GETTING TO HAWAII
Over the years I wrote a summary of what we did and what we liked. Hawaii is our favorite state, and I have been to all 50 states! We have traveled to Hawaii FIVE different times totally for about six months. We have always done the Hawaiian home run, visiting all four major islands. I recommend memorizing the islands and where they are. It just helps geographically.
Our next visit Kathie and I insist we will only do two islands. The ambiance, water, people, Trade Winds and mountains makes it totally different than many other areas of the world. The Hawaiian Islands are further away from any land mass—about 2500 miles further. The Big Island of Hawaii is the furthest south of any state. The southern tip of Hawaii is actually more southern than Key West.
You will soon notice on your trip in Hawaii how proud the Hawaiians are of their history. Founded by Tahitian explorers maybe 15,000 years ago, Hawaii remained off the grid due to its isolation. There is a large emphasis on King Kamehameha Ist. He was able to unite the kingdom. A superb book, “HAWAII,” written by James A. Michener, will give you the history and ambiance about Hawaii.
We would like to share our experiences that may help you on your sojourn to Hawaii. We have the Hawaiian Airlines Master card and highly recommend that airlines. After spending a $1000 dollars, you can collect 30,000 points, almost a free trip to Hawaii. Obviously, you can get to all the islands by using Delta, American, United etc. We have never paid for a full ticket.
A few of these pictures are from our Canon 7-D. Most pictures, though, are from our point and shoot camera Canon S-100 and S-120.
We like to fly to one western state and stop a few days going and coming. One of our favorite stops is Las Vegas. We have taken detours to see Zion and Sedona. Other places we have stopped are San Diego, LA, San Fran, Portland and Seattle. It just breaks up the ten hour or so trip.
We have a Costco Card and book what I believe to be good discounts on car rentals.
Some people will tell you a cruise is the way to go. For seven days you are taken from one island to another. We have never done a cruise as we like to tour an island for a number of days. You really don’t get a “feel” of the islands.
When to go? I would say anytime from January to July, and maybe even August. I don’t read too many people talking about September, Oct or even November. I personally think any month would do. If you go to Maui in February or March, you will see the Humpback whales which are just awesome. They come from Alaska to give birth and breed in Hawaii, Maui being a major area. We booked through Trilogy Tours for an incredible experience to view the whales.
We have booked many of our rooms through VRBO.com. We go by the recommendations people post. The downside with VRBO is it is extremely hard to cancel. Some people use “insurance” just in case something does happen. You can stay in lavish hotels costing will over hundreds of dollars, or you can decide to “camp” with a tent or in your car. We have never seen a RV. We have stayed in a few hotels and AirBNB. We have never paid more than $155 dollars for any room.
MAUI “The Valley Isle”
Chris Pratt, the famous actor who has starred in the Jurassic series and the movie “Passenger,” was “found” working as a waiter at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant in Lahiana, Maui. He was literally living out of his car. There are all sorts of accommodations from expensive resorts, affordable condo’s and you can even camp along the shore.
Most people either stay near Kihei or Lahaina. We love Lahaina and have always stayed there. Lahaina was the old capital of Hawaii and has plenty of charm.
Our preference is Lahaina Shores Resort. It doesn’t have a great beach, but it is so close to the quaint downtown with restaurants and boutique stores. We also enjoyed Pioneer Inn by the largest banyan tree in the United States. In the early morning all the birds leave, and at night they come back chirping away until dark.
About four miles west is the famous Kaanapali beach and resorts. The grass is so green there, so awesome. I highly recommend a walk along this area.
If you come to the Hyatt, stop in the Hyatt Grotto and get yourself a Pina Colada. The last two times we came across the bartender, Eric, a neat guy. I take a quick dip in the Grotto pool. When you pay $15 dollars for a Colada, it deserves a swim underneath the waterfall.
We like having lunch at Hula’s. Tasty food and many times there is a musician playing.
