How to visit Bryce Canyon National Park And beat the crowds

Want to beat the crowds and still enjoy one of Utah’s natural wonders? Read on how to do it at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce Canyon is what I like to call sensory overload. There is literally too much to look at. It hurts your eyes to try. 

This park is probably one of the most organized National Parks I’ve been to, with a comprehensive listing of all things to see and do on the National Park Service website. So I’m not going to write a whole lot on the specifics on this place.

What I will tell you, and this is important, you. must. go. early! 

Especially if you don’t want to take the shuttle service. Otherwise there will be no parking for your vehicle. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I’m all about beating the crowds and I’m usually pretty good at it. I just feel like it’s more of my own experience and a way better one if I can be alone. Or maybe with a few people around, but that’s it! Plus they get in the way of your fantastic photos!

A panoramic view with an awesome mix of green and orange

Driving up Bryce Canyon in your own car is so much more relaxing too. 

First things first, secure your room at Bryce Canyon Pines Motel. They are out of the way a little on HWY 12, but way more affordable than staying in anything closer or in Bryce Canyon. Plus there’s not a bunch of people around. Beating the crowds already! I stayed in a nice updated and comfy cottage room. But you’ll have your choice of 3 of those, family suites, or a regular motel room. It’s up to you. You must to get on HWY 12 from the West so you can start taking in the scenic  highway properly. 

Below I have a great two day itinerary that includes a full days worth of retina straining beauty.

Here’s that very familiar road arch signifying you’re getting close to Bryce.

Read on if you have a park pass or are willing to buy one and if you want to beat the crowds!

  • After checking into your room head to Bryce Canyon, stop at the fee area and get your park pass if you already don’t have one. Now go to the visitor’s center and get your park info and maps.
  • If you need water, snacks, a quick sandwich or any supplies you forgot like sunblock or a hat, head back down the canyon and stop in at Ruby’s Inn General Store.
  • Got everything you think you might need for tomorrow? Good! Now go eat dinner at Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant right where you’ll be staying. How convenient! They serve up good home cooked meals and yummy pies.
  • Next morning. Head out and up Bryce Canyon early. As early as you can. Around 10 AM is when I noticed it getting busy. 
  • Drive to Bryce Amphitheater and stop at all four view points.  Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce Point. Get this done first because this is where the camp sites and the Bryce Lodge is. It gets incredibly congested here later in the day.
Bryce Amphitheater. I told you it’s sensory overload!
  • Now head up the canyon to Rainbow Point. After you get your fill there, head back down and stop at Natural Bridge.
Natural Bridge
  • If you want to get a great somewhat easy and gorgeous hike in, head back down to Sunrise Point and do the Queens Garden trail at least, or do the Navajo Loop. Allow yourself one to two hours for those. You can also combine those two in the Queen’s/Navajo combo loop. You’ll need 2 to 3 hours to complete the combo loop, plus time for stopping to take photos. These I think are great hikes to really see the beauty of Bryce Amphitheater up close.
Along the Queens Garden hike
Queens Garden
  • Go eat again. I’m sure if you hiked at all, you undoubtedly worked up an appetite. There are a pretty decent amount of restaurants around to choose from, but anywhere you go, especially if it’s close to a time when everyone else decides they’re hungry, it is going to be packed. So it’s up to you. But I ate at the Ruby’s Inn Buffet and it was surprisingly delicious and diverse in food choices. (I’m not a fan of buffets)

Well there you have it. Go early, beat the crowds, and spend what is left of your day however you choose. But enjoy it!

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans knows how to treat you in every way! Read on for some tips. about this historic city.


I’ve wanted to visit New Orleans for quite some time before I went with my husband and a friend with the same interest in this vibrant city back in 2017. I had almost everyone one I told I was going ask me why. I couldn’t believe they were asking me that. “Well why the hell not!” I would say. I just knew before I even started my research on this diverse and famously historical city along the Mississippi River, that I would fall in love. In love with the architecture, culture, history, and the delectable comfort food of the south. 

Did you know New Orleans was the home of the now Utah Jazz basketball team?

Hello! Makes sense. New Orleans is the home of Jazz music! I’m not a fan of Jazz music but when you’re there and having a good time, you just have to boogie!

If after reading this you don’t have a desire to go, then I have failed. I have some recommendations, some must-do’s, and don’t do’s along with the story of my trip.

In hopes maybe more people can learn there is so much more to New Orleans than Mardi Gras.

What to know
  • It’s pronounced New or-lins not new or-leens. 
  • There’s no East, West, North or South. It’s Downtown, Uptown, Lakeside and Riverside as far as directions go there.
  • When conversing with locals, don’t ask about Hurricane Katrina. It’s rude. Only talk about it if they bring it up first.
  • Everyone jaywalks in New Orleans except the tourists.

   “Y’all better learn!”

NOLA cuisine

Oh this city has the most delicious food! Everywhere I ate it was always so damn good.

