The best (and most authentic) Luau in Maui and why you should book a ticket

When I first went to Hawaii over 10 years ago I remember how entraining it was to experience my first luau. I loved the dancing and drums and all the fire, but when I returned to the beautiful Islands of Hawaii more recently, I wanted to experience more of the cultural side of a lu’au. After searching online and speaking with other locals I learned that the most authentic Hawaiian Lu’au is the Old Lahaina Lu’au and so we booked in to see this traditional hula and dinner experience.

The history of a Luau

To understand why it is important to consider an authentic luau, it is first important to understand the history and cultural significance of the luau. For a long time men and women would eat separately. There were also certain foods women weren’t allowed to eat. All that started to change when King Kamehameha II  took over. They had large celebrations with feasts, hula, and music. These special events were all about food, fun, but most importantly family.

However, the celebration was changed drastically around 1820 when Christianity took over, and in 1830, hula was banned for more than 40 years. King Kalakaua restored hula in 1874, and at this time hula introduced women dancers.

But over the years, unfortunately the true authenticity of hula, and luaus in general changed. Hollywood created their own version of hula, using musical instruments instead of ancient gourds and drums. The dancing became more of a visual presentation instead of its origin – language.

And overtime the actual lu’au’s in Hawaii changed as they welcomed visitors to the show. Many started to combine the Polynesian and Hawaiian culture, promoting fire dancing, and feasts that didn’t even touch on true Hawaiian food. But that is what sets the Old Lahaina Lu’ua apart. It’s goal is to teach visitors about the Hawaiian culture, by creating an authentic atmosphere touching on all the senses. I will share more on that in the experience.

The experience

The setting

One of the main reasons visitors flock to Hawaii each year is the beautiful setting. Mountains located right beside the stunning waters of the Pacific Ocean. The backdrop of the Old Lahaina Lu’ua captures the beauty of Hawaii. When you first arrive you are automatically drawn to the beautiful ocean scene. Along the waterfront there are different local artists showing off their work. Here you will find one of a kind wood carvings and a band playing live music. The seating is set up to form a semi circle around a stage and in the middle of the stage is an authentic Hokule’a, the famous voyager canoes, that would be part of the story we were going to learn tonight.

The performance

What I loved about the show is they really want to teach you. Before anything starts, hula dancers take the stage and show you a few moves. Since the dance really is a language, they also tell you the meaning behind each move. On top of that, they introduce you to some authentic Hawaiian instruments, lots of shows focus on the drums, but this show also created sound with instruments that have been used for hundreds of years, like the ka’eke’eke (hallow bamboo used to create sounds like drums), an ipu, a pu (or conch), and Ili’ili (stones that create a clacking sound). I found it fascinating that so much of the music was created by natural items.

After a brief introduction, the dancing started. Both men and women took the stage in tradition costumes and headdresses dancing to traditional music and through each movement telling a story. It was truly beautiful.

The food

One of the main reasons people come to a Lu’au is for the food right? I mean the history of the Lu’au is celebrating with a giant feast. While over the years a lot of Lu’au’s have become more “americanized”, the Old Lahaina Lu’ua prides itself on serving authentic Hawaiian foods. Yes, they serve pork that has been roasted underground for 18 hours, but they also serve other traditional foods like poi, laulau, lomilomi salmon, and the freshest tuna poke I have ever tasted. Oh and if you aren’t full after your five courses they send you home with a little treat, fresh banana bread (as we found out an island favourite).

The history lesson

While I feel many lu’uas just focus on the show, what I loved about the Old Lahaina Lu’au is that it also focused on the history of the islands and the people that call Hawaii home. We were taken back in time through dance, music, and language, to learn about how these Islands came to be and how the luau was started. Learning about the history helped created a deeper connection to Maui and the beautiful traditions and culture.

If you are visiting Maui and thinking of going to a lu’au, I highly suggest learning more about the Old Lahaina Lu’ua. 

Mahalo as they say,

and happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

Why the Sunshine Coast should be on your summer bucket list

Summer is right around the corner, which means it is time to get out and explore, and I might be a bit biased, but I think British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places to explore. One of the places I love exploring is the Sunshine Coast. I make a trip out there every single summer. Recently I had a chance to explore with Destination BC and wanted to share some of the top things to see and do.

