Big Island Love

Well… we’re back in Canada. Coming home from a trip is always bittersweet. I thought I’d be devastated after leaving Hawaii, but it’s nice to see our families, house and pets again. Living out of a suitcase becomes tiring after a while.

Court and I booked a hotel room at the Marriott in Kailua a couple days before flying home. For a ‘basic’ hotel, it was actually really nice! Newly renovated, very comfortable beds and a great breakfast buffet. We were all over the omelete bar and um… oatmeal. I’ve been craving oats like mad lately! You know your vacation is coming to an end when oatmeal sounds more appealing than a Mai Tai.

Kailua reminded me a lot of Puerto Vallarta. Just smaller and without a ton of resorts. It’s a great choice for families or travelers looking for hosted tours. I’m glad we only stayed there for two nights – the dining options are limited, unless you’re into pub-style eats. Plus there are so.many.people. Instead of hanging around tourist shops, we lounged by the pool, and squeezed in a few much needed gym sessions.

Our last full day in Hawaii was spent swimming at Hapuna Beach (I swam with turtles again!) and lazing in the sun. It was hard to say goodbye, but I know we’ll be back. I cried when the plane began it’s taxi down the runway and all of the airport employees were waving goodbye. And then again when I went grocery shopping at home and spotted a sad looking pineapple. πŸ™Β  Did anyone see a distraught looking blonde lady in Save On Foods recently? That was probably me.

Court and I were fortunate enough to be able to explore the island thoroughly, taking our time and compiling a list of ‘the best’ of Hawaii. For the most part, we went beyond the main tourist attractions, avoiding overpriced tourist traps, and letting our sense of adventure guide us.

What we loved about the Big Island:

  • The eco-diversity – the island has 11 of the earth’s 13 micro-climates!
  • Kohala Coasts white sand beaches; especially Makalawena and Mauna Kea beach. Hot, sunny and dry conditions along the South Kohala coast were a welcomed relief from unpredictable weather on other parts of the island.
  • Lush rainforest valleys, gulches and coastal views along the Hamakua coast.
  • Warm, welcoming locals. Everyone was so nice!
  • The old Kalapana-Kapoho highway aka The Red Road in Puna.
  • Fresh produce and farmers markets, specifically on the east coast. More variety and better prices.
  • The Kings Trail in McKenzie State Park, which leads into a coconut palm forest.
  • Tide pool snorkeling in Kapoho.
  • Waimea, a cool sub-tropical ‘western’ town located among cinder cones.
  • Waipio Valley- on foot. The walk down the steep 4×4 road is worth the effort – you get to enjoy multiple views of the valley and coast on the way down, with a rewarding grey sand beach at the end of the trail.
  • The Aloha. You can feel it. Everywhere.The Big Island has it all, and we often forgot we were on an island. It’s large enough that you can take a lengthy vacation without becoming bored.

The only aspect we didn’t like was the vog, which typically hovers around Kona when the volcanoes are very active. Some days were clearer than others, but it became hazy with cloud overcast everyday in Kona. On the bright side, it’s not difficult to get away from. A half hour drive north usually took us to bright blue skies and clean air. And white sand beaches.

We left with Aloha in our hearts, a lifetimes worth of memories and some pretty impressive tans. Hawaii nurtures the soul, and we learned that even though we can’t stay in paradise forever (maybe one day?!) you can create your own paradise within. I left the island feeling re-energized, grateful and determined to focus on ‘the little things’Β  that make life great.

So… who wants to come to Maui and Molokai with us? πŸ˜‰

We Found The Mangoes

Mango-fans, have you ever noticed that finding a decent mango is like chasing the dragon? A good mango is hard to come by – even in Hawaii. They’re either under-ripe and piney tasting, or over-ripe and piney tasting. In Kona this past week, the markets were overflowing with organic mangoes which sent Court into euphoria. They’re his favourite fruit. I love them as long as they don’t taste like a Christmas tree.

