How to Fake a Tropical Vacation

You know those unspoken rules about being a decent human being like holding the elevator for someone or not eating tuna in confined spaces? I’ve recently added one to the list: don’t post pictures of Hawaii on Instagram during a polar vortex, even (especially?) if you live there. While I assume a constant feed of tropical posts automatically induces a certain level of eye rolling to begin with, to post palm trees and pool shots when parts of the Midwest are literally colder than the Arctic Circle…well, that’s just insufferable. 

Yet, despite my self-directed silence on almost all social media channels, my inbox has been filled with DMs from nearly frozen friends joking about how nice a Hawaiian vacation sounds right about now. Sadly, even if you’ve budgeted in a tropical escape into your rainy—make that snowy—day fund, it’s nearly impossible to fly in these conditions anyway. And so we’re left with the next best thing: a polar vortex staycation.

To paraphrase the immortal words of Drake, if you’re reading this (there’s a good chance) it’s too late. Meaning, I don’t expect that you have a plethora of island-scented shower gels or shampoos on hand to suddenly whip out and mentally transport yourself to the Hawaiian Islands. And I certainly don’t expect for you to pull out the snow boots and walk to the nearest drugstore. But if you’re lucky enough to still get Amazon deliveries (or are expecting future snowy, cold days), here’s what I’d recommend to conjure up those island vibes. 

First things first…get your house/apartment/bedroom hot. Like really, really hot. If it takes a while for your furnace to kick in, don’t sweat it (sorry, couldn’t resist!). You’re headed to the shower first anyway. This too should be hot—sensing a theme here?—and don’t be afraid to let it run for a while. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about living in the tropics it’s that every day is a constant battle against humidity. Embrace it today. Close the door, leave the fan off, revel in the hot, almost uncomfortable amount of moisture in the air. 

You may not be able to make it to the beach, but you can recreate that toes in the water/you-know-what in the sand feeling with an in-shower body scrub. My personal favorite is Kopari’s Coconut Crush Scrub which is made with a blend of coconut oil, crushed coconut shells, and brown sugar. Of course if you’re willing to put in a little work before your staycation begins, you can always make your own version at home by mixing one cup raw sugar with one cup coconut oil. Follow up with an equally tropical smelling shampoo and conditioner, like H2O+’s Sea Greens Shampoo and Bumble & Bumble’s Creme de Coco Conditioner (or whatever you already have in shower works too.)

Now that you’re in the right headspace—thank you olfactory conditioning—it’s time to look the part. Dry off with a lush, fluffy, hotel-worthy towel before applying the heavenly smelling Noni Glow Body Balm by Kora, a rich balm-turns-body oil made of coconut and cupuaçu butter. With your skin prepped, you’re ready to give yourself what Mother Nature just can’t right now—a beautiful, golden tan. And since tanning beds/tanning oil/prolonged sun exposure are all detrimental for your skin anyway, an investment in a natural self tanner like Vita Liberata’s Invisi Foaming Tanning Water is worthwhile no matter the time of year.

Now there’s still that out-of-office glow to recreate. Start with an exfoliating face mask like Goop’s Instant Facial which, as the name suggests, will instantly smoothen, brighten, and soften skin. Next, add some literal glow with Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Glow Drops, a product that subtly shimmers and hydrates all at once. And since the best part of any island vacation is obviously the sunsets, paint some of your own with Glossier’s Cloud Paint (and maybeee add a swipe of mascara because that’s really all the makeup you need on vacay anyway).

Time to take the party out of the bathroom and into the real world…erm, the living room. Set the mood with Homesick’s Hawaii-scented candle (notes of pineapple and coconut) before turning on the Jack Johnson playlist on Spotify.

My biggest tip for feeling like a tropical vacation is to do all the things you’d normally do: reading, sleeping, laying out, not answering work emails…in fact, the more time horizontal, the better. So head to the couch, turn on Blue Crush, and stay a while. Just don’t forget a heavy handed, fruity cocktail—this is a vacation, after all.

P.S. A guide to grabbing some winter sun when temperatures are finally high enough to leave your house.

Postcard: The Great Pacific Garbarge Patch*

I always say that a visit to Hawaii will change your life. What I rarely say is this: living in Hawaii will also change your life. There’s the obvious—a sudden aversion to any weather that dips below 65 degrees, a permanent deep tan, an acceptance of $7 milk gallons. And then there’s the less obvious: a shift towards sustainable living.

