In Colorado, we hike 4.5 miles uphill (at 8000-10,000 foot elevation) for a beautiful reward- Ypsilon Lake, which sits high up in the mountains at Rocky Mountain National Park.
When we got up to the lake, we perched on a rock that sits out in the middle of the lake and we ate our packed lunch, rested, relaxed, and soaked up the crisp mountain air.
After lunch, prior to our 4.5 mile hike down, we hung out on a large rock right in the middle of this beautiful waterfall.
I consider myself to be somewhat in shape, but this hike made me question that. This hike KICKED MY ASS. My friends referred to this hike as being “moderate” but when I googled it after the fact, I see that it is considered a strenuous hike (which made me feel a little better about myself – ha!). I was pretty beat up for an entire day after this hike, my body was achy and my knees were fragile- it was so worth it though.
I mean, this view. You can’t take a bad photo up there in that mountain even if you try your hardest.
Early last week, I took a hike through the Deer Creek Canyons which is just about 25 miles southwest of my apartment. I LOVE living in Colorado, especially with all of the access I have to the amazing outdoors.
The weather has been amazing here in Denver, today is was in the 70’s…..
I will never regret moving here.
Moving to Colorado was an intentional lifestyle choice on my part. People always ask, WHY?
I no longer enjoyed the monotonous life I was living in Chicago, I craved more adventure than what was available in the city.
Rather than dressing in fancy, glittery attire for the begin of the New Year (as I would have done in Chicago), a couple of friends and I decided to tackle 14 miles of the backcountry in snowshoes. The beastly trail that took us to the 10th Mountain Betty Bear Hut was certainly the toughest trail I have ever hiked. After 1 mile, I was all “are we there yet…??”
After hiking 6.5 miles up the mountain in >10 degree weather, a wave of altitude sickness (that ended up lasting all night) swept over me. After hiking 7 miles up the mountain, I could hear friends in front of me celebrating, they’d found the Betty Bear Hut that we would call home on New Years Eve night. I can’t describe the amount of relief I experienced in that moment.
The views in the backcountry are unlike anything you will see elsewhere in the world, you’ve got to put in work in order to lay eyes on that unobstructed beauty. If you can manage it, it is largely worth it, even with a severe case of altitude sickness…
2015 ended rough for me and 2016 began the same way HOWEVER I have once again recommitted to living the life I want to live without any apologies to anyone. Hiking up to Betty Bear (we call her the Bitch) revealed a confidence that I didn’t know existed within myself. I only admitted to no one but myself how nervous and anxious I really was to hike up that mountain. My lower back is equivalent to or worse than an 80 year olds, I suck at cardio, I lack stamina, we feared an avalanche, and although sunny, there was a chill in the air that kept our bones tight – this hike was tough but I I did it. I DID IT.
At the top of the mountain, not only were we greeted with breathtaking views, but an amazing, well-stocked, cozy-as-hell hut big enough to accommodate 16 people. Enough firewood to last an entire winter, sleeping pads and pillows, buckets to collect snow for melting down, and a rustic kitchen were just a few of the amenities that made our overnight stay comfortable.
Over the holiday season, I lost faith in some people and gained mad respect for others. I am tremendously proud of the women and dudes that hiked to the top of this mountain with me and encouraged me to laugh and have fun along the way. Camaraderie is one of the main components that made it possible for us to summit and visit Betty, and camaraderie is exactly what each individual shared along the arduous hike.
What happens after 7 miles you may ask? Celebration, wine, lots of wine, a group-prepared and devoured dinner, yoga & stretching, cabin clothes, relaxation, snow collecting, sledding, laughs, s’mores, sleep, and preparation to wake up the next morning and make the trek downhill….
I have not lived my life the way I planned to when moving. Regretfully, my intentions and purpose were obstructed by love, fear, and anxiety.
On this last day of the first month of the new year, I am thankful for the Coloradical life I live and I am thankful for the beautiful land and people that surround me. I am committed to more of that from this day going forward.
