12 Must-Do New Zealand Experiences

There is so much to see and do in New Zealand, from wine-tasting to bungy jumping, whale-watching to glacier hikes, gorgeous beaches to glow-worm caves, it can be difficult to choose.  Check out our recommended lists of experiences and talk to one of our free New Zealand travel experts for more advice.

  1. Try wine-tasting on Waiheke

33965094345_0662efc902_w

Photo copyright S Kaya

 

  1. Go bungy jumping in Queenstown

399050980_e59004f604_w

Photo copyright michael 7601

 

  1. Say ‘kia ora’ to Māori culture in Rotorua

46833510885_0c357fe6da_w

Photo copyright scott1346

 

  1. Kayak around Milford Sound

SONY DSC

Photo copyright Bernard Spragg, NZ

 

  1. Explore the geysers of Rotorua

35694932536_797db87cfb_w (1)

Photo copyright Daniel Fernandes de Oliveira

 

6. Tour the The Lord of the Rings Hobbiton in Matamata

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo copyright othree

 

7. Heli-hike Fox Glacier

15133367268_747caf2ccc_w

Photo copyright Dani

 

  1. Cruise with whales in Kaikoura

381236998_59b7e4f3c8_w

Photo copyright Anita Gould

 

  1. Kayak the Bay of Islands

40898202841_72fc86f409_w

Photo copyright Teseum

 

  1. Sip wine among the vines in Marlborough

 

16150294741_b040a552d4_w

Photo copyright Chris Gin

 

  1. Hike ancient lava flows at The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

 

5157081248_8abd148d76_w

Photo copyright Jeff P

 

  1. Relax at The Coromandel’s Cathedral Cove

27417656233_62f3fc57ed_w

Photo copyright Sandra Vallaure

 

For hotels in New Zealand visit https://www.visualitineraries.com/Explore.asp?only1country=NZ 

Find out more things to do at https://www.newzealand.com/us/feature/new-zealand-must-do-experiences/

12 Things You Won’t Find in Hawaii

Hawaii is full of natural beauty, stunning beaches and the Aloha spirit, but there are a few things that you won’t be able to find on the Hawaiian islands. While we usually define a place by the features it possess, sometimes it’s just as important to list off what it lacks.

4281201_b3f615da54_z

Photo copyright Skyseeker

  1. Billboards – Hawaii was the first state in the U.S. to outlaw billboards in 1927, thus preserving the natural beauty of the islands for decades to come.

4589989534_d7e3d3ec3e_z

Photo copyright Drew Stefani

 

  1. Snakes – Because of the threat they pose to native birds, snakes are banned from entering the Hawaiian Islands.  

4965120357_98f83f86b5_z

Photo copyright Debs

 

  1. Rabies – While this makes it a pain to transport your pets to and from Hawaii, it’s comforting to know that it’s a rabid-free state, in fact it’s the only state in the country without rabies. 

46504714572_653bcaf248_z

Photo copyright Marco Verch

 

  1. Private Beaches – All beaches in Hawaii are public and developers are required to provide public access and parking for anyone to enjoy the shorelines.

8348618538_190bfc41dc_z

Photo copyright Chris Murphy

 

  1. Loud Car Horns – Even in Honolulu rush-hour traffic, the streets are quiet, the drivers are patient and the Aloha spirit is alive and well.  

156890100_fb16c698a8_z

Photo copyright Nick Mote

 

  1. Major U.S. Banks – None of the country’s major banks have branches in Hawaii, instead Hawaii residents are loyal to local banks, like Bank of Hawaii, and First Hawaiian Bank.

14264786137_0668c7cbd1_z

Photo copyright Teemu008

 

  1. Daylight Savings Time – Hawaii’s proximity to the equator means that the length of a day doesn’t change dramatically throughout the year and so daylight savings time simply doesn’t matter here. 

8207555080_f9a5982fe2_z

Photo copyright Harly504

 

  1. Affordable Housing – The cost of living in paradise is astronomical, the average cost to rent an apartment in Honolulu is $1,750-$2,000/month plus parking fees and utilities. 

35918527595_e009f16fdb_z

Photo copyright Rennett Stowe

 

  1. An Ethnic Majority – Hawaii is truly a melting pot of ethnic diversity and is home to the most multiracial residents in America.

2519374565_3b9bd34977_z

Photo copyright Horschmology

 

  1. Good Mexican Food – Hawaii has a huge variety of diverse international cuisine, but sadly the state is not known for having high quality authentic Mexican food.

5849184705_7e72e89d81_z

Photo copyright Alex Archambault

 

  1. Popular Mainland Chains – Starbucks and McDonalds have made their way across the islands but if you’re craving breadsticks from Olive Garden, a Chipotle burrito, or even Dunkin Donuts, you’re out of luck. 

