The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii

It’s no secret that the Big Island of Hawaii stole my heart. I’ve become such a fan, I want to help you explore every nook and cranny. Since most people begin their Big Island adventure in Kona, I figured you might be wondering how to maximize your time there.

From activities to places to eat, these are the best things to do in Kona, Hawaii:

Dolphin & Manta Swims

The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii
How cool is this?

By far one of the best things to do in Kona — or anywhere in Hawaii for that matter — is to swim with some of the amazing sea creatures! I swam with wild dolphins and it was an incredible experience. Since it takes place in the morning, you can also pack in this nighttime manta ray adventure, where you’ll cruise the ocean at sunset and watch manta rays glide by on their quest for plankton. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day in Hawaii.

Hapuna Beach

The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii
Every night in Hawaii brings a gorgeous sunset.

Hapuna Beach is the largest white sand beach on the big island, and luckily it’s only about a 45-minute drive north of Kona. This half-mile stretch of soft sand was even named one of the top ten beaches in the U.S. in 2019. Parking is $5 and both bathrooms and outdoor showers are provided. This a great spot for swimming, snorkeling, and sunsets!


The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii
Hey there, little buddy!

See colorful little fish like this guy as well as dolphins, turtles, and monk seals at Two-Step! It’s an awesome snorkeling spot on Honaunau Bay, 30 miles south of Kona. It’s acclaimed as one of the most beautiful spots on the island, with clear blue waters, a vibrant reef, and dozens of marine species. Here’s a few helpful tips: park in the nearby $5 lot, watch out for dangerous currents, and be sure to use reef-safe sunscreen! The best thing about two-step is it’s easy to access. Be sure to bring your own gear.

Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation

The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii
Kona coffee fruit before the beans are separated and roasted

Volcanic soil and frequent cloud cover make for the perfect coffee-growing conditions; as a result, Kona coffee is world-renowned for both flavor and aroma. Take the opportunity to embrace Kona coffee culture with a free tour at the Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation, which is a 15-minute drive from downtown Kona. Tours run every hour on the hour from 10am to 4pm, seven days a week. Be sure to take home a souvenir of coffee beans or grounds while you’re there!

Kealakekua Bay

The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii
Have you ever seen such teal waters?

25 miles south of downtown Kona is Kealakekua Bay, where the infamous Captain Cook first landed in 1778. The bay is widely believed to be the site of the best snorkeling in all of Hawaii — how could it not be when it looks like this? However, this treasure is well guarded, as the snorkeling spots can really only be reached by a strenuous hike. A better option is to join a guided snorkeling or kayaking tour which will make sure you get exactly where you need to be with no trouble at all.

Anaeho’omalu Beach

The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii
Which is bluer, the sky or the ocean?

Drive 30 miles north of Kona to get to Anaeho’omalu Beach. The beach is protected by an offshore reef, keeping the water calm and providing ideal circumstances for snorkeling, swimming, and diving. You also have the option of renting outdoor equipment to play with for the day, like kayaks, hydro bikes, and body boards. And, of course, everyone loves a good sunset, and this beach is the perfect place to watch one.

Kona Farmers’ Market

The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii
Fresh local produce is always a good idea.

Get into the local feel with the Kona Farmer’s Market, open Wednesday through Sunday from 7am to 4pm. The market is located in the heart of Kona, and more than 40 vendors offer everything from a wide variety of fresh local produce and flowers to Kona coffee and arts & crafts. Whether or not you end up purchasing much, it’s a great opportunity to find a healthy snack and chat with locals!

Historic Kailua-Kona Town

The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii
This old church is a significant piece of Kona history.

Check out the historic downtown area of Kailua-Kona, which is home to several famous landmarks. Two of the most notable are Hulihee Palace and Mokuaikaua Church (pictured above), both on the main road running through downtown. The area was once a place where Hawaiian royals like King Kamehameha liked to reside and where fishing was the main occupation of those who lived there. Today, its roots are still clearly evident but exist alongside a modern spirit marked by vibrant food, music, and people.

Kua Bay (Maniniowali Beach)

The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii

This secluded white sand beach is just so pretty! The beach is part of Kekaha Kai State Park, about 15 miles northwest of Kona. The clear, calm waters here are ideal for snorkeling and swimming, and the beach is easily accessible by paved road. Other helpful amenities here include bathrooms, showers, barbecues, and picnic tables. Overall, Kua Bay is a great spot to spend a day, but keep in mind that it can get busy on the weekends, so maybe save this one for the middle of the week.

Enjoy Great Local Food

The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii

Half the fun of going on a trip is getting to experience the local cuisine, and Hawaii is an especially awesome place for great food. With a focus on fresh, local ingredients, the food scene in Kona has a lot to offer. Here are some delicious spots to check out:

Huggo’s on the Rocks: Huggo’s offers a fun and laid-back atmosphere and a fresh menu of burgers, salads, sandwiches, fish, and more. Plus, happy hour from 3 to 5pm every afternoon and live music every night mean that this is the perfect place to wrap up a busy day in Kona. If you’re looking for a sunset dinner on the water that isn’t too fancy, this is a great spot!

Umeke’s: Umeke’s is known both near and far (they have more than 10,000 followers on Instagram) for delicious poke and seafood made with only high quality, local ingredients. Umeke’s has two locations in Kona: one at Ali’i Plaza and one off , each of which has its own menu and atmosphere.

Island Ono Loa Grill: Some say that Island Ono Loa Grill makes the best burgers in Kona, and with good reason: they fire-grill them over lava rocks and serve them on Hawaiian sweet buns! What’s more, their ingredients are locally sourced, and it’s both a quick and inexpensive stop. Besides the mouth-watering burgers, there are also cool hot dogs, specialty sandwiches, and local plates on the menu.

Papa Kona Restaurant and Bar: Papa Kona features local musicians almost every night of the week, and their pub-style lounge menu of appetizers, burgers, tacos, and more makes for a laid-back atmosphere. This seems to be a great spot for a bite, a drink, and some music. They also have an awesome brunch!

Broke da Mouth Grindz: This spot has been featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and is beloved by tourists and locals alike. The menu is full of traditional Filipino staples with a fresh Hawaiian spin on them. It seems to be one of the best places to eat on the Big Island, hands down!

