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“Have so much fun — Cuba is a dream.”

That’s what a girlfriend texted me in the 48 hours before I left for Cienfuegos, as I was frantically tying up loose ends on some work projects. I was less worried about abandoning my team for a couple of days than I was about going to this place I knew almost nothing about.

I hopped onto a flight deal from American Airlines months ago, and notified a few girlfriends who had expressed interest in going to Cuba about my plans. Within two days, they miraculously committed, bought tickets, and were pumped for the trip – which, as many of you know, rarely happens when you’re trying to rally commitment out of friends for travel.

So, somewhere within that crazy work schedule of mine, I planned a three-day trip to Cuba for four women. It wasn’t ideal, but you know how I feel about flight deals… and, to be completely honest, it was absolutely incredible nevertheless. Like most of my trips, I wanted to see more than just one city – so we road tripped it from Cienfuegos, to Havana, to Varadero, and back to Cienfuegos. And this is what I learned.

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1. Cuba is a dream. And… it’s huge. Go for at least five days.

The hardest part about our trip to Cuba was how little time we had to wander. I can’t speak for everyone that was with me, but there was never a moment that I was ready to move on from. I initially allocated about 12 hours in Havana, with my focus being on the beaches and the views on our drives.

Boy, I was wrong.

Havana was teeming with excitement and an infectious energy that I could. not. get enough of. Within two hours of being in Havana, I knew I’d need to plan a trip back. A moment that stands out was our walk to dinner – from the Edificio Focsa, our casa particular, to our paladar for dinner, La Guarida. Over our shoulders, the sun began to set through the streets of Havana, and we got a glimpse of the city in the heat of the night: kids playing soccer in the street, teenage romance, and the overall atmosphere of Havana letting loose once the sun goes down. Salsa music played from open air windows, and a few puppies had a barking conversation from opposite balconies.

I tried to soak up every detail, from every stranger that yelled hello to us obvious tourists, to the visual of the steam that rose from the streets when it started to drizzle.

Side note, Cubans seem to have figured out how make cat calls genuine compliments, as opposed to creepy comments we scurry away from. Every time some guy yelled “HOLA GUAPAS,” Kristen and I would look at each other and say something to the effect of “Ugh! It’s so nice for someone in the world to finally appreciate all of this” — while motioning our hands towards our faces, of course.

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2. Cubans are the friendliest people in the world. Befriend them.

Spanish is a must in Cuba – unless you’re going with a guided tour group – and even the feeblest attempts at broken Spanish will help you make some new friends.

Crime is also ridiculously low in Cuba, so the chance of you getting robbed is slim. Scams, however, are common – so don’t be gullible, or prepare to be flexible with your cash.

For the most part, we found it difficult to walk down the street without making new friends – strangers were incredibly helpful and genuine with helping us navigate, and taxi drivers would write down their full names, phone numbers, and addresses for us, inviting us to dinner in their homes for whenever we return to Cuba. One morning, I was on the hunt for about 10 cups of coffee, and we stopped in a makeshift café, located in an abandoned playground. Ernesto (above, left), who owned the café, didn’t have coffee there, but he had some at home, so he disappeared into his own kitchen, and reemerged with four Cuban coffees. This type of hospitality is the norm in Cuba. And… I’m obsessed with it.

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3. Don’t stay in hotels. And maybe… skip Varadero.

I cannot begin to describe the contempt in people’s voices when they reacted to us saying we were going to Varadero – to the people we met in Havana, Varadero is not Cuba.

One of the realities of visiting a communist country is that the people don’t have much – so it’s best to not wave luxuries in their faces. While there’s no denying the pristine beauty of Varadero, it’s not exactly what I’d call an authentic Cuban experience. To be completely honest, our day at the Melia Las Americas — while absolutely lovely — didn’t feel any different than a day at a resort in Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

If you really, really want to get the whole resort experience, then by all means, go to Varadero — but if I could do anything from my trip differently, I’d either skip the beach experience entirely, or look into some less touristy options here.

