Alternative to Vegas pool parties during the day

If you’re tired of overpriced Vegas day clubs and looking for an alternative adventure, you will like this beautiful hike: Goldstrike Hot Springs.  Hikes like this one change my perception about Nevada and make me appreciate Vegas trips more. We don’t know many hikes that contain such an extensive list of fun like this one does:  natural hot springs, boulder climbing with ropes, going through the canyon, tiny waterfalls, a gorgeous view of the Colorado River at the end, and a mini cliff jump.

If you’ve ever been to Zion National Park, this hike will remind you of its famous Narrows trail.

I discovered this place back in 2010, and it was pretty empty back then.  When we went last weekend, there were a ton of hikers.
Drive:  From the strip: 45 minutes drive.
Level of difficulty: mild – moderate
Distance: 7.6 miles round trip
Time:  4 hours (We were going at a pace of 4/10 exertion level)
From Yelp reviews: 3 hours is the fastest time, and 4- 5 hours is usually an average time.
The hike is not for the follow types of individuals:  1) you are really pregnant,   2) you have severe hip or knee arthritis causing severe loss of range of motion in your lower body,   3) any acute neck, shoulder, back, hip, knee pain, etc.,  4) you rather be in the pool parties, or if 5) you are too hungover and dehydrated.


What to bring:

  • Hiking boots (definitely helpful for many uneven, wet, slippery surfaces you will encounter.  Water resistant hiking boots- even better!)
  • Sunscreen
  • Light jacket
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Gloves (optional: but really nice, especially if you don’t have calluses like I do).
  • If you are planning to go into to the hot springs or cliff jump:
    • a towel, extra clothes, socks.

# of natural hot springs that are dip-worthy: 2



There is also a cliff to jump off at the end if you dare.

Expect to climb with ropes: There were about 6-7 climbing spots (the highest one is no more than 10 feet). Unfortunately, there is only one way up/down when there are ropes, so it can take a while waiting for others to pass through the ropes.

Directions to parking:
Finding this hike can be a little tricky.

Use the address: US 93 Hoover Dam, Boulder City, NV 89005

Google maps will tell you to drive over the bridge and tell you that you’ve arrived when you’re driving through it.  (Apple maps is fairly accurate in this case).

The trailhead is located slightly South of the freeway: ==> Take the exit (exit 2) right before the bridge and turn right after the exit.  You will see a dirt road to park (a bunch of cars will be there) and start your hike.
So if you noticed you are going under a freeway after the exit, then you are going the WRONG way.




Note: this trail is closed between May and October: the reason being heat stroke killing a bunch of people back in 2014.  ( *** )


  • The best time to hike in the Winter or Spring months: December- March is especially pleasant when the rivers and hot springs are at their peak from the Fall.  Also, the sun is out without being super hot: pleasant temperature in 70’s.
  • Leave early so you can have breakfast at the famous Coffee Cup restaurant in Boulder City on the way (featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives!).  We got there at 8:45AM on a Saturday morning and waited 20 minutes for a table.
  • Leave extra early (like 6am) if you wanna avoid the crowds, and avoid the wait to use the ropes during the hike.

It will start out boring for the first 40 minutes of the hike but we promise that it only gets beautiful, especially as you get closer towards the end (Colorado River).

Snakes: some reviews mentioned that there were some snakes (California Kingsnake, rattlesnakes) but we didn’t see any.

Have fun!! And comment below if you have any questions.


Grand Solmar Resort – Cabo Mexico trip Recap


Cabo Shuttle Services:  Transportation from and to airport: 
Email the manager Martin directly at, you can negotiate for $125 round trip.  Just let them know that Kay Lin referred you and that you  “liked” them on facebook.  That will help you get a deal.  The great thing about this company is that it’s a private shuttle so you won’t have to waste time with picking up or dropping off people. And they will stop by a grocery store along the way (if you wish) so you can stock up on water bottles, beer, etc.   You also don’t have to pre-pay: you can pay in cash after the ride.   I think tipping between 10 to 15 dollars is good.  Just make sure you bring change because sometimes they don’t have change.

