Aloha friends! Finally found the time to recap our trip to Hawaii. For us visiting Hawaii was a once in a lifetime dream come true experience. I hope you will find this blog inspiring.
When is the best time to visit Hawaii? Well anytime of course, it all depends upon your budget and what you would like to experience during your visit. We visited 4 major islands towards the end of April, and the weather was great. On every island we rented a car to explore the nature, sites, and beautiful beaches. It is a very good idea to book your rental car in advance. Most visitors rent a car, so the supply can run low or even run out at the busiest times of the year.
The best purchase we made was the Gypsy guide, a guided commentary with many useful tips, history, geology, hikes, wildlife and cultural highlights that played along our drive. The commentary played automatically as we drove around the islands, based on our location.
1. Big Island
From New York we flew to Dallas, TX and from Dallas to Kona International Airport at Keahole on the western coast of the Big Island.
The Big Island or the Island of Hawaiʻiis the youngest and largest of the Hawaiian Islands. We packed everything from swimsuits, to hiking clothes and rain jackets. Prepare in advance for four different climate zones, ranging from Wet Tropical to Polar Tundra, a result of the shielding effect and elevations of the massive volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.
Places we visited:
Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau
Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau is an important Hawaiian sacred and ceremonial place. Hawaii operated under a Kapu system which was a universal code of law. Kapu represented sacred prohibitions that regulated all aspects of life. The highest penalty for breaking the most sacred kapu was a death sentence that could only be avoided by running to a Pu’uhonua, or place of refuge. In addition, in the event of a declaration of war, Pu’uhonua provided a safe place for residents who could return home after the end of the fighting, regardless of the outcome.
For example, KAPU included:
- Prohibition for women to eat with men.
- Prohibition for women to eat coconut or bananas
Kona coffee is the name for Arabica coffee grown on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is one of the most expensive coffees in the world. Sunny weather, light winds and plenty of rain combined with fertile volcanic soil rich in minerals create favorable conditions for coffee growing.
The Waipio Valley is often referred to as the “Valley of the Kings” because it was once the home to many of the rulers of Hawaii, and as a result, the valley has both historical and cultural importance. This fertile valley is surrounded by cliffs up to 2,000 feet high (just over 609 meters). The road into the valley is very steep. Waipio Valley was once the home of thousands of Native Hawaiians. After the deadly tsunami in 1946 and the 1979 flood, only few families returned to the valley. Today, less than 100 people live among the waterfalls, rivers, and taro fields. The Waipio Valley is a place of dramatic tropical beauty and you will find here the highest waterfall in Hawaii – Hi’ilawe.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park protects some of the most unique geological, biological, and cultural landscapes in the world. The park encompasses the summits of two of the world’s most active volcanoes – Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.
- Thurston Lava Tube
- Devastation Trail
- Steam Vents and Sulphur Banks
- Kīlauea Iki
Mauna Loa sunrise
Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that form the Big Island. Rising gradually to more than 4 km (13.100 feet) above sea level, Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on Earth.
The next stop on out trip was the island of Maui. Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian chain and it is also the second youngest of the Hawaiian Islands. Our first steps led to Duke’s restaurant for a nice dinner and the famous Hula Pie. Hula Pie is made with macadamia nut ice cream stacked high on a chocolate cookie crust. The pie is topped with whipped cream and toasted macadamia nuts.
Places we visited:
Iao Valley State Park
Iao Valley State Park is one of the wettest places on earth. The main attraction here is the Iao Needle (Kuka’emoku), which is a high peak created by erosion.
Waihee Ridge Trail
Waihee Ridge Trail in Maui is splendid hike through lush jungle with waterfalls and stunning ocean views. It should be on your list of things to do when visiting Maui.
The blowhole is hole in a lava shelf. As the waves go in and out, water pressure forces ocean spray out of the blowhole. While Nakalele Blowhole is the main attraction, hiking beyond it along the coast to Nakalele Point offers a truly unique, ocean-sculpted views of rock formations.
Haleakalā is a massive shield volcano 10,023 feet tall (3055 m), that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. The western 25% of the island was formed by another volcano, Mauna Kahalawai. Haleakalā translates as the “house of the sun”. Temperatures commonly range between -1 to 15 degrees C and can reach below freezing at any time with the wind-chill factor. We chose to hike the Sliding Sands Trail and returned to Haleakalā the next day to watch the sunset. Regarding sunrise, you have to make a reservation in advance, but we accidently turned off the alarm. At the end we didn’t regret it because it gets very crowded. Compared to our experience at Mauna Loa (Big Island) – we were the only one watching the sunrise, with private romantic atmosphere.
