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My Solo Trip to Vancouver, BC

Vancouver hasn't been a destination on my mind for very long, but a few years ago, I saw photos of the Capilano Suspension Bridge on Instagram and immediately had to know where it was. It just seemed magical. I, of course, quickly found out it was in Vancouver, and the more I researched the Canadian Pacific Northwest, the more I was drawn to it. I was so curious about this diverse city that also seemed to have endless possibilities for hiking, waterfalls and suspension bridges - I just had to see and experience it for myself. It all worked out so serendipitously because I wanted to go during off-peak season, and I happened to have a relatively slower schedule at work in early June. Before I knew it, I was booking flights to the other side of North America for my very first solo adventure. 

At Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography

Guys, I had the best time. For those wondering, Josh wasn't able to join me (sad face!) because he kind of maxed out his vacation time already with all the other traveling we're doing/have done this year. And as much as I missed him, and wished he could have seen the sites I saw, I'm so grateful that I took the plunge and went on my own. Vancouver is incredible, and now I understand why it's so expensive! I was always baffled when watching all the HGTV shows based in Vancouver because they'd be like, We'd be thrilled if we could get a 2 bedroom with 1250 square feet for less than $750,000 and I'd be like, Where the heck are these people!? But the city has so much to offer that strikes the perfect balance of urban culture and outdoors adventure, and I just completely fell in love with it all.

At Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography

For this trip, I spent three nights in Vancouver, and three nights in Whistler. This post will be dedicated to Vancouver, and stay tuned for a second post all about my time in Whistler.

Early June. I wanted to avoid peak season, which is July and August, mostly to avoid as many crowds as possible, but also to help save money. I totally lucked out because I expected rain for most of my trip, but I was only rained out one morning for a few hours, and very light, barely noticeable sprinkles one afternoon in Whistler. The rest of my time, it was sunny or slightly overcast, and mid to high 60's (unless I was up in the mountain peaks - then it felt like late winter).

At Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography.

I chose an AirBnB rental in North Vancouver. Vancouver is not cheap, and honestly, every decent hotel downtown was way out of my budget, and even hostel reviews were kind of iffy. So when I was scrolling through AirBnB, I found a group of condos in North Vancouver that were two blocks away from the SeaBus (see below), and they were very affordable because it was a more residential area. I'm so happy with this choice because as much as I loved walking around downtown, it was really nice to head back to a quiet neighborhood at the end of the day. North Vancouver was also way more accessible to the hiking areas (it took me 8 mins to get to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park by car) but also had tons of restaurants, shops and grocery stores/markets.

Really great view of downtown Vancouver from Waterfront Park in North Vancouver.

Awesome little harbor in North Vancouver by Waterfront Park. I loved these little boat houses. 

I flew into Vancouver Airport, and took the SkyTrain Canada Line (Vancouver's subway) to the Waterfront Station, which spits you right out downtown. That station also connects to the SeaBus, so a quick walk down a hallway, and I was ready to board the SeaBus. The SeaBus is a little ferry that takes passengers from downtown Vancouver to North Vancouver's Lonsdale Quay Market, and it was so convenient and fast - it was only a 12-minute ride each way. And with my AirBnB only two blocks from the SeaBus station, it was seriously so easy, and rather enjoyable.

If you plan to visit Vancouver, definitely get a Compass card and load it up with a few rides. The SkyTrain, SeaBus and regular buses all use the Compass card. 

For the entire trip, I decided to rent a car. You definitely do not need one if you plan to stay around the Vancouver area. But, I knew I wanted to drive to Whistler, and also have the freedom to explore a lot of the hiking paths in North Vancouver and not have to wait for taxies or shuttles. So, for me, a car rental was necessary. But Vancouver was very easy to navigate without a car if your primary focus is the city. You may want to consider a car rental for a day if you want to explore the hiking areas outside of downtown, or look into shuttles that take people to some of the more popular attractions.