The farmers markets on the Kona coast are geared towards tourists – with crafts, clothing, jewelry, and less fruit and veggie stands. Meh. Give me veggies.Β  Lots of fresh leis for sale which I can’t resist burying my nose into every time I pass them. Plumerias are my favourite scent -they’re like lilacs… but better.

We had lunch at a wonderful burger place called Annie’s a few days ago. It’s conveniently located next to Island Naturals (our favourite Hawaiian health food store) in Kainaliu. Some guests we met at Ka’awa Loa recommended it, and we weren’t disappointed! The atmosphere was unexpected for a burger restaurant. It’s a partial open-air setting with a casual-contemporary cafe vibe. When we walked in, Tiesto was was blaring throughout the restaurant, and at that moment I knew I was going to love our meal.

We ordered Longboard beers and a bowl of tomato-basil soup to start.

I’d been told the ‘Mala’ burger was amazing, so I had to try it. Chickpea patty seasoned with herbs, topped with tzatziki sauce and lime coleslaw. Purple potato salad on the side.Β  Sounded promising!Β  Someone in the kitchen went a little crazy with the sauce in both my burger and salad, which was disappointing. All I could taste was tzatziki.Β  It was still good and I’d order it again – minus the gallon of dressing.

Court had the ‘South Point’ burger with a side of fries that I helped him devour. His burger was outstanding!

To balance out the salt, we stopped by Gia’s Gelato next door for a scoop of strawberry-lillikoi and mint chocolate.

My gelato was sickeningly sweet and I could only tolerate a few bites. Serious sugar burn in my throat. Lilikoi is already such a naturally sweet nectar that it doesn’t need extra sugar added to it.

Gelato, ice cream or frozen yogurt – what’s your favourite? Fro-yo, hands down! (Yogurtland… taro… mmmm)

Easter In Hawaii

Happy Easter! Court and I are enjoying a feast over at Kaawa Loa. I want to bring Michael and Greg home with me – they’re both great cooks. My plate is just a small sample of what was on the breakfast buffet. Berry cobbler muffin (fresh from the oven) cheese quiche, smoked salmon, capers and fruit. Courts plate looked like mine except he loaded up on more fruit plus a piece of taro toast with lilikoi butter.

The Easter Bunny visited early this morning, bringing Court some chocolate, and Ka’u oranges and tangelos for me.

Oh hey look! No vog… almost. Blue skies have been a rare sight in Kona this week. And probably for quite some time.

Rainy nights and cool mountain air have made for clear mornings, but it usually ‘vogs’ over by early afternoon. A few days ago it looked like dusk before before 4pm. We haven’t seen a single sunset yet! We’re spending a beach day in South Kohala on Monday, and are hoping to catch a decent vog-free sunset.

Running has been a challenge too – I’ve gone for a couple 2 milers here and there, but at Kawaa Loa’s altitude and muggy air, I don’t have the energy. Instead, I’ve been walking laps up and down the 600 ft incline driveway. It’s quite the burner!

Court and I took advantage of the clear skies on Good Friday. We packed a case of beer and boogie boards then hiked down to our favourite beach where we met up with our Georgia friends.

Beach bum camp

Before we knew it, 7 hours had passed and it was starting to get dark. After a final look, we packed up and hiked back through the lava field desert. Goodbye, Makalawena Beach, you were good to us.

Another thing we took advantage of is Kenichi Pacific’s half price (Happy Hour) sushi rolls. We’ve been in Hawaii since early March and this week was the first time we went out for sushi. Oh, it was fantastic and we loved that fresh snow crab was used in the Rainbow rolls.

I also enjoyed miso soup with clams and chilled sake that was infused with banana, coconut and pineapple.

After polishing off the first platter of rolls, we ordered one more roll, along with sea urchin. It was our first time trying urchin and it was…different. Very different. Lets just say I wouldn’t order it again. Court is still dry heaving and having nightmares from it. I’m still having nightmares from the basketball sized urchins that I saw on a reef a while ago.

We’re off to catch some waves and work up a dinner appetite! We have an Easter date with Sam Choy’s lanai tonight.

