beaches

Aloha Part 2: Kapalua and Wailea

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Planning a Hawaiian vacation can be difficult because each island is so different and it can be hard to figure out which one(s) to visit. You can’t do them all but wouldn’t that be amazing? I would say choose Maui if you’re looking for a good mix of nature and villages/towns. Compared to some of the other islands, Maui is actually pretty commercialized but it makes for a great first trip to Hawaii.

Once you’ve made the decision to visit Maui, another important decision to make is which part of the island to stay in since each part has its own vibe and personality. We could not make up our mind so we decided to try out 2 different parts—the northern tip known as Kapalua and the southwestern corner known as Wailea. Both are great but it depends what you’re looking for.

KAPALUA

Located about an hour from Kahului airport (the main airport in Maui), Kapalua feels a bit remote. The community is built around the famous PGA golf course in the green, lush surroundings. There are only a few hotels and many condos in this exclusive neighborhood. The only swimmable beach in this area is Kapalua Beach because the more north you go, the more exposure the island gets to the open ocean and the rougher the waters get. Choose Kapalua if you want peace and quiet. This is a great location for a honeymoon, naturally, but when and if you get tired of the seclusion, it is just a short drive into the old whaling village known as Lahaina filled with shops, restaurants, casual bars, a marina and a fantastic sunset.

Dragon’s Teeth in Kapalua

Dragon’s Teeth in Kapalua

Views from Kapalua

Views from Kapalua

WAILEA

Wailea on the other hand feels a bit busier and has more of a resort-town feel to it. This is the area that you will find hotel after hotel lined up along the beach. There is no town center like Lahaina to visit but there are some restaurants located outside of the resorts in small shopping plazas. There are more beaches for swimming on this part of the island since the water is a bit calmer and there is a fantastic paved path along the beach perfect for strolling around sunset. The big advantage of this area is that the weather tends to be less rainy and a bit warmer than the northern part of the island. It is also closer to the airport—about 30 minutes. Choose this area for more predicable weather and closer proximity to the airport.

Four Seasons Wailea by day

Four Seasons Wailea by day

Four Seasons Wailea by night

Four Seasons Wailea by night

WHERE TO STAY

In Kapalua, if the budget allows, both the Ritz Carlton and the Montage are great. Choose the Ritz for more of a hotel experience with an amazing spa (maybe the best on the island) and for the pool area which is impressive. Choose the Montage to be closer to the swimmable beach and to have a full gourmet kitchen. Also the Montage is much smaller (only 50 residences) so less of a crowd. In terms of more budget-friendly options, the Westin and the Sheraton in Ka'anapali, which is the area adjacent to Kapalua, have a lot to offer for the price.

In Wailea, you have much much more to choose from. For a splurge, go for the Four Seasons. Although the property itself is not very new, the rooms have been recently renovated. And you really can’t beat the service (think pool attendants that polish your sunglasses and spritz you with Evian water). For a hip, fresh new product go for the Andaz which tends to attract more young couples. And for something a bit more budget-friendly the Marriott Wailea just went through a huge renovation and would be a great option.

TIP: Realistically you will be spending a lot of time at your resort so my best advice is to book the best possible hotel (and room) that you can afford. You will want to spend time by the pool or at the beach or sitting at the bar watching the hula dancers. You will be happy you splurged for a room with a view (sunset mai tais on your lanai? yes please!) Sure Hawaii is about the adventures but it’s also about taking in your beautiful surroundings and doing nothing.

The pool at the RItz Carlton Kapalua

The pool at the RItz Carlton Kapalua

WHAT TO SEE & DO

A vacation to Maui can be as action-packed or as relaxing as you want it. If you decide to venture outside the resort grounds there is plenty to choose from.

Make sure you do the Road to Hana which takes you down a windy road through the rainforest. There are tons of impromptu spots to pull over and snag a photo or you can download a guide on your phone (i.e. Shaka Guide) which will tell you where the cool spots are. I would dedicate an entire day for this and note that it is not possible to drive all the way around the bottom part of the island so at one point you will have to turn around and backtrack.

While I did not personally do this, another popular activity is to watch the sunrise from the summit of the Haleakala volcano. There is a paved (but windy) road to the top for vehicles but the view from what I hear is well worth it. The volcano is located in a national park of the same name which is home to cool things like lava flows, waterfalls, bamboo forests, and natural pools which you could explore after sunrise.

