Vanuatu | Paradise 3 hours from Brisbane

It’s difficult to fathom that it’s just a little longer to get to Vanuatu than it is to get to Melbourne. Vanuatu is literally paradise, less than 3 hours from Brisbane, only 2hours 45mins direct flight time away.

We arrived at Port Villa and transferred to our island resort, Erakor, which was only 20minutes drive and a 4-minute ferry ride from the airport. It was an actual, legitimate paradise. With a lovely, genuine welcome and island tour we were excited to find our family loft villa nestled into the side of the island. It was just what we were hoping for and only a few metres from the turquoise waters full of fish and coral. Bliss, and the perfect place to chill out and celebrate my birthday.

One quickly realises that Vanuatu runs on island time. Breakfast takes an hour, going anywhere takes a while – but that’s okay, as you too soon settle into island time. There’s not much point in wearing a watch or running to a schedule. Just relax and go with it.

Speaking of which, we chilled at Erakor Island Resort the majority of the time because it was just so beautiful and relaxing. We were mainly in or around the water and failing that at the restaurant (on the water) or sipping champagne on our balcony (next to the water).

We went into town once for dinner (hello crayfish) at Au Fare / Pizza Hot on the waterfront (many of the locals told us Reefers Rum Bar was great too). For dinner, we caught the ferry (it goes 24/7 – you just flash a torch to be picked up), and took a short taxi ride into town. We chose a lovely restaurant on the water where we could select our own crayfish from a cage still immersed in the water. Talk about fresh! When we got out, people were everywhere. Turns out it was the Port Villa Christmas carols – I really wish we had made it to the event. There were people everywhere and yummy-smelling food, it would have been cool to have been a part of something local like that.

The only other time we left the resort was to go on a half-day tour around the main island. The tour was fantastic- we visited the blue lagoon, local waterfalls and the turtle sanctuary and could happily have spent a day at each of them! What really made the tour though was our driver, Marius who was full of information about Vanuatu and the local way of life. He even treated us to visit his favorite Kava bar, to see the kava being made and enjoy a drink with him. Hilariously, they don’t like the taste of the kava, they just drink it to get the buzz so they can go play PlayStation and wash it down with sweet lollies.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I feel so grateful that my friends could join and we could experience Vanuatu and the wonderful people there together. We all can’t wait to go back and are working out what we can do to contribute to making Vanuatu a better place. At the moment this looks like sponsoring a child to go to school. There’s no free schooling and 11% of kids can’t afford to go. Another idea is bringing over some clothes donating and school supplies on our next trip.

It is paradise (be careful to pick your hotel, I think we lucked out) and is so close to Brisbane. I’d like to explore the island of Santo on my next trip.

Erakor Island Resort – Fab Vanuatu Resort

We spent five days at Erakor Island Resort – a true Melanesian slice of paradise!

If you’re looking for a break not far from Brisbane (only 2 hours 45 min plane trip!) and are looking for something a little tropical and very relaxing, this resort will be perfect.

Once you arrive in Vanuatu from your destination, it’s a quick taxi ride (or the resort can arrange pickups for $15pp) of about 20minutes to the ferry. There you jump on a boat for approx 4 mins (runs 24hours) that takes you across the sparkling and crystal clear waters of the lagoon that Erakor Island occupies.

We arrived at Erakor Island Resort to the lovely warm welcome of Blanca and Henry. They had our delicious welcome drinks waiting for us and told us all about the resort (takes approx 20 mins to walk around the entire island) and then took us on a tour in the golf buggy.

Erakor has no vehicles (other than the buggy) and is easily walkable by foot. The rooms are all spread along the waterfront and have their own beachfront access (anyone can walk around the island but there were rarely people out in our ‘slice’ of paradise and usually just drifting by on a floaty or kayak if they were there). It holds the oldest pacific chapel (open air) in the middle of the island and you’ll find two bars, a restaurant, a playground and the water sports area.

We booked the family loft villa and it was perfect. Literally 2m away from the sparkling turquoise waters of the lagoon. One main room with the king bed, an entrance, a large bathroom and upstairs in the loft, two single beds. My tip is to stay upstairs, it’s lovely and cool with all the windows. We spent most of our time on our balcony, staring out into the lagoon and swimming on whim.

I was really impressed that there were fans, aircon and airflow through the whole loft. It was beautiful and cool inside every day even though it was hot outside. Just as I like it.

