Before I share all our pictures, stories and links to the best places to eat on the island, I want to provide some backstory of how this trip even happened.
Apparently, Aaron has been planning this trip for a couple of years. He knew that swimming with turtles has been on my bucket list since I was a kid, and Hawaii has been a place we’ve wanted to visit. He worked secretly behind the scenes booking a hotel, plane tickets and planning some activities we could do together.
When we started talking about our 5-year-anniversary at the end of 2018 and brainstorming places we could go, I immediately offered places I knew were 2-3 hours away expecting we’d get a little weekend getaway at the most. He asked me where my dream vacation would be, and I sheepishly responded, “well, I’d LOVE to go to Hawaii. But we can’t afford that. If we’re in Hawaii, I want to DO Hawaii. I don’t want to be limited by finances.” He nodded in agreement and said, “how much do you think it would cost?” I thought for a moment, then said, “probably around $5,000.” He agreed and we settled on going to Waco, Texas for Chip & Joanna Gaines Magnolia festivities.
And then we found out I was pregnant… something we hadn’t planned on happening in 2019. When we got that + sign, Aaron came clean and told me that he had booked us a trip to Hawaii for our anniversary. Pregnancy prevented us from doing what he had originally planned for us (zip-lining, shark tank, etc.) so our trip turned into a food and relaxation adventure.
I was completely shocked and amazed at the news. Aaron had kept it quiet for so long and had been secretly setting money aside so our trip was already completely covered. Wow!
The following months were busy and suddenly, it was June 12th and we were packed, waking up at 3 am and driving to the airport.
Unfortunately, our trip started off frustrating and disappointing. The simple story is we will never fly with the airline we chose again. What was supposed to be a 12-hour travel day turned into a 27-hour travel day. That’s really all we need to remember. 😛
The “I’m so done and ready to arrive at my vacation destination” face from Aaron in this picture is too good not to share.
We finally landed and got our rental car – a sweet ride Aaron found on Turo. It’s where you can rent cars directly from their owners. We had a phenomenal experience and highly recommend it.
Thursday (6.13.19), after we got some rest, we decided to take the day and just get settled. eat breakfast at this place called Eggs ‘n’ Things where we got their famous strawberry pancakes and Eggs Benedict to share.
We also spent the day unpacking our stuff into the drawers the hotel gave us, go to WalMart and get a couple of staple items, lightly plan our week, etc.
We took a walk behind our hotel and walked a little boardwalk that gave us a beautiful view.
We woke up on Friday (6.14.19) determined to begin taking advantage of the beautiful island and go snorkeling. We went to a popular place called Sharks Cove. After I was heavily reassured there would be no sharks, we trekked down the path, set down our stuff and put on our gear.
Part of me wishes there was a camera videoing us and the other part of me is so glad it’s left to our imagination. I guess we didn’t go at the best time and the waves were constantly intense and tossing us into the large, awkward rocks. We did see some incredible sea-life but at a cost. We both came out with multiple scratches that are still healing haha
After an exhausting snorkeling experience, we got ready for our dinner cruise.
We chose the Star Dinner Cruise that had an all you could eat crab buffet, which was a huge win for Aaron who loves crab. We really enjoyed it and the boat atmosphere was fun.
And as a special Friday night treat, we saw fireworks.
Saturday (6.15.19) we kicked it off with breakfast at Eggs ‘n’ Things again and tried two other popular items on the menu, including the local favorite – Loco Moco.
We went straight from breakfast to Manoa Falls, a location known as “where movies are made in Hawaii,” including Hunger Games: Catching Fire (only one of my favorite series), Jamunji, the show LOST (only one of my favorite shows ever!), and others. We were surprised to find out that it cost $18 a person to get in, but it’s Hawaii, somewhat of a tourist attraction and it all goes towards keeping the park healthy so we still went.
It was awesome to see all the beautiful trees, flowers, and general wildlife in the park.
At the end of the trail was a waterfall that you could swim in, and luckily Aaron had read something before going that made us pack our swimsuits so opportunity.
Because you couldn’t touch the bottom, everyone was required to wear life-jackets and it was so nice to just float.
$36. Worth it!
Sunday (6.16.19) we started our day by visiting an ARC church – Manna Church. They gave all their first-time visitors a reusable bag, which we thought was a great “wow factor!”
The church is in a movie theater, so the chairs were super comfortable!
The remainder of the morning was spent at a local flea-market where we shopped the vendors and got some great souvenirs.
We got back to the hotel and FaceTimed the girls so they could wish Aaron a Happy Father’s Day.
Afterward, we got a delicious treat at a hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop in our hotel.
Shortly after we headed out to a massage. It was Aaron’s first time and after it was over he said he liked it but it could have lasted longer. That answer did not surprise me either haha.