We also see the sundown ceremony at Sheraton Black Rock.
It is also at Black Rock that you can snorkel with tons of other people. I did catch a picture of a turtle going by.
My favorite place to snorkel is Mile marker 33, Honolua Bay. It is rocky going out and muddy, but after the first thirty yards, the coral reef and fish are spectacular. Stay to the right and don’t wear gold. The last time I found a man’s gold ring and it took me a while to track him down through Google. Jack Slack got his ring back.
We also like Kapalua Beach. Get there early as parking is limited.
We like walking the beach path. If you do decide Kihei, make sure you walk the beach path along Wailea Beach. Go inside all the resorts and act like a patron! People paying big bucks to stay at the Four Seasons! You are entitled to act just like them, and drink the free water dashed with cucumbers, oranges and lime.
Highly recommend visiting Haleakala National Park. Your senior Park pass lets you in for free. At least go up there in the day time and see the incredible views 10,000 feet up.
If you are bold, get up at 3:00 AM and ride to see the famous sunrise of Haleakala! It is an incredible experience. There are companies that will pick you up if you don’t want to make that driving trek. It is sort of spooky as there are no lights. Just follow the car ahead of you!
It is so dark up there. Kathie lost me for an hour. Use your cell phone to guide you! Kathie was by the hut and the Hawaiians were singing a chant. I saw the International Space Station fly by. We finally did the sunrise trip on our 5th time to Maui. At least go up during the day.
You should be able to see the famous “Silversword” plant. It only grows in that high altitude. Some guy from NJ tried to smuggle one out. Of course once it is taken from that altitude, it dies. The guy was heavily fined and prosecuted.
The average temperature in Hawaii from May through October is 85. From November through April it is around 75. On Haleakala, it is VERY cold, particularly if you do the morning sunrise tour.
Road to Hana. 56 one lane bridges. There are some roads you remember, this is one of them. Driving this road will take you over two hours or more. Along the way you should stop at Wainapannapa State Park and see a black sand beach. Some people love it, some don’t.
The road is a bit long if you do any activities in Hana. I recommend staying at least two nights at one of the Airbnb. We stayed at Heavenly Hana Paradise. The place is listed in Google too. A real comfortable room and close by everything.
A short hike up Fagan’s Cross. It is easy to miss as it is opposite the famous Travaasa Resort. A nice view from up there.
About five or so miles further from Hana are the famous Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe’o. It is a National Park. If you paid at Haleakala, your ticket is valid here. Make sure to take the Seven Sacred Pools trail to a beautiful 200 foot falls. Along the way you will be walking through an incredible bamboo forest. I recommend water shoes if you want to get into the pool areas.
About a mile further is the Palapala Ho’Omau Congressional Church. It is here that Charles A. Lindberg is buried. There are no signs directing you to the grave. We must have gone up and down that road for 45 minutes before we found it. One of the few arguments Kathie and I had. She said, “Ask someone!” I did and the local told us exactly what to look for. You must find the church to see the graveyard. It is quite impressive overlooking east over the Pacific. You can see why Charlie wanted to be buried here.
Some people take their vehicles around the eastern end of the island. We did it with three different vehicles, one of which was a low Mustang. Do NOT recommend that car. The road for much of the way is gravel and in some places one lane. Also, there are ruts and holes. Just take your time, hang loose, shaka shaka. The views around that part are spectacular too.
It is in Lahaina that we did our only Luau: Old Lahaina Luau. There are actually Luau’s all over Hawaii. It’s what tourists expect. We saw a free Luau in Waikiki at Royal Hawaiin Hotel (the Pink Palace) as we sat by the bar. Luau’s are very hard to hide.
Oahu is the name of the island. Honolulu is the large city on the island of Oahu. And, Waikiki is the beach area in Honolulu. You will find these names interchanged quite often.
