Shannon Did What / Travel + Lifestyle Blog

The Best 4-day Canadian Rockies Itinerary

TravelShannon GuerreroComment

I’ve been over this topic before in previous blog posts.  The how can I travel when I have a limited amount of time issue? Or how can I see everything in such a short amount of time?  I think there are two ways you can travel - spend a ton of time in each place really exploring every aspect of the culture or only get a taste of each location.  This post is definitely about the latter.  

In all honesty, the latter is mostly how I tend to plan my trips.  Who really has the time to spend weeks or even months on end in one location?  The issue I usually have is that there is just so much to see in the world.  I would rather sacrifice some of the time I can to spend in a single place and instead see way more in that period.  Does anyone else have that problem?

Did you know that there were 3 Canadian National Parks all within a few hours of each other in the Alberta province?  Ok, Yoho is technically part of the British Columbia province, however, since it is right on the border, it’s easy to mistake it for Alberta.  Most people only think of Banff when they think of the Canadian Rockies probably because it’s more prevalent on social media.  Jasper National Park is about three and a half hours from Banff town.  Or only three hours from Lake Louise.  Yoho is just an hour from Banff.

Sidenote: most people also don’t realize that Banff is pretty spaced apart.  A rental car is completely necessary on any trip around the Canadian Rockies.  Firstly because it is over an hour drive just from Calgary (where the airport is) to Banff town.  I say Banff town because the town isn’t necessarily all of the lakes are.  Lake Louise is a good half hour from the town.

This Canadian Rockies tour is perfect for a long weekend away.  I’ll give you a breakdown of all of the logistics to make this 4-day trip a success.  Best part is, if you have a 9-5 weekday job, you could book this trip while only requesting one day off.

DAY 1 [THURSDAY NIGHT]

Plan: Fly into Calgary.

Travel: This is going to be your travel day.  If you can’t get any time off, grab a late flight out and fly into Calgary (YYC) International Airport.

Lodging: I would suggest staying as far to the west of Calgary as you can find.  It will save you a good 20-30 minutes in the morning.  I’ve stayed in both the city and the western end.  If you want check out Calgary in the morning then definitely stay in the city.  You can check out my guide to Calgary, here.  Otherwise, if you’re crazy like me, and want to try to catch the sunrise somewhere in Banff the option is your best bet.  You’ll have a bit longer of a drive after leaving the airport, but I’d say its worth it.  We found a cozy Airbnb for just $20/each for the night.

DAY 2 [FRIDAY]

Plan: Drive to Banff for the morning, then head to Jasper.

Stops: Lake Moraine (Banff), Bow Lake (Banff), Sunwapta Falls (Jasper), Athabasca Falls (Jasper), Maligne Lake (Jasper)

Lodging: Grab a room in Jasper town or do like we did and camp out in your car at Maligne Lake for a sunrise paddle to Spirit Island.  I’ll save that story for another blog post.

If you’re up early and want your first experience in Banff to be around the least amount of people, head straight to Lake Moraine.  From west Calgary, it’s about a two hour drive.  If you arrive at Lake Moraine well before 8am, you should be met with a tourist free experience.  Also, if you arrive early, you may be able to park in the parking lot directly at Lake Moraine and avoid having to park far and wait for a shuttle.  If the road to park at Lake Moraine is closed, don’t worry.  This happened to us and we just waited for a five minutes in the narrow lot across from the intersection until some cars left and the park workers motioned for more cars to enter.

I would highly recommend climbing up the rocks on the left when walking toward the lake from the parking lot.  You can get a much better vantage point and hopefully avoid some people in the process.  Bring your hiking shoes today.

Grab some lunch before heading on the Icefields Parkway on the way to Jasper National Park.  This scenic drive is incredibly beautiful but stops to gas up or grab food are few and far between.  You may have the urge stop along the way to grab photos.

About twenty minutes outside of the town of Jasper, you’ll find Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls.  Both of these stops can be quick as they’re pretty fenced off and have designated viewing points just off of the parking lots.  They are also located right near each other.

The drive from the town to Maligne Lake is a little over an hour.  You should have plenty of time on this schedule to head here for a beautiful sunset.

DAY 3 [SATURDAY]

Plan: Explore Jasper for the morning, then head back through Banff to Yoho.

Stops: Spirit Island (Jasper), Emerald Lake (Yoho)

Lodging: You have two options for locations of lodging.  You can stay closer to Lake Louise or you can venture into British Columbia.  Both are within a half hour of each other.  We stayed in a beautiful cabin in BC and had no problem with drive time.  Read about our cabin, here.

