5-Year Wedding Anniversary Trip - Big Island, Hawaii

Hands down, one of the best trips I've ever taken was to the Big Island of Hawaii with my husband Matt for our 5-year wedding anniversary at Mauna Lani Auberge Resorts Collection. We decided to make this our big trip since we were also celebrating 10 years together, and my 40th birthday. The entire experience was seamless from start to end (10/20/22-10/25/22). Our main goal was to be beach bums while drinking cocktails on the sand and trying new food. It was so hard to leave on our last day. Below are the highlights and travel tips for staying at this resort in Kona, Hawaii: 

Travel Tips for Mauna Lani Auberge Resorts Collection

Reserve in Advance: 

Book your stay at Mauna Lani Auberge Resort in Kona, Hawaii, well in advance to secure your preferred dates and accommodations.

Explore Resort Amenities: 

Take advantage of the resort's amenities, including multiple pools, a fitness center, spa services, tennis courts, and beach access.

Experience Cultural Activities: 

Participate in cultural activities such as hula lessons, lei-making workshops, and ukulele lessons to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture.

Dine at On-Site Restaurants: 

Enjoy a variety of dining options at the resort's restaurants and bars, featuring locally sourced ingredients and innovative Pacific Rim cuisine.

Relax on the Beach: 

Spend leisurely days sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, or paddleboarding at the resort's private beachfront area.

Take a Guided Tour: 

Join guided tours of the resort's grounds, including the ancient fishponds, petroglyph trails, and botanical gardens, to learn about the area's history and natural beauty.

Play Golf: 

Tee off at the championship golf courses located adjacent to the resort, offering stunning ocean views and challenging fairways.

Attend Cultural Events: 

Check the resort's event calendar for cultural events, live music performances, and Hawaiian luaus, providing entertainment and educational opportunities for guests.

Opt for Excursions: 

Arrange excursions and activities through the resort's concierge, including snorkeling tours, helicopter rides, volcano hikes, and sunset cruises, to explore the island's diverse landscapes and attractions.

Capture Memories: 

Bring a camera or smartphone to capture memorable moments and scenic views of the resort's lush gardens, lava fields, and coastline to cherish long after your stay.

Watch the recap video and enjoy music by Ekolu performing the cover song, "Everywhere:" 

Since we booked the trip through American Express, we got a few perks like getting into the United Club lounge for free prior to our 9:30am flight as our 2 passes were reimbursed as part of the $200 AMEX flight credit. Also included with the Fine Hotels + Resorts program was early noon hotel check-in, daily breakfast for two, room upgrade upon availability, guaranteed 4pm late check-out, complimentary wifi, and a $100 credit for resort experiences. Our ocean view room was upgraded to ocean front (room 336), where we immediately felt spoiled. We also earned 5X points on flights and another 5X on our prepaid hotel. For peace of mind, we also purchased travel insurance since we were going to be so far from home. I also located the nearest Kaiser Permanente, which was just 30 mins from the resort. 

We're missing the sounds of the crashing waves.

Every morning, we made our way to Halani for their delicious breakfast buffet. We're still talking about the crispy bacon, brie, malasadas, and waffles with coconut syrup topped with fresh fruit. I miss the calming Hawaiian music, sound of birds chirping, and the delicious coffee. I loved their Ube pancakes and it was my goal to try it before going home. Btw, the music at this resort was so relaxing that I kept Shazaming the songs and now I have a Hawaii Spotify playlist.

Listen to the playlist I created:

One of the highlights of our trip was the canoe and snorkel experience at 8am with Jade Pualani and Ian Bowman- Perreira. We saw a few octopus and little yellow, blue, and black fish. I held a pencil slate sea urchin, which turned my fingers red. Our two guides Jade and Ian, were amazing! Jade let us touch the octopus lol and it felt slimy/slippery.

Another highlight of our trip was walking the resort grounds at night and stargazing from the beach and from our room balcony. Using the Sky Tonight app, we saw Jupiter, Neptune and Saturn by pointing our phones to the sky. You don't get to see that in Los Angeles, due to all the light pollution. We were able to see Jupiter with our naked eyes and I initially thought it was just a bright star. 

We really miss relaxing days on the beach sipping on Ube Coladas. Another thing I miss is the scent of the resort's body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. It smelled so good that I wanted to bring some home with us lol. 

We got sunburned the previous day as we swam in the ocean. Matt taught me how to do a front flip underwater and it was so fun (and scary) as we went farther out towards the buoys. I latched onto him like a sea turtle lol. We also swam towards one of the reefs and saw tiny fish in a tide pool. 

