Unique Vacation Activities (For people who have done it all)

I know, I know, with travel restrictions easing up many of us are itching to book a vacation. Getting away for a bit should be fun, but sometimes it can feel like you have already done it all before. Another beach getaway? Another ski slope? Sometimes it can get redundant and some experiences, like sitting on a beach, aren’t really unique to a specific place. 

So for those that are itching for something new, well I am sharing some unique vacation activities for people who have done it all.

 

1.Go On A Food Crawl

I love food, in fact sometimes I pick vacation spots based on cuisine. If you’re heading to a destination known for the quality of its food, you might want to indulge in a food crawl. Here you make your way from eatery to eatery throughout the day (or week), sampling different foods. 

Going on a food crawl can be a lot of fun. But you’ll want to keep the portions small. Focus on eating appetizers, not entrées. Otherwise, you’ll wind up feeling bloated and uncomfortable. 

 

2.Take A Class

If you’re in a new place, it’s a perfect opportunity to take a class in something you don’t have access to at home. For instance, perhaps a local instructor offers dance classes in a style unique to the country you are visiting. I know I loved taking thai cooking classes in Thailand. 

Taking a class helps you to use your vacation time wisely. It gives you a chance to learn something and improve your skills which, ultimately, could make your life better. 

 

3. Try Wine Tasting

 

If you’ve never tried wine tasting before, you’re in for a treat. When you arrive at your destination, search for “wineries near me.” Usually, at least half a dozen will pop up. Then investigate whether any of them offer tasting sessions. More often than not, they do. 

Wine tasting gives you a chance to learn more about wine flavours. By going to one, you’ll get coaching on improving your palate so that you can enjoy the drink more in the future. 

 

4. Dine With Local People

Dining with local people might sound like a bit of a strange idea, but it can also be a lot of fun. They tend to know the food landscape better than you so they are in a great position to point you in the direction of the best dishes. What’s more, they also provide interesting conversation, introducing you to their ideas, culture and sometimes other people in their life. 

5. Take A Segway Tour

Segways are strange-looking forms of propulsion. But they can be a great way to cover a large area without expending much energy. This makes them ideal for exploring the wilderness or making your way around a big city. 

Segway tours come in multiple forms. They’re usually suitable for people of all ages, though some providers will not allow young children to use them. 

6. Hire A Canal Boat

Hiring a canal boat is a lot of fun and introduces you to new landscapes. It is a wonderful way to explore a region and find out more about it. 

Canal boats are also handy because you can sleep in them. So you can moor them at the side of the river, explore a local area, and then return to them at night. 

 

Exploring a new side of Tofino

It is no secret that I love Tofino. In fact, I think I have been quoted saying “it’s my favourite place in the world”. I can’t even count the amount of times I have been there and every time I go I discover something new. So you can imagine my excitement when my first post pandemic trip was going to be to Tofino. You can imagine my excitement even more so when I was going to be staying at a new location, the Tofino Resort and Marina.

What I loved about the Tofino Marina Resort

I have been very lucky to stay at some gorgeous lodges in Tofino, but one downside is they were always so far away from town. Tofino Resort and Marina is located just a 5 minute walk into town, so you can go for dinner and drinks and get home safely. I also loved that you don’t really have to leave the resort to have an amazing experience. The world class restaurant 1909 is right on the property and all the adventures we took started at the marina just steps from our door.

Day 1: Unique Hikes

 

Like I said this was exploring a completely new side of Tofino and so no surfboards but definite beach visits. In fact the hike I was told I was doing was called the “West Coast Facial” where we would find some spots on the beach to feel the ocean spray.

Tofino Resort and Marina partners with Long Beach Nature Tours for hiking adventures and we were taken on a custom tour starting at one of the trail head entrances to Pacific Rim National Park. I had done a few hikes through parts of the park before, but I had never been fully emerged in it. It was incredible to see and smell the giant old growth cedar trees. After about 6km the trees opened up and unveiled a beautiful beach. We had made it to Florencia Bay, and guess what we were the only ones there (quite the contrast to the usually packed Tofino Beaches). We walked along the sand for a while taking in the fresh ocean sent before we dipped back into the forest to make our way to a different beach look at point at Wickaninnish Beach – equally beautiful and equally as quiet.

