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.
The sighs started coming in the night before from Lulu and Renee who were already sad that the trip was coming to an end. The final morning we woke up and took our last walk on the beach. We went back to our Airbnb to shower and final pack before making our way to downtown Kapa’a for breakfast.
We ate at Hemingway Art Cafe – french inspired cuisine. It’s hard to miss being a blue building. It’s a quaint little spot. I ordered The sun also rises. We walked the strip a bit to check out the surf shops for stickers decals to decorate their bottles with. Back in the car, we went to check out the plaza that was around our airbnb before we went to our last stop – Walmart.
Once again, Walmart has all the goodies one would want in terms of souvenirs for Hawaii – macadamia nuts, chocolate, candy, snacks, souvenirs etc. We picked up our last bit of souvenirs and on the way out, we spotted a sign that said ukulele sale – Scotty’s. Lulu was able to pick up a ukulele that was half made in China and half made in Hawaii.
We had a stopover in Los Angeles overnight from 1-8AM. We were thinking of taking an Uber around but with the price of $130USD for a single ride, we thought hey, maybe it’s cheaper to rent a car – which it was. Luckily at LAX, Enterprise is 24 hours however, you do need reservations. We did not have reservations but Renee turned on her data and we were able to book one and off we went in a car for the next few hours.
Our goal was to find some late night Korean BBQ but by the time we got the car rental and drove to the downtown area, it was nearing 2AM and the KBBQ places were closing. We ate at Sun Nong Dan and ordered the huge beef brisket soup dish – $35USD. Free wifi – yay.
It was around 3-330AM by the time we arrived at LACMA to see the Urban Lights. There wasn’t many people around (2-3 + 1-2 security guards). We pretty much had the Urban lights all to ourselves really. Lulu pulled out her ukulele and had a jam session for a bit. We hopped back in the car and went to California Donuts, which is also 24 hours, and I picked up a matcha old fashion and a blueberry old fashion with a Thai iced tea.
We didn’t quite know what to do at 4AM in LA, so we continued to drive around areas that would rather be busy during the day such as Hollywood Blvd and Rodeo Drive. We drove through Beverly Hills area as well but at one point, we just pulled over and tried to sleep a bit in the car – didn’t last long. Slowly drove back to the car rental place as the sun started to rise over LA. Back onto a plane for another 4.5 hours back home to Toronto.
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.
My friends had wanted to attempt the illegal way up to Stairway to Heaven with the people we met the previous day at Moanalua Valley Trail but ended up not going. The only person from the previous day on the trail still wanted to go had never been and we wanted the friend who was a local to take us. It also rained overnight and was raining in the morning when we awoke. In true Herbie fashion, we took it easy. We started off our morning at Liliha Bakery which is famous for their cream puffs. I ordered the lilikoi malasadas & coco cream puff.
There is a castle called the The Kaniakapupu Ruins off the side of the highway but apparently has been closed due to deterioration and vandalism – I am sure people still visit this site. We continued on to Nu’uanu Pali Lookout for a quick look. It was incredibly windy and the visit here did not last long. It is paid parking but Tiffany just stayed in the car as we took a peek and came back. On a dry and less windy day, this place technically has a few paths you can hike.
After turning around a few times, we found ourselves mall ratting for the day to get last minute souvenirs and we were on a mission to find the Hydroflask’s that have exclusive designs you can only get in Hawaii. We stayed at Ala Moana Mall for majority of the day after the lookout point. It is a half indoor half outdoor mall which also does performances on certain days. Similar to Yorkdale Mall back in Toronto, they have certain wings that carry high end brands and also lower end brands. The special feature with Ala Moana Mall is the food courts and the special hidden food court that is downstairs called Shirokiya Japan Village Walk. $1 beers all day everyday and loads of food options (mainly Japanese). They also have performances on weekends. It takes you to Japan in essence.