Maniniowali Beach

After the beating we took in the ocean yesterday, Court and I both require deep tissue massages and probably a chiropractic adjustment. What a workout – are we ever sore!Β  The discomfort was well worth it, though. Our favourite ‘ocean games’ are diving underneath the waves (I love opening my eyes and watching the wave curl over top of me) or just letting myself go limp while the waves toss me around.

When you step onto Maniniowali Beach, you’d think you were setting foot onto a white sand Caribbean beach. It’s a picture-perfect paradise.

The ocean breaks near the shore, and the waves can be powerful. We went mid-morning and by lunch the surf was too strong to continue swimming. This beach needs a lifeguard- I witnessed multiple people getting rocked by the waves and caught in rip tides. I got caught in a strong current just a few feet from the shore. While I was trying to exit the ocean, I was pounded by a set of waves and current that sent me tumbling like a ragdoll. My diamond nose screw got ripped out of my nose! On the bright side, my sinuses received a thorough salt water flush.

One thing we didn’t like about the beach were the amount of people. It could be that it’s Easter week, and there’s been an increase in tourists, but I have a hard time relaxing when there’s too much hustle and bustle.Β  We like our solitude!

In the evening, we had a fun get-together with the b&b owners, Michael and Greg, two of their friends and another couple that are about the same age as Court and Me. First, we all piled into the outdoor steam sauna where Michael told us hilarious stories about the time he did a Hawaiian cleanse. Afterwards, we made our way to the kitchen for a light dinner Michael had whipped up. Wine and margaritas flowed, and we snacked on sashimi, sushi, salads and cheese. Court and I feel like we’re staying with family. Michael and Greg make everyone feel so welcome and you truly feel like a guest in their home.

A few snack highlights from the past few days:

Guess who was well-behaved at the frozen yogurt bar?! Not Court, that’s for sure. He got chocolate (no surprise there) while I went with plain tart yogurt, fresh fruit and some weird strawberry juice balls.

Liquid vitamins! The multi-green is my favourite Kombucha.

Island Naturals salad bar makes me so happy. My salad had pansies in it! On the side: spicy Thai tofu, vegan red potato salad, squash, beet and cranberry coleslaw.

Hawaiian and Tahitian style poke and taro chips, along with a beer sampler. The Hapa Brown Ale tasted like chocolate!

The remnants of a breakfast pineapple upside down cake. It was demolished in about 5 minutes.Β  By me.

Cuban Red bananas! We’ve been eating them with breakfast every morning. I can’t believe how excited I am about a banana… but you have to try them to see why.

Cherry Chia Synergy. Love the chia seeds, I’m going to start adding them to my water bottle.

Makalawena Beach

The quest to discover Hawaii’s ‘best’ beach was accomplished in one day. After what we discovered yesterday, I doubt it can be topped.Β  We told a fellow b&b couple about our beach experience, and they too had to see it for themselves. At the end of the day, they were ecstatic and ‘couldn’t thank us enough’ for recommending Makalawena beach.

Fine, white sand. Crystal clear turquoise water. Turtles. Snorkeling, boogie boarding and surfing. The best part? There’s hardly anyone there.

Getting to Makalawena beach takes effort. If you have a 4×4, there’s an access road, and is about a 25 minute drive from Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. If not, there’s access fromΒ  Kekaha Kai State Park. A 20 minute hike through a scorching hot lava field will get you there. It’s worth the effort! Closed toed shoes are an absolute must. Bring a picnic lunch and spend the day.

Court and I spent 6 hours swimming, body surfing and playing in the waves. We saw quite a few turtles, including a sunbather. My bathing suit fell off. Again. About 8 times.

Pretty, right? This view is only the beginning of the hike!

See the cooler Court is carrying?Β  He was so annoyed that he had to carry it, then at the end of the hike he sat on it and it broke into a million pieces.

We saw wild goats – they both had impressive beards. πŸ˜€

After climbing over unstable loose lava rock and sand dunes, we were welcomed by the softest, whitest sand I’ve ever set foot on.