I took a trip into the backcountry for the holiday, yesterday was my first day home this year (!! 2016 !!). It’s just now hitting me: it’s a brand new year // 2015 is DONE.
2015 will forever go down in history as a year filled with emotion, friendships, struggles, accomplishments, and important life lessons. I am thankful for all that has happened this past year but I don’t think I’d be willing to do it all over again.
With all that being said, I step out of 2015 ready to celebrate my wins for the year. I don’t have to look through photos or pull my Best 9 of 2015 to realize that I experienced several amazing moments and people last year, although it IS a blast to reminisce with photos. I can hardly look at any photo without wanting to tell the story behind it, I often times catch myself scrolling through photos while lounging on the couch or riding in the car, recalling the experiences that led to the photo capture. Please allow me to put closure on 2015 and to celebrate a few of my wins by sharing the stories behind my Best 9 of 2015 photos (as told by Instagram).
Moving left-to-right, top-to-bottom, thank you for allowing me to share my stories.
1. I spotted this scene while driving home from a work trip to Grand Junction, CO // In one blink, the scene was behind me. I debated whether or not to turn around, and I’m happy I did even though it ended up being 30-45 minutes of backtracking just to get the photo. This breathtaking view is right off of I70, near Glenwood Springs, CO. I stood on a bridge to take this shot. I remember my hands feeling frozen, and a semi-truck driver stopping to make sure I wasn’t stranded….
2. I’m obsessed with Free People. OBSESSED. I want everything to do with everything that they are about. When I got an email from Free People asking me to collaborate with them, CorePower Yoga, a few other local bloggers, and some photographers for a photo shoot, a hot yoga sesh, and a healthy dinner, I was beyond excited. Yoga, a photo shoot at Red Rocks in Free People gear, and a healthy dinner basically makes up THE PERFECT DAY for this girl. The photo you see was taken at CorePower Yoga on Grant Street by VictorOfValencia. I’d never been photographed during a sweaty yoga sesh before, and I kind of liked it…. I may have showed off a little.
3. This Winter Squash Pie was made with a recipe from my dear friend Amanda’s book, Smitten With Squash. It’s no wonder that it was a top post this year, I took the photo after spending time with Amanda at camp, and picking up on some of her photo skills (her photos are INCREDIBLE), PLUS the recipe is genius. I served this pie with homemade coconut whipped cream for dessert at Friendsgiving this year.
4. A stunning view atop Copper Mountain, 12,000 feet high. I believe this photo was taken on my first snowboard trip this year, I was filled with emotion and angst because I’m still learning and hadn’t gained much confidence yet.
5. A Throwback to last holiday season when I was in Hawaii with my homie, lover, and best friend. He took this gorgeous shot that I just so happen to be in. We hiked up Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail early in the AM to catch the sun rising above the ocean. Nothing but beauty….
6. Martha Stewart: she’s a genius. She inspired the Pumpkin Pie Yogurt Parfait recipe that I developed a year or two ago. This recipe will continue to be a big hit for many holiday seasons to come because, pumpkin.
7. Giuliana & Bill Rancic were throwing a party at one of their restaurants in Chicago a few years back and somehow I ended up in attendance. At that party, they showered us with amazing food and unlimited cocktails. A Brussels Sprouts Salad that I never forgot about was one of the food items they served us that night. I recently decided to make my own version of that salad and BOOM, it was a hit. I served this item at Friendsgiving and have made several batches since then just because. Shredded Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad
8. Recipe testing doesn’t always go as planned, but it’s fun nonetheless. I made several attempts at this Butternut Squash (and apple) Crisp but never quite perfected the recipe. I tried using quinoa in the crisp along with quinoa flour which I think could work if I stayed persistent in testing ratios. I made it with sage for a more savory scent, but wasn’t convinced that I loved it. Good enough to eat, but never the DELISH I was hoping for so I never shared a recipe here on the blog. I may decide to try it again next holiday season, but for now, I’m over it.