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4. Go dancing.

In college, I went salsa dancing once or twice a week – and to this day, salsa dancing is one of my favorite things to do. A life goal of mine since then has been to go salsa dancing in Havana… so there was absolutely no way I was going to skip that while we were there!

After dinner, we hopped in a taxi and asked for all of his recommendations on dancing on a Havana Friday night – and he said Miramar, a neighborhood on the western side of Havana, was the place to be. But since we were in central Havana, Fabrica de Arte came in for a close second. Fabrica de Arte was featured by Anthony Bourdain, and I didn’t expect it to be as awesome as it was. Half art gallery maze, half night club, half patio hot spot – Fabrica de Arte was filled with Cubans and tourists alike, dancing, chatting, and admiring some provocative artwork. Definitely spend a Friday or Saturday night here, and catch a live salsa band. Dance with the locals.

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5. Plan the basics in advance – and don’t count on a schedule.

Like I’ve mentioned before, it was really hard to stick to even the most flexible of schedules. A few weeks ahead of your trip, schedule your Airbnbs and make reservations at the popular paladares, but outside of that, the only thing you should plan is to not have a plan.

One of the things I loved about our time in Havana was that whenever we had our sights set on one specific thing, we found three other things along the way that were worth stopping for. Whether that’s ducking into an artists’ gallery in an alley, or stopping for a late lunch on a breezy patio to listen to two guitarists sing Guantanamera – every spontaneous moment was an adventure worth savoring.

Also, budget how much cash you want to spend, and then double it. I ended up being short on cash, partially because of an unexpected hotel expense, and partially because I ended up covering more than I budgeted for our car rental deposit, but you’re better off with extra cash than none at all.
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“Are you insane?”

That was how my friend Åse (pronounced “oh-seh”) reacted when we divulged our Norwegian road trip itinerary to her. We were just over halfway through our trip when we met her for what’s arguably the best restaurant in Bergen – Åse’s kitchen table, in her waterfront apartment.

With a handsome man at her side and a very cute, very serious baby on her hip, she was just as enchanting as the last time I saw her, three years prior. She is an incredible cook, and highly skilled at pushing food on her guests, no matter how many servings they’ve already consumed. And when dinner’s over, there is dessert. And leftovers. And extra snacks for your hike the next day.

We gladly accepted.

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Åse adores Bergen through and through, similarly to the way a born-and-raised New Yorker adores New York City: simply and utterly perplexed by anyone who would choose to live elsewhere. She even has me sold on the city – and I’m not exactly the biggest fan of rainy weather.

I agreed to move there if she found me a husband. To that, she responded: “Challenge accepted.”

I’ll be waiting for the notice when she’s found him.

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The two weeks I spent road tripping through Norway were easily two of the best weeks of my life. From Oslo, we drove north and west: with our first major stops in Geiranger and the Atlantic Road. From there, we hit Trondheim, and then powered through Trondelag and Nordland to Bodø, where we collected Silje – the woman who sparked my Scandinavian obsesseion. And thus began a ladies’ weekend in Lofoten (pronounced loo-foo-ten).

Lofoten is easily the most beautiful place in the world, in my eyes. Sharp, spikey mountains rise up from cerulean blue waters, and each horizon is dotted with little red fisherman’s cottages – rorbuer, in Norwegian.

Three tough hikes, four breathalyzer tests, and one mountaintop concert later, we all found ourselves aching to stay. At a bar, we were scolded for only giving ourselves three days in Lofoten. And I was finally in a part of the world where telling someone our nationality left both Norwegians and other travelers puzzled – what the hell were two American girls doing here? Nevertheless, we stayed out drinking with a German, a Swiss, and a Scot until two in the morning, only to realize that we’d have to hit the road at 4:30. Luckily, I sobered up in time to drive.

