DANA POINT OR BUST

If you’ve been following us for awhile, you know by now that we’re big fans of weekend trips. They’re easy to plan, easy to prepare for, and they do wonders to what would otherwise be a monotonous week. Because we both have full time jobs, we LIVE for spontaneous (or planned) weekend getaways!! This past weekend we adventured to Dana Point, a quaint Southern California beach town (just south of Laguna Beach), and it was the PERFECT weekend destination! The stunning resorts (if you’re short on time – scroll to bottom for quick rundown on the resorts), delicious restaurants, beautiful views and crystal clear ocean… Dana Point is a dream. Here’s what we did:

 

FRIDAY:

First stop on our weekend trip was lunch at Coastal Kitchen. Located on the Pacific Coast Highway, we HIGHLY recommend stopping here - even for a drink! The ambiance is amazing, the servers are so kind, and the french fries are some of the BEST we’ve ever had. No kidding, we take french fries very seriously. Make a stop at Coastal Kitchen, if only for the french fries.

We had some time to kill after lunch, so we headed to one of our favorite hidden gems of Dana Point. Across the street from Doheny State Beach is the Doubletree Suites Doheny Beach. They have an amazing bar on their rooftop with KILLER ocean views. Best part is? It was just us and a few locals up there! This truly is one of the best kept secret spots in Dana Point… so don’t tell too many people. ;)

Next item on our agenda: check into our hotel! We stayed at the Monarch Beach Resort, a property that honestly blew us away. It sits atop a hill overlooking the Pacific, and it has it all: stellar service, amazing restaurants, and championship caliber golf.  Our room was beautiful, with stunning views of the property and the pool. AND THAT POOL!! Absolutely dreamy. We took a quick power nap (the big comfy bed was calling our names!) and then headed out to explore.

 

Speaking of which: One thing that we LOVED about the Monarch Beach Resort is all of the transportation options.  There’s a complimentary driver for guests, that will drop you off anywhere in an 8 mile radius! There’s also the Dana Point Trolley that stops at the resort every ten minutes, and makes a giant loop around the town. AND the Monarch Beach Resort has their own little trolley that will take you to the beach! But more on that later...

First stop of the night was at The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, located right on the water. We arrived right as the sun was setting, and the views were glorious. We sipped our cocktails, made some friends at the bar, and watched the sunset. Could this night get any better?!

The answer is yes. Definitely, yes. While it was hard to leave the gorgeous views at the Ritz, we were getting hungry, and we’d made dinner reservations at a new restaurant in town called the Craft House. We sat outside, ate a delicious dinner, and tried some of their famous whiskey cocktails. Needless by the time we got back to our room we were exhausted - and that big hotel bed couldn’t have felt better!

 

SATURDAY:

Saturday morning, we slept in (obviously!) and then decided to take the complimentary car to the Dana Point Harbor. It’s one of our favorite spots in Dana Point - there’s several restaurants, shops and bars, and a really scenic walking path along the water. We walked for awhile and then grabbed a bagel and some juice at the local’s favorite, Coffee Importers. If you go, make sure you get the California Bagel: cream cheese, avocado, tomato, red onions, and lemon pepper. The BEST!

We meandered our way to yet another stunning resort, The Laguna Cliffs Marriott, located directly above the harbor. Another one of our favorite “secret” spots in Dana Point is the coffee shop inside the hotel. There's the perfect deck just outside to sit and drink your coffee and look out at the ocean. Plus, on Saturdays they offer free yoga classes on their front lawn, so we watched over a hundred people do yoga as we drank our coffee! Drinks and a show!! ;)

We took the trolley back to the Monarch Beach Resort (can we take trolleys everywhere from now on?!), and we headed straight to the pool! We had the most relaxing couple of hours reading, swimming, and napping in the sun. And then we decided to head to the beach.

 

Like we said earlier, the Monarch Beach Resort has their own little trolley that takes guests to their private beach resort.

Later in the afternoon, Alli treated herself to a trip to the Drybar - located in the Monarch Beach Resort’s lobby. If you haven't been to a Drybar, whether you're a girl or a guy, you've got to try it. $45 for them to wash your hair, massage it, and style it. YES PLEASE! It's really the best thing ever.