9. So many throwbacks in my Top 9! Years ago, I threw together a quinoa salad for a quiet in-home dinner and took some unattractive photos of it. After stumbling upon those old-school photos, I decided to re-create that salad that I’d remembered being so delicious. I was right, it was good all over again. Pomegranate Pistachio Quinoa Salad
Cheers to a plentiful past and humble new beginnings.
Content. That’s how I feel when I get to sit down and read a book – no laptop, no tv, no radio, no nothing except for me and a good book. I do get a lot of “Crista-time” but I typically spend it in the kitchen, working on my blog, gardening, or going to yoga. Rarely do I take the time to sit down with my laptop closed and just read a book. Years ago, I had time in my life to read, I even had an entire book collection (I was saving up to some day have my own library full of books)….. I think it was before I owned a MacBook.
(But look, I’m not complaining.)
I just finished a book (affiliate link! check it out at your own risk, the book contains some talk of animal slaughter and shit like that) that I started over a year ago, it’s a shame it took so long because the book is HILARIOUS.
I’m on airplanes quite often and have every intention of reading in-flight, but I tend to fall asleep before take off and wake up just before landing. Yeah, I’m that girl… sitting beside you in aisle 12, window seat, with her mouth hanging wide open. Did you take a photo of me drooling from one side of my mouth? Tag me on Facebook, would ya? Anyway, point is – my book-reading-time is frequently postponed for “other” activities (zzzzzzzz).
Camping. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the summertime (especially here in Colorado) because it requires almost zero activity once the AM hike is completed and the PM meal has been prepped. I get to sit my ass down, drink a beer, and enjoy the peaceful mountain air. The best thing about it, everyone around me is doing the exact same thing.
((Speaking of camp, check out some plant-based meal ideas and enter to win some TruRoots product HERE))
Now, on to what I’m currently reading: a bunch of old Martha Stewart magazines, some gardening blogs, and YumUniverse!
If I told you I’ve met Heather Crosby in person, would you think I’m so cool? Would I gain some cool points? Street Cred? There are a few of you out there who know who Heather Crosby is and if you have read her book/blog, you’d know how kick ass she is and you’d probably love to meet her. All the others, listen up – I’m about to introduce you to Heather (she’s the one on the book cover).
I have idolized Heather ever since I learned about her YumUniverse.com launch. She threw this sweet party at a big warehouse in Pilsen (Chicago) and had photographers, food, drinks, cool people – it was incredible. I fell in love with her blog shortly after I attended her launch and am now a proud owner of her book.
First off, Heather created her book ALL BY HERSELF (a detail I learned on the One Part Podcast) which makes her way more awesome of a person than I could have ever imagined.
Second, the YumUniverse book contains not only awesome recipes (Sliceable Cashew Cheese, Rainbow Ribbon Veggie Alfredo, Quinoa “Cinnamon Toast” Cereal with Toasted Pecans) but it gives you the “why” behind eating plant-based foods and teaches you how to do it. After reading, you’ll have this book bookmarked or dog-eared and will refer to it often while working in your kitchen. In the book, Heather talks about fats, and fibers, and proteins, and meal prep, and shopping. She shares what type of tools you should have in your kitchen and even tells you how to get rid of pesky fruit flies.
Out of my entire collection of books, the YumUniverse is my absolute favorite right now – it’s like my food bible. After I’ve finished reading it through, I think I’ll read it again. Then again one more time. It’s THAT book that I take with me every where I go right now….
If you’re interested in reading as well, you can purchase the YumUniverse book HERE.
We’ve gone on a few camping trips this summer and have another trip planned at the end of the month. I love camping because it allows an opportunity to bask in the natural beauty that our outdoor world has to offer.
I love being isolated from the modern world, challenged to entertain myself with the few things I’ve packed in the car and the organic earth surrounding me.
One of the biggest challenges I face prior to a camping trip is meal planning.
