Things to do in Tahiti

Tahiti is a place that is synonymous with desktop backgrounds and bucket lists. When my partner and I were deciding where to take a trip last fall, we settled on Tahiti and its islands for its exotic nature and proximity to Hawaii. Plus, who WOULDN’T want to travel to a remote island chain in the South Pacific? We were ready to go!

Just one of Tahiti’s gorgeous waterfalls.

Our trip spanned 7 days, and we split our time between Tahiti (the largest island in French Polynesia), and Moorea, a less-inhabited, more unspoiled island just a ferry ride away from Tahiti.

French Polynesia is breathtakingly beautiful and worthy of all those desktop backgrounds you’ve ever lusted over. When you first land in this far-away island chain, you’ll certainly feel like you’ve landed in another world. The air is warm and dank. The smell is sweet and fragrant. And upon landing at Papeete airport, you’ll be greeted by a live Tahitian band playing island music in a foreign tongue, dressed vibrantly, welcoming you to the vacation you’ve always dreamed about and certainly deserve.

Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia and the main business district. It’s worth mentioning that Tahiti is just one island, and French Polynesia is made up of 118 islands and atolls. Some of the most famous islands in French Polynesia include Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa.

Since the first leg of our trip was spent on Tahiti, let me recount the best things to do in Tahiti:

Rent a car
Renting a car is essential during your trip to Tahiti. It’s the preferred way to get around if you want to explore. Rental cars are much cheaper if you rent a manual transmission. If you do rent an automatic, be sure to get one ahead of time and double and triple check your reservation. We witnessed one poor couple ordering an automatic car at the car rental agency at the airport and they had to pay hundreds more for their last minute rental.

Stock up on some local island goodies
The night we landed, we went straight to our Airbnb in Papeete. We worried about not having an exact address to follow, and most directions in Tahiti are given by landmark or cross street. Luckily, we found our apartment and our host was gracious enough to put some local beer in the fridge. Score!

Our view of Papeete from our Airbnb.

The next morning, Sunday, famished, we headed into town looking for a bite to eat. It’s critical to understand that in Tahiti things close sometimes all day or for several hours during the afternoon. Trying to find somewhere to eat on a Sunday morning was difficult. We resigned to McDonald’s, which was reliable and filled us up before embarking on our road trip. The staff spoke English and the price was right! After that, we stopped at the gas station for some famous baguette, cheese and charcuterie for the road.

Visit Point Venus
There’s a lot of speculation about whether or not it’s beast to traverse the island going east or west from Papeete. We opted to head east, and one of our first stops was Point Venus, a beach park where Captain Cook landed in 1769 and established an observatory.

Today, Venus Point is a black sand beach park home to picnic tables, concessions and an overall chill vibe. We enjoyed sprawling out on the black sand beach and watching beach-goers swim and soak up the sun.
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Explore side-of-the-road waterfalls
Living in Hawaii, we see our fair share of waterfalls, but getting to them involves a forest hike of a mile or two. The best thing about Tahiti is that many of the waterfalls are either at or just near the side of the road. There’s no arduous hike, just payoff views all the way.

Rounding our way around Tahiti Iti (the upper portion of Tahiti island), we were spoiled with gorgeous twin falls. We saw a local family there praying, and after they left, we had the area to ourselves!

Twin Falls was one of several we enjoyed in Tahiti.

Enjoy the most famous surf break in Tahiti
One of the most famous surf breaks in the world is called Teahupo’o located in Tahiti Nui on Tahiti’s southeastern shore. Unlike Hawaii, the wave breaks far off-shore, around a 15 minute paddle out, or a boat ride away for spectators.

Surfers have been flocking to Tahiti to surf this giant wave, which can reach upwards of 25 feet, and call it the “heaviest wave in the world.” In fact, Teahupo’o translates to “to sever the head” or “place of skulls” in English. It’s one of the world’s most dangerous waves, and it’s certainly on every surfer’s to do list!

Ehren and I enjoyed spectating from the shore. The beach park has a lazy, chill vibe, and there’s plenty of gorgeous foliage to enjoy in between watching the waves break.
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Dine water side
One of our guidebooks recommended we eat at a restaurant called La Plage de Maui (Maui’s Beach). This was one of the highlights of our stay in Tahiti! It’s about 40 minutes south of Papeete, but dining next to a crystal clear Lagoon makes this worth the trip!