 

After Alli's hair was perfected (Thanks Caitlin!!), we headed to the Stonehill Tavern, the famous Micheal Mina restaurant, also located inside Monarch Beach Resort ( We're telling you - one stop shop)! This ended up being hands down one of our favorite "date nights" so far. From the sexy ambiance, to the amazing service, to the mouthwatering food... everything was perfect. 

 

A few highlights for when you go: 

1. The bread and butter. Serious - the homemade sourdough with the honey, ricotta, thyme, and sea salt spread was one of our favorite things we ate. And it's free - so ask for seconds. And thirds.

2. They have an amazing sommelier that will help you choose your wine - tell him what you like, and let him surprise you. He's really that good!

2. The truffle mac and cheese. Nothing else needs to be said - just get it. And eat it. And love it.

3. The root beer float and chocolate chip cookies dessert. Two of our favorite things together, it really doesn't get any better.

 

SUNDAY

This was the perfect morning to sleep in - not only because we were in the most HEAVENLY bed, but because the British Open was on, making it a great excuse for breakfast in bed! ;) We ate breakfast, watched Jordan Spieth rock the British Open, and packed our bags. Taking our time and leisurely leaving an amazing resort is our best way to say goodbye - we leave feeling like we truly maximized our stay. 

 

We left Monarch Beach Resort (boo hoo) and headed to the Craft House (again!!) for brunch. Yep, we like it that much that we had to go again! We met some friends and enjoyed bottomless mimosas, avocado toasts, and really delicious breakfast sandwiches. Nothing like two breakfasts in one day!! ;)

Our last (and final) Dana Point outing was stopping by the "Concerts in the Park". Happening every Sunday afternoon through Labor Day, the city hosts an INCREDIBLE (and FREE!) outdoor concert series featuring the most amazing cover bands. We were lucky to hear an Abba tribute band, and boy did they rock. Perfect way to close out the most memorable weekend getaway we've had in awhile!!

 

Four Can’t Miss Resorts in Dana Point – QUICK SNAPSHOT

Double Tree Resort

Strengths: Affordable, Clean and classic beach-y theme, Ocean views

Why Here? The Double Tree offers amazing views of the famed Doheny State Beach from rooms, rooftop bars, and secret patios. It is the most affordable of the four resorts, so if your on a vacation with the whole family this is a fantastic option. The Double Tree offers easy access to the Dana Point Harbor, and is walking distance (5 minutes) from Doheny, which is a great beach for surfing (lessons available), tanning, volleyball, biking, and chasing sunsets. Our favorite spot is the Longboard Rooftop Lounge! Bring the family and prepare for some long beach days full of sand castles, surfing, weenie roasts, and s’mores! The Double Tree won’t even be mad if you come back a little sandy…

Laguna Cliffs Marriott

Strengths: Dana Point harbor location, Hilltop views, Relaxed luxury

Why Here? The Laguna Cliffs Marriott is perched atop a hill looking over the picturesque Dana Point Harbor. The property is surrounded by pathways that meander their way to Doheny State Beach, the Harbor, and to the shops along PCH above. This is a prime location if you plan on nestling in the harbor or have any maritime activities planned. From the Marriott, your only steps away from eating a scrumptious brunch at RJ’s, learning to hang-ten at Doheny, educating yourself on local sea life at the marine institute, or indulging in a famous (and strong) mai-tai at Wind & Sea.

 

Monarch Beach Resort

Strengths: Grandiose five-star luxury resort vibes, Incredible restaurant options, Pool-side AND Beach-side service

Why Here? We may be a bit biased (because we stayed here), but the Monarch Beach Resort may be our favorite when it comes to resorts in Dana Point. It has it ALL. It is a large (but not overwhelming) property on a beautiful golf course overlooking the Pacific, and it boasts five-star service, rooms, and restaurants. One of our favorite aspects is that you can spend your day tanning by the pool and when you get tired of the pool-scene you can hop on their private trolley to head down to their beach club. So it’s your choice… margaritas by the pool, or by the crashing waves? After the day in the sun, indulge in AVEO Table + Bar for Mediterranean food, or Stonehill Tavern for elegant tavern fare. You won't regret either, we promise. From the moment the valet attendant opens your door, the Monarch Beach Resort takes you to the blissful vacation mode that everybody hopes for.

