We spent a week in Hawaii for our latest photoshoot. Try your hardest not to feel bad for us. See and hear about all the amazingness from our Creative Director, Summer, and Senior Manager of Styling, Erin.

How to get there: Hawaiian Air, direct JFK -> Honolulu = 10 hours and 38 minutes. WOOF!

No wifi. Be prepared. But you will get macadamia nuts on the plane. Salty and delicious!

Where to stay: The Laylow Waikiki

Random note: Sign up for Marriot’s Bonvoy program for a 10% discount at the gift shop. A darling little shop where we picked up a few props, a ukulele and some local clay tumblers.

What to get for room service: After a long ass flight, I enjoyed a hot shower and peppermint coffee scrub and ordered room service, Mahi fish tacos and a corona and a Berocca. I don’t know why I had a Corona instead of a local craft beer. Kona Brewing’s Longboard Lager is quite delightful.

How you’ll feel: I am very tired. And I am sitting still but I still feel like I’m moving. This is my longest flight to date. 40,000 ft in the air going 508 mph for nearly 11 hours can’t be right.

At least there were cool books in the hotel room:

The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands by Dale Hope

Surf Site Tin Type by Joni Sternbach

Hawaiian Modern: The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff by Karla Britton and Marc Treib

Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands by Gavan Daws

We scouted 5 locations: Mokuleia Beach, Dillingham Ranch, Pua’ena Point, Kawela Bay, and Kualoa Ranch.

Malia Murphey, one of our models, has a cafe and coffee shop called Raised by the Waves in Kahuku Sugar Mill. We were scouting nearby so it made for a perfect lunch stop. It was lovely to see someone we’ve worked with over the past 6 years succeeding as an entrepreneur in her hometown. Her café is 100% plastic free and serves healthy, organic, local foods. We support! Follow them on Instagram here.

The Sugar Mill area is also littered with delicious food trucks… garlic shrimp?!! YES!!! Pretty much this a necessary stop.

We started at 6:30am travel to our first location: Kualoa Ranch.

This is one breathtaking display of nature. Many, many movies and shows have been filmed here: Jurassic Park (obviously), Snatched, 50 First Dates, Kong, and Jumanji (and so many more). There are even sets and props that still hang on the property.

We had to embrace Mother Nature as she provided us with wind, rain, mud and COWS! At times they had the right of way.

Bring your serious hiking shoes. It’s super muddy, so you will be happy you have them! Erin wore hers every day. 

Ended the day at our second location, Kawela Bay. A very chill, secluded beach with the biggest and oldest banyan tree I’ve ever seen.

My favorite spot from this day was Dillingham Ranch. We were only here for a few shots but they are some of my favorites from the shoot. For as far as the eye can see, this picturesque dirt road was lined with palm trees on either side. Love.

Super exciting side note: When we arrived at our hotel, I got leid! FINALLY! Four days in without a lei, I started to worry. A HUGE misconception of mine (I blame the movies), was that as soon as I landed in Hawaii and exited the plane or the airport onto Hawaiian land, I would be leid. So wrong… but to my delight I was gifted with this beautiful white lei that perfumed my room into the next morning. I was able to make good use of this as a rearview mirror accessory/air freshener for the rental car I was about to spend 6+ hours in over the coming days. =) Also, this beauty stayed fresh enough to add to a few looks. I love an authentic prop.

We started the day with a couple different spots in Pa’ia Town, a quaint little beach town with lots of shops and surfboard fences. Definitely need to come back here and explore.

The road to Hana (aka the “road to divorce”) should be shared & driven slowly (kind of like marriage?!). Every bend has a new surprise and stopped cars, so be very cautious. I consider myself a stellar driver but I found it a little challenging and was a little worried about making my passengers carsick. I would NEVER recommend trying to navigate this at night for obvious reasons. You’ll miss the most incredible display of Maui nature and it’s just dangerous. What I do recommend is putting all of your windows down and letting the sounds, sights and smells saturate your soul. AND if you want to get a sense of this road and make yourself sick (I mean prepare yourself, unlike me), just search YouTube for “the road to Hana hyperlapse”.


Since we were on the clock and wanting to reach our destination before dark, we only made one stop: Garden of Eden Arboretum.

I could have spent days here. A few hours was not enough time to see all of this tropical magic. Waterfalls, a rainbow eucalyptus tree, monstrous Monstera Leaves, an anthurium garden, ducks and peacocks and many other birds. So many beautiful backdrops to highlight the latest Aerie patterns and textures. It’s very satisfying to see the design inspiration in real life. I love my job because I get to help create a story that complements and highlights the product.

We arrived at our third hotel around dusk and were delighted again with a local treat: homemade banana bread. I don’t know how I restrained from gobbling this down but I had it in my mind to save this for my husband. Erin had the same idea and we both hand-carried our delicious loaves approx. 4600 miles. We love our dudes.

Again, it’s mandatory that you stop and sample all the banana breads you can!   

We started at Waianapanapa State Park: BLACK SAND BEACH!!!

Watched a storm roll in and Mother Nature kicked us off the beach. However, this spot was home to more of my favorite looks from the shoot.

Also, WATCH OUT for the Portuguese Man-O-Wars jellyfish!

We shot at two more locations in Hana: Travaasa Experiential Resort and Hana Farms.

Fun factoid/big disappointment: There are several signs for “baby pigs crossing.” I saw zero baby pigs.

After shooting, we made our way back to Wailea-Makena. Got leid again! Different (fourth) hotel, different lei. I asked for the “male” lei to give to my husband and because I knew it would travel well. The nut-looking leis are often made from kukui nuts, aka candlenuts. A local shared with me that they get their name because they produce so much oil you can light them and burn little candle pods. You can learn more about these nuts here.

Erin and I were smart and decided to start our travel home in the evening so we could spend a day exploring Pa’ia. This town has a lot to offer but Erin and I decided to lazily peruse every shop and get souvenir tattoos.

Definitely recommend Hula Girl Tattoo: clean, friendly & great music (Wu-Tang was playing when we walked in). The dude that tattooed me was actually from Lancaster, PA (somewhat close to where I grew up). We talked about the Amish.

The not-so-pleasant route home: Kahului Airport, Maui -> Honolulu, O’ahu -> Los Angeles, CA -> Atlanta, GA -> Pittsburgh. I do not recommend four back to back flights.

The very pleasant homecoming: Sharing Hawaiian banana bread with my husband and six cats. =)

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  1. Rebecca

    Aerie real doesnt have any pregnant swimsuit models… Why not? I'm pregnant. Hire me.

    1. Aerie

      Mama-to-be Iskra is wearing swim at Aerie.com right now, and we’d love to see your pics too! Share them on social with #AerieREAL @Aerie. Hope you’re feeling good!

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