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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.
My travel tips
1. Rent a four-wheel drive vehicle so you can access some of the Kohala Coast's best (but least accessible) beaches.
2. There's nothing more romantic than jumping off of a cliff with that special someone.
The place I'm most excited to go to next is the Azores Islands off of Portugal.