How to Spend a Week on the Big Island of Hawai’i

Hello hello!! We’ve just come back from a glorious 9 day trip to Hawai’i and I have to tell you, I think it might just be my favorite island out there.

How to Spend a Week on the Big Island of Hawai'i | Travel Guide | Dancing for Donuts

It’s funny, when I was researching what to do and where to go, I was surprised to find that there wasn’t much out there! The best recommendations came from word of mouth and I’m here to change that in case you want to venture out there (which you should) and need something to reference!

I think the thing I love most about the Big Island is that it’s like a million different places in one and it’s FASCINATING. One side of the island is sunny and dry and the other is like a rainforest, plus you add in the lava flows that formed the island and continue to do so – it’s just unbelievable and there’s SO much to see. It’s also far less developed than say Maui or Oahu, which makes the vibe a big more low key and perfect for a relaxing vacation.

How to Spend a Week on the Big Island of Hawai'i | Travel Guide | Dancing for Donuts

Here are some super important things to note before you plan your trip:

  • There are two airports you can fly into and out of: Kona (the more touristy side) and Hilo, though the latter offers far fewer flights and airline options
  • Rent a car. There really is no other option, and you wouldn’t want there to be because the drives on the Big Island are some of the prettiest drives I’ve ever been on, not to mention that everything is quite far from one another!
  • You’ll want to spend more time on the Kona side simply because there’s more to do, more beaches to visit, better snorkeling, more food options and less of a chance of rain!
  • But definitely don’t go all that way and miss out on the Hilo side where you’ll find things like Volcanoes National Park and some incredible waterfalls.

I’m going to go ahead and break this guide into two sections corresponding with each side of the island! Keep scrolling for things to see, do and eat no matter where you find yourself.

How to Spend a Week on the Big Island of Hawai'i | Travel Guide | Dancing for Donuts

KONA

Where to Stay: We spent our time up at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel which was insanely stunning, so shoutout to boyfriends who get the hookup with travel points😂 I couldn’t recommend this property more (the beach was my favorite) but the Kailua-Kona area & Waikoloa are also beautiful! There are more options on this side of the island for resorts & Airbnbs.

How to Spend a Week on the Big Island of Hawai'i | Travel Guide | Dancing for Donuts

What to Do: You MUST go to Snorkel Bob’s and rent snorkel equipment as soon as you hit the island, this is a non-negotiable. Bob himself will give you tons of resources for where to snorkel and I can assure he’s right about every single one. For $50, we rented top notch snorkel gear for the week and were able to see incredible sea creatures for that low cost!

How to Spend a Week on the Big Island of Hawai'i | Travel Guide | Dancing for Donuts
  • Snorkel in Caption Cook – hands down our favorite moment of the entire week. We kayaked from a friend’s house over to the Captain Cook monument, got out to go snorkeling, and immediately saw a reef shark. It felt like Planet Earth and it was AWESOME.
  • Visit Hapuna Beach – and snorkel there, too! It’s one of the only white sand beaches on the island (aside from Mauna Kea) and it’s beautiful.
  • Hike Down the Pololu Trail – please don’t miss out on this! The view is breathtaking and the hike down/back up is super rewarding because the beach at the bottom is beautiful. You’ll be able to see a bit down the coast, too! On your way home, stop in Hawi, the artisan town nearby.
  • Lay Out on Waialea Beach – which is also a great snorkeling spot! This was one of our favorite beaches because the layout of it is really cool. Lots of rocks, cool trees, and locals!
  • Watch the Surfers at Magic Sands Beach – as long as the waves are big! Otherwise you can swim in the water yourself, although we were there during a huge swell, so we sat that one out.
How to Spend a Week on the Big Island of Hawai'i | Travel Guide | Dancing for Donuts

Where to Eat: We ate breakfast at our hotel everyday because the buffet breakfast was included and it was UNREAL (again, highly recommend the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, wish this were sponsored😂), but we did manage to stop at some other delicious places for lunch and dinner!

