Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island

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Miyajima Island has long been a draw for tourists and locals alike for its serenity, nature, and shrines.  Visitors are consistent in voting Miyajima Island one of the top scenic spots in Japan. A quick look on a map and you’ll find that Miyajima’s actual name is Itsukushima.  In Japanese Miyajima means Shrine Island, and the nickname has stuck. With easy access by boat, Miyajima Island makes for a perfect day trip when visiting nearby Hiroshima.

Sunset on Miyajima Island - Itsukushima, Japan

Sunset on Miyajima Island

Traveling to Miyajima Island

You’ll find Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Bay.  Travelers visiting Hiroshima can add an extra day in the region to visit Miyajima Island.  It is easy to reach Miyajima Island from Hiroshima.  The trip is less than an hour and makes for a perfect day trip.  Visitors will reach Miyajima Island from Hiroshima by train and boat.

To reach Miyajima Island most visitors in Hiroshima will board the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station.  The JR Line is the fastest way to reach Miyajimaguchi Station.  The popular Japan Rail Pass that many tourists use to travel around Japan covers the JR Sanyo Line.  Those that did not buy a Japan Rail Pass have two options to reach Miyajimaguchi Station.  The fastest route is to buy a round trip ticket for the aforementioned JR Sanyo Line.  The cheaper, and slower, alternative is to take the Number 2 Tram Line from central Hiroshima bound for Miyajimaguchi.

Upon reaching Miyajimaguchi Station follow the signs to the Miyajimaguchi/Miyajima Ferry Port.  This short walk leads you to the boats sailing to Miyajima Island.  At the Port, Japan Rail Pass holders may use the entrance marked JR and board the next available boat bound for Miyajima Island.  Those without a Japan Rail Pass will need to buy tickets at the nearby kiosk for the next available sailing.

Travelers without a Japan Rail Pass can reach Miyajima Island without boarding a train.  Two other docks, at Hiroshima Peace Park and Hiroshima Port, offer direct boat rides between Hiroshima and Miyajima Island.

Arriving at Miyajima Island

Regardless of which boat you take to reach Miyajima Island you will disembark at Miyajima Pier.  From the Pier turn right and walk along the path next to the waterfront.  As you walk along the path, and throughout Miyajima Island, you may come upon deer roaming free.  These deer appear tame and comfortable around humans, as long you do not bother them.  Visitors enjoy taking photos with the deer, but be sure to treat the animals with care.  Remember, the deer are wildlife.  Approach the deer with caution, stay at a safe distance, and do not touch or feed the deer.  The deer will eat paper tourists are holding in their hands.  Be mindful if you are holding maps or brochures near the deer.

To the left of the waterfront pathway you will find local owned businesses on the streets of Omotesando and Machiya.  Miyajima artisans are fond of using wood to create everything from trays to containers.  You can even find pieces of woodwork with etchings of various Miyajima sights.  Rice scoopers are one popular item the wood makers craft.  As you walk among the stores keep an eye out for a display featuring the largest rice scooper in the world.

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

At the end of the streets with stores and restaurants you will come upon Itsukushima Shinto Shrine.  The Shrine’s buildings, along with the nearby Five-Storied Pagoda and O-Torii, have the honorable designation of being a UNESCO World Cultural Site.  Most visitors are familiar with Miyajima Island because of the O-Torii, or Grand Torii Gate.  The O-Torii is first visible from the boat one takes to reach Miyajima Island.

Viewing the O-Torii is a different experience depending on whether you visit during low tide or during high tide.  Upon disembarking from the boat that brought you to Miyajima Island visit the nearby Information Booth for a posted sign with times for low and high tide.  Pre-planners can find tide times posted online if you need to know the times before your visit.  High tide is the perfect time for photos as the O-Torii sits surrounded by water.  Low tide offers visitors the chance to see the O-Torii up close as you may walk up to the Gate.  The ground is wet, muddy, and slippery, so wear proper shoes for the walk to the O-Torii during low tide.

Mt. Misen (the Sacred Mountain) and Observatory

Included in the World Heritage designation is Mt. Misen, known as the Sacred Mountain.  The landscape of the Island has drawn many spiritual beings to Miyajima.  As you hike Mt. Misen, you will find large rocks and trees amidst temples and religious statues.  To hike any part of Mt. Misen requires being in good physical health.  It is possible to hike from the base of Mt. Misen to the top.  Most visitors will ride the Miyajima Ropeway, which will allow you to bypass a large part of Mt. Misen.  From the waterfront follow the signs to the Momijidani Station and use the Ropeway to reach either Kayatani or Shishiiwa Station.

Even taking the Ropeway to the furthest point, Shishiiwa, still leaves hikers with a strenuous trail to the top most observation deck.  The reward in reaching the observation deck is stunning views of Seto Inland Sea and the surrounding Islands.

 

Daishoin Temple

With its deep connection between nature and spirituality, Miyajima is home to many temples.  One in particular, Daishoin Temple, is one of the grandest on Miyajima Island.  The grounds for Daishoin Temple makes it one of the larger temples to explore on Miyajima Island.  The easiest way to locate Daishoin is if you position yourself with the Miyajima Ropeway behind you, and the O-Torii Gate in front of you.  At that point turn left to reach Daishoin.  Take your time walking and admiring the serene grounds, various halls, and thousands of religious statues.

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Miyajima Island

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Miyajima Pier: 34.302092, 132.322270
Omotesando Street: 34.299070, 132.321860
Machiya Street: 34.298441, 132.322490
Itsukushima Shinto Shrine: 34.296083, 132.319915
Five-Storied Pagoda : 34.297129, 132.320752
O-Torii Gate: 34.297253, 132.318134
Miyajima Ropeway: Momijidani Station: 34.293247, 132.326782
Mt. Misen Observatory: 34.279436, 132.319529
Daishoin Temple: 34.291864, 132.318628
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Miyajima Pier
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Omotesando Street
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Machiya Street
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Itsukushima Island 広島県, Japan
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Five-Storied Pagoda
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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O-Torii Gate
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Miyajima Ropeway: Momijidani Station
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Mt. Misen Observatory
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Daishoin Temple
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan

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Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City

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Hiroshima, the Japanese city forever linked with history.  As the site of the first use of a nuclear weapon on a city, it’s impossible not to think of World War II when hearing the word Hiroshima.  The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and afterwards the city and the world was never the same.  First time visitors to Hiroshima wonder what they will find upon arriving in the city.  Hiroshima has rebuilt itself from the ashes of destruction into a beautiful and modern city, one whose mission now is to spread the message of peace to the world.

Welcome to Hiroshima

The easiest way for visitors to reach Hiroshima is by train.  From Kyoto, visitors can arrive in Hiroshima in just under three hours.  Once you arrive at Hiroshima Station exit via the South Gate and head to the city’s main form of public transportation, the streetcar (Hiroshima Electric Railway).  These trams ride through the city on railway tracks.  The streetcar’s run on nine, color coded, routes that cut through the entire city and will have you at your destination in no time.

Hiroshima’s streetcars are fast, efficient, and easy to use.  Passengers need not buy tickets before boarding the streetcar.  Board the streetcar through the door marked “entrance”.  Smaller streetcars have entrance doors at the back of the tram.  Longer streetcar’s entrances will be in the middle of the tram.  When you arrive at your stop, disembark via the exit doors near either the driver or the conductor.  Before exiting deposit the flat rate for inner city travel, 160 yen, in the provided coin slot.  Those without exact fare will receive their change from the coin slot machine.