Timeshare Presentation:
If you are married and over 30, they will likely ask you in the lobby for attending a timeshare presentation, but they call it a “tour with free breakfast”.  They offered us $250 in food and beverage credit per couple ($500 total. Note that tax and tip is not included.), along with huge discounts on excursions ($30/person for zip line, sunset cruises, etc), 50% off massage).  Free basic buffet-style breakfast (eggs, sausage, fruits, yogurt, etc) with the presenter, and the pitch only lasted about 90 minutes.  We knew we weren’t going to make any commitment to buy, so it wasn’t a huge risk for us to listen to their presentation.  We were pleasantly surprised that they didn’t put any pressure to buy the timeshare.  We would definitely do the timeshare presentation again to get the deals.
Tip: Have a plan ahead of time to say no.  The sales guy didn’t put any pressure on us because we didn’t present ourselves like we would fall for it.  But if you don’t act right, you could end up spending more time, under more sales pressure (some reviews on TripAdvisor said people were in these sales pitches for 3 hours).

Mt. Solmar hike (1 hour-ish roundtrip)
The entrance is in front of the Naval Station (10 min walk from the lobby).  We entered through the side metal gate, which was not locked.  The trip advisors reviews mentioned that owner was there to let you in but there was no owner there when we went.  There were some dogs, so keep the gate closed after entering.  The hike gets pretty steep after about 20 mins of hiking uphill.  Here, you just need to keep following the flags, then red arrows directing you where to go.  There was a lot of steep climbing so our pregnant friend couldn’t go longer after halfway through.   Recommend going early in the morning because it gets really hot later.

They do have a nice gym: free entry if you are a timeshare owner or a guest of owner.

Medical Care:
There is a doctor at the hotel (building 4 first floor).  A few of us got food poisoning after the eggs at Mama Royal Cafe.  It says $135 per Dr. visit but she didn’t charge us when we went to her for Grace’s visit.  She ended up having to go to the hospital at Cabo Centro Medico.  It wasn’t a shady hospital like some of the reviews said.  The bill was around $4500 for a day of hospitalization, which was charged to credit card.  My friend just had to apply for reimbursement, which should be 100% covered.

Grocery store:

Our shuttle allowed us 1 stop at a grocery store, La Comer (took about 30 min to shop there). La Comer reminds me of Superior grocery stores back at home.
Shopping list: 2-3 packs of water (we got 2x 24 arrowhead water bottles), 6-12 bottles of beer (we only finished 4 bottles since we were drinking at the bar), chips, yogurt, fruits, Gatorade, cereal.  Not to worry, there are Oxxo convenience stores (similar to 711), where you can buy big bottles of water and Gatorade for cheap.

It’s $125 per person to do all-inclusive, but you have to get it 3 nights minimum.   I don’t think it’s worth it because we ended up spending way less than that per person.  Plus, we also got to try yummy food from downtown.

Happy Hour is at the pool bar area from 11-12pm and 4-5pm.
Any cocktail drinks are buy 1 get 1 free ($14 regular price).  They also have daily drink deal for buy 1 get 1 free (for the whole day!).  Their drinks are quite delicious.  You can ask them to blend it.  All the drinks were yummy and our favorite was the mango margarita.  2017-11-26 13.56.15

You can order food at the pool bars too.  Since we were at the pool a lot of the time, we used the poolside food service quite a bit and just charged it to our room.  We tried the steak burrito, chicken soup, grilled shrimp grand solmar salad, grilled vegetable salad, and ceviche.  The only thing I wouldn’t get again is the ceviche due to super small portion size.
Note: tax here is about 16%, and the food comps credit doesn’t cover tax or tips.
Deli bakery between 1-3 pm daily: buy 1 get 1 free pastries ($3): they are average (muffins, chocolate croissants, etc).

Restaurants to avoid:

Mama’s Royal Cafe: 3 of us got mad food poisoning there, and 1 of us got hospitalized.

Mexican night at Grand Solmar $47/person:  The food wasn’t tasty, and I got sick the next day from the food.

Safe places to eat from our experience.

  1. Maro’s shrimp house: get the shrimp molcajete, 1/2 kilo grilled shrimp, but I wouldn’t get the lobster again.
  2. Gus Tacos: cheap authentic Mexican tacos.  Grace really enjoyed the quesadillas and I liked their shrimp tacos.

Zipline: $30/person with timeshare deal
We did the ziplines with Cabo tours.  It wasn’t just traditional ziplining though, we got to try various things: 1) walking on ropes, 2) going down a wall 3) upside down zipline 4) superman style zipline where your body is flying horizontal, and 5) swings. They provided home-made quesadillas with hibiscus and kiwi juices afterward.   We wouldn’t do it again with the same company because the ride each way took almost 2 hours (7am pickup time, 1:30pm drop off time) (because they had to drop people off).   The activities itself only took 2 hours!

2017-11-29 08.58.25
The only picture we took zip lining


Airport check-in process: 

Very fast: we left the hotel at 1:45pm and we were through security and got to the gate by like 2:50.


