Vancouver is the perfect blend of urban metropolis and natural beauty. There are so many things to do in Vancouver, it is no wonder Vancouver is one of the most expensive places in the world to live. From downtown Vancouver, you will see beautiful oceanside beaches, lush rainforest and huge glacier mountains. We love this town and think it’s one of the best cities in BC.
Vancouver BC is one of the greenest cities in the world. Vancouver city planners have set a huge priority of keeping this bustling city in touch with nature and you will find many forests right in the middle of town. This Pacific Northwest City receives a ton of rain, on average 192 days of rainfall a year. Luckily, there are tons of things to do in Vancouver even when it rains.
Ahhh Kelowna – the Hawaii of Canada! In 2019, after travelling quite extensively, we made the calculated decision to make Kelowna our home base. After thoroughly exploring North America on our three-year road trip it is safe to say we knew exactly what we wanted in the place we decided to call home: tons of hiking trails, long hot summers with mild winters, slow good vibes and friendly people. You need to visit Kelowna now!
Kelowna checked all of these boxes off with flying colours! We could go on and on about why we love this city (and often do) so we decided to do just that by listing the top reasons that Kelowna needs to be at the top of your must-visit travel list.
If there is one thing that Kelowna excels at it’s outdoor living. Everywhere you look you will see patios, parks, people on their bikes and at the beach. Kelowna is great for those looking for short milder winters and long hot summers.
Wondering what the best way to spend a summer day in Kelowna is? Packing a cooler and relaxing aboard a private pontoon boat cruise on Okanagan Lake is the way to do it! This cruise will take up to 11 people to spend the afternoon on the lake for $960 CAD ($715.99 USD). Split that cost 11 ways and this becomes super affordable!
All the sunshine in Kelowna makes the spring and fall months feel like an extension of summer. In fact, many locals will start their outdoor living as early as late March when the snow has melted and the sun is in full force. By April, patios are in full swing and it seems every single house has a BBQ going for dinner. The many surrounding lakes help to break the heat you may be experiencing as summer temperatures are known to sit around the mid-30s (in the 90s Fahrenheit).
Tucked amongst the mountains, Kelowna continues to be a playground even through the winter months. Big White in Kelowna is a popular option amongst locals for skiing and snowboarding but there are many in the area including Apex mountain in Hedley and Silverstar mountain in nearby Vernon. A great place to experience all 4 seasons, Kelowna winters drop just below freezing to around -5℃ (around 25℉) allowing for white winters that aren’t too chilly.
Kelowna, and most of the people living here, place a great priority on shopping locally. With a dominating farming industry, sourcing produce and meat fresh from local farms are the norms.
From the budding local farmers’ market to the many small markets selling locally produced goods, you have endless farm-to-table options. Even big corporations such as Save On Foods have entire sections of their stores that highlight all locally crafted items.
Walking down Bernard Ave. or Pandosy St., the two streets that are most dedicated to “downtown shopping”. A majority of these stores are all local boutique-style businesses. The top cafes and restaurants in Kelowna are all smaller family-owned businesses that serve local craft beers and wines.
If you’re wanting to take part in the shop local eat local trend, this 3 hour private downtown foodie tour will take you to some of the best downtown local restaurants that are exclusive to Kelowna. The tour costs $120 CAD ($89.50 USD) and includes all food and drinks at the different independent restaurants.
If you are looking to get on board with this trend there are many farms in the city where you can go directly to buy all your produce, meats, cheeses, honey, and more.
Looking for more of a one-stop shop? The farmers market in Kelowna is large and bustling with great local finds and runs every Saturday and Wednesday morning in the summer months. You can find everything from fresh locally grown vegetables to homemade clothes and dreamcatchers.
3. There are over 100 wineries in the Okanagan
The Okanagan is BC’s little Napa Valley – full of stunning wineries. Summerhill Pyramid Winery is one of our favourites with lake and city views that are sure to take your breath away. Sandhill Wines is right downtown Kelowna making it a super popular destination. With every winery having its own spin on things you can even find some great niche wines, such as the honey wine found at Meadow Vista.
If you don’t have a designated driver, booking an afternoon Kelowna wine tour is a great option. You can choose between either an east Kelowna or West Kelowna wine tour here visiting 4 of the best wineries in the city. All tasting fees and transportation from your hotel is included in the cost. The price varies based on the number of people in your group with 2 people costing $250 CAD ($186.46 USD) each and a group of 6 costing $179 CAD ($133.50 USD) per person.
Wine isn’t your thing? There are TONS of small craft breweries and cideries in the city and surrounding area. If you want it all in one place visiting any number of the local pubs around town will give you local options.
If you’d be more into checking out the craft beer scene, this Kelowna brewery tour will take you to 3 of the best breweries in the city: Tree Brewing, BNA Brewing, and Kettle River Brewing. Flights of beer from each brewery and transportation are included in the $110 CAD ($82.04 USD) per person price tag.
Downtown Kelowna has developed a brewery district with a bunch of craft breweries opening close together. The best way to see this is with a walking self guided Kelowna brewery tour that takes you to the best Kelowna breweries. Our top recommendations are BNA, Red Bird and Bad Tattoo Brewing (all located within a few blocks of each other).
4. Kelowna’s Okanagan Lake is full of activities
We LOVE the water and that is a massive positive for the city – it’s surrounded by huge lakes. Okanagan Lake runs North to South between West Kelowna and Kelowna. Kalamalka Lake and Wood Lake also run vertically but are northeast of the city.
Kelowna’s waterways are beautiful providing gorgeous views both in and out of the water.
The lakes here are BIG and offer warm clear waters that are perfect for boating, kayaking and even scuba diving. Kelowna’s main lake is called the Okanagan Lake and is famous for having the friendly Ogopogo monster living inside, similar to Scotland’s Loch Ness monster.
This lake is lined with beaches every few hundred meters making it so there is plenty of access in the summertime. As a general rule, the farther away from downtown you go, the better your chances are of finding a great spot.
The most popular beaches in Kelowna are Boyce-Gyro Beach, Hot Sand Beach at City Park, Tugboat Beach and Rotary Beach Beach. If you are looking for less busy Kelowna beaches to visit, we recommend driving down Lakeshore Rd/Abbott Rd to find some smaller beach access points.
Venturing into West Kelowna is another great option for finding quieter beaches.
If you want a bit more luxury, another great way to enjoy the lake is by sailing on it. This private sailing cruise is a great way for your group to see the city. The price of this cruise varies on the number of people in your group with 2 people costing $160 CAD ($119.33 USD) each and groups of 6 costing $130 CAD ($96.96 USD) each. My favorite part about this tour is your captain will even let you take the wheel giving you a quick sailing lesson as you go.
