If you live in Washington, chances are you’ve heard of the San Juan Islands. The islands are between Washington State and Vancouver Island, Canada. Surrounded by scenic shorelines, mountain vistas, endless Evergreen Trees and beautiful views. This is definitely a place to visit for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The three most popular islands are Orcas, (where my husband and I went for our mini honeymoon – read about that trip here), San Juan and Lopez Island. About a 2 hour drive north from Seattle, you’ll head to Anacortes to catch a ferry and will then experience one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the state (seriously, the views are incredible!). I highly recommend making a ferry reservation so you are guaranteed a spot to board. Depending on which island you choose to visit, the ferry lasts about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
My husband and I initially planned our trip to Lopez Island for our friends wedding. Being the planner that I am, I booked us a place to stay last year when we received the save the date in the mail. Unfortunately due to COVID-19, the wedding was rescheduled. We still had our reservation booked. So we decided…why not? Let’s keep our reservation and go there anyway since we’d never been. We also decided to bring our pup Edgar to make this trip a little family weekend getaway.
We stayed at a quaint Garden Cottagenext to Lopez Center. If we ever go back to Lopez Island, I will definitely be booking this spot again! The charming cottage was within walking distance to the beach, the farmers market (which we quickly realized is the place to be Saturday morning) and close to the main restaurants. We spent our time at the cottage sunbathing in the garden and listening to the sounds of nature while drinking mimosas.
When we got off the ferry, the first thing we noticed about Lopez Island is how flat it is. This makes it a great place for bike riders who want to explore the island without a car. You could even do this as a day trip – bring your bike on the ferry no reservation needed, bike around and then catch the ferry back that night. We brought our bikes on this trip but didn’t bike around as much as we wanted since we had Edgar. The one time we brought him with us on a short bike ride, he saw a bunny and zoomed away racing as fast as he could trying to catch it (luckily he didn’t but I did end up chasing after him in a panic).
Lopez Island aka Bunny Island is full of so many bunnies! Tommy and I saw over 100 hopping in the fields, crossing the roads and burring themselves in burrows. Edgar especially enjoyed watching (and chasing) them.
Not only are the roads perfect for bikers and the endless bunnies surrounding the fields great for nature lovers, but Lopez Island also offers many trails with family friendly hikes. Tommy and I went to IceBerg Point in the morning which is a short trail that takes you out to a gorgeous cliff surrounded by water. We even saw a couple of sea lions. In the evening we went to Shark Reefto catch the colorful sunset that lite up the evening sky.
Overall if I had to pick between Orcas and Lopez, I prefer Orcas Island. It felt like there was more energy compared to the Lopez Island vibe, which is definitely more laid back and slow paced. The restaurants and stores close very early. The main grocery store closed at 7:30pm and the ice cream shop closed at 5pm. I don’t know if this is their COVID-19 hours or if this is the norm. There isn’t as much to do on Lopez Island but that is typically the reason people travel there in the first place. To relax and unwind, which we definitely did.
Sunshine, the smell of salt water, sand in our toes, garden flowers, beautiful views and our pup running around in absolute heaven made Lopez Island a great little weekend getaway.
Welp, it happened. I can no longer say, “I’m in my 20s” because last week I turned 30. THIRTY! Everyone always says this is such a big birthday. A milestone. A new chapter. That once you hit 30 you become an adult. What does that even really mean? (#foreveryoung) I was honestly looking forward to turning 30 because I love birthdays and celebrations in general. Plus most of my friends are already 30 so I was looking forward to joining the club.
Originally I wanted to spend my birthday traveling with my husband. When this was no longer an option due to everything going on in the world, I thought it would be fun to go to the beach or go someplace close to get away. From my 14th to 18th birthday, every year for 5 years I had a party at the beach/park close to where I grew up. We would swim, float, play games, run around in the sand + sunshine and of course eat endless fried chicken. If you are reading this and you know me from high school, chances are you were at the beach one of those years. 😉 Well instead of a beach party, my close friends and I decided to rent a house for the weekend about 2 hours away from Seattle. We had a themed Disco Dance Party and it was absolutely AMAZING! Seriously. So much fun.