Hayashi’s Sushi (You Make The Roll): This small, family-run sushi place is hugely popular among locals. In fact, if you go at lunch hour, you’ll likely have to wait an hour or more for your sushi! However, for delicious, affordable, and high-quality sushi, it seems to be worth it. Maybe just try to go at an off-time so you won’t spend so long in line.

Basik Açaí Cafe: You can’t go to Hawaii and not have an açaí bowl! Basik Cafe is a great place to get one, with a variety of fresh, colorful bowls and smoothies which are all dairy-free and plant-based. Plus, they’re just gorgeous!

Herbivores: This drive-through and walk-up spot uses the phrase, “healthy fast food” as its claim to fame. I don’t even know what category to put this cool little place under, because they offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and smoothies, all of which look delicious! Its menu is largely plant-based and gluten-free, and has a laid-back atmosphere.

Kalikala Cuisine: Kalikala Cuisine is a family-owned oceanfront lanai on a picturesque street. Sit in the shaded patio and order one of their beautiful breakfast or lunch plates while you enjoy the seaside views. The atmosphere isn’t the only good part, though; the food is supposed to be excellent!

808 Grindz Cafe: Some say that 808 Grindz has a hole-in-the-wall vibe, but in the best way: big portions, friendly staff, and reasonable prices. Overall, it’s a great spot for a casual and authentic Hawaiian breakfast, and its largely frequented by locals. Just keep in mind that it’s cash-only!

Barefoot Zone: Barefoot Zone is a healthy option which focuses on fresh, whole foods in a fun way. Try one of their colorful bowls packed to the brim with fresh fruit, or indulge your sweet side with a gluten-free, dairy-free crêpe. They also have tons of other plant-based options, including veggie sushi!

Island Lava Java: The oceanside Island Lava Java restaurant has a huge menu which covers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant itself has a bright, cheery atmosphere, plus there’s an on-site bakery if you want to take one of their delicious breakfast pastries with you on the go!

Holy Donuts: Head to Holy Donuts for quirky, fun donuts freshly made every morning. It’s said said to have the best donuts on the Big Island, and with good reason! They look both gorgeous and delicious, thanks to unique flavors like pineapple fritter and creme brûlée.

Kona Wave Coffee: Kona Wave Coffee is a cute little place with a full espresso bar, açaí bowls, and all natural shave ice. This isn’t your typical cup of shave ice, either: it’s a saucer full of it with add-ins like ice cream, natural fruit syrups, boba, mochi, fresh fruit, and anything else you want to throw in there!

Here are 10 awesome things to do when in Kona, Hawaii. Get a complete list of where to go, what to eat, and insider tips to help you plan the best trip to Kona! #Kona #Hawaii

I hope this post helps you to discover the amazing beach and aquatic adventures that Kona has to offer, along with the delicious side! For more about the Big Island as a whole, check out my 25 top things to do on the Big Island beginning in Kona.

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Maria and Katerina, It’s all trip to me – Lonely Planet’s travel blog

Maria and Katerina exploring their home city of Athens © It’s all trip to me

While the life of a full-time traveller may seem like an idyllic existence, it’s not for everyone. Ties to home – from family responsibilities to a budding career – might keep us from committing to a nomadic way of living, but it certainly doesn’t mean travel is off the table.

We caught up with Pathfinders Maria and Katerina from It’s all trip to me to talk upcoming adventures, all things travel blogging and how to fit your trips around a nine-to-five.

Give us the low down on your blog…

Myself and photographer Katerina both love to travel and have always been very fond of consulting travel blogs to plan our trips. To us, a travel blog always seemed like a brilliant way to record our travel memories and help others create their own at the same time. So we combined our passions for writing and photography and here we are now, hoping to inspire people with full-time jobs like ourselves to travel more and see the world one trip at a time.

Describe your travel style in three words…

Immersive, budget-splurge-balanced, short-term.

Top three places you’ve visited?

That’s a really hard one but we’ll give it a shot. Tuscany in Italy, the Nile Valley in Egypt and London in the UK.

Catching the sunset in London Catching the sunset in London © It’s all trip to me

What destinations are on your 2019 bucket list?

We’ve already planned two separate trips to Poland (Warsaw and Krakow) as well as a trip to Istanbul, Turkey. We’ve just started planning our big 2019 trip: two weeks exploring the regions of Puglia and Basilicata in Southern Italy. A couple of short trips to London and Romania are also on the table as well as at least two Greek Islands in the summer. And towards the end of 2019 we are planning our first ever trip to Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand. It’s going to be an amazing year of travel magic!

A lot of travel bloggers quit their jobs to hit the road; you do things a bit differently. How do you fit your travels around your nine-to-five?

Who wouldn’t want to travel the world full-time? However, we can’t afford to do so – at least not at the moment. But we wouldn’t let our day jobs hinder neither our passion for travel nor our desire to blog about it. We make sure we spend all our vacation time (25 days per year), public holidays and as many weekends as possible travelling. We plan a two-week trip to someplace new once a year and a 10-day island vacation every August to recharge our batteries. Those aside, we also go on shorter trips either abroad or in Greece (where we’re based) throughout the year.

Andros in Greece is one of Maria and Katerina's top choices for an island escape Andros in Greece is one of Maria and Katerina’s top choices for an island escape © It’s all trip to me

What advice would you give someone who thinks they don’t have enough time to travel?

There is always time to travel! It all comes down to setting priorities and planning ahead. First of all, it’s important to save vacation time for travel. We know that sometimes life gets in the way and we may be tempted to use our vacation time to tend to unfinished business or simply stay at home and rest. We feel that vacation time is hard-earned and should be reserved for travel.

Secondly, when travelling on a tight schedule it’s very important to have pre-planned itineraries so as not to waste any valuable time during the trip itself. Lonely Planet guidebooks and travel blogs packed with tips and info are the best sources of inspiration and valuable tools for people with limited travel time.

And last but not least, travel requires adjusting to a new mentality and seeing things from a different perspective. It doesn’t have to take loads of money or time to travel. Start by playing tourist in your own hometown and discover all its hidden gems, the way we do in Athens. Then go on and plan weekend breaks or three-day getaways. Soon you will realise that you actually have time to plan that longer trip you always dreamt of.

Why do you love travel blogging?

Through travel blogging we’ve learnt more about ourselves and discovered skills we never knew we had, which are constantly developing. Our favourite part of travel blogging though, is that it offers us many opportunities to meet like-minded people from all over the world. No gift is greater than having friends across the globe!