Enter a French-speaking, true toes-in-the-sand experience. Our table was right next to the water where we observed coral reef, fish and even some snorkelers! Our table was decked out with tropical flowers and handmade table numbers on rocks. The thatched roof rustled above our head as we took in the sights and smells of our oceanside table.

In Tahiti, it’s common to feed food scraps to the sea life. In fact, we observed the chef coming out from the kitchen to throw diners’ leftovers to the fish more than once! I suppose it keeps the fish coming around and the diners happy. We even saw a giant eel swim up to our table during our stay, which we took as a good omen, as Ehren’s aumakua (Hawaiian family god) is an eel.

An eel came for a visit!
The view from our toes-in-sand table
A delicious meal indeed of Tahitian Shrimp in a coconut curry sauce.

Visit ancient Marae
A marae is an ancient Polynesian temple or meeting place, and Marae Arahurahu on Tahiti is the only one that has been completely restored in all of Polynesia.

Stone pens near the entrance used to house pigs that would later be sacrificed to the gods. The celebrated tiki statue is apparent, as well as a rectangular marae with various stones and a raised altar. This site was host to many gatherings, ceremonies, weddings and other special occasions. According to legend, the Marae even changed names after a battle between warriors!

Raised altar at Marae Arahurahu.

Go pearl shopping at Papeete Market
Walk into Papeete Market and your senses go wild with the sprawling bazaar offering everything from fresh fruits and veggies, to woven baskets, sarongs and made-to-order food. During our visit, we were treated to live Tahitian dancing.

Papeete Market is a place you can literally run your fingers through a dish of black pearls to take home. Prices range from a few bucks for the ugly/nicked pearls to several thousands for the gorgeous, perfect pearls, mostly found in the shops upstairs. I scored my first pair of real black pearl Tahitian earrings and a gorgeous Tahitian Pearl ring! (The ring was a steal at $20…I wish I had bought more!)
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Grab lunch from one of the stalls or from somewhere else downtown. If you go on Sunday, be sure to get there between 3 a.m.-9 a.m., otherwise it will be closed.

Tahitian dancing at the Papeete Market

Tahiti is worthy of any vacationer’s bucket list. Treat yourself to a true taste of the exotic life with a trip to French Polynesia!

Exploring Kaka’ako Murals on Biki Bikes

Ever since Biki made their debut in Honolulu, Ehren and I can’t get enough of it! Biki is a bikeshare company that has over 130 stations around Honolulu. For $3.50, you jump on a Biki bike and ride around for a half hour, returning your bike to any station. We love exploring our city this way!

Kaka’ako is the perfect district to check out on bike. Pow!Wow! Hawaii, a huge art festival where artists from around the world paint new murals, came through town meaning there are new murals at every corner and in between! Biking is a better way to explore the art in the area because you may tire out on foot or miss something in the car.

We jumped on our bikes around the Ward area and biked through Kaka’ako, making stops along the way to view our favorite pieces. Below, enjoy some snapshots from our adventure:

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Is there a better way to spend a Saturday evening for $3.50?

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Ehren and a beautiful sea life mural.

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This is what I hear when I listen to music, too.

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Howzit braddah?

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Bird of paradise, Ehren’s favorite mural.

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Thanks for a fun day exploring, Biki!

Exploring Kahumanu Farms in Waianae, Hawaii

There’s something about food that enchants me. I love cooking, eating, but more recently, have become increasingly interested in where food comes from.

I’m blessed to live somewhere where farming can be done year round and have been spending the past several months researching farms around Oahu. I found out about Kahumanu Farms at work – the residents in our senior living community were planning a trip there, and I didn’t want to miss out on all of the fun, so I scheduled my own trip there!

My friend Kaley was my adventure companion for the day as we drove out to West Oahu for Kahumanu Farm’s Open House. Lucky for us, this particular day’s farm tour was free, so we were able to enjoy learning more about local agriculture for free.

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Kahumanu Farm is tucked away on Lualualei Homestead Road in the Lualualei Valley in Waianae. This particular day was sunny and warm, but a cool breeze made the temperature pleasant. We were greeted promptly by a farmhand letting us know where to park. We then checked in for the tour and were given the go-ahead to look around the property before the tour started.

