Like most Midwesterners, I love to escape the brutality of our winters. This January marked my sister-in-law’s 40th, and, happily, she was game to celebrate in a big way. The whole family decided a trip somewhere spectacular was in order, so we chose Hawaii. In mid-January we packed our bags with bikinis and sundresses (well,… View Article

Hawaii Travel Diary – Part 1

Location: Kona, Hawaii

Like most Midwesterners, I love to escape the brutality of our winters. This January marked my sister-in-law’s 40th, and, happily, she was game to celebrate in a big way. The whole family decided a trip somewhere spectacular was in order, so we chose Hawaii.

In mid-January we packed our bags with bikinis and sundresses (well, I did, at least) and jetted halfway across the world to the Big Island. This was actually my third trip to Hawaii, but my first to Hawaii proper. My dad took my family there several times when I was younger–he was stationed on Oahu when he was in the army. Before we left for our trip, he told me that we’d love Hawaii’s laid-back atmosphere, so different from the hustle and bustle of Oahu and Honolulu.

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I couldn’t believe how easygoing and lush the big island was compared to the other islands in the Hawaiian chain. It has a very Caribbean vibe–one that I loved.

Enough talk, let’s get started!

Day 1

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Bright and (far too) early on a Saturday morning, we popped awake and Ubered up to O’Hare. I snagged a much-needed cappuccino before we boarded our flight to Phoenix. I spent the flight reading Stephen Burt’s Close Calls with Nonsense. After a brief stop in Arizona we were off again for the island on what, I have to say, was one of the worst flights I’ve ever taken. If you have a choice between American Airlines and any other airline when heading to the Big Island, don’t choose American. We did, and our flight was cramped, the seats were crazy old, and the service was very sub-par.

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I always put Curtis, my husband, in charge of renting cars on our travels, as he’s the one usually driving them. I knew he had rented a totally average, normal car for this trip, so imagine my surprise when I walked out of the rental agency to see him standing by a convertible. Apparently Hertz offered him an upgrade at a very reasonable price. It was worth every penny.

The shot above has our rental house in the background. We stayed at Pu’uwai Villa and it was glorious–easily one of the best vacation rentals we’ve ever stayed in. It had a beautiful salt-water, solar-heated pool; a lovely deck; three gorgeous bedrooms; and bathrooms the size of palaces (at least to this city-dweller). It was also very well appointed–it had everything from a Vitamix blender to high quality pool towels to a brand new flatscreen. If you’re considering a 6-8 person vacation rental on the big island I can’t recommend it enough.

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The Big Island’s sunsets were one of the highlights of our trip. The west side of the island tends to have better weather, so that’s the side we chose to stay on. Given that Hawaii is the youngest island in the chain–geologically speaking–it has far fewer beaches than the other islands. The Big Island is still being formed by its active volcanoes, so its somewhat mountainous and rocky. Due to this, we decided to forgo trying to find a rental on the beach and instead chose a villa that had a bit of elevation. It was a great choice–every night we were treated to stunning sunset views over a gorgeous tropical vista. On our first night we were quick to pop open some wine and take it all in.

And then collapse into bed after a full day of travel.

Day 2

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dress Loft (similar)
sandals Charming Charlie (similar)
straw tote Amazon Fashion
necklace Top Drawer Consignment (similar)
earrings Charming Charlie
bracelet Etsy (similar)
sunglasses Charming Charlie (similar)
lip Burt’s Bees (Sweet Violet)
nails Vinylux (Gotcha)

The best part about traveling west is waking up early in the morning, catching the sunrise, and feeling full of energy for the day. Jet lag is like that–sometimes it works for you.

On our first morning in Hawaii we watched the sun illuminate the beautiful vista from our lanai (the Hawaiian word for balcony) while sipping local coffee. I cracked open William Carlos William’s collected poems and half read, half watched my sister-in-law snap pictures of tropical birds.

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Fully caffeinated and relaxed, we hopped in the car and drove off for our first activity of the trip: Kanaloa Octopus Farm.

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We’d heard about Kanaloa from the concierge service that came with our vacation rental. For $20 we got to tour a small facility studying octopus and their mating habits. Kanaloa’s goal is to develop a sustainable farming method for octopuses, as hunting them in the wild is destructive to their habitat and hard on their numbers. Apparently breeding octopuses is exceptionally challenging. Our guide gave us all the details.