If you’re a member of our Pathfinders community and would like to share your story, drop us an email at and tell us what exciting things you’re up to on your blog.

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Renting a Car in Santorini with Children Car Seat?

Rent a car Santorini make youngster seat concerns a lot more simply. Parents have asked us, can you rent out safety seat, as well as if you schedule one, are they assured? How do you understand if a car seat has been in a crash, and what happens if it’s recalled? Just how much do they set you back, and how are they cleaned?

Towing child safety seat as well as baby strollers though airports and also all over the world isn’t the most attractive part of family members travelling. Luckily, there are ways that savvy parents can decrease both the problem and expenditure of delivering this equipment . Here are some basic truths about travelling with an auto seat/stroller

Do all cars and truck rental places supply car seats?

Not always. Many companies around the world, provides kid seats at all major flight terminals. Santorini airport car provides them for free where they are needed.

Are car seats booked online ensured upon arrival?

Yes, rent a car at Santorini port online, or just call us to be sure to reserve them ahead of time.

What happens to child seat that have been in a mishap or recalled?

We kept in mind that recalled child seat or seats that have been in a crash are instantly gotten rid of or recycled. Take note, however, that this is not a law. There is no Government need for vehicle rental firms to discontinue a safety seat if claimed car seat leasing has actually remained in a crash. The National Highway Web Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a policy, but it’s only a suggestion. “Any type of demand that rental auto mobile firms must use safety seat would certainly be based on the applicable state law or more probable, vehicle rental business policy,” keeps in mind the NHTSA.

We have a rigorous corporate policy in position to evaluate child seat upon return, as well as deal with seats in the following circumstances. Also if they’ve been correctly used and cared for:

  • Discolouration of the plastic, where the latch or seatbelt call the kid seat
  • Noticeable fractures in the plastic
  • The youngster seat reaches the producer’s last day of use or expiry date

Keep in mind that seats do not remain in our fleet for longer than a year.

What is the price range of safety seat services by day?

Many company they ‘ll say that it depends upon many things. With Santorini Car Rental online you don’t have to worry for any cost because it’s free.

Anything else?

If you’re nervous concerning the top quality as well as treatment of the car seat you may get, call us. Ask us any question you have in mind and you’ll rapidly get the feeling that child seat and security are on top of our list in our company.

Read more about Santorini Car Hire:

A New Community for Female Travel Bloggers

Do you ever experience baffled, exhausted, and discouraged as a blogger? Does it feel isolating at occasions, and bewildering, as well?

I try to remember when I 1st started off blogging about 7 decades in the past now. I invested two months scanning other travel weblogs, all day, comprehensive-time, to consider to glean what they were being executing that was operating for them.

Again then, Instagram was in its infancy, the significant thing was Twitter, we all tried out to go viral on a sharing site named StumbleUpon, and if you were being lucky, a organization might appear close to providing you some dollars to conceal a link in a web site submit. I suppose that nevertheless occurs these times, if my inbox overflowing with provides for a ‘free article’ – oh! how generous! – for my web site is any sign. No person was paying out us to travel back then. Influencers did not exist, and really couple weblogs created income.

A New Community for Female Travel Bloggers

These days the globe of vacation blogging looks a lot diverse. Influencers would have us believe that traveling is generally glamorous, and brand new courses from newcomers about how to get loaded blogging propose that achievement as a blogger arrives easily. But those people who have poured their hearts and souls into their blogs and labored tirelessly at it know the truth of the matter – it actually takes time, resilience, and it’s anything at all but simple and simple.

Last thirty day period I had coaching calls with many gals in my viewers who are travel bloggers. One of the major takeaways I experienced from that is an in general stress with figuring out how to stand out in what would seem like a saturated marketplace, how to make their blog site into a full time career, and how to do so devoid of ‘selling out.’ I know how that feels (if you are new listed here, study my story listed here), but I also know that it is all probable.

A New Community for Female Travel Bloggers
When I initial started off in Cambodia – the initially vacation spot I wrote about

Influencer shelling out grows calendar year more than 12 months, there are in fact journey weblogs out there that make 6 figures for each 12 months and have several workforce – this one particular involved – and there’s a lot more home at the major than ever before. I want to see much more #GirlBosses succeed, since my vision of a far better entire world is 1 with a lot more empowered gals.

Towards that stop I’ve designed a new top secret Facebook group for female vacation bloggers. It is not intended to be a mega-huge, nuts significant team exactly where none of the info is helpful. This is an accelerator option, where by all those who are inclined to go all-in on their desire and set in the get the job done are welcome to sign up for me, for absolutely free, as we get on a new matter each and every month.

I want to listen to from you on what you want and want from this team. My system is to get started with time management and selecting the 1 issue that you’re likely to dominate. Months adhering to will laser target on branding, Search engine optimisation, user-friendliness, niching down, and additional. Every single month I’ll share means with you that have been a must have to me throughout my discovering journey, and we’ll discuss them in reside video clip format.

This is a put to share, master, support, and expand, and it’s open up to gals who want to amount up. Be part of here.

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How many days do I need to see Santorini?

Preferably, you ought to invest a minimum of 3 days in Santorini. You can see Fira as well as Oia on your first day, after that check out the rest of the island, go on a Santorini Private Tour, or kick back at the famous beaches during the following 2 days.

Here are my advised Santorini plans relying on the period you can stay:

1 day in Santorini

You’re investing 1 day in Santorini? Then, you will certainly have time to go to the island’s most renowned places!

  1. Begin your day in Fira. Visit the city, and go to Firostefani and Imerovigli, the 2 towns close by.
  2. Have a beverage on a terrace, and drop in among the 3 towns for lunch.
  3. After an excellent meal, it’s time to hike from Imerovigli to Oia.
  4. Then, visit the magnificent village of Oia.
  5. If you still have time (and if you’re not also tired!), stroll down the stairs to Amoudi Bay.
  6. Appreciate the sundown in Oia, the most effective area to admire it in Santorini

If you don’t seem like walking excessive, you can take a Santorini guided tour. You need to book it beforehand to be sure to find free seat.

During the day, you will certainly go to the archaeological site of Akrotiri, then quit at the Red Beach as well as uncover the town of Emporio. You will likewise swim in Perissa, preference wines as well as appreciate the sunset in Oia.

This tour is a great way to discover the best of Santorini in only 1 day!