You couldn’t go wrong. I think I ate most of the time I was there. Their cuisine consists of a lot of seafood, and the special mix of spices in Creole and Cajun food. 

When people hear cajun, they think spicy, but creole dishes can also be very spicy. Creole cuisine is more complex in the way it’s prepared, and in the variety of sauces and spices. But that doesn’t mean Cajun is lacking in flavor. Just try everything, it’s all good! If you don’t understand something on a menu or don’t know how to pronounce it, just ask. The locals are more than happy to explain it to you and you’ll more times than not get told a good story too!

Dishes you must eat
  • Jambalaya – Come on you’re in New Orleans! You have to try both creole and cajun varieties. 
  • Gumbo – Do it! Both varieties!
  • Red Beans & Rice – Sounds simple but it really is a must eat.
  • Po’boy – This is a sandwich on French bread usually with sausage or shrimp. Make sure you get it “dressed”
  • Muffuletta – An Italian inspired sandwich with ham, salami, cheese and an olive dressing. These are huge so plan on sharing with someone if you can.
  • Beignet – This is a French style donut with piles of powdered sugar on top. You have to eat these with a cup or two of Cafe au Lait. 

There’s so many other great things to eat but the list would go on. Seriously!

Beignets and Cafe au Lait at Cafe Du Monde
Where to eat

Commander’s Palace Restaurant

Everything I ate here was so delicious! Mostly Creole style. You can get a pretty spectacular Sazerac cocktail here. Dress code enforced. Ladies, just wear a dress. It’s okay, it’s just long enough to enjoy a damn nice meal. Gentlemen, a nice button up shirt or a jacket, okay?

Cafe Du Monde

This is where you get the best beignets and Cafe au Lait. It’s usually busy so be prepared to wait in line, and also to use the bathroom.

Mother’s Restaurant 

Creole & Cajun – good home cooking. You can get anything here really.

Napoleon House 

Get your muffuletta on here! Remember, be prepared to share or have leftovers. Too good to waste!

Meril 

This is one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants. This is the only place I ate where the portions weren’t huge. 

These are only a few of the many great places to eat in New Orleans. I really doubt you can go wrong.

Bars

There are so many bars to choose from. It’s a little overwhelming to decide but I went to a few and I’ll give the lowdown on what I experienced.

Pat O’ Brien’s 

This bar was my favorite. It’s kind of like three bars in one. A patio bar, the main bar, and piano bar. You can get their famous hurricanes and the glass it comes in for an extra charge. If you don’t want to keep your glass, you can turn it in and get the glass fee amount back. They had a super friendly and helpful staff and they also send you out the door with little souvenirs. The dueling piano bar was too much fun and the patio bar has a water fountain that’s lit up at night with fire and color changing lights.

Fountain in the patio bar at Pat O’ Brien’s – not on fire yet!

Barcadia

We went to this bar a few times because it was right next to our hotel.

We went in for the first time on a Tuesday night and that place was hoppin!

They have a pretty good sized menu with, in my opinion, the best appetizers I’ve had at a bar! There’s the arcade games, a giant Jenga game, giant Connect Four game, trivia games and there’s even a dance club in the back. 

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop

We stopped in here as part of a haunted history tour we took. It was way packed when we went in but from what I could tell it was a neat bar. Apparently haunted but we didn’t get to experience anything spooky because of all the people. 

Compere Lapin 

This is the bar where we stayed at in The Old 77 hotel. I really liked it here, especially the decor and all the artsy stuff. Right up my alley! Plus, however they did it I don’t know, but the lobby where you walked in through the front doors, smelled so fantastic, always! Like a really lovely light perfume. If I ever go back, I will have to ask them how they did that. Amazeballs!

D.B.A

We tried to go here, but on our way we hit a block party that had blocked traffic from going through. So we ended up on foot and just walked around on Frenchman Street which was a little more than we could handle on a Friday night.

Of course I wanted to get out and try more bars but I really think I always just ate too much food and couldn’t catch a buzz no matter what.

Things to do

There are more things to do in New Orleans besides eat and drink. I’ll let you know what I did. What I wished I would’ve done, and probably someday go back and do.

Check out the Mississippi River

Check it out by foot or by boat. I didn’t go the boat route because I tend to get a little sea sick and didn’t want to ruin my good time and waste my yummy breakfast/lunch.

Hopefully while you’re there if you go on foot, you can check out the steamboat Natchez. There was a lady on top that played an extremely loud steam organ.

The Creole Queen on the Mississippi River

Go shopping

Head down to Magazine Street with all the many different shops to choose from. Or to Jackson Square for art markets and booths. Voodoo shops are all over so don’t worry about not being able to pop into one real quick. 

Visit a cemetery or two

I went to the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. But if there’s time in your schedule, head over to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 as well.

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 front gates
Do you see the funky looking spider?

Stroll through French Quarter and Garden District

Just walk around and marvel at the old-world architecture of the French Quarter.

