#GenJPtravels to the North Cascades National Park, Washington | PNW Photographer: Couples Photoshoot in the Mountains
You can find the Travel Vlog of my Road Trip on YouTube!
August 31, 2019
Mountain Photoshoot at Diablo Lake: North Cascades National Park, WA
To hear about a (shorter) day consisting of: the most adorable couple, my camera, mountain views, a super turquoise lake, and suggestions on what you can do at the North Cascades - keep on reading!
I had a couples photoshoot scheduled with Lauren's sister and brother-in-law set for Diablo Lake in the North Cascades National Park. After the shoot, Lauren and I were planning to hike Diablo Lake, but we ended up taking our time with the shoot instead. Although a short day, our first impression of the North Cascades was too beautiful not to share! I decided to write up a blog post about things you CAN do at the North Cascades.
Even though the North Cascades National Park is only about 2 hours from Seattle, this was both Lauren’s and my first time visiting the North Cascades. We’ve only seen photos of Diablo Lake and have had it on our summer bucketlist for awhile. So when Lauren’s sister, Kaitlin and Kaitlin’s husband, Andrew wanted to do a couples photoshoot in the mountains, it worked out too perfectly! Kaitlin and Andrew just got married this past May 2019 (CONGRATS TO THEM!) and I had the awesome opportunity to capture Andrew's surprise proposal back in December 2017 at a Christmas Tree Farm. These two are SO adorable and I couldn't be more thankful for their willingness to drive to such a stunning mountain location!
We learned that Diablo Lake is a reservoir created by the Diablo Dam. Its turquoise color is caused by glacial flour (a powder that is created by the rocks that are grounded-up by nearby glaciers). At the base of Diablo Lake is one the North Cascades’ popular hikes, Diablo Lake Trail (7.5 miles out and back, with a 1,538 ft. elevation gain).
However, in addition to Diablo Lake there are also easier options such as, Blue Lake Trail (5.3 miles out and back, with a 958 elevation gain). In contrast to Diablo Lake, the water of Blue Lake is known to be one of the clearest. Many hikers claim that even though Diablo Lake is more well-known, Blue Lake is the hike you want to do if you only have time for one hike during your trip.
Lauren and I packed up the car that morning with the full intent to go hiking that day, but instead we decided to spend more time with the shoot because we were having so much fun. We also wanted to get back home before dark.
Annnd that's a wrap!
Crossed off the last Washington National Park off of my list! 3 National Parks have been conquered out of the 3 National Parks in Washington!
Although we didn’t do much exploring this trip, it was an INCREDIBLE first impression to these beautiful mountains not too far from home for us! Lauren and I both agree that we’ll be back one day soon to explore these beautiful and peaceful mountains. Out of the three National Parks in Washington, it would be almost impossible to pick a favorite since all three have unique things to offer. However, I did truly appreciate the lack of traffic and the quiet of the North Cascades.
Cheers to living life OUTDOORS!
You can find the Travel Vlog of my Trip on YouTube!
August 22-24, 2019
A Week of Aloha - Part 2: Big Island, Hawaii
To hear about an adventure consisting of: island time, black sand beaches, unpredictable weather patterns, volcanic trails, malasadas, kona coffee and brews, and a big green sea turtle -- keep on reading!
After spending the last four days on Oahu (to read Part 1 click here!), my family jetted off to the Big Island, HI for three more days. It was our first time on the Big Island!
The Big Island welcomed us with sunshine and VERY hot/humid weather. It wasn’t as breezy during our trip, but we enjoyed the sunny weather regardless. We flew in around noon as the clouds were rolling in but the sun was still peeking through.
After picking up our rental car, we made our way towards Kona Town in search for lunch. We wanted to grab a bite to eat before Joe and Clarice went to their parasailing excursion that afternoon. We decided to eat at a restaurant called, Splashers Grill that was ocean-front and right next to UFO Parasail.
