How to Avoid Looking Like a Newbie this Snow Season

Nobody likes to look out of place and clueless, and skiing/ snowboarding is no exception. If you want to fit right in and look the part even if you’ve never touched fresh powder before, then here is what you need to do.

Learn the Lingo

Like any good sport, us snow bunnies have our own way of talking to each other that may sound a bit foreign to newbies. Ski speak can be quite regional, so don’t expect to know exactly what everything thrown your way means. A quick Google search will give you plenty of ski speak terms that you can add to your conversation, but don’t go mental as you’ll probably end up speaking gibberish.


Wear the Right Gear

One of the stand out tells that you’re a newbie is the clothes you’re wearing. Remember, its all about layers rather than one really, really thick coat and ski trousers. Make sure that you have some good base layers, winter boots, ski boots, socks, gloves, goggles, proper ski trousers and a helmet. You’ll have a huge range of styles and materials to choose from – consider the aesthetics by all means, but don’t neglect things like waterproofness, breathability and insulation as well.

Warm Up Before Hand

Skiing and snowboarding is super fun, which means that a lot of people don’t really count it as exercise (daft, I know). That means that they don’t properly warm up and risk pulling, tearing or straining a muscle while out on the slopes or feeling extremely sore the next day. Make sure that before you hit the powder you’ve warmed your body up and have stretched your muscles out.

Note: Get your fitness up before you go on holiday, there’s nothing worse than not having the legs to get multiple runs in due to lack of fitness.

Book a Ski Chalet

If you want a real ski experience, then make sure you book a ski chalet with your friends and family rather than an apartment. Not only will this be far more comfortable, social and enjoyable but you’re likely to benefit from ski in/ski out access, saving huge amounts of time that would otherwise be spend travelling. What’s more, these are catered for you – taking a lot of hassle and costs out of your holiday, ensuring that you have the best possible experience.

Pick the Right Equipment

As you’re new, chances are you’ll be renting equipment. Don’t worry, there’s no shame in it but it can really pay off to do a bit of research beforehand. Find out what size and shape board or skis you think you want – factoring in your level of ability. A good rental shop will give you plenty of advice regarding the options available, so take note of what they are saying and if it sounds right then listen to them.

Ski Equipment

Take Some Lessons

Never been skiing or snowboarding before? Don’t just try it out and see what happens. Take a lesson! This will have a huge impact on your ability and can make sure that you have a holiday that you can properly enjoy. Really this is probably the best advice to take from this – you will look like a beginner when learning, but by the end of it at least you’ll know what you’re doing!

Have a Laugh

On the slopes

You’re going to fall over, you’re going to mess up and you may well look like a prize idiot. But do you know what? That’s ok! We’ve all been there and you just need to learn to laugh at yourself. This will help to keep you positive and make sure that you and others around you have a great time – nothing worse than being stuck with someone throwing a temper tantrum every 15 minutes!

Take a Backpack

Don’t be caught out on the mountain. Weather can change and you may get hungry or thirsty. Taking a backpack means that you are able to take more layers with you, allowing you to dress for the weather whatever it decides to do. What’s more, you can take a drink and your lunch with you, meaning that you don’t have to fork out for these in the mountain restaurants. Make sure your backpack has a waistband and chest strap to stop it from moving around when you’re flying down the slopes.

About the Author – Snow Chateaux is a family run business that offers a range of ski chalets in France. If you’re looking to explore areas with great, beginner-friendly slopes then talk to Snow Chateaux today. With ski chalets in Tignes, Les Arcs, La Tania, La Plagne and Meribel Les Allues you’re sure to find a location to suit you.

The best of both worlds: How to move abroad and keep a base at home on a budget

If you really want to move abroad, but can’t stand the thought of breaking ties with your home country – fear not. With a few careful manoeuvres such as renting out your UK property and popping your essential belongings into cheap, reliable storage from RSS (in case you ever decide to return) you can have the best of both worlds, so here’s how to relocate to a foreign land while keeping a base at home on a budget.