If you are looking beyond just Kelowna, there are 50 lakes in the Okanagan area so you have plenty of options and may even find some secluded havens. Heading down some local FSRs (forest service roads) will take you to smaller, less crowded lakes such as Chute Lake, Lambly Lake, Hydraulic Lake, Postill Lake and Beaver Lake.
One of our favourite things to do is to hike in or kayak along the coastline to find our own private beaches. We often pack our dogs into our kayaks and paddle up the lake to find some great secret spots along the water. If you don’t have a kayak, try exploring on foot.
Knox Mountain is a great hiking spot that is located right downtown Kelowna and if you are brave enough to bushwack a bit you can find some great water access spots. A popular one to hike to is Paul’s Tomb – the walk is easy and the views are priceless. Another great hike-in-only beach is Rose Valley Lake on Kelowna’s Westside.
5. You get to enjoy the best restaurants in Kelowna
The amount of high-quality restaurant options in Kelowna is enough to make your head spin. We HIGHLY recommend skipping the big-name chains and opting for one of the many local restaurants in the area.
In the downtown core, higher-end restaurants such as Oak & Cru and Micro Bar & Bites combine with eclectic must-visit places such as BNA brewing, Leopold’s Tavern and Curious Cafe.
If you are looking to soak up the sunshine with a great patio and lake views check out King Taps or Cactus Club downtown or head to a winery such as Quails Gate in West Kelowna.
A great way to taste the city is to book this downtown Kelowna walking food tour. You can eat your way through 7 different places in the city. This tour costs $83 CAD ($61.90 USD) and includes all food and drink tastings along the way. Your guide will teach you about the city and the food as you spend 3 hours touring downtown.
If you’re looking for a meal with a ton of nightlife head to Craft Beer Market or Social 242 Lounge (bonus: Tuesday is Ladies Night where ladies get $20 off of a $40 or higher bill INCLUDING drinks!). Kelowna is fairly vegan-friendly with restaurants like Central Kitchen, the Naked Cafe, Frankie We Salute You and KB &Co offering many plant-based options.
6. The perfect mix of fresh fruit & local farms
Kelowna has a delicate balance of city life mixed with gorgeous farms and orchards. Okanagan fruit is definitely something to write home about – the cherries.. the peaches!!! You can expect the streets to be lined with fresh fruit stands in the summertime that are all well worth a visit.
If you are up for the adventure, there are MANY u-pick farms that you can visit to pick your own fruit straight from the source — it doesn’t get any fresher than this!
If you are up for the adventure, there are MANY u-pick farms that you can visit to pick your own fruit straight from the source — it doesn’t get any fresher than this!
There are even great sanctuaries that allow hands-on experience with some rescued farm animals. The Arion therapeutic farm is a favourite of ours and a great place to get in touch with nature.
7. There are so many things to do in Kelowna
If you are lucky enough to visit the Okanagan in the summertime you will be left with no shortage of amazing things to do around the city. With all the wineries, farms, and patios you will have no shortage of ways to enjoy all the beautiful sunshine that comes in this area.
If you enjoy the outdoors, we recommend exploring the Kettle Valley Railroad. This offers endless stunning views and is great for hiking, biking or even cross-country skiing in the wintertime. There are a couple of different access points, our favourite of which is located here.
If you’re wanting to try biking this trail, the Kettle Valley Railway tour from Myra Canyon to Penticton is a great way to do it. While the whole trail is either flat or downhill, you will be traveling long distances so make sure you’re physically fit. You will be biking all the way to Penticton crossing the trestle bridges and going through tunnels. The tour is great for groups of 4 or more and includes your bike rental and round trip transportation for $225 CAD ($167.81 USD) per person.
Expect a bit of a drive from the city and a dirt road climb up a forest service road but trust us it is well worth it.
If you are coming in the winter months, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the relatively mild temperatures in the area. Winter makes a short and sweet appearance in Kelowna perfectly dusting the city with some snow to make all your winter wonderland dreams come true. This gives the local mountains some great fresh powder while allowing the city to put on their FREE annual outdoor skating rink.
From local craft breweries to hipster cafes this city has an artsy vibe that rivals San Francisco. Everyone here has their own unique style and it seems most have found their own ways to combine their passions with their business.
The downtown core is full of life and diverse hotspots sure to light your fire whether you’re a foodie or fashionista. With a buzzing arts and culture district, there is something new to do and see every night of the week.
9. There are SO MANY places to camp!
It is no surprise that we LOVE to camp. If you’re anything like us and love to find private FREE campsites, Kelowna and the surrounding area have plenty to keep you busy. As Kelowna is nestled between mountains, forests and lakes you will find that there are a ton of great spots to camp.
Less than half an hour from the downtown core in practically any direction you will find yourself in the middle of the outback with endless free campsites to enjoy.
10. It’s dog friendly
With three dogs, this should really be at the top of our list as it is one of the first things we look for in a new city. To be honest, we were nervous to move to Kelowna as we previously had found Kelowna incredibly not dog friendly but it turns out we just didn’t know where to go.
Minutes from downtown you will find Mushroom Beach (also called Lake Ave Dog Off-leash beach), another great dog-friendly beach spot. There are also lots of great trails around that allow your furry friend to come along.
If you are wanting more of a city vibe you can walk your pup downtown along the water. Bernard Street offers up a plethora of restaurants some of which have patios with water dishes for your pup.
If you are wanting more of a city vibe you can walk your pup downtown along the water. Bernard Street offers up a plethora of restaurants some of which have patios with water dishes for your pup.
Where to stay in Kelowna
Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort – If waking up to stunning lake views sounds great to you, the Delta Hotel is one of the best hotels in Kelowna. Choose to soak in either their indoor or outdoor pool, enjoy the on-site restaurant Oak + Cru, or take a trip to their on-site wine cellar to do the most Kelowna-y thing you can do – enjoy a wine tasting. Located right downtown Kelowna, this hotel is within walking distance to the best beaches, restaurants and shopping in the city.
Hotel Zed – This quirky colorful downtown Kelowna hotel has a young and hip vibe with tons of cool extras to offer. With a pool, hot tub, outdoor firepit and sauna on site, there is tons to do. This is a great place to meet people whether you’re enjoying a cold beer on their rooftop patio taking in views of Okanagan Lake, raving at their mini-disco on site or having fun at their Ping Pong lounge complete with a Wii station. You can get around on their free bikes and rollerscates offered. Best of all, the hotel is pet friendly!
Hotel Eldorado at Eldorado Resort – This stunning boutique-style hotel is located in the southern Mission area of Kelowna. This lakefront resort has a stunning indoor pool and a whole lot of character. With a charming restaurant on site, this resort is close by the top beaches in Kelowna including Rotary Beach.
