PNW Travel Guide: Vancouver, Seattle and Portland

The Pacific Northwest was an absolutely incredible place to spend our vacation. The food, nature and the people were all amazing. We seriously loved it so much and cannot wait to go back one day. It was the perfect mix of nature and city exploring, which is our personal favorite travel combination. Spending time in nature, specifically, mountains and forests is one of the most grounding things you can do. I always feel so connected, calm and truly content when I am in that experience. I am so grateful for this trip and I will never forget it.

We walked everywhere on this trip. I tracked over 25,000 steps a day! Like wow! I didn’t workout once, but believe me that was more than enough movement. Between all the walking, hiking, and eating lots and lots of indulgent food (no regrets!) – I drank A LOT of water. I brought my Soma Water Glass bottle with me EVERYWHERE! From walking around the cities to dripping sweat climbing a mountain, I had it by my side. It is so important to stay hydrated when traveling – especially when you are this active – the bottle was my most prized accessory this trip. The glass makes it easy to clean and the grip makes it comfortable to hold. You will see throughout these photos in this guide just how much I used it! So before we dive into the specifics, thank you to Soma Water for sponsoring this travel guide. You can check out their full product line here.

I have broken down on our itinerary into two parts. Places we actually went to and then places that we wish we could have fit in. We got so many incredible recommendations, that I wanted to include those too! I want to shoutout my IG community for providing us with great recommendations and tips as we went along our travels. It was so cool to have that real-time feedback and input. I am so grateful!

Let’s get into it.

VANCOUVER:

Me @ Coal Harbor in Vancouver

I had been to Vancouver once before with my mom a few years ago in October. It was just as beautiful as I remember, however even better because the weather was very spring-like. Vancouver is a VERY expensive city (most expensive gas in North American btw). We were in the main downtown area, which was very walkable and easily accessible to many other cool neighborhoods. Jacob was originally there for an ARVO Ophthalmology research presentation so after that one day, we were off to explore. It was the perfect place to start.

Places we ate/drank:

  • Nightingale – tapas restaurant, a little nicer, serving a huge variety of food – we loved the mushroom pizza! Reservations recommended.
  • The Poke Guy – Delish poke downtown. Super casual. We went for lunch.
  • Medina Cafe – one of the best brunches I have ever had. I ordered the salmon toast.
  • Heirloom – Adorable health-focused spot in West Van- had amazing breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We went there before our hike in Squamish. It was on the way.
  • Eatery – Such a fun vibe! it was basically a bar/club meets a sushi joint. Think loud music, black lights, and really fun energy. The food was delish too. We got the torched “pressed” roll. Van has a really cool style of sushi. This was in Kitsilano Beach area.
  • Alpha Sushi – super casual spot downtown. Had great rolls, very fresh.
  • Karameller Candy Shop – cute candy shop in Yaletown.
  • Dinesty – Amazing soup dumplings in west side neighborhood
  • Mag’s 99 – highway side Mexican restaurant in Squamish. Highly recommend going to after doing the “Chief” hike. It is a lot of fun and very good food.

Coffee:

Places we wish we ate at:

  • Miku – apparently one of the best high-end sushi places in the city. It was out of our price range, but maybe next time.
  • Nuba – casual, healthy and modern spot for Lebanese food.
  • Minami  -nicer sushi spot in Yaletown
  • Kokomo – health-focused restaurant.

Things we did:

  • Walked along the waterfront at Coal Harbor.
  • Stanley Park – a massive gorgeous park attached to the downtown. It is completely surrounded by water. We rented bikes (at Spokes) and rode around the whole sea wall. So pretty. You can also walk it and walk on the trails through it. There are also beautiful big redwoods.
  • Walk around Yaletown – cute neighborhood with a ton of shops and restaurants. Get candy at Karameller candy shop.
  • Walk around Gastown – funky neighborhood
  • Walk around Kitsilano neighborhood and watch the sunset from the beach.
  • Granville Island Market – artist / food market on an eclectic island. Super fun!
  • Drove out to Squamish, BC for a day trip. We drove through West Van to get there and stopped at Heirloom for breakfast. It was about 45 minutes from there. We parked at the bottom of Stawamus Mountain for the famous “Chief” hike. It was a HARD hike. Very steep and challenging, and it gets technical too with chains and ladders.  Not scary or dangerous (very doable), but it is for sure a challenging workout. It was about 1.5 hrs to get to the top (with stops) and it was 1000% worth the views.  
Coal Harbor Views
Views from the Top of The Chief with Soma Water
Views from the Top of The Chief with Soma Water
Stawamus Mountain, Squamish, BC