A week prior to camp, I plan out each meal and make a grocery list. It’s important to know exactly how much food will be needed – you don’t want to starve out there in the wilderness but you don’t want to pack too much either – 1. there typically isn’t enough room for over-packing. 2. you may waste food if you over-pack.
After I’ve planned my meals and made my grocery list, I make a list of the tools I’ll need in order to properly prepare each meal.
On our last camping trip, we didn’t have a reserved spot so we weren’t sure if we’d be camping with a campfire or not. We challenged ourselves to prepare all of our meals without a fire and we did so with a single burner camp stove. The mini stove allowed us to make coffee in the morning, warm up oatmeal, cook rice, and warm veggies. (what more could you ask for?!)
Although I hesitated to bring a Sun Tea Jar to camp (some may consider it obnoxious), I was thankful I did – water gets boring after a while. Although it’s considered cold brew, may I recommend Sport Tea for camp? Because, electrolytes.
Let’s talk meal prep for Plant-Based Camp Meals
Here are a few rules I follow when planning out my camp meals:
1. Keep meals SIMPLE, nutritional, and filling
2. Keep ingredients to a minimum
3. Work with ingredients that can be used in multiple meals (you’ll see examples below)
4. Pack foods that won’t spoil quickly (meat, cheese, milk, fish, etc…)
5. Pack a few spices that will enhance flavor (cinnamon, salt, pepper)
1. Cold Cereal w/ Nuts & Fruit
add some chopped fruit (whatever you’ve packed) and some nuts from your trail mix for a more filling cereal. use a nut milk instead of dairy (it doesn’t spoil as quickly!)
2. Oatmeal you can make oatmeal in a variety of different ways for camp –
//instant oats cook quickly and can be mixed with fruits, nuts, cinnamon, and almond milk
//you can make steel cut oats prior to camp and warm them quickly – again, add fruits, nuts, almond milk, cinnamon
//if you have a frying pan available, sauté some sliced apples or peaches and then add oats
// blend quinoa with your steel cut oats for added nutrition, Trader Joe’s has frozen packs of oats + quinoa that work well at camp
3. Peanut Butter
add peanut butter to bread or apples for a quick, yet filling breakfast – supplement with trail mix and/or protein bars (this is what I would eat prior to an early AM hike!)
1. Guacamole & Quinoa-stuffed Bell Peppers
Cut bell pepper in half and de-seed them then stuff them with pre-made guacamole and quinoa. Top them with a few chopped tomatoes if you have them on hand.
2. Spinach Salad w/ Peaches and Lentils
Top spinach with lentils (my favorite are the Sprouted Green Lentils from TruRoots because of their nutritional value and peppery flavor) and peaches & cherries (blueberries would work well to!)
The perfect salad dressing to pack for camp is Tessemae’s Lemon Garlic because it works well with every salad I can imagine and can be used in a variety of different ways including as a marinade for veggies, or atop a rice or quinoa dish. PLUS, it keeps well whether room temp or in a cooler.
3. Chopped Veggies & Hummus
Pre-made hummus can be served with practically every veggie I can think of – chop what you’ve got and dip. If you’re a fan of crackers or chips, dip those as well! My favorite crackers are the Bite Size Everything Crackers from Trader Joe’s.
4. Carrot Soup
Carrot Soup can be served warm or chilled which makes it perfect for camp. The last time we camped, we ate it (chilled) as a side dish to 3-4 different meals, it rounded out our meals by adding additional flavor. The recipe I used is found on the Minimalist Baker blog.
5. Peanut Butter
If you have minimal time for a meal, celery dipped in peanut butter will quickly offer a burst of energy. This may be a “meal” you are eating while hiking or on a boat and can be supplemented with energy bars, trail mix, and dried fruits.