1. Rent out your UK property
Whether you’ve lived in your UK property for ten months or ten years, it can be hard to tear yourself away from what you know and love, particularly if you’ve a few niggling doubts about moving – but you don’t have to get rid of your beloved home forever. In fact, more and more British expats are renting out their properties these days rather than selling them as this not only generates cash – which can help pay your mortgage or fund your lifestyle abroad – but it ensures you’ll always have a base to come back to, something which can make the whole relocation thing a lot easier to handle.

If you do go for this option, however, it’s important to do your research and find out how to rent out your property in the best way for the highest returns. While it can be tempting to cut out the middle man and deal with tenants yourself in a bid to avoid agency fees, for instance, this might lead to a whole lot of stress which can’t be dealt with easily while you’re abroad. Tenants will expect someone on the ground to deal with their issues, so it’s often best to let an agency manage your property and to focus on the rental money that will be coming in each month rather than the niggly charges you will receive along the way. That said, make sure you research agencies carefully to ensure you’re not being ripped off and get an arrangement you know and understand in place before moving away.

2. Move into a property you can afford
When starting a new life in a foreign land it can be tempting to buy or rent the biggest most beautiful property you can find. A house with ten acres of land might suddenly seem necessary and if everyone’s got swimming pools you might not want to be the odd one out. While it’s good to live in comfort, try to move into a property you can afford otherwise you might find yourself in above your head. This might sound obvious, but when you’re away from ‘normality’ it can be easy to forget that things are ticking away at home and there might be a time when tenants are not in your house and your mortgage payments are not being covered – so it’s wise to keep some money aside for a rainy day just in case anything should go wrong.

Similarly, there’s a high chance you’ll want to return home once, maybe twice (if not more a year) especially if you have family living in the UK so you don’t want to blow all your cash on a foreign mansion and not have the flexibility to travel. There are many locations across the globe which offer properties to suit all budgets and tastes, so set yourself a realistic budget and don’t be afraid to live a little frugally from time-to-time by visiting local markets, haggling and searching for bargains in a bid to keep your outgoings low.

If you want to move abroad while keeping a base at home, the most important thing you must remember is to be realistic. There are plenty of ways you can generate income and live within your means but each piece of the puzzle requires careful consideration.

Sipadan Island: A marine paradise for divers

When it comes to finding some of the world’s most iconic dive sites, places like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or Ras Mohammed in Egypt are among the most well known and popular. However, Sipadan Island, which is located in the Indo-Pacific waters and lies within the Coral Triangle has been making waves as keen divers from around the world are literally diving into experience the sensation of swimming with the green sea turtles and schools of fish. National Geographic calls it the Amazon of the deep.

Sipadan Island is unique as it can offer a romantic, family, resort or a general getaway experience. For diving and photography enthusiasts, they have the chance to capture nature in all of its glory and catch the glimpses of clown fish that may be reminiscent of finding Nemo.

What diving location options should people consider at Sipadan?
The wonders of Sipadan are easily accessible from the town of Semporna. A treasure chest of natural underwater beauty awaits with some of the most iconic reef systems in the world. An online research study classed Sipadan as being home to 75% of coral species that is known to science.

The different locations around the island offer the chance to see different aquatic wildlife. Travel closer to Mabul or Kapalai Islands and you will get the chance to see pipefish nudibranchs. If you are looking to go home with a story about seeing sharks, turtles and schools of fish, then Sipadan is the right place for you to go.

There are special offers available from Asia Diving Vacation to the different areas of Sipadan and that give you the best ‘value for your money’ for resort accommodation and the different diving options. There are savings of up to 17% should you decide to opt for a package. Furthermore, you can have ‘peace of mind’ knowing that your trip has been conveniently organised and managed for you.

