9 Tips to Make the Most of Oahu

It's hard to believe it's already been a year since we visited Hawaii for a friend's wedding. He's since moved to San Diego, but I think all our hearts stayed in Honolulu. Here are nine standouts from our four days in Oahu. 

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1. Stay at the Modern Honolulu, or at least visit the pool bar after sunset for sleek cocktails.

 Source:  Modern Honolulu

2. Get your morning caffeine fix at Gorilla in the Cafe, right along Kalakaua Avenue.

3. And grab a healthy and fresh brunch at Heavenly.

 Source:  Brownie Bites

4. Ignore the signs and make the Shire-like hike to Lulumahu Falls

5. Rent a Jeep (or scooter if you're nuts) for a trip around the island -- my favorite scenery is just a 20-minute drive past Diamond Head. 

6. Take the Island Magic sunset booze cruise (and be on time!). 

7. Spend an evening wandering the Royal Hawaiian (Mai Tai Bar is adorable!). 

8. Think twice about fancy SPAM appetizers. I just can't get into SPAM.

9. You're in Hawaii -- embrace your inner tourist and make the stop at Duke's. It's famous for a reason!

 Source:  Putovanja.info

Thanksgiving Away: Eight Savory International Escapes

Thanksgiving is always one of the busiest travel times of the year -- and no surprise, as we race home to gobble up three servings of legendary homemade punkin' pie. Next week, I'll be part of the holiday rush heading to see the family (and enjoy my brother's take on our grandma's classic).

While I prefer to be home, I know not everyone will be stuffing their face with turkey and, well, stuffing. If your Thanksgiving plans aren't around a table, a new Switchfly survey shows you're not alone: lots of Americans will forgo traditional festivities to take short jaunts out of the country.

So, where are they heading?

Mostly places warm and exotic, of course. On average, international travelers will spend between four to six days soaking up the sun and sand abroad before heading home.

Here are the top eight places Americans are escaping to for the holiday. And if you're not heading south for the season, consider spicing up your family's traditional smorgasbord with a few new international flavors suggested below.

Top Eight International Thanksgiving Travel Destinations

As compiled by Switchfly

A Globally Inspired Thanksgiving Menu

Apรฉritifs 

  • Pinot Noir: Argentine Pinots tend to be fuller than their American counterparts. The 2014 Schroeder Estate vintage, out of Patagonia, will pair well with a Thanksgiving meal -- and it won't break the bank, retailing around $20 a bottle. 
  • Red Stripe Lager: For your beer-loving guests, Jamaica's national beer is light enough to leave room for turkey seconds (or thirds, or fourths).

Mains & Sides

 Source:  Wordpress

Source: Wordpress

  • Jamaican Jerk Chicken: There's a reason jerk stands pop up on virtually every Jamaican beach. Your Thanksgiving guests won't be disappointed with this as an alternative to traditional turkey. 
  • Pรฃo de Queijo: If there's anything Americans love, it's cheese and bread -- so these simple, savory cheesy Brazilian rolls will go over well. 
  • Wasakaka Sauce: To spice up your main course, wasakaka is a popular Dominican topper made from citrus, parsley, garlic, and chili peppers. It pairs best with chicken. 
  • Gandules: Known commonly as pigeon peas, this easy side dish appears at Caribbean holiday meals in places like the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. For a delicious appetizer, whip up this Escabeche Pigeon Pea Crostini recipe. 

Desserts & Pousse-Cafรฉ

  • Brigadeiros: These chocolate truffles are a celebratory staple in Brazil -- and they're as pretty as they are delicious. 
  • Pumpkin Flan: This recipe by Wendy Polisi puts a Thanksgiving spin on the traditional Mexican dessert.
  • Cafe de Oila: Mexico's signature cinnamon-infused treat is a perfect caffeine fix after a big meal.

Best Places to Relax in the Great Outdoors

American summers are synonymous with the outdoors. From baseball games, to farmer's markets, to balmy evening street fests, the best things to do aren't far from patios and parks.

I've recently discovered a love for hiking, biking and enjoying the truly natural side of nature. Outdoor activities are exhilarating, especially in a beautiful backdrop. That said, sometimes you just want to spend an afternoon basking in nature's beauty -- no sweating required. These four spots are great places to do just that.

Watkins Glen, New York

Located in the Finger Lakes region of upper New York, Watkins Glen boasts an impressive state park with beautiful walking trails winding through a network of waterfalls. The region is well known for its wineries, so you can easily pass a few days alternating between easy nature walks in the park and long lunches on winery verandas. Don't miss: Wagner Vineyards.

Ridgedale, Missouri

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Big Cedar Lodge sits on a peaceful lakefront stretch in Ridgedale, just outside of Branson. The conservation-conscious resort blends a perfect balance of outdoor activities with upscale amenities, making it a great place for family gatherings with mass appeal. You can be as active or relaxed as you want, and with such gorgeous views you don't feel guilty spending a whole day just lounging by the pool. 

Shenandoah, Virginia

On a family vacation through Virginia to South Carolina, we stopped for a night in Shenandoah National Park and stayed in a cabin at the popular Big Meadows Lodge. Talk about a perfect outdoor retreat! The views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are unmatched, especially when followed by a laid-back evening roasting s'mores around the campfire. 

  • Bonus Tip! Hiking is a must, and it's even better when you plan ahead (read: wear the right shoes). These five hiking tips from Colorful Places are a good checklist to make the most of your exploration. 

Devil's Lake, Wisconsin

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Back in middle school, our brave teaches packed the entire seventh grade class into buses and spent two nights camping in Devils Lake State Park. With easy hiking trails, a large beach and lots of camping sites, this park is a great weekend getaway for outdoor enthusiasts.