Just for fun, let’s go on an animal photo safari with some of my favorite animal photos from my journeys around the world. I’m a huge animal-lover and always love to see animals when I’m traveling. I don’t go to zoos anymore, and am not going to get into that controversial subject, but suffice to say almost all of the animals here were photographed in their natural habitats. While I have never been on a “big game” tour in Africa, I have been lucky enough to see a range of beautiful creatures.
Of all of these animals, I think the fox in Chile has to be the most memorable to me. When we first saw the fox, we were naturally a bit nervous because we didn’t know what the animal would do or how it would react to us. Once we saw it was just curious and began to follow us around at a distance, we began to relax a bit (but still always kept an eye on it). I’ve never had an experience like this before with a fox and have no idea if foxes are normally like this or not. The animal was beautiful and to see it with the backdrop of the Andes Mountains was something I will never forget.
What are some of your most memorable experiences with wildlife? Does any one stand out more than others?
I first heard about the book FEARVANA: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth, and Happinessby Akshay Nanavati on the Marathon Training Academy podcast “How to Use Suffering to Your Advantage as a Runner.” I was intrigued by the thought of using fear and suffering to my advantage and actually coming out stronger as a result. Runners often face fear (that first 20-mile run or your first race) and suffering (mile repeats or running in adverse weather) so learning to channel fear and suffering sounded like something I wanted to learn more about.
Nanavati is a Marine Corps Veteran who overcame drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD, and psychological problems that led him to contemplate suicide. He was able to not only overcome all of this but find a fulfilling life and start a nonprofit organization, The Fearvana Foundation. He is a runner and athlete and has a goal to run across every country in the world. In addition, he has accomplished some incredible feats such as climbing the Himalayas and trekking across an icecap in -40 degree temperatures.
I found this book to be a quick and easy read full of inspirational stories and quotes. Normally I hate a book that has inspirational stories but I found they worked well in this book and I actually liked them. Some of them I had heard before but I realize maybe not everyone has heard the story about how Michael Jordan (a hugely famous former basketball player) was cut from his high school basketball team.
Beyond the anecdotal stories, the book begins with scientific evidence on how your brain reacts to fear and how your body is effected. The book is divided into three sections and in the first section, we are introduced to the idea of having two brains, the animal brain and the human brain. The animal brain responds to survival needs while our human brain can help us process perceived fears. Having the two brains work together is the tricky part.
The second part of the book describes more deeply the idea of Fearvana and has training exercises to help the reader change their mindset. The third part of the book goes into the remembering self and the experiencing self and how our memories can shape our lives. Nanavati describes how to embrace suffering through something that you hope will result in a positive outcome- like training for a marathon and ultimately running and finishing that marathon.
Most importantly, Fearvana is about embracing your fears rather than trying to hide from them or ignore them. The term fearvana was coined by Nanavati by combining the words fear and nirvana. He believes that by using fear to our advantage, we can not only conquer our fears but reach a feeling of nirvana.
Another important subject Nanavati delves into is the realization that we are not defined by events that happened in our past and we can in fact change our memories. He gives some examples of some people who had tragic things happen to them in their childhood but yet they are living happy, peaceful lives as adults. These people realized that what happened to them does not define them as people, but rather their outlook on life and how they choose to live their life determines their happiness and well-being.
Bottom-line is I recommend reading this book regardless if you’re a runner or other athlete or not. I feel like this book is truly for everyone from all walks of life and all ages. Who wouldn’t want to be able to view fear as an asset and use it to your advantage?
You can buy FEARVANA: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth and Happiness on Amazon or do like I did and borrow it from a library. If your local library doesn’t have it, see if they can borrow it from another library (many public libraries do this now and yet most people aren’t aware of this wonderful offering).
Have you read this book or are you interested in reading it? Share your comments below.
I have two lab-mix rescue dogs that are the sweetest dogs in the world. I also love to travel. Since my family and I miss our dogs when we travel, whenever possible, we’ll bring our two dogs with us when we go on a road trip. They’re way too big to fit in a carrier under an airplane seat and I would be terrified to put them in the cargo section, so they’ve never flown. Plus, the price for bringing them along for a 2 or 3 week vacation would be outrageous and silly. So I’m just going to talk about bringing your dogs along with you on road trips.