13954318583_e3e4c3e6aa_z

Photo copyright Mike Mozart

 

  1. More than One Area Code – Hawaii residents are very proud of the 808 area code that is shared throughout the islands and serves all 1.4 million residents of Hawaii. 

3392252745_21d388b993_z

Photo copyright Eli Duke

 

What else have you not been able to find in Hawaii?

 

Original post by Megan Shute

What’s Better than a Honeymoon? How about a Buddymoon?

What’s better than a honeymoon with the person you love? How about bringing your closest friends along with you? This relatively new trend has been dubbed a buddymoon, and a lot of people are on board. A recent Priceline survey of more than 1,000 Americans found that 12% of people said they’d attended a group honeymoon (or buddymoon) in the last five years. In fact, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux decided to opt for a buddymoon when they invited friends like Chelsea Handler, Jason Bateman, and Courteney Cox to the Four Seasons Bora Bora for their honeymoon in August 2015.  “We had thought about it; we could just do a normal honeymoon or we could go with friends, keep the party going, relax, and have fun,” Theroux told Extra.

d8e34519-6943-4688-b2d3-2a3de7391988-screen-shot-2019-07-29-at-101716-am

Photo copyright Velas Resorts

Velas Resorts in Mexico have decided to jump on this trend and are now offering buddymoon packages for couples hosting their destination weddings at four of their resorts – Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Grand Velas Los Cabos, and Casa Velas.  Each of the four Velas Resorts in Mexico have their own version of the buddymoon, including activities such as private cocktail parties, eco-tours, picnics, meditation retreats, private cooking classes, golf trips, spa days and many more. 

So where would you go for a buddymoon?

 

5873492928_a88479672f_z

Photo copyright Antonio Rivera

The Islands of French Polynesia

When people think about French Polynesia, a tropical paradise comes to mind – but not all tropical paradises are the same.  Do you dream of sunbathing on beautiful white sand beaches? Or SCUBA diving through magical underwater reefs? Perhaps catching a wave on the Tahitian surf is your idea of a good time?  For some people the dream is hiking through lush jungles on remote islands, for others it’s learning the secrets of ancient Maori cultures. Whatever’s your definition of a tropical paradise, French Polynesia has it. But with 118 islands and atolls, stretching over 1,200 miles (2,000km), deciding where to go in French Polynesia can be overwhelming.  If that’s how you’re feeling right now, you’ve come to the right place!

8730177637_9d5f33e7d6_z

Photo copyright Daniel Chodusov

 

French Polynesia is divided into five groups of islands: the Society Islands Archipelago, the Tuamotu Archipelago; the Gambier Islands; the Marquesas Islands; and the Austral Islands.  Knowing about each of the island groups can help you narrow down your search for the ultimate vacation getaway. In this post, we will take an in depth look into each one to help you make the decision that’s right for you.

 

SOCIETY ISLANDS

8044046451_a6b685b935_z (1)

Photo copyright dany13

 

The Society Islands are the most well-known islands in French Polynesia, and include Tahiti, Mo’orea, Bora Bora and many others.  Tahiti was born when two volcanoes erupted and formed an island so large that it represents almost 30% of French Polynesia’s landmass and 68.7% of the population of all of French Polynesia. It is high and mountainous with surrounding coral reefs.  On the island of Tahiti, you will find small towns dotting the parameter of the island and the cosmopolitan city of Papeete in the northwest. The population drops as elevation rises inland, bringing you majestic peaks like La Diàdeme, and a stunning thousand-foot waterfall. Tahiti’s quieter side, Tahiti Iti, is on the southeastern end of the island and is home to the world famous surfing wave, Teahupo’o. Surfers, kiteboarders, and swimmers dot the shore and add color to the exotic black sand beaches that ring the island.

Just off the coast of Tahiti is Mo’orea, a heart shaped island with two small, nearly symmetrical bays on the north shore. It is encircled by coral reefs which provide a tranquil refuge to a wide variety of exotic and iridescent fish. Bora Bora is a 12 mile-wide island group consisting of a main island surrounded by a lagoon and barrier reef. The center island is known for its towering volcanic spires which disappear into the clouds, adding a touch of mystery to the island’s remote beauty. Bora Bora is famous for its aqua-centric luxury resorts and overwater bungalows.  

 

TUAMOTU ISLANDS

9171766453_984416cec8_z

Photo copyright Alessandro Caproni

 

With their unparalleled beauty, the low-lying Tuamotus island chain is a scuba diver’s dream. Rather than volcanic activity, these island atolls relied on coral reefs to form.  The heavenly lagoons are so precious and rare that many of them have their own unique ecosystems. In fact, the pristine Fakarava, is deemed a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  

 

GAMBIER ISLANDS

5874393476_97c6a67924_z (2)

Photo copyright Kyle Pearce

 

The Gambier islands is well off the beaten track and offer the perfect mix of cultural treasures and natural scenery.  The mountains on the island of Mangareva rise above the surrounding lagoons and neighboring islands, in fact Polynesian mythology tells of the demi-god Maui lifting the island of Mangareva from the ocean floor. Famous for their pearl farms and historic churches from the 1800’s, travelers to the Gambier Islands get the sense that they have been transported back in time.  

 

MARQUESAS ISLANDS

46847497162_a6e0efd59e_z

Photo copyright Mustad Marine

 

The fierce Marquesas Islands have the hottest and driest climate of all the island chains in French Polynesia. Surrounded by deep, navy colored sea and cold currents of the Pacific Ocean they’re not known for their beaches; but these wild, wonderful and barely populated islands are a dream destination for hikers. Not only are the Marquesas islands home to exotic species of bird and plant wildlife found nowhere else in the world, you will also have the opportunity to experience the rich Maori culture. Pick up a handmade pareo from the local markets of Nuku Hiva, or a protective tiki amulet made by the expert Maori craftsmen of Tahuata.  

 

AUSTRAL ISLANDS

30213624637_2718f3f282_z (1)

Photo copyright Montereydiver

 

The inhabitants of the Austral Islands are as friendly as they are artistic. Visit the colorful, picturesque villages to discover the craftsmanship of the islanders who make a living off of their hand-made goods. Plan your trip to the Austral Islands between August and October and you will see the mesmerizing humpback whales who migrate to the islands each year and frolic in the waters just offshore. 

 

So what will it be?

With so much diversity and natural beauty, a trip to French Polynesia is sure to create memories that will last a lifetime. Hopefully this post has helped you narrow down your perfect French Polynesian destination. For those of you who have already decided where to go, or for those of you who are still needing help deciding, contact one of our French Polynesian travel experts for assistance. Their free, no-obligation help will bring you closer to making your dream vacation a reality, and as a bonus they have access to exclusive discounts to save you money on your trip.

787920461_0b500d18a2_z

Photo copyright RDPixelShop

10 Things to Know Before Going to Fiji

Your flight and hotel are booked, your bags are packed, and you are ready to go! Before you head out to the beautiful islands of Fiji, it’s important to know a little bit about the culture.  We’ve done the research and gathered 10 helpful tips for you to have the best possible vacation! So read on:

6877981135_35c9ccee90_z (1)

Photo copyright Duncan Odds

 

  1. Get To and From the Airport

You don’t want to be stranded after your long flight, and if you’re in a pinch there are taxis for hire, but the best course of action is to have a driver waiting for you when you land.  Most hotels, especially those on the outer islands, will offer an airport service. Double check with your travel agent that this has been arranged before you set off on your trip.  

31655953331_c85541f98b_z

Photo copyright Roderick Eime

 

  1. Fijians Drive on the Left

This can come as a shock to people who are accustomed to driving on the right side, and it’s all the more reason to hire a driver if this is something you’re not used to. You’ll probably adapt to it quickly enough, but if you’re nervous about the prospect of driving, it’s best to sit back, relax and to hire a local.  

6888867323_18eba31f38_z

Photo copyright Kyle Post

 

  1. Forget About Vibrant Nightlife 

Fijians generally go to bed early and wake up with the sun, so if you plan on partying until the sun comes up, you might be on your own. Instead, plan to enjoy your drinks by the pool or on the beautiful beaches by the light of day and save partying for another time.

3362069210_84d925455c_z

Photo copyright Chris Isherwood

  1. Go Hiking with a Local Guide 

Fiji is full of wonderful natural beauty and hiking is a great way to experience the gorgeous tropical rain-forests. However, it’s important to know that many of the paths aren’t well-maintained and the terrain can be hazardous, so hiring a local guide is going to be the safest and most enjoyable option.  Ask your travel agent for help on finding great deals on local tours.  

43845985474_a51e02ffd5_z

Copyright Pablo Marx

 

  1. Be Mindful of Your Attire in the Local Villages

Sundresses, shorts and tank tops are fine in and around the resorts but if you decide to visit a local village it’s best to dress a little more conservatively in order to show respect. Visitors should plan to remove all hats and sunglasses while in the village and plan to wear clothing that covers both shoulders and knees.  

