Hawaii, been on my bucket list for very long, so finally managed to plan a trip after retiring. After a lot of research, I decided on visiting Oahu, Big Island and Maui – being the most practical in the ten days I had. This is mostly a Photo feature with short explanations. Hope you find it useful.
Arrived at Honolulu International Airport after a 20 hour flight from London. Quite taxing to say the least. Luckily we were not coming directly from India!
The approach and landing into Honolulu is quite spectacular!
We arrived just after 2 in the afternoon and took a taxi to our Condo booked through Airbnb. There are other options like a Shuttle bus and also the town bus service (which is quite cheap). However, after such a long journey, we needed to get to our lodging as fast as possible. The taxi cost 38$ to get to the Condo located about 2km from Waikiki beach.
The Condo was a single bedroom apartment, very well equipped and close to shopping and the beach.
After settling in we walked down to Kahanamoku Beach which was a 10 minute walk from the Condo. This is a small beach with a nice walk and lagoon just off it.
We walked around a bit and had dinner from a food truck nearby as we were too tired to look elsewhere and sit down for a meal. There are plenty of places on the way!
With jet lag, we were awake nice and early, so decided to make an early start to visit Pearl Harbor though our reservation was for 1pm.
Took the City Bus from Ala Moana Boulevard. The City bus service is very good and they have a day pass for $5.50 which allows you unlimited trips. It took about 45 minutes to get to the gate of Arizona Memorial.
I had bought the “Passport to Pearl Harbor” which entitles you to enter all attractions and also blocks a trip on the boat to the Arizona Memorial.
Since we were early, the person at the reception was kind enough to advance our boat trip reservation for the 9.15 trip. We therefore went first to the Arizona Memorial. This started with an introductory film about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This was followed by a guided boat tour of the bay showing the sunken Battleship Arizona. The memorial was unfortunately closed for maintenance. It was a good tour overall.
We then walked through the harbor to catch the shuttle bus to Ford Island. The bus first took us to the Battleship Missouri – which was recently retired from the US Navy. The Battleship Missouri was the location where Japan surrendered to mark the end of the Second World War.
The tour of the Battleship was very informative and interesting as you get a great insight into the life in a Battleship. Initially you get a brief introduction by a National Park Guide. Then you are free to walk around. There is a lower deck preserved as it was during active duty. This gave us an insight into life onboard the Battleship. You can also climb up the various levels up to the Bridge. This tour takes about two hours and is really worth the time.
After this we went to the Pacific Air museum which has many World War II aircraft. This takes about 15 minutes to see.
The bus then drops you back near the Blowfin Submarine. You can pick up a Headset which gives you a guided tour of the Submarine. It was really fascinating to see the inside of a submarine.
There is also a small museum attached which shows the history of Submarines.
Overall, the tour of Pearl Harbor took over 6 hours. So you should plan your day accordingly.
We then took the City Bus back to the city and got off near St. Andrew’s Cathedral. This is a well maintained historic Church. From there we walked to Iolani Palace (which was closed as it was Sunday. I understand that it is worth a visit. Opposite the Palace is a statue of King Kamehmeha.
We then took the bus back to our Condo for a short rest before going out to Waikiki beach where we spent the evening and had dinner.
Waikiki beach has its own charm. Plenty of places to eat on the beach. If you walk further down you come to the surfers area.
Due to paucity of time, we took the guided tour which combined a trip round the island, ending at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
After picking us up from a hotel near our Condo, the bus took us via the main shopping area parallel to Waikiki beach and then drove past Koko Head which is a very the steep hike for those brave enough!
We the drove up the coastal highway past Diamond Head beach park where we could see lots of Surfers in action.
We then drove to Hanauma bay nature reserve which is famous for snorkeling. It was quite crowded and car Park was full. (So if you plan to drive, you need to go early.)
After this stop, we drove on to the Halona Blowhole lookout. It was great seeing the rough sea and ‘blowhole’. There was a small beach area as well where the brave tried Body surfing!
We then drove past Makkapu’u lookout before cutting back across the island via Dole plantation to drive up the the north shore.
We made a stop at Dole Plantation, where there was a touristy. Centre with a variety of food, coffee and snacks. We then drove through a Historic Town – Hale’iwa. This was a quaint well maintained town showcasing the old American style.
As you drive out of Hale’iwa, you reach the North Shore. The first place you pass is Turtle Beach, where you can spot Turtles. We did see two from a distance as the coach could not stop.
You then pass Waimea bay (meaning ‘Red water’ as the water turns red with clay when it rains.
Then past Sharks Cove, though there are no Sharks!
We then drove past a few more beaches of the North Shore before reaching the Polynesian Cultural Centre just after noon.