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It turns out that Kahumanu has been around since the 1970s. It first opened as an intentional life-sharing community for those who are differently-abled. They expanded in the 80s to include group homes and started a transitional housing program for homeless, which still runs today.

In addition to growing close to 100,000 pounds of organic food a year, Kahumanu continues to support efforts for vulnerable populations including the homeless, disabled and youth. They have a learning center, a café (which I can’t wait to go back and try one day!), a commercial kitchen and even lodging spaces for those who need an alternative accommodation or retreat!

Before our tour started, we were welcomed into one of the retreat houses for refreshments by some of the farm staff. They had graciously prepared homemade hummus and veggies, pulled pork sliders, banana bread and poi mochi. We were able to wash it down with a refreshing hibiscus ice tea. We noticed some of the people who were staying in the bed and breakfast-like lodgings seems relaxed and to be communing with nature and those living and working on the farm.

We began our tour with our extremely knowledgeable guide Kristen. She blew us away with her farming knowledge, and also her expertise of Hawaiian land and customs. We toured the main farm which included a dragon fruit patch, a hurricane-resistant fruit tree orchard and a chicken coop. We were able to sample the farm’s salad greens (which they sell to a lot of restaurants in Honolulu) and carrots.

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After our samples, we all jumped into our cars and followed the tour guide a mile and half up the road, further into the mountains, to another piece of land that was recently entrusted to them by a former resident who has since passed on. Upon receiving the land several years ago, they prepared it by hand to grow food. Their hard work in being stewards of the land and practicing sustainable and regenerative organic farming is palpable. Their farmers are committed to the lifestyle, but more importantly, feeding people healthy and delicious food that’s grown in their own backyard.

We walked through the different fields growing carrots, salad greens, fruit trees and beets. We also were able to feed their goats and view their beautiful taro bed.

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At the end of the tour, we were invited to view a video they recently produced about the farm and the good work that they do.

Unfortunately, the café was closed that day due to a farm fundraising dinner, but I can’t wait to come back and try their famous macadamia nut pesto, salads and lilkoi cheesecake!

If you’re a visitor to Oahu or simply a resident looking for a fun and informative afternoon on the farm, make the drive and go visit. It’s enriching to walk the earth where our nourishment comes from and empowering to learn how to better feed and take care of ourselves!

To learn more about Kahumanu Farms, visit https://www.kahumana.org/.

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Do You Think You’re Brave?

2.jpgI never thought that I was brave. When I was a busgirl at one of my first jobs at a country club, I was timid. I was afraid of the other waitresses who were older, most experienced, smoked cigarettes, had kids and second jobs. I felt small around their exposed tattoos and shared stories about Poison concerts.

I’d work in the all-men’s room where swearing, excessive drinking, and avoiding wives was a favorite pastime of our members. I would fear the ass-grabbing, snide comments and remarks of “Honey, get me a drink.” Still, I grinned and bore it. The tips were good, and after all, where else would I work?

Being brave at home didn’t come easy. Everyone has a role in their family, and mine was caretaker. I helped raise my siblings from the time they were in diapers. I was a teenager. I enjoyed a lot of freedoms, but not at the expense of being guilted into familial obligations. I had to muster the courage to stand up for something I really wanted, and when I couldn’t get it, well, that’s just the way it was.

It’s safe to say that I wasn’t a very brave little girl, either. When I was little during rolling Midwest thunderstorms, I’d hide under the blankets fearing the roof would blow off. I’d tell myself God was bowling, just how Grandma Jean used to tell me.

I grew in college but was still timid around new people and situations. I joined clubs and academic organizations. I wrote for the college newspaper. Yet, I was always eager for the meeting to be over with. I didn’t want to over extend myself at the expense of looking silly. I couldn’t speak up at the editorial meetings out of fear of sounding stupid. I never really got anywhere leadership-wise because I didn’t really believe that I could offer anything more valuable than the others. I earned my good grades and graduated.

What came next was a shock. My college relationship was one that meant so much to me. It came to an end, and my core was shook. When it was pulled away, I reeled.

The breakup was the turning point of discovering something bigger within myself. Looking back on it now, I’m actually grateful. I wonder back to how different my life would be if that relationship played out. I pray to my lucky stars that it never did play out, because it was an unhealthy relationship and I was of an unhealthy mindset.

