Palm Springs is the best weekend getaway in Southern California, home to festival culture, the desert and mid-century American history. COVID-19 hit Southern California hard, so I didn’t know what to expect from Palm Springs. It was much quieter than expected, with plenty of outdoor seating and all amenities still operating with COVID protocols!
1. Shopping, art museums, and foodie your way through Palm Desert, CA
I was so pleasantly surprised by Palm Desert! I had never been to the Palm Springs area before, but I knew that I had to visit Palm Springs. Palm Desert though, I had no idea about until I got there. Turns out, it’s known as the “5th Avenue of Palm Springs”, and that definitely holds true. The whole main street is so lovely, there isn’t a better name for it. Great restaurants, all had outdoor dining. Great stores, all with social distancing in place! There are also a few museums that have great outdoor sculpture parks to explore. For dinner a few nights, we went to Cafe Des Beaux Arts on El Paseo, and La Fe Wine Bar for happy hour!
2. A road trip down to Salvation Mountain in Slab City, CA
Salvation Mountain is SO interesting. A man came from Vermont back in the 1980s who had been called to share his message of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ. He wanted to use a hot air balloon, but I guess that didn’t work out so he started gathering a bunch of materials and made a man-made mountain to spread his word! Junk turned to clay turned to paint, and now Salvation Mountain is a pretty impressive monument in the center of this interesting migrant town known as Slab City, CA. Picture the exact opposite of what you think of Southern California–and that is this migrant community.
Reserve roughly 2 hours each way from Indio/Palm Springs Area to drive out to Salvation Mountain! It’s open during COVID times, and the volunteer working at the monument accepts donations to keep building this monument!
Desert Hot Springs, CA was definitely my favorite day of the trip. I had no idea how special Desert Hot Springs was until I started pinteresting the night before our last full day of vacation!
Turns out, the town of Desert Hot Springs sits on natural hot and cold springs, and the town has turned itself into a collection of family-owned boutique hotels that offer day spa passes and hotel stays to take advantage of the mineral water!
I found a hotel that was open to day spa users during COVID (not the easiest to find), and we had the best day. We spent the day at Tuscan Springs Hotel & Spa, where you can spend up to 4 hours at the mineral pools with the purchase of a spa treatment. The facials we got were some of the best we had received in the US, and the mineral pools were amazing.
Aiden and I are moving to San Diego in May, and Desert Hot Springs is definitely a destination I want to make a weekend trip for us!
4. Golf (or relax by the golf course!)
I should start off with mentioning that I am, in no way, a golfer. I think I have held a golf club maybe twice in my life.
What I do love is time with my loved ones in beautiful places! Enter… golf courses. I was blown away by just how many golf courses exist in Palm Springs! My mom and I knew we wanted to spend Thanksgiving out having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We found a private golf course that happened to have a rocking Thanksgiving special, and we ended up going back a few times.
I realized that if you play golf, this is the place for you and if you don’t, this is STILL the place for you.
5. Take in Palm Springs architecture or have a pool day!
Aside from the Moorten Botanical Gardens (where we spent a few hours) and some great restaurants along the main avenue of Palm Springs, the architecture in this town in this incredible.
There’s a reason that Palm Springs architecture is so popular! It takes you back to the 1950s, 60s, 70s but also has so many modern elements! There are whole TV shows about Palm Springs architecture, so do yourself a favor and take some time to explore!
There’s a whole tour just of Palm Springs doors, so if that’s the case–just imagine the interior of the homes! One suggestion that I can make, if you want to spend the whole day relaxing in Palm Springs, get a hotel day pass to use the pool at one that catches your eye. Pool and architecture all in one!
Well, there you have it! Here are five ways to spend a socially distanced week in Palm Springs, CA! I had such a great time, and am already making plans to go back for a weekend in Palm Desert!
One of my favorite places in the world: Kyiv, Ukraine. This city is so vibrant, so historic, and a complete hidden gem! To start out my journey with you through Ukraine and Eastern Europe, here are the top 5 reasons to travel to Kyiv, Ukraine.