We had booked the Ambassador package for this part as it included a guided tour, reserved seating for dinner – with a luau (Hawaiian cultural performance) and front row reserved seats for the evening cultural performances.
The Polynesian Cultural Centre showcases the culture of six various Polynesian isles – Hawai’i, Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga and Aotearoa (the ancient name for New Zealand). It was fascinating going around the different ‘villages’ and seeing the cultural performances and participating in various activities.
After checking in, our guide took us first to the Canoe Pageant which introduced all the island cultures and also told us about how the Polynesian Cultural Centre actually came about.
We then moved on to see the center on Aotearoa, learnt about some of their activities, before moving onto Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. I will let the photos speak for themselves. We also took a ride in a canoe through the canals which weave through the center.
Around 5.30 we went for our dinner and Luau performance. Dinner consisted of traditional Hawaiian dishes and was extremely good. We ate while we were entertained by dances and other performances for an hour.
After dinner we moved to the main theater for the evening Luau called ‘Ha – the Breath of life’. This was a fantastic performance encompassing all Polynesian cultures. (Unfortunately, no photography was allowed, so you will have to go and see for yourself!)
A day of relaxation and short flight to the Big Island. After a relaxing brunch, we took a taxi to the airport and took our Hawaiian Airlines inter island flight to Hilo on the Big Island.
We were picked up by our Airbnb host and taken to his house, where we would spend the next few days. This was a typical American household and Rich had converted one side into a single bedroom unit with an open kitchen and dining area. Very interesting setup as everything was open air except the Bedroom. It was also a great experience for us to live with an American family and interact with them. They were great hosts.
For this leg, I hired a car and decided to self drive!
They also had many fruit trees growing in the property and some interesting orchids.
Spent the evening relaxing after doing some shopping for basic necessities.
Woke up reasonably early – still not acclimatized to the time zone! After breakfast we drove to Volcanoes National Park. This was a 45 minute drive. At the entrance you have to buy a ticket of $25 for the car including passengers.
Then went to the Kilauea visitors center, where we were shown how to go around and see various highlights of the park.
We started by driving round the Crater Rim Drive to the Kilauea overlook of the Halema’uma’u Crater. (For those fit enough, there are guided walks from the visitors Centre down into the crater. The walk takes about one and a half hours we were told) The view from the top itself was an amazing sight. We then drove to see the steam vents and Sulphur banks on the sides of the crater. (Unfortunately, this year there was no lava flow and both the Jagger Museum and Lava Tubes were closed)
We then took the Chain of Craters road, which takes you from 4000 ft down to Sea level, with a number of passing through the Lava flows from the 1969-74 volcano. You can make a number of stops to see the Lava, fissures and Petroglyphs (engravings on the larva rocks)
The road ends at Holei Sea Arch where the sea has eroded through the Larva rocks to form an arch.
We also drove to see the Larva Tree molds which are deep wells formed when larva engulfs the trees and get hardened around the waterlogged trees instead of burning them? This happens due to the moisture content of the trees. Therefore the Lava forms a cast around the tree and a ‘mold’ is left behind. Then as trees disintegrated, they left holes where the trunks were.
We then drove to Volcano village for lunch at the Lava Cafe. Good variety of food on offer, though at slightly higher prices. The ambience, food and service were good.
We then decided, to call it a day and came back home.
With good weather forecast, we decided to do the longer drive towards the North of the island and then South towards Kona.
First drove to Akaka falls. Took about 40 minutes from Hilo. You can either park outside and pay $1 each for entry or pay $5 for parking and entry. I suggest the latter as there is plenty of space on the road outside the regular parking (unless you are a party of 5). There is a short trek and a longer one. Choice is yours depending on fitness and time. Let the pictures speak.
- Optional stop is the tropical Botanical Garden which is just before the falls. We skipped that as we have seen enough tropical plants in India. There is an entry fee of $15.
From Akaka falls, we drove to Laupahoehoe View point and then down to the Harbor. These were devastated by the Tsunami in 1946. This was a 30 minute drive. The drive is really scenic and you have many view points on the way.
Then we went on the Waipi’o look out point – another 40 minute drive. This looks over one of Hawai’s last undeveloped valleys (Valley of the Kings). You need a Four Wheel Drive to go down into the valley as it is surrounded by steep cliffs. The fertile valley is now used to cultivate Taro.
From here we took the scenic coastal route to Kona – a 1 hour 30 minute drive. Along the way you can see many Black sand beaches on the right and to the left is the imposing old volcano of Hualalai which erupted last in 1801.
After a quick lunch, we went to the waterfront to see the Hulihe’e palace and the first Church built in the Hawaiian islands in 1836. Unfortunately the palace had closed for the day by the time we found the parking lot and walked there.