If you plan on using the streetcars multiple times in one day, consider buying a day pass.  Day passes are available to buy before entering the streetcar or on board from the conductor.  A day pass for adult riders is 600 yen and 300 yen for children.  For those that need unlimited rides in the city and ferry access to nearby Miyajima, a one day streetcar and ferry pass is available.  This pass costs 840 yen for adults and 420 yen for children.

Signpost with the inscription "May Peace Prevail on Earth" - Hiroshima, Japan

Signpost with the inscription “May Peace Prevail on Earth”

Peace Memorial Park

On August 6, 1945 at 8:15am the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima.  With the city reduced to ruins, the significant impact of what happened that day permeates the city.  Yet from the destruction a beautiful remembrance to the victims and a beacon of peace has arisen.  The Peace Memorial Park ensures visitors never forget that infamous day and gives hope that the event that transpired never happens again.  As you approach the Peace Memorial Park, you should see a sign post that reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth”.  Repeat this phrase in your mind as you walk through the various memorials built to remember what occurred there.

Those visitors that wish to learn the history of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima will want to visit the Peace Memorial Museum.  After the Museum head to one of the main memorials, the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims.  This stone chamber, in the middle of the Park, has a list of the victims who died by the atomic bomb.  From the Cenotaph, you can see, and walk to, the Peace Flame.  The Flame will continue to burn until no more nuclear weapons exist on Earth.

Children's Peace Monument - Hiroshima, Japan

Children’s Peace Monument

Children’s Peace Monument and Other Memorials

The Children’s Peace Monument is a memorial for the children who died because of the atomic bomb.  A girl by the name of Sadako Sasaki inspired others to create the Children’s Peace Monument.  In 1955, Sadako was twelve years old and diagnosed with leukemia.  The disease resulted from her exposure to the radioactive aftereffects of the atomic bomb when she was two years old.  Sadako believed if she folded a thousand cranes she could defeat the leukemia.  Sadako could not beat the sickness, she died the same year as her diagnosis.  Classmates of Sadako’s petitioned to have the memorial built and ever since people from around the world have continued Sadako’s tradition of making paper cranes.  Glass boxes surround a statue of Sadako and contain every paper crane ever made in remembrance of Sadako and the children who died because of the atomic bomb.

Other notable memorials include the Korean Victim Monument, A-bombed Gravestone, Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound, the Bell of Peace, and the Peace Clock Tower.  The Peace Clock Tower chimes quarter past eight every morning, the same time as when the blast occurred on August 6, 1945.  Across the river, the A-Bomb Dome is the only remaining building from before the atomic bomb dropped.  Prior to the bombing the building was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall.  Now, all that remains of the building are structural beams and blown out walls.  Flood lights used at night illuminate the remains of the building.  Near A-Bomb Dome is the Aioi Bridge. Aioi Bridge was the target of the bombing because of its distinctive “T” shape.

Modern Day Hiroshima

The memorials draw visitors to Hiroshima to remember and to pledge to bring peace to the entire world.  Around the Peace Memorial Park is a metropolitan city.  Rebuilt after the war, Hiroshima has modern buildings around the Park.  Here you will find the residents of Hiroshima living out their daily routines.  Among the buildings you’ll find shopping arcades and restaurants serving traditional Japanese dishes, such as okonomiyaki and ramen, made with a Hiroshima twist.

Modern day Hiroshima - Hiroshima, Japan

Modern day Hiroshima

Besides buildings, shopping arcades, and restaurants what you will find are the country’s friendliest people.  Hiroshima locals are quick to smile and offer help to visitors from every corner of the world.  The heart wrenches thinking of the utter destruction that befell this city, and yet it warms the heart to know beauty has come from such destruction.  The beauty of the Peace Memorial Park and the inner beauty of the Hiroshima people gives us hope that one day peace will prevail over the entire globe.

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Hiroshima Memorials

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Hiroshima Station: 34.396228, 132.475438
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum: 34.391521, 132.453064
Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims: 34.392976, 132.452573
Peace Flame: 34.393445, 132.452776
Children\'s Peace Monument: 34.394103, 132.452976
Korean Victim Monument: 34.394208, 132.451847
A-bombed Gravestone: 34.394208, 132.451847
Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound: 34.394650, 132.452025
Bell of Peace: 34.394865, 132.452397
A-Bomb Dome: 34.395464, 132.453471
Peace Clock Tower: 34.395415, 132.452370
Aioi Bridge: 34.396198, 132.453403
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Hiroshima Station
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
広島駅, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
広島平和記念資料館 (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆死没者慰霊碑 (Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Peace Flame
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
広島平和記念公園 (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Children's Peace Monument
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆の子の像, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Korean Victim Monument
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
韓国人原爆犠牲者慰霊碑, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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A-bombed Gravestone
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
韓国人原爆犠牲者慰霊碑, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆供養塔 (Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Bell of Peace
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
平和の鐘, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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A-Bomb Dome
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆ドーム, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Peace Clock Tower
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
平和の時計塔, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
Hiroshima Tokushimaken, Japan

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Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan

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Kinosaki Onsen, or Kinosaki for short, is a popular destination for tourists and people living in Japan.  The town’s various onsen, hot spring baths, account for Kinosaki’s reputation as a top destination.  Most visitors flock to Kinosaki for the chance to relax in the warm and restorative hot spring water.  Besides the onsen people will find a quaint town full of charm.

Manhole Cover - Kinosaki, Japan

Manhole cover in Kinosaki

Train Station - Kinosaki, Japan

Kinosaki Train Station

Arrival in Kinosaki

Accessible by train, tourists reach Kinosaki via Japan Rail from Kyoto or Osaka within three hours.  Tourists spending the night will stay either at a hotel or a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn.  Upon arrival at the Kinosaki train station, tourists with lots of luggage and reservations at a hotel or ryokan should stop at the nearby Hotel/Ryokan Information Center.  Located across from the train station, you can use the Center’s luggage check service.  For 50 yen per piece of luggage, the Center will send the luggage direct to your hotel or ryokan.  This will free you from the constraints of your baggage and allow you your first opportunity to explore Kinosaki on foot.

Street in Kinosaki, Japan

Street in Kinosaki

Restaurant serving crab, a local specialty of Kinosaki, Japan

Restaurant serving crab, a local specialty of Kinosaki

The Town of Kinosaki

Kinosaki has few cars, making it ideal for walking.  Upon exiting the train station, notice that buildings reach only a few stories high. You won’t find skyscrapers or subways, but instead a peaceful town where time saunters at a slow pace.  Head west from the Kinosaki Onsen train station to one of the town’s main streets.  Here you will pass by souvenir shops, storefronts, and restaurants.  Those visitors not staying at a ryokan that includes meals should eat at restaurants that serve Kinosaki’s local specialties of crab and beef.  For meat eaters make sure the menu serves the local Tajima beef, the root of the beef known the world over as Kobe beef.

Daytime in Kinosaki, Japan

Daytime in Kinosaki

Night in Kinosaki, Japan

Night in Kinosaki

At the end of this main street, you will reach a river that flows through the town.  Here you can walk along the river, using small bridges to reach both sides of the street.  Sprinkled throughout the town you will find various temples.  From the temples, to the buildings, the river and bridges, makes Kinosaki charming whether it be day or night, sunny or rainy.

Onsen – Japanese Bathhouses

As you walk around Kinosaki, you will see visitors wearing yukata.  Yukata are light, casual, versions of kimonos, the traditional Japanese garment.  Those wearing yukata are most likely heading to a bathhouse, known as onsen.  The yukata allows for quick changing while at the onsen.  Kinosaki has seven public onsen.  Those staying at either a hotel or ryokan should receive free passes that allows access to each of the seven public onsen.  Anyone visiting Kinosaki for the day may pay an entrance fee to access a particular public onsen.  If you prefer a more private bathing experience check with the various ryokan in town.  A few ryokans may offer, with a reservation fee, private hot spring rooms.

Bathing in an Onsen

Anyone new to using Japanese onsen will want to know the rules associated with visiting a hot spring bathhouse.  Public onsen have separate bathing facilities for men and women.  You will bath without clothing, not even a swimsuit.  When you arrive at an onsen use the provided lockers to disrobe and to store your clothing and belongings.  Before entering the hot spring, rinse yourself with the showering stations set along the wall.

At the shower station, wash yourself with the provided soap and shampoo.  Rinse the soap and shampoo off before entering the hot spring.  This way you are clean when you enter the bath and no soap or shampoo chemicals will get into the hot spring water.  Place the small towel provided by the onsen either on your head or beside the bath.  Do not put the towel or your locker key in the water.  Nothing but your skin should enter the hot spring or touch the water.  Once in the hot spring sit back and relax in the natural waters.

Hot Springs Alternatives

Kinosaki’s hot spring water isn’t found just inside the onsen.  In a few locations around the town you will find foot massage pools.  Here you can dip your feet into water pools full of fresh hot spring water.  These spots are a perfect way to rest those tired feet after strolling around town.  Near one particular foot pool is Chaya.  This food stand serves drinks, ice cream, and a unique egg experience.  First, buy a small sack containing three eggs.  Then tie the sack to the wooden plank hovering above a pool of hot spring water.  Leave the eggs in the hot spring water for twelve to thirteen minutes and you’ll have a delicious soft-boiled egg.

Hot spring drinking water - Kinosaki, Japan

Hot spring drinking water stand in Kinosaki

Hot spring drinking water - Kinosaki, Japan

Hot spring drinking water in Kinosaki

Besides foot pools and egg cooking you’ll find around the town hot spring drinking water fountains.  These fountains are not your regular drinking fountains.  You don’t push a button for the water.  Use the provided cups by the fountain to capture the water to drink.  The drinking water is helpful for those suffering from chronic digestive organ problems or chronic constipation.  Be aware though that signs near the fountain will warn you not to consume the water over a long period of time.  The reason being that the water has sodium chloride and calcium chloride.  Infants and those with kidney disease, high blood pressure, or are prone to swelling should not drink the water.

Entrance to Kinosaki Ropeway - Kinosaki, Japan

Entrance to Kinosaki Ropeway

Kinosaki Ropeway gondola cable car - Kinosaki, Japan

Kinosaki Ropeway gondola cable car

Kinosaki Spa Ropeway

Another popular site to visit is the Kinosaki Spa Ropeway, for its panoramic views of Kinosaki.  In total the Ropeway has three stations along a mountain.  The first of these stops is at the foot of the mountain, next to the earlier mentioned food stand Chaya.  Buy tickets for riding the gondola cable cars at the first station.  Those not wanting to ride the Ropeway can use pathways to walk up the mountain.  The pathway is not an easy hike, and it takes up to an hour to reach the top of the mountain.  Taking the gondola cable cars is a much faster way to ascend to the top of the mountain.

Statue found at the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway - Kinosaki, Japan

Statue found at the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway

View from the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway - Kinosaki, Japan

View from the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway

At the second station of the Ropeway you will find the Onsenji Temple and Kinosaki Art Museum.  The top most station of the Ropeway has a viewing platform.  Here you can see Kinosaki, the surrounding town, Maruyama River, and the Sea of Japan.

 

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Kinosaki

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Jizouyu Bath: 35.626658, 134.812567
Kinosaki Train Station: 35.623680, 134.813460
Goshonoyu Bath: 35.625903, 134.807370
Mandarayu Bath: 35.624462, 134.805707
Satonoyu Bath: 35.624288, 134.813457
Chaya: 35.625585, 134.804290
Kinosaki Spa Ropeway: 35.624004, 134.800590
Yanagiyu Bath: 35.675147, -224.121094
Ichinoyu Bath: 35.626448, 134.810470
Kounoyu Bath: 35.626260, 134.804486
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Jizouyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Kinosaki Train Station
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Goshonoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
御所の湯, Japan
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Mandarayu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
まんだら湯, Japan
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Satonoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
さとの湯, Japan
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Chaya
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Kinosaki Spa Ropeway
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
城崎温泉ロープウェイ, Japan
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Yanagiyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Ichinoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
一の湯, Japan
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Kounoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
鴻の湯, Japan

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Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan

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Osaka is the city often overlooked by visitors to the country of Japan. The flashier Tokyo or the temples of Kyoto draw millions of tourists, yet those that stay away from Osaka are missing out. Walk around Osaka and you will find yourself in a beautifully understated city.  Morning-to-night locals and tourists alike enjoy every corner of Osaka. As with any other top-notch city you will find plenty of shopping, great eats, wondrous sights, and an active nightlife.

With easy access from Kansai International Airport, Osaka is a great starting point for your trip. This is especially so if you are primarily focusing your trip on the Kansai region of Japan. If you have just arrived in Japan, Osaka is a great city to sync up into the rhythm of Japan and help you get over your jet lag. From Kansai International Airport take the Kansai Airport Express JR Haruka and you will reach Osaka within an hour.

Numbers of Days to Spend in Osaka

Although Osaka is not nearly as overwhelming in size and scope as Tokyo, you will still need at least three full days to capture the essence of the city. Two days are only enough if your focus is on sightseeing, as Osaka has fewer sights than Tokyo or Kyoto. If you enjoy eating and shopping, two days will go by in the blink of an eye. To truly experience Osaka you will be happy you added a third or even a fourth day in this relaxed and laid back big city. Osaka has multiple districts and you might miss a couple of districts if you are trying to cram everything of import into just two days.

Those that enjoy the nightlife will want to schedule their trip to Osaka to coincide with the weekends. Fridays and Saturdays are popular nights with people enjoying the city late into the evening and into the next morning. Partygoers will find plenty of bars and clubs in the city. Even late at night, popular restaurants have long lines of foodies and partygoers looking to fuel up on good food. Or if the evening air is warm enjoy walking the streets and the water-lined walkways of Dotonbori canal while soaking in the atmosphere that is Osaka.

Osaka Castle Park

The top sight in Osaka is Osaka Castle Park. The grounds of the Park are free to visitors. From the grounds you can get great photos of the various buildings on the grounds, including the main Castle itself. Entry into the Castle will cost an admission fee. Osaka Castle Park is a great place to visit during the spring or fall time. At those times of the year the grounds come alive with cherry blossoms or the autumn colors of the turning of the tree leaves.

Umeda Sky Building

Visit the Umeda Sky Building for amazing views of the city. This architectural astonishment, in the shape of an upside-down U, has a viewing platform on the very top floor. Ride an elevator, followed by a short escalator ride, to the 173rd floor and the Floating Garden Observatory. Take in views of the city by sitting inside on the various seating available or by heading outside to stand on the viewing platform. Whether inside or outside, you will be in for a treat, with stunning panoramic views of the city of Osaka.

After you’ve enjoyed the views of the city, ride the elevator to the bottom of the Umeda Sky Building. Under the Umeda Sky Building you will find Takimi Koji Alley. This floor is a recreation of an old Japanese town, with “streets” that house various restaurants and izakaya. Enjoy this peaceful section of Osaka as you stroll the “streets” and unwind while eating fantastically good food.

Dotonbori Walk

Dotonbori, or Dotombori, is one of the main districts of Osaka. This popular part of town runs along the Dotonbori canal, making this a picturesque part of the city to walk. Dotonbori is close to a section of the city known as Amerika-Mura. Here you will find a hip youthful vibe with stores selling new and used/vintage clothes. For neon lights, restaurants with big signs made to appear as food, and more shops visit the parts of Ebisu-bashi and Dotonbori Arcade. For even more stores you can stop by Shinsaibashi Station. If you need a break from the active buzz of the city, be sure to visit Hozen-ji Temple, a serene spot in the city.

Namba Yasaka shrine - Osaka, Japan

Namba Yasaka shrine

Osaka Shrines

The shrines of Osaka are peaceful oases in the bustling city. If you visit only one shrine, be sure to visit Namba Yasaka. The grounds for this Shinto shrine are small but the massive lion head makes the trip worthwhile. Use the time at the shrine for peaceful contemplation before heading back into the city.

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Osaka Sights

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Osaka Castle Park: 34.687315, 135.526201
Umeda Sky Building: 34.705384, 135.489614
Dotonbori: 34.668515, 135.502552
Ebisu-bashi: 34.669054, 135.501296
Shinsaibashi Station: 34.674413, 135.500310
Hozen-ji Temple: 34.667877, 135.502613
Namba Yasaka Shrine: 34.661625, 135.496691
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Osaka Castle Park
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Osaka Castle Park, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Umeda Sky Building
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Umeda Sky Building, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Dotonbori
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Dotonbori, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Ebisu-bashi
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Ebisubashi, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Shinsaibashi Station
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Shinsaibashi Station, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Hozen-ji Temple
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Hōzen-ji Temple, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Namba Yasaka Shrine
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Nanbayasaka Shrine, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan

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Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours

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During a trip to Vancouver we found ourselves with a day with nothing planned. To fill that day we researched what day trips we could do from Vancouver. We took a look at the map of British Columbia and one city jumped out at us, the iconic ski resort of Whistler. Even though our visit was during the springtime, we knew we still wanted to travel to Whistler.

We didn’t have a rental car and had to explore other options for reaching Whistler. It was our understanding that a train ride in Canada is a great way to see the country’s landscape. As appealing as that sounded a train from Vancouver takes an entire day to reach Whistler and we’d have to spend the night in Whistler. To keep the visit to one day we had only one practical choice, riding a bus service to our destination.

Gray Line Tour Bus - British Columbia, Canada

Gray Line Tour Bus

Gray Line Tours

A few companies offer direct bus service between Vancouver and Whistler but we opted for the tour company Gray Line. Gray Line has a 10-hour tour with stops at Whistler and Shannon Falls. We’d used Gray Line before in other parts of the world and knew how reputable a company they are. By choosing Gray Line we knew we’d have the opportunity to stop at other places besides Whistler and be escorted by a knowledgeable guide.

On the day of our excursion the Gray Line bus arrived at our hotel in the morning. Our driver/tour guide for the day was Jack, a Canadian who’d lived in Vancouver his entire life. After we got on the Gray Line bus Jack continued on to pick up the other tour travelers from their respective hotels. With everyone on board Jack made his way through Downtown Vancouver. Along the way Jack pointed out sights and added historical commentary related to the various regions we passed. At this point in our trip we’d been in Vancouver a few days. The insights provided by Jack added clarity and perspective to the sights and districts we’d seen and visited on the days prior. Once out of Downtown Vancouver the bus made its way to Highway 99, the Sea to Sky Highway, and the main road to Whistler.

Porteau Cove - British Columbia, Canada

Porteau Cove

Howe Sound - Porteau Cove Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

View of Howe Sound from Porteau Cove Provincial Park

Sea to Sky Highway 99

With traffic being light the morning of our tour our driver/tour guide Jack made extra stops along the way to Whistler. These stops were a pleasant surprise since they did not appear on the original itinerary. The first of these stops was Porteau Cove, a provincial marine park. At Porteau Cove locals can camp by the waterfront or launch boats from the dock. Visitors to Porteau Cove see stunning views of Howe Sound, crystal blue water, and towering green trees.   Those lucky enough to visit Porteau Cove after dark can stargaze on cloudless nights. They might even have the chance at viewing the Aurora Borealis during the right parts of the year.

After Porteau Cove we made our way to our first official itinerary stop, the Squamish Adventure Centre. Those traveling through this region with a rental car will want to stop at the Squamish Adventure Centre. The Visitor Centre has information, brochures, and a booking desk for those looking to partake in outdoor activities. Those interested in the history of the First Nations, Canada’s indigenous people, will find informational exhibits throughout the Centre. In addition, the Squamish Adventure Centre has restrooms, a cafe, and a gift shop.

Squamish Adventure Centre - Squamish, British Columbia, Canada

Squamish Adventure Centre

Alexander Falls - Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Alexander Falls

Whistler Olympic Park and Alexander Falls

With time still in our favor from the lack of traffic we made an unscheduled detour up a road that leads to the Whistler Olympic Park. The Olympic Park was the location for many of the athletic events for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Close to Olympic Park is a waterfall called Alexander Falls. Our bus parked in a gravel lot with access to a viewing platform. Without having to hike we walked to the platform and had a direct view of the waterfall.

As we walked back to the Gray Line bus one of our travel mates pointed out something the rest of us had missed. In a grove of trees a good distance from the parking lot the tops of massive trees were swaying even though there was no breeze. Our eagle-eyed companion had spotted a black bear and her cub that had climbed up to the top of the tree. Although the bears were a good distance from the bus, we could still see them well enough from our location. To see bears in their natural habitat awed the bus full of city folks and we knew we’d gotten more than our money’s worth for this tour.

Whistler Village - Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Whistler Village

Hunter’s Bowl at Stonesedge Kitchen - Whistler Village, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Hunter’s Bowl at Stonesedge Kitchen

Roast Duck Mac N Cheese at Stonesedge Kitchen - Whistler Village, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Roast Duck Mac N Cheese at Stonesedge Kitchen

Whistler Village

From Alexander Falls the Gray Line bus made its way to Whistler Village. The sprawling pedestrian avenues of Whistler Village beckoned us with its stores and restaurants. We’d arrived in Whistler Village at noon and had three hours to ourselves to explore Whistler. Our first order of business was lunch and for that we went to Stonesedge Kitchen. This restaurant prides itself in serving “comfort food” and it did not disappoint. We ordered the Hunter’s Bowl and the Roast Duck Mac N Cheese. The Hunter’s Bowl has venison with rigatoni, mixed in a tomato cream sauce. Besides the dishes we ordered two beers from a local brewery, Whistler Brewing Company. We had the Bear Paw Honey Lager and the Whiskey Jack Ale. The beers paired great with our dishes and we left Stonesedge Kitchen satisfied, renewed, and ready to tackle Whistler Village.