I just loved the mansions and huge oak trees down the Garden District. 

A famous corner building in the French Quarter
Apparently I have a thing for cool corner buildings!
In the Garden District, this is the house where American Horror Story: Coven was filmed.

Take a haunted history tour

You’ll learn quite a bit about the history of New Orleans as well as a lot of folklore and story telling. It’s all very entertaining!

They called this Touchdown Jesus!
Oooh Ominous

Museums

We spent a good chunk of an afternoon in the Museum Of Death. This place has all the serial killer memorabilia you could ever want to look at. 

Plantation tours

I wish this was the section of this post where I fill the page up with gorgeous pics of giant weeping Oak trees and towering plantation buildings. But alas, it is not. This is what I planned on doing and never got to. I would go back for this. Someday I believe I will!

A word of advice – don’t plan on booking one of these the day before you go even if it’s in the middle of the week. They book up fast! (whaa!)

There’s so much more to do in New Orleans than what I have listed here. Actually there’s so much to see. But be careful and be smart. There are a lot of friendly people there but you may get some looking to swindle you out of a few bucks. I had a man walk up to me and ask, “I bet you $10 I can tell you where you got your shoes”. To which he would reply, “You got them on Bourbon Street!” Ha ha ha very funny. My husband had this doozy, “ I bet you I can tell you exactly how many grandchildren your grampa had” The answer is none people! Grampas can’t have children! 

As you could probably guess, New Orleans is very humid. Especially when a hurricane is approaching. Yeah, that happened. We were so scared, we almost tried for an early flight home. Luckily we waited and it was reduced to a tropical storm and started coming in heavy after we got in the airport. I thought takeoff was going to be so super nausea inducing but it wasn’t bad at all. I wished I would’ve snapped a pic of the windows from inside our hotel. It looked like it was raining outside but it wasn’t yet. That’s how humid it was that day. It condensed on the windows so much the moisture was running down the glass! I would go back to New Orleans if only to eat!

Jackson Square. Some of the horses had painted glitter hooves!
Not ominous at all during the day! So pretty!
Another view of Jackson Square
The door hangers at our hotel. I thought they were funny.
HA! Those aren’t my hands by the way!

San Rafael River float

A Utah adventure you have to experience. See San Rafael Swell’s “Little Grand Canyon” from a different point of view!

Floating down the San Rafael River was one of the most rewarding adventures I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. You get to see the “Wedge” or Little Grand Canyon in the San Rafael Swell from below. A whole new way to see the desert here!

Look at all the stripes!

I went in early June 2017 after a very nice winter with a lot of snow pack in the mountains. That’s the sad part, you can only do this if the conditions are right. 

I went with a bunch of friends that had rented a couple large river rafts and a very knowledgable man in the paddling seat! I don’t recommend doing this without the proper equipment, and going alone is a bad idea if you’re not experienced.

You can see the rest of our party way ahead of us!

This is just a little story about my trip and to inspire others to do the same. If you’re not near the area, I would suggest doing a little research to find out the conditions of the river first. I would plan on going in May or early June. Besides, it gets pretty hot out there with no shade at all. 

I do know you can look at raft rentals at carbon.Utah.gov and follow instructions there to book the rentals. 

We dropped a vehicle off at The Swinging Bridge by the river and drove down to Fullers Bottom to launch. The high cliffs with all the desert varnish and rock formations so familiar to this area start to come into view as you float lazily down the river. So peaceful, so stunning. There is a great place off to the right to stop and have lunch or to take a break and walk around. It’s called Virgin Spring Canyon and it’s about the halfway point. There are some pictographs a little ways down the canyon to check out. People camp here too, and if you can get a spot, it would be a great place to do it.

Pictograph at Virgin Spring Canyon
Too gorgeous for words!
Look at the hole!
They call this doghead for obvious reasons.
There’s the bridge!

I am hoping to do this adventure again hopefully in the near future. But unfortunately we are at the mercy of a good winter. So we will see…. 

Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab UT

Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park are some natural Utah wonders.

If you’re looking for some gorgeous desert scenery and would like to stare in wonder at a land that looks so vast you can’t see where it ends or begins, you need to visit the Canyonlands National Park and the Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah’s Southeast high desert near Moab, UT.

Canyonlands National Park is made up of three parts or districts because of the two rivers that divide it, the Colorado and Green rivers.

  • Island In The Sky – The most accessible part of the park and the Northernmost part that is closest to Moab.
  • Needles – Situated in the Southeast corner of the park. About 40 miles South of Moab.
  • The Maze – The most rugged and remote part located West of the park. If you want some full out adventure, this is where you should probably go, but plan ahead fully. High clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles are a must and a lot of time to get there and also you need time to explore.

Each district has its own characteristics like Island In The Sky is mostly sandstone and is situated up higher that the rest of the park. Hence the name it was given. Needles houses sandstone spires similar to some of the ones you’ll find in and around Goblin Valley State Park. There’s more of the same sandstone formations along with “castles” in The Maze.

