Odenza Reviews: Hawaii by Bike

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Biking – a growing sport in Hawaii – is compelling, refreshing, and exciting. While island-hopping, you’ll discover a rich variety of biking terrain, from volcanic mountain slopes to twisty single tracks. Whether you prefer riding mountain bikes, city bikes, or hybrid bikes, there’s no shortage of routes. With fresh air, lush greenery, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, bike trips in Hawaii make for an unforgettable workout. For both competitive cyclists and casual riders, it’s worth booking a trip with a reputable travel agency and coming to Hawaii to find the best rides.

Haleakala, Maui

Book a mountain bike tour with Bike Maui and ride 23 miles down the iconic Haleakala volcano after watching a magnificent sunrise. This outing starts off early, as you check in between 3:00 am and 4:00 am. You’ll first head up in a vehicle driven by a guide and check out the volcanic crater, learning about Maui nature and geology and admiring the heavenly rays of purple and orange to the east. The total elevation change is 6,500 feet as you bike back to sea level, and it’s a comfortable pace, as the average grade of the route is just five per cent. In all, it takes about eight hours.

Old Mamaloa Highway, the Big Island

Ranches teeming with cattle and cowboys give Waimea its character, just south of the Kohala Forest Reserve in the northern part of the Big Island. Bike east on the Old Mamaloa Highway, riding through the historic, 1847-founded Parker Ranch and old sugar plantation lands, and checking out the Mauna Kea volcano. Stop at the Tex Drive-In to refuel with a hearty grilled ahi burger. Another 20 miles will bring you to the magnificent Waipio Valley Lookout, overlooking where the legendary Hawaiian king Kamehameha I lived as a child.

Ke Ala Hele Makalae Trail, Kauai

If you have no desire to climb Mont Ventoux as a Tour de France competitor but love relaxing, scenic coastal bike rides, the Ke Ala Hele Makalae Trail in Kaui is for you. Extending more than seven miles, the multi-use, paved trail follows Kauai’s eastern shores, known as the “Coconut Coast.” Check out interpretive signs along the route, which highlight local nature, archeology, and history. Or stop for a swim at Lydgate Park, which offers two enclosed lagoons and a picnic area. Bikes can be rented at Kauai Cycle.

Peacock Flats, Oahu

Are you an avid mountain biker who’s looking for some challenging, technical single tracks? Then it’s time to bike Peacock Flats. Nestled in the northwest corner of Oahu in the Kuaokala Forest Reserve, the route includes a thigh-burning 1,500-foot climb that kicks off at the Mokuleia Access Road. Tight switchbacks on the cliffside Kealia Trail command your attention even when there are views of huge surfing waves and Dillingham Air Field to be enjoyed.

Honolulu Century Ride, Oahu

Biking in Hawaii is a wonderful solo escape, but it can be even more enjoyable when you do it in a group. Check out panoramas of Kapiolani Park and Diamond Head on the coastal Honolulu Century Ride. Hawaii’s largest annual bike ride, with more than 2,000 participants, will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2021. It’s a fun event, and you can choose to bike anywhere from five to 100 miles.

Capture Your Moment Under Alaska’s Northern Lights

imageFew things can rival the experience of looking up to see a night sky covered in dancing ribbons of light: the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. These mysterious lights draw thousands of visitors to Alaska during the winter and shoulder seasons, when night skies are dark enough for the colors of the aurora to shine through.

The only thing better than carrying a memory of the northern lights home with you is capturing them in a photo, too – so I turned to Todd Salat, the Aurora Hunter, professional photographer, and owner of the Todd Salat Shots gallery in Anchorage, for some advice on how to make that happen.

Prep before your trip

The key to capturing aurora with both camera and heart? Salat says it’s taking the time to practice night photography before you leave on your trip, along with accepting that no matter how good you are or what kind of camera you’re using, a certain amount of trial and error is inevitable.

“Practice in the backyard before you go, or even in a closed bedroom with the lights off and a candle as a target,” he advises. And although with a bit of luck you can capture amazing aurora photos on late-model mobile devices, if you’re after a hero shot you can blow up and hang on the wall, you’re going to need a higher-end digital camera and a tripod.

“The first thing you need to do is stabilize your camera,” Salat goes on to say, “After that, it’s all about exposing the relatively low light onto the sensor of your camera.” That means learning to twiddle a few settings in manual mode: ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop or aperture.