Diving considerations for Sipadan.
Sipadan is an amazing place to dive, however you need to have diving certifications to take part in any full dive experiences. The required certifications are usually an Open or Advanced Open Diver certification with a minimum of 20 dives. If you don’t have the certifications, you can still opt to do snorkeling around the dive sites and relax on the beaches. Alternatively, you can speak to the dive centre to see if there are any other options available.

Capture the entire experience with your camera!
Capture your underwater world adventure and relive the experience again by capturing the images and video on your underwater camera. GoPro’s are an easy and popular option. Youtubers Mohd Sorian and MsQinger captured their Sipadan experience at their resorts and underwater and were able to publish their adventures on YouTube, which can be seen below.

In the video, you can clearly see the turtles, fish, underwater environment and the reef system that you will be diving through. Nothing beats the experience of the real thing. Reliving that experience is one moment that you can definitely recapture.

Current concerns from the international community.
There have been calls from the international community to increase tourist safety in Sipadan following a series of abductions. The Malaysian government is committed to improving the security in the region, as Sipadan is one of the most popular tourist spots for the country. This has been proven through an increase in maritime enforcement from both Malaysia and the Philippines.

For travellers that are interested in doing dives in Malaysia and getting close to nature, Sipadan is a place that can offer an incredible experience. If you are looking to tell an amazing dive story, book a diving vacation to Sipadan today!

Top 5 Winter Break Destinations in Spain 

For some the end of the summer is literally a sad time as they suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The days start to get shorter and the nights get longer, which means rain, snow, winter colds and gas bills to look forward to. What a miserable thought! No wonder people get SAD during the autumn and winter months. However it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, as you can escape to sunny Spain for a healthy dose of vitamin D to cheer you up. Here are the 5 top places to go to escape the rain and top up your tan!

During the summer Majorca is “the” haunt for the rich and famous, but during the winter it’s a great haunt for those wanting to flee the cold. The capital city Parma is a cultural delight, where you’ll find great museums, galleries, shops and tapas bars! It’s such a “warm” place to visit and you will find lots of fabulous villas in Majorca to stay in, so you can experience what it’s like to live like the rich and famous!

Tenerife’s golden beaches and lunar landscape make it a stunning place to visit. The year round sunshine makes it the perfect getaway during autumn and winter. There is so much to do on the island, from chilling on the beach to partying in the trendy nightclubs. And if you’re feeling adventurous there’s Mount Teide (a volcano!) to hike up. It is one of the most popular destinations for sun seekers, especially during the cold months back home!

One of the best places to escape the winter blues is Lanzarote; it has warm weather, fabulous beaches and a host of other fantastic things to do, from water sports to hiking. One place not to be missed is the Timafaya National Park, which looks like the moon’s surface. You will also find great restaurants, bars and shops on the island, so there is something for all tastes!

Gran Canaria
There is a reason why Gran Canaria is known as the “island of eternal spring”, because it’s warm all-year-round! Therefore, unsurprisingly, the autumn and winter months are also regarded as “high season”. The island has some of the best beaches in Europe and is renowned for it’s fabulous spa resorts. It is the perfect place to get some R&R from the rat race and the winter rain.

Costa del Sol
Known for its sun, golden beaches and beautiful villages, the Costa Del Sol is a superb place for a break. There are so many reasons why this is one of the top winter destinations; easy to get to, fabulous culture, delicious food, superb shops, great golf courses, and of course a fantastic climate. From the nightclubs of Marbella to the caves of Nerja there is something for everybody!

Everyone knows Spain is a great place to visit in the summer, but it’s as great a place to visit in the winter. There are so many fantastic resorts to visit and villa holidays to enjoy; it’s definitely the place to go to if you want to escape the cold and leave the winter blues behind!

What to do if you lose your documents abroad

A trip abroad should be a wonderful experience, but for many US citizens, it can turn sour because they lose their documents or have them stolen while traveling. As inconvenient and perhaps even as frightening as this might seem, losing your documentation is not an insurmountable challenge, and wherever you happen to be in the world, there will be people and systems in place to assist you.

