Aloha, and welcome back for part two of my Hawaii Travel Diary! Haven’t read part one? Head there first. Did I just say aloha? I guess I’m in a tropical mood. Onward! Day 5 We woke up bright and early on day five and sped off in the family mini-van to tour Kuaiwi Farm. I… View Article

Hawaii Travel Diary – Part 2

Location: Kona, Hawaii

Aloha, and welcome back for part two of my Hawaii Travel Diary! Haven’t read part one? Head there first.

Did I just say aloha? I guess I’m in a tropical mood. Onward!

Day 5

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We woke up bright and early on day five and sped off in the family mini-van to tour Kuaiwi Farm. I had read that touring one of Kona’s many coffee farms would be a quality activity, and after some research I found Kuaiwi, which specializes in coffee and chocolate (be still my heart) and pairs the farm tour with a free tasting.

We followed Kuaiwi’s (admittedly difficult) directions and hand-drawn map up into the mountains via ever narrowing roads. We finally made it, but the driving was a bit tough.

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Right away I had a good feeling about this tour. It could have been that Una, co-owner of the farm and our personal tour guide, was so friendly. Or maybe it was how beautiful and lush the whole place was.

She started the tour by showing us a hand drawn map of the farm.

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Kuaiwi has won many awards for their coffee and participated in many local festivals and markets.

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We proceeded outside the main building to a macadamia nut cracking station. Una instructed us to don safety glasses to protect our eyes from errant bits of shell.

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The fresh cracked nuts were insanely good. Being my father’s daughter (he developed a taste for all things Hawaiian during his years on Oahu in the army) I’ve long had a taste for macadamias. But these were better than anything I’d ever tasted.

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We deposited our shells and moved on.

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Una showed us their macadamia trees, pointing out the baby macadamia nuts just forming.

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Then we moved on to coffee. The picture on the left is a coffee plant, which I thought looked strikingly like a grape bush. The right picture is the fruit of a coffee plant. This is how coffee starts.

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Una instructed us to squeeze our little coffee fruit, and when we did, out popped a pair of beans that looked a lot more like what I expected. The beans were covered in a slimy, fruity shell. The next step in making coffee is to ferment the beans just like this. After fermentation, they look like the picture on the right.

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Finally, the beans are stripped from the yellowish shell and dried. Una led us up the farm path to a shed where this was happening.

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Plain old coffee beans on the left, roasted coffee beans on the right.

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After touring the coffee facilities, we got to see some of Kuaiwi’s smaller offerings. Una actually cut fruit right from the trees and sliced off bites for us to eat. Everything we had was astoundingly fresh. These are nectarines. Or tangelos. Or oranges. I can’t recall. We had a lot of citrus that day.

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Imagine picking fruit in this idyllic setting all day.

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These are what Una called “tree tomatoes.” Deliciously sweet and acidic at the same time.

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Bread fruit.

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On the left is a cinnamon leaf. She had us taste the stem and it was a burst of cinnamon in our mouths. On the right is a vanilla tree.

I didn’t get a picture of it, but there was one other spice she shared with us. She plucked a group of mottled leaves from a tree and, handing one to each of us, instructed us to crumple them in our hands and smell the aroma they produced. She quizzed us on what spice we thought it was and we came up with nutmeg and cloves. Turns out it was allspice–and that’s exactly why it has that name.

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More citrus.

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Whats that on the right? Chocolate pods.

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They come in red and yellow, apparently. Una plucked one from a branch and halved it.

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Chocolate fruit! Inside the shell are lumpy knobs of fruit and seeds. You can suck on the fruit–it tastes like citrus. The seeds are what chocolate is made from. We wandered along eating chocolate fruit while she explained this.

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Nom.

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The farmhand’s house–right at the back of the farm.

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Bananas! Commonly called “trees,” banana plants are more like flowering bushes, she explained.

In the close up picture you can glimpse a bit of realism. See those wispy white tendrils between the leaves? Those are webs made by an invasive hermit crab spider. Throughout the entire tour we had to watch out for them, lest we end up with a tiny spider down our shirts.

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Right at the center you can see a baby pineapple poking up its head.

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On the left, tea. All green and black tea is made from leaves just like this. On the right, cotton.

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This is what she called a “ground tomato.” Tasty and sweet.

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After our long tour we were happy to kick our feet up on the main house’s patio and sample some of the farm’s offerings. These are dehydrated “apple bananas.”

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Next Una brought out saltine crackers, macadamia nut butter, and papaya spread. The crackers were so rich and good I asked about them and discovered that they’re a local Hawaiian brand made with lard.

