I have been to many places around the world, I have made it to 26 countries in 2018, but Hawaii will probably stay on the top for some while. Gotta admit that only a few years ago I thought about Hawaii as a place with nice beaches, hotels, surfs and that was it. I had no idea how each of the islands is different, that there are so many awesome and different landscapes, things to do. We always go somewhere in December as that is the only period of the year I have some time to travel not only for the events I should take photos of. So we just squeezed that in between my shooting in South Africa and Christmas. We have been to four islands - Big Island, Maui, Oahu, Kauai.
I got back from South Africa and we left right the day after to spend there as many days as possible. The only bad thing about Hawaii is, that it is really far away from Europe. I fly a lot during the year so I should be used to it, but still 4 flights to get there was quite a lot. We went from Prague to London, then New York - we planned it so, that we could stop in New York on the way back to get a bit of Christmas atmosphere. Just to make the traveling a bit more comfortable we also planned it so that we spent a night in New York while traveling to Hawaii. So we did Prague - London - New York (got a free upgrade on this flight :) spent a night in a hotel near JFK and did NY - San Francisco, and SF to Kona (Big Island) the next day. We flew with British A to NY and then with Alaska airlines which was also quite nice as both of the flights were half full and so I had always 3 seats just for myself.
As usual we did not have so many plans in advance as there was just no time to plan anything, so the only thing we had was accommodation for first two nights and I also booked a rental car few days before our arrival. We booked all the cars with Alamo as it was recommended to me and I was quite satisfied with them for the first booking, so we got cars from them on the other islands as well.We just picked up our Jeep Wrangler and drove from Kona to the eastern part of the island where we had our accommodation at the house on the tree. Always wanted to stay in something like that, so when I saw it on AirBnB it was a must. The accommodation is in the middle of the trees, it is close to the main road and you can reach the Volcano national park in about 10 minutes.The first day we did a trip to Green sand and black sand beach. Green Sand Beach (car + walk) - you can drive to the parking and then walk to the beach for about an hour or so. If you have a 4x4 you can drive up to the beach (even though it is not really allowed, but there were several cars driving there when we got to the beach). It is quite nice walk anyway, so I did not mind to walk You can even jump on some locals` cars for about 20 USD if you do not have 4x4 and do not want to walk there. It is a nice walk and chill on the beach and the sand is really green :)
Black Sand Beach (car) - you can park right net to the beach, walk and sit on the black sand and chill there for a bit. You can also spot some turtles lying on the beach. Just do not get too close and do not touch them.
Kau Desert Trail - Little trail on lava till sunset (car + walk) - while driving back we saw some sign for another track which was actually on lava rocks and look interesting. It is a desert which is a combination of rocks and sand. Just walked there for like 40 min, took few photos and stayed there till sunset.
The second day we drove back to Kona, wanted to stop in the national park, but as we were entering the park we were informed there was no lava, so we just kept driving to Kona, with few stops on the way. After arriving to Kona, we just checked in, took a little walk around the city centre and drove up to the Mauna Kea (the volcano). You just need a 4x4 to get there. You first arrive to the welcome centre at the observatory, you need to check in, stay there for a bit to get used to the high altitude and then you can drive up. Just do not forget to take some warm clothes as the temperature gets easily down to zero (it is 4.200 m above the sea level). From Kona to the top, including the 30 min stop at the welcome centre - it is around 2 hours drive. If the sky is clear and you are luck enough, you can stop at the observatory on your way back and check some stars (we did not, as there were too many people) you can do observatory but we did not and just drove back to the hotel. The next day we had our flight to Maui scheduled. We flew with Mokulele (more than enough to be at the airport 1 hour before the flight, maybe even 30min is ok). It was more like a sightseeing tour as it was on a small plane, so would definitely recommend that (around 50min flight)
Airbnb - Picturesque Treehouse - Couple`s Getaway (2 nights 226 USD) - very nice tree house in a remote place. A bit humid and cold in the morning, but definitely nice experience.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Kailua - Kona (1night 127 USD) - nice room, really average breakfast.
Hawaiian Style Cafe - the amount of food was just insane. We got some bowl with tuna and sea food and could not finish it, but it was really delicious.
Aloha Mix Food Truck in Naalehu - we got some really good shrimps there.