Before you ever leave your house, you’ll want to pack several things for your dog. Here’s a packing list of things that I bring:
1 bowl for water, 2 bowls for food (they can share water but not food)
I don’t bring a dog bed (or in my case two dog beds). Beds for large dogs take up a ton of space. My dogs can “rough it” for the time they’re away from home and just sleep on the floor.
I always check Airbnb for dog-friendly places but I also check BringFido for dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, and activities. One really nice feature about BringFido is when you type in an area and look at hotels, you can see at a glance if there’s a pet fee, if big dogs are allowed, and if there’s a limit on number of dogs. You can also choose which site you want to book through, like Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, or directly through BringFido. You can also see BringFido Traveler Ratings, as well as TripAdvisor Traveler Ratings. A similar website that I haven’t personally used is Official Pet Hotels.
You don’t want to feed your dog a full meal then have them go on a long car ride so keep feeding to a minimum until you get to your final destination. The same goes for water, though you can offer them small amounts of water along the way if you’re traveling during hot summer months or driving a long way.
When you stop for gas, have someone else walk the dog to stretch their legs and let them go to the bathroom.
Make sure your dog has an identification tag with current information.
If you need to stop along the way for a meal, just remember you either have to stop at a place you know for sure is dog-friendly or you’ll be limited to drive-thru. Leaving the dog in the car while you go inside for a sit-down meal is not an option.
Be sure your dog doesn’t get car-sick by taking them on a short ride (or even a couple of short rides) before you plan a longer road trip. The last thing you want is to have to clean up dog vomit when you have a 4 hour drive planned and are only 30 minutes into the trip.
Although I don’t personally have any, a car seat tether or car harness is a great idea especially if you have a dog that wants to move around in the car.
When you reach your hotel or Airbnb house/apartment you’ll want to make sure your dog uses the bathroom before entering your accommodations. If they get muddy paws on the way in, here’s where your dog towel will come in handy, so you can wipe off their feet and not leave muddy tracks all over the place. Help them get settled by getting their food and water as well. They’ll want to sniff and check out the place and you can let them know that’s OK, but keep an eye on them.
If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure the front desk has your cell phone number so they can call you if your dog is barking or there’s another issue while you’re away. This should all be done at check-in when you make it clear you’re traveling with a dog. At many places, even dog-friendly ones, if you omit the fact that you’re traveling with a dog, you can be charged a hefty fee for not being up-front with them.
Also, even if your dog doesn’t bark much at home, they sometimes hear other dogs or people in the hotel and bark more because it’s a strange environment to them. Fortunately I’ve never had anyone complain about our dogs barking and the front desk has never had to call, but you never know.
Your dog will need to be walked during your vacation, so make sure you factor that time in when planning things to do. This may mean stopping whatever you’re doing mid-day and going back to your hotel to walk the dog, but that’s just part of being a good dog owner. If you know your dog can make it through say five hours without having to be let out at home, then you can plan for four hours away on vacation with them to be on the safe side.
Traveling with dogs is a bit like traveling with children. As long as you come prepared and bring the right supplies along with some patience and understanding for their needs, you’ll be glad you brought them. While our dogs have a wonderful dog sitter that they love when we fly somewhere, I know they’re happiest when they’re with us, their family so we bring them along when we can.
Do you have a dog that you travel with? Do you have any advice for others traveling with their dog? Anything I left out here?
I’m at that point of half marathon training where I’m pretty much at my peak as far as distance and speed. Now I just have to hold onto what I’ve worked so hard for until the race next month. For whatever reason my mind recently started thinking back to some of my half marathons through the years.
Although I didn’t always have the goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states, I think the idea started to form in my mind sometime around when I ran the Philadelphia Distance Run in 2004. Pennsylvania was my third state and fifth half marathon. In 2005 I only ran one half marathon, two in 2006, three each in 2007 and 2008, four in 2009, and since then I’ve run three half marathons each year through 2018. What all that means is it’s been a LONG journey for me.