From the mall, we slowly made our way to the airport. It was bittersweet because although we were heading over to Kauai next, Tiffany was leaving us and heading to Calgary for work. Hawaiian Airlines flight was easy going but we were still worried about making the car rental hours once again. We did land a little earlier but I ended up just rushing and taking the shuttle over to Enterprise first and picking up the rental. A blue Elantra. We had booked an Airbnb at a vacation rental in Kapaa area. We checked in and went to bed as it was already midnight by the time we got in.
Stairway to Heaven – Haiku Trail – Moanalua Valley Park
This blog is great to help you find the right path to the Stairway to Heaven trail. I did read this early on in the planning on my trip (2 months prior) but I never referred to it again which was my mistake. Tripadvisor also has updated reviews.
If you have the time, download the Alltrails map app to your phone which will help you find the trails.
We decided to go the legal route up to Haiku – Stairway to Heaven via Moanalua Valley Park. You want to park at 1849 Ala Aolani St, Honolulu – Moanalua Valley Trail. There is a parking lot that opens at 7AM and closes at 7PM with water fountains, faucets and washrooms. If you think you will start before or end after 7AM or 7PM, you can park on the street in the neighbourhood. You start off by seeing a gate and signs – go through that gate and down the path you go. There are more signs and a foot brush station – indication you are going the right way. The path is flat and goes on for quite some time and you pass roughly 6 bridges. If it has rained the path will be muddy and there are markings to lead you through the forest to climb over a few trees to pass this huge muddy pool.
Once you get to the end of that flat part, the terrain slowly shifts and eventually you will see pink or organ ribbons attached to trees to help mark the trail. You will arrive at a group of signs where it looks like it is a fork in the road. This is before you start the actual trails to go up. If you are looking for the route up to Stairway to Heaven – LOOK FOR THE GREEN ARROW/MARKINGS. You will have to cross the river BUT only once. To the right of the cluster of signs, you will see a less maintained path with loads of palms – but if you turn that way, there is a little path not too far in that will be on the left that leads you to the river – if you can cross here, it will lead you to the path to Middle ridge (on the other side of the river, turn right. You will know if you are going the right way by seeing the curved tree branch that has Middle Ridge carved into it with a green spray painted H beside it. Then it is a elevated path going upwards. The path will get narrow and depending on weather, winds can pick up and and rain makes it slippery. There will be areas that it will be really narrow and there will be ropes to aid in your ascend.
If you do decide to cross the river straight past the signs, you need to veer right immediately once you have crossed the river bed and then you will see the Middle Ridge branch. REMEMBER TO FOLLOW THE GREEN Spray painted markers.
We made the mistake of not fully researching to know exactly where to go before we went which made for a unpleasant surprise. We crossed the river multiple times with another family and a couple. We did indeed follow the pink and orange ribbons but when we finally arrived at the top of the ridge, we thought we just had a pitstop before continuing. It turned out we climbed the ridge east of the Middle Ridge that led to Stairway to Heaven with no clear or safe way to get to the correct ridge from that height. To even make it to the top of that ridge, you will have ropes to help you up and down. It gets super muddy, slippery and windy up top. Don’t go if its’ rained a lot to watch out for flash floods where the paths through the rivers would be unseen.
What really sucked for us is that this took us awhile to climb/hike up and knowing the fact we didn’t actually get to see the stairways dampened out spirits as we had to descend the ridge with the ropes we just got up from. We did have to wait for the other family to make it up as the ridge is narrow and meant for a single person at a time. Especially with my injury, super hard to bomb it down and I literally was backtracking my steps going backwards down the ridge. We eventually made it back down to the start in which I mentioned the sign.
We bumped into another group who were just starting their hike. We (the couple, the new group and my friends) all tried looking for the right trail. At the sign, we decided to walk the trail that had palms but it looked very unmaintained as we started to walk further in. The couple had the all trails map and it also said we were veering off the trail. We turned back and finally noticed the little tape marker that said Middle ridge. Once again, from the main grouping of signs, you can either veer right before crossing the river and then the first left to cross the river is where you want to go then once you have cross the river, you will see the curved branch that says middle ridge on it. If you do decide to go straight past the sign and cross the river, you need to turn right immediately to see the curved branch. Our hike took roughly 6-7 hours to finish and at that point, we wanted to go the correct path up but at the same time, another 6-7 hour seemed daunting. We said goodbye to our new friends and left as we did have reservations for a luau that night. They did exchange numbers with one of the guys who planned on going the illegal route up the following morning.