Losing a passport

Undoubtedly, losing your passport when you are abroad is a major problem. US citizens, as well as visitors coming from overseas, require a passport to re-enter or enter the US. If you follow the advice of the US State Department, and it is recommended that you do, then an incident involving a lost or stolen passport should be reported to the local law enforcement agency as well as to the local US embassy or consulate. You will have to arrange for an emergency appointment at the embassy or consulate, where you will be issued a new document; in many cases, one will be issued within a 24-hour period. You should be aware that the new passport that will be issued to you is valid for one year only, and upon your return to the US, it should be replaced with the traditional ten-year documents.

Losing a driving license

If you are going to be driving abroad, then you will likely bring your US driving license with you, as well as any foreign driving permits you may require, as most countries will not recognize a US license in and of itself. Even if you are not going to be driving abroad, a driving license is a useful form of secondary identification. What should you do, however, if you lose your driving license when traveling overseas?

Many states oblige residents to file a police report on a lost or stolen license, and you will have to do so upon your return. Retain a copy of your license and especially your license number, because you will need that number for when you go to obtain a duplicate license.

Losing a credit card

Losing a credit card is a particular worry because it could be used to withdraw and spend money, costing you funds you may not have and that, in any case, are not anyone else’s to spend. Losing a credit card may also leave you short of funds, and if you have lost other documentation as well, such as your passport, your time abroad may be extended out of necessity, leaving you in a position where you need access to additional monies.

Your bank will have procedures in place for putting a stop to further transactions on your credit card(s) and will initiate replacement of the relevant card(s). With financial institutions now operating 24/7 thanks to online and telephone systems, getting in touch with your bank in an emergency situation has never been easier, even if you are abroad. Your bank may also agree to wire money to you, or someone at home may do the same, using a service such as Western Union. If your credit cards are lost or stolen, your hotel will typically try to work with you. In many cases, hotels will accept a check being forwarded as payment. Alternatively, if you have a family member or friend at home willing and able to assist, they can contact the hotel with alternative credit card details and arrange payment on your behalf.

Losing your airline ticket

Developments in technology mean that losing an airline ticket is not, in many cases, as serious an issue as it once was. The arrival of the electronic plane ticket ensures that tickets are never really lost, as such, because the airline in question can print off a new boarding pass.

What may well happen if you do lose your airline ticket, however, is that you will be asked at check-in to step to one side until other passengers have been accommodated. Airlines would want to ensure that no one else tries checking in using your name, for one thing. You will agree that having to wait at the back of the check-in line is hardly the greatest inconvenience. It is vital, of course, that you bring relevant contact information with you when travelling abroad. Have contact details for the relevant US embassy or consulate in the country or region you are travelling in, and have the contact information for your bank also, in case you need to get in touch with them to cancel cards or initiate money transfers.

Photocopy your documents

A good piece of advice is to photocopy all of your relevant documentation before you depart for an overseas trip. Make two copies – one to leave with a family member or friend at home and the other to take with you on your trip. Leave your contact information with the person, or other persons, so that they will be able to get in touch with you in an emergency situation. Carry the photocopies you bring with you separate from your actual documentation so that it does not get lost or stolen together. The documentation you should photocopy includes your passport ID page; your visa for the country or countries you are visiting, if applicable; your travel itinerary; hotel booking information; airline tickets; credit cards; driver’s license; and traveler check serial numbers, if you are taking any with you.

Other documents

Other key documents lost during an overseas trip can be replaced too, of course. To get your social security card replacement, for instance, it is as easy as going online and making an application. It is vital that you read up on the requirements for travel and what to do in the event of an emergency in your country of destination before you go. Forewarned is forearmed, as the old saying goes, and you will find that different parts of the world have different systems and procedures in place.