The best part of the tour? Playing with octopus, of course! Their octopuses are all quite friendly–if you stick a finger in their tank, they’ll wrap a tentacle around it. If you toss one of their floaty toys, they’ll swim off to catch it.

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The male octopus and the female were housed separately. Apparently they don’t get along. I could see why–the males were way more aggressive. The first one I played with suckered on to my finger so hard it freaked me out. And if you stand near one of their tanks and don’t play with them, they splash you! The lighter octopus are the males and the darker reddish ones are female.

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We spent the tour tossing floaty toys and watching as the octopus changed colors to match their tank’s environments. It was amazing to see their different personalities. Some were aggressive, some were so shy they just peeked one eye out of their cave, and some were super playful.

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Happy with our morning of playing with bicuspids, we headed home, stopping at the store for snacks and drinks to enjoy by the pool.

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bikini Topshop (top, bottom)
sarong One World Sarongs
sarong tie Amazon Fashion
sunglasses Loft (similar)

I made mai tais, which, as it turns out, are just Goombay Smashes with dark rum and grenadine.

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I surprised everyone with a bag full of drink umbrellas I had brought with me. Thanks to Amazon I got 288 for $10. Whats a tropical drink without a decorative umbrella?

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Did I mention the house was well appointed? The pool shed was stocked with every type of floaty imaginable.

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We drank in the sun, the warm weather, and our fair share of rum all afternoon long.

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That night we grilled up some hamburgers and fell into bed sunned, full, and happy.

Day 3

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dress Nordstrom Rack (similar)
sandals Charming Charlie (similar pineapple sandal)
clutch Etsy (similar)
necklace Top Drawer Consignment (similar)
ring Gorjana
sunglasses Loft (similar)
lip Burt’s Bees (Sweet Violet)
nails Vinylux (Gotcha)

The next morning dawned much as the previous one had. We sipped coffee, read, and listened to the birds singing–including the group of turkeys that lived near our driveway. Around noon we decided lunch was in order, so I threw on a sundress and hopped into the convertible.

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Some quick research uncovered Umekes, which seemed to be a local favorite.

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Located in a small strip mall, Umekes seems unassuming at first glance, but don’t be deceived.

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They have great drinks and local brews, a nice open interior with lots of TVs (if you’re into sports) and a breezy patio if you’re into lunching outside–as we were.

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We ordered the pork poke bowl appetizer, which was tasty.

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Fish tacos.

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Poke bowl with fried fish and head-on shrimp.

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I ordered the classic poke bowl with kanaka-seasoned ahi tuna, brown rice, and hoi’o–which is a Hawaiian fern.

If you’ve never tried poke (pronounced poh-kay) I encourage you to give it a shot. It’s a lot like deconstructed sushi. It’s a very simple, classically Hawaiian dish: just raw seasoned fish, rice, and some other stuff in a bowl. There are lots of different varieties, and if raw fish freaks you out, there are cooked options available pretty much everywhere.

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We slept–okay partied–our lunch off at the pool.

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Curtis put on some music, I fixed some drinks, and the afternoon passed all too quickly.

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dress Nordstrom Rack (similar)
sandals Charming Charlie (similar)
handbag Mad Style
necklace Sole Society (similar)
earrings Charming Charlie (similar)
bangle Charming Charlie (similar)
ring Jewelmint (similar)
sunglasses Loft (similar)
lip Burt’s Bees (Sweet Violet)
nails Vinylux (Gotcha)

View the full outfit post featuring this look here.

Once the sun dipped below the horizon I changed from my suit to my usual tropical vacation evening wear: a comfy maxi. I got into maxis like this for Caribbean trips with biting insects like midges and mosquitos that appear after dark, but in Hawaii I’m happy to say that I saw hardly any bugs at all. The temperatures did dip a bit a night, though, so the added warmth of a maxi was quite nice.

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That night my sister-in-law fixed Mediterranean chicken and tzatziki and I’m linking the recipe here because it was insanely delicious. And insanely healthy. Seriously, make it–you won’t be disappointed.

