Maui, Hawaii

Blue skies, sandy beaches and pounding waves. A lavender farm, a swap meet and a sugar museum.  A luau, happy hours and delicious restaurants.  Maui has it all!  I spent 13 days in Maui with my parents in March 2016 and loved every minute of it.  There truly is something for everyone on this stunning Hawaiian Island.

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We were staying at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas, which is an absolutely beautiful property.  If you have the opportunity to stay there you won’t be disappointed.

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My Loves: What to Check Out

Alii Kula Lavender Farm, Kula
http://www.aliikulalavender.com/

I LOVE lavender.  It’s one of my favourite scents.  But 45 different types of lavender?  Are you kidding me? I thought there was just one!  Despite visiting on a rainy day I was amazed at what I saw at the Alii Kula Lavender Farm.  Guided tours are available but we explored on our own.  The farm has pathway upon pathway surrounded by lavender plants as well as plants of many other varieties.  I really enjoyed discovering the different types of lavender.

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There is a cute little gift shop where you can buy everything from clothing to culinary lavender to lotions.  And gentlemen, shea butter is NOT meant to be eaten (apparently my dad was not the first person to taste it by accident though!)  They also sell drinks and sweet treats: both the lavender coffee and lavender scone with honey were delicious! I bought lavender spray as well as culinary lavender.  I have used the culinary lavender numerous times to make Lavender Tea Cake which has been a total hit!

Maui Exposition, Kahului
http://www.mauiexposition.com/MAUISWAPMEET.html

On Saturday’s from 7am until 1pm this Lahaina swap meet has over 200 stalls selling food, souvenirs, clothing, accessories and more.  It was quite crowded but there was ample parking so we found a spot right away.  It was fun to browse around and sample some home-made goodies.  My favourite?  A maple bacon donut!

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I bought a pair of sunglasses, jam made in Maui and a cool photograph of a Maui sunset skyline that is on metal.  The prices were cheaper or comparable to other merchants.

Old Lahaina Lu’au, Lahaina
https://www.oldlahainaluau.com/

This lu’au was a fantastic; an experience that included fancy drinks, a pig roast and performances that told a cultural and historical story.  When we arrived we were greeted with a fresh flower lei and a Mai Tai before we were led to our table.  We were seated with two other parties for a total of eight of us.  It was a nice opportunity to meet other travelers.  Before dinner began there was time to enjoy some drinks while walking around the grounds.  One of the coolest things was seeing the pig being unearthed!

Dinner was a buffet which included a wide variety of foods.  I think everyone would find something they liked!  I was encouraged to try poi, which is a paste made from taro root.  I didn’t enjoy the texture or the flavour (it was pretty bland) but at least I can say I tried it!  My absolute favourite item was Laulau which is pork wrapped in taro leaf.  The flavour was incredible!  The fresh fruit and banana bread was delicious and a tray of desserts which included variety of cake, squares and cookies was brought to our table.  Each guest also received a mini banana bread to take home.

The actual entertainment was wonderful and told the story of Hawaiians through music and dance.  I loved every minute of it!

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D.T. Fleming Beach, Lahaina
http://co.maui.hi.us/facilities/Facility/Details/170

If you’re looking for a beach that isn’t too busy but has decent waves for body/boogie boarding and surfing you might want to check it out.  I decided I wanted to try boogie boarding.  There are several places where you can rent boards but I picked one up at Walmart for around $20 – good enough for me!  I also had fun just letting the waves crash over me.

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Honolua Bay

This is one beautiful spot!  We spent quite a while watching surfers tackle the breathtaking waves from our spot on top of the cliff.  For a girl who has never even attempted to get on a surfboard, this was quite fascinating.  When I saw the size of the waves I was shocked to see children surfing but I suppose when you grow up in Hawaii it’s just a way of life!

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Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum, Kahului
http://www.sugarmuseum.com/

We came upon this little gem when we were out for a drive on a rainy day and spotted a sign on the side of the road.  Yes, it rains in Hawaii!  And quite hard at times I might add!  This museum is dedicated to the history of Maui’s sugar industry.  The museum has six exhibits, each of which includes a plethora of artifacts, photographs and historical information about different aspects of the industry.  Outside the museum you will also find equipment from the plantation.