We then took a walk along the water front and stores. Quite a nice walk.
By now it was getting late so we headed home – almost a 2 hour drive. The drive was made interesting by a storm we encountered!
Took off after breakfast to do the Southern Drive. As suggested by our host, we first went to see the fresh Lava flows from the 2019 eruption. Really amazing! The road ended in the new Black Sand Beach located in Isaac Hale Park.
After this we drove to the older Black Sand Beach at Pulanu’U, which also has many Turtles. Quite a few of them were swimming just off the beach.
From here we drove to Hilo as we had not seen it so far. This was a one and half hour drive. The Hilo Bay is really nice and peaceful. Lots of free parking available! There is the Liliuokalani Gardens and a small island called Moku Ola / Coconut Island connected by a pedestrian bridge. It was a very nice walk around the garden, onto the island and on the bay front.
There is a very popular Bay View Cafe where you can have a drink or meal, but you need reservations. (We could not get a table!) So we returned to residence and relaxed.
As our flight to Kahului, Maui was late evening, we packed and decided to visit The Hilo Farmers Market in the morning.
The Farmers Market opens at 6 am and runs up to 4 pm. It was really worth the trip. There are different areas, for fresh farm produce and other for various handicrafts and souvenirs. The variety of fresh fruits made us regret not visiting at the beginning of the trip.
There is also various food stalls and we picked up our lunch from the BBQ stall. Quite good!
After lunch we were dropped back at the airport by our host for our flight To Kahului.
This was a 35 minute flight which got us there at 8pm after a two and half hour delay.
We then collected our rental car and drove to the Airbnb Condo in Kihei, about 30 minutes away.
This was a nice single bedroom condo just 5 minutes walk from the beach.
After a leisurely morning, we went to visit the Haleakalā Crater & National Park. This was a 1 hour 20 minute drive to the Visitors Center. The drive was very different to the drive to Volcano National Park on the Big Island. At about 4000 ft we encountered clouds and mist which made me very worried about what we would be able to see!
Entry to the park costs $30.
From the Visitors Center, which was also clothed in cloud, we drove up to the summit. The summit is at an altitude of over 10000 ft and fortunately was above the cloud level. From the summit we got great views of the crater and surrounding areas.
We were also lucky to see Mauna Kea (a volcanic peak on the Big Island)
There are many unique species of plants and animals found only in this area.
On the way down we stopped at a few view points, but due to the cloud cover, could not see much.
We also drove through a historic village… photos below!
Reacher Kihei around 3pm and had a rest before going for a walk on the bay front and beach. There are small stretches of beach and a lot of surfing areas.
We stayed on to watch a spectacular sunset, before having a great dinner from a highly recommended Food Truck and an early night.
I planned to do the very long scenic drive to Hanna, so we made an early start.
The entire drive would take about one and half hours without stopping. However, you need to stop to enjoy the drive and views.
Depending on how long you spend at every stop, you can take between 4 to 6 hours to get to Hana.
The first view point is Hookipa beach park. A haven for surfing. Lovely cove with quite rough seas.
From here we drove past the cove where the film ‘Jaws’ was filmed, to the twin falls. Unfortunately, only one of the twins had water!
Then you pass various view points at Huelo, Kailua and come to a turn off for Keanae, which takes you down to the rocky sea shore.
Just before this is a rest area with restrooms and a good view of things to come.
All along the way are many waterfalls – both big and small. Lots of tourists stop at them for a dip.
We finally drove into Hana – a small town with a quiet bay and beach.
After wandering around for a bit we drove back without stopping up to Paia. Managed to find free parking after a short wait. We walked down the high street and also down to the beach. Paia is a quaint town, Very touristy, with a lot of Cafes, bars and restaurants. Also a lot of stores with souvenirs and other nicknacks. The beach was nice and reasonably long, good sandy stretches.
From here we drove back To Kihei in time to watch the sunset again.
Our last day in the Hawaiian islands! Since our flight was late evening, we decided to see a bit of the northern side of Maui.
After packing and checking out of our Condo, we drove north straight up to Kapalua. The final few miles was very narrow and we then turned back. Rental cars are not allowed beyond a certain point on this road as it is not safe.
On the way back we stopped at various viewpoints and bays. The seas around Lahaina were particularly rough and suited for surfing – which was in full swing!
The drive up took just about an hour and back with stops took nearly two hours. We then drove to Iao National Park as we still had a few hours before checking in for our flight. This park has some nice gardens and leads to a view point for the Lao Needle. There is a bit of hiking involved. Let the photos speak!
We spent about half an hour there and then drove to the airport…..
end of our Hawaiian adventure!