The Third Time is a Charm

With its laid-back vibe, quaint ocean side towns, endless waterfalls, and dramatic geographic formations like the Waimea Canyon and the NaPali Coast, it’s no surprise why they call Kauai the Island of Discovery. And after three visits, I think it’s safe to say that we simply can’t get enough of this tiny tropical island in the middle of the Pacific.

After an adventurous and fun-filled itinerary on the Big Island, my husband and I were looking forward to a relaxing week on Kauai where we could kick off our flip-flops and enjoy our view from the sand.

The condo that we stay in on Kauai is located along the Coconut Coast on the eastern side of the island. Nestled in between Kapa’a town and the ocean, our condo sits adjacent to the Kapa’a Beach path; so every morning (and some evenings) you could find us walking this path, enjoying the weather, the views, and even the tree swings.

Tree Swing-1


Have you been to Kauai? What’s your favorite Hawaiian island?

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The Big Island Roundup

My husband can vouch for me, but for the most part, I like to pack my itineraries from sun up until sun down. My sweet husband is a trooper for hanging in there and having such a great attitude about it all. :) I always make sure to include plenty of beach time so we have a chance to relax, but to be honest sometimes we love getting out to explore.


Flying into Oahu

Even with those packed agendas, things don’t always go exactly as planned, and sometimes we simply run out of time. So more often than not, we have places and experiences that get bumped to the next vacation. (Which is completely okay by me, because that means we get to go back sometime, right?) :) So today, I’m starting a new series called: The “Roundup”.

Each Roundup post will include location tips, lessons learned, and things we will change on our next visit. So here goes the first post in our new series, I hope you enjoy!

The Big Island Roundup:

  • Lodging: Due to the sheer size of the Big Island, we would make better use of our time if we split up our trip. I’m thinking we should spend half of our nights on the jungle-y, greener, Eastern side in Hilo, and the other half in the fun beach-side town of Kona. This will give us more time to explore each side without spending hours in the car–Let’s try to avoid reliving our late night dance party in the car if we can help it. 
  • Waipio Valley: I knew we wouldn’t get around to it on our first trip, so unfortunately it wasn’t even added to our agenda. However, next time I would LOVE to take a tour down to the bottom of this Grand Valley. Since we’ll be spending a few days on the Hilo side, maybe we’ll even book a horseback ride down into the valley…

Waipio Collage

Photo Credit: Top, Bottom Left, Bottom Right

  • Volcanoes National Park: I would dedicate a full day or two to this park. There are so many places I would like to hike: Devastation Trail, the Petroglyphs, and Thurston Lava Tube, just to name a few, and another helicopter tour wouldn’t hurt either.
  • Anaeho’omalu Bay: (also called A’Bay for short). It was on the itinerary, but after spending so many hours in the car we just couldn’t bring ourselves to drive TWO MORE HOURS round-trip to check out this amazing sunset:A'Bay Sunset
    Photo Credit

    I know, it would have been beautiful… Next time Big Island, Next time
  • Kohala and Hamakua Districts: TIME. The theme this trip was: we simply ran out of time. Unfortunately there was too much to explore and too little time. These two districts were not even added to the agenda on this trip, but you better believe they will be on the itinerary the second time around. :)
  • Kona Coffee Tour: I can’t believe that we missed checking out the world-famous coffee farms while we were in Kona! We did enjoy our Kona coffee out on the lanai every morning but I wish we would have taken a tour and brought some grindy-goodness home.


SeaArch Collage

At the Sea Arch in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

What did I miss? What else should I add for our next vacation to the Big Island?

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Have a Happy Weekend!

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A Big Island Surprise

While researching the Big Island, also known as the Island of Hawaii, the one description that I read over and over again was that the island was BIG. In fact, all of the other Hawaiian islands could fit within the boundaries of the Big Island–with room to spare. It is large enough that it encompasses 11 out of the 13 climatic zones in the world, and large enough that even after reading about how big it was, I was still shocked at its size while driving around the island.

Big Island Map

Thanks to Big Island Revealed for the above photo.

When you visit the Big Island, you can almost see it all. From an active lava flow, to black, white, and even GREEN sand beaches, from lush rain forests to vast deserts, and even SNOW on the summit of Mauna Kea (yes, I said snow… even in Hawaii). Each area of the Big Island is so different from the next that you never quite know what’s going to be over the hill or just around the corner. And in case you were wondering, you can even spot a zebra while driving down Mamalahoa Highway.


Is that a Zebra or a Donkey??!

With close to four full days to explore, I knew that we would not see it all. In fact, I’m convinced that even with a month to explore we would still not come close to seeing all that the Big Island has to offer. So while planning our trip, I figured that the easiest way to conquer the Big Island was to explore it in regions, which is precisely what we did.

Big Island Map


Day 1: A Relaxing afternoon/evening in Kona

Day 2: Exploring Hilo & Puna: a Helicopter Toura VOLCANO, a dip in Ahalanui, a hike through Lava Tree State Park, and getting Loco!

