Blog Preface //
All of the companies within this blog pay me to photograph content for them, but the blogging portion of my travel is just for fun! If you love reading these blogs and want me to continue, please use the links throughout the blog when ordering product from that vendor, as I make a commission on each of the links! If I make money on my blogs, I can keep writing them! Yay!
I have been planning this Hawaii Content trip for MONTHS. With over 20 companies joining us for our trip, this one took me about 20 hours a week to plan for the last 6 months. From scouting locations virtually on Google Maps, hunting down models and coordinating schedules, booking everything from the van, hotel and campsites, plus reaching out to companies and setting up contracts for their photo delivery, organizing where product would be shipped and constantly keeping on top of tracking numbers, all while working around covid restrictions - this one felt like a full time job. But boy, was it worth every moment of stress.
The beginning of this story is stressful and not for the faint of heart due to insanely frustrating Covid restrictions. Click here to skip ahead to April 9th to avoid the Covid related stress and get to the fun part.
Pre trip // April 5th:
In preparation for our trip, I got a covid test at Walgreens. Hawaii is very strict with their covid policies, so they specify who you can use for your testing. Walgreens told me that their turn around time was 24-48 hours. Perfect timing! I wasn’t worried.
Day 1 // April 7th:
I woke up and still didn’t have my Covid test results. It was exactly at the 48 hour mark, and I figured if they were running a little late, I would receive them while I was on the plane and be fine. My amazing boyfriend dropped me at the airport at the crack of dawn and I called Walgreens before my flight, but they were closed. I never got through before we boarded, but figured I would call when I landed. Lindsay and I had an 11 hour non-stop flight from Boston to Honolulu, and we spent a few hours going over all the details for the trip, familiarizing her with the brands we had brought product for, and the schedule for the trip.
We finally arrived in the Honolulu Airport, and Lindsay surprised me with a lei greeting! The most beautiful fresh lei I had ever seen! We were ushered to a place where we would submit our covid results.
I tried to call Walgreens again, but because we had been flying for 11 hours, they had already opened and closed for the day. I got in touch with Aegis, the lab that Walgreens uses, and they confirmed that they never even received my test specimen. I explained this to the Covid Assistants at the airport; I had done everything right by getting tested within their time requirements, but the lab never received my test. They informed me that if I didn’t have a test results prior to landing in Hawaii, I would have to quarantine for 10 days. This means staying in a hotel room and not leaving for anything. Not even to get food.
Here’s the problem. If I were to quarantine for 10 days, I would have missed all of the photoshoots I had booked, which means no photos for clients, and lots of refunds that I couldn’t afford. I pay for everything on these trips using money I make from my client photoshoots: from accommodations, vans, models, props, flights, shipping, package holding costs, etc. So as you can imagine, I was already in the hole for a pretty penny from the travel alone. I needed this client income to pay for the trip. Having to refund everyone would be devastating financially. We also realized that if we quarantined for 10 days, we would have missed the middle leg of our flight schedule on the 13th when we switched islands. Hawaiian Airlines automatically cancels all future flights from any trip if you miss one single flight from your trip. We would have had to reschedule our flights back to Boston and pay for them again. More money we would have to spend on top of the 10 day hotel stay we were not anticipating.
I begged to be allowed to get a test on the Island and quarantine until the results came back, but the Honolulu airport would not budge. They said that was against the law. I had to have had my results upon landing. Even though they had never seen this situation, where the test was lost in transit, they couldn't make an exception.
The only way around quarantine, they said, was if I flew back to LAX (11 more hours of flying) and get a rapid test there. Once I had results, I could fly back to Hawaii and be freed from quarantine.
I understand that Hawaii is just protecting themselves after a really bad Covid season last year, but this was absolutely absurd. They wanted me to put myself back into a situation where I could be exposed to Covid on 2 five hour flights, plus in one of the busiest airports in the US overnight, just to get a test that they offered less than a mile down the road from the HNL airport. And if I had Covid, I would be exposing all of these people to it now too! I still don’t understand this logic at all, but as it was the only way possible to avoid quarantine, I booked a $600 round trip flight to LAX and another $200 rapid covid test.
This is where it gets even weirder. They let me go to the hotel to check in and drop bags off with Lindsay, and I came back to the airport an hour before my flight. They let me go to a hotel but not to a Covid testing site?! Something is seriously wrong with this law and I plan to speak up about it. They are putting more people in danger by following rules that do not make any sense. Please reevaluate your Covid procedures, Hawaii!
So I boarded my 11 pm flight to LAX from Honolulu and failed to sleep at all for those 5 hours.