I went with the Ahi Tuna, while the rest of my family went with burgers. We happily ate our food while watching the boats take out the other parasailers. When Clarice asked me prior to our trip if I wanted to go parasailing with her, I debated on whether or not I wanted to go. However, since I’ve gone before and Joe hadn’t yet, I encouraged them to do the two-person reservation together instead.
When it became close to 3pm, we dropped off Joe and Clarice to enjoy their adventure while my parents and I went to go check-in to the hotel (Kona Coast Resort). We discovered quickly that the weather patterns on the Big Island were very unpredictable. It could be sunny and warm in one location, then after driving 10 minutes, it could be pounding down with heavy rain.
We ran into our hotel with all of our bags clutched to escape the rain until Joe and Clarice finished their ride. Luckily, it only sprinkled for them while on the boat and despite being a tad bit sea sick, they enjoyed themselves immensely!
On our way back to the hotel, we made a stop at Kahalu’u Beach Park (the closest black sand beach to our hotel) in search for turtles! This beach is typically known for green sea turtle sightings (we were told that they preferred black sand beaches over white to sunbathe in!); however, we unfortunately weren’t able to find any that evening.
We returned to the hotel to rest and relax. Other than our TV not working at first, we were quite impressed with our living space. I retired early that evening after a take-out dinner of fish tacos and macadamia nut chocolate boxes for dessert.
The second day on the Big Island had the most activities planned. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was pretty much the main event of our Big Island trip. Because Kona was about two hours away from the park, we woke up bright and early to begin our drive to the other side of the island.
We witnessed what we discovered yesterday -- that the weather can really change every 10 miles. We experienced sun, rain, and fog as we ventured over to the National Park, but before we knew it - we arrived in some sunshine. After stopping at the Visitor Center to collect my usual stamp, stickers, and postcards, my family decided to take a short hike through the Sulphur Banks Trail (1.3 miles, 82 ft. elevation gain) to the Kilauea Caldera Overlook. Because it was a shorter, paved, and relatively flat hike, my mom even decided to tag along with us. I was really proud of her because she’s not quite the hiker.
Walking through the sulphur banks and steam vents was such a unique and educational experience. Visiting the volcanoes really puts it into perspective how amazing and resilient our world is! We made it to the Kilauea Caldera Overlook just in time to catch part of the ranger’s presentation. He spoke about the recent volcanic eruption that occurred in 2018 and its effects on the land and the Hawaiian people.
We learned that many areas of the park were closed due to the recent eruption so a lot of the trails we wanted to go on were closed due to damage or restoration. We were recommended to try the Devastation Trail (1.0 miles) right along Crater Rim Drive. The elevation gain was minimal and the entire trail was paved; however, my mom decided to sit this one out.
It was definitely a unique site and a nice, quick hike. Again, walking around this land really forces you to realize how resilient our land/earth can be.
We worked up an appetite walking around, so we decided to head back to Punalu’u for some lunch. We stopped by Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (another common beach to spot turtles) and were able to successfully see a big green sea turtle resting on the beach. Clarice had never seen a wild sea turtle before so we were very excited that we finally found one during our trip!
It started to sprinkle so although we wanted to spend more time at the beach, we seeked shelter from the rain at Punalu’u Bake Shop for their very popular and well-known malasadas. They didn’t disappoint! We ended up buying sandwiches for lunch and malasadas for dessert, with extra malasadas for breakfast the next day.
With stomachs full and the rain picking up more, we made the road trip back to our hotel in Kona where we freshened up and relaxed a bit. We wanted to try to find the Green Sand Beach (Papakolea Beach), but decided to save that sight for next time. For dinner, we decided to try Kona Brewing Company! My dad and I were the only two out of the five of us that drink beer so we shared a tasting flight - Hanalei IPA, Kanaha Blonde, Mac Nut Vanilla Imperial Lager, and Wailua Wheat. Out of the four, I couldn’t pick a favorite! The rest of my family ordered pizza and we concluded our day with warm vibes and good conversations.
