Tag: featured

Exploring the Big Island of Hawaii

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Have you ever had the pleasure of visiting the Island of Hawaii? Also known as the Big Island, Hawaii Island is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, falling south easternmost in the chain.

Not to be confused with Oahu (where the state capitol Honolulu is located), Big Island is far from metropolitan – in fact, you can’t even drive around the island in one day.

Big Island is my favorite Hawaiian Island due to its sheer enormity. Its varied landscapes are home to not only 2 active volcanoes, Kilauea and Moana Loa, but also a myriad of enchanting, unspoiled places. Word to the wise: Rent a 4×4 vehicle if you ever visit.

Just returning from a 3-day trip, my boyfriend and I had the pleasure of exploring the east side of Hawaii, or Hilo side. Hilo is a city on the bay and a jumping-off point for pleasures ranging from exploring the active volcano, hot springs, black sand beaches, a beautiful coastal drive and more.

Here are some highlights from our recent trip:

Exploring Volcanoes National Park:

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Kilauea Caldera. Do you see the lava in the crater’s rim?

This National Park is not to be missed. Have you ever seen a live, active volcano? Kilauea is actively erupting, and luckily enough for us, a trip to the visitor’s center was enough to see the active lava spurting from the Earth.

Usually, a trip to see the lava flow is an 8 mile round-trip hike through treacherous lava fields, but the day we visited was our lucky day: The lava was spewing from Kilauea Caldera, nearby the visitor’s Center!

After getting our fill of watching red hot lava, we exploring a cavernous lava tube and basked in the mists of volcanic steam vents around the park.

Tips: Stop in the visitor’s center to find out pro tips from the park rangers, and pack a raincoat…it always rains on the east side!

Traversing Lower Puna (including Volcanic Hot Springs):

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Ahalanui’s volcanic hot springs are tucked alongside Puna’s rugged coast. Photo courtesy: Ehren Meinecke

Puna district is southeast of Kilauea volcano, and its proximity to an active volcano can be felt in all senses of the word: Wild, untouched rain forest, volcanic hot springs, funky people, and plenty of room to play.

For a relaxing afternoon, we visited Ahalanui Beach Park, a volcanic hot spring which is about 88 degrees. It’s perfect for taking a relaxing swim and enjoying the rugged coastline it’s nestled up against.

Tips: Bring your snorkeling mask! There’s plenty of fish to observe in the warm pond. Also, stay out if you have any open cuts – a staph infection could easily ruin your trip.

Finding a hidden black sand beach and hunting for opihi:

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These opihi were plucked from a very dicey-looking coastline.

Some places are just meant to be kept for the locals, and Secret Beach is one of them. We were lucky enough to meet up with my friend Matt who showed us an incredible secluded black sand beach.

Around dusk, we all hunted for shells and opihi: a snail delicacy found exclusively on seaside rocks in hard-to-reach places. Wild quantities are a pipe dream on Oahu, and sell for an expensive buck ($18/pound). It was such a treat to harvest and enjoy our own fresh opihi!

Tips: Respect the land. Just because you find an open road doesn’t mean you have the right to travel down it. There is a LOT of private land, much of it ancient and spiritual. When in doubt, “Kapu,” or keep out!

Visiting Hilo’s Farmers Market:

Imagine a place where 200+ vendors gather to sell farm-fresh produce, baked goods, bento lunches, Kona coffee, artisan breads, jams, and handmade jewelry, clothing, and house goods. Enter Hilo’s farmers market!

The farmers market technically takes place daily in downtown Hilo, but for a really good display of goods, we went on a Saturday. We were able to sample all sorts of local treats: from Ka’u district coffee, to taro chips, to roast pork and more, your buck goes far at  Hilo’s farmers market!

Tips: Visit on a Saturday between 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. to really enjoy the full spread of vendors. Bring cash and an open mind for sampling local goodies!

Driving the Hamakua Coast:

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Just one of the many waterfalls on Big Island’s Hamakua Coast Drive- Akaka Falls State Park

Just north of Hilo begins a drive that’s full of lush greenery, waterfalls, valleys, and scenic ocean views. We drove it roughly 40 miles west to reach Waipio Valley, our destination. In the interim, we couldn’t believe how gorgeous the views were.