No need to convert to Pesos:  Dollars work just as well.  If you use a credit card, charge in Pesos to minimize conversion fees.

ONLY drink bottled water even at the hotel.

Enjoy the infinity pools and swim in them.

Take advantage of the nice empty gym.

Enjoy happy hour and drink specials but don’t get wasted.

Bring some bug repellent and sunscreen because there are some giant mosquitoes here.


Don’t expect to practice Spanish here because everyone will speak to you in English.

Next visit: 

We will do a day trip to La Paz

Do a sunset sail.

8 days in Tokyo Fun-tinerary

We spent about  7 nights in Tokyo and 1 day in Hakone.  It might be too many days to spend in 1 place for a lot of the people but we likxe to explore one place fully without feeling rushed.  Our next stop is going to be 2 weeks on the other parts of Japan: Kyoto, Osaka, etc!IMG_3867.jpg

We tried to organize each day most efficiently by location so we don’t have to waste time with commuting back and forth.  

Lodging:  In retrospect, we would have liked to stay in Shinjuku because we ended up visiting the area at least 3-4 times!

Things we didn’t get to do:

  • Owl restaurant
  • Spending a night at Haokone Ryokan  or hiking there

Enter a caption

Tuesday, November 8

  • Woke up at 7am.
  • Shibuya Crossing:
    • Starbucks: observe the craziness from the 2nd floor of starbucks.
      • Address: 2-15-1 Shibuya, Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture
  • Hachiko: Just a quick glance of the doggie statue and took a picture.
  • Meiji Shrine:
  • 11AM Fuunji:  Bomb Ramen!  Gotta get there 10 minutes before they open (11am), because there will be a line later!IMG_3527
  • Yasuda Sushi
    • Great experience here! Reserve  in advance, so you can sit at the sushi bar.  Sitting at the table is not as fun!  Every piece of sushi was phenomenal, especially the rice, which was extraordinary and each piece of fish was delicious-like no sushi I have ever tasted before. Chef Yasuda was had some hilarious stories.  2016-11-08 17.52.56.jpgEnter a caption

Wednesday, November 9




  • On the way back, stop by: Top 10 Depachik
  • Pm:
    • Daiso 100JPY store
    • Shinjuku pretty Christmas lights (location: Odakyu: 1-1-3 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku 160-8001 Tokyo Prefecture )
    • Yasukuni Street: long street that cuts across central Tokyo (including Isetan’s Men’s). In East Shinjuku the street is lined with neon-lit buildings filled with Karaoke and Izakaya. It’s the most photogenic street in Shinjuku.  (we didn’t do this)
    • Golden Gai for izakaya bars located in a small alley. 


Thursday, November 10

  • Disneyland (50 minutes from Shibuya) (opens at 8 am)
  • 2016-11-10 10.03.06We packed lunch with bento boxes from Isetan Department store.    They checked our backpacks very superficially and we had no problem bringing the food in.  Food prices in Disneyland are relatively cheap though compared to America one.  Churros were $3 and waffles were only $4.  
  • We forgot our souvenirs last night at a bar in Golden Gai, so we ended up going back to grab it.  We ended up stopping by Toraji restaurant since it was on the way.  
  • Toraji: Korean bbq restaurant with very good quality Wagyu meat.  Imagine GyuKaku but with fancier meat.  We shared a 6000yen dinner set between 2 of us and we were both pretty full.   
      • Tori-No-Ichi at Ootori Jinja Shrine: It was like a Night market/Rake night at Shinjuku
  • A little tip on foreign transaction fees:  If you use your card without foreign transaction fees, they are still using the conversion rates similar to what a  post-office  would when you exchange cash.  But the benefit of using credit cards is that at least you get points and convenient to carry!  

Friday, November 11

    • 2)  Ginza Akebono Mochi Shop: (20 min walk north west of Tsukiji market: take the subway!!).   Fancy mochi place located just across the street from A1 exit of Ginza station.  Mochi ranges from 3-400 JPY.  We didn’t end up getting any though.  But next door, there is this
      • Manneken Belgian mini waffles place that we tried.  It was the best waffles I’ve ever had.  Get the purple one which is a sweet potato flavor. MNnekan wakes soon bomb!!!!!
    • 1) Pablo mini Cheese tart with different flavors:秋葉原店-千代田区: close by the JR train Akihabara station on our way to the electronic stores.    They also have one in Shinjuku too.
    • Ueno park
      • We can see how this park can look gorgeous during cherry blossom times.  They do have christmas lights on the trees though.  It should be beautiful at night.
    • 2) Ameyoko (Downtown/Taito) is a flea market where you can buy cheap kit kats located just South of Ueno park.
      • Beware: every pharmacy store has different prices for kit kats.  The lowest price for  kit kats for 200 yens each.  Strawberry ones are not that good.
    • At night:
      • Izakaya
      • We ended up going to Teppan donnojodo instead.  .