Day 2 // April 8th:
I landed in LAX at 6 am PST and ran as fast as I could to the rapid testing site. These rapid tests take 3-5 hours for results and I now knew I could not land in Hawaii without this test. Once my brain had been property stabbed with a swab, I booked it back to the terminal to go back through security. Oh yea, did I mention the testing site was outside of the airport? Quite inconveneint. Back through security, I caught my 9:30 am PST flight back to Honolulu.
…Only I hadn’t gotten my results yet when we departed. I paid for wifi and spent the first 3 hours of the flight refreshing the test results page. Nothing. *refresh* Nothing. *refresh* Nothing.
I cannot put into words the kind of panic that sets in when you refresh your test results at the 5th hour, when the testing company says “results between 3-5 hours” and you still don’t have results. Maybe it’s the PTSD from Walgreens losing my last test, but I promise you this; if you’ve never had a panic attack on an airplane, you aren’t missing anything.
Thank God for my best friend, shining angel, Lindsay. She called the testing place and they pushed my results through. FINALLY! I would be landing in Honolulu without having to quarantine. Let the Hawaii Trip BEGIN!
Day 3 // April 9th:
We spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool and grabbing breakfast at the Aroma Caffe. Their sandwiches were amazing but their coffee was the best part of the meal. They had plenty of vegan and vegetarian options too!
We scheduled an Uber before checking out of the hotel (fun fact - this is the cheapest way to get an Uber!) and headed to the North Shore to pick up our Van from Peak Adventure Vans.
You can find this van, or any camper van you want to rent, on Outdoorsy! It's basically like Airnbn, but for camper vans and RVs.
Picking up our van we met Brittney and Tyler, the owners of the van company, for the first time in person. What an amazing couple! They are such generous and welcoming people. We fell in love with their little baby, too! Thank you to Peak Adventure for providing us with a van for our trip!
Lindsay and I had a campground on the East side booked for the night, but we knew we wanted to be as far north for the night as possible. So we started driving north hoping to find somewhere remote to stay the night.
We found a beach called Sunset Beach and figured we had to stop to watch the sunset. This was one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen! With mountains on both sides and a beautiful crooked palm tree hanging over the beach. It was the perfect place to stop and relax before finding a place to sleep.
We drove north after sunset, stopping at Killer Tacos for dinner (they were truly killer). We went as far north as possible before the gate to Ka’ena Point and found a parking lot right before the gate that didn't technically state we couldn't camp. Without having any idea what our view was in the pitch black, we parked as close to the sound of the waves as we could and went to sleep.
At 3am we were woken up by some kids drinking and blaring music on the other side of the parking lot. They were totally harmless, but being on East Coast time, I knew I would never fall back to sleep. Funny enough, the Milky Way had just shown up over the horizon so I took my camera outside to start shooting. Thanks for waking me up, obnoxious partiers! The timing couldn't have been better.
I rejoined Lindsay for sunrise and needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised by our morning view. We picked probably the most amazing spot to park on the entire island. Check out our view below!
Day 4 // April 10th:
We shot a few photos for some clients here before packing up and going on our first hike. The hike is called Kaʻena Point Trail and it's full of wild life! We saw tons of Albatross (one of my bucket list animals) which were breath taking. We heard there were often seals here but unfortunately we didn't see any. The hike out and back was about 3.5 hours and not a ton of elevation, perfect for all ages!
We would have stayed here all day... but we had a photoshoot to get to! So we took off to meet up with our models for our shoot. I had teamed up with two major clients for part one of this photo day - Teema Towels and Nani Swimwear! Both companies sent product for 5 models who we brought to Kahana Beach and the outcome was stunning! Look at these girls absolutely killing it!
I also did some work for Synergy Clothing while we were here. Check out their website by clicking here! They have a ton of super cute items that scream "beach day in Hawaii"! I love this romper that Carmen modeled so much that I bought one for myself!
For the second half of our photo day, we had to go hiking for some more adventure driven shots. We picked the Crouching Lion hike because we had heard it was easily the prettiest view in Hawaii.
I'm supposed to tell you that hike is not recommended, because technically it is not a legal hiking trail. It's not easy. It is a straight up trail and very dusty, which makes it slippery. But I can tell you that the views were worth every single complaint we had on the way up. And honestly, if you go to Oahu and don't at least try to get to the top of this mountain, there was no point in going to Oahu at all. It is easily the most rewarding hike I have ever done in my life. When you get to the trail, there's parking all along the road, and the trail head is located in between a ‘Do Not Pass’ sign and a telephone pole. There's a sign telling you not to hike. Just go right past it and stay to the left on the trail.
