Debating on which islands you want to venture. These are my opinions of each of the islands I have visit thus far.
Maui is the chill spot to be if you want a more relaxed city break. There are some great beaches where spotting turtles is a reality. The Road to Hana can be rough but once you get the hang of driving it, it’s not that bad. I highly recommend what we did and drive through the entire thing to the end and doing the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku falls before doing the reverse visiting of mile markers on the Road to Hana. Gypsy Guide definitely came in handy and brought us to spots we didn’t even know about. Plus, it taught of the history of how Hawaii came to be what it is. The hike in Haleakala was absolutely amazing. Going up to the elevation of 10,000 feet and watching the sunset was absolutely incredible. The traffic is light here but especially on the Road to Hana, if you don’t feel comfortable, pull aside and let the locals pass you (single lanes). Small town feel in many of the areas. Paia is real cute. We stayed in Kihei which is where many of the resort/accomodations are located but its also located near some great beaches.
Oahu is like the island version of Los Angeles. There is tons of traffic and the city grid isn’t that well laid out. It is for sure the most touristy of islands. Expect to be stuck in traffic. My favourite spot on this island is definitely North Shore and Haleiwa area. From my previous visit, I found that Oahu seemed too slow paced but after going to Maui and Kauai, Oahu seems to be the balance between the 3 and a nice place to come to.
Kauai is the wettest of the 3 islands we went to. In the centre of Kauai, it holds the Weeping Walls – 2nd wettest place in the world receding over 400inches of rain fall. It is more humid and the rain comes in an out more often than the other islands. Small time vibes but unlike Maui, single lane to maybe 2 land roads but the traffic can pick up. Each area of the island has very unique burroughes. We stayed in Kapa’a. Going north shore, it’s a littler more of the posh area with Princeville and Hanalei Bay. Going south, you hit up Koloa and Poipu and west side – Waimea.
To start our day right, we stopped by Ha Coffee Bar for breakfast. I got the Hacienda Acai bowl and picked up locally roasted coffee beans.
After breakfast, we drove to the west shore to take in the wonders of Waimea Canyon State Park. We made it to all the lookout points and past many trails that would be ideal if we had more time. We also drove through Koke’e Statepark which is attached to Waimea Canyon State Park. You can camp in these areas with loads of trails to take. Waimea Canynon State Park brings you up to an elevation of 3600FT.
Many hikes that I would have liked to do in Waimea/Koke’e Park:
We finished our drive up and unfortunately the last 2 lookouts were for the most part covered in cloud coverage so we couldn’t see the Na Pali Coast from there but we were able to see into the canyon.
We drove about 30 minutes back to Kekaha to catch our Na Pali Coast boat tour with Na Pali Experience. We booked the 2-7PM sunset boat tour of the Na Pali Coast for $179USD. We had Captain John lead us plus a family of 3 on this 5-hour adventure down the coast. For those who aren’t the best with motion on waters, bring medication for it. I did not and apparently couldn’t handle the motion. To be fair, we came from a 3600FT elevation and the pressure from the elevation change was already messing with my head.
Take everything that they recommend you take including a long sleeve or something to keep you warm during the ride in and out. When you are on the boat, it takes about 45 minutes from where you board at the Kikia’ola draft boat harbour past the military base before appearing around the right corner of the Na Pali coast. The cloud coverage was pretty much over our ride. We saw the spots where Mary J Blige and many others have filmed music videos and movies.
The skies might’ve been dark but the waters gave us appearances of dolphins and turtles. Our sea captain also navigated us into some caves like a pro. We had a little bit of time to also snorkel in the waters. Being in the water was my safe haven for this 5 hour tour – bobbing in the water with a life jacket felt like bliss for me and my body that was suffering motion sickness. We hopped back on the boat after about 30 minutes in the water to a nice treat of freshly cut fruit and other little snacks before heading back to land. The ride back was bumpy and cold – a dry long sleeve or wrapping a towel is a good choice.