I saw the other day where someone I follow on Instagram just completed a half marathon in all 50 states in only 3 years. Yeah, that’s not me. I started this journey with my first half marathon in 2000 and I hope to finish my journey with my 50th state in 2020. I would’t have it any other way either.
Of course it’s been an incredible journey. Unfortunately I don’t have photos for some of the races, especially the earlier ones. Those were pre-digital camera and pre-cell phone camera days. I may have some photos from a couple of those early races saved on a CD somewhere but I’m not even sure I have that. In a society where our whole worlds are caught on our camera phones now, it may seem odd to not have a single photo from a race, but I’m almost 100% sure I don’t have a single photo from my first three half marathons. However, I do have photos from Philadelphia and later, so I’m going to take you down a little photo memory lane with some of my favorite race photos. In case you’re wondering, it’s not all 15 years’ worth, just some that were more noteworthy than others.
I’ve seen some crazy things at races ranging from things spectators did to volunteer aid stations and the runners themselves. Sometimes I wish I was the type of runner who took photos during my races, but that hasn’t been the case so far and honestly I’m probably not going to start now. Pretty much all I have are the photos my husband took at the beginning and end of most of the races.
Do you ever look back at race photos from races you ran years ago? Do you take photos while running races?
It seems like there is no end to sight to the stories about travelers behaving badly around the world. Recently, fed-up residents and business owners in Kyoto, Japan’s Gion-Shinbashi district joined together to form a “scenery preservation” committee to combat issues such “half-naked hikers, trespassing travellers and prolonged photo shoots.” Tourists have been caught kicking and destroying parts of caves all over the world including Thailand and the Caribbean that took thousands of years to form. An English family touring New Zealand behaved so badly they were eventually deported. Sadly, these are just a few examples but there are many more.
Every summer there are news reports of tourists getting injured by animals at national parks in the United States. In Yellowstone National Park, officials say bison have injured more people in Yellowstone than any other animal. Wanting to get that “perfect” selfie with a wild animal, some people think nothing of standing beside a bison or even a bear, then they seem to be bewildered when the animal actually charges at them. So much trash and debris (like coins) has been thrown into some of the natural pools at Yellowstone National Park that they may never fully recover.
All of this really shouldn’t be too surprising. With lower airfares and easier access to countries comes more and more tourists, which increases the likelihood of improper behavior and over-tourism. Many places including Japan have recently implemented exit taxes to help with tourist infrastructure. Venice already has a tourist tax on hotels but recently started charging 11 Euros for day visitors to help with things like waste management. Tourist taxes are nothing new. Countries all over Europe, the Ukraine, and Asia have been charging extra fees to tourists for quite some time.
Beyond charging tourists extra fees, some places have started limiting the number of tourists per day. Beijing, the Galapagos Islands, the Seychelles, and Barcelona are among the growing list of places with limits on the number of visitors allowed per day. Not only are cities and islands limiting visitors, though. The Taj Mahal began limiting the number of visitors per day after a stampede occurred there in 2017.
At overcrowded Machu Picchu, the Peruvian government is actually increasing the number of daily maximum visitors to 5,940 people, which is more than double the number recommended by UNESCO. However, with the new system, people will be spread throughout the day by having timed visits either during the morning or afternoon. Previously, people could stay all day and weren’t required to have a guide the entire time. Now it is thought that it will be easier for guards to monitor visitors’ behavior.
Cruise ships are often a huge part of the problem. This is especially a problem in Venice, Dubrovnik, and Santorini when these relatively small areas get flooded with hundreds or thousands of visitors at once coming from cruise ships. These areas have begun putting caps on the number of cruise ships that are allowed to dock per day and/or the number of visitors from cruise ships that are allowed to enter. They have also begun to move or limit places like souvenir shops and restaurants aimed specifically at tourists.
Some United States national parks are also over-crowded at the more popular destinations (like the Grand Canyon National Park and Zion National Park for example, two of the most-visited parks). There has been talk of timed entries into some of the parks but not much has been implemented so far. Parking and traffic congestion is just one of many problems in places like Yosemite National Park and Arches National Park.
What can you do to help?