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Kelowna – A great option for families traveling to the Okanagan, Fairfield Inn has a giant waterslide that is great for keeping the family happy. Rooms are spacious and breakfast is included at this hotel. A great location sandwiched between downtown Kelowna and Kelowa’s airport, this hotel is within walking distance to many great restaurants and Orchard Park Mall.
Thanks for stopping by!
All in all, Kelowna is the ultimate destination offering something for everyone. Whether you are looking to set down some roots or planning the ultimate road trip through BC Kelowna has so much to offer!
Ever been to Kelowna? What was your favourite part of the city?
Vietnam is one of those amazing countries that never disappoint. It was easily one of my favourite places I’ve been. The history, lush greenery, friendly people, lazy beaches, delicious food, stunning landscapes, affordable price…. Ah! There is so much to love about this stunning south-east Asian country.
Not knowing what to expect from the country was likely a big part of the reason I loved it. You will need to set aside at least 2 weeks to travel through this country. As a Canadian, you will need to get a visa on arrival which will allow you a 1 month’s stay in the country. I stayed the whole month and could have easily stayed longer.
Vietnam is a long and skinny country which makes it an easy spot for traveling. Most of the significant sites are situated along the country’s coastline making this a very scenic country to travel to. For traveling purposes, you will want to note that there is a significant city in the north: Hanoi, and another in the south: Ho Chi Minh City. We highly recommend utilizing both cities for their international airports and booking a flight into one city and out of the other. This will allow you to travel through the entire country and efficiently hit all the major spots on your travels. For the purposes of this post, I list the cities in order from south to north.
The weather is HOT so packing light is easy. Lots of bathing suits, sunscreen, and comfortable walking shoes are a great start. Tourists will enjoy that English is widely spoken here so you will have no trouble communicating. As with most other countries in the area, costs are incredibly affordable here.
When traveling from city to city, I highly recommend taking overnight buses that will get you from city to city. These are comfortable as they have a full bed that allows you to fall asleep and wake up in a new city. They are affordable and easy to book making them perfect for almost every traveller.
Without further ado, the best cities in Vietnam to travel to:
1. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
As the largest city in the country, it has two different names that are both frequently used throughout the country. Ho Chi Minh City is the official name of the city while Saigon was the name pre-1975. Ho Chi Minh was a leader in the north of the country. Following the north’s success in the civil war in 1975, the north flexed its power over the south, forcibly changing the name from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City is a history buff’s dream. If you aren’t familiar, Vietnam has had a very turbulent history with a long presence of war up until 1975 with lingering effects of the war still seen throughout the country. With the war being largely between the north and south of the country, there were a few notable outside players such as France and the USA.
The city is full of museums that will give you insight into the history of the country. A great one worth visiting is the War Remnants Museum. This will give you a good overview of the history of the country and equip you with a better appreciation of what to expect from your trip.
In Ho Chi Minh City, be sure to take a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels. This is an incredible way to take in history as you get to literally immerse yourself in it. The tunnels that the Vietnamese people carved out during wartime to hide through are still accessible today. Some of these tunnels have even been expanded making them “American sized” and allowing tourists to crawl through them. If that’s not enough, you can fire off an M30 gun to get the full magnitude of the battles throughout the war.
If you are going to visit any of the historical monuments in the south, I recommend prioritizing a visit to museums in Hanoi, as well. The differences seen in the way the history is represented from north to south is very interesting and show a very real change in perspective. A civil upset between the north and the south, while not being actively fought, is still felt throughout the country.
If history isn’t your thing, the city still offers so much to do. You can’t go here without enjoying some local cuisine. Pho, iced coffee and salad rolls are all must-tries when visiting. The food in the city is all amazing, in fact, I even had the best sushi of my life in this city!
There are many large markets and street shopping to be done in this walkable city. With a largely Buddhist population, you will find pagodas and temples throughout the city that are well worth a visit.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City
Mia Saigon Boutique Hotel is the place to go if you’re looking for luxury. The staff is so friendly and makes this beautiful hotel that much more appealing. The massive pool will make you forget you’re in the city. If you’d rather have luxury in more of a traditional Vietnamese style, The Reverie Saigon is a great hotel. The decor here is stunning, the staff is friendly, and the food on site is unbeatable.
If you’re looking for a stunningly quirky urban mid-range hotel, Fusion Original Saigon Centre is a must-see. The location of this hotel is perfect and its rooftop pool will give you insane city views.
If sticking to a budget is important to you, Sunrise City Central By Dhome is a great hotel. The rooms are clean and bright and there’s even a rooftop pool. If you don’t need a pool and are looking for a beautiful place on an even tighter budget, the Woody House Saigon is one of the best budget hotels in Ho Chi Minh City.
2. Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is located a few hours south of Ho Chi Minh City making it seem very out of the way. While this might detour you, it really is worth the visit.
If you are looking for a simple trip, there are lots of tours you can book leaving from Ho Chi Minh City that may be for you. If you’re looking for more adventure, you can take a bus or plane here to take in the beautiful sights.
You can expect large lush agricultural lands and a fairly dense population in this area. Rivers, swamps, and islands dot the area which is all easily accessible by boat. In fact, boats are actually the primary means of transportation in this area.
The soil is so nutrient-rich that you will find rice paddies, vast orchards, tall coconut palms, and sugar cane growing everywhere in this area. The Mekong Delta is full of life and is one stop you will not want to miss.
If you’re staying in Ho Chi Minh City and are looking for a day tour, this full day tour on the Upper Mekong River is a great trip to book. The 10 hour tour costs $35.10 CAD ($25 USD) and includes round trip transportation from Ho Chi Minh City.
Where to stay in the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Lodge Resort is a beautiful mid-range hotel for those looking for a luxurious jungle inspired experience. The resort has so much greenery, the rooms are amazing, and the pool is clean and beautiful.
The Ben Tre Riverside Resort is an excellent budget friendly hotel option. The rooms are clean and bright and the views from the large pool area are unbeatable.
3. Mũi Né
Sticking to the south-north route plan, Mũi Né (pronounced moo-ee-nay) is a coastal city located 4 hours northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. If you’re looking for a lazy beach vibe, this is the city for you. A top vacation spot in the area, the stunning white sandy beaches of this gorgeous seaside vacation town are sure to impress. Not really a city as much as a picturesque beach town, this is one area where you can happily sit on the beach with a good book and some tasty iced coffee.
If you prefer to be in the water than looking at it, this is a great spot to try your hand at sailing or windsurfing. The windy coastline brings in some great waves which make this a dream spot for many water sports enthusiasts.
For adventurers, there are two sand dunes in the area that are both worth a visit. The red dunes are the closest to town while the white sand dunes are much larger in size and therefore much more popular amongst tourists. Both make for an incredible day trip.