Punalu`u bake shop in Naalehu - some good sandwiches, donuts and coffee for breakfast
Alamo - Jeep Wrangler (3 days - 124 USD)
Once again we got a car from Alamo. This time Ford Mustang as we knew we would be driving a lot, doing the road to Hana, so just wanted to enjoy it a bit more. The first day we just got some lunch at the food trucks near the airport and drove down to lie on the beach for a bit. We went to the Maluaka beach. It was quite nice, really easy to park and access. We stayed there for few hours and then drove up to watch the sunset a bit more on the West. We went to the beginning of the Lahaina Pali Trailhead. You just park the car net to the road underneath the trees and you will easily find the start of the trail. We only walked about 10-15 minutes to get up a bit so we could see the sunset, but not doing the whole trail.
The next day we did the road to Hana. It is definitely a whole day trip even though it does not seem so far, the road is twisty all the day, there might be a lot of traffic and it is definitely worth to stop several times. There are many waterfalls and coasts to stop at, walk a bit, do a little trail, have a coffee. Just do not rush, there are many things to see. We got the Mustang, so we could fold the roof and enjoy the road even more. You see a lot above you while driving. There are many trees, plants, etc, so you can really appreciate having a cabrio on that drive. We stop by the first sign of waterfalls, - Twin falls. Honestly it was not really worth it, you could see some better ones along the road. We left the the main road few times to go down to the coast. The best stop was definitely at Keanae Peninsula , where we stayed for a bit just watching the waves. We started the day a bit late, so we did not have so much time to enjoy everything as we knew the main thing was the Pipiwai trail with its bamboo forest. We only stopped at Nahiku Market Place to quickly get some lunch. The shrimp tacos were absolutely amazing. Last half an hour to get to the Pipiwai the road gets a bit worse and tiny, but nothing serious. You arrive to the welcome centre, the starting point of the trail, pay the entrance fee, park and you walk up for around an hour or so. It took us a bit longer as we stopped several time some photos. Walking up you see some really nice trees (on the photo) and the highlight is definitely the bamboo forest. From there it is another half an hour to get to the end where the waterfall is. As we went there swimming was not allowed in the little lakes, but if you are lucky enough you can get some nice refreshing bath as well. We took the whole Hana road (back to the city) in the dark, which was anything but not pleasant, but had no other choice. Maybe it could be a good idea to have spend one night somewhere around there, but we decided to get back to our hotel. The problem is that in December the days are quite short and it gets dark around half past six if not earlier. After about two and half hours, maybe a bit more we got back to Paia and had dinner in the Paia Fish market (restaurant on the corner of the two main streets) - definitely a good choice. The next day we just chilled a bit. We started with some great breakfast - KIHEI CAFFE - it can get quite crowded, but definitely worth to wait a bit. When we arrived there it was full and we were like 15th in the line, but it was quite fast. Anything you get is just huge and delicious. After that we just went to different beaches on the west (north west of the island) saw a turtle just after a 30 seconds to enter the water for the first time (though it was an usual thing, but at the end it was the only one we saw for the whole trip). At the end of the day just bought some sushi in the supermarket, got a few local beers (made on Maui) which tasted quite good - the Maui brewing Co is definitely recommended. Some interesting stuff like a wheat beer with pineapple, dark ale with coconut, etc. That was our last day there, the next day we just drove to the airport and flew with Hawaiian to Honolulu.
Days Inn by Wyndham Maui Oceanfront (3nights 490 USD) - not the worst, but super tiny room, quite humid in there (my camera stopped woring after just being in the room for two days)
Choice Health Bar in Paia - awesome breakfast, avocado toast, acai bowls
Nahiku Market Place - Food trucks by the road to Hana - shrimp tacos
Paia Fish market in Paia
Alamo - Ford Mustang (4days 236 USD)
Flew with Hawaiian, got again the Ford Mustang, first for 4 days and as we decided to stay a bit longer I just called Alamo and got extra two days by phone - super easy. When we got out of the rental car we just drove to the Ho`omaluhia Botanical garden. When we arrived and I was about to take some photos I realized my camera did not work. It got wet by just being in the hotel room in Maui and I could not turn it on. As I could not imagine to be without a camera we googled there was a Canon service in Honolulu so we went there. They told me that there was no power coming in and that they could not fix it there in Hawaii and that they would need to ship in to San Francisco and got it back to me in a week or so. That was not really an option, so another thing I googled was a rental camera store. Luckily found Hawaii Camera (www.hawaiicamera.com) where I got Sony a7 III with the metabones (as I had my Canon lenses with me) for 162 USD for 9 days (7days of actual rental, plus 2 days for shipping from Kauai) - which is definitely good price. It took some time, so to save the day we decided to go to at least to Diamond Head. Unfortunately arrived like 10min late, so it was closed already (at least they did not allow people to go up (it is usually open from 6am to 6pm and they only allow you to start to walk up at 4:30). After not getting to Diamond we quickly went to Koko Head. Arrived quite so we only got to the middle of the stairs when it got dark and did not really want to walk the rest in the dark so we decided to go back. So we have been to Koko, but not at the top, but at least saw a nice sunset from there.