We needed sun protection, so we went off the resort in search for UPF shirts at the Queen's Marketplace and King's Shops down the street for, hats, and comfortable beach clothes. While out shopping, we stopped by Waikola Shrimp Co. for kalua pork and coconut shrimp. It was so good! 

While driving around the resort, we found a grocery in the same outdoor mall as Tommy Bahama Restaurant, Bar & Store. We went back to the grocery a few times for snacks, La Croix, Aloe Vera for the sunburn and drops to help with water in our ears. 

For dinner, we ate at the CanoeHouse, which we were told was the #1 rated restaurant on the entire island. The food was so good! We had corn ribs, pull apart milk bread, oysters, roasted potatoes, fresh local catch of the day, Mai Tais, and babe had A5 Wagyu 6 oz dish. Dessert was pineapple coconut cake and Americano coffee. Bill was $450 and totally worth it. 

The following day, since we were still sunburned, we just relaxed under the umbrellas and for lunch, we made our way to the Kohala Coast for "the best fish tacos" as recommended by my old boss Paul. We also had Hawaiian Shave Ice at Anuenue Ice Cream and Shave Ice, which was so good. 

For dinner, we made reservations with the Concierge who recommended we try Manta at the Mauna Kea resort. Everything was amazing. My seafood pasta “Frutti Di Mare,” our A5 Wagyu Tartare, Matt’s lobster and opakapaka Hawaiian fish special of the day, our abalone and foie gras with ulu mash, cornbread with jalapeño butter, and the drinks were so tasty. We were able to walk down to the beach to see manta rays and they were huge!

Loving this photo that Matt took on our last day. 

We tried dinner at Halani and it was amazing. We ordered in-room dining service on our first night so I already knew the A5 Wagyu and Steak Frites were delish since Matt ordered it. I ordered it at the restaurant and we also had cheesy crab dip to start. My drink of choice was always the Ube Colada. Matt had the brisket and said it was delicious. 

To celebrate our last night, Matt made reservations with the Concierge for one last 8pm dinner back at CanoeHouse. We had Warayaki to start, which was hay smoked and seared tuna, wasabi soy & mustard miso, garlic fried rice as a side, head on Kauai shrimp with garlic butter, yuzu soy and shichimi, and Matt got the A5 6 oz Wagyu again. The meat was so tender and melted in your mouth. For dessert, we got the panna cotta with coconut cream, strawberries, guava ice, mango jelly, and toasted shaved coconut.

Matt also got the smoky Mezcal drink, which was deliciously strong. 

Watch as our server Aulike sears the tuna. Aulike told us about her brother, pro surfer Melvin Kinney, who was also the little kid from the Hawaii Five-O original series. He passed away in 2012 and his funeral turnout was huge as he was loved by both Hawaiians and Tahitians.

Overall, the meal was amazing and we can’t wait to go back to the “IT” restaurant on the Big Island. 

Matt was happy he was able to watch the Cowboys win a game with Dak Prescott as he returned to the field after an injury. The Cowboys won so Matt was happy in paradise lol. The NFL Sunday Ticket app didn't have the game so he watched it on the DIRECTV STREAM app. 

Another highlight of the trip was watching the House of the Dragon finale in our room. 

On the way home back to Los Angeles, we dined on chicken katsu, cake, rice balls with sesame seeds and seaweed on United Airlines. 

I forgot to mention that on the way to Hawaii, the food was OK on United Airlines. As a comparison, we preferred American Airline’s first class service as their food was better and more flavorful during our trip to North Carolina. American Airlines seemed more modern with lots of charging ports while United didn’t have a single USB port so we could charge our devices. If you had an old school plug, you were in luck. 

United Club Lounge at LAX terminal 7 was amazing, relaxing, and the food was good. Husband made himself an egg McMuffin sandwich. I opted for just coffee since I was nervous/excited and couldn't eat. 

Some Insta360 recap videos are below:

It’s worth noting that once we arrived at LAX, we had to walk quite a long distance from terminal 7 to the LAX-It area to pick up ground transportation. We hated this experience as we were tired from the 5.5 hour flight and had to walk past construction zones. I get that this new system is to ease airport congestion but everyone around us also seemed annoyed.

Other than that, the entire Hawaii trip was amazing and core memories were made. Our first time in Hawaii was perfect and we were glad to have spent it at the Mauna Lani Auberge Resort. Can’t wait to go back. 

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