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So many people seem to forget the fact that Canada is such a huge place! There are many stories of European tourists who get aboard a buss in Ontario, hoping for an afternoon drive to Vancouver, and are shocked when they find out it s a week long trip.
It is only the second largest country in the world, but contains so many contrasts - beaches, frozen tundra, warm weather, freezing cold.
Visit the city of Frederick, Maryland, with free tips, links, weekly newsletters. Covers accommodations, local attractions, Frederick County real estate, museums, public schools, government resources, Civil War history, Catoctin Mountain National Park, and more.
In almost all countries in Asia, English is the most important language to use. Other European languages (such as Spanish or French) are rarely if ever used, and many Asian languages are not used in other Asian countries, but English is truly the international language.
Of course, if you are able to learn a few words in the local language, it can be a great thing for your experience!
Visit the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, home of the Philly Cheese Steak, with free tips, links, weekly newsletters. Covers accommodations, restaurants, the Liberty Bell, city government, Philadelphia Phillies baseball, Flyers hockey, Eagles football, and more.
A resident pod of orcas plies the waters around Victoria, British Columbia year round. Currently the population is roughly 85 individuals. Some 250 orcas also live on the island’s eastern coast and in the waters along the British Columbia mainland. Humpback whales, California greys and minke whales also visit on their annual migrations. A number of firms in Victoria offer the chance for some eye-popping photo ops in the nearby waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait.
Whale Watching Tours:
Located right in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the Prince of Whales offers year-round whale watching tours. Nimble Zodiacs that seat 12 passengers put you closer to the action and guarantee you’ll get at least a little wet. Passengers must wear special red flotation suits for the Zodiac tours. The other option is on the Ocean Magic cruiser which does have an enclosed cabin as well as an open viewing area. No flotation suits are required for this tour. Either way you are soon motoring out of Victoria Harbour in search of the tuxedoed ambassadors of Vancouver Island.
Eagle Wing Tours also operates out of Victoria's Inner Harbour, offering whale watching tours on Scarabs, the same fast boats used by the Canadian Coast Guard. The boat’s pointed hull and low-slung design provide greater speed and a longer range. Tours up to 3.5 five hours are available. Protective clothing is offered but not required. The open roof does give you a better view but you will probably get wet. The tour boats do have a lower center of gravity, which helps to combat sea sickness. All Eagle Wing Tours' boats have on-board washrooms.
Great Pacific Adventures is also in the Inner Harbour and offers both Zodiac and cruiser whale watching tours. This firm also rents kayaks, rowboats, power boats and bicycles.
Once the capital of old Hawaii and later a bawdy stopover for whalers, Lahaina is now a quaint seaside town, but it still has the reputation of being southwest Maui’s party central. The rowdy sailors, at least most of them, are gone and the locals no longer swim out “au natural” to welcome ships but there is still much to amuse the modern day traveler.
Relax Under the Banyan Tree
Planted in 1873, this Indian import takes up an entire city block in Lahaina town. The tree tops 60 feet, spans nearly an acre and has twelve trunks. Art in the Park, an event held twice a month featuring local artists, fits almost entirely under the canopy. It’s a great place to catch a bit of shade while people-watching at Lahaina Harbor.
Follow the Historic Trail
Stop at the Lahaina Visitor Center, next to the Banyan Tree, and get the self-guided tour map featuring 62 historic sites. Find the fort where the sailors clashed with the missionaries over their wanton ways and then the jail where some of those sailors slept off their gallons of grog. The fort went up in the 1830s, but the sailors got a bit of a reprieve for the jail wasn’t built until the 1850s. Other sites include the Seaman’s Cemetery, the Old Lahaina Lighthouse and the Baldwin house, built by one of the first missionaries.
Take the Art Walk
Once an artist lands in Lahaina, or Maui in general, it’s hard to leave. Many, seduced by the ocean breezes and incredible sunshine, just stay. The result is a host of galleries that line Front Street. One of the local favorites, Pegge Hopper, was transplanted from California. While you’re out and about, stop in at Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice, also on Front St. Shave ice is kind of like a mainland snow cone but the ice is fluffier. Try it local style with a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream and sweet Azuki beans on the bottom. No ka oi…simple translation…yummy.
