TURTLES AT LANIAKEA BEACH

Swimming with turtles was high on my things-to-do-in-Hawaii list.

I had looked into a few specifically turtle spotting boat trips but then one day while walking along Laniakea Beach in Haleiwa, we found 'em in the wild. 

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We were so enthralled by our first spotting that we sat next to it for a solid hour gently poking at it, whispering "Look at it's eye!", "Touch it's tail and see what it does!" and being generally annoying human tourists. 

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 Not dead. I swear. Only looks dead. Very much alive.

Not dead. I swear. Only looks dead. Very much alive.

Technically, you aren't supposed to touch the turtles (we didn't see the sign until after our first turtle... and then we ignored it) BUT HOW COULD YOU NOT TOUCH THESE MASSIVE INCREDIBLE PRE-HISTORIC LOOKING BEINGS.

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Walking along the beach, we spotted more and more washed upon the shore. And then we came back day after day, to swim with them in the ocean. 

 We named this one Tezza. 

We named this one Tezza. 

 Haleiwa Beach Park

Haleiwa Beach Park

So, if you ever find yourself on the island of the Oahu... skip the $80 "swim with the turtles" boat tour and just hang with them at Laniakea Beach. 

HALEIWA, HAWAII

Haleiwa (a little town on Hawaii's North Shore) is the surfing capital of the world. Known for the giant, insane pipeline waves (yes, like Blue Crush) it's a surfing mecca. We were there in the off-season so unfortunately, it was relatively flat but still beautiful. 

The small community dates back to the 1900's and the architecture in the main town looks slightly old-westy with brightly colored, saloon-style buildings.

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 Food trucks galore.

Food trucks galore.

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In Haleiwa, the one long road that hugs the coast is the only way in and out so no matter where you drive, you have the bright blue ocean on one side and tropical flowers lining the sandy road on the other.  

AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD IN KAILUA

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Kailua is a mostly residential area with only one commercial district on the main road. The neighborhood seemed to be quite a tight community, every person I passed on morning hikes said a genuine hello which as a cold Bostonian, I found startling -- but also nice. 

Strolling back and forth to the beach each day, palm trees lined every road and I trailed behind snapping photos of the bright flowers, neon sunsets and tropical houses. I eased right into the calm, tropical vibe of Kailua and now want to go back ASAP. 

KAILUA, HAWAII

Kailua was a sleepy beach town until Obama blew up it's spot with his annual vacations while he was in office. He was born in Honolulu, but Kailua became his (like San Clemente became Nixon's) during his Presidency.

After visiting, I can certainly understand why he chose it, as the beaches in Kailua are -- hands down -- the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen in my entire life. And I've seen some beaches. 

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Usually after arriving on a beach, I take a minute to enjoy the scenery before:

a) jumping in the water

b) diving into a book or

c) falling asleep for a nap

....but after setting up on Kailua Beach I just sat there and looked around, in awe, for a solid 60-90 minutes. It's just astonishingly beautiful. These photos don't even do it justice, they're legit garbage compared to what it really looks like in real life. 

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 We took runs and hikes up the  Lanikai Pillboxes  for full views of the coast.

We took runs and hikes up the Lanikai Pillboxes for full views of the coast.

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 Pitaya smoothie from Kalipawai Market. 

Pitaya smoothie from Kalipawai Market. 

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Kailua Beach sits right next to Lanikai Beach. Both have the softest white sand and water so blue it brings the Leader of The Free World back every year.

SANDY BEACH

On the South Shore of Oahu, Sandy Beach is a lovely sunrise spot with a powerful shore break that made for good body surfing. Getting clobbered by waves is always an effective way to wake up. 

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 Cold brew coffee, pineapple and wifi... what more could you want.

Cold brew coffee, pineapple and wifi... what more could you want.

 Hawaiian chicks.

Hawaiian chicks.

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Post-swim, I'd drink a cold brew provided by the rustic road-side coffee cart and watch photographers with massive lenses (in the water!) trying to get the perfect shot of a barrel.

Sandy Beach is a great way to start the day.  