Nothing connects the districts because of the rivers.

Some tips before you go

  • Plan one district per trip or day depending on how much time you have.
  • Check road conditions and with the park at NPS.gov to see of there’s anything notable.
  • Research which district you want to visit first.
  • Always pack plenty of water, food, sunblock and extra clothing.
  • There are fees to get into these parks as with any and I highly recommend purchasing a pass if you plan of visiting a few in a year.
Not entirely sure what that top image on the sign is all about…….
Island In The Sky

I would advise going here first as it is the most accessible and I feel like it is a great introductory part to the park. From Moab, drive 10 miles North and get on UT 313 and drive about 22 miles south west to the visitors center.

There you can nab up some maps of the area with the outlooks and trails and choose which you’d like to check out. I recommend the following pitstops and hikes.


Steps on the way to Upheaval Dome
  • Mesa arch – A very quick hike to a very popular arch. Can you say screen saver? Depending on when you go, you will probably have to wait your turn to get a decent pic with the famous arch. But people seemed way cool, took turns and got out of the way and even offered to take our picture by it.
Mesa Arch
Mesa Arch….Such a surreal view!
  • Buck Canyon Overlook – A view point you can easily check out and take some beautiful pics from.
  • Grand View point Overlook – This overlook will blow your mind so check it out!
  • Green River Overlook – Another mind blower! You gotta check it!
Green River Overlook
  • Upheaval dome – This is a geographical phenomenon that you take a decent hike to. Just follow the markers on the trail like little stacks of rocks on the sandstone (called cairns) and the signs and you’ll have no problem finding it. It looks like white sand made a little mountain in a crater of sorts. Geologists have a few theories of how it was formed but no real clue.
Upheaval Dome

Now if you went early and gave yourself enough time, go out of the park and check out Dead Horse Point State park.

Dead Horse Point State Park

You can seriously get your hike on and your bike on in the park but unfortunately I did not allow myself enough time to get it on!

For another time I will plan on it but if you don’t have a whole lot of time just drive to the Dead Horse Point overlook and check that beauty out at least and take pics.

Dead Horse Point overlook

Lodging ideas for Island In The Sky & Dead Horse Point 

  • Motels/Hotels/condos/camping/Koa in Moab – These are all fine and cool. I did the hotel thing when I went and regretted not looking into and booking the next idea listed.
  • Yurts -“ What?! Yurts? Cool! I wonder what they’re like inside” says I when I saw them in the distance. As of right now, here are your choices for these roundish little rooms for rent with little or all the amenities.
  • Talking Mountain Yurts – La Sal Mountain Range Moab, UT. There’s 3 yurts available to rent for up to 8 people ranging from $125 – $275 per night depending on when you go. Portage service for your stuff available for a fee and pets allowed inside yurts for a fee as well. Make reservations at talkingmountainyurts.com 
  • Dead Horse Point State Park Yurts – Located in the Park obviously, there’s the Wingate Yurts and Moenkopi Yurts available for 6 people in each at $140 per night. Make reservations at www.reserveamerica.com

Glamping – Canvas tents – I didn’t know about these either but the research I did on them left me with questions that may require a phone call to find out. 

Under Canvas Moab – From what I gather these are luxurious canvas tents with pretty much everything you want in some secluded areas.

Here’s the gist on the options I read about.

  1. Deluxe – Complete bathroom inside, wood stove, private deck, sleeps four.
  2. Safari with four twins – Large cabin style, communal bathhouse, sleeps four.
  3. Suite – Private bathroom, sleeps four, wood stove, private deck, secluded with views.

Get online and check these out.

These are available for reservation at undercanvas.com with several packages available. They seem pricy, but don’t take my word for it.

Dining in Moab

Of course there’s the ever popular Pasta Jay’s where you can pretty much count on most of the menu items being delicious in my opinion. (love anything even closely resembling Italian food) I really like the Peace Tree Juice Cafe for healthier breakfast options as well.

I usually go to these same places when I visit Moab but here are some other places I’ve heard or read good things about.

  • Quesadilla Mobilla – Food truck, Mexican & southwestern food. This has excellent reviews pretty much everywhere you look on the net.
  • Desert Bistro – American fusion. 
  • Sweet Cravings Bakery & Bistro – American, Deli & bakery.
  • Eklecticafe – American, cool atmosphere.
  • El Charro Locco – Mexican & Southwestern fare.

I’m sure there are a ton more and I will definitely try these suggestions out the next time I’m down there.

Grocery stores in Moab

There are a few grocery store options where you can get some supplies whiles you’re out and about or if you were lucky enough to get one of those cool yurts or canvas tents to cook your own food at.

  • City Market – Regular grocery store
  • The village Market – another regular ass grocery store
  • Moonflower Community Cooperative – Here is a natural and whole foods store with a deli in the back. If you live in or near Moab, you may wish to pay into the co-op.

Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!

If you’re like me, you gotsta have that coffee! Here are a few of the many places in Moab you can grab a cup o Joe.

  • Moab Coffee Roasters – Name says it all!
  • Eklectica Coffee & Collectables – Breakfast and coffee served here.
  • Wicked Brew Espresso Drive Thru – Drive Thru coffee shop.
  • Wake & Bake Cafe – Sounds like they serve breakfast & lunch along with locally roasted coffee and smoothies.
  • Cafe Italiano – Food truck, Espresso, iced coffee, smoothies and paninis.
  • Starbucks – Of course there’s a friggin Starbucks! There’s always one of these corporate death traps. Avoid at all times, unless of course it’s your fave but I guarantee you can find something so much better! I wasn’t even going to mention it but then there’s people who love this place for some reason. I don’t see it, but that’s me and enough about what I want.

Hello Moab my old friend

I’ve been to Moab a handful of times, usually with an agenda in mind, but sometimes its just great to go down and visit and eat and shop at some great unique places. I know there’s a lot more to do and see around this area but unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to get it all in.

They also have the Moab Castle Creek Winery down that beautiful Hwy 128 alongside the Colorado River with the Red Cliffs Lodge. I’ve stayed there and greatly enjoyed a Christmas party one time but wasn’t able to spend a whole lot of time there, so maybe another time….

Northern Shore Oahu, Hawaii

Read on for some great ideas for food, and activities on the north shore Oahu, Hawaii.

Ahh Hawaii. One of my favorite places I’ve been so far for sure!

The weather is great, the water is warm and the vibe is chill. Not to mention how gorgeous it is everywhere! Green and serene. Lucious and plentiful. Majestic and awe-inspiring. My experience on the Northern Shores of Oahu are definitely in my element with all of the surfer easygoing attitudes of pretty much everyone there.

We generally avoided the super busy parts of this island as much as possible like Honolulu, Waikiki and the other popular beaches and attractions on the southernish part of the island.

Luckily we got to go with another couple and shared a 2 floor beach house on Pupukea beach. Depending on your budget for lodging, I highly recommend renting an Air B&B. Most of the ones we looked at had a lot of gear stored in them for whatever you might like to do during your stay. That helps a ton when you’re traveling damn near 3,000 miles flying through the air where you pay a small fortune already to do so. Not to mention any extra baggage you think you have to have and pay more for.

View of the beach house we rented from the ocean shore.
What to do on the Northern shore

Eats

This isn’t the best food and or restaurant guide as I did have a house to cook a lot of meals myself, so I didn’t go out much to eat but these are a few things I did try. I firmly believe, when on vacay you gotsta let someone else cook for you for the most part of your stay right?

Where we stayed, there was a super convenient food truck park about a mileish down the road that we frequented quite regularly and a grocery store called Foodland right next to it. Groceries are kinda pricey in Hawaii depending on what you want but I still say it’s a little cheaper than eating out for every meal.

Getting my street taco on!
  • Ted’s Bakery – Kamehameha, Hwy  – We got a plate lunch here for breakfast one day that fed me for 3 breakfasts – Huge amounts of food. Not bad but not great.
Plate lunch from Ted’s Bakery
  • North Shore Tacos (food truck, Pupukea ) – You might be thinking like I did. WTF? Food trucks? Blech! But no this one was a hit with us all. Very good food all around!
  • The Spot (food truck, Pupukea) – Good food. Friendly service. We sat at their tables and the flies were hellacious but that’s not really their fault now is it?
  • Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – Kamehameha, Hwy – Good luck with this one! This shrimp truck is so popular, you cannot even think about going around any time of day when most people think about eating. We made the mistake of going around lunch time one day and the line was so big, I didn’t know where it started and ended. So we didn’t end up eating here, but I put it in because it took up so much of my time that day. I thought about it a lot too. I’m sure it’s good!
There’s way more people waiting in line on the other side of that truck I promise!
  • Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican – Haleiwa – The name says it all! Yummy Mexican cuisine and very colorful and festive decor and atmosphere.
  • Teddy’s Bigger Burgers – Haleiwa – Oh man! I ate a burger and fries here and let me tell ya, them shits are big and delicious, and I ate waaaaay too much for lunch and ended up taking a nap (big mistake!) so I had to walk that shit off for a while with no dinner that night. 
  • Haleiwa Joe’s Seafood & Grill – My husband and I ate here as a little getaway as a couple and also to try some of this Islands seafood fare. This place didn’t disappoint either!
  • Matsumoto’s – Haleiwa – Shave Ice joint. Busy usually. But worth the wait. Now I know what you’re thinking. Really? A dessert made of ground up ice, some flavoring and ice cream? Yes! So good. Such a treat here and definitely go to Matsumoto’s. I tried my friends from a food truck somewhere else and it wasn’t even as yummy. Their flavoring is the cat’s pajamas!
  • Breakers Restaurant & Bar – Haleiwa – Way cool surfer bar that serves local cuisine along with American food choices. We ate here on our last day before heading to the airport. 
  • Pounders – Polynesian Culture Center – Laie – All I remember was they had a pizza oven covered in pennies that was cool and the fries were phenomenal!
Activities, attractions and what to do
Beautiful sunset from the beach house balcony

For the amount of time I spent on Oahu I guess you could say I didn’t go do a whole lot. I didn’t get to do everything on my list but I’m okay with that. I firmly believe that a fair share of relaxation time is equally as important. Read on to read about what I did and what to check out.

