Category Archives: travel

#rtw2012 – Copenhagen

This is one in a series of posts about my recent round-the-world (RTW) trip, all collected under the #rtw2012 label. You may wish to read them in order for context and background.

From Stockholm, I took a quick shuttle flight to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.¬† It’s quick and easy flight, landing in a silent airport. What a great innovation that is. The quiet is really nice. Given that a few months ago I was sitting right next to the flight gate and didn’t hear the (alleged) boarding announcement, I’m a big fan of silent airports.

The silent airport is followed by a clean, fast, efficient, robot-driven tram ride to the middle of town, emerging in Kongens Nytorv. Once again, riding this tram, I was reminded how poorly the US does on public transporation ūüė¶

From there, I walked to my hotel, the Admiral Hotel right on the water. The hotel was nice, efficient, and friendly. It’s not in the top hotels I’ve ever visited, but not bad at all.

The walk from Kongens Nytorn to the hotel involves passing through the world famous Nyhavn, a canal-front area of the city, filled with bars and restaurants. Every single time I passed through it, all times of day and night, it was packed and had a great atmosphere. I really enjoyed spending time in this area.

I didn’t spend much time at the hotel, mostly walking around this beautiful, clean city. The round tower, Rundet√•rn, is a fun attraction. The famous hot dog stand next to it, D√ėP, definitely lives up to the hype, delivering one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever had.

The Str√łget is probably the most famous pedestrian area in town, a long meandering street full of shops and restaurants. I walked up and down this street several times over my days in Copenhagen. It was always packed, probably thanks to the beautiful weather, and made for great people-watching.

It was this crowded all the time.

The standard unexpectedly-packed Italian restaurant.

Abercrombie, same all over the world.

As always on these trips, free wifi is a good find. This was one of the times where Foursquare came to the rescue, really showing its potential, since (sadly) ruined by the split into the Swarm and Foursquare apps. Ranting aside, I was walking down the street, when Foursquare alerted me to a tip left by a friend (thanks, Maia!) who had been there before, about a record store with free wifi.

I had to visit Tivoli Gardens, such an old and famous amusement park. It was lovely, and full of people. The rides are small and cute. It was impressive to see how efficiently the compact park grounds are used, especially compared to some far-larger parks I’d visited in the past. Definitely worth a visit even if you don’t want to ride any of the attractions.

It might be Danish, but it’s clear enough.

Really close to all the rides, including this mini roller-coaster.

Like, really really close ūüôā

Let’s play “guess who’s the tourist!”

Got enough cotton candy there?

Well-hidden, packed beer garden row.

The back row of beer gardens in the park is also well-organized and well-placed. It was full, needless to say, adults taking a break from their kids, presumably.

Like most towns, Copenhagen has its share of funny business names. Maybe I was more observant in Copenhagen, but I stumbled upon a few entertaining places, shown below. Spicilicious? That Corner? Spunk? Earl the Pearl? ūüôā

Not Boston’s Upper Crust.

Earl the Pearl?

Really?

The city hall was fine, nothing to write home about. I stopped in mainly to visit Jens Olsen’s World Clock, which was mildly cool, worth the visit.

1105 was not just my favorite cocktail bar in Copenhagen, it’s one of the top 10 I’ve ever visited. The Senor Hanzi was maybe the best single cocktail I had on my entire #rtw2012 trip.

Ruby was another good cocktail lounge. I liked their little window garden(s), where they plucked herbs to use when making the drinks.

The entrance to Ruby. Don’t ring the embassy…

One of several planters whose herbs are used in drinks.

Fugu (Freddy’s Unique Garden Union) was a bit hazy, as I didn’t get there until very late, though it was still packed. It’s safe to say Copenhagen has a rocking, world-class cocktail scene.

Leaving Fugu late at night.

Finally, Union, another speakeasy-style place, was decent. I don’t recall anything special about this place, besides the difficulty locating the right door, so it probably wasn’t amazing.

Ring the “Gold” bell for Union.

Brwpub, and its Brewfather beer, were an excellent mid-afternoon stop. They had a really nice snack menu and great service.

Running along the waterfront was great. I went for a morning run almost every day. Highly recommended, safe, wide, clean paths.

I watched the changing of the guard at the palace, and then went into Amalienborg (the palace complex) itself. It’s not big, but the tour ended up being fun because I ran into a grandfather teaching his granddaughter English, and he asked for my help. So we traded vocab, improving my Danish roughly 100x ūüôā

Hey, finally some guards.

Seems like most churches are under construction when visited…

Nice modern architecture here and there.

I went clubbing a couple of nights night, covering the relatively famous Culture Box, the less famous Warehouse (now closed apparently), and Karel. All had great people, and people-watching

Culture Box.

Warehouse (during the day obviously).

Dress to party with … and new relationships.

The King’s Park, Kongens Have, is really nice. Like everything in this city, it’s clean and organized. There are plenty of quiet shaded corners. There’s a small old castle, now a museum, in the middle, Rosenborg Castle. It’s not the most outstanding castle I’ve ever seen, but it’s a quick tour, worth the stop for the armory alone.

Chillin’

I wish I had a clear, focused picture of this saddle.

Castle lineage.

Stairs out of the treasury.

Copenhagen has plenty of great food besides the street hot dogs mentioned above. I did manage to dine at noma, the world’s top-rated restaurant by at least a couple of publications for at least a couple of years. I thought it was excellent, but over-rated. In fact, it wasn’t even my favorite meal in the city. Having been to Alinea before, and the Fat Duck since, among other places, I don’t think noma is in the same category.

Fiskebaren was my favorite meal in Copenhagen, one of the best of my trip overall. A really fun evening tasting a variety of items in a great setting full of fun people. I also really enjoyed the open-faced small sandwiches at Aamann‘s, highly-recommended by locals. Summerbird is also worth a mention for their chocolate balls (flodbollen), which were amazing.

Outside Fiskebaren.

The botanical gardens were OK, not amazing, but a fun little tour. More fun was the pub run tour, offered by Copenhagen Running Tours, a fun group. The Jewish museum was surprisingly excellent, not big but fascinating and well-organized.

Overall, Copenhagen was a ton of fun, and I’d love to visit again. Everyone was friendly, everything was clean and organized, I really enjoyed it.

Turks and Caicos, January 2012

A couple of weeks ago I spent the week in the Caribbean, in the Turks and Caicos islands.

I went with a handful of fellow kiteboarders, and we stayed in a private villa on the southeast tip of the main Caicos island, about 15 minutes driving from Providenciales, the capital.

The trip was a blast. ¬†I won’t cover all the details here, but even so this will likely be a boring post for most. ¬†It’s more for my own record, for future trip planning.

The villa itself and its location were great. ¬†It’s on Long Bay, which is the undeveloped side of Caicos, the opposite side from Grace Bay where all the big resorts are. ¬†This means we had the beach entirely to ourselves most of the time. ¬†And by that I mean literally just us, no one else.

The water at our beach, and everywhere else, was amazing. ¬†Very clear, very clean, 78-80 degrees all the time. ¬†You don’t need a towel, even, as you can just air-dry without a problem. ¬†We were swimming, kayaking, SUPing, and obviously kiteboarding, in the water for most of every day.

The villa owners, Ritama and Kabir, live there, and they’re super nice. ¬†They were great hosts, and they both kiteboard themselves, so they’re aware of the gear and the setup required. ¬†This was one of the reasons we chose this specific villa.

Specifically, they have a variety of light-wind and beginner boards (read: big boards), suitable for beginners like me in all conditions. ¬†That means you don’t have to bring your big board on the plane, freeing up space in the gear bag for other things. ¬†Good to know for the future.

They also have a working air compressor right on the beach, so you can power-inflate your kites without needing a manual pump.  This is a nice luxury.  Kabir fixed the hose on the compressor right away when it ripped, too.

Of our 7 days, about 3 days had awesome wind all day, and 2 had wind that was too light for me as a beginner, but the other folks in the house still got out there. ¬†That’s a lot of riding, more than we expected. Kiteboarders are always at the mercy of the wind, and it was plentiful this time around.

On the low-wind days, I went scuba diving, and had some of the best dives of my life.  I used Caicos Adventures, on the recommendation of fellow divers from Boston, and they were great.  Fifi, the owner with the funny nickname, is a great guy.  The big catamaran boat they have for serious dives is excellent: new, clean, really well-equipped.