You can spend the morning exploring Jasper or grabbing a boat tour to see Spirit Island.

After a morning spent exploring, you’ll want to get set for another long drive.  This time heading back to Yoho National Park.  Yes, it does seem like a daunting task, driving back and forth, but what road trip isn’t tiring?  In the end, I was so glad I was able to fit in so many destinations in such a short time despite the long car times.

Once you’ve driven back into Banff, we took the time to check into our lodging for the night and relax for a couple of hours before heading out again.

One of the best parts about being further north is that the sunsets are much later or least in the summer they are.  With the sun not setting until around 9pm, we had plenty of time to drive around and take our time at each stop.  Because of this, we were able to spend some time in the early evening exploring around Emerald Lake in Yoho.  

Tip: It seemed most of the busy tourist times were in the morning and afternoon.  By the early evening, people headed to dinner or their hotels leaving the lakes virtually empty.  I guess not as people take advantage of the late daylight!

DAY 4 [SUNDAY]

Plan: Explore Banff and head back toward Calgary.

Stops: Lake Louise (Banff), Peyto Lake (Banff), Lake Minnewanka (Banff), Canmore Rope Swing (Canmore)

Start early and head to Lake Louise today.  Even though Lake Louise and Lake Moraine are located just minutes from each other, I would suggest splitting up visiting these destinations into two days if you can.  If you go to one early morning, by the time you’re ready to visit the next, it will undoubtedly be crowded and overrun with tourists already.

You can of course switch it up and visit Lake Louise first and swap out today to visit Lake Moraine.

Lake Louise has much more parking than Louise.  There’s an overflow lot for the overflow lot.  That being said, this lake is much more of laid back walk around the lake, type of lake.  Unless you’re planning to hike up to the Lake Agnes Tea House, this can be a quicker stop.

After Lake Louise, head over to Peyto Lake, which is technically Bow Summit.  When you visit, you don’t actually go down to the lake, its more a view point from afar from Bow Summit.  It’s just a short fifteen minute hike up a paved street to the first view point.

Feel free to explore Banff as you want here, while making your way toward Calgary. I’d recommend Lake Minnewanka or Vermillion Lakes.  As you pass through Canmore, grab a few snaps at the Canmore Rope Swing which is also just minutes from an amazing poutine shop called, La Belle Patate.

ADDITIONAL TRAVEL DAY [MONDAY]

There are 2 options for flying home.  You can find a flight late Sunday to head back home or if it works for you, find an early morning flight Monday morning.  We were able to find a super early flight that landed in Los Angeles before 9am, just in time to head to work.  This option is a bit risky and requires getting up extremely early but allowed us to maximize our fourth day and not have to rush to head to the airport.

If you have time, check out these other scenic locations: Bow Lake (Banff), Vermillion Lakes (Banff), Johnston Canyon (Banff), Pyramid Lake (Jasper), Lake O’Hara (Yoho).

Hope this detailed 4-day itinerary helps you plan your trip to the scenic Canadian Rockies!

Yours Truly // Shannon

Snorkeling with Sail Maui

TravelShannon GuerreroComment

The main theme of my blog is to go out of your comfort zone and do something that scares you.  I always go back to the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that says, “Do one thing everyday that scares you”.  I think it’s really important to make yourself try something new.  I know for me, a big motivating factor is the fear of regret or as the young-ins today call it “FOMO” (fear of missing out).

During the planning for this Maui trip, snorkeling was one activity that came up.  Since I’ve been encouraging myself to conquer my fears through my blog, I thought, well, maybe this time I should try again.

I’ve been snorkeling before.  Maybe I should say, I’ve tried to snorkel before.  My family vacationed in Hawaii every summer growing up. I had multiple chances to snorkel in the lagoon at the resort we always stayed at.  It was a favorite activity for my dad and brother.  One year I decided I wanted to join in.  I was probably about 9 years old.  I got into the shallow water, tried to put my head down, but as soon as the fish came near, I bolted in the opposite direction.  Thinking about it, this could stem from the fact that I’m not an animal person.  Nevertheless, me and fish didn’t mesh well from a young age.

It’s funny because I am such a beach person.  I’m a beach person but for some reason I don’t really love the water.  The idea of fish, the deep water and the unknown just don’t sit well with me.  It doesn’t matter how clear the water is - I still don’t like it. So, how does someone with fears of the deep water and sea life go snorkeling?