It’s nearly impossible to live in Hawaii and not change your habits. Stores will charge you extra money for a plastic bag, plastic straws are banned, and a constant wash up of plastic* on beaches serves as a reminder that our actions have consequences.  

If you’re looking to get in on the action too, these are a few of my favorite sustainable things. My current obsession is this reusable bag starter pack which includes two big mesh totes and three smaller bags, all made with organic cotton. Not only do they fold up easily in drawers, they also just look so much chicer when shopping. As for straws, this one is a keeper (the case makes all the difference). The last thing I’ve done is switch to a natural toothpaste with recyclable metal packaging—it’s the little things!

My Hawaii Bucket List

Most of the questions I get about visiting Hawaii are from friends and family staying for a limited time, a week maybe two. Even friends who are moving to the island tend to ask short term questions: where should I look to live? what are the best restaurants? which beach is your favorite? While I obviously love answering these questions, there’s one question I always wish someone would ask—what’s on your Hawaii bucket list?

With the possibility of a big move in the next year, I decided to finally answer that question for myself. Here’s a list (in no particular order) of all the things I want to do before we leave this beautiful little island. I hope that inspires your list too!

  1. Travel to all the islands. This one sounds simple, but after a really long work week, I tend to want crash at home in the comfort of my pajamas. I’ve already checked off Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island (kinda), so Lanai and Molokai are high on my list. Since my time on the Big Island was spent 100% poolside at a resort, I feel the need to visit this one again too.

  2. Visit Doris Duke’s mansion-turned-museum, Shangri La. The socialite’s former home is a gorgeous property filled with Islamic treasures from around the world. It fascinates me for two reasons: Duke was a staple in Old Hawaii’s high society and her collection is one of the largest in North America.

  3. Surf (+ see a major surf competition). The (first and) last time I surfed I was sixteen on a student exchange trip to Australia. I wasn’t particularly good at it, but I do remember how sweet it felt to finally ride a wave, albeit a small one. I can’t think of a better place to recreate that feeling than here in Hawaii. On the same note, Oahu is home to some of the most famous surf competitions in the world. Here’s hoping we get an Eddie before I move.

  4. Take a lei making class. Have you met Meleana Estes? She’s a legendary haku lei maker, a keeper of Hawaiian customs, and my Hawaii-based girl crush. Her work on instagram has inspired me to learn more about lei making and I can’t imagine a better place to learn than at one of her workshops.

  5. Stargaze at Mauna Kea. Another reason to re-visit the Big Island is the chance to stargaze on the world’s tallest (sea) mountain. I’m a complete believer in star signs (Pisces over here!) and the stories behind the constellations have fascinated me since I was a child. Since living in Town means a whole lot of light pollution, the chance to stargaze 14,000 feet above sea level sounds magical.

Winter Sun 101

In my opinion, winter has one single redeeming quality: the holiday season. For a short period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, the people are kinder, the twinkle lights brighter, and the weather...well, it's tolerable (in an It’s a Wonderful Life kind of way). Not to mention, it's socially acceptable to eat your weight in frosted sugar cookies.

But after that, it goes downhill—fast.

If there’s one silver lining to the dark, cold months that follow, it’s the plethora of long weekends on the horizon: MLK, President’s Day, and sometimes even Easter. While you could spend those weekends lounging après ski in the mountains, I rather recommend escaping to the tropics instead.

Admittedly, taking a warm weather vacay in the dead of winter can be daunting. There are swimsuits to unpack, legs to be shaven, and a general sense of disorientation to deal with (if you’re anything like me, your body was emotionally prepared to hibernate for a few more months). 

All things considered, the search for winter sun is worth it. You just need to know what you’re doing (and bringing): 

Prep Work

Worried about your “winter body” (dun, dun, dun…)? Well, let me be the first to tell you that there is no such thing. No matter how pale or doughy you think your body may be, I promise it works just as well buried under layers of blankets or layers of sand.

If you’re still concerned (which, again, you really shouldn’t be) you can always opt for a quick, at home tan. Since I’ve never needed an artificial tan before, I yield to the experts when it comes to suggestions. Beauty guru Jean Godfrey-June praises this tanning water for it’s easy application (it whips into a light weight moisturizer) and it’s quick drying nature—meaning you can step into winter whites almost immediately after applying. And, as with most things, if it’s good enough for Jean then it’s more than good enough for me.

As for any other concerns about your body, there’s not much a great fitting bikini can’t fix. The secret is shopping for the body you have right now. Sure it might be fuller/rounder/less perky than its usual summer shape, but that just gives you an opportunity to try new styles and new fits that you normally wouldn’t wear.