Our first visit back in 1997 Kathie hated Waikiki. Now, she loves it and is her favorite choice. Kathie just loves walking around. So much to see and do. Oahu has three-fourths of all people in Hawaii, and that is about a million people.
Some people compare Honolulu to Miami Beach. I don’t think so. The driving, though, can actually be as intense as I-95 Miami. Interstate Highway 1 is misnamed. There no connecting states unless you had a genie out of the bottle. Just take your time, hang loose, shaka shaka. For first time visitors, I do recommend a cab or shuttle. It just takes the stress out of the equation.
Our last two visits we have stayed in a studio apartment, a block off Waikiki Beach, and a place called “Waikiki Banyan.” We paid $125 a night but it is getting more expensive. Our rental included free parking (which can be expensive in Waikiki) and free internet. The apartment is also has AC, a major plus for us. We usually get a view of the ocean or of Diamond Head. It is worth a few bucks more. There are plenty of options in Honolulu. A Safeway, near the zoo, is not too far away for food stuffs. We eat one meal out a day, and the rest in the apartment, usually.
Kathie loves going to the legendary “Dukes” restaurant on Waikiki and having the salad bar. The Hula Pie is their famous dessert.
Prices at Dukes are not bad. In our first visit we actually saw Jimmy Buffet in 1997. He was scouting out for his next major restaurant. We also were noticed by a former student at MCHS, Clint Walker. He is still there I believe.
We also love the happy hours at P.F Chang’s and Yard House. Our last two visits to the Cheesecake Factory our meals were delicious. On Sunday’s when the parking is free, you can drive to the Aloha Tower (next to the cruise terminal) and go Gordon Biersch Brewery. I remember signing up for this “rewards card” and received a free appetizer on our next visit.
A major activity in Hawaii that will soon appear obvious is Hawaii’s obsession on surfing. Every island and almost everyone does it one time or another. I do confess I did get up one time and gave it up to play football. The Duke is the father of “Modern Surfing.” He was quite the athlete.
One of my best pictures was walking along Waikiki. I had my Canon S-110. Not a fast camera, but I was able to get this unique shot along the strip.
A trip up to Diamond Head is a must. We go real early by car when it opens: 6:00 AM (We have actually walked it from Waikiki). You want to get there early to beat the hordes of Japanese tourists. The sojourn is well worth the hike up the 700 foot climb. At one time the vendors would sell flashlights to go through the dark tunnels. Today, these tunnels have lights! The views are spectacular.
Walking Waikiki is interesting to say the least. It is an extremely lively place. There is something for everyone there. It was on our 5th visit that I actually took a swim at the beach. What was I waiting for. It was exhilarating!
A reason why many people go to Oahu is to see Pearl Harbor. You can actually reserve your tickets on line. Well worth the small price. It takes a good 45 minutes or more to drive from Waikiki to Pearl. The Arizona still has over a 1,000 soldiers buried it its’ hull. You can still see oil sipping from the ship after all these years.
The National Park Service has changed the Arizona Museum into an attractive site. One of the anchors of the USS Arizona is along the water behind the entrance. I am one of the few people that can actually say that I have touched both anchors. Where is the second anchor?
On our 2015 visit we were fortunate to have met Herb Weatherway who survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He wrote a short book, “Counting My Blessings.” Uncle Herb passed away on Dec. 12th, 2016 at the age of 99 years young.
Also recommend seeing the USS Missouri and if you have enough energy, the Pacific Air Museum. It is a long day. Ironically, our last visit was with our daughter and Pearl was closed due to high winds. I thought this was the Navy!
If you are looking for traditional Hawaiian music we highly recommend a visit during “Happy Hour” for some cocktails and “pupus”at the Halekulani Luxury Hotel. The first floor restaurant known as “House Without a Key,” has excellent traditional Hawaiian music, many times with ukalaylees. Unfortunately, the large 129 year old Kiawe Tree that was in front of Waikiki fell in 2016.
A lot of people enjoy going to Hanauma State park and snorkel. It is authentic crater with fantastic viewing of a lot of indigenous fish.