Hollywood loves Kauai. The picture-perfect beaches, stunning emerald mountains and usually forgiving weather gives this Hawaiian island quite a film resume. “South Pacific,” “Jurassic Park,” Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Blue Hawaii” are just a few of the mega hits filmed in Kauai. The long running TV show “Fantasy Island” featured Wailua Falls in its opening credits. Taking a movie tour on Kauai is one way to get a first hand view of some of Hollywood’s prime film spots.
Roberts Hawaii offers a six-hour movie tour on air-conditioned mini-buses that visit Wailua Falls, Coco Palms, where Elvis starred in “Blue Hawaii” and Kapaa Town, backdrop for part of “Jurassic Park.” When you arrive at Moloaa Bay you might recognize the beach as part of “Gilligan’s Island.” Behind the scenes tales are part of the fun.
Visit Manawiopuna Falls, the remote 400-foot tall waterfall featured in the original “Jurassic Park.” The only way in is by air and Island Helicopters actually land near the base of the falls. Then it’s a quick walk up a jungle path to the bottom of the cascading waters. The tropical wilderness setting kind of makes you look around and see if Mr. T-Rex is watching you. This stop is part of their Kauai Grand Circle Island Tour, an hour-long aerial tour of the island.
Sometimes called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Kauai’s Waimea Canyon is definitely greener than its mainland counterpart. That green contrasts with the red, iron-rich soils found throughout the island, created by the erosion of the island’s lava base. Waimea Canyon is a mile wide, 12 miles long and in some places 3,567 feet deep. The Wailea River threads through the bottom of the gorge, sometimes barely a trickle, at others a raging torrent, fed by hundreds of impromptu waterfalls during heavy rains.
To get a bird’s eye view of Waimea Canyon, and to get into many of its nooks and crannies, try a helicopter tour. These nimble vehicles can hover close to waterfalls and high above the canyon floor, giving you plenty of photo ops. One, Island Helitours, takes you to Manawiopuna Falls, a backdrop for some of the scenes in “Jurassic Park.” The craft lands in a jungle clearing and the guide leads you to the pool at the fall’s base.
Another option is to make the drive to Kauai’s western end and follow State Route 550 to Koke'e State Park. The roadway ends at the Kalaulau Lookout, high above the deep gorges of the canyon. Sometimes the view is shrouded in fog, at others it is a panoramic mix of reds, greens and browns, with perhaps a waterfall or two thrown in. The park itself has 45 miles of trails leading through the jungle-like forest. Bring a backpack with food, water and some extra clothes and go exploring.
Or, spend the night in one of the rustic cabins at the Lodge at Koke'e. No phones or televisions but a restaurant, cocktail lounge and gift shop are onsite. Don’t forget the sunscreen and the bug spray; Waimea Canyon is in the middle of almost nowhere and humans need all the protection they can get.
Visiting Oahu without taking in a luau is unthinkable. This greatest of Hawaiian parties combines music, dancing, beverages, alcoholic or otherwise, and a host of dishes to tempt your palate, and in some cases, your curiosity. These are some of the best luaus the island has to offer.
Royal Hawaiian Hotel Luau
A Waikiki tradition since 1926, the luau on the beach in front of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel every Monday night offers this local party with an upscale twist. Just sitting in front of the famed Pink Palace adds elegance. Officially known as Aha Aina, a Royal Celebration, this luau combines table service and first rate entertainment with dining under the stars. Guests of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel receive discounted rates.
Polynesian Cultural Center – North Shore
The Polynesian Cultural Center presents the different cultures of the South Pacific in theme park fashion. Villages recreating life in Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Aotearoa and Hawaii educate and entertain visitors at the same time. The Ali’i Luau, held each evening except Sunday, is considered one of Oahu’s most authentic celebrations. Hawaiian and Pacific Island foods are served, along with Western style dishes for the less adventurous. Music and dancing are part of the package. One thing that is missing is any form of alcohol. The Polynesian Cultural Center is owned and operated by the Mormon Church, making this an alcohol-free zone. Spend the day at the center or just take in the luau.