When I was done letting life shit on me, I decided to muster up some bravery. Bravery never came naturally to me, so at first, I faked it. I announced a cross-country move. I stood up to my mom who was appalled and non-supportive, but eventually relented. I took all the savings out of my bank account and geared up for a new life. I summoned bravery and it took me places.

Traveling and living different places took a lot of bravery, but it’s not the type of bravery that lasts. It’s a good “high” to live in and discover somewhere new. But even new places lose their novelty. After traveling and living all over the place, I grew tired of reinventing myself. I wanted consistency and community back. I decided it was time to put down roots.

I’ve been living in Hawaii for four years and I’m getting ready for a big transition in my life: getting married to the love of my life. Since leaving home, I had been looking for bravery in novelty, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s been within me all along. I don’t have to be moving mountains to think I’m brave. I don’t have to be living off the beaten path to be considered brave.

Waking up every day to face life and its challenges is brave. Doing the sometimes excruciating work of self-discovery and healing is brave. Admitting you have a problem in some area of your life is brave. Working to find a solution to that problem is brave. Setting out on a new chapter even though you’re scared and really don’t know what or how you’ll get along and trusting you’ll be fine is brave. Giving it another shot, day after day, is brave.

The answer to whether or not I’m brave is yes.  The timid little girl is finding bravery in all the old places within herself, places where it’s always been, always belonged. She belongs there, too.

Panoramic Hawaii

Living in Hawaii is something I that I never take for granted. Whether it’s sampling all of the delicious food or enjoying what most people love most about living in Hawaii – the view – there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t count my lucky stars that this beautiful island paradise is my home.

Phone glued in hand most days, I’ve been fortunate to capture some really incredible moments via panoramic shots. The below shots I wanted to share, as well as the stories behind them. Enjoy a mini vacation to the islands, and a peak into our lives as we enjoy living here.

IMG_1970It’s day two into our long weekend camping trip on Oahu’s North Shore, and we’re sweating. It’s been hovering around 85 degrees all weekend, and obviously, there’s no A/C to provide the usual relief. Camping here is nothing short of a privilege, as spots are usually reserved some months ahead of time. It’s King Kamehameha Day weekend, and we’re celebrating Hawaii’s rich history and culture by getting close to the land.

Just the night before, friends joined our site to partake in mirth and merriment around the campfire, but tonight it’s just Ehren and I. This picture was taken just after returning back from town for an ice cream treat. The rest of the evening is spent tending to our open campfire and soaking up the final moments of remote solace before the sun sets on our perfect weekend escape.

IMG_1444We’re on the rooftop of the only Agricole Rum distillery in Kunia, overlooking the neighboring farm’s extensive aquaponics system. Today we’re learning about Native Hawaiian sugarcane and rum being made from heirloom varieties at Manulele Distillers. We’re here to celebrate Ehren’s birthday, but even more, to celebrate his Hawaiian ancestry as we sip on centuries’-old heirloom cane-distilled rum.

Not long after this picture is taken and our farm tour is complete, we toast to one another: to life and another year well-lived, hopeful that Hawaiian culture remains as effervescent as it once was and continues to be.

IMG_1296Good Friday is the day Jesus Christ was crucified, and we choose to commune with nature today. We drive the scenic east coast of Oahu to arrive at China Man’s Hat Beach, or Kualoa Regional Park. We find a spot that’s a little off-the-beaten path to relax for a swim.

We’re always amazed at how many people live on our tiny island, but how even still, we are able to find peace and a stretch of beach to ourselves. Less tranquilly, we hear nearby swimmers lament of spotting hammerhead sharks in this very area. Ehren reminds me that hammerheads are docile and won’t attack. I let him swim while I wade cautiously on shore and capture this shot.

IMG_1144This was my first trip to Kauai, the Garden Island. It’s a mere 2 weeks before the island will be ravaged by torrential rains and floods, and we are, at the time of this photo, blissfully unaware, selfishly and hungrily eating up the gorgeous landscapes.

We rented a 4×4 Jeep and we’re off-roading to Polihale State park on the island’s far west side. A bumpy 2-mile road laden with potholes filled with rain water takes us to one of the most stunning stretches of beaches I’ve ever seen. To avoid getting caught in the dark, we pack up quickly and brave the bumpy ride back. I ask Ehren to pull over so I can capture the sunset over the open fields.