I like to snorkel the right side. It costs about $10 bucks to enter the park and you have to take a twenty minute class on preserving Hawaiian reefs. Make sure to sign up the special list at the end of the class and you will not have to take this class for one year! It is really a neat area.
One of our favorite trails is not far from Hanauma State Park is the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail. There are incredible vista’s from the point. We saw the squad of U.S. Navy personnel coming down the well paved trail.
You can drive around the island in less than three hours or drive through the middle on Routes 61 and 63. On route 61 is the famous Pali lookout with the historic cliff overlook where an ancient Hawaiian battle took place. You really do get into Hawaiian history. At least the names are interesting with the numerous vowels like the state fish: Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. After a while, it is easy to pronounce. There is also a myth about not taking any lava rocks with you—just bad karma.
Now we have been to Hawaii five times and have never done the Polynesian Culture Center. Some people love it. We have had no interest in attending. It is across the island from Waikiki. A lot of people sign up for a tour and go by bus. It may be your thing?
Other places we have found of interest on Oahu: The Bishop Museum;
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Superb views from the crater:
And if you are in Oahu over Memorial Day weekend their is a Memorial service at the National Cemetery:
and a Lantern ceremony is an awesome experience.
In Honolulu is the largest open-air mall in Oahu. Traveling to the North Shore make a stop at Dole’s Plantation and see the majestic trees:
Friday nights there are fireworks at the Hilton Village. We actually took a large catamaran for a night sail to see the fireworks and Waikiki.
And the Buddhist Temple complex is a worthwhile visit too.
A Macadamia nut farm is not far away. And my favorite beach (other than Waikiki) is Lanikai Beach. Please keep that last beach a secret.
Also, a walk through The Royal Hawaiian Resort known as “The Pink Palace” is a legendary place along Waikiki.
Don’t forget to travel to the North Shore. Famous as a surfing spot in Hawaii during the winter. In the summer, it is still unique and interesting. We love visiting Matsumoto’s for a real Hawaiian Shave Ice. There is never the “ed” at the end of “Shave.” We met the owner, now the son, at Matsumoto’s.
We also enjoyed our visit out to Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa. It is 26 miles from Waikiki. You can sign up for a visit along one of Disney stores along Waikiki. You just have to say “NO” to buying one of the beautiful apartments that are offered as a timeshare.
Oahu does have about 5000 homeless people. They will keep to themselves. There is actually an entire area of tents. The warm weather draws everyone to Hawaii.
I have heard there is a prejudice against the “haole,” referring to Caucasians. I have never felt it, but people talk about it. Just can’t blame the real Hawaiians for being upset, their land was stolen from them. Sometimes you see this attitude on the show, Hawaii 5-0 (one of my favorite shows—at least to see the scenery.)
KAUAI “The Garden Isle”
If you were to take a helicopter ride, this would be our place. Our daughter did take a ride with Jack Harter and LOVED it (even though she vomited). The Napali coast is where plenty of Hollywood movies have been filmed: Jurassic Park, Seven Days Six Nights to name a few.
The island is just big enough where it is a long day to drive from one end to another. Recommend staying in Princeville for at least four days or more. We like Hanalei Bay Resorts. Most of the units have AC. This is area looks like Bali. They have plenty of units which overlook the bay. You will pay a good $200 or more, but it is worth it.
Princeville is an interesting area. Obviously, you will be driving down to into the valley to the village of “Hanalei.” I know they still have the one lane bridge to the village.
We like “Hanalei Gourmet” at the old school house. We have met a lot of good people there for lunch. See if you can get a stool at the bar area.
I think every movie star has owned a home in Hanalei one time or another, and it’s not pretentious either. Mark Zuckerberg purchased 700 acres in this valley. Hanalie Bay is famous for a lot of good movies and surfing. Going out on the pier is a must and taking a picture of the mountains is a pic I treasure.