Walk around Whistler Village and you can’t help being smitten with the quaint and charming buildings. Even in springtime the chalet architecture gives you the sense you are in a snowy wonderland. You might think that Whistler Village in the springtime is a ghost town. It turns out the opposite is true as every store and restaurant was open for business with plenty of vacationing folks walking the pedestrian pathways. Even the ski lifts were operational, allowing visitors the chance to reach the top of the mountains for gorgeous views. Plus in the springtime there may still be snow on the top of the mountains and even limited skiing available.

Ski lifts at Whistler Village - Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Ski lifts at Whistler Village

Rebagliati Park - Whistler Village, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Rebagliati Park

Whistler Olympic Plaza

Throughout Whistler Village walkways connect the various hotel properties. These non-strenuous walks take you by roaring streams and tall trees such as those found in Rebagliati Park. Around the various hotels you will find more shops and restaurants. First-time visitors will want to see the Whistler Olympic Plaza. The original use for this location was for the medal ceremonies during the Whistler Olympics. Now people come to Olympic Plaza for concerts, to hangout, relax, and soak in the surrounding views of nature. The Olympic Plaza is home to the Olympic Rings, a perfect photo spot. Near the Olympic Rings are plaques listing each of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games medalists.

Whistler Olympic Plaza - Whistler Village, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Whistler Olympic Plaza

Whistler Olympic Rings - Whistler Village, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Whistler Olympic Rings

Shannon Falls

After an afternoon in Whistler Village we boarded the Gray Line bus and began the ride back to Vancouver. Along the way, again on the Sea to Sky Highway, we stopped at a scenic viewpoint. Here we had panoramic views of snow-capped mountain ranges and fields of green trees. From the viewpoint the bus took us to the last of the scheduled itinerary stops, Shannon Falls. A short walk from the parking lot led us to a viewing platform where we could gaze at the waterfall. We were fortunate that we undertook this tour in the springtime. The recent winter’s snow had melted off the surrounding mountains. That was why the waterfalls, rivers, and creeks we’d encountered during the day’s trips were full of rushing water. Shannon Falls was no exception, and magnificent to view.

Sea to Sky Highway 99 Viewpoint - British Columbia, Canada

Viewpoint along the Sea to Sky Highway 99

Shannon Falls - British Columbia, Canada

Shannon Falls

From Shannon Falls our driver/tour guide Jack drove us back to Vancouver. Along the way he made one last diversion through West Vancouver, offering us views of local neighborhoods and the skyline of Downtown Vancouver. From West Vancouver Jack deposited travelers back to their respective hotels. Everyone one of us left the tour bus with smiles on our faces. Each of these added stops and detours made our trip to Whistler extra special. On a direct bus we’d have seen just Downtown Vancouver and Whistler Village. If you plan on visiting Vancouver and have a day with nothing planned we recommend you explore Whistler with Gray Line Tours.

View of the skyline of Downtown Vancouver from West Vancouver - Vancouver; British Columbia, Canada

View of the skyline of Downtown Vancouver from West Vancouver

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Gray Line Tours - From Vancouver to Whistler

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Porteau Cove Provincial Park: 49.557121, -123.236311
Squamish Adventure Centre: 49.707029, -123.145871
Whistler Olympic Park: 50.139143, -123.113705
Alexander Falls: 50.135199, -123.127904
Whistler Village: 50.115743, -122.956334
Stonesedge Kitchen: 50.114190, -122.956994
Rebagliati Park: 50.115830, -122.950342
Whistler Olympic Plaza: 50.118817, -122.954993
Shannon Falls: 49.669969, -123.156460
West Vancouver: 49.334897, -123.166785
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Porteau Cove Provincial Park
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Porteau Cove Provincial Park, Squamish-Lillooet D, BC, Canada
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Squamish Adventure Centre
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Squamish Adventure Centre, Loggers Lane, Squamish, BC, Canada
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Whistler Olympic Park
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Whistler Olympic Park, Callaghan Road, Whistler, BC, Canada
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Alexander Falls
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Alexander Falls, Squamish-Lillooet D, British Columbia, Canada
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Whistler Village
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Whistler Village, BC, Gate Way Drive, Whistler, BC, Canada
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Stonesedge Kitchen
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Stonesedge Kitchen, Whistler, BC, Canada
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Rebagliati Park
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Rebagliati Park, Whistler, BC, Canada
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Whistler Olympic Plaza
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Whistler Olympic Plaza, Village Stroll, Whistler, BC, Canada
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Shannon Falls
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Shannon Falls, Squamish, British Columbia, Canada
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West Vancouver
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
West Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada

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Canada’s city of Victoria makes for a wonderful day trip with multiple daily sailings by ferry from Vancouver and Seattle, Washington. Tourists can board a ferry in the morning, enjoy the majority of the day exploring Victoria, and sail back in the evening. Spend your day wandering the streets of Victoria, taking in sights such as the Fairmont Empress, Chinatown, and BC Legislature. Visit Victoria for yet another slice of what British Columbia has to offer visitors.

The Start of Your Day in Victoria

A good spot to begin your day at in Victoria is at the British Columbia Legislature. These impressive buildings house the Parliament for this region of Canada. The buildings are open to the public during the weekday. Walk into the building to admire the ornate stained glass windows and colorful murals adorning the inner lining of the rotunda. Inside the building you will see artifacts such as the Coat of Arms of British Columbia and a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Once back outside walk around the grounds in front of the BC Legislature for various statues and a Totem Pole.

From the BC Legislature, museum and history buffs will want to visit the Royal BC Museum. This museum is known for its extensive collection of artifacts from the First People of Canada. Behind the main building for the Royal BC Museum you will find a grove of Totem Poles. Near the Totem Poles are the historic sites of Helmcken House and St. Ann’s Schoolhouse, both managed by the Royal BC Museum. Helmcken House was home to a prominent politician in Canadian history, Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken. Within the Helmcken House you’ll see colonial age furniture. Next-door to Helmcken House is St. Ann’s Schoolhouse, one of the oldest log cabins in western Canada.

After visiting BC Legislature, the Royal BC Museum, and the other historical sites nearby, walk three minutes on Government Street to the Fairmont Empress. Ever since opening in 1908 this fancy hotel has welcomed guests to stay in their ornate rooms or spend time enjoying afternoon tea. Across from the Fairmont Empress you will find the official tourism office for Victoria. The Victoria Visitor Centre is a good place to pick up maps and specific information on sights found in Victoria.

Downtown Victoria

The Fairmont Empress is next to the Downtown district of Victoria. You’ll reach the main section of Downtown by staying on Government Street. Around Government Street and the surrounding streets you will find different types of artwork, statues, and historical buildings such as St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Besides the sights Downtown is home to many restaurants and shops and is a great place for souvenir shopping. Among the shops and restaurants you’ll find Canadian specific brands, such as the clothing store Roots and the fast food restaurant Tim Hortons.

