Maui has so much amazing food, it is hard to narrow down my favorite bites! We spent 10 days on this tropical island paradise and we ate & drank our way around Wailea, Kaanapali, Napili, Paia, Lahaina and Hana. Here I am sharing my favorite restaurants, snacks, dishes, cocktails–from breakfast to lunch to dinner.
The 8th Annual Taste Awards was held this past month and I was thrilled to win the Best International Program Award! My Eat Like a Local show was the grand prize winner in this category of nominees from producers all over the world– I am honored to be among such an impressive lineup of travel producers.
If you haven’t heard of them, The Taste Awards are very prestigious awards for the food & travel industry. Their website most accurately describes them: “The Annual TASTE AWARDS are the original awards for the Lifestyle Entertainment Industry, and the highest awards for creators, producers, hosts, and directors of Lifestyle Programs, Series, Shows & Cinema. Also known as the Tasty Awards, they are the premier broadcast awards show celebrating the year’s best achievements in Food, Fashion, Home and Lifestyle programs on Television, in Film, in Online Video, and in Apps, Radio, Podcasts and Photography.”
They cover quite a lot of programming, and this year Jamie Oliver, Carla Hall, Vice, Tastemade, Outside, MasterChef and many more big names received awards. The red carpet ceremony was held here in Los Angeles on the rooftop of the 60 Hotel. Unfortunately, I was out of the country on a travel shoot (comes with the territory) so I wasn’t able to attend. However I did receive this (heavy) gold medal award and of course, I wear it constantly. 😉
My Eat Like a Local series has been close to my heart (more like my stomach…) because I strongly believe that food is an authentic tool into a culture. My series has 74 videos, ranging from outdoor feasts on the Montana prairies, to night markets in Taiwan to the finest Michelin restaurants in Europe. The preparation is the most important part, so I’ve filmed episodes on cooking classes in Tuscany, going to markets with locals in Papua New Guinea and learning how to make dumpling by hand in China. To me, food is the great equalizer and through this series, I was able to meet passionate chefs, generous home cooks and excited locals that wanted to share their favorite foods, and ultimately their country with the world.
One experience that epitomizes how food can open doors, occurred in Colombia. I was filming a series in Cartagena, with one episode on food. A local family of 3 girls, a doting dad and perma-smiling mom, invited myself and my cameraman, Justin, to their home for dinner. Their modest house was outfitted in blinding but festive, blinking Christmas lights, and the music was on & doors wide open when we arrived.
Justin and I couldn’t speak any Spanish and this lovely family didn’t speak English, but that didn’t stop us from sharing a lot of laughs, miming out stories and feeling the love & hospitality of Colombia. The young girls toured me through their rooms, the oldest so proud of having her own room. One giggly teen showed me photos of boys on her phone, and cracking up as we both swiped through photos of actors.
I fried plantains with the matriarch, learning the process of smashing them first and sampling them to make sure they were crispy. Their mild mannered dad arrived a little later to a chorus of excited daughters, which showered him with kisses as he walked through the door from work. I was able to be a part of this true slice of life–learn about a local life, about Colombian traditions and about family, all under the roof of what started out as strangers. And all this happened because we were sharing a dinner together. The food was loving prepared but I learned so much more beyond the recipes. Food was just the beginning of the conversation, and I still am in touch with the daughters even today.
If you are curious, you can see highlights of this dinner in my Food of Cartagena video below.
Maui has no shortage of hotels, resorts, and B&Bs, but if you want a truly unique, natural, boutique resort that has as much history as it does coastline, Napili Kai might be the right fit.
I stayed here in February for 3 nights and I couldn’t get over the location! The Polynesian resort occupies a beautiful oceanside cliff and sandy bay–with postcard-worthy palm-tree studded beach. Plenty to do, there’s an 18 hole putting course, massage, a number of pools, and the delicious indoor/outdoor Sea House Grill, which serves up local catch & creative takes on Hawaiian dishes.
I really loved our oceanfront studio room, which had its own kitchen and a balcony that gave us front row seats to the sunset each night.
The resort is intimate enough that you can make it your own and walk through lush grounds felt like a step in the jungle. I’d definitely recommend this resort to couples, families, and groups of friends. When there, I noticed that many guests return year after year, and I can understand why.
In February, I had the honor of speaking at the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure show and I have to say, it blew me away. I’ve spoken at a dozen or so travel conferences around world, including some you may be familiar with like Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX), TTG/TTI, Eye for Travel, Social Media Week and Travel Blogger Elevator, but I really enjoyed mixing it up by speaking directly to consumers versus professionals in the travel industry.