There’re a lot of things to do for sure, too many to list here.

  • Haleiwa North Shore Marketplace – Go shopping! Even if you don’t have the budget to buy, it’s really just fun to look at all the cute shops and buildings here. There are usually some interesting people out and about too.
  • Dole Plantation – Wahiawa – Skip it unless you’re taking kids or have an extreme affinity for Pineapple flavored FroYo. It’s a total tourist trap but they do have a train ride for the little ones, the worlds largest maze (kinda fun) and their own little botanical garden. All of these things come at a cost of course and you can also get all things pineapple inside at the shop.
Dole whip


Shark’s Cove – Pupukea – Snorkeling is popular here because the rock and coral formations are perfect for fish to swim into and basically get trapped until the tide comes back in. I could see fish just by sitting on some of the rocks and looking into the tide pools. But check before you head there to see if the tide has come in or if there are rough waves. I can tell you it doesn’t look fun when that happens and it shows because nobody is there when it does.

High tide at Sharks Cove
  • Seashell hunting – any beach really – My favorite! Seriously, one of my favorite things to do whilst I’m out on the desert at home is looking for pretty, cool and interesting rocks. Seashell hunting is just like that but on a beach, in beautiful Hawaii. Need I say more! Free natural souvenirs! Now some people say you shouldn’t take these home because it places some sort of bad juju on you. But I am not superstitious at all! So it’s all good as long as you can fit them all in your luggage and whatnot.
A pretty good size piece of sea glass.
  • Artwork wall at Pupukea Beach Park – While you’re looking for seashells on this beach, just meander over towards Shark’s Cove / tide pools way and check out the artwork on this wall. It’s really something I think.
Check out that wall!
  • Walk to Hidden Beach – Haleiwa – Beautiful hidden beach coves with the best seashells! Just West of the Mokuleia Beach park are some “hidden” beaches that are more secluded and less populated if at all. I had a lot of fun exploring around here, but in my excitement and also complete stupidity I didn’t think to keep the sunblock on and I got Lobsta red! It kinda put a damper on my sun loving activities for a couple days.
Hidden Beach
Looking inland from Hidden beach. Beautiful!
  • Polynesian Culture Center – Laie – Another sort-of tourist trap but they have the Hukilau Marketplace with shops and eats. They also have a large Luau available but I didn’t partake in this part of it. This place is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints. Which kind floored me when discovering Hawaii is full of Mormons. Coming from Utah where that state is considered the Mormon capital of America. So don’t expect to drink alcohol at this Luau.
  • Waimea Valley Botanical gardens – Haleiwa- Take a stroll through the unique and beautiful gardens and learn more about the Hawaiian culture here. Make sure you walk up to the waterfall and pool you can swim in if you’re in the mood. There’s also a little place to grab lunch if hunger strikes. If you purchase a ticket for the Toa Luau here, you can get this portion free but it has to be the same day the Luau is
Little stream in the Waimea Valley Gardens
Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens
Waimea Valley garden flower. Trust me I had a lot more pics of flowers!
  • Toa Luau – Waimea Valley – Oh yeah! My favorite part of the trip. Other than seashell hunting of course! This is a more intimate and small Luau which is what appealed to me from the beginning. When we went they had only been up and running for about 6 months so they were fairly new. They had everything running smoothly as if they’d been doing it for years, but with the enthusiasm of a new team. You begin the evening with several ancient Polynesian culture traditions and ceremonies that you get to be a part of. You can make coconut milk, braid your own head band, grind at some taro root and more. The host was funny and sarcastic. The food was a great variety and delicious and the drinks were nice and strong. The entertainment was so good I got chills and a little emotional I must admit. They treated us like family. Our friends booked right a long with us but their daughter grabbed a hot clothes iron and burned her little hand pretty bad, so they didn’t go. No refunds of course. We explained why our three other people booked with us weren’t there and they felt so bad that they sent us with to go boxes of everything for all three people and…AND the special souvenir you’re only supposed to get with the VIP package. What a great group of people really! Highly recommended!
Toa Luau. The guys are prepping our dinner.
Toa Luau – Dinner entertainment.
  • Farmers Markets – You gotta check out a farmer’s market or two. Especially if you’re fortunate enough to have your own kitchen like we did. We went to one on Kamehameha Hwy and got some delicious fresh native fruits and cut up coconut. They may look a little shady but apparently it was all good!
  • Tropical Farms, Macadamia nut farm – Kamehameha Hwy – These guys had all of the macadamia nut flavors you could wish for and more – like Kona coffee’s and souvenirs and what have you. It was pretty crowded with tourists when we went, but I’m glad we did. The Kona coffee dusted macadamia nuts were to die for!I took an unopened package home in my checked luggage hoping TSA wouldn’t jack my shit. They didn’t, so luckily I didn’t have to sob into my pillow when I got home. 
  • Pearl Harbor – Honolulu – And of course there’s this. You really just kinda have to do. Another tourist trap of course but interesting. It’s a great way to kill time if needed. Like we did after we checked out and was waiting to go to the airport on our last day. Redeye flights are a bitch! If you wanted to see all of the attractions here and maybe take a tour to learn even more, be prepared to pay a decent amount for it.
Memorial site at Pearl Harbor.