A good movie is with George Clooney called “The Descendants.” The movie takes place is Oahu and Kauai, mostly in Hanalei. We met the bartender who played in the movie. We actually sat at the same spot in a restaurant, Tahiti Nui, where Clooney was filmed. Love that movie.
The village of Hanalei is a special place. Heading to the end of the road where the famous Na Pali coast line begins is the picturesque church of Waioli Huiia, and at the very end is Ke’e Beach where the famous Kalalau trail begins.
Along the road to Princeville and Hanalei is the picturesque Kilauea Lighthouse. The cost to the lighthouse is five dollars. But, you can take great pictures just outside the gate.
Not far from the Lighthouse is a Noni farm. The Noni fruit actually came from Polynesia and is used today for the immune system and pain reliever. Kathie swears by it and has the product shipped to our house every month. The tour is quite interesting and informative.
Princeville can receive plenty of rain. There are quite a few people that stay in the Poipu area, the sunny side of the island. We loved The Beach House restaurant with the stir-fry.
In our visit in 2015 we did stay near the harbor and airport called, “Garden Island Inn.” Not fancy, but comfortable and good people owning it.
Across the street is a gorgeous Marriott. A whole lot more money, but it is directly on the beach.
It is an awesome walk to go up the hill to the golf course which overlooks the bay and planes coming in. When we were there, an entire complex was half completed—a genuine ghost town. Someday, someone is going to finish the complex.
There is no question that Kauai is “low key” from Oahu and Maui. Some people go there just to escape—literally along the Na Pali coast line camping for months. Due to its size, there is a car problem at certain times of the day, particularly after leaving the airport to Kapa. Just take your time, hang loose, shaka shaka!
There are many activates to do on Kauai. We like to drive to Waimea Canyon which resembles the Grand Canyon, but greener.
Take the road further to the famous Kalalau Lookout. If it’s clear, the Kalalau Lookout is one of the most majestic views to be seen.
We also enjoyed visiting the National Botanical Garden. A number of movies were filmed there like Jurassic Park.
Kauai is the first island that Captain Cook came too in what was to be known as the “Sandwich” Islands. We have found statues to Captain Cook is such areas as Victoria British Columbia and Anchorage Hawaii. Something will happen to Captain Cook on the Big Island of Hawaii, our next subject.
It is Kauai that we saw our first Nene birds, the Hawaiian Goose. It is the official bird of Hawaii. The geese flew to Hawaii 500,000 years ago. They are indigenous to Hawaii and are endangered.
HAWAII “The Big Island”
Hawaiian Airlines have connected all the islands with multiple flights. You can actually fly into Hilo (the wet side of the island) and fly out from Kona (the dry side). You can actually arrange a car rental the same way.
HILO: I think three days is enough, if not two. I would recommend The Hilo Hawaiian with the water view.
I see there is a Double Tree in the area now. We stayed at Uncle Billy’s (called Pagoda Hilo Bay). I would only stay there if you get a direct water view. The balcony is awesome. Uncle Billy’s had issues, but the direct water views made up for it. We love staying in this area with all the banyan trees named for people that have visited here: FDR, Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart and Richard Nixon to name a few dignitaries.
The main reason to visit Hilo is to ride an hour south to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Along the way, you can stop at the visitors Center at the famous Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut farm. There are thousands of trees. There is really no tour, just a picture opportunity in front of the large Mauna Loa blowup.
The Volcanoes National Park is an awesome place. You can easily spend a day here. We enjoyed going through Thurston’s Lava Tube:
I particularly liked the ride down to the sea. One sojourn we actually saw the molten lava going into the sea.
Hilo was once destroyed by a Tsunami. There is a museum in downtown which is “ok.”
What we like about Hilo is “Café Pesto’s.” We have eaten some of our best meals at Cafe Pesto’s.