We stayed at the most beautiful rental in Leavenworth, WA. Right on the river. Private beach. Hot tub. VolleyBall Court. BBQ. And enough bedrooms for everyone to sleep comfortably – because ya know, we’re 30 now and sleep is important.
We spent the days at the beach, blew up a bunch of inner tubes and floated on the river. When I say floated I mean we were either tied up to a rock or my husband ‘rope boy’ was making sure we were all attached and pulling us along. Well, until that moment when we weren’t and tried riding the current. A couple of us went a little too far but luckily rope boy ran down and got everyone before the extreme rapids. Later we barbecued, went in the hot tub, popped some champagne and played games. The day turned into a little beach party after all.
Saturday night was DISCO TIME! My thoughtful sister-in-law surprised me by bringing decorations for the living room Disco. All the classic 70s music was playing, pictures everywhere, balloons, glow sticks and of course the disco lights. She also had everyone contribute to a 30 Things We Love About You gift which made me feels so special (I made myself wait until I got home to read them because I knew I would get emotional. The night before I got teary-eyed when everyone was singing happy birthday. I was completely overtaken with happiness from being surrounded by my friends. Just feeling so very, very grateful and literally couldn’t speak. Tears of joy ❤️ ).
Everyone dressed up in 70s inspired outfits. Jumpsuits, Sparkles, Hoops, Fur, Tie-Dye, Bell-Bottoms, Sunglasses, Gold Chains, Wigs. Just the best.
We danced + sang all night. I had an absolute blast and still can’t stop thinking about all the fun moments from the weekend. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to enter this ‘new chapter’ of 30s. I have a feeling it’s going to be great.
Looking for a fun, all-inclusive, affordable, beautiful beach vacation for a girls trip? Head to Punta Cana! My girlfriends and I traveled to the Dominican Republic in August 2018 for our annual girls trip and we had a blast.
We chose to travel to the Dominican Republic for a couple of different reasons.
Distance. The plane ride from Seattle to the Dominican Republic is very reasonable. We took a red eye flight from Seattle to Charlotte, North Carolina. Then had a 2 hour layover and flew another 3 1/2 hours from Charlotte before arriving in Punta Cana that morning.
Weather. We wanted to plan a tropical girls trip with beautiful beaches and scenery and that is exactly what we got. We went to Punta Cana during the last week in August and the weather couldn’t have been better.
Price. This trip was very affordable, especially since we chose to stay at an all-inclusive resort. The best decision with unlimited food/drinks (and unlimited bottles of our favorite drink – champagne). The total amount paid with round trip flights, transportation, accommodation, food, drinks and excursions was around $1,200 for 5 days.
We stayed at Majestic Colonial Resortand booked our all-inclusive trip through Expedia. We arrived at the resort and were immediately greeted with drinks and some small bites while we waited for our butler (yes we had a butler during our stay) to check us in and show us to our room.
While waiting for our room, we took the short walk to the beach, went swimming and got some pineapple drinks from our favorite bartender. That night we went to dinner at one of the six restaurants there and explored the resort. My favorite restaurant from the trip was Ma + Suri which was delicious hibachi style food with the best atmosphere.
We spent our next day at the beach, relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. Punta Cana is similar to Mexico where vendors will walk for miles in the hot sun and relentlessly attempt to sell you things. It really wasn’t hard for them to sell us souvenirs because we were eager to buy them. We all got henna tattoos and purchased jewelry with the famous Larimar stone. This stone is typically only found in the Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean so we stocked up.
The next day we had a pool day and lounged around the main pool areas. Our butler got us our own personal golf cart and drove us around the resort to whatever places we wanted to go. Swim up bars, pool snacks, inflatable floaties, music, sunshine and endless tropical drinks makes for a fun day in paradise. Mid-afternoon they also have a foam party, so the lazy river pool is filled with foam to swim in.
The following day we decided to do an excursion. The resort makes it very easy to plan since they have an excursion booth on sight and everything is within walking distance. We chose to do the Shark and Sting Ray Tour. We took a speed boat about 30 minutes out to this area in the middle of the ocean where they had the sea animals. It felt like a sand bar that was full of people and other tours (there was even a pirate ship excursion with pirates walking around). We put our fins and snorkel gear on and jumped in. The sting rays have their stingers removed and are held and passed around to tourists each day. You are able to swim around with the nurse sharks in this huge under water cage. It was a very memorable experience swimming above the sharks and being able to touch the string rays. But honestly it made me feel sad thinking about the sea animals living in this way and I wouldn’t do this excursion again.
