Going on vacation is clocking out from the nine-to-five, unplugging your phone, and living out your fantasy life. I can pretend I’m a hotel heiress living in the master suite with a view of the ocean. Or maybe, I want to try the minimalist life by living in a tiny home for a week. When I’m planning a getaway, where I stay is as crucial to the trip as the trip itself.
When it was time to book places to stay while in Hawaii, Aaron and I went back and forth between hotels, Bed ‘n Breakfasts, and Airbnbs. At the beginning of creating the itinerary, we planned on staying in only one place. Staying in one location the entire trip would have been the easiest way to plan things, but as we added more must-see sites to the schedule, the number of places to stay also increased. For our five-night trip, we stayed in three very different locations. Each one had its unique flair, which only amplified our memories and adventures while staying in Hawaii.
Nights 1-2: Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach
We chose to stay at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Hotel for the first two nights, primarily for the location; central to the popular attractions. We also didn’t know what hiccups we might encounter with COVID requirements, and checking in late and leaving early would be easier at a hotel with 24-hour service. Choosing a Marriott hotel allowed us to get our bearings for the lay of the land while staying in familiar accommodations.
After a long day of travel, sleep was our only goal. The check-in process was swift and easy. Since Aaron has Marriot Bonvoy Gold Elite Status, we were upgraded to a room on a higher floor with a view of downtown; thanks, Marriott. The room was your standard hotel room: a fluffy king-size bed, a place for your luggage, and a small bathroom. We spent the second-night eating takeout on the balcony with a view of the city rising around us. While staying at the Waikiki Marriott, the real shining star was the Ali’i Coffee Co. on the ground floor, connected to the lobby. The breakfast sandwiches and cold brew coffee were the fuel I needed to start the day. We order the Breakfast sandwich and the Ali’i Turkey Avocado sandwich, along with a signature cold brew and the “King” cold brew. The veggies on the sandwich were fresh, and the coffee was smooth and full of flavor, packing a (much needed) punch for the day. Even if you’re not staying on the hotel property, it’s worth a stop to grab a quick breakfast before hitting the beach.
Night 3: Volcano Eco Retreat
If I could change anything about our itinerary, I wish we would have stayed at the Volcano Eco Retreat for more than one night (maybe forever…); I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a magical oasis. Exhausted after a long day of hiking in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, we arrived after dark at the Volcano Eco Retreat. Tony, Our host, greeted us at our car and walked us to our villa. He must have noticed how tired we were from such a long day because as we were settling in, Tony showed up at our door with two glasses of crisp white wine and kettle chips. After eating just granola and drinking water from a camelback all day, the glass of wine and chips hit the spot like the fourth course of a five-star meal. In need of actual food, we set out to pick up a pizza. Tony, ever thoughtful, offered to heat the hot tub for us once we returned. I didn’t think our stay could have started any better, but sinking into a warm hot tub after a day of rigorous hiking is exactly what I needed. The massage jets hummed away, and with just our heads bobbing above the bubbling water, we melted into the tub listening to the rain on the roof, sipping seltzers. It was absolute peace.
Although we only stayed one night, this was the best night of sleep I had the entire week. Between the soothing sound of the frogs croaking through the woods and the cloud-like mattress, it was difficult to want to get up. Seriously, if I could have stuffed the mattress in my backpack, I would have. I did get out of bed after all, but only because I wanted breakfast and a cup of coffee.
I shouldn’t have been surprised when breakfast exceeded my expectations. Everything within the last 12 hours was more than I hoped for and this was no different. Breakfast at the Volcano Eco Retreat is an experience not to be missed. Gaby, Tony’s partner and the person responsible for creating this culinary experience, prepared our three-course breakfast. The menu is entirely plant-based, sourced from the local area; as close as the Retreat’s own garden. Breakfast checked all the boxes; fresh, unique, and absolutely delicious!
After breakfast was over and we began to pack our things, the last resident of the Volcano Eco Retreat, Sushi, greeted us. A rescue Chihuahua living her best life on the Big Island of Hawai’i, she pranced around from guest to guest, looking for ear scratches and eyeing any leftover food she might be able to grab when her owners weren’t looking. She brought a smile to my face watching her crisscross back and forth around the yard in her daisy print dress.
On our way out we thanked our host for such a fantastic experience. Since our flight was not until later in the afternoon, Gaby and Tony gave us suggestions on beaches to stop along our route and a local bakery. I cannot recommend staying at the Volcano Eco Retreat enough. If we find ourselves on the Big Island of Hawai’i again, we will return.
Nights 4-5: Airbnb – Plumeria Resurt at the Beach
On our return to Oahu, we decided to stay outside of the busy city of Honolulu. Staying in a yurt has been on my radar for a unique place to stay. So when we saw the listing for Polu’s Yurt, we did not hesitate to book it.
When we arrived, Polu greeted us with a fresh loaf of banana bread. We had full access to the beach that was just steps away from the yurt’s front door. Since we stayed at the yurt for two nights, we spent more time soaking up the amenities. We attempted to snorkel around the beach area but found the waves to be too much for us to want to fight. Instead, we took some much-needed time to slow down (this was a vacation after all) and lounge on the beach. From a distance, we could see Honolulu’s skyline, and we watched and listened as fighter jets landed at the military base.
From the outside, the yurt blended perfectly with the tropical surroundings. On the inside, it was outfitted with all the confers of home, including a mini-fridge and coffee pot. Also, having access to a washer and dryer felt like a luxury while on vacation. My dirty clothes bag was beginning to outweigh my clean clothes, so we took the opportunity to wash our clothes. At night, we opened the windows to allow the sound of the ocean waves crashing on the shore to lull us to sleep.
Had our stay been longer, we would have considered adding a trip on Polu’s catamaran. When reflecting on our journey, I wish we would have done one beach or water activity. Chartering a catamaran to snorkel would have been ideal, especially having a local guide to show us the sites only the locals know.
I was glad we spent more time at this Airbnb to get the feel of a relaxing vacation. It’s just what we need to wind down from an action-packed week. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Polu’s Yurt, and we even suggested to some of our friends who live in Honolulu to consider booking a reservation for a staycation.
Staying in three locations in five days isn’t for everyone. If you find yourself in Hawaii, consider staying at one of these locations. There are many options to choose from, but a local host will always go above and beyond to make your stay so much more memorable.