Ultimate Guide to Wanderlust Festivals from a Pro
Music - Entertainment - Health
It's crazy how much Wanderlust Festivals have grown! They're no longer a summer thing, but rather an open-ended opportunity to travel to some of the most amazing destinations in the world year-round while immersing yourself in good vibes and wellness.
If you're reading this it's because you're a professional Wanderluster (like me) or about to become one and you're looking for more information. Well, you've come to the right place because I'm going to attempt to share the most info I can about the 3 festivals I've attended, which were all very different.
I never thought I'd get so hooked on a yoga lifestyle festival (even though I'm a yogi) but the minute I experienced the nature, music, holistic, artistic and social sides of Wanderlust I couldn't help but go back. The first festival I went to was at Copper Mountain, the next was in the North Shore of O'ahu and the most recent was a lot closer to home in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. I'm going to tell you about each of these experiences, but first I want to give you some advice on what to expect in general at Wanderlust, how to navigate the festivals and how to prep so you'll have a great time.
What is a Wanderlust Festival?
It's a 1 day or multi-day festival that brings together yoga, fitness, nature, music, meditation, mind-body approaches, green living practices, healthy food and good people who are into wellness in a fun way. It's a festival where you will move and be moved in beautiful, natural locations. Even if you're not an "outdoors" person (i.e. camping is my worst fear), you'll totally connect with the environment around you...and then sleep tight in your hotel room later that night!
How much yoga is involved and what else is there to do?
When you sign up for a festival, you get to pick from an offering of yoga classes, meditations, speaker sessions, fitness and sport activities, movie screenings, beer tastings, and even spa treatments. So my answer is: as much yoga as you want! Honestly there's so much to do, you really have to put together a daily schedule. Once you're registered for a festival you'll receive a complete schedule of classes and activities for the day or weekend, which also goes live on the Wanderlust website.
I highly recommend signing up for the things you're interested in doing right away because many classes fill up fast. Don't leave it until the day before the festival otherwise you'll be stuck on a waitlist. I always sign up for at least 1 yoga class/day and aim to try different kinds of yoga. The rest of the day I like to go on the day trips and nature excursions offered. Make sure to leave some time between classes/activities so you can roam around and relax in the marketplace where everyone gathers.
How should you pack?
Pack for the activities you plan to do, which is why it's important to check out that schedule I was talking about. I suggest taking lots of transitional-type clothing. Y'know, the kind of clothes that you can get the most mileage in like leggings, flowy pants, tank tops that can be layered over workout tops and light jackets and sweaters. Wanderlust is for the most part very casual but that doesn't mean you can dress stylishly. Check out Athleta and Lolë's new stuff for great pieces that can be layered over yoga clothes in case you don't want too many wardrobe changes. I also really like Lyssé for travel and layering. Their camis and leggings are the freaking best!
I simply packed lots of yoga clothes, running gear, sun dresses, tanks, jeans, sweaters and flip flops. This maxi dress from LVR Fashion was one of the smartest things I packed because I could style it several different ways and it looked cute for both day and night. I love it so much I asked LVR if they'd give my readers 20% off and they said YES! Use promo code MIZZFIT20 for 20% off this dress from now through October 2014 and don't be scared to order a size down because it's stretchy.
If you're going to a beach destination, take warm and cold swim gear. You want to be prepared for cold water if you SUP or surf! I wore padded capris and shorts from SupMerge for SUP in Hawaii to keep me warm. If you're headed to the hills or mountails, expect rough terrain and cold nights. Bring hiking gear, tons of layers and plenty of socks.
Here's a checklist of what you don't want to leave home without:
- A yoga mat (unless you want to buy one there). I always bring a yoga that I don't mind leaving behind so I don't have to travel back home with it.
- A stylish backpack or bag (that's not oversized so it won't hurt your shoulders while you carry it around all day). I have a mini backpack from Lululemon that gets the job done.
- Your favorite energy bars although you'll find plenty of snacks in the marketplace but it's always nice to have a few tucked away in your bag just in case you get hungry on a day trip.
- Business and social cards for all the networking you'll do. You want to keep in touch with all the cool people you meet...and maybe even collaborate with them so get some cards printed.
- Hand and feet wipes. You're gonna get sweaty, dirty and shake a lot of hands.
- A hat
- Sunscreen, obviously.
- Camera and not just your iphone.
- A yogitoes mat towel from Manduka. They make the best ones and these come in handy if you're in an extra sweaty yoga class or if it rains. I'd also stash a good quick-dry hand towel from Manduka in your bag too.
- Speaking of rain, don't forget an umbrella! Every festival I've been to has included a shower or two, so come prepared or just be one with the rain.
Bring a Bobble Sport too!