Damn you Hawaii! Why are you so expensive?!

If you’re thinking about going just save up and go already! Or just go and never come back. That’s what our cleaning lady professed to us when she showed up a little early on our last day. The humidity is a little hard to get used to especially if you’re from a very dry area like Utah. Disturbing words like moist, swamp ass and sticky come to mind. And then there’s volcanoes on some of the neighboring islands. Volcanoes are a super destructive awesome way to make an island bigger and all, but that shit is frightening. Luckily we were hundreds of miles away on Oahu where we couldn’t even see smoke from the volcano jackin up peoples shit over on the Big Island. Got a lot of texts and facebook messages that week though asking if we were alive and okay.

This is the second time we vacationed somewhere and a natural disaster hit that we narrowly escaped. But that’s for another post……

Lovin Hawaii……and that view!

Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort – Marysvale, UT

Read about a great Utah getaway and adventure.

Looking for some ATV fun or just a fun place to get away for a weekend? Big Rock Candy Mountain has you covered.

My husband and I had the pleasure of visiting this attraction tucked away and basically hiding in West-central Utah in Paiute County. The Mountain you see above, gets it’s mostly mustardy yellowish-white color from volcanic rock spewed millions of years ago and had been chemically altered by the obvious hydrogen sulphide, along with water and oxygen, as well as minerals present in the surrounding area to form and give you these beautiful little piles of rock to change up the scenery a bit in the rolling farmland hills.

At a high point on an ATV ride looking down at the farms and rolling hills.

Lodging at Big Rock Candy Mountain

It’s a great little place to stay if you’re looking into exploring the Paiute Trail system. Which is ginormous by the way! 2000+ miles with a 240 mile main loop.

  • You have your choice of 8 cabins, (yay)
  • 12 caboose train cars, (whoohoo) 
  • A few motel rooms, (snore) 
  • 32 lot RV park, (way too crowded and too close for comfort)
  • Or some good old fashioned camping, (I do enough of that!)

 The lodging at this place books up pretty quick as it is a great place to stay whilst getting your fill of all of the ATV rides you can stand. As my husband puts it “we’re comin in jiggly hot!”

If you’ve decided on booking one of the train cars

Train car porch steps with Sevier River overlook.
From the porch looking at Big Rock Candy Mountain.

When starting my research and bookings for this trip I immediately fell in love with these caboose train car rentals. I thought these are either going to be super trashy, inconvenient, in desperate need of repair and updating, tiny and strictly novelty rooms that I will wish I didn’t book for 3 nights. I was impressed really! Turns out, they were probably one of the best rooms I’ve stayed in lately. All of the train cars had a different name and theme. Ours was a beachy nautical theme and was super cute.

Our nautical train car interior.
View from the bathroom – husband getting in my shot!

They’re clean, convenient, updated and yes novelty but again way cute. Especially the porch overlooking the Sevier River. There are some fire pits, grills and tables down by the river for more of your outdoorsy pleasure. We didn’t indulge in our love of a good sit-down by the fire with a beer in hand, because they wasn’t advertised, and I didn’t want to pay $9 for a small bundle of wood at the ol nearby “convenience” store. Had I known, I would’ve probably brought some wood from home.

Oh yes – the “convenience” store. The one that closes whenever it wants really, because everyday it was different. The day we arrived, which was on the Thursday right before Labor Day weekend, they closed at 3 PM. To our later thankfulness we had our shit together that morning and left way earlier than we needed to, we ended up there around 1:30  – 2 PM and decided we would see if we could check into our lovely little ass end of a train room. The staff was super friendly and helpful though. 

Services available and some things to know before you go

I advise taking a quick drive around in your ATV to get your bearings. There are signs posted around about not driving on the main highway. They don’t like it and I can see why. 

If you know where you want to go, drive around and see how you can get there by using the trails. It’ll be a fun adventure in itself!