In-Transit

If you’re reading an article titled Winter Sun 101, you’re probably in a location which requires some flying to get to said sun. This step is simple: buy ticket, pack light, and wear sunscreen (yes, on the airplane). 

Why the sunscreen? The trick is twofold: it protects you from increased UV radiation that comes with a higher altitude and creates a barrier between you and the literal thousands of germs floating in the air (breakouts in the making!). 

If you hate the feeling of sunscreen on your skin, you can start with a heavy layer of moisturizer (which I do anyway as an added barrier). A combination of this lush moisturizer and this K-beauty sunscreen are my personal go-to for any flight, but I’ve been eyeing this sunscreen ever since Jen Shoop blogged about it. On a similar note, I’m looking to try out this natural, affordable La Mer dupe.

On Location

Remember that bit about just packing bathing suits and cover ups? That might have been an exaggeration.

You’ll also need to pack a teeny tiny make up bag with a few multi purpose beauty products. While my first recommendation is to go sans makeup all together, I recognize that at times this is just not practical. Enter the NARS multiplier in the cult classic color orgasm. Used properly, this is your eye shadow, highlighter, blush, and, when you’re really feeling froggy, lipstick too. (As a side note, I don’t recommend using it in all its capacities at the same time.) Follow up with a waterproof mascara—for lashes and brows, naturally—and voila! You are as made up as anyone on an island vacation needs to be.

Bon voyage!

Packing List No. 5 | Hotels

 
Hotel Packing List

In all honesty, much of December will be a departure from your regularly scheduled island-centric content. With the holiday season approaching, the husband and I are taking a long trip back east to visit our family in the Washington and New York metro areas (Alexandria VA and Hoboken NJ, respectfully) at the end of the month. Visions of a snowy—cross your fingers!—East Coast are dancing in my head, so it’s hard to write about bikinis and the like.

As the husband and I both come from large families with tiny houses (or condos), we usually end up staying in a nearby hotel or home share for the week. I like this for several reasons: we get a little privacy, we never feel overwhelmed with family, and we usually stay in a part of the neighborhood that we’re less familiar with.

But staying in a hotel obviously has it’s drawbacks. Even in a hotel where I know every little detail is taken care of, I still have a go-to list of things I bring with me for added comfort. So without further ado, I bring you the Hotel Packing List:

The most demanding relationship in my life right now is the one I have with my hair. It can be wild and unforgiving and even the nicest hotel pillowcases in the world tend to only make things worse. Luckily, these lightweight, but heavy duty cases work miracles on both everyday curls and celebratory blow outs alike. And having tested this expensive version, I can honestly say that these $40 pillowcases work just as well at half the price.

On a similar note, I just can’t be bothered with those flimsy, cheap shower caps that come standard in any hotel. Sure, they kindaaa work. But they also make me feel more cafeteria lady than jet setter…which never feels great. Instead, I bring along this new-to-me shhhower cap whose tagline is “the shower cap reinvented”—think turban inspired design x fashion forward prints. I also bring this turban to dry my hair in lieu of standard towels.

This may have more to do with the flight that usually accompanies a hotel stay rather than the hotel itself, but I always pack this ice roller which works miracles on puffiness, migraines, and breaks outs. It’s an all around miracle worker that I use daily, regardless of my location.

I used to not be much of, um, a pajama girl. But there is nothing worse than the scramble to throw on a robe when room service arrives or the mad dash to get dressed when the dreaded fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night. After I bought this pair of pajamas for my trip to the Big Island, I’ve been living in them non-stop. In addition to being incredibly comfortable (some might say: the world’s comfiest), they’re versatile enough to mix with actual clothes on those extra, extra lazy days. This festive pair would be perfect for the holidays, but these are my go-to pair.

What do you bring along with you for a hotel stay? I’m curious to know what I might be missing!

Postcard: The Four Seasons

It didn’t take long (read: four instagram pics and a long weekend) before friends started asking, in lesser words, “How the hell can you afford to stay at the Four Seasons so often?” While I would normally find this question a little rude, I can’t say I blame them—the Four Seasons is as expensive as, well, you know what.

Now here’s the part where I wish I could say something smart and casual like, Oh, I just shop generic or I work a lot of over time…but let’s get real, that’s not me (although if anyone can point me in the direction of a generic version of La Mer’s Cooling Gel I would be eternally grateful).

The real secret is actually much simpler: most hotels and resorts offer a pretty amazing discount to Hawaii residents. Like, jaw-dropping-be-back-every-weekend discounts. The only catch: you usually have to present a state ID or driver’s license—well worth the long wait at the DMV.