Get ready for trial and error

Cameras, lenses, and shooting conditions all vary enormously, so Salat recommends starting by making sure you have some light preserved on your camera. Set your shutter speed between five and 10 seconds, place the aperture as wide as possible to let the most light in (select the lowest possible f-stop setting), and crank the ISO as high as you can tolerate it. Salat usually starts shooting at ISO 3200 but notes that on some cameras, ISO 1600 is a good place to start.

Then, take a picture and check the results in your camera’s LCD. At a high ISO, your camera sensor is more sensitive to light than your eye, so even if all you see is the vague white light of a dim aurora, your camera might be able to see green and other colors. If the picture is too grainy or “noisy,” that’s because of a high ISO. But since the most common mistake Salat sees from hopeful photographers is underexposing their photos, it’s better to overexpose at first, so you at least see something on the screen, then dial it back.

Once you have the first trace of light on your screen, tweak your settings to suit conditions in the moment. As a general rule, keep the aperture as wide open as possible as you adjust the balance of ISO and shutter speed. A higher ISO lets you use a faster shutter speed, while a lower ISO requires a slower shutter speed to allow more light through the lens.

Focus on the light

Knowing how those settings relate to each other and being comfortable adjusting them before you find yourself standing under the ever-changing aurora, will get you most of the way to great photo memories of your Alaska experience. But if the stars or foreground objects in your shot are fuzzy, you may have a problem with your lens focus.

“You need to set your lens to infinity focus, then dial it back a hair,” Salat explains. “But the width of that hair varies from lens to lens.” His solution? Go into live view mode, focus on a star or a foreground object that you’ve illuminated by headlamp, then tape your focus ring in place so it’ll stay at just the right setting. Once that’s done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the hunt for a perfect photo memory.

“I think the number one thing you want to do is enjoy the experience,” he says. And as long as you take the time to practice adjusting your camera settings beforehand, you can have your aurora experience and photograph it, too.

Additionally, follow these tips for a seamless aurora photography experience:

  • Use a remote shutter release or short shutter delay so your long exposure isn’t blurred by the motion of your finger on the camera.
  • Bring extra camera batteries – they run out quickly in the cold. Keep the spares in an inside pocket of your jacket or stash them in a warm place.
  • When you bring your camera back inside, put it in a plastic bag to keep the lens from icing over.
  • Bring a headlamp with a red-light mode so you can see what you’re doing without disrupting your night vision or photos with splashes of bright white light.

 

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Odenza Reviews: Island-Hopping in Hawaii

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Adventure travel in Hawaii is hot and happening. Granted, America’s 50th state is well-known for destination weddings and tiki drinks, but there are also activities suitable for every level of adrenaline as you explore these legendary Pacific Ocean islands. From helicopter rides and jet boat tours to stand-up paddleboarding and whale-watching, Hawaii has never offered more exciting adventures.

Maui

You don’t have to be a fan of military thrillers like The Hunt for Red October to enjoy a submarine tour of Lahaina Harbor with Atlantis Adventures. On a custom-built, 48-passenger submarine, view eels, sharks, and colorful tropical fish as you dive down 100 feet and motor past coral reefs and a sunken ship, with an interpreter providing educational commentary.

If you’d rather stay close to the surface, a high-speed Blue Water Rafting boat tour is a thrilling option, especially on a sunny morning. Go snorkeling among sea turtles and manta rays and check out lava arches and sea caves along the Maui coast during a four-hour tour. And from November to April, keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales. Blue Water Rafting launches from the Kihei Maui Boat Ramp beneath Mount Haleakala.
Alternatively, soar over Haleakala with a Blue Hawaiian helicopter tour, diving into deep, lush canyons with waterfalls and admiring eucalyptus trees and sugar cane fields.
Stand-up paddleboarding provides a fantastic core workout. Whether you’re a SUP veteran or newbie, you can hone your skills with lessons from a Moana Athletic Club instructor. The panoramic vistas at Kaanapali Beach as you balance atop your board make it genuinely magical.

Oahu

Nothing screams “Hawaii!” like surfing at Waikiki Beach. This two-mile strip of white sand witnessed a surfing revival in the early 1900s, thanks to legendary Waikiki beach boy Duke Kahanamoku. Today, local Honolulu operators like Waikiki Beach Services and Hans Hedemann Surf School are happy to rent you a board and help you progress toward your “hang 10” dreams on these welcoming waves.