Respect the land and people where you are visiting. Don’t litter, don’t write on anything not meant to be written on, don’t talk loudly at a religious site or take photos where it’s not appropriate, don’t take anything that you didn’t carry in when you came, and keep a safe distance from all animals in nature. In other words, respect other people’s property and the land, structures, animals, and nature you are lucky enough to be visiting.
Avoid the high season. I can’t emphasize this enough. A big part of the over-crowding problem is people traveling during the summer months. However, many places are cheaper, less crowded, and can even be more beautiful during the shoulder season or off-season. I fully understand that some people can only travel during the busy summer months due to family and/or work schedules. We do what we can.
Shop and eat at local establishments. This benefits local residents and helps the local economy. The food is often better too (compared to large chain restaurants, in my opinion).
Often large groups traveling together seem to cause concern and problems for locals, so the remedy for this is simply to limit the number of people you travel with, especially in heavily-touristed areas.
Go off the beaten path so instead of going to the packed beaches in the Philippines and Thailand, go to lesser-known beaches. Instead of going to Dubrovnik, go to Zadar or the island of Vis. Instead of going to Italy, go to Malta. Sure, many people still want to visit iconic places like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but if you also visit some lesser-known places instead of spending all of your time in that one over-touristed place, you may find you prefer them to the more popular touristy places.
Book a tour with a reputable eco-conscious company that will show you off-the-beaten path places that are equally if not more beautiful than the popular places.
Full disclaimer- I’m going to visit Machu Picchu later this year but will be doing so with a tour company that came highly recommended for their involvement with the community and treatment of their workers among other things. Also, I’ll be taking one of the lesser-known routes to get to the ruins. My point in bringing this up is to say you can still visit these places and not add to the problem if you do so in an ecologically-aware way. And have some respect. Respecting others and the environment around us is something we should always be doing, not just when we’re traveling.
What are your thoughts on tourists behaving badly and/or over-tourism? Any good stories you have to share? Any tips you have to pass along?
It’s a fact: the older you are as a runner, the more important recovery becomes. I’ve found that I can no longer skip stretching and foam rolling after I run or I’ll be more sore and stiff the next day. The longer and/or more intense the run, the more important it is that I follow my recovery regime.
Over the years I’ve found some recovery products that undoubtedly make a huge difference in how quickly my body recovers after running. Probably the one recovery product that I’ve had the longest is my foam roller. I’ve tried different brands and different styles of foam rollers over the last 15-20 years and have found the TriggerPoint GRID foam roller lasts longer than most other brands and does a great job for an affordable price. You can buy TriggerPoint products here.
I also love Nuun hydration products and will have either their Endurance during a long run or their Sport after a shorter but intense run to re-hydrate. Endurance has some carbohydrates to help keep you fueled for runs longer than 90 minutes. You could drink either Endurance or Sport before or after a run (or during) but I’ve found what works best for me as stated above. Nuun also has a relatively new product, Rest, that has magnesium, tart cherry, and potassium to help you recover and sleep better. I’ve tried the Blackberry Vanilla Rest and really like it. You can buy Nuun products at local running and sporting goods stores, Target, Whole Foods, Amazon, and many other places including the full line of products at Nuunlife.com.
Another product for recovery that I love is my Zensah recovery compression tights. My hips and calves tend to tighten up after an especially long run and I’ve found if I wear these tights for a few hours after running, my legs and hips don’t feel as tight or sore. At first I wore them only after running half marathons then I thought that was silly and started wearing them after runs more than 10 miles, when I really feel like I need them the most. I also wear Zensah compression socks or True Grit socks while I’m running and love both products. Some local running stores carry some of their products but you can find all of Zensah’s products at Zensah.com.
One thing I do for recovery and I feel like it’s made a huge impact on my running and the prevention of major running injuries is go to yoga class. I’ve been going to yoga class at a gym for about 15 years and although the gyms and teachers have varied over the years, I’ve been able to learn some excellent yoga poses and stretches for helping loosen my tight runner legs and hips. I only go to yoga class once a week but I’ll sometimes incorporate some yoga-specific stretches into my post-run stretches at home.
