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.

Of course, having a tan body isn’t enough. To truly fake a tropical vacation, you’ll also need to recreate that quintessential out-of-office glow. 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).

At this point it’s 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.

My Hawaii Uniform

As someone who rarely shops, I tend to wear the same things over and over (luckily for me, so do some of the greats: Steve Jobs, Karl Lagerfeld, Hillary Clinton...). So naturally, after several months of island living, I've already developed my Hawaii uniform. 

If you're in need of a casual, but polished look, this is it. Whether visiting the islands or just hanging out around town, this look can take you from brunch at Bill's to drinks at Bevy--and everywhere in between.


The warm weather version of the classic white tee, a crisp white tank provides maximum style with minimal effort. Plus, I'm into anything that let's me show off a hard earned tan. My all time favorite? This unbelievably soft tank from Majestic Paris for Neiman Marcus. If you're willing to splurge, I hear that this version is worth the investment.


After seeing aesthetics guru Amy Stone wear a pair of vintage LEVI 501's (seen here and here), I picked up my first pair of denim cutoffs since high school and have been wearing them non-stop. Because of my body type (hourglass), I gravitate towards high waisted pairs. The beauty of cutoffs? There's a perfect fit for every body. 

Side note: I'm seriously obsessed with RE/DONE which takes old Levi jeans and remakes them into modern, stylish denim cutoffs--a slow fashion lover's dream.


When I first moved here, it took me a while to get used to the idea of wearing sandals all the time. Luckily a friend guided me in the direction of this leather pair. Admittedly, the timeless (and more formal) look of leather appealed to my east coast sensibilities--and I haven't looked back since. But I've currently got my eye on this classic pair


I never the leave house without two pieces: my engagement ring (an oval solitaire on a rose gold band) and a delicate, thin necklace. Since Hawaii has a generally laid back feel, I leave the bigger pieces for special occasions and fancy nights out.

The exception? Statement sunglasses. haven't taken off this super affordable pair since buying them a few weeks ago.

I round out my look with an equally simple makeup routine: a thick layer of sunscreen, wind blown hair, and just a touch of face paint. Glossier has some of my favorite low key products--can't stop raving about this lip tint or this foundation--if you're looking for makeup that enhances natural beauty rather than covers it. 

While I've got my casual uniform down, I've come to realize that I'm in desperate need of a few other items: a rain coat for these drizzly winters, more than one bathing suit, a sweater for when the trade winds blow in, and--of course--an aloha shirt.