Saturday (Udon ⇒ Weddings at Senso-ji temple ⇒ Asahi headquarters)

  • Tsurutontan Udon (11am-)
    • Tsurutontan, 〒106-0032 Tōkyō-to, Minato-ku, 六本木3-14-12 六本木3丁目ビル2F
    • Huge bowls, so it will definitely fill you up.  The duck has a nice broth but the meat was really tough/overcooked.  The curry broth felt a bit diluted.
    • 2016-11-12 11.20.24
  • Asakusa
    • Nakamise Dori Shopping area can be found on the road starting from Asakusa subway station and ending at Senso-ji temple.  Save room in your tummy because there are a ton of dessert places here.  They also have more skewers, crabs, etc as you get closer to the temple though.
      • (11am-11pm)
    • Senso-ji temple 6am to 5pm Free (Asakusa) (northwest of Asahi Beer)
      • Pineapple bread Located west of the temple itself.  Get 3 for 500JPY.  So yummy when fresh.  You can even request ice cream and make it an ice cream sandwich for 450 JPY.
    • SkyTower Mall: (13 minutes east walking from Asahi head quarters)
      • I am glad I stumbled upon this place.  Very modern mall with stores like pokemon, souvenir shops, food courts, etc.
      • Go up all the way to the top called Garden Dome, where you can see the Tokyo tower.  There are also some benches where you can lay down and relax.
      • World beer museum located on 7th floor of SkyTower: this was a tourist trap with overpriced beers, Tokyo Sky tree town-Solamachi Store.
    • Weather was perfect so we went up to Asahi Beer HQ to see the sunset.  Beers are about 6-900 JPY and Well drinks are about 500-600 JPY.  The negative part about this is that smoking is allowed here.  Get the seating facing west, so you can have ventilation coming in.
    • Dinner:
      • Asakusa Okonomiyaki ($)
        • Great for your first experience making your own Japanese style  pancakes on a grill, while sitting cross legged on Tatami mat.
    • Asakusa is also known for Izakaya and Yakitori restaurants but we didn’t get a chance to check them out in this area.

Sunday (Harajuku with Sam’s friend)

  • Nezu Museum: $10.  Tranqulity with views.  
    • You can get a free stroll outside the museum with a pathway with skinny bamboo trees.However, you have to pay ~ 1000yen to get into the museum.
  • Takeshita Dori:
    • Ice cream Crepes
    • Socks shopping.  2016-11-13 15.02.23
  • Observe weddings in the morning at Meiji Temple.  There were multiple weddings when we went around 3 pm.  These were the quickest wedding ceremony I have ever seen.  Everyone looked pretty serious instead of looking “happy”.  There were a lot of cute kids in kimonos taking family pictures.   Apparently, the kids are supposed to wear kimonos and take pictures at the age of 5 and 7.  
  • Omotesando : located Near apple store.  The street itself is very scenic.  There are a bunch of high end stores like Gucci and Emprio Armani.  
  • Ikebukuro district:  
    • Has a ton of arcade games
  • We went to Waru Waru Izakaya for dinner, which was pretty decent. 


Monday: HAKONE:  I do wish we spent a night here at one of the Japanese bed and breakfast places.

Option 1: Romance car (45 minutes from Shinjuku)

  • Onsen
  • Open air museum ($16) (Probably would have been cool but we didn’t do this)
  • Hike (didn’t because we kinda got there late and it was raining)
  • Get a Hakone free pass at Shinjuku Station.  The info centre/desk is called “Odakyu sightseeing….” located on a floor higher up.  Cost: 5140 JPY per person.  So this include 1) your round trip ride via regular slower train to Hakone, 2) attraction rides such as: cable car rides and etc in Hakone, 3) small 5-10% discounts at places such as Onsen, museums etc if you elect to do them.  This is good for 2 days.  There is a 3 day option too if you are spending longer time there.  
  • This ride allows you to access regular train which is slower and the seats are not as nice.  You can upgrade your ride to Romance car (90 minutes one way) for 890JPY more each way.  So the total cost round trip would be 5140 + 890 + 890 = 6920 per person if you elect to ride with Romance ride.  
  • Tip: might wanna reserve the seat online for romance car.  They sell out quick!