We learned that Kauai is slowly deteriorating. The whole island is actually a pancake but because it is so lush and tropical and tons of water falls, the water needs to find or make ways to drain back into the ocean. With that being said, all the ridges that are seen on this island are places where water flows out.
It felt so great to be back on land. We started our drive back from Kekaha to Kapa’a with Gypsy Guide on. It led us to try the most famous Saimin spot on the island – Hamura Saimin. You seat yourself around the W shaped counter or the big table. I got the small saimin and a chicken skewer. They are also known for their Lilikoi Chiffon Pie.
I really wish I went through with booking the helicopter tour over the island but I guess I will have to come back and do it. These were the helicopter companies I looked into and are highly rated. Helicopter tour gives you a new perspective of the island that many miss and wouldn’t be able to see from the ground or waters especially a view of Waialeale – Weeping Walls. Kauai also has the 2nd wettest place in the world called Waialeale – The Weeping Walls. The wettest place in the world is in India.
On facebook Market – You can post that you are interested in doing the Waialeale – Weeping Walls hike and hopefully a local will respond to take you OR you can look for a guy named Mark Woogie Kracht on Facebook – apparently he is a local who has done that hike multiple times and offers to take people.
Princeville – Hanalei
We had breakfast at Java Kai. The bright teal just draws you in. I ordered The Beetnik $9USD (toasty bagel with cream cheese, housemade pesto, local beets, & sprouts) and a Golden Sunrise shake (turmeric, dates, coconut milk). The food and drink were incredibly delicious. The coffee shop is also attached to a cute boutique called Shipwreck Kauai.
Our first stop after breakfast was Kīlauea Lighthouse – $5 – It’s just a lighthouse really but the money goes towards a good cause. If you don’t care to help a good cause of preserving land and refuge for wildlife – SKIP THIS IF YOU DON’T CARE TO HELP OUT. There is a little information house on the property to the left side of the lighthouse. Before we continued our trip to the North shore, we stopped by a fruit stand. There are a bunch of fruit stands around the islands which are not manned with a person but its an honest system where you take what you want and put money into the box that you think is fair.
We made our way to Hanalei Bay Beach and found the beach courts. We asked the lifeguard to borrow their ball. We peppered for a few hours. We got food in Hanalei and took in the quaint little town. I grabbed a chicken katsu mini from L&L.
We tried to make our way to Queens Bath but there are only 8 parking spots in a very posh neighbourhood where you cannot park on the side of the road and only in the designated spots. It is recommended to get to Queen’s Bath really early to claim a parking spot because the closest legal parking is quite a walk away.
Defeated from not finding parking to see the Queen’s Bath, we drove from Hanalei/Princeville to Koloa/Poipu. It was such a beautiful drive through the tall tree tunnel to Koloa. Koloa is a small town that is only a few blocks but is where the workers for the plantations use to reside.
We continued on to the Spouting Horn to watch the power of water currents apply pressure into the caverns and have water burst out of the blowholes.
We continued down the coast heading east to Shipwreck Beach & jumping cliff. The waves at Shipwreck beach are strong and great to catch a quick wave. To the left of the main beach area, you will see the cliffs and possibly someone brave enough to jump off the rocks. We decided to climb up and explore that area. When you get to the top, there is a lot of space and different layers of rock formations. Many people fish from up there. We were only able to witness 1 person jump from the rock but it took him much courage and talking up to jump.
To Poipu Beach – the beach is very populated by tourists. The view was nice with a large parking lot but nothing special.
The sun started setting so we decided to head back towards home and find dinner. We settled with Coconuts – Fish Cafe where I ordered the Local Style Seared Ahi Plate. Walked across the parking lot to Tropical Dream Ice Cream for some Thai Tea Ice Cream.
After all the hiking we had done the previous days, our clothes and shoes weren’t looking the best so we decided to head to Kapa’a Laundromat – open 24/7 to do laundry before we started our travels back home. We met a traveller from Montreal and met some locals who told us the history of Kauai during our laundry adventure. This one gentleman in particular told us how Kauai was never conquered by King Kamehameha so they are their own island before USA. His family owned land on Kauai so he has a different passport to show his is a true native of Kauai. His best suggestion for us was to just meet a nice Hawaiian man and move to the island. Those are fine words or wisdom to live by.
The flood that occurred earlier this year in February was such a disaster that they were still recovering. The northern part was still closed to public and plans were to reopen this area to the public in October 2018. So if you plan on visiting Ke’e (Tunnels) beach or anything west of Hanalei, you are out of luck.
Most things are closed on Sundays here. Very tropic and lush that it is a constant on and off rain and humidity. Island feels like Maui but traffic similar to Oahu but a single lane or 2 at a slow island pace.
We downloaded Gypsy Guide again for this – super helpful.
My itinerary for the day was to be a good hiking day. We started off with Sleeping Giant. We did the Sleeping Giant – West trail – You can park on the Lokelani Street. There are about 4 parking spots then you can park alongside the street (4-5 spots). The trail starts off going up a little incline. Once you get up to the top you will walk through a cool tree covered tunnel. Once you see giant pine trees you are in the right spot. You will spot a giant rock in the middle – this is your marker. You need to start walking up that hill in-between the giant pines which are mystical. Once you make it to the top of the hill after the pine trees, you will see the path split off. There will be another fork in the road when you reach the top, go right – you will see the bench and the shelters. You may think you have made it to the top, go left of the shelter and follow that trail down then back up to reach the head/chin of the giant.
After this hike, we hopped back into the car and went back down the road to our next stop – a view point – Ōpaekaʻa Falls which means rolling shrimp. There is a carpark that you pull into and walk further down to see the falls from a distance. You can cross the street to view the valley below. The rain started to pick up again and stayed a steady pace by this point.
We drove to our next hike destination – Kuilau Ridge Trail – There is enough space to park 5 cars – To start this hike, you need to pass the gate. This is probably a more Family friendly hike when it’s dry. The day we went was muddy and more difficult. I tried to avoid getting muddy but alas it didn’t last long. There are a few trees that have fallen onto the path that have not been moved that you need to climb over – This is where it would be difficult for the young or the older people to continue on. With the rain coming down at a steady pace, the water looked like thai ice tea due to the red clay. The hike up has some great view but once you make it to the top, the view is beautiful. If you pass the shelter and the picnic tables, there is a small narrow path on the left that you can take to walk out onto the ridge.
I’ve read many a blogs about the best hikes to do on Kauai and Wailua Falls is one I heard was a great hidden treat. You can technically climb down to the falls. There are 2 routes down. Route 1 is the easier way with ropes to aid your steep decline down. The hike down should be rather quick (when not wet). 10-15 minutes down. The entrance to this route is directly right of the falls after you have parked. You will see the green fence where there is an opening, which you need to climb over. Once you get over the fence, follow along the fence and hold on to guide you to the tree where there are ropes to help you down. There is an option to also walk behind the waterfall if you feel daring but it is a waterfall and the current is still quite strong so be safe. When we started to approach this fenced area, a local couple came back up after assessing the top half in which they turned back. They said it was very slippery and not worth going down and would come back another day. With my leg injury I halted myself but Lulu and Renee felt daring and ventured down. They said it was only a 10-15 minute climb down but I was airing on the safer side of things considering my leg. Probably 10-15 minutes after they started their descent, the rain started to pour again.
I waited for them in the car and also to wait out the rain. Our drive home wasn’t too far but we were definitely wet and muddy. Our shoes were encased in mud. After showering and drying off, we went drove north of our accommadations and had Saimin to warm us up. We ate at Saimin Dojo where I ordered the Garlic Shmoked Saimin – $11.50USD – it was definitely the right choice.
Travel day. This was probably not the best time to go on vacation as school had just finished and it was long weekend – Canada Day long weekend. The airport was rather full and our plane ride to Hawaii (10 hours in total) was also quite full as families were going on vacation. We flew Westjet to LAX for a stopover then with Delta to our final destination – Maui. We got our car rental from Enterprise – an Elantra that we named Frankie. The car rental is off the airport property and requires a bus shuttle to take you to it.