Another thing I do after every long run is make sure I eat something healthy with carbohydrates and protein. I really love a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with whole almonds, Hemp seeds, mixed berries, sunflower seeds, and a drizzle of honey. That’s been my go-to snack after long runs for a while now and it fills me up and satisfies me plus it’s got plenty of protein and carbs to help with recovery.
The final thing I do for recovery is schedule a massage once a month. I started doing this when I was dealing with headaches and neck pain in my early 30’s. I had been involved in three different car accidents spread out over about 5 years beginning when I was in high school. At the time, I was seeing a chiropractor but didn’t want to continue seeing a chiropractor for the rest of my life so I looked into massage therapy. Not only has massage therapy helped with my neck pain and headaches but it also helped with Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) many years ago. Since I started going to a massage therapist regularly, I make sure I pay attention to any little niggles I’m currently feeling so the therapist can work those out before they become something bigger.
Actually, there is one more thing, actually probably the most important part of recovery of all- sleep! I’m the type of person that has always needed a lot of sleep. Now that I’m a long-distance runner I need even more sleep so I always make sure I get 9 hours of sleep every night. If I haven’t been sleeping well during the week and I don’t need to get up early for a run on the weekend I’ll sometimes get as much as 10 hours of sleep at night on the weekend. Naps after a long run are also a fabulous way for your body to recover but I don’t nap that often myself.
To help with getting a good night’s sleep, I make sure I turn off all electronics at least a half hour before bedtime (preferably an hour), I dim the lights, and read every night before I go to sleep. That routine works well for me and I almost never have trouble falling asleep. I also run a fan in the bedroom for white noise and wear an eye mask to block out light.
So there you have seven things I incorporate into my life to help with recovery from running. To be honest, even if I didn’t run, each and every one of these things I listed here would still be great tools to add to my routine to help me feel better.
What things do you do for recovery? Do you find yourself spending more time on recovery than you did when you were younger?
Also, I’m looking for new shows to watch on Netflix while I stretch and foam roll. Any suggestions for shows or movies that you’re currently watching and love?
I recently had the pleasure of attending a wedding at Duke Gardens in Durham, North Carolina. Duke Gardens is part of Duke University’s campus. For those of you not familiar with Duke University, it’s a private university founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present-day town of Trinity in 1838, and the school moved 70 miles to Durham in 1892. Duke University is filled with old stone buildings and is beautiful to walk around especially when all of the flowers and trees are in bloom during the spring.
For someone like me, Duke Gardens is a place where I can easily spend hours walking around, but then I love botanical gardens. I’ve traveled to far-away places like the Canary Islands and have seen some stunning gardens around the world but Duke Gardens has to be on my top 10 list of best gardens I’ve been to. These are gardens that are beautiful regardless of the season because some areas might not be in bloom but others will be and there are enough evergreens and water areas that even in the dead of winter it would still be a wonderful place to visit.
Technically named the “Sarah P. Duke Gardens,” they consist of five miles of of allées, walks, and pathways throughout the gardens on 55 acres of landscaped and wooded areas within Duke University’s campus. Building of the gardens officially began in 1934 when a faculty member Dr. Frederick Moir Hanes convinced Sarah P. Duke to contribute $20,000 towards flowers in a ravine there. Unfortunately tens of thousands of flowers that were planted were washed away and destroyed by heavy rains and the gardens were destroyed at the time of Sarah P. Duke’s death in 1936. Dr. Hanes persuaded Mrs. Duke’s daughter to pay for a new garden on higher ground as a memorial to her mother. This time, the gardens were a success and today bring visitors from around the world to enjoy them.
Duke Gardens is divided into a few different sections: Historic Gardens, Doris Duke Center and Gardens, H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, and W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. Within each of these areas you’ll find everything from bridges to bogs to butterfly gardens and other specific gardens. There’s also the Terrace Shop where you can find Duke Gardens wall calendars, note cards, postcards and mugs along with plants and other garden supplies like plant stakes and decorative containers. You can also buy sandwiches and other snacks at the Terrace Cafe.
The gardens are enormous so you can easily spend a few hours here just walking around. My favorite areas are the Historic Gardens with all of the bulbs flowering, the row of cherry trees at the entrance, and the W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. The Asian-themed bridges are beautiful and I loved all of the details like handrails made out of bamboo.