There’s basically no cell service so be prepared for that. It can be hard to get used to if you’re a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and whatever junkie. It can also be hard if you are trying to look up where something is via the internets cuz that shit isn’t happening unless you drive into Marysvale.

Restaurants and foodstuffs

At the Big Rock Grill & Smokehouse, you can get good home cooked meals with very friendly and fairly fast service. They also have a sauce they make for sale called Honey Jalapeño Dippin Sauce. It was so good we bought 2 bottles.They closed at 8 PM on weekdays and 9 PM on Saturday. 

Hoover’s Cafe just a little further down the road towards Marysvale was closed when we went but I read they’re planning to re-open for the 2019 season. 

There’s a little convenience store in Marysvale called Tug’s One Stop and it closes at 7 PM so make sure you take plenty of food, snacks, and water just in case. I’m happy to report that my overpacking really shined in the food, coffee, and snack department. If you like to savor a good glass of wine, a few beers, or if your more of a “let’s get waay steed” type of person, then be sure to BYOB. There is a super secret tiny section in the back of Tug’s where you’ll find a small selection of those things. ( which blew my mind by the way) And maybe that is why they close at 7 PM because of some of the Utah laws about enjoying yourself too much and apparently too late.

There are a few other places to eat at in Marysvale as well. 

Tomatoe’s Pizza Pie – Specializes in Pizza, sandwiches, pasta and also serves up salads, burgers and ice cream. (this place was good but busy around dinner time)

Marysvale Diner @ Webers – this is a motel restaurant with the usual American fare. (didn’t try)

Dixon’s Dawg House – a walk-up stand serving Hot dogs, chips and burgers. (passed it up)

Activities and such

ATV Trails

Naturally if you’re coming to the resort, you’re going to check out the Paiute Trails on your sweet ass side-by-side or 4-wheeler. (or your crummy ass piece of shit) Or you can rent one of their many selections of off-road vehicles for a cost of course.

View from one of the trails.

These trails are so abundant and interconnected that I can’t even tell you which ones we were on or which were my favorite. But I did enjoy the one that passes by a spot called Hennessy Point, which is pretty high in elevation. I believe we found out it’s a bit over 10,000 feet!

Just grab a trail map (available pretty much everywhere at varying prices) and choose which ones you want to explore. Just make sure you bring food and especially water as there are no services anywhere except in Marysvale. 

Hiking 

Bullion Falls

But if you’re into hiking, I highly recommend the short trip up to the Bullion Falls. We weren’t able to go down to the falls like we had heard you can do because we thought my husband had torn his biscuits (Meniscus) so we stopped because it gets a little rocky going down. Check out my post on hiking tips.

Man made fun

The resort has a few other activities to check out besides the ATV and bike trails, and hiking.

There’s the Adventure Mountain which is a suspension bridge across to the mountain with ropes and iron footholds and handholds to help you up to where you get to zip line your way back down to the bottom. You have to be in a safety harness so don’t worry about free falling to your death like I would. (a little scared of heights but getting better) 

The Adventure Park will get you the thrill of making your way through obstacles such as a tight rope walk over the Sevier River, tire swings, wall climbs, balance beams and the like. I didn’t partake in these activities but there’s always next time.

Sevier River trips

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Floating down the Sevier River.

There’s also an unguided lazy river float and a guided white water rafting trip available with everything needed to participate for a small fee. Or you can just float the river on your own if you have the life jacket and tubes, rafts or SUP boards to make this water loving attraction possible. We paid for the lazy river float and in hindsight I wish we would’ve just used our paddle boards and went down the river by ourselves. It would’ve been about the same experience to be honest. The “kid” that drove us all down to the launch area was pretty much clueless mouth breather and probably didn’t know his left hand from his right.

Big Rock Candy Mountain overall conclusion and thoughts

An old interesting piece on mining equipment I saw on one of the trails.

After spending a long weekend here, I must say I really enjoyed it but I could have enjoyed it a lot more had I known about all the weird early closing times of basically everything and that I had my own fire pit to myself to enjoy down by the river as part of the train car rental.

That amenity may have been listed somewhere but I sure as hell didn’t see it or maybe I didn’t pay attention to it. Who knows! But I had been wanting to go here ever since we bought our RZR and finally had the chance to go. We starting looking about a month and a halfish before going and found only one train car available. It was Labor Day weekend and the last weekend they had their season open so maybe that had a lot to do with it.

They could benefit from adding a cell tower out there for sure. Just because it would be nice to know you could call for help or look up some info online if need be. Trust me, it was a little frustrating.

A little dive bar that serves some food wouldn’t hurt but I bet they don’t do that for fear of too many people getting in their rides and feelin the need to booze cruise and get lost and wreck and die and or cause accidents. I get it. People are dumb.

But I will say a beefing up of knowledgable personnel around for the guided trips and helping people stay on track and not being stupid, especially on the busy weekends or Holiday weekends would make it a more safe and resorty type experience for sure.