2 days in Santorini

If you have 2 days in Santorini, in addition to the very first day defined above, you must also do a boat-trip to Nea Kameni. You will walk to the top of the volcano and also swim in the thermal springs.

And if you choose an even more deluxe variation you can cruise in a catamaran. This cruise ship is plainly a must-see attraction in Santorini!

See more about Santorini Tours:

are the stars our destination? – Lonely Planet’s travel blog

Wonderings: rambles through and reflections on travel… this month, James Kay considers tourism’s final frontier: space © Joe Davis / Lonely Planet

Aside from a few forays to France, the furthest my maternal grandparents travelled was Pembrokeshire, Wales (repeat visits to a wind-buffeted static caravan in Croes-goch, if you must know). Just a generation later, my parents’ peregrinations had encompassed most of Western Europe.

As of writing, I’ve visited about 50 countries (I counted them up once, but have forgotten the total), most of them during two spells of backpacking – first across the US, then around the world – plus others as and when the opportunity arose.

My wife has been to twice that number of destinations, and I’d wager that a significant proportion of the people who comprise Lonely Planet’s extended community – staff and contributors, followers and fans – have led equally footloose lives.

The trend continues, too: my son, four, and daughter, one, have already visited many more places than my grandparents did in their entire lives. In fact, Harvey probably covered more miles in utero than they managed in total.

Our expanding horizons

You can visualise each generation’s expanding horizons as a series of concentric circles, like ripples spreading out from a stone dropped in a pond; assuming that trend doesn’t go into reverse (which is possible, of course, given variables like climate change), where will the edge of my children’s known universe lie? Just as I have explored the far side of this planet, might they explore the far side of another world?

It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. As it often does, the stuff of science fiction has become the stuff of science fact: the race for space is more competitive now than it has been at any time since Neil Armstrong took that famous first step on the surface of the Moon, an epoch-defining moment that happened 50 years ago this July.

An astronaut walking on the Moon with the Earth rising in the background Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon 50 years ago; what’s the next ‘giant leap for mankind’? © Caspar Benson / Getty Images

From moonshots to Mars

The US government recently vowed to revisit our lonesome natural satellite within five years, but the real action is arguably elsewhere as a trio of companies bankrolled by billionaires – Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX – compete to conquer the final frontier.

The obstacles are formidable; the progress is remarkable. Whether or not we witness commercial space travel take off in 2019 (in both senses of the phrase), the expert analysis of Stanford University’s Professor G. Scott Hubbard – a former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center – suggests that we stand on the threshold of a new era.

After the moonshot, the US wants to send astronauts to Mars. And then? Because we won’t stop there. Michael Collins, who piloted the Apollo 11 Command Module around the Moon as Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin bounded across its sterile surface, expressed this ever so well: ‘It’s human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand,’ he said. ‘Exploration is not a choice, really; it’s an imperative.’

Or as another Buzz might say: to infinity and beyond.

The Grand Tour redux

So will my children ever enjoy a Grand Tour of the Solar System, as envisaged in NASA’s charming Visions of the Future posters? (Do check them out.) Will they stand in the shadow of Mars’ Olympus Mons, which rears to more than twice the height of Everest? Will they gape at the raging auroras of Jupiter, hundreds of times more powerful than our own Northern Lights? Will they sail the methane lakes of Titan, Saturn’s most enigmatic moon?

Alas, no. If it comes to pass, such a journey would be the preserve of a privileged few for many generations; just as the original Grand Tour of Europe was restricted to the aristocracy, so a round-trip of our galactic neighbours would remain beyond the reach of all but a coterie of plutocrats for the foreseeable future.

There’s a fair chance, however, that my children’s generation will see the curvature of the Earth from a sub-orbital flight, and some of them might, just might, leave a footprint on the Moon (thanks to Wallace and Gromit, Harvey already spends a lot of time speculating about this possibility).

A young boy looks at the surface of a planet from the window of a spaceship Will our children’s children evolve into a spacefaring species? © James Whitaker / Getty Images

A mote of dust

In his exquisite book Pale Blue Dot, Carl Sagan predicts we will eventually evolve into a spacefaring species, exploring the Milky Way in much the same way as we once sailed this planet’s uncharted seas. But there is nothing triumphalist about his vision; in fact, that dot – the Earth photographed from the Voyager 1 spacecraft; ‘a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam’ as Sagan describes it – proves to be a profoundly humbling sight.

It’s a stance shared by the UK’s current Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, who argues that we should avoid the term ‘space tourism’ altogether. According to Rees, that formula of words gives us an excuse to ignore the perilous predicament of our planet, misleadingly implying that we could start again elsewhere once this world has been utterly exploited and exhausted.

Space excites me; perhaps it excites you, too. I think that’s because, from Star Trek to Star Wars, our culture often depicts it in a way that fits neatly into a traveller’s conceptual model: it’s the realm of the new exotic, the absolute last word when it comes to getting off the beaten track we call… home.

You can no more suppress our species’ longing to reach the stars than prevent a curious child from exploring the boundaries of its world. Sooner or later, we will boldly go – and not just astronauts or the ultra-rich, but ordinary people like me and you. But when we do, amid all the excitement, let’s not forget our point of origin.

In the words of Sagan from 25 years ago, let’s remember that: ‘Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves … Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.’

A lonely planet indeed.

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Your Favorite Posts about Love and Vulnerability

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I’ll be totally honest. I’m not always sure what to share on here. In between trying to be helpful, or entertaining, or interesting, sometimes what I really want to say gets a little lost.

Sometimes it’s easier for me to share those thoughts in a short Instagram post. I write about love, or body positivity, or whatever feels important to me at the moment. It feels easier and weirdly, safer? I only have to express myself in a paragraph, rather than my usual wordiness, backed by studies and facts, because every statement must be backed up by a fact, right?

Once a university student, always one, huh?

So in the spirit of sharing something a bit more heartwarming today, here are your favorite posts and their captions over the past couple of years having to do with love and vulnerability, sorted by popularity on @bemytravelmuse:

On Self Love

Your Favorite Posts about Love and Vulnerability
From Burning Man 2018 – Photo by Justin Kaviar

Sometimes I feel self love but other times I feel down on myself, comparing my life to others, even though what we see on social media is so rarely the truth. So what is self love really? This week it meant that I took care of my needs in every moment, nourished myself with healthy food, drank water all day long, attended workshops that helped me look into my soul, bathed myself in gentleness and kindness, talked to good and interesting people, and pursued art like this photo for nothing but the gift itself.

