Notes from our trip to Hawaii

Notes from our trip to Hawaii - things we're really happy we did...

We looked at a bunch of Hawaii books, and settled on the "Revealed" series by Andrew Doughtry. This was after two of the three people we rented from encouraged us to buy the books. We found them invaluable – from finding places to stay (although I read about the coffee farm in the NY Times travel section…under the Frugal Traveler column) - to figuring out where to park when going to the black or red sand beaches, to where to eat on our way to Hana. You ARE going to Hana, right? PLEASE DON'T GO BACK THE SAME WAY – instead, throw caution to the wind and continue on around the mountain. I know, all the travel books say it's virtually impassible – but we found that description to be laughable. The road is not only passable – but there were only a couple of places that it could have even been remotely considered dangerous. You do NOT need a four wheel drive to continue on around the mountain. Do it. Do it. Do it. Okay, getting back to planning - in the event that you need help on what to pack - check this list out...it's on the fantastic site Go Visit Hawaii.

Here are a list of other things you should absolutely do while on the Big Island or Kauai. I don't have nearly as an exhaustive of a list for the Big Island or Kauai – but if you end up going to either, there are a couple of things you should do. You simply MUST find out where the lava is flowing into the ocean – and then go there. You'll find lots of (government) signs warning you that the road is closed, off-limits, etc. Then, when you finally get there, you'll find county employees directing you into (free) parking lots. We found that very humorous. If you go to Kauai, you must visit Waimea Canyon. The drive is spectacular – as is the canyon (although not nearly on scale with the Grand Canyon…not even remotely the same). We also did Smith's Luau on Kauai – we read that it was much more economical than the ones offered on Maui…and we did not go away unhappy. If you go to Kauai, do yourself a favor and check out the Waipouli Beach Resort – we found it to be superb on every level. Here is a link to the home we stayed in. The owners were fantastic too - ensuring that we knew what to see and do on the island long before our trip. And, because the unit wasn't rented out on the day of our departure, they graciously allowed us to check out very late...which allowed us to shower and change before our long flight home. Excellent! When you pull the website up, we were in the building to the right of the (incredible) pool – but our room overlooked the ocean, not the pool.

OK, on to Maui: I'll just give you a list of what we found to be the highlights – and NOT in any particular order. But, if we were to go back, we'd try and hit all of these again. Keep in mind that we were there in July – and as I understand it, the weather will be somewhat different in the fall and winter (but, it was not hot in July…quite comfortable as a matter of fact). I believe, though, that the rainier weather occurs in the fall and winter – which means the waterfalls should look great (some were totally dry when we were there).