The Kona Coast Resort provided complimentary Kona Coffee during our stay, so it went so perfectly with our malasadas for breakfast. We didn’t have too much planned for our last day on the Big Island so we took our time waking up, having breakfast and getting our bags packed for the airport.
We made a stop at the ABC store for more souvenirs and macadamia nut chocolates, and by the time we checked out, we were hungry so we picked a Filipino-Hawaiian restaurant to try for lunch. A cousin who recently vacationed in Hawaii recommended Broke Da Mouth Grindz to us, so we thought we’d try it too!
I ordered the Hawaiian “Animal Style” Cheeseburger (it had spam, bacon, eggs, teriyaki and aioli sauces!) served with Sweet Potato Salad, and my family all ordered their famous Garlic Furikake Chicken. It was the dish that was featured on Food Network’s “Triple D” with Guy Fiery! All of it was SO good and we were all happily satisfied with lunch.
With a couple of hours to kill before our flight that late afternoon, we made our way to Hapuna Beach Park. We were told it was one of the nicest white sand beaches on the Big Island (at least closest to Kona!). We didn’t have the time to swim and stay awhile, but we chose to drive out there regardless since we had time to kill. It was definitely a beautiful and wide white sand beach!
As our Hawaiian adventure came to a close, we spent our last hour on the Big Island eating shave ice at the Kona International Airport.
Annnd that's a wrap!
That concludes Part 2 of our Hawaiian adventure on the Big Island! I especially appreciated our time at the Big Island because it definitely felt more like a true vacation than Oahu. Although Oahu was filled with fun adventures, we planned for the Big Island to have more down time. So blessed to have had the opportunity to vacation with my family for a week of Aloha!
Cheers to island time!
You can find the Travel Vlog of my Trip on YouTube!
August 17-21, 2019
A Week of Aloha - Part 1: Oahu, Hawaii
To hear about an adventure consisting of: island time, family bonding, a luau, surfing lessons, beach days, “onolicious” food, a sunset photoshoot, and THREE (very humid.. lol) hikes -- keep on reading!
After visiting the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii last year for my best friend’s wedding, I convinced my family to return with me this summer. In addition to my mom, my dad, and my older brother (Joe), my cousin Clarice and her parents (Uncle Glenn and Aunt Mel) were able to join us too. It was exciting to have the opportunity to travel with so many family members to such an incredible destination!
We spent four full days in Oahu before flying over to the Big Island for three days. This blog post will be Part 1 of our Hawaiian adventure!
Our Hawaiian adventure officially started on Sunday, August 18th, which was our first full-day on island. We technically flew into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) the evening of August 17th, but we didn’t do much that evening besides check-in to our hotel (Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach) and caught up with family.
We woke up bright and early on Day 1 with the time zone change in our favor to start the day off with a hike on the Diamond Head Trail. With water bottles refilled, we also made a stop at Bogart’s Cafe along the way. Although the wait was a bit longer than we anticipated for a quick bite, the Strawberry Guava bagel and pineapple mango smoothie that I ordered was 1000% satisfying.
The commute from our hotel to the trailhead parking lot was only a 10-minute drive so we were able to make it to the trailhead before the bigger crowds showed up. However, we would highly recommend arriving at the parking lot before 8am if you hope to find a parking spot right at the trailhead. We showed up at 8:20am and the parking lot was already full (but we should’ve expected this given that it was a Sunday).
We came prepared to hike so we didn’t mind parking a little further and hiking up the hill to the trailhead, where we met our cousin, Lalaine, who lives on Oahu and wanted to join us. We were all moderate hikers and compared to our mountains in Washington, the elevation gain for the Diamond Head Trail (1.8 miles roundtrip with 452 ft. in elevation gain) wasn’t too intimidating. However, despite our experience hiking in tall mountains, we were definitely not used to the humidity!