After a full day of swimming and hiking, we stopped by an oceanfront pub in Kona for a pre-dinner Fire Rock pale ale. Kona has turned me into a beer drinker. It must be the heat, along with the variety of locally brewed beer. One of our favourite brews that we’ve tried is a Kona Brewing Koko Brown Toasted Coconut ale. I can’t handle dark beers, but this one is smooth and creamy like Guiness with a touch of toasted coconut.

Our dinner reservation was at Holuakoa Gardens Cafe, a slow-food establishment using fresh, seasonal ingredients from farms located within a 5 mile radius.Β  We dined on an outdoor lanai, illuminated by a canopy of mini lights and koi ponds. I was so relaxed by the atmosphere I could’ve fallen asleep at the table. Or maybe because it was 7pm.

This restaurant is comfort food for the health enthusiast. I loved that the dishes actually taste like real foodΒ  – fresh vegetables, herbs and spices, rather than a mask of butter, garlic and salt.

Since the restaurant was my brilliant idea, Court let me choose the appetizer: satueed mushroom and onions with cheese toast.

For entrees, I went with handmade potato gnocchi with roasted butternut squash, baby zucchini, sweet peppers, sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes in an organic tumeric cream sauce. I was in love with my dish, and I want to recreate it in the fall!

Court decided on a cozy meal of red wine slow braised Hawaiian beef brisket. Served on a bed of rainbow carrots, red potatoes, heirloom turnips, cherry tomatoes and caramelized au jus.

Court chose dessert – and despite my strong suggestion to order the butternut squash cheesecake, he chose berry cobbler with ice cream.Β  After getting back to the b&b, I crashed hard. I slept for almost 10 hours!

Ka’awa Loa in Kona

Aloha from Kona! Firstly, it’s HOT, dry and unfortunately, voggy. The first day we arrived the vog was so thick we weren’t sure we could last a week in Kona.Β  Our throats and eyes were irritated and we both had trouble catching our breath. Luckily it has cleared enough to make it tolerable.

Court and I are at a plantation b&b called Ka’awa Loa, which we both love. The owners, Greg and Michael, are wonderful hosts. When they’re not taking care of guests, they’re tending to fruit and coffee crops on the property.

At night, the plantation is illuminated with candles and tiki torches – very cozy.

The resident Border Collie, Betty.

And the resident cat, Dazzle.

My favourite feature at the b&b are the outdoor lava rock showers. A nighttime shower by candlelight is the perfect way to end the day.

All of that grey – vog. You can’t even see the ocean.

We kicked off our first full day in Kona with a beach day at ‘Magic Sands’. Beautiful clean white sand and turquoise water, but it’s a small and busy. On occasion, the tide will sweep all the sand from the beach.

After beach bumming, we headed further into Kailua to get a feel for ‘Kona’ and the tourist scene. After being in rural seclusion for a month, it felt strange to be in crowds! We found an oceanfront pub, and ordered Happy Hour beers and a bucket of shrimp. Court was not impressed with my menu selection.

It was fairly gross. But I also didn’t have high expectations for a $7 shrimp bucket.

This shopping complex made my afternoon: a running store and a frozen yogurt place – side by side!

This week is dedicated to exploring beaches. So many beaches, so little time. We’re on a mission to discover ‘the best one’.

West to East

Before departing Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, we enjoyed one last sunrise:

A final breakfast at the restaurant – actually Court did. I was still full from Roys. I drank coffee instead and watched him eat waffles topped with whipped cream, coconut syrup and local strawberries.

Our breakfast friends:

I ate a light breakfast at the beach while Court body surfed.

We went for one last stroll down the beach, climbed around a cliff and explored a cave.

Then it was time to hit the road. Next destination: the Big Island’s east coast, where we’re spending the next three and a half weeks.

We took a detour through Hawi and made a few stops:

A roadside bbqΒ  featuring chicken, pork and beef ribs (Court was in heaven!) along with a few desserts.

This massive plate of food plus poi mochi (spongey fried donut holes) was a whopping $8. Roadside food and fruit stands are such a value on the island – everything is so fresh and delicious!