The dives were amazing: lots of fish, big and small. ¬†We went fairly deep, saw plenty of (non-human-eating, hopefully) reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, big eels, and more. ¬†The water is again clean and clear, with great visibility and warmth. ¬†I was very comfortable in my 3mm shorty wetsuit, even at 100ft depth. ¬†The wall dive concept is fun, too. ¬†There’s a very “Abyss” feeling to it at first.

I also did a lot of SUP, stand-up paddleboarding, and improved my skills there.  I find it pretty calming and a good workout at the same time.

Most days all of us were up at or near sunrise, to do a so-called “dawn patrol.” ¬†This is often when the water was smoothest and calmest, making for good times if there’s wind. ¬† We’d make breakfast in the villa or head to town for a diner we liked.

Around lunch time, we often grilled or made lunch in the villa, to minimize time away from the water. ¬†Then back in for the afternoon, until sunset, where a lot of folks had really nice sunset sessions. ¬†(I didn’t do any of those, since I’m still a beginner, kind of afraid to get lost downwind in the emerging darkness.)

(The above picture is from Kiteboarding Magazine, who went to the same area we were last year, and the kite is just about the same as mine.  I hope Luke and the magazine are OK with this attributed use ;)).

Most nights we tried to go out, but there wasn’t much in terms of night life. ¬†This was fine since we were tired from the long day on the water, but I found it surprising. ¬†We thought it’d be high season, but most of the bars / restaurants we checked out were nearly empty. ¬†It doesn’t seem like a late-night scene, making it different from Cabarete, another noted kiteboarding destination.

There was much guy bonding, naturally, making for a very fun trip. ¬†We’re already talking about plans for the next one, with some folks going to Hatteras later this year. ¬†I’m not joining that trip, but I’m sure I’ll see this crew again.

We have plenty of video and still footage, but it’s dispersed among many cameras, and we haven’t exchanged them yet. ¬†I hope we’ll do that soon, and then I can post some stuff here.

Memorial Day weekend in NYC (2011)

Last weekend was the long Memorial Day weekend. Alli and I spent it in New York City (NYC), partially hanging out with friends and partially roaming the town by ourselves.

We both enjoy visiting NYC a lot. We often consider moving there.  Maybe not permanently, but for a few months or a year.  The energy of the city is really uplifting.  I love the positive vibe, the 24/7 hours, and even some of the dirt, the grime, the noise, and the strange people.

This weekend I went down there on Thursday morning for the Percona MySQL Live conference.  The conference took the whole day, but it was pretty good.  There was a good DTrace talk by Brendan Gregg, author of the DTrace book.  Ori from Akiban Technologies spoke about their product, which I think is pretty interesting.   There was also an interesting talk about the Tungsten Replicator product.  Overall, the conference was a relative bargain ($130 per person).

That evening I watched The Hangover Part II, on its opening night.  It was a riot, and highly recommended.

On Friday I had a couple of work-related and networking meetings, and then Alli arrived in the late afternoon.  We checked into our hotel, the Andaz 5th Avenue, which was great.  Awesome location, big rooms, cool decor, everything clean and functional, friendly service, no complaints at all.

That night we had a great dinner with a group of friends, mostly Alli’s fellow Harvard Kennedy School alumni. ¬†We went to a cute little local place on the Upper East Side, where one of them knows the owner, so that was fun. ¬†After dinner we went to a bar in the area, and hung out until about 2am.

On Saturday we did a bunch of shopping, mostly on the Upper West Side, and then in Chelsea. ¬†In the evening we met another couple of friends for dinner at Le Bernardin. ¬†I’ve wanted to go to this restaurant for years, and it’s been the last NYC 3-Michelin-Star restaurant on my list for a while.

Yellow fin tuna with foie gras
(Photo by worleyx, not me.)

The restaurant was awesome.  We really enjoyed it.  Nice, high-energy room, but not too loud.  We all had the tasting menu, naturally, and two of us (J and myself) had the wine pairings.  The women had a bit of the wine as well, and everyone had a great time.