Our evening was spent watching the sunset behind the palm trees and it was stunning!
Monday (6.17.19) we woke up at 4 am determined to catch the sunrise. We drove 20 minutes to a beach, set up and enjoyed the gorgeousness of the sunrise.
By the time the sun was up, our stomachs were growling and we clearly needed to get some breakfast. So we went to the nearest breakfast place that was open. Island Brew was a coffee shop that also served organic breakfast. It turned out to be delicious!
From there we drove to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve so you had to pay to get in but the promise of a smooth and stunning snorkeling adventure had us gladly handing over our money.
We walked further up the beach and set up camp in a huge tree. It was awesome and a great place to set up our Enos.
Snorkeling was outstanding and far better than our first experience. You’ll have to watch the video to see the incredible fish we saw.
We hurried back to the hotel to get ready for a very anticipated event – the luau dinner.
It was amazing and a wonderful representation of their culture. They also threw in a little surprise and asked all the Honeymooners and couple’s celebrating an anniversary to come up front and they gave all the girls flowers and played a Hawaiian song for us to dance to under the stars. It was charming, and a moment Aaron and I won’t soon forget.
Tuesday (6.18.19) we woke up with plans to go to Turtle Beach, a beach well known for spotting sea turtles.
Aaron and I were excited and anxiously searching the water for our friends.
It didn’t take incredibly long for us to find them and it’s another moment you’ll have to watch the video to witness but it was incredible!
On our way back up to the beach, we were greeted by another turtle who was headed to the shore to catch an afternoon nap. We snagged this selfie real quick before a ton of tourists surrounded the creature and we jumped out of the water ourselves.
I SWAM WITH SEA TURTLES!!!!
My #1 bucket list item since I was a little girl.
We spent a couple more hours relaxing in our Eno’s and diving back in once or twice to cool off before heading out to get some lunch.
For dessert, we stopped at Matsumoto’s – a popular shaved ice place with a line extending out the door and partly into the middle square between other shops. Aaron said it was delicious and well worth the wait.
I enjoyed an acai bowl – a dish that quickly turned into my favorite snack. So much so I researched how I could make it at home.
Wednesday (6.19.19) we decided to make a chill day to let our bodies catch up before we had to return home the next day. We did eat lunch at Marukame Udon and actually ran into someone who had lived in Alabama for a few years and had attended Highlands (the conversation started because she noticed Aaron’s t-shirt).
The food was delicious but too hot to finish since we had stood outside in line to get it. So we took some home for leftovers.
On the way back we stopped at Banan – a place Aaron had discovered during his food research and thought I would enjoy. They were similar to acai bowls but slightly different. I got a papaya boat and it was yummy! I ended up taking multiple pictures because it looked so pretty on every side but I’ve chosen this one to share with you. 😛
We wrapped up our day by packing and celebrating the trip with an all you could eat buffet that served crab (can you tell who did the research on that one 😉 :P). It was a wonderful, fancy evening and we enjoyed leaving our phones behind so there’s no documentation of the delicious and fancy meal.
As we knew it would, the last day of our vacation came. Thursday (6.20.19) we had to check out of our hotel by 10 am but we did not need to get to the airport until 5 pm, so we had lots of time to kill.
We started by going to Island Brew again and shared one of our favorite Hawaiian breakfast dishes (french toast on Hawaiian sweet bread with sea-salt and cinnamon syrup with fruit) while we talked about our family and some next steps we felt the Lord was guiding us towards. It was a great conversation and we’re excited for what is to come.
We also made a crucial pit stop at Leonard’s Bakery’s food truck.
We took one last drive to our favorite part of the island – North Shore and share an appetizer at a restaurant that we had enjoyed a few days prior.
Eventually, the time came for us to get to the airport. We dropped off our rental car, checked out bags, got through security and waited to board our first and longest flight home.
Getting home was incredibly smoother than arriving in Hawaii, but the red-eye flight + 5-hour time difference left us tired when we arrived home on Friday (6.21.19). We were greeted with a scream of “MOMMY! DADDY!!!” by a little 2-year-old blond girl who ran as fast as her little legs would carry her. Emmaline had a desperate desire to run but unable to fell to the floor and cried so I quickly went to her and gave her a big hug which instantly stopped the tears and broke out big smiles as we hugged our girls.
Wanna watch our 3-minute highlight video!? You can check it out here:
Looking back a few weeks later, our trip feels like a dream. Partially because we got back and jumped right back into real life and Summer Blast. but also because it took us a good week to recover from the time change.
It was seriously the best trip Aaron and I have ever taken together and we are so thankful we were able to do something so special and memorable for our 5-year-anniversary.