Tip: Vancouver does not have Uber or Lyft, so if you need a cab, you'll have to do it the old-fashioned way and call one to schedule a pick-up, or hail one down (although, I didn't see a lot of taxis driving around downtown unless I was close to a hotel). I used North Shore Taxi to get me to and from my rental car, and did scheduled pick-ups. They were great both times, and even took cards in their taxis which was a huge plus. None of the taxi companies in Vancouver had good reviews online, but I didn't have any issues. 

I feel like I did so much in three days, and yet, barely tackled even a small percentage of things Vancouver has to offer. But I'm so excited to share everything I packed in because I loved every second of it.

Capilano Suspension Bridge
The destination that made me want to visit! It's very touristy and probably the most popular attraction in Vancouver, but honestly, if you time it right to avoid the crowds, you'll have a wonderful time. I went on a Thursday at 8a when they first opened, and I had the bridge to myself for probably 10 minutes. And during my time here, the park really wasn't that crowded at all and I had most of the areas to explore to myself. I honestly think it's so worth it, even just to do once. It's $47CAD for admission, so it's not super cheap, but the bridge was one of the better ones I saw during my trip. The Cliff Walk and Tree Top Adventure were both so much fun, too - I actually think the Cliff Walk was my favorite. There are also free shuttle buses from downtown near Canada Place if you don't have a car, which is really convenient. Schedules for those can be found online.

Capilano Suspension Bridge. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography

Capilano Suspension Bridge. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography

I would love to go back to Capilano when they do their light display during the holiday season! Have you been during Canyon Lights? I'm currently trying to think of a way to get Josh to go with me to see them. Shhhh.

Cliffwalk at Capilano Park. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography

Cliffwalk at Capilano Park. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography

Cliffwalk at Capilano Park. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography

Cliffwalk at Capilano Park. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography

Because I was flying solo, and because it's really hard to set-up a tripod in busy areas to get even just one decent picture of myself that's not a selfie, I looked into a vacation photographer. I was really proud of myself for jetting off on my own and tackling quite a few adventurous things. Because of that, I wanted a few good photos to document the occasion since I knew I wouldn't be buying a lot of souvenirs (I considered this to be my souvenir, actually). After not finding anyone I liked on Flytographer, I decided to look to Instagram. Using a few hashtags to search for local photographers I immediately fell in love with Dylaina Gollub Photography, who just so happened to be available the morning I planned to visit Capilano. She was so awesome to work with, made me feel slightly less ridiculous to be walking around with someone snapping photos of me, and her work was just perfect for what I was looking for. I couldn't be happier to have these photos to document my memories here, and her rates were less than Flytographer.

Treetop Adventure at Capilano Park. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography.

Treetop Adventure at Capilano Park. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography.

Treetop Adventure at Capilano Park. Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography.

Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography.

Photo by Dylaina Gollub Photography.

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge Park
Everyone online seemed to think that Capilano was really over-rated, and that Lynn Canyon, which is free, was way better. I really enjoyed my time here because it was a little more rustic, but I will say, I thought the bridge at Capilano was better, even factoring in the admission fee. Lynn Canyon was still pretty crowded when I went on a Thursday, and the bridge, while still really cool to walk across, just wasn't as impactful once you've done Capilano (in my opinion). But, that said, if Capilano just isn't in your budget, this is a great alternative. There are still tons of trails in the park, a beautiful creek with crystal clear water and some wonderful views to be had. It's only about a 15-minute drive from Capilano, so it's a no-brainer to pop over to do both in the same day. While the actual bridge wasn't as exciting to me, the rest of the park was beautiful and I'm really glad I went for a couple of hours to walk the trails.