Of all the water bottles I've tested, the Bobble Sport is the best for an event like Wanderlust because it has a filter that makes H2O taste great (esp the water fountain variety), it's light and stylish, it won't spill in your bag and it has a nice textured grip so it won't slip out of your hands. Unlike glass and metal water bottles, if you accidentally drop it or knock it over, nothing terrible happens and it doesn't make a sound.
You might even see a Bobble booth at the next Wanderlust festival you go to. Bobble was recently at Wanderlust 108 in Prospect Park and gave away bobbles to people who posted creative yoga poses on social media. You can snag yourself a NEW Bobble Sport at stores like Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon.
What's the vibe at Wanderlust?
Everyone is super nice, in a good mood and smiling. I'm not even kidding. Even the staff that has to answer all of your questions and check you in! The yoga teachers and presentors are all incredibly approachable and don't mind chatting or answering your dying questions. My favorites are Elena Brower and Seane Corn. Make sure to take their classes!
What's up with the Marketplace?
The outdoor market is the centerpiece of the daytime Wanderlust experience and showcases a selection of local craft vendors, apparel and jewelry brands, healthy artisanal foods and beverages. The Wanderlust Market is always free and open to the public. It's fun jumping from booth to booth shopping and trying free samples.
Where does the music part come in?
There's music at every festival, usually happening outside on the mainstage. For Wanderlust 108, there was a brass band playing at the start/finish line of the 5K. It was awesome! At weekend-long festivals, you can expect evening concerts and shows from bands and DJs. Check the Wanderlust website for the line-up at the festival you want to go to...it tends to vary but the main acts usually stay the same.
In O'ahu, I got to see Moby perform. Check out my quick video of it! I actually enjoyed his show at Wanderlust more than one of his big shows that I'd been to in London. The light show was great and everyone was tipsy but not annoyingly drunk (yogis tend to know their limit).
Can you venture away from the festival and do your own thing?
ABSOLUTELY! And this is one of the most important things I want you to take away from this article. You should definitely try and make a vacation out of your Wanderlust trip, especially if you are traveling somewhere new and far. The places you'll go for Wanderlust festivals are brimming with culture and nature. Explore! In Colorado and Hawaii, I made sure to rent a car so I could check out the neighboring sights, restaurants and shops.
If you don't want to rent a car, bikes and mopeds are often options. I always like getting off the resort and away from my hotel by going for a long run. Day trips and excursions (which are offered at a discount with your Wanderlust registration through the participating resort/hotel) make your Wanderlust experience feel like a true vacation. I'll talk about this more as you continue reading.
Wanderlust 108 is the newest festival edition to the Wanderlust empire and it's a great one to try if you're on the fence about committing to a longer festival, however be aware that it's just a taste since it's only 1 day long. 108 is best described as a "mindful triathlon" because it starts off with a 5K run in a beautiful park area followed by meditation and then yoga. There's a marketplace with lots of booths for shopping, noshing on healthy eats, playing games and making art.
I ran the 5K race at Wanderlust 108 in Prospect Park NYC with a few friends (from Self Magazine and Refinery29) and sprint athlete, Natasha Hastings. That's me in the middle with the "S" bib. I was impressed with all the runners representing. While it wasn't the most competitive of races (which I've become used to as a lifelong runner), it was definitely one of the most light-hearted ones.
I love the signage that Wanderlust staff held up from the sidelines. One sign read: "Jay Z owns the Barclay Center. You own the FINISH LINE!" For more of a glimpse at Wanderlust 108, check out these highlights.
Wanderlust O'ahu, Hawaii
Wanderlust O'ahu is an amazing treat...and my favorite festival of all the Wanderlusts I've been to! I highly recommend going if you can, especially if you've never been to the North Shore of Hawaii's O'ahu Island. Maybe you've been to Honolulu or Waikiki Beach, but the North Shore is WAY DIFFERENT. It's very chill, kinda rural, less touristy and brimming with natural beauty that blew my mind. It makes total sense for Wanderlust to have chosen this area and to have partnered with the Turtle Bay Resort.
From the airport in Honolulu, your ride to Turtle Bay will take a while. I remember it being nearly 2 hours with traffic so try to avoid a flight that lands right before rush hour traffic hits. As you approach Turtle Bay, you'll see that the resort is pretty much the main draw. But that's a good thing because there's so much to do on the resort during the festival. I arrived a day early before Wanderlust started and spent some time walking along the gorgeous white-sand beach on the resort, laying out by the pool that was also ocean-side and checking out the restaurants.