So go ahead, girl. Treat yo’ self.

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

 
Four Seasons Hualalai for Hawaii Girl's Trip

I’m not necessarily a hotel loyalist, but there are certain companies that never let me down. On the top of that list: the Four Seasons. So when my best friend Natalie and I were looking for a property to stay at during our long weekend, we quickly decided on the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island of Hawaii.

I had stayed at the Four Seasons Ko Olina property on Oahu before, but everyone—including the event coordinator there—kept telling me some variation of “it’s a total different property; you’re going to love it.”

They weren’t wrong. The Hualalai is more resort than hotel, sprawling over several acres which include four restaurants, four pools, a golf course, two shops, tennis clubs, and a spa. It’s the perfect destination for a weekend of doing absolutely nothing…which is exactly what we did. While we had flirted with the idea of a rental car or even a simple cab ride down to Kona, our plans ended up being much more simple: a three day pool bender. As it turns out, the Four Seasons Hualalai is the perfect place for such a thing.

WHAT'S TO LOVE

You know that saying, “the devil is in the details?” Well, the Hualalai (like any Four Seasons) does not have that problem. In fact, what makes the Four Seasons so enjoyable is that every detail, down to the littlest thing, is already thought of AND taken care of for you.

My favorite detail? Being presented with a lei upon check-in. It’s a simple thing that truly turns the switch from normal life to vacation life for me. Some other honorable mentions include: the AC automatically turning off when our room’s lanai doors open (assuredly a cost saving measure for the hotel, but still pure magic to me), sunscreen stations in every pool/beach area, and the continual greeting of “Aloha, Mrs. Bean” from every member of the staff.

TAKE NOTE

While it probably goes without saying, the Four Seasons isn’t cheap. But it’s worth. every. dang. penny. Hawaii residents are able to book at a special rate though, so ask for the Kama’aina rate when making a reservation. You’ll need to present a state ID at check-in, but it’s worth the trip to the DMV if you don’t already have one.

ROOM SERVICE 

A few things about our room—

First, even for a double, it was incredibly spacious. We had both beds, a sitting a area, a private-ish (read: it was attached to our room, but we often spotted our neighbors rocking their birthday suits over breakfast…eek!), and a walk-in closet. And, despite spending all weekend together, the room gave us enough space to hang out without feeling like we were constantly in each other’s space.

Second, the room had so many thoughtful details: a place to hang to your leis, chromecast for binging Sex in the City reruns, and a complimentary beach bag for use during your stay.

Get out of bed For

As tempting as it might be to stay in bed all day, I can’t recommend signing up through the hotel for an additional “experience” enough if you don’t live in or frequently visit Hawaii. The resort offers a variety of excursions around the island that range from cliff jumping to stargazing to triathlon training.

Since I a) am scared of heights and b) have a strict light exercise only when on vacation rule, we originally planned on doing a coffee farm tour + tasting. When that fell through (our last minute booking meant the trip only had room for us at the tasting), we defaulted to doing nothing. For us, it was just what the doctor ordered. But let’s get real—lounging poolside can be done from almost anywhere in the continental United States. If you’re on the Big Island and you have the time, get out of the resort!

Would I go back? In a heart beat. In fact, I miggghttt be headed there next weekend to celebrate a certain husband’s birthday. Care to join?

P.S. Here’s everything I packed for a my weekend on the Big Island (spoiler: the jeans never made it).

Honolulu In a Weekend

A Guide to Honolulu Hawaii

Last month, I had the pleasure of writing a weekend guide to Honolulu for The Spot Journal, one of my favorite online destinations for travel tips. It’s a lush one: filled with luxury hotels, custard filled doughnuts, and many, many mai tais! You can read all my recommendations here—in fact, it would make my day! Give it a read, chickadees. xo.

P.S. What to pack for a weekend in Waikiki.

Packing List No. 4 | Kona

You won’t believe how many times I’ve tried to visit the Big Island. There was Memorial Day Weekend (volcano eruption), that random weekend in June (work emergency), and finally Labor Day Weekend (hurricane).

I was just beginning to give up on the whole thing when one of my best friends suggested a super low key girl’s trip to Kona. With words like “spa” and “Four Seasons” thrown out, I couldn’t resist giving it one last try. So with visions of poolside mai tais floating in our heads, we bought our tickets, booked our room, and knocked on wood that nothing would go wrong.