Of course, I cherish my travel industry “colleagues,” and love learning, sharing and growing in this tight-knit community, but there was something really refreshing about speaking to the enthusiastic traveler. I mean, every one of us in the industry is started as just someone that loved to travel, so at the the LA Travel & Adventure show, I felt like I was speaking to “my people.” The chairs quickly filled with attentive faces, I saws notes frantically being scribbled down, and then hands shooting up to ask engaging questions like “when is the best time of year to go there?” and “what tour operator do you recommend?” At the end, I stayed around to talk individually with those that had more to ask. It is such a thrill to see how my experiences directly can improve someone else’s travels. In the end, that is why I do all of this!
My focus was on the “Top Ten Bucket List Experiences and How to Do Them”–a daunting top ten list, I have to say. It was particularly hard as I have had probably a HUNDRED experiences that I’d consider “bucket list,” and every time I travel to a new place, I find out that there are hundreds more! However, I wanted to keep this talk personal and meaningful so I only chose adventures that I had PERSONALLY experienced.
Let me preface this the way I prefaced my speech–I clearly haven’t been everywhere and don’t know about about every experience. As much as I try, I will never see and do everything. But at this rate, with 50 countries under my belt and a pretty packed non-stop travel schedule for the past 10 years, I think I’ll have a pretty good handle on it when I’m 100 years old.
I also am not being paid to recommend any of the destinations or tour operators that I suggest in this article nor in my speech.
How I chose to organize my top ten was focused more on the type of experience than the actual specific destination. I feel that certain travel experiences transcend the specific destination, though certain places enable you to get that experience (make sense?). For each bucket list experience, I gave specific examples where I went to have those memorable moments.
Below I’ll outline a handful of my bucket list adventures and some related video but you’ll just have to come to my next presentation to hear the rest! I will talk about #1, #2, #3, and #5 in my top ten list.
#1. The “Get Out of Your Comfort Zone” Trip: Papua New Guinea
I am not saying that you need to be uncomfortable on every trip, but just once, choose a destination, an adventure or a tour that might push your boundaries. Maybe it’ll involve camping outdoors, trekking or pushing yourself in some physical way. Or maybe it’ll be more about an emotional stretch–for instance volunteering at an orphanage or animal rescue center, or living without the luxuries and amenities of the modern world, as many do.
The one destination that had a profound impact on me in this way, was Papua New Guinea. As soon as I landed, I had that overwhelming sense of “wow, I am in a totally different world.” Few roads meant that we used charter planes to access different villages. I was traveling on a private journey with Swain Destinations, a luxe tour operator that has run a lot of tours in PNG and know how to facilitate incredible experiences. In each of the location in PNG, welcoming locals brought us into the daily markets, told us stories through dance, and shared their belief system, traditions and everyday life.
For one part of the trip, I lived in an open air lodge with electricity only a few hours a day, cold water and one option for every meal. I made bedfellows with some interesting wildlife a few times but in general, I enjoyed the simplicity of it! I was staying along the Karawari River, exploring the Sepik region, the lowlands of Papua New Guinea. Each day we took a river boat to experience life on the river and to stop at small villages and meet the people that called them home. I tried my hand at chopping sago palm, which I later helped form into sago pancakes with a village mom. I was granted access in the male-only spirit houses, an integral part of transition into manhood for the village’s male youths. I even took a GoPro selfie with a group of beaming children and wove baskets with a local teenager–and all this without sharing a common language!
The experience put so much into perspective for me in terms of what we value as humans and what we need to not only survive, but to thrive. I boarded my return plane a changed woman.
#2. The Animal Trip: South Africa & Churchill, Manitoba
For me, this is a very important one as we as a race are continuously depleting the chances for survival for many of our planet’s most amazing creatures. I will try to stay positive and focus on what we can change, but I do believe that understanding the need for conservation efforts is the first step to improving the situation.
There are many tours and experiences out there that will give guests up close experiences with wild animals but I strongly encourage you to look deeply into the activity that you book. There are many that aren’t following the conservation guidelines or respecting the wildlife, the land or the local people. I fortunately found Swain Destinations, which took me to Kruger National Park where I was able to see lionesses and cubs, lounging cheetahs, grazing rhino, stoic elephants and lionesses with cubs. But they also made sure that the guides were from the local villages, that they supported local anti-poaching and conservation organizations and the hotel property was involved in environmental sustainability efforts.