Another hot tip – we bought some duty-free alcohol which we were able to enjoy on the balcony. We would have cocktails with our meals at the restaurant (even pina colada’s at breakfast) and join in for happy hour with live music and then purchase ice, lime, soda water etc to take back to our room and enjoy.

The lagoon is just breathtaking. If relaxing waterside on holiday is a good time for you, this place is perfect. The lagoon is full of coral (hence why you’ll want reef shoes) and there are starfish everywhere! All different colours – you can pick them up too. There are some little fish and sea cucumbers throughout the lagoon. Oh and hermit crabs everywhere! Usually quite small but some big ones too. There’s no current, it’s fairly shallow most of the time but more than enough to swim and float in.

Any non-motorised activities are free, the activity hut is full of reef shoes, snorkels, flippers, floaty rings etc.

It isn’t a super-luxe resort, it’s a beautiful, relaxed island resort. I highly recommend a trip for families and groups of friends, we loved it and will most definitely be back.

*Had to borrow images of the accom from their website as I forgot to take any!


Diamond Head Hike – Waikiki Must Do

I’ve been to Hawaii four times now and I can’t believe I’ve never done the Diamond Head hike! Not only is it relatively easy, the views are abolutely stunning.

We took an uber there, paid our $1 entrance fee each and began the hike. On first look it does seem slightly threatening and I did wonder if I would struggle getting up there but then I saw the variety of people that had already done the walk and were meandering back down. I figured if they can all do it (kids, elderly etc) then I definitely could!

It only took us about thirty minutes to get to the top. I was surprised to find we had to go through a tunnel and also up a set of stairs to get to the summit. The walk can be busy and there’s not much of a chance of going too much faster than the person in front of you.

Once you’re up, the panorama, 360 degree views are absolutely spectacular. From coastline to city, you get it all. We took the classic ‘we made it’ pics and started to head back down. We made it down in fifteen minutes but we were running!

I highly recommend heading here on a trip to Waikiki and

Tips for hiking Diamond Head:

  • Bring water – or buy it at the bottom before you go up – you’ll need it
  • Wear comfy walking shoes & light clothing
  • Bring cash
  • If it’s Summer, go early – avoid the heat & the crowds
  • Check the weather – it’s not always sunny in Waikiki

Diamond Head is a National Park and open daily 6 am to 6 pm, every day of the year including holidays.

Last entrance to hike the trail is at 4:30 pm. The gates are locked at 6:00 pm daily and all visitors must be out of the park by this time.

$5.00 per car or $1 per person for pedestrians. CASH ONLY.

A Day Trip To Caribbean Hot Spot – St Barths

When it’s only a 45 minute ferry to St Barths from St Martin it would be rude not to take the journey across and check the infamous island out. I had been pretty excited to get to St Barths. I’ve read about it in trashy magazines for years and seen pictures of the idyllic paradise. Unfortunately our trip wasn’t quite so exciting and didn’t live up to that hype.

We caught the ferry ($110USD) from Simpson Bay (near our hotel) with the Edge ferry line. We checked in at 8am and then had to wait an hour in the heat (approx 30 degrees Celsius already) until we boarded at 9am. Little did we know a storm was going through and we were in for some very rough seas. The 45 minute trip took an extra half an hour trying to manoeuvre the huge waves. People were being sick all around. The crew really had their hands full.

Thankfully I had enjoyed scrambled eggs and some ginger ale before the trip and while I did feel a little average I was fine. The whole boat was rocking, we had to shut all the windows to stop the waves coming in and people had to be escorted (physically held up) by the staff to get out the back to relieve themselves of their brekfasts.

Anyway, we made it! Yay! Island! Ahhhh… no. Our dreams of an idyllic paradise were soon dashed.

Apparently it was the end of the season (thanks for the heads up y’all) so most of the shops and restaurants were shut and the streets were barren. There was nobody around. We walked about the island, had a gelato and ran undercover for a quick passing rain storm.

We negotiated an island tour for an hour with a drop off at a beach and pick up just before our ferry for $80USD (70€ – they mainly use euro there and everything is in French) with one of the many men bartering to take the tourists around, Claude.

Claude showed us around half the island and explained that the island is very safe and clean. They take great pride in a well kept island and somewhere that guests can relax completely.