Needless to say, I had a lot of time to think about this particular packing list. Here’s what I’m (finally!) packing for a long weekend on the Big Island.

EXPLORING KONA

Kona, like most of Hawaii, requires a casual dress code. While I know it’s probably wishful thinking even in November to pack these French-girl jeans (a reasonably priced dupe for this American version), I’m bringing them just in case the temps drop below 80 degrees. No matter the weather, you’ll find me wearing these crisp, all-white sneakers.

POOLSIDE

Funny story: the last time I stayed at a Four Seasons I forgot to pack a bathing suit (or literally a single thing that could possibly be worn in water). While I was lucky enough to find a suit at the resort that a) fit and b) didn’t cost half my mortgage, it’s a travel lesson seared into my memory: when it comes to packing, start with the suits! This trip I’ve packed my new classic black bikini and few other oldies but goodies.

AT THE RESORT

I’ll be honest, the majority of our weekend is going to be spent lounging around and exploring the hotel grounds. Our plans include a sunrise yoga class, a visit to a coffee farm + a coffee tasting, and eating at the incredible restaurants around the resort. I recently ordered this pair of Rebecca de Ravenel earrings on MAJOR sale and I can’t think of a better place to debut them then at the Ulu Ocean Grill and Sushi Lounge with this hot coral dress—I’m firmly of the opinion that dressing up for dinner always makes a vacation feel extra luxurious.

(THE) REST AND REPEAT

In my mind, a multi-day stay at a luxury resort with my best girl friend is basically the adult version of summer camp. So you can understand why I couldn’t resist getting us a “matching”—same style, different colors— set of the world’s comfiest pajamas.

Additionally, I’m using this trip to try out this beloved hair turban—perfect for both post shower and après pool. Have you tried it before? I’d heard rave reviews about it from various sources, but it was this Into the Gloss piece that really sold me.

Lastly, I’m tucking away my new-ish Fujifilm X-T20. This trip I’m hoping to get some reps in behind the lens and, if the pictures aren’t tooo horrible, share them with you lovelies.

See you soon, Big Island.

P.S. Seriously considering buying this pair of earrings as well since the combined price would still be a steal.

Do You Have a Vacation Scent?

 

In doing a little research for my trip to Kona (more on this later, promise!), I ran across this post suggesting that an easy way to transition into vacation mode is to designate a signature scent just for that. A quick spray and voilà: you’re instantly out. of. office.

While I rarely wear perfume on an every day basis, the idea intrigued me for a few reasons. One, I love any excuse to add to my collection of beauty products. Two, living—and working—in Hawaii means palm trees and tropical breezes no longer evoke the same vacation vibes they once did.

I’ve spent the better half of my day flirting with potential scents with little success: Santal 33…too popular. Bobbi Brown’s Beach…too obvious. diptyque’s Ofrésia…too saccharine. I’m highly interested in the Goop recommended Dirty Lemon (and Dirty Rose for that fact), but am hesitant to purchase perfume without smelling it in person.

So I’m here to ask: do you have a vacation scent? If so, what do your recommend?

Let’s discuss!

How to Spend a Weekend in Waikiki

 

Waikiki has a reputation for being touristy, kitschy, and overdone. But in recent years, a flood of boutique hotels, insta-worthy coffee shops, world class restaurants, and hip bars have breathed new life into Honolulu's south shore. Gone are the days of mega-resorts, over done luaus, and (for the most part) blatant cultural appropriation. Instead, the new Waikiki pays homage to the neighborhood's trademark vintage vibes while developing a new, decidedly modern scene. Whether a local or a tourist, a trip to Waikiki should be in your future. 

To make things easy, below are my recommendations for a perfect weekend in Waikiki.

FRIDAY

Arrive in Waikiki and check into The Laylow Hotel. A luxury boutique hotel with mid-century modern charm, The Laylow boasts playful rooms, a fresh take on the tiki bar, and easy access to all Waikiki has to offer. What the hotel lacks in views, it makes up in character. (For example: all 251 rooms are equipped with a ukulele.)

Grab a towel from the gift shop and take a short walk to the world famous Waikiki Beach for a quick swim before heading to Duke's Waikiki for lunch. Order a Mai Tai (the first of many) and nibble from the assorted offerings of Duke's lunch buffet while taking in the iconic views of Diamond Head and the Waikiki surf.  

Then its back to the room for a quick change of clothes and a trip downstairs to the hotel bar, The Hideout, for pre-dinner drinks. Choose from a selection of craft cocktails, but make sure to start with the No. 115-- the perfect combination of Pau Maui Vodka, fruit juice, mango, and boba. The Hideout hosts live music and DJ's each Friday night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., so expect the bar to get more and more crowded as the evening progresses. 