  • Nakalele Blowhole – WALK to the bottom….it's not as far as it looks. Do NOT forget your camera! The pictures of Andrew with the sprays of water were taken here. It's maybe a half hour drive from Kaanapali - and well worth it
  • Lahaina Town – spend an hour or two just walking/browsing the shops
  • Make sure to see the Banyan Tree Park
  • Kåanapali – I assume this is where you'll stay - most people do. It was a bit out of our budget (lol – it was WAY out of our budget!), but we did have lunch here one day – and I swam in the ocean. Be forewarned, though, the ocean floor drops off almost immediately – making it difficult to enjoy a long swim here. 15 feet out, and you will NOT be bouncing off the bottom
  • Costco – THE place to buy your staples, milk, cereal, fresh Hawaiian pineapple, Hawaiian T-shirts, etc. It's about a mile from the airport. Make it your first stop. We stocked up at Costco on all three islands – then almost always ate breakfast & dinner in our condo…and splurged every day for lunch. This worked out great as we saved a ton of money, but still had one nice meal out each day
  • 'lao Needle – you'll no doubt recognize this place from pictures. There is a gorgeous park below. Take the upper path one way and the lower path the other
  • Pa ia – a town on the north side of the island known for it hippies and millionaires. You'll go through it on your way to Hana (you are going to Hana, right?!)
  • Paia Fish Market – GREAT place to have lunch or dinner
  • As you're leaving Paia, watch for an overlook way up over the ocean. We stopped here and watched surfers below for a half hour or so. Incredible view
  • The Road to Hana
  • Wai'anapanapa Black Sand Beach – close to Hana. The "sand" is pitch black – but it isn't really sand; it's made up of tiny to quarter-sized round balls of lava (pictured just after the moonscape shots in our video). Feels really neat to walk on, and even neater just to see. Also, there is a lava tube you can walk through here that's pretty cool
  • Hana – we made the mistake of buying a late lunch here (we did lunch in Paia on another day) - the food SUCKED, and it wasn't cheap. But, we did enjoy our lunch under a town pavilion at the ocean's edge – and the kids from the local school eat there as well. Our boys befriended some of the kids – and others came and ate with us. They LOVE the mainlanders – they weren't out to sell us anything - they just wanted to hear stories about Atlanta and Suwanee. And, they loved sharing their stories. So, even thought the overpriced food in Hana was crappy - lunch itself was AWESOME (hint: pack a picnic ahead of time)
  • Red Sand Beach – just beyond Hana.There are two red sand beaches – you want the one off of Uakea Street. Parking was easy – and the walk to the beach was a couple hundred yards. The walk down to the beach was a bit more strenuous – but certainly worth it. How many people can say they've been swimming at a red beach? Actually, Georgia red clay is a better description of the color. Pretty cool
  • 7 Sacred Pools. An ABSOLUTE MUST! Get in the water! When we went, the new park was under construction – so we had to park a long way away…but it was spectacular (the pools, not the park itself....which we could tell was also going to be fantastic). There's a picture of Andrew getting one of his Junior Ranger (NSP) badges here. Andrew and I swam in all seven pools. Somehow we only managed to take two or three pictures of the pools themselves. WTH??!!
  • Lindbergh's grave is just beyond. You c'an't really see much, except where he's actually buried. Not worth stopping for. However, as far as burial places go - it's spectacular
  • The road on the back side of Maui. As previously mentioned, it IS passable, and is calling out for you to drive it. You'll see a whole different side of Maui (literally and figuratively). The car rental place that we rented from highly suggested we not drive it. I am sooooo happy we did. Alyson, who is not one to enjoy long drives, is also happy we drove it. The views are not what one might expect in Hawaii - they are very stark. Plus, you'll go through Kula, which is beautiful in it's own right. From here, if you were in Hana around lunchtime, you'll be able to see all the twinkling lights of West Maui
  • Kula – is a small town you'll pass through, most likely late in the evening on your way back to your hotel/condo. We stopped for gas at a roadside gas station. I wish I could remember more about it – but if by chance you gas up here, there were hand made signs advertising 'personal sized' cakes. We bought a couple of them…and they were every bit as delicious as one Alyson makes. The owner was a world famous surfer in his younger days…and his wife bakes the cakes. Really wish I could remember his name
  • The guy pumping gas used to live on the mainland, but moved to Maui to escape some past issues - he told me that working at a gas station was not his life's dream - but at this point in his life, it was working out for him. I totally sympathized - and looking out at the vast expanse below Kula - with the lights of Wailea twinkling in the far distance - who could blame him?
  • We got into town too late (well past dinner time), but I would have loved to have seen this gallery. We came through Kula on our next to last day in Maui – otherwise I would have gone back…his paintings really capture my memories of Hawaii. Reason to go back someday. (but, it took me thirty years to get there, something tells me I won't be going back anytime soon)
  • Haleakala National Park – is another MUST. But, don't try and fit this in on the same day you do Hana. Each requires a day. We did not do the sunrise here, but don't feel we missed anything. The drive to the top is SPECTACULAR – don't be in a rush to get there. Once you get to the summit – stop, catch your breath, and then walk to the very summit. Several pictures from this adventure are in my slideshow – the moonscapes, the clouds below us, the silversword flower
  • As mentioned, I did NOT find the beaches on the north side of the island all that enticing (I swam in a couple dozen places over the ten days we were there…so I had a pretty good idea of what's there). We LOVED the beach on the south side, which just happened to be where we stayed. Wailea Beach, which our condo overlooked, was the most outstanding beach I swam in. The floor was beautiful soft sand that didn't drop off – and looking to the left was the backside of Maui (the road, after Hana) - and two other islands are right there as well. Wailea Beach is actually a very pretty string of beaches – lots of free parking – lots of (very nice) public restrooms/showers. The downside? It's a fairly long drive from Kåanapali – and probably not worth it unless you simply want a morning of great swimming…and you aren't finding it at your place. Oh, and it's also the less expensive side of Maui - so if you're still planning your trip - and you're on a budget - then I HIGHLY recommend checking out places to stay in this area. We found most of our accommodations on VRBO - and without exception found the owner's of the condos we rented to be excellent sources of tourist information. They were mainlanders who rent their vacation homes in order to afford them - and they genuinely wanted to ensure we had a great time while visiting their slice of paradise
  • Make sure you stop at a couple of roadside Hawaiian Shave Ice stands (there are several on the way to Hana). Our favorite, by far, was a joint called Jo-Jo's on Kauai

I think that's about it for Maui. Everyone we talked to said to not take the helicopter ride on this island – that they are much more spectacular from Kauai. But, several people also said that the all day "cruises" out of Maui are worth it. They are basically HUGE catamarans that take visitors to one of the nearby islands, with a stop or two for snorkeling. It wasn't in our budget – as we (very wisely) spent extra money getting to the Big Island Volcanoes National Park and a wonderful B&B on a coffee planation (really, more like a HUGE yard) and Kauai (the garden island).

If you've made it this far, and landed directly on this page by means of a search, you might want to watch our short video - it's only about two and a half minutes long and packs a lot of cool pictures of the places above into it. If you like music, then turn your speakers up and enjoy the pictures set to Hawaii Five-0.

Cheers – or as they say in Hawaii….Mahalo!

Dave