  • Basik Café – a must for delicious açai bowls!! It’s above the Snorkel Bob’s in the southern part of the island by Magic Sands Beach/Kona
  • Under the Bodhi Tree – we happened to get açai bowls here too, but I can confidently say the rest of their food is incredible. We were drooling over the menu and wish we’d brought a bigger appetite! Regardless though, this was hands down the craziest smoothie bowl of all time🙌🏻
  • Daylight Mind – this café in Kailua-Kona blew us away! The food was unbelievably fresh, their coffee was fantastic, and the prices were great!
  • Big Island BrewHaus – this was the only place we ate at twice because we were THAT obsessed with it. Their food is incredible (I miss it, honestly) and the beer is great, too. It’s up in Waimea, so potentially a hike depending on where you’re staying, but so worth the trip!
  • Pueo’s Osteria – we ventured here for a slightly fancier date night, but this plate is super cute and the food is fantastic! They make pizza and pasta in house, and definitely leave room for dessert.
How to Spend a Week on the Big Island of Hawai'i | Travel Guide | Dancing for Donuts

**One thing to note: If you’re driving from the Mauna Kea/Waikoloa area to or from Hilo like we did, you HAVE to stop at the Waipio Valley Lookout. It’s stunning and truly fascinating because people actually live way down in the valley where the history is rich. There is a hike, but don’t bother with it, we heard from locals that it’s gnarly! And definitely stop at the local fruit stand on the side of the road on your way out.

How to Spend a Week on the Big Island of Hawai'i | Travel Guide | Dancing for Donuts

HILO

Where to Stay: There admittedly are not a lot of options hotel-wise on this side, but we stayed at the Grand Naniloa Hotel by Hilton right in town. What’s nice is that the few hotels that do exist are about a 5 minute drive into Hilo itself and another 5 to the airport! I would recommend this hotel for sure, but an Airbnb could also be great!

How to Spend a Week on the Big Island of Hawai'i | Travel Guide | Dancing for Donuts

What to Do: While Hilo isn’t exactly the most glamorous part of the island (it’s definitely where the locals all live), there is a TON to do. We got through pretty much all of it in two days though, so don’t feel like you need much longer than that.

  • Day Trip to Volcanoes National Park – this is up at the top of the list for a reason and it’s easily the most important thing you could do on the Big Island. It’ll cost you $25 to enter the park (but it’s good for a week) and there’s a TON to see. It’s all mind-blowing, trust me, and don’t forget to chat with the park rangers to find out what’s open/worth checking out. We spent about 4 hours here and it was a major highlight of our trip!
  • Rainbow Falls/PeePee Falls – both of these waterfalls are absolutely gorgeous and quite close to one another! Rainbow Falls actually has a little Banyan Tree forest right next to it as well, so definitely check that out.
  • Akaka Falls – there are two more waterfalls here and it’s a bit north of Hilo itself, but a must visit! Akaka Falls is actually 3x the size (depth wise) of Niagara Falls, which is insane. There’s a little hike here, but it’s nothing too crazy. Try to go before or after it’s midday and super hot.
  • Relax at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach – this beach is admittedly quite far away, so if you don’t hit it, it’s not a big deal, BUT it’s known for all the sea turtles that hang there (we saw two!) and it’s a super cool locals beach. The black sand is pretty mind blowing, too!
  • Hike the Onomea Trail – we almost stumbled on this trail accidentally and I’m SO glad we did. It’s right next to the Botanical Gardens (which are $25 a person, so no thank you there) but you can do a hike down to a few super remote, beautiful beaches!

Where to Eat: Again, there isn’t anything too fancy in Hilo, but that’s what I loved about it! We found some hidden gems and I was honestly really impressed with the food.

