The 10 Best Restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico that You Will Love!

Everyone knows that good food is key to a good vacation. I’ve racked my brain for the 10 best restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico that have stood out to me over the past few months. I hope these 10 restaurants will help you find a place nearby that allows you to enjoy both the meal and the price.

Acapulco’s Taqueria Mexicana

This place is one of my husband’s favorite spots to go, especially on $2 Taco Tuesday! However, the quesadillas are our favorite, and our meat of choice is the barbacoa. They offer my favorite drinks, Agua Fresca and Horchata, and they are excellent.

Sushi N’ Good

Ok this one is a little odd because it is literally a trailer in the Shell gas station parking lot, but trust me, it’s good! The sushi is fresh and comes with 8 pieces. Honestly, the tostones that come with the crab salad were the best I’ve had so far. Rolls vary from $6-$8 and the crab salad is $10.

Acai Express

These fruit bowls are easily big enough to be considered a whole meal. I am holding a small in this picture. Uber Eats delivers these acai bowls to your hotel, but if you have a car, the drive through couldn’t be easier. There is also a parking lot and picnic tables under a shaded gazebo if you prefer to enjoy the outdoor breeze. Prices vary from $6-$12.

Panucho’s

Located on Calle Loiza, this Mexican restaurant is delicious. They have daily specials as low as $5 for three tacos. The picture below is the $5 tacos; however, my favorite meal is the pork soft tacos, complete with guacamole, cilantro, and sour cream for $12. Their appetizer nachos are also flavorful and gigantic!

Pinky’s

This fun little spot in the middle of Calle Loiza is hard to miss with its pink awning. Pinky’s specialty is all day brunch, and it’s open from 7am-4pm daily and 7am-9pm on Fridays and Saturdays . Frothy lattes and fresh fruit smoothies also make Pinky’s a great place to catch up with friends. Because space is limited and waiting for seating can take a while, you can always choose to take your bagel or breakfast sandwich to-go and head to the beach! They also have a Condado location, though I have not checked it out yet.

La Marqueta

A fun atmosphere and great music make this food court in Condado worth checking out. It is open all day and tends to run out of options by dinner. My favorite is the $10 chicken and veggies quesadilla at the Mexican shack. The food is a little overpriced for the quantity in my opinion, but the atmosphere makes it worth trying at least once.

Bistro Cafe

Famous for some of the most incredible coffees on the island, this café in Isla Verde is one of a kind. Except, actually they just opened a second location in Miami, but for good reason. From glitter lattes to mocha frappes with waffles on top, these coffees are mind-blowing! Although the portions are huge, I don’t order food here often just because it is pricey for breakfast, but many people love the brunch here. The menu is so big that it is easier just to find a picture you like on their Instagram or Google page and show it to your server.

Pirilo Pizza Rustica

Sometimes on vacation, you just get a craving for pizza, and Pirilo’s will definitely hit the spot. Their dough is incredible, and they have fun specialty pizza options. I love Mexican food so I tried the Pizza Tampiquena and my husband tried the Salmon. They were both good, but we ultimately decided that we just like the old fashioned pepperoni or meat lovers pizzas. Pirilo’s has three locations: 1. Old San Juan on Calle Tanca, 2. Ocean Park on Calle McLeary, and 3. Dorado on Carr 693. I have only tried the Ocean Park location and have heard rumors that Old San Juan is better, but I will have to confirm that for myself before I believe it. Pizzas are about $20-25 and they can do split toppings if you want to try different options.

Photo retrieved from Pirilo Facebook Page

Dude’s Diner

A fun spot to visit for both nostalgic and scrumptious purposes is in Ocean Park, once again on Calle Loiza. This retro diner has a jumbo projector playing old cartoons behind the soda counter. Although I’ve only tried their chocolate milkshake with marshmallow fluff topping, which was to die for, the rest of their menu looks like a winner as well. They serve all day brunch and your typical good n’ greasy diner eats. The milkshake was $6, and your meal will range from $10-$15 for an entrée and side.

