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A GUIDE TO BIG ISLAND, HAWAII


Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii was the number one bucket list destination I'd been longing to visit for quite literally as long as I can remember. Jarv took a little more convincing - "isn't it all mega resorts and overpopulated beaches?". But it was the wildness of the landscape and the nature that appealed to me. The more he researched it, the more he started to come around. Eventually we chose the Big Island for our first trip, mainly because it looked just a little bit less crowded and had a lot of nature-based encounters (though I definitely must return to see the other islands!).

One aspect of the island that fascinated me was the microclimates - driving through Big Island you would come across certain areas where the temperature felt like it suddenly dropped, a light drizzle would begin to fall and clouds would gather. A few miles later and the convertible top on our rented Mustang would be coming back down and the sunglasses going back on. You'd experience the same fluctuations driving back the same way later on. Kona seems to be the sunny side of the island, with no rainfall during our stay on that side. The landscapes were bewitching - volcanic rock that reminded me of Iceland, hilly terrain that could have passed for New Zealand and beautiful black sand beaches.

Perhaps most memorable of all was getting to witness wild dolphins swim right by us (one of the juvenile dolphins was even swimming upside down at one point and learning to perform spectacular jumps - goose-bumps). A helicopter tour over Pu'u'o'o lava lake, with flowing lava and bubbling magma was another once-in-a-lifetime experience, unlike anything else I've ever seen. The one night we spent at Kalapana Gardens was unique beyond description - staying within an off the grid hippie community, right on the dead lava, was spectacularly surreal. A thunderstorm rattled on outside all night long and we awoke in the morning to the stark yet beautiful view of endless pahoehoe.

These are just a handful of the memories I will cherish from this trip. I desperately look forward to a return to Hawaii.



EAT & DRINK:

Da Poke Shack - 76-6246 Ali-i Drive, Kona.

Possibly the most famous place for poke on Big Island, we shared some fresh poke outside on one of their picnic benches.

Napua Restaurant1292 S Kaniku Drive #68, Waimea. 

Set in a private beach club with open-air beachfront views. Enjoy a drink or a tasty lunch in an utterly relaxing setting.

Fairmont Orchid (Brown's Beach House) - 1 North Kaniku Drive, Kohala Coast.

Enjoy oceanfront views and top tier service at this fine-dining establishment.

Hawaiian Style Cafe - 65-1290 Kawaihei Road, Waimea.

An unassuming, relaxed diner with giant portions of hearty American home cooking.

Kona Coffee & Tea Company - 74-5586 Palani Road, Kona Coast Shopping Center.

Proper coffees here where you can sit on the deck and enjoy the sunshine. They make tasty acai bowls, too.


DO/SEE:

Blackwater dive - Big Island Divers, 74-5467 Kaiwi Street.

Unfortunately, we missed out on this experience due to a mistake with our booking, however Big Island is one of the only places in the world where you can do this particular type of night dive. Due to the topography of the island, there is a steep drop-off very close to shore. Here you can witness sea creatures that usually live very deep in the ocean and can't be seen during regular dives. A must do if you're a scuba fan, and something we will definitely return to do next time.

Manta night diveKona Honu Divers, 3158, 74-5583 Luhia Street A12. 

A dive we did get to experience was the manta night dive. We've dived with mantas before in a few other countries but this was different - divers sit in a circle and point their torches upwards. This attracts the plankton that mantas feed on and you'll see more mantas at once than you've likely ever seen before - they'll somersault above you, swim inches away from your head and circle round for the next 45 minutes. Simply wonderful.

Dolphin snorkel experience - Dolphin Discoveries, Keauhou Bay, Kona.

Please research beforehand to ensure that boats do not chase, crowd or encourage you to get too close to dolphins. They are wild animals and the best way to enjoy them is to respect that and give them plenty of space and peace. Our guides were incredible at spotting the pods and our boat would pull up well ahead of the direction they estimated the dolphins were headed, having us gently and quietly get in the water and wait patiently with our snorkels on. At no point were we chasing or intimidating the dolphins and it was fascinating seeing them swim past in their half asleep state. Occasionally a curious one would even swim towards us for a closer look before rejoining the pod. An absolute dream come true.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

Depending on whether or not it is currently safe to visit (check local websites for up-to-date news on volcanic activity), you may be able to view volcanic activity from outside the Jaggar Museum, overlooking the Halema'uma'u crater. The park itself is well worth a day trip to, with plenty of unique nature-based activities/sights such as hiking trails, lookouts, crater rim drives, sulphur banks and more.