Get here early and enjoy the serenity of the sunrise glistening on the sand. Throughout the rest of the day, the peacefulness of the dunes is disturbed by a mass of tourists and loud quads so coming first thing in the morning will give you a good alternative look.
Renting a quad to explore these dunes is a great way to explore and will save you a ton of energy. The dunes may look small as you don’t have a lot of references but the hills are high and the sand is hot.
Where to stay in Mũi Né
If you are looking for luxury, there are two great hotels I highly recommend in the area.
The first is the Anantara Mui Ne Resort which is an absolutely stunning boho style hotel with a jungle meets beach vibe. There are multiple pools to choose from, the food is delicious and the greenery makes it feel so luxurious.
Similarly, the Sailing Club Resort is another great option with similar jungle-beach vibes that just scream relaxing luxury.
Centara Mirage Resort is a great hotel option for those looking for a lavish mid range option. Located right on the water, you will enjoy stunning rooms with your choice of multiple pools offered at the resort. This is a great family friendly hotel with lots of amenities including playgrounds, water parks, bowling, karaoke, and more!
If you are looking for budget friendly accommodations but don’t want to compromise on luxury, I highly suggest the Gia An Hung Guest House. The rooms are clean, the staff is incredibly friendly and the rooms are bright and clean. The location is ideal with a lot of restaurants and markets nearby.
4. Nha Trang
A 4-hour drive north up the coastline of the country you will find the bigger coastal city of Nha Trang. This area is a beach bum/water enthusiast’s paradise. Not far from the coast, there are many different islands that you can sail to that offer scuba diving and snorkelling tours.
Overfishing in the area unfortunately means the waters are not as densely populated with marine life as they once were. Still, the crystal clear tropical waters are worth exploring, specifically when entering the water from a boat.
One popular island in the area is called Monkey Island. As the name suggests, the island is home to a ton of primates who freely roam around. A tourist island, there is a surprising amount of family-friendly activities to do on this island.
If you’d prefer to spend your day in freshwater, this area has a lot of nearby waterfalls that are worth exploring. A light trek through the jungle will take you to some impressive waterfalls, the most popular being the Fairy Springs and the Ba Ho waterfalls. Yang Bay is another great, far less touristy, area to go in search of impressive waterfalls.
For those more interested in exploring dry land, you are sure to enjoy the many markets, malls and street vendors in the area. Lots of cafes and stunning ocean side restaurants are offered in the area. This is a great spot to enjoy a relaxing massage right on the beach. For a truly relaxing experience, head to Thap Ba Hot Springs where you can dip in both cold and hot mineral pools. The mud in this area is known to be packed with minerals that offer an array of healing properties. Mud baths here are a great way to soak in wellness.
Where to stay in Nha Trang
It doesn’t get much more luxurious than Vinpearl Luxury Nha Trang. This is a great secluded resort style accommodation for those looking to live a stunning island life. If you’d rather stay on the mainland, Mia Resort Nha Trangis another great hotel on the mainland. The villas are amazing with stunning ocean views and the staff here are incredibly friendly.
Nevada Beach Hotel is a great mid-range hotel for those looking to blend luxury and affordability. Spending your days looking out on the water from the rooftop pool will not disappoint.
Azura Gold Hotel & Apartments is a great budget friendly hotel with the best location in the city. You will not know you’re on a budget with the luxury treatment you get at this hotel. The rooftop pool has stunning views of the ocean making this hotel one of the best in the area.
5. Hoi An
A long 9-hour drive north from Nha Trang will take you to the beautiful coastal town of Hoi An. To get here, an overnight bus is a great option and will save you both travel time and hotel accommodation price.
This colourful town is full of rustic charm and looks like it’s right out of a fairytale. One of my favourite places I’ve visited, this is a must-see area for those that visit Vietnam. In fact, the old town, the area along the river, is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is due to its impeccable preservation from its time as a trading port.
This is a great area to rent a pedal bike as the geography is fairly flat and the ideal size. While you can see the sights walking, renting a bicycle will help you to get around faster and allow you to take in more areas. With a river in the center of the city, bars, restaurants and shops line the sides giving you a very unique vibe.
One of the best things to do in this city is eat! Every restaurant we went to seemed better than the last until you’re in a full food coma. I ate the best Indian food I’ve ever had in this city. If you want to stick with the tropical vibe, the beaches are not far from the city center in this area. One of the best beaches in the area that is often less crowded is An Bang beach.
Where to stay in Hoi an
Ann Retreat Resort & Spa is a great hotel to choose if you’re looking for a slice of luxury in this beautiful city. The pool alone is absolutely gorgeous but combine that with the spacious rooms and delicious food and you are set for a perfect vacation.
For those on a budget, you can’t get better than Hoi An Heart Lodge. The cozy hotel has a great location, friendly staff, and a fun vibe. Le Charme de Joi An Villa is another great budget hotel with a stunning pool. The location is great being about a 20 minute walk from Old Town.
6. Da Nang
A short 1-hour trip north will transport you into the hustle and bustle of city life found in Da Nang. This city is most known on Instagram for its stunning golden bridge nestled into the Bà Nà hills. Iconic for the large sculptured hands that look as though they are holding the bridge up, this is a must-see travel site. To get to this bridge, you must first take a cable car from Sun World. Head there in the early morning (the first cable car is at 7 am) to beat the crowds.
Da Nang is one of those areas where you will definitely want to rent a scooter. Travelling inland you will find many lush hillsides just waiting to be explored. The street food in this city is an absolute must as it offers a wide variety of delicious cuisine. Da Nang beaches are some of the nicest in all of Vietnam.
The nightlife is also worth a note in the area. This city is booming with growth which you can easily see in the many new resorts lining the beaches and big cosmopolitan towers being constructed in the downtown core. We recommend heading downtown at least once to soak up some of the buzzing downtown scenes.
Where to stay in Danang
A great luxury hotel is Sel de mer Hotels & Suites. You will feel like a VIP with the large rooms, the incredible pool that overlooks the beach, and the on site spa. Louis Mo Apartment is another great space with a stunning pool and friendly staff. If you’re looking to stay on the water, Le Sands Oceanfront Hotel is a great mid-range hotel. This is an especially great hotel for families traveling with kids.
Daisy Boutique Hotel is an absolutely gorgeous budget friendly hotel. Full of greenery and a gorgeous pool in the center of the hotel, this is a beautiful place to stay. Similarly VernalHome Boutique is another great budget conscious hotel with lots of greenery and a beautiful pool.