I think also the fact that immediately once you see the middle ridge curved branch, the climb starts steep and muddy.
All dirty, we made a pitstop at Foodland on the way home to grab some food. We all took showers and then travelled to the west shore for our Luau at Paradise Cove. Free parking. It’s located in the same area as the West coast resorts but still quite lovely. We got lei’d with a shell lei (more so to decipher which group you were with). The luau was on was a decent sized property right on the beachfront with a wedding taking place a field over (music there overpowered at certain points). There is a beach access point from here for public and Paradise Cove use as it was in a resort area.
The seating / dinner tables are long family style tables and we were seated to the right of the stage far back. We reserved the basic package for $90USD. We met a wonderful mother & daughter who were meeting in Hawaii as it was their middle point. The daughter is stationed in Guam and the mother lives in California.
The site has many activities you can do before the dinner and show start. We of course lined up to get our temporary tattoos drawn on us then we lined up to get flower crowns and bracelets made. Remember, if you are wearing any flowers in your hair; wear it on your right side to signify you are single – left if you are married/taken and on both sides if you want to start something new ;).
The performances were pretty good but I feel for me, I was comparing it to my previous visit to the island and Polynesian Cultural Centre. The centre requires you to spend at least half the day to absorb everything and you get to visit the different “islands” and learn about each culture a bit more. They also have a river parade where each island is represents in their costumes and they dance on the floats.
For once, we slept in and “we took it easy” (as Herbie would say). Started off our morning going to Kamehameha Bakery. They are famous for their – poi glazed donuts. I also got a poi haupia donut as well.
In this same plaza, if you really enjoy ube, Ubae is situated. I grabbed a ube crinkle cookie.
The plan for today was to explore the city and take a break from hiking and beaches and explore the city. I’m an avid fan of graffiti and have been following the whole Powwow movement that gathers artists in different cities to create giant art murals around cities. Similar to what Miami has with Wynwood. The place to go for this Powwow Hawaii movement is Lana Lane in Kaka’ako. The Lana Lane Studio is a good starting point which also houses some art exhibits as well. The murals are all different in terms of style and look but definitely brighten the areas and give it more flavour. The area is mainly industrial in terms of car distribution warehouses but it’s like a hidden gem. There are some really cute boutique shops nearby called SALT at Kaka’ako.
Kaka’ako is relatively near Ala Moana Mall. We decided to leave the mall to another day but stopped by Don Quijote. Don Quijote is a major chain in Japan that has a bit of everything and where you stock up on food and souvenirs and other little nicknacks. For lunch, I wanted to take my friends to a local spot called Rainbow Drive-in. Its the typical fast food that Hawaiians love – you can get mixed seafood plates, loco mocos, burgers etc. I got myself a mini loco moco bowl and a salad (because we weren’t really eating greens).
Our plans were very much in the air for the afternoon so we messaged Herbie to see what they were up to for the day and in Herbie style he told us he was “taking it easy”. They went to the zoo earlier in the day but also mentioned that a beach volleyball court is usually set up at Waikiki Beach. We slowly made our way to the beach (word to the wise, Kuhio St is a one way and you need to loop around again if you miss the parking. There is paid parking closest to the beach but there is a lot that is slightly further away which is closer to the zoo where locals park for free). It turns out the beach court is set up sporadically when they feel like it nearby the pier in the middle of the beach where people jump off to boogie board from. It turned out that that day they indeed did not set up a volleyball court. Luckily Herbie and Elvia showed up with Tristan and a volleyball to pepper with for a bit and we did “take it easy” with the Ku’s on Waikiki beach for the afternoon.