  • What can you do in Hakone?  
    • It  has street foods near the train station.  
    • The main attraction: onsens/hot springs.  
    • But if you wanna do hiking, you would have to do one of those cable attractions ( a train ride away, which is included in your hakone free tour package.  
  • Hakone Yuryo Onsen
    • Free shuttle bus from train station
      • It comes every 15 minutes between 9 am to 8pm.  
      • This bus makes 2-3 stops along the way.  
      • It will take about 3-5 minutes from the train stop to Yuryo Onsen.  
    • Private onsen does include the towel but the public ones don’t.  
    • Can rent private room from ( ** definitely get the private!)
      • Type 1: 3900 yen
      • Type II: 4900 yen
      • Type III: 5900 yen
    • Massage: 30 minutes for 3400 yen
    • You can make reservation by email: or call Tel:0460-85-8411IMG_3993
  • We got to Hakone too late to maximize the trip.  This is how I would have done Hakone in retrospect:  
    • Odakyu Express Train from Shinjuku to Odawara (85 min) 9am – 10:30am
    • Hakone Tozan Railway to Gora (35+ min) 10:30-11:10am
    • Hakone Tozan Cablecar to Sounzan (10 min) 11:10-11:20am
    • Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani (10min) 11:20-11:30am
    • Visit the Great Boiling Valley (1.5hr at most; extra time in case of missed trains) 11:30am-1pm
    • Hakone Ropeway to Togendai (20min) 1-1:20pm
    • Cruise at Lake Ashi to Hakone-machi (30 min) 1:20-1:50pm
    • Walk or continue cruise to Moto-Hakone (25 min) 1:50-2:15pm
    • Visit Hakone Shrine (may skip this if required) 2:15-3pm
    • Hakone Yuryo /massage
    • Shuttle Bus to Hakone-Yumoto (35 min/2) 6-6:15pm
    • Odakyu Express Train from Hakone-Yumoto (or Odawara) to Shinjuku (85+ min) 6:15-7:45pm
    • You can obviously skip the parts you don’t want to do and restructure the list.  

Some of the other onsen options.

  • Hakone Kowakien Yunessun (NO NEED TO GET NAKED)
    • 7 different flavored spas (coffee, green tea, collagen, sake, wine)
    • Fish bath extra ($1?)
    • Water park / kids will be around (have slides)
    • Some reviews did question the cleanliness
  • Sengokuhara Shinanoki Ichinoyu
    • Private onsen with open air
    • Can have view of Mt. Fuji
  • Owakudani Valley: Buy their famous black eggs which are made from hot steam from the volcanic sulfur pools (each egg is supposed to prolong your life 7 years). This crater is created from Mt. Hakone erupting 3000 years ago. Trip Advisor link
  • Old Tokaido Road: Hiking trail around




Basic phrases

Transportation passes


Day 2 and 3: Highway 1/PCH Trip

Lime Kiln National Park (11:30 am)

We wouldn’t have found this cool secret spot if it wasn’t for the fire in Big Sur.  Very cozy atmosphere with short shady trails!

Location: about 14 miles south of Julia Pfeiffer park.

No street parking here and parking will cost $10.

The entrance can be very hidden if you are heading south (although there are signs).  Expect to make a very sharp left turn (almost a U-turn).  However, it’s relatively easy to find if you are heading north (on your right before the bridge).

This is a great option for camping too (3 camping areas; 1 with an ocean view!)


There are 3 trails (Lime Kiln, Waterfall, and Hare Creek).  They are very short  (1.5 hours total to cover all 3 trails).



Beginning of the hike

Very shady, secluded hike.  Lots of squirrels.  Redwood trees.  Great choice for a hike even during the afternoon since it’s covered by tall redwood trees.

Elephant seals at San Simeons (2:30pm)

This is a quick stop 30 miles south of Lime Kiln Park.  There is a huge parking lot (free) here on your right if you are heading south.  It’s hard to miss.  Park your car and walk along the coast and enjoy the views of sea lions frolicking in their natural habitat.  It was super windy so bring a light jacket.

Moonstone Beach at Cambria (7 miles south of San Simeons)

Very secluded.  It’s a nice little walk about a mile round trip along the beach.  Free parking.

Ruddells’ BBQ at Cayucos. (4pm)

A hole in the wall with yummy fish tacos and sammiches.  We got albacore and salmon tacos, $6 each.  3-4 tacos should be enough for 2 people but we chose to leave a little room for the famous chicken pies 2 blocks east: A Deli and Pieman Pies for some bomb chicken pot pie ($7).