1. Rice + Veggies TruRoots Germinated Brown Rice cooks in less than 10 minutes which makes it ideal for camp (especially when you’re trying to get dinner done prior to the sun setting)! If you serve cooked rice over the top of raw, chopped veggies, and allow it to sit for a few minutes, the warmth of the rice will soften the veggies. If you prefer to cook your veggies, you can do that too. Use any veggies you like (or what you have on hand), I used broccoli and cauliflower on my last camping trip. To add flavor to your rice & veggies, use the Tessemae’s Lemon Garlic dressing.
2. Chickpea Lettuce Wraps
SO EASY! Ok, here is what you need: a can of chickpeas, a head of lettuce, some fruits (those peaches that you used for breakfast – or mango), diced cucumber, and a dressing. I used the Carrot Soup as a dressing for my lettuce wraps because I had it on hand, but I also considered making a Peanut Sauce prior to camp. (recipe for peanut sauce HERE)
3. a Quinoa Bowl
quinoa + fruits + avocado + peanut sauce – find the recipe HERE
4. Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers
Cut the tops off the bell peppers and de-seed them. Stand them upright and stuff them with chopped veggies, warm rice or quinoa, and some tomato sauce if you have it on-hand. If you have a campfire, you can wrap them in foil and allow them to “cook” – if not, allow the warm rice or quinoa to soften the bell pepper and veggies for a few minutes prior to eating.
If you look at my table setup in the photos, you’ll see that I served many of these meals together instead of singly to create more interesting and complex meals. It’s all about getting creative, using what you have, and displaying your foods colorfully!
TruRoots recently asked me to become an ambassador for them and I happily said YES after reading their story and trying their products. The TruRoots philosophy is:
TruRoots was founded on the idea that our connections to the sources of our foods are important. The people who grow, harvest and deliver these nutritious foods are just as important as the final product. In fact, without this chain of good people and wise practices, the high quality of our food simply isn’t possible.
With this approach has come not only a connection between the people and lands that these foods come from—it has opened up avenues for the sharing of cultural wisdom. Western science is just ‘discovering’ many of the principals that have been in use for centuries around the world. These ancient practices are being confirmed by science as having nutritious benefit and agricultural sustainability. And this process of learning and sharing has only begun. It is our belief at TruRoots that scientific advances and ancient wisdom can be brought together into a golden middle road which leads to not only wholesome foods, but rewarding human relationships. We have a lot to learn from each other… And the process of doing this is simply delicious!
With that philosophy and some of the best tasting grains I’ve ever eaten, TruRoots is a company that I’m excited to stand behind.
TruRoots has offered to give away 1 package of each TruRoots Originals product to one lucky PLQ winner. To enter, leave a comment on this post before August 17. The lucky winner will be randomly chosen and notified on August 18. Please share this post with any of your camping friends or with anyone who may be interested in winning some TruRoots goodies!
Although TruRoots influenced me by sending out some free product, all opinions and food ideas in this post are my own. In this post, you will also find a few affiliate links – if you click them and purchase a product, I may make a few pennies on the dollar. Thank you for taking the time to read!
Oh, and for the record – all of these photos were taken at Twin Lakes, CO. Beautiful, right?!
I’ve had a long, long, non-stop, crazy week. I spent hours and hours on the road in extremely painful traffic patterns that tested my patience. There were moments when I was swept with anger, my cheeks even got red, just because I’d been stuck in the car so much longer than anticipated. BUT the week is over.
Sigh. of. relief.
We are going camping at Rocky Mountain National Park this weekend. I hate/love camping. OK, I don’t really HATE it, but the preparation and packing prior to the trip can be agonizing tasks ESPECIALLY when you’ve got no free time. Anyway, I am not writing this post to project my ill feelings on you, the week is over and my ill feelings have all passed. Last night, I slid in to the yoga studio just seconds before the last class of the night began and I woke up early to attend the first class of the day. I feel fresh, rejuvenated, and anxious to bond with the mountains, and spend quality quiet time with my boyfriend this weekend.
A few nights ago, we laid in bed putting together our food menu for this weekend, and this cucumber + berry fruit bowl came to mind. I made this exact fruit bowl a few years ago, a really awful photo I took of it showed up in my Timehop feed recently.