Reason #1 to travel to Kyiv: The history
This country and this city is crawling with history. Kyiv is oozing with history, both cultural and religious. On the religious side, Kyiv is known as the birthplace of the Russian Orthodox Church, dating all the way back to the first half of the 10th century. Back then, Kyiv was called the Kievan Rus.
On the cultural side, Kyiv was both severely affected and protected at the same time. A majority of the churches still stand, some had to be rebuilt due to the bombings during WWII, but some were never affected. There are some other WWII historical sites that are so devastating to see, but at the same time extremely important to see. Here are some must-see historical sites in Kyiv!
Golden Gate: Historical entrance to the city (dating back to 1037). There’s a museum inside with narration in all major languages!
Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra: Active Russian Orthodox monastery consisting of churches, museums, gardens, and catacombs. It has been given the name of “Monastery of the Caves.”
Motherland Monument & Spivoche Pole: Dare I say it, the Statue of Liberty of Ukraine. You can climb to the top of the monument for an amazing panoramic view and then enjoy Spivoche Pole park and lunch at Tsars’ke Selo!
Holodomor & Babi Yar: The first is a museum and historical site dedicated to the lives lost in the man-made forced genocide of Ukrainians in the 1930s, the latter is the exact site and memorial of the 33,000 Jewish lives lost in 1941 during WWII. Both are so difficult but also so important to visit.
Arsenalna Metro Station: for all my Atlas Obscura fans out there, this is the deepest metro station in the world!
St. Sophia’s Cathedral, St. Michael’s Cathedral, St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral: there are no words to describe these cathedrals other than spirit. I am not a religious person, and can still feel the spiritual power in these places.
Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square): The main square of the city and also the site of the Maidan Revolution in 2014.
There are so many more places that I could list off, keep an eye out for future blog posts about places of interest in Ukraine!
Reason #2 to travel to Kyiv: The food
The food… this is one of my favorite food scenes in the world and i’ll tell you why. Kyiv restaurants always manage to combine comfort food with such class at almost all of the establishments. The experience of eating out is better than the food itself, even though I do love the food. Some of my favorite restaurants that you MUST visit on your next trip to Kyiv:
Tsars’ke Selo: If you want to feel like you’re in a traditional Ukrainian village eating Boscht, Draniki and garlic “Pompushki” knots, go here.
Puzata Hata: Locals may shun me for putting this on a list of “best food” for travelers, but as a once-local, I stand by it. This is a Ukrainian cafeteria that you can always reliably be within 5 minutes of if you are in the city center. Expect to wash your hands, grab a tray, load up on a 3-course meal and pay less than $5 USD (150 UAH)
Kupidon: My all-time favorite dive bar! It’s in a basement feeling like a speak-easy library. Whenever I would be exhausted from a long workday, or if it were cold outside… I would come here. My usual order: 0.5L Lvivsky Dunkel, Borscht with Pompushki (garlic knots), or Draniki with meat (or how my family calls them in Belarus, Kolduny). All under $3 USD (100UAH).
Georgian Cuisine: Kyiv is booming with cuisine from the Republic of Georgia. If you are not aware, Georgian cuisine consists of bread, cheese, red wine, meat and eggplant. This is the best comfort food of all time, and Kyiv restaurants have mastered it.
Gogi: All I have to say is that we were regulars. Always get the eggplant rolls, a carafe of their house red wine, Adjarian Khachapuri, Khinkali, Chkmeruli. 3-course meal for two, $20USD (600UAH-ish). And the atmosphere is incredible.
Mama Manana: While we were sitting here for dinner one night (eating what we usually eat–Khinkali & Khachapuri), guests were crushing grapes outside with their feet in buckets!
I have way more where this came from. Be on the lookout for my restaurant guide of Kyiv!