The Stuffed Avocado Shop

OK. This is my favorite place in Dan Juan as it has all the best things in one bowl. There are three shops on the island in Old San Juan, Hato Rey, and in Miramar. My bowl of choice is the Chipotle Chicken with an addition of Mampasteao Rice for a total of $11. When we were living in a hotel for a month, I ordered this dish through Uber Eats at least twice a week. It’s fairly healthy and can easily serve as two meals. They have made dishes with avocado that I never would have thought of, including their Avocado Brownies and Avocado Chocolate Mousse!

Parking is limited for most of these restaurants, so even though we live here, we tend to Uber frequently. Taxis are overpriced, so Uber is a must on this island. If you are new to Uber, you can use THIS LINK to sign up and get $2 off your first 3 rides with Uber!

I hope this helps you find some delicious food while visiting Puerto Rico. Comment your favorite San Juan restaurant and why below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Travels,

Katie

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Best Hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico

This year, my husband and I moved from Georgia to Puerto Rico, and we spent the first couple months living in hotels. In this post, I’ll cover some of the best hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico that we stayed at as well as the difficulties we experienced at each. I personally believe that we found the best hotel for exploring the San Juan, Puerto Rico area, and I saved the best for last.

Disclaimer: Our budget was around $200/ night at Christmas time. This excludes most San Juan resorts and most hotels in Old San Juan. So, let’s get started!

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Tres Palmas Inn

Located in Ocean Park, Tres Palmas Inn is a comfortable, Spanish-style hotel located right on the water. Although the hotel is technically on the “beach,” in the winter, the water comes close to the road, and is not exactly much to look at compared to other beaches close by. If you prefer smaller, local hotels versus large convention-style accommodations, then you could consider Tres Palmas. The breakfast is simple, but plenty, including cereal, bagels and cream cheese, boiled eggs, fruit, cheese, coffee and juices. The selling point for me was the rooftop hot tub. Cleaned daily, and smelling of chlorine (a very important feature to me), this hot tub was hardly used by anyone else. My husband and I would climb the stairs each night and watch the Christmas season fireworks light up the sky.

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ROOM: Our room was stocked with a mini-fridge, lock box, hangers, a dresser, and a flat screen TV. The room did however lack an ironing board and iron, which was a little inconvenient. Guests can check out beach chairs, towels, and even boogie boards. The first three nights, we stayed in a king room, but on the last night, we stayed in a room with 2 double beds. I preferred the 2 double beds to the king as the room was more spacious. This hotel has a small pool and plenty of seating areas to wind down at night, but most daily activities will be done elsewhere as this is not a resort property.

LOCATION: This hotel is beach front, but it is near probably the least desirable beach in the Condado/ Ocean Park area. Restaurants and pharmacies are not within walking distance, and UBER is necessary for every outing. The good news is that UBER is very cheap in Puerto Rico, making the price of this hotel and the amount of transportation you will use an affordable combination. They also have limited street parking if you decide to rent a car. I loved “living” at this hotel as I loved the style and facilities, but it is probably in the worst location of the three I’m mentioning in this post for a week of vacationing. The immediate area is nice, with impressive beach mansions, it will just require an Uber to get literally anywhere.

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PRICE: The pricing of this hotel is average for the area and fair considering it offers daily breakfast and water-front property.

SERVICE: Each staff member was kind and helpful at this hotel. The rooms were efficiently cleaned each day.

The Condado Plaza Hilton

Right in the heart of San Juan’s vacation hub is the Condado Plaza Hilton. This waterfront hotel has resort grounds that are breathtaking. Two large pools, a hot tub, and beach access with umbrellas and chairs make it easy never to leave the hotel except for maybe a nice dinner. I spent my mornings enjoying my favorite part of this hotel, which was the outdoor seating area where I watched the waves crash against the rocks. It had a Hawaiian lava rock feel, and truly should be made into a post card.

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ROOM: This room was renovated. It was called a “King with Deluxe Bathroom,” and the bathroom truly was exquisite with a large wardrobe and glass shower. The wardrobe had a coffee maker, iron, lock box, and mini fridge. We stayed in the main tower, which appeared to have been updated more recently than the adjacent tower. However, the impressive gym and second pool/ hot tub are at the second tower and are hardly crowded at all. This resort is a great fit if your main goal is to relax by the pool or the beach for the majority of your stay in Puerto Rico.