  • Moon & Turtle – I LOVED this place. Their menu is pretty small and changes daily based upon what’s available. Everything is locally sourced and unique. Not fancy, but great for a special night!
  • Conscious Culture – okay wait I LOVED this place, too😂 Their focus is also on local food, but with more of a hippie vibe. I had one of their nourishing bowls with sautéed veggies and rice, and added the goat cheese. Oh! Pro tip: always add the goat cheese. It’s probably made a mile from where you are on the island. This café is also home to Big Island Booch, so be sure to get a pint. It’s incredible.

Some things we didn’t get to do that maybe we would try next time:

  • Eat at Da Poké Shack, which everyone seems to rave about
  • Drive to the Green Sand Beach (but it’s faaaaar)
  • Spend more time in Waimea, which is a super cute “cowboy” town!
  • Visit a farmer’s market
  • Swim with the Manta Rays at night (all the tours were booked when we wanted to go, but it’s expensive!
How to Spend a Week on the Big Island of Hawai'i | Travel Guide | Dancing for Donuts

Well, there ya have it! That was a LONG one, so props to you if you hung in there. TLDR: Please visit the Big Island. It’s insane and I truly think it’s not spoken about enough!

xo Jordan

5 Reasons to Visit Bear Valley, California

Hey y’all! Did everyone have a good holiday weekend?

We got back last night after spending ours in Northern California with our pup at a friend’s cabin! It was our second time making the drive up there and man, I wish that place was closer. It’s SO beautiful and relaxing up there!!

We were in Bear Valley, California (not to be confused with Big Bear) and it’s funny because as awesome as it is up there, I feel like most people don’t know about it! Or, at least people from the SoCal region. It’s about 6.5 hours north of LA and east of Fresno, although if you go with a puppy, it may take a bit longer😅

Bear Valley and the surrounding towns have so much to offer, so keep on reading if you’re looking for a new place to explore on the west coast!

Bear Valley Mountain – This is probably the most well-known spot in the area because in the winter it draws a pretty decent skiing and snowboarding crowd! I actually came here on New Year’s Eve two and a half years ago and it’s a nice size mountain when the lower part of it is open! In the summer, there’s a ton of hiking and a nearby river you can canoe, kayak or SUP in. This time we hiked down what’s known as a double black diamond trail in the winter and then hiked up a catwalk. It was crazy to see what’s usually covered in feet of snow! And it was HARD. 

Wine Tasting – One thing I wasn’t expecting when we went up north for the weekend was how popular it is to go wine tasting in Murphys, the biggest (and cutest!) town on the way up to Bear Valley. It’s kind of like Santa Barbara in that there are just a bunch of tasting rooms on the main street, so it’s easy to go from one to the next! We consulted some locals and tasted a few bottles, but Hatcher and Aloria are highly recommended. If you go to Hatcher, be sure to grab a loaf of Todd’s freshly made sourdough, too!

Exploring Murphys – Aside from wine tasting, this town has a ton of great eats like V Bistro, Murphys Pourhouse (awesome beer selection and a huge outdoor section, too), and Alchemy, plus cute shops and some seriously tasty ice cream at Joma’s Artisan Ice Cream. If you bring your pup, they’ll even give you a little cup of their famous vanilla for them!! Ovi tried his first ice cream there and needless to say, he was a BIG fan.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park – If you’re looking to spend some time outdoors looking at some of the most beautiful Sequoia trees that ever existed, come here. It’s a huge park, I’ve been twice now and even though we visited two different areas, I’m sure you could come here 50 times and still have things to see. In the northern part, there’s a walking trail that we did during the winter (SO beautiful but very cold!) and this past weekend we did the 5-6 mile (easy) hike in the south part. It’s about $12 per car to enter the park, just fyi, but the beauty you see inside couldn’t be more worth it.

