Maui Volcano Tour with Valley Isle Excursions

When planning a trip to the Hawaiian island of Maui, I knew I wanted to schedule a Maui volcano tour. I always thought I wanted to do the sunrise bike tour that seems to be on every traveler’s bucket list, but when I reached out to Valley Isle Excursions, they recommended their Haleakala Maui Tour, which is the newest tour on their lineup. (They are best known for their Road to Hana tour.) After passing the sunrise bike tour on our way up the mountain, I can confidently say I made the right choice. It didn’t look fun at all, as the bikes are sharing the narrow, winding road with cars driven by tourists. No thanks!

Valley Isle Excursions - Haleakala Maui Tour

Haleakala Tour Pickup

Prior to the day of my Haleakala tour, I was given a hotel pickup time of 6:40am, and on the day of the tour, the driver was waiting outside my hotel. After picking up the other guests on the tour, we stopped at a local country club for a light breakfast buffet, which is included in the price of your Haleakala tour. The breakfast is very light, fruit and muffins, so if you need a hearty breakfast, you might eat a bit beforehand, or bring along some snacks. Valley Isle explains, in response to a TripAdvisor review, that the breakfast is intentionally light due to the winding roads that all of their tours take. If you get carsick, keep this in mind as well.

Valley Isle Excursions - Haleakala Maui Tour

After breakfast, we piled into the van, where our guide, Junior, gave us an overview of the day. We each received a map and were able to follow along with all of the stops we would make during the all-day Maui tour. As a map fanatic, I loved having my own map to follow along throughout the day, as well as take notes on places I’d like to return. Our first stop was a viewpoint just outside of Kahului, where we had a great view of the entire Haleakala volcano. Junior explained to us different Polynesian customs, one of which is to seek permission from the mountain before approaching. He then brought out a ukulele, and offered up a song before heading up to the summit of Haleakala.

Valley Isle Excursions - Haleakala Maui Tour

Throughout the day, Junior was a wealth of knowledge about the island, Hawaiian history and Polynesian culture. Guides like this are the reason I prefer tours over self-guiding. I had a rental car and could have easily driven myself to the Haleakala crater, but I would have missed out on so much knowledge and background! Plus, if I’m not driving, I can safely gawk at all of the amazing scenery!

Haleakala National Park

Our Haleakala tour included many stops in Haleakala National Park, including two visitor centers and a few scenic overlook stops. The crater and summit are over 10,000 feet elevation, so be prepared for wind and cool temps! I wore a long-sleeve shirt and brought along a rain jacket for wind protection and was fine with shorts and sandals for the short periods we were out walking around. When we visited, it was cloudy and we quickly drove through and above the clouds. The landscape at the summit is so different that it looks like you are on the moon! We were in a rush, though, to beat some of the clouds rolling in, which you can see in the photos.

One of the most interesting things I learned on this Haleakala tour is that the crater is not made from a volcanic eruption, but from erosion. Of course, the mountain is a volcano, but there are different natural forces at work here, as opposed to the Big Island’s volcanoes, which are still active!

Maui Lavender Farm

After visiting all of the crater viewpoints and the summit, we made our way back down the mountain to our lunch stop at Maui Lavender Farm. Lunch was provided by Valley Isle Excursions, and we were free to wander the property while Junior got our BBQ chicken lunch ready. As usual, I was carry-on only for this trip and my luggage was bulging, or I would have spent a ton of money in the gift shop at the lavender farm. Lavender is my favorite, and they had so many great products. I did walk away with some dryer sachets and a lavender scone, though!

Maui Lavender Farm

‘Iao Valley State Monument

The next stop on our Haleakala tour is ‘Iao Valley State Monument, after driving through several small towns and through Kahului. At the I’ao Valley, we had the chance for a short hike up to a viewpoint and it was well worth the 100 steps up! Maybe it was the clouds or rain this day, but the fog hung in the area, giving everything a mystical feel. The scenery is straight out of Jurassic Park, and reminded me of pics I’ve seen of St. Lucia.

Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge

After a bit of hiking in the rain at ‘Iao Valley, we set off for our last stop of the day, Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, when we arrived the visitor’s center had just closed, so we missed out on some of the exhibits. The ponds, though, were still open and we started off on a walk around the ponds to see some of Hawaii’s bird life. What we saw instead was a very large black boar, which was blocking our path to hike around the ponds! Despite this hiccup, we were still able to view some of the birds before boarding the bus back to our hotels.

Kealia Pond National Wildlife RefugeBlack boar blocking our path!

All told, the Haleakala Maui tour is about 11 hours, and the tour price ($141.99 online) includes breakfast and lunch, plus water and soft drinks throughout the day. It’s a great option for those who want to see the Haleakala crater, but also would like a tour of the island of Maui. If I get back to Maui again, I would definitely join Valley Isle Excursions for their popular Road to Hana tour!

Headed to Maui? See the Haleakala Crater with Valley Isle Excursions - @hanamauitour Click To Tweet

Have you been to Maui? What was your favorite part of the island?

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Maui Volcano Tour

I was a guest of Valley Isle Excursions. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.

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Prescott: Arizona’s Christmas City

Just over 3 hours from Tucson, or 90 minutes from Phoenix, you’ll find the town of Prescott, Arizona. (Pronounced like press-kit, not pres-cott) At an elevation of 5300′, Prescott has a very different climate than the big cities of Arizona, and therefore makes an excellent weekend getaway if you’re looking for cooler weather, fall color, or winter snow! Additionally, Prescott is a super dog-friendly destination. You and your pup will have lots of options for pet friendly hotels in Prescott, AZ and dog-friendly restaurants in Prescott, AZ.

Arizona’s Christmas City

Prescott is known as Arizona’s Christmas City. I arrived just a week too early to see the holiday festivities, but the preparations were in full swing. Starting with the courthouse lighting on the first Saturday of December, followed by weekly events like a holiday parade, lighting parade and musical performances throughout the town, Christmas season is a big deal in Prescott!

Prescott Courthouse LightingCourtesy of Dave Veatch, provided by Visit Prescott

(Photo courtesy of Visit Prescott, photographer: Dave Veatch)

To get a feel for the town, first take a stroll around the Courthouse Plaza.

Each street around the square is lined with shops and restaurants, and many buildings have a ton of history dating back to the 1800’s, which you can sometimes spots on plaques throughout the downtown area.

Where to Eat in Prescott

Prescott has so many restaurant options, from your favorite chain restaurants to historic saloons serving up Western fare. There is no shortage of great places to eat, and plenty of dog-friendly restaurants in Prescott, AZ.

Prescott Station Grill and Bar

I treated myself to a nice dinner upon arrival in town, after 2 days of “road trip food.” Prescott Station has a very eclectic menu – everything from seafood, pasta, ramen, poke, elk fajitas and steaks. The service and food were both excellent. What slightly irked me was the 4% “service charge” added to all bills due to “rising healthcare costs.” It frustrates me when businesses pass along business expenses in hidden charges like this rather than just raise their prices to cover the cost of doing business. I worry that customers will think this is a tip and reduce theirs accordingly. End rant. Good food, questionable pricing strategy.

Dinner at Prescott Station

Prescott Station, Gurley St & Marina St, $40 for 1 entree + wine. Dog-friendly patio in season.

The Barley Hound

If you want a more hipster atmosphere, The Barley Hound has an interesting menu and a heated, dog-friendly patio. The Duck burger seemed to be the house specialty, so I went with that. It also came with duck-fat fries, which were pretty good. Even better when I realized the weird taste was from the curry ketchup and not the fries! It was pretty dark inside, so I had no idea what I was eating! An added bonus is an actual dog-menu – yep, your pup can have his own dish (chicken & rice or steak & rice) straight from the kitchen!

The Barley Hound, Prescott

The Barley Hound, Cortez St, $18 for a burger + soda, Dog-friendly heated patio

The Palace

The Palace is the oldest frontier saloon in Arizona, dating back to 1877. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are some of the famous patrons who used to frequent the saloon. Today, you’ll find the same old west atmosphere (including costumed wait staff) and a nice menu of typical American fare, including steaks and burgers. There is a dog-friendly patio out back, and they’ll even bring you a water dish for your pup.

The Palace on Whiskey Row, sandwiches $8-12, steaks $18-35, dog-friendly patio

 

Where to Play in Prescott

Prescott is an outdoor lover’s dream, and I anticipate returning here in the summer when Tucson weather gets too hot. There are tons of trails close to town, and if hiking is your jam, you’ll love this list the city put together complete with mileage and links to download maps here. If you feel like a drive, Prescott is just 1.5 hours from Sedona and 2.5 hours from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

Watson Lake Park

Watson Lake is super cool and deserves a spot on your Prescott itinerary. I first spotted this beauty on Instagram, and it was also recommended to me by several locals. The trail around the lake is just under 5 miles. Watson Lake also has a campground that is open from Spring through Fall. If you happen to visit in October, you might even partake in the Dogtoberfest celebrations.

Watson Lake, Prescott

Lynx Lake – Prescott National Forest

Lynx Lake is a beautiful National Forest property just 5 minutes off the main highway. There is a lovely path around the entire lake, which is just over 3 miles. In season, there are boat rentals as well. Parking is $5, unless you have a National Parks pass. This was my favorite hike in the Prescott area.

Lynx Lake hike, Prescott

Goldwater Lake

Goldwater Lake is another great spot to soak up some nature super close to downtown Prescott. There are concessions and boat rentals here as well.

Goldwater Lake, Prescott

Where to Stay in Prescott

Residence Inn Prescott

Marriott’s Residence Inn is one of my favorite dog-friendly hotel chains, but we don’t often stay in them because the $75 pet fee is a bit high for a 2-3 night stay. I love the consistency between properties and the layout of the suites always leaves me wanting to move in. I mean, I literally could live in one and be perfectly happy as there’s everything I need and nothing more! The Prescott location is just on the edge of town as you enter from Prescott Valley. It is close to shopping, dining and downtown Prescott is just minutes away. Add a hot breakfast, heated outdoor pool and complimentary grocery-shopping service – what more could anyone need? (Weekend rates starting at $179)

If you prefer a more historic lodging option, the Hassayampa Inn is a beautifully restored 1927 boutique hotel in the heart of historic downtown Prescott. Pets under 45 lbs stay for free! (Weekend rates starting at $179)

Getting to Prescott

Prescott is easy to access, no matter your mode of transportation. It’s an easy drive from anywhere in Arizona. (3 hours from Tucson or 90 minutes from Phoenix) Prescott’s airport has daily flights from Denver and Los Angeles, and the Arizona Shuttle can bring you to Prescott from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport.

Are you ready to start planning your visit to Prescott, Arizona? The Visitor’s Center website is a great place to start!

Have you heard of Arizona's Christmas City? @visit_prescott Check it out for a cool weather break… Click To Tweet

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I received a discounted media rate at the Residence Inn Prescott. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.

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Career Break Month 4 Recap

November picked up where October left off…in my Tucson Airbnb house that I rented for a month. After two weeks in this desert town, I decided to settle in to Tucson a bit longer and find an apartment! Yep, I’m moving to Tucson! I found an apartment for mid-December and signed a 6-month lease. Yikes! A few people, who have likely never traveled more than 1 or 2 weeks at a time, asked why I was stopping “so soon.” Well, for starters, it’s exhausting and expensive! I really like what I’ve seen of Tucson so far, and I want to see more, from less of a tourist perspective. I also realized I’m getting the itch for international travel again, and it seems like that would be easier to do once I have a homebase and am not living out of my car. Not to mention launching a job search from the road…doesn’t seem like a good option! Yeah, sooner or later my “pre-retirement” will come to an end 🙁

Saguaro National Park

My mom came to visit for 6 days at the beginning of the month, and we did a ton of touristy stuff. It was her first time to Tucson and even though I was only here 2 weeks, I did my research and we had a really packed week, starting with an overnight trip to the old mining town of Bisbee.