The tuna with foie gras was highly popular, as were a number of other dishes, including a variety of amuses bouche and desserts. ¬†Service was excellent, as you’d expect, with good pacing and friendliness and flexibility. ¬†All-in-all, an awesome place, in my top 10 all-time, but not above Alinea nor Per Se.

After dinner, we went to 230 5th, a rooftop bar I’d wanted to visit for about a year. ¬†It was packed, but we managed to get one of the last tables, and that proved to be a wise (if expensive) choice. ¬†The main club / bar areas got very packed, but in the semi-private table area, we had space to dance, hang out, look around, and it was well-worth it. ¬†We met a couple of friends from the previous day, and a mixture of folks hung out until about 3:30am.

(Photo from 230 5th web site above, not mine.)

Sunday was slower, as you might expect.  We had a nice small brunch, visited the High Line, did some more shopping, and grabbed burgers and shakes at The Shake Shack, which we love.  On Sunday evening we were still pretty tired, so we chilled out and went to bed relatively early.

Monday, Memorial Day, was a long day.  We spent most of it in Central Park, tossing some frisbee, roller-blading (Alli, not me), watching the beach volleyball courts (me, not Alli), and helping a young man do some illegal selling of water (me, not Alli) but watching his stash while he hawked his wares.

We also went to visit Ground Zero, since that seemed appropriate and interesting on Memorial Day.  We saw the preview and small-scale mockups of the memorial site which is supposed to open on 9/11/2011, 10 years after the attacks.  It looks like a good design choice.

We caught the Acela Express train back into town.  That was a fun ride.  Fairly quick, quiet, (slow) WiFi access, and friends to chat with.  The train left and arrived on time, which was nice, since our friends experienced a delay with it on Friday.

It was a great long weekend in the city. ¬†Lots of fun, some alone and some with friends, ¬†shopping, eating, drinking, and relaxing. ¬†Can’t complain at all.

Snowboarding in Park City (Utah)

Back in March, Alli and I went to Park City, Utah, for a week of snowboarding.  It was awesome!

Snowboarding in Utah, March 2011

I am still learning, but having great snow and great weather for a week sure helps one improve.  I just find it so reassuring to have soft powder for when I (inevitably) fall, that it makes me more confident, and thus I fall less, go faster, and improve.

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

This trip came two weeks after our weekend at Stratton Mountain (Vermont), which was a great preview and warmup.

Park City is a nice, relatively compact little town.  It has one Main Street, named that way, which has a bunch of bars, restaurants, shops, and nightlife.

We stayed at the Treasure Mountain Inn, which is right on Main Street, and thus conveniently located for everyone. ¬†In fact, we didn’t even rent a car, which is unusual for trips to the US West Coast. ¬†The hotel staff were friendly and helpful, the room great (huge!), the location excellent, and in general this was a good choice.

We went to two resorts: Park City Mountain Resort, and The Canyons.  Both are huge and a lot of fun.  We liked PCMR better for two reasons: less flat sections (which suck for snowboarders like us), and easier accessibility via the Town Lift off Main Street.

The weather was great: 50s most days, sunny most days, cloudy one or two days, and a couple of snow storms at night! ¬†Couldn’t be better. ¬†They had gotten about 300″ of snow before we got there, and about another 10″ while we were there.

The restaurants are pretty good.  Not much to write home about, and expensive, but good food and good atmosphere.  One of our favorites was the No Name Saloon, with its buffalo burgers, recommended by our good friend Thanh.

One evening we went to the St. Regis Deer Creek Resort, a very fancy hotel at Deer Valley, a resort open only to skiiers.  We went for their famous afternoon Champagne sabering, where they break open a bottle with a saber.  It was fun, and the bar had great drinks and great live music.

Snowboarding in Utah, March 2011

All in all, this was a great trip. ¬†We could see ourselves going back to Park City, and PCMR, again in the future. ¬†Then again, there are so many awesome snowboarding resorts out west…

A week in the Dominican Republic, learning kiteboarding

Earlier in February, Alli and I took a week off from work to travel to the Dominican Republic, in order to learn kiteboarding. ¬†Apparently many folks don’t know what kiteboarding is, so you might want to watch the video below.

