I just spent a fabulous week in Antiqua with my husband and three other couples we’ve known and traveled with for the better part of almost 2 decades. We went the first week of November, which some may say was gutsy because it is technically still hurricane season. But what we were surprised to learn was that it is still low season, and we were practically the only ones there. At most restaurants we were one of only two or three tables there. So odd, but also nice when vacationing and trying to relax.
We hear that island is getting ready for high season and that in a month or so the beautiful and mostly empty cove behind our beautiful house will be filled with boats. It is hard to imagine. And while the locals tell us t is not high season yet like they’re apologizing, we think this seems like the perfect time to be here.
Kasey, my friend and the most organized person I know, found our gorgeous house on VRBO and this may be the first time that a house is as gorgeous in person as is it in the photos. And the views! Unbelievable. The house is located in Jolly Harbour, has four private ensuite bedrooms, two large interior living rooms, and a large gourmet kitchen. Then there’s the large outside space with a covered dining area for 8, a large sitting area, 4 chaises and a pool table, a horizonless pool, private access to the beach, and kayaks and SUPs at your disposal. As you can see from the pictures, it is gorgeous. The house also came with two “buggies” (golf carts) that made it easy for us to get to some of the local restaurants, and to the market. Jolly Harbour turned out to be a great home base for us.
We arrived mid-day on a Saturday, so we made a market run to stock the house but decided to go out for dinner. We landed on Akropolis Greek Restaurant in Jolly Harbour, and it was perfect. Perched at the water’s edge with exposed beams and a large outdoor area it felt like Greece. Their pizzas were a big hit with our group, as was the seared tuna. We started with a few of the mezze plates and I could have just eaten those all evening -they were that good. And the tzatziki was perfect! The portions were large, and the chicken gyro fed me for two days.
Sunday: After spending a day relaxing, reading, and exploring Jolly Harbour, on Sunday night we went to Sheer Rocks for dinner, which is a restaurant located inside the Cocobay Resort, and is perched on the cliffs overlooking the water. Once we arrived, the journey through the darkness to the restaurant itself made us feel like we were exploring an unknown world. We followed the hostess from the main lobby through a labyrinth of narrow stone pathways and oceanside huts as we continued towards the ocean and down the hill to the restaurant. The food and the ambience were terrific. Their cocktail list was expansive and creative. I had a drink from the gin cocktail list (things like a cocktail list specifically for gin make the island feel even slightly more British, if there was a doubt) called a Dragon24 with Elderflower Tonic and Dragon Fruit. For my appetizer I had the King Scallops, and for dinner I had the Roasted Artichokes. The presentation and the flavors were Ah-mazing.
Monday: After a morning full of SUP-ing and exploring the mangroves, we wandered down the beach a bit to Sandra’s Beach Shop. This little outpost on the beach reminded me of one of our favorite little beach bars on the southern tip of Cozumel. Good food, nothing too fancy, and cold drinks with a great view. There is plenty of seating around to linger once you’re done eating. It was here that I discovered the local drink known as the Antigua Smile (dark rum, pineapple juice, and crème de banana, shaken).
Tuesday: Tuesday we had a full day. We circumvented the island with Antigua Adventures Extreme on a 38ft center console boat with three Yamaha 250hp engines on the back. We picked up the boat in Jolly Harbour, then started to make our way around with a stop at Sting Ray City, lunch on the beach, and a stop at English Harbour.
After a full day we decided to treat ourselves to dinner out, so we went to the highly recommended Papa Zouk, Antigua’s #1 Fish and Rum spot. We were greeted like old friends when we arrived, and the service was great. Soon after arriving their signature rum tea was somehow at each spot, and it was a hit with all. The fish was fresh and the food was great. We started with some conch fritters and shrimp fritters, and the conch fritters may be the best ones I’ve ever had. The lobster was incredible and beautifully presented, and the snapper was awesome. We loved it.
Wednesday: Since we did so much yesterday, Wednesday was a lounging beach and pool day. Which also means that we got to use the kayaks and the SUPs. It was a great way to spend the day. And despite the workout from paddling, I tried to keep it a chill day. As evidenced that I only had 905 steps for the day. Vacay accomplished.
Which we capped off our lazy day with dinner at Ffryes Beach Bar/Dennis Restaurant. This is located near Sheer Rocks, and we hear that during the busy season the cruise ships will bring tons of people into this area and to the beach, and then the restaurant is crazy busy. We enjoyed sharing the restaurant with only one other group, and the owner’s sweet dog “Shy Girl” (who was not shy, and was super sweet). While we could not see the view from the restaurant, we could hear the gentle lapping of the waves very close by. We all got a variety of fish and curry dishes, and there was nothing left on anyone’s plate. I had the Coconut Shrimp and it was very tasty. We learned that they are famous for a Pig Roast that they do every Sunday, and that people come from all over the island for it. I guess we’ll just have to add that to the list for when we come back.