The Overall Vibe – Bear Valley is nothing like Lake Tahoe or Big Bear, it’s far quieter, much less built up, and draws a different type of out-of-towner! There are a ton of people with second homes that come from the Bay Area and from what I can tell, everyone is pretty low key, casual, outdoorsy and friendly. If you have the opportunity, I definitely recommend renting a cabin in the woods so you can enjoy some local wine and cheese on the porch, dip into a hot tub, and cozy up by the fireplace! And don’t forget to grab a fresh pie and/or cider donuts from The Red Apple on your way up😍

I feel like we have so much more to see and I’d love to snowboard on that mountain in the winter again, so I know we’ll be back soon! Where did you spend your holiday weekend?

xo Jordan

Weekend Recap: East Coast Wedding + D.C. Adventures

Hi friends! We’ve got another weekend recap today ’cause your girl has been on the MOVE.

Weekend Recap: East Coast Wedding + D.C. Adventures | Dancing for Donuts

Yep, I went out of town AGAIN. And now maybe you can see part of my motivation for wanting to be my own boss…not enough vacation days😂

It’s a pretty big wedding year for us😂 (I suppose we’re just at that age) and  since we’re both from the east coast originally, it means that a lot of our weddings are out that way, too. The good part (since the 6 hours, cross country flights are definitely NOT the highlight), is getting to spend more time with our families!

Weekend Recap: East Coast Wedding + D.C. Adventures | Dancing for Donuts

We were able to fly into DC on a red eye last Thursday night and stay with Alex’s family the nights before and after the wedding, which was so nice!

Though we spent most of Friday trying to wake up after barely sleeping the night before, we did venture out during the day for a last-minute trip to Sephora, walk through Georgetown and lunch at Leopold’s Kafé. We also went out that night for Sonny’s Pizza and drinks with some of Alex’s friends and brother, but I didn’t actually snap any pics of that…sorry😁

Weekend Recap: East Coast Wedding + D.C. Adventures | Dancing for Donuts

Saturday morning, we picked up our rental car and drove up to Lancaster, PA for the wedding. It was for our friends Will and Justine from b-school at this beautiful venue called The Farm at Eagles Ridge. I didn’t take a ton of photos (sorry for being literally the worst blogger ever this weekend), but I snapped a few! The grounds were stunning, the band was amazing and the cake was AWESOME.

Weekend Recap: East Coast Wedding + D.C. Adventures | Dancing for Donuts

On Sunday, we joined people from the wedding for brunch before heading back to DC. Since the weather wasn’t amazing, we stopped by Union Market for a quick lunch and a treat. Alex’s favorite, and now mine too, is the smoked white fish salad at Neopol.

Weekend Recap: East Coast Wedding + D.C. Adventures | Dancing for Donuts

We shared a bagel with the fish and then a pb & j doughnut from District Doghnut. It was SO hard to choose, they all looked amazing, but I think we made the right choice!

Weekend Recap: East Coast Wedding + D.C. Adventures | Dancing for Donuts

Afterwards, we just hung out at home until Alex had a ton of his family and friends over for Chinese takeout and margs, aka the most fantastic way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo😂  One thing I love about Alex’s family is how welcoming they are – it’s always one big party over there and it’s always so nice to see everyone!! 

Weekend Recap: East Coast Wedding + D.C. Adventures | Dancing for Donuts

For our final day in DC, we actually fit in some exercise at a nearby gym, met some of Alex’s friends for lunch at Glens Garden Market (their salad plate is like $11.50 for a TON of amazing food), and banged out some work.

Weekend Recap: East Coast Wedding + D.C. Adventures | Dancing for Donuts

We were also spoiled enough to get some of our favorite cupcakes from Baked & Wired from Alex’s mom – if you haven’t had them, I swear they’re some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had…second only to Magnolia Market’s of course!

