Perfect Day: Love & Lava with Travel Editor Amy Westervelt
I like a little bit of everything when I travel - sunny beaches, cultural sights, adventure, great food. I tend to crave new experiences, particularly those that are somewhat disorienting, except in the case of Hawaii, which I return to time and again because of the comfortable familiarity I have with the place. My earliest travel memory is a trip to Brazil with my family, during which I was kidnapped for about 30 seconds in Rio de Janeiro. I would spend my perfect day on the Big Island because the second I step off the plane there I feel completely relaxed and entirely at home. I would travel there with my husband because it's quite a special place for us - we met and got engaged there. Depending on the type of trip I was planning, I would stay either at the Mauna Kea or at Hawaii Island Retreat, but would be sure to include some nights at some of the island's great B&Bs, particularly the Holualoa Inn, Waianuhea on the Hamakua Coast, and The Palms Cliff House.
The activities not to be missed
1. Nighttime manta ray dive: it's a totally surreal experience, swimming in the ocean at night with manta rays flapping around you.
2. Volcano hike: where else in the world are you going to get this close to an active volcano?
3. A Pinzgauer trip with Hawaii Forest and Trail: these guys are the BEST guides on the island, with exclusive access to a whole bunch of great spots, and it's super fun to ride in the Pinzgauers.
The places you should definitely see
1. Green Sand Beach: it's like a Salvador Dalí painting come to life and there's nothing like it on Earth.
2. Waipio Valley: the ancient Hawaiians believed souls departed from Earth here, and it's easy to see why - the place has a really magical, mystical feel to it, on top of being just plain beautiful.
3. The volcano: you just can't come to the Big Island and not go see the volcano.
My favorite places to eat
1. Huggo's: the sesame crusted ahi is amazing.
2. Hilo Bay Cafe: I love the warm garlic shrimp salad.
3. The Four Seasons: their brunch never disappoints.
My hidden gems
1. Kapoho Tide Pools: volcanically heated tide pools bursting with amazing tropical fish - the perfect snorkeling spot.
2. Hualalai Volcano: it's not active, but it's technically not dormant either. Hualalai affords some great hiking and it's also home to a flock of wild parrots that a former Department of Agriculture official smuggled here from South America.
3. Holualoa: super cute little artists' village up in the mountains above Kona - the handful of small galleries and workshops up here are where you'll find the island's best jewelry, art, and sculpture.
The place I'm most excited to go to next is the Azores Islands off of Portugal.