Thursday: Thursday we headed into St. John’s for a food tour with Kadisha of Eat and Lime Food Tours which we booked through Viatours. Kadisha is only 19, and founded this company to show off the variety of food in Antigua. Our first stop was Anette’s, where we had a classic Antiguan breakfast of some saltfish, hard of a hard-boiled egg, some lettuce, a slice of tomato, and small sweet roll and some “chop up” (okra, eggplant, spinach and pumpkin – yum!).
The second stop was for a smoothie from Smoothie Palace. Eddie is a former resort bartender opened his own business after years of being asked by resort guests for custom smoothies and hangover remedies. He was very knowledgeable about fruits, vegetables and key ingredients like turmeric. The pineapple smoothie he made for us was yummy and refreshing. Plus we loved hearing how proud this dad was of his children were in the US studying at Georgia Tech, the University of West Georgia and Washington University in St. Louis.
The third stop on our tour was Roti King, which was in a historical old bungalow, and is run by the founder’s children. We learned that there is a rich history of Indian heritage and cooking in the Carribbean due to the large numbers of Indians that started coming to Trinidad in 1845 as indentured laborers for the sugar cane plantations, and eventually earning their freedom. Today , 42% of the population of Trinidad and Tobago is either full or partial Indian descent. Over many decades of course their customs and recipes have comingled with the other Carribbean islands, and that is why you’ll see curry dishes on many menus throughout the islands. Here at Roti King we had the Chicken Roti, which was on a thin bread cooked with butter, and inside was the tender curry chicken, potatoes and peas. I could have eaten just the potatoes and peas win the curry sauce it was so good.
The fourth stop on our tour was for an Old Fashioned Rum Punch class, and tasting. This was very informative and interactive. We also learned about making infused simple syrup with cinnamon and lemon rinds, and about the two distilleries on the island (one for rum and the other for gin). We also enjoyed their local market for soaps, hot sauces, and salts.Our favorite was the "Good JuJu" and the "Bad JuJu."
The fifth stop on the tour was to sop up the alcohol, or so we were told. We went to Brownies Bakery and had a very dense cinnamon sweet bread with American cheese on it. This was not the favorite stop for us, but appreciated the experience and the interesting location.
The sixth stop on the tour was at Patty Delight, were we had a beef patty not unlike a Jamaican beef patty, but with tomato, lettuce and cheese added in. This was very yummy, and for me is a great improvement on the Jamaican beef patties that always seem a bit flavorless to me.
The seventh and final stop of the tour may have been my favorite. It was at One Stone Ital Shack for a vegetarian appetizer and some juice. I had the soursop juice and it was sooo good. But I always like vegetable fritters. These were spinach and broccoli and were perfect.
FRIDAY: Our last day in paradise. Strictly a pool day.
All in all, I would recommend the Food Tour, and it was a lot of fun to do it as a group (there were 8 of us). But you’ll definitely want to start with an empty stomach. And for those that are curious, my step count for the food tour was 6,504 steps.
Overall, Antigua was gorgeous, the weather was perfect (especially for "low season", and it felt a little bit like Bermuda.
Disney in the Time of Covid
We have been so good during the past year. We’re good about keeping our distance, wearing our masks, staying home and away from others. I watch the news and it feels like I am still that nerdy honor student and I am the only one following the teacher’s instructions. All that to say – we needed a break. So we decided to go to Florida for Spring Break. We stayed at my in-laws house (they’ve had their shots), brought the dogs along (they needed a change of scene too) and did two of the Disney Parks. We let the boys choose – they picked Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.
We learned a few things and I thought I’d share them in case anyone else is ready for a break as well.
You need to buy your tickets really far in advance. They are still only letting in a third of the capacity of each park. For Hollywood Studios, the capacity is 60,000, and for EPCOT it is 110,000. At 30% capacity for each park during COVID – it was actually kind of nice. I didn’t feel like I was walking around with throngs of people, and while the lines can seem long without the Fast Pass, they actually all moved rather quickly.
There are fewer shows and attractions to entertain guests. And some favorites, like the Test Track, have been completely altered to remove the high-touch pre and post ride environments. But overall, it was a better experience in many ways.
So back to the tickets – you need to make a reservation and then buy your tickets. The Disney website does a good job of showing which parks are available on which days. If you are planning on going to Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Galaxy Edge, then you will want to make your Cantina reservations immediately after you make your ticket purchase.
1. Virtual Queue for Rise of the Resistance
The other issue is the limited amount of guests that get to experience the Rise of the Resistance. If you have a valid ticket and Disney Park Pass reservation, then you’ll be able to access the virtual queue through the “My Disney Experience” app.
Luckily we had friends who told us the tricks to make this successful:
1. You need all of the tickets linked to one person’s Disney app / phone.
2.The morning that you’ll be going to Hollywood Studios, you’ll need to wake up early. Have the app open by 6:45 AM, and keep refreshing.
3.At 6:59 refresh again and it will load for you to select all your riders.
The boarding Groups go really fast. We did this and at 7:01 we were in Group 51 (!). 51! Which is approximately sometime after lunch or in the afternoon.
4.IF you do not get into a Boarding group in the morning, you can try again once you are inside the park at 1pm. Same thing – have the app open early and keep refreshing.
The app will send you a push notification when it is time for your Boarding Group to ride. At that point you’ll have 1 hour to make your way over to the ride.
And yes – it was as awesome as we expected. Totally worth getting up early for the tickets.
I was really worried about food, especially since my guys are always hungry and I had read that all of the grab n go snack carts at the park were not operating.
My advice? Don’t feel like you need to make a reservation for meals, other than the Cantina. Many of the food options like the Backlot Express and Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo offer mobile service. You place the order through the app, and then go get it. Other places like PizzaRizzo also have mobile ordering and plentiful outdoor dining space as well. This option worked great for us. And there were still beverage stations to get sodas and waters along the way.
3. The Lines
When we arrived, we went right to the Rock 'n Roller Coaster, and the line was only 20 minutes. Which was awesome. Then we went next door to the Tower of Terror and the line seemed to snake through the park forever. It ended up being a 45 minute wait, but it kept moving. They have marks on the ground that are 6ft apart for every queue, so as the line moves, it really does feel like it’s moving quickly. The longest line we had all day was for the Millennium Falcon at 60 minutes. But I know if the park was at full capacity the wait would have been much longer.
My husband and I haven’t been to Hollywood Studios in over 20 years, when it was still MGM Studios. So going back with our boys and experience the entire park with them was a lot of fun. They loved the Rock ‘n Roller Coaster as much as we knew they would, and while they’ve never seen the Twilight Zone, they enjoyed the Tower of Terror and the views from the top, before the drop. Plus, Star Wars was amazing. I love that we got to experience it together. And yes, we made our own lightsaber at Savi’s workshop. I was grateful to get the opportunity to drop a small fortune on a faux weapon since my little one is only 10. For him, it was a great experience. If this is something you want to do as well, or build your own droid, then you’ll also want to book that experience as soon as you buy your ticket. Even with limited attendance they fill up quickly.
1. Rides at EPCOT
We arrived on the first day of the EPCOT Flower and Garden Show. So while The world of Energy is being renovated into Guardians of the Galaxy and won’t open until 2023, and the Ratatouille ride isn’t open yet, it still felt like there was a lot of “new” things to see and explore. And we were lucky – when we got to Norway, the line for the Frozen ride “only” started at the edge of China. It also moved quickly and we were on the ride in just 25 minutes. Later in the afternoon the line was switchbacking through China, so you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on the wait times on the app and plan accordingly.
2. Food in EPCOT
In EPCOT you’ll DEFINITELY want to make food reservations, and make them early. The food is one of the highlights of pretending to travel the world while at EPCOT, and with seating at just every other table they fill up quickly. We ended up having a terrific lunch in Mexico (we love the Diablo Margaritas with the jalapenos) and dinner at the Biergarten in Germany. Both meals were great, and my picky eaters found lots of things they liked. The bonus was that one of the few shows we saw all day was the band at the Biergarten. They were great, and even played the cowbells and the Alphorn. We loved it, even though we were informed that the dance floor was closed. Like I’d get any of my guys on the dance floor with me even if it wasn’t.
One disappointment at EPCOT were the shops. The selection in the shops wasn’t what it usually is, and our favorite shops like the Sportsman Shop in England and the bazaar in Morocco were closed. We were all disappointed, though of course we understand. Somehow I still managed to buy a large amount of tea in England, but if you know me then you know that’s not really a surprise.
4. Steps per day
I remember the last time the awe went to the Magic Kingdom that my steps at the end of the day was around 10,500 and I thought that was a lot. At Hollywood Studios I hit 18,647 steps, and at EPCOT I hit 17,433 steps. Did we get around more and see more because of less crowds? Absolutely. It was definitely a more pleasant navigation experience.
A couple of recommendations:
1. Skip the pier and go to the Beach. We like to park at the Alan Shepard Park and Beach Access, behind the “Famous” Ron Jon Surf Shop. They have a big parking lot and lots of access points.
2. Dinner on the water
There are a lot of restaurants at Port Canaveral, and most of them get really crowded. Which wasn’t what we wanted during Covid, especially since masks seemed optional to a lot of the locals. Instead, we had a great dinner and sat outside at Gator’s Dockside. They had a large outdoor area, the tables were spaced far apart, and the musician they had that evening was good too. As an aside, I always tip the musicians at beach bars like this – especially if they’re pretty good. It’s good karma and I ask you all to do the same.
3. Another Dinner Option
On this trip we tried a new place, Florida's Seafood. And it was so fun. The food was solid, but the kitchy décor was fantastic. If you are going to go kitch, go all they way, And they did. From the faux stuffed alligators peering at us through the foliage to the sharks hanging from the ceiling, it did not disappoint. Plus the boys got frozen mango slushies in souvenir glasses that came with toy sharks in them for the win.