Finally, you can arrange walking tours or trolley tours on certain days and times (check the website here) for $10 per person and they typically last 1 to 1.5 hours. The grounds are open 365 days a year from 8 am to dusk and admission is free for a self-guided tour. If you park at the closest lot, you have to pay either $1 or $2 per hour depending on the time of year, but there is a free parking lot on the corner of Yearby Avenue and Anderson Street at the Duke University H Lot, about a 5 minute walk from the gardens.
Oh, and I can’t forget to mention Duke University Chapel, which you can also walk to from Duke Gardens. The chapel was built from 1930 to 1932 in the Collegiate Gothic style and stands 210 feet tall. There are often concerts and events going on, which you have to purchase a ticket for, or you won’t be allowed to enter the chapel, so check the website here. You can also take free docent-led tours of the chapel that take approximately 45 minutes. Tours do not include access to the Chapel tower, which is unavailable to the public.
Do you love botanical gardens like I do? Do you have favorite ones you’ve been to?
Suddenly it’s April and my next half marathon is next month. My current training plan is 12 weeks long so I’m about half way through it. This training cycle has been a bit different than previous ones for various reasons, which I’ll get into later.
First I should back up a bit. I currently have the goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states. The last race I ran was White River Half Marathon, Cotter, Arkansas-44th state which seems like an eternity ago even though it was about four months ago. After the race, I was all set to take my usual mandatory two weeks off from running but then I decided I wanted to run while on vacation in Grand Cayman Island.
My vacation in the Caribbean was one week after the race in Arkansas so I suppose I did have a week off from running even though I was still hiking in Hot Springs after the race. Running in Grand Cayman Island was purely for fun, though. Especially lately I’ve been having so much fun running on vacation so I didn’t want to miss the chance to explore the island by running. Here’s one of my favorite photos taken while running in Grand Cayman Island (it was in front of someone’s house by their mailbox):
After I got home from Grand Cayman Island, I got to take some time off the more focused, intense running I do when training for a race and just ran for fun when I felt like it and the weather was amenable. It was nice not having to run through the holidays or the unpredictable weather we had in January. Finally in February, I started my current training plan. Everything seemed to be falling into place. I felt good and wasn’t having any nagging pains or other issues. My iron levels seemed to be OK, but honestly that’s a complicated story I won’t get into here. Long story short, my anemia from last fall was under control.
In late February I went on vacation to Kauai and Oahu and ran on both Hawaiian islands, Running in Kauai and Oahu Hawaii, basically having a ton of fun and enjoying the gorgeous ocean views on my runs. Then I got sick about a week into my vacation and developed a cough that was relentless. Nonetheless, I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying my vacation or from running, though I did take one day off from a scheduled run because I just felt too wiped out from the lack of sleep.
When I got home from Hawaii, I still had the cough. For weeks. On end. It seemed although the cold went away, it was swiftly replaced with terrible allergies, causing yes you guessed it, a cough. Finally around the end of March I began to feel better. This was one of the worst coughs I’ve had other than my many bouts with bronchitis because it just wouldn’t stop. Many times in the past when I’ve had a cold with cough I’ve been able to run without coughing then as soon as I stopped, I’d be hit with a coughing fit. This time, I was still coughing when I was (attempting) to run, pretty much the entire time. I’d even have to stop running because I’d just start coughing so hard and uncontrollably.
As I said, though, the coughing finally ceased and around the end of March I could run without coughing for the first time in months. Somehow I managed to mostly still hit my time and distance goals through all of this. According to Strava, my runs were “trending faster.” I was getting multiple PR’s on runs (again, according to Strava). I have no idea how, but I’ll take it.
Now I finally feel like I have April to reach my plateau before the race. I’ve put it out there that I’d like to finish in the top three for my age group in a race this year. I feel like if it’s going to happen, it’s going to be at my race in May but that was based on previous year’s finishes at this race, not based on how my training has been going. Admittedly, my training hasn’t been as great as it could have given how long I had the cough from hell. I guess only time will tell how all of that effected my training. I also know that there are many other factors effecting my age group standing, like who else decides to run that day, the weather and other race-day conditions, and my health that day. For now, I’m optimistic!