We ended the day with a delicious dinner at 1909.

https://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/videos/gallery/what-is-a-west-coast-facial-this-bc-hike-ends-with-a-unique-skin-treatment/5802443041001/6264187909001/forecasts

Day 2: Ocean adventures

We got up and made our way to the marina for a full day of adventure on the open water. We were going for a true West Coast Safari of sorts, keeping our eyes peeled for the BC big 5: Orcas, gray whales, bears, sea lions, and seals. Before we even really left the marina we first laid a crab trap (which we would get later for dinner). Not long into our trip, we heard the best news on the radio, orcas nearby. We made our way out to where they were spotted and at first noticed the spray followed by a gorgeous killer whale emerging from the waters. It was a whole family of them out for a hunt. While I always love seeing orcas, I was most impressed with how up close and personal we got with some steller sea lions. It was quite easy to tell the dominant male in this bunch. We drove by some cute otters rafting, some seals bopping their heads up to say hello, and saw the distant spray of a grey whale. Oh and from the shore we did see a black bear – crossed everything off our list. Then it was time to come back and feast on our tasty crab.

https://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/videos/gallery/from-sea-lions-to-orcas-set-sail-and-explore-bcs-incredible-wildlife/5802443041001/6264894763001/forecasts

Like I said this was a very different Tofino experience then what I have done in the past. Less relaxing on a beach and more adventure and exploring and I feel like that is what Tofino Resort and Marina is all about. You can find out more about their tours on their website.

 

I am already planning my next trip to Tofino because this place never gets old.

Happy exploring my friends,

xo

Mia

Planning the perfect honeymoon in Bali Part 1: Ubud

I know right now we aren’t allowed to travel for anything that doesn’t classify as essential, but if you are anything like me you are dreaming of your next vacation. As a travel enthusiast, not knowing when we will be able to travel again has definitely been hard, but I figured now was the perfect time to revisit my most recent vacation, so hopefully you can have some inspiration when life (and travel) does get back to normal.

Back in February (which seems like a decade ago) my hubby and I left on a two week vacation. The first stop was his pick, skiing in Japan, the second week was the more tropical destination that I chose, Bali. I will have more on Japan as well as how to plan a double honeymoon on a budget coming to the blog soon, but right now I wanted to share the highlights, must sees, and some tips for exploring beautiful Bali.

Why Bali

 

First, I must say Bali wasn’t my first choice. I was fortunate enough to go to Thailand a few years ago and figured the two would be similar – I couldn’t of been more wrong! We ended up choosing Bali because of the close proximity to Japan, but Bali itself is so unique and beautiful it should be on top of everyone’s list. From stunning jungle views, to incredibly colourful culture, to serine beaches, Bali was paradise.  I am sad we only had a week to explore, but we were able to see and do so much during that time.

Because there was so much to see and do I am going to break the blog into two parts. This one will focus on the first half of the trip, Ubud.

Where to stay

When we started researching Bali, it was pretty hard to plan the trip. We only had a week to explore and I quickly realized Bali is very diverse. If you are into beaches and surfing you will want to spend most of your time in Seminyak or Canguu, if you want to see black volcanic sand beaches head to Lovina. I was most interested in the culture and adventure, and so Ubud was the obvious choice.

While this was my first time in Bali, and so I can’t compare different hotels and location, I must say the hotel we stayed at was gorgeous and I highly recommend this spot, especially if it is for a romantic getaway, like a honeymoon.

Ubud Village Resort and Spa: Since Bali was the more romantic part of our honeymoon, we decided to splurge a little more on accommodation here. We decided to stay in a villa at the Ubud Village Resort and Spa, which was voted one of the most romantic spots in Bali and I must say they lived up to the expectations. It was honestly hard to leave the hotel because it was so beautiful. We had our own outdoor pool and lounge area. The on site restaurant was delicious, and the pool was so calming (with views of the on premises rice field). I also loved that it was a little out of town so it was a bit quieter, but offered a free shuttle into town. Also if it is a special occasion make sure to let them know, they will have a little surprise waiting for you!

 

What to do

Now that I have shared where to stay, let’s get into the fun stuff – What to do? There is so much to see, do, and experience in Bali. From delicious food to exhilarating adventures, to amazing cultural experiences. Since there is so much I am going to break up my Bali honeymoon blog into two parts. This one will focus on everything to experience in Ubud.

 

Sunrise Hike up Mt. Batur

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy waking up at 2am for this hike, but it was definitely worth it. In fact this might of been my favourite moment of the entire trip. A driver will pick you up from your hotel and take you out to Mt. Batur where you will then meet with your guide. You start your two hour trek up the mountain in pitch black ( so make sure to bring headlamps or a flashlight). There are a few rest points along the way. When you get to the top there is a glimmer of light appearing behind Mt. Agung. Our guide ran off to make us hard boiled eggs in the steam from the volcano! We ate our breakfast as the sun rose for one of the most gorgeous sunrises I have ever experienced. After the sun was up we got to see the crater, steam, and even some monkeys.

Pro tip: If you can, book a private tour. The hike is really busy but if you book a private tour you will get to hike up the less crowded side of the mountain. We booked with Bali Sunrise Trekking and Tour and I cannot recommend them enough.

Campuhan Ridge Walk

I will warn you ahead of time, wear clothes you are ok to sweat in and try and go either early in the morning or later in the day because this walk is in the open and it will be hot but beautiful. on either side of the paved path is endless hilltop views. The walk will eventually take you through a quaint village where there are some coffee shops and restaurants
Pro tip: The path will take you right to the most gorgeous spa called Karsa. Book your appointment ahead of time though because it is a pretty popular spot. We had an amazing couples massage

Tirta Empul Temple

One of the incredible things about Bali is the culture. It is the only part of Indonesia thats religion is Hindu and so there are lots of of beautiful statues and temples dedicated to their Gods. It is impossible to visit all of them, but one that needs to be on your list is the Tirta Empul Temple, or the water temple. The temple is famous for its holy water and basically you get into a pool of water and you dunk your head under a fountains to be purified. Here you are supposed to make an offering and in return you can pray for health and wellness for your loved ones. It was a super neat experience, especially because at the end of our tour we got to see where the holy water comes from, and it is from a source right inside the temple.
Pro tip: Just like any other place of worship it is important to dress appropriately at the temple. Woman make sure you cover your shoulders and knees. You will also be given a sarong for inside the temple and another for in the water. Also be warned, there are large koi fish in the pools with you!

Monkey Forest

We actually didn’t go to the Monkey Forest because we had gone to see the snow monkeys in Japan, however we did walk by and you could see how beautiful the actual forest is, you could also see the monkeys that had wondered into the streets. If I ever have a chance to go back I definitely want to make a stop here
Pro tip: While we didn’t go into the forest, I have heard from friends and also experienced the monkeys in Thailand, and I would make sure you don’t have any food or valuables on you because the monkeys can be very sneaky. Also don’t wear flowing clothes.

Ubud Art Market

Looking for the perfect souvenir from your trip? Well this is a one stop shop and everything inside the market is made from local artists. Even if you aren’t into shopping just staring at the hand woven baskets and beautiful silk scarves can entertain you for the entire day.
Pro tip: Galungan dayHaggling and bargaining a price is actually encouraged here so have a bit of fun and hopefully you can get something beautiful for a great price.

Rice fields and terraces

Listen, no trip to Bali is complete without seeing the Tegallalang Rice Terrace, probably the most famous of the rice terraces in Bali, but it has definitely been turned into a tourist hot spot, and for a few dollars you can get a picture swinging above the rice (yes I fell for it) but Bali is filled with beautiful rice terraces to explore. In fact my favourite was near the Karsa Spa.

Eat at the Sayan House

We had some amazing meals (including an 18 course at Locavore which was incredible but we sadly had to leave early because of some Bali belly- yes it is a very real thing) however one place not quite as famous as Locavore but is a must experience is the Sayan House. This is the epitome of dinner with a view as the restaurant overlooks the jungle. It is a fusion of Japanese and South American cuisine. The food is delicious and the view is breathtaking.
Pro Tip: Call ahead for a special occasion and ask to have a table with the view of the jungle. Also try and book for sunset, I promise you won’t regret it.