Helicopter tour - Safari Helicopters, 2220 Kekuanaoa Street, Hilo Airport.

We had incredible views of active lava flow and eruptions over Mount Loa and Pu'u'o'o. Like no other helicopter tour you've had before.

UNCLE ROBERT'S MARKET - 12-5038 Kapoho Beach Road.

Hippie heaven and one of my favourite experiences on Big Island. Our driver told us it was the "Hawaiian Kingdom" - one of the only real Hawaiian places left. Uncle Rob had 11 children, 8 of which were boys. Some of them play in a band at the market. Find your pot brownies, local crafts, Hawaiian beers and more as you wander around and taste a little of everything from the myriad food stalls. It runs every Wed night from 5 - 10pm.

Waipi'o Valley - 48-5561A Waipi'o Valley Road.

Just peering out at the vastness below, it's easy to let your imagination run wild. An area of truly untouched beauty, worth a stop over. You can even venture down towards the beach if you're up for a bit of a hike.

Mauna Lani Beach Club - 1292 S Kaniku Drive #68, Waimea.

We were lucky enough to have private access to the beautiful beach club as guests of an Airbnb with membership nearby. However, non-members can still access the beach via a walking trail (about 15 - 20 minutes).

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach - Highway 11, Pahala.

This beach has seriously stunning glittering black sand. The water is very clear but there isn't much to see if snorkelling is your thing. You may however spot a few sea turtles swimming and even nesting on shore (be sure to leave them plenty of space!).

Anaeho'omalu Bay (also known as A-Bay) - Kuualii Place, Waikoloa Village.

A beautiful crescent beach, here you're also likely to bump into a few sea turtles. The surrounding area is also quite beautiful if you fancy a stroll around the fish ponds and palm trees.

Akaka Falls - Akaka Falls Road, Hilo.

A lovely state park with easy to climb steps leading to a lookout. Ideal for a leisurely walk past lush vegetation on your way to see the impressive waterfall.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii, Waipio Valley
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii, Akaka FallsEuriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, HawaiiEuriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Kalapana Gardens, Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | bubbling magma, Guide to Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | lava flow, Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Kalapana Gardens, Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Kalapana Gardens, Big Island, Hawaii
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Kalapana Gardens, Big Island, Hawaii

INTERESTING FACTS:

  • Pahoehoe and aa (pronounced 'ah ah') are two types of volcanic rock (lava) - pahoehoe is the smoother type and aa tends to be very jagged.
  • The rate that Hawaiian plates are moving is similar to the rate that your fingernails grow.
  • Mouna Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet.
  • Mouna Loa is the world's largest volcano. Its last eruption was in 1984; it lasted a few weeks and stopped just short of Hilo. It will erupt again.
  • Mouna Kea is the tallest volcano in the world when measured from its base beneath sea level. It is so heavy that it compresses the sea bed.


Euriental | luxury travel & style | Guide to Big Island, Hawaii

Local guide: an afternoon in Kensington

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Kensington as we know it: endless streets lined with white stucco houses, top notch museums, pricey restaurants and posh bars. Whilst some of my favourite eateries there are on the steeper side (Yashin comes to mind), there are many hidden gems worth heading over for, from old-fashioned tucked away boutiques to light and bright Middle Eastern joints to a popular Japanese haunt that serves one of the best matcha soft serves in town.

Last week, I was challenged to head over to Kensington and spend an afternoon exploring with the aim of sharing some less obvious places worth visiting. Whilst the museums are of course well worth your time and Kensington Gardens are indeed beautiful, my goal today is to hopefully introduce one or two places you may not have heard of. So whether you're a Londoner or visiting from out of town and looking to stay in the area, I hope I'm able to share with you a place or two that'll make you want to head West.

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Mere metres away from the hustle and bustle of Kensington High Street lies an alley you could easily miss - Kensington Church Walk. Lined with a few tightly squeezed vintage shops, walking down it feels like escaping modern day madness and stepping into a bygone era. This little byway is conveniently situated right next to some lovely little parks where you can enjoy a moment's respite (and, if you're as lucky as I was on this sunny afternoon, numerous friendly local cats will happily run over to you for a quick scratch on the head).