Weekend Recap: East Coast Wedding + D.C. Adventures | Dancing for Donuts

Also how CUTE is Alex’s dog?! It was his birthday yesterday!! We landed back in LA around 8:30pm, then went home and crashed. It’s safe to say we had a super fun, yet exhausting weekend. It’s always a good time back on the east coast, though😊

Be back soon, once I tackle my very terrifying inbox…thanks for stopping by💗

xo Jordan

What I Ate in Cabo

Hello hello!!! I am back from traveling and have more photos to share with you than I know what to do with😂

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

Since food is always my favorite part of travel, I wanted to share with you some of the incredible things we ate on our trip. Like last year, we stayed at our favorite hotel, the JW Marriott (which I highlyyyyyy recommend!!!!!) but also ventured out to some of our other favorite spots. We even discovered a couple of new places (like a town called Todos Santos, which is about an hour and a half from San José del Cabo) so you’ll see some of those eats below, too.

This post is definitely more for the foodie and travel lovers, so if that’s not your style I totally get it! I did more of an actual recap of our trip last year so if you’d like to hear about more of my favorite places in Cabo in general, just head to my post from last year!

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

Okay we found the CUTEST coffee shop in San José del Cabo and they had the most delicious breakfast!! It’s called Coffee Lab and it’s actually part of a coworking space, but there’s a little table indoors and then a bunch of cute patio seating. The people working there was also super nice, which I always appreciate. I cannot wait to go back!

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

The most EPIC Bloody Mary’s I’ve ever seen at Flora Farms! We came here last year for brunch and fell so unbelievably in love with both the food and the grounds (it’s an actual farm and they grow nearly every single thing they serve). We wanted to ball out a little this trip so we did brunch again AND dinner. Pro tip: make reservations as far in advance as possible because this place books up!

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

Our brunch order: the french toast with mango and banana (honestly drooling just thinking about this) and eggs! I don’t know why I don’t add fresh herbs to my eggs more often…they’re such a game changer!!

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

For dinner at Flora Farms a few days later, we shared the guanciale charcuterie plate, then a pizza with prosciutto (which was INSANE) and rabbit! I’d never had rabbit before but it was amazing. I think what made it was the sauce they had on it…and also the roasted carrots and polenta. I took a photo of it but it was blurry! Sorry ’bout that😬

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

Salsa and guac by the pool at the JW Marriott where we stayed because MEXICO. I’m pretty sure we ordered this at least twice while we were there😂

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

A coco frio from a truck on the side of the road! It was hot af while we were in Cabo and when we saw this on our drive back from the Cabo Surf Hotel one day, we knew we had to stop. This was $3.50 and had a tonnnn of fresh coconut water in it! So tasty.

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We love to go to a local grocery store to stock up on cheap snacks when we travel and this time we got our favorite bananas! I’m not sure what these are called, but they’re pretty tiny (I ate about 3 at once) and were perfect for a pre or post workout snack.

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

Breakfast pastries and coffee at the Hotel San Cristobal in Todos Santos. We had a couple egg dishes after this, but I scarfed them down too quickly to snap a photo…😅We’re already planning to spend a night or two at this gorgeous and peaceful hotel next year!

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

Ridiculously delicious fish and shrimp tacos at a little spot off the street in Todos Santos. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of this place but it was recommended to us by the staff at the Hotel San Cristobal and did not disappoint! I’m pretty sure each of the tacos was only $1.50 too, – insane, right?!

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

Post taco popsicles in the 95 degree heat while walking through Todos Santos! I can’t find this place online, but it was super cute and turquoise on the outside! They had tons of ice cream and popsicle options, but I went for yogurt & fruit while Alex chose mango. Both delicious!

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

One of the most delicious (and fresh!) noodle bowls I’ve ever tasted at Acre. This was our first time here and we went at dusk – the grounds are so stunning, I can’t wait to visit again in the daytime!

Dancing for Donuts | What I Ate in Cabo, Mexico

Some kombucha and beer before our flight back to LA! We visited Baja Brewing Co. last year too, and knew we had to go back. We also shared some pizza and a burger that were fantastic here!