If you have time, visit the cute little town of Paia which is at the northern part of the Road to Hana and not far from the airport. I recommend walking around and staying for lunch or dinner at one of the best restaurants on the island, Mama’s Fish House.

And it’s like stating the obvious to mention that Maui is home to many beautiful beaches, including Makena State Park and some with black lava sand.

The above is just a sampling of what to do on the island and there is so much more! Or you can be like us and just RELAX by the pool, sipping on things that come in a pineapple…

TIP: I highly recommend renting a car for maximum exploration potential. Most, if not all, of the above activities require you to have a car and it is worth it to be on your own time. Driving around the island was not hard and far less stressful than driving in Boston or on the 405!

Lounging by the pool

Lounging by the pool

Adult pool at the Four Seasons

Adult pool at the Four Seasons

Having a little too much fun!

Having a little too much fun!

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK

In Kapalua, the place to be is Merriman’s. Book a table for sunset—both the meal and the view will be spectacular. Or opt for Happy Hour at the outdoor lounge which has daily live music, yummy cocktails and pupu to snack on. Also, don’t miss Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop for sandwiches and pastry which is on this part of the island just outside Lahaina.

In Wailea, don’t miss Monkeypod which is by the same owners as Merriman’s but more gastropub-by than fine dining. Also Morimoto at the Andaz has great sushi. Even if you’re not staying at the Four Seasons, I suggest you go for a drink in the lobby lounge just before sunset. What’s so special about it you ask? Well there is a torch lighting ceremony every night with live hula dancers. Totally worth it for that $20 mai tai!

Wailea Beach at Four Seasons

Wailea Beach at Four Seasons

FS Wailea with views of Molokai in the distance

FS Wailea with views of Molokai in the distance

If you’ve made it this far, mahalo for reading! Now who wants to go to Hawaii?

P.S. Hawaiian Airlines recently announced non-stop service from Boston to Honolulu starting April 2019. At over 5,000 miles and 11 hours there/10 hours back, it will be the longest domestic flight ever (a little avgeek fun fact). So get ready Bostonians, you soon will get to hear ‘aloha and mahalo’ over the loud speaker at the airport. Something about it just gets you excited!

Rainbows are a regular occurrence in Kapalua

Rainbows are a regular occurrence in Kapalua

That day we returned to Honolulu Airport twice after takeoff…and this might be our broken plane!

That day we returned to Honolulu Airport twice after takeoff…and this might be our broken plane!

Aloha Part 1: Waikiki and Pearl Harbor

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Hawaii has always been on my bucket list but living in Boston made it hard to justify traveling so far for the tropics when we could just hop on a short flight to the Caribbean. But as soon as my husband and I moved to the West Coast we made it a high priority to visit.

Before rushing to the Hawaiian Airlines website we had to figure out where exactly we were going. I admit we had little knowledge about this volcanic archipelago so we had to do our homework. One of the hardest parts of planning a trip to Hawaii is deciding which islands to visit since they each have their own vibe and landscape. Ultimately we landed on Oahu and Maui, which are great islands for a first time visit to the Aloha state.

Most flights to Hawaii land at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu which is on the island of Oahu. The city of Honolulu itself is pretty busy and might not be exactly what you’re looking for out of a Hawaiian getaway but Oahu is the island where you will also find famous Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor and the World War II Memorial, the big green dormant volcano that is Diamond Head, and the big surf of the North Shore. Go to Oahu if you want a beach city vibe with history, surf culture and convenience.

WHAT TO SEE & DO

  1. Waikiki Beach - It might not be the most remote or beautiful beach (though the view looking towards Diamond Head is pretty spectacular) but it is the most famous. Whether it’s from Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Magnum P.I., or even Don Draper and Jessica Fletcher, we all know of this place thanks to pop culture. The beach is always too crowded and a bit touristy, but it’s wonderful to look at from the private lanai of your hotel room. It doesn’t hurt to take a stroll along the sand and stop for a mai tai at Duke’s either.