You find a great tour company with an experienced staff and a great boat.  That’s where Sail Maui comes into play.

Let’s be honest, there are quite a few tour companies you can choose from to go on a sailing or snorkeling adventure during your time on Maui.  This was very apparent as we were walking down the pier searching for Sail Maui’s Paragon II.  The major thing we noticed was that every other boat tour was jam-packed full of people.  The boats were either stacked with people sitting shoulder to shoulder or had a good couple hundred aboard a larger boat.  One thing I don’t like is large crowds of people, especially on vacation.  We really lucked out on the day of our tour.  We only had 11 people total on our boat.

We chose to explore Molokini Crater as it’s a top snorkeling destination.  After an early morning arrival, you check in and board the stunning Paragon II.  You’re treated to a continental breakfast that can be enjoyed while lounging on the front hammock areas of the catamaran.  It took us just over an hour to sail to Molokini Crater so there was plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and digest or in my case prepare mentally for the adventure ahead.  The great part about Sail Maui is that they provide all of the snorkel gear you could possibly need including pool floats to help you stay above water.

Right about now is when I got a bit more nervous about snorkeling.  In preparation for this adventure, Nick had us do a test snorkel just days before in the shallow waters in front of our hotel.  Thank god he did because after the captain informed us that the water was 30 feet deep, I had some doubts.  I put on all the gear, got prepared and headed down the stairs into the water.  I’m pretty sure I screamed a bit after the initial shock of looking down and seeing the 30 feet of open water beneath me.  After a few seconds and lots of reminding myself to slow my breathing down, I realized, hey I’m snorkeling.

I think my mental toughness came out in full force because once I started believing there wasn’t a giant shark swimming behind me, I started to enjoy myself.  I think my initial fears are really just stories I make up in my head of something going wrong, but if you take a second to take in the beauty of the scenery that all rushes away.  I think the fact that I had a camera with me, also, was a great thing as it served as a distraction for me.  I was focused on documenting my adventures and  wanting to film the colorful coral.

After you’re done snorkeling, the crew sets out a delicious buffet lunch for you to enjoy while you sun bathe on the journey back into the harbor.  Can I just say, I was expecting mediocre food on a boat, but Sail Maui pulled out all the stops and the food was fresh and delicious.  

Moral of the story, if you don’t face your fears, you’ll never know if you’re missing out on something fun.  I’m so happy that I was able to not only go snorkeling, but enjoy myself in the process.

Second moral of the story, next time you’re in Maui, choose Sail Maui to go on an awesome adventure on the water.  They not only offer snorkeling tours at the Molokini Crater, but also sunset cruises, trips to Lanai and even whale watching tours.  Check them out here or if you want to go on this snorkeling trip to Molokini Crater, click here.

Happy snorkeling!

Yours Truly // Shannon

*Sponsored Post: My tour was provided in collaboration with Sail Maui! All opinions are my own.

The Ultimate Guide to Maui Eats

TravelShannon GuerreroComment

When I was trying to figure out what blog posts to write about Maui, I started outlining out the usual ones - where to go, Instagrammable Spots, hidden finds - and then I thought, wait, how could I forget about the food?  It dawned on me.  When I do my research for my trips, I usually focus on the places and things I’d like to do and see and not on food.  Food should be at the top of your list the next time you visit Maui.

This foodie guide basically is ten+ years worth of eating and research.  Big kudos goes to my mom who could probably tell you about any eatery on Maui because she’s eaten at them all.  I actually heard of a couple of places on Instagram to eat at and her response was no don’t go there, t’s a tourist trap and the food’s not actually good.

So, this guide is approved by mom which undoubtedly makes it the best places you should eat at while on Maui.  I realize now that I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I should have of my food, but it makes sense.  All my dishes smelled and tasted so good, they were consumed way faster than I could’ve taken out my camera.

DA KITCHEN

This is probably one of the most authentic Hawaiian places you can eat at.  It’s become the place my family eats at directly off our flight because it’s just 10 mins outside of the airport and right near the Costco.  Here’s how it goes - land in Maui, eat ’til we can’t eat anymore at Da Kitchen and then pick up more food at Costco.  It’s all about food.

It used to be more like a hole in the wall, locals only stop but more recently more people have heard about it causing there to be long wait times multi times a day.  And when I say hole in the wall, it’s a term meaning the best possible, authentic type of place.

Try the fried spam musubi or if you’re feeling super hungry and brave get the Notorious B.I.G. Moco.  It’s Loco Moco on crack, literally.  If you don’t know, Loco Moco is hamburger patties topped with fried egg over rice covered in gravy.  Imagine that with four times the amount of food.  That’s the Notorious Moco.