Deep Cove, BC
If you want to make a day of North Vancouver (Capilano, Lynn Canyon, etc.), then you should definitely add Deep Cove to your list. I fell so hard for this adorable little down. It reminded me of that show on Hallmark Cedar Cove (which I've admittedly seen a few episodes off, no shame), and it was so nice to walk around, grab a casual lunch and take in the views. I will say, on a Thursday afternoon (around 12-ish) it was very hard to find parking. I had to circle around the public lots quite a few times before scoring a spot on the street pretty far away from town center.

I wandered into a cafe called Covert Cafe, which was perfectly outfitted in a coastal theme bringing a huge smile to my face (the food was also very good).

There's a kayak launch right from the waterfront (you can't miss it), and I wish I'd had time to do that because it looked so fun. But my short time in Deep Cove was a highlight for me, and I highly suggest passing through for a few hours. I wish I'd gotten a doughnut at Honey Doughnuts, too! I planned to, but somehow totally forgot.

There are quite a few waterfalls near Vancouver, and I wanted to see them all. But since I was exploring North Vancouver on the first full day of my trip, and I was on only a few hours sleep from the night before after a severely delayed flight, I was exhausted and had to cut my day a little shorter than I would have liked. So, the only one I got to see in the Vancouver area was Cascade Falls. When I arrived, I was the only one there and got to really take in the moment. It's pretty far from Vancouver (about 1h20m one way from my AirBnB), and you have to drive through a bit of rural farming landscapes to get there, but it was so worth it for me. I really wanted to see Bridal Veil Falls (recommended by my photographer), and Norvan Falls, too.

Granville Island
Guys, I'm not gonna lie, I think I was just as excited to take the AquaBus to Granville Island as I was to explore Capilano and all the parks. I saw photos of the AquaBus online and they just made my heart so happy. Granville Island is basically one huge public market with all kinds of vendors, and it's accessible from a few different AquaBus docks, as well as a bridge. I hopped on an AquaBus from Hornby Street Dock, and they accept cards on this route. It looked as though some routes were cash only, however, and I'd recommend visiting the AquaBus website for more info.

Is the little AquaBus not one of the more adorable things you've seen today?

I was actually overwhelmed when I first got there because there are so many shops and food booths to see, but after circling around once and taking it all in, I really enjoyed stopping and looking at all the shops. There's one main building that's the official Public Market, and then there are clusters of shops and eateries all over as well. You could easily spend hours here, so plan accordingly, and definitely come hungry! I stopped for a grilled cheese and a cookie for lunch from A Bread Affair, and it was nothing short of amazing. Bonus points for the cutest seagull of all time that kept me company/stalked my food.

Biking The Stanley Park Seawall
I decided to rent a bike for a few hours from VanCity Bikes (conveniently located at the Waterfront SkyTrain/SeaBus station), and I'm so glad I did. The Stanley Park Seawall is the perfect bike ride for people who don't like biking. I've tried biking several times when we've travelled before, and I end up getting frustrated and overwhelmed when it's more difficult terrain than I thought. I always picture a bike ride as this perfect movie moment - when you can just peddle along rather easily, feel a nice breeze against your face and leisurely take in the views. And that's what the Seawall provided. It's perfectly flat, paved, and there are separate pedestrian and cyclist lanes, so no cars zipping by you. It was wonderful and relaxing, while still moderately active. When the loop around the Seawall ended, which was about 5.5 miles, I was actually kind of sad and didn't want it to end. I ended up biking the first part of it again. Before turning off to head to the Aquarium.

One of the many views from the Seawall bike path.

Along the way, there are also a few overlooks to pull off into, and a couple of the cutest little lighthouses to stop and admire. It was very easy to pull over and hop back on the path again.

Not the greatest photo of all time, but the only one I got of this cute little lighthouse.