To conclude, if you do happen to lose important documentation when traveling abroad, do not panic. Documentation can be replaced, and there are people on hand with the experience to know what to do to ensure that you get back home safely.

Doing Business in Japan

Home to the third largest economy in the world, an energetic and ambitious population and a culture that holds hard work and success as core values, Japan is a business power house and the perfect destination for entrepreneurs and companies looking to expand and succeed.

However, as the culture of Japan is completely unique, doing business in the country can be difficult for foreigners, especially if they don’t take the time to learn about Japanese business etiquette and regulations.

Companies and entrepreneurs planning on starting a business in Japan or doing business with a Japanese corporation will find their chances of success hugely increased if they put a little bit of effort into learning the ins and outs of doing business in Japan.

Japan has a huge amount of potential

When you consider that Japan’s economy is twice the size of the UK’s and that the economy of Tokyo alone is larger than that of the whole of Russia, you’ll begin to see just how much potential the country has.

Though harnessing this potential will take time, energy and investment, understanding the size of Japan’s economy and the potential for success will be a key motivator during the early stages of your business negotiations.

Japan - Tokyo

Go in person

A lot of business in Japan is done based on mutual trust, respect and understanding. The only way to build these relationships is to visit the country in person and meet your potential colleagues and collaborators face-to-face.

Though it is possible to join business events in Tokyo via video and conference calls, taking the time to fly to the country will be hugely appreciated by your Japanese counterparts and will help negotiations go smoothly in the future.

Attend business events in Tokyo

Tokyo is a city geared towards business and specialist events take place throughout the year. If you don’t already have a Japanese partner company to work with, attending business events in Tokyo is a good way to network with new and established Japanese companies.

If you want to stay in the heart of the business district during your stay, there are some fantastic Marunouchi Hotels to choose from, many of which have conference facilities on offer. Alternatively, you can book separate meeting rooms in Tokyo and create a temporary office space for the duration of your stay.

Palace Hotel Tokyo
Image source: Palace Hotel Tokyo

With its natural drive, determination and ability, Japan is an excellent country to do business with and companies around the world flock to Tokyo in an attempt to build business relationships and secure lucrative deals.

If you’re planning on being one of them, take the time to find out a little more about Japanese culture and make the best impression you can at business events in Tokyo.

See 1K Years of Irish History in a 5-Day Road Trip (Legendary Pubs Included)

There are as many reasons to see Ireland as there are people who travel to the Emerald Isle. History, geology, pub culture, folklore, and breathtaking views are all par for the course for travelers to the island.

If you have a few days to spare, you can soak up nearly all that Ireland has to offer while rolling through the southwestern half of the country. Here’s a road trip itinerary guaranteed to make you “ooh,” “ahh,” and promise to come back.

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Day 1: Dublin to Kilkenny

After flying into Dublin and spending the night in Ireland’s capital city, prepare for a cross-country adventure full of historical sites and breathtaking views. Rent a car and set off on a short drive (approximately two hours) to the artsy town of Kilkenny.

Check in at the quaint Kilkenny House Hotel before heading to Kilkenny Castle, which was built in the 1100s. Then venture on to Dunmore Cave, which features some of the finest calcite formations in Ireland. Once you’ve had your fill of history and geology, return to Kilkenny to explore its many arts and crafts shops and downtown restaurants.

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Day 2: Kilkenny to Killarney

Buckle up for a day of striking scenery. There are so many sights to choose from on this leg of the journey that you can’t go wrong. If you aren’t off-put by crowds, then don’t miss visiting the popular Blarney Castle or driving part of the gorgeous Ring of Kerry. For a (slightly) less traveled path, stop by King John’s Castle, the historic Swiss Cottage, or the Muckross Friary and traditional grounds.

Arrive in Killarney and check into the quirky and contemporary Ross Hotel. Since you’ll no doubt be tired from the long day’s drive, enjoy food and drink at the hotel’s restaurant before tumbling into bed.