If you like cookies (and really who doesn’t), there is a famous Brown Butter Cookies shop across the street.  Their honey cookies are a must try.   

Stayed at Los Osos Airbnb ($78 including fees)

Our awesome hosts provided with some breakfast and food to feed their goats (left bowl)

Kay accidentally took a bite from the goat food bowl because he thought it was an apple for us!


Montana De Oro: 10 minutes drive

We are so glad we stayed in Los Osos because we would have missed this gorgeous hike if we didn’t! Here is the park brochure/map.  You can pretty much drive around the whole place and pick out whichever to hike.  We chose to hike the bluffs.  Parking: if you look at the map on the brochure, park at the “P” located northeast of “Bluff Trail”.

The entire trail offers an absolutely gorgeous beautiful view.  It’s gorgeous from every angle.  We saw some of these unique-looking sharp crystally rocks that we have never seen before.  The Bluff Trail is rather an easy hike that can take you about 3 hours if you do roundtrip for 4 miles.  However, you can walk as much or as little as you wish and turn back.  There’s no shade any where, so I think super early morning for sunrise or late evening for a sunset hike would be the best.  There are benches all over the trail, facing a gorgeous ocean view.  Great to have a picnic too.

Feed the Ostriches in Solvang.

It’s something that is great to visit at least once in your life. When they tell you to use both hands, you hold on for dear life to those pans! These birds are hungry and they will take you by surprise if you’re caught off guard.

You pay $6 per person to get in and get 1 bowl of food per two people to feed the ostriches. Ostriches are such funny looking creatures!


Nojoqui Falls near Solvang (77 miles drive from Los Osos)

Very short hike: round trip in just 25 minutes.  After being spoiled by amazing weather in Big Sur, this was relatively a hot, dry hike, and the waterfall was dried out.  It was very shady though.  If you are looking for a diversion around Solvang this is a really nice spot.  It’s mostly up hill so if you walk slow expect a slightly longer walk.  I can see how this could be a hidden gem with the waterfall flowing.


Things we wanted to do but didn’t get a chance

  • Esalen hot springs: 1am-3am Hot springs; $30/person only with RSVP  (check their schedule)  

Highway 1/PCH Roadtrip (Day 1)

We took a wonderful 3 day, 2-night road trip down Highway 1 starting from San Jose, CA and ending up in Los Angeles, CA. We had a lot of fun planning and are excited to share the sights and wonders of our journey!

General tips

  • There is limited cell reception along the coast, so plan ahead and keep track of how many miles/minutes it is from one place to the next. (printing this blog post would be a great idea if you are gonna follow our plan!)
  • Check for fires before you go! Unfortunately, during our trip, there was a large fire occurring which left all hiking/parks east of Highway 1 closed.
  • We broke up our driving each day into small parts, and took breaks at beautiful vista viewpoints
  • Bring a selfie stick.

Trip Outline

Day 1

  1. Point Lobos State Reserve
  2. Rocky Point Restaurant
  3. Ripplewood Resort check-in
  4. McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Day 2

  1. Lime Kiln State Park
  2. Elephant Seals in San Simeon
  3. Moonstone Beach
  4. Early Dinner at Ruddell’s Smokehouse in Cayucos
  5. Check-in Airbnb at Los Osos
  6. Montana De Oro Sunset

Day 3

  1. Ostrichland in Solvang
  2. Nojoqui Park hike
  3. Lunch at Los Agaves in Santa Barbara

Brunch at Loulou’s  

If you love the feel and vibe of small mom and pop diners, this is a must stop. Located on the Monterey Boardwalk, this diner plays great music in the background as you enjoy the sights and sounds of the ocean.

Point Lobos Reserve: 85 miles south of San Jose & just south of Carmel. Be sure to get a map of the park.

IMG_2878.JPG.jpeg  IMG_2881.JPG.jpeg

Tip: Wear long pants because there is a lot of poison oak on the paths and bring a light jacket due to the chilly breeze.

Entry fee into the park is $10 per car.  There are multiple parking lots, and you can drive around the whole reserve. There are lots of trails around, so park depending on how you want to navigate the reserve.  If you are planning to hike the whole place or don’t mind walking a little further, there is street parking available near the entrance area (free).

Here is the map of the trails.  The North Shore trail is probably the most scenic trail along the coast. It took us like a little less than 2 hours to explore the trails at the North and Northeast sections.