Reason #3 to travel to Kyiv: The arts & culture
Two words: the art and the ballet. I would go to the Kyiv ballet every weekend if I could. Of course, if you have ever seen a Russian ballet, nothing else can compare. The Russian ballet is so stunning and so intense, that at times it can feel overwhelming by how legendary it is. The Kyiv ballet is less known, the Opera Theatre is smaller so you can have a great viewing experience everywhere in the theatre, the performances are incredible, and they perform both classic ballets, cultural and folk performances and modern performances.
Art is everywhere in Kyiv. Murals, paintings, the art alleyways, Andriivskiy Descent… the list could go on. My personal two favorites are:
Peizazhna Alley: This whimsical art walk was created in 2012, when Ukraine hosted the Euro soccer championship. It’s a little difficult to find, but follow your map and you may need to walk between buildings to find it!
Andriivskyi Descent: At the end of the scenic alley, you will almost immediately stumble upon Andriivskyi Descent. If you are looking for souvenirs, THIS is the place to buy them. The souvenirs are authentic, vendors are genuine Ukrainian locals who run their own small businesses, and plenty of artists are setting up their easels along Andriivskyi Descent, as it has some of the best up-close views of Andriivskyi Church and historical “old” Kyiv.
Reason #4 to travel to Kyiv: The outdoor history
Ukrainian nature is wonderful! Rolling hills, skiing in the northwest, beaches in the southeast, farms, fields, and more. Just 20 minutes outside of downtown Kyiv is the Pirogovo Open Air Museum. You can spend HOURS at this museum exploring historical village replicas from different centuries. There are food stalls, beer, wine, sweets, and sometimes even sporting events, festivals and religious holiday celebrations. We happened to be there for a festival in October! We listened to folk music, there were horses milling around, an archery tournament, beer, shashlik.
Price: 20 UAH ($0.90USD) per person
Getting there: Take an Uber! Should not cost you more than $6-$7USD.
Time: Give yourself a few hours, I would recommend 3-4 hours.
Reason #5 to travel to Kyiv: The nightlife
People always say to head to Prague or to Budapest for nightlife. Agreed, but also add Kyiv to that list! There are speakeasies. There are underground bars. There are clubs, both relaxed and very upscale. There are outdoor clubs in old garages, there are huge art and music festivals! A few that I’ve been to: White Nights Festival and Atlas Weekend Festival.
Some places to put on your list:
Loggerhead: some of the best cocktails I have ever had. I attached the map, but good luck finding the door and getting in! (Hint: when in doubt, head down the stairs. It’s a huge wooden door with a Ukrainian door man.)
Hangover: An old carwash turned the ultimate influencer hangout, for good reason. It has several different areas to hang out in, reasonably priced, has Corona Ritas (which is hard to find if you’re living in Ukraine), and is always a great time! Pro-tip, if you hate standing in lines and being at the mercy of bouncers like we do, show up before 10pm.
VarVar Bar: You want craft beer? Come HERE for craft beer. After, hop on over to Caribbean Club for dancing right up the street! (Also, for more Georgian food–“Oh Mama! It was in Tbilisi!” has great food. Look for “ОЙ, МАМО”)
For more nightlife ideas, check out this blog from Hostelworld!
Bonus: The feeling of newness
What I love most about this city, is how every corner you take you feel like you are discovering something new. You will meet so many different kinds of people here, be entranced by so much history, and be surrounded by a vibrant city that is constantly changing. Ever since the Maidan Revolution, you can feel how people want change here, and they’re willing to work for it. Make this one of your top destinations while it is still fairly new to tourism!
Every Southeast Alaskan local has their own favorite outdoor activity. Fishing, hunting, ice skating, climbing, trekking.. you name it. My all-time favorite way to spend time in Southeast Alaska is by hiking. Kids start hiking in Juneau from the time when they’re still in carriers, and many of us grow up to be basically mountain goats. I want to chat about just a small number of my favorite trails in Juneau, some gear that I always bring, and the best time to go to Southeast Alaska!