Cross the street (literally!) for dinner at Marukame Udon, a Japanese artisanal noodle shop. Don't be discouraged by the long line out front; it's the natural consequence of a restaurant which freshly rolls, cuts, and boils the noodles in the traditional Sanuki style. Once your stomach is satisfied, retire back to the room or explore the neighborhood bars--you'll find plenty!

SATURDAY

Wake up before the sun rises!  Saturday morning is dedicated to Waikiki's number one pastime: surf. With beginner friendly breaks like Pops and a plethora of shops offering both rentals and lessons, there's no excuse not to try your hand at the ancient sport. 

Of course, for locals or more experienced surfers, Waikiki's crowded waters may prove more frustrating than exhilarating. If that's the case, or if surfing is simply not your thing, take an early morning stroll down to the Duke Kahanamoku statue to pay your respects to the father of modern surfing.

When it's time to eat, hit up Bill's for an Aussie style breakfast, or "brekkie".  Start with the sourdough toast and homemade Vegemite before choosing between the ricotta hotcakes and the kahuka sweet corn fritters (although, you can't go wrong with anything on the menu).

On your way back, indulge in some serious retail therapy on Waikiki's famed Luxury Row on Kalakaua Avenue. Looking for something a little more local? Pop into the legendary Newt's at the Royal for a custom fitted Panama hat. Other local favorites include: Kai Luxe for swimwear featuring several Hawaiian designers and Bailey's Antiques and Aloha Shirts for the world's largest collection of aloha shirts (and the most unique souvenirs!)

Wear something you just bought (which you should naturally refer to as "this old thing" if anyone asks) for pre-dinner drinks on the Holokai catamaran. The sunset sail shoves off at 5 p.m. and ends just in time for dinner at the House With Out a Key.  Pro tip: A popular spot for tourists and locals alike, call ahead for a reservation and request a table near the front for the best view of the century old Kiawe tree and hula performances. 

Saturday nights in Waikiki are a bit of a "choose your own adventure".  In the mood to do it big? Head to Sky, a top notch nightclub which overlooks all of Waikiki. Wanna lay low? Go bar hopping throughout the many beach side hotels. Don't miss The Beach Bar or The Reef Bar and Market Grill. 

SUNDAY

Sleep off last night's escapades until it's time for your brunch reservation at the "Pink Palace of the Pacific"--the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Upon arrival, order a guava mimosa and take a few insta-worthy snaps featuring the sea of pink umbrellas. When its time to order, go with the Royal Loco Moco for yourself and split the Pink Palace Pancakes with a friend. 

Take a detour on the way back to walk along the beach. Soak in the views one final time before packing up, checking out, and heading home.

 Until next time, Waikiki.  

The Laylow Hotel

 
Staycation at the Laylow Hotel in Honolulu, HI

If I were to make a list of all my favorite things about Hawaii, the Laylow Hotel would top that list. If you don't immediately recognize the name--I've mentioned it here and there on the blog before--you've probably seen the boutique hotel's signature wallpaper taking over your instagram. 

The husband and I like to think that we've been fans since the start, before the hotel rose to fame as Waikiki's trendiest hotel. We stumbled upon the hotel by complete chance last July--it opened in late April--while I was visiting from Korea. At the time, the husband lived on North Shore with several roommates, so we took the first of many staycations to the Laylow together the weekend I arrived. And then we came back the very next weekend. We were smitten.

Over the course of that entire year, the husband and I saw each other twice. With two out of those three weekends spent at the Laylow, the hotel holds a special place in both of hearts. It's our go-to place for getting away and well...laying low. 

When we cancelled our trip to Kona this past Memorial Day weekend, we opted instead for a staycation at our favorite hotel. Some highlights include: drinks at the Hideout, reading Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii (there's a copy in each room!), and cruffins for breakfast.

The Laylow Hotel

Here's what you need to know about a trip to the Laylow, an Autograph Collection Hotel:

WHAT'S TO LOVE

You'll be hard pressed to find a more charming hotel in all of Waikiki. Beyond the iconic walls, each room feels straight out of a Mad Men episode with it's mid-century modern touches and furniture. And, as if that weren't enough, each room includes a ukulele for your strumming pleasures! (Don't worry if you've never picked one up before; lessons are included in the hotel's resort fee).