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My Loves: Where to Eat

Teddy’s Bigger Burgers
https://www.teddysbb.com/home

Burgers! Huge, juicy burgers!  Teddy’s first location opened in 1998 and today this popular burger joint has several locations on the Hawaiian Islands, the US Mainland and Asian countries.  Teddy’s menu also has other options including chicken burgers and salads, as well as an impressive selection of sides.  Breakfast is also served daily.

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Note: You should be able to find coupons in one of the free Maui guidebooks that you will see around the island

Aloha Mixed Plate, Lahaina
http://www.alohamixedplate.com/

Aloha Mixed Plate is an eatery with a cool island vibe.  The tables are all outside and if you’re lucky you will have a view of the ocean.  The restaurant serves traditional plates similar to those plantation workers ate in the past.  There are several different plates to choose from with your choice of seafood, chicken, beef, pork or a combination.  Each is served with two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad.  I ordered the “Aloha Mixed Plate” which included chicken, fish and beef.  I enjoyed it immensely and would definitely order it again.  My dad had “Locomoco” (hamburger patty and eggs) and my mom had “Teriyaki Beef” which they enjoyed as well.

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Note: My parents have been back twice since then and enjoyed it just as much.

Kimo’s Maui, Lahaina
http://www.kimosmaui.com/

My Dad celebrated his 60th birthday while we were in Maui and he chose to go to Kimo’s for dinner.  It did not disappoint!  The fish of the day was snapper.  I ordered it “Lobster Topped” and my dad ordered it “Baked Kimo’s Style.”  Both were delicious.  My mom ordered prime rib and to this date it remains the best prime rib she has ever had.  We also received a complimentary Hula Pie because it was my dad’s birthday.  It was AMAZING!!

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Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Known for being one of the most, if not THE most liberal city in the world, Amsterdam has much more to offer than the Red Light District and easy access to marijuana.  With its seemingly endless maze of canals, cobblestone streets lined with buildings dating back to the 17th century, blooming flowers and bicycles galore, Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited.

Being a 30-something solo female traveller for the first time in August 2016 I was nervous when I embarked on my journey.  However I quickly found that I had nothing to worry about.  Amsterdam was filled with tourists and locals alike.  I remained aware of my surroundings and never felt unsafe.  The city is easily walkable (wear comfy shoes) and the transit system is incredible.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Amsterdam to other females travelling alone.

I stayed at The Student Hotel Amsterdam West, which was easy to access via the train from Schiphol.  There isn’t much within walking distance but the Jan van Galenstraat Metro and Tram stations are just steps away.  The hotel had an upscale hostel-like vibe (private bedrooms and bathrooms with several common areas) and was filled with travellers of all ages as well as University students studying in Amsterdam.  I was there for two weeks so I qualified as a Short Stay Guest, which gave me access to a shared kitchen with other guests in my block of rooms.  The staff was friendly and helpful and the price was very reasonable.  I would definitely stay there again.  Note: There is a second location, The Student Hotel Amsterdam City.

Before You Go

I recommend deciding what you really want to see and do during your visit.  There are four “discount” options available: Amsterdam Holland Pass, I Amsterdam City Card, Combination Deal and Museumkaart. You might find that one will suit your needs and save you a little money.  I opted for the I Amsterdam City Card.  This card is available for 24, 48, 72 or 96 hours and includes a public transit pass.  It includes entry or discounts to most of the popular tourist attractions.  I found that because I had the pass I actually visited some cool places I would have missed out on if I didn’t have it.  BEWARE: although there are separate lines for pass holders at some locations, such as the Van Gogh Museum, you may still have to wait awhile.

My Top 3 Tourist Attractions
(in no particular order)

Anne Frank House
www.annefrankhouse.org

I had heard from fellow travelers that visiting the house was depressing, but I was surprised at just how much of a somber and moving experience it was.  The tour of the house, which includes the “Secret Annexe”, where Anne and her family, as well as four other Jews, hid from the Nazis (1942-1944), brought to life the story I remembered from reading the Diary of Anne Frank in school. The house is filled with displays and information about Anne’s family and their experience.  Anne’s original diaries as well as other writings are on display.

