Should your parents ever call you out of the blue to ask you if you’d be interested in traveling to Kona, Hawaii in 1 years time to help celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary – don’t think, just say yes.
I’m sure you could guess, but this oddly specific scenario is exactly what carried me to the islands of paradise this past June.
With Hawaii being 6 hours behind New York, there were several nights when I realized I was going to sleep while NYC was waking up to begin the following day. I felt completely removed from my regular routine – which ultimately was a blessing, but definitely took some getting used to.
The time zone wasn’t the only thing on a delay – the entire speed and rhythm of the island runs at a glacial pace compared to anywhere else. Even my parents from Salt Lake City, Utah took a couple days to adjust to “island time.” So imagine me being transplanted directly from New York “I’m Running on Six Shots of Espresso” City – it was a bit shocking. But once we settled in, and embraced the slower pace of life (Kona’s fastest road – a two lane highway – sports a 55mph speed limit), the island quickly started working its magic.
So what are you waiting for? Press play on that Moana soundtrack I know you’ve been humming since opening this post, and let’s dive in to my Top 5 of Kona, Hawaii…
1. Hapuna Beach State Park
Let’s be honest – a trip to the beach is the first thing people think of when they picture Hawaii, so why shouldn’t it be #1 on our list?
We dabbled with a few beaches during our week in Kona, and without a doubt, the best and most beautiful was Hapuna Beach.
I have never before seen waters so crystal clear and blue. The sand was white, soft and warm. It was absolutely stunning. I got burned to a crisp on this beach, and I can’t even be mad about it. Had I the chance to do it all over again, I would willingly part with yet another layer of skin – it was just that pretty.
If you venture to this beach, I highly recommend driving further down the road and paying for parking. We were unaware of the additional lot and parked higher up. The parking may have been free, but it forced us to have to trek out and hike down to the beach. The walk is nothing terrible if you’re prepared for it, but it’s not something you’d want to tackle wearing only flip flops and swim suits…which is exactly what we were doing.
Trust me – drive further down and pay the $10 for parking. It will get you to the beach and soaking up all the valuable vitamin D that much faster.
2. The Coffee Shack
Without a doubt, The Coffee Shack has the best breakfast on the island. If you followed me on social media while I was actually on this trip, you know that I stayed on a ketogenic diet the entire time. That said – The Coffee Shack was a godsend when kicking my day off with a hearty dose of nutritional fats. I was able to load up one of their giant omelettes with plenty of cheese, bacon, avocado, and even some extra butter on top – it was heaven.
From a non-keto perspective, The Coffee Shack also serves a french toast that is prepared using “luau bread.” Luau bread is a sweet bread that has a similar texture and taste to carrot cake. I obviously didn’t have any, but everyone else at my table gave it rave reviews. I can say it looked phenomenal.
Aside from the delicious food, I would also urge you to The Coffee Shack for their spectacular view and pet geckos. Okay, okay, the geckos aren’t really pets – they run wild in the area, but locals have discovered that with some strategically placed jelly packets, geckos will dine right along side you. Don’t let them scare you – they are harmless critters and are actually believed to bring good luck 🙂
When we first set off on this day tour, I have to admit…I wasn’t that excited.
“Yeah, yeah, so we are gonna go snorkel and see some fish. Whatevs.”
What do ya know, it ended up not only being my favorite activity, but my favorite day on the island.
The day trip was an extra surprise from our parents (geez guys, wasn’t getting us to Hawaii enough?) – we boarded a private boat, just big enough for the 5 of us and our tour guide Manu.
Manu was incredible – he found us a pod of dolphins to swim with, cruised us down to a coral reef that we could see up close and personal, and provided us with a detailed history of the islands. The tour company provides lunch on the boat and was even able to cater to my tricky dietary requirements. At the end of the day, Manu gave us the option to go cliff diving; however, we opted out of this for a little extra time to explore the coral reef.
It was an absolutely magical day. Words cannot describe how healing it was to be out on that water. Thinking on it, can we go back now?
4. Brown’s Beach House Restaurant at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel
Recommended to us by a friend, Brown’s Beach House proved the PERFECT restaurant to celebrate my parent’s 40th anniversary. The meal was absolutely incredible, but beyond that, the atmosphere and ambience are stunning.
When I returned to New York, I found an article from Delish detailing the “most romantic restaurant in every state.” I knew before reading the article that Brown’s would be listed for Hawaii. To save you some clicking…I was right 😉
Pro tip – be sure to book an earlier reservation in order to enjoy the sunset while you dine. Things cool off drastically on the island when the sun goes down, so be sure to carry an extra layer (especially if you find yourself sunburned and chilling as I had).
For this trip, the Mariani family got out of their comfort zone and went on an 8 mile hike to see active lava flow.
When exploring the more lush areas of the island, it’s easy to forget that you’re standing on land created by a volcano. Yes, in the chaos of thousands of volcanic ruptures, paradise was born. (damn, what a poetic metaphor for life.) 😉
Hiking across volcanic rock to see live lava flow into the ocean was unbelievable. A flat hike both ways, the walk was challenging for other reasons. For one – the heat. You’re out on hot, black turf for hours with no shade to hide you from the sun. On top of that – as the trail changes constantly to follow the flow of lava, there are no set rest stops or water stations along the way. The most we came across were 4 heavily used porta potties – and if you think it was hot outside… Nevermind, I don’t want to say it.
I admit, we didn’t exactly know what we were signing up for, so we weren’t as prepared as we should have been. We should have carried more water and extra tissues (re: porta potties), I should have worn longer pants (ouch chub rub), and together we should have all worn less white.
But I’d definitely say, despite a few missteps, the hike was definitely worth it. Being far enough out that all you can see around you is dried lava is trippy. I started to feel like I was on another planet. I couldn’t help but wonder what one would do if they found themselves stranded in such an area…haul ass to the shore line, I suppose.
Anyway, it proved an enjoyable activity for the fam – we got some great photos, had plenty of time to talk and catch up, and, oh yeah, the live lava flow was pretty cool too 😉
Bonus: Malasadas at Tex Drive-In
Once again, I stayed ketogenic during my stay in Hawaii, so I can only offer this recommendation based off my family’s reaction to these doughnuts.
“Malasadas,” as they are known on the island, were first presented to us at the end of our boat tour. They apparently were so tasty that we begged our tour guide to tell us where they were made, and then travelled an hour out of our way in order to acquire more.
If you need any other confirmation of just how delicious these creme filled doughnuts are, look at that face my brother is making in this photo. You just can’t fake that kind of happiness.