I'm not going to lie, the restaurants were definitely pricey but I expected that to be the case from the get-go. If you're headed to Wanderlust O'ahu in Feb 2015, my advice is to have 1 nice dinner at Pa'akai or North Shore Kula Grille and to dine the rest of the time at Lei Lei's Bar & Grill. Lei Lei's has a more casual, social and upbeat ambiance and in my opinion, the best seafood dishes. You gotta order the butter fish! It will change your life! Everything is super healthy and yummy at Lei Lei's. You can also go there in the morning for a simple breakfast and coffee overlooking the golf course.
Once the festival started, I really didn't have much time for sit down meals between classes, speaker seminars and the surf activities I had signed up for. So I just grabbed breakfast and lunch at the lobby cafe where I discovered Pitaya Plus. Pitaya Plus became my ritual breakfast throughout the festival. It's like an acaí bowl except the frozen purée is made with dragon fruit. For me, this was an exciting discovery and part of what Wanderlust Festivals are all about--connecting with cool, new healthy companies.
The marketplace, like all the other festivals, is where most of these companies set up their booths and let people try their products. My personal favorite booth was the poké bar booth. All around the resort grounds and within the hotel ballrooms and meeting rooms, yoga classes are going on during the festival. I found the indoor classes to be the better workouts but I guess that's because there wasn't a gorgeous view to distract me. The outdoor yoga classes, from my experience, were more celebratory, fun and less focused on form. I really enjoyed just relaxing on the resort lawn and watching outdoor yoga classes, too.
In addition to yoga, Wanderlust O'ahu had some pretty awesome day trip offerings. I went on the surfing and SUP trips. Here's a pic I took of an SUP Yoga class in action as I was getting ready to go stand up paddle boarding with a small group of men (not sure why I was the only woman but I was happy they offered their protection after informing me that sharks could be around us...yeah thanks a lot, guys...way to scare a girl!).
When I wasn't panicking about a shark attacking me at Wanderlust, I was walking through beautiful ironwood forests sipping from a coconut, shopping for exotic fruits at the Kahuku Land Farms market and renting mopeds from Hele Huli Adventure Rentals to ride along the tropical countryside to different shrimp trucks. Okay, so maybe I was eating A LOT! But when in Turtle Bay, right?
As long as we're still talking about food, the Hukilau Cafe is an interesting spot to check out. It's a very simple, cheap and local hangout where scenes from 50 First Dates was filmed. You can totally ride a bike or moped here from the resort and work up a good appetite on the way.
If the yogi in you likes to golf, the Turtle Bay golf course is quite nice. I got to see it during a Wanderlust running class I took one early morning. We literally ran around and through the entire golf course. If you sign up for this refreshing run, promise me you'll apply mosquito repellent. I regretted not doing this and let me just say that Hawaiian mosquitos are ruthless!
Gosh, my Wanderlust weekend really flew by fast while I was there but I was pretty psyched that I booked this surfer's hillside cottage in Pūpūkea for the rest of my 10 day stay (who doesn't love an A-frame?). I was seriously in heaven here. If only that rooster outside had shut his trap!
I really couldn't have asked for a cozier or cuter place to stay than this pad, which was nestled at the top of a steep hill in a quiet residential area. It was a nice, peaceful change from all the activity and luxury at Turtle Bay (although no complaints here about the TB Resort...I definitely missed their bathtub and Pitaya Plus bowls). But that's why I recommend extending your Wanderlust trip into more of a vacation if you can...so you can explore even more of these amazing festival destinations on your own.
You should also rent a car if you end up staying longer. Driving on the North Shore is pretty easy since there's basically only 1 main road. There's an Enterprise at the resort but just be aware that the cars rent quickly so think ahead and book as soon as you get there or even beforehand. If you still end up needing a driving service (as taxis are pretty much non-existent in the North Shore) this is your guy to call: Nick Russ (808) 351-6289. He is a North Shore designated driver with a large comfortable van and he's seriously the nicest most reliable guy ever. He helped me and my travel partner out when we were in a transportation bind for a day before our rental car was ready. Nick also takes people on beach tours to Lanikai at a great deal. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I realize I'm digressing a bit from my Wanderlust O'ahu trip and probably giving you more suggestions than you might need, but I figure that if you're traveling all the way to Hawaii you might want to make the most of it and see all these other great things in O'ahu like...
- Shark's Cove
- Sunset Beach
I took this picture above near Shark's Cove. The area around the cove is a great place to walk around, wade around and take pics. When the water isn't too rough you can snorkel, see some reef sharks, turtles and sting rays. Not far from here is Sunset Beach where there are some great dives across the road for getting the yummiest mahi-mahi sandwiches (Ted's Bakery) and acai bowls.
