As a mom of a toddler, my ideal vacation is heavy on relaxation and good food and light on basically everything else. I do not want to schlep around. I do not want to tour. I want to take it easy (something I should probably consider doing more of in my normal life). These days, an opportunity for a vacation is an opportunity to nourish the depleted parts of myself.

Pre-kid, before my bout of terrifying postpartum insomnia, back when I had a lot of energy and freedom, I liked to alternate my vacations: action packed and relaxing.

For the former, I loved nothing more than picking a few European cities and spending a month wandering cobblestone streets, drinking wine late into the night, and packing in as many places as possible on to one itinerary. We always tried somewhere luxurious and new — The Myconian Collection in Mykonos, The St. Regis in Florence, the Iconic Santorini on Santorini, the Madarin Oriental in Lake Como, the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort in Monaco. We only once ate at the same restaurant twice — this incredible gem — whose name long ago sadly escaped me — in Sorrento. I didn’t care about time changes nor did I have to consider things like storing breast milk or washing sippy cups. We were free to roam.

Walking the streets of Sorrento

For our relaxing vacations, my husband and I pretty much always went to Maui. I called it my happy place. We stayed at the The Ritz-Carlton, Maui Kapalua on enough occasions I even started saying we’re back as we walked in through their spacious, inviting open-air corridor. I could feel my shoulders drop and my system exhale as I entered. That I had gratitude for the experience would be an understatement. It was where I went to unwind, and I appreciated every minute.

When on Maui, we always visited our favorite spots; lunch at Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman with live music and ocean views in Kanaapali, dinner at Lahaina Grill, Merriman’s Kapalua, Sansei, Banyan Tree, and Mama’s Fish House. We walked through art galleries. I read books. My husband played endless games on his phone. We were creatures of habit. It was an ideal contrast to the fast-paced trips we took otherwise.

All smiles at The Ritz-Carlton, Maui Kapalua

Now that I have a toddler, the days of alternating vacations are temporarily paused. I feel more compelled to just sit on a chaise in the sun (with a book, if I’m lucky). I want to eat delicious meals and go to sleep early. I want to stay in a similar-ish time zone. I want to go somewhere that I can sync into a rhythm so that my time flows with ease.

So when my husband and I discuss going on vacation these days, I always suggest Hawaii. The energy is soothing, the sun is nurturing, the food is fantastic. We live in California so the time zone change isn’t rough and it isn’t a terribly long flight. And there is nothing quite like a sun-drenched day at the beach or a warm and magical Hawaiian sunset followed by an 8pm bedtime.

Because we have stopped going on our more adventurous trips, we decided it was time to change up our Hawaiian vacation and go to the Big Island. I was reluctant to miss my favorite haunts but eager to try something new.

We picked the Mauna Lani, an Auberge Resorts Collection. The pictures online looked stunning and we had heard great things.

Let’s just say we were not disappointed.

The rooms were spacious, enough that a crib didn’t come close to cramping our style. Our room was beautifully adorned and very comfortable. The buffet breakfast was incredible and the CanoeHouse, the hotel’s fancier restaurant, was exactly what I hoped for and more. It was a foodie’s dream. We went twice I loved it so much. And the chaise lounge chairs at the pool were as cushy as they come. I was in heaven.

Family time at the Mauna Lani

My husband, daughter and I explored the island just enough to get a taste – new restaurants, different views, lava-covered land – and not too much that it took time away from my favorite spot at the pool. And the beach – a quick walk down a lagoon-filled path – had such calm waters that my daughter got her first dip in the ocean.

We loved our time there so much that we convinced my family to join us for a visit just a few months later. And lucky for us, the Lava Lava Beach Club had just re-opened nearby. Live music, oceanfront tables, and corn hole made everyone happy.

The big island will now be one of our go-to’s.

For a bit back when my daughter could still be called a baby, I was ashamed that I wasn’t in the mood for a big vacation, that I wasn’t the expansive world traveler that I once was. We skipped a friend’s Lake Como wedding; we opted out when invited to Paris. I felt embarrassed and regretful.

But then I surrendered. I met myself where I was: still recovering from the PTSD of postpartum, transitioning into a new world of motherhood and all of the responsibility and obligation that comes with that, and craving rest, renewal, and relaxation. And let’s be real, a “vacation” with a kid isn’t exactly a vacation anyway. I needed to get as close to that as I could.

Loving the Mauna Lani breakfast buffet

And so I was proud of myself for trying to give myself what I needed, and I plan to do it again (and again). I won’t be ashamed to suggest the Mauna Lani again for our next vacation!