I’ve spent time on five of Hawaii’s islands, and Kauai definitely ranks number one in my book. It’s just such a gem – charming little towns, relaxing beaches, incredible snorkeling, and amazingly varied landscapes.

So, here’s my “best of Kauai” list:

Best Place to get your Tropical Plant Fix: Allerton and McBryde Gardens. Kauai is known as the Garden Isle, and there are beautiful plants all over the island, but if you’re looking for peak-plant, go here. I was lucky enough to get a private tour since I was photographing the gardens for the National Tropical Botanical Garden, and I was in plant heaven! Make sure you check out the Moreton Bay fig trees of Jurassic Park fame.

Best Photo Op: A doors-off helicopter tour (for the best photos, it’s gotta be doors-off to avoid the reflections!). Guys, I’m super afraid of heights and flying. Yeah, I know it’s weird considering I’m a travel photographer. Still scared of it. Anyway, I so badly wanted to photograph the Na Pali coast from the air even though it involved getting in a helicopter. I spent the week before our tour worrying about how I was about to spend a bunch of money on something that was probably going to kill me. But guys, I didn’t die, and it was AWESOME! Hands down the best thing I did on Kauai.

Best beach for sunset: Ke’e Beach. This is the last beach accessible by car on the north shore, so you get awesome views of the Na Pali coast. We went to this beach a few times to enjoy sunset and relax after hikes. The waves crashing against the cliffs are backlit by the sunset… SO pretty!

Best Shave Ice: Wishing Well Shave Ice. Get the Organic Tropical Bliss – passionfruit and coconut syrup topped with papaya and coconut flakes over macadamia nut ice cream. SO amazingly good. We went here a bunch.

Best Hike for Epic Views: Pihea Trail. Kalalau Trail gets all the fame (and the part of the trail I went on was stunning), but I really loved Pihea Trail. There’s an amazing view of Kalalau Valley right at the beginning of the trail… Probably my favorite view on the island.

Best Place to Feel Like You Have the Island to Yourself: Hideaways Beach. This was my favorite beach on the island. The water is the most amazing aqua color, it’s secluded, and there’s shade – the perfect beach! Getting to this little gem means hiking down a super steep/muddy/sketchy trail though – so be careful. And then thank that trail for keeping the beach nice and quiet.

Best Venue for a Destination Wedding: Waimea Plantation Cottages. While we were staying here I woke up early every morning (thanks time change and roosters) and wandered the grounds taking photos with my film camera. I kept thinking about how perfect this spot is for a destination wedding – it’s naturally beautiful and there are a bunch of cottages close together for all of your closest friends and family to stay. I LOVED this spot!

For more Kauai inspiration and travel tips check out my Kauai Pinterest board.

SE Alaska with UnCruise Adventures and Above & Beyond Alaska

The first time I went to Alaska, I honestly wasn’t expecting it to be THAT epic. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been spoiled with beautiful scenery and wildlife. I thought Alaska would be pretty similar. I. Was. So. Wrong. It was seriously one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever been on!! Like jaw-droppingly awesome. Like whale-snot-just-got-all-over-my-lens epic.

So, when UnCruise Adventures asked me to return to photograph another one of their Alaska itineraries, of course I said heck yeah!

UnCruise is a small ship adventure cruise line based in Seattle. Calling them a “cruise line” feels weird though since their trips are nothing like the big ships (hence the “Un”). Instead of thousands of passengers, UnCruise ships carry between 30 and 80 people. Instead of dropping everyone off at a town packed with souvenir shops, UnCruises drops you off on glaciers for some hiking. It’s pretty awesome.

On this trip, Adam and I were joined by our friends Amanda and Bull as well as by my parents. It was so great to spend the week with all of them plus new friends we met on the boat

Our week on the boat was ridiculously packed with adventure! We hiked along the shoreline spotting bear tracks, went snorkeling (they provided us with really thick wetsuits), kayaked among icebergs, watched all sorts of wildlife, and the best part: WE WHALE WATCHED FROM THE HOT TUB!! It really doesn’t get much better than that! Photographing whales is one of my very favorite things. Another of my favorite things is being comfy and warm. So photographing whales WHILE SITTING IN A HOT TUB is one of the most amazing things that could have possibly happened to me.

After our trip with UnCruise, we spent a glorious day in Juneau with Above and Beyond Alaska paddling to Mendenhall Glacier and exploring the ice caves before catching our flight back home to Seattle.

I seriously can’t get over how great this trip was. Check out the photos:

UnCruise Adventures Columbia River Cruise

Growing up in Oregon with travel-happy parents meant I spent a lot of time exploring all of the state’s interesting places. It’s not often that I find an Oregon adventure that I haven’t done (thanks mom and dad!), but this trip was an exception! And what an amazingly unique adventure it was! 1859 Magazine asked me to document the week-long river journey aboard the S.S. Legacy, a replica coastal steamer operated by the incredible UnCruise Adventures. My mom came along, and we spent the week hot tubbing on the top deck, drinking local wines in the saloon, eating Ah-mazing food, touring museums, and watching the landscape change as we sailed by (I took some pictures, too). Not too shabby!

Our journey starts and ends in Portland, covers 3 states and nearly 1,000 miles of river, and takes us through eight locks between Astoria, Oregon and Hells Canyon. Enjoy!

Teaching Photography for National Geographic Student Expeditions in Tanzania

Wow, I absolutely LOVE my job! This summer I had the incredible opportunity to lead a photography workshop in Tanzania for National Geographic Student Expeditions.

I was in the middle of packing to move from Portland to Seattle when I got email from a friend saying that Nat Geo was looking for a female expedition leader who has experience teaching photography in remote locations. Reading through the job description I just felt like it so perfectly described me (minus one part about speaking Swahili), and the job so perfectly combined some of my favorite things: traveling, teaching photography, science, and working with students. I put packing on hold and started updating my resume.

Two weeks later I was on a plane to the east coast for orientation.

And just a couple weeks after that, I met up with fifteen eager high school students at JFK, and we flew to Arusha, Tanzania where we joined my amazing co-leader Ian (who thankfully speaks Swahili). Together we spent three weeks adventuring and exploring the country’s villages and national parks.

We hiked with Maasai warriors, experienced village life in Maji Ya Chai, and went on safari to see elephants, lions, hippos, and black rhinos(!). One highlight was staying up on the Maasai Steppe at Noloholo Environmental Camp, a research station run by National Geographic Expert Laly Lichtenfeld. There we participated in African People and Wildlife Fund’s Living Wall Project – where we helped build a wall out of trees to keep lions away from livestock. This human-wildlife conflict prevention program protects 150 lions each year from retaliatory killings.

Throughout our trip, the students worked “On Assignment” in their area of interest: photography or wildlife conservation. My photography students and Ian’s conservation students teamed up to collaborate on a final project – a magazine about Tanzanian culture, wildlife, and conservation. It turned out amazing, and I’m so proud of their dedication and hard work.

I feel SO fortunate to have spent three weeks traveling through Tanzania with such an amazing group of people! Did I mention that I love my job?!