3 WEEKS IN: HAWAII
If you're able to pronounce Humuhumunukunukuapua'a you are part local already.
That's the name of Hawaii's state fish and your companion throughout your entire trip. Surprisingly, right here in the US there's a place where the snorkel is comparable to the snorkel in some of the most exotic islands in the world. And that place is Hawaii. No need to dive or swim far, hundreds of colorful and tropical fishes will be waiting for you right by the shore. There are hundreds of beaches, some of them so secluded that you'll have the place just for yourself. That and the hidden waterfalls make Hawaii a very private and exotic experience. You can also go to the most touristic places, but you'll be missing out on the authenticity of the most virgin places in its islands.
Our first stop was Waikiki, O'ahu. It's probably one of the most touristic places in Hawaii so, try to spend just a few days there. The beachfront is really crowded but seeing all the surfers and the boards is such a cool view. Plus, is not everyday you can lay on a beach and, at the same time, see the "Diamond Head" volcano.
While in O'ahu, you can also spend a morning visiting Pearl Harbour. There are 4 attractions: The Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine museum, the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum. If you want to visit them all it would take around 6h.
If you happen to be in O'ahu in July, don't miss the chance of going to Prince Lot Hula festival, held at the beautiful Moanalua gardens. The festival is immersed in Native Hawaiian culture and features crafts, hula dances, hawaiian games, etc. Just because of the gardens and the huge Hitachi tree, it's a worthy trip.
But to me, the best part of being at O'ahu was Hanauma Bay. A beach formed within a tuff ring that is both a Nature Preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District. Most of the people go there to snorkel among the amazing coral reef and the more than 400 hundred fish species that the bay has. You'll be seeing clownfishes, turtles, the famous Humuhumunukunukuapua'a fish and so on. You'll need to be careful with the current because you can get hurt with the coral.
After a few days in the main island, we flew to Maui where we stayed for a week. The first 3 days we stayed in the west part of the island, at a town called Lahaina. That's probably the most touristic place in the island and you'll be able to attend a Luau at the Old Lahaina Luau which is the most popular one. You'll spend an evening watching dances and crafts surrounded by tiki torches. You'll have access to the open bar and buffet and then gather around for the Imu celebration where a Kalua pig its removed from its underground oven. When the sun sets, the luau begins and with music and dances they will tell you the story of the hawaiian people from past to present.
Lahaina it's also a good place if you want to learn surf since the waves aren't huge, unlike other beaches around. They'll give you a huge board so, believe me it's really difficult not to stand up even if it's your first time.
If it's not your first time surfing you might wanna try Honomanu Bay, Ho'okipa Beach and Jaws. Near Lahaina, there is also a very cool spot for snorkel called Honolua Bay. You'll need to park your car by the road and then descend to the bay on foot. You'll probably have the place for yourself, since not many people go there but it's a great spot to swim and see big fishes. There's no sand, just rocks so I wouldn't recommend you to go there if you just want to chill.
If you are able to be out of the water, which will be hard, there are two beautiful places you can visit. One is the Iao Needle, a lush valley where vegetation covers lava remnant. It's a short hike that might take around 2h between the drive and the visit.
And if you want to experience the feeling of being in another planet, visit the Haleakala National park and its crater. Yes, it looks like Mars. Each morning, hundreds of visitors go to the summit of the volcano to watch the sunrise. After the sun is out, get ready for a huge hike adventure at this scenic place. Bring enough water and trekking shoes so that you can survive the long distances as the park has many overlooks. There are several trails you can follow and most of them will take you around 7h. You'll see different craters and to truly appreciate their size you need to hike among them.
Once you've visited that part of Maui I'd suggest you drive towards the east and find accommodation at Hana to stay a couple of days. Mind you, the weather in that part is way more humid and cloudy, so don't expect to sunbathe there. The drive could be long but don't worry, the drive itself it's a touristic route called "The road to Hana" where you'll find 8 different spots you can stop at.
- Paia. Stop at Alice in Hulaland, the best store in Maui to buy Tiki-themed souvenirs.
- Waikamoi Nature Trail. A small trail that will take you to the Waikamoi Falls.
- Ke'anae Arboretum. A botanical garden with two walking trails where you'll see bamboo and different tropical plants.
- Ke'anae Peninsula. Great views of the ocean and almost the only place to get food. They are famous for the banana bread.
- Wailua. It's not a major attraction, but it's worth a stop for some great scenic views.
- Puakaka State. Stop to see some small waterfalls.
- Ulaino Road. Check the Kahanu Garden, a hundred acres of tropical plants. And don't miss the Blue Pool, a famous waterfall.
- Wai'anapanapa. The most distinctive thing at the park it's the black sand beach and a couple of caves you can visit.
Once you get to Hana, you can stay at a hotel or you can check the cottage we stayed in. It's very well located and secluded.
The day after you arrive to Hana, you have to visit O'heo Gulch, also known as the Seven Sacred Pools. O'heo means "something special" and it really is. There are more than seven natural pools and waterfalls and you can swim in them. Follow the Pipiwai trail and you'll come across all the pools, a bamboo forest and finally you'll get to the impressive Waimoku Falls.
Finally, the last island I visited is Kauai. You'll need to decide if you want sun or if you'd rather stay at the most beautiful but rainy part of the island. I chose the rainy part and I don't regret it. The most touristic and sunny part is Poipu in the south. There you'll find large and white sand beaches. If you decide to head north, you can stay at Hanalei. I rented a stilt bungalow, called Coco Cabana Cottage. The river crosses the bungalow and from the window you'll see the most amazing views.
My favorite beaches were Hanalei Bay, Tunnel Beach, Anini Beach and Ke'e Beach. The last ones are also an amazing snorkel spot.
While in Hanalei, you can drive to the east shore and go to the Wailua River. Exploring it in a kayak is one of the best ways to spend a day on this side of the island. And finally, you can also check the Na Pali Coast, a very impressive state park made of rugged cliffs along the coast. I took an ocean tour and I could see the cliffs from a boat. There are also helicopter tours or, if you dare, you can hike the Kalalau trail. But be aware that it is a very dangerous trail.
After our days in Kauai, we went back to Waikiki in O'ahu to do the last minute souvenir shopping and to catch our flight back.
And by the way, humuhumunukunukuapua'a is pronounced "Who moo who moo new coo new coo ah poo ah ah"