We spent the rest of our days enjoy the sunshine and exploring the resort. They have a show every night and one night we went to see their number one hit, Michael Jackson. An impersonator with lots of singing and dancing. Later we went to the resort sports bar and watched/sang Karaoke with the locals and other tourists. One night we put on our bath robes, got on the golf cart and got some late night eats because why not, it’s vacation!
We had 4 nights at Majestic Colonial Resort and that was the perfect amount of time. Any more nights would have been too many in my opinion since we saw and did everything at the resort during our time there. The one thing we did not do was venture out and explore Punta Cana. If you are looking for an adventurous vacation where you are out and about exploring the city, Punta Cana may not be the best place to do this. Where it lacks in local bars and cultural sights, it makes up for in the all-inclusive food/drinks and beautiful beaches. Going to Punta Cana is an easy way to experience an exotic destination while feeling safe, comfortable and pampered the entire time you are there. If this sounds like your type of vacation, I recommend planning a trip! Plus, girls trips are the best.
My husband and I decided to go to Thailand for our honeymoon (15 days) and we had the most incredible trip! Here is an itinerary of our time there (also props to anyone who reads this whole thing because it is looonnnggg).
We caught a red eye at 11:30pm on a Friday night and left for Thailand. We flew EvaAir (highly recommend) where they provide you with a blanket, slippers, a pillow, head phones, and two meals- breakfast and dinner. The meals were hot and actually pretty tasty. They gave us real silverware and unlimited free drinks (which is what I think all plane rides should do). It was a 9 1/2 hour flight to Taiwan but we slept most of the plane ride. From Taiwan we had a short layover and then another 4 hour flight to Chiang Mai. We arrived in Chiang Mai around 10:30am Sunday.
Day 1: Chiang Mai We got a taxi from the airport to our hotel (about 25 minutes/$5), checked into our room and began to explore the city. We stayed at the Amora Tapae Hotel in Old Town because of the location and nice rooms. Everything was in walking distance and very easy to get to. We explored a couple of temples and walked through Old Town. Later we went to the Sunday Night market which was insane! Cheap eats, shopping, massages…they basically had everything. The streets were packed with vendors and tourists looking to spend their money. We had a late dinner at a local restaurant (the kitchen is outdoors so you can watch them cook). Had amazing pad Thai, fried rice, and green curry. We ordered a lot of food and tried a little bit of everything because it was all so cheap (around 400 baht/$12 for three large entrees + drinks).
Day 2: Chiang Mai – Elephant Nature Park Our second day in Thailand we checked off one of my bucket list items and went to Elephant Nature Park, Pamper a Pachyderm. It was beyond INCREDIBLE! We started the day by meeting two 70 year old elephants named Happy and Harlow. We prepared their food, fed them, hiked through the jungle, ate lunch, bathed them, went river rafting and then explore the nature park (will do a full post on this later). Seriously the best day ever!
Day 3: Chiang Mai (New Year’s Eve) We spent the day exploring and got lost in the city! Later we met up with some friends from back home, got our lanterns and went to Tae Pae Gate to light and let them drift off at midnight. It was mesmerizing. People from all around the world, working together to light the lanterns, watching them float up and fill the sky. Another bucket list moment and bucket list night.
Day 4: Chiang Mai We spent New Years Day at Akah Cooking Class! We started at the local market to get our ingredients and try some new foods. We made spring rolls, papaya salad, red and green curry, three different soups, pad Thai, chicken + hot basil, Akha salad and mango sticky rice (the best dessert!). It was a long morning especially the day after New Years Eve, but lots of fun!
Day 5: Travel to Krabi We spent our last morning in Chiang Mai exploring the streets and more temples, they are so beautiful! We also had the most amazing dish that Chiang Mai is known for called Khao Soi (for 100 baht/about $3), which is similar to coconut curry noddle soup and so tasty. We used an app called Grab to get to the airport (Grab is similar to Uber/Lyft and was very helpful getting around quickly). Caught our flight to Krabi through AirAsia, which took about 2 hours. We check into our hotel that night at Red Ginger Chic Resort, got settle and found some amazing homemade pasta for dinner. Our hotel room in Krabi was huge, clean and perfect location. But the beds and pillows were hard. Tommy actually created a trip advisor account our first night there, and wrote a review about how terrible the beds were which just cracks me up (click the link if you want to read).
Day 6: Krabi Long Tail Boat Tour The best day! I know I keep saying this but this day was another bucket list day, it was absolutely amazing. We woke up early, walked down to Ao Nang Beach and rented a private long tail boat (about 2500 baht/$70 for the entire day). The earlier you get there the better to avoid the crowds. Our driver took us to five different islands to explore. We started at Tub Island which has three islands connected by a sandbank at low tide. This was a nice place to lay out on the beach, relax and enjoy the views. From there we went to Chicken Island and went snorkeling. It was so beautiful and so much fun searching for colorful fish. Next we went to Poda Island which had a couple of vendors selling food and lots of shade to beat the heat. We found a spot on the beach under a tree, swam with the waves and took a nap. Then went to our favorite spot, Railay Beach. We started at Railay West which is a great spot to swim, snorkel and explore the caves. There were also some rock climbers and long tail boat vendors selling food. Then we went to Railay East which is full of hotels, bars and restaurants and feels like a little beach town. Everyone there was so happy and so friendly, we wished we would have stayed a night on Railay. Definitely recommend this to anyone visiting Thailand-a must do! And splurge a little to get your own private boat, it is well worth it.
We loved Krabi but it felt similar to Mexico where the vendors are trying to get you to buy something, eat at their restaurant, etc. as you walk down the street, which we didn’t really like. It was definitely more of a tourist vibe with people from all over the world, compared to Chiang Mai which had more of a local feel. The food in Krabi was definitely catered toward tourists since they had everything you could image. We were told that some of the best Indian food is found in Krabi so that’s where we went to dinner. We ordered homemade garlic naan, chicken tikka masala, and mixed veggie rice. It was amazing. We had fresh rolled ice cream for dessert to top off the night.
Day 7: Travel day to Phi Phi Island We relaxed by the pool at our hotel before catching the speed boat to Phi Phi Island. The speed boat was more expensive than the ferry but about an hour faster. They also packed us in there (elbow to elbow, knee to knee) so it wasn’t the most comfortable ride. Once we got to Phi Phi we checked into our hotel at JJ Bungalow and went exploring! We found a restaurant on the water, got some margaritas, found a swing and wondered around. Later we had a seafood dinner on the beach, tried to catch the sunset and found a fire show.
Phi Phi was our favorite island! There was still a sense of culture like in Chiang Mai but it felt newer without being as touristy as Krabi. There was something to do there for everyone. We also loved how there were no cars on the island, which made it feel more relaxed. Everything was in walking distance (unlike Koh Lanta where you had to take a scooter or Tuk Tuk to get around). The food was delicious. The drinks were bomb. The people were friendly. Views were amazing. We will definitely be returning to Phi Phi one day!
Day 8: Beach Day Picnic Our favorite night from our trip. We got McDonalds and had a picnic on the beach during the day. The tide was so far out and the water was shallow enough that you could float in the sand. Later we stumbled upon this amazing beach bar playing Jack Johnson and reggae music. We met a group of people from London and shared a hookah with them and had the best time dancing and people watching.
Day 9: Travel to Koh Lanta We caught the 9am ferry from Phi Phi to Koh Lanta (would recommend buying ferry tickets from one of the little booths the day before since it gets crowded at the terminal). The ferry ride was a little under 3 hours but very comfortable (we both fell asleep on the ride). We checked into our hotel at Twin Lotus Resort and Spa, went to the beach and drank some cocktails while watching the sunset and caught another fire show (we splurged a little for this hotel but it was worth it!). Our hotel room smelled amazing because they put lotus everywhere and we were even greeted with a little honeymoon cake.
Day 10: Scooter in Koh Lanta My favorite day in Koh Lanta! We rented a scooter from our hotel (300 baht/$10 for the day) and explored the island. Koh Lanta is one of the longest islands in Thailand. Unlike Phi Phi, it is much harder to get around since everything is so spread out. We spent most of our time in Koh Lanta at our resort except for today. We drove about 4-5 hours total going from one end of the island to the other and making stops along the way (it’s about a 45 min drive to the southern most point). We discovered a hidden gem of a restaurant (I wish I remembered the name) on the south east side of the island, had some drinks and our favorite Thailand dish-mango sticky rice. The gas situation was very unique. There were little mini whiskey sized bottles filled with gas all along the roads. Whenever we needed gas we would stop and someone would come out with a funnel cup and pour the gas into the bike (only 40 baht/$1.25 per bottle). Then we did some shopping in Old Town and continued to explore. This was the hottest point during our trip..mid day sun attack. Luckily we kept driving and found a little path to a beach and cooled off in the ocean-an amazing swim spot. By the time we got back to our hotel we were pretty exhausted from the heat and from diving all day (my butt was so sore from sitting on the back of the scooter and almost felt like I just finished a Barre class). For dinner that night we ate at our hotel. Unlimited all you can eat buffet for 450 baht/$15 a person on Tuesdays.
I ate so, so much. I think I tried a little bit of everything, chicken skewers, tom yum soup, all the curries, muscles, shrimp cocktail, clams, seafood jambalaya, all the tradition Thai dishes, more pasta, more dessert. The best part of the night though was watching this band play while having dinner on the beach. Tommy said it was the best live music he has ever heard. They played a bunch of classic cover songs but what was so special was when they played the song, Can’t Help Falling in Love which is what I walked down the aisle to on our wedding day.
Day 11: Koh Lanta Pool Day Today we stayed at our hotel and had a pool day. We read our books and just lounged around (under an umbrella of course with 100 spf on because we both burn so easily). We also got a couples massage at our hotel spa. Getting a massage at the spa was a little more expensive (about 1100 baht/$35 compared to some other places we saw 300 baht/$10) but we didn’t want to be out on the streets with people walking by. I think it’s worth it to spend a little bit more for a nicer massage. Also $35 is still so cheap compared to Seattle prices but you can find places all over Thailand for massages as cheap as $5 – $10. For dinner we staying in, ordered room service and rented some movies from the lobby.
Day 12: Beach Day Koh Lanta Went to the beach, finished our books, long walks along the water, caught the sunset. Complete relaxation. Much slower pace in Koh Lanta. We also ran into a German couple who we met at our cooking class in Chiang Mai. Kind of crazy to see them about a week later in a totally different place, staying at the same resort as us!
Day 13: Travel to Bangkok Bangkok felt like a different world, especially coming from Koh Lanta…so chill and relaxing to chaos and so much traffic. This was our longest travel day. We left at 9am and caught a shuttle from our resort to the airport (about 2 hour drive + ferry ride) and flew AirAsia again. This airline is so affordable in Thailand. Tickets are typically around $50 – $100 to get from place to place (unfortunately since we traveled during the peak season our were closer to $150-$200 but it just depends on the time of year you go). AirAsia is similar to Frontier but still much better than Spirit (honestly every airline is better than Spirit in my opinion, another story on that later). Once we landed it took us about 1 1/2 hours to get to our hotel due to all the traffic! When I booked our stay at Rembrandt Hotel and Suites and Towers, I didn’t do as much research in determining where to stay because Bangkok was the place I was least excited about visiting. Our hotel was beautiful with huge comfy rooms, surrounded by great restaurants but it was a little farther out from some of the main places we wanted to go. It took anywhere from 20 – 60 minutes to get around either because of traffic going in or going out of the city. If we were to go to Bangkok again I would want to stay near the Riverside and a little closer in.
Day 14: Chatuchak Market in Bangkok This is a must do in Bangkok! Chatuchak Weekend Market is huge! The market has over 15,000 stalls, packed together with vendors selling everything you can think of. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, cook ware, dishes, art, furniture, toys, beauty items…literally everything. The market feels like a maze and once you think you have seen enough and you’re finished shopping, you wonder down another stall and discover even more items you didn’t know you needed to buy. We brought a huge backpack and just went to town on souvenirs. The best find was this pottery stall filled with beautiful handmade dishes. Everything looked and felt like it was from Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel, minus the price tag.
Tommy will tell you his favorite find was his “authentic” LeBron James jersey. We actually stumbled upon this stall, purchased the jersey, continued walking for about 15 minutes and then decided we should go back and get some more jerseys for friends. Tracing your steps back and trying to find a specific stall in the Chatuchak Market is crazy talk! Like I said, it’s basically a maze in there and the only landmark is the main road in the middle of the street. Well after about 20 minute or so of searching up and down various stalls and retracing our steps, we somehow found it! We were so excited and felt so accomplished. Definitely a memorable experience.
To get to the market was pretty hilarious. We had this whole plan to take the train and walk a bit when we ran into a Tuk Tuk guy. (A Tuk Tuk is basically a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi that is a cheap way to get around Thailand). He offered to take up to the market for 100 baht/$3 and we decided to go for it so we could get there faster. He asked if it was okay to make a stop so he could get free gas (we needed to go in a shop and look around). We agreed thinking he would take us to a souvenir place or some small shop….But nope. He took us to a full on suit shop and the second we got there they were all over Tommy trying to get him to purchase a “one of kind, best material, custom made suit.” Thailand is actually known for having well quality, affordable suits and many people go there to purchase them; it was just hilarious how we came about being in that shop. Tommy pretended to curiously browse through the book and then we politely declined. (Later we got to the market and our first stop was for Coconut Ice Cream which was so refreshing). So if you take a Tuk Tuk in Bangkok make sure the driver is taking you straight to your destination otherwise you may find yourself in a similar situation we were in.
Later that night we had some questionable drinks at our hotel roof top bar and a bomb meal at a restaurant nearby called Indulge. I recommend going to a roof top bar if you are in Bangkok! The views are incredible. Honestly the drinks are a little overpriced though as you are paying for the atmosphere (around 500 baht per drink/$15).
Day 15: Mahanakorn Skywalk in Bangkok We woke up early with all these plans and ideas on what to do on our last day in Thailand. We decided instead to opt for late check out at 4pm and ordered breakfast in bed. The receptionist was shocked when we agreed to pay 800 baht/$25 to extend our checkout; we thought it was a great deal. We got a couple drinks at the hotel bar and decided we had enough time before our flight to check out Mahanakorn Skywalk. I am so glad we did! Somehow we timed this perfectly with sunset and found ourselves overlooking Bangkok city skyline from 314 meters above ground (about 1,000 feet). It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL…360 degree views! The colors in the sky went from only seeing gray fog/smoke (because the pollution is so terrible in Bangkok there is always a haze covering the sky), to orange, to pink, to blueish purple and finally dark with illuminating city lights. It was mesmerizing.
There was an area with glass floors that allowed you to walk on them (with booties) and look down 78 floors below!
Day 16: 12 hour layover in Osaka, Japan Technically yesterday was our last day in Thailand so you can stop reading here 🙂 (if you made it this far) but we also had one extra day of adventure before heading home! We took another red eye from Bangkok, flew Japan Airlines (would also recommend this airline) and arrived in Japan around 7am. On a whim, we decided to go to Universal Studies and check out Harry Potter World. We caught the train and were on our way. It was very easy to navigate and get around the city from the airport. Also everyone we talked to was so helpful. Well, what we didn’t know was the day we were on our way to Universal Studios was the same day Japan was celebrating the holiday, Coming of Age Day where all the kids are out and about; also heading to Universal Studios.
We changed our plans since we didn’t want to risk waiting in long lines for rides and miss our flight. Also, it was freezing! We traveled from 80 degree weather in Thailand to 45 degree weather in Osaka and couldn’t imagine going on roller coasters with no jackets. Instead, we had a Leslie Knope style breakfast (if you haven’t watched Parks and Recreation you should just turn it on right now), explored the free parts of Universal Studies, found a Gap, got matching jackets and took the train downtown. Went to the mall, to the arcade, to the ferris wheel overlooking the city and ate some delicious ramen. We loved Japan! It was very clean, friendly people, easy to get from place to place, oh and all the toilets had heated seats-loved that with the cold weather. Our short layover there made us want to go back again!
So if you are looking for an unforgettable honeymoon that is full of culture, delicious food, friendly people, beautiful beaches and lots of adventure, Thailand is your place. I cannot recommend traveling to Thailand enough! A trip of a lifetime with my hubby, cant wait to start planning our next. 🙂