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LOCATION: This hotel is on the Condado Lagoon and practically on its own small, bay beach. A company on the lagoon offers paddle board and kayak rentals on the other side of the bridge. This hotel has its own parking garage and valet. There are limited food options nearby, including the pricey hotel restaurant called Café Caribe, a 24/7 Denny’s, Starbucks, and La Marqueta. Denny’s is literally at the hotel, and is good, but can be slow. You can order takeout by phone, and pick it up for a quicker option. La Marqueta is a trendy outdoor food court with an awesome vibe. The quesadillas are delicious for lunch, but each vendor tends to run out of food by 5pm, turning this into a better spot for drinks rather than dinner. A 15-minute walk further into Condado will bring you to more food options, but all will be crowded at peak tourist seasons, so be sure to either reserve a table or be willing to wait. 

PRICE: For now, the prices of this hotel are excellent compared to resorts nearby. They have waived the resort fee of $30/ day, and I’m assuming that is because repairs are still taking place. But really, the only thing I recognized that was not fully functional were the tennis courts and lagoon deck area at the second tower. The pools, beach, and seating areas appeared to be completely restored. The towers are missing some paint on the outside, but the inside looks back to normal. Parking is valet or self-park in a garage, and is $25 a day.

SERVICE: The front desk service was always kind; however, this hotel seemed understaffed. I would call the front desk, but no one would answer. When they finally did answer, guest services would ask me to call the next morning as they were very busy. Housekeeping was exceptional, and our rooms were always clean.

Tropica Beach Hotel

This hotel truly felt like home after we finished staying here. It is relatively new, a few years old, and I didn’t realize how conveniently located it was until we arrived. Tropica Beach Hotel is also in Ocean Park like Tres Palmas, but the beach it’s near is nicer. This hotel is also more conveniently located to great restaurant options. Ocean Park’s food and bar scene is on Calle Loiza, which is only one street over from this Tropica. From Mexican to Korean Barbecue to local Puerto Rican cuisine, this street has it all.

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BUT, if you decide to stay at Tropica, do try the restaurant right outside your hotel door. Dulcesalado shares the building with Tropica and offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner Tuesdays-Fridays and brunch and dinner on the weekend. They also have a coffee shop to the right of the restaurant as well as a beer garden outside. Our favorite dinner was the Chicken Piallard Salad with the Avocado Salad side. Their Mushroom Soup Burger also has great flavor, and so we rotated between the two dishes. For breakfast, I often would get an omelet with an almond milk cappuccino. They have more elaborate dinner options if you want to splurge such as fried lobster, skirt steak, and shrimp mofongo.

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ROOM: We stayed in the King Deluxe room. This room is literally as big as a studio apartment. It has a spacious closet, seating area, and large restroom. They also moved us to a double room one night while the power was out and the generators connected to the other tower. The double room was still functional, especially for a vacation. Obviously, it was much smaller, but the only notable difference was a clothing rack instead of a closet. The King Deluxe is also very open, as in there is no door to the bathroom or shower. That was no issue for us, but could be awkward to share with a friend. Each room has a Roku TV with Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, etc. as long as you have a subscription. This hotel also offers guests steamers, beach chairs, towels, and bikes for checkout, although I would be a bit nervous to bike anywhere.

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tropica room

LOCATION: This hotel is close to restaurants, a Walgreens, and a Super Max grocery store. Because an UBER to Condado and even Old San Juan is so cheap, I really enjoyed this hotel location. I feel like you get to retreat from the busyness of the city. Parking is valet and $13 per day, but if you are vacationing, it is likely that you won’t need parking.

PRICE: The prices for this hotel are normal for this area. However, it does seem that they are having a “Keep it Tropica Special” right now.

SERVICE: The service here is great. The hotel is fairly small so you will always be able to find guest services to help. They also use Whatsapp to communicate, so you can just send them a text if you need anything.

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Happy travels!

-Katie

Tybee Island Itinerary and Accommodations

Hey everyone! I made a tour guide filled with all my favorite things on Tybee Island that I think you will love too! I’ve created an itinerary and even found a great vacation home to stay in while you are there. Zac and I stayed in this rental, in exchange for a review, photos, and a virtual tour, with friends over spring break and loved it!

Tybee Island Lighthouse

Enter your email to receive a free PDF Guide to Tybee Island that includes activities, accommodations, restaurants, and cost!