  2. Pearl Harbor - This place speaks for itself and is a must-do whether or not you are a history buff. There are several exhibits but the most famous is the USS Arizona which is the battleship that sunk on December 17, 1941 bringing down over 1,100 people with it. Tickets must be reserved in advance and are released 60 days prior at 7am Hawaiian Standard Time. If you are unable to snag tickets do not worry, they are released again 24 hours in advance. Tickets can be purchased online here or by calling 1-877-444-6777. If you still are having trouble, they release a bit more the day of but you must show up in person. Go early for the best chance because they sell out very quickly. Admission is free. NOTE: As of today, 10/23, the USS Arizona Memorial itself is closed due to repairs. It is currently unknown when it will reopen but in the meantime visitors are still able to watch the documentary and hop on a boat to the memorial, they just won’t be able to disembark. Updates can be found here.

  3. Diamond Head - Another popular activity is to hike to the summit of the Diamond Head crater. The journey is about 1 hour along a rugged trail but you’re rewarded at the top with beautiful panoramic views of the island. More information can be found here.

  4. North Shore - No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a little surfing. This part of the island is where world renown surfing competitions happen including the Billabong Pipeline Masters. But if you’re not a pro there are also surf schools located here as well so you can give it a go on the longboard.

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WHERE TO STAY

Dozens of hotels line touristy Waikiki Beach so you will have plenty to choose from depending on your budget. Wherever you stay, I recommend upgrading to an ocean view room which will have beautiful views of the beach and was the highlight of our stay at The Royal Hawaiian, one of the most historical hotels in the area.

The Pink Palace, as it is informally known, goes back to the days where people used to arrive by boat to Hawaii. Because these guests would have just spent days looking out at the ocean, most of the rooms were designed to face inwards into the beautiful gardens of the resort. Today, there is also the Mailani Tower which offers private lanais with ocean views overlooking Waikiki Beach. While the views from the Mailani Tower cannot be reckoned with, the rooms itself are a bit generic. For the most charm, opt for a room in the historical building but know that they do not have lanais.

If Oahu is the only island you will be visiting or if the crowds of Waikiki don’t appeal to you, the resort area known as Ko Olina located west of Honolulu is a great option. If the budget allows, the Four Seasons Oahu is the way to go.

Stay tuned for my next post about the island of Maui. Mahalo!

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Seductive & Sizzling Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez. The glam destination of the jet set in the '60s. Brigitte Bardot. Need I say more?

When most visit the French Riviera they gravitate towards the area to the east known as the Alpes-Maritimes which includes Cannes, Nice, Monaco and everything in between. But there is the area to the west known as the Var that is also worth visiting. It is in the Var that you will find small but sexy Saint-Tropez which used to be just an old, sleepy fishing village until Brigitte Bardot started filming there in the 50's. Today it is a glitzy spot to see and be seen but still holds some of that old world charm from days past. That atmosphere makes it one of my favorites on the Riviera.

The beaches in this part of the French Riviera are sandy (unlike those in the Nice area) but St-Trop as it is often called, actually does not have many beaches in its town center. You must venture to the outskirts of town to find the sandy stuff. For the crème de la crème, head to Ramatuelle (about 10-15 min away) and you won't be disappointed. It's for this reason that I recommend having a car during your stay. Hitting the beach and soaking up that hot sun should definitely be on your list but here are some other suggestions as well:

Vieux Port

Vieux Port

The little streets are so quaint!

The little streets are so quaint!

WHAT TO SEE & DO

Stroll the quaint cobblestone streets of La Ponche (the old town). Lined with shops, cafés, restaurants and more these skinny pedestrian-only roads are super charming and not to be missed. Start by the east end of the port by the tourism office and make your way towards the citadel, weaving through the labyrinth of lanes.

Enjoy your café au lait and croissant while overlooking the luxury yachts in Vieux (old) Port. A lovely place with an outdoor terrace to do just that is Sénéquier, which is practically a landmark in this area. (Quai Jean Jaurès)

Sunbathe like a celebrity at Le Club 55 on famous Plage de Pampelonne. The place to see and be seen. Celebs have been known to visit so keep your eyes peeled. Lunch at the restaurant is a hotspot and a must. Reservations needed for both lunch and to rent lounge chairs on the beach. NOTE: lounge rentals do not include towels so bring your own. (43 Boulevard Patch, Ramatuelle)

Go shopping for some trendy Tropézienne footwear. This is where the espadrille was born and L'Espadrille Tropézienne is a perfect spot to pick up a pair. Also a good choice are the custom-made leather sandals from Rondini. (15 Rue des Commerçants & 18 Rue Georges Clemenceau)

Start (or end) your night with a cocktail at sleek bar Café de Paris. Located harborside, this casual place by day turns into a scene at night but is one of the few places in Europe I've found that knows how to mix up a proper martini. (25 Quai Suffren) 

Do some people watching in the quaint, main square Place des Lices. There are plenty of cafés to choose from as you watch the locals play pétanque as the day goes by.

