I finally made it to Hawaii. Specifically, the Big Island. This trip has been a long time in the making. I was originally supposed to go last summer, but due to life throwing us a few curve balls, I had to cancel. I rescheduled once Duke got back home from his deployment, and wow the wait was so worth it! We chose to vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii, the less touristy of the islands. Some of our friends had previously been and hit us up with the best recommendations, so I can’t really take credit for the cool things that we did + ate, but I can pass along the info! And share some pretty rad pictures.
First things first, why am I sharing something personal on my business blog? I don’t really know. If you have been around for awhile (pre professional photographer gig), you probably remember my little blog. I posted a few things every now and then, but then life got busy and now I don’t even know if I still remember the login info to the account, haha. When I started my business, it was important for me to keep my professional and personal life separate. As the years have passed, that has gotten harder to do. I also think that there is a large benefit to sharing your “real life” with clients. At the end of the day, me myself and I is what sets me apart from everyone else out there. So here we are, the personal tab of my photography blog. Maybe I will share more personal blog posts on here, maybe I won’t. For now though, let’s talk about Hawaii.
We flew from Spokane (where we currently live), to Seattle-Tacoma Airport where we caught a flight to Kona.
We rented our car through Turo. Lots of people rent jeeps so I was bummed when I realized what Duke had rented. Our mini turned out to be amazing! There were so many tiny winding roads and tight parking spaces that we were able to squeeze into. Consensus….the smaller the better for island life!
The best thing we did the entire trip was stay at Ka’awa Loa Plantation for 7 nights. It made our entire trip. Again, can’t take credit for this because our besties told us about this hidden gem. The team that runs this B+B are the nicest, with such a heart for hosting and sharing their slice of paradise. We rented the cottage on the property, but we could easily walk right over to the main house for breakfast and afternoon treats/tea. THE BREAKFAST. UNREAL. Every morning we were welcomed onto the large wrap-around porch where we would enjoy a delicious homemade breakfast.
When visiting Hawaii lots of people choose to island hop, spending a few days in each location. We wanted our trip to to be centered around rest, relaxation, and quality time, so we chose to wait and island hop on a future trip. Let me tell you, pretty much everyone that we encountered at the B+B were only staying a max of 3 nights, and they were SO jealous that we were staying longer. So make a note — a long trip is where it is at!
^^ I loved this tiny little church in downtown Kona!
We pretty much stayed in Kona the entire time. Kona is considered the dry side of the island and is known for the best snorkeling. We ventured over to the rainy side of the island for one day and visited Hilo. Hilo was nice, and I would give it another chance, but it did not compare to Kona in my opinion. The drive from one side of the island to the other is long, but it was so pretty, highly recommend!
We snorkeled the majority of the trip. Buy snorkel gear from amazon before your trip! We took our snorkel stuff everywhere with us because you can pretty snorkel anywhere! My amazon storefront is linked here with the snorkels that we purchased. Our first snorkeling experience was at Two Step. I loved this location! There is not a beach at Two Step so you have to jump off a rock into the water and then relay on waves to help lift you back up on said rock when you are done snorkeling. Duke is a pro in the water, me…not so much. There was definitely a learning curve and I came back to Washington bruised and cut from being thrown into rocks, coral, and spiky sea urchins. Battle wounds that I do not regret in the slightest. Being able to see clear blue water full of colorful fish is by far one of the coolest things that I have ever experienced!
Another cool thing we did was take a free diving and spearfishing class. This was amazing, and we learned so much that we were then able to apply when snorkeling the rest of the week. Diving and pressurizing my ears got easier every time I was in the water. But not gonna lie, the class was a challenge. Snorkeling, identifying fish, diving, and successfully using a spear gun is HARD. Kimi Werner (Obsessed with her! We love her Youtube videos and you may have seen her on a few episodes of MeatEater) makes it seem WAYYYYYY easier than it is. We came away with one tiny fish (Yay Duke!). The most expensive fish we will ever eat, haha. Even though the hunt was not successful, it was so much fun to share this experience together.
Another day we rented a kayak from Kona Kayaks and took the 20 minute paddle to the area that surrounds the Captain Cook Monument – known for great snorkeling. There are two ways to reach the bay: either by kayak, or by a challenging 4 mile hike. We went with the kayak, haha. To protect the reef, you cannot beach your kayak or walk in this area of the ocean, so we had to use our kayak as a floating home base. This meant that we had to jump on and off the kayak and pull it around with us when we were swimming. The bay at Captain Cook was fun, but it was PACKED with other snorkelers. While we did see a lot of see a lot of sea life, it was nothing that we hadn’t seen in days prior. The kayak ride was fun though, so I definitely recommend!
^^^ Cutie lil snorkel boyyy!
Our favorite snorkel + hangout spot was Ho’okena Beach Park. It was never packed, there was a black sand beach for us to lay out on, and it had the best snorkeling. This is where we saw multiple turtles. Such a surreal experience. Thankfully I had been swimming with an underwater 35mm camera, and I was able to take pictures of them that I will cherish forever. Core memory for sure. We went back to Ho’okena multiple times during our trip. Every time we saw turtles, it was earlier in the morning!
Like I mentioned previously, Hilo did not blow my mind, but so many people love it, so maybe we just didn’t give it a fair shot?! While we were there we swam to a waterfall which was a highlight of the trip. This was recommended by a local. Turns out if there is a “no swimming” sign posted in Hawaii it normally means that you found a really cool swimming spot!
We stopped by Volcanoes National Park on the drive back to Kona. The geography and vibe of Volcanoes National Park reminded me of our trip to Iceland. It was super cool and I do recommend going, although in my opinion I thought that it was kinda anti-climatic. I feel like once you have seen one volcano you have seen them all. Again, take my opinion with a grain of salt!
Hawaii is as amazing as everyone raves. However, I think that if you are looking for a resort and a pool to lay by all day, Hawaii may not be the vacation for you. Can you do this? Sure, but I think that you would miss out on all of the hidden local gems that these islands have to offer. Immersing yourself in culture is the best part of traveling. If you don’t like adventuring, hiking, and swimming…..rethink your vacation plans.
Sunset at Manini Beach – we loved this location for hanging out in the evening after dinner!
B+B: Ka’awa Loa Plantation // https://www.kaawaloaplantation.com/
Kona food that we ate at: Acai Hawaii, Super J’s Laulau, Black Rock Pizza, Kona Brewing, Shaka Tacos, Da Poke Shack // There were some places on my list that we did not get to visit because one can only eat so much. I will also share those recs below!
Kona food that we wanted to eat but ran out of time: Kona Coffee Shack, Umeke’s
Best Snorkeling: Two Step, Ho’okena Beach Park, Captain Cook
We also loved the Kona Farmer’s Market near Captain Cook. It is held on Sundays. Get there early! We tried a lot of unique fruit that we had never had before and scored a handmade ornament for our Christmas tree (we collect them from each place we visit).
MAJOR shout out to The FIND Lab!! They scanned all of my 35mm film from the trip and I am OBSESSED. I linked the film gear that I used on this trip here, but my favorite place to stock up on film is The FIND Lab as well!
***When traveling with film PLEASE request for your gear to be hand checked by TSA. Do NOT put it through the scanner as it will ruin it. Thankfully this has never happened to me but it makes me so sad to think of the people that don’t know this and accidentally destroy their vacation photos!
The Goz Fam
I want to document the moments that you will cherish for a lifetime. From the mundane moments to the elaborate, big aspects of your story -- I will be there, camera in hand!