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Tybee Airbnb Option

We also loved this Tybee Vacation Rental that was perfect for large groups! Here is a quick video that shows the inside. It is 2 stories and has 7 beds. We easily fit 4 cars in the gravel driveway! Here is $40 off if this is your first time using Airbnb.

Walt Disney World Military Salute Discounted Tickets Detailed Guide

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the 2018 Military Salute Disney tickets. We called it our belated honeymoon since we married the week after he graduated Coast Guard basic training. I hope this post will fill you in on a few military opportunities concerning Walt Disney World Orlando. Feel free to view the table of contents below and scroll straight to the information you are searching for.

Today’s Topics:

  • Disney Military Salute Tickets
  • When to Go
  • Eating at Disney
  • Disney Resort/ lodging
  • My Favorite Disney T-Shirt Company for great Family Pictures
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Disney Military Salute Tickets

Although it changes every year, Disney has 5- day park hopper tickets available to active duty military for $246. They also offer 4-Day tickets for $226, but what’s $20 more at this point? That’s the price of a 2-day base ticket at the gate. 2018 is also the first year that Disney offers this deal to DOD civilians as well.

One military member or DOD civilian can activate 6 tickets. People accompanying the service member do not have to be dependents. You can purchase these tickets at the travel and leisure office at many of the military installations, although our base in Savannah only had 2 passes left when we bought ours. You purchase the vouchers on base and exchange them for a Disney pass at the ticket booth of the first park you visit.

The tickets will expire on December 19th of the year they were purchased. For example, we only bought our tickets a month ago, but they will expire this December 19, 2018. So, if you want to go next year, 2019, you have to wait until January to purchase them. There are no longer black-out dates for military salute tickets, so you can split up the days and use them however you want within the year.

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When to Go

If you can, try to go during October, January, or February when most kids are in school. Weekdays are an amazing time to go because, 1. Resort stays are cheaper, and 2. The park is much less crowded. We went to Epcot on Friday, and it did not get crowded until 1pm. You may be able to ride everything in the park and explore every country by 2pm like we did.

Try to get to the park at least 30 minutes before it opens to go ahead and knock out your favorite rides while the lines are low. Even on Sunday, we were able to ride most attractions at Magic Kingdom before noon. I’m not sure why. I’m guessing because it’s tough to get out the door early with little ones, but I don’t have any yet so that’s just a guess.

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Eating at Disney

Food prices are not terrible at Disney food kiosks. It’s the drinks that get you. Bring bottled water and refill it at fountains all over the park. In Magic Kingdom, go to Sleepy Hollow Refreshments in Liberty Square before 12:00 and enjoy a ham, egg, and cheese waffle sandwich for $8.99.

Here is a budget eating schedule option while at the Disney Parks:

Breakfast before the park (eggs, cereal, muffins, fruit, etc.)

Light Lunch in the park and a shared coffee or coke for some extra energy (trust me, you’ll need it)

Snacks in your backpack (tuna pouches and crackers, trail mix, fruit, granola)

Late Dinner after you shut down the park at any restaurant still open on the way back to the hotel. Weird tip, the Speedway gas station when you leave the Magic Kingdom parking lot has a 24/7 food bar with hot sandwiches, salads, etc.

It is not necessary to avoid all food at the park of course, as most kiosk food is only like $10-$15. We just found that it was much easier to get on rides during times that everyone else was eating.

If it is just you and a friend or significant other, it might be fun to splurge one night and reserve dinner in the park ($20-$40ish per plate). Enjoy a dinner-date at the happiest place on earth, and end the evening watching fireworks together. You may could even pack a wrinkle free dress in your backpack to change into for cute pictures. But if you are staying on Disney property, you could just go get ready at the hotel and come back.

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Lodging for Disney Parks

Disney has several resorts to choose from. They vary from luxury resorts all the way to Fort Wilderness campgrounds. Shades of Green is a resort especially for U.S. military and their families as well as DOD civilians. From the looks of their website, Shades of Green is pretty booked for the rest of the year so be sure to plan ahead if you want to go in 2019.

During the holidays, prices jump up to about double, except if you book nights during the week. Weekday prices are very affordable and worth it for the dining options, transportation, character fun, and no parking fees ($25/day)! Prices are different per night depending on your military rank. E-1 though E-6 is the cheapest and officers and DOD civilians have the highest rates. I’ve noticed that the availability calendar is a little difficult to navigate, so it is probably easier to call about available dates.