TAKE NOTE

The Laylow resides on Kuhio Avenue, meaning it isn't beach front if that's important to you. However, it's only a six minute walk from the world famous Waikiki Beach and a two minute walk from Kalakaua Avenue, otherwise known as Luxury Row for it's high end shopping opportunities. 

The Laylow Hotel

ROOM SERVICE

I've stayed in almost every type of room in the hotel...corner suite, junior suite, standard room...and can genuinely say that they are all equally great. No matter your budget or the hotel's availability, you're in for a good time. And don't let the mid-century aesthetic fool you; each room is equipped with device enabled flat screen televisions, speakers, and in-room wifi.

If you're able to choose, my favorite rooms for a weekend (or longer) are the deluxe corner suites which offer plenty of unique spaces to enjoy like a queen daybed, a sitting area, and a balcony. Just in for the night? Check into a pool side Cabana room. It's on the main floor, so you get easy access to the hotel's restaurant, bar, and gift shop as well.  

We'll be back soon, I'm sure. Hope to see you there!

P.S. All photos were taken by Cait Schlabach. She's a fabulous photographer and an even better historian. She runs the non-profit Project Green Faces

Packing List No. 3 | Waikiki

With less than a month until my wedding (!!!), I've started getting emails and calls from friends about what to do, where to eat, and, of course, what to pack. Here are my recommendations for a perfectly packed trip: 

When you're headed to Waikiki for the weekend, your packing list has to be ready to do it all--from lounging on the beach to sampling a few (or more) mai tais to dancing the night away at some of Honolulu's dressier nightclubs. 

BY THE WATER

A trip to the beach usually means a mixture of swimming, light reading, and, of course, sunbathing. Catch a tan in this retro inspired bikini; then show it off the next day in this ultra flattering white suit.

If you're more adventurous than I am or even mildly more coordinated (i.e. in college you were captain of something other than the debate team), the beach might also mean surfing or paddle boarding. If that's the case, you'll want a suit that stays in place while offering maximum coverage.

No matter how you choose to pass the time, sunscreen is a non-negotiable. If you are planning on getting into the ocean though, choose a brand that's reef safe like COOLA. (Common sunscreen ingredients, such as oxybenzone, can damage coral reefs and/or kill coral).

APRÈS BEACH

You'll need to throw on a cover up and slides before heading to a late lunch at House Without a Key or, if you're interested in something more casual, walking down to Musubi Cafe IYASUME for the best musubi on island. 

Either way, skip the cut offs and tank top. Took a cue from the locale's retro vibe and opt for something glamorous, but relaxed like a caftan and statement sunglasses.

NIGHT ON THE TOWN

In a town where even slippers (the local word for flip flops) can be optional, nightclubs like Sky Waikiki are the hard exception. Use the strictly enforced dress codes as an excuse to pull out all the stops in an otherwise super casual locale. Plan to change into something a bit dressier like this little white dress, which is perfect for the modern vibe at Sky. Dress it up even more with these trendy sandals and a bright lip from Nars in the color Heat Wave

(THE) REST AND REPEAT

For the days when a t-shirt and laid back pair of denims shorts is preferable: this graphic tee (on sale!) and these shorts make a great pairing. Throw in a pair of sneakers and you're all set for a day of hiking, biking, or neighborhood walking tours. 

Also, how sweet is this dress? It's perfect "Sunday" dress: from mass, to brunch, to an afternoon at the museum. Even if that's not your idea of a typical Sunday, you'll never regret packing anything that can be dressed up or down so easily. 

Enjoy Waikiki!

P.S. HOW TO SPEND A WEEKEND IN WAIKIKI

Packing List No. 2 | The Beach

Hawaii has a plethora of great beaches to enjoy and, if you don't already, you'll be sure to find a favorite soon. For some people, it's the surf conditions that make the difference. For others, it's the potential for a great tan. But the real secret to a great beach day anywhere? It's all in what you pack!

THE BAG

For my first dozen or so trips to the beach here, I recycled my Tory Sport shopping bags to carry all my beach essentials. The bags are adorable (those preppy blue and green stripes!) and made out of a nylon-esque material that's relatively sand and water resistant. However, the bags are also shapeless and have zero pockets. The contents of my bag spilled out every time I set one down and I always brought home at least a few pounds of unwanted sand. 

That being said, an investment in a dedicated beach bag pays for itself. Look for a large bag with enough structure to stay upright, a few pockets for smaller items, and is made out of a material that can withstand the elements. 