Know before you go

There are a few things to know before traveling to Bali and I wanted to share some of that information with you ahead of time.
1) Currency: Bali uses Indonesian Rupiah and they won’t accept foreign currency so make sure you have local money on you.
2) How to get around: I would highly recommend hiring a driver for anywhere you need to go. They usually have half and full day rates and are very knowledgeable, it is like having a private tour guide for $30 a day. They are much cheaper and more reliable than taxis, safer than the scooters, and they also double as a photographer for you!
3) Check the schedule ahead of time: We didn’t know this ahead of time, but we booked our trip during Galungan, a celebration of good conquering evil. It is a big celebration and therefore a lot of tours aren’t operating on that day and things are closed, however the positive side was that we got to see the beautiful colours and decorations of Galugan and learn a bit more about the tradition. We learned that there are many holidays in Bali that cause the city to shut down to a certain extent.
4) Watch out for Bali belly: Unfortunately my husband  came down with the dreaded Bali belly, and he was out of action for a full day and a half. Make sure you watch what you are eating and do not drink the water. If you do unfortunately catch the stomach flu there are some amazing local doctors who are very experienced in treating this. Just google search it. Also it is pretty cheap, the treatment and medicine cost about $70, so even if you cannot figure out your insurance go and find a doctor!
I hope we will be able to travel again soon and I hope that Bali will be on your list of places to go because it is the perfect combination of culture, beautiful beaches, delicious food, and adventure.
I cannot wait to share the second half of the trip with you soon but in the meantime happy future travels my friends,
xo
Mia

Visiting the Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino

There is no question about it, Tofino is one of my favourite places in the world. From the delicious cuisine to the endless beachfronts this place is magical and when you just need to escape reality and rejuvenate it is the perfect escape.

I have shared a few blogs now with things to see and do in Tofino and honestly it is a place that I can never get sick of. I have been lucky enough to stay at some beautiful spots in Tofino, all of them offering ocean views and sandy beaches just steps from your room but something was just so special about a recent trip when we had a chance to stay at the Wickaninnish Inn.

Pearched between the ancient old growth rainforests and  the endless sea the Wicks ambiance represents the nature that it surrounds and encourages a spirit of adventure.

Location, location, location

The Wickaninnish Inn is located in the heart of Tofino on Vancouver Island. From Vancouver you can either take a seaplane or you can take a ferry to Nanaimo. From there it is about a three hour drive, but it will have spectacular views and plenty of photo opps. The Inn is 4.8km  before the town of Tofino. Once you pass Chesterman Beach Road on your left, take your next left turn at the Wickaninnish Inn sign onto Lynn Road.

About the Inn

Charles McDiarmid has a long history in Tofino. His dad was the town doctor back in the 1950’s before there was much development in the town. The family wanted to share the beauty of the island with others and that is how the idea of the Inn came to mind. As a kid, Charles would watch the storms roll in and wanted to share the beauty with other people and so the construction begun.

One of the things I love most about The Wickaninnish was that they wanted to keep as much of the natural beauty as possible. The goal was to make sure that no trees were taking down unnecessarily.

The Inn offers so much beauty, from the Pointe restaurant that extends over the ocean so you are eating on top of the water to the spa that opens up to the beach. There is so much beauty here to uncover.

 

Our room

My jaw actually hit the ground when we opened our door. It was two storeys and while the amenities were modern and comfortable, the decoration and ambiance matched the natural beauty. Our living room, bed, and big bath tub all looked out onto the clear blue water. Speaking of the tub, the bathrobes and local candles created a spa atmosphere right in our room. I loved how spacious it was so we could relax with a glass of wine or morning coffee while listening to the waves crash just outside.

Eating at the Inn BIY

While I love exploring the delicious local cuisine around Tofino, the truth is you don’t have to go very far to get a delicious meal. The restaurants at the Inn offer meals from seasonal harvests and local ingredients.

Whether you are staying at the Inn or not, brunch at the Pointe is a must. You get a 240 degree view of the Pacific Ocean. You can watch surfers catching waves and sea birds taking flight. Also the food is delicious. A lot of the food is contemporary dishes with seasonal fare. You absolutely need to try one of the eggs benny. My personal favourite is the smoked salmon and cream cheese one.

Also if you are there for dinner, try and make a trip down to their brand new wine cellar. It is a spectacle in itself.