Are you training for a race now and if so how has it been going? If not, do you plan on running a race later this year? How do you decide which training plan to follow for a race or do you just wing it and not really follow a plan?
Finally, I have a couple of one-time use codes good for 40% off Honey Stinger products online plus free shipping. Use by April 12. If you’d like one, send me an email (runningtotravel AT gmail).
So far, I’ve been to four Hawaiian islands on three separate occasions: Maui once, Hawaii (a.k.a. the Big Island) twice, Kauai twice, and Oahu once. I’m by far no expert on Hawaiian islands but I would like to share my experiences for people who have never been to Hawaii because I have gotten some questions. Hawaii is a popular bucket-list place for many people, so when they go, they want to make sure they’re going to be happy with their decision.
First and foremost, the most important question is which island should you go to? There are six islands that tourists can visit. In addition to the ones I listed above, there’s also Lanai and Molokai. Lanai is mostly (97% as of 2012) owned by former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who wants to keep the island remote and luxurious. There are a couple of hotels, a few golf courses, and no traffic lights. People come here for rest and relaxation. Molokai, is almost the antithesis of Lanai, with no five-star luxury hotels. Half the population is of native Hawaiian heritage. This destination is ideal for adventure seekers, history buffs and those who want to experience old Hawaii, pre-1959.
Maui is the second-most visited island, and is best known for its beaches. You can drive the super-curvy Road to Hana, to see the rain-soaked side of the island. Another popular activity is to watch the sunrise from the Haleakala National Park. You can go with a group and cycle down the volcano or just drive there on your own and skip the bicycle tour if you have a rental car. Many people honeymoon in Maui and there’s even a phrase that you were “Mauied” if you got married in Maui. There’s no shortage of things to do, but Maui tends to get a bit touristy especially in Lahaina and Kaanapali Beach.
Oahu is the most-visited island and home to the state capital Honolulu. This island is best for couples, families and groups of friends seeking culture, entertainment and great food. There is a huge range of things to do from active pursuits like hiking, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, or taking tours of historical sites like Pearl Harbor and the Iolani Palace. Don’t think your only option is to stay at crowded Waikiki Beach, as there are many options on other parts of the island that aren’t so over-run with tourists.
Kauai is known as the Garden Isle, and is perfect for those that enjoy getting out in nature. Hawaii’s best hiking trails can be found on Kauai, such as the famous 11-mile Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast. There are many other parks around Waimea Canyon, called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, where you can find trails of varying lengths and difficulty. Poipu in the south shore is fantastic for snorkeling and swimming year-round.
Hawaii Island is also called the Big Island and is larger than all of the other islands combined. The world’s most active volcano, Kilauea, is here, as well as 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones. The Big Island is ideal for people who love hiking, families of all sizes and ages, and those that want to explore all that this beautiful island has to offer (in other words, everyone!). Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a place you definitely want to visit as well as Waipio Valley. You’ll find black sand beaches and probably spot some turtles here.
I suggest combining a couple of islands for a vacation that’s longer than a week. If you can only stay up to seven days, just choose one island and see and do all that you can in that time. If you have ten days or more, you can comfortably see two islands. I personally like to spend a week on one island and five days on another island. With flight times, you’re looking at basically two weeks. For ten days, I would divide up the time equally as five days on one island and five days on the other, assuming it’s your first time to Hawaii.
Flights between islands are cheap and often but do still take up a chunk of your time, between getting to the airport early, going through security, flight time, and getting back out of the airport and to wherever your destination is for your second island. Most inter-island flights go through Oahu, too, so you may have a short layover en-route to your destination island. There are only two inter-island passenger ferries in Hawaii. The Molokai Ferry departs twice daily from Lahaina, Maui, to the nearby island of Molokai, and takes about 90 minutes. The Maui-Lanai Expeditions Ferry departs five times a day from Lahaina, reaching Manele Bay on Lanai in 45 minutes.
That about covers the basics for Hawaiian islands. If you have any other questions or comments, I’d love to hear them! Share your Hawaiian experiences with me and others here as well!