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Day 3: Killarney to Ennis

Explore Irish history on the way to the small town of Ennis by stopping by Bunratty Castle, the geologically marvelous Burren, and/or Craggaunowen – The Living Past, where you’ll learn how the Celts lived, farmed, and hunted in Ireland. Enjoy dinner in Ennis before retiring to the upscale Ashford Court Boutique Hotel.

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Day 4: Ennis to Galway

Travel to the western edge of the country in order to take in one of the most gorgeous views around at the stunning and popular Cliffs of Moher (Fun fact: These are the so-called “Cliffs of Insanity” from the film The Princess Bride). If you’re still in an adventurous spirit after visiting the cliffs, head to Aillwee Cave, which was formed by glacial melt waters and is situated close to Galway.

Finish the drive to Galway and check in at the luxurious Jury’s Inn, located near the historic Spanish Arch, the Galway City Museum, and Eyre Square (If you’re feeling budget-conscious, consider staying in the friendly Galway City Guesthouse instead). After dumping your luggage, enjoy dinner and drinks at any of Galway’s many restaurants and pubs.

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Day 5: Galway to Dublin

Spend the morning exploring the sites of Galway before hopping back in the car for the three-to-four-hour ride to Dublin. If you fancy some detours on the way back to the capital city, stop at medieval Athenry Castle, the monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise, or Trim Castle, where Braveheart was filmed.

Upon returning to Dublin, settle in at the supremely well located Blooms Hotel before enjoying dinner and drinks out on the town. Whether you retire early or partake of the Temple Bar neighborhood’s pubs all night, be sure to contemplate what a wonderful trip it’s been.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on August 25, 2015.

Escaping A Road Trip Disaster: Simple Checks to Conduct Before Setting Off On Your Journey

Any city with beautiful canals and waterways flowing throughout and 70 kilometers of beaches to its name is bound to attract visitors. The Gold Coast of Australia is no exception. Every year, more than 12 million visitors travel through this area of Australia and many on lengthy road trips. Add in the 3 million people that call this home and it’s easy to see that the roads are surely busy at any time of year. In order to avoid a road trip disaster, make sure you follow these simple checks before setting off on your journey. We recommend conducting these checks at least a week in advance so that there is ample time to resolve any potential car problems.

If you are any one of the 15 million people traveling the roads throughout the year, you should be aware of a few simple things you can do so you don’t end up stranded:

1. Check your oil- You must make sure you have the proper level of oil in your engine in order for it to run properly. If you check the oil regularly, you will save the cost of large repairs later on.

2. Check your tires- It is important that your tires have the correct amount of air pressure, so your car maneuvers properly. Check your manual for the proper tire pressure and routinely check your tires to make sure they have the proper pressure.

3. Check your belts- Look at your belts for any visual sign of wear and tear. If any of them are fraying, you need to have them changed as soon as possible. If one of them breaks, you probably will be stranded until you get it repaired.

4. Check your windshield wipers- Make sure your windshield wipers are securely fastened to your blade assembly. Also make sure they aren’t torn or frayed, otherwise your visibility will be impaired when it rains.

5. Check your headlights- Do a quick check of your headlights to see that they are working as well as your directional and brake lights. Accidents can be prevented as long as your lights are working properly.

6. Gas gauge- Of course it sounds simple but many people leave on a long journey without thinking about whether they have sufficient petrol/gas in the tank. Hopefully they will realize the car needs petrol/gas before it is too late and they run out.

7. Load up the safety kit – You should always have a kit with you that contains certain things you may need if you get into some kind of mechanical trouble. You should have a pair of jumper cables in the event your battery dies. You should also have a set of flares and red triangles to warn other vehicles if you are stranded on the side of the road. Also keep a blanket in the car in case you break down and it is cold out.