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London


Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London
I took advantage of the sunny weather and strolled over to South Kensington, where I met up with a friend for lunch. We were lucky enough to grab a table at the lively Ceru restaurant, serving Levantine cuisine via tapas style sharing plates. Favourites include the apple, mint & pomegranate salad, zucchini & feta fritters and spice battered squid with harissa yoghurt.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Too stuffed to even consider looking at the dessert menu, we meandered a few steps down the road to Muriel's Kitchen, a popular brunch spot where I've had many a PR breakfast meeting, to grab some proper coffees.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

A short time later and my 'dessert stomach' has reared its head (if you know, you know). I already know exactly what I have to have. The minute I think of South Ken, I think of Tombo. Having visited Japan a handful of times, matcha soft serve is one of my favourite sweet treats and Tombo does one of the best ones I've tried in London. It's a cafe that serves sushi and Bento boxes, but you can also order the matcha ice cream to take away (in a cone or cup). 

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

Euriental | luxury travel & style | an afternoon in Kensington, London

To me, this is the ideal way to spend an afternoon in Kensington. End the excursion with a visit to any one of the nearby museums (the Natural History Museum is a personal favourite and also has the loveliest ice rink set up outside it during winter months) and you've got a wonderful day out, whether alone or with friends/family. 

Thank you to Hotels.com for this collaboration. The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all opinions and words are my own.


Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
 Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

Our driver pulled up at the guarded bridge, hopping out to unload our luggage. We stepped out of the car, squinting as the sun glistened off the sparkling water, and were immediately greeted by GM Tapa and his wife Jane, who accompanied us across the bridge as we chatted. We had arrived at Aman Sveti Stefan, an incredible hideaway set in a 15th century fortified village on a small island.

There are two options when staying at Aman Sveti Stefan during warmer months. You can opt to stay in one of the cottages on the SS island itself, or in one of the rooms across the water on the mainland at former royal summer residence, Villa Milocer. In winter, the island closes down for the season and the only rooms available are at VM. We stayed on the main island.

Each cottage on the island is unique. Whilst I've read other reviews that slated them for being 'bare bones', I personally appreciated the minimalism and especially adored the exposed stone walls. Our cottage had an abundance of space (a feature very typical of Amans), total privacy from the cobbled streets outside, and the soothing, neutral tones suited my tastes just fine. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

- Eat the truffle pasta at Arva. We had this at least 4 times. It is absolutely moreish.

- Whilst we're on the subject of truffles, spend an afternoon switching from loungers on the private Queen's beach (for guests only, whereas the other 2 beaches are open to the public for a fee) and the cabanas next to Queen's beach. Order the truffle pizza. Maybe order a second one. The Aperol Spritzes are refreshing, too.

- Have sunset drinks on the terrace next to restaurant Arva. If you're lucky enough to get a clear or only slightly cloudy day, the colours and view are magnificent. Plus you get baskets of delicious fresh popcorn to nibble on whilst you drink.

- Even if you happen to be staying in one of the rooms at VM during the summer months, do head over to the island to explore during the day even if only to get lost amongst the cobbled pathways. It's utterly charming (and you definitely will get lost).

- Brave the water - whilst it is likely to be a little cold, it is also wonderfully fresh and clear.

- Ask about the adventure experiences available. With only 3 days to unwind for Jarv's birthday, we missed out but should we return I would absolutely want to hike the nearby mountains with picturesque views and numerous monasteries to visit should you want a rest during your hike. You can also take a sailboat to nearby secluded bays for a picnic lunch.

My absolute favourite part of our stay was taking the private speedboat across from the main island to Villa Milocer for breakfast each morning. We attempted to switch things up one morning and have breakfast in the piazza on the island but the sheer number of other guests seated and the lack of any service staff in sight was enough to drive us instantly across the water to the infinitely more peaceful and romantic VM. That speedboat ride across the clear water is the most invigorating way I can imagine to start my day, plus I have never felt more 007 😄.

This was my second stay at an Aman property (the first being Amanoi - review coming soon). I can say that I am indeed on my way to Aman junkie status ... I haven't a bad word to say about either resort.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro