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The tranquil paradise of the Big Island of Hawaii offers so much to experience, I couldn’t confine my ten day visit to just one post.  For tips on my favorite Big Island resorts and must-pack items, check out Destination Hawaii, Part One.  Then read on below for Part Two of my Hawaiian adventure!


The Fairwind II is a large catamaran that takes you out for a BBQ lunch and snorkel cruise.  I’m not a big ‘group’ person and I absolutely loved this trip.  The staff was A+.  My finicky four-year-old lasted all of 30 seconds with her snorkel and mask and was able to trade them in for a more manageable wave board with a clear window to view the fish below.  The diving board and slide on board feel Disney-fied, but are an absolute blast.  If you are traveling without children in tow you may want to try the more civilized Hula Kai luxury tour.

After such success aboard the Fairwind, I really got into being on the water and booked us a sunset cruise aboard the Winona at Mauna Lani Sea Adventures.  My daughter protested.  Sounds like a snore.  She ate her words after we were treated to a mama and baby whale that took a liking to us and shared over an hour of our journey with us.  The captain said they maybe get a show like that once a season.  I may have cried and can assure you I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than a mother and her nursing baby whale hugging our vessel.   I will definitely book that trip again.

Check out Rudy and Leanne at the tennis pavilion at The Fairmont Orchid.  This ten court Tennis Center is consistently ranked as one of the tops in the U.S. and these guys are the reason why.  Their drills and kick ass clinics made my trip.

I was the girl in junior high that climbed the high dive while everyone waited to see me make a glorious splash, only to be disappointed when I turned around humiliated and climbed back down the stairs.  So although my spunky and fearless four-year-old was game for a zip line experience, my fear of heights kept us beach bound.  However if it is adventure you want, try the Umauma falls and zipline experience.   I can’t speak from experience but the word is they are the absolute best.

If you stay at the Orchid make sure you connect with Rachel, one of their concierges, before you go.  She is incredibly knowledgeable and has the gift of ‘getting you,’ so have her plan both your dining reservations/recommendations and your island adventures.


I tend not to be a resort restaurant kinda girl but sometimes you just can’t get away from it.  Hawaii can be one of those destinations where ‘local’ dining can sometimes be a predicament.  The fact that my daughter ate free was another motivator for staying on property.  We had beautiful meals surf side at both Brown’s Beach House at the Fairmont and Canoe House at the neighboring Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows.  Napua is a beachfront restaurant at the Mauna Lani Beach Club that felt more like a secret, and we ate poke there for lunch almost every day.

Monstera is a great sushi option off resort.  Trust Chef Norio to prepare the most delicious and fresh combinations of fish and you won’t be disappointed.  Another off property must is the Seafood Bar & Grill.  Finally a place that had a real old Hawaiian feel with a menu to match.  The breakfast buffet is sort of a tradition on any Hawaiian vacay but one morning I felt obliged to try pancakes ‘as big as your head’ at Hawaiian Style Cafe.  If brown breakfast food is your thing (think coffee, toast, pancakes, French toast, SPAM, yes SPAM) then this is your dream destination.  Although I dug the local vibe (only sit at the counter), I admit I was missing those fresh squeezed guava and lilikoi juices back at the hotel buffet.



I once asked a well-heeled traveler where she would recommend I stay in Bora Bora, and she replied ‘wherever is newest.’   There seems to be a lot of wisdom in a statement like that as even the highest rated properties start to not look so good with age.  At this point I could digress and start a whole new conversation, but let’s stick to how this applies to hotels shall we?


I chose to stay at The Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island of Hawaii, both as a function of finances and because I’m always tempted by a property that has just undergone a major renovation.  However, I couldn’t leave my choice to chance, so I called the P.R. team at the Fairmont and asked them to send me photos of the newly revamped rooms as they hadn’t yet put them on their website.  The pictures and the deal through the platinum American Express card were enough to lure me, as well as another family that traveled with us.

Upon arrival we were given kukui nut leis.  My friend and I took one look at each other and both laughed that we had officially traded the land of the Four Seasons and their fragrant tuberose leis, welcome guava juices and cool towels, for nuts on a ribbon.

I had joined the Fairmont Presidents Club before arrival, a free membership that gives you discounts on property as well as free resort Wi-Fi and other perks.  I checked in at the Presidents Club desk while my friends hit the standard reception.  After 5 minutes they were headed off to their upgraded partial ocean view (thanks to platinum Amex) and I started to sweat while the newbie behind the desk tried for another 20 minutes to find me a room that didn’t require changing rooms halfway through my 10 day stay.  After a bumpy start, my daughter and I finally made it up to our pristine room overlooking the golf course with the ocean beyond.  Things were starting to look up.

Tip:  book the North Tower


I’ve been staying at the Four Seasons in Maui for two decades and have visited the Four Seasons Hualalai several times over the last eight years, including one memorable trip where Dan got the Bends.  If it were a romantic (and expensive) vacation I was after, I would go Four Seasons all the way.  It’s comfort at an entirely different level.  I love that the Hualalai property is vast with several two-story buildings and multiple pools effectively carving out a honeymooner and family paradise all in one.  I love the fitness center with its Zumba classes and lap pool as well as its general store and washer/dryers throughout the property.

The Fairmont Orchid is also a vast property with some distinct benefits, most notably a swimmers’ beach complete with paddle board and snorkel rentals, as well as kids’ activities like palm frond weaving.  I loved the beach and the pool scene more than I expected I would, and I delighted in the many waterfalls and colorful birds around the 30 acres.  I also availed myself of complimentary (through FPC) BMW bikes and discounted tennis clinics (also through FPC).  By day six I was really digging my morning tennis drills with Leanne and was thinking about how soon I could return.


The great thing about an island vacation is that you can pack light!  Calypso is my go-to sundress.  I’ll wear one pool or beachside by day and dress it up with an Alexis Bittar gold cuff and some strappy sandals for dinner.  A fab bikini is a must (I’m partial to Eres), as well as wide-brimmed hat and plenty of sunscreen.  And I practically live in Havianas!  They’re super comfy and infinitely wearable.  From our Spring/Summer Stephanie Johnson line, I’m loving our Tucson Desert Beach Mat and coordinating Mary Alice Tote, as well as our clear Miami and St. Lucia bags.  I fill them with sunscreen, hair ties, and other poolside essentials, and I can see exactly what’s in them!

Want more Hawaii?  Stay tuned for Destination Hawaii, Part Two for tips on things to see and do, best spots to sample delicious cuisine, and even a whale-watching adventure!



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