If you’re concerned about the condition of your vehicle and its ability to sustain a lengthy road trip, you may want to get it serviced before heading off on your journey. Schedule a mobile mechanic on the Gold Coast to come to your location and perform any necessary car repairs. They can also provide regular maintenance as needed. The best part is they can come to wherever you are, at your convenience.

The Gold Coast is a wonderful area to live and visit. If the unfortunate happens and you have a mechanical problem with your vehicle, reach out to the mobile mechanics on the Gold Coast and let them resolve your car troubles. But, if you follow the tips above and schedule regular maintenance, you may save yourself unwanted delays in your trip if problems occur, leaving you plenty of time to relax in the sand, surf in the water, or play at many of the theme parks available. It will be an unforgettable trip for the whole family.

Oahu Eats!

Ask any Hawaii-born person what they miss when they’re away from home, and the answer you’ll probably get is, “The food.”

The islands may be far away from, well, everything, but they have an incredibly diverse local menu influenced by cultures from all over the world. Immigrant populations that arrived in Hawaii throughout the last 200 years brought their own cuisine and applied their techniques to indigenous culinary traditions, resulting in unique flavors and unusual combinations. Fresh local ingredients and some of the best seafood in the world provide special dining experiences that aren’t easily found elsewhere.

Here are some of Oahu’s best offerings:

Andy’s Sandwiches and Smoothies

2904 East Manoa Road, Honolulu

15 minutes from the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort

A fixture of Manoa Valley in Honolulu, Andy’s has long been a favorite of Honolulu residents, students, and tourists alike. Located only 10 minutes from Waikiki and just up the road from the University of Hawaii, this tiny sandwich shop often has a long (though fast-moving) line of devotees who love their mostly-vegetarian menu. Fresh ingredients, warm service, and their signature papaya seed dressing accompany the wide sandwich selection, all of which are served on their homemade, whole-wheat bread. Unchanged by years of popularity and heavy traffic, this is one of those local stops that still actually feels local.

Leonard’s Bakery

933 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu

10 minutes from the Aston Waikiki Circle Hotel

Located in the same building for over 60 years, Leonard’s made their name on Portugese sweets and baked goods, most notably the Malasada, a holeless doughnut that has become an icon of local cuisine. Covered in sugar, or filled with coconut, guava, or chocolate pudding, a malasada from Leonard’s is as much a part of modern Hawaiian culture as a day at the beach. Their menu offerings are largely unchanged since their beginning in 1952; when you make malasadas the way they do, you don’t need much else.

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Giovanni’s Aloha Shrimp

56-505 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku

5 minutes from the Turtle Bay Resort

Kahuku, a community located on Oahu’s North Shore, is famous for sweet corn and shrimp.  Tourists may flock to the North Shore for its surf, beautiful views, and country-life pace, but locals know it’s worth the drive to get a plate (or two, or three) of shrimp scampi and rice at Giovanni’s. Their famous white truck is parked by the side of the road, and is covered with graffiti scrawled by grateful visitors from all over the world. The menu is simple and clear with just three varieties of shrimp: original scampi, lemon butter, and the notorious “no-refund” hot and spicy plate, which comes with a warning about spice levels that should be taken seriously. Though Giovanni’s wide exposure has inevitably led to a more commercial appearance (complete with souvenir kiosks), locals can’t deny that it’s still a favorite, and it’s a can’t-miss stop on any trip to the North Shore.

Waiola Shave Ice

3113 Mokihana Street, Honolulu

10 minutes from the Ambassador Hotel Waikiki

The best sweet treat in Hawaii, by far, is the famous Shave (not “shaved”!) Ice, which is, simply, a block of ice shaved into very thin flakes, collected in a cone and covered in sweet syrup. Modern incarnations include ice cream or azuki beans at the bottom with condensed milk on top, and Japanese rice balls (“mochi”), but in any form, shave ice is the best thing to have on a hot Hawaiian day. There are many fixtures on the shave ice scene, some of which have been around since the days of the pineapple and sugar plantations, but the best in Honolulu comes from Waiola Store. At two locations, including their original mom-and-pop store on Waiola Street, it’s also a convenient stop on a Hawaiian adventure.