They have a food package offered as a “special deal,” which can include breakfast and/or dinner at their Garden Buffet into your nightly rate. This seems to only be a deal if your nightly rate is higher than an enlisted rate. If you are E-1 to E-6, it is just about the same price as if you just bought the meals yourself. If Shades of Green is booked, the Disney Animation Resort, Movie Resort, and Sports Resort are often around the same price. But once again, plan ahead for next year.

Orlando does have hotels that are cheaper than staying on Disney’s property, but the convenience factor is a major benefit of lodging with Disney. Parking adds up for one thing. We spent $75 alone in parking while staying off the Disney property. Also, Disney resort visitors get the privilege of EMC (Extra Magic Hours) at certain parks. Check the days you are going and see which parks you can go early or state late in.

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One military and DOD perk that many don’t know about is Armed Forces Vacation Club. They offer condos and hotels from well-known companies like Wyndham Resorts for a super low price. There are several hotels in Kissimmee, Florida for $349 for 7 nights. Our favorite resort for the parks is Club Whyndam Cypress Palms that is only a 15 minute drive from Magic Kingdom. The only catch is that each stay is usually Friday-Friday or Sunday-Sunday, so you have to be willing to take a full week of leave or just forfeit a few nights. But for just $50 a night, you may just want to book the week and stay for 4 nights or so. This option is great if you are going to Orlando with a larger group as most of these resorts offer 2 bedrooms, a pullout couch, and a full kitchen.

You might even want to book a stay through Airbnb.com. I found a few apartments that are $70 per night, including the cleaning and service fees. I have a discount code that can get you $40 off your first stay with Airbnb, but I would honestly use it as a last resort option: 40% off Airbnb stay

Staying at Disney or at a hotel with breakfast and a Disney shuttle would be my first two recommendations, followed by Armed Forces Vacation Club.

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Best T-Shirts for Cute Disney Pictures

My favorite company for great Disney tees is LLama Wrangler . I found this company on Instagram and immediately reached out. I have scoured Etsy and just cannot find tees that I really like. However, Llama Wrangler’s owner and designer, Adam, puts his passion for Disney and art in each of his designs. Just like the Mickey faces are hidden all over Disney World for you to seek out during your trip, the LLama Wrangler logo is hidden in each t-shirt design, which I think is super fun and creative. My favorite design is the Up Movie themed Adventure shirt as Up is my and my husband’s favorite love story.

You can use my discount code: “KatieLovesLlamaTees” at checkout for 15% off of your entire order.

I reached out to work with Llama Wrangler as I loved the designs they offered. These shirts were gifted to me in exchange for my honest review.

I hope this post helped you in planning your next Disney World adventure. Honestly if you live within driving distance, I can’t think of an easier vacation for military families than Orlando theme parks. They are a blast, easy to plan, and incredibly affordable.

Happy Travels,

Katie

Hike Hawaii: Oahu Trails with Incredible Views

This past week, March 7-14th, I spent my spring break from college in Oahu, Hawaii, and I miss it already! I’ve learned a few things about the island that I hope you can take with you on your Hawaiian adventure. The water was actually cooler than I expected so we opted to hike SEVERAL trails along the Southern Coast and North Shore. Luckily, hiking is free (besides $5 parking) so you don’t have to spend tons of money on Oahu to have fun. I would recommend taking on all of these hikes, but will say that my legs were feeling pretty tired by the end. To help with your trip planning, I have included a map with all hiking locations and will give you as much information as I can about the difficulty level, crowds, and landmarks as some trail heads are not easy to find.

