that it comes with a kitchen and parking space! With this in mind, we split our week into 3 nights at a condo, and 2 nights at a hotel.

Hotel loyalties are great but when you don’t have membership with any chains, Priceline bidding is your friend! I swear by this when I want to stay at an hotel in North America. betterbidding.com has a detailed list of hotels sorted by stars and areas. You can narrow your options down using this guide if you have a specific hotel in mind. I wanted a hotel at least 4* along the strip, so I started with a low price and kept rebidding until I got something. We ended up with Hilton Waikiki Beach at 35% off the original price!

What to Eat

Eating out is expensive, and we didn’t have the budget to eat out every meal, every day on this trip. We went to Walmart and stocked up on groceries, snacks, and drinks right after we landed. This is where the kitchen came in handy for the first few nights!

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Marukame Udon is a must-eat when you’re in Oahu. Their prices are reasonable and their noodles are so fresh! Unfortunately there’s usually a huge line out the door. The place was packed even at 9:30PM! The udon itself isn’t expensive, but all toppings including onsen eggs and tempura sides are add-ons. This is probably where they make money because these add up. Nonetheless, it’s worth a visit because nothing else wow’d us in Honolulu.

We also ate at a place called “Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar” based on Tripadvisor reviews and man, that was a huge mistake. Apart from it being overpriced, the food was not even close to being authentic. Good Japanese food should be simple yet flavorful; the dishes here were from far that. The rolls were loaded with sauces, almost if they were trying to cover up how not fresh their seafood was. I actually barfed after this meal and went to Marukame to fill my belly.

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What to Do

A lot of people come here to shop- Ala Moana Center and Waikiki Beach Walk are great but who cares about shopping when there are much more fun things to do! Vancouver lakes and oceans are gross to swim in so we were stoked for water activities in Hawaii. These were our highlights:

  • beaches

  • surfing

  • scuba diving

  • snorkeling – swimming with dolphins!

Even though it wasn’t ridiculously hot in December, we were still able to get a good tan after just a few hours in the sun. Voted one of the best beaches in the world, Lanikai Beach was indeed gorgeous. We started the 40min drive to the east side of Oahu early morning because we had heard how difficult it is to find parking in the Kailua neighbourhood (apparently fine for parking violations has more than quadrupled over the years). This was my first beachy destination so I had no other beach to compare Lanikai to. According to AS, who had previously been to Cancun, the sand here was not as white nor powdery but the coral life right off the beach and scenic view of the Mokolua Islands definitely put Lanikai on top!

The downside of visiting Oahu in December was the water clarity, or lack of. I tried scuba diving for the first time and, boy, I have never been so scared in my life. The weight of the gear kept me on my back and I could not for the life of me go underwater, head first. On top of physically struggling to dive down from the choppy waters at the surface, I was mentally battling the paranoia of breathing underwater. When our dive master and AS finally dragged me a few feet down, I was overwhelmed by the endless blue and nothingness. Other than a few eels and fish, we didn’t see much marine life.

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Disappointed at no sights of turtles during our dive, we drove up to Laniakea Beach in North Oahu. Surely enough, there were gigantic honu (green sea turtles) sprawled in the sand. They were massive!! We had to hold back our temptations to touch them – it’s illegal.

We tried surfing for the first time. Well, it was more like 90% paddling out and 10% actually riding a wave because we kept falling. Noobs! It was a workout but we had a blast nonetheless.

The most memorable activity we did on this trip was the snorkeling excursion. Our boat took us out to sea one early morning to 3-4 snorkeling locations, with a professional guide educating us about marine life in Oahu, particularly spinner vs. bottlenose dolphins. After being dropped in the ocean at one of the stops, we were suddenly surrounded by a pod of over 100 spinner dolphins! We saw these creatures in their natural habitat, up close and personal. It was SO AWESOME.

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When to Go

Any month is a good time to visit Oahu since the island is sunny and warm all year round. We were worried that the weather would be iffy in December but there was not a single drop of rain during our stay. What made our first trip together extra special was that the Waikiki strip was decked out with gorgeous Christmas trees and lights. So festive!




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Kollecting Koordinates - Oahu