When you’re ready for a food break if you are by the water head to Red Fish Blue Fish. Fans of seafood will find this shack off Wharf Street a great place to eat. Order from a menu that includes fish and chips, fish sandwiches, and tacones. For the uninitiated tacones are hand rolled tacos made with fresh tortilla and your choice of seafood such as salmon or tuna. The fish sandwiches center around a bread roll reminiscent of a hot dog bun, filled with your choice of salmon, fried oysters, tempura cod, or tempura salmon. While you eat your scrumptious meal enjoy the view of the water, boats, and wharf.

Chinatown

Stretching back as far as 1858, Victoria is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown. Located north of the Fairmont Empress, Chinatown centers on Fisgard Street. Here you will find more shops and restaurants to explore. A popular tourist sight in Chinatown is Fan Tan Alley. Between Fisgard Street and Pandora Avenue, Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest street in Canada. Tourists enjoy walking through Fan Tan Alley and taking photos of themselves and others touching both sides of the Alley’s walls. Besides shops and restaurants you’ll find many coffee and tea houses to choose from if you’re ready for a drink and a break.

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Victoria - Canada

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BC Legislature: 48.419617, -123.370285
Royal BC Museum: 48.419811, -123.367450
Helmcken House: 48.419630, -123.367024
St. Ann’s Schoolhouse: 48.419952, -123.366691
Fairmont Empress: 48.421667, -123.367847
Victoria Visitor Centre: 48.422834, -123.368810
St. Andrew’s Cathedral: 48.425384, -123.363310
Red Fish Blue Fish: 48.424363, -123.370325
Fan Tan Alley: 48.428543, -123.367918
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BC Legislature
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
British Columbia Legislature, Belleville Street, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
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Royal BC Museum
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Royal BC Museum, Belleville Street, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Helmcken House
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Helmcken House Pioneer Doctor's Residence, Victoria, BC, Canada
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St. Ann’s Schoolhouse
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Helmcken House Pioneer Doctor's Residence, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Fairmont Empress
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Fairmont Empress, Government Street, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Victoria Visitor Centre
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Visitor Centre - Tourism Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
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St. Andrew’s Cathedral
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
St. Andrew's Cathedral, View Street, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Red Fish Blue Fish
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Red Fish Blue Fish, Wharf Street, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Fan Tan Alley
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Fan-Tan Alley, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Vancouver’s Granville Island

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Granville Island in Vancouver is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Set along the waters of False Creek, Granville Island offers visitors scenic views. Spend the day shopping or eating at the various stalls within the Public Market or in the surrounding buildings. Unwind while perusing galleries or drinking beer at the Granville Island Brewery. Enjoy the waterfront while strolling along nearby Island Park Walk. Granville Island has so much to offer that tourists will find it one of the top highlights of their trip.

Getting to Granville Island

Tourists planning to visit Granville Island will arrive either by car, bus, or boat. Granville Island is accessible by car but you will be fighting with other drivers for the few parking spots available. The better plan is to arrive at Granville Island by bus or by boat. To get from Downtown to Granville Island you will board the #50 bus. The route for bus #50 runs through various Vancouver districts. Visitors staying in and around Gastown, Chinatown, Downtown, or Yaletown will take bus #50 southbound. Hop on the #50 bus labeled False Creek via Granville Island and exit at the W 2 Ave at Anderson Street stop. From the bus stop it will be a four-minute stroll to Granville Island via Old Bridge Walk.

A unique way to reach Granville Island is via boat on the waters of False Creek. Two boat companies sail along False Creek, Aquabus and False Creek Ferry. Both boat companies have eight docking locations along the waters of False Creek. You can catch one of the boats in popular tourist locations such as Yaletown or near BC Place at the Plaza of Nations. Boats land at each of the docks every 15 minutes so you won’t have to wait very long to catch the next boat. The simplest thing to do is arrive at the dock and hop on to whichever boat company arrives first.

Once on board you’ll pay the driver the fare to ride the boat. The boats hold between twelve and twenty passengers at a time. Passengers sit on benches next to windows so everyone has a view during the ride. The boats sail quietly along the waters of False Creek and offer a relaxing journey while sailing past the buildings of Vancouver. Exit the boat at the Granville Island dock. From the dock you are steps away from the main building for the Granville Island Public Market.

Granville Island Public Market

The most popular place to visit on Granville Island is the Public Market. Inside this building you will find a vast array of vendors. You can buy baskets of various fruits or bouquets of flowers. Other vendors sell pastries and bread still warm from the oven. Locals decide between fresh pasta and ravioli to bring home to cook later. It’s easy to check off your grocery list at the Public Market.

A few vendors at the Public Market sell food products you can eat on site. Lee’s Donuts is a must for those with an inclination towards fried dough. The Honey Dip Donut is a popular choice and tastes delicious. Enjoy your food with a cup of coffee from either JJ Bean or Petit Ami. If you are in the mood for more pastries and heartier fare stop at Laurelle’s Fine Foods. Laurelle’s is a bakery deli that sells meat pies and muffins. The dough on the meat pies flake right off and melt in your mouth.

Next to the Public Market are more buildings full of shops, galleries, and other food options. Those who wish to sample a local beer will want to swing by Granville Island Brewing. To maximize your tasting opportunity order a flight which allows you to sample up to four different beers. The Island Lager is their original beer and a fan favorite. For a true Canadian experience be sure to sample the Maple Shack Cream Ale. In addition to beer Granville Island Brewing offers a food menu with dishes such as poutine.

Island Park Walk

After you’re finished with Granville Island head to nearby Island Park Walk. This path just on the other side of Granville Island offers views of Granville Island plus residential homes and boats docked at the harbor. The path is especially stunning in the fall time when the leaves have changed colors. Here along the path visitors can dream of living next to Granville Island. Imagine waking up on a weekend morning and heading over to pick up items for brunch at the Public Market.

If daydreaming leaves you famished, at the end of Island Park Walk you will find Go Fish. This popular eatery sells quality seafood dishes from a simple shack. For fried golden perfection order the classic fish and chips. Or try the fish sandwich with either seared ahi tuna or salmon. Afterwards take Island Park Walk back the way you came towards either the #50 bus or to the Ferry Creek docks to catch the next boat home.

 

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Granville Island

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Granville Island 49.270622, -123.134741 Overview of Vancouver, Canada and Vancouver’s Granville Island

 

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Overview of Vancouver, Canada

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Ask ten different people what their favorite thing to do in the Canadian city of Vancouver is and you are likely to get ten different answers. The reason you get varied responses stems from the fact that few places in the world compare to Vancouver. To the casual observer Vancouver is just another metropolitan city. Yet Vancouver differs from other major cities because it embodies diversity. In one day visitors can hike Stanley Park in the morning and then shop Downtown among the masses in the afternoon. Foodies buy produce at Granville Island one moment and enjoy fine dining in Yaletown the next. Convention goers attend meetings at Canada Place and then lounge waterside at English Bay Beach. Tourists walk historic Gastown before slurping noodles in Chinatown. These dichotomies exist in harmony with the diverse people of Vancouver.

With something for everyone Vancouver as a tourist destination appeals to even the most discerning of travelers. First time travelers looking at a map of Vancouver might notice that the city looks like an oyster shell. As anyone who loves oysters knows, you’ll want to crack that shell open and dig into what Vancouver offers. Vancouver isn’t a difficult city to navigate but the easiest way to get oriented is to begin somewhat in the middle of the city in the Downtown district. Downtown is home to the financial and business districts of the city. Among the skyscrapers you will find the Vancouver Central Library. This stunning building is an architectural contrast to the stark skyscrapers. In Downtown you’ll want to make your way to Robson Street. This is one of the main thoroughfares in Vancouver and stretches the length of the city.