We learned about a small town in the Dominican Republic called Cabarete, which has excellent beaches and schools for the purpose of kiteboarding in particular. ¬†It’s not a big town and not a huge tourist attraction, although we were not the only ones there. ¬†It’s a fairly simple, cheap place: no big luxury resorts.

We stayed at the Kite Beach Hotel, which was great.  From our initial emails all the way through our stay, the hotel was awesome.  Janina, the guest relations manager, as well as all the staff, were very courteous, friendly, and helpful.  The price is right, and the hotel is literally right on the beach: you can easily stumble to the beach once you wake up, no need for shoes or anything else.

We took kiteboarding lessons at Kitexcite, the school attached to our hotel. ¬†Our instructor, Jonathan, was patient and friendly as we struggled. ¬†Although we didn’t get up on the board by ourselves, we made progress through the learning stages: flying the kite on the beach, controlling it in the water, body dragging, and other exercises.

I vastly under-estimated how much power these kites produced.  I got bounced and dragged around several times, including a nice one on the beach in front of a bunch of folks, losing some good patches of skin in the process.  Those injuries are still healing.

The kites, and the sport, are impressive and addictive. ¬†It’s much harder than it looks on TV or in videos such as the above. ¬† But both Alli and I are hooked and are purchasing our own gear. ¬†We’re also planning future trips to Cabarete and other kiteboarding sites.

One cool thing about the hotel is that it’s small and has one (good) bear restaurant / bar, so all the guests hang out there. ¬†You meet everyone, from all over the world, sharing stories and hanging out. ¬†Everyone was more experienced than us, naturally. ¬†Many people come back there regularly, and some had even bought condos / apartments / houses in the area.

The town itself is nice and small. ¬†There’s a beach-front area with a few restaurants, a couple of which also have dancing / club areas. ¬†There’s one main street with a few shops on it, nothing fancy. ¬†There are also a couple of local restaurants which are very cheap and simple, which we really enjoyed: Sandro’s and Padarilla Luis in particular.

Overall, it was one of our best vacations ever.  We were there a week and felt like it was short.  We are already planning a return trip in the future, and anxiously monitoring weather (wind) conditions for good timing.  Both the hotel and the kiteboarding school are recommended.

Our pictures are up on Flickr, but you need to be friends with me on Flickr to see them.

Washington DC trip, October 2010

Last weekend Alli and I traveled to Washington, DC, to celebrate her birthday and meet some good friends.  We had a blast, and I wanted to write down a quick recap of the key places and things we enjoyed, if only for future reference.

We stayed at the Hotel Monaco and really liked it. ¬†The location is good, the service excellent, the room size and decor great. ¬†No complaints, really. ¬†This was the second Kimpton hotel we’ve liked in a row, after the Muse in Times Square.

We had a romantic dinner at OYA, a modern Japanese restaurant / lounge. ¬†The place is stunningly gorgeous, modern, white, candles, fires, open kitchen behind a cascading waterfall, etc. ¬†You have to see it to appreciate it, as even the pictures on their web site don’t do it justice. ¬†Service was pretty good, the sake selection very good, and the food reasonable. ¬†Not amazing, food-wise, but interesting and tasty. ¬†This place is worth visiting just to have a drink at the bar and enjoy the decor.

Later that night we had drinks at POV (as in “Point of View”) the root terrace and lounge on top of the W Hotel. ¬†This is definitely a Euro-style “see and be seen” type of place, but we don’t mind that at all. ¬†In fact, we often enjoy that aspect ūüėČ ¬†A big part of the attraction here is the view from the roof terrace, which is open in the summer (and still was open when we were there), covering the White House two blocks away, and other DC monuments. ¬†Very expensive drinks, but fun.

The next day we had a delicious and fun brunch at Co Co. Sala, also nearby.  It was honestly tough to choose from the amazing menu, and our waiter was friendly.  We met up with our friends Kevin and Maja for brunch, and hung out with them for much of the afternoon.  Here the food was delicious, and the drink selection excellent.

That evening we had dinner with a bunch of Harvard Kennedy School alumni at Siroc, a small Italian trattoria.  The food was really good, and the conversation even better.

Of the monuments and tourist attractions, I really liked the Library of Congress and the Air and Space Museum.  We also had a fun time just walking around the National Mall, observing Ultimate Frisbee games, and hanging out.  We were fortunate to have awesome, sunny, warm weather for the whole weekend.