We had a lunch at little cafe where the menu was in French and euro (luckily I can still read a little) and I ordered a fish cheeseburger. The mahi mahi was fresh and the burger was nice, if a little heavy. Service was very slow though and the table water was a surprise at 5€ (water is not drinkable on St Barths). We gave up waiting for the waiters to bring our bill and then again to collect so got up and paid and left.

The beach where we spent our afternoon was absolutely lovely. Clear, calm and warm turquoise water. We swam for a bit and then napped on the shore. It was very relaxing and some of the only down time we had on the trip.

Claude picked us back up, dropped us at the ferry and it was time to head back. Thankfully it was a much smoother ride this time, I slept most of the way and spent the rest of the time on the back deck.

I’m sure St Barths is great fun during high season when there’s lots of restaurants open, people about and yachts in, but in low season (especially the day before everything closes) I don’t think it’s worth the trip.

8 Tips To Vacation In Hawaii Like A Pro

I’ve been to Hawaii three times in the last 13 months… I’m practically an addict! I’ve learnt a fair few hints and tips during my trips that I wish I knew before and I thought I would share them with you to save you time and pain.

1. Book in advance
Tours sell out, accommodation sells out. Book in advance. I missed seeing the Na Pali Coast as alllll the boat tours had sold out. Most of the chopper tours too.In Maui and Kauai we paid a small fortune for accommodation at even a few weeks out. Book in advance and book direct where you can. Costco USA also have great vacation packages.If you can book via a USA website or agent you could save yourself a lot of money.Side note – Inter-island flights rarely sell out and are much cheaper if you use the USA web booking platform.

2. Flights don’t have to be painful
International overnight flights are the best! …If you can sleep on planes that is. I go to sleep in Brisbane and I wake up in Hawaii. If I’m lucky I will catch a meal service. I feel like I have made efficient use of my time whereas with a day flight I feel like I am wasting time.Inter-island flights and short and usually cheap. Explore another island for a night or a few days.Hot tip: last night I had to change my flight at short notice. I rang Australia Hawaiian Airlines who advised me a fare difference of $98 plus a change fee. I called the web helpline for Hawaiian Airlines in USA, they said $24 plus a $30 change fee. Instead I rocked up at the airport half an hour before check in for the flight I wanted and was able to change for free! It would usually be $30 but as the weather was crap, they were waiving the change fees – yew!Also, remember that with inter-island travel you will be stung for checking in bags. Try save the shopping until last to save on space and checked items.

3. Hire a car
If you’re just planning on hanging around in Waikiki (which I don’t advise – see the next point) then don’t worry about a car. An Uber to and from the airport will do you just fine.Plan your car to the island. A Jeep in Oahu is great (get four doors if there’s more than two of you, from personal experience I know this will drive you crazy otherwise) to get around the North Shore and West Coast. A convertible in Maui is fun for exploring the Road to Hana with uninterrupted views and in Kauai you might want to find something that has a roof to keep you dry – it rains a lot there.
Cars are a must on the outer islands unless you plan on not leaving your resort.

4. Get out of Waikiki
Waikiki is great for a few days. But it’s just a tourist junction. Get out and see the REAL Hawaii! Explore the West Coast, the North Shore and meet some locals. Hell, even downtown Honolulu will switch it up for you. Don’t be fooled that Waikiki represents Hawaii, it doesn’t. It can be a lot of fun and easy to hang around but you’ll thank me for getting out and about!Even better, get out to the other islands and explore the less touristy side of Hawaii.

5. What to buy
Shoppppiinnggggg! I hear you, USA, outlets, good times. In USA the best buys are shoes, clothes, make up and bags. Michael Kors and Kate Spade usually have amazing sales, particularly at the outlets where you can grab a bargain. This trip alone I nabbed a leather Michael Kors jacket for 75% off and a Kate Spade backpack for 60% off. Happy days!

MAC is cheaper and sometimes Sephora is too. I buy and stock up on all my makeup and skincare in USA (or Canada where it’s cheaper because of the exchange rate) and love having the beautiful ladies show me all the latest products. They will often give you a full-face makeover while showing you what’s good.
Shoes! Runners in particular are great. I bought Adidas Pure Boosts for $150USD and they’re usually $260 at home. I found Adidas Ultra Boosts for $100 at Nordstrom Rack which were an absolute steal. Nine West is cheap, Aldo is great.