We stayed at Waikiki Beach and took in the free Hula show called Kuhio Beach Hula Show that occurs every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, weather-permitting from 6:30pm to 7:30pm (6:00pm to 7:00pm Nov-Dec-Jan), free to the public at the Kūhiō Beach Hula mound on Kalākaua Ave near Uluniu Avenue across from the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī. It was very fitting and ended with the sun setting.
To end the night off, we stopped by the Mall and had dinner in the The Street food Hall. I got the largest bowl of greens I have had in such a long time from Indie Girl. I ordered the Kailua Sunrise bowl – $15.99USD (Baby kale, Quinoa, sunflower butter, roasted purple sweet potato, pomegranate dressing). The best part of this meal was most definitely the salted roasted sweet potato. It took me such a long time to eat it that I was entirely stuffed and the girls finished it off.
4AM wake up call on the 4th of July. The plan was to hike the Lanikai Pillbox but the parking area that I read was the place to park was actually blocked off by the security guard of the country club.
There were signs all over saying no parking so we decided to opt out of the climb up and went straight to Kailua beach to watch the sun rise. After the sun had risen, we got back into the car and stopped by McDonalds before making our way back to the beaches. Originally I wanted to goto Mokes and Bread for breakfast however it being the 4th of July, it wasn’t open. The roads around Kailua & Lanikai beach had signs everywhere saying no parking because of the parade but after looking at it more closely, we realized we could park up until 8AM. Since we had gotten there at 6AM, our day was still early that we parked near entrance 6 for Lanikai beach and stayed for about 30 minutes before continuing with the days itinerary. Down the Southeast coast of Oahu. Our next stop was Makapu’u Lighthouse trail. Super packed with cars everywhere and after 3 rounds of circling, we found a parking spot at the lookout point. We walked over and did the up trail for Makapu’u. I wore sandals/flip flops but shoes would be more comfortable. The path up is rather flat and is a paved trail going all the way up. The last time I was here, we did detour on the trail and at first, we walked towards the little white and red house and took the path to the actual lighthouse (well outside of the fenced government property) and also a few of my friends went down the side to the tide pools. The tide pools from what I recall was a trek to get down to so we opted out of that. I’ve heard great things about the tide pools but not worth it to climb down to eventually have to climb back up especially with my bum knee.
By the time we had finished the trail, it hadn’t even hit 10AM yet and it was turning into a scorcher. We continued down the road to Halona Blowhole and Beach. The blowhole was ok but the waves were so big that the blowhole didn’t compare. To get to the actual beach, you have to climb down some rocks but it’s worth it. The waves come in with a strong current but because of that, it creates the perfect opportunity for people to jump in off the side when the tide is high. Halona Beach was made famous by a 1950’s movie. It is also known as cockroach beach. You can go into the water but be warned that the current is strong because the waves come crashing in and pull out quickly so its not for the faint of heart to go deeper in than you need to and swim in the middle so you don’t get pushed into the rocks on the sides. There is a tunnel on this beach as well but it doesn’t quite lead to anywhere.
After a quick hour at the beach, we turned back down the road and stopped by Sandy’s Beach where they had food and drink trucks. Punchbowl Coffee truck was parked there and my attempt to see Eric from Terrace House was shattered as he wasn’t working. So far, no Terrace House sightings. I did pick up a Kobe style Milk tea $3.50 from Punchbowl truck.
Back on the road we went to our next destination and the final spot on my itinerary – Spitting Cave. The location on the map is correct and it takes you into a residential area (a posh area to say the least). It is on a dead end street and its seems like it led you to the wrong location similar to the Hollywood sign directions for LA. The directions are correct. You will see 2 poles with signs that seem quite inconspicuous and maybe some garbage in front of it but it is indeed the path down. It is a little alleyway that has reddish clay going down between houses. There is a makeshift rock stairway to get through and watch your step as it gets wet. This path leads you to the wonderful rock formation that houses the Spitting Cave. For those not faint of heart, you will find an arrow at the point where you are to jump off the cliff into the mouth of the spitting cave. You need to wait until the tide pulls in to jump and must climb the rock face to get back up. It is called Spitting cave because the formation has an inner cavern that collects the strong waves coming in and pushes it back out with the same amount of force that it spits it back out.