I hope to hold onto this feeling, because the most supreme and effective way to show up as a successful human in this world is to love yourself first. I don’t mean selfishly putting your needs before others, but rather giving yourself permission to feel how you feel, being gentle with yourself, unfollowing people on this platform who just make you feel worse, ending the comparison games, and ending seduction games for that matter too. Love yourself so fiercely that every time you lose the momentum, you just repeat to yourself how wonderful you are, and how unique and gorgeous.

Even when it doesn’t feel like there’s much to be grateful for, remember that you can see, you can feel, you can eat and taste, and you’re alive. In these moments, when I feel this connected and full of love, everything around me seems psychedelic. It’s so vibrant and beautiful. Life gets more intense in the best of ways, and that’s how I know I’m doing it right. Because when you love yourself, you create the capacity for all of the other forms of love and abundance to come to you, and you deserve that.

On Body Positivity

Your Favorite Posts about Love and Vulnerability
In Thailand – photo by Ashley Yap

For some background, this one was after numerous online trolls body shamed me:

I know I shouldn’t let the trolls get to me. Easier said than done. So to those who constantly made comments about my flat ass, here’s a cheeky one for you!

To everyone out there who deals with rude comments every now and then about the way you look, I hope you know you’re perfect – you are the only YOU in the world, so how could you not be perfect already?

On the Good in People

Your Favorite Posts about Love and Vulnerability
Taken in Valladolid, Mexico – by Paige Kline

The media doesn’t do us many favors portraying the rest of the world as they do and it seems like it can be so different and frightening out there. But in reality everyone wants to feel safe, loved, heard, helpful, needed, and seen. It’s amazing how many times in the 11th hour someone has shown up – usually a perfect stranger – to help me if I needed it. It hasn’t mattered where I was, from Mozambique to Indonesia to China. People are generally good, and that might be the single most important lesson I’ve learned from solo travel.

About Trusting the Process

Your Favorite Posts about Love and Vulnerability
Burning Man 2019

I used to be consumed by the need to know why I’m here. I wanted answers and meaning. Then I realized that I wouldn’t find them in the places where I was looking, and that maybe the point is to find comfort in the not knowing. What if the only reason why we’re here is to teach each other something, and to walk each other home? How different would life be if that’s what we all believed?

On Being Small

Your Favorite Posts about Love and Vulnerability
At Blyde River Canyon, South Africa – Photo by Pete Kornmeier

Every now and then, I ask out loud, ‘what’s it all for?’ I don’t just mean this photo, this app, but everything. What’s the reason? I think people spend their whole lives trying to find the answer. I think for a lot of us, it’s the desire to matter, to last beyond our own lives. It’s why people name benches, university halls, and stadiums after themselves. And maybe that will outlast us for a couple hundred years. Maybe for those who really make an impact, it will last for over 1,000.

But I can’t name anyone who lived over 10,000 years ago, I have no idea. And when I think about how old and vast this universe is, I feel so much less pressure. I don’t matter all that much, and that sets me free. It makes me relax, because the only responsibility I feel is to fully embrace being alive right here and now. So today I’ll push it a little further, feel the wind in my hair as I look over the edge, and thank life for another day.

On Treating Women Like Sisters, not Competitors

Your Favorite Posts about Love and Vulnerability
In Coron, Philippines

Is it wrong to want to share a photo where you feel good, and want to celebrate your body? What is it about these posts that make us uncomfortable? Is it the trigger that causes us to automatically compare? Why should an image of another beautiful woman bother me? The female form is gorgeous and I think we spend too much of our lives ashamed of what we have. Society spends too much time shaming us for our natural curves, hair, and faces without makeup. I could go on, but instead I commit to honoring and appreciating every woman who has the guts to post photos of herself. Every female figure is beautiful. Every single one.

On Love Being Love

Your Favorite Posts about Love and Vulnerability
At Iguazu Falls, Argentina – Photo by Steve Haenisch

“All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.” – Harvey Milk

(This is the only one on the list that I didn’t write, but loved that it was so popular with you guys.)

On Love Being the Answer

Your Favorite Posts about Love and Vulnerability
In Tonga – By Karim Iliya

Like you I have a lot of questions. How can I be sure what the point is? What is living life to the fullest really? Is any of it going to matter in 20 years, 200 years, 2 million years? Are we all just putting one foot in front of the other, walking each other home? All I can do when these questions come up is try to throw love at it. It can always come back to love. Bad day? Love more. The Chargers lost? Love more. Stuck in traffic? Love more.

The choice can always be to love more, in any situation almost anything can be solved if we all just put a little bit more love in. Maybe it sounds naïve and silly but every disagreement, if everyone just started to choose love instead, would stop mattering. But all you can really do is clean up your little corner, putting out as much love as you can. Being a light in a dark cave, surrounded by glittering little fish. Today I’ll choose love, tomorrow I hope to choose love again, and when I forget, I trust that someone will love me enough to remind me.

Click to read 8 short but powerful reads on love, body positivity, questions about the Universe, and walking each other home. I wrote these to empower, inspire and support women (and men)!
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Those are your favorites over the past two years, and I’m so honored and delighted that the posts where I pour my heart out are often the ones you guys love the most, too. Thanks for the years of listening to my musings, throwing in your words from time to time, and letting me ask so many open-ended questions.

Life’s really about the questions more than it is answers anyways, isn’t it?

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Spiritual Travel

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Professor G. Scott Hubbard on space tourism – Lonely Planet’s travel blog

In this guest post, Stanford University’s Professor G. Scott Hubbard – former Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, founding editor-in-chief of the New Space journal, and author of Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery – looks at whether the travel industry is heading for the final frontier.

Having been active in the US space program for 45 years, both with NASA and now Stanford, I’ve seen many proposals suggesting that personal space travel is right around the corner. While this topic has been discussed in science fiction for more than 60 years, making such an experience a reality has been hampered by significant obstacles, both technical and financial. However, during the last decade or two, the world has seen the emergence of wealthy space entrepreneurs who have hired top-notch engineers. Those teams may well now be on the verge of creating space travel for the (well-heeled) extreme adventurer.

Will you ever see this view from a spaceship’s window? © Michael Hopkins / NASA

Where is outer space?