Kealia Trail

On almost the furthest west side of the North Shore hides a wonderful trail right next to an airport that’s popular for skydiving and paragliding. This hike was slightly difficult to find, but Google Maps works just fine right up to the turning point that leads to the parking lot. Once you turn left after the airport runway into a road labeled “Access Gate,” keep going until there’s a parking lot on your left. Once parked, walk to the right and head toward the mountains down a gravel path until the “Kealia Trail” sign steers you in the right direction. This hike is 3.5 miles up, and consists of several switchbacks and rocky, uneven paths. The view is most beautiful during the hike so be sure to stop for some pictures rather than hoofing it up to the top so fast. At the top, after the picnic table, explore the trails that go further. Once you reach the artwork on the water tower, there’s not much more to see as your view is covered by trees. This trail takes about 4 hours from leaving the car to returning back down. On the hike, you might see several skydivers jumping from planes that took off from the airport below as well as gliders coasting over the ocean. March weather is perfect for hiking! However, even in Hawaii’s winter, it gets hotter toward the afternoon. Try to hike no later than 10am to 2pm in January-March, but in the summer, go as early as you can. After a job well-done, hop in the car and enjoy the coastal highway, H3, admiring the beauty of the land and the talent of the surfers. Perhaps spend the evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center buffet dinner and Breath of Life Show, which I will discuss in a future post. Unless you can reserve that for another time earlier in the day, which is what I would recommend.

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Koko Crater Trail

This trail is challenging and steep, but the view from the top is incredible. The parking lot most people use for this trail is also used for ballfields, so it’s pretty crowded. Arrive no later than 8-8:30am in March if you want a spot. Koko Crater Trail is not for the faint of heart. It goes straight up for about 1,500 steps. The trail is an old railway with worn down ties and washed out dirt. It is only about 1.5 miles, but it takes about an hour or two to get to the top. You will weave in and out of those going up and will try to get out of the way of those experienced crazies running down! This is why I say you should go earlier than 8:30 if you can. The less people, the better. At the top, you’ll see why you climbed all that way. Hanauma Bay is in front of you and the giant crater is behind. There are plenty of high platforms on the top of the mountain for great pictures, including the old railway car housing. Spend a good 30 minutes to an hour photographing the views, meeting fellow conquerors, and hearing their stories. On the way down, if you are a less-than-avid hiker (I am just that) hike sideways to alleviate pressure on your knees while descending. The descent will be a breeze compared to the climb. This hike is the most difficult that some people will ever experience, but it will also be the most rewarding. Once you make it back down, don’t forget to look back at the impressive feat you just accomplished and remind yourself that it was all while on vacation.

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Diamond Head Trail

As one of the most famous hikes on Oahu, Diamond Head is always crowded. However, the parking spaces free up fairly quickly so wait in line until one is available. You will most likely head to the trail with a large group of others unless you get there when gates open at 6am. However, everyone has their own pace so the trail is not unbearably crowded nor is it extremely narrow. No matter, there will be hikers of all ages, so I just accept the fact that this is going to be a slow, leisurely hike. Explore every inch of this hike, and climb every set of stairs. Even if they look intimidating, you won’t regret it. Close to the top, there is a set of yellow stairs to the right, which you will want to ignore, but really should climb because it’s cool! There is a battery with rusted metal doors and a small artillery area that was used in WWII. The top of Diamond Head is so crowded that you might not want to stay long, but at least take in the city views to your right and the coastal waters to your left. Remember, gates open at 6am. So if you’re an early riser, beat the crowd.

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Manoa Falls

If you’re not tired after Diamond Head, eat lunch and drive to Manoa Falls, which is about 20 minutes north. Once again, Google Maps takes you straight to this hike, and parking is about $5. Manoa is a 3 mile hike round trip. As you begin the walk, you’ll see why they chose this location to film Jurassic Park as it’s filled with bamboo shoots and jungle views that seem to go on forever. Although there is very uneven terrain, this hike is fairly easy most of the way, only getting difficult toward the end near the waterfall. You may see a few groups hiking along with you, but the real crowd comes at the waterfall. People wait for good spots to take pictures, but there probably never will be one. The bottom of the fall is just deep enough to reach your ankles, but the water is freezing! On your hike back, you may see a girl finishing up her music video in the bamboo shoots, and it will sound really good! I found her on Instagram, @OLIVIATHAI. She was on American Idol XV and won both Taiwan Idol and Megastar!