4. Lunch Option
This trip we also made a stop at Coconuts on the Beach in downtown Cocoa. This was our last lunch of the trip before heading home. And I have to say it was a great sendoff. I had the grilled mahi tacos with key lime slaw and they were great. I might make this a tradition every time we depart for home.
The best part of a vacation is that it’s nice come back home. And I am SO glad that we were able to take a family Spring Break. Let me know if you have any questions about the trip – I’m happy to help as you plan your own!
Why am I writing about travel during a pandemic? Because I cannot wait to travel again. This was the last big trip we took as a family before the lockdown. I am sure some of you are planning on a Hawaiian trip once it is safe to do so, so I thought I'd share our itinerary that worked well with our kids at a variety of ages (16, 14, and 8).
And why the Big Island? My husband and I have been to Hawaii a number of times, and we have been to all of the islands expect Nihue. Mike had taken the boys to Oahu a few years ago, so we wanted to build on that experience by taking everyone to the Big Island. It is my favorite of all the islands. It’s amazing to think that there are five different climates at the same time on this island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. And that it has an active volcano. It’s pretty cool.
Where to Stay:
We knew the kids would enjoy the Hilton Waikoloa Village Hotel. But instead of staying at the resort proper, we stayed on-site but at one of the time share condos called the Kohala Suites. This worked out much better than squeezing all five of us into a single hotel room, and was less expensive than having to get two rooms. Plus, it had the added advantage of a kitchen with a full-sized fridge, microwave, stove and a dishwasher. Resort living is nice, but we also enjoy shopping locally and making some meals on our own. We also like to get an early start each day, so the other advantage was being able to make an early breakfast each day on our own.
Day 1: Travel Day: Arriving from Atlanta, we arrived in Kona around 8:30pm after a brief stop in Seattle. It was a long day for everyone, especially the kids. We arranged for a rental jeep ahead of time, and it was waiting for us in the airport parking lot. The drive to the hotel was about 45 minutes.
Day 2: Explore and Beach Time
On the first day we wanted to explore our immediate area. We made a run to the market to stock our fridge, and stock a cooler for lunch. Then we made a quick stop next door at the main part of the resort so the kids could explore the lagoon, the pools, the rope bridge and see the dolphins. But then we loaded back into the car and headed to the beach. That’s what we were there for - sandy toes and snorkeling.
Our first stop was Hapuna Beach for some boogie boarding and sand castles.
Then after lunch we headed out to a different beach - Holoholokai Beach park - for some snorkeling. We appreciated the trees on the beach here for their shade. And there are a lot of tidal pools in the lava rocks for exploring.
We had dinner at Lava Lava Beach Club. This quickly became one of our new favorite spots on the island. The location was beautiful, the food was terrific, and they have lot of cool things to do while you wait for your table. Like take a million photos of the sunset while playing ping pong.
Day 3: Volcanoes!
Getting to Volcanoes National Park is a fascinating drive / climb through the middle of the island. The landscape is like nothing you’ll see anywhere else, if you can even see it at times through the fog. Once entering the park itself, I highly recommend stopping in the visitors center not just to get your parking pass, but to explore the exhibits and watch the short movie. It is very informative and gave the kids a greater appreciation of what they were about to see.
We hiked two different trails around Kilauea that day – the Sulphur Banks Trail and the Crater Rim Trail. Before leaving this area and driving down toward the coast for the Chain of Craters, you have to check out the view from the Volcano House. This historic building was built in the 1930s and has a great Western vibe to it. Plus it has a great view of the crater itself.
While driving down the Chain of Craters to the ocean we made three stops along the way.
And after getting all of our photos of the Lava arch and the ocean (beautiful!) we headed out of the park.
By this time of day, my kids were getting hangry. We stopped at a supermarket and got Poke bowls and sushi. It is amazing to me to variety of marinades of poke that are available to choose from – at the supermarket!! You pick your flavor of poke, if you want white or brown rice, and if you want seaweed on top. Done. And Yummy.
Our next stop was the green sand beach at Papkolea at Mahana Beach. It’s one of only 4 green sand beaches in the world. We got there late in the afternoon and we should have just taken our jeep on the trail. Instead we hiked it. Three miles each way. Not our brightest move. So glad we had a big, healthy lunch to carry us through. We got back to the car right after dark.
It was getting super late, so on our way back to the resort we stopped for dinner. By accident we discovered the fun Coconut Grove Marketplace in Kona and had the perfect late evening meal at Ocean’s Sports Bar & Grill. There was something on the menu for everyone – no complaints – which is always a win!
Day 4: Snorkeling at Mahukona Beach Park and the Black Sand Beach at Waipio’o
Mahukona Beach Park is unusual in more ways than one. For one, it is not a real beach, but an abandoned commercial harbor run by the Kohala Sugar Company (the harbor was closed in 1956). Remnants of the area's commercial past can still be found under water and are in fact one of the main attractions. This is not what you imagine when you picture a typical Hawaiian paradise, but it's super cool. The water here is calm and clear, and the snorkeling is awesome. Underwater you’ll find some old mill equipment and machinery and even a shipwreck nestled in between beautiful coral reefs. Be sure to bring an underwater camera.
After snorkeling we headed on to the cute little town of Hawi in North Kohala. This cute little town is very charming and full of art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. It is also the bicycle turnaround for the Ironman World Championship in October. We got some mango shave ice and then lunch at the Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery. They told us it was once voted the best restaurant on the island and I believe it.
Then it was on to Waipio’o Bay and the Waipio’o Black Sand Beach. The road to get down to it is just to the left of the Waipio’o Lookout, and it is steep and a bit intimidating. But it’s definitely but worth the drive.
For dinner we cooked fresh fish and pasta back at the condo. Which was perfectly relaxing after an adventurous day.
Day 5: Beach Day
We started the day early at Kekaha Kai State Park. The sand here is great and there is a lot of room to spread out. There is a cool rock tunnel at the far left side of the beach for the kids to explore before the tide comes back in.
For the evening we had tickets to the Legends of Hawaii Luau that night at the Waikoloa Resort. We had to get cleaned up and get there a bit early so we left the beach with time to relax and read back at the condo before heading over. But we highly recommend the Legends of Hawaii Luau. I’ve attended a Luau on almost every trip I’ve taken to Hawaii, and this was by far the best one. Plus, before the show started they had lots of tables with local artists showcasing and selling their work. I always try to support local artists on trips like this.
Day 6: Seahorse Farm!
We started the day at the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm. This was a must visit for me, and the tour was fun and very informative. The Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm is an organic Hawaiian based aqua farm that also works to save endangered species.
All tours are led by naturalists and biologists with special training in ocean conservation. Everyone gets to hold a seahorse in the touchtanks. And if you wanted to, you could even order your own seahorses! They have resident seahorse and aquarium experts to provide you with guidance in setting up your own healthy and happy seahorse tank back home.
Just down the road is Wawaloli Beach Park – we spent some time climbing the rocks and exploring the tidal pools here. It is just south of the airport and the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm.
The highlight of the day was Snorkeling with the Manta Rays that evening with Fair Wind Cruises on the Hula Kai Night Manta Snorkel Vessel. Mike and I had dove with the Manta Rays on our Honeymoon 24 years ago (!) so it was fun to do the snorkel version with our kids. And can I just say that at 9 years old, Liam was incredibly brave and trusting and jumped into the dark ocean with us. He was fearless! And we were rewarded with multiple Manta Ray visits. It was different than our first Manta experience, but just as exciting.
Since check in for the Manta snorkeling was at 5:15, dinner would have to be afterwards. So for Dinner we stopped for pizza on the way back to the resort at Kona Crust. We totally felt like locals here, and the pizza was terrific.
Day 7: Resort Day and Thanksgiving
On our trip, this day was also Thanksgiving. So clearly not a lot was going to be open. I spent the morning exploring the Waikolao Petroglyph Field with my boys. They loved it, and the best part is that it that actually runs through the middle of the resort. At the end of the trail, you are very close to the King’s Shops shopping center. Some shave ice and mini golf there is always a hit. But a word of caution - definitely wear sneakers or something Teva or Keen-like. You don’t want to be on this trail with just flip flops.
We spent mid-day at the resort since we had not really spent any time there up until this point. We had lunch by the lagoon, then swam and snorkeled in the lagoon, and had a series of very competitive Jenga games with the giant sets they had outside.
For late afternoon and sunset we headed to Kekaha Kai (Kona Coast) State Park for some beach time. Not only was the beach beautiful, we had it mostly to ourselves, and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset and a lot of sea turtles.
For our Thanksgiving Dinner, we grilled out using one of the outdoor pavilions at the condo. This worked out perfectly. We had a sushi appetizer, then grilled some fresh fish and vegetables, and served it along with some tropical fruit and enjoyed it outside in the beautiful weather. It wasn’t your traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, but it was perfect.
Day 8: Snorkeling
The kids really wanted to do some adventurous boating and snorkeling. We booked the day with Fair Wind Big Island Ocean Guides, and had a great time. Their boat is a giant, double decker boat with two spots up to jump off of, and two 15ft slides off the back. So once you’re done snorkeling there is still lots of fun to be had. They have snorkel equipment if you don’t have your own, and they have tubes and floatation devices if you want to just float around. My older kids also did SNUBA so they could get a feel for what scuba diving is like since we’d like them to get certified ad go diving with us. The instructor was great and encouraged them to throw up some shakas if they were having fun. On the boat they served fruit and pastries for breakfast and then grilled out for lunch. It was all good. Even my picky eaters asked for seconds.