Two hours up the coast of Vietnam gets you to the old smaller town of Hue. This is a great place to visit because it’s located in the middle of Vietnam. A top site in the area is the Đại Nội Citadel. This was built in the 19th century and has a moat completely surrounding it. Thick stone walls encompass the grounds and is currently one of the top sights to visit in the area. Renting a bicycle to tour through this area will allow you to see and get more from this place.
Taking a day trip to the demilitarized zonenot far from Hue is another great experience you shouldn’t miss. This is home to the border between the North and South and is marked by the 17th parallel. There is a great walk-through history tour and you will spend the day looking through tunnels and old military bases.
When in this area I walked into a backpackers hostel for some lunch and had the opportunity to visit a local orphanage. Getting a tour of the facility and spending the morning playing with the kids and building awareness through donations are so important and incredibly valuable. Be sure to take part in some of these opportunities as they come your way.
Where to stay in Hue
If you want to make Hue a destination in itself and are looking for a stunning resort to spend all your time in, the Vedana Lagoon Resort & Spa is a destination in itself. You will stay on the water in a slice of paradise as you enjoy a full royal treatment.
If you’re looking for pure luxury with a mid-range price point, look no further than Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort & Spa. You will feel like you’re in the jungle with all the greenery, huge beautiful pool, and cozy boho vibes.
Jade Scene Hotel is a great hotel for travelers looking for clean comfortable rooms, a nice pool, and a great price tag.
Vietnam’s capital city is more than 12 hour’s drive north of Hue making this the longest leg of travel you will do. This northern city is home to a large international airport that we recommend using as your port of exit from this trip. There is lots to see and do in this city, although it should not be your last stop – trust me Sapa and Halong Bay are worth their own visit!
The downtown area is centred around a massive lake, Hoan Kiem Lake. According to Vietnamese legend, this lake is home to a mythical ancient turtle. This is the main hub where you will see many locals exercising around throughout all hours of the day. One of the best places to take in the sights of the city is from the 65th floor of the Lotte Tower Observation Deck. Grabbing a drink at the building’s rooftop bar is a must!
Hanoi offers a rich history from both the civil war and international wars with France and the USA. If you took the time to explore the history in the south, you will want to compare that with what you learned in the north. Walking the halls of the famous Hoa Lo Prison is an experience that will stick with you. This capital city is one that is very walkable and loaded with history. A trip to the city’s Imperial Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage site, will give you another great look into the country’s rich history.
The far northern location of this city makes it easy to see the heavy external influences at play. With a large French and Chinese influence, the old architecture is a sight to behold. The French Quarter in Hanoi is also one of the best places to stay in Hanoi. The old quarter is very budget-friendly and therefore popular amongst backpackers.
From Hanoi, you have two remaining must-see destinations: Sapa and Halong Bay. Hanoi is nestled in the center of the two cities (Sapa being inland west and Halong Bay being a coastal town to the capital east) it is up to you which you’d prefer to explore first.
Where to stay in Hanoi
Looking for luxury in the big city? Look no further than La Sinfonia del Rey Hotel & Spa. The stunning dark decor throughout is sure to impress but if that’s not enough the rooftop bar sure will. The Peridot Grand Luxury Boutique Hotel is another great luxurious hotel option with a stunning pool, great location and amazing staff.
The Golden Rooster Hotel is a great mid-range hotel with an amazing location in the city. The rooms are clean and spacious and the beds are comfortable.
Veering inland, a long 5-hour bus drive west, or take an overnight train, will take you from the country’s capital to the mountain town of Sapa. This area is a popular destination among tourists – and for good reason. The lush green mountainous landscape is hard to get through in a short period of time. In these hills, you will find different tribes of people living throughout the paddies. They offer guided overnight tours through the paddies, some of which are overnight explorations that will allow you to sleep with the locals in the villages. These Sapa trekking tours are one of the best things to do in Sapa.
Don’t Forget: Be sure to bring along a good pair of trekking shoes as this requires a decent amount of hill climbing through muddy landscapes.
If you don’t want to commit to an overnight stay in this area, it is still a great place to go hiking. With many waterfalls, a favourite being Silver Waterfalls, there is so much to see and do. The cooler weather in this inland town will welcome change-making hiking much more accessible.
If you aren’t thrilled about the idea of hiking through Sapa, consider renting a motorbike and driving through the nearby streets. Many of them are not paved so you will need to be comfortable on a motorbike before taking to these rugged streets. There are a lot of other small villages that you will come across when exploring. A noteworthy one is Cat Cat Village which is just as cute as the name suggests.
The shopping in this area is unique in that most of the items are handmade by locals. You can expect to see everything from beautiful jewelry, clothing, and trinkets that line the streets. If you take a trek or stay in a homestay, you can often buy some of these trinkets straight from the locals in their village.
If you’re staying in Hanoi but are looking to get a taste of the beautiful hills in Sapa, this 2 day 1 night Sapa hiking tour is a must! The price varies based on the size of your group but is $137.50 CAD ($98 USD) for 2 people including transportation from Hanoi.
If you’d prefer to stay a bit longer and explore some of the city, this 3 day 2 night trekking tour is a great option. You will spend some nights in the city and one night in a hotel in the city.
Both of these tours will have you spending your days hiking through the terraced fields and small villages and staying overnight in a bungalow in a local hill tribe village. These tours are all inclusive and include a guide, all transportation, and even your meals along the way.
Where to stay in Sapa
Luxury in the mountains can be found at the 5 star Silk Path Grand Resort & Spa. This whole hotel is Instagram worthy from the restaurants, the rooms, and the pool! The KK Sapa Hotel is another hotel built for luxury with stunning views of the mountains. The rooms are bright and spacious and absolutely gorgeous.
If you’re wanting luxury but a more affordable price tag, Sapa Relax Hotel & Spa will give you just that. A great location, bright beautiful rooms, and friendly staff combine to make this hotel amazing. Pao’s Sapa Leisure Hotel is another great hotel in the area with a spacious, upbeat, and quirky vibe with stunning views of the area.
If you’re wanting to stay on a budget, the Sapa Mountain Queen House is a great hotel with big beautiful rooms with authentic decor. The location is ideal and the staff is friendly. Cat Cat Galerie d’Art is another great hotel with clean and large rooms.
10. Halong Bay
Perhaps the most photographed part of the country, Halong Bay is located 2.5 hours west of Hanoi. All those picturesque limestone rock formations you see in Vietnam lie within this one magical northern mecca. It’s a true sight to behold.
The most popular way for seeing this area is, of course, to get out on the water and stand amongst these stunning rock formations. Sure to give you a fresh perspective of the country, these boat tours are incredibly popular amongst tourists.