If we had more time:

  • Spent more time in West Vancouver, specifically Lighthouse Park and watch the sunset
  • Drive up to Whistler to hike
  • Vancouver Island
  • Visit Victoria

Notes:

Vancouver does not have uber, so plan accordingly. We had to call cabs to get around if our destinations were far, but we mostly walked the city. It is pretty doable. We only rented a car for one day to drive outside of Vancouver to go hiking. It was worth it to rent the car for the day for the trip out to the mountains. The surrounding areas of Van have so much to offer. Note – gas is VERY expensive, so just be prepared.

SEATTLE

Pike Place Market, Seattle

We trained here from Vancouver. It was about 5.5 hours for the whole trip and was very easy. The border agents come on the train and you clear customs at the station before (make sure to go early for this). Our train left at 6 am so when we got to Seattle, we had a pretty full day. Worth it! In Seattle we stayed in a vacation rental apartment called “Stay Alfred”. We loved it! It was new, roomy, modern, comfortable and perfectly located (in Pike Place). It was easy to get in and out and we had no problems besides trying to get an early check in and not being able to. It is not an Airbnb because it is not someone’s home, but it is not a hotel because there is no staff. I would do it again!

Seattle is super big and spread out. We ended up walking 25K steps a day to explore it all. I love walking in new cities because it is the best way to see the local culture and get a feel for the city. Plus, we had extremely lucky weather (65+ and sunny) every single day. It made it all the worth while. And of course, always had my Soma Water bottle with me to stay hydrated!

Places we ate /drank:

  • Pike Place Market. We first went there on a Saturday and OH MY GOSH it was B U S Y. It was cool to see the famous market in action. It has everything – flowers, gifts, restaurants, fruit stands, and even jewelry.. you name it! It is super cool because it is very old and right on top of the water. If you go to the right places, you get an amazing view of the city. We went to the market balcony (near the Stewart St entrance) to watch the sunset.
    • At the market, we ate at Market Grill and I got a blackened salmon sandwich on a baguette. It was melt-in-your-mouth fresh and amazing. Jacob got the halibut and he loved it.
    • Seattle Kombucha company – it was outside and so refreshing in the hot weather
    • Ellenos  – the best greek yogurt I have ever had
  • The Pink Door – my favorite meal in Seattle. It is an incredible Italian spot in Post Alley right near the market. We had to wait an hour, so we went across the street and did a wine tasting at The Tasting Room. It was super fun!
  • Japonessa – incredible sushi across from the harbor downtown
  • Portage Bay – I went to the one in Ballard to meet some IG friends. So good!
  • Oddfellows Cafe – amazing for breakfast/lunch
  • Mr West Cafe – also amazing brunch. LOVED the avocado toast. Super vibey, lots of plants and cute little shop attached.
  • Frankie and Jos – A MUST. The best plant-based ice cream I have ever had. I kid you not.
  • Mbar – we went at sunset before dinner around 5 pm and it has an AMAZING patio overlooking south lake union. We got happy hour drinks and watched the sunset.
  • Flying Apron bakery – totally plant-based! We split a cinnamon roll with cream “cheese” frosting and it was TO DO FOR. It is in a cool neighborhood called Fremont.
  • Barrio – fun Mexican spot for tacos and drinks. In capitol hill.
Chocolate Tahini Plant Based Ice Cream from Frankie + Jos

Coffee:

Places we wish we ate at:

Things we did:

  • Walked to the Space Needle park and explored the area. The Queen Ann neighborhood is also around there and very cute. Chihuly exhibit is in the space needle park too, we decided it wasn’t worth it because we had seen it before in Toronto, but if you are very into art I recommend it.
  • Ballard farmers market – an Adorable area with a great locally focused farmers market and shops. I loved it there!
  • Explored Capitol Hill neighborhood- a ton of cute stores and great restaurants
  • Melrose market – in capitol hill.  Shop / food in an industrial space
  • Spent an afternoon exploring Discovery Park. It is a huge nature park with trails, beaches and lookouts. We walked in there for hours and also spent some time relaxing on the beach. The south beach has views of Mount Rainer and is gorg!
  • Explored Fremont neighborhood – super hipster and funky!
  • Walked around Pioneer Village / old town. We loved this area. There were a ton of adorable stores and great restaurants. The square is very historic looking.
  • Drove to a hike called Rattlesnake Ledge about 45 minutes from Seattle. On this day, we rented the car in Seattle and were making our way to Portland. The drive to Portland is about 4 hours, so we wanted to stop somewhere part way and hike. This hike was also uphill and challenging, but work it for incredible views of a crystal clear lake. It was about an hour to get up. We were lucky with an incredibly sunny day and did this on a weekday. Apparently, it gets very busy. I say it is worth it tho!
Me in Discovery Park with my Soma Bottle
Discovery Park, Seattle
Soma Bottle in Discovery Park, Seattle
Bottom of Rattlesnake Ledge Hike
Rattlesnake Ledge Hike with my Soma Water Bottle
Rattlesnake Ledge Hike Views
Rattlesnake Ledge Hike with my Soma Water Bottle
Rattlesnake Ledge Hike with my Soma Water Bottle

If we had more time:

  • Explored south lake union area
  • Explore West Seattle and Alki beach area
  • Taken a ferry to Bainbridge Island
  • Sculpture Park
  • Kerry Park for the city views
  • Ride the Seattle Great Wheel

PORTLAND

Me eating at the Gumba Food Truck – One of the best meals ever!

We arrived in Portland around dinner time. It wasn’t a bad drive from Seattle. Portland was my favorite of all the places we went to because it was the most unique. It is a big city, but not over commercialized and has a ton of culture. Everyone is very down to earth. Local food and supporting local businesses is huge. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. And of course, the FOOD. I had always heard Portland food was amazing, but seriously the scene is next level. So creative and so many options. There are endless gems and food trucks. You really cannot go wrong. It is a pretty spread out city actually, but we did walk A LOT. We drove to certain areas and walked around them. It wasn’t as connected from neighborhood to neighborhood like Seattle was. If you do not have a car, I think you can make it work with a few ubers and lots of steps too. We stayed in the downtown / pearl district at the Mark Spencer Hotel. It was a cute boutique hotel and had everything we needed. It is right across the street from the Ace hotel which is another funky boutique hotel.

Places we ate/ drank:

  • LucLac – casual Vietnamese spot. It was our first meal and we were not disappointed! We got the peanut curry, coconut curry, spring rolls and a papaya salad.
  • Gumba – A MUST. this is a food truck in the Alberta District area (very cute) and it was one of the best meals I have ever had. It is two guys with a food truck making FRESH and seasonal gourmet pasta dishes and house made burrata cheese. We got two pastas (both vegetarian), the seasonable salad (cabbage) and the fry bread (basically pizza dough). In the food truck area was also a little bar cart, so we enjoyed it with wine and beer. One of the most memorable night of our trip. Just amazing food! Plus, it was a gorgeous warm evening so we walked around the Alberta district.
  • Voodoo Donuts – worth it for the gram, but not my kinda donut. it is basically just over the top with toppings and flavors, I like more classic ones.
  • Blue star donuts – we went here twice and got the OG donut and the raspberry rosemary buttermilk. Freaking incredible.
  • Petunia’s Pastries – all vegan and gluten-free bakery. I got the salted caramel cookie bar, but I literally could have ordered everything. Worth a visit.
  • Matt’s BBQ truck – Jacob said it was the best BBQ he ever had.
  • Fried Egg I am in love – Fried egg sandwich shop. So good! they also have food truck locations, but the brick and mortar is on Hawthorne which is a great area for vintage shopping and food.
  • Little Bean Ice Cream – we were obsessed with this spot. It is in the pearl district and they make plant-based ice cream entirely from CHICKPEAS. They soak the chickpeas for days before “milking” them. It was delish. Our faves were cold brew coffee and cherry chai.
  • Kure Juice – I stopped in here for a smoothie and juice because I needed some greens. Lots of healthy options.
  • Tillamook cheese factory – stopped here on our drive to Cannon Beach and it was cool!
  • Offshore Grill – Rockaway beach. Jacob got fish tacos and I got the Louie Seafood salad.
  • Wayfarer – Dinner overlooking Cannon beach. Seasonal beer and wine. I got the local salmon!

