The Big Island, Hawaii
It wasn't a part of the plan to go to Hawaii. I had always been staunchly against it on the grounds that it was too touristy and unjustly far. If I was going to sit on a plane for 13 hours I wanted to feel transported...
But the travel gods had other plans for us. So, after a failed attempt to get to Corsica (Tip: Make sure your passport isn't any where close to expiring if you want to go to France...), there was Hawaii. I'd never been so happy to see a piña colada in all my life.
WHERE TO STAY
Four Seasons Hualalai is as good as it gets. If you're celebrating any kind of special occasion, this place really takes the cake. The service is out of this world and the views are incredible. At the very least, stop by for a cocktail.
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is an island legend dating back to the early 60's. The property itself has a Mad Men Mid-Century modern vibe and boasts the best beach on the entire island. Tip: You can't leave the hotel without trying a Frederico cocktail during sunset at the beachfront bar.
WHAT TO DO
Waipio Valley for the black sand beaches and waterfalls.
The Mauna Kea Summit is a must for breathtaking views and stargazing. Tours include dinner, parkas and gloves (there's snow!).
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a great day trip. You can hike through a lava crater that leads to a baby rainforest. Tip: Get here early in the day before the heat becomes unbearable.
Ka Lae is the southern most tip of the United States. The winds here are so strong that the trees grow sideways. Come and watch the locals fishing for ulua off the high cliffs (great article here about these guys). There are some grottos and fishing holes if you're brave enough to take the plunge. Tip: The green sands beach is just beyond this area, but you'll need a 4x4 vehicle to access it.
There is great snorkeling all over the island. We loved swimming with sea turtles and rainbow fish. Tip: Pack your own snorkel travel set and save on renting.
WHERE TO EAT
Merriman's was doing farm to table before it was a thing. Dinner is amazing, but go for brunch and get a Lilikoi mimosa.
Pueo's Osteria for Italian highlighting local ingredients. The caprese salad using Waimea tomatoes is delicious.
I wouldn't go out of my way for Hawaiian Style Cafe, but if you're in the area and in need of pancakes the size of your face, this is the spot.
Foodland, the local supermarket, has an excellent selection of poke. Sample a few different types and pack a picnic for the beach!
The Big Island Brewhaus has a delicious selection of beers (try the Coconut Creme Ale) and pub grub.
Punalu'u Bake Shop credits itself as the southern most bakery in the US. I like it for malasadas and kona coffee ice cream.
The Resident's Beach House has an unbeatable location on the beach. Enjoy your BBQ pork pizza with your toes in the sand.
Beach Tree is the perfect place to have a sundowner and share a pupu platter with someone you love.
Ulu Ocean Grill is great for a special occasion. Still thinking about that Tuna Poke...