HOW I GOT INTO HIKING
I didn’t grow up like many Alaskan local kids. We moved from Europe to the United States when I was 7 years old and pretty soon after that moved to Juneau, Alaska. Growing up, we were always out walking, my dog was one spoiled pup. But, I never had a love for hiking new trails or getting to a new summit until I was a teenager. Plus, I had never spent a summer in Juneau until the summer after I graduated high school. If you miss the summer in Juneau, you miss a lot of hiking opportunities! I know the same is with all hiking in Southeast Alaska.
After I graduated high school, I got a job working for TEMSCO Helicopters (more on this amazing company and the Alaskan tourism vibe here), and I was surrounded by a group of people who were my age, lots of them have moved to Alaska specifically to spend time outdoors and we all explored together! I started hiking more and more and developed a real love for being able to summit a mountain in Juneau on my own two feet, then having the joy of jogging back down and having a great meal to end the day.
TYPE OF HIKING IN SOUTHEAST ALASKA
The beauty of growing up in Juneau is that a big chunk of the trails in the valley and the mountains are not technically difficult. Really, anybody can do them! My favorite part of coming back home when I haven’t been in hiking shape for a while is that I can always start easier, and the views are just as amazing on easier trails as they are on summits.
Growing up, we did a ton of amazing walks and more flat trails in the backcountry. The five major summits of Juneau are all roughly 2,500 feet in elevation, starting at sea level. The backcountry hiking is incredible and connects many major trails together. Those who really want a challenge find a way to do multiple day hikes in and near Juneau.
GEAR NEEDED TO HIKE IN SOUTHEAST ALASKA
Pretty basic gear would be fine to be comfortable while hiking. Really, in Juneau all you need is:
Living in Boston, people here always talk about the White Mountains and Presidential Traverse, and the way they describe this hike doesn’t seem too fun. All I hear are stories on how you can get all four seasons in a day, how you’re brutally cold at the top, how it’s rare to have a view from the summit, etc.
Luckily, Juneau is blessed to have the most amazing (in my opinion) mild climate perfect to be outside. It rains/snows 300 days out of the year, which is a lot, but some good rain gear and good shoes and you’re good to go!
MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE HIKES FOR EVERY SEASON
Dan Moller Cabin
Boy Scout Beach
Salmon Creek Dam
Windfall Lake Trail
West Glacier Trail
John Muir Cabin
Any lake trail! Dredge Lake, Mendenhall Lake etc…
Juneau comes alive in the summer. One million tourists, more sunshine, blooming fireweed, 20 hours of sunlight, all the works! Some of my favorite hikes are: Mt, Juneau, Mt. McGinnis, Thunder Mtn, Boy Scout Beach and Dan Moller Cabin!
I’m looking forward to posting more hikes in Juneau, and help you with planning your next trip to the best state in the U.S.
Over Labor Day Weekend 2020, we decided to do our long-awaited camping trip to Acadia National Park! Only, COVID is here. This means that no park campgrounds are open, private campgrounds in Bar Harbor are packed, and there are a lot of RVs! We drove up to Maine on Saturday and were back in Boston by Monday night. Overall, I see the hype of Acadia. It was so beautiful, and really nice hiking! I’ve written up a guide on all things Acadia during COVID: where to eat, where to stay, and where to play (meaning, to hike)!
WHERE TO STAY
We are avid Hipcampers. If you don’t know what Hipcamp is, get ready. It’s one of our best finds in the Northeast! Hipcamp is Airbnb for camping, with a huge range in properties. You will find everything from pitching a tent in someone’s backyard for $15 (we’ve done that) to luxury Airstreams in Joshua Tree for $400 (we have not done that). We were hoping to set up camp somewhere in the vicinity of Acadia National Park, but could only find a site roughly an hour from the park. Park campgrounds are CLOSED and private grounds in the Bar Harbor area are either RV stations or motels.
We stayed here, and from what I understand it’s owned by one guy who decided to set up a campground and hook up his mobile home in the area! The property owner’s name was Wolf, he was super responsive, and had roughly 15 sites to set up at! There was a fully functioning shower and bathroom, and firewood for sale.
It was amazing. Out here in the middle of nowhere, right in the lobster fishing area of Maine, this campground was completely packed! We stayed two nights, and have nothing but positive things to say about it! It was roughly an hour away from the Park and the drive to get there was beautiful. Perfect for a weekend exploring Acadia National Park.
GETTING TO THE PARK
So, we got to Acadia on Sunday morning of the 3-day weekend, and knew we wanted to hike! Aiden has a lifetime National Parks pass, so luckily we didn’t need to wait in line to get a pass, but we saw signs everywhere that it is preferred you buy your pass online before entering the park. We stopped at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, where park rangers were stationed outside to give suggestions on hikes in the park.
We had friends who were driving up from New Hampshire and planned to meet us in Bar Harbor for lunch, so we only had time for a shorter hike. Also, the Park Loop Road at Acadia has a lot of one-way only drives, so if you start down one way, you will need to do the whole loop before finding an exit!
WHERE TO PLAY: HIKING
We wanted to do the North and South Bubble hike, as they are more difficult and higher than other hikes, but we are so glad we chatted with that park ranger. She mentioned that not only would we not be able to find parking at the Bubble trailheads, but there was no way we would make it to Bar Harbor by lunch. We would need to drive the whole one-way Park Loop Road instead of just turning around. THANK YOU ACADIA PARK RANGERS FOR THE GREAT ADVICE! She suggested we hike Dorr Mountain, the mountain next door to Cadillac Mountain, and it was great. The trail was straight up on the way down, but we opted to do the loop on the way down to not have to scramble down rocks.
Dorr Mountain is what’s known as a “ladder trail” where part of the trail you are maneuvering yourself on a rock or cliff side along rungs and ladders. It was super cool on the way up, but i’m glad we didn’t have to hike down that!
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Our favorite topic… food and beer. We were ready for lunch after our hike at Dorr Mountain, so we jogged back down to the car, drove out to Bar Harbor, and waited for our friends! This Sunday happened to be the date of our Fantasy Football draft so naturally, we found a brewery in downtown Bar Harbor to quench our thirst and get our draft picks! Atlantic Brewing Co, thanks! They had a great blueberry ale, and lunch looked good too!
When our friends got to Bar Harbor, we went to the Thirsty Whale Tavern for lunch. This place was one of those where it wasn’t too attracted by tourists, but the food was great! I had my first-ever lobster roll… and I’ve been living in New England for 6 years.
WHERE TO PLAY: OCEAN FRONT VIEWS
After lunch, we decided to do the Ocean Path with our friends, as that was the best place for a sunset! On Ocean Path Road, you park on the side of the road and walk the path, but the path is right next to the road. It is absolutely beautiful and has some cool turn-offs to find cool views. We were tight on time, we decided to drive it from viewpoint to viewpoint! We stopped at Sand Beach Overlook and at Thunder Hole, and also found a few great side trails! Highly recommend, it is a busy path but understandably so.
So there, you have it! How to spend a weekend in Maine and one day in Acadia National Park! Of course, it would have been nice to camp in Acadia and do a few more hikes in the park (especially on a weekday). But, with what time we had, I feel like this was a perfect itinerary to get a feel for Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, ME! I hope you enjoyed reading this guide, if you want to receive to-the-point guides like this to your inbox, hit the subscribe button. Located at the top and bottom of this page!
P.S. This whole area of Maine has some of the best vintage and antique shops I have ever seen. If Aiden and I weren’t moving in a few months, I would have spent a week’s salary on shiplap, buoys, and vintage furniture. Definitely make a pit stop at some of these, they are amazing!
Bali has been on my list for years. I’ve been trying to go for five years now, and finally made it. Aiden and I spent two weeks in Bali and surrounding islands, and are sharing our Bali itinerary.
In December of 2019, Aiden and I spent two weeks in Bali and the surrounding islands, and spent both Christmas and New Years in this amazing place! Our route included laidback island life, temple hunting, waterfall, volcano chasing, and underwater exploration. Here’s a detailed two-week Bali itinerary with lots of movement and adventures.