Ross is a steal for souvenirs and little finds, or if you have a car, check out Walmart for even greater savings. Waileke Premium Outlets are where the real savings are at. If there’s one of you, get a shuttle there. Two of you, uber. Three of you or more, hire a car.

My favourite buy this trip was a blow up floaty pineapple ring from Ross for $12. I haven’t used it yet, but I will!! Ahhh…

Oh! Suitcases! Take a crappy one and leave it over there and replace it with another! Even better yet, take carry on and buy a new one and bring it back too! Most airlines give you two check pieces for international travel. I have bought a Samsonite huge suitcase from Ross and two carry-on’s for my Brother’s and another quality medium sized one for me.

6. Do a tour on any of the islands
I know what you’re thinking – so cliché. Well, perhaps, if you hop on the wrong one. However, with a little research you’ll find yourself a real taste of Hawaii. The best part about tours is the knowledge that is shared with you. You cannot learn that sh*t driving yourself around. You really miss out. The stories of the island and the culture and the people are truly important to understand to be able to gain a real feel for the Hawaiian culture.

I highly recommend The Road to Hana with Roberts Hawaii in Maui and if you’re looking for something in Oahu, the North Shore is a must. If you really want to see Hawaii (and it took me four trips to get there, so you’re welcome) do a helicopter tour. I was absolutely mind blown. Not only do you get that commentary, knowledge and stories from your pilot but you see Hawaii from an entirely different perspective. I went all out with doors off (BEST EVER) and a secret scenic landing (I was so grateful for this experience, I felt overwhelmed to be somewhere so special and magnificent where few people has been before) in a Magnum PI replica helicopter with Paradise Helicopters, however a short flight will give you a taster and I’m sure you will be back for more!

Check out Groupon too, you never know what discounts you can easily find.

7. What to eat and drink
Guys, surely you know by now I cannot fit this into a paragraph! Here’s a super top level guide of what to eat and drink around Hawaii:
Food: Poke (hell yeah, find the freshest you can); Loco Moco (local Hawaiian breakfast of meat patties, rice, eggs and gravy); Acai bowls (popular here now, sold in most places); anything with local meats and recipes. Fresh fish is a must have, Ono or Mahi Mahi are my favourites. Tacos! Food Trucks! The list goes on…

Drinks: You can’t go past a Mai Tai and the range of cocktails on the Happy Hour menu! Happy Hour in Hawaii is awesome for drinks and for food. Pina Coladas are great – always ask if they have a local spirit substitute. I had chilli vodka last night and it was beautiful in a fiery chocolate martini.Hawaiian sparkling – meh. It’s okay, try it if you want but if you don’t, you’re not missing out on much. Champagne can be expensive. So can wine. You’ll eventually get sick of the sugar in the cocktail and crave something else!

8. Learn a little of the language
This will get you far in any place and Hawaii is certainly not an exception. The Hawaiian people are a lovely bunch and they appreciate when you speak to them in their native tongue. The basics are Aloha (hello, goodbye but also much, much more); and Mahalo which means thank you. Super impressed? Mahalo nui loa.
If you’re from New Zealand, you will notice with words are very close to Maori and some are even the same such as Wahine and Tane for Women and Men.Using the local tongue will allow you to connect better with the locals and open up for more conversation.

Have I missed anything you’d like to know? Let me know and I’ll add it in.

You can read about my Road to Hana Tour Here
Learn where I always stay in Waikiki Here
Check out my incredible helicopter tour Here
My favourite place for Chinese in Honolulu Here
Want to store your luggage at the airport? Here’s how.

You Haven’t Seen Hawaii Until You’ve Seen It By Helicopter

I’m nowhere near exaggerating. If you haven’t seen Hawaii by helicopter, you truly haven’t seen Hawaii.

It took me four trips to Hawaii to decide to do a helicopter ride. Why? I have no idea. I love adventure and I wish I had booked a flight on my first trip!

I can’t even call it a flight. It was an experience. Seriously, I have put off writing this blog because I do not think I have the writing capability to truly express how incredible our flight was. Let alone chose pics. I have soooo many. How do I chose which ones to share when they’re all so awe-inspiring?! Apologies in advance for the huge amount of photos below..

We were welcomed by Daniel at Paradise Helicopters at Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu who went over the all-important safety briefing and got us checked in. We upgraded from our original Magnum PI replica helicopter flight with doors off (absolute must) and a scenic landing (more on that later).