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I’ll pause here to talk about Halloween. Why? Because this past Halloween my husband went as Magnum P.I. He, in fact, killed it as Magnum P.I. Given that she was the birthday girl, my sister-in-law requested that he reprise the outfit for our trip to Hawaii, hence the silly mustache he wore throughout the trip. This also led into us talking about Magnum and eventually watching episodes of Magnum in the evening after dinner. We did this pretty much every night of the trip. My nephew fell so in love with the show he almost seemed to enjoy it more than our pool.

So, this night, as most nights, we capped off the day with a few episodes of Magnum P.I.

Day 4

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The next day I woke up bright an early, watched the sun rise, and then got to work.

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It was photoshoot day. Well, really, just photoshoot morning. I did the majority of the outfit photos I took on the trip this day.

I get a lot of questions about how I do my shoots, so I thought I’d share a shot of what it looks like here. I use a remote shutter release and a tripod, so I effectively take all the photos myself.

Why did I shoot all my looks together on this day? Two reasons: first, I didn’t want to have to stress about my hair and makeup looking perfect each day of this trip. After all, the point of a tropical vacation is relaxation. It was easier to curl my hair and put on makeup just one time and knock out all my looks at once. That way, if I didn’t feel like wearing mascara to dinner or drying and curling my hair for a day out, I didn’t have to.

The other reason I chose this day was that we had a very special event planned for the evening.

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But first, cake! This day was my sister-in-law’s birthday. We surprised her with cake and rosé for lunch.

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And then we spent the early afternoon doing the usual…

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…before donning on our tropical best and driving to the Mauna Kea Resort for their famed luau!

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crop top Stylecamp
skirt MeshMe
handbag Mad Style
sandals Charming Charlie (c/o, similar)
ring Gorjana
earrings Charming Charlie (similar)
bracelet Etsy (similar)
lip Burt’s Bees (Sunset Cruise)
nails Vinylux (Gotcha)

View the full outfit post featuring this look here.

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Mauna Kea is a breathtaking resort with one of the best beaches on the island. When we got there, I couldn’t resist exploring the grounds. We arrived a bit early, so we snagged a few (very expesive) cocktails at the bar before following a long, winding path along the beach to the luau location.

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As we arrived, runners were lighting torches along the walkway. Two beautiful Hawaiian girls decked us out in leis–either white shell or black stone–and led us into the venue.

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Our wonderfully friendly server greeted us with a round of mai tais.

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We sipped and visited until it was time for the pig, whole roasted in an earthen pit, to be dug up. I recommend going early to avoid the crowds that develop later, as the unearthing goes on.

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After the pig was carted off we went back to our tables. A talented local band played Hawaiian music.

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They soon released us to fill up our plates at the buffet. I tried everything–I love unique, local food, and the buffet was chock full of it.

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So. Excited.

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I loaded my plate with shrimp, poke, lomi lomi salmon, local salads, poi, roast pig, dried fish, and–my favorite–loa loa. Loa Loa is roast pork wrapped in Ti leaves. It was delicious. I had seconds.

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As we ate, the dancers began their performance.

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But it was after they served dessert–which didn’t include anything too special, I have to say–that the performance really took off. It began with a processional of a Hawaiian royal family and a ceremonial, traditional dance–pictured above. This dance was probably my favorite of the night–it felt incredibly powerful.

After the procession, the dancing really began. The performance included traditional Polynesian dancing, modern hula, belly dancing, and even Samoan fire dancing. It was an incredible performance–we were all highly impressed.

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So impressed that we decided we had to do the touristy thing and get a shot with the dancers…

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…including the Samoan fire dancer. Hang loose.

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Stay tuned for part two of my Hawaii travel diary, which will include our tour of Kuaiwi Coffee Farm, our trip to Volcanoes National Park, and many more restaurants. Aloha!

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5 Comments and Pingbacks for Hawaii Travel Diary – Part 1.

  1. Great pictures!! They make me want to go back so bad!! Looks like an awesome time with your family. XO –

    Anna White on February 9, 2017   /   Reply
  2. How fun! I would definitely not mind a trip to Hawaii right about now, haha. And I can’t believe you shoot your outfit photos with just a tripod! They look really well composed :)

    http://www.ticketforadventure.com

    Ticket for Adventure on February 12, 2017   /   Reply