All in all, a great long weekend trip ūüėČ ¬†Happy birthday, koukla…

Round-the-world airline tickets

I’ve been fascinated with, and wanted to buy, a round-the-world airline ticket for years now. ¬†I’ve even started researching them a couple of times, but turned back due to the complexity involved.

Tim Ferriss just had an awesome blog post explaining most of the details of buying an RTW ticket. ¬†This blog post is mostly a bookmark for myself, and recommendation to subscribe to Tim’s blog.

How to buy a round-the-world plane ticket (that kicks ass).

The post has a number of useful direct links, too, for planning your itinerary, tallying up miles and segments, confirming time tables, and validating your final plan.  Thanks, Tim!

Israel trip, September 2010

Last week Alli and I came back from a great two-week vacation to Israel.  We travel there at least once a year to visit my family.  The trip is always a lot of fun, but this one was better than most.

I slept late every day, went to the beach a few times, hung out with family a ton, checked out some cool new restaurants, and had a few awesome parties.  Other than that, I did nothing.  Stayed offline, no laptop, no iPhone.  It was just great: very relaxing, a good time to reflect and think about life.

It’s good to be back at home, as well. ¬†But this was really a great trip. ¬†I’ll post the pictures shortly.

◊©◊†◊Ē ◊ė◊ē◊Ď◊Ē !

So I wanted to try mountaineering

For a long time now (many years), I’ve been fascinated by mountaineering. ¬†Take your time to read some of that long, but great, Wikipedia page.

I’ve always liked altitude, never minded cold much, loved gear, and enjoyed solitude, so this seems like a good fit. ¬†On the other hand, I don’t like hiking nor camping that much, which makes it less of a fit.

This summer, I finally decided to give it a whirl.  So I signed up for the Mountain Madness introductory class, and hoped for the best.

The class blew my mind.  It was, quite literally, both the best of times and the worst of times.  It took place in the Cascades, a major mountain range outside Seattle.  There was one other customer, Brian, and our main guide Rob was joined by Erik and John, both of whom were experienced enough to be like guides.

We hiked out from the trailhead at Mount Daniel, to our base camp. ¬†The terrain was unmarked: no trail blazes here ūüėČ ¬†No rangers, and very few if any other people as you got higher up the mountain. ¬†Route-finding is a small part of this class, though Mountain Madness has courses that cover this in much more depth.

The hike was painful, taking several hours and covering thousands of feet of vertical gain. ¬†But we made it to Base Camp, and set our tents on the snow. ¬†Did I mention winter camping and setup was also part of this class? ūüėČ ¬†Not your normal weekend hiking outing.

The next bunch of time, including the whole next day, was devoted to “snow school.” ¬†We learned how (and when) to use our crampons, ice axes, and related gear. ¬†We learned a little bit about crevasse rescue (a major PITA: avoid crevasses!), glacier travel, how to rope up, and related rope handling. ¬†We spent some time on ice anchors, self-arrest, self-belay, and related equipment usage. ¬†We spent a lot of time learning how to walk (literally) on steeper and steeper slopes, with and without crampons, with and without ice (as opposed to just snow), and more.

I really enjoyed snow school. ¬†The instructor (Rob) made us test out our snow anchors, by falling of them ūüėČ ¬†And trying as hard as we could to yank them out. ¬†It was very educational: you pay a lot of attention when your life, potentially, depends on how well you learn the next lesson. ¬†It was also really scary.

This is a picture of me in snow school, courtesy of John:

The day after we finished snow school, we woke up early to head up to the summit. ¬†We we turned back after finishing most of the route to the top, by very strong sustained wind. ¬†As in, really strong, felt close to hurricane strength ūüėČ ¬†It was very, very scary: ascending a steep slope with crampons, an ice axe, holding on to the rope, nearly blinded from the white-out, carrying a big pack, with the wind howling around you, above the clouds.

We made our way back to camp safely, though, and then the next day we descending all the way back down to the trailhead.

Here’s me practicing trying a Prusik hitch:

All-in-all, it was an exhilarating five days.  I learned a whole ton of stuff about mountaineering, in the company of great guides and fellow climbers.  I was the least fit and least educated of the group, quite possibly, so I felt guilty at times, but they entertained me.