Island Life in Bali
LEGIAN: 4 DAYS
Any guide that you have read about island life in Bali exists here. This place is truly so laidback and accommodating to everyone! We started off our adventure with a few days in Legian, a beach-front neighborhood near the airport. I thought it would be a great central place to get a feel for the island before heading up to Ubud. Aiden and I were here for 4 days!
If you want to hang out on the beach with the locals, this neighborhood is for you! From our research, we knew that nearby Seminyak and Canggu were Westerner-heavy, but Legian had tons of locals! We spent lots of time walking to Seminyak, exploring the beach-front area and eating some great food! I do have to say… the Legian beach was not the cleanest I’ve seen. There was so much plastic, and it was disheartening to see. Other than that, I think it was a decent place to start off the trip, but if we were to go back, we would deal with a longer ride from the airport and settle down somewhere more green, closer to sights and points of interest.
CANGGU: 3 DAYS
For New Years Eve, we made our way to Canggu, a surfer, and digital nomad haven. It was pretty quiet during the day when we were there, but it got rowdy at night for New Years Eve! We stayed at this amazing little hotel, Surf Motel, and it was so great. Two minutes from the beach, amazing room and a great roof deck. One thing to note about Canggu, if you do not want to ride a motorbike, you will have a really hard time getting around the neighborhood.
How Canggu works is that there is one main road, and then many small roads veering off towards the beach. So, if you are staying along one tiny road, in order to get another part of the beach you will need to get out to the main road and then go down one of the small side roads. We had NO CLUE, and it took us so long to get places! We were in Canggu on New Years Eve, and finding motorbikes was not too easy, but there were plenty of local drivers willing to take you if you are in a pinch!
Canguu is a great middle ground between the very luxe Seminyak and very low-end Legian. Canggu would be a great place to stay for a while, as it has a ton of Western amenities but also has that island charm! We were here for one night only over NYE, it would be a great place to stay longer.
ULUWATU: DAY TRIP
We took a day trip from the city to Uluwatu to see the temple and hop some beaches. All in all, so worth it! Do yourself a favor and download either the GoJek (motorbike Uber) app or Bluebird Taxi (regular vehicle Uber) app, because it is so affordable to hop on one to get to Uluwatu from the city!
After exploring the temple, we made our way to Padang Padang Beach, and this place is a surfer’s haven. We ate lunch in the village, a cliff-side village with lots of steep stairs full of beachside shops, surfboard maintenance and a few restaurants! Bintang (beer) and Mie Goreng (stir fried noodles) for $3 was the move this day. After lunch, we took a dip in the water and hung out at the cove beach! Getting a BlueBird back took a bit, since many cars are not out that far. Keep that in mind, and consider maybe a GoJek back!
All of my photos this day were shot with my Nikon D3300. I have a complicated relationship with this camera, but at the end of the day, these two photos of Aiden and Padang Padang Beach are my favorite!
All of my photos this day were shot with my Nikon D3300. I have a complicated relationship with this camera, but at the end of the day, these two photos of Aiden and Padang Padang Beach are my favorite! Take a look at it here.
NUSA ISLANDS: DAY TRIP
We booked a day tour to the Nusa Islands when we were in Legian! Honestly, I am not a huge fan of full day tours, but it was relatively cheap and I wasn’t really feeling like trying to figure out ferrying over and getting set up with snorkling and island tours. The tour was $60 per person, and included round-trip transfer and ferry, snorkeling, lunch (Mie Goreng and Nasi Goreng–YUM!), and a private motorbike tour of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan (the two smaller Nusa islands)!
The snorkeling was fun, a nice thing to do before we went diving, lunch was nice and really relaxing but our favorite part was definitely the motorbike tour! This older man and woman picked us up, I hopped on her bike and Aiden hopped on his bike. They took us EVERYWHERE… I’m talking Blue Lagoon, Devil’s Tear, Sunset Point, Sandy Bay Beach, Yellow Bridge Point. You can find the tour here. Great day trip from Legian Beach!
