Moving to Victoria last summer was a huge change. I was a bit concerned about the idea of being “stuck” on an island, after spending so many years in the booming city of Vancouver, where you can be anywhere in a pretty short drive. I’ve been here for a year now, and I can only say that I keep getting surprised by the places I discover in the area. And everything is so accessible…
Last year I finally also bought my own SUP, after shopping for a few years and renting here and then with different clubs (I was a member of the Locarno Club and UBC Sailing Club at Jericho Beach for a few years). As I live in a small space, I went for an inflatable which would make transportation and storage much easier. I know there are still plenty of places around Vancouver Island where I didn’t have a chance to paddle just yet, but this is a shortlist of my favourite spots so far, all accessible for a day trip or even shorter from the city.
When we want to go for a short paddle or when our time is limited, we simply head down to one of the local beaches in Victoria. Gyro Park has been nice, but to watch the seals and go for some quick island hopping, I usually head to Willows Beach. There is plenty of street parking nearby if the parking lot is full, and you can follow along the beach to Oak Bay Marina, as well as paddling out to some smaller islands.
I joined a day excursion to Lanikai and Kailua Beach from my hostel. Our driver dropped us off in the morning at Kailua explaining how we could walk to the trailhead to hike Pillbox, a short trail promising rewarding views of the area.
The trail is about 1.6km round-trip if you stop at the top (second pillbox), but there was an undeveloped trail that kept going further if you are up for it. It takes more or less 30min to reach the top, but give yourself plenty of time to soak up the views up there! The elevation gain up to the top is about 198m, with basically no shade (seems to be a thing in Oahu), loose rocks and some crowds. I definitely suggest doing this trail early in the day so you beat the crowd and the heat.
These were probably the best vistas I’ve seen in Oahu (although I know I could have done bigger hikes and treks, I didn’t feel up for it that week!). From the top, you can see the mountain range around, as well as the beach (which was our next stop!) and the beautiful ocean surrounding the island. The colours are outstanding.
When we came back down, we stopped at Lanikai Beach to rest and enjoy the sun. I had borrowed two floating tubes from our hostel that morning, so I swam around and relaxed in the water. After a few hours, we walked back towards Kailau beach where we spent the rest of the afternoon. Two of us decided to brave the elements and swim (armed with our floaties) all the way to Popoia Island State Bird Sanctuary – which is basically the flat island you can see right in front of Kailau. It took us about 20min to swim each way, taking our time and enjoying the trip. Most people reach it by kayak, but we didn’t have any trouble (we were both strong swimmers, too). I would recommend bringing some sort of footwear, though, as our walk around the flat island wasn’t very enjoyable (some hot old sharp volcano rock didn’t feel nice on the soles).
There were a few options to rent kayaks and paddle boards, which I would have done if I had a bit more money. Oahu being as expensive as it is, I had to make a few choices here!
Koko Head Crater Hike:
Elevation gain: 302m
After my diving course, the first day trip I took was a hike at Koko Head and an afternoon snorkelling and relaxing at Hanauma Bay. There are a lot of pillboxes and bunkers on Oahu, that were built around World War II as viewpoints on the island. Koko Head Crater trail is an old rail track that goes straight up to the ridge of the crater and used to bring supplies and material at the top. Now, it is used as a hiking trail and some people use it as a training trail, going up and down multiple times (reminds of the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, BC!).
For Spring break this year, I decided to treat myself to my first solo trip since I came back from my South America trip in 2016. It was a long needed alone time for me, but I wanted to make sure it was simple and required a small amount of organization. I knew I had enough travel points to book a flight to Hawaii, but I was looking for a place where I wouldn’t need to worry about transportation (renting a car in Hawaii can get quite expensive) and where I knew I could walk around and have access to the beach, some hiking, diving and more adventures if I wanted to. After discussing with a friend, I decided to head to Oahu, as I already visited Maui a few years ago (see my posts on Maui here and here).
After spending most of our week in the city, it was time to get out of town and get some hiking done. We headed on the coast for a hike. We chose to hike Teapot Mountain in the Jinguashih region. We had to take a train for about one hour up to the Ruifang station, and a taxi to head to the Gold Museum, where the trailhead starts. The taxis are waiting on the left, just outside of the Ruifang station and have pre-set prices for the trip depending on where you want to be dropped off so you will know ahead of time what to expect.
Back in January, I was fortunate enough to take part in a trip to Taiwan, as part of a team presenting projects at an event at the Taiwan National Science Education Center. Most of the activities that we joined during the week were organized for us, although we had a lot of free time in the evening to visit on our own. We also had 3 extra days that we used to visit additional spots, including a one day excursion that I organized as I really wanted to get some hiking in.