Paradise Cove Luau – West Oahu
Paradise Cove Luau, on Oahu’s less populated west shore, is an authentic Hawaiian party at the beach. Help haul in the hukilau fishing net, visit the recreated village to learn crafts or “talk story” and watch the ceremony as the kalua pig is lifted from the imu, or underground oven. Try a little poi, purple taro paste, or haupia pudding, made from coconut milk. Fish, chicken and salads using both local and western recipes are offered. Be careful, you just may be tempted to go on stage and learn the hula in front of all those people. Mai tais and other beverages are served. Bus transportation to and from Waikiki lets you leave the driving to others.
Oahu’s North Shore is home to skyscraper sized waves suitable for only the most experienced surfers. Some of these monsters top out at 30 feet or more with curls large enough for surfers to stand up in. The Banzai Pipeline is the most famous of these curled wave locales.These perfect waves draw boarders from around the world eager for the challenge, as well as onlookers crowding the beaches alternately cheering and shaking their heads.
The larger swells arrive from October through April, with the best chance of finding the real monsters in November and December. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is held at Waimea Beach each year during these two months. The time span is so long because the contest only begins when the waves are between 20 and 30 feet high. Anything lower leads to surfers and spectators opening up a cold one or two and just waiting another day.
Heavenly Hana is in some ways the Hawaii that time forgot. Some people who make the journey just decide to stay. Such was the case with famed aviator Charles Lindbergh who, tired of his high-profile life, decided to spend the rest of his days in this sleepy part of Maui. His final resting place overlooks the Pacific Ocean, about eight miles south of the town core.
Whether you decide to come for a day or stay a while, driving the road to Hana is half the fun. By the time you make the journey from Paia, a surfer’s delight on Maui’s north shore, you will have covered 42 miles, crossed 54 bridges, some of them one-lane, and negotiated some 600 hairpin curves.
Each of those curves hold a surprise, whether it’s a hidden waterfall cascading to the roadway, a breathtaking panoramic view of the Pacific, a bamboo forest, or a roadside stand selling fresh pineapple juice and mango slices. Some of the curves are especially challenging. One near mile marker 6 turns up and around at the same time. The forest of bamboo at mile marker 7 poses its own challenges. Tourists tend to pay more attention to that forest than the road. It is an amazing site, but you can get just as lovely a view from the pull-out near the Kaaiea Bridge.
The Kaumahina State Wayside is a rest area, offering picnic tables, barbecue grills and restrooms. It also offers an amazing view of the Keanae Peninsula, just one of the incredible photo ops on your journey.
A 4X4 vehicle isn’t necessary, but it won’t hurt. Convertibles are great because you not only get the best views but can work on your tan at the same time. Pick up food and drinks in Paia since there are few options before you get to Hana. Make sure your camera is charged and you have lots of room on that memory card, you’ll need it.
If you aren’t in a hurry, consider spending the night in Hana to really get the feel of the place. It also helps break up your drive, which can take two to three hours each way depending on how often you stop. Making the journey to Hana and then just taking a cursory look at the town doesn’t really give you a true sense of the area. Besides, sitting behind the wheel for six hours or more in one day can seem more like work to some, no matter how pleasant the drive.
Then again, you may just want to leave the driving to others. Road to Hana Tours are available. Sit back on an air conditioned mini-bus as the driver navigates the curves and stops at the best sites along the way. The all-day tour includes lunch and a chance to swim at a black sand beach if the conditions are favorable.
The tea is hot and fragrantly scented. A three-tiered silver service stands ready with finger sandwiches of smoked salmon, light-as-air scones and delicately frosted fairy cakes. Rhapsodic notes spring from a grand piano in the corner of the ornately furnished English Tea Room, half hidden by the ivory shaded columns and potted palms. Such is afternoon tea in the landmark Empress Hotel in British flavored Victoria, British Columbia.
Tea in the Victorian Age
Take away the modern dress and the sounds of traffic along Government Street and the scene is not all that much different than when this iconic hotel opened in 1908. Back then, horse drawn carriages delivered gents in top hats and tails. Ladies would dress in high-necked gowns of silk and lace, complemented by elbow length gloves and hats adorned with exotic feathers and yards of ribbon.