Note: Admission is not included with the I Amsterdam City Card.  I recommend booking online otherwise you risk waiting in line for hours later in the day.  When I checked prior to my trip there were no tickets available during my stay however I checked again the morning I wanted to visit and it seemed tickets had been released so I was able to book a time.FB_IMG_1491683018570

The Van Gogh Museum
www.vangoghmuseum.nl

I am the first to admit that I do not appreciate art to the extent that I probably should.  But visiting this museum, WOW!  Located in Museumplein, a beautiful area that houses several museums, a gorgeous grassy area and the famous iAmsterdam sign, the Van Gogh Museum houses works (paintings, sketches and letters) by Van Gogh as well as works by his Impressionist and Post-impressionist contemporaries.  In addition to the permanent exhibitions which are organized by years or themes, there is typically a temporary exhibit, so be sure to check that out.

Note: I recommend the Multimedia (audio) Guide.  The information kept me more engaged and interested in the works and was worth the €5.FB_IMG_1491682910323

Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum)
https://www.verzetsmuseum.org/museum/en/museum

I’m a bit of World War II buff, so this was right up my alley.  The Netherlands in World War II Exhibition focuses on the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands between 1940 and 1945.  It includes a voluminous display of information, sound clips, photographs and artifacts that help visitors to understand the Dutch experience during this time.  There is also a smaller exhibit dedicated to the Dutch East Indies which was also quite interesting.

Note: There is also a Junior Resistance Museum which I did not check outFB_IMG_1491682963820

Food, Glorious Food!

Moeders Restaurant
http://www.moeders.com/en/home

While the Dutch aren’t typically known for their cuisine this restaurant offers home-cooked dishes.  There were four of us in our party and we had to wait a little while for a table since the restaurant is quite small. Two of us ordered Hotpotch – mashed potatoes mixed with spinach and served with a sausage, meatball and bacon.  It was delicious!  The men ordered spare-ribs served with fries and cabbage salad, as well as Suddervlees (stewed beef) served with boiled potatoes and red cabbage, both which got rave reviews!  Moeders is worth checking out if you’re looking for a meal just like your Moeder (mother) may have made if you were raised in the Netherlands.FB_IMG_1491682857283

The Pancake Bakery
http://www.pancake.nl/en/

If you’re looking for an extensive menu of pancakes, this place is for you!  From International Pancakes to their own specialties, The Pancake Bakery seemed to have everything I could imagine.  How would I decide?  Initially I felt like something sweet, but then I saw a pancake with cheese, bacon and mushrooms…how could I go wrong!?!  This pancake was massive and bursting with flavour.  After the first couple bites I vowed to look up savory Dutch pancake recipes as soon as I got home! I’ve yet to do this…I may just have to return!

Note: The Pancake Bakery is very popular, so be prepared to wait outside.  I was on my own and still had to wait for about 30 minutes in the rain.  But let me tell you, it was so worth it! FB_IMG_1491683091249

Mannekin Pis and Chipsy King
http://www.mannekenpis.nl/

http://chipsyking.nl/

Equally delicious, you will be in Heaven at either of these places if you love fries with dipping sauce!  Both cooked fries to perfection – golden crisp on the outside and soft potato inside.  Each establishment boasts an alarmingly wide variety of sauces to choose from.  At Mannekin Pis I went with ketchup and mayo – YUM!  After a recommendation from a friend I tried Oorlog (mayo, peanut satay sauce and onions) – AMAZING!

What Else?

I spent large periods of time walking around just to see what I came across, but here are a few other things I really enjoyed:

Free Walking Tour – I chose SANDEMANs New Amsterdam  http://www.neweuropetours.eu/amsterdam/en/home

Foodhallen – Large food hall with a bar in the middle http://www.foodhallen.nl/

Canal Cruise – I chose to go with Lovers and it was included with my I Amsterdam Card https://www.lovers.nl/en/

Royal Palace of Amsterdam – https://www.paleisamsterdam.nl/en

Hermitage Amsterdam – Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age http://www.hermitage.nl/en/

Dam Square – Tons of eateries and shopping in this area http://www.amsterdam.info/sights/dam_square/