Our trip was a morning trip that took us to Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook monument, The British established the Captain Cook monument in his memory on the site where he was killed in 1799. It can only be reached by hiking to it (which takes 2-4 hours), or by boat. The tall, white obelisk was erected in 1874 and then deeded to the United Kingdom. The chains around the monument denote the land that belongs to the UK. Since the area was designated a Marine Life Conservation District in 1969 and fishing is restricted, there is abundant fish life in the bay. As a result, the snorkeling was amazing.
That night we decided to visit our favorite Lava Lava Beach Club once more. This time we got a table on the sand. The food was great, the weather was perfect, and our toes were in the sand. It was a perfect way to end such a great day.
Day 9 Hilo and Umauma Falls Zip Lining
We started our day driving to Hilo where stopped to grab a quick early lunch from a food truck at the farmer’s market, and we did a little shopping there too. The handmade quilts and bracelets were popular with my crew.
From there we headed onto Hakalau to go to the Umauma Falls Experience Zip Linline. Fourteen waterfalls, 9 longlines, and amazing views. Flying through the air at 65mph is a great way to experience the falls. The scenery was beautiful and we all had an amazing time.
From Hakalau, you aren’t far from two more beautiful stops. The first stop is Akaka Falls State Park. Akaka Falls is a stunning 442 ft tall waterfall. There is a very accessible loop trail through the park with beautiful views of the falls along the way. The trail was its own little photo safari because the rainforest itself was beautiful.
The second stop is Wailuku River State Park and Rainbow Falls. It is 80ft tall and flows over a lava cave. The lookout is only 0.3 miles into the park. As is implied by it’s name, there is a good chance that you’ll see a rainbow here, especially early in the day when the sun is behind you. The size of the falls depends on how much water is falling on the watershed above the volcano. If it’s been raining for a few days, it’ll be roaring.
After viewing the waterfall from the lookout near the parking lot, walk around to the left to go to the alternate viewing area. The alternate view higher up on the falls is also beautiful. And then to your left is the other highlight of this park. It is a massive, ancient Banyan Tree. It is over 600 years old, and is It is covered in fig vines. It’s canopy is so massive that it is hard to actually capture the scene in a single photo. It is eerie, beautiful, and serene.
If you want to follow the trail by the water a little bit further, you’ll arrive at Peepee Falls and the Boiling Pots (terraced pools that bubble like they’re boiling).
After all this adventure, we headed into downtown Hilo to find a place for dinner. We decided on Café Pesto, and it was terrific. We could also tell there was something going on in town. A parade maybe? It turns out that we had amazing timing. From our table at the window we could see the start of the Hilo Christmas Light Parade. Once we finished, we found a spot on the curb and watched the beautiful parade go by, the harbor in the background, and with floats and boats covered in lights. It was a wonderful surprise that we’ll never forget, and it totally got us into the holiday spirit. Even though it was 80 degrees outside.
Day 10: This was our last day. And since the flights back home don’t leave until very late in the evening (9:35 in our case) there is plenty of time to have a fun and memorable last day on the island. We decided to go horseback riding.
We went riding with the Dahana Ranch is Waimea. It is family run, and been in their family for generations. It goes on and on - further than the eye can see. The vistas were beautiful. The staff was super patient and kind, and the horses were very well tempered. It was a rainy, foggy day up in Waimea that day, but we had a fantastic time. I highly recommend going riding on the big island. If you didn’t know, the Big Island has a long history of ranching and horses. The first cattle was introduced to the island in 1793 by Captain Vancouver, and the first horse was brought to the islands in 1803. The ranches of Hawaii have played an important role in the economy and culture of Hawaii.
We had checked out of our room that morning, but had packed a quick change bag for after horseback riding. We spent some time at the resort pool after cleaning up, and then headed into Kona for dinner before continuing on to the airport. We went back to the Coconut Grove Marketplace and had dinner on the upstairs deck of Humpy’s Big Island Ale House. We were rewarded with a perfect view of a beautiful sunset, and enjoyed watching the beach volleyball games in the courtyard. It was a perfect ending to our Hawaiian adventure.
I hope this trip outline is helpful. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have as you plan your own itinerary - I'm happy to share what we know. #shaka and Aloha!
The London List from the Delaneys
We love traveling to London. In many ways it feels like home, and a lot like New York. We are often asked by our friends for a list of some of our favorite places to check out, and some cool ideas for the kids. This list is certainly not complete, but is a good start.
The Delaney’s Favorite Spots in London (Beyond the regular stops of the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge Museum, the Victoria & Albert, and Hyde Park)
1. Hoxton Street Monster Supply Company
This was one of our favorite finds on a trip with the kids. Super clever, and the store front is a as cool as the website. The kids got great souvenirs for the friends, and all proceeds fund an after school creative writing program for local kids.
2. The Churchill War Rooms
We have been here a number of times and still enjoy it. You will definitely need 1 ½ hours here, if not 2 hours. If you time it right, you can go when they open (9:30am) and finish up in time to cross the park to see the changing of the guards over at Buckingham Palace at 11am.