Panorama 1We’re at home and it’s an ordinary weeknight. We’re downstairs from our 2nd floor studio just a few miles from Waikiki Beach. We’re doing our usual weeknight household chores; this time, we’re changing out the laundry.

In between visiting the washer machine and the clothes line, I pause to take a picture of today’s particularly beautiful sunset. Sunsets in Hawaii come in many shapes and sizes, but tonight’s is exquisite in a way that’s hard to pass up. I put my phone away and finish hanging the clothes with the cotton candy sky as my backdrop.

Discovering Oahu’s Dole Plantation

Are you planning a trip to Hawaii? If you’re anything like me, you’re enthralled with Hawaiian pineapple. If so, a visit to Dole Plantation in the north-central region of Oahu is a must!

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A rare coolish day in Hawaii was the perfect time to put on my hat, boots, and take a nice car ride up to the almost-north shore of Oahu to Dole Plantation for the day. Located in Wahiawa, Dole Plantation started as a fruit stand in 1950, selling fresh, Hawaiian-grown pineapple, and has since evolved into a pineapple-lover’s theme park of sorts.

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Picture yourself in a pineapple! One of Dole Plantation’s photo opps.

Visitors are able to enjoy an array of activities, from touring their lush botanical and agriculture garden, to getting lost, then found again, in the pineapple maze. Our favorite attraction, of course, was riding the Pineapple Express!

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All aboard!

A roughly 20-minute train ride through the farmland was a chance to see firsthand the pineapple crops growing in the field. The red volcanic soil and elevation are the perfect combination for pineapple growing.

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The author and her boyfriend Ehren aboard the Pineapple Express.

Not only does Dole Plantation grow pineapple, but also, Cacao (chocolate), avocado, bananas, and a variety of other plants and fruits.

 

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Do you see the baby pineapple sprouting from the crown? It takes around 18 months for a pineapple to grow until it’s ready to harvest.

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After taking the train ride, you can enjoy some pineapple soft serve at the gift shop, or enjoy other fun photo opps from around the property.

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Lots of gorgeous rainbow eucalyptus trees are around the property.

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A fun place to grab a picture, especially if you’ve ever been to any of these places.

A trip to Dole Plantation is a peaceful and fun respite from the hustle and bustle of the city and is worth the drive to learn something new about Hawaiian agriculture while having fun while doing so!

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Exploring Rotoura’s Geothermal Wonderland

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The author braving herself to cross a boardwalk full of stinky, hot, sulfurous steam.

Traveling to New Zealand provided ample opportunity to enjoy ethereal landscapes. Part of my draw to visiting the North Island was the geothermal activity present there. After living on Big Island and in Yellowstone National Park, I guess you could say I’m drawn to places with active volcanoes!

New Zealand’s north island is brimming with active volcanic activity! Once we set foot in Rotoura, roughly 3 hours south of Auckland, that old, familiar smell infiltrated our noses: sulfur. Sulfur smells like rotten eggs, and is part of the gasses given off by the volcanic activity in the region.

We decided to visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotoura to get up close and personal with some otherworldly geothermal landscapes. It was a rainy day indeed, but it didn’t stop us from marveling at the region’s clouds of steam, rock formations, waterfalls, and lakes the park is known for.

Here are some photo highlights of the diverse volcanic area:

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One of well over a dozen volcanic craters on the property. Craters can be up to 20 meters deep.

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Sulfur vents and bubbling pools are typical in this park.

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A bubbling mud pool.

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 A steaming pond. The water is so hot, it could burn the skin right off you.

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Ehren marveling at steam emitting from a geothermal pool.

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We were surprised to witness steam coming out of the ground!

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The park’s famous Artist’s Palette. The orange color is due to trace mineral deposits which are distributed by the direction of the wind. Orange is Atimony/Arsenic.

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A lookout provided a nice view of the surrounding area.

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Our payoff view after hiking nearly 2 miles in the pouring rain. We loved the waterfall and the color of the pool. This blueish hue is Alkalai-chloride.

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One of the last otherworldly geothermal pools. The green/yellow is said to be Sulphur/Arsenic.

We were happy to experience the Geothermal Wonderful of Wai-O-Tapu. Next time, we’ll be sure to come back to witness the famous Lady Knox Geyser, whose eruption can reach up to 20 meters!

Daytripping to Oahu’s North Shore

After 3 years of living on Oahu without a car, something magical happened on Christmas Eve: I got a car!