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Diamond Head Market and Grill

3158 Monsarrat Avenue, Honolulu

10 minutes from Embassy Suites Hotel – Waikiki Beach Walk

A casual stop for the high-end palate, Diamond Head Market and Grill is a perfect place to grab lunch when exploring Oahu’s South Shore. With an award-winning market, bakery, and gourmet deli, they are most famous for their scones and grilled plates. The plate lunch, another Hawaii staple, is usually made up of a meat or fish main accompanied by rice and a pasta or tossed salad. The Grill takes the plate lunch to another level, with wonderfully seasoned charsiu pork, teriyaki beef, and miso ginger salmon featured on their menu. With a walk-up take-out window and outdoor picnic benches for seating, Diamond Head Market and Grill may look like a typical sandwich or burger stand, but every Styrofoam container holds a meal of exceptional quality—at a very reasonable price.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on August 23, 2015.

McKinley to Denali: Visiting America’s Most Talked About Mountain

In advance of his three-day trip to Alaska, where he will advocate for more urgent action on climate change, President Obama officially changed the name of the tallest mountain in North America. Known to Alaskan natives for centuries as Denali (a native word meaning “the high one”), the 20,237’ peak was renamed after assassinated President William McKinley in 1917. Obama may get to experience Alaska in the company of renowned survivalist Bear Grylls (who is not, in fact, a bear), but there’s plenty of adventure to be had without him.

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Approaching The Last Frontier

When the destination is America’s last great frontier, getting there is ideally half the fun. The most populated place in Alaska is Anchorage, a 6-hour drive from even further-isolated Fairbanks, and a 21-hour drive from the state capitol, Juneau. Air travel is the cheapest and most efficient way to get to Anchorage. Home to roughly 300,000 people, Anchorage is a fabulous hub for outdoor excursions. Lodging exists for every budget, from backpackers looking for an affordable bed and a shower, to couples seeking a cozy B&B, or posh patrons in pursuit of pillows and pampering. Fairbanks, roughly 120 miles north of Denali National Park, also has a great variety of lodging options available, including a number of B&Bs and more luxurious spots.

More adventurous types can charter an air-taxi to Talkeetna, roughly halfway between Anchorage and Denali National Park. Travelers interested in a more leisurely wilderness journey have many train and cruise-ship options available. Juneau, the state’s capital, may be 10 times less-populated than Anchorage, but it’s the 2nd-largest city by area in the US, and its location in the islands of the Alaskan panhandle makes it a popular destination for cruise ships.

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Venture Into The Last Frontier

While known for its native culture, most visitors flock to the state for one thing: pristine, unimpeded wilderness.

  • Denali National Park
    Only the most intrepid and experienced mountain climbers tackle the namesake summit at the heart of this National Park, but more casual visitors can experience the grandeur of the park from the (mostly unpaved) road system, either by bike, car, bus, or (bravely) on foot.
  • Wildlife Tours
    Native wildlife is a huge draw to the Last Frontier, including moose, caribou, eagles, salmon, beluga whales, and bears (polar, brown, and black (not Grylls)). Native plants and flowers flourish here as well.
  • The Midnight Sun
    Nearly a third of Alaska lies above the Arctic circle, so during summer months, daylight hours extend nearly round the clock. A winter visit will be much less crowded, cheaper (and much colder), and opportunities to see the Northern Lights abound. Visit in March, and witness the start of the Iditarod, the 1,000-mile dogsled race unlike anything else in the United States.

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The raw beauty and awe-inspiring spread of Alaska is unparalleled below the 49th Parallel. It has drawn in recluses, dreamers, adventurers, and sitting Presidents. Names could never do it justice, but it’s easier than ever to make a visit!

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 4, 2015.