Experiences at the Inn

There is truly something for everyone right at your doorstep. Whether you want adventure, culture, or nature you don’t have to go far to find it. Some of my highlights staying at the Wick included;

  • Storm watching: This is what Charles loved to do as a child, and his passion for watching the storms roll in is evident at the inn. Whether you want to lounge with a coffee in the library or head out to safe areas on the beach, this is the perfect place to watch the giant waves on a stormy day.
  • Hit the waves: The Inn is located right on Chesterman Beach, which offers some of the best surfing in the world and the hotel will help set up the adventure for you.
  • Explore the art: The Inn really celebrates the First Nations culture and on the property you can find a ton of handiwork from local artists. One of the aspects of the Inn I truly loved was that there is a carving shed right on the property and the artists will let you watch them work.
  •  Relax in style: Make sure to book a facial or massage at the beautiful Ancient Cedar Spa. The spa really focuses on both mind and body wellness and how can you not feel relaxed when indulging in a yoga class with the ocean as your view.

The Wickaninnish Inn is truly a beautiful hotel located in a beautiful place. It embraces and celebrates the natural allure of Tofino You can real experience the best of this amazing town from the Inn.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

 

My staycation at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle

I love to travel and I am so fortunate that I get to travel quite a bit for both personal and work reasons, however this month has been a busy one to say the least. With short trip to Toronto and Merritt I was pretty wiped. When the long weekend rolled around I felt like I wanted a vacation but at the same time I felt like being close to home, so a staycation offered the perfect solution.

I decided to book a night stay at the Downtown Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Hotel. Located right in Coal Harbour the hotel is just a short 15 minutes away from my house but with the ocean front views, downtown shopping, and nearby attractions it seemed like I was miles away.

The hotel

When I checked into the hotel the first thing I noticed was the beautiful lobby and the jar filled with cookies at the check in desk (a treat while you wait, I love it). I was also so impressed with the friendly staff who wanted to make sure we had everything we needed.

The room 

We made our way to our room on the 31st floor. I cannot believe the incredible ocean front views that we got to look out onto right from the comfort of my bed. You could see all of downtown Vancouver, the Lions Gate Bridge, the boats in the harbour, and the stunning North Shore Mountains. I have never seen such a beautiful view from a hotel window before.

Speak of the bed, I was so impressed with how comfortable it was. You truly just drowned in the pillows.

 

Dinner at Showcase

While it was hard to leave the beautiful hotel room, we did have reservations at Showcase restaurant. The hotel lobby restaurant has just launched a brand new menu right in time for summer and Chef Jesse Hauchhuasen was giving us a little taste.

We had  a little booth in the back and started off with some delicious refreshing cocktails. The first thing that I noticed was the wide variety of cocktails, wines, beers, and even food. While I thought a restaurant like the Marriott would be pricey, I was impressed with the reasonably priced menu for such a creative selection.

Chef Hauchhuasen came out to explain some of the dishes we were going to eat. What I loved is that he told us a lot of his inspiration comes from his Japanese background and his wife’s Korean heritage. He added that he has traveled to these places a ton to get inspiration for the dishes.

Appetizers

First up were two appetizers, the Albacore Tuna Tataki and the Seared Scallops and Pork Belly. I loved that the food was made with sustainable seafood approved by Ocean Wise. The Tuna Tataki was seasoned with delicious ginger soy vinaigrette and the savoury taste was matched with sweet mango. The Scallops and Pork Belly were seasoned with the most delicious carrot puree. I literally was scooping up the leftover sauce with my fork.

Main course 

Next up, the main course. We were treated to Miso Grilled Sockeye Salmon and Seared Ling Cod. The cod  was possibly the best dish I have ever tasted. The broth was perfectly seasoned with crispy onions and chili oil, while the baby bok choy was the perfect side to compliment the asian inspirations. As for the salmon I loved the sweet soy sauce and the rice crackers added a perfect crunch to the dish.

Dessert

Lastly, dessert. We were treated to the Chocolate Pecan Tart. I couldn’t think of anything better, chocolate and pecan tarts are my favourite sweets and so combining them together was genius. I also loved the added ice cream infused popcorn. It was such a unique and tasty treat.

Overall experience 

After a delicious and filling dinner and a few cocktails, it was back up to the room for bed time. I couldn’t believe the amazing views at night time as well. The whole city lit up as far as the eye could see. It was a beautiful sight and the perfect way to end the day.

The next morning I woke up feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. Just what the doctor ordered. I wasn’t ready to leave the comforts of the room but was thankful for a relaxing and wonderful stay.

If you would like to find out more about what the Marriott Pinnacle has to offer make sure to visit their website.

xo,

Mia