I was featured on a travel podcast called We Travel There, where I talked about living in Hawaii and where to go if you’re in O’ahu.
I’m such a noob when it comes to Hawaii. I thought Big Island was called Kona. Turns out Big Island is Hawaii and Kona-Kailua is the name of the town in Hawaii.
The names for towns on different islands can also be the same—for example, there’s also a Kailua in O’ahu. I think there’s a Waimea (or is it Wailua) on every island. This would especially confuse me when I’d look online to book movie tickets and I’d somehow almost buy tickets for a film playing on a completely different island.
This is all to say that over Thanksgiving, I went on a short two-day Thanksgiving trip to Hawaii—what a treat. It’s the place that makes me feel like I’m on Mars (if Mars had an ocean). In some parts, there are black lava rocks dried to a crisp, providing a stark contrast against the lush Hawaiian landscape.
After a quick, 30-minute inter-island flight from Honolulu to Hawaii, we walked to grab our rental car in the airport parking lot. I always forget there are no public buses in Hawaii, so you need a car. We rented a Turo, but I also heard of a new one called Kyte, which delivers the car to you.
Stepping off the plane, it felt more humid than O’ahu, as we were there just a few days before the volcano eruption. The photos are insane if you haven’t checked them out yet.
Aston Kona by the Sea
We stayed at the Aston Kona by the Sea, a condotel owned by Marriott. I didn’t know what to expect, but the photos on their site looked awesome. I usually cross-reference professional hotel photos with TripAdvisor pics from actual travelers, but we were only going to be there for a few days so I didn’t bother.
When we arrived, parking was plentiful and the small pool area wasn’t too crowded. I appreciated that the walk to the room wasn’t very far either.
When I was in Maui, the walk from the front of the hotel to the room was seriously a 10-minute ordeal that took me through the lobby, down a flight of stairs, and across the pool area—while the hot hot sun is just beating down on me. I know, life is really hard sometimes.
After checking in with some very nice people at the front, we entered the condo. The hallway was surprisingly long. After a few quick turns, it opened to the living room and kitchen area.
It wasn’t the newest or most glamorous, but I wasn’t expecting sleek furniture, the most updated TV, or charging stations. Instead, the TV was circa 2010, an old PlayStation next to it, and the furniture in the living room was reminiscent of being at home with the Golden Girls.
But this is pretty typical of these types of properties on the islands, and I actually liked the simplicity.
The part I was not expecting, however, was the smell that hit me as soon as the door swung open and the inside air whooshed outside. It is a scent I like to call, motel.
Anyone whose ever traveled on a budget has experienced this smell. It’s the kind you can’t quite decipher but somehow know its history—cigarettes and stale ashtrays, spilled booze, cooked food, sex.
I felt like new furniture and removal of the carpeting could’ve done wonders for the unit. Oh well. I opened the balcony doors and once the fresh air moved through the room, it wasn’t so bad.
In sliding open the doors, I was pleased to see the room was literally a stone’s throw from the ocean. The sound of nature’s white noise lapped so close I could practically cast a fishing line from my balcony. That night, I slept on the pull-out just so I could enjoy the therapeutic sounds lulling me to sleep.
The views totally made up for the smell.
Kona rest and relaxation time
I would’ve been happy just to stay in the room and listen to the ocean. For the most part, that’s what we did, besides an hour-ish hike at the national park.
We also stopped at Safeway multiple times each day, meandering in the aisles and staring at meat and other items we didn’t end up buying.
You know when you get all overly ambitious with what to cook for Thanksgiving? We went from a menu of mouth-watering Thai-style steamed fish to shrimp to… veggie tacos. I had to make the executive decision while freezing to death in the deli section.
The tacos didn’t come out too bad, but I admit it wasn’t my best cooking, as all I brought with me were salt and oil. I chopped garlic and roasted potatoes and tofu.
Then I overate and drank too much wine, but isn’t that what you’re supposed to do on Thanksgiving?
We video-ed my parents so we could stare at each other and eat. They watched me cook and made comments like, “Wow, your kitchen is really big.” To which I’d respond, “No mom, this isn’t my apartment.”
Then my mom’s phone would somehow end up resting in between my mom and dad, so all I could see was exactly half of each face but a full view of an old family photo hanging behind them. It was a lot of this for nearly two hours while I poured myself glass after glass. Happy Thanksgiving!
There’s nothing better than island rain
Earlier in the day, we went for a walk to catch the sunset and it started pouring. We were soaked by the time we got back to the condo. Much to my delight, it continued coming down practically all night.
The next day, I went for an early morning walk and inhaled the damp, rain-fresh air. The day after it rains anywhere is an occasion to go outside and take deep breaths, but in Hawaii, a post-downpour morning is spectacular. Like the weather is on steroids.
Double rainbows, blindingly clear sunlight, and skies bluer than Anderson Cooper’s eyeballs—it’s truly island magic at its best.
Some folks enjoy the island in the summer. Too hot I say—for me, it’s all about the rain. I thoroughly enjoyed it and wished for more. But instead, as we approached the early afternoon, we got the usual 79-degree heat that makes your upper lip damp and turns the tops of heads into a frizzy mess.
Kona Joe Coffee
We didn’t have a whole lot of time to do much before our flight, plus not a lot was open the day after Thanksgiving. We stopped by Kona Joe Coffee, which is a gorgeous coffee farm that sits atop a mountain. Kona Joe felt like part landmark part tourist trap with a bazillion reviews on Google. On the day we went, it was empty, only because it was still barely 9 a.m.
Talk about commanding views of the Pacific Ocean! You can’t see it in the photo because of the shade, but the farm was right beyond the fence.
We walked around the green grass and admired the dogs sleeping on the grass, enjoying the breeze and sunshine. I ordered a cup of the drip. Kona coffee, man, it gets me every time. The deep flavor is so rich and velvety, I immediately walked into the store and bought a few bags.
Coffee, rain, and the ocean right outside my window. I couldn’t have asked for a more tranquil Thanksgiving.