 

Traveling to the Sunshine Coast

One of the reasons I love the Sunshine Coast as a vacation spot is the fact that it is easy to get to. The ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale is just 40 minutes and you only have to pay for one way (some of the other BC islands I want to travel to require multiple ferries and hours of travel).

Where to stay

I have had the chance to stay in 3 different areas on the Sunshine Coast, Gibsons, Sechelt, and Egmont. Each area offered a unique and different experience. I loved the cute shops and restaurants of Gibsons, the outdoor adventure in Sechelt, and the tranquility and relaxation in Egmont – the best thing is you can explore all 3 in one trip.

There are many different options for lodging on the Sunshine Coast and I have been lucky enough to stay in different areas and places. There is a wide variety of Airbnb options, including ones right on the water. There are also adorable B&B and Cottages. One of my favourite stays was at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge. The lodge was gorgeous with rooms offering ocean views. The restaurant on site was fantastic and there was a beautiful patio where you could watch the sunset and search for whales. They also offer a ton of packages that include meals and tours.

What to do

There is so much to see and do across the Sunshine Coast. Like I mentioned there truly is something for everyone – for the foodies, and the outdoor enthusiasts, and the ones that want to just relax. Here are my top must do activities to do on the Sunshine Coast.

  • Hike to Skookumchuck Narrows: I have seen some incredible natural wonders in B.C. but this might top them all. Twice a day nature dances as the tides at the narrows change and the water actually reverses direction. The difference in water levels between on side of the rapids and the other is sometimes 9 feet high. Come at the right time and you can catch kayakers daring the waves the tide creates. Another highlight is the gorgeous forest you walk through to get to the narrows – make sure to grab a coffee at the Skookumchuck Bakery and Cafe before your walk, it is the cutest cafe I have ever seen and you can pack a picnic to eat while watching the show.
  • Princess Louisa Inlet: The float plane ride to the inlet was enough to make this trip a must do. You soar over the beautiful fjord beside snow capped mountains landing at what has been dubbed the  ‘most beautiful anchorage in the world’ and for good reason. The granite walls of the inlet are powerful, but what will truly take your breathe away is the beautiful Chatterbox Falls – a stunning 120 foot waterfall. Because of the risks the tides cause in the area it is recommended you travel here with an experienced guide. I loved the plane tour with Sunshine Coast Air.
  • Take a canoe or kayak on the water: When I stayed in Egmont we teamed up with the Egmont Adventure Centre for a day of kayaking. We went on the Sechelt Inlet Kayaking Tour. It was so peaceful to be out on the water and a big highlight was stopping by a rock that was famous for its seal population. There were more than a dozen of them, including some new pups.
  • Take a hike: The Skookumchuck Narrows is just one of the beautiful hikes on the Sunshine Coast. There are so many beautiful trails to explore. A must see is Smuggler Cove. The hike takes you through a lush forest that then opens up into a beautiful cove. Pack some snacks because the rocks overlooking the cove offer the perfect spot for a picnic.
  • Mountain Biking: While I am definitely not a mountain biker my husband and his friends absolutely love a day at Coast Gravity Bike Park. Known for it’s trails built by riders for riders.
  • Take a sip on a brewery tour: Our first trip to the Sunshine Coast we stayed in Gibson and decided to do a little bike brewery tour. There are some great spots that are part of the Sunshine Coast Ale Trail. We started at the 101 Brewhouse for lunch and a drink before enjoying the sunshine and even some whale watching on the patio of Tapworks Brewery  and then we finished off the tour at the ever popular and beautiful Persephone. Sometimes during the summer there is even a market at Persephone.
  • Shop until you drop: Both Sechelt and Gibson had some adorable local shops. I loved supporting some local businesses, and every time I visit the Sunshine Coast I make sure to come home with some delicious olive oil. Both towns have their own olive oil shop!

 

Where to eat

The different towns might be small but mighty when it comes to restaurant and food options. Here are some of my favourite spots to dine on the Sunshine Coast.