I don’t remember how or why I decided to pair cucumbers with cherries & blueberries – if I had to guess, I’d say that I was making a conscious effort to pair a green food with my fruit. I try to incorporate green foods in most of my meals even it if it’s a few pistachios or pumpkin seeds in my morning granola.
This cucumber + berry salad is made with 3 ingredients: chopped organic cucumber, organic sweet cherries, and organic blueberries. The 3 fruits blended together create a perfectly colorful combination and is refreshing, hydrating & filling – it’s perfect for a sunny summer morning or afternoon.
These 3 ingredients will be going with us to camp this weekend, I plan to throw them in a bowl as use them as a centerpiece on the picnic table at our camp site. I have a feeling we’ll be eating out of that bowl all weekend long – during breakfast, as a sweet snack after lunch, and after our planned 8 mile hike for nourishment and hydration.
In addition to this colorful fruit salad, we have several awesome camp meals planned, I hope to share them in a future blog post. If I have cell service at camp this weekend, I’ll post a few photos on Instagram, but no guarantees.
Our trip included 10 days on O’ahu which allowed us to circle the island twice. We stayed in several different places on the island in several different areas. During our trip we hiked, shopped, explored, and hung out at the beach. This packing list that I am providing includes the items that worked for us. I have offered commentation on the big “why” behind the items listed. You may need to add to this packing list if you are staying longer, doing different activities than we did, or attending an event.
cute Tanks & T-shirts
multiple pairs of Shorts
1 pair of Moisture-Wicking Pants/Shorts
1-2 pairs of pants, jeans are appropriate
Lightweight Hoodie or Sweater
3-4 Bathing Suits (in Hawaii, the tinier, the better!)
a couple of swimsuit cover-ups
Winter in O’ahu is warm enough for the beach during the day, but it gets chilly at night so be sure to pack clothing that is appropriate for both times of the day. Also, there are several amazing hikes available on the island, we did a few hikes before sunrise and they were wet and chilly, which is why I recommend the moisture-wicking gear. Honolulu people were dressed up for dinner, otherwise shorts, a tank, and flips were the standard uniform – go with it.
Hats: Sun Hat, Ball Cap multiple pairs of Sunglasses Bandana / Headbands small Umbrella
Surf attire (if you plan on surfing)
I would imagine the majority of your time will be spent at the beach, hiking, touring or eating. You won’t need much for any of these activities – just you, your clothing, and a small day pack or beach bag. Don’t over-think it.
You’ll find that most people on the island wear flip flops, no matter what they’re doing. The only time I wasn’t wearing flips while on the island is when I was hiking and jogging along the beach.
Nail Clippers / File
Lip Balm w/ SPF
Cortisone Anti-Itch Cream
Most of these items are readily available for purchase on the island, so pack light and stock up when you arrive – just know that the items are more expensive on the island.
Waterproof Video Camera, I recommend a GoPro Hero Cam
Selfie Stick (everyone on the island has them!)
Laptop (I recommend you dump your memory cards at the end of each day)
Travel Alarm Clock
Spare Memory Cards
I always hesitate to pack so many electronics, but never regret having them with me. The island as safe, so don’t worry about your stuff being stolen unless you let it sit in the front seat of a rental car. Take a good camera, you’ll get some amazing photos. Dump your memory cards at night, just in case. Be shameless about selfies, everyone on the island is doing it. Take an alarm clock to wake you up before sunrise – trust me, you’ll want to get up to watch the sunrise. You’ll need a flashlight to hike in the dark.
GEAR & EXTRAS
Guidebook (I liked Fodor’s O’ahu Guidebook)
Pens & Pencils
Art supplies (if you’re in to that)
Mesh Laundry Bag
Travel Yoga Mat
Backpack Food (for hiking & beaching)
a Beach Bag
a Beach Blanket
a Day Pack (for hiking or tours)
Don’t worry about packing beach towels, anywhere you stay will most likely provide them. Take a blanket though, it’s a great supplement to a beach towel and it will keep you warm on your sunset/sunrise viewings. If you’re an artist, take your supplies – there is plenty of space and time to create art. With goggles alone, we were able to see a lot of fish underwater – we never even rented snorkel gear because we could see so much with the goggles.
