I’ll be honest. I never had the desire to go to Hawaii.
I know, I know. You probably think I’m crazy and are two sentences away from unfollowing anything to do with TWR. But, hear me out...
I always thought Hawaii was tourist destination numero uno with a price point that I could never in my life afford. So instead of dreaming about Hawaii, I would dream about desolate beaches in Mexico or a getaway to the lush mountains of Canada.
Hawaii just happened to fall last on my list.
But this past winter, all of that changed after my boyfriend and I got the opportunity to visit a family friend in Kona, Hawaii.
After looking at our schedules, checking in on airfare, and going back and forth about taking a vacation, we finally decided to go for it and booked a 9-day trip to The Big Island.
I started to get super excited after reading this amazing blog that listed all of the activities, scenery, and sights to see. Not to mention, this winter has been one of the coldest and snowiest winters in Montana history. So this beach vacation definitely came at a damn good time.
Well, I’ve got some news for y’all. Hawaii was absolutely incredible.
From the tucked away beaches to the local pubs and shops, everything about Hawaii made me never want to leave.
Although we were stationed in Kona, Cody and I did a lot while on The Big Island. We decided to rent a car and explore the island from top to bottom. Pro Tip: rent a car with 4-wheel drive. There are lots of steep, rocky roads that lead to hidden spots all over the island.
With 9 days in Hawaii, we definitely found our go-to spots for a bite to eat, a good night’s rest, and a wild adventure or two. So just in case you ever find yourself on The Big Island, I’m sharing my experience if you’re ever in need of a little recommendation.
where to stay
I'm not kidding when I say the Holualoa Inn was the cherry on top to our Hawaiian vacation. Located up on the hill, the Inn is a 30-acre estate with ocean views from every corner, an open-air floor plan, Polynesian inspired decor, homegrown coffee, herbs, and fruit trees, and the most attentive and kind staff I've ever encountered.
The Holualoa Inn was the ideal location for Cody and I to relax and make it really feel like an island vacation.
Every morning we were greeted with freshly made coffee straight from their estate and a homemade breakfast plate featuring fruits, herbs, and other ingredients picked right from their garden. My favorite was their Lilikoi French Toast with Coconut Cream, Maple Bacon, and a bit of edible flowers (seen below).
The Inn was also complete with an infinity pool, hot tubs, walking trails, a rooftop gazebo, and views I'll never forget. If you ever find yourself near Kona, I highly suggest you do a 2 or 3 night stay at the Inn. I promise, you won't be the least bit disappointed.
We stayed at their newly renovated Red Barn, which is located at the very top of the property. The 180-degree views were hard to beat. Oh, and the sheets? Don't even get me started...
where to eat
Nice Dinner: Huggo’s
Huggo's is located in Downtown Kona, right on the water. It's definitely an upscale joint, but feel free to wear your casual clothes as any place in Hawaii is relaxed. At Huggo's, I probably had one of the best meals ever as it combined all of my favorite flavors, including a citrusy slaw, a slightly spicy chipotle sauce, and the freshest Ahi in the world. Hopefully you'll be as lucky as us and get Joe as your server. He was a delight and very attentive yet relaxed.
WHAT TO ORDER: Seared Ahi Tuna with Avocado Fries
Casual Lunch: Da Poke Shack
Da Poke Shack is just as it sounds - a shack. Located off the beaten path in an old apartment complex, this local joint serves up some of the best Hawaiian Poke I've had. They keep things super simple too as you order your bowl or plate in 3 steps. First, white or brown rice. Next, pick one side. Finally, choose two types of Poke. Easy as that.
WHAT TO ORDER: A bowl with white rice, cucumber side, and the Shack and Sesame Poke.
Healthy Breakfast: Basik Café
If you're looking for a light and healthy breakfast spot after one too many Mai Tai's or brews, the Basik Cafe is a great spot to get the nourishment you need. This cafe sells a unique menu of Acai bowls and smoothies with dairy-free and plant-based ingredients. I recommend getting there before the breakfast rush ensues as it's a small space and can fill up fast.
WHAT TO ORDER: The Forager Acai Bowl, add Chia Seed
where to adventure
Hike Waipio Valley
This spot was one of my favorite adventures we did as the views were vast and the hike was well worth it. At about an hour and a half north of Kona, the Waipio Valley is a one-of-a-kind area where the valley floors meet the ocean cliffs in a scenic coastal area of The Big Island. If you don't want to hike the steep road back to the top, you'll need to have a vehicle with 4-wheel drive as it's a rocky, steep road down and back.
Visit Akaka Falls in Hilo
Akaka Falls is a state park located near Hilo. This side of the island gets over 300-inches of rain a year so it's way WAY more tropical than Kona. With all of that rainfall, the Falls were rampant and raging while we were there. The walk took less than 20 minutes as it's on an easy paved trail.
Check Out Green Sands Beach
Green Sands Beach was an unexpected destination for us on our way to the Volcano National Park, but I'm so glad we made the decision to stop. Green Sands is about a 4-mile round trip hike along the ocean to an area where the sand is literally bright green. But to be honest, the hike to the beach was more enjoyable than the actual beach as the waves were huge! I just kept watching the water hit the shoreline and splash in every which way. Don't forget to bring water on this hike as well as a hair tie - the wind was cray cray!
Snorkel at Two Step
Real talk, I've only snorkeled once in my life before visiting Hawaii and this spot certainly isn't for beginners. So while Cody snorkeled, I stayed on land and watched a group of dolphins swimming and jumping in the bay. This is also where you can see the sea turtles and the tropical fish coming into the bay.
Where to Relax
The one thing about Hawaii that no one told us, is that its shores are lined with lava rock. There's not really any white sand beaches, and if there are, you have to either drive to them or fight the crowds. So, we chose to drive.
Located about 30 minutes North of Kona, Hapuna Beach was well worth the trekk. It's a long, mellow, white sand beach next to a hotel resort and a park. The waves crash softly onto shore, there's lifeguards on duty, and no one really bothers you if you bring a brew or two with you.
As you can tell, Hawaii was everything and more. If you ever find yourself on The Big Island (and I highly recommend you do), make sure to check off a few of these things from your list as I promise they won't disappoint!
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