Try the pastry of Saint-Tropez at La Tarte Tropézienne. Known as la tarte de Saint-Tropez, these pastries typically consist of brioche filled with custard and topped with pearl sugar although the fillings can vary. If you're concerned about fitting into that bikini don't worry--they come in miniature sizes as well. (Traverse des Lices)

Hike the scenic seaside path known as the Sentier du Littoral. It is a lengthy trail (16km and about 5 hours) but you can tailor your route to a shorter one if you'd like. The tourist office (8 Quai Jean Jaurès) has maps and can help you and I also found this website informative. 

Fill your bellies with yummy French food. Of course. Some of my favorite spots include the charming little Restaurant l'Olive (9 Rue Aire du Chemin), wine bar and restaurant Le Dit Vin (7 Rue de la Citadelle), and sophisticated restaurant The Strand (2 Rue du Petit Bal) with its lovely outdoor patio.

Big waves at Plage Pampelonne

Big waves at Plage Pampelonne

Narrow alleyways in La Ponche

Narrow alleyways in La Ponche

Views from under an umbrella at Le Club 55

Views from under an umbrella at Le Club 55

WHERE TO STAY

It is important to note that accommodations in St-Trop are not cheap, especially in July and August which is considered high season. To catch a little bit of a break, consider staying in June or September which still have warm temps but are not as expensive.

Hôtel Pan Deï Palais or Hôtel Byblos for a splurge. These exclusive, 5-star hotels are some of the most luxurious in town. And the latter used to be frequented by stars like Brigitte Bardot and Mick Jagger.  

Kube Hotel or Pastis Hotel for luxury and style with a (slightly) cheaper price tag. The latter is the smaller of the two with a more boutique feel. Both are located slightly outside of town but are a short walk or taxi ride away and the Kube offers a free hotel shuttle. 

La Résidence de la Pinède for a 5-star, luxurious hotel with private beach. This one is also located slightly outside of town but the infinity pool overlooking the turquoise sea is worth the walk to town. Be prepared to splurge on this one though.

If you're on more of a budget, do not fret. The 3-star Hôtel des Lices in town is a lot more affordable. Or you could go with a lovely, tasteful B&B slightly outside of town like Villa La Begude or Villa Casabianca. And don't worry, all of these options have a pool for cooling off!

GETTING HERE AND AROUND

The closest airport is Toulon-Hyères Airport, which is about an hour away. It is a small airport and there are not a whole lot of airlines that fly here so visitors can opt to fly into Nice, which is a larger airport with more airlines about 1.5 hours away. The closest train stations are Hyères and Saint-Raphaël and from there, a bus or boat can bring you to Saint-Tropez. Or there is ferry service from Nice. A car is definitely the most convenient but...

A few words to the wise:

  • Traffic in and out of town can be brutal during rush hour. Try to avoid traveling at those times if at all possible. Or travel à pied! 
  • A resort town like this is unfortunately expensive, especially during July and August which is their high season. 
  • And lastly, this town is not necessarily known for its cuisine although that is starting to change. Food is pretty average overall although it is possible to find some good spots if you're willing to put in the effort.

So there you have it, folks. Get Saint-Tropez on your bucket list if it isn't there already and you won't be disappointed. But once you go you will be spoiled forever. Don't say I didn't warn you...