I also have to mention experiencing the polar bears in their natural element: the tundra. Tauck, a well known luxury tour operator, organizes trips up to the very remote Churchill, Manitoba, only accessible by train or plane. Churchill is the “capital of Polar Bears” as it is in the midst of where polar bear territory. We were able to get a close up view of these majestic, endangered bears emerging from hibernation. I learned so much about their life cycle, how they hunt, raise young and how they are struggling to cope with our warming climate that I hope I can be an ambassador for their plight.
#3 The Road Trip: Switzerland
I think most people have done a road trip or two, whether it is a day jaunt to a neighboring town or a long haul to Grandma’s house. But I’m referring to a longer road trip, where you experience a totally new environment, moving from point A to point B. The reason I like road trips is because there is so much focus on the journey. What you see out the windows is often the true look into the local life of the destination. You’ll see cars going to work, vendors selling roadside food and will pass small town life in between.
What I also really enjoy is being able to pull that car off the main road and taking a side route, meandering through in little village, stopping for a bite at mom & pop restaurant–you can do what you want! It’s that flexibility and spontaneity that we don’t often find in our daily lives and this is one of the rare opportunities where the unexpected can be much better than what you had planned.
As I write this, visions of driving across Switzerland in the sunny Autumn weather springs into mind. Turning a corner and gasping at the snow covered mountains, or passing young cows jingling their brass bells or getting lost on a medieval carriage road and realizing it might be the most magical road you’ve ever seen–these images won’t leave my memory! My cameraman Sam and I drove a spectacular route: from Geneva to Lausanne, on to Vevey and Crans-Montana, then Zermatt and ultimately, Basel. We went from a cosmopolitan French influenced metropolis to a bustling university city to historic lakeside village. Of course the alpine village of Zermatt was breathtaking and the culturally rich Basel felt like the epicenter of cool, modern life. Yet it was all those moments in between and the unexpected stops–even the car train that took us through the insides of a giant mountain–that painted a real-life picture of Switzerland.
#5. The Travel Back in Time Trip: Egypt
You may think that humanity today is intelligent but take a look at what the Egyptians were doing in 3000 BC. There are many ancient civilizations with artifacts, architecture and visible impact still accessible today. However to me the Pyramids of Giza, the Step Pyramid of Djoser, Luxor Temple, the Valley of the Kings, the tomb of King Tut and the Temple of Dendara were each so impactful, I have to recommend a trip to Egypt for your bucket list. The fact that you can see all of them on the same trip is truly awe-inspiring.
I traveled with the very reputable Abercrombie & Kent, a tour operator that at the time in 2014, employed over 300 locals on the ground in Egypt. This not only made the tours, the guides and the experience feel seamless, it also added to the sense of safety in this often tumultuous country. Your view of humanity will be forever changed.
I have to stop myself before I write a novel about these Top Ten Bucket List Experiences but I hope this gives those of you that weren’t at the LA Travel and Adventure show, a little taste of what was discussed.
If you want to learn more about my travels, check out my Youtube series and subscribe!
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll answer you!
Oh, and check out this fun video that my friend Sarah Dandashy of AskaConcierge made just after my talk. She is a go-getter and glad I got some of the energy of the day on video!
This beach resort is an oasis. It is truly Hawaiian, yet has amazing pools, fabulous rooms, a pristine sandy beach, a spa and incredible restaurants. Beautiful to walk through yet delicious, luxurious, attentive and intimate–Four Seasons Maui knows how to make you feel like you are the only people in this tropical paradise.
Don’t miss Ferraro’s for exquisite outdoor dining, the Spa for their outdoor Hale treatments and a cabana at the Serenity pool. If you are adventurous, I LOVED the Outrigger Canoe experience in the early morning.
This is my ultimate guide to an incredible country: Switzerland! I spend two weeks on a road trip, and I take you with me–showing you where to eat, stay, what to drink and see and how to experience the best of the best!
Starting in the posh Geneva where I visited markets, ate amazing Michelin cuisine, took a steamship cruise and river ferry and saw the UN. Next we cruised along the coast of Lake Geneva, stopping at adorable villages like Saint Saphorin, sampling wines of Lavaux, staying over in fun cities of Vevey and Lausanne and heading into the hills on a vintage train to make cheese and roam the alps in Chateaux D’Oex.
Cheese. Lake fish. Chasselas grapes. Chevreuil. Mushrooms. There’s so much good food in the Lake Geneva region, you need to come with an appetite! I toured through Vevey’s Farmer’s Market, the farms of the Pays D’enhaut, tasting the cheeses of Château-d’Oex, Michelin restaurants L’Auberge de L’Onde & La Brasserie at the Royal Savoy Hotel and sipped wines in Lavaux. Don’t miss the lake fish, the family run wineries and vineyards in Lavaux, like Domaine du Croix Duplex, and the amazing cheeses!
A mix of culture, history, luxury, great food, iconic sites and lakeside views–it’s not too hard to have a perfect day ins Geneva. I toured through this charming city, which feels more like a village, in order to share my favorite spots with you. The Old Town, or Vieille Ville, the Carouge neighborhood, […]
February can be a hard month. The best of the winter season has past—the coziness of the holidays and chestnuts roasting on an open fire are long gone. The excitement of the New Year in January has faded away and it isn’t March yet, so you can’t quite say Spring is around the corner.
You’re stuck in the lull of winter and perhaps you need a pick-me-up, so what better than a winter getaway? Wouldn’t that be nice…but I know what you’re thinking—you just took that vacation when you had time off or you broke your budget on gifts for family and friends—don’t stress about the finances. There are weekend getaways that will give you the reboot you need at a cost you can afford.
For the East Coaster
It’s snowing and it’s freezing. You knew it would be like this when you moved to this side of the country, so it’s time to embrace it. And although it would be nice to rejuvenate with some Vitamin D on a sandy beach, it can be equally as restorative to get out of town, clear the mind, and slow down life in a winter wonderland—just not the one you might be used to.
- A Getaway House, Southern New Hampshire & Upstate New York
A Getaway House is the place for you. A Getaway House is a tiny, flagship house that provides a 2-4 person stay (depending on the house) with modern amenities for cooking and sleeping. It’s solely surrounded by nature—trees, lakes, rocks, and dirt.
These cabins allow you the full ability to immerse in nature and yourself or whomever you’re with. The minimalistic environment forces you to explore—whether that’s adventuring on a through the trees on a walk, taking an icy hike in the nearby mountains, getting lost in a book inside the cabin, home-making each of your meals, or having a never-ending conversation around the campfire at night. Although prices change according to day of the week, any Getaway House you choose will not cost over 129$/night and can cost you as low is 89$/night
- Maine Huts & Trails, Kingfield ME
So the Getaway House seems nice, but you might want something a little more structured. You’re a free spirit who wants to get in touch with nature, but you don’t just want to wander around the woods—you want a trail. You don’t want to cook for yourself when you’re on a getaway—you want your meals. So if you’re looking for a little less self-guiding and are willing to do a little more spending, Maine Huts & Trails is the way to go.
These ‘huts’ are less hut-ty than the Getaway House for sure. They’re larger and contain more rooms (i.e. a living room and a gear-drying room) because they hold more people—the catch is guests stay in shared bunkrooms (an opportunity to be social?). If you’d like more privacy however, private bunkrooms are available in each hut as well for a pricier cost.
Your list of activity possibilities ranges from fatbiking, to hiking (on many trails that are marked off and have signs) to Nordic skiing to snowshoeing. If you like to adventure more than relax—there will be no shortage here. 3 meals are provided and there are options for guided trips as well in case you’re nervous about venturing out on your own. Depending on date/day of the week/extra amenities you want, you can stay here for as low as 130$/night.
- Glamping/Airbnb, You Choose!
There are so many summer towns in New England—from Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard to the Hamptons. Many of the property owners want to take advantage of their vacant houses and so they put them up online to be rented at extremely cheap prices due to the off-season. You can hop on these beautiful and fabulous homes this winter for a quick getaway and get out of it truly what you want. If you just want a home a way from home to relax and getaway—you can do it. There are also places near parks and forests where you could figure out a DIY few days and research trails and things to do in the area. Regardless, this option is truly what you make of it, but should really be taken advantage of while the prices are so low this winter!
So, whichever place you choose to go, you’ll be making the most of the season and redefining the stigma associated with the month of February. And the best part is, you will have made your getaway happen without too much spending—so no buyer’s remorse! Anyway, whether you’re taking on an adventure or cozying up to relax, have fun in your newest and very affordable ~winter wonderland~
Happy winter and happy travels!
If you haven’t visited Palm Springs yet, you need to go. It is like no other place I’ve ever been. And this little boutique hotel is the perfect oasis for your exploration in the desert. The Monkey Tree Hotel has retro charm, spacious & stylish rooms, great breakfast, fun pools & ideal location in Palm Springs. I have a perfect weekend away, lounging in the floating flamingos, enjoying free Sangria at the tiki bar, using their hot/cold tubs & sauna and just hanging our 1960s theme room.
This hotel has a whole lot of history too! Designed in 1960 by Albert Frey, the Monkey Tree Hotel was a favorite among the Hollywood glamorous set. JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Katherine Hepburn, the Beatles… the list goes on. Ask the husband & wife owners about this–they know all the 60s gossip!