I just returned from a blissful week-long vacation on the island of Kauai, where my parents were kind enough to retire so I could visit them there regularly.
That may not have been their sole motivation.
The destination was warm, lush, tropical, beautiful and sooo . . . not Bend.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to be said for a relaxing Hawaiian vacation in paradise. But here are 6 reasons I think Bend makes a better destination.
Can we not tell my parents about this?
Easier standup paddleboarding
One of my favorite warm-weather activities is standup paddleboarding, and I’ve been lucky enough to do it on rivers, lakes, and ocean bays throughout the six years I’ve been paddling.
While I’ll admit that toppling into a warm ocean is a bit more pleasant than a tumble into a glacier-fed river, the relative stillness of lakes and rivers means you’re much less likely to topple at all. I’d been SUPing for years without a single fall off my board when I first tried it in Kalapaki Bay on Kauai. Within the first five minutes, a wave knocked my butt right into the water.
Now granted, you can do your SUPing year-round in Kauai, but there’s a reason Outside magazine named Bend the best SUP getaway in the world. It’s the beauty, the variety, and the phenomenal availability of the sport right here in our little high desert oasis.
Dry heat, dry cold
Ever notice how an 80-degree day feels much hotter in a humid climate like Florida than it does in a drier locale? The same holds true for “damp cold” (the sort you experience on a winter’s day in Portland) versus “dry cold” (the kind we have here in the mountainous high desert of Bend).
It’s an important distinction.
Dampness has a way of making temperatures feel super-intense, which can be downright uncomfortable at the extremes of either end.
That’s one thing I’ve always loved about Bend. The dryness of our desert climate means 75-degrees feels like 75-degrees, and 35-degrees feels like 35-degrees. No need to account for humidity!
More room to spread out
I know Bend locals sometimes fret about crowding at popular hiking trails and scenic landmarks. It’s one reason the Visit Like a Local movement took hold as a way of encouraging folks to help preserve our natural spaces.
Luckily, Bend has lots of those natural spaces to choose from. We certainly have more than an island constrained on all sides by a large body of water.
Too many hikers on Green Lakes Trail? Head someplace less-trafficked like the Oregon Badlands Wilderness or some of the areas west of Sisters. Pick an area along the Deschutes River Trail, many of which boast plentiful parking.
One of the best investments you can make in your quest to explore Central Oregon is a good guide book that opens your eyes to lesser-known trails and vistas. Two of my faves are Bend Overall by Scott Cook and Bend, Oregon Daycations (Day Trips for Curious Families), by Kim Cooper Findling. We sell both in the Bend Visitor Center, and I’d highly recommend either one to spark a host of new ideas for where to play and explore in Bend.
I love the tropical fish and birds that Hawaii has to offer, and feeding peacocks at Smith Gardens is one of my favorite Kauai activities. That said, I always feel like something’s missing in the critter department.
That’s one thing I love about Bend. Any trek through the wilderness will expose you to oodles of creatures that might include eagles, falcons, otters, beavers, deer, elk, porcupines, and bats.
And while small mammals can decimate a place like Hawaii (i.e. the mongoose problem on the Big Island), little fuzzy guys like chipmunks, raccoons, squirrels, pikas, and rabbits frolic freely around Central Oregon, kept in check by predators like foxes, coyotes, and cougars who think they’re the best snacks ever.
Hey, I don’t blame the Hawaiian Islands for jacking up prices on things like sunscreen or fresh produce. It takes a lot of money and resources to transport those things to the islands.
But that’s not an issue here in Bend, with plentiful access to produce, relatively low gas prices, and budget-friendly hotels and vacation rentals that won’t require you to take out a second mortgage.
Tip: Pay cash when you can in Bend, instead of whipping out the plastic. Not only does it save vendors from getting hit with extra fees (which keeps prices lower for all of us!) but it’s a great way to track your vacation budget.
What’s that smell?
No place on earth smells quite like Bend. It’s this unique combination of sun-warmed desert sage and juniper that makes my heart feel happy every time I return home from vacation and crack the car window open just to breathe it in.
It smells like home, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.