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7 Days in Maui: The Itinerary You’ve Been Looking For

Aloha! Heading to Maui, or debating on which Hawaiian island to jet off to? Here’s why you should choose Maui, including a detailed 7-day itinerary covering everything from where to stay, what to see, and what you must know before you go!

A little background on how we ended up in Maui: After many months of hoping that our belated European honeymoon could happen, border openings didn’t seem promising for the dates we wanted to go. My husband and I decided to continue to hold off on Europe, and opt for a destination we felt more confident in.

We got an incredible deal on flights (we paid less around $300 RT for each of us – thanks Scott’s Cheap Flights!) for early October, to celebrate both our anniversary and my 30th birthday!

COVID LOGISTICS:

Before we left, we researched the current restrictions on Maui, and uploaded our flight information, vaccine cards to travel.hawaii.gov⁠. The website also requires a health assessment to be taken 24 hours before traveling, but they do not send you a reminder to do this. Be sure to set a calendar reminder for this.

We flew from Austin to San Diego, where Southwest Airlines had set up a station to check all passengers’ vaccine cards or negative test results, and gave everyone a wristband to show once we landed in Maui — airport code OGG. The process was really simple and made everything easy!

Restaurants in Maui require masks in common areas, as well as proof of vaccination (now including a booster) in order to dine indoors, so be sure to keep your card on you at all times.

*Disclaimer: Our travel experience was in October 2021, and rules/restrictions may have changed. Please check the current processes prior to traveling.

WHERE TO STAY:

After doing a TON of research on the various areas of Maui, including AirBnBs, boutique hotels, and resorts, we decided to stay at Mana Kai Maui in Kihei. The resort’s location was perfect, whereas most AirBnBs were farther from the beaches and had hefty cleaning fees.

Kihei is the southernmost point of the island, which sees somewhat warmer weather than other parts of Maui — a huge plus!

Even though Mana Kai Maui is not all-inclusive (Maui doesn’t have these), the amenities at the resort offered everything we needed, including beachfront access, a saltwater pool, on-site restaurant, general store, kayak and snorkel rentals, and a yoga studio.

We did leave the resort for a few excursions and meals, but if we had wanted to stay put the whole time, we could have. Kihei is home to many locals, but does have quite a bit of nearby restaurants and shopping – some of which is walkable from the resort.

Our room was a one bedroom “condo”, which included a full kitchen and large balcony with an incredible view of the ocean. The kitchen was stocked with pots, pans, silverware, etc., which made making snacks and breakfasts very convenient.

Watching the sunrise with coffee in-hand has never looked so good.

Other areas on Maui that we considered staying were:

Lahaina – a historic whaling village with a Southern feel, with upscale shops, restaurants, and art galleries. 

Paia – a hippie surf town on the Northern coast, and home to the famous (for a good reason) Mama’s Fish House.

If we ever go back to Maui, we will stay in one of these areas for a different experience!

WHAT TO DO:

One thing that I loved about Maui was that there were enough activities to keep us entertained, but not so many that we didn’t have time to relax. I’m a go-go-go person, and try to squeeze in every last thing on vacations. Thankfully, my husband is a normal person and enjoys relaxing, so we balance each other out well!

Here’s a list of the activities we did:

Te Au Moana Luau at The Wailea Beach Marriott Resort | Tickets must be purchased for the luau well in advance. The dinner, show, and entire experience was very unique and entertaining, however, we wouldn’t do it again. I’ve spoken to friends who feel differently, and said that they book a luau every single time they go to Hawaii, so to each their own!

Lana’i Coast Maui Sail and Snorkel Trip | Who doesn’t love a good boat day? Seeing dolphins as we anchored, and swimming with several different kinds of fish while we snorkeled was amazing! The water was pretty choppy on the way back, so take note in case you get seasick. Bring PLENTY of sunscreen and be sure to hydrate!

Maui Famous Full Circle Road to Hana Waterfalls & Lunch | This was by far my favorite activity of the trip, and one of the most fun tours I’ve ever been on. Our guide was extremely knowledgable, and flexible with what we wanted to see/do along the way. We made stops for the famous banana bread at Aunt Sandy’s (don’t miss out on the pulled pork sandwiches, either), to swim in a waterfall and at Honokalani Beach – the best black sand beach on Maui, for fresh coconut water at a remote stand in the jungle, and more! Do not leave Maui without doing this tour!

The only thing we didn’t do that I wish we had, is visit Haleakalā National Park. The climb to the top of the dormant volcano is supposed to be amazing, but we ultimately decided that we needed another relaxing day. If you do decide to visit the park, be sure to dress warm!

ITINERARY:

Here’s how to spend 7 days in Maui:

Day 1: 

-Wake up early after arriving in Maui the night prior and watch the sunrise
-Eat a delicious breakfast at Mana Kai Maui’s 5 Palms Restaurant. Get the crab omelette and thank me later.

-Take a stroll along the beach and soak in the beauty
-Lay on the beach and/or swim. We saw several sea turtles while we were in the water, only about 20 feet from the shore, which was so cool! Note: It is illegal to touch or feed sea turtles.
-Happy hour at Monkeypod Kitchen — we actually ate here for dinner, but really enjoyed their apps. Their HH runs 3:30-5:00 P.M.
-Watch the sunset on the beach

Day 2: 

-Spend the day at the beach laying out, snorkeling or kayaking
-Explore a bit of the area, including The Shops at Wailea
-Drive over to the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort for a traditional Hawaiian Luau
-Walk off the delicious meal with a moonlight stroll along the beach

Day 3:

-Sleep in and eat a light breakfast
-Drive to Paia (~25 min) for lunch at Mama’s Fish House. If you enjoy seafood, eating at this family-owned restaurant is an absolute must. Make reservations early, as Mama’s typically books 3-6 months ahead of time!

