My family vacation to the beautiful islands of Hawaii was an adventure of a lifetime. The moment we stepped off our 737 aircraft, we felt at home due to the lei greeting from the welcoming natives. The air was so much different in the Pacific. It was crisp, almost like a baby taking his first breath of clean air. We felt alive. We were so far from home, but felt like we belonged.
As my family and I woke up in the bright, early morning, we ventured through our hotel, the Hyatt Regency, and into one of their magnificent restaurants. There we ate the freshest pineapple on earth. When eating the pineapple, it melted in our mouths and exploded with brilliant flavors. After eating breakfast, we took a tour of the hotel’s marvelous sites. In the middle of the hotel stood an immense, beautiful waterfall. Draping the tranquil flowing water were enormous palm trees standing on each side like Roman slaves waving palms to cool off their master. Also in the hotel were two energetic, talking parrots with bright, vivid colors of blue and red on one and charcoal grey, green, and yellow on the other. Guests of the hotel flocked to take presence of their beauty.
After exploring the hotel, we went into our spacious rooms and changed into our swimming wear so we could go to Hanauma bay. When we arrived at the beach, I could smell the cool, crisp air. We felt a pleasant breeze while walking on the warm, smooth sand. The scene was that off a postcard. At the beach, my family and I rented snorkeling gear to fit ourselves. While snorkeling, we gazed at numerous colorful fish exploring around the jagged coral. The coral was incredibly sharp if you were to touch it with your hand. When we were exhausted from snorkeling, my brother and I went surfing with our rented, long surfboards on the choppy waves. Shortly after we finished our extraordinary day at the beach, we all drove back to the hotel rooms to change into our casual clothes. Then we walked down from the hotel to the crowded...
At the end of every summer I like to make a list of places I hope I can visit next year, ranging from the tiniest southern towns (especially those with great barbecue) to the most exotic and far-flung destinations that I can imagine. Even if I don’t manage to make it to all (or any) of these places, it gives me a list of things to imagine, save up for and dream of. And every year Hawaii is always at the top of that list. Even though I grew up in a beach town, there’s something about those beaches that seems a little bit more pristine and luxurious. After watching an episode of Modern Family last year where the whole family went to Hawaii for a birthday, I started bookmarking hotels I’d want to visit and thankfully Julia is on-board with the idea of saving up to visit one day. From sipping fancy drinks with umbrellas to learning how to surf (my irrational fear of sharks needs to be cured once and for all), I can think of a million ways I’d like to spend my time there, so I thought I’d start making dream vacation guides for the site so maybe one day we can all use them as an outline of fun things to do if we ever make it there. I hope Hawaii is in my future one day (before I adopt so many dogs we can never leave home) and this dream roundup of activities is one way I can keep reminding myself that every coffee shop coffee I skip gets me one step closer to kicking off my sandals and relaxing in cool white sand. xo, grace
Click through for our full list of dream spots to visit…
Brought to you by The Hawaiian Islands.
Where to Stay:
Let’s face it, when you’re visiting paradise, a great hotel is just icing on the cake. So these are the spots I’d love to visit if I was having my dream vacation. From Airbnb to The Four Seasons, there’s something here for a wide range of travelers.
After seeing Joy and some of my other blogging buddies (as well as the cast of Modern Family) live it up at the Four Seasons, I think this hotel is at the top of my list. Gorgeous views, amazing pools, delicious food- this one is going to spot #1 on my dream travel list.
The Royal Hawaiian: Any hotel once called “The Pink Palace” has got to be on my list of places to visit. The hotel has preserved many of the original mid-century details so I’d love to check those out in person.
The Hotel Hana Maui- Travaasa: The photos of wild horses pretty much nailed this one for me. If we’re talking dream vacation here, this is a great place to dream big. This resort has private cottages or rooms you can rent, but I think I’d like to go big and aim for one of the cottages. I love the views of mountains and lush valleys- it’s a nice reminder that Hawaii has more than just beaches to offer.
Octagon Studio, Maui: This space feels like the ideal private treehouse with an incredible circular view of the land and ocean. I wouldn’t mind staying here for a relaxing weekend (or two).
The Modern Honolulu: If you’re craving something a little bit more modern, this hotel looks like a little bit of LA plunked down in Hawaii. If you want to visit beach life during the day, but come home to rest in something a bit more city-styled, this one is for you.