I would highly recommend reading though a guidebook and doing research PRIOR to your trip – have an idea of what you’d like to do/see before you get there. There is so much to see and do, you won’t be able to do it all in one trip (chances are) so find what is important to you!
On a trip to O’ahu, a typical tourist would probably stay at a resort in Waikiki – there is nothing wrong with that because Waikiki has everything: beaches, shopping, restaurants, night life – however, it’s not my style at all. While in O’ahu, we spent one day in Waikiki, but I would have felt cheated had we spent any more time there because there is so much more to see and do on the island.
So many people in my world have recently spent time in Hawaii, are in Hawaii now, or are planning a visit soon – which is one of the major reasons I am writing this post.
This blog post was written based on my own experience, if you have had a different experience and know of “things-to-do” in O’ahu, I welcome you to share in the comments below
1. Find & Visit some Hidden Beaches
I found an article on Conde Nast titled “Hawaii’s Best Hidden Beaches ” just a few days after returning to the main land. When reading it, I found excitement because we visited a few of the beaches on the list, however I was also bummed because we would have visited one of the beaches on the list had we known about it while we were there. I guess I’ll have to go back sometime soon to visit that beach -Luckily, we have friends in Hawaii who were able to show us a few hidden beaches!
The hidden beaches are worth looking up and seeking out, trust me. Do some research before you visit the island and plan which ones you’d like to find and visit.
2. Visit the North Shore
There aren’t many hotels on the North Shore, so I don’t think many tourists get up to the North Shore unless they are bussed from Waikiki. While you are in O’ahu, you’re going to need to rent a car, as far as I’m concerned. There is too much to see and do on he island to be stuck in one place without a car.
The North Shore is a beautiful, tropical part of the island, chockful of beautiful hidden beaches, surfers, farms, and lush greenery. It is a part of the island that you should definitely spend time at. Situated on a vast, green farm, we found a little hut to stay in for a few nights. The Hobbit Hut we stayed in sat amongst 2-3 other huts, a few tents, an open-air kitchen, and a yoga deck. We had beautiful views of Mt. Ka’ala, which is the highest point on the island.
If you don’t get up to the North Shore on your trip to O’ahu, you are cheating yourself.
3. Watch the Sunsets / Sunrises
It’s not easy to think about setting an alarm clock and getting up at 5am while on vacation, but it’s WORTH IT to catch the Hawaiian sunrise. We got up on Christmas morning and did the Pillbox hike to watch the sunrise over the ocean. On a different morning, we planted ourselves on the beach (Waimanalo) to watch the sunrise before we went out for breakfast. Makapu’u Point is another place we loved for watching the sunrise -although it was packed with people, we loved it – arrive early!
Our favorite place to watch the sunset was definitely at Mount Tantalus, a short drive to the top plants you in the perfect place to watch the sunset over the city of Honolulu. This is a place that you want to arrive early to, there will be a lot of people there, all racing to find the perfect place to plant themselves for one of the most beautiful sunsets they may ever witness.
There is no shortage of hikes to do while in O’ahu – ranging from “easy” to “dangerous”. It’s like a “choose-your-own-adventure” type situation – you get to choose how strenuous a hike you are up for. Regardless, all of the hikes are worth it. Our favorite hike was the Pillbox hike. When you get to the top, you have close to a 365 degree view of the island – it’s pretty sweet.
