Home Sweet Hotel: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club

Honolulu, Hawaii—now that I've been, it's made on the list of places I'll never say no to. I traveled there for what was supposed to be 6 days in February—I ended up staying for 11—during the POW! WOW! Hawaii street art festival in Kaka'ako.

We planned our trip something like two weeks before take-off (oops), so affordable accommodations weren't the easiest thing to find. Just in time, I realized what the perfect place to stay would be in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world—a friendly, no-frills, beachside hostel.

The last time I stayed in a hostel was in Iceland, abroad and over a year ago, so I was due for a little budget travel experience. The Polynesian Hostel Beach Club was just what we were looking for—$50 a night for a private room, a free pancake breakfast every morning, and half a block from Waikiki Beach. 

Home Sweet Hotel: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club | truelane

When you travel as much as I do, you come to set your own personal standards for hospitality. While hotels aim to satisfy your every need, hostels are just a place to lay your head at night and maybe meet a few people, so the perks at the Polynesian were a pleasant surprise. We took advantage of the pancake breakfast every morning, which saved us the money we would have spent on over ten meals. However, if you're a coffee drinker like I am, all they have is instant, so the closest fix is Starbucks around the corner for the real stuff. 

My favorite bit about the Polynesian Hostel though? The organized tours. We signed up for a sunrise hike up to Diamond Head Crater with a few other travelers one morning, including one on her way home from a year in Australia and two gals from Stockholm on a three-month trip around the world. While the view from the top was incredibly delightful, the Diamond Head hike itself is overstuffed with tourists and is a bit of a claustrophobic experience, even before the sun comes up. Now that I've done it once, I never have to deal with it again—but I'm glad I went. It was lovely bonding time with the girls from the hostel, and we all stopped for coffee on our way back from the hike before pancakes. 

The hostel also offers excursions to the North Shore if you aren't renting a car, or to Kailua and even scuba diving. You can also rent surfboards to test the waters at Waikiki across the street!

Home Sweet Hotel: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club | truelane

I just have to tell you—that last photo is the shadow of the crater on Waikiki Beach. !!!

Of course, all the usual rules that come with staying at hostels apply to all the locations in Honolulu as well. Always check the bed for bugs and wear flip-flops to keep yourself clean and safe while walking the premises. They will provide you with towels, but I brought my own for the beach. Also, the only bedding you're provided with is a clean sheet set and pillowcase as there is no air conditioning, so if you need more layers, bring your own blankets or get creative and layer your towels or coat over your sheets. (Clearly, I didn't have my own blanket. Haha!)

Anywhere I stay for longer than a week starts to feel like a second home, and I'm glad it ended up being the Polynesian Hostel in Hawaii. 

If you're headed their way, I recorded a quick little tour for you to get a better idea of your surroundings. Enjoy!

Thank you to the Polynesian Hostel Beach Club for hosting our stay.

Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy

The first time I traveled to Italy, it was my first time abroad—ever. I spent a whirlwind ten days in Rome, living out my Lizzie McGuire dreams and stuffing myself with gelato and spaghetti: the classic Italian vacation. This time, I was looking forward most to more authentic Italian food, but also exploring a brand new region. Italy is such a long and skinny country that the weather, culture, and overall vibe varies greatly from north to south. Although we spent most of our time in the bustling city of Milan, we made time for a relaxing day trip to the town of Varenna on Lake Como, and enjoyed a long and leisurely day in one of the most beautiful locations in the world.

Photos: Alex Ry

Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane

HOW

We decided to start our day in Varenna based on casual Internet research (not to be confused with Verona), and also based on availability for the main activity we wanted to do—get on a boat. Alex and I connected with blogger/photographer duo Kristin and Luccia to indulge ourselves with some additional company during our Italian excursion, so I booked tickets for four on Trenord. Tickets were an incredibly low 6,70€ each way, so I booked separate one-way journeys from Milano Centrale to Varenna Esino and back. Arrive to the train early to avoid any potential problems—you should be sitting on the train fifteen minutes prior to departure, not running into the station and trying to find your platform.

WHAT

Our first stop upon arrival in Varenna was for food. We snagged a picturesque table at Caffe Varenna for brunch. I wasn’t super hungry, but I highly recommend the espresso con panna, which is the most decadent way to enjoy espresso in Italy, which therefore makes it my favorite.

We also allowed some time to walk around and get lost. My favorite way to explore a new city is just to wander and see where I end up, and the main walk stretches for miles to the south. There are a ton of beautiful villas to observe and explore, and many have tours available if you want to go inside.

For our boat tour, we ended up using Taxi Boat Varenna. We wanted to do a one-hour lake tour, but there were none available since we were booking on such short notice. We ended up going with the 2.5 hour tour, which was way too much of a commitment for us. It involved a tour of Villa Balbianello, which was a beautiful space where a ton of movies have been filmed, but you couldn’t touch anything or even take pictures inside (without paying), and the tour became quite dull about eight minutes into the hour. I would recommend sticking to the shorter tour and enjoying more time on the water. And for that, bring a hair tie. If you're wearing a hat, make sure it has a chin strap!

 Other suggestions:

Clearly, there isn't a ton to do in the sleepy north except for ogle at the spectacular scenery, eat, drink, and spend time on a boat—which usually happens all at the same time, and is my favorite kind of activity. Also, trust any of the gelato shops in Italy. After dinner, we stopped at one for 'un cono piccolo' and sat on the beach watching the sunset...after we finished, we went to a second shop and everyone got seconds!

Transit will run you about four hours—two hours each way—so just remember to head out with a patient and curious mind. The scenery on the way up will blow your mind and is, on its own, worth the time spent. We got some of our best shots along the way.

Questions? Ask away in the comments or shoot me an email!

Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane

Photos: Alex Ry