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The second half of our trip flew by in what felt like a matter of minutes — except the hike to Trolltunga… that happened very, very slowly. But a night in Stavanger and one last night in Oslo let us appreciate Norwegian cities in all their glory: walkable streets, stylish inhabitants, and architectural blend of traditional and modern design. On our last night, Silje and Greger brought us to Pjoltergeist, a spin-off by a Michelin-star chef, boasting a creative Icelandic-Japanese fusion menu. A handsome Norwegian man cracked jokes at our table in English, and yet again, I fell a little bit more in love with Norway. I’m not quite done with that country, and I’m not quite sure I’ll ever be.

Itinerary details below.

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Itinerary:

Day 1: Fly into Oslo. Drive to our 200-year old cabin in Fossberg.

Day 2: Drive Gamle Strynfjellsvegan, a beautiful tourist route along glacial valleys. Continue to Geirangerfjord, where we lucked out with incredible weather, and kayaked to the Seven Sisters waterfall. Drive further to our waterfront airbnb in Stordal, and eat burgers at a fast food joint on a fjord.

Day 3: Detour to the Atlantic Road (worth it, if the weather is good). Continue on to Trondheim. Commence Emily-Sarah Trondheim bar crawl.

Day 4: Long, very scenic drive to Brønnøysund, where the waters are an incredible turquoise blue. Hike Torghatten, a famous rock formation with a cave that opens up to a view of the islands and the Norwegian Sea.

Day 5: Long drive to Mo I Rana, where we stayed in a haunted hotel.

Day 6: Hike to Svartisen, a rapidly melting glacier. Drive to Bodø, pick up Silje, make her teach us how to count to twenty in Norwegian over pizza and beer.

Day 7: Ferry from Bodø to Moskenes, in the Lofoten Islands. Hike Kvalvika Beach, and drive to Henningsvær, our home for the weekend.

Day 8: Attempted to hike Svolværgeita – actually hiked to Djevelporten, which translates to “The Devil’s Gate.” Immediately throw out running shoes. Go as a group to a sporting good store and purchase legit (matching) hiking boots.

Day 9: Hike Festvågtinden for a Sondre Justad concert. Lots and lots of climbing.

Day 10: Drive back to Moskenes to catch the ferry to Bodø. Fly from Bodø to Bergen. Dinner in Bergen, and drive 3 hours to Odda.

Day 11: Hike Trolltunga. PTFO.

Day 12: Drive to Stavanger. All of the exploring. All of the coffee. All of the cake.

Day 13: Drive to Kvinesdal, sleep on a farm.

Day 14: Drive to Oslo. Exploring and dinner with Silje and Greger.

Day 15: Fly out of Oslo. Commence clinical depression as we return to the US during election season.

When we got off of the plane in Reykjavik, I had no idea we’d be spending so much time in Iceland’s hot springs. Before my first trip, friends and acquaintances had mentioned hitting up every swimming hole possible, but we just didn’t have the time in November — five hours of daylight isn’t a lot! So in March, after spending one morning at the Blue Lagoon, and another evening at Fludir, we decided we’d be in hot springs every damn day. And for the next day, I had my heart set on Seljavallalaug.

Note: yes, I can pronounce that word. It took lots of practice, but I’m now confident that I’ll make a great Scandinavian some day.

Anyhow, Seljavallalaug is one of Iceland’s oldest swimming pools — built in 1923 to teach locals how to swim — and it’s kept up entirely by local volunteers. So if and when you visit, I cannot emphasize your duty to leave no trace. Places like these will only last as long as we can take care of them.5 I can say with confidence that the time we had at Seljavallalaug was by far my favorite part of our trip.

Seljavallalaug, Iceland // Photo by Sarah Gerrity

We had spent most of they day at site after site — starting with Seljalandsfoss and Gjulfrafoss, where everyone was struck by their first moments of “ho-ly shit, what planet am I on” awe. The landscape transformed with almost every curve of the road, and we met other travelers, ranging from the very handsome, Czech law student who helped us not get lost on the road to the plane wreckage, to the recent Santa Barbara grad, on his fifth day of a year-long solo travel adventure. Seljavallalaug felt like the right way to end an incredible day.

There were a few minutes that we had to ourselves in the pool, right before the latter traveler from Santa Barbara stumbled upon us. We mostly savored every one of those moments, because there is nothing more beautiful than being in a warm pool, surrounded by mountains, enveloped by clouds and lightly falling snow — with the only soundtrack being falling snow and the slight trickle of water from the hot spring to the pool.

Seljavallalaug, Iceland // Photo by Sarah Gerrity

Several times throughout that trip, we all talked about the importance of soaking up every single moment — and as often as we could remember to, we put our phones away and I kept my camera at my side, and we would soak up every sound, every breeze, and every scent. With every blink, every breath, I knew it would be more and more painful to leave.

Seljavallalaug, Iceland // Photo by Sarah Gerrity

We hung around the pool waiting for an older couple to leave, and when we finally had the pool to ourselves, we stripped down and got in, because yolo (or, “yoiio,” which we coined for “you’re only in Iceland once,” which obviously did not apply to me). And shortly after, the Santa Barbara grad I mentioned before showed up, and timidly joined us. He was so nervous to have stumbled upon four skinny dippin’ ladies that his hand trembled when we passed him our flask of bourbon. And every time we forced him to be our photographer. But by the time we were ready to walk back to the car, he tagged along for the walk, and we wished him on his merry way.

Yoiio.

Finding Seljavallalaug

From the Ring Road, turn inland on Raufarfellsvegur road. After about 10 minutes, it’ll get pretty rough, but drive until you can drive no further, and park your car at the end of the road. There’s a little ridge on the left side of the valley that you can walk along. Our directions were “walk towards the valley for about 15 minutes,” which sounded crazy, but turned out to be 100 percent accurate. Once you cross a little stream, and turn around a bend, you’ll see the pool.

There are changing rooms and hooks where you can hang your clothes up to stay dry, and the pool is lukewarm, except for one corner, where the hot water trickles in. Try to avoid the hot spot, because if you’re there for too long, it’ll make the rest of the pool too cold to swim in!

Also, fun fact: the local volunteers do drain the pool out for cleaning once a year or so. When I visited in November, one of my hosts told me that they had drained it in September or October, and it took a month to refill and warm up again. So ask around when you’re visiting!

If you have a free afternoon in Iceland and are in the mood for a workout, Hveragerði is a great option for your day. From Reykjavik, it’s about a 40-minute drive – and you’ll be hiking for 60 to 90 minutes. I went in March, when the mountains were white as they could be, and it took us a solid 90 minutes. Beware, people who hate hiking. But I promise, the hot river is worth it.

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Finding Reykjadalur

To get there, take Highway 1 towards Vik for about 40 minutes – when you descend the huge pass, you’ll see steam coming out of the ground, surrounding a small town at the foot of the mountains. That’s Hveragerði. Then, you basically take the main road in town to the very end – and the trailhead will be there.

You’ll likely see hikers high above the trailhead – that will be you soon! Just follow the trail and the red trail markers for 3 km, until you pass through an area where there are a few bubbling geysers and a ton of steam rising from the ground. When you’ve arrived, you’ll find some boardwalks and probably a handful of other tourists and locals enjoying a dip in the pools.

Start at the lowest pool, as they get hotter the farther upstream you go!

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Sorry not sorry for the booty shot!

Sorry not sorry for the booty shot!

In November, I aggressively road tripped across the south of Iceland over five short days. And while it was one of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever taken, it was incredibly difficult to see everything we wanted to see when we were constantly chasing daylight and spending 75% of our time driving. So when I returned a few weeks ago in March, I had planned our itinerary a little differently for our quick little journey.