- Waimea Beach
This is where you'll find pro surfers braving the scariest, roughest waves. And Feb/March is definitely the time of year when these waves are monsterous. You'll find tons of local people gathered in this area cheering the surfers on. Waimea Bay is a great place to lay out but not so much to swim. The lifeguards are pretty strict during this time of year. Jump Rock is there, but again, this is off limits until Summer.
This is a natural botanical and tropical preserve with a 3/4 mile walk to a waterfall you can swim in. Here, you're completely surrounded by green. You can get nerdy and read about plants and trees you've never seen before or just have fun going into the beautiful reproductions of historic hawaiian shrines and huts.
- Haleiwa Beach Park and town
This beach town rocks because there's a lot happening here. You'll find a lot of stylish shops like Guava Shop and the best bikini boutique ever called San Lorenzo. Also, Matsumoto's Shave Ice shack draws snow cone fanatics from all over the world and there's always a line. It's really famous because the snow cones are gigantic (2 people can share) and have ice cream in the middle. You will love it and feel like you earned it after all the yoga you did at Wanderlust!
On the beach of Haleiwa is also where I saw my first sea turtle! Spotting a sunbathing sea turtle feels like striking gold because it's such an amazing sight but just respect the protection laws which say you can't touch them. Otherwise the turtles are used to the attention and will watch you out of the corner of their eyes as you take a million pictures. They're pretty chill as you can see from this video I took of my 1st "honu" encounter. Honu means turtle in Hawaiian.
The shot of me below was taken shortly after my honu sighting while walking along the beach. There were so many low hanging tree branches to swing from. The whole sunset experience was super romantic here.
Since Hawaii is famous for pineapples I couldn't resist checking this place out. I found it to be somewhat of a tourist trap...however I was drawn there because of their famous world's largest maze. It was honestly kind of fun to experience but if you don't have enough time to see all the sights this is one you could probably skip.
- Maunawili Falls Trail
On my way back to Honululu airport to catch my flight home (boo), I was persuaded by my travel buddy (grrr) to hike the Maunawili Falls Trail to a 25 ft waterfall, which was the muddiest experience of my life but one of the most fun hikes I've ever done (including the perpetuous falling in the mud part). Just don't wear your favorite bikini, girls. A trashbag is more like it. But in all seriousness, it was truly a great way to say goodbye to Hawaii. If you follow suit, have a change of clothes and cleaning wipes handy (in your backpack or rental car) as you probably won't get a chance to shower before your flight.
I could go on forever writing about my time in O'ahu but instead why don't you take a peek at my O'ahu snapshots and post-festival exploration.
The Wanderlust Festival I went to in Colorado was at Copper Mountain for the long July 4th weekend (2013). It was amazing! I love ski resorts in the summer because they're quiet and astoundingly beautiful. This festival was a bit more rugged and hippy-ish than the others I have attended but I think the location had a lot to do with it :) The views were just incredible and riding the ski lifts up to a yoga class high up in the Copper Mountains was a spectacular treat!
I rented a condo apartment a short walk away from the Copper Mountain resort hotel. It was cozy, well decorated and much cheaper than the hotel. I noticed a lot of Wanderlusters camping for free in the nearby camping grounds. Not exactly my cup of tea but a nice option for people who are into that. The on-resort restaurants all participated in special menus that included plenty of gluten-free and vegan options. Love that!
The highlight of my time at the festival was the guided group hike I went on. A solo violinist played for us as we rested and took in the view. In addition to moments like this, expect mountain runs, hula hooping and slackline classes.
In the marketplace, beautiful natural art installations like this one might come to life right before your eyes. I'm not sure what this kind of art is called but it kept growing through the weekend and even Wanderlusters were adding to it with the artists' help. Outside the Copper Mountain resort, the most I found was a fun outlet mall with great real. Most of the action and inspiration happened for me on the festival grounds. I even saw a screening of the documentary Kūmāré, which was epic! On the Wanderlust calendar right now it looks like the next Colorado based festival will be in Aspen Snowmass. Click here for details. I'm sure it will be equally wonderful!
Whichever Wanderlust Festival location you choose...
I can promise you'll have a uniquely amazing experience. As I mentioned earlier, plan to make a full week of it if you can. Look forward to meeting a lot of interesting people and make sure to take an extra phone charger or Mophie case because you won't be able to stop taking pictures of the beautiful landscapes and fun moments you have.
Here are 2 more articles I've written about my Wanderlust adventures:
- A Fence-less Festival + 14 More Reasons To Go To Wanderlust
- Wanderlust Festival Not Just For Yogis Anymore
My interview with Wanderlust co-founder, Jeff Krasno: http://bit.ly/JKInterview
Got comments, questions or insights to add? Tack 'em to my comments section below. My goal is to help future Wanderlusters find their festival match and get ready to have one of the best times of their life.
xoxo, Bianca Jade