This relaxing stretch of driving fed our lust for a road trip with epic eye candy all along the way.

Tips: Fill up on gas before you go, pack snacks and turn up the radio. Also: Don’t expect to be able to drive around the entire island in a single day…it’s too big!

Exploring an ancient valley of the gods:

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An incredibly steep and dangerous 4×4 road will lead you to Waipio Valley’s floor.

Waipio Valley is a glimpse into Old Hawaii. Two-thousand foot cliff walls encompass a lush, green valley with taro fields and wild horses. A black sand beach spans the entirety of the valley, and giant waterfalls cascade from the mountains’ sides. Interested yet? Read on:

A trip down to the valley floor means:

  1. A treacherous 2 mile hike down a very steep road you must share with vehicles
  2. Paying around $60/person to jump in a tour van; or
  3. Driving down the 4-wheel drive road on your own and braving the elements.

We opted for choice number 3. It was not easy! The grade is EXTREMELY steep and the road is so narrow, only one car can pass in either direction at a time. We even had to BACK UP the road along the cliff edge to let people pass!

Once at the bottom, you have to ride through several giant mud puddles. Finally on the valley floor, we were rewarded with dipping our toes in the water and observed wild horses in awe. We felt immense respect for a place that used to be only for ali’i – or Hawaiian royalty.

Tips: All visitors can enjoy the lookout for a scenic vantage point and photo opp above the valley. Brave soldiers can take a 4×4 (That means 4-wheel drive ONLY!) down, observing the local “law” of yielding to traffic going up. Take nothing in and leave nothing behind!

Overall, a trip to the Big Island is for the adventurous-at-heart. Pack your best slippahs, hiking shoes, rain coat, and bathing suit, and get ready for whatever adventure heads your way!

48 Hours in Anaheim

A two-day escape to Anaheim, California, is just what you need to unwind from the real world. Stay for just for a day or two and rediscover that feeling of being young at heart.

Day 1

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Image via Flickr by atmtx

Morning: Fly into LAX, rent a car, and drive the 30-mile stretch to Anaheim. Once you arrive in Anaheim, have breakfast at the Scratch Room, a brunch house serving up breakfast burgers on brioche, pancakes bigger than your head, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. You’ll need the fuel for your day at Disneyland.

Afternoon: Prove to yourself that you’re still a kid at heart with a visit to Disneyland, Walt Disney’s original theme park. Start with the Indiana Jones Adventure, followed by a tour through the Haunted Mansion. Take a spin on the magic teacups, and leave time for a cruise through the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Be sure to stick around for the evening fireworks outside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and let the magic happen.

Evening: All that Disneyland activity will surely work up your appetite. After you indulge in some theme park food, treat yourself to a glass of wine and dinner at Calivino Wine Pub. The late-night happy hour goes from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and offers $2 off select glasses of wine. You’ll also find a host of appetizer specials, such as boneless wings, bacon-wrapped dates, spinach wontons, and pork belly sliders.

Check into your room at the Anaheim Camelot Inn & Suites and enjoy a king-size bed, an outdoor heated pool, and close proximity to Disneyland. The added perk of free breakfast takes the guesswork out of your morning so you can enjoy more of Anaheim.

Day 2

Morning: Luckily, Orange County is home to some of the prettiest beaches in the world. Take a drive to Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City, USA. Enjoy a quiet morning roaming the white sands and watching surfers catch their waves.

Afternoon: Spend a lazy afternoon exploring Center Street Anaheim, a place chock-full of funky shops, restaurants, and the city’s farmers market. Looking for eco-friendly home goods? Check out the aptly named Home Eco:Nomics, a place to pick up candles, jewelry, and more. For lunch, spice things up and dine at Pour Vida Latin Flavor. Try the blackened fish taco on top of handmade black squid ink tortillas.

Evening: Have some good, old-fashioned fun at Bowlmor Lanes at the Anaheim Garden Walk. This modern bowling alley boasts 41 backlit lanes for your enjoyment. Have dinner at the bowling alley, and order the Party Pretzel, a gigantic soft pretzel served with mustard and queso.

Check into your room at the Hilton Anaheim, where you’ll sleep like a baby in your king-size bed. You’ll dream of all the fun you had during the last 48 hours in Anaheim as well as the complimentary breakfast that awaits the next morning.

From Disneyland to great restaurants to close proximity to the beach, all of Anaheim’s fun offerings make this 48-hour foray worth every minute.

Living it up as a #YelpElite

What can I say? Living in Hawaii and being a Yelp Elite has its perks!

I first became a Yelp Elite in 2015. I slowly began attending events, but not regularly. It was more of sporadic thing for me.

Now that I’m a gung-ho Yelp Elite, I’ve been getting more active and involved in the community – and I must say, it’s really paying off!

To answer the most common question I receive, “How did you become a Yelp Elite, and how do you get to go to all of these amazing events for free?”

Easy: I write Yelp reviews! Luckily for me, our awesome community manager Emi sought me out to be a Yelp Elite. All I had to to do was fill out a brief form, and my by the grace of the Yelp gods, I was accepted into the Elite crowd!

Through my tenure as a Yelp Elite, I’ve been able to attend the movies, the opera, free dinner parties, concerts, and more. Some Yelp Elite events are extra special, though.

Here’s three extra-awesome Yelp Elite events I’ve been able to attend:

1. Dinner and cocktails at Stripsteak Waikiki: This event did not allow for a plus one, and I was better off for it. I was able to throw myself right into the mingling and get to know my fellow Yelp Elites. I didn’t realize how many interesting, fun, and wonderful people Yelp Elites were! They are all walks of life – young teachers, retired state workers, and everyone in between!

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The swanky vibe at Stripsteak Waikiki

Stripsteak Waikiki is Chef Mina’s new restaurant at the International Marketplace, and this place certainly is swanky! We were able to try some of their gourmet bites like lobster pot pie, Wagyu steak, and foie gras. The venue didn’t disappoint – the ambiance was just right: outdoor, under the stars with the nice trade winds blowing.

2. Yelp Flight Club – Pacific Aviation Museum: Anytime you’re granted access to somewhere typically off-limits usually means a recipe for a great night. The Pacific Aviation Museum’s Flight Club Party was on Ford Island, a military base that requires special clearance for entrance.

Me and my other half were able to drive around the beautiful island taking pictures of the sunset before the event. The event itself? Simply marvelous! Imagine a swanky and upbeat party in a museum gallery full of 1940’s air crafts. It was the party of dreams!

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I want that leather flight jacket!

We had pupus like tacos, garlic chicken, ahi poke, and dessert like chocolate, ice cream, and Popsicles. The open bar wasn’t a bad addition either!

We had fun exploring the gift shop- especially lusting after the authentic aviation leather jackets.

3. Day at the Beach at the Shriner’s Club in Waimanalo: So many times driving up the highway we unknowingly passed by this incredible beachfront property. You are only able to access it as a guest of a Shriner’s Club member, and luckily, fellow Yelp Eliter Victoria’s husband was able to sponsor us as guests for the day.

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Check out this view! Waterfront beach bbq day!

This event was a fun, relaxing Sunday getting to know more about the community members which make Yelp Hawaii so special. We shared lunch pot-luck style next to the ocean, played a few games of volleyball, and had lots of laughs. Thank you Victoria and Aggie for putting this Sunday Funday together!

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New friends thanks to Yelp!

Overall, I’m grateful to be a Yelp Elite. It’s helping expose me to the many wonderful places on Oahu, and more importantly, helping me to forge friendships with the beautiful people here.

29 Things I learned in my 20s

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I’m in the last week of my 20s, and the impending 3-0 has been on my mind constantly. In between dreading leaving part of my youth behind, I’ve been contemplating what my 20s were all about. Some days I’m filled with regret and sorrow, but most days, I feel proud and accomplished.