The limestone rocks are topped with jungle paradises. Overnight cruises are referred to as ‘junk boat cruises’ and are a great way to weave through these islands. If you are feeling more adventurous, rent a sea kayak and tour yourself through some of the 2000 islands. Or you could take a Halong bay cruise through the area for a different perspective of this area.
The beauty in this area goes far beyond the limestone cliffs and stretches into the underwater world. Halong Bay is one of the best places to scuba dive in Vietnam. There are a ton of snorkelling trips that you can do in these emerald green waters.
The rock formations found here naturally house some impressive caves that can be fun to explore. Some popular ones are Hang Sung Sot Caves and Me Cung Caves which are well worth a visit.
As you can imagine, these large limestone rocks are also popular amongst rock climbers and really act as an outdoor playground for adventurers. A great place for hiking is through Cat Ba National Park
Where to stay in Ha Long Bay
If you’re looking to stay overnight, this all inclusive 2 day 1 night cruise is one of the best experiences you can have. The price for the tour varies based on the type of room you’re wanting but luxury is guaranteed.
If you’d rather just spend the day on the water, this Ha Long Bay Day Cruise is an action packed day you’ll never forget. You can expect to spend your time kayaking, swimming, and exploring caves with this experience.
Since the beauty of the area is the water, why not stay on it with this luxurious 5 star Elite of the Seas. If you are looking to splurge, staying aboard this stunning yacht is the way to do it!
If you’d rather stay on dry land and instead do day tours you have lots of options! A great budget friendly hotel is Ha Long Essence Hotel. The rooms are bright and spacious and a great value for your money.
Getting scuba certified allows you entry to an elite club of humans scattered around the globe who have the privilege of breathing underwater. Earth is roughly 70% ocean, meaning you haven’t travelled until you’ve explored below the water’s surface. PADI has issued over 28 million diving certifications in the last 55 years. While that may seem like a high number, that’s only 0.35% of the world’s population.
Scuba diving has been increasing in popularity thanks to underwater technologies that have allowed photos and videos to be taken of this secret world.
Thailand is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Each island hones its own vibes making them all worth a visit. Koh Tao is a small island sitting just north of Koh Pha Ngan (famous for its full moon parties and yoga retreats) and is most famous for its affordable scuba diving certification. Not only is it one of the cheapest places to get PADI Scuba Dive Certified in the world, but it also has some of the best diving.
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What To Expect In Koh Tao?
No matter where you come from, you will be arriving on the island by ferry. As you approach the island you will be met by pristine waters washing up on white sandy beaches with a lush jungle on top. Koh Tao is the smallest of the three islands clustered together in this area. The closest to Koh Tao is the neighbouring island, Koh Pha Ngan, while the biggest is Koh Samui.
Koh Tao is a tropical paradise swimming with natural beauty. Despite its boom in tourism, Koh Tao has a very rustic feel, having as many dirt roads as paved. A good portion of the island is lush, undeveloped jungle that is great for hiking. The calm and clear turquoise waters surround this island with multiple pristine beaches to visit.
Filling your time on the island is easy. One of the most popular things to do in Koh Tao is actually located just a couple hundred meters from the island. A three-island series that are connected together with thin strips of white sandy beaches make up Koh Nang Yuan. This famous Instagram spot is a must-visit while here.
This is a great island to rent a scooter to drive around and explore the small island – just be careful on dirt roads (especially where they transition to paved roads) because there are some pretty large potholes.
A scooter will allow you access to the island’s many pristine beaches. While many of these beaches have a small entry fee (normally around 25THB or $1CAD), they are worth the visit as most offer great snorkelling right from the beach. Having snorkel gear with you is invaluable when visiting Thailand.
How To Get To Koh Tao?
Thailand is a very easy country to travel around. With trains, buses and multiple airports, getting from place to place is a breeze. As Koh Tao is an island, you will need to take a ferry to get here no matter where you are coming from.
There are three ways to get to Koh Tao:
Plane – Ferry: The closest airport to Koh Tao is Samui International Airport located on Koh Samui (an island just south of Koh Tao). If coming from the airport you will have to get from the airport to the ferry terminal. You will then need to buy a ticket through Lomprayah High-Speed Ferries to Koh Tao. While this is undoubtedly the most expensive way to get to the island, it will save you a lot of time and stress.
Bus – Ferry: Another great way to travel is to take the bus/ferry combo. Taking a bus from Bangkok is incredibly popular and budget-friendly. If you head to a local travel agent you can easily book a bus ticket to get to Koh Tao. You can either book a day bus or a night bus.
I prefer the night buses as I have no problem sleeping anywhere and hate losing days to travel. A roughly 7-hour bus drive will take you from Bangkok to Chumphon where you will be dropped off at a ferry terminal. You will then take a stunning 2.5-hour ferry ride to the tropical island of Koh Tao.
Train – Ferry: A luxurious form of travel, Thailand has a great train system that can be very comfortable. A mid-range way of getting to Koh Tao, sleeper trains offer comfort and efficiency. You can choose between their first-class or second-class sleeping options.
Where To Get Scuba Certified In Thailand?
The island of Koh Tao is able to offer such affordable open water diving certification due to the huge supply and ongoing demand. Almost every hotel has its own dive center meaning you don’t have to leave your hotel. This is the ideal way to go about getting your diving certification as they will often package dive prices with hotel stays leaving you with free, or reduced-priced, accommodations.
When deciding where to get dive certified, make sure you ask a lot of questions. The most important question is to ask what ratio of divers to instructors can you expect. We always ensure this number is 4 or under. In order to feel the most confident below water, you want to make sure your guide is focused on you. For maximum comfort, numbers should not exceed a 4:1 ratio for open water certifications.
There are many different scuba diving courses and companies that you can choose from. The ferry ride to the island will have salespeople from many different companies trying to get you to choose theirs. It’s best to compare a few different salespeople to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of.
PADI Scuba Certification Requirements
When deciding on the right dive center for you, make sure to check that they are a PADI certified facility. It means the certificate is recognized all over the world and is a requirement for further diving.
PADI = Professional Association of Diving Instructors
In order to scuba dive, the first course that is required is the Open Water Diving Certification. This is a fairly simple certification program that only has a few basic requirements. You must be over 10 years old, be able to swim (there will be a treading water test) and be medically fit to dive.
Similar to gaining altitude in an airplane, sinking below the water’s surface will change the pressure around, and on, you. This is why you have to do safety stops to properly equalize when ascending from the depths on a dive. It’s important that you are able to properly equalize your ears at this time. Those with ear problems should consult their dive centers before signing up.
Steps To Getting PADI Open Water Certified
Plan for the open water diving certification to consume about 4-7 days, depending on where and how you choose to go about training.