The second day we made the biggest trip in Hawaii. We went to Haiku Stairs through the Moanalua trail. Thats also called the “legal way” to get up. You basically go from the other side of the hill to arrive to the top of Haiku stairs. When you do a little research you find a lot of recommendation to go there with a guide, but we went alone. The only thing you need to be careful about is to get the right way up. I just checked this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddeWfEJiGjk and was able to find it quite easily. If it is wet, which it was when we went up, spikes could be a good thing, but we even made it without them not having so many issues. Just be sure you take enough clothes, rain jacket (it started to rain few times), enough water, some food, good hiking shoes and that it is. It is not an easy hike, especially when the weather is not good, there are several ropes to help you through the steepest parts, but it is definitely worth it (check the video for some parts of the hike). All together it took us around 8-9 hours to go up, stay there for a bit and go down - they way down was sometimes even worse as it was really slippery and your legs start to hurt a bit after the long walk :) Third day as we were tired after the Haiku stairs we just went to Lanikai beach, which is probably the most beautiful one on Oahu, but as it got windy we got back in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day on Waikiki beach. It was quite nice to chill a bit, so definitely recommended to take a day off like this. The next day we went once again to the Ho`omaluhia Botanical garden as we basically did not see anything the first time and left. There is the “famous insta road” at the entrance (it is at he beginning of the video) , so they even put there signs you cant stop there and take photos - so we took some while driving :) Did several stops and when we got to the very end of the road we took some photos like this:After visiting the garden we drove to the Byodo Temple which is a half - size scale replica of the original one in Kyoto. Really nice temple with some garden around where you can walk for a bit and feed the koi fish as well as several birds around. The next thing to visit was Pearl Harbor. Guess everyone knows what happened there and would say it is a must while you are in Hawaii. At the end of the day we went to the Waikele Outlet for some shopping (https://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/waikele) and must say it was pretty good.
When we were coming back to the hotel I saw some billboard about the Billabong Pipe Masters. So when we arrived to the hotel I checked it and realized it was just happening in the north of the island, so the plan for the next day was quite clear. We went there in the morning, spent there about 2-3 hours but they never got out as the waves were not good enough so they even decided to cancel it fo that day, so we actually did not see any competition at all so we just drove back and did the sunset at Diamond head. When we got up I realized I forgot something in the car so I run back down and up (in less than 20 minutes) so if you arrive at 4:30 pm (after that they wont let you in) you have plenty of time to walk up, stay there for a bit and get back down before 6pm. Before heading up we got acai in pineapple at one of the stands on the parking and it was amazing. The next day we went to spend the sunrise at Lanikai beach (as it was the best place to be as I read somewhere), but felt a bit cold to go to the water, so we just lied down for an hour and enjoy the sun coming up.After that we just drove by the east coast to get to Hanauma Bay to do some snorkeling. I have read several reviews saying it is one of the best place to snorkel so was really excited about going there. Unfortunately it was a huge disappointment. It was extremely overcrowded and there was not so much of a marine life as expected. You could definitely see more people than fish under the water. We spent there just about 2 hours and drove back to Lanikai. We did some snorkeling there as well, but did not see much, so we just chilled on the beach and then drove back to the hotel and the next day in the morning we left to Kauai.
Aqua Pacific Monarch (4nights 628 USD) - quite nice a big apartment with kitchen. Really close to Waikiki beach, the shopping mall, all the restaurants. Nice pool and hot tube on the top of the building. The only problem was the parking as it was like 40 USD a day.