The main difference was that in November, I hopped from Airbnb to Airbnb – but in March, we stayed in one apartment in Reykjavik the entire time. I highly recommend staying in a different city each day for a longer trip, especially if you are traversing the whole Ring Road. But if you’re limited to a few days, I’d say staying in Reykjavik is the way to go.

Another thing you should keep in mind with this itinerary is that I was fairly confident that my travel buddies would be up and at ‘em every morning, and easy to mobilize out the door. And if your friends like to sleep in and take their time, go to Iceland when there’s a little more daylight to spare 🙂

Here’s how I planned out our March adventure, and we generally lingered in our apartment until 11 am or so – plenty of balance between rest and adventure.

Day 1: Arrive, Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik

Blue Lagoon, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2015

If you’re flying Wow Airlines from Baltimore, you’re probably going to be landing in Reykjavik just after 5 am. Not gonna lie – it’s a rough start to a trip. But if you pack some Zzquil and stock up on coffee when you land, you’ll breeze through. Take your time in the Keflavik airport (Joe and the Juice has great music, comfy seating, and handsome baristas that will gladly supply you with multiple lattes and ginger juice shots).

Grab your rental car around 6:30 or 7 am, and head over to Midlina, nearby the Blue Lagoon. It’s literally a bridge between the European and North American tectonic plates, so you can pull together a great Snapchat story of you running between the continents.

By the time you’re relaxed and all pruney from the Blue Lagoon, you’ll have a 40 minute drive back to Reykjavik, where you’ll want to eat and nap. If you wake up and it’s a clear night, check the aurora forecasts and take advantage of your jet lag by hunting for the northern lights.

Pro tip: book your Blue Lagoon tickets in advance, because they do sell out, especially on the weekends.

Day 2: Golden Circle Tour

Secret Lagoon at Fludir, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Not gonna lie – I felt pretty meh about the Golden Circle. The views were cool, but having driven across the southern coast before, the attractions on the Golden Circle weren’t super exciting. THAT BEING SAID – we ended our tour at a little hot spring in Fluðir called the Secret Lagoon. It’s eerily quiet considering it’s an organized, pay-to-enter structure, but it made the Blue Lagoon feel like Disneyland on a crazy day. I would do the Golden Circle tour again just to spend a couple more hours in Fluðir.

Day 3: South of Iceland to Vik

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity, 2016

This will be one of the most amazing drives of your life. I promise.

One of the highlights of taking three girls who had never been to Iceland before was watching their reactions to seeing the southern coast en route to Vik – because every time the road turns, the landscape completely transforms from snowy wasteland to endless fields of furry ponies to majestic cliffs and waterfalls to jagged mountains that soar in the distance.

Reynisfjara, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity, 2016

Things you should absolutely stop for on the road to Vik (this order worked out really well for us) – I’ll write up more details about these spots in a later post.

  • Icelandic horses
  • Seljalandsfoss + Gjulfrafoss + Skogafoss
  • Basalt columns from Reynisfjara beach
  • View of Vik and its cliffs from the town church
  • DC-3 plane wreck, which is now said to be closed off because travelers were tearing up the “road” (we never really found a road – markers were knocked over and we basically just tried to drive in tracks)
  • Seljavallalaug – a warm swimming pool built into a cliff

Day 4: Hike to the Hot River at Hveragerdi

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

On our last full day, we had trouble deciding what to do. But after some research and being mostly fed up with spending hours in a car, I remembered seeing photos of a hot river that was only about a 40-minute drive from Reykjavik. The hike was described as a rigorous 45 to 60 minutes, but honestly, we’re all pretty damn fit and it took us 90 minutes – perhaps you should add time for climbing through mountains covered in snow.

You’re pretty much ascending the entire way, but once you’re there, it’s quite the sight to be seen – a hot spring river with a wooden boardwalk and small pools built from stones. Make sure you pack sandwiches, bourbon, and water. The hike in is no joke, but at least you get to soak in the incredible views in a hot river. There’s nothing like it. Read more about the hike at Hveragerdi here.