Hawaii Water Center offers more adventures from wakeboarding to jet skiing. If you’re looking for a more elevated perspective, you can go parasailing, riding single or tandem, over Oahu’s gleaming water, going as high as 1,000 feet. Or head to the North Shore and learn how to fly a powered hang glider from Hang Gliding Hawaii, enjoying views of Makua Valley and Waimea Bay.

The Big Island

One of Hawaii’s top ziplining experiences is the Akaka Falls Zipline Tour by Skyline Eco-Adventures. Not only do you whiz over a 250-foot-tall waterfall on this seven-line, 2.5-hour tour, but you also traverse landscapes featuring banana farms, wild pigs, and lush rainforests. Between ziplines, eat fresh local guava and passion fruit, and learn about the Big Island’s history and botany from your guides.

The 1994-established Ocean Safaris offers scintillating kayak tours in Kona’s pristine Keauhou Bay. Build your fitness while paddling amid spinner dolphins and sea turtles.

Molokai

Provided you’re not prone to vertigo, the Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour is a thrilling must-do. Riding a well-trained mule during this 1,700-foot descent off the sea cliffs on Molokai’s north coast, you’ll feel your pulse pounding on the 2.9-mile-long trail, which includes 26 switchbacks. At the bottom, take a poignant tour of a former leper colony, now part of a national historical park.

Lanai

Rusty wrecks of World War II navy boats greet visitors to Shipwreck Beach, a windswept, eight-mile-long beach on Lanai’s north coast. More than 10 vessels – including schooners, barges, and steamships – either experienced shipwreck or were intentionally grounded here. The most adventurous way to get to Shipwreck Beach is renting a jeep from Dollar Rent a Car in Lanai City. After the joyfully bouncy ride, hike over to check out the Kukui Point petroglyphs as well.

 

 

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Odenza Reviews New Caledonia, French Territory

nc 5 New Caledonia is a dependent French territory that contains multiple islands in the South Pacific. New Caledonia’s stunning lagoon is among the largest in the world and is rich with marine life. Just some of New Caledonia’s various tourist offerings are: palm-lined beaches, amazing French food including mountaintop fondue in chalets, snorkeling, camping, and more. The main island of Grand Terre is surrounded by a massive barrier reef and known as a fantastic location for scuba diving. In Nouméa, the capital, you will find luxury shopping & French influenced restaurants.

Odenza Reviews Banff, Canada

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Banff National Park, Alberta’s favorite resort town is bordered on all sides by the Rocky Mountains. Tourist offerings in Banff include luxury lodges, irresistible powder, exceptional restaurants and active nightlife.  Appealing for both Winter and Summer guests, Banff is also home to a variety of spas, shopping, and a local art scene. Make sure to check out the Banff Gondola for spectacular mountain top viewing, the hot springs for world class relaxation or the Lake Minnewanka cruise for picture perfect sightseeing.

Odenza Reviews Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, which is the Capital of Denmark, a long and rich history. It was the center of the Danish empire for hundreds of years and as a result it is home to many palaces, historic buildings, and cultural relics. The town’s classic architecture is wonderfully juxtaposed by innovative infrastructure, modern buildings, and a high-tech transit system.

A must visit is the Tivoli Gardens amusement park.  A cultural wonderland, with historic and unique offerings of  of big thrills and traditional Danish culture.

You can also find one of Copenhagen’s most famous tourist attractions displayed on a rock by the waterside at the Langelinie promenade: The sculpture of The Little Mermaid. This popular artwork was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale.

 

 

Odenza Reviews Takamatsu, Japan

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The floating port city of Takamatsu sings a vibrant, many-part harmony – esteemed castle grounds that host fashionable craft fairs, the small town/big city energy of a prefectural capital. There are numerous sightseeing attractions including spots from which you can enjoy the beautiful landscape of the Seto Inland Sea like Yashima and Goshikidai, places where you can appreciate the stunning nature during all four seasons like Ritsurin Garden, and spots connected to history like Tamamo Park (Ruins of Takamatsu Castle), and Shikoku Mura Village. You can also can take a ferry ride from Takamatsu to remote Ogijima and Megijima, where modern art festivals are held. It’s urban Japan at its most lovely and free of pretension.

Hopefully this review of Takamatsu, Japan will inspire you to take a trip soon!