If you go north you will hit good botanical gardens and eventually see a sign for Akaka Falls. It is Hawaii’s largest waterfalls at 442 feet. At one time visiting here was free, but in our last visit there is a $5 charge. These Hawaiians are getting smarter with us tourists.
Before you reach the uplands of Waimea, you can actually visit Waipio Valley. The only problem is that many cars cannot do the climb. There are tours into this beautiful area. We have never visited.
The uplands of Waimea are quite interesting. We always stop at the MacDonald’s in town. The air is cooler and the ranches in the area are famous.
As you continue down you will have choices for roads into Kona. If you go by the ocean road you will pass Hapuna Beach. It is one of my favorite beaches and many times ranked as one of the best beaches in the USA and The World. Unfortunately, a few years ago a guy from Kansas, a doctor in fact, got himself almost bit by a Tiger Shark. Just don’t go out too far, and stay close to other people. Tiger Sharks in Hawaii are like Bull Sharks in Florida.
There are a number of four and five star resorts along this coast. We enjoyed going to the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Conferences are always held here–like the NFL– with gorgeous golf courses, a dolphin pool and a spectacular aqua area.
Kona is where the drier climate and sun dominate. Now you can travel over the center of the island, on top of the volcano where the observatories are located. We have never done that experience. The famous Iron-Man Triathlon originates in Kona. You can do the two mile swim downtown or even ride your bike for miles. There is a special bike path at least 12 feet wide.
Our last three visits we have stayed at Kone Reef Resort. There are several condo apartments that are rented. They have AC and for the most part, comfortable and real close to center of town. The price is right too, about $100 (except during Iron-man). The woman that checked us in was from Jupiter, FL, a town just south from where we live in Jensen Beach.
There are a number of good restaurants. We gravitated to Huggo’s, a pizza at the Kona Brewery and a Happy Hour at Royal Kona Resort.
There is a two mile trail to Captain Cook Monument. It is the area where the British Captain Cook got himself killed and cannibalized by the natives.
It is the only monument that is owned and maintained in the United States by Great Britain.
Once a year British authorities come over and clean the area. I would recommend taking a snorkeling boat tour to the site. This is definitely one of the better snorkeling places.
The last two times we took that trail, coming up was a brutal. I almost had (I did) heat exhaustion and the trail “kicked my butt.” I still remember this 300 pound Hawaiian passing me. He stopped, we chatted, and he continued on as I continued to sit.
The island you can see from Maui. The island is now owned by Randy Ellison, founder of Oracle. If you really want to see it, I recommend a Trilogy Tour to the island. We took it in 1997 and still talk about it.
You can actually take a ferry over too and take a taxi around. For years, they grew pineapples and ate spam (spam is actually served at MacDonald’s restaurants and there are stacks of spam at K-Mart.)
MOLOKAI “The Friendly Isle”
At one time there was a ferry from Maui to Molokai.
There is a famous trail, either by walking or mule that will take you down to the famous Leprosy Settlement (now known as Hanson’s Disease) colony. I think you can also do it by a small plane.
The island is small and you can easily drive around in a few hours. There is a famous Phalic Rock at one of the state parks.
NIHAU So sorry to say this island, which can be seen from Kauai, is only for true Hawaiians. Most of us don’t qualify.
I have a number of reviews on Trip Advisor. If you go to our web site at www.kmbtravelblog.com you will scroll down to Trip Advisor. The Hawaiian reviews are on pages 6 through 9. I also have written chapters of our Hawaiian Sojourn of 2015. As you scroll down you will see a section of our written work. If you are going to buy any book on Hawaii, I highly recommend the works by Andrew Doughty, “The Ultimate Guide to Hawaii.” Doughty now has works on the four major islands.
If you have an I-pad, you can download almost any publishing. Why take the weight of a book? These days, though, Google and Trip Advisor will get you on your way too. There is almost an answer to any question you may have. There is much I left out, but this review will get you on your way. We don’t pack too much and actually travel light, but do include your snorkel gear.