The Sunset House, Haleiwa: If hotels aren’t in the plan, this incredible open-air space might as well be. This would be great if you wanted to travel with a group and be in a space that felt like it was part of the beach itself.
The Treehouse at Kilauea Volcano: For those who want to live a little bit on the edge, this treehouse property is near a volcano and offers an incredibly lush and private locale. The interior leaves a bit to be desired for my personal style, but the exterior (and rain shower/tub) make up for it.
Where to Eat:
I know I should start this list with where to shop or visit, but I’ve been dying to eat in Hawaii since Top Chef set their season finale there and gave us a dose of beautiful Hawaiian produce and local specialities. These spots are definitely on my must list, from the roadside favorites to more traditional fine dining.
Eat the Street: I can’t imagine going to any city and not checking out its food truck scene. Some of the most exciting, and affordable, food happens here and it looks like Hawaii’s food truck scene is alive and well.
Vintage Cave, Oahu: This fine dining restaurant has been popping up in every magazine I read and I’d love to check out their unique blend of Hawaiian food mixed with molecular gastronomy style.
Mike’s Huli Huli Chicken, Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe: I love simple roadside spots and this one is legendary for its delicious chicken. I’ll be honest and admit I first spotted this on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (my guilty pleasure!) but it’s been backed up by every food blog and magazine I read, too.
The Pig and the Lady, Hawaii: Honolulu meets Vietnam in this restaurant that has been winning every press award that pops up these days. I love seeing when people infuse their home cuisine with their new hometown and this seems like a great place to check out something fun, exciting and delicious.
Town, Honolulu: local, organic and seasonal Hawaiian food cooked by some great up and coming chefs. I’m in.
Aoki’s Shave Ice: A local treat served with condensed milk? Yes, please.
Opal Thai: One of the most talked-about spots and something I would definitely find time to try during my dream trip.
Where to Shop:
For some reason, shopping is the last thing I want to do on vacation, as I tend to pick spots that are more about getting away from retail and more into nature. But there are of course some incredible design spots I’d love to check out in Hawaii, too.
Mono, Honolulu: This shop specializes in modern design and reminds me of a little bit of Abbott Kinney Boulevard mixed with Portland and Hawaii. I love how chic the space is.
Owens and Company: As a beach town girl, I will always have a soft spot for a surf store, especially when it’s one like this that combines my love of modern design with great beach gear.
Toast: This whacky little shop sells all sorts of tiny things that I am always tempted to bring home with me. From little pineapple head gifts to fun stationery, this would be a great place to find some fun favors to bring home.
South Shore Paperie: I rarely meet a stationery store I don’t like, so this shop would be a definite for my dream trip. I imagine bringing home some great island-themed postcards to remind me of the trip.
What to See:
When it comes to amazing sights, I think Hawaii is the sort of dream trip that would require months just to scratch the surface of. From beautiful snorkeling spots to incredible hikes, this is the sort of natural beauty I can’t get enough of. Here are my top 5 for a dream trip:
Haleakalā National Park: This park features a stunning (but dormant) volcano, as well as endangered wildlife that the park hopes to protect and preserve. The views are stunning and have been on my dream list since high school when I first learned about this incredibleplace.
Akaka Falls: I wish I didn’t know about this because of a TV show called Lost, but I do. These falls are a huge tourist attraction and one of the most breathtaking things I could hope to see in person.
Waipi’o Valley: In an area where beaches seem to get all the attention, these lush green valleys are the real star for me. I would love to take a hike through them or splurge on a helicopter ride over them (which seems terrifying, but worth it for the view)
Merrie Monarch Festival: This beautiful festival celebrates the art and tradition of Hula.
Mauna Kea: This mountaintop offers stunning views and a world-class observatory.
Homes to Visit:
Some of my favorite Sneak Peeks from Design*Sponge history have been in the beautiful Hawaiian islands or have been inspired by their style. If I had the chance, I would definitely stop by and say hi to these lucky home owners.
Jon and Conn’s Hawaiian home: Grass cloth wallpaper, white corn walls and plenty of ocean views give this incredible home the sort of perma-vacation vibe I’m always trying to create in mine.
Jon and Nina’s LA Loft: Jon and Nina may not live in Hawaii, but they’ve recreated a mid-century Hawaiian style perfectly in their California home. From palm trees and Hawaiian prints to plenty of lush tropical plants, this home is like a little dose of Hawaii in the big city.
*We have more concise guides to Oahu and Kaua’i if you want to check those out, too!