On one end of Robson Street is BC Place, a stadium where one can catch either a sporting or musical event. Continuing on and around Robson Street you’ll find a variety of shops. A number of the stores are global brands but a few, such as Roots, are Canadian brands. Few tourists will walk the entirety of Robson Street, but those that do wind up at Stanley Park. If you don’t wish to walk, or don’t have a car, you will reach Stanley Park by bus. Stanley Park is a massive public space with paved paths for bicyclists, roller bladders, and walkers. Here visitors enjoy trees, totem poles, and the waters of the Vancouver Harbour.

To the east of Downtown you will find Canada Place. If you arrived by cruise ship, you will have most likely disembarked at this spot. Besides being a cruise ship terminal, Canada Place is home to a convention center and hotel. Near Canada Place is the oldest neighborhood in the city, the historic Gastown. First time tourists visit Gastown at least once, to see the Steam Clock and a chance to shop for souvenirs. Next to Gastown is Canada’s largest Chinatown. Vancouver’s Chinatown traces its history back to 1885 and to this day is full of shops and restaurants. While in Chinatown you will want to visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. This tranquil spot is a wonderful place to recharge and center oneself.

West of Downtown, in simplest terms, is synonymous with food. The regions of the West End and Yaletown are quintessential foodie neighborhoods. Here you will find well-established diners among up and coming restaurants. Further west, across the waters of False Creek, is Granville Island. Here at the Granville Island Public Market are vendors galore. Visitors can buy fresh produce, straight out of the oven breads and pastries, and a plethora of other food products.

Regardless of how you spend your time in Vancouver you will find navigating the city easy. Those who enjoy walking will find wide avenues and flat surfaces. Bus routes traverse throughout the entire city. Ferries sail to Granville Island or further afield to places such as the city of Victoria. Vancouver’s rapid transit system, SkyTrain, runs through parts of Downtown. The SkyTrain connects Vancouver to the cities of Burnaby, New Westminister, Surrey, and Richmond. For those arriving in Vancouver by airplane, the SkyTrain’s Canada Line will get you from Vancouver International Airport to your destination in no time.

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Vancouver

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Vancouver Central Library: 49.279754, -123.115679
Robson Street: 49.284605, -123.124824
BC Place: 49.276750, -123.111999
Stanley Park: 49.298319, -123.137684
Canada Place: 49.289124, -123.116498
Gastown: 49.282808, -123.106688
Chinatown: 49.280600, -123.100553
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden: 49.279649, -123.103913
West End: 49.285646, -123.130621
Yaletown: 49.275702, -123.119907
Granville Island: 49.270622, -123.134741
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Vancouver Central Library
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver Public Library- Central Branch, West Georgia Street, Central, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Robson Street
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Robson Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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BC Place
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
BC Place, Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Stanley Park
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
and
Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park

Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Canada Place
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver Convention Centre West Building, Canada Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Gastown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Gastown, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Chinatown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Chinatown, East Pender Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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West End
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
West End, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Yaletown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Yaletown, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Granville Island

Overview of Vancouver, Canada
and
Vancouver’s Granville Island


Granville Island, Vancouver, BC, Canada

 

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Big Island Beaches

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The beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii are as picturesque and popular as the beaches found in the state’s other islands. Travelers staying on the Kona side of the Big Island have three distinct beaches they should plan to visit. Three Big Island beaches worth soaking up the sun’s rays at are Anaehoʻomalu Bay, Hapuna Beach, and Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park.

Anaehoʻomalu Bay - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Anaehoʻomalu Bay

Anaehoʻomalu Bay

Anaehoʻomalu Bay stretches along the west coast of the Big Island. A section of the Bay connects to the Waikoloa Resorts, including the Hilton Waikoloa Village and Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa. With portions of Anaehoʻomalu Bay being attached to the Waikoloa Resorts the Bay is often referred to as Waikoloa Beach. The part of Anaehoʻomalu Bay that is closest to the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa includes an inlet of water. Between the inlet and the Pacific Ocean is a stretch of sand for beachgoers to enjoy.   The contrast of the Bay along with the Pacific Ocean and the narrow stretch of sand provides a perfect setting for photos. In fact, the entire Anaehoʻomalu Bay is a great place to view the magical sunsets of Hawaii. Near the beach Anaehoʻomalu Bay has trails that lead through lava rock. Among the lava rock are tide pools and petroglyphs. Any time you see ancient petroglyphs you know you are on sacred land and should not step on those rocks. Enjoy your time at Anaehoʻomalu Bay by strolling through the lava rock trails or relaxing on the beach.

Anaehoʻomalu Bay - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Anaehoʻomalu Bay

Sunset at Anaehoʻomalu Bay - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Sunset at Anaehoʻomalu Bay

Hapuna Beach

The Northwest coast of the Big Island is home to the Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area. As one of the few actual white sand Big Island beaches, Hapuna Beach is popular with locals and tourists. The white sand is so soft that beachgoers find it hard to leave Hapuna Beach. Since Hapuna Beach is popular arrive early if you want to claim a spot to lounge on for the duration of the day. Besides sand Hapuna Beach offers picnic tables for those who might bring their own food and wish to eat while watching the Pacific Ocean waves. Although the beach now is only for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking the beach has an interesting history. The military conducted training sessions on Hapuna Beach during World War II. Even to this day due to these training sessions sometimes pieces of old ordnance, or artillery, will wash up on shore. Warning signs even great visitors to Hapuna Beach alerting them of the possibility of unexploded ordnance. Sweeps for ordnance occur on a routine basis ever since the military ceased training sessions on Hapuna Beach. If in the rare case that you find a piece of ordnance do not touch it. Contact the authorities by calling 911 and let them handle the ordnance.

Hapuna Beach - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Hapuna Beach

Punalu’u Beach

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park is often referred to as Punalu’u Beach or Black Sand Beach. The Punalu’u Beach is on the southern part of the Big Island. Although not on the Kona side of the Big Island the black sand found at this beach make this a worthwhile drive. The drive from central Kona is an hour and forty minutes. Visitors staying in Hilo can reach Punalu’u Beach in an hour and fifteen minutes. Long ago lava flowing into the ocean created the black sand. Around the black sound is lava rock that extends into the ocean. With the lava rock so prominent once you wade into the water you find that the ground is full of rocks. This makes swimming in the Pacific Ocean here a challenge. Besides experiencing the unique black sand, Punalu’u Beach is home to sea turtles. The sea turtles are an endangered species and protected by state and federal law. This means that people may not disturb the sea turtles. Visitors must stay at least 25 feet away from the turtles. You may take photos of the turtles but do not engage these rare creatures. Leave the turtles to bask in the sun and enjoy the nature along with them.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Park - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park

 

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Big Island Beaches

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Anaehoomalu Bay: 19.916124, -155.893224
Hapuna Beach: 19.990617, -155.825596
Punaluu Black Sand Beach: 19.136057, -155.505065
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Anaehoomalu Bay
Big Island Beaches
Anaehoomalu Bay, Puako, HI, United States
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Hapuna Beach
Big Island Beaches
Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, Waimea, HI, United States
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Punaluu Black Sand Beach
Big Island Beaches
Punaluu Black Sand Beach Park, Pahala, HI, United States

 

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Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii

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Locals and visitors to the state of Hawaii can attest that Hawaii encapsulates tropical serenity. The views of paradise stretch from lush green hills to white sandy beaches and warm ocean waters. Hawaii’s main islands for tourists are Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Island of Hawaii. The Island of Hawaii, referred to as the Big Island, is the largest of the islands. Visitors to the Big Island will be in for a topographical shock. Other Hawaiian islands are awash in swaths of greenery. Upon landing on the Big Island you will notice lava rock stretching for miles. The lava rock throughout the island reminds you of the surface of the moon. Yet the entire island is not just visible lava rock. There are lush hills and green trees aplenty. The Island of Hawaii is diverse not only in its topography but in its climate. One could start their day at the top of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, and on this the tallest peak on the Big Island see snow. In the afternoon you can warm up by flying over an active volcano or sunbathe at a black sand beach with turtles. Regardless how one spends their time on the Big Island the best way to end the day is by watching a sunset at one of the soft white sand beaches.