Back in Tucson, we spent one evening at the Kitt Peak Observatory, looking through giant telescopes at stars, planets and galaxies. We also visited the Sonoran Desert Museum, a must on any Tucson bucket list. (I’ll be publishing one eventually!)

We visited both units of Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, and spent some time downtown Tucson exploring the Turquoise Trail. (It’s literally a turquoise trail you follow around to various points of interest) And of course, eating so much good food, especially the abundance of Mexican food!

By mid-November, I’m settling back into my hike/swim/yoga routine. Then a cricket breached the (non-existent) barriers of the old Airbnb house I was renting. After a sleepless night, I decided to bail out of this place a week early. I probably overreacted, and maybe I was subconsciously itching to get on the road again. I don’t know, but it all worked out for the best. (Even though Airbnb was of no help since I didn’t report any issues within the first 24 hours. My host agreed to refund 50% of the nightly rate for the remaining nights.) We moved into the Sheraton Tucson for 3 nights while figuring out what do to next. It felt good to be back in a hotel again!

Sheraton Hotel Tucson

I decided to take the opportunity to head back to New Mexico. When I visited last month, I was starting to feel travel burnout and didn’t make the extra drive to White Sands National Monument. I regretted it soon afterwards, so this was a good chance to see the white sand dunes. We arrived just in time for sunset, and it was stunning! I was walking around just saying “wow” a whole bunch of times! Seriously, super cool! And dog-friendly!

White Sands National Monument

We spent the night at a cute little KOA cabin in Alamagordo, New Mexico and returned to White Sands the next day to explore a bit more. There were families sledding, and one family was posing in Santa hats, presumably for their Christmas photo. It certainly does look like winter!

Out of luck, a campaign I’d been pitching for a few months finally got finalized and I spent 3 nights in Prescott, Arizona. I loved this Northern Arizona town, especially the fall climate, and will be posting about my visit soon! I’m definitely going to be returning to Arizona’s Christmas City!

This left me with a 5-day gap before heading to Hawaii, which I decided to spend in Phoenix at the Crowne Plaza Chandler, a place I’d stayed previously for work and I had enough points for 5 nights! Chandler is a super cute suburb of Phoenix, and I just enjoyed the downtime, catching up on work and spending time at the pool, getting ready for my next two trips and the big move!

After 5 nights in Phoenix, it was finally time to head to Maui, which is where I ended the month! I arrived on the 27th and as of this post, I’m still here!

Beach at Westin Ka'anapal Ocean Resort Villas

After 6 nights in Maui, I’m headed to Chicago for a few nights. I’ll clear out my storage unit, catch up with family and then fly back to Arizona and settle in to my new apartment! It’s going to be a crazy month, and I’m certainly not anywhere near ready for the holidays, but I am excited to get back to Tucson and find a routine again!

Here’s my month in numbers:

  • Miles Driven: 2,285 (10,667 since leaving Chicago)
  • States Visited: 3 (Arizona, New Mexico, Hawaii)
  • National Parks Visited: 1 (Haleakala)
  • Hotel Nights: 17
    • Copper Queen Hotel, Bisbee, AZ (1)
    • Sheraton Inn & Suites, Tucson, AZ (3)
    • Holiday Inn Express, Deming, NM (1)
    • Residence Inn, Prescott, AZ (3)
    • Crowne Plaza Chandler, AZ (5)
    • Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort (4)
  • Campground Nights: 1
    • KOA Alamagordo
  • Airbnb Nights: 12
  • Expenses: $6,232
    • Lodging: $1,324 (Airbnb was paid in October, and 5 of my 6 Maui nights were paid for earlier this year)
    • Gas: $280
    • Food: $726
    • Bailey: $280
    • Other: $3,741 (yikes! Really high this month, partly due to paying 6 months of auto insurance, security deposits on my apartment and movers, plus hitting the mall for the first time since I left Chicago!)
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