We did a slight detour to Hanauma Bay but with an entry fee of $7.50USD pp we decided to opt out and head back to Waikiki. I’ve been told this place is beautiful to see the national fish and also the view and snorkelling are great but not for us that day especially it being 4th of July and overcrowded. One last stop before heading home was Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas. I picked up the original and Li Hing Mui. $1.25USD ea (no filling). BUT PLEASE DO TRY THE FILLED ONES. The flavours are all great and each month there is a monthly feature. The shop might be small but it is mighty and flavour with its iconic sign outside leading you in with droves of people sitting outside eating their malasadas.
We rested back at the Airbnb before attempting to have Marukame Udon for late lunch/early dinner. Since it was an odd time (4PM) the line was short and we finally got to taste what everyone was raving about. There usually is a line up outside and the place is open from 7AM-10PM. I ordered the Nikutama Udon – Regular $6.25USD. You can also choose to add on tempura options and drinks as well for a few dollars. The line is long because they make the noodles fresh in house and you have to wait for them to cook while also waiting for the people to get their food, eat and leave. The actual restaurant seems to look like a food court style seating area. The turnover is rather quick though. For the quality and price, it is no wonder this place is always packed.
After dinner, we grabbed Matcha Cafe Maiko – I got the matcha soft serve with hojicha powder $5.50USD + $0.50USD for the powder. After our delicious meal, we walked around our area and did a bit of shopping. I wanted to check out a cute little coffeeshop/boutique called Olive & Oliver at the SurfJack Hotel. We stopped by other little cute shops before walking a bit to Waikiki Beach. Being 4th of July, we had messaged Herbie & Elvia to see what they were up to and arranged to meet to watch fireworks at the beach. The fireworks were ok but I think we also situated ourselves far away from the firing point. The beach was super crowded and we didn’t get that far in but we took in the fireworks. Connor was on my shoulders but didn’t seem too impressed with them and wanted down off my shoulder and immediately went into his stroller and went to sleep. If you do want to experience fireworks in Waikiki – 4th of July or every Friday, you need to goto the West side of the beaches closer to the Hilton.
We finished off the night back at the Mall and getting Magnolia Ice Cream. I got the single scoop of Macapuno Ube (with Coconut). It was a good idea at the time but a single scoop was just too much for me that night.
Our second full day in Maui, we tackled Iao Valley (opens 7AM-6PM) for our first hike of the day. $5USD for parking. After we parked, a gentleman came up to us and started talking to us as he had just finished his hike for the morning. He mentioned to us about the trail at the top of the hill behind the hut closest to the needle. Fun fact, the needle is taller than the Eiffel Tower. There is a sign that says do not pass but that is where you continue past and start your way going up. The path was relatively dry (until you get higher up – also if it hasn’t been raining) and it is narrow in certain spots with low hanging branches and some prickly twigs. There are sections of elevation and some downhill. I’m unsure of how long it took us to climb but the hike is well worth it for that view. You definitely travel away from the needle but you travel inward towards a lookout point that is in the centre of the valley. There are other trails that you can take to get down but for us, we took the same way we came up from. Not sure if it was timing or not, but we only interacted with another group of 3-4 at the top and maybe one other group on our way up and down so it’s a hidden little gem for those who want to take on the hike.
After that view, there was no need for us to venture down to the river so we continued on into town. We found ourselves at a coffee shop called Wailuku Coffee Company. I love to support locally sourced and made product when I travel so this place was perfect. I follow Roxy Surfer and model Kelia Moniz who had recently posted about this all natural organic suncream which was locally made in Hawaii by Kuleana Sun Protection and this coffee shop was selling them – small tin $12USD and 2.5OZ for $20USD. I also picked up a bag of fresh local roasted coffee beans for my father. They also have a fun staff who has good taste in music.