Elegantly attired, guests would be seated in the wing-backed chairs fronting hand carved tables. The best tables overlooked Government Street and the Inner Harbour, providing entertainment and a chance to gossip, discreetly of course. The Royal Doulton china tea service would appear, along with milk and lumps of sugar, decadent for the times. The tea was poured British style, milk in the cup first if you please, followed by the inevitable question, one lump or two?
A Century of Tea Sipping
Sounds like a scene from a vintage play, doesn’t it? It is, yet it isn’t. Taking afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel is just as elegant an experience in the modern era as it was more than 100 years ago. The dress code is more relaxed, but do leave the baseball caps, the torn jeans and bikini tops at home.
The Empress also offers a Prince and Princess Tea for children 12 and under, at a reduced rate. Introduce the family to the boldly flavored special Empress blend of tea or perhaps the fruity Berry Berry variety. Adults may also add a glass of Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Brut, making your experience an official Royal Afternoon Tea.
At first glance the resort area of Waikiki does appear to be an expensive vacation option. True, you can spend a bundle on beachfront hotels, high-end condos and excursions. On the other hand, booking accommodations a block or two from the beach can cut your hotel bill in half, or perhaps more. Taking advantage of some of Waikiki’s inexpensive entertainment options also helps make your Hawaiian vacation affordable.
Waikiki Beach Picnic
Step out the front door of your hotel and chances are you’ll be within a block or two of an ABC Store. This staple of Waikiki sells everything from groceries to souvenirs. ABC Stores are the most convenient places to find picnic items for your day at Waikiki Beach. Ready-made sandwiches, snacks, drinks, even straw beach mats, coolers and towels are for sale.
Find your spot on the sand and work on that tan, learn to surf or just go for a swim. People-watching is the unofficial sport on this beach, best done while wearing shades. If you’re traveling with kids, head for Kuhio Beach, in front of the Duke Kahanamoku statue. A man-made breakwater fronts a shallow pond that is safe for young swimmers. This less crowded part of Waikiki also offers picnic tables, restrooms and food vendors.
Plan your picnic for sunset and watch the free Kuhio Beach Park Hula Show, offered three to four times a week. In addition to the dancers and musicians, a traditional torch lighting ceremony welcomes the night.
Each Friday, the Hilton Hawaiian Village offers the Rockin’ Hawaiian Rainbow Review. Purchase seats near the hotel’s Super Pool or pick a spot on the sand to watch the fireworks for free. You won’t be able to see the dancers but you will hear the music. The fireworks display is out over the ocean, so you still have a ring-side seat.
Climbing Diamond Head Crater
Leahi, as the Hawaiian’s call Diamond Head, is Waikiki’s famed landmark. Most people only see the volcano from the outside, but if you venture through the north side tunnel you’ll find a park. A trail leading from the park up to the rim of the crater takes you up a switchback trail, through tunnels and up 175 steps. Your reward is a bird’s eye view of Waikiki, Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean from your 760-foot high perch.
Getting to Vancouver Island means hopping on a ferry or flying. Victoria International Airport, in Sidney, is only 16 miles from the capital city and the port of entry for many. From here you just rent a car, take a taxi or hop on a shuttle bus to get into town. But the City of Victoria has an eye-popping and even more convenient option that throws in a bit of sightseeing as well.
Imagine soaring over the Juan de Fuca Strait, circling the Victoria skyline and then splashing down in the Inner Harbour. Your seaplane taxis past million dollar yachts, funky houseboats and docks within steps of the ivy covered Empress Hotel.
The sculptured, Victorian-style Parliament Building, completed in 1897, impressively sits on its expanse of lawn just south of the Empress. In the warmer seasons you’re greeted with a riot of flowers along the Inner Harbour walkway, spilling out of lamppost flower pots and sidewalk flower boxes framing Victoria’s Old Town. Arriving into Victoria by seaplane, which flies slower and lower than a jet, means you get an even better bird’s eye view of these delights before you even land.
Two of the companies offering flights into Victoria’s Inner Harbour are Kenmore Air Seaplanes, based in Seattle, and Harbour Air Seaplanes out of Richmond, British Columbia. All planes are prop or turbo-prop, with Harbour Air offering both single and twin engine aircraft. Both companies offer scheduled flights and charter service, as well as flight-seeing options.