In my 20s, I earned a college degree, had numerous relationships, got my heart badly broken, and admittedly broke a few hearts; I traveled the world and the country extensively and became a travel journalist; I moved to Hawaii, and I’m beginning to settle down. It’s amazing what can happen in a decade. Here’s just 29 lessons I learned from my 20s:

  1. Wash your face every night before bed – No longer can I abuse my face by going to bed with it caked on with makeup. I can tell the difference between my skin now and then. Now I have a whole skincare routine which includes wearing SPF 50 on my face every day and of course, removing my makeup every night before bed.
  1. Some people really are crazy – That’s okay. A writing mentor once told me that back in the 60s and 70s, it was more acceptable to be crazy in an insane world. Do with them what you will. I usually tent to ignore politely.
  1. Don’t let crazy people ruin the good within you – Sometimes you fall in love with, or are really close friends with, what turn out to be crazy people. That’s okay. The best thing about crazy people is that they are often filled with wild, fun ideas and have a great sense of humor. When they start challenging your core values or legitimately don’t want to help themselves, know when to walk.
  1. Talk to the stranger next to you – Life’s too short not to make friends with the everyday people walking this Earth with you. Whether you’re in line at the bank, on a bus on the way to Bondi Beach in Australia, or having a drink at the bar, lean over and get to know your neighbor.
  1. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams – The time is now, not when you’re old, beat up, or saddled down by a career and family. Chase that dream even if it takes you the edges of the world and back. You’ll never regret going there. You’ll only regret NOT going there.
  1. You don’t always have to be the life of the party – This was a hard lesson for me to learn. The first, say, seven years of my 20s was exactly that: a big party. I was moving from place to place, drinking, doing other questionable things…until I realized, I didn’t ALWAYS have to be the life of the party. The party would always be there when and if I want it. It doesn’t need to be a lifestyle (Thank God! It’s exhausting!)
  1. Make the best out of any situation you’re in – Man, I found myself in some hairy situations in my 20s. Perhaps the time I mistakenly took a ride from a local drunk on the Big Island is a good example. Or the time, while living in a camper, we blew out a tire in the middle of nowhere when it was 100 degrees. These shitty situations happen. Make the most of them. They’re not forever (and thank you, guardian angels for never letting anything bad happen to me in the thick of it!)
  1. Dream big – Even if you don’t accomplish all of your dreams, if you don’t set the bar high, you’ll never get there. Make a list, buy a ticket, and make it happen. Sign up for that class. Go on that date. Just say yes.
  1. Trust in the inherent good in people – Remember those strangers you end up meeting? 99% of the time, they’re the ones giving you a ride to the airport, giving you a place to sleep, offering you tidbits of insider information, taking you the doctor when you fall ill. Even those crazy people, in their crazy ways, want good in life, believe it or not. Please don’t believe the media. Yes, rotten people and scary people exist, but good people outnumber them exponentially.
  1. Take care of your body – Women especially. Please don’t fall for ever suitor and every temptation. You will likely pay for it later. Stop drinking so much. Drink plenty of water and exercise. Don’t have unprotected sex unless you’re in a long-term, trusting relationship. Take care of your temple.
  1. Money isn’t everything – but it helps. I’ve had the most amazing memories when I wasn’t working or didn’t have much money at all. What I realized, though, is that those times don’t last. Find something you love doing, a job where you can be utilized to do those things you love doing (even if it’s not your dream job), and make money. Work. Travel. Volunteer. Save. You’ll be happier by the end of your 20s when you have a little money in the bank.
  1. Don’t settle for less than you deserve – It sounds cliché, but it’s true. Don’t settle for wondering if someone is thinking about you. Don’t settle for missing someone without having a plan to see them. Never be someone’s plan B. You’ll suffer, but if you must settle for something less than you deserve (as we all do at some point), learn the valuable lessons from it so you can spot really good when it comes at you later. At that point, you’ll be able to fully, wholly, lusciously appreciate it.
  1. Live with less – Repurpose old things into new things. Don’t buy new clothes for 2 years. Live with 3 pairs of shoes for a while. Live out of a backpack. Own less. See how it changes your world.
  1. Listen to your parents – Their advice is usually right. It might not always be right for that exact moment that they give it to you, but it’s right. Write it down and make it a goal later. They want what’s best for you and they love you. You’re lucky to have them.