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Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

The last hike of this post is a 1.5 mile steep walk up a paved road. The ground is even, but the climb escalates quickly. After all this hiking, your legs may be giving out at this point, so it may seem more difficult than usual. The scenery is beautiful the entire way, with views of the rocky coast and bright blue crashing waves. It may begin to rain as you reach the top, but don’t turn back after going so far. The rain comes and goes in Hawaii. Now, I’m not going to lie, don’t expect a huge lighthouse, but its surroundings are still breathtaking. The waves will look like they have blue dye in them as they crash against the rocks. After staying at the top for quite a while, make your way back to the car and take a load off. Head to Waikiki and reward your efforts with an acai bowl from Tropical Tribe. Hopefully the sun will make an appearance, and you can spend the rest of your day on the beach where they film Hawaii Five-0.

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Here’s just a quick snapshot of how amazing Oahu really is!


I hope this was helpful in planning your next adventure!

I used an Akaso adventure camera for all my videos in Hawaii. It was amazing and way cheaper than a Gopro. The wifi feature doesn’t work, but that’s the only issue, which I think is well worth a $100 savings! Also, if you submit a review on Amazon, they will send you a whole package of accessories for free! It comes with body and head straps, extra batteries, etc.

We also stayed in an Airbnb in Alewa Heights while in Oahu, which is only about 10 minutes from the airport, in between Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. Here is my $40 discount off your stay if you are booking with Airbnb for the first time!

Purchasing any items on Amazon through these links, and not only the ones that I mention, help me to share useful tips with you about travel, so thank you!

Feliz Navidad! A Christmas in Mexico

This past Winter Break, my boyfriend and I were invited to spend Christmas in Guadalajara, Mexico with our friends and their family for 8 days. The family was so kind, taking us in and treating us as their own. This was a packed trip as we celebrated Christmas, our friends’ wedding, and my 20th birthday! Our friends’ father even took us to the beach a few days. Meeting so many awesome people was by far my favorite part of the trip, but other aspects that I’ll always remember concern the Mexican culture, downtown Gaudalajara, and Melaque Beach.

Mexican Wedding Guadalajara
Our friends’ beautiful wedding celebration

Mexican Culture:

Unlike Cozumel or Cancun, Guadalajara is more than just a tourist area. We stayed in a “colonia” in Zapopan that was so neat to experience. “Colonia” is the Hispanic equivalent of a neighborhood, but way bigger. There are neighborhood stores, restaurants, and food stands created by the residents. One home would sell bakery goods and another would sell tacos. My favorite food stand sold bionicos, which are fruit desserts that are basically all the good toppings from froyo, minus the froyo. We went there so often that the man knew our order. Although, that could be because we were clearly the only Americans in the colonia- but who knows?

Guadalajara Mexico Tortas
Neighborhood torta shop and owners

Christmas was celebrated much differently than in my home and was a joy to experience! Aunts, uncles, and cousins lived right down the road so they came over and cooked all Christmas Eve, preparing a feast. That night, we played bingo and opened presents from family members. My favorite part about Christmas in this home was that the family made a huge deal about every present. It made the fun last longer, the person giving the gift feel appreciated, and the person opening the gift feel important. That is something I will use in my home one day with my kids. There may not be one-hundred presents under the tree, but talking up each present can make everyone just as excited.


The city of Guadalajara:

Guadalajara Cathedral

Our friends had twin brothers our age who were so generous to drive us around town and translate. They took us to their favorite pizza, ice cream, and taco shops. They even took us on triple dates with their girlfriends to the markets downtown. I got my niece a handmade bow and myself a woven bag. We went to the biggest market I’ve ever been to. It was actually somewhat of a warehouse, but once inside, the market seemed never ending. It had everything from souvenirs to knock off soccer jerseys and Coach purses. I got a cute mug that says “Recuerdo la Guadalajara Jal.” because I’m a coffee addict. I found a cool article on Forbes that explains the city markets in more detail. As far as food in the city, my favorite meal was tacos because they were delicious and cheap. I’m talking 25 cents a taco! Plain water was not available to order with food. Instead, restaurants offered sodas, horchata, and my favorite, agua fresca. Depending on the restaurant, most places offered a variety of different fruit juice, all of which were referred to as “agua fresca.” My favorite flavor was Jamaica, which is made with hibiscus flower.

Guadalajara is a city with impressive, old churches and buildings. When the Spanish came across the Atlantic, they built spectacular Catholic churches and prayer centers. We toured inside the large stone building, Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento,and were in awe at the intricate woodwork that adorned each door. The Guadalajara Cathedral was the focal point of downtown and was impossible to miss. Around the Cathedral was probably the most scenic area. Filled with ironwork benches and a giant city sign, the surroundings were basically screaming for a photo-op.