The usual definition is that space begins at 100 kilometres/60 miles above the surface of the Earth where air is almost non-existent, and the clutch of gravity can be escaped. As a practical matter, NASA awards astronaut wings for any pilot that exceeds 50 miles even if he/she does not orbit Earth. (This is called a sub-orbital flight). For comparison, the US Space Shuttle flew at about 300 kilometres/188 miles); the International Space Station (ISS) orbits Earth at 250 miles; from the Earth to the Moon averages about 238,000 miles, and Mars is nearly 140 million miles away! All of these distances and destinations represent some form of space travel, but as you might imagine, the degree of difficulty increases radically the further one goes. As of this writing, over 500 people have been to space as defined above; the vast majority (355) on the Shuttle. But only 18 people have flown to the Moon. And of those, only 12 have walked on the lunar surface. No human has ever travelled to Mars.

What is a space tourist?

All of the people cited above had extensive training and were a member of some nation’s space program. Currently, only the US, Russia and China have the independent ability to launch someone into space. The notion of a private citizen with little or no special training going to space went from science fiction to fact with the trip by billionaire Dennis Tito to the ISS in 2001, aboard a Russian vehicle. A total of seven people have made this journey for a reported cost of USD$20m to $40m per trip. Clearly, this expense is out of the reach of all but the ultra-wealthy. So what about some less ambitious (and less expensive) trip to space – the travel to 50 to 60 miles in a so-called sub-orbital trajectory?

Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo takes off for a suborbital test flight © GENE BLEVINS / Getty Images

Who’s in the game?

Space tourism as a trip to the edge of space (50 to 60 miles) with immediate return received a major boost with the Ansari X-Prize, which awarded $10m to any non-government group that could ‘build and launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, twice within two weeks’. The prize was won in 2004 by a team funded by billionaire Paul Allen (the co-founder of Microsoft) using a design by the iconoclastic engineer Burt Rutan. The team was joined by another billionaire – Richard Branson of Virgin Group fame. Shortly after winning, Branson announced that a new company, Virgin Galactic, using the Rutan design, would soon begin offering sub-orbital flights for six people (and two pilots), providing four minutes of weightlessness. Another company, XCOR Aerospace, formed during the same period, began to develop a smaller vehicle that would carry one pilot and passenger. Finally, the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon, quietly created the company Blue Origin with similar goals in 2000. In the sparse public reports from Blue Origin, their first market is sub-orbital tourism, followed by orbital flight and trips to the Moon. Bezos has said he is spending about $1bn a year on Blue Origin.

What’s the price point?

Virgin Galactic has given a price of about $200,000 per person. XCOR Aerospace (which has since suspended operations) planned to provide a similar flight for reportedly $50,000. (Independent surveys have indicated that extreme adventure with a price tag of $50,000 would begin to attract a great deal of interest.) Blue Origin’s price tag is said to be $250,000. It is worth noting that the other high-profile space entrepreneur, Elon Musk and his company SpaceX, has not entered the sub-orbital business. However, in a public speech in 2016 (which you can read in New Space for free), Musk predicted he would be able to send individuals to Mars for about $140,000.

People watch as a SpaceX rocket takes off from Canaveral National Seashore People watch as a SpaceX rocket takes off from Canaveral National Seashore © Paul Hennessy / Getty Images

What are the risks?

Travel to space is inherently risky, but then so is climbing Mt Everest. During the 135 flights of the Shuttle program, there were two major accidents with loss of crew and vehicle: Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. By that measure, the chance of dying in a trip to orbit is around 1 ½%. One would assume that a sub-orbital flight would be safer, but the initial flights of Branson’s Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo have already produced one test pilot fatality. High-speed rocketry with propulsion of controlled chemical explosions is still a challenge. In addition, there are the biomedical risks of subjecting a ‘normal’ population to some of the rigours of space travel: high accelerations up to eight times Earth’s gravity, weightlessness where some experience debilitating space sickness and greater than average radiation exposure. Fortunately, experiments by Dr James Vanderploeg from the University of Texas indicate that individuals of ages 18 to 85 with a variety of common issues (artificial joints, controlled hypertension, pacemaker implants, etc) can easily withstand simulated trips using ground centrifuges and parabolic aeroplane flights. This can also be read in New Space.

When will this happen?

The sub-orbital space tourism community has collectively been surprised that it is now almost 15 years since the X-Prize was won, yet there are no regular flights of SpaceShipTwo or the New Shephard of Blue Origin. The answer mostly lies in the realm of technical issues; in a way, it is ‘rocket science’. Virgin Galactic has struggled to find a propulsion system that will operate smoothly to propel the six passengers to at least 50 miles. However, a very recent successful test in February of 2019 gives an indication that Virgin Galactic may be almost ready. Blue Origin has been very secretive about their progress, but it appears from test flights that the New Shephard is also nearing operational status.

Barring another accident, I think 2019 will see the first tourist flights to the edge of space and back. All it will take is $200,000 and the willingness to sign an ‘informed consent’ document!

To find out more about space entrepreneurship and innovation, check out the New Space journal. Professor Hubbard’s book, Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery, is available from the University of Arizona Press, as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Everything to Know About Earth Chakras, and How to Heal Through Them

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What is a chakra and why do they need healing?

This is a question I pondered up until pretty recently. After getting tired of hearing about the chakra system in yoga classes and retreats and nodding along like, “oh yes, mhmm,” but having no idea what they actually were, I bought a course and dived into learning. 

Let’s make this simple: chakras are energy centers that run through the body from the base of our spine to a crown chakra over our heads, and are characterized by 7 colors. They have masculine and feminine energies to them (and when in balance, all people do as well although society doesn’t do a good job of fostering this). We carry our sense of security, desires, sense of purpose, voices, and self worth in our chakras, and so much more. 

The chakra system is traceable to one of the most authoritative Hindu texts, the Vedas, from the second millennium BCE, and is present in Tantric Buddhism as well. Whenever a belief system has survived for that long, I have to laugh when people label it as ‘new age.’

So why do chakras need healing? Everyone has suffered heartbreak, felt like they weren’t enough, lacked confidence, been unable to speak up for themselves, and felt disconnected at some point in life. Maybe you feel one or all of those things right now. 

chakra centers
The chakra points on the human body by JoanDragonfly

Chakras do not just exist in our bodies, though. They exist on our planet, too. These Earth chakras, which are major power points of the planet, mimic the chakra points in our bodies. Therefore, it is believed that when we spend time in these places, the frequency of the energy in our bodies becomes aligned with the energy of the chakras, resulting in a powerful spiritual experience. 