Kuhio Banyan Hotel (2 nights, 233 USD) - as we decided to stay 2 more days and the first hotel was not available we moved to this one. Quite simple, nothing special, but ok for two nights. We did not really spend time in the hotel anyway.
Marikame Udon Waikiki - the famous noodle restaurant. If you go there for dinner get ready to wait for about 20minutes in the line on the street. The food was really good, probably worth these 20min, but would not come there again.
Zigu (zigu.us) - Seaside avenue - probably the best dinner we had in Hawaii
Shark’s cove food trucks - opposite the shark’s cove there are several food trucks which were quite good.
Alamo - Ford Mustang (4 days 236 USD)
Hawaii Camera - www.hawaiicamera.com
Waikele Outlet - https://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/waikele
At first we planned to spend a bit more time on this island, but as most of the island, at least the lot of trails were still closed after the flooding, we rescheduled it a bit and stayed longer on Oahu and spent only two night on Kauai. We got the car in Alamo again and drove straight to the Waimea Canyon. A place you cant miss. Completely different to anything else we have seen on the other islands. It is also called the Grand Canyon of Pacific and there is definitely a reason for that. We just drove to the main viewing point - thats where you get when you put the canon to the google maps and follow the signs. You can get some nice views there but it could also get a bit busy with lot of tourist. We just drove further in direction to Kalalau lookout and stopped few times (where the road got a bit wide) and just walked up to see the canyon. You can actually get some better views there (the photo) than at the officially marked lookouts. When we got to the end to the Kalalau lookout we were quite lucky to clearly see the Na Pali coast. It usually gets quite foggy and you cant see anything, but as the sky was clear, we also decided to do a little trail. The Kalepa Ridge trail starts right at the lookout. It is said to be difficult, but actually it is quite ok. Would just recommend hiking shoes as it gets quite steep sometimes, also a bit narrow and you walk quite close to the edge. So it might be dangerous sometimes, especially if it is wet, but it is not difficult in terms of physical effort. It might take like 40 min to get to the end. Would say it was probably the best hike we did in Hawaii even though it was not that long as some others. The views are just out of this world!
As the Kalalau trail was closed the only option to see the Na Pali coast properly was the helicopter trip. I knew from the beginning of our trip this was going to be the highlight of that and was good it was almost the last thing we did. It was just breathtaking! We did that with Mauna Loa Helicopters, just two of us and without the door. You just need to do a little briefing before they get you to the helicopter and then you can enjoy an hour flight around the island. We saw the whole Canyon, the Na Pali coast, not just from the distance, but we actually got quite close into the Kalalau valley and other places. Definitely worth every single dollar se spent on it. We did it in the morning and when we got back it just started to rain, so it was such a perfect timing. We finished the best morning with the best breakfast/brunch in Hawai - Java Kai (in Kapa`a) and stayed the rest of the day in the hotel just chilling. We did so many trips during those two weeks that I was actually quite happy it was raining and we could just stay in the hotel for the rest of the day. The next day we jus checked out of the hotel, got to the airport and flew to Los Angeles and further to New York to spend few days there.
Kauai shores (2nights 300 USD) - quite decent but old resort close to the airport. Good restaurant and bar, pool, hot tube.
Kauai shores restaurant - we just had dinner in the hotel - some super nice and smooth ribs
Java Kai - the best breakfast in Hawaii - as always some toast with avocado and acai bowl and some really nice coffee
Mauna Loa Helicopters (670 USD for two without doors) maunaloahelicoptertours.com
Alamo - Jeep Wrangler
So that was our Hawaiian trip. I guess you can do even more activities during two weeks visit. Probably do more hikes, etc, but I think this schedule as we did it was quite nicely balanced (even though my GF would not agree I guess) and we also had some nice chilled days. I always want to see as much as I can, but it is always a bit different to when you plan it on a paper than in a real time, so even though I had some more plans we were just too tired some days so the day on the beach was needed. I only put the names of the restaurants that were good enough to mention and several times we also just cooked in the apartment we stayed in as food in Hawaii can get quite expensive if you eat every day breakfast, lunch and dinner in the restaurant.
CHECK OUR VIDEO FROM THE TRIP !!!
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