Melaque Mexico Beach


Melaque Beach:

One weekend, the family decided to go on a three-day vacation to the beach. Little did I know that they were taking us to one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been to! I just remember passing miles and miles of palm trees. I’d never seen so many in my life! I quickly decided that Melaque beach is a hidden gem for people looking for the perfect place to soak up the sun at any time of year. The family told me that several people retire and buy homes in Melaque for two reasons: 1. It’s cheap, and 2. Most people speak English. Melaque, although still a tourist area, was far different from my experience in Cozumel because the shops and restaurants dealt in pesos, at the Mexican price. For example, we ate at a place twice that served quesadillas larger than our heads. With the exchange rate, the quesadillas cost us no more than $5, including drinks.

Melaque, Mexico Restaurant

Melaque had a lively town center, Plaza Navideña San Patricio, perfect for shopping, eating, and enjoying a night on the town. Market tents were set up with interesting merchandise and, for Christmas, there was a huge Christmas tree and Nativity scene.

Melaque Mexico Town Square Christmas

The Pacific Ocean water was perfect, even in December. The warm sun and beach breeze combined to make the winter in Mexico feel like July in the states. The next day, we drove to the beach at Hotel Boca de Iguanas. This was my favorite area as it was less crowded and had a cliff with a beautiful view at the top. The pool was cold, but still bearable. There were both tourists and locals at the beaches in Melaque, creating both a new yet comfortable atmosphere at the same time.

As I was writing this blog, I began to reminisce on what an amazing experience Mexico truly was. The family we stayed with was the sweetest, most loving group of people that I’ve ever met and they became lifelong friends of mine. I also started thinking about going back to Melaque this Christmas to enjoy its natural beauty once again. I started browsing and found that Airbnb had some great homes to rent for a Christmas vacation to Boca de Iguanas. Here is my link if you would like to check out the beachfront homes they offer in this area. Melaque and Boca de Iguanas were two beaches that I’ll never forget and I can’t wait to step foot on that warm sand once again!

The Basic Packing Guide: USA in early spring & Europe in early summer

Bacharach German Castle Hostel

Today I packed for a Spring Break trip to Williamsburg, Virginia and a day trip to Washington D.C. I soon realized that this will be the majority of my packing list for Europe in May as well. The weather in Virginia is supposed to be in the 60’s during the day and closer to the 30’s at night. I incorporated layers so that I don’t have to use two outfits in one day. Let’s check it out

Europe Summer Packing List

Wardrobe overview:

3 sleeved, looser/flowy shirts (light grey, dark grey, black&white)

1 white T-shirt

2 loose tank tops

3 skinny pant (cropped black, full-length jean and rust)

3 layering items (olive short-sleeved knit, striped active-wear hoodie, army jacket)

3 shoes (booties, Nikes, Toms)

2 necklaces

2 earrings

2 bracelets and bangles

Budget shopping:

My wardrobe comes from various, budget-friendly locations. My dark grey and black and white shirts come from Sam’s Club, crazy, I know. But the brand is Philosophy and they were on sale for $10. I got my tank tops from Walmart for $3 a piece. They are my favorite purchase, and I wear them all year long. My cropped, black pants are Nine West and were also purchased at Sam’s Club for $20, and my army jacket and rust pants are from Ross and cost me $20 each. My favorite, white T-shirt actually came from Goodwill for about $3; however, finding a clean, white shirt at Goodwill is a rare occasion. The knit sweater is from Old Navy and my jewelry is a combination of Target, Kohl’s, and Belk.

Europe Summer Packing list
Layering items

Next week’s Williamsburg trip will let me know how much I need to add to my Europe packing list. Spring Break lasts only seven days while Europe will be 18 to 20 days. Hopefully, I will have two opportunities to stop back at home base to wash and head on my way again. In addition to what is shown, I packed pajamas, three workout outfits, yoga pants, and necessities. All my clothes fit in a medium suitcase, but I will have to use a separate bag for toiletries and hair items.

I hope this helps while planning for your next adventure! As you can see, I picked basic colored items so that I can mix-n-match, creating several different outfits. No one will ever suspect it!

Lovely Travels!

-Katie