We jumped in our awesome Magnum PI helicopter and met Josh, our rad pilot. This dude has been flying for years and in his own words said that while it will never make him rich, he loves coming to work everyday. Side note – I might just leave my job and become a Helicopter Pilot in Hawaii! Okay, that’s a little overboard, I can’t fly and I don’t have a visa, but it would be an incredible thing to do every day!

My adrenaline was pumping when we took off and turned back towards Oahu. I was beyond excited. I’ve been in a helicopter before but never with the doors off, it’s something else entirely. The wind rushes everywhere, you have a completely clear view out across the landscape and there’s the excitement of knowing that you’re bloody high up in the air and there’s nothing between you and outside!!

Add to that Josh’s soundtrack, perfectly crafted over the years to match every move that you take. From the Magnum PI soundtrack when you take off to Gilligan’s Island soundtrack when you fly over where it was filmed to a Hawaiian local tune about flying over the ocean, he’s got it down pat.

Oh I forgot to mention. Daniel will offer you a hoody for during the flight. Even if it is hot, take the damn hoody. It is fairly cool with the wind tickling you up in the air. You’ll thank me (and Daniel) later.

So we flew from Turtle Bay across the island towards Honolulu airport. If you think that scenery is amazing (think solar / wind farms, pineapple plantations, valleys, coastline and a pineapple maze) then you’ve got another thing coming! We landed at Honolulu Airport to be cleared for take-off (did I mention we flew right over Pearl Harbour and live Navy and Army Bases? Wow.) and fly low and far across the runway before zipping up into the air and turning so that the helicopter is nearly on its side, SO COOL!! The whole time Josh is jumping in with snippets of info and stories and as I’ve learnt, this is uber important to understanding the local culture and history.

We flew in low across the Waikiki shoreline. Spectacular, head up over Diamond Head and across Hanauma Bay and other Oahu sights. Then the special part. The scenic landing. As Kua Loa Ranch came into view my heart immediately sped up. This is one of my favourite places in the whole world. At the risk of sounding silly, the land has a really special feeling to it. It’s utterly breathtaking and magnificent and as the Hawaiian’s say, it has Tapu. Meaning it is sacred and special land. This is where Jurassic Park was filmed along with King Kong, Lost, 50 First Dates and scores of other titles you would recognise. The mountains are rugged, lush green and peaked sharply. This, is our secret scenic landing. I can barely describe how I felt flying in. It was almost overwhelming. Here we were in a freaking Helicopter, hovering among the clouds, coming in to land on a tiny flat spot of land on a mountain peak in the valley. One of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with a deep history and recent fame in Hollywood movies and we were landing in a spot where few had been before us. We had two minutes to sit and let this sink in as the helicopter motor cooled down.

We hopped out onto the small plain and stared in awe. I took time out to just sit and look out and admire the view and be grateful for having the opportunity to have such an experience. Then we took photos. LOADS of photos. And then loads more. Josh took a hilarious panorama which has us in it three times – too good. We sat up there a fair amount of time. Josh told us about some of the proposals he had seen and people we might recognise who has also shared this trip. All too soon (although it was prob 30-40 mins) it was time to go. I would have happily been left up there for hours. Or even days with a tent and some supplies! Ha!

At takeoff, Josh asked if we wanted the quiet or the exciting take-off. Exciting was the resounding answer – duhh! I actually screamed with excitement – I know this because there’s a video. It was one of the most exciting things I have done! Adrenaline was pumping again and we were soaring among the peaks, straight over to a glorious, gigantic, waterfall! This waterfall was insane, cascading down from the top of the peak right down into the gully and guess where we went? Yup, right down in there.

It was at this point that my phone died. I wasn’t upset about it, in fact, I highly recommend it. I spent the rest of the flight listening to Josh intently and being (possibly overly) excited about what we were looking at. There were reefs and sandbars, islands and mountains, cliffs and plantations.

I can’t say I wasn’t slightly disappointed when we landed, I didn’t want the tour to end. It is one of the best travel activities I have ever done, and I have traveled a lot!

*While this tour was discounted, this review is completely authentic and true. I am lost for words to describe what an incredible experience this was. Thanks Paradise Helicopters, you rock!

Brisbane-based lifestyle and travel blog image featuring mountain and sea scenery

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