1. In class/online training: 5-10 hours of classroom work with an instructor. You will first learn the skills through a knowledge-based program that reviews terminology, goes over what to expect and equips you with the knowledge you will need to successfully dive below the water’s surface. For those short on time, you can often do this training online at a reduced price. This means you can complete the training before you go to maximize your time.
2. Written test: Your classroom knowledge will then get confirmed in a basic test.
3. Practice skills in the pool: Once the theory is behind you, you will move to pool training to get comfortable with the dive equipment. During this time you will practise key skills like removing your mask and regulator underwater and then retrieving them. You will also dive to the bottom in an effort to get comfortable breathing under the water. You’ll learn how to purge your mask (which involves taking it off underwater – it sounds scarier than it is), and inflate and deflate your buoyancy control device (BCD).
4. Ocean dives: Once you have the tools you need, it is time to get into the ocean. 4 dives in the ocean complete this course and give you a great introduction to the world of scuba diving.
During the first ocean dive, you can expect to again practice your main diving skills like dropping your respirator and retrieving it, taking your mask off and on, purging your mask and performing necessary safety stops.
How Much Does It Cost To Get Scuba Dive Certified In Thailand?
The price to get PADI Scuba Dive certified ranges depending on where you choose. We chose Koh Tao because of the low cost and the amazing diving. The scuba shop resort we chose included 5 nights of accommodation at their resort along with shuttles to and from the Koh Tao pier, all the course material, diving gear and refreshments on the boat.
All of this worked out to around 10, 000 Baht a person (~$360 CAD). If you are planning on completing the PADI Open Water dive certificate in a group of people you may be able to get it for a bit of a discount.
The resort was right on the beach and had an amazing property. We were upgraded for free to an airconditioned queen room. It also had a restaurant offering stunning ocean views while you eat.
Is Scuba Diving Dangerous Or Scary?
You may be wondering if scuba diving is a safe sport. While it is important to have the skills and a knowledgeable guide to the area, you should not be scared to get scuba certified. If you are diving with a PADI accredited facility, checking over your gear (you’ll be taught how to do this) and are confident in your training, there is nothing to worry about.
As with anything unknown in life, a little bit of fear is natural in something you’ve never done before. You should embrace the butterflies in your stomach and jump in anyways to explore a unique world, unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Trust me, scuba diving is addictive and one of the best ways to explore our big beautiful world.
There are typically 3 big fears with scuba diving:
1. Claustrophobia: Many people worry about feelings of being trapped or claustrophobic underwater. The great thing about getting certified in a tropical climate like Koh Tao is that ocean temperatures sit around 28℃ (83℉), even in the winter months. This climate means you’re able to wear thin wetsuits or short skin guards that are a lot more comfortable than bulky wet suits.
The underwater visibility in Koh Tao sits around 30 meters or more. This means that you can see far underwater and helps to reduce any claustrophobia you may anticipate.
2. Breathing underwater: This can feel really unnatural and take a while to get used to. Everyone you are getting trained with will have the same nerves around this one. Be patient with yourself as you’ve never done this before. Similar to flying, it’s a fantasy of many but one we aren’t expecting to be able to do.
Really use the time in the pool to calm your heart rate down and relax your breathing. I go into a meditative state below water repeating a mantra to keep myself comfortable and happy. The calmer your breathing underwater, the less air you will use, meaning a longer dive. This is why it is so important to calm your breathing.
When I jump into the water on any dive, I immediately put my face below the water while we wait for the team to get ready. Before we begin the descent, I like to spend a couple of seconds breathing underwater while still on the surface to acclimatize myself.
3. Animal encounters: If your fear comes from animals you may see below the water, thank Hollywood for that one! The most common fear for diving is simple: SHARKS. While these majestic creatures are villainized so heavily in our world, they are so misunderstood.
Most sharks are very gentle creatures that offer absolutely no risk to human life. In fact, of the hundreds of species of sharks that roam our oceans, only 3 actually pose any threat to humans. Great White Sharks, Tiger Sharks and Bull Sharks are deemed a dangerous species only resulting in about 10 combined human deaths worldwide a year. You are more than 15 times more likely to die from a falling coconut than a shark.
What Can I Expect In Open Water Dives?
Your Open Water Certification allows you to dive 18 meters, 60 feet, below the water’s surface. There are two main ways to enter the water on your dives: by boat or from the shore. Having done both types of dive, we greatly prefer boat dives as you don’t waste time and energy getting to the site. Most of the dive centers in Koh Tao offer boat dives for PADI Open Water certification.
We recommend packing light for your trips. Refreshments (water and light snacks) are typically provided but bringing a water bottle along is never a bad idea. You will want to wear a bathing suit, have your hair tied back and bring some flip-flops along.
You will go on 2 dives for 2 days totalling 4 tank dives to complete your PADI Open Water certification. These dives will take up a good portion of your day. You can expect to spend roughly 45-55 minutes underwater per dive, depending on your air consumption.
Diving takes a lot out of you, physically. Spending an hour or so above the water on the boat drinking water, resting and enjoying some light snacks will be a welcomed break between the two scuba dive sessions. This combined with the time it takes to get to and from dive sites, you can expect your dives to consume about 4-5 hours of your day.
To protect the underwater reefs you swim through, we recommend skipping the sunscreen altogether and instead bringing light clothing to provide some coverage. Keep in mind you will have a fair amount of above-water time as you will be needing to get to the dive site.
Waiting for you onboard you will find your tanks, BCD, wetsuit and the rest of your gear. As these are your first ocean dives, expect to be nervous. We were most nervous about equalizing underwater. Your body, especially your ears, builds up pressure the further you dive. To release the pressure you plug your nose and gently blow air through it. Of course, you will be told a number of scary precautionary stories during your classroom sessions, but trust the process.
First Dive Of PADI Open Water Certification
Your first dive site will look like nothing more than a random spot in the middle of the ocean. With barely any landmarks visible, trust that you are about to be shocked at all that is going on underwater. You will go over with your instructor how to check over all your equipment and go over some basics on board. Your instructor will then guide you on how to get in the water. There are a number of different methods to this, most places will try different entry styles on different dives to get you comfortable with getting into the water.
Jumping in the water you will be met by warm 30-degree Celcius temperatures. If you were doing a shore dive, you would follow the shoreline in a gradual descent. In boat dives, you follow a buoy line in a straight descent to the ocean floor.
Descending to the bottom is scary as there are so many unknowns. Visibility at the surface is also disorienting as you don’t have any notable reference points to show how far things are. You will likely not even notice the descent on your first dive as you will be focused on all the skills you just learned, most importantly equalizing and breathing.
Once you reach the bottom, your instructor will go over the same skills already practiced in the pool the day before. Don’t overthink this, removing and retrieving your goggles and air supply is an easy skill that goes exactly the same in the ocean as it did in the pool.