Lunch at Le Club 55

Lunch at Le Club 55

The Allure of the Côte d'Azur (Part Deux)

Bonjour and Happy Thursday! As I mentioned in my previous post, the Côte d'Azur is a glittery, resort wonderland and makes a wonderful trip for a honeymoon or a fabulous summer getaway. I've touched upon how to get there and where to stay. So now that you've got that suite reserved at Hôtel le Cap Estel (can I come, please?!) you're probably wondering what you should see and do (other than celebrity spotting, that is) and where to imbibe on delicious Niçoise cuisine and crisp rosé (which, btw, is totally appropriate here as it is from this region...and everyone will be drinking it!) Here are my recommendations on how to do just that: 

WHAT TO SEE AND DO

Explore Vieux Nice (the old town). Take a stroll along the boardwalk-like Promenade des Anglais and be sure not to miss the produce & flower market, La Marché Cours Saleya/Marché aux Fleurs.

Peonies, my favorite <3

Peonies, my favorite <3

Eat your veggies, everyone!

Eat your veggies, everyone!

Gorgeous tomatoes

Gorgeous tomatoes

Fleurs, fleurs, fleurs

Fleurs, fleurs, fleurs

Wander the little cobblestone paths of Eze Village. There are no cars allowed in this medieval village so park your car at the bottom of the hill and walk up. Some of the best views of the Riviera are found up here.

See how the rich live on Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. Drive past the most expensive homes in the world and take a tour of the pink seaside mansion, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. When the sun is too hot to bear, rent some loungers at Plage Paloma and enjoy a dip in the teal blue sea.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Charter a luxury yacht for the day and see the Riviera from the water. Depart from the Nice area and set sail to Cannes and the islands offshore-- Île-Sainte-Marguerite & Île-Saint-Honorat. Stop for lunch in Antibes and a post-meal dip in the Baie des Milliardaires (Billionaires Bay). Captain and champagne included.

Our yacht for the day (sorry for the blur)

Our yacht for the day (sorry for the blur)

A 46-ft Sessa with Captain

A 46-ft Sessa with Captain

Check out the cute little seaside towns of Villefranche-sur-Mer and Beaulieu-sur-Mer. Stroll the quaint streets and stop for a seafood lunch (and a few glasses of rosé) on the docks. 

Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Refreshments in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Refreshments in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Channel your inner Princess Grace (or Prince Rainier) in Monaco. Get all glammed up and take a stroll along the harbor, admiring all the mega-yachts, or try your luck at the black jack table. Enjoy lunch at a chic café or perhaps dinner at a trendy restaurant is more your style. But whatever you do, take it easy on the drive...

 

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

Le Safari in Vieux Nice for a lovely, fresh seafood dinner. When it's nice, aim to sit on the large outdoor patio. Reservations needed. (1 Cours Saleya)

Pain & Cie in Vieux Nice for a delightful petit dejeuners in rustic, classic French digs. (3 Rue Louis Gassin)

Le Relais Bar at L'Hotel Negresco in Nice for a martini or glass of champagne with live piano music. Expect to be transported back to the Belle Epoque era at this historical spot. (37 Promenade des Anglais) 

La Mère Germaine in Villefranche-sur-Mer for an upscale lunch on the dock. The seafood is super fresh and the rosé super crisp. Parfait! (9 Quai de l'Amiral Courbet)

La Caravelle in Villefranche-sur-Mer for a casual dinner in a cute, outdoor patio on the steps of a narrow street. (3 Rue de l'Église)

Restaurant Le César in Antibes/Juan les Pins for an upscale, rosé-filled lunch on the private beach Plage Keller. The restaurant provides dinghy service for yachts anchored in the bay. (1035 Chemin de la Garoupe)

L'Avenue 31 in Monte Carlo for yummy, Italian-influenced fare in a trendy dining room. (31 Avenue Princesse Grace)

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

Beach umbrellas in Nice

Beach umbrellas in Nice

The view from Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

The view from Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

As I mentioned before and what I can't say enough of is how glamorous and luxurious the French Riviera is. If you can swing it (and your wallet can handle it!), it's an amazing place to visit. The Alpes-Maritimes/Nice area is perfect for first timers but if you've already been there & done that, then I'd recommend trying something the other side of the Riviera--the Var, which is home to seductive Saint-Tropez. Stay tuned for my next post which will feature just that!

Rosé-filled lunches in Antibes

Rosé-filled lunches in Antibes

Lunch on Keller Plage, Juan les Pins

Lunch on Keller Plage, Juan les Pins

Someone was enjoying the high life a little too much....but who can blame him?!

Someone was enjoying the high life a little too much....but who can blame him?!