The Earth’s chakras are very similar to energy vortexes, which I discussed in a recent post. The only difference between the two is that an energy vortex can be any location on Earth where there exists a greater quantity of energy than normal, while the Earth’s chakras are specifically the most powerful of the energy vortexes on Earth. Though a chakra’s location is sometimes up for debate, there are some locations everyone seems to agree on while some have multiple possibilities. In those cases, multiple options are noted. Here are the seven Earth chakras around the world:

1. Root Chakra: Mount Shasta, California, USA

The Root chakra, located at the base of the spine, is what grounds us. It’s symbolized by a lotus with four petals and is red in color. When the root chakra is in balance we feel safe, strong, and committed. When out of balance, we feel unsafe and avoidant of conflict. 

earth chakras
Majestic Shasta

The root chakra of the Earth is widely believed to be located at Mount Shasta in Northern California. Rising out of forests and meadows, Mount Shasta is known for its natural beauty and powerful spiritual presence. The still-active volcano is one of the highest peaks in the Cascade Range.

This chakra is regarded as the base or root of the Earth’s energy, regulating universal life and acting as a geyser of upward energy. It makes sense that the root chakra lies at Mount Shasta, as Native American tribes have historically believed that the volcano could be the center of the Universe or even the birthplace of the Creator.

2. Sacral Chakra: Lake Titicaca, Peru & Bolivia

The sacral chakra, located in the pubic area, governs our emotions, creativity, and ability to enjoy life. When it’s in balance, we feel joy and are able to produce our greatest gifts. We feel connected to life, with a sense of being on an adventure. When out of balance, we can feel closed off. 

Everything You Should Know About the Earth's Chakras
Lake Titicaca, which stretches across Peru and Bolivia and acts as the Earth’s Sacral chakra

Earth’s sacral chakra lies at Lake Titicaca, which is intersected through the middle by the Peruvian-Bolivian border. The lake is home to Isla del Sol, or Island of the Sun, a Bolivian island which was once home to the Incas, who considered the lake sacred. What’s more, an archaeological team found an ancient temple completely submerged in the lake.

Lake Titicaca is said to embody both masculine and feminine energies, thereby making itself representative of sexuality as the sacral chakra. This chakra is believed to regulate all species on Earth and their evolutionary processes. 

3. Solar Plexus Chakra: Uluru & Kata Tjuta Rock Formations, Australia

The solar plexus is another name for the house of the soul. Located in our stomach area and yellow in color, the solar plexus is about integrity, having a higher purpose, and is the seat of confidence in one’s life path. This is where we manifest from. 

Everything You Should Know About the Earth's Chakras
The Uluru rock formation in Australia, which, along with Kata Tjuta, makes up the Solar Plexus chakra

Earth’s solar plexus chakra is a dual chakra, said to lie at two massive rock formations called Uluru and Kata Tjuta. (The two are about 18 miles apart.) Rising several thousand feet out of the Australian desert, the rock formations play an important role in local Aboriginal groups’ ancient wisdom and creation stories.

The solar plexus chakra has to do with wisdom and processing emotion, acting as a makeshift umbilical cord to the planet and maintaining life all around the globe. 

4. Heart Chakra: Glastonbury & Shaftesbury, England and Maui, Hawaii

The heart chakra, which is green in color and located at the heart center, is where healing takes place. It’s our center of love, connectedness, and forgiveness. When out of balance we feel closed to love and hold grudges, when in balance we see the good in everyone. 

earth chakras
Sunrise at Haleakalā volcano in Maui, Hawaii

Also a dual chakra, the heart chakra is located at Shaftesbury and Glastonbury, two towns in Southern England which are only about 30 miles apart. (According to some, the heart chakra may also expand to include Stonehenge.) Stories from across traditions meet at this location, from the tales of King Arthur and Avalon to the legends of Joseph of Arimathea after the resurrection of Jesus. 

The heart chakra, fittingly, deals with love and healing. Therefore, it is interesting that the combination of Glastonbury and Shaftesbury has long been believed to represent the joining together of the ideas of love — Glastonbury — and will — Shaftesbury. 

While Glastonbury and Shaftesbury are the most agreed-upon location for the Earth’s heart chakra, some also look to Hawaii’s Haleakalā volcano to be the heart chakra, and with good reason: the energy at the top of the volcano gives off the same frequency as the beating of the human heart. 

5. Throat Chakra: Pyramid of Giza, Egypt; Mount Sinai, Egypt; Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel

The light blue throat chakra projects the truth outwardly but also inwardly. This is where we find the confidence to speak our truth, and to express creativity without fear of judgement, or even seeking and needing approval. When in balance, we value truth for truth’s sake alone. 

Everything You Should Know About the Earth's Chakras
Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, one of the locations which makes up the Throat chakra

The throat chakra, too, is not just one location, but a combination of three important sites: the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, Mount Sinai, also in Egypt, and Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives. Two of these locations — Mount Sinai and Mount of Olives — are important places in the Bible. Interestingly, connecting the three locations on a map forms almost a perfect right triangle. 

The throat chakra symbolizes voice and communication. Some consider the unrest in the Middle East to be “the cries of the mother,” or Earth’s way of calling out for help. 

6. Third Eye Chakra: Glastonbury, England (Probably) 

The third eye chakra is dark blue in color and located on the forehead, just above and right between our two physical eyes. This is where we create our own reality through our beliefs and whatever we choose to see in the world. When out of balance, we can feel overstimulated and clouded with thoughts that don’t feel like our own. In today’s world which is so full of information and outrage porn, the third eye can come out of balance easily. Meditation and allowing stillness can be very helpful for bringing it back into balance. 

What You Need to Know About the Earth's Chakras
Glastonbury Tor atop a hill in Glastonbury, England

The third eye chakra is the only chakra which can shift locations on the Earth, supposedly due to the rotation of the Earth on its axis. Also referred to as the Aeon Activation Center, the chakra is believed to move every aeon, or new age. This chakra is also said to coordinate with constellations. According to astrology, we are currently in the Age of Aquarius, which determined that the Third Eye would be in line with the heart chakra in England. When we move into the next astrological phase (The Age of Capricorn), the chakra is expected to shift to Brazil. Astronomers estimate each astrological age to last approximately 2,100 to 2,500 years

The third eye chakra provides strong recognition and awareness, as well as clear thinking and vision, by bringing together rational knowledge and intuition.