Ritz Carlton

Strengths: Unrivaled ocean and coastline views, Impeccable five-star service, Timeless décor, Best overall beach access

Why Here? The grand-daddy of them all, the Ritz has a history of luxury, flawless experiences, and knowing how to spoil their guests. Honeymooners, splurgers, and those in need of a pampering… the Ritz may be for you. You can be confident that if you book a room at the Ritz, you will have an unforgettable experience and likely will return home with tan skin and a full belly. Indulge in their amazing Raya, spend the day at Salt Creek beach, and watch the sunset from the best viewpoint in all of DP, 180blũ. This oceanfront lounge sits on the edge of the cliff where you can watch the surfers, as well as catch the last moments of color and light as the sun tucks below the pacific curtain. “Ritz Carlton” is synonymous with luxury, and the Ritz Laguna Niguel will likely exceed whatever you envision prior to your stay.  

Thank you to Visit Dana Point for sponsoring this post!

Keeping it Simple in Bali with our Six Word Itinerary

As most of you probably know, we just got back from the trip of a lifetime to Bali, Indonesia. We were very quickly overwhelmed by the plethora (great word, huh?!) of picture-perfect resorts, world-class restaurants, and dream wanderlust destinations. In order to avoid extreme travel FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), we chose to partner with American Tourister and figure out a six-word itinerary to keep our trip focused. For Bali, it made most sense to have the following six-word itinerary…

 

SURF’S UP. RICE PADDIES. TROPICAL TREATS.  

 

Here we are going to share about how we lived it up with this simple, yet all-encompassing, itinerary. 

 

 

SURF’S UP

Being in Bali, it is not hard to find a spot where the surf’s up. Of the 10 days we were there, Bobby managed to surf EVERY day (even going out twice a few times)!! In Bobby's words, "the surf was big, the water was warm, and the froth level was high" (meaning Bobby never wanted to get out of the water). 

 

One of the best parts about surfing in Bali is that there are so many amazing spots with diverse scenery and waves. From surfing a reef while planes land over your head (Airport Rights), surfing a black sand beach in the jungle with nobody else in sight (Yeh Gangga), or surfing in front of the tiny Warung you slept in before (Balangan)... Bali surf can provide any backdrop. You can find world class barrels at Padang Padang on the Bukit Peninsula or slow rolling surf at Old Man's in Canggu. Bobby tried a little of everything, with his favorite spot being an incredible wave called Medewi. It's not as well-known as some of the other spots in Bali, so keep it hush-hush. Bobby was so excited when we got to our hotel that he was in his trunks with board-in-hand before he'd even taken his luggage to the room. Fortunately, he had the patience to settle into the room before heading out for a surf!

 

If you're thinking "Surf's Up", Bali may be your spot. If you want to explore all the island has to offer, the Z-Lite bag is compact (yet spacious) enough to toss in the car alongside your surf gear. You may find the perfect wave and want to stay awhile!

 

RICE PADDIES

Rice is one of the staples of the Balinese diet. So much so that in the 9th century, the Balinese found a way to fill their sloping landscapes with rice. The irrigation system of canals, tunnels, and temples allowed for all the rice terraces, or rice paddies, to flourish... and man, are they breathtaking! 

 

While there are rice fields everywhere you look in Bali, not all are created equal. The rice fields in Ubud are worth a day trip, as they are so picturesque and majestic (and there is a monkey forest nearby!). We spent hours wandering through the fields, meeting the local farmers, and even having a beer with them! The beauty of the rice terraces wowed us, it's unlike anything we've ever seen before!

 

TROPICAL TREATS

This may have been our favorite part of our itinerary. (And we're not talking just food... although the food BLEW us away!!) 

 

Speaking of which, we had some of the best food we've ever had while we were in Bali. If only we could have packed some of them up in our suitcases! ;) Everything we ate in Bali was so good, so healthy, and so cheap! One of our favorite spots was called Crate - and it was as visually stunning as it was delicious! They had everything from whimsical smoothies to savory egg dishes, and (Bobby's favorite) “The Barber” where they stack French toast, fried banana, scrambled egg, and bacon all together. AH!

Next up. Coconuts. We both had at least one EVERY day! Why not? When in paradise, and when they cost a dollar, why not rehydrate with some fresh coconut water with lime?! Definitely a rhythm we’d like to keep up at home!

 

A tropical treat that doesn’t feel like real life: Balinese massages. For less than $10 you can have an hour-long massage. We'll say it again in case that didn't sink in: For less than TEN dollars you can get an HOUR massage - on the beach!!! It sure is easy (and affordable!) to treat yourself when you're in Bali!

 

And our last tropical treat: the sun. For it’s tanning powers and the show it puts on at the end of each day. Both of us were able to bronze our bodies a few shades darker during our time under the Balinese sun. While we make sure to wear lots of sunscreen, we botha also appreciate a good tan. ;) And of course, the sunsets the sunsets in Bali are on a whole other level. The sun treated us well during our trip!

What made our six word itinerary unforgettable was that it was a solid guide, but also had some flexibility. We knew what we were looking for when it came to the surf and the rice paddies, but we had no idea what kinds of tropical treats we would discover. With such a perfect summer climate, we were able to pack our Z-Lite’s pretty light (who needs more than swimsuits, sandals, and a couple shirts) and have room for all our essentials (and some extra space for souvenirs!)

Thank you to American Tourister for sponsoring this post!

A Bali Hotel TUGU (too good...) to Be True

Let's be real. 12 days in Bali = not enough time in Bali. 

 

Our first trip to this magical island was SO much more than we both could’ve imagined. The people, the food, the surf... we were in heaven! For most of our trip, we stayed with some close friends and enjoyed exploring local spots that we never would’ve discovered. In the middle of our trip we gave them a little break from hosting us, and we spent two nights at Hotel Tugu in Canggu. Going into it, all we really knew about Tugu is that it had a traditional Balinese theme, and that it had some really cool art. Both were understatements.

Tugu hotels are a small, privately owned and designed luxury art hotels created from the founder’s passion for Indonesia’s romantic history. They're better classified as boutique museum hotels, all housing incredible art and antiques, and each designed with traditional Indonesian culture in mind. When we walked into our hotel, we were blown away by the massive statue in the lobby and all of the ornate decorations. But that was only the BEGINNING. 

Welcome drinks!

Heading to our room through the greenery!

We continued to be wowed by our room (coolest hotel bathroom we have ever had), the food (can we take our smoothie bowls back to America?!), and the overall vibe that forced us to unwind and relax during our time at Tugu. Read on for details…

 

Our Dedari Suite at Tugu was one of our favorite rooms ever. EVER. When you enter in the first door, you are in a small courtyard with a Koi pond and pathway up to the second door, which leads to your room. The room features a massive, oversized King bed (truly fit for a king), a private pool, a bathroom that ranks #1 all-time by the Traveling Newlyweds, and views of private gardens. It's like your own private sanctuary!

When perusing the room, as we always do when we first arrive, it was a bit confusing to see another locked door on one end of the room. We unlocked to find a bathroom PARADISE! An open-air bathroom with a lounging area, a sunken bathtub, amazing incense burning, and Koi fish swimming around you! We were here for 2 days, and Alli took 5 baths! How could you not?!

As for food, we hardly had time to enjoy all the Tugu had to offer. We started each morning with amazing smoothie bowls, as well as egg dishes and other small treats. Since we only had two nights here, we were mostly out on the town exploring cuisine options. Prior to going out, we would enjoy the complimentary afternoon tea and treats! Next time we will be sure to dine in Tugu’s famous dining room that is housed inside a 300-year-old Chinese temple. At the end of each evening we indulged in a nightcap on the rooftop of Ji, their Japanese Fusion & Sake Bar. Bobby loved the Kublai cocktail, and Alli the Coco Sexo. We CAN’T wait to be back here for the warm nights, the views, and these cocktails!

The overall Tugu vibe is what we will miss most, and what will bring us back quickly. As soon as you arrive at Tugu, the dim lights, the smell of incense, and the calming music instantly allow you to unwind and relax. Add the complimentary welcome massage (that's right - complimentary welcome massage - just in case you missed that the first time) and you will be in vacation mode in no time! 

Whether it was the daily tea time, the spa treatments, or just relaxing in our room, Tugu has a feel the yields relaxation. We left feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and we CAN'T WAIT to return!

How We Spent a 26 Hour Layover in Guangzhou, China… and LOVED it!

So if you are like us and you like to see the world as much as possible, you have to save money wherever you can (see our blog on traveling luxuriously without breaking the bank). If you are going by air, then plane tickets are normally a big chunk of your budget. When planning for our recent trip to Bali, Indonesia, we expected to pay around $1200 for a reasonable ticket. When skyscanning, we stumbled upon tickets for $840!!! The catch was that the trip took 51 hours. That may seem daunting, but the trip only had one stop… a 26 hours stop in Guangzhou, China. Guang-where? That’s what we said. But Guangzhou happens to be China’s third largest city, behind only Beijing and Shanghai. Whattttttt!?!?! We embraced this exciting adventure and had long layovers both to and from Bali. Here we are going to share how we spent our time, and a a few things you will need on your next trip that has a long layover. 

You Need Enough Time

This is first because it is important. If you are flying somewhere, let’s say Thailand, and you have a 7 hour layover in Tokyo, it’s pretty risky to plan on sightseeing in Tokyo. If you are leaving the airport, through customs, and have to re-enter through security, we would recommend you have at least 8 hours to quickly explore a layover destination. Along with how much time you have, it matters what time it is. If you have a shorter amount of time, it’s ideal that your layover is during the day. If you have a stop closer to our length (26 hours), ideally you arrive at night, get to sleep, and then have part of the day to explore. It will be helpful if you have an idea of what you want to do so you can plan efficiently too. We used Visit China’s Instagram to guide our planning in Guangzhou, and it help us use our time effectively! Overall, just know that your time is limited… and use it wisely!

 

 

You Need to Sleep… Preferably Comfortably (SPLURGE)

If your layover is somewhere that your currency is strong, this may be a place to splurge! Splurge or not, if you have a really long layover, it is SUPER important that you get some good sleep. Most likely you are coming off of a long plane flight where sleeping is rough, and you will be getting on another, so you need to take any opportunity to get some uninterrupted shut-eye. 

During our time in Guangzhou, we stayed at the Park Hyatt. This five-star gem is located in one of the most beautiful parts of Guangzhou, and has incredible views of the Canton Tower. Our room had amazing views with floor-to-ceiling windows, and our bed was so comfortable it was hard to ever get out. We had breakfast in the hotel and indulged in their buffet, which had traditional Cantonese food, healthy granola and fruit options, and even waffles! Consistent with the Park Hyatt brand, the food was phenomenal. Throughout the hotel was beautiful art, specifically wooden sculptures by world-renowned artist Tadashi Kawamata. The wooden pieces were inspired by Kawamata’s conception of the building as a dragon flying into the sky.  Within the hotel you can find the dragon’s legs, body, nest, and other wooden interpretations. 

We spent a good amount of time at the Park Hyatt in our amazing room, and the rest at the pool. We've stayed at a few Park Hyatt's in the past (TOKYO!), and they know how to design a pool. The pool in Guangzhou is overlooking the skyline, and the designs above the pool are similar to the architecture of the Canton Tower (which you see while you swim).  

The Park Hyatt allowed us to feel refreshed and replenished, giving us the energy to explore Guangzhou and be ready for our next flight. We hope to stay here again soon!

You Need to Rally When You Get Tired

Since you are in between flights and your internal clock is out-of-whack, you’re just going to need to suck-it-up when you get tired. Your time is short, so drink a cappuccino and keep going. For us, this happened when we were perusing the Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street. It is a long road of fun shopping, and right when we got there we both got a little sleepy. We shared a coffee, got a little snack, and pushed through. Shortly after that we saw some locals doing some really entertaining dancing and we visited the Chen Clan Academic Hall (a really cool temple), so it was definitely worth it!

You Need to Embrace the Culture

This really comes down to where you go, and what you eat. Don’t just do the most touristy things… try to find some locals and see what they are up to. After spending the night at the Park Hyatt, we got up early (to beat the other tourists) and headed to Shamian Island. This is a really popular tourist spot, but we heard that locals gather here in the mornings to exercise. Do they ever! Something really neat about the culture here is that tons of people workout together daily. Not what we imagine – at a 24-Hour Fitness, in nice workout clothes, wearing headphones and pumping iron. The locals here are dressed casual and are hanging out while practicing various exercises. It looked fun, refreshing, and healthy!

As for food, we really try to eat and experience as much as possible during our layover. We had some yummy dim sum, some delicious dumplings, delightful Cantonese fried rice, and some scary street food (we don’t even know what it was). Sadly, we did not have time for some of the truly Chinese delicacies, like shark fin soup or roasted duck. Next time!

If your travel plans allow it, we would highly recommend the long layover! Plan it efficiently, embrace the culture of wherever you are, and prepare to blitz through a destination. The goal is to see, do, and eat enough that it gives you a feel for the destination, and hopefully makes you want to come back. Thanks for the (quick) memories, Guangzhou! We’ll be back soon!