  • Buono Osteria (Gibsons): We went for dinner here for my husband’s birthday who loves pizza, and he said this is potentially the best pizza he has ever had. The owner is first generation from Italy and they make their pizzas in  a wood burning oven.
  • Lunitas Mexican Eater (Gibsons): You cannot beat this location – right on the water the patio is beautiful and the tacos are delicious
  • Smitty’s Oyster House (Gibsons): Another oceanfront location with delicious food and drinks and just a really fun vibe.
  • Beachcomber Coffee (Gibsons): Locally roasted coffee, this is a quaint little cafe and a must stop to start the day
  • El Sugundo (Sechelt): This place is a must visit. They are famous for their delicious tropical cocktails and their delicious pan pacific fusion food
  • The Bakery (Sechelt): The name says it all. A delicious bakery that serves up simple yet savoury breakfast treats

 

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

Where to explore B.C… Later

Right now we are all staying home to save lives, but eventually life will get back to normal, economies will get back on track, and communities will be unlocking their doors. Eventually we will be able to travel yet again, but after seeing how small, local shops and businesses have struggled through this crises, I have a feeling my post COVID 19 vacations will be here in B.C. in hopes of rebuilding our local economy and businesses.

Beautiful B.C. in my opinion is an understatement. From the mystic mountains, to the calm waves of the ocean, the landscapes that sweep across this province are truly breathtaking and I have been very lucky to visit some of these magical spots. I wanted to share some of my favourite spots that hopefully we can all explore later.

Tofino

I have written a few blogs on my various trips to Tofino, and I am not lying when I saw this is probably my favourite place in the whole wide world.  I the quaint, small town that is surrounded by old growth forest on one side and the salt smells of the ocean on the other. With such natural beauty you can only imagine that there are adventures around every corner. There are some amazing hikes for all levels, including a walk to a hidden airplane. The endless ocean is the perfect playground, and surf lessons are a must. If you just want to relax, might I suggest a trip out to the hot springs (where you may spot a whale along the way).

Tofino also has an amazing culinary seen, and while you won’t find any chain restaurants here, some of Canada’s top chefs call this little island town home. At Tofino Marina Resort you can find the foods of Top Chef Canada’s Paul Moran. Shelter and Wolf in the Fog offer perfect date night spots. The Pointe is the perfect brunch spot, not only is the food amazing, but you will have an oceanfront seat. Alas, no trip to Tofino is complete without a trip to the original food truck, Tacofino (but there is also a new truck in town called Pai that is amazing).

No matter where you stay in Tofino you can expert a relaxing escape. We have stayed at both Long Beach Lodge and the Wickaninnish Inn, both of these spots are amazing offering ocean views. I love opening up the windows and smelling the fresh salt air, and watching the sun set over the rocks.

Kelowna

Wine? Check. Sparking lake views? Check. Mountains? Check! Kelowna really has it al for the perfect vacation getaway. There are more than 30 beaches in Kelowna that offer a perfect spot to relax and enjoy some sunshine. Feeling more on the adventurous side? Why not rent a paddle board, kayak, or canoe and explore the lake?

Of course no trip to Kelowna is complete without a winery tour, and you will find some of the best wineries in the world right in your backyard. Quails Gate, Summerhill, and my personal favourite Grey Monk are all must visits. Now if for some reason wine isn’t your thing, there is also the craft beer ale tour available.

Penticton

Another beautiful spot in the Okanagan is Penticton. I had a chance to visit this spot for the first time last summer for work and instantly fell in love with it. One of the things that makes Penticton so famous is its peaches, in fact every summer there is a a giant Peach Festival with vendors, live music, and lots of peach inspired food.

Aside from the delicious fresh fruit, this beautiful spot is once again located on the lake surrounded by mountains offering the perfect escape for outdoor adventure. However I think my favourite experience in Penticton was a little more on the relaxing side, a float down a lazy river. You can literally rent a tube and float down the Penticton River Channel, the perfect way to cool down on a hot day.

This was another place that took me on an amazing culinary experience. Theo’s offers some delicious authentic greek cuisine Salty’s Beach House is located right on the lake and offers some delicious seafood options, and for those looking for more casual dinning, Bad Tattoo Brewing specializes in pizza and beer. You can’t beat that!