One thing I didn’t expect is all the sound underwater. I thought this was going to be a completely silent experience. My breathing was loud and for the first couple of minutes, it was all I heard. This noise quickly turned to a white noise that actually was useful for calming down and getting into a meditative state. You can at times hear ships soaring above.
Once we got down to our desired depth I forgot about everything going on in the world above me.
I didn’t know (or care) about time, any stresses, or the skills I had learned. None of it mattered. I don’t think I had a regular thought the whole time I was down there. All the colours, the schools of fish, the hiding stingray – that was all that I cared about.
Your dive instructor will consistently check what PSI you have left in your tank. Once the first person has reached their limit, you will begin to ascend as a group. When your whole team groups together, your instructor will put a line up to the surface which will have a buoy on top letting boats know divers are on the surface. You will then begin to float towards the water’s surface. At about 5 meters deep you will stop for 3-5 minutes in an important safety stop. This allows your body to properly acclimatize to the pressure changes.
Following this, you will continue to swim to the surface and meet with your group. The boat you took will come to pick you up and you can climb back above water with guaranteed smiles and a ton to talk about. Time to relax a bit before your next dive.
On The Boat Between Dive 1 and Dive 2
Between your first and second Open Water certificate dive, you will relax on the boat for around 1 hour. There will be some fresh water and snacks that you should eat and drink. Use this time to take some photos and take in the scenery.
You can also ask your instructor any questions you had about the first dive.
Second Dive of PADI Open Water Certification
The second dive of the day will be used to go over more of the skills you learned in the pool. You will feel more comfortable getting in the water and diving below the surface. Your breathing will be more steady and you won’t feel as nervous as on the first dive.
Getting scuba dive certified was probably one of the most life-changing things I have ever done. Now all I want to do, all I want to spend my money on, is underwater diving. I am more hooked than I ever thought I would be.
Upgrading Your PADI Scuba Dive Training
Once you start your dive training, you may want to keep advancing your skills. There are many different courses and certificates you can work your way through. Once you get your Open Water Diver scuba diving license the specialty courses allow you to do advanced dives like digital underwater photography, wreck diver, night diver, underwater navigation to name a few.
Check out all the cool things you can do with your PADI certification below:
Have you tried to scuba dive? Let us know how getting certified was for you!
Indonesia is a laid back country made up of more than 17,000 islands. Of all these islands the most popular amongst tourists is the large island of Bali. Surrounded by water and full of a boho vibe this island is full to the brim with surfers and yogis. The islands are dotted with stunning white sandy beaches that have large waves that are perfect for surfing. Some calmer areas are heavily used for snorkeling and diving where you will see a plethora of colourful tropical fishes.
The island’s center, an area called Ubud, is where you will find the many hippie/yogi types and the city carries a very earthy vibe. With some world class restaurants and hotels, rich green rice fields and many temples to visit this is a super unique area.
The north of the island is more reserved for locals with no huge touristy areas. Rock lined beaches lead way to some of the most spectacular dive sites in all of Southeast Asia. With shipwrecks, walls of coral and gardens of sunken Buddha statues there is lots to be explored below the sea.
This island is one of many in Indonesia but with a rich culture and such vastly different landscapes it can easily leave you with countless stories. We know we left with many. Read them below.
Thailand is one of the most touristy countries in all of Southeast Asia for young people to visit. With cheap flights, stunning beaches and delicious food it is no wonder it is quickly becoming a top destination. Perfect for backpackers this country is becoming more and more accessible with many international airports and a cheap and user friendly bus and ferry system.
Having an increasingly tourist driven economy ensures that you will stay safe and have a fun time touring through this country. But with quirks like penis shrines and unmanned potholes you can’t help but think “only in Thailand.”
Get ready to laugh when you hear some of our wild stories with this country.
Myles and I consider ourselves pretty worldly, for our age at least. We have both explored different corners of the world, but we both agree that Vancouver island is unlike anywhere either of us has ever been. Perhaps it’s the expensive ferry ride to get here or the incredible charm of Victoria that makes people not want to explore further, but we have found ourselves in the clearest of waters and the most incredible of beaches without a single other soul in sight – and we are traveling in August, what should be peak season.
On our drive from Nanaimo to Tofino I tactfully convinced Myles to pull over at a rest stop along the way so we could nap. What I didn’t expect was Myles to come running back to me before my head could even hit the pillow and tell me to follow him. What he found literally steps away from the rest stop was a little lagoon filled with the clearest water either of us had ever seen. Fully equipped with a rope swing and lots of rocks for cliff jumping, the only thing that was missing was the hundreds of other people that would have been sitting there as well. Maybe we just come from a big city but I couldn’t help but feel like Vancouver Island was this absolutely gorgeous unexplored tropical island with lush rainforest and some of the most beautiful sights that was yet to be discovered by anyone else. If you don’t believe me, take a look at some of the places we’ve found, all without another soul in sight:
Spoke Potholes, Sooke, BC
Holland park trail, Duncan, BC
CY Hampson park, Saanich, BC
Taylor river, Port Alberni, BC
East Sooke, BC The funny thing about it is, we have been told by most of the locals that the northern part of the island is much more remote than the southern and central parts that we have already explored, as wild as that seems. Who knows what’s yet to be explored, one thing we do know is always have a camera close by!
Before we started this trip Myles would rave how Nelson would be a perfect stop for us in this trip. The people, the shoppes and the lifestyle combine into an eclectic atmosphere. After falling mesmerizingly in love with Nelson, we decided to spend our evenings at the nearby Ainsworth hot springs.
A mixture of the hot steamy water with the enchanted swim through caves and our long hot sunny summer days left us wonderfully relaxed and ready to sleep. Unfortunately for us, life had other plans. That night I awoke to a little baby mouse crawling up my curtains inches away from my face. I wish I could say this was the first time I had a startling wake up with unwanted creepy crawlies by my face but I do also have a not so distant memory of awaking to a cockroach on my hair in Vietnam, but that’s a different story.
Fast forward a few hours and Myles and I found ourselves in a 7/11 getting energy drinks and fuel. After a chat with the attendants we were on our way to a 24 hour Waffle House (of course) where we were served by a modern hippie talking to us about his views on life, business and travelling and inviting us to stay on a compound that he and a group of about 80 people live on together.
Another 10 hours (for a typical 6 hour drive in a modern vehicle) and we were back at my parents place washing all of our clothes and planting mouse traps. Too much spray foam and a wonderful week spent in the sun with our loved ones and we were itching to get back on the road. On the bright side, the break and access to tools let us do some much needed projects to make our home even homier.
It took about 15 minutes of us driving to remember how much we loved this lifestyle, with no rushing and endless beach and family time, what’s not to love.