ALOHA MIXED PLATE

Someone asked me the other day if I had Poke while in Hawaii.  My response was, “I don’t go to Hawaii for Poke, I go for the mixed plate”.  Really, poke may have been invented in Hawaii, but if you want real Hawaiian food you get mixed plate.  Aloha Mixed Plate is the absolute must go-to spot in Maui.

I’m pretty sure everything on the menu is delicious, even though I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything but a Kalbi Ribs plate here.  For you newbies, mixed plates are usually meat, rice and the famous Hawaiian macaroni salad.  My family also highly recommends the Kalua Pig sandwich.  It comes with some pretty tasty local farm grown sweet potato chips.

This was also a hole in the wall place but over the years they’ve really done amazing expansions and renovations.  You’ll most likely encounter a line here, as well.

ULULANI’S SHAVE ICE

Not all shave ice are equal.  I’m telling you, it all comes down to the consistency of the ice.  Some places just don’t have the right kind of machines.  Ululani’s have the right kind of ice machines.  Their shave ice is that melt in your mouth, super fine ice.  Just like snow.

My new favorite flavor combination: Mango, Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) and Guava.  The perfect tropical Hawaiian flavors.

There’s a great location in the heart of Lahaina.

LEODA’S

I’m starting to think every recommendation on this list usually has a wait out the door.  Leoda’s is no exception.  Unless you catch it at exactly the right time, like we lucked out on.

Leoda’s is famous for their homestyle comfort food and homemade pies.  My boyfriend and brother happened to order the special of the day and it was literally the only thing they both talked about the entire rest of the trip.  They had the special pastrami sandwich that had caramelized Maui onion, sweet bbq sauce on a fresh potato roll. Oh boy was it incredible.

STAR NOODLE

Most of the spots I listed above are lunch spots, maybe dinner, but Star Noodle is a can’t miss dinner spot.  If you guessed their noodles are absolutely delicious, why yes you would be correct.  You can’t go wrote with the Hapa Ramen, Star Udon, Singapore Noodles or Pad Thai. Literally writing this is making me hungry.

Come here for the noodles, but order the pork buns, too.  Pictured above. Best piece of advice I have is share.  That way you can get all the dishes to try. That’s why there’s only one pork bun shown above! Normally comes in three.

Make sure you make a reservation, otherwise, like the rest, you’ll definitely be stuck waiting!

JAPENGO

This has become my family’s last dinner in Maui tradition.  I don’t know if it’s more because of the view or the food.  It really is a combination.  Japengo is located inside the Hyatt in Ka’anapali perched just above the pool, overlooking the ocean.  If you time it right, you can catch the sunset from your table.  And there is nothing like a Hawaiian sunset.

Japengo does Asian, Hawaiian, farm-to-table fusion like no one else.  Literally you can’t go wrong with anything on this menu.  My absolute go-to on the menu is the Japengo Fried Rice.  The malasadas are delicious for dessert too.  Though they’re not quite Leonards on Oahu, they come with to die for dipping sauces.  Guaranteed, you’ll be liking your fingers.

Bottom line, come here for the food or come here for the view, either way you won’t be disappointed. 

KULA LODGE

We more or less stumbled upon the Kula Lodge this trip and were so surprised we had never visited before.  Their food is delicious, but their location is the beyond.  Located on the side of the Haleakala volcano in upcountry Maui, the vantage point from Kula Lodge is pretty much incomparable.  You can see almost the entire island of Maui.  They also have a really cute garden that has a very Hobbit-eque vibe.  Its unique architecture just makes it they much more enticing to see.

I will also say the Caesar salad here is one of the best I’ve ever had.  There was just something about their house-made Caesar dressing.  I can just taste it now, yum.

MALA

Mala is the place to eat for ocean side dining in Lahaina.  When I say ocean side, I literally mean on the ocean.  There’s maybe 3 feet between the ocean waves and Mala’s windows.

If you like oysters, you have to try the Hood Canal Oyster Shooter (pictured above).  In all honesty, it looks a bit suspect when it arrives at your table, but oh my, this is one savory, tasty shooter.

You can also head over to their sister restaurant located directly next door, Honu.  The same breathtaking ocean views, but seafood and pizza based.

I hope my lack of food porn photos don’t discourage you from putting these places on your food bucket list.  I promised they will not disappoint.

Happy eating!

Yours Truly // Shannon