I didn’t get just any old car. I got a Subaru Forester, my (second) dream car. My first dream car I was lucky enough to get when I was 16 – a VW Beetle. From there, I sold it in 2012 to travel the world extensively. And travel I did.

Now that I’m settled in Honolulu and my credit card debt has been paid down to a balance of $0, it was time for a car hunt.

Behold: My new (used) Subaru Forester – my new adventure-mobile!

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My new (used) 2007 Subaru Forester.

While my boyfriend has been gracious enough to take me anywhere my heart desired in his truck, there’s just nothing like the feeling of being behind the wheel of my own car, windows down, music blaring, discovering – and rediscovering – why I love living in Hawaii so much.

The other weekend, I picked up my friend Kaylee for an epic cruise in my new Subaru.

We started the day driving up to do a hike just above Sunset Beach. We picked the Ehukai Pillbox hike for it’s short duration and relatively easy terrain.

There were some patches of the hike that had ropes to hold onto to assist you in moving up and down the mountain with ease, which came in handy, as the terrain was a bit muddy.

After a heart pumping ascension, we made it to the Pillbox! The view was gorgeous.

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View from atop the Pillbox hike.

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The author enjoying a scenic view.

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Author and her friend Kaylee.

After our hike, we braved the bad north shore traffic back to Haleiwa town for a bite to eat. Lunch was at Cholo’s, a local Mexican restaurant. We grabbed a table for two outside and enjoyed some cervezas and Mexican cuisine. I ordered the two taco plate with braised beef tacos, rice, and beans. The price was more than fair, and the guacamole on the side was creamy and delicious. Calories well spent!

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Cervezas are always a welcome treat!

Looking for a peaceful end to the day, I wanted to take Kaylee somewhere a little more “off-the-beaten” path for sunset. To my surprise, upon arriving to Kaena Point, there were lots of cars, and even tourists! It’s a protected bird sanctuary area, and there’s opportunity to do off-roading – IF you have a county key to the gate, which we didn’t.

Alas, sitting on the beach, enjoying the sun on our skin, and talking story while the waves crashed over the shore was a relaxing end to our adventurous day.

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A relaxing way to end the north shore day trip.

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Camping on Oahu’s North Shore

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The author and her beau enjoyed luscious shoreline views during a recent camping trip.

A weekend getaway is much-needed when you live and work somewhere like “town.” Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital and largest city bustles day in and day out with traffic and congestion, making a chance to get out to the country feel like a staycation.

Recently, my boyfriend and I had the chance to get away, for one night only, to go camping on Oahu’s north east shore in Kuhuku. We chose a private campground, Malaekahana, for its serenity, privacy, and safety. We had to book early, and spots are usually taken.

We chose a tent site near the end of the park so as to enjoy a little peace and quiet. We were lucky to make camp next to gentle, kind, and, considerate families looking for some similar rest and relaxation from their everyday grind.

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Our lovely home for the evening.

After setting up our tent, which we borrowed from a generous friend, we were able to sit back, relax, and listen to the sound of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the shore underneath the palms.

Before making dinner, we opted for a walk on the beach. On the far end, the beach was deserted and we enjoyed some private time with beautiful shoreline views.

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Loving our time away from the city.

Before long, the sun began hanging low in the sky. We fired up our camping grill, which had a hard time staying lit due to the high winds. After sheltering the grill from the direct wind, we were able to prepare a delicious dinner of homemade hamburgers, fire-roasted hot dogs, grilled veggies, and potato salad.

The best part of the evening was building a campfire from kiawe wood that we picked up at nearby Ace Hardware. Making bonfires on beaches in Hawaii is illegal, but Malaekahana allows for campfires in contained fire pits. We burned a fire for a few hours, talking story, watching the stars, and of course, roasting marshmallows for ‘Smores.

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The author enjoying her freshly roasted marshmallow.

An evening in the tent was a windy and noisy affair. I was happy to have brought along earplugs and a sleeping mask. My companion didn’t fare as well, but was finally able to catch some rest on our luxurious inflatable mattress. I guess you could say we went “glamping!”

Sunrise woke me around 7 a.m. I was treated to an epic sunrise and enjoyed a solo sunrise walk on the beach. It felt like heaven on earth, and it was surely a welcome moment of solitude.

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I enjoyed waking up to this view.