That evening some of the models and I went to North Shore Tacos for dinner and drinks. They have those giant frozen drinks served in pineapples. Life hack: tell them to add rum to yours! Mmmm.
Lindsay and I stayed at Swanzy Beach Park for the night. There is a big field that you can pitch a tent on, but if you want to stay in your van, you park in the paved lot next to the field. The view from the parking lot was actually beautiful but they lock the gates at 9pm so you can't leave until morning. The bathrooms were really dirty and there were a ton of homeless people right outside of them. We did get to shower though (it was freezing cold) in the outdoor showers. In hindsight, we could have just parked by the street, showered and gone somewhere else for the night. But we got a great nights sleep with the sound of the waves.
Day 5 // April 11th:
Today was tricky because we had to schedule Covid tests in order to switch islands, so we were bound to Walgreen's schedule. We started the day by making breakfast with a view of the ocean at the campground. Our go to breakfast is eggs and home fries! Super easy to do on the portable stove.
We explored the west side of the island all day which was just as stunning as the North Shore had been. We had some time to hike before our Covid tests, so we headed for The Kaiwa Ridge Lanikai Pillbox Hike. This one is a little confusing to find because there are so many pillbox hikes on the island, but if you know where it is, it's easy to find! There are two entrances, but I recommend parking on Aalapapa Drive and walking to the trailhead which is located at 382 Kaelepulu Drive. That end of the hike is absolutely stunning, and a little bit shorter, but much easier to find parking.
We brought a sling bag from Solgaard up to the top with us for some dreamy product shots! If you don't own one of these slings yet, you are absolutely missing out. By far the most comfortable thing I have ever carried. And it even fits my huge 70-200 lens! SCORE!
After our hike, we sped off to get our brains swabbed at Walgreens and started praying that they wouldn't lose these tests. On our way back we drove through the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden (pictured below) which provides views of the rolling green hills from every angle. Simply stunning!
After a busy day of Covid tests and hikes, we finished off the day stopping at a totally random beach that we found along the side of the highway called Kanenelu Beach.
It's so fun how you can just park on the side of the main road and plop on a beach for the afternoon.
We left the beach fairly early to make out way back to the North Shore of the island for a family portrait shoot at Malaekahana Beach.
We also booked a campsite there for the night at Malaekahana Campground, and honestly, this is one of the best campground I have ever stayed at. I usually swear by Boondocking, but it's not super easy to do on Oahu, and the views at this place are breath taking. They have a whole separate section for vans which was fun. Try to book sites 5, 6 or 7 if possible! Those had the best views by far. The only downside is that the showers are outside without any privacy or hot water, and the portable toilets were pretty gross.
Day 6 // April 12th:
Look at this VIEW! Holy smokes. Absolutely dreamy. Waking up here was incredible. We took off bright and early for our last day on the island. On the way to our hike, we stopped at Konos for breakfast. I was not impressed by the food, but the coffee was worth the stop!
We hiked the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail and it didn't disappoint. Such a beautiful trail, and paved the whole way up, with little dirt trails you can take as a side hike. We brought Xero Shoes on this one, as well as the Solgaard sling again (for photos, but mostly because I will never hike without it again).
Quick side note about the Xero Shoes I wore for this hike - I'm the kind of person who gets wild blisters on the back of my heels every time I look at a hiking boot. I can't even describe to you how frustrating this is. I have to wear bandaids at all times and even then my toes end up blistered and painful. Xero Sandals are hands down the best option for hiking I have ever found. They have super thin soles so you can grip the landscape while you hike, but also really great treads for rocky terrain.
The rest of the day we explored and stopped for photos along the way to our final destination, which was to sit on a beach and relax. We did some photos for Freestyle Watches all over the island, too! The places we stoped were:
Kualoa Regional Park - we stopped here to snap photos of the Chinaman's Hat, a mountain island off the coast of Oahu that is really stunning!
Makapu’u Beach Lookout - this might even be a better place for photos than the top of the lighthouse trail!
Crooked Palm Tree - you can climb out on this one! But be careful, it's actually way harder than it looks! The coordinates to this one are (21.6087080, -157.9090940)
Lanikai Beach Kailua Beach - so relaxing! One of the prettier beaches I've ever seen. But it was crazy crowded!
What a perfect way to end our time on Oahu. We headed back to Malaekahana Beach Campground because we loved it so much, made dinner and got to bed early for our busy day island hopping to come.