Originally, I wanted to goto Sam Sato’s for lunch however it was closed that day, so we ended up going to McDonalds. Especially in the states, I love getting 20 McNuggets because it’s so much cheaper than buying it in Canada and also exclusive to the islands – taro pie. The pie is so good!
After lunch, we drove an hour to Haleakalā National Park. You will see the sign for the road that leads you up to Haleakala and just continue to take this road. There are no lights on this road and at certain points, it hits residential. We went from 2000 feet to 10000 feet and along with that the temperature dropped a significant 20 degrees the further we went up. Luckily we have the annual national park pass. The road up has markers for 1000 feet elevations and as you get higher, you literally are driving in the clouds and then above the clouds. The roads are not as narrow and bendy as the Road to Hana but surely it is still a trek up. There is a sign that marks the last gas station before starting the trek up. We first stopped at the visitor center where we asked the ranger what ideally we should hike as we arrived to that visitor site at 230PM. She recommended we drive up to the last trail before the summit and try to hike as much as we could before making our way to the summit for sunset. Sunset was called for 715PM. We parked at the last trail before the summit and the view is beautiful. The crater looks out of this world. We mistakenly took the path that led you up the hill to a lookout point and made our own path down to the right trail (do not do this – stick to the paths).
Up that high, with the sun beaming, it makes it incredibly hot but once that sun starts to hide behind clouds, the temperature dips. Make sure to layer and bring clothing to keep warm. Wind makes it even chillier, so remember even though you are in Hawaii with average of 30 degrees C + humidity, 10023ft high will significantly be colder.
We walked the trail down into the crater and with the angle of the trails, the momentum just easily takes you down the trail. We made it to a certain point that overlooks the crater which a trail that keeps dipping lower but we decided to turn back to find a good parking spot up at the top of the summit. The hike back up was more difficult. Definitely recommend walking in zigzags to alleviate pain on the legs and work other muscles. We made it back to our car and followed the path up to the top. There is an observatory area that overlooks the crater where you can stay warm and where many would watch the sunrise from, However, for us, the sun sets on the opposite side of where the observatory is located. Being 10023ft up, the winds are strong and the temperature drops. We found the perfect spot for sunset. Along the top ridge overlooking the island below, there are lava rocks that jolt out on an angle that looks like a cave – that is where we planted ourselves. You should also bring something to sit on or grab one of the larger rocks to create a seat as you watch the magic of the sun setting and the changing formation of clouds dance which form shapes and figures. We claimed our spot in our “caves” rather early (around 6PM) and watched as everything shifted.
Once 7PM hit, everything went fast and the wonderful colours that appeared were pretty indescribable and I’m not sure if the photos will do it justice. Once that sun fully dipped, we bolted back to the car and drove back down. Luckily the roads here are lined with those reflectors on the ground. My original plan was to stay for sunset and then star gaze but we were chilled to the bone. Our GPS took us the back root to get back to our Airbnb in Kihei. We arrived back to the main level of the island and the temperature shift changed drastically 20 degrees. We peeled off our layers and back into shorts and tank tops.
Finished off our night eating dinner at Paia Fish Market – South Kihei. I got the Ahi burger with fries and an Maui Brewing Pineapple Mana Wheat beer $18USD. You order inside but you seat yourself and they will bring the food to you.
Our final full day in Maui started with us waking up and packing our luggage. Our flight wasn’t until the evening at 11PM to Oahu. We decided today would be a beach day. We made our first stop to wowwowlemonade where I got myself a Da Kine Acai bowl (organic acas, banana, organic blueberry, strawberry and coconut milk topped with granola, banana, strawberry, cacao nibs, organic hemp, organic coconut shreds, local honey and raw cacao custard) – $10.50USD. The girls got Lemonades in their reusable glass containers.