UBUD: 3 DAYS
Ubud was our second destination, all of my research pointed to this town being the quintessential Bali place. We spent 3.5 days, and we wish it was a little longer. It did not disappoint! We were surrounded by rice fields, waterfalls, farms, yoga studios, amazing food, monkeys, temples and great people! Some essential to-dos in Ubud:
Tegallalang Rice Terraces: this place deserves an extra shout out. It is one of the TOP tourist destinations in Bali, and any time you see a picture of a girl with long flowing hair on a swing swinging into the beautiful landscape, odds are it was taken here. Even though this place is beautiful and totally worth the trip, it is such a tourist trap. We paid 100K Rupiah (7 USD) to enter the rice terraces, and then several other people tried to tell us we had to pay them since they were the farmer to get in. I understand paying the farmers, but this definitely felt like tourist traps. Be prepared for intense heckling and get to the far side of the terraces for some peace! Also, be prepared for the heat. There is minimal shade.
To get here, we rented a motorbike and it was about a 30 minute ride from central Ubud. Totally doable, and maybe wear a swimsuit under your clothes so you can bike over to a waterfall and cool off afterwards!
MT. BATUR: DAY TRIP
Mt. Batur is the famous active volcano on the north side of Bali. The sunrise hike is a really popular tour, but we chose to do the guided hike through this Airbnb Experience to try to have a little fewer people on our hike. It totally worked! Our guide took us a different way, and while we were hiking with only 2 or 3 other small groups, the main path was packed–even at 4 AM. The hike is not the most difficult hike I’ve done, but definitely not the easiest!
We got picked up at 2:00 AM from our hotel by the driver, there were 2 other people in our van. We got to the homestay of our trek guide at 3:30 AM, had a small breakfast, and began hiking at 4 AM. The hike takes about 1.5 hours. Once we got up, our guide cooked breakfast for us on the steam of the volcano and let us watch the sunrise. It was Christmas morning and felt really special! Then we hiked back down and began the drive back, we were back at our hotel by 1 PM.
The views were amazing, being on an active volcano was amazing, but what we did not expect was that the Airbnb guide also had us stop at a Luwak coffee farm on the way back! It was a way for them to make some extra cash, but we got a free tour by a lovely girl who had wonderful English and showed us around her family’s massive coffee farm. She gave us a ton of samples, and then we were able to purchase some Balinese and Luwak coffee to take home!
Some things to note: if you get carsick, be prepared. The road to get up to the homestay is rough, I had a hard time hiking due to my upset stomach.
Underwater: Diving in Bali
GILI TRAWANGAN: 4 DAYS
We were determined to get open water dive certified when we were in Bali. From a bunch of research, we found one of the best places to get certified was the Gili Islands. We were excited to explore another island, and there was a great dive school on Gili Trawangan. From Ubud, we got a taxi and then took a ferry over to the Gili islands. The island is completely motor-free, the most motorized traffic you can have is a slow-moving motorbike, and you can walk around the whole island in about an hour! We stayed in a hut that had an outdoor bathroom and several huts were positioned around a pool! You can book beforehand like we did, or just walk around the island until you see a guesthouse that has spots open. See our accommodation here.
Our dive shop was called Trawangan Dive, highly recommended! Our open water dive course was 2.5 days with 5 dives, 2 mornings in the classroom and pool, and cost roughly $300 per person! That is:
1. much less than any place in the US or Mexico and
2. incredible price for some of the best marine life we have seen.
If you want to go to the Gili Islands for diving, we recommend Gili T. If you want to go to the Gili Islands for a beach party vibe, go to Gili T. If you want a serene and relaxing experience, Gili Air may be better suited. Once we were done with our dive course, we didn’t really want to stay at Gili T. It’s a lot of clubs and bars, and beaches are either packed or have washed up coral, making it hard to sunbathe. Overall, a great break from Bali!
Are you planning a trip to Bali? Do you have questions or just want to share how excited you are? Leave a comment! So pumped to hear from you guys!