Sea cliffs: (Windy!)

Pololu Cliffs, where the road comes to an end. You can hike down to the shore, and is something I’d like to do if we’re in the area again.

We stopped in Hilo for groceries, and picked up the essentials, like Spam macadamia nuts. I couldn’t stop laughing. How is this flavour even possible?! (Court yelled at me to put them back on the shelf and wash my hands.) Actually, that part didn’t happen, but it’s something he would do.

I did however, grab some California Roll poke for the road.

And now, we’re ‘home’, in Kaimu. This part of the island has such a different vibe than the west coast. It’s much more relaxed and spiritual, plus the scenery is breathtaking. We’re in the midst of thick, lush, tropical jungle, and at night, the frogs and crickets are so loud I have to sleep with ear plugs! I’ll show you around the neighborhood tomorrow.

We’re still getting settled, but in the next few days, we have plans to meet up with our original farm host at his property. Exciting!

Island Eats & Treats

Fifteen minutes north east of Hapuna Beach is Waimea, a small town nestled among the clouds and rolling green hills. Court and I were in need of non-resort snacks and mini-meal options and headed there to stock up.

The Big Island’s diversity is unlike anything I’ve seen before. One moment we were surrounded by dry, barren desert; minutes later the landscape transformed into lush green cinder cones.


I love shopping in foreign (to me) grocery stores and finding things that aren’t available back home. Like these:

And whole squid. Once I figure out how to prepare and cook it, I’m going buy one from a local fish market.

Island avocados – nearly the size of my head. There’s nothing like a Hawaiian avocado – so soft, rich and buttery.

MYSTIC MANGO SYNERGY. I had no idea this flavour exists! It took every ounce of willpower to not chug it on the spot.

One of my favourite dishes in Hawaii is poke, a raw fish salad, with ahi being the most popular. It’s a real treat for sushi enthusiasts.

We chose fresh ahi poke that had green onion, seaweed, chili and sea salt mixed in, along with an octopus and seaweed mix.

The remainder of our purchases:

After lunch, I poured myself a glass of coconut rum and pineapple juice and joined Court on the beach for more swimming and sunbathing.

White, pasty Canadian complexions be gone!

First Impressions

I haven’t stopped smiling since we stepped off the plane last night, and am loving everything about the Big Island so far. Β Court and I are soaking up some sun at the Hapuna Beach Prince Resort for two days before moving on to our next destination. (I’m really excited to share it on the blog!) By the time we reached the hotel, it was nearly midnight (but felt like 3am) and we were beyond exhausted. Β We were welcomed with glasses of fresh pineapple juice and an ocean view room upgrade. Yes, please!

Court and I were both delirious from sleep deprivation, but we somehow found the energy to find a snack (veggie wrap) and eat it on the beach in pitch black darkness.Then we took some completely pointless and awkward photos.

Once we were (safely) back in our room (I’m surprised Court didn’t try to go for a night swim) we collapsed into bed. I woke up around 6am to what sounded like gale force chinook wind, but remembered it was the sound of ocean waves breaking on the shore. Oh, happiness.

I slipped out of bed, into my running gear (minus the shoes), and headed straight for the beach. I set out sprinting across the one mile stretch of sand, feeling euphoric and free. Β Slowly, the sun began to peak through a grove of coconut palms, transforming the sky from pale grey to baby blue. Β As I propelled myself through the sand, I was unstoppable and light as air. On my third lap down the beach, a man nearby called out to me. “Hey, do you wanna see something neat?” Under normal circumstances, this would’ve freaked me out, but I didn’t get that type of vibe. “Yes!” and I jogged over to where he was standing. He pointed to a shallow tide pool filled with a school of fish. “I’ve been waiting to show this to someone. Look. Gobis. They’re hiding from predators” he explained. Β  Β Well, now my bucket list is complete.

Some views from my morning run:

I can’t get over how beautiful the beaches are on this part of the Big Island. Miles of pristine white sand and calm, shallow water. My heart is so happy!


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