Rocky Point Restaurant9 miles / 14 minutes south of Point Lobos

This restaurant has spectacular ocean views, and it’s a great place for a wedding too!


I would recommend sitting outside but ask for a table in the sun since it can get a bit cold due to the wind.

After your meal, explore the grounds! They have lounge seats with a perfect view of the coast, an exciting trail, and you can even hike onto a cliff!

Ripplewood Resort: 14 miles / 20 minutes south of Rocky Point Restaurant

The Ripplewood convenience store where you check-in is located right at the Chevron gas station on the left.  If you see Fernwood Resort, then you went 1/2 mile too far South!

The road is located to the left of the picture, about 300-400 feet away.

We stayed in Cabin 12A which was cozy, comfortable, and clean. There is one parking spot right in front. Unfortunately, it’s very close to Highway 1 so you can still hear cars from the cabin. The lights outside the cabin are also quite bright at night, so it wasn’t the experience we were looking for. They do have other cabins close to Big Sur River, so perhaps we will check those out next time.

WIFI: available near the check-in area.  Fairly fast.

McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: 12 miles / 21 minutes south of Ripplewood Resort

Drop-gorgeous iconic view of Big Sur

You can park on the side of the street, walk through the tunnel and wa-la! It’s a short hike walking around this view. There is also another short hike you can take on the other side.

Continue to Day 2 and 3….


Mount Wilson Hike

Roundtrip:  about 6.5 hours if we didn’t get lost.  Allot an entire day to this hike though as you probably won’t be able to do much after depending on what kinda shape you are in.

Parking: Free with adventure pass but $5 otherwise.

Chantry Flat parking lot trailhead: 2201-2299 Forest Route 2N40, Sierra Madre, CA 91011

Things to bring:

Wear layers including a rain proof jacket/windbreaker, maybe long sports pants (it could get really cold, especially on the day we went at least)
A hat
Trekking poles (these were life saver)

A backpack with
1) a lot of snacks, sunscreen, at least 1 L of water.
2) a sandwich or some sort of savory lunch to eat when you reach the peak.
3) Maybe a pair of gloves if it’s a cold day.

There are multiple ways to get to Mount Wilson but here is how we did it.  We started from the parking lot  The trail is actually 14 miles round trip but we actually took the wrong turns and ended up doing 20 miles 😦

mapPark, and walk on concrete road for about 10 minutes until you see a bridge.  Then you will see a sign.  Again, there are multiple ways to get there.  We made a left after crossing the bridge, so we took the Chantry Flat route.   (on the map, it’s lower winter creek trail ==> Hoegees camp ==>  upper winter creek trail toward Mt Wilson2016-05-24 16.32.14

2016-05-24 16.32.00

You will walk for a couple of miles until you see a campsite called Hoggee Camp.  You gotta be careful here and look around for sign for Mt Wilson.  OTHERWISE, you can end up taking the route back to the parking lot! (The mistake we made).


2016-05-24 14.43.00
After about 2 miles of hiking up a bunch of loop-backs, you will see this bench.  2016-05-24 14.42.56
Then Continue to follow “mount wilson” (2nd line) until you see….


2016-05-24 14.27.02Follow the direction toward “Altadena”.

2016-05-24 14.11.50
In about a mile or so, you will see this fire road.  However, look for a small trail with a man made stack of rocks like a “rock arrow” at the entrance.  The reason: concrete pavement is a longer route while the narrow trail is a short cut. 

2016-05-24 14.11.38Manmade stack of rocks on bottom left.  Follow this trail up.  (probably 30ish minutes until you reach the top)

After about a mile of hiking uphill, the trail will end up right into the parking lot.  They do have nice bathrooms up here and water refill stations and benches to have picnics.

2016-05-24 13.00.36Parking lot

2016-05-24 13.39.372016-05-24 13.15.37super exhausted

The return trip is much easier if you have the trekking pole you will just breeze through.


Mom & Pop Know Best

Hole-in-the-wall joints are all the rage now, and Sunny Side Kitchen in San Diego, CA fits the description perfectly! It’s a great stop on your way to Potato Chip Rock, or to reward yourself after the hike!

The exterior is rather unassuming, but once you step inside, you’re transported into a bright homey café, complete with mom, pop, and son in the kitchen!

We ordered a meatloaf panini and bacon avocado panini ($9 each). Meatloaf panini was super yummy. They have homemade bite-size cookies, one free with yelp check-in. You also get a free cookie when you order lunch items. The magic cookies are my favorite – included butterscotch and white chocolate chips, nuts, and cranberries. Absolutely delicious!