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Kuaiwi is just starting to sell cocoa nibs in addition to their chocolate. They’re a relatively small-time operation, which I found refreshing. Una went into detail about how they make their chocolate bars. She even showed us the molds they use for them.

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I can’t describe how good the coffee tasted. There wasn’t even a hint of bitterness in it. I wish I could drink it every day. And the chocolate was stupendous as well.

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We loaded up on fresh produce, chocolate bars, macadamia nut butter, and coffee before carefully driving back down the mountain.

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Our morning walking around the farm had whet our appetites, so we stopped at a local hotspot for lunch: Sam Choy’s. The biggest appeal of the place was the view–the entire back side of the restaurant is open air with a glorious, wide view of the ocean.

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We started with some appetizers, including chicken wings.

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Hearty rings of calamari.

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Fish tacos.

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And for lunch, poke bowls. Sam Choy’s version comes with pasta, which I found interesting.

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We eventually drove home, where we found the sky overcast. We spent the afternoon in total relaxation–I even took a nap, which is rare for me. Eventually, around sunset, the rainclouds departed, leaving us with a spectacular, glowing pink sunset to enjoy.

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Day 6

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There’s one thing that really sets Hawaii apart from any Caribbean island I’ve visited: volcanoes. On day six we woke up, donned our hiking gear and set off on the two-hour drive to Volcanoes National Park.

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For the occasion I have to admit that I had planned on wearing athletic gear, but after putting it on and realizing it was a bit too sporty for the day ahead of us, which would include dinner out and potentially a happy hour at a winery, I switched gears and chose this white Athleta dress instead.

I often feel like many fashion blogs portray an effortless world in which all fashion decisions are easy and all outfits are perfect. I’m here to dispel that myth. I often have moments of indecision or have to try on a number of outfits or combinations of things before I find one that makes me happy. This was one of those outfits. I think it turned out rather well, though, if I do say so myself.

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Anyway. I was surprised at just how big Hawaii is. Having been to Oahu, which is decidedly smaller, I felt like it took forever for us to make it halfway around the island. Luckily, the drive was captivating.

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There were also fun stops to make, like Punalu’u Beach, which is known to be the best black sand beach on the island.

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I wouldn’t call Punalu’u a great swimming beach, and I wouldn’t say that the sand there is particularly soft. But what it lacks in comfort it makes up in beauty. Having never seen a black sand beach before, I found the place austerely dazzling.

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After dipping our toes in the ocean–this was actually the only time we did this on the trip–we took off, headed for the park.

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Our destination was the Kilauea Iki Trail, which I had read was the hike to do at the park. It’s a four-mile loop around the lip of and then down through a hardened lava crater.

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We snapped copious numbers of photos of the view from the lip of the crater before we descended into it. Not only did the hardened crater look amazing from up high, we could also see the steam rising from the currently active crater, Kilauea, in the distance.

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As we went along we could see the path striped in white along the bottom of the crater, and we started getting excited.

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Kilauea Iki only cooled off about 50 years ago. If we had been here 100 years earlier we would have seen a roiling sea of molten lava.

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On the left you can see the steam rising from the active volcano in the distance.

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After a number of declining switchbacks we made our way out onto the crater floor. It felt like an alien landscape.

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Everywhere we looked was a desolate plane of hardened lava–some smooth and rolling, some craggy and mountainous. It was mesmerizing.

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Cairns marked the path across the crater. We made our way slowly across, constantly pausing to take pictures. A few spry plants have fingered their way into existence in this place.

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Steam still rises from cracks in the crater floor. It turns out this is actually steam from rain water that makes its way down through the cracks and eventually hits warm rocks far below the floor. It was amazing to walk along the steaming vents, warming our hands above cracks in the floor.

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This must have been what Frodo and Sam felt like hiking across Mordor. Except their destination was a bit more dire.

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The hardened lava was oddly light. The rocks felt and looked much like pumice stone, and some of them had a large percentage of sparkly green rock in them. Apparently this green rock is what makes up Hawaii’s green sand beach. We never made it there (it’s a long hike) but it’s supposedly one of the only green sand beaches in the world.

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Eventually we made it to the other side of the crater as the sun was beginning to set. We took one last look across the desolate vista and then made our way up a series of inclining switchbacks.

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We’d heard that the best time to view the active volcano at the park is just after dusk, before the park closes. With the sun below the horizon, it’s easy to see the bubbling lava leaping and exploding from the scenic overlook. Of course everyone else in the park had the same idea, so we had to take our time finding a parking spot and finding an open railing at the scenic overlook. It was worth it though. I still can’t believe how active the volcano was–that I saw a real volcano exploding with my naked eyes.

Pro tip: if you go to the lookout after dark bring a warm jacket. My windbreaker was decidedly not enough. It was so windy and chilly I had to keep ducking into the museum at the overlook to warm up.

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Satisfied with our lava viewing we made our way out of the park and took off for Kona. All the restaurants near the park were swamped, so we decided to eat a late dinner farther down the road. Some quick research on Google turned up Mehe’s Ka’u Bar and Grill about halfway between the park and Kona.

Stomachs grumbling, we were happy to find the restaurant uncrowded. We sat at the bar and were served by a delightfully helpful Australian bartender/server. He recommended the coconut calamari to start, and it hit the spot wonderfully.

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Curtis ordered the fish and chips, which came highly recommend in all the reviews of the place, and I ordered the grilled fish plate. Both entrees made use of Ono, a local fish, and both were quite good. We left satisfied and ready for the last leg of the drive home, where we quickly collapsed into bed.

Day 7

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dress Felicity and Coco (similar by Felicty and Coco)
bracelet street vendor (similar)
straw tote Amazon Fashion
nails Vinylux (Gotcha)
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After our big day out at Volcanoes National Park we were looking forward to a quiet day in. I woke up, grabbed my book, and spent the morning reading in relaxation.

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swimsuit Roxy — top, bottom
coverup H&M (very similar)
sunglasses Charming Charlie (c/o, similar)
sandals Charming Charlie (c/o, similar)
ring Shashi (similar)
earrings Charming Charlie
nails Vinylux (Gotcha)

View the full outfit post featuring this look here.

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Eventually, when I’d had enough reading, I slipped into my swimsuit and made my way down to the pool.

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Where I situated myself quite comfortably.

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And I found a lovely companion.

We lounged, drank, and partied the afternoon away.

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I snapped a few more outfit photos, with a few interruptions.

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That night we made grilled fish skewers with local ahi tuna and ono. We procured the fish that morning from Umekes, where we had lunched early in the trip. Not only does Umekes serve up delicious poke bowls, they’ll also sell you any of the fish they serve to grill up at home.

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We capped off the evening with another gorgeous sunset and some Magnum P.I. before bed.

Day 8

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dress Charlie Jade (pink version)
sandals Dolce Vita
straw tote Amazon Fashion
earrings Kenneth Jay Lane
bracelet Official Larimar Shop (c/o)
lip Burt’s Bees (Sweet Violet)
nails Vinylux (Gotcha)

View the full outfit post featuring this look here.

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The morning of our last full day in Hawaii, my mother-in-law had a request: local, fried fish for lunch. Some research turned up The Fish Hopper, which we’d also heard from a few locals was a good place to get fish.

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The Fish Hopper is located in downtown Kona, right on the water. We braced ourselves for crowds of tourists and made our way there. As it turns out, The Fish Hopper has their own parking lot and wasn’t overly busy, so our fears were assuaged.

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We landed a large table next to the balcony with beautiful views of the ocean. The large open windows also afforded us the company of several green companions. These bright lizards are everywhere in Hawaii.

After ordering a bottle of rosé, we turned to the menu.

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Curtis and I decided to share the house specialty: macadamia crusted ono. It was probably the best fish I ate while in Hawaii. The crust was delightfully light–not at all oily–and very flavorful. While the portions were small for the price, the quality of the dishes made up for it.

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Our lunch had whet my appetite for wine, so I spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool helping to finish off the rest of the rosé we had at home. Somebody had to–it’s not like we could take it home with us.

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Our final sunset of the trip was one of the best.

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We lingered outside long after the sun had set, enjoying the last bits of dusk.

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Then we retired inside to snack away at the remainder of the food we had bought. We made hamburgers and shared photos.

Day 9

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On our final day I popped awake early enough to watch the sunrise. I enjoyed my final breakfast of local fruit and yogurt, then set to work packing.

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Happily, I finished packing several hours before our check-out time, which allowed me time enough for a drinks in the sun on the pool deck.

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At 11, we said a wistful goodbye to our rental home and went to Sam Choy’s for an early lunch before our flight. We were enticed back by the beautiful views.

Sadly, we had much worse service this time around and waited an almost intolerably long time for our food to come out. I wiled the time away with a glass of champagne, which I was surprised to see was blue after I’d ordered it.

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Curtis and I shared the fish sandwich, which was quite good, despite the wait.

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After our lunch we drove up to the airport, deposited our rental cars, and made our way glumly to our flight out.

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Hawaii, we’ll decidedly be back. What a stellar vacation.

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