Day 3: Kona: A beach day and a Scuba Diving Adventure

Day 4: Road Trip! Stops at the Place of Refuge, The Southern Most Point in the US, and a Black Sand Beach

Day 5: Morning in Kona and then a flight to Kauai!

When we traveled East and South we were in the car forever! for a good four hours roundtrip each day. We knew that we would do a lot of driving, but our expectations were blown out of the water. And not in a good way. In fact, on our late night drive back from Hilo, we turned to quizzing each other on times tables and having dance parties in the car (Mr. Ro-bot-to, anyone?) just to stay awake pass the time.

Lots of driving and all, the Big Island did exactly what we expected it to do: satiate our thirst to return. And hopefully, we will return VERY SOON.

Big Island Collage

Kona Airport-1

Loved that the Kona Airport was outdoors

As a side note: Pictures and Plane Tickets does not condone drowsy driving. If you’re tired, pull over! :)
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Ahalanui: A Volcano Heated Hot Tub?

Yes, you read that title right. 

Along highway 137, just south of Volcanoes National Park, is a little gem known as Ahalanui Park. Driving along the quiet, curvy, road you may get lost in the lush, tropical beauty of the area, but if you’re not careful you’ll drive right by the fenced parking lot for this hidden gem. Literally, blink and you’ll miss it. The highlight at this park is the part-natural-spring, part-man-made pool, which is heated to a balmy 90 degrees by the Kilauea volcano bubbling far below.

How cool is that?

While you won’t find a switch to turn on any jets to this natural hot tub, you will find the hot spring nestled in between a thick coconut grove and the bright blue ocean. The man-made rock wall and inlet partially separates the spring from the ocean; however, the interesting design of the inlet allows ocean water to flow into the pool constantly adding new water. And before I go, can we talk about the palm trees for a minute. Those palm trees, there were so many of them! Needless to say, the abundance of palm trees throughout the park provided an incredible backdrop for a lovely afternoon dip.

I’m a sucker for palm-tree lined anything…




Anyone up for a swim?

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Getting Loco!

This last trip to Hawaii marked our Fifth visit to the Hawaiian Islands. Five trips in five years? I’m liking this trend!!

On our first visit to Hawaii I tried Pineapple for the first time and I haven’t stopped eating it since. When given the opportunity, my husband and I have tried to sample most of the local cuisine including: fresh fish like Ahi, Ono, and Mahi Mahi; to Kalua Pork cooked in an underground oven, to Poi, to delicious plate lunches, and all kinds of local grown produce such as coconuts, mangoes, lychees, macadamia nuts, and finally, you can’t think of Hawaii without thinking about Shave Ice.

There was one item that kept appearing on menus at all the local establishments, The Loco Moco; and yet, we never decided to order it–maybe it was all those fresh fish options I was busy trying… ;-)

It was close to 9:00pm when we pulled up outside of Cafe 100 in Hilo. And as we browsed the menu, I asked a local what he recommended and he and his friends all responded with “You gotta get the Loco Moco!”

So it was decided, the Loco Moco it was. This local dish starts out with a pile of white or brown rice, a savory hamburger patty, a fried egg (fried to your liking), and then the entire dish is smothered in finger-licking-good brown gravy.

You guys, my mouth is watering just thinking about this dish. 

Simple, flavorful ingredients that don’t sound all that appetizing combined together, but it worked, and was delicious. In fact, it was so good we found ourselves asking the locals on Kauai, “Where can we find a good Loco Moco around here?”

Sorry about the quality. I'm not much of a food photographer as I'm much more concerned with EATING :)

Sorry about the quality. I’m not much of a food photographer as I’m much more concerned with EATING :)

Have you tried a Loco Moco?

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A Big Island Road Trip: Paradise Found

Our road trip along the Big Island’s south shore included stops at the amazing Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, the windy Southernmost Point in the U.S., and even the South Kona Fruit Stand where we tried Lychee’s for the first time (not a fan!) But the highlight of our road trip was Punalu’u Beach (pronounced poo-na-loo-oo): a palm tree-lined beach with the blackest sand I’ve ever encountered.




Hawaiian Honu (green sea turtles) are known to frequent the area because they love to bask in the sun, and within seconds of kicking off my flip-flops and walking through the scalding hot black sand we spotted a honu down by the shore. We saw three more turtles that day, all sunning themselves the entire time we were at the beach. From what I hear, that’s a slow day on Punalu’u for honu, but you won’t hear me complaining! 

Punaluu2-1 Punaluu1-1 Punaluu-1


Thanks to my sweet husband for taking these AMAZING photos of the Honu!

Our afternoon of silliness consisted of taking the lead from our Honu friends and sun bathing on the beach, enjoying a delicious picnic including fresh fruit purchased from the fruit stand along the way, napping, strolling along the beach, playing photographer, and dipping our toes in the feisty ocean–it was a little rough for swimming that day.



On the beach, where I belong…

Have you been to a Black Sand Beach?

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