Road to Hana
The scenic Road to Hana is a 103,6 km long route which connects Kahului to the town of Hana in east Maui. The route is very narrow and passes over 59 bridges of which 46 are only one lane wide. There are approximately 620 curves and almost all of it is through lush tropical rainforest.
- Mile 2 – Twin Falls Maui Waterfall
- Mile 7 – Bamboo Forest + Rainbow Eucalyptus
- Mile 11 – Waikamou Falls + Puohokamoa Falls
- Mile 16 – Ke’anae Arboretum, restrooms
- Mile 17 – Ke’anae Lookout (flooded fields) + Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread
- Mile 22 – Waikani Falls
- Mile 28 – Nahiku Marketplace
- Mile 30 – Hāna Lava Tube
- Mile 32 – Waiʻānapanapa State Park (must be booked ahead)
- Kaihalulu Beach – red sand beach in Hana
- ‘Ohe’o Gulch
The Luau, a traditional Polynesian ritual, is a popular social gathering, meant to unite people of a town in celebration of a significant life event, achievement, war victory, or launching of a new canoe. Originally called ‘aha‘aina, meaning ‘gathering meal,’ this celebration is centered around feasting on traditional cuisine like kalua pig, lomi salmon, poi, and haupia. Celebrated with friends and family, it includes entertainment as hula dancing and traditional Hawaiian music.
Our next stop was Oʻahu, where we stayed in Honolulu, the capital of the state of Hawaii. Honolulu and Waikiki beach reminded me of Miami Beach. Waikiki beach tends to be quite crowded, but we decided to book surfing lessons, which turned out to be an amazing experience!
Places we visited:
Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu, is the capital of the State of Hawaii. The Waikiki neighborhood is its center for dining, nightlife and shopping, famed for its iconic crescent beach backed by palms and high-rise hotels, with volcanic Diamond Head crater looming in the distance. For us, the best experience was taking surfing lessons on Waikiki beach.
Hanauma Bay Snorkeling
Hiking Koko Crater
Koko Crater Trail, better known as “Koko Head Stairs”, is definitely a workout for the day, with a rewarding panoramic view up top.
Japanese Buddhist temple
Makapuu Point Lighthouse
This was an easy hike on a paved surface with breath-taking views of the Indigo Blue Sea and the Windward Coast in eastern Oahu.
Dole pineapple plantation
During the trip we stopped on several plantations and farms. Hawaii is known for growing coffee, nuts, and exotic fruits.
Dole Plantation provides enjoyable activities including the Pineapple Express Train Tour, the Plantation Garden Tour, and the Pineapple Garden Maze. Also don’t forget to stop in the store!
Pearl Harbor memorial
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service upon the United States against the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States’ formal entry into World War II. The tour of the Pearl Harbor was a must before departing to the last island – Kauai. We booked a boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial and explored the exhibition.
Kauai is known for its lush vegetation, so it is not a surprise that it is called the Garden Island. Kauai is considered the rainiest and greenest of the Hawaiian Islands. We saved the best for last; Kauai was our favourite island to visit. The island is home to a variety of outdoor activities. We kayaked the Wailua River, snorkeled on Poipu Beach and hiked the trails of Kokee State Park.
Places we visited:
Poipu Beach snorkeling
When snorkeling in Hawaii you will likely be graced by the presence of the Hawaiian Honu, or Green Sea Turtle.
Kayaking along the Wailua River and hiking to Uluwehi Falls
Uluwehi Falls feeds directly into the Wailua River from Mount Waialeale, the rainiest place on Kauai. The only way to get to Uluwehi Falls is to go up the Wailua River by kayak, unless you know someone with a small boat.
Waimea Canyon is dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Waimea Canyon was formed when the Waimea river carved its way through the lava and basalt formations of the region. The central volcano that lay on the canyon collapsed 10 million years ago, playing a vital role in forming the canyon.
Spanning 17 miles (27km) along Kauai’s North Shore, the Napali Coast is a sacred place defined by extraordinary natural beauty. These emerald-hued cliffs with razor-sharp ridges tower above the Pacific Ocean, revealing beautiful beaches and waterfalls.
Place known mostly by locals as a great place to swim with Honus.