7. Crown Chakra: Mount Kailash, Tibet

Curious about what earth chakras are, and how you can heal through them? Here's a quick yet complete guide to earth chakras, and information on how you can heal through them. #EarthChakras
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The seventh chakra, which is purple in color and sits above the head, like a crown, is our connection to higher guidance. It’s where we feel connected to the cosmos, are open to seeing signs and finding meaning in seemingly random things. While most people are not as connected to this chakra (realistically, most people rarely make it past the first two), this is where we feel connected to the Universe.

It is only fitting that the crown jewel of the Himalayas serves as the crown chakra. Reaching almost 22,000 feet tall, Mount Kailash is often called the “roof of the world,” and is considered to be the most sacred mountain in the Himalayas. Kailash is also the location for the annual Scorpio full moon. 

The crown chakra’s power lies in its spirituality. Mount Kailash serves as a powerful connecter to something greater than oneself, both physically — because of its grandeur — and non-physically — because of its sacredness. So holy is the mountain to Tibetans that even attempting to climb it is considered an offense to the realm of spirituality. 

Though the Earth’s chakras are not exactly something that you can see, or prove with hard numbers, I find it interesting that so many cultures value these areas for different reasons. Just like the energy vortexes around Earth, if you’ve felt it, then it would come as no surprise that others would have felt it too, and may even consider it sacred. 

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Taiwan – Lonely Planet’s travel blog

Louise at the Longshan Temple in Taipei © Louise Bastock

Louise Bastock, Assistant Editor at Lonely Planet, recently returned from a trip to Taiwan.

Tell us more… When I used to think about Taiwan, the dominant images in my mind would be of its capital city Taipei, specifically the skyscraper-studded skyline against a blue or lilac sunset, or the twinkly Tokyo-esque lights of its streets and lanes. But, beyond this vast metropolis, there is so much more to discover. Blasted up from the ocean by volcanic activity, Taiwan is a fertile ground for breathtaking natural landscapes. With that in mind, I set off for northeastern Taiwan to explore the island’s capital as well as its wild wonders, and expand the image in my mind’s eye of what this tiny island nation has to offer – spoiler alert: a lot!

Taipei's skyline snapped from the top of Elephant Mountain Taipei’s skyline snapped from the top of Elephant Mountain © Louise Bastock

Good grub? The stand-out superstar of Taipei’s skyline is Taipei 101; formerly the world’s tallest building, it bursts through the high-rises like a futuristic bamboo shoot and was the perfect setting for dinner on our first night. Despite her humble origins, first operating from a Taipei back alley diner in 1977, the owner of Shin Yeh restaurant now commands the 85th floor of Taipei 101, serving up elegant, contemporary creations inspired by traditional Taiwanese home-style cooking.

Chefs making dumplings at Din Tai Fung, Taipei Delicate dumpling work at Din Tai Fung © Louise Bastock

Though seemingly a far cry from the glamour of Taipei 101, my second favourite meal was, surprisingly, at a shopping mall, beneath the tower itself. Prepare to battle wayward queues and huge crowds of hungry people if you want to eat at Din Tai Fung. This Michelin-starred restaurant (yes, you heard right, a Michelin-starred restaurant in a shopping mall) is famed for its xiǎolóng bāo (steamed pork dumplings), but, in all honesty, absolutely everything they brought to the table was insanely delicious. With windows looking into the kitchen, you can spend hours digesting your dumplings and watching the chefs meticulously craft these bite-sized beauties.

Northeastern Taiwan is a blanket of green forest Northeastern Taiwan is a blanket of green forest © Louise Bastock

Quintessential experience… With so much nature to see – from marble cliff faces to emerald oceans of forest – hiking is a quintessential experience in northeastern Taiwan. Our first taster was the 500-step slog up Elephant Mountain in Taipei – totally worth it to watch the sunset over the city and get my own snaps of the skyline. We also hit the hiking trails that lace through Taroko National Park (roughly a three-hour drive from Taipei). The scenery is wilder here and even though it can get blustery on the peaks, the strong wind does help disperse some of the eggy smell from the region’s sulphuric vents – a small price to pay for hiking around hot spring territory.

Louise's private hot pool at the Gaia Hotel Louise’s private hot pool at the Gaia Hotel © Louise Bastock

Any incredible accommodation? Speaking of hot springs: our last night was spent in the stunning Gaia Hotel, where each room came equipped with its own personal hot pool. After a long day of hiking and thigh-busting stair climbing (stairs are synonymous with hiking in Taiwan), it was a dream to be able to flop from bed to bath (grabbing a glass of wine en route) and recline in style in the comfort and privacy of my own room.

Louise jumping off a rock face into water Louise proving there is such a thing as TOO MUCH enthusiasm © Louise Bastock / Love Wilds Co., Ltd

If you do one thing… don a wetsuit and helmet and give river tracing a go. Known in other parts of the world as canyoning, this activity earns its more poetic moniker in Taiwan; without wishing to geek out too much, the landscapes here could easily have been plucked from the pages of Tolkein’s The Lord of The Rings (Rivendell, eat your heart out).

We spent a whole afternoon wading through the Sa Po Dang river in Hualien, jumping off huge boulders, squeezing through tight crevices and scaling small waterfalls before stopping for tea, snacks and snorkelling around a secluded turquoise pool. It’s a fantastic way to not just view the landscapes from afar, but to get in amongst them and experience them up-close.

Louise eating at huge portion of chocolate ice cream at the Modern Toilet Cafe Shocked and a little squeamish, Louise was ultimately delighted at her dinner © Louise Bastock

Bizarre encounter… From fine dining in spellbinding landmarks, soaking in my private hot spring and revelling in Mother Nature’s gifts, I leave you with Taipei’s epic toilet cafe! Enlisting every faucet – oops, I mean facet – of bathroom decor, the Modern Toilet Restaurant is a veritable playground for anyone with a sense of humour – and, at times, a strong stomach. After excusing myself from the table to use the actual bathroom, I was crying with laughter on my return to find on my delicately chosen chocolate ice cream piled in huge swirls, sprinkled with all manner of brown biscuits goodies, came served in a yellow porcelain squat toilet. If, like me, you think this might just be the best place in the whole world, bag yourself a souvenir from their shop which sells all manner of poop-themed paraphernalia.

Louise Bastock travelled to Taiwan with support from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and China Airlines. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

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