3. Leaden Hall Market
Leaden Hall Market served as the exterior shot and inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron in Sorcerer’s Stone. It is located at Gracechurch street and Lime Street.
4. Covent Garden, Transportation Museum, and Masala Zone
We love Covent Garden. The market has lots of vendors with unique items, the food selections are great, and the setting is very Instagram worthy. It is often decorated for the season as well. It is also the location of the Transportation Museum (which the kids love). In our estimation, it’s the best transportation museum outside of the one in York. If you are not going to head up to York, then don’t miss this one.
Not far from here is our favorite outpost of an awesome Indian restaurant called Masala Zone. There are a few locations in London, and each is decorated differently. This one is filled with countless puppets depicting an Indian wedding. It's really remarkable.
5. Old Greenwich
The Royal Observatory in Old Greenwich is definitely worth the trip. In order to get to Old Greenwich you will take an extra-long train ride which gives you a tour of some non-touristy parts of London like the Dockyards, which is the hipster place to live. When you arrive you can stand on both sides of the Prime Meridian. And the town has some of the best little fish and chips shops. Plus it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
These four can go together:
6. Westminster Abbey
Historic, beautiful, and amazing, then they have the best scavenger hunt for the kids. Even the big kids love it. When the kids hand in the completed form in the gift shop they are rewarded with a very large gold chocolate “coin” of Westminster. It was a lovely surprise.
7. The London Eye
It seems little cheesy, but its so cool. You will get some fantastic views and photos of the city. The lines can be long, so you may want to buy your tickets online, or by them or another time and return.
8. Tower Bridge
After the London Eye, walk along the Embankment towards Tower Bridge. The Tour at Tower Bridge is totally worth it, as are the street musicians and artists along the way.
9. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
You can easily walk here via the Millennium Footbridge – it is just a short distance from the end of the bridge on the same side of the river as the London Eye. This replica of the original is super cool for theatre nerds like me. The tours are great, and you can book tickets ahead of time for shows if the schedule works for you. Afterwards, you can take the short walk to the Tate Museum, another favorite.
10. Liberty London
I love tea. My favorites are the Royal Blend and the Jubilee Blend from Fortnum and Mason, and the Assam Tea from Harrods. But the one souvenir I try to get is teapots, and they are hard to find, Liberty has the best selection, and the building is gorgeous. The main entrance is on Marlborough.
11. Portobello Road Market
On Saturday mornings It opens at 9am with over 1,000 vendors. It is so much cooler now than when we went back in college. It goes on and on…it’s like a living museum for the kids. We’ve bought a bunch of antique prints and maps here – all vintage and early 1700s. As our little ones says, they are cool because they are older than our country.
12. St. Irmin's Hotel
Located near Buckhingham Palace, this hotel has a storied history all its own, full of spies and history. I think it may be my favorite hotel in the city. They have a great scavenger hunt for the kids. It kept them busy and taught them (!) some history along the way while we enjoyed a couple of gin and tonics in the beautifully decorated lobby bar. In fact, I was so inspired by the decor that I replicated some of it at home.
13. A Premier League Football (Soccer) Game
Our family are West Ham fans since my father in law is from there, and when we last went to London, West Ham was playing away at Fulham Football Club. We got tickets to the game, and sat in the Fulham section. And while we disappointed not to experience London Stadium, we fell in love with the history of Craven Cottage. And it was the authentic experience, complete with pouring rain. We met the loveliest people who told us we had to try the pies from the concessions, as each stadium has an unofficial competition to see who has the best ones, and Fulham's were the best. I have no point of comparison but they were awesome. he rain stopped as the match ended, and the stroll along the Thames as we wandered back to the bus stop after the game was beautiful and gave us a glimpse of old London. We loved it.
14. London Pass
Since you’ll be traveling to some of the touristy spots (an especially if you travel over the summer or the holidays), I highly recommend buying the London Pass before you go. It gives you discounted admissions, and you get to cut the line (“Fast track”) since you’ve already paid. This will absolutely save you a ton of time during the high seasons. And you can buy it with or without travel. I recommend buying it with travel, then you will already have your underground (Oyster Cards) and bus passes taken care of. Easy peasy. We usually do the 3 day pass since we tend to leave London after a few days. But you MUST purchase this before you go… you cannot buy it once you arrive.
New York, I Miss You
I grew up in New York, and miss the beauty of Long Island and the hum of the city . We've taken the kids back quite a bit, but our littlest was too little to remember. And he desperately wants to go see it. For his 10th birthday I had planned a trip to NYC with his best friend (also just turned 10) and his mom (one of my best friends). And they had not been to New York, either.
As to pandemic got worse, it became clear that our trip would need to be cancelled. I hate it that we don't know when we can reschedule it. But I'm documenting the outline of our plans here so we can implement a version of it when we can make it back.