The Sunshine Coast

The first time I visited the Sunshine Coast I told my husband I wanted to retire here, it just has this amazing ability to make you feel right at home. We stayed in Gibsons, and while there aren’t a lot of hotels in the area, a lot of the airbnbs are situated right on the ocean, with beach accesses.

I loved just walking around the town and seeing all the adorable shops. We really fell in love with a little olive oil shop called Sunshine Coast Olive Oil Co. where you can sample and taste different types of oil. Also, no matter where you shop or eat, you are just steps away from the water and so you can see the sailboats docking. I loved sitting at the patio at Lunitas eating tacos and keeping my eyes peeled for whales.

The Sunshine Coast has a bunch of local breweries and so we brought some bikes with us and did a little brewery tour. I fell in love with Persephone. The craft brewery is located on farm where they grow their own grains, but thats not all you will find, there are also apple orchards and veggie gardens.

If adventure is more what you are looking for, there are some beautiful hikes in the area. I really loved the views from Smuggler Cove ( pack a picnic and stay for a while) or check out some of the waves at Skookumchuck Narrows.

Sooke

I love visiting Vancouver Island. It truly has so many incredible hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Sooke was one of these gems. This is such a charming spot located right on the ocean, and a lot of the places where you will stay are airbnbs that offer a backyard right on the water.

The Sooke Country Market is a great chance to pick up some delicious local food. Hiking through parts of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail will truly take your breathe away as you get lost between the giant trees. A picnic at the Sooke Potholes is a must and the perfect spot to cool off on a hot day. This island town will steal your heart and make you want to come back to unwind and relax again and again.

Cranbrook

I have been fortunate enough to visit Cranbrook for work in both the winter and summer and have been able to take part in some amazing adventures in this mountain town.

Speaking of mountain town, that is one of the biggest draws to visiting Cranbrook. Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies this picturesque town offers endless thrills. Whether you are into mountain biking or hiking you can take in the fresh air of the mountains. If water activities are more your thing there are hundreds of lakes and rivers in the area for stand up paddle boarding or kayaking. No matter where you are enjoying nature though make sure to keep your eyes out for wildlife, we must of seen 20 elk during our visit.

One of the most amazing experiences though, was learning about the culture and history of Cranbrook. I had a chance to stay in an old train at the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort. Next I had a chance to learn about the history at Old Fort Steele, and the last heritage spot gave me the chance to put up a real teepee at the St. Eugene Resort with the Ktunaxa First Nation.

After adventure I am sure you are going to be hungry, and downtown Cranbrook has some delicious meal options. I loved eating a burger and craft beer inside an old fire station at the Fire Hall, Soulfood offers  mouthwatering farm to table options, and the Heidout has some incredible locally source menu options.

Whistler

 

One of the main reasons we moved out to Squamish was to be in the mountains and closer to Whistler. I have shared a lot of my ski adventures with you  ( I was even a Whistler seasons pass holder this year) but this is so much more than a ski town. From world class mountain biking, to beautiful hikes it has everything for an outdoor adventurer. Very close to Whistler you can hike up to a glacier lake called Garabaldi (this is actually the spot where we got engaged).

During the summer months you can still take the gondola up the mountain to take in some breathtaking views. If you are daring enough, you can try your and walk across the new suspension bridge, which will make you feel on top of the world.

Squamish 

I must say I am pretty lucky to call Squamish home and I hope that when all of this is over, more people will want to come and explore this beautiful town. Squamish is really built on the backbone of local businesses and in town you will find everything from locally coffee shops, delicious bakeries like tall tree and different dining options. Whether you love Sushi (Sushi Sen), a gorgeous water view (Watershed) or feel like dressing up a little (The Salted Vine) there is something for everyone.

There are some incredible hikes around Squamish including the Chief and Sea to Summit, which will take you to the top of the Sea to Sky gondola, and get this, during the summers they offer live music and yoga on top of the mountain.

There are also so many other outdoor activities for the adventure junkie in you. Whether it be mountain biking, wind surfing, or rock climbing, there is something here that is sure to give you an adrenaline rush.

I cannot wait until life is back to normal and we are able to get outside and explore this beautiful place we call home again, but until then let’s just daydream about the perfect local getaway.

Stay safe my friends,

xo

Mia