Day 5: Coffee in Reykjavik, Depart

Again, if you’re flying Wow Air to Baltimore, they have limited flights, so you’ll likely be leaving in the afternoon. Pack your bags, explore the design shops and cafes in downtown Reykjavik, and cry as you head to the airport. I’m pretty sure you’ll spend that 40 minute drive thinking about when you can plan your next trip back.

Packing for a winter trip to Iceland

Seeing as I just booked another five-day trip to Iceland, I thought it might be appropriate to write up a winter essentials list for visiting Iceland. To be quite honest, I was able to fit everything I needed, plus camera equipment, in the Lo & Sons Catalina bag, which was the perfect way to road trip from guest house to guest house along Iceland’s southern coast.

I’m heading back in March, and my packing list will be relatively the same, but I’ll probably bring a little bit less of everything. I’ve found that I generally wear the same outfits over and over again anyway!

Warm leggings — on most days, one pair of UnderArmour Cold Gear tights got me through the day. But when I spent more than 20 minutes in the snow photographing the auroras, I layered 2 pairs of leggings with some opaque every day tights. But, I will say, this pair of leggings is by far my favorite workout and everyday tight.

Layers, all of the layers — Lululemon’s long sleeve tech shirts and form fitted zip-up were a perfect uniform for comfort both outside and within the toasty restaurants and coffee shops. This Land’s End version looks perfect *and* affordable.

A hat that covers your earsthis is what kept my ears nice and toasty.

Legit boots — probably a good investment if you’re the kind of person who wants to go to Iceland in winter. Just sayin’, you’re adventurous, and you’ll probably want to go backpacking or exploring some other rugged terrain… and these boots gave me the warmth, protection, and traction I needed to frolic on some snow covered mountains. These Columbia ones did the trick. Grab a few pairs of these smart wool socks, too — pull em up high over your leggings, it’s super sporty and will keep your tootsies pretty warm.

Gloves — As a photographer, I prefer mittens that convert to fingerless gloves, so naturally, those fair isle knit Gap mittens called out my name. These mint tech gloves from Target, though… super cute!

Snow jacket — I ordered the North Face’s Snow Thermoball Triclimate as my attempt to prioritize warmth over fashion this year. It’s three jackets in one, and pretty damn lightweight. The inner layer is my go-to jacket in DC, and put together, the shell + insulated layer kept the snow, wind, and rain away from my layers in Iceland. If you’re looking for a comparable option without the typical North Face price, another version is half off here. The Columbia Bugaboo does essentially the same thing for $175, and the Marmot Alpine Component comes in some great colors.

Bikini — Iceland is covered in hot springs, and while we only made it to the Blue Lagoon, you better bet I’m stopping at every “laug” along the road when I go back in March. For traveling abroad, I swear by the super cheeky Stone Fox Swim Tucker bottom, and the surprisingly supportive triangle tops from Victoria’s Secret. Pick a couple of bright colors, or go with the icy blue lagoon blue to blend right in, like I did 🙂

If you’re reading this, you probably know that I’m absolutely obsessed with Scandinavian culture and the Arctic scenery… so it should be no surprise that I’m smitten with Iceland.

Here’s a quick collection of photos from the area around Reykjavík, including a color-coded bookcase at a half tourist, half local cafe that doubles as a laundromat (also known as the Laundromat Cafe). If you’re not following along on Instagram, please do!

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I know everyone says the Blue Lagoon is the Disneyland of Iceland (overpriced and unnatural) but it was just so relaxing — and the perfect way to start off a desperately needed vacation. Also, why not watch the sun rise at 11:00 am while drinking a beer in a giant thermal hot tub?

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Last summer, I got roped into the organizing crew for Dîner en Blanc, an amazing event that happens on different nights all over the world, where thousands of attendees meet at an undisclosed location for a flash mob, picnic dinner.