The Big Island: Hilo and Kona

To reach this island paradise visitors will arrive at either of the two main cities, Hilo on the eastern side of the island and Kona on the west. The fastest way between the two cities cuts through the island and is a 77-mile drive taking an hour and forty minutes. Another route includes more time by the coast but is over 90-miles and takes closer to two hours to drive. As the two cities aren’t close most visitors will choose to stay in one city their entire time. Others will decide to begin their trip in one city and then end up in the other. Hilo and Kona have their own airports. If you wish to see both cities the most time economical approach is to fly into one city and fly out from the other city. Hilo leans more towards the local scene with bed and breakfasts. It is the city to stay in for those wishing to explore the Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park. The Volcanoes National Park is an hour away from Hilo versus two and a half hours from Kona. Kona has big hotel resorts and is within driving distance of many coffee farms. Most tourists stay on the Kona side of the island. With a rental car staying in Kona affords you the luxury to visit coffee farms, beaches, scenic overlooks, and petroglyphs. Not to mention go shopping and explore the historic districts of Kailua Village and Kainaliu.

Kona International Airport - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Kona International Airport

Kona International Airport

Kona International Airport is a tiny outdoor airport. Exiting your plane and feeling the warm island breeze is a great Hawaiian welcome. It’s not a perfect greeting when it’s raining so whether you are landing or waiting to leave keep an umbrella handy just in case. If you are renting a car follow the signs to the rental car van pick up location. You’ll be on your way to the rental car agency in no time. The airport has minimal shopping or dining options. When flying out if you plan on arriving early and want to eat at the airport consider bringing a lunch plate with you from a local restaurant.

Kiholo Bay Scenic Overlook - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Kiholo Bay Scenic Overlook

Kona Scenic Overlooks

Routes 19 and 11 will be your primary highway arteries as you navigate the Kona coast. Each route has a scenic overlook worth the stop. On Route 19 the Kiholo Bay Scenic Overlook Point is a great place to view Kiholo Bay and the surrounding lava fields. On Route 11 is the Kona Coast Scenic Overlook. Besides the ocean view you will find the Ohi’a Lava Tube Caves. This historic preserve of lava tubes run underneath the ground from the spot of the overlook to the ocean. Although access to the tubes is off-limits the lava rock and ocean in the distance make for striking photos.

Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve

Kona Sights and Shopping

Close to the Waikoloa Beach Resorts is part of the Ala Loa Trail, or Kings Trail. This trail, once used for horse travel, leads travelers to the Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve. At the Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve you will find ancient rock carvings on sacred land. Visitors must stay on the well-marked trails, as tourists may not walk or climb on the sacred rocks. The trails are not paved so wear comfortable and sturdy shoes. Besides petroglyphs you will see cave shelters and rock shelters. For those staying at the Waikoloa Beach Resorts you will access the Kings Trail and Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve by foot. Visitors from other hotels may park at the nearby Queens’ Market Place or Kings’ Shops. Shoppers will want to spend time exploring the stores and restaurants offered at both the Queens’ Market Place and Kings’ Shops.

Mokuaikaua Church - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Mokuaikaua Church

Kona Historic Districts

The historic district of Kailua Village Kona is off Ali’I Drive. Ali’I Drive is where the Ironman Triathlon competition starts and finishes.   Kailua Village and Ali’I Drive have two historical buildings. Visitors will pass by the Huliheʻe Palace, a museum that was once a vacation home for Hawaiian royalty. Close by is Hawaii’s first church on the islands, Mokuaikaua Church. Visitors stroll along Ali’I Drive while enjoying the waterfront and exploring the various stores and restaurants. Kona’s Farmers Market is a favorite tourist stop with over forty vendors selling souvenirs, flowers, and fresh fruits.

Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store, Dirty Balls - Milk Chocolate Covered Mac Nuts - Kealakekua, Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store, Dirty Balls – Milk Chocolate Covered Mac Nuts

Another nearby historic district is Kainaliu off Route 11. Kainaliu is an old plantation town that is now home to specialty stores and restaurants. A popular store is the Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store. The store sells packets of various chocolate covered macadamia nuts named by using puns. You’ll find the labels on the packaging either hilarious or offensive. Puns aside the chocolate covered macadamia nuts inside the packages are delicious morsels that make for great souvenirs. Besides sweets The Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store sells a variety of BBQ rubs, packaged in the same witty style as the macadamia nuts.

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Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii

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Mauna Kea: 19.820611, -155.468094
Hilo Airport: 19.718834, -155.041687
Kona International Airport: 19.736916, -156.042925
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 19.419370, -155.288497
Kiholo Bay Scenic Overlook Point: 19.841805, -155.921574
Kona Coast Scenic Overlook and Ohi\'a Lava Tube Caves: 19.574186, -155.958996
Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve: 19.916992, -155.880135
Queens\' Market Place: 19.913617, -155.880590
Kings\' Shops: 19.916323, -155.882090
Kailua Village Kona: 19.637090, -155.990203
Huliheʻe Palace: 19.639334, -155.994352
Mokuaikaua Church: 19.639574, -155.993832
Kona Farmers Market: 19.637065, -155.991840
Kainaliu: 19.533105, -155.926751
Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store: 19.531545, -155.925824
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Mauna Kea
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Mauna Kea, Hawaii County, HI, United States
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Hilo Airport
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Hilo Airport, Kekuanaoa Street, Hilo, HI, United States
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Kona International Airport
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Kona International Airport, Kupipi Street, Kona, HI, United States
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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI, United States
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Kiholo Bay Scenic Overlook Point
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Kīholo Bay, North Kona, HI, United States
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Kona Coast Scenic Overlook and Ohi'a Lava Tube Caves
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Keauhou, Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
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Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve, Waikoloa Village, HI, United States
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Queens' Market Place
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Queens' MarketPlace, Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa Village, HI, United States
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Kings' Shops
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Kings' Shops, Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa Village, HI, United States
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Kailua Village Kona
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Kailua Village, Kuakini Highway, Kona, HI, United States
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Huliheʻe Palace
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Hulihe‘e Palace, Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
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Mokuaikaua Church
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Mokuaikaua Church, Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
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Kona Farmers Market
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Kona Farmers Market, Ali'i Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
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Kainaliu
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Kainaliu Union, Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, HI, United States
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Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store., Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, HI, United States

 

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