Hawaii

First Lady of Waikiki Beach - Moana Surfrider

10:10 PM


Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda

Waikiki has everything from beautiful beach resorts to great restaurants. It is truly a tourist heaven, weather you are a first time visitor, or the fifth time. Kalakaua Ave, the main street parallel to the Waikiki beach, is where everything is happening. In comparing to The Strip in Las Vegas, Kalakaua is a family friendly version of that. I could literally stay here for an entire month and not get bored.

Walking along the avenue, one architecture you cannot miss is this classy white European style building decorated with iconic columns. It is the home of Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa. Built in 1901, Moana Surfrider was the very first hotel here, often referred to as “The First Lady of Waikiki”. Over the years, it has become one of the most visited historic treasures in Honolulu and the resort is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Wonder how much did it cost to stay one night back in 1901? Continue reading and you will find out soon. :) 

Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda

The open corridor with iconic columns and plaster details reminded me of the Doge's Palace facade in Venice. Those rocking chairs bring back the hotel's old charm. The Victorian style hotel lobby is so serene that, as soon as you walk in, you forget you were just on the busiest street seconds ago. There is also a little museum on the second floor sharing the stories of Moana Surfrider and its historical significance to Honolulu. They have some really interesting things on exhibit including the old wooden surfing boards people used back in the days.

Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Dress: Francesca's Collection (similar here, here and here) || Cross-body: J.Crew Edit Bag 

Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda

Walking past the lobby takes you to the beachfront courtyard. The huge banyan tree was the first thing that caught my eye. It was planted in 1904, three years after the hotel was built. Now the tree spans 150 feet to provide shades for the entire courtyard.

Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda

The afternoon tea experience at The Veranda was definitely one of the highlights during my trip to Hawaii. It is located at Moana’s beach front, right next to the banyan tree on the beautiful beach front, with a clear view of the Waikiki beach and Diamond Head.

Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda

Three sets of afternoon tea were available on the menu, First Lady Tea, Moana Classic Tea, and Veranda Tea, each came with different savory bites and pastries. Our server was very attentive from the beginning. He brought me a box of tea leaves to smell and patiently explained the ingredients inside. Since we were in Hawaii, I expected to see a wide selection of fruity tea. I favored the Moana Royale, which included the most popular fruit in Hawaii, lilikoi (passion fruit), as well as papaya, mango, banana and coconut, blended with black tea leaves. While waiting for my tea, I was also served with a glass of dry rosé decorated with a beautiful hibiscus.

Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda

My final pick was the signature afternoon tea set, First Lady Tea. It included 5 freshly-made savory sandwiches, two scones with butter and the BEST fruit curd I have ever had (I ended up eating more curd after finishing the scones...), and 5 tasty sweets. I am someone who is adventurous and loves to try different things, that's why I am always a huge fan of small bites and deserts samplings. The sandwiches were made with fresh lobster and smoke salmon, while the deserts were not overly sweet like those in some of other afternoon tea places I visited before. I never added sugar to my tea so I was a little worried that the fruity tea would have been too sweet. But nope, the fruity taste was just the right amount and it paired with all the small-bites perfectly. So glad that everything I had was light and refreshing. Overlooking and hearing the waves crashing on the shore while enjoying my afternoon tea - it just felt surreal.

Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda

And that's not it, I was also served with a plate of fresh berries that includes crème fraîche & brown sugar. I feel so healthy after eating it haha. As we were finishing up the food, we were given lemongrass green tea sorbet to cleanse our palates. Again, it was so refreshing, especially in this hot summer afternoon!

To my surprise, the First Lady Tea also came with a beautiful scented sandalwood fan as a souvenir to take home. I remember having a lot of these at home from my mom and grandma back in China during my childhood. The floral scent totally brings back all the memories now...

Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda

Besides the beach, Moana is also a great place for people-watching, whether you are sitting on the rocking chair of the front porch or the Veranda. Everyone you see is in their vacation-mood - so happy! There are tourists from all over the world. As a wedding photographer, my favorite part was watching numerous newlyweds getting their wedding photos taken here. The white architecture and classy interior design here are perfect for wedding photos.

Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda
Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda

Answer to my earlier question is: Back in 1901, the rate for one night stay in the Moana Hotel was $1.50 USD. Did you guess it right? :)

Moana Surfrider Hawaii Waikiki Luxury Resort Review Veranda

Thank you Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa for sponsoring this post. I truly enjoyed my time there. Mahalo for the warm Hawaiian hospitality!

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Dress: Francesca's Collection (similar herehere and here)
Cross-body: J.Crew Edit Bag
Sunglasses: Prada (similar here and here)

Hawaii

Amazon Swimsuits Review

1:27 AM

I am not ashamed to admit that I actually spent the most time shopping for swimsuits when I was preparing for my Hawaii trip last month. I went to some of my favorite retailers like J.Crew and Nordstrom. I also visited places I shopped less at such as Forever 21. For some reason I just couldn't find anything good. During the last week before my trip, I decided to go for my last resort, Amazon (as always!). If you have shopped at Amazon for their fashion section before, you will know that due to the variety of brands they have available, the quality is sometimes hit or miss. After spending hours searching and reading reviews, I ended up ordering a number of them. I kept some of them, but also returned quite a few due to mostly sizing issues. 

Amazon Prime Day is here. It's the biggest summer sale of the year. Many of the summer items including swimsuits are on sale right now. I am sharing a quick review of what I got below. I hope you will find your perfect swimsuit as well!

One Piece

1. This is my absolute favorite! From the silhouette to color to fit to fabric, everything is perfect for just $24!

**Keep**


Beach coverup: Amazon



2. The colors of the floral print are way brighter that I thought. I ended up keeping the black version of this. I think the print will look better if it were a maxi dress...

**Return**



3. This one piece is very "Audrey Hepburn". Let's stay classy on the beach. :)

**Keep**

Link to product page


4. The material is okay, on the thinner side. But I love the black and white details - it helps you outline your curvy body shape really well. I was originally trying to keep one of #3 and #4. But each of them is pretty in its own unique ways. So I ended up keeping both. The brand has an interesting name..."Tempt Me". Sometimes I wonder how people even come up with brand names.

**Keep**

Link to product page


5. The material looks nice, but it is actually quite thick and uncomfortable. I was looking for something more lightweight to wear on a hot sunny day. Plus, I ordered a size 8 (I normally wear 0/2 top and 2/4 bottom) because all the reviewers recommended sizing wayyyy up. I think a 4 or 6 would have worked.

**Return**

Link to product page


Bikini


6. The print is super nice and summery. It will look great especially if you are going to beaches in the tropical islands. 

**Keep**



7. The print is great and I love the cross-straps! It has decent material and design. Definitely a keeper!

**Keep**

Link to product page


8. The print is pretty much the same as the one piece I kept above. Therefore I returned it. I love the design though! Material is very stretchy as well!

**Keep**

Link to product page


9. I wish this swimsuit has more green in the print. Otherwise I would have kept it. Overall it's adorable and well made.

**Return**

Link to product page


10. I think they will only look good if you have very very skinny shoulders and arms... Otherwise I would suggest you to just get this or the one piece.

**Return**

Link to product page



Thanks for reading! Let me know which one is your favorite. Do share if you end up buying one from Amazon! And don't forget to check out more Prime Day 40 - 50% fashion deals at Amazon today:



Hawaii

Diamond Head Hike in Honolulu + First Time Visitor Guide

6:15 PM

A good friend of mine from college moved to Hawaii a few years ago. After missing her fairytale wedding in Hawaii, she has been asking me many times to go visit. I knew a vacation to a warm and sunny place is very much needed for me right now (especially after a really cold winter in Seattle). Without much planning, I booked my tickets in bed one night and here I am. Aloha!