This year, the location was so perfect — the Carnegie Library, located right smack in the middle of DC. And, since my assigned meeting point was in Chinatown, the 350 people headed to the location with me didn’t even have to get on the metro. Talk about convenient!

Here are some shots from the night.

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If you’re not already convinced by the time you get to my recommendations at the bottom of this post, read those. Kauai is a more rugged island, and the weather is usually iffy, but we lucked out and managed to get some nice beach days. It’s definitely an island for the adventurer; those of you akin to strenuous hikes with rewarding views and swimming under waterfalls, this place is for you.

And if you’re not already following along on Instagram, I’ll continue posting images there @gurrity!

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We stayed in an Airbnb in Kapaa — it was perfect for what we were looking for, but a little on the rugged side. It actually reminded me a lot of the Airbnb I stayed in when I visited Mexico, years ago now. But we really didn’t spend much time there outside of sleeping hours.

Must See

Shipwreck Beach

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We ended up spending the majority of our time here. The northern and eastern shores are generally pretty rainy and quiet, so on the rainiest days, we hopped in the car and headed south, to the Poipu areas. But our trip happened to be on a rare summer storm that engulfed the island, so we dodged rain pretty much everywhere. The sunny photos of surfers happen to be from Shipwreck beach, where we saw a spectacular sunset (and a few cliff divers, probably on the crazy side, given the surf report).

The Queen’s Bath

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A ridiculously beautiful sinkhole in a giant shelf of lava rock, with the bluest of blue waters. All in all, ocean porn. The hike down was short, treacherous, and very worth it. Julie was a bit apprehensive, but we were both awestruck by how beautiful the place is. And, to be honest, I had pinned a gorgeous photo of it years ago on Pinterest, so I was pretty ecstatic to learn that the place happened to be on Kauai. Go there.

Hanakapi’ai Falls + Ke’e Beach

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If you take the island road all the way north, the road will just end and drop you off at Ke’e Beach. If you feel like hiking for a few hours and want some spectacular views of the Na Pali coast, take the trail 2 miles to Haena beach, and then another 2 miles inland to the falls. This trail is not for inexperienced hikers — if you trek after a few days of rain (like we did), prepare to be scaling some slippery mud cliffs and climbing through boulders. No joke, couldn’t use my quads for a couple of days after this hike. But the swim into the waterfall was worth it. After you hike back to the trailhead, proceed immediately to the crystal clear waters of the ocean.

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Tunnels Beach

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Great for snorkeling, and my actual favorite spot to catch a good sunset. A perfect place to settle down for the day with a good book and great views of the water and the mountains.

Must Eat

Makai Sushi

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It’s more or less a counter in a local grocery store, but it’s a glorious one at that. Tell William I said whatup.

Kilauea Fish Market

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The best, freshest ahi wrap I’ve ever had.

Wailua Shave Ice
We tried to go here every day, but we were a little crunched for time. This is what shave ice should be. I wanted to buy a bro tank for spin class, but they were out.

The Happy Taco (aka El Taco Felix)
Ridiculously good taco truck in Kapaa. Open till 11 pm. We drank a pitcher of margaritas at the spot next door, and gorged on some tacos right after. Thumbs up.

Pono Market

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Amazing ahi poke lunch specials — you can get a container like this for just over $6. Go early, because they run out and their hours are short.

I just can’t with you, Hawaii.

While getting my flight to leave DC was a struggle, the struggle is definitely not real here. I arrived last night around 7:30, met Julie at our Airbnb (so many kittens around here!!) and we grabbed a quick dinner at a little spot called Mermaid Cafe. The stars were unreal on our walk home, so I had planned to go out and take some photos — but by the time I grabbed my gear and walked back out to the beach, it was pouring rain.

Thankfully, jet lag had me up again at 3 am, so I snuck out to the shore and caught a couple of good ones.

My phone will be on do not disturb mode all week. Not sorry.

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