After about 30 minutes or so, we weaved our way along the side of Diamond Head (which has been dormant for at least 150,000 years now), climbed the first set of steep stairs, then walked through a tunnel before climbing the second set of steep stairs. The third and final staircase was a winding one, but once we finished climbing those, we were able to see the panoramic views we were promised.
We were told that this hike was heavily-trafficked and that is 100% true. Even when hiking before 10am, we had to stop hiking due to congestion of crowds (made for some good breaks though!). It took us about 30 minutes to hike to the top.
For those of you thinking about hiking Diamond Head, it is still absolutely worth the trek. I would just recommend to head out as early as you can to beat the crowds and for cooler weather, pack lots of water (especially for those not used to hiking in humidity), and make sure to wear sunscreen (the top is completely exposed).
We returned to our hotel ready for some food, so we regrouped with our parents to walk over to Duke’s Waikiki (a beachfront restaurant) for lunch. Lucas and I enjoyed eating the Mahi Mahi Fish when we were in Oahu last year, so I recommended the restaurant to my family too. I ordered the Mahi Mahi Fish Sandwich, while my family ordered the lunch buffet special and Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos.
We were so full from lunch that we decided to go back to the hotel to take naps and charge our phones before going to Ala Moana Beach Park for sunset. I had a photoshoot scheduled with Aubry and Harrison (check out their YouTube channel here). On our way back to the hotel, we got sidetracked and bought the entire stock of a Honolulu Cookie Company store (being dramatic, but we did buy QUITE a bit!).
Once sunset arrived and my photoshoot was finished, my family and I concluded our evening by snacking on some ice cream along the beach. We had plans to swim in the infinity pool that evening but found to our dismay that the pool was closed for a private event. We would have to wait a day or so more before we got our pool time at the hotel.
Luckily for us Kai Coffee was located right below our hotel, so we were happily caffeinated during our stay in Waikiki. The iced Kai Latte with coconut milk was my go-to! We had a long drive ahead of us for Day 2, so after purchasing our coffees, we started our adventure over to the North Shore.
Our first stop was Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, in search of… you guessed it - turtles! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find any that morning, but we did find plenty of crab. When we dipped our toes into the water, it made Clarice and I excited to jump in so we made our way to our second stop, Waimea Bay Beach Park to go for a swim.
The waves were much bigger at Waimea Beach so we decided to enjoy the waves for about an hour or so before leaving for lunch. Last year, Lucas and I LOVED Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck over at the North Shore. I led my family towards it but found that the line had 50+ people waiting and the parking lot was crazy full. Given that swimming worked up an appetite, we decided to pass on Giovanni’s and found a nearby shrimp truck called, Big Wave Shrimp instead of waiting in such a huge line.
After feasting on their delicious shrimp and rice (lemon peppered and garlic butter shrimp for me!), we later found out that their shrimp truck was featured in an episode of “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” with Guy Fieri!
We had about a little over an hour drive back to the hotel once we finished lunch, so we decided to pick up a treat for the road. The Dole Plantation was on the way back to Waikiki, so we stopped by the shop outside to try some of their famous Dole Whip, and the hype didn’t disappoint!
Once we arrived back to the hotel, we changed into our luau attire. There was traffic on the way to the west side of the island where the luau was, so we left early enough to arrive right when the doors opened. If you’re thinking about enjoying the Paradise Cove Luau and you’re staying in Waikiki make sure to leave at least 1.5 hours before the doors open!
We didn't want to miss the fun events they had planned before dinner, such as spear-throwing, shower of flowers, and the imu ceremony. They also had Hawaiian arts and crafts, photo stations (including one with birds!), live Hawaiian music, and various shops.
My dad, Joe and I decided to give spear-throwing a shot! I’ve gone axe-throwing before so I assumed it couldn’t be that much different, right? Lol! Although both Joe and my dad used too much force and missed, I ended up getting my spear to stick into the target! It was definitely off to the left quite a bit, but hey - it stuck and I was stoked! My dad found it hilarious that I was able to make it when he couldn’t, so he insisted that I give him tips so he can try again. Round 2 - and he was able to get his spear to strike the target both times! We had some good laughs.
We ended up spending most of our time waiting in line for spear-throwing, but we were still able to watch the shower of flowers (in which I found one to put behind my left ear - the left ear means you're taken by a significant other, and the right ear means you're available!) and the imu ceremony. On our way back to the table, we helped ourselves to more Mai Tais and shortly made our way to the buffet line to have dinner.
Dinner consisted of macaroni salad, poi, lomi lomi salmon, baked chicken, kalua pig, island fish, taro rolls, and MORE! It was a great feast over warm company and incredible dance performances!
TIP: If you plan to attend Paradise Cove Luau, make sure to pick up your photos in between performances or right after you finish your dinner. You don’t want to be caught in the lonnnng line at the photo stand after the performances conclude for the evening!
Although we arrived back to our hotel late the night before, Joe, Clarice, and I dragged ourselves out of bed to make it in time for our surfing lesson with Albert! Albert is a local who’s been surfing since he was about 6 years old. He met us at Queens Surf Beach Park with all of our gear at 7am.
We were a little groggy from waking up so early but thankfully the meet-up spot was only about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Albert started our surf lesson by showing us the technique we needed to follow on land. Once he felt like we had the pattern down, we made our way into the ocean.
Learning how to surf was HANDS DOWN my favorite part of our entire trip to Hawaii! Knowing how to wakeboard and snowboard most likely worked in my favor because I was able to catch my first wave pretty smoothly! Once I caught that first one, I understood why people claimed surfing was addicting because it definitely was! I was able to catch the next 10 waves afterwards and I felt like my adrenaline could’ve kept me going all day.
Surfing can definitely tire you out though. Joe and Clarice ended up tapping out after an hour or so, so after a few just one more wave’s later, I decided to call it day too. We ended up going back to the hotel with our muscles gassed so we all decided to take a nap before walking along Waikiki Beach.
We found pineapple drinks and spent a couple hours swimming at the beach right in front of our hotel. Our parents brought us back Zippy’s for a late lunch, but by then I started to feel sick from being out in the sun for too long (and let’s be honest, I was most likely dehydrated too so learn from from mistakes and stay hydrated!). I took another nap to let the ill-feeling pass and by the evening I was feeling much better. We spent the last hours of the day at the infinity pool, sipping on pina coladas and crunching on some coconut shrimp.
Day 4 was our last full-day on Oahu and since Day 3 was spent relaxing and taking it easy, we wanted to jam pack as much as we could into Day 4! We woke up early with Kai Lattes in hand to make our way towards Kailua (the east side of the island).
TIP: Try not to drive on Pali Highway. Legend claims that it’s haunted by ghosts and/or that you cannot take pork over the Pali Highway. We were told that Pele and the demigod Kamapua’a (half man, half pig) refuse to see each other again so bringing pork in your car is like bringing Kamapua’a from one side of the island to the other. Legend claims that your car will stop at some point along the journey and a woman and a dog will appear.
Fortunately, the other route to the east side of the island holds SPECTACULAR coastal views despite the added time! I highly recommend traveling to Kailua from Waikiki by taking Highway 1/Highway 72 (Kalaniana’ole Highway) going south east. You’ll have picturesque views from your car and will have scenic stops like - Hanauma Bay (great place to spot some turtles, or honu!), Halona Blowhole Lookout, Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail (we visit this later!), or Waimanalo Beach.
Our first stop in Kailua was the Kailua Beach Park for a quick picture and rest stop, but the main event was Lanikai Beach (which is just a few minutes down the road!). Parking was tricky (this is typical) for Lanikai Beach since it’s mostly residential parking and a short walk to the public entrances. Make sure to follow the signs closely to avoid getting parking tickets and parking incorrectly!
Trust me when I say that the inconvenient parking situation is well worth the white sand views of Lanikai Beach! Seeing my family’s reactions to the beautiful white sand was so much fun, and reminded me of when I first saw the same beach last year. It’s incredible!
We decided to have lunch at the well-known restaurant, Boots & Kimo’s Homestyle Kitchen found in Kailua. Lucas and I didn’t have the chance to eat here last year and I was really bummed we didn’t have enough time, so I made sure we made time for it on this trip! And MAN am I glad we did!
Boots and Kimo’s easily became my new favorite restaurant, like ever. Although busy and popular, we only had to wait 25 minutes for a table during lunch time, which wasn’t too bad. Our server was hilarious and friendly and our food came out quickly too! I ordered the banana pancakes with Kimo’s famous Macademia Nut Sauce, and a side of the Hawaiian Smoked Sausage. I almost made the mistake of ordering a side of bacon (I like bacon, okay? lol), but thankfully the server politely asked if I’d like to try the Hawaiian Smoked Sausage or Maui Original Portuguese Sausage which are specialties to Boots and Kimo’s.
The only thing I can say about their food is that my mouth is watering just writing about how good the food was, and my family loved the food enough to order take-out for dinner later (because they close at 3pm or else we would’ve eaten there again lol)! It was THAT good!
With stomachs fully satisfied, Joe, Clarice, and I separated from the parents to go on a couple hikes. The first hike was in Kailua and right by Lanikai Beach - Lanikai Pillbox Hike/Trail, also known as Kaiwa Ridge (1.8 miles round trip, with 565 feet elevation gain). It actually sprinkled on and off during this hike for us but we surprisingly found it refreshing from the heat and humidity.
The first part of the hike was steep and dusty, so you definitely had to watch your step and use the ropes to assist you at certain areas of the trail. Once you clear the first part, the rest of the trail was pretty straightforward. Although not as maintained as Diamond Head or Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, the trail up to the Lanikai Pillbox was a steady one. There were areas that were gravel, rock, or dust but for the most part it wasn’t too difficult to navigate up the trail. It also helped that it was pretty popular so for the most part we were just following the crowd up the path.
We were rewarded with a fantastic view of Lanikai Beach from the top of the first pillbox! I wouldn’t recommend climbing on top of the pillbox if you’re afraid of heights or are hiking with children, but the views are just as rewarding even if you don’t climb on top. We didn’t have time to hike to the second pillbox, but it’s supposedly another 10-minutes up the trail for a slightly taller and less crowded viewpoint.
Climbing down the steep part of the hike definitely required intense focus to avoid falling, but we hiked our way down safely. Our next hike that we wanted to conquer was about a 30-minute drive over to the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail (2.5 miles round trip with about a 500 ft elevation gain). This hike was a much more developed and maintained trail. It’s actually wheelchair accessible for the most part and paved the entire way. This hike was definitely unique compared to Washington hikes because you’re right on the coastline the majority of the hike. There’s just something about endless blue ocean!
If it were the right season (which it wasn’t for us in August), we could’ve seen Humpback Whales breaching as they migrated north. We settled for the awesome white foam from the crashing waves that were just mesmerizing instead. The view of the waves kept us company as we trekked up to the top of the trail where we could spot the lighthouse.
We caught the sunset as we made the coastal drive down Highway 1/Highway 72 back to Waikiki. Our amazing parents had Boots and Kimo’s in take-out boxes waiting for us at the hotel for dinner and we spent the evening catching up with our cousin Lalaine and her boyfriend, Eric in the hotel room. We wanted to have a restful night to prepare for our flight to the Big Island the next morning!
Annnd that's a wrap!
That concludes Part 1 of our Hawaiian adventure on Oahu! This trip was so refreshing and I had a lot of fun touring my family around this beautiful island. I loved that I got to show them things that I enjoyed experiencing when I visited last year, but was also able to see and experience new places as well. Next up: The Big Island of Hawaii for three days! I’ll be writing up that blog post and creating that travel vlog next!
Cheers to island time!