First stop before making it to our accommodation – Foodland. Foodland is one of the grocery chains with one big specialty – Poke. I grabbed wasabi poke & a chicken musubi for dinner. Time change wasn’t hitting too hard and timing wise, my friends – Herbie & Elvia were in Maui as well in nearby rental down the block so we went to meet up with them.
Road to Hana
The infamous Road to Hana drive is something one should attempt while on Maui. We decided to start our trip in reverse. We drove all the way through the Road to Hana past the town of Hana as this is probably the most time consuming and requires so much focus and light to drive. It is a 1-lane in each direction with tons of turns with occasional 1 car only bridges. The speed limit isn’t very high as you have turn after turn. Sometimes, it makes it easier to pull over to the side to let the locals pass if you happen to have people tailing you. Tiffany was our driver for this epic drive. Not going to lie, there were points during the drive I got a little dizzy but it passes. Our first stop at the very end past Hana was Pipiwai Trail which is apart of Haleakala National Park. Good thing Lulu was able to grab her brothers annual USA state parks pass as we save money for park entry fees. It would have been $25USD.
We did the Pipipwai Trail (which features a Bamboo forest) to Waimoku Falls then finished off at Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe’o before hitting the road again. It was highly recommended to download the Gypsy Guide and purchase the Road to Hana tour guide as they tell you about the history of Hawaii plus they tell you about places you should check out. After our hike through Pipiwai Trail, we followed the route back and with the helpful tip from the Gypsy Guide app, we found ourselves at Koki and Hamoa Beach before making our way to find lunch.
I had originally read that Braddah Hutts was a great place to eat but it unfortunately wasn’t open so we ended up going down the road to the food trucks – Da Fish Shack, Troys and a unnamed truck. I went with the unnamed truck and got the Coconut crusted Ono with garlic shrimp, mac salad and corn $16USD. The girls grabbed fresh fruit from the fruit stand which was cut up for them to eat on the go.
After lunch we went to Waianapanapa State Park. It’s free parking. We walked down to the Black sand beach. Once you get down the stairs, just to the right of the stairs, you will find the entrance to the cave (it’s not very large but it’s a interesting view from inside. If you continue down the beach, you can walk up and see the blowhole (try not to walk onto the wet rocks – indication of where the blowhole well blows). Tiffany was following the crabs and ended up a little too close for comfort by the blowhole. You can continue walking along the path to see the lava rocks. We ventured for a bit but we weren’t quite sure where it was leading to and it was getting really hot so we turned around and situated ourselves on the black sand beach.
We stayed at black sand beach for a little before deciding to head back on the road back towards Paia. The Road to Hana app was very resourceful on the drive back but we tried not to stop so we could make it to Hookipia Lookout to spot turtles. Herbie had mentioned that he arrived at Hookipia Beach around 230PM and there was a few dozen of turtles laying on the beach. When we arrived in the late afternoon, we had only spotted maybe 3 turtles.
The best view of the turtles on the beach was actually from above nearby the carpark. We went past the fenced area and onto the tall grassy area – be careful as this area is a cliff and make sure you are stepping onto solid ground. After watching the turtles lay on the beach and some surfing in the distance, we drove through Paia to find food. We wanted to eat at Paia Fish Market but it was way too busy. We walked across the street to Ululani Shave Ice for shaved ice. I got the Ulu (medium) with azuki red bean base with 3 flavours (Melona, Li HIng Mui & Guava) $5.50USD.
Since we were in that area of town, we decided to have dinner at Poi by the Pound for more traditional Hawaiian cuisine. I order the Lau Lau Plate $12.95USD (pork, wrappers in taro leaves, lightly flavoured with Hawaiian soft and slow steamed to perfection served with rice, poi, lomi salmon & salad). Poi is a unusual food to eat if you aren’t use to it. Poi is this purple paste. It is a Hawaiian dish made from the fermented root of the taro, which has been baked and pounded to a paste. It is usually served cold and you mix a little bit with meat to give you an interesting texture and flavour. Tiffany had the most unusual dish of poi with poke that is served separately then you mix them together – unusual but not bad.