SUN ESSENTIALS

Sunscreen is a non-negotiable in life, but especially when dealing with the strong Hawaiian sun. Besides the serious risk of melanoma, sun damage is also responsible for roughly 90% of signs of aging (you'll either thank yourself or hate yourself when you're fifty #choosesunscreen). 

Not all sunscreens are created equal though and the best protection usually includes incorporating multiple types into your routine. I recommend a rub-in (mousse or lotion type) sunscreen for your body. They tend to be thicker in nature than other types, but you'll know for certain if you missed a spot! 

Next, pack a sunscreen specifically designed for your face (to prevent clogged pores and irritations) and protection for your lips. Plenty of chapsticks have built in SPF already, but you can step it up a notch with this lip shine.

Lastly, tuck in an oil based spray to protect your lovely locks. Prolonged sun exposure and salty water can leave your hair dry and brittle. The right products won't only prevent damage, but add shine to your soon-to-be wind swept hair! This is a personal tried and true favorite, but this spray--created by celebrity hairstylist and Oahu native Jen Atkin-- has gotten nothing but great reviews. 

What not to pack? Tanning oil. If you're trying to build color, opt for a product that offers a guiltless glow + protection like this sunless tanner. 

TEXTILES

While fluffy towels are dreamy, but they take up a lot of space in your bag and hardly ever dry completely. Instead, opt for a couple of Turkish towels.

Thinner material means you'll get a neater fold in your beach bag, leaving more room for the fun stuff. Low volume + quick dry time = perfect beach companion.  Oh, and did I mention their signature stripes? It's a win-win-win situation.

TECH SUPPORT

I'm a huge advocate of putting the phone away during beach hours (your brightness only goes up so high anyway!), but there's no reason to forgo technology completely. The right tech tools can turn a simple beach outing into a beach party.

In the mood to turn it up? Pack this retro inspired speaker from the Australian "summer lifestyle'" brand SunnyLife.  In addition to being sand and water resistant, this speaker literally plays your tunes anyway you like it--AM/FM, bluetooth, USB, aux cord, you name it. While you're there, pick up this underwater camera and this electric pump for all your adorable floats. (Real talk: you'll want pretty much everything SunnyLife offers...)

THE FUN STUFF

Remember that fun stuff I mentioned earlier? Here's where you pack your bag full to the brim with your favorite reading materials (I'm a novel girl, but you may be strictly magazines), beach games, and lots of snacks. 

Pro tip: Once you've gathered everything you need, pack your bag ahead of time. Keeping your beach bag fully stocked ensures you won't forget anything important (like sunscreen!) when headed out the door, making those impromptu trips with friends all that much easier. 

See you at the beach!

P.S. HOW TO SPEND A WEEKEND IN WAIKIKI

Passport to Luxury with Tory Sport

Last Friday I was kindly invited by Tory Sport Hawaii to attend Passport to Luxury, a private shopping event at the Ala Moana Center. We're incredibly lucky in Honolulu to even have a Tory Sport (there's only six in the United States!) and I felt even more fortunate that I was invited to spend time with such a select group of clients.

The event, hosted annually by Modern Luxury Hawai'i', featured several luxury boutiques, each with their own in-store presentations.

Naturally, I spent the majority of my time at Tory Sport. I loved getting to know some of the women who work there, shopping the spring arrivals (give me all the green stripes!), and participating in the store's fun raffles. The boutique also served delicious bites from one of Honolulu's best restaurants, Yauatcha--which I'm craving now just thinking about!

 

While I love just about everything Tory Sport creates, the 2018 Spring Collection is my favorite to date! I'm naturally drawn to blues and greens, so I appreciate that the collection offers a spectrum of color and pattern options for both. And as always, the collection celebrates women embracing ambition; so the clothes are as functional as they are stylish.

I walked away with this anorak jacket and this adorable tennis themed key fob. I had originally planned on picking up a pair of these leggings too, but the store was sold out of my size by the time I arrived. Luckily, they're still available online! Side note: I already owned this performance cashmere sweater, but I can't suggest it enough. It's the most comfortable sweater plus it has a nice relaxed fit--perfect for on and off the court!

Ultimately, the evening was fun with a purpose as a portion of all sales were donated to this year's charity the Hawaii Community Foundation.

I can't thank Tory Sport Hawaii enough for the invitation, especially my girl Christine! (If you need anything from Tory Sport, I can't recommend working with Christine enough--she's absolutely fantastic. Just tell her I sent you!)

Thank you to Tory Sport Hawaii, Ala Moana Center, and Modern Luxury Hawai'i Magazine for graciously hosted the event.