Happily, checkout wasn’t until noon, so we had plenty of time to build a yummy hot breakfast of potatoes, Portuguese sausage, scrambled eggs and fresh fruit before packing up and heading back to life in the big city.

What to eat and drink in New Zealand

Travel is wonderful, because unlike looking at photographs or hearing someone’s travel tales, actually being there engages all of your senses. You’re able to stand atop a mountain, feeling the breeze across your cheek; you can delight in hearing small village children laughing; you can taste the lusciousness of handcrafted local cuisine.

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable things about any trip to somewhere exotic is the eating. Whether or not every single meal is enjoyable, one thing is for sure: every meal will be memorable with all of your senses heightened.

Our recent trip to New Zealand was a foray into exotic cuisine.

Normally, I rely on Yelp in Hawaii to help me find the best places to dine. Unfortunately, Yelp is not reliable or utilized fully in New Zealand.

So how did we get by? Just like any traveler, by asking the locals! We relied on our Airbnb hosts’ recommendations, asked the barefoot hippie bookstore proprietor, and yes, took some chances on some side of the road establishments.

Here’s some of the best things we ate:

Turkish Eggs at Queenies

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Breakfast at Queenie’s included Turkish Eggs and a Prawn Omelette.

The first day in New Zealand, waking up hungry, we walked to a local cafe recommended by our Airbnb host. A funky, artist-type retreat played host to a very memorable and tasty meal.

The Turkish Eggs are Queenies were a trip around the world in its own right: 2 poached eggs atop baba ganoush, yogurt, hot chili butter, and toasted pide. I enjoyed slathering all of the rich flavors over my bread, pausing only  momentarily to enjoy my perfectly brewed hot black – an espresso type coffee.

Fish and Chips at Piha PHA

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Piha PHA is a no-frills VFW Hall or Moose Lodge-type restaurant serving up delicious pub food. We both had the fish and chips which were battered and fried to perfection. My boyfriend added on the fried squid which was light and tasty. I washed mine down with a local red ale which was a great complement to the tartar sauce.

Seafood Chowder at Corelli’s

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By far the best meal we had while in New Zealand was at Corelli’s in the Devonport, a suburb of Auckland. We came here on the recommendation of the barefoot, hippie bookstore proprietor down the street.

Their standout was the rich and creamy Seafood Chowder, which admittedly, was a meal in itself. The chowder was loaded with goodies like shrimp, scallops, squid, clams, and mussels. The New Zealand Cabernet was a great addition to my lamb bangers and mash with onion gravy, as well. We also indulged in their raspberry cheesecake served with a side of cream for dessert.

Blue Cheese at Kai Mai Cheese Company

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If there’s one thing New Zealand does well, it’s dairy. On our way from Auckland to Rotoura, we stopped on the side of the road at Kaimai Cheese Company for lunch. The interior of Kaimai Cheese Company had a production factory inside, a small restaurant, and a retail area for customers.

We ordered lunch from the counter and waited for it to be delivered, but in the meantime, I purchased a block of Blue Cheese and some crackers to snack on. The cheese was salty, pungent, and hit the spot as far as Blue Cheese goes. I slathered it all over my bacon and tomato omelet, as well. I loved it so much, I packaged it up and took it with me to eat during meals on the remainder of my trip!

Lamb Shanks at Fat Dog

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Photo by Ehren Meinecke

On our Airbnb host’s recommendation, we ventured to the casual, funky Fat Dog in downtown Rotoura. My boyfriend ordered the lamb shanks, which were huge and delicious. Served over a bed of hot mashed potatoes and gravy and fresh veggies, the lamb was so tender, it fell off the bone. The icing on top was enjoying the succulent bone marrow from the shanks afterwards.

Wine flight at John Hill Estate

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Photo by Ehren Meinecke

You can’t visit New Zealand without sampling some of its world class wines. The north island is brimming with vineyards and tasting rooms, and John Hill Estate was no exception. While many tasting rooms are very commercial in nature, John Hill Estate is tucked in the mountains just southeast of Auckland. This family-run estate was empty when we arrived, giving us prime seating to enjoy unobstructed views of the vineyard and rolling hills.

They offer wine flights for a very reasonable price tag. We ordered their Pinot Gris, Rose, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet. The standout? The Merlot! This was the perfect ending to a wonderful, and unexpected, culinary journey in New Zealand.