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.
I’m usually not one to travel in the summer due to the fact that for a short period in time, Toronto has great weather and also because I dedicate my summer travels to volleyball (9-Man). It also is prime time for work opportunities. I made an exception this time around as it all started with my friend Lulu trying to convince me to join her and Renee back in Feb/March to goto Hawaii with them. With this being said, it led to us booking a one-way ticket to Maui. With the one-way ticket purchased, it left me to planning a trip that we could do in a 2 weeks span and also island hopping. Once my itinerary was made, I was able to convince (not very hard to) my friend Tiffany to join us making us a group of 4. I have previously been to Hawaii back in 2014 to photograph my high school friends wedding and staying in Oahu for 13 days – it was amazing and I was mistaken for a Kama’aina surfer girl (a local).
Looking at my last few trips, you can probably tell that I am a very ambitious person and my itineraries are jam-packed. This one was no different. For 2 weeks, we made it so we would island hop – Maui to Oahu to Kauai. This itinerary was made 1.5 months before the trip was to happen and a month before, I injured my leg – side note: sprained my hamstring a month before and didn’t let it rest enough – knee irritation during trip.
For good quality poke anytime, anywhere – goto Foodland.
Download the Gypsy Guide – for your most in-depth car ride. It is an off line audio guide that tracks where you are and will tell you where to stop off to get the most of the islands. It is also very informative and fills you in with all the history that makes Hawaii what it is. We downloaded it for Maui especially for the Road to Hana and also for Kauai.
And of course, last bit of advice: Check airport car rental hours before booking your flights to ensure the offices are open when you land. Late late night flights are no good if you can’t actually leave the airport.
Some facts about Hawaii:
Hawaii is one of the only places in the world that I cannot really tell ethnicity apart. That is because it is a mishmash of many ethnicities and of course tanned complexions. The reason for such mix of ethnicities comes from back in the day when the concept for having an owner and workers started. Before that, people believed they could just survive off the land and live well that way. There was a shortage of workers to work plantations once they adopted the owner and workers system. Since there was a shortage, Hawaii took in workers from different parts of the world such as China, Japan, Philippines, Korea, Puerto Ricans, and Portuguese etc.
After each ethnic group started to immigrate to Hawaii for a better life, the locals started to feel like they were taking all the jobs and started to xenophobia them over and over as a new group came in. Sugar cane plantations were a huge source of income however in 1990, 150 years of plantation ended as the introduction of high fructose sugars started being put into food and the demand for real sugar dropped.
100% Kona Coffee is one of the highest qualities however the price that comes with it isn’t always ideal.
Hawaii has also banned non-coral friendly sunscreens.
Now onto my itinerary. To make the most of our time, I tried to align each day to explore certain areas of each island and tried to alternate hiking days with beach days. I think the biggest thing I am happy to have done was reversing the Road to Hana route – Drive all the way to the end of Road to Hana and explore in reverse for optimal time at Pipiwai Trails and less tourists.