It was really scary. ¬†I’m not sure at all if I want to do it again. ¬†I’m going to take a few months to decompress and re-evaluate. ¬†But now this major item on my “bucket” list is done ūüėČ

This is us on the way to the summit. ¬†Rob the guide is first, and I’m second behind him. ¬†Brian is behind me, and John is taking the picture, with Erik invisible behind John.

Hawaii 2010 trip recap: Maui and Kauai

This post recaps the second part of Alli and my trip to Hawaii last June: Maui and Kauai.  You probably want to read the first part Oahu recap first.

Before leaving Oahu, we made a day-trip to Kauai, a smaller island nearby. ¬†We didn’t have a lot of time, and didn’t want to spend a big chunk of it in Kauai. ¬†Have I mentioned that we’re not that good at relaxing? ūüėČ
So, a quick flight later, and some meandering around the airport, we got on the helicopter for our Kauai tour. ¬†We went for the longest tour possible on a helicopter with its doors removed. ¬†That’s right, we asked for it, no doors ūüėČ ¬†So you’re just sitting there in the helicopter, reaching out, hanging out, buffeted by strong winds. ¬†It’s scary at first but a lot of fun.

20100619 Honeymoon in Hawaii 368

Kauai was beautiful. ¬†There’s some good ocean kayaking and boating to be had, too: maybe next time. ¬†But we flew back to Oahu instead.
The next day, we left Oahu for good, on our way to Maui. ¬†Maui is also nearby, but (like Kauai) it’s much quieter and less busy than Oahu. ¬†The airport is tiny, but our hotel (Westin Maui in Ka’napali) was relatively big and somewhat louder. ¬†It was beautiful, though, with a lot of great amenities and good service.
Aside: I was overall very disappointed in the hotel selection in Maui. ¬†They are all big resorts with about the same claims to fame. ¬†I was looking for a boutique hotel, something romantic, and failed to find it. ¬†It’s probably user error, but I looked for a long time, and I’m not that bad at research.
the drive to Hana is way, way over-rated. ¬†Yes, it’s pretty. ¬†Yes, the corkscrew tiny road is fun to drive. ¬†But to make a whole day of it? ¬†Not needed at all. ¬†My recommendation: drive 10-15 miles in, maybe hike to one of the waterfalls, drive back, and grab a sunset dinner at Mama’s Fish House.
Mama’s Fish House, on the other hand, is UNDER-rated, if that’s possible. ¬†It’s an awesome restaurant with a great view. ¬†Everything we had there was delicious, as was the service. ¬†We even saw a TV celebrity ūüėČ ¬†Do not miss this place!
Another highlight of our Maui visit was the sunrise trip to Haleakala, the volcano. ¬†We saw sunrise there, and then biked down. ¬†It’s an easy bike ride, just coasting for about ten miles, and stopping for breakfast along the way. ¬†Highly recommended.

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Lahaina was OK: a nice town with some shopping and walking around. ¬†We saw a very nice sunset there, and chatted with an Israel store-owner. ¬†We did go to the very touristy Luau, and I think it was barely OK, better described as “mediocre.” ¬†Probably not worth your time, but you’ll go anyways, because everyone does. ¬†Meh.
Finally, one of the best parts of our entire trip was Scuba diving. We went with an instructor, Ben Pettit, since we were not certified at the time.  (More on our certification coming up shortly in another post.)  Ben took us on two dives, and his girlfriend Anna joined too.  They were great, and we had a blast.
We saw sharks!!!  Live, in the water, with no cage or anything.  They were white-tipped reef sharks, unlikely to attack us.  We saw a bunch of turtles and many other fish on the very colorful reef.  Diving was awesome.
Overall, I don’t think I’d live on Maui. ¬†It’s a beautiful island with great nature and a bunch of activities. ¬†But not enough going on, people-wise. ¬†Oahu, maybe, but even that is kind of remote from the rest of the world.
Our trip to Hawaii was a great success. ¬†We had a blast. ¬†If you have any questions, post them in the comments, and I’ll gladly answer.
Some photos are available on Flickr, but they’re most private for family.