5. Seek out the Food Trucks
There are several food trucks on the island, mostly scattered throughout the North Shore. If you drive up to the North Shore, you will surely run in to them. Our favorite food truck was Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. They make some killer shrimp with rice and tons of garlic. If you’re a non-vegan, you’ve def got to check out Giovanni’s. (If you’re a vegan, find Beet Box on the North Shore instead of visiting the food truck – then thank me later)
6. Surf / SUP
There are surfers and SUP’ers (SUP = Stand Up Paddle Board) on several of the beaches we visited on O’ahu, it’s hard to not involve in the activities. Riding the ocean water is an experience that goes unmatched.
If you are the adventurous type, and you’re up for a thrilling experience, do yourself a favor and take surfing lessons. You may or may not get up on the board your first time out, but either way you will have the opportunity to experience some waves.
If you’re looking for more of a leisurely activity, rent a SUP. SUP’ing requires a little balance, and a minimal level of physical fitness, so this is an activity well-suited for just about anyone. a paid-lesson shouldn’t be required to ride a Stand Up Paddleboard – once you’re up on the board, it’s pretty easy to get around.
7. Visit Kailua
Kailua is quite possibly one of my favorite towns on O’ahu. It’s definitely a “nicer” area, it’s close to the beach, and has an awesome Whole Foods! We rented a house via airbnb.com in Kailua, it sat in an adorable neighborhood just about 1 mile from the beach. In the morning, we got up and joked to the beach, swan for a few minutes, and jogged back. In the afternoons we went to Lanikai Beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in O’ahu.
If you can find a home to rent here for a few nights, I would highly recommend you do.
8. Indulge in the Local Fruits
Driving along the outer edge of the North Shore, you will find fruit stands along the side of the road that are stocked full of fruits and veggies that you can’t get here on the mainland. A few of my favorite finds were the Ice Cream Bananas and the Purple Sweet Potatoes, both could be compared to candy – they’re THAT good.
If you don’t get a chance to go to the North Shore for the fruits, check out the local grocery store (like Whole Foods) for the local fruits. Eat as much as you can while you’re there, and eat some more for me while you’re at it!
9. China Wall
I would have NEVER known about the China Wall had it not been for my friends that live on the island. I feel lucky because the China Wall was definitely one of my favorite places we visited. Lava rock, and pristine blue, blue beautiful waters make up your experience at the China Wall. We walked along the wall until we couldn’t walk anymore, and we saw people who were perched on the rocks for a “beach” day. There are a few places along the rock that are safe for swimming, and some places where the water is fierce. Had we been more prepared, we may have tried to snorkel around the wall.
10. visit the Coffee Farm
If you are a coffee drinker, you MUST check out the Green World Coffee Farm. They’ve got hundreds of flavors of coffees (or so it seems), and you can sample several of them! They also have a super sweet gift shop and you can tour the coffee garden! I’d never seen a coffee plant before, so this was a neat experience for me. We purchased some coffee from the farm, my boyfriend says it’s some of the best coffee he’s had.
A few other things to do while in O’ahu: drink local Kona beer, eat everything with macadamia nuts, try an acai bowl (you can get them just about everywhere on the island including the coffee farm), and eat at Sweet Home Waimanalo’s (my favorite little veg-friendly restaurant on the island).
Picture this: In Hawaii, we stop at a fruit market off the side of the road on the North Shore and we find bananas labeled “ice cream banana” …. WHAT! You better believe we bought them!
Appropriately named “ice cream banana”, these little fruits (smaller than a banana found on the main land) actually do taste like ice cream – they are creamier than any banana I’ve ever eaten and they taste sweet, very sweet, and vanilla-ish – almost custard-like.
We ate the bananas on Christmas morning, after hiking to the top of a little mountain to watch the sunrise. We hiked in the pitch black dark, through tall wet grasses, just in time to see a beautifully colored sky…. there couldn’t have been a more perfect time to enjoy my new favorite fruit.
When I googled the ice cream banana, I found very little information on it so I don’t know much more about it aside from it being the best tasting banana I’ve ever had and that it can be found in Hawaii. So anyway, if you’re going to Hawaii, will you do yourself the favor of finding an ice cream banana or two?