After getting our morning fix, we drove south to Ahihi-Kinau Natural Reserve. The drive down takes you through the resort area and higher end hotels where it is truly manicured. When I say manicured, I mean the grass and palm trees are pristine. All I knew going in was that Ahihi-Kinau was recommended as one of the best places to snorkel and see turtles however I didn’t research to see if it was also a place to spend the day at the beach. The beach is a rock beach so not a comfortable place to spend the day laying out. Parking is free and there are volunteers that will gladly inform you of what and where to go and what to do and see as it is a reserve.
We didn’t bring our snorkelling gear with us but we did walk down to the black rock beach for a little bit. On the same road we drove down, we went to check out Makena Beach – Big beach – free parking. Makena Beach is one of the most photographed beaches on the island. When we arrived, the beach wasn’t packed but had lifeguards on duty. The waves there are intense – super intense. The waves crash closer to shore and the current pulls you back in. The waves also crash and somehow also goes sideways. The sand is soft and the views of the waves are very entertaining. After we situated, Lulu and myself walked right of the beach entry and walked to the mountainside and climbed up to see what else was there. We made our way to the coast and watched a few people fish and on the other side of the mountainside was a smaller beach which is known as Baby beach also known as the Nude beach. It’s been said that each month on the full moon there are drum circles on that beach.
Since we didn’t quite want to venture Baby beach, we walked back and continued to the other side of the beach closer to the Ahihi-Kinau. That side wasn’t as nice as It was just black lava rocks however it has a cute area with large branches and a funky little cave. NOTE: Don’t climb things if you don’t need to and aren’t even doing it for a photo. I climbed the rounded tree and decided to lie down but automatically body weight had me falling over so my arm and back just slightly scraped up.
We left the beach around noon and headed north to Sam Sato’s Inc for lunch. Sam Sato’s has been around for so many decades. Of course, there was a waiting list in which you need to put down your name and number of people. You end up sitting in their courtyard until they are ready. The actual establishment is very diner like and simple. The most popular dish was the dry saimin noodles that comes with soup broth on the side. Saimin are a fresh yet thicker version of shanghai noodles served with fresh onion and bbq pork. I got myself a large dry saimin noodle $8.25USD & a lima manju $0.80USD which is a little Chinese dense pastry.
Since we were in the area again, we drove to Hookipia beach to see if there were turtles as Herbie had mentioned he went around 230PM and there were a load of turtles settled on the beach. It was indeed the perfect time to goto Hookipia Beach. There is an area in the corner of the beach that is restricted for people where the turtle set themselves up on the beach and lay out. This time around, there were loads of them. We stayed here to swim. You can actually get closer to the turtles when you are in the water. You SHOULD NOT TOUCH the turtles however, when you are in the water, they will swim right pass you. There were a few that would start to swim back into the ocean and literally swat/hit you at they push by.
We stayed at this beach until 530PM. Lulu and Renee at a certain point went off to go workout at a local gym. When you are up at the top lookout parking lot, if you go further right down the path away from the beach, there is an opening to go down to lava rocks where it was intense winds.
We ended up going to Walmart to pick up snacks and then to Foodland for dinner. I grabbed the Ahi sashimi plate $18.75USD. After eating in the car, we drove back to the car rental and off to the airport we went. Hawaiian Airlines to Oahu at 11PM. Stomach started to feel off and painful like it had the past few days but this time, it hit me harder. I might’ve been tanned but i was pale that night. Still unsure if it was food poisoning prior to my trip or if my stomach was weak from all the raw seafood I had been eating prior and during the trip. Who knows.
We arrived in Oahu and went to go pick up our car rental from Enterprise but we couldn’t. NOTE: car rental places close by 1130PM-midnight. Enterprise was closed. Trouble. We met an awesome employee who recommended we goto National and see if we could rent a car from them since they were the only ones still open. They honoured our car rental and we got upgraded to an SUV and we named it Fernando. We rented an Airbnb in Waikiki and our host was very accommodating and waited for us to get in. Our Airbnb is rather close to everything and directly across from the International Marketplace but most importantly, very close to Marukame Udon.
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.