OAHU, HAWAII

In September, I traveled to Hawaii for a wedding and spent 2 weeks exploring the island of Oahu. I found Hawaii to be so excellent that it made me prouder to be an American (which can be tough at times, these days), knowing this beautiful tropical gem is part of my country. 

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 Immediately after landing, we picked up our rental car and drove to a beach in Honolulu for an inaugural dip.  

Immediately after landing, we picked up our rental car and drove to a beach in Honolulu for an inaugural dip.  

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 Diamond Head Crater.

Diamond Head Crater.

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 Waikiki by night. 

Waikiki by night. 

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 I found a lost dog wandering around in the dark in Waikiki, promptly fell in love, gave her a bath, got her a new outfit and began planning how I could take her home to Boston (You can pack a small dog on Delta, FYI). Long story short, I eventually (and begrudgingly) reunited her with her owner but I was THISCLOSE to finally owning a dog and already had a shortlist of Hawaiian names picked out for her. Her real name is "Penny" but I think she looks more like a "Aliikai" (Hawaiian for "Queen of the Sea"). 

I found a lost dog wandering around in the dark in Waikiki, promptly fell in love, gave her a bath, got her a new outfit and began planning how I could take her home to Boston (You can pack a small dog on Delta, FYI). Long story short, I eventually (and begrudgingly) reunited her with her owner but I was THISCLOSE to finally owning a dog and already had a shortlist of Hawaiian names picked out for her. Her real name is "Penny" but I think she looks more like a "Aliikai" (Hawaiian for "Queen of the Sea"). 

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For the first 2 nights, we stayed in an Honolulu AirBnB surrounded by misty mountains in the Aina Haina Valley. Jetlagged, we would wake up at sunrise and get an early hike in before hitting the beach.

I liked Hawaii so much it actually made me a morning person. 

LAST BITS OF NEW ZEALAND 2017

(From my phone.)

 Pre-surf at Maori Bay. 

Pre-surf at Maori Bay. 

 New llama friend. 

New llama friend. 

 Dowtown from Te Atatu Peninsula.

Dowtown from Te Atatu Peninsula.

 Vintage shopping on K Road. 

Vintage shopping on K Road. 

 Street art in Ponsonby. 

Street art in Ponsonby. 

 Our friends who fed us satay sticks at the Henderson Night Markets every Thursday. 

Our friends who fed us satay sticks at the Henderson Night Markets every Thursday. 

 Auckland Sky Tower at night, from below. 

Auckland Sky Tower at night, from below. 

 Man and dog. True love. 

Man and dog. True love. 

 Art on Waiheke Island. 

Art on Waiheke Island. 

 Glorious  Waiheke . 

Glorious Waiheke

 Mid-run on Waiheke Island. 

Mid-run on Waiheke Island. 

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 Cleaned up for a Waiheke Wedding. 

Cleaned up for a Waiheke Wedding. 

 3/4 of the Stratford Siblings. 

3/4 of the Stratford Siblings. 

 Bexee, Scott and I. Practically an ad for Karen Walker. 

Bexee, Scott and I. Practically an ad for Karen Walker. 

  Smokey , watching foolish humans. 

Smokey, watching foolish humans. 

 Smokey, one with nature. 

Smokey, one with nature. 

 Downtown Auckland. 

Downtown Auckland. 

 Crater on  Mount Eden .

Crater on Mount Eden.

 Sunset on the Te Atatu Peninsula. 

Sunset on the Te Atatu Peninsula. 

MERCERY BAY LOOP HIKE

Most of my 3 month stint in New Zealand this year consisted of EditMate work (pitch meetings, editing videos, cursing NZ's archaic wifi when uploading and downloading said videos) but I did make sure to step away from my laptop and get out and enjoy NZ's epic landscape.

Here's a few photos from a day hiking the Mercer Bay Loop:

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It's one of the oldest settled areas in the Waitakere Ranges and has a tragic past. Maori folklore says a Maori Chief's beautiful daughter drifted off from here after mourning her husband who got swept off to the ocean from a giant wave that hit the cliff.

Since then, multiple women have gone missing from this cliff (one just this past March) only adding to the Bay's haunted legend.