This itinerary is very different than the ones I had when traveling there with our daughter and we went to tea at the Plaza (a family tradition), shopped in SoHo and saw at least one Broadway show (the last trip it was Dear Evan Hansen). So here we go:
Five Days in New York with 10 year old Boys:
Day 1: Times Square, Rockefeller Center and 5th Avenue
These days I recommend flying into Newark and take the train in. So much easier than dealing with the construction at LaGuardia. When will that be done again?
I had booked us at the New York Hilton. It’s so convenient and close to everything. And we booked it super early so we got a great rate.
After dropping off the bags, we were going to head to Times Square (the boys had only ever seen it on TV) and the TKTS booth and then grab some lunch. After loading up on lunch, we were going to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. That would take most of the afternoon. When we were done there, I was going to have us grab a cab back to the hotel and take the boys exploring around Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then grab dinner at the Burger Joint, made famous by Anthony Bourdain. If there’s room, we’d head to Serendipity for dessert.
Day 2: Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park Zoo, the MET
The plan was to start the day at the Museum of Natural History (Night at the Museum is still in heavy rotation in our house), then head to the Central Park Zoo at lunchtime, and end the day with the highlights of the MET. For dinner we had reservations had NINJA New York which sounded perfect for the boys, and I am so sad to hear that after 15 years it is now permanently closed..
Day 3: The Highline Park, Chelsea, the Village, and Brooklyn
The plan was to start at the Vessel and Hudson Yards and then walk down the Highline. After wandering through Chelsea and the Village (and stopping at the Jackie Robinson Museum) we would have lunch at Jekyll and Hyde. After some shopping and gelato in Little Italy we were going to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and check out DUMBO before heading to the Nets game that evening.
Day 4: Lower Manhattan, Statue of Liberty, One World Trade, and the Seaport
Today we were planning to start at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, then exploring One World Trade and Calatrava's Oculus. After exploring the Seaport for lunch, and maybe getting gelato at Little Italy we were headed to the Bronx to see the Yankees that night.
Day 5: Midtown, Empire State Building
This was our last day. We had planned to start at the Empire State Building (weather and view permitting), and lunch at Wagamama (a favorite of the kids when in London) before heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags and head back to the airport for a late flight home.
If you have older kids and are looking for unusual things to do, this is list of 689 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in New York from Atlas Obscura.
I Miss Travel
I know I am not alone in missing the ability to travel this past year. I have always craved travel, but now it feels like I need it to breathe. So to make myself feel a little bit better, I am going to share a few photos from some of our favorite recent, pre-covid trips.
The photo with the pink umbrellas? That was from Puerto Rico. We went there for a second time and loved it more than the first time. I don't know what took us so long to go there. Both trips were amazing, but I loved this piece of street art in the middle of Old San Juan.
Next to that is me on a rainy, cold December day in London. For me, London is always a good idea, too. I had never been there during the holidays, so I was pleasantly surprised by all of the Christmas Markets and the mulled wine. We went out to the Cotswolds for a few days, and that was such a romantic excursion for that time of year. It was a fabulous trip.
To the right of that is my favorite photo from Paris. Which is always a good idea. And I have gone on my own little photo safaris throughout the city and have tons of photos. But this is the best - My little one, dressed as Spiderman, throwing webs and keeping us safe. And if you need a Parisian fix like I do, I highly recommend following @raphaelmetivet on Instagram for a bird's eye view of the city.
The next two photos are from Munich. We did a Munich and Innsbruck, Austria ski trip that was better than any ski trip we've done out to Colorado. It was incredibly more affordable, the food was fantastic (my son could not get enough currywursts), and our side trips to Bregenz and and Lindau were beautiful. Plus, we had mango gelato on the street in Munich as it started to snow. For my southern babies who don't get a lot of snow, that was super cool.
The last four photos are from the big island of Hawaii. One is of the black sand beach, and the other is of us killing time while we waited for our table at the "totally-worth the wait" Lava Lava Beach Club. The third is of my kids next to the crater that is now erupting, and the last is a turtle that came to sleep on the rocks next to the Lava Lava Beach Club each night that we were there. While most people go to Oahu and or Maui, we wanted to share the beauty of the big island and it's 5 climates in the middle of the Pacific with our kids. This was my fourth trip to Hawaii and I can't get enough. We snorkeled with the Manta Rays at night, visited Volcanoes National Park, rode horses on one of the largest ranches in the US (in the middle of the Pacific!), visited green and black sand beaches, and ate a lot of poke.
I cannot wait to travel again. But in the meantime, I'll start working on some new itineraries so I can be ready. What's on my list? A camping trip out west with the fam to go to Zion, Arches, Capitol Reef and the Grand Canyon. Maybe with a quick stop in Vegas. And an African Safari. And Japan. How many vacation days do I have again?
Kris Delaney is a marketing executive, foodie, travel enthusiast, and book nerd based in Atlanta, GA.