-Stroll through the boutiques and funky art in Paia

-Head back to Kihei and relax on the beach

Day 4:

-Wake up early and drive to Lahaina (~35 min) to begin your boat day
-Spend the day on the catamaran enjoying the ocean and snorkeling. If you’re lucky, you’ll see dolphins!
-Relax on the beach, or indoors depending on your sunburn level post-boat
-Eat dinner at Maui Thai Bistro – delicious and fairly inexpensive

Day 5:

-Sleep in and eat breakfast
-Head to Lahaina to shop at the boutiques and art galleries on Front Street, and take a picture under the 150-year-old Banyan Tree in the center of town
-Eat a lobster grilled cheese on the patio at Down The Hatch, a casual seafood spot with great local beer and cocktails
-If you’re not completely stuffed, treat yourself to a refreshing Dole Whip at Lappert’s Ice Cream


-Head back to Kihei
-This won’t apply to everyone, but my husband and I decided to have anniversary photos taken, and booked a sunset session with Kaleipua Photo. Our pictures turned out amazing, and this was such a fun, romantic thing to do!

*If you’re short on time, combine days 4 & 5 since they’re both spent mostly in Lahaina. Be sure to bring a change of clothes for after the boat.


-Eat the BEST sushi for dinner at Miso Phat. This gem located in a strip mall was also featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which we didn’t know until we walked in. What a great food day!

Day 6:

-Wake up early and eat a light breakfast
-Get picked up by your guide or meet at the designated spot to begin the Road to Hana. This tour lasts all day, and is well worth the time and money. We saw and learned so much about Maui that we never would have had we done the drive on our own. Plus, we felt 10x safer having the guide drive us, rather than driving the narrow roads ourselves.

*If you do drive the Road to Hana yourself, note that most rental car companies warn against doing so, and will not cover damages or towing if you break down here. Be sure to ask the company about this if you plan to drive the Road to Hana in a rental. Additionally, be sure to pull over and let locals pass on these narrow roads.

-After the tour, grab a local beer & dinner at Maui Brewing Company

Day 7:

-Take a yoga class at Maui Yoga Path, relax on the beach, and grab gifts for anyone back home (highly recommend banana bread and macadamia nut coffee).

THINGS TO KNOW:

-The time difference can be tough. Fight your jet lag from day one by adjusting to local time. Our flight landed at 8pm, and by the time we got our bags and arrived at the hotel, it was 9:30/10PM so we went right to bed. We woke up pretty early, but didn’t let ourselves nap during the day in an effort to get adjusted to the local time which helped a lot.

-Maui in general is not very walkable, so you will definitely want to rent a car or electric scooter. Depending on which town you’re staying in, certain parts of the town may be walkable, but getting to Lahaina from Kihei or Paia is not.

-Maui is NOT cheap. To be blunt, if you’re going for a beach vacation and aren’t interested in Maui/Hawaii specific things, save money and head to the Caribbean instead. Maui was incredible and I have zero regrets about the money we spent, but it’s a wildly high cost if you mainly want to lounge on the beach.

-Be sure to pack reef-safe sunscreen, water shoes, a cheap pair of sunglasses for the boat and beach (no one wants to lose their prescription sunglasses!), and a light jacket for windy evenings.

-The best time to visit Maui is April-May and September-November for great weather with less crowds

I hope this helps you prepare for your trip to Maui!

Any comments or questions? Please leave them here or email me at thetogolist@gmail.com

The ultimate 4-day Big Bend National Park itinerary

If you’re an outdoors enthusiast like me, you NEED to add Big Bend National Park to your to go list. 

Located in southwest Texas, this magical place reminiscent of the Wild West is the fifteenth largest national park in the United States, contains over 800,000 acres of protected land, and extends along the Mexican border for over 100 miles. 

With over 33 trails of various terrain including the Chihuahuan Desert, Chisos Mountains, and the Rio Grande, the park is a hiker’s paradise. 

Although you could spend a week in Big Bend and still not see everything, four days will give you enough time to get a taste, and a reason to come back.

Here’s how to spend 4 days in Big Bend National Park, and Terlingua, TX.

DAY 1: 

-Settle into your accommodations. 

-Hike: Window Trail. 5.2 miles RT/~3 hours/moderate. Downhill on the way in, uphill coming back. Beautiful trail with an amazing payoff.

-Dinner at Long Draw Pizza in Terlingua. This is another gem in the desert with fresh, unique pies and cold beer. What more could you ask for after a long day in the sun?

-Grab a drink at an underground bar called La Kiva (currently closed due to Covid), OR stargaze! Big Bend has the least light pollution of any other national park. Pack your binoculars for the best view of the Milky Way!

DAY 2:

-Grab your gear, including a lunch, snacks, and water, and head to La Posada Milagro for a breakfast burrito and coffee. The food is incredible and will keep you full throughout your morning adventures!

-Hike: Lost Mine Trail. 4.8 miles RT/~3 hours/moderate. Gorgeous scenery along the entire hike and incredible 360 views at the top. 

-Take a lunch break and refill your hydration pack. 

-Hike: Balanced Rock: 2 miles RT. 

-Dinner and live music at the famous Starlight Theater in Terlingua *Opens at 5pm, get there EARLY to avoid a long wait. 

TIP: If you aren’t able to get in right away, explore the shop next door, or walk to the cemetery down the road. It might sound odd, but this is a top tourist attraction in Terlingua, due to the incredible history and stunning 100-mile views of the Chisos Mountains. Additionally, every year, locals celebrate Day of the Dead and decorate the cemetery with floral, candles, and paper streamers.