188615749_3e20111243_z

Photo copyright Kanaka Rastamon

 

  1. Visit the Outer Islands 

Many people have the impulse to stay on the main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu on their trip to Fiji but the real magic is on the outer islands.  Steer clear of the urban areas and opt for a seaplane or speedboat ride to places like the Mamanuca Islands, known for their scuba diving, snorkeling and coral reefs or check out Yasawa, known for its pristine beaches and jungles.  With more than 300 islands, there is no shortage of places to explore. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo copyright Joyce T

 

  1. Embrace ‘Island Time’

It can be difficult to slow down when you’re used to fast-paced living but that’s why you’re taking a vacation from the hustle and bustle, right? In Fiji, like most of the South Pacific, people live by ‘island time,’ a slowed down, relaxed mentality and they are happier for it. So relax, take a load off and embrace the slow pace living, you might just learn to love it!

8211987329_99dc9fd52f_z

Photo copyright MickiTakesPictures

 

  1. Attend a Kava Ceremony

Kava is a legal and traditional herbal drink made from the ground root of a spicy pepper plant and is used for medicinal and cultural purposes throughout the Pacific. It has relaxing effects similar to alcohol, but without the risk of intoxication or hangover.  In Fiji, a formal kava ceremony will often accompany important social functions, usually involving drinking kava and a ritual presentation of bundled roots as a gift. If you have the opportunity to attend a kava ceremony, I highly recommend it. 

43472941_230b030727_z

Photo copyright Melody Tan

 

  1. Respect the Locals

Fijians are some of the most welcoming, friendly people I have ever met, and are quick to greet you with “bula,” (meaning hello) and a huge smile on their faces.  Just know that while they are making sure your vacation goes smoothly, they are often away from their families for weeks at a time. It should go without saying to treat them with the respect deserved to all people, but especially those in the service industries. 

8079634_a8935415df_z

Photo copyright Tomas Maltby

 

  1. Watch the Sunrise

Vacations are for sleeping in, right? Yes, but we recommend devoting at least one morning to watch the magnificent light reflecting off the tropical waters. The colors in the sky will make waking up well worth it, just don’t forget to have your camera ready!

7003965691_8dc608b619_z

Photo copyright Kyle Post

Keep Garbage Out Of Our Oceans

As a scuba diver, I’m appalled by the amount of trash I see in our oceans. But the bulk of it isn’t on the coral reefs–it’s worse in other places.

Last month, a dead sperm whale in Indonesia was discovered to have over 12 lbs of plastic in its stomach.

There’s a floating garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean that’s twice the size of Texas!

Boyan Slat from the Ocean Cleanup Project. Photo courtesy USA Today.

Photo courtesy Ocean Cleanup Project.

Luckily there are folks with great ideas and plans for cleaning it up, including The Ocean Cleanup Project.

Snorkel Adventures Destin from Florida has put together this infographic with some simple guidelines–some of which are being implemented by cities today. Some US cities have made the news for their plans to ban plastic straws, and others, including Visual Itineraries’ hometown of Bend, Oregon, have voted to ban plastic bags.

destin-infographic

Snorkeling and Motu Picnic in Moorea

Over spring break 2017, we visited Moorea with our kids, staying at the Intercontinental Moorea Resort (which was fantastic by the way). The video below is from Albert Tours, who operate a snorkel trip to a section of the lagoon maybe 1000 yards from the Intercontinental. In about 5′ of water, literally dozens of blacktip reef sharks swim around you, and a half dozen or so big stingrays will come right up to your chest. What an amazing experience!

After swimming with the sharks and rays, the tour goes to a nearby beach for a picnic and some fun demonstrations of coconut husking etc.

The Holy Ridge Trail in Taiwan

Of all my experiences from living in Taiwan for 9 months, backpacking the Holy Ridge Trail in 5 days was one of the highlights. The Holy Ridge (or “雪山聖稜線” in Chinese) is an awe-inspiring, often razor-thin ridge of mountains in Taiwan’s Shei-pa National Park. It spans from north to south, connecting the famous Snow Mountain (“雪山” / “Xueshan”) all the way to Mt. Dabajian (“大霸尖山” / “Dabajianshan”). At 12,749 ft, Snow Mountain is Taiwan’s most famous mountain and second highest. As we traversed this ridge in an O-shaped loop, our views spanned the mountain range and we summited several peaks along the way and climbed more than a few sketchy scrambles. From sparse, steep rocky bits to lush forest hiking, this trip had some unforgettable views and even better memories. Continue reading

Thailand Photo Journal

What should you do if equipped with just ten days in Thailand? Instead of turning the trip into a frenzied race to see all the most important spots with what little time we had, my favorite travel companion and I decided to pick just one town in the north and south of the country to spend more time in. The result was a lot more relaxing, in-depth, and enjoyable than burning ourselves out and spending more time than we wanted on just getting to different places.

The first stop? Chiang Mai, of course!

Chiang Mai is the rich cultural city in the north of Thailand, famous for its temples.

Chiang Mai is the rich cultural city in the north of Thailand, famous for its temples.

Continue reading