  1. Learn to forgive – Forgive yourself for making mistakes. Forgive others for hurting you. In forgiveness, you’ll find peace and happiness. It won’t be easy, but you’ll get there.
  1. Learn to say goodbye – Get good at letting people come and go in and out of your life. Friendships, lovers, family members, etc. It will make you strong to meet many people, and it will make you stronger still to know when to say goodbye and “I’ll see you later.” You’ll learn to survive the next storm.
  1. Do what the locals do – Whether you’re a traveler or not, just DO IT. Hear about a new restaurant opening? A festival? Farmer’s Market? Just go. Do it. Bonus points if you’re a stranger in a strange land and you do what the local’s recommend. You’ll have a more rich experience.
  1. Keep your friends close – Your close friends might change over the years. That’s okay. It’s normal and healthy for people to grow close to others and further from others. Keep a handful of tried and true best friends you can call in the middle of the night when you’re sick, depressed, dumped. Make sure you have people you can rely on in this life. Make sure you love them deeply and they know it.
  1. Exclaim when things are good – When something is delicious, moan with pleasure! Tell your significant other how much you love them regularly. Jump in and out of rain puddles with friends while exclaiming, “This is really living!” Let life invigorate you.
  1. Work with your hands – There’s something extremely gratifying about working with your hands. Don’t do it forever if you can help it, but the lessons you learn will get you very far in any career down the line. After all, who else could say they planted a banana tree, took care of 35 customers at once, or built a lava rock trail in volcanic crater? Make those memories.
  1. Find time to believe in something and practice it – Whether it’s organized religion, prayer, intentions, yoga, mindfulness – find something that regularly connects you to positivity and the divine and practice it.
  1. You always have a choice – If you feel trapped, lonely, bored, abused, etc. Remember: you always have a choice. “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.”
  1. Things will work out – I’ve been in situations where a lot of odds seemed stacked up against me: where I was worried about my journey, paying bills, and other general crazy things that come at you at life. Somehow, though, it always seemed to work out.
  1. Trust your intuition – It’s never wrong. And when you find out news you’ve been dreading and you’re in the position to get out, be brave enough, and strong enough, to do it.
  1. Protect yourself – Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. It’s good to have a giving personality to those in need, but think twice before you lend out your big heart to those you hardly know and those who may not deserve you.
  1. Learn from your mistakes – You’ll undoubtedly make mistakes in your 20s. I did, and I’m trying not to beat myself up from them as I approach 30. I’m making peace with the crazy shit I’ve done, and I’ve also learned my lessons, as you see them listed out here. The point is this: I can’t say don’t make mistakes, because you absolutely will. Somehow, what seemed like a good or fun idea at the time turns out to be a stupid thing you’ve done. That’s fine, we’ve all been there. The real work is not repeating that stupid mistake. Learn from it. Grow. Now you’ll be better equipped to make wiser decisions in the future.
  1. Find ways to love yourself – Exude confidence. Love your body. Love your mind. Find little ways to pamper yourself and to build yourself up. This is an extremely useful way to not only enjoy your life, but to excel in it.
  1. Cherish the bittersweet transitional moment from youth to adult – It might not be an exact moment like mine, but you’ll likely have a moment where you feel a shift from feeble kid to responsible adult. For me, it was when my grandmother passed away and I was a pallbearer at her funeral. My whole life as a kid, I thought the world was such a mystery and adults had a magical power to orchestrate and understand the world. Then, at 27, I realized the roles had shifted and life was simple. My grandmother, who helped raise me, now needed help from me being laid to rest. She trusted me with that gargantuan and touching act. When I walked her down the aisle of the church, I knew the mystery was solved: there was nothing more to being an adult than taking care of someone else when they needed it.
  1. Set limits and be grateful for what you have – In your 20s, the sky’s the limit, and you’ll try to get there. Maybe you will. By the time your late 20s roll around, if you’re like me, you’ll crave a little normalcy. Set limits on the things you want to become in your life, but still have goals. Be grateful for what you have. And show loving compassion for the life you’ve worked to create.
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