DAY 3: 

-Breakfast (We ate at La Posada Milagro again!)

-Hike: Emory Peak (10 miles RT/~5 hours/hard or the South Rim (12.6 miles RT/~7 hours/hard) *Unfortunately we did not get to do either of these since they were closed during our trip due to wildfires, but they came highly recommended!

-Relax in the car on the Roswell Max Scenic Drive. This is a 40-mile stretch which leads you through incredible scenic landscapes to Santa Elena Canyon.

-Hike: Santa Elena Canyon. Don’t worry, it’s a quick 1.5 miles RT with little elevation. Cool off in the Rio Grande and wave hello to Mexico! *If the river is high enough, opt to kayak the river instead with Far Flung Outdoor Center! 

-Dinner at Lajitas Golf Resort. Be sure to stop by the mayor’s “office” on your way into town and give him a pat on the head!

DAY 4: 

Breakfast at Chili Pepper Cafe *We did not eat here but heard great things!

-Hike: Hot Springs Historic Trail. The walk only takes 10-15 minutes to get to the springs. Take it slow and learn about the unique rock formations and historic buildings along the trail. The springs are 105 degrees, so go early in the morning!

Hike: Rio Grande Village Nature Trail: This easy 1-mile RT trail looks nothing like the rest of the park, with a swampy river and gorgeous views across the Rio Grande into Mexico. You might even run into some donkeys here! Fun fact: These donkeys are not wild to BBNP; they actually regularly cross the Rio Grande from Mexico in search of food!

-Lunch at DBs Rustic Iron BBQ

-Head home!

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

WHERE TO STAY:
-Terlingua Ghostown. Home of the annual chili cookoff, and only ~110 residents. Here you’ll find a variety of accommodations from AirBnBs to yurts to hotels. Camping is also a great option! 
Badlands Hotel at Lajitas Golf Resort: Although staying here will put you about 20 miles from the park entrance, the beautiful views and onsite restaurants will provide a more luxurious ending to your day!

BEST TIME TO VISIT:
-November-May for more moderate weather
-Summers see temps over 100 degrees which can be dangerous for hiking.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST:
-Big Bend National Park only: $30, good for 7 days
-Big Bend National Park annual pass: $55/year
-America the Beautiful Pass – $80/year *FREE for military
-Camping: Additional fees vary

HOW TO GET THERE:
-The closest airport is Midland, TX. 
-Rent a car from Midland, and drive ~235 miles to the park.

TIPS:
-The park is very spread out. Most trailheads are 45-90 minutes from the park entrance. Keep this in mind when planning your days!
-Keep jugs of water in a cooler in the car to refill your hydration packs and water bottles.
-Get gas often! Gas stations are slim, and are occasionally out of service. In case you run into road closures at certain areas of the park for maintenance, it’s best to stay filled up.
-Be cautious of wildlife. Bears, javelinas, mountain lions and more are native to BBNP. Bring bear spray, and be respectful. You’re in THEIR home.
-Dogs/pets are not allowed on trails.
-Bring snacks for the trip and the trails.
-Download the Visit Big Bend + All Trails apps for current weather and trail conditions, updates, and to navigate!

So, is Big Bend officially on your To Go List?

PS: Stay tuned for my next post: a detailed packing list for BBNP or most other hiking destinations!

10 Gift Ideas for the Travel Enthusiast

Can anyone else believe Christmas is just two weeks away?! It’s time to finish up that shopping list!

This year more than ever, it is SO important to support your small and local businesses.

I’ve rounded up TEN gift ideas for the travel lover on your list, all from small businesses linked below!

Happy Shopping!

Personalized Luggage Tags

Journal + Planner Bundle:

Portable Phone Charger

Quickys Body Wipes

Airplane Necklace

Leather Passport Cover

Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Personalized City Map

Favorite City Scented Candle

Fanny Pack

Find something you love? Drop us a note and let us know!

Our Mini Moon in Maine

It’s been far too long since I actually blogged about my travel rather than just posting about it on Instagram, but as y’all know, this year has been pretty crazy! Between losing a job, starting a business, becoming a certified yoga instructor, the pandemic, getting MARRIED (!!!), and trying to maintain some sort of sanity throughout all of that, I’m actually impressed with the amount of travel I was able to fit in.

I’ll try to cover all of the trips in the next few weeks, but want to start with my recent trip: Our mini-moon to Maine!

When we first started planning our wedding, we decided that our dream honeymoon would be to spend two weeks exploring Italy and Greece; specifically the Amalfi Coast. Since our wedding was in October, we decided to delay the trip until Summer 2021 in order to experience prime beach weather in Europe. Obviously, we had no idea that there would be a global pandemic, but it was nice to (ironically) have one less thing to stress about changing.

Even though we (hopefully) will be able to take that trip next year, we decided that after going through eight months of nonstop stress, we needed a vacation NOW.

Our Requirements:
-Somewhere neither of us have been
-Hiking
-Popular craft beer + food scene

After ruling out the West Coast due to the fires and travel restrictions, anywhere that it might snow, and places at least one of us have been, we agreed on Maine, and booked the trip less than two weeks before our wedding.

COVID-19 TRAVEL INFO: As of October 2020, Maine is requiring all travelers from states outside of New England to either quarantine for 14-days upon arrival, or be able to provide proof of a negative Covid test within 72-hours of traveling. We chose to do the Covid test, since tests are extremely accessible where we live, and we planned to get tested before our wedding, anyway.

Itinerary:

Day 1 – Flew into Portland, ME and took an Uber to our hotel. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Portland Downtown Waterfront, which was the perfect location! Downtown Portland is very walkable, just be careful with your shoe choice on the beautiful, but uneven, cobblestone streets.

