Your Guide To Hawaii

If you’ve been following my adventures over the last few years, it’s no secret that Hawaii is one of my favorite places in the world. My husband and I try to visit the islands once a year because they have become our home away from home. I often get asked, “Why return to the same place every year?” The answer is simple. I have never travelled to an island where the nature makes me feel so small. We are greeted by warmth and kindness everywhere we go because “that’s the spirit of Aloha.” The food is infused with fresh, local flavors and there is never a shortage of breathtaking excursions to explore. The energy is different in Hawaii. Some say one of Earth’s chakra points is found there. It completely re-centers and refocuses me—something that everyone, especially New Yorkers stuck in the concrete jungle, can benefit from. 

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When planning your trips to Hawaii, I highly recommend visiting Maui and Kauai. Oahu is fun, but it feels more like a big city, so I prefer to get as much of the local experience as possible. In Maui, the Marriott Maui Ocean Club in Kaanapali Beach is a beautiful property. It’s located on the beach and has an open-air concept design that makes you feel as connected to nature as possible. There are plenty of ocean-front dining options in the area to choose from and, if you’re a golfer, many luxury courses to play. The water is bright blue and if you walk along the beach, you will come across Black Rock, a calm area to snorkel and swim in (about 15 minutes walking from the hotel).

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The Road to Hāna is a must-see when in Maui. Rent a jeep, and drive through the lush rainforests and towering waterfalls of the island. Everywhere you look is photo-worthy. The drive will make you feel so connected to nature, and if you follow an app on your phone (there are many to choose from), you can even get out of your car and swim in a few waterfalls, depending on the weather and water conditions. Last year we found a natural pool at the base of a waterfall to swim in and this year we discovered Black Sand Beach towards the end of our drive in Wai’anapanapa State Park. This beach was created several hundred years ago when the rough surf collided with fresh lava flow. We even got to crawl our way into a natural lava tube! Set aside a full day for this adventure - you won’t be disappointed. 

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Other note-worthy things to do in Maui are whale watching tours, zip-lining, and hiking. And let’s not forget about the delicious food! Mama’s Fish House is a staple in Maui and is one of the most romantic date-night restaurants on the island. Try the stuffed lobster Mahi Mahi, baked in a macadamia nut crust - it’s heaven! The island also has a lot of vegan-friendly restaurants, which are delicious because local vegetables and spices are incorporated into the dishes. If you have a sweet tooth, here’s a guilt-free treat you must try: vegan coconut milk ice cream. This can be found on the Road to Hanā and a few other locations throughout the island.

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Kauai is the second island we traveled to after a few days in Maui. This island has my heart. It’s more remote, lush, and tropical. The cliffs and mountains surrounding the island are so majestic that they were used as the shooting locations in Jurassic Park, King Kong, and a slew of other films. This island is a nature lover’s paradise. The Grand Hyatt Hotel in Poipu is where I recommend staying. The hotel embodies the magic of Hawaii with vibrant plant life and grand views of the ocean everywhere you walk. The property has some of the best pools I have ever experienced, including a natural salt water lagoon (where you may find me sipping some local coconut vodka, club soda and lime cocktails). The spa is ranked one of the top spas in the country and every year I book the Lomi Lomi massage, a type of healing massage special to Hawaii. The hotel also has two of the best restaurants on the island. Tidepools, a floating restaurant surrounded by a pond full of Koi fish and Stevensons, a Japanese restaurant with sushi sourced from Japan are two musts. The food is healthy and fresh on this island, and I even found kombucha made from all local ingredients at the Kauai Juice Company (like dragonfruit, guava and lilikoi)! 

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The excursions are endless in Kauai. Some of the best and most breathtaking hikes of your life will be on this island. The snorkeling is unbelievable. Poipu Beach, just minutes from the hotel, has been ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and it lives up to that title. I have never snorkeled with so many fish before that all looked so different and beautiful. When we were messing around with the camera, an Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle swam right up to us. Of course I didn’t touch the turtle, because in Hawaii you are not allowed to for the protection of them, but to see the turtle so unexpectedly and close was magical. There are plenty of waterfalls to explore and nature trails, like the Fern Grotto. We finished our time on the island with a sunset dinner boat cruise along the coast, where we saw dolphins, whales, turtles and flying barracudas (yes, they really do fly and thats the first time I learned about that)!

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It’s always hard for me to say goodbye to Hawaii because of how deeply I connect with the islands. But the experiences in so many areas of untouched land will forever stay with me and continue to inspire me to immerse myself in nature as much as possible. As they say in Hawaii, Mahalo for reading about my adventures! 

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New Orleans: Day 2

After a non-stop first day in New Orleans, it was time for a relaxing morning at the hotel. The Windsor Court Hotel is a beautiful French-inspired property just minutes away from the historic French Quarter. Decor dating from the 17th to the late 20th centuries filled the space, creating a world that felt authentic to those times. With a spa, fitness facility, rooftop pool and award-winning restaurants (I even broke my no-dairy rule for their Cajun shrimp and smoked tomato pizza), taking in everything the hotel had to offer was a must on the to-do list. I started the day with a dip by their heated pool, and breakfast overlooking the city in their 22nd floor lounge. After easing into the morning, it was time for a new day of adventure.

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The National World War II Museum is considered one of the best museums in the world and it did not disappoint. The museum looks like a Hollywood set, with each room and time period of the war replicated to look like you are transported there. Certain points of this tour felt so real that I couldn’t help but get a little emotional. There were letters from sons to their mothers writing home to say they weren’t sure they were going to make it out of the war alive. Outfits of fallen soldiers lined hallways, weathered flags were on display, and footage of the after-effects of the war played throughout the tour. There was even a huge room of actual aircrafts that pilots flew in the war.

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There is so much to see in this six-acre campus that you could easily spend an entire day there. The museum holds over 250,000 artifacts and more than 9,000 personal accounts (like those letters from soldiers to their mothers). There is even a 4D movie theater that shows the journey through the war. I don’t always have time on trips to stop and take advantage of all the museums, but this was too special to miss. I left the WWII Museum thinking how important it is to remember our nation’s history so that we can grow together and become an even better society.

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After an educational morning, I walked over to Curio for a late lunch. Curio is a new restaurant led by superstar chef Hayley Van Vleet. Aside from some of the friendliest staff around, this spot provides American cuisine with Creole soul. I started with the sushi grade tuna and sea scallop carpaccio and chose the grilled salmon in a lemon shallot vinaigrette and smoked pine cone oil for my entree. I thought that was heaven until Chef Hayley brought out the S’mores Brownie Pie and toasted her homemade marshmallow. It was too beautiful and too delicious to pass up!

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Luckily the hurricane missed New Orleans but we did get a heavy downpour late Saturday afternoon, and some rain into the night, so it was the perfect excuse to head back to the hotel and try out the spa. I opted for the hour-long deep tissue massage and enjoyed every second of the treatment. Soothing sounds of nature and water played throughout the room as I drifted off into a total zen space. Afterwards, I unwinded in the sauna and steam room before heading up to the room for a late dinner in (the super comfortable) bed as the rain passed overnight. After a great day of learning our nation’s history, enjoying unique cuisine and taking advantage of all the hotel has to offer, I went to bed feeling completely satisfied with my trip to New Orleans - and there was still one more day to explore!

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