If you plan to rent a bike during your time in Vancouver, I'd recommend starting with that first thing in the morning. Start by picking up the bike path a few blocks from the Waterfront Station, do the Seawall. Then continue on the bike path to English Bay (there are signs to follow that point you in the right direction), which will also eventually take you nearby Granville Island (bikes are allowed on the Aquabus, or you can bike across Burrard Bridge to get you to Granville. Click here for a bike path map that I found to be particularly helpful. I wish I had gotten to bike to Granville, but it rained pretty heavily in the morning that day, and I decided to walk to the Hornby Street Dock first thing instead, and postpone my bike ride until the rain had stopped. 

Tip: If you do bring your bike to Granville Island, they offer a free bike valet to safely store your bike while you walk around. Click here for more info. 

Vancouver Aquarium
I went to see the walrus, and that day, his exhibit wasn't open - sad! But it's okay because I spent about a half hour watching sea otters. And if that doesn't cheer you up, I'm not sure what will. The exhibits here are so awesome, especially the outdoor area where the otters, dolphin, seals, penguins and sea lions are.

Indoors, I was mesmerized by the jellies. They had quite a few tanks of different kinds of jelly fish and honestly that's what I spent a good chunk of my time gazing at.

Walk Around Gastown
Gastown was one of the highlights for me while walking around downtown. It has an old-world vibe to it with brick sidewalks, vintage street lamps and of course, the famous Steam Clock. I really loved looking through the shops, stopping to admire the architecture, and also popped into Soft Peaks for a soft serve cone, which totally hit the spot. You definitely can't miss it, and it's pretty close to and easily walkable from the Waterfront Station from downtown.

Soft Peaks ice cream was so tasty. This was their seasonal special called Snowberry, which was
vanilla ice cream topped with fresh strawberries and cereal pieces, and your choice
of an extra syrup (I chose blueberry).

There were also a few things I wish I'd had time for, but just couldn't squeeze them in. I recommend looking into these as well, and hope to tackle them all some day:
Grouse Mountain
Chinatown & The Chinese Gardens
Richmond Night Market (closer to the airport)
Day trip to Victoria, BC

I feel like if I'd had one more day in Vancouver, I would probably have gone for the Victoria day trip. A few people I was chatting with one day in Whistler said they spent a few nights in Victoria and said it was beautiful and a really great time.

And then, I was off to drive the Sea to Sky Highway and spend three nights in Whistler! Have you been to Vancouver? What's your favorite thing to do while visiting?

Blue Backpack: eBags. I loved this because it was small enough for carrying around the city, but large enough to hold everything I needed for the day.

Tan Backpack: eBags. This was perfect when I needed a slightly larger backpack for hiking and carrying around my tripod, camera, water bottle and snacks. I also loved the vintage look it had.

Chambray Shirt: J.Crew. I got it in the Tall size so it was a bit longer to wear with skinny jeans and athletic leggings. It was also the perfect weight to wear during the early morning chilly weather, and also fold up and toss in my backpack when I warmed up a bit.

Boots: L.L. Bean. These were my Aunt's old boots that she gave to me, so clearly they're super high quality. I wear them all the time in my every day life, too, for snow, rain and everything in between.

Rain Jacket: Older style from Athleta, but they make a very similar version, which you can find here. I love this because it's really lightweight and perfect for Spring or chillier days, and it has thumb holes which help to keep me warm. It always keep me really dry in the rain since I often find myself without an umbrella during a downpour.

Are you considering booking your first AirBnB stay or experience? If you'd like, you can use my referral link here to save $55 when you book your first stay. Both Josh and I have been using AirBnB for a few years now to have a more authentic experience when we travel, and we really encourage everyone to check it out when it makes sense for your next adventure. It's usually much more cost effective than hotel stays.

Links included in my posts will sometimes be an affiliate link, which offers me a commission if you choose to use that link to make a purchase of something featured in my blog. The only time I ever use affiliate links is if I truly stand by the product, have used it and believe you may benefit from it as well. If I don't think something is worth your time, I simply will not link to it, or make it an affiliate link. Anything I earn from affiliate links is used to invest in my blogs to provide even more content for you.


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