After checking into the hotel, we went to happy hour at local brewpub Gritty McDuff’s. We stumbled upon Gritty’s by accident, but were excited to find out that they brew their own beer, and have amazing wings. Seriously, try the the Cinnamon Chipotle dry rub. You will NOT regret it.

Later that night we had dinner at Gilbert’s Chowder House, which was recommended to us by a friend, and did not disappoint. Gilbert’s is a simple, small diner that feels like a local spot, even being right on the waterfront . We shared a lobster roll and clam chowder – both were heavenly.

Day 2 We woke up to a cold, rainy day, slightly missing Texas breakfast staple, breakfast tacos. Mason was able to track down a very random – albeit delicious – spot inside of an office building that served breakfast burritos, which were pretty dang good for being not in Texas 🙂

After breakfast, we rented a car and started the three-hour drive up to Bar Harbor, where we planned to stay for the next couple of days to hike in Acadia National Park. Despite the nonstop rain, the drive was beautiful. Texas doesn’t really get “fall”, but even growing up in the Midwest, I’ve never seen fall colors so vibrant.

We checked in at the Bluenose Inn, a cozy, classic hotel with a beautiful view of Frenchman Bay, and only a three-minute drive to the main streets of Bar Harbor. The quaint “downtown” instantly makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Features include Maine’s oldest bookstore, peaceful water views, access to whale-watching, and several streets of locally-owned restaurants and shops.


For being a small town, it was hard to narrow down where to go for dinner – everything looked amazing! We ended up at Thirsty Whale Tavern for all things local — seafood and beer. The rain finally let up but the wind was freezing, so we grabbed Apple Cider Margaritas (yummmm) to-go from Side Street Cafe, and headed back to the hotel.

Day 3 – Today was the best day. We woke up early to start our day of hiking in Acadia National Park, but had been instructed not to leave the island without having breakfast at Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast. Tip: Get here EARLY. We arrived at Jeannie’s around 7:30am — they don’t take reservations — and we waited about 30 minutes.

By the time we were seated, the line was down the block! Don’t worry though – the wait is well worth it, so long as you order Betty’s Blueberry Pancakes. Mason and I shared these along with own own breakfasts, and although they are plate-size and thick, I wish we each got our own, because they are that good!

Once we were stuffed, we drove 15 minutes to the Sand Beach entrance of Acadia National Park. During our trip, the park was doing a test run for a new vehicle reservation system (this will go into full effect in 2021), so we had reserved a certain time slot at this gate as soon we we knew we were going to Maine.

We got there early enough (9am) to get a spot in the parking lot, and made our way down to Sand Beach. I’ve always loved being. by the water, but there’s something extra peaceful for me about walking along a beach when it’s chilly.

From there, we hiked to Thunder Hole, and ended at Otter Point. This was an easy, 4-mile RT, fairly flat hike, with absolutely breathtaking views. This trail was pretty busy on the way back, but we felt very safe in terms of social distancing.

We had made a second reservation later that day to drive up to Cadillac Mountain, but unfortunately our park pass was literally blown out of our car by the wind, and by the time we were able to get a new one, we had missed our reservation window. This was frustrating at the time, but just gives us a great reason to go back!

Eventually we drove back to Portland, and ate a quick dinner before heading to the hotel.

Day 4 – After a leisurely morning, we drove over to Cape Elizabeth to check out the Portland Head Light, the oldest lighthouse in Maine, first lit in 1791! Although the gift shop and museum were closed, Fort Williams Park has 90 acres of coastal trails to stroll, as well as lobster and gelato food truck vendors in the parking lot.


Back in downtown Portland, we walked to High Roller Lobster Co., for our last — and best — lobster roll of the trip. Here, you can build your own roll, adding toppings from jalapeno mayo to avocado, to bacon, and I’m 99% sure you can’t go wrong with any of it.


We decided to take a bus and spend the rest of the day in Freeport, where we had found a few breweries to check out.

The bus dropped us off right in front of the first brewery: Maine Beer Company. The tasting room offers indoor and outdoor seating, by reservation only due to covid (as of October 2020). The space was really impressive, and almost felt more like an event venue than a brewery. The beer itself was good, but the vibe was a little too upscale for our taste.

It was a beautiful day, so we walked up the road to Stars & Stripes Brewing Company – a Veteran-owned and operated craft brewery that donates a percentage of their proceeds to veteran organizations.

Since Mason is in the Army, this is very close to our hearts and we instantly felt a connection here. Plus, their beer was incomparable. The Warrior’s Blueberry Wheat and the Semper Fi.PA were our our favorites, and the seasonal Warrior’s Pumpkin Wheat was out. of. this. world.

Day 5 – Before our flight, we had to make one last stop: Donuts! We love donuts, and had heard rave reviews of The Holy Donut. We can confirm, these donuts, made from potatoes, are delightful. We tried the sweet potato, pumpkin, chocolate cake, and toasted coconut, and loved them all.

Sadly, the Exchange Street (downtown) Portland location is now permanently closed due to covid (their last weekend open was when we were there), but they do have two other locations in Portland.

Clearly, we loved our spontaneous trip to Maine, and will be back as soon as possible!

Pura Vida | Costa Rica ~ Yoga Retreat with Invoke Yoga Studio

There have been several times I’ve cried on a plane. Most have been when I was leaving a person, or people, that I wouldn’t see for awhile. Two of the times have been leaving Costa Rica. I sat next to a woman on the plane who told me that she and her husband had spent several years living in Texas; she was a dentist, had closed her practice, and they were looking to start fresh. They looked at different cities in California, and even briefly considered living on a boat. She told me she had read about Costa Rica, and thought it might be the perfect fit. They decided to take a vacation to see if she was right — and have lived there ever since.

I cried hearing her story– as silently as possible, because it’s awkward to bawl your eyes out in front of strangers sitting uncomfortably close to you — because I understood. I knew what she felt, coming to a foreign place and experiencing the peacefulness, the beauty, and the kindness of strangers. I understood the overwhelming feeling of a place instantaneously feeling like it’s where you’re supposed to be.

In traveling to almost 20 countries and over 30 states, I’ve only felt this way in one place. Choosing to leave that feeling behind is something I can’t explain in a way other than it feels like losing a part of yourself. While I know that I haven’t actually lost that part of me; the carefree part – the ‘doesn’t need a schedule or new clothes or the perfect house or to accomplish 32479 things a day to feel fulfilled’, part – it feels out of reach. What I’ve realized, though, is that it doesn’t have to. The daily races against the clock, deadlines, things that don’t fulfill me – I don’t have to do them. I choose to.

Since returning to Texas, I’ve made a point to pay close attention to my conscious choices. I felt physically better than I had in months, in one week in Costa Rica: eating a clean diet, practicing yoga twice a day, and walking on the beach.

While I technically could attend two yoga classes a day back home, I (usually) choose to sleep in and miss the morning class, but have committed to practicing every evening. There isn’t a beach close by, but I’ve started to work a lunch-time walk into my daily routine, which also allows me to explore new places in Austin, including some healthy eating spots. I’m working towards my personal career goals, reading inspirational books, and spending extra time outside in the sun. I’m lucky enough to be marrying someone who supports my dream of one day living in Costa Rica, even though he hasn’t been there yet, himself. I’m making choices that the part of me I ‘left behind’ would be proud of.

The point of this rant, is that we all have choices, and going on this trip was one of the best I’ve ever made. I hope that this post serves as a reminder for someone, as we go into a holiday week full of pressures to set a beautiful table, cook delicious food, and cater to others, to choose to take time for yourself, as well.

Thank you to Jillian and Yvonne at Invoke Studio for leading such a peaceful week of practice, to the owners and staff at Encantada for hosting us and treating us like family, and to the group of like-minded yogis who reminded me every day during this trip, that there is so much good in the world – you just have to surround yourself with it.

Resort: Encantada Ocean Cottages
Planning/Host: Invoke Studio (Indianapolis)

Encantada Ocean Cottages Review | I attended a yoga retreat at Encantada in early November, and my experience was better than I could’ve imagined. On our last evening, I shared with our group that often we work ideas of what an experience will be like up in our heads, and end up finding ourselves disappointed, but this trip, and our stay at Encantada was a hundred times even better than what I’d imagined. The resort is so beautiful and peaceful – truly an escape from reality, while still allowing you to be on strong wifi if you choose 😉 Located directly on the beach, the setting is intimate, and we had the private pool, gardens, and beach to ourselves. (This would be a perfect honeymoon spot). The bedrooms were sparkling clean, the AC worked very well, and the beds were extremely comfortable. We had delicious, healthy meals prepared for us every day, using fresh ingredients and were able to try several different local dishes. The resort provided access to excursions including a scenic hike to a waterfall + clay bath, horseback riding on the beach, massages, a day trip to Manuel Antonio, chakra bowls, surfing lessons, and more. The owners are onsite often, and able to help with anything you need. The staff speaks both English and Spanish, and are the most kind-hearted, hospitable people. Don’t forget to ask Daniel to make you his famous Spicy Margarita! 

Austin City Limits

One of the things I was excited about when we found out we were moving to Austin was being exposed to new music. After all, Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World! Whether you’re looking for an intimate show at a dive, seeing a popular artist at a stadium, or spending the weekend at a festival, Austin’s got it.

Austin is home to festivals of all kinds, one of the most known being Austin City Limits. This fest spans over two weekends, starting at noon and ending at 10pm each day, and is held at Zilker Park — which is, you guessed it — just outside of the city. If you’re not super familiar with the festival scene, ACL offers a much more chill environment compared to other festivals I’ve been to, with a diverse lineup of artists, Austin must-try restaurants, and elements like a wine garden and Insta-worthy backdrop setups. Even the crowd was diverse, ranging from families with young kids, to older adults.

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Depending on your commitment to the artists (and the Texas heat), you can buy 3-day or 1-day passes. One interesting thing about this festival is that there are no camping options – so be sure to secure an AirBnB or hotel. You’ll be glad to be able to clean up after spending all day outside! Since the fest is generally held the first two weekends in October, you can pretty much expect it to be toasty. (We got lucky,  and got an amazing 80 degree and overcast day on the second weekend!) The park is essentially a giant grass field, with trees here and there, and some covered areas like the beer tent, but otherwise, you’ll be exposed to the sun all day. Thankfully, the festival is all about sustainability and encourages you to BYO water bottle, and refill it at one of the several hydration stations.

Coming from the eyes of an event planner, I thought the festival was extremely well organized in terms of layout, getting to and from the park, and the convenience of loading money onto your wristband (which is also your ticket) so you don’t have to carry around cash or cards. They also offer a free shuttle from Republic Square Park in downtown Austin, which we took, allowing us to avoid parking and major traffic.

We went on Sunday of weekend two, and got in the gates around 1pm. The busiest entry time each day is between 2-4pm, and we wanted a full day’s experience. Once you’re in the park, it’s basically a huge circle of stages, restaurant booths, drinking spots, and areas to shop for merchandise or souvenirs.

There was an artist painting a mural that caught our eye, and we watched him for a few minutes until a volunteer from one of the booths approached us about becoming donors for people with blood cancer. All we had to do was swab our cheek, fill out some paperwork, and then they call you if you’re a match. It felt like such a random thing to do at a festival, but we figured why not do something good?

Afterwards, we headed over to one of the stages to watch Mallrat, a newer Australian singer who was actually pretty rad. One of the best parts about festivals is being able to wander around and see artists that you’ve never heard of, and at the end of the fest, having found so much new music that you love.

Throughout the day, we saw Rebelution, Banks, Lizzo, and Mumford & Sons. I’d been wanting to see Mumford live for years, and we were able to get really close to the stage, which was so cool, and their performance was amazing. One of the things I loved the most about this festival were the different genres — it wasn’t just EDM, or rap, or rock, but a little bit of everything for everyone.

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In between bands, we got to try out some of the different restaurants. Unlike a lot of festivals, the food options at ACL are super yummy. People come from all over the world for this festival — we met people from New Zealand and Europe — so Austin does what it does second-best to music, and shows off its epic food scene.

Some of the vendors included regular favorites of mine, such as Torchy’s Tacos and Juiceland, which you definitely can’t go wrong with, but I opted to skip because I already eat at those places a ton.

For lunch, I had the Long Tall Texan grilled cheese from Burro Cheese Kitchen, which was delicious. I’m all about cheese, all the time, ha! For dinner, we got tacos and shared a cookie dough bowl from Skull and Cake Bones which was basically a giant bowl of cookie dough – aka everything I’ve ever dreamed of.

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The only part of the day that was not so chill, was for Lizzo. Basically, no one could’ve predicted she would blow up like she did, so she wasn’t performing on the main stage. This caused an insane crowd at her stage, which was definitely not physically placed in an area of the park to accommodate that many people.

If you watch the video below, you can see how far back we were. Notice that you can barely hear her (even though after the first weekend, they realized this was going to be an issue, and used the speakers and screens from another stage to project her performance, in addition to her stage). The only crowd this size that I could compare this to, is Times Square on New Year’s Eve! Despite the craziness, it was so cool to see this many people coming together to see one artist, and out of all of the ones there, I’m so glad it was for her.

Between artists, we explored the Beer Hall, where they had craft beers both on tap and in cans.

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We also strolled through the Wine Lounge, where you could find shade, a live radio broadcast doing artist interviews, and obviously, wine.

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All in all, my first ACL experience was awesome, and I’m already excited for next year! Do you have any other festivals you’d recommend? Any questions about ACL? Leave them here!

Life Update

That awkward moment when you look at your last blog post dated May 30th. Oops. Time flies when you’re having fun. Or when you’re uprooting your entire life and starting over in a new place. Either way 😉

Clearly, there’s been a TON going on over here, so let me fill y’all in.

In my last post, I mentioned five or six hundred times about how much I loved Charleston, and how Mason and I were going back at the end of June. Well, we didn’t go back, but we did get really closing to moving there! The day I got back, I started looking for jobs. I was tired of living in Indiana, dreading the upcoming winter, and fully ready for a new adventure.

Then came the plot twist. While I was busy interviewing with companies in Charleston, Mason’s company presented him with an opportunity in Texas. This was completely unexpected, and we went back and forth about which direction (literally) we were going to go. Long story short, we are now residents of Georgetown, Texas, the cutest small town ever, about 25 miles north of Austin, and couldn’t be happier.

Once Mason got the official offer, we bought last minute flights to Austin to “celebrate our anniversary,” (read: look for houses and interview for jobs for me), and ended up getting ENGAGED while we were here! Austin instantly became so special for us, and the perfect place to start our next chapter. Within just a few days, we found a house, I accepted a job, and we got a moving timeline nailed down.

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Twenty-one days later, we moved. It’s been a whirlwind, and not without some unexpected twists, but it already feels like Georgetown has always been home. We’ve met some amazing friends, discovered new favorite places to eat, drink, and shop, and are loving the warm weather.

Stay tuned for more on Georgetown and the Austin area. Talk to y’all soon!

Ch’yallston, South Carolina

Y’all…I’ve found the place that makes my heart happy.

After years of wanting to visit Charleston, one of my best friends and I decided that since we hadn’t seen each other since her wedding, we were due for a girls weekend, and chose to go to my now-favorite city. It was such a fun place to explore together, and catch up on everything. There’s something so special about a friendship where you can not see each other for a long period of time, but when you reunite, it’s like that time apart never happened.

Charleston (or how they say it in the South, Ch’yallston), has everything I’ve ever wanted in a city: a cute, historic downtown, the beach, proximity to other places I love (Savannah, GA, Hilton Head, SC, Raleigh, NC), and year-round warm weather. Say what you want about the heat and humidity; I’ll take it over a midwest winter any day.

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Day One

We arrived in Charleston late afternoon, so our first stop after dropping our bags at the cutest AirBnB, was dinner at Leon’s Oyster Shop. This place is adorable, and had amazing food. I got a mahi sandwich and frose’. What a perfect way to start vacation 😉

Of course, I had a laundry list of places to check out, so next was The Rooftop at the Vendue. Even though it was dark, it was cool to check out the city from above, while sipping spicy margaritas, of course. The one thing to keep in mind when coming here, is that the only way to the top is by an elevator which holds 8 people, so there can be a bit of a wait at times. Regardless, totally worth it!

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Day Two

A little background: I lived in North Carolina for about a year and a half, right after graduating college, which is when I fell in love with all of the best parts of the South; namely the food.

That being said, when I’m back, I have to visit my favorites. We had breakfast at Bojangles, aka the home of the best fast-food biscuits you’ll ever eat, and ironically the only restaurant within walking distance of our AirBnB. Some things are just meant to be 😉

Next, we ventured to Sullivan’s Island. There are several beaches in Charleston, but we ended up going here both days since it was closest to where we were staying (Mount Pleasant area), and wasn’t at all crowded. Each part of the beach is a certain “station”, and we were dropped off at Station 22. We saw a LOT of jellyfish and a few crabs washed up on the shore, which is normal for the area. The area is really cute, with decent shopping and several restaurants.

We ate lunch at The Obstinate Daughter, just a quick walk from the beach. I cannot recommend this place enough. We both ordered the shrimp roll, pictured below, and I almost cried when I saw they had my favorite beer on the menu! Life was good today.

Later, we went downtown to explore. Some must-sees when in Charleston include the Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park, and Rainbow Row. These are within close proximity to each other, and in between you’ll get to check out some of historic downtown Charleston. See why I’m falling in love with this place, yet?

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Tonight, we had dinner at Paw Paws, (low key probably gained 10lbs on this trip), and it was unreal. We sat at the bar and shared buttermilk biscuits, blue crab dip, and fried brussels. *Drools over memories*

Afterwards, we took a stroll around the city market, where vendors set up booths with all kinds of handmade goods from art to leather bags to jewelry and food. I bought a small painting of the pineapple fountain, since it’s an iconic spot in Charleston, and plan to hang it up in my home office, along with the rest of the art from my travels!

We capped off the night at the Market Pavilion Hotel Rooftop Bar, and wow, this place is like the hidden Vegas inside Charleston, with gorgeous views, an awesome DJ, and people watching.

Day Three

After taking several expensive Ubers and waiting way too long for each one (I’m not sure if Charleston just doesn’t have a lot of Uber drivers or what, but no matter where we were – Mount Pleasant, Downtown, or the beach – it took at least 20 minutes for an Uber to get to us, every time, and they were $$$), we decided to rent a car for our last day, since there was so much we still wanted to do.

This also allowed us to drive through Cookout, another Southern fast food favorite of mine, and then head back to Sullivan’s Island. Parking was free and fairly easy, which was surprising to me in such a popular area.

Later, we met another friend of mine for dinner at Tavern and Table in Mount Pleasant, which was ah-mazing. We shared apps (my favorite way to do dinner), including the crab dip (duh), cornbread, and deep fried deviled eggs. The Mount Pleasant area is definitely up-and-coming, and is adorable. It’s right on the water, and several restaurants, breweries, and shops call it home. This would be a great area to stay in if you want to avoid the higher prices of downtown.

Day Four

We spent the morning at our AirBnB’s neighborhood pool, and then headed off to Boone Hall Plantation. Also in Mount Pleasant, this is one of the oldest plantations in the country, and was absolutely stunning. It was so interesting to learn about the history, and that the current owners still live in the plantation home today! Fun fact: the house was Allie’s parents summer home in The Notebook, AND Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ wedding venue!

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The home tour guide was hilarious, and we loved exploring the gardens and grounds. If you’re a bird, I’m a bird, amiright?

Before we got to Charleston, I made reservations at Husk, one of the most talked about restaurants in the area. (They also have locations in Nashville, Savannah, and Greenville, as well). I’m pretty go with the flow when it comes to choosing where to eat, but Husk is known for their cheeseburger, and I wasn’t about to miss out on that! The restaurant is in an old house, and is a very classy setting. 10/10 would recommend, and definitely get the cheeseburger.

Walking off the food was necessary, so we shopped along King Street for awhile, and then, sadly, went to the airport.

I know I already said this was my new favorite city, but seriously, if you haven’t been yet, GO! My boyfriend and I are going back at the end of June, and I seriously can’t wait. There are still a ton of things I want to do and see there, and it’s just such a magical place. Until next time!

 

10 Things to Know About Turks & Caicos

Ready to feel like you just stepped into your favorite Instagram filter? Book your flight to Turks & Caicos, now.

There’s something about the Caribbean that makes you instantly slow down, relax, and forget about the hectic schedule you maintain at home. Maybe it’s the sunshine and crystal clear water, the fact that everyone lives on ‘island time’….or maybe it’s the lack of air conditioning. Whatever it is, it makes you wonder why you booked that return flight; (my current predicament).

To curb my return-to-the-states blues, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things to know before visiting this gorgeous island – plus a few bonus tips! Enjoy 😉

Turks Top 10

  1. Turks and Caicos is an archipelago, consisting of the Turks Islands and the Caicos Islands. Providenciales, which is home to the only international airport, is the most visited, followed by Grand Turk, which has the island’s only cruise ship port. Day trips to the smaller islands are available by boat or plane, but if your main concern is the beach, just stay where you are! Bonus: The currency is USD, and most businesses take credit cards, however bring cash for taxis and tips. 
  2. Speaking of taxis – they’re crazy expensive. Drivers charge per person what a ride in the states would normally cost: a seven minute ride from our AirBnB to Grace Bay Beach was $21 ($7 per person). Renting a car is an option, but since T&C is a British Territory, they drive on the opposite side of the road — and the car — so we bit the bullet on the $$$ taxis. We met a driver named Mr. Ron on our first night, and he ended up driving us our whole trip!
  3. Water sports are the main activity, and they have everything from parasailing to dinner cruises to horseback riding into the ocean! We opted to just enjoy the beaches, but if you want to do any of this, be sure to book through your hotel or a tourism office, and not the people who come up to you on the beach, as they aren’t always legit.IMG-1523
  4. Due to the climate, very little grows on the islands and most things are imported. Read: expensive. We bought some necessities at a grocery store, but even there, things were 3x the cost we’re used to. I suggest packing protein bars or other snacks to bring to the beach. Restaurants are pricey, but worth every penny. I had fish for almost every meal, and it was delicious every time. Bonus: Gratuity is included at some restaurants, but large tips generally aren’t expected. Check out the end of this post for my favorite spots!
  5. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen & bug spray. A travel-size bottle of either will cost $10-15 once you get to the island, and you’ll need twice the amount of sunscreen since the sun is so strong in the Caribbean.
  6. Grace Bay Beach is the most popular area on Providenciales. Other than the beautiful white sand and turquoise water beaches, this is where you’ll find most of the island’s resorts, shopping, bars, and restaurants. Despite this being the main spot for tourists, it wasn’t crowded at all, and we were able to use beach chairs at one of the resorts every day. Bonus: All beaches on T&C are free to access! Coconut drink pictured below was purchased at Seven Stars Resort & Spa.IMG-2925
  7. Wednesday nights are the night at Da Conch Shack. Conch (pronounced ‘konk’) is a snail, and one of the things the island is most known for. You can order anything from conch salad to conch fritters (pictured below). The best way I can describe the taste is rubbery. I probably wouldn’t eat it not deep fried…but when in T&C, you have to try it! Bonus: Arrive before it gets busy, around 6pm, to get a table closest to the beach for the best sunset views.IMG-2316IMG-2500
  8. Thursday nights are the Fish Fry at Bight Park, which you do NOT want to miss! This was my favorite night on the island, and everyone gets together to enjoy the festivities. The locals put on this amazing event which is more like a festival, with several vendors cooking the T&C specialties, snapper and grouper. Other vendors included an ice cream and donut truck, Turks Head Brewing Co., jewelry, clothing and art. The DJ was really interactive and fun, and the night ended with a parade! IMG-2747
  9. The busiest time of year on the island is December-April. We arrived on April 30th, and just missed the spring break rush. The beaches were fairly deserted, which was convenient, and the weather was still perfect. Bonus: The forecast might predict rain or storms (ours showed storms for all 5 days we were there), but it only rained once for a few minutes! This is normal in T&C, so don’t worry! Bonus 2: The PLS airport gets super busy on Saturdays and Sundays, so if you want to avoid long lines, try to book your flights during the week!
  10. We asked locals for the best spots to eat, and you can find a list of my favorites below!

Mango Reef | Dinner | Super cute spot right on the water. I had the Parmesan & Lemon crusted Mahi Mahi and it was so yummy.

Lemon 2 Go | Coffee/Breakfast | This was our daily spot for coffee, and the best way to start the day! Their sister restaurant next door is called the Sandbox, where they serve lunch & dinner.

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Retreat Kitchen | Brunch | This vegetarian cafe is so cute, and right next door to a yoga studio 🙂

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Big Al’s | Lunch | Delicious fish tacos!

SANDBOX | Lunch | Salads, burgers, etc.

 Seven Stars | Beachside drinks

C-bus or Bust: Columbus, Ohio – June 2018.

Calling all Columbus, OH brides – this post is for you! My best friend got married to the love of her live on June 23rd in #Columbus, and I couldn’t have been happier to stand by her side as a bridesmaid.

The trip: An easy (and boring) three-hour drive from Indy.

The digs: We stayed at a Courtyard by Marriott about 10 minutes from the venue. I will almost always book an AirBnB over a hotel these days, but I couldn’t find anything in a convenient location to everywhere we needed to be all weekend. The property was nice – clean, super friendly staff, and we were able to check in at noon instead of 3pm, which was a huge benefit since I had to basically go straight to the rehearsal after we arrived.

Rehearsal dinner: La Scala. From the road, this place looks like it should be in Beverly Hills, and don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely nice – but not stuffy. The food was really good, and the groom’s mom put together the cutest goody bags full of custom-made candies and cookies with the bride and groom’s names/wedding date on them! Bravo, Tiff! 🙂

Ceremony + Reception: Both parts of the wedding took place at Watersedge Event and Conference Center. As a former wedding planner, I highly, highly highly recommend having your ceremony and reception in the same location to avoid any confusion or weird time gap between the two, if at all possible. The venue is beautiful, especially the outdoor garden where the ceremony took place, and the deck, which was open for the cocktail hour + reception.

Hair & Makeup: The Spa at River Ridge. Until now, I’ve never had my hair and makeup professionally done for an event. I was pretty relaxed about it all, and talked to my hairdresser at home about how to arrive to the salon. She advised me to arrive with clean-ish (can be day 2) DRY hair. I hate washing my hair, so I was super glad she told me that it’s actually easier to style hair that’s a little dirty. The girls who did my hair and makeup for the wedding were beyond sweet and gave me the exact updo and makeup I’d been dreaming of.

Michelle_Joy_Photography_Waters_Edge_Wedding24Photography: Michelle Joy Photography

Extras: Since we had wedding activities going on the whole weekend, we didn’t do much exploring Columbus, but I’ve been here several times before and there are definitely some cute areas to check out.

The Short North down by the OSU campus is very trendy and more upscale than you would guess for a college neighborhood. Amenities include several bars, Urban Outfitters, ETC

Dublin: Corn + Bunny Statues: Okay, this might sound weird, but there’s this park in Dublin (a suburb of Columbus), which houses a ton of bunny and corn statues. It’s actually super cute, and would be fun for special occasion photos like prom or a baby announcement, or to just go and have a picnic…and be surrounded by giant corn. That’s normal, right? #midwestisbest

Jeni’s Ice Cream: Now making it’s way into grocery stores, Jeni’s is super yummy. The lavender ice cream is unique and refreshing, and the shop is adorable!