Tips for Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven)

Parking – Be quiet when you park in the neighborhood, lots of residents have dogs / roosters who will make noise when they hear you. (Click this link to get detailed directions on parking and how to find Haiku Stairs)

Guard – is hired by the community, and can’t really do anything besides call the authorities. They will tell you that you are trespassing, that there is a fine, and that they are going to call the cops. Just tell the guard you understand and keep going towards the stairs. The guard pretended to talk to someone, saying “4 coming up, 4 coming up”. They didn’t call the cops on us. On our way back after the hike, the guard recorded us but I doubt they can use that for anything.

guard picture

Weather -make sure to check the weather.  If it’s raining, not only will the view be ruined, but it’s not safe because the stairs will be very slippery!  Ideally, there should be no clouds or fog too. Unfortunately, when we went, we encountered “vog”, what my friend called volcano fog from nearby islands.


  1. Headlamps – If you go early in the morning, it’s dark and you’ll want both hands on the railway
  2. Bug spray – If you’re loved by mosquitos, make sure you protect yourself!
  3. Gloves – It’s misty up in the mountains, so the railways get wet and slippery
  4. Miscellaneous – Hat, sunscreen, water, snacks, shoes you don’t mind getting muddy, a poncho to sit on if you’re going to wait for the sunrise, and of course, a camera / phone to document the gorgeous views.
  5. Jacket : It’s cold up in the mountains, so this is nice to have!
  6. Download Alltrails app to help guide you, along with our other guide

Be safe, and have a lot of fun! This was our favorite hike, and we’re so glad we did it! If you want more information, check out our other post with detailed directions on how to go to Haiku Stairs.

How to get to Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven)



Approximate time: 5-6 hours  

For quick tips and things to bring…  

Figuring out the time to go:
The reason folks recommend going super early is to avoid the guard.  I don’t think that getting there at 2am is necessary.  It seems the guard gets there at least by 2 am in the morning in front of the haiku entrance.  So there is no point in trying to beat the guard.  I would recommend arriving to park your car at 3:30 am and if you encounter the guard, just politely acknowledge and keep moving on.  She didn’t call the cops, although she threatened to.


Step by step guide

1.  You can pretty much park anywhere on the streets but this is where we found ample of parking:46-24 Kuneki Pl, Kaneohe, HI 96744.   Needless to say, don’t block people’s drive ways or park in front of fire hydrants!   Be very quiet and don’t use flash lights in the neighborhood or you will risk the consequences of waking up the neighbors.

2.  Walk toward the entrance (5 minutes):  (red ping on the image).

3.  You gotta find a way around to climb around the gate from the right side (again, the red ping on the map image).

4.  After passing the gate, start walking, then you will find a split on the road, make a left here.

5.  Make a right at the next fork (left goes towards the school).  You may use your flashlight now.

  • Tip: if you encounter a 3rd split on the road, then you have gone too far.

6.  About 10 minutes more of walking, look on the left side for an opening into the woods.  It’ll be a short walk after the KAPU sign. It will be a man-made pathway/trail that cut through big trees. Walk through the dirt path and you’ll eventually get to a fence with the bottom half open, so just duck under it and continue. After 5 minutes you should see a second concrete road.

7.  Go left on the concrete road and walk down until you arrive at the security guard, she was in a car (<5 minutes).  I got this picture of the guard from yelp.  Once you see the guard’s car (it could be a different car) or port-a-potty, take a right and you will see a trail of step leading to the gate to the stairs.

guard picture

8.  The gate to the stairs.  There will be an opening around the right to get across the gate.  Voila, stairway to HEAVEN!

haiku fence

9.  3, 922 of steps from here, which should take you between 60 to 120 minutes, depending on the pace.  There will be 2 flat areas, where you can rest.

night view

  • Tips
    • The first person to go should keep a look out and clear the spider webs.  Maybe use a stick to clear the path ahead.  There could be really huge spiders on the stairs!
    • Respect the neighborhood and be quiet on the way back out too.
    • More tips

At the top, if you have extra time before the sun comes out, there is a little shack where you can rest.

top shack 3


Amazing view during descent



Please note that this is an illegal hike and you may be trespassing properties.  This blog post is by no means to encourage people to break laws and disobey authorities.  But if people are going to break laws anyways, this post will help understand how to get to the stairways in a quiet and safe manner without wandering aimlessly around the neighborhood and disturbing the community. Please be respectful of the residents here.  This is just a guide to help you guys out, and we are not responsible for any injuries or problems.