Coffee:

Places we wish we ate at:

  • Sizzle pie – casual pizza joint with vegan options
  • PBJ Grilled – gourmet and creative sandwich shop
  • Pine State Biscuits for breakfast
  • Back to Eden – plant-based spot with food,  ice cream, and baked goods. We walked in but had already eaten.
  • Harlow – healthy food spot that I wish I got to eat at! We also walked by, has an incredible menu!
  • Mediterranean Exploration Company – we had a reso, but stayed out on the Oregon coast longer than expected so we missed it. Next time.
  • Tusk – looks like the most gorgeous restaurant ever with amazingly beautiful food.
  • Eb and Bean – place based soft serve
  • Pok Pok – also heard great things, but did not have time!

Things we did:

  • Explored Hawthorn neighborhood – lots of great food trucks, vintage shops
  • Explore Pearl district – amazing food, shopping, and businesses. Home of the original Wieden and Kennedy office (that used to be my dream job, known as one of the best ad agencies in the world, basically put Nike on the map).
  • Explore Alphabet District – right near pearl. Quieter with beautiful homes.
  • Japanese Garden – in a gorgeous area of the city. It was a cool experience, but pricey. Not sure I would do it again.
  • Explore Alberta District – lots of galleries, small shops, and food trucks
  • Checked out a Powell’s Book location – we didn’t spend much time in here, but it’s cool to see a bookstore flourishing.
  • We spent a whole day outside of Portland to explore the natural forests around it and incredible Oregon Coast. It was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever done. We drove through the Tillamook forest and made a pit stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory (Cool for a quick visit and free cheese samples).
    • We stopped in Rockaway beach and enjoyed lunch at Offshore Grill.
    • We hiked North Neah-Kah-Nie mountain trail in Oswald State Park. The entrance is on the side of the highway. This was our FAVE HIKE. It was also uphill and challenging but through a thick forest of tall trees and gorgeous greenery. The top was the most shocking and rewarding part. You get incredible views of the Oregon Coast. We hung out at the top for an hour just hanging with other hikers and staring at the view. Incredible.
    • Keep an eye out for signage on this hike. we came from the north side and almost missed the fork in the trail to go up to the lookout and we hiked an extra 20 minutes the other way. You can also enter the hike from the south side. You end up at the same place.
  • Walk around Cannon beach – super cute, clean and quaint beach town. The actual beach is right next to Haystack Rock which is beautiful. We stayed for sunset and it was the best way to end our trip. Highly recommend visiting there. The drive back to Portland after was 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Views from the top of Neah Kah Nie Hike with my Soma Water Bottle
Jacob and I with the coast!
Jacob and I on Canon Beach, OR
Sunset at Canon Beach, OR

If we had more time:

  • Walked old town and went to the “Portland” OG sign to take a picture
  • Pittock Mansion for city views
  • Walk the paths on the river
  • Spent another night on the Oregon coast and stayed overnight to spend another day hiking and exploring the area.
  • Columbia River Gorge
  • Rose Garden – if we were there at the season

Thank you for reading! I hope this helps you plan your trip to the PNW one day. I cannot recommend it enough!

And thank you to my friends at Soma Water for sponsoring
the creation of this guide.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.