I just finished spending TWO WEEKS in Hawaii - and I’ve got a lot to write about (actually I wrote this post a while ago, just getting around to publihsing it. Went to Hawaii at the end of January). I’ll write separate posts for the different areas we stayed in, but this post will serve as an overview of the trip and Hawaii in general.
How this trip came about:
Last June for my birthday, Nick told me that he booked this trip to Hawaii -- with his friends Dennis and Michelle. They had booked it back in March of 2017, although the trip wasn’t until the end of January 2018, but they didn’t tell me about it until the beginning of July. They already had the plane tickets booked and everything. Luckily my work if flexible and allowed me to take two weeks off on those specific dates...
Anyways, we flew out of Toronto Canada because the tickets were inexpensive (that’s actually how the whole trip started -- Dennis found round trip tickets to Hawaii for less than $500 from Toronto, told Nick about it, and here we are). Tickets to Hawaii are normally closer to $1000. It’s a long trip (about 12 hours on the plane) so they booked a two week trip to make sure it would be worth it and we had adequate time to do everything.
We stayed a week on the island of Kauai, and a week on the Big Island (Hawaii). On each island, we stayed in two airbnbs - one on each side of the island. So in total we had 4 different places we stayed.
From Toronto, we flew to LA, then to Honolulu. In Honolulu we got on a smaller