Off the shoulder white top fashion blogger

Hawaii Honolulu Oahu Beach Travel Guide

Off the shoulder white top fashion blogger

Not sure if it was a good idea, I started the trip with a morning hike to the Diamond Head. For those of you driving to the area, keep in mind that there is usually a 30 minutes of wait line for the parking lot. We were lucky enough to find a roadside parking spot BEFORE entering the tunnel. It was actually a fun walk cutting through the crater...

Diamond Head Hiking Oahu Honolulu Hawaii Travel Guide

Diamond Head Hiking Oahu Honolulu Hawaii Travel Guide

The entire hike is about 1 to 2 hours round trip depending on your pace. The first quarter of the hike going up was pretty flat. However, as soon as you get to the crater's rim, you will be walking on an unpaved trail along with rocks of different sizes. Since you won't get the panoramic view of the ocean until you get to the top, it is one of the most rewarding hikes you will get, especially under the 90 degrees weather.

Diamond Head Hiking Honolulu Hawaii Travel Guide

Diamond Head Hiking Honolulu Hawaii Travel Guide
Off Shoulder Top: Francesca's (similar here, here and here), Shorts: Francesca's (similar here, here and here)

Diamond Head Hiking Honolulu Hawaii Travel Guide


// Tips for First Time Visitors //


#1. Wear comfortable shoes. When my friend told me it was an easy 1-2 hour hike, I decided to just take my Converse instead of a normal pair of sneakers. Bad mistake. With majority of the hike on an unpaved road uphill, you really need proper shoes. Since it is a short hike, I did not need to wear a formal athletic outfit. You don't get to see this kind of view too often, why not dress up a little bit to prepare for the scenic pictures at the top? :)

Diamond Head Hiking Honolulu Hawaii Travel Guide
Shoes: Converse, Tote Bag: Kate Spade (similar here, and this super cute nautical one here!!)

Diamond Head Hiking Honolulu Hawaii Travel Guide

#2. There are two concrete STEEP stairways with a total of 173 steps (!!!). My friend told me a trick before I went (which for some reason I did not listen...) that after you climb up the first stairway (74 steps) and walk through a tunnel, TURN LEFT. It will take you to the most scenic lookout point of the hike. Otherwise you would be like me, continue with the second stairway (99 steps), and then another narrow spiral stairway, to get to the summit, which is a very small observation station that you won't be able to stay too long and enjoy the views anyways due to the crowds.

Diamond Head Hiking Honolulu Hawaii

Diamond Head Hiking Honolulu Hawaii

Diamond Head Hiking Honolulu Hawaii

Diamond Head Hiking Honolulu Hawaii

#3. After you finish the hike, you might want to cool down a little bit and recharge. I recommend the juice stand right next to the parking lot, or if you want to wait 5 more minutes (driving), there is a very very good acai bowl place just right outside the Diamond Head park. Just search Da Cove Health Bar & Cafe on Yelp!

Fashion Blog Travel Hawaii Pineapple Juice

Diamond Head Honolulu Acai Bowl

Da Cove Health Bar & Cafe Honolulu Diamond Head

#4. I mentioned in the beginning that I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to start my Hawaii trip on a hike. If I could plan again, I would definitely do this somewhere in the middle of the trip. It was hot and dry hiking up. You only see the beautiful ocean far far away but cannot jump in immediately. You waited and planned for so long to come to Hawaii but now stuck on a mountain. How does it feel? :) I would definitely suggestion you to plan your first activity to be somewhere on the ocean and just...relax.

Diamond Head Hiking Honolulu Hawaii

Diamond Head Hiking Honolulu Hawaii

********
Shoes: Converse
Off Shoulder Top: Francesca's (similar here, here and here)
Shorts: Francesca's (similar here, here and here)
Tote Bag: Kate Spade (similar here, and this super cute nautical one here!!)