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"Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life." ~ John Muir
While we love to travel all over the world, we're lucky enough to live in a state that has so much to explore. And here are a few favs we've recently explored:
We recently visited here while looking for a place for a quick escape and hike. We happened upon a beautiful and easy hike to a secluded lake, perfect for boating and paddle boarding. It even has a campsite that looks like a perfect place to pitch a tent.
We started with walking across the beautiful restored Bridgeport Covered Bridge.
We checked out the Yuba River which is such a great spot to go swimming and rafting on hot summer days.
After our walk we explored more of the Gold Rush history of the area at the old buildings in the surrounding area.
2. Santa Cruz
This place will always be near and dear to our hearts as it's where Mike's dad's family lives. We love visiting and have visited many times over the years, but this last visit was extra special as it was just before Christmas. Here's what we did during out most recent trip:
First, we actually visited Monterey. We started out with lunch at Louie Linguini's which we loved! Great seafood, great view, and family friendly too! Next was the Monterey Bay Aquarium followed by some shopping on Cannery Row.
The next day we were busy.. we started at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and did a nice walk amongst the beautiful redwoods.
Lastly, we finished off with a beautiful sunset walk along West Cliff Drive with some awesome views of the surfers.
The next day was pretty rainy and we were mostly hanging out with family, but we did manage a nice walk in Santa Cruz Harbor
3. Pajaro Dunes
Just south of Santa Cruz is this beautiful resort community and 100% worth a visit. Such a fun beachy summer vacay, but even in December it's worth checking out.
My kids loved running along the beach, chasing the surf, going in the water, and building sand castles. They are fearless and didn't even seem to notice the cold. They had the time of their life and I love walking along the beach and watching the kids have so much fun. Literally everything here is picturesque.
Ok, maybe this is obvious, but on our most recent trip there I learned a few great tips that I had to share:
First of all, we stayed at Yosemite Westgate Lodge and had such a great time there! Great prices, great rooms (large with 2 beds and sleeper sofa, perfect for bigger families), they even have a pool, hot tub, and playground! Another huge plus is an awesome restaurant is right next door. Great service and food! My kids absolutely loved it.
Second, we learned you have to visit sometime during fall before it starts snowing. The fall colors are so beautiful!!
Third, we absolutely loved exploring Lower Yosemite Falls. The hike is easy for kids and they had so much fun hiking the rocks up to the falls.
You also get great views of Half Dome and El Capitan. Plan to be there at sunset to get this amazing view!
Bonus - Favorite companies to partner with:
"Fear is good. In the right degree it prevents us from making fools of ourselves. But in the wrong measure prevents us from fully living. Fear is our boon companion but never our master." ~ Alan Brennert
To be honest, there was a certain amount of fear, mostly of the unknown, when traveling to Molokai. From the flight there, to the airport, to meeting locals, to finding food, to driving in such a rural area, to hoping the kids enjoy themselves, to meeting family.... there were a lot of unknowns. But we turned that fear of the unknown into excitement and it sure did pay off!
When planning a trip to Molokai, the first step is to figure out which airport to fly into because you want to avoid the Kalaupapa area (leprosy colony) because you need a permit and sponsor to travel there and no one under 16 is allowed to enter. We flew into Molokai Airport in Ho'olehua and I would recommend because it has the only large rental car company Alamo there and is easy to navigate. We had a great experience flying into the airport and renting and returning the car. They also had the exact car we wanted: Jeep Wrangler with removable roof.
From the maui airport Kahului you leave through the commuter terminal which is super quick and easy. No security and it's a 20-ish min flight to Molokai. The flight itself is worth the trip there. The views of the cliffs and waterfalls are spectacular.
The plane was a 10 seater and there was only our family and one other person on the flight. You can see straight through to the cockpit and see everything the pilots are doing. Super fun to watch! You have to give them your weight and then they assign the seats to balance the plane. Honestly I was worried about the kids because they were separated from us, but they were champs and didn't complain at all. I think they actually enjoyed it!
When we landed my cousin, Jaia, and his family (wife Malia and children Aulani and Kaeo) greeted us with handmaid leis. They helped us find our rental car and we headed to the Saturday market. If you're going to visit Molokai you should definitely try to go on a Saturday for the market. So much great fresh food and lots of crafts for sale too.
Then off to the beach and beach house where we were spending the day. There is one main highway that wraps around the island.
After driving 15 minutes or so we abruptly pulled off the road onto a dirt road covered with low hanging trees. It was as if we were being warped to another dimension. Then after about 1 minute driving through what seemed like heavy brush, it opened up to this adorable little beach house on the most beautiful secluded beach.
We settled in pretty quickly, the kids ran to play in the water and the adults set up to start cooking. My cousin's son, Kaeo, swam off the do some free dive deep sea fishing. Jaia started climbing the coconut trees to trim them (this was how we paid the owners of the beach house to let us use it for the day) and dropped some coconuts for us to try. He opened the coconuts and we used nearby papaya stem as straws and drank fresh coconut water. It was so refreshing!
The water felt amazing. There was a little area they had used large stones to create a sort of pool area that was safe for the kids to swim and play in, so the girls hung out there.
Malia and I went paddleboarding for at least an hour and then Mike joined in on the fun. This area is known for dangerous sharks, so it felt a little weird dangling my legs in the water, so I spent most of the time with my legs on the board, but I was unable to completely stand because the water was too rough. It was interesting, but I had a great time nonetheless.
After paddleboarding we stuffed ourselves with all sorts of yummy food: deer burger (from deer Kaeo had hunted), lobster, all kids of fish and fresh fruits. Dessert was made with Bread Fruit with butter and honey, it tasted just like cake. So good!
The boys then went off to go shooting and the girls stayed behind and played in the water. Malia showed me how to weave plates and baskets with leaves.
It was great catching up with Jaia and meeting his family. We all had such a great time. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the airport and back to Maui. A daytrip was definitely not enough time. Next time we'll plan on being there a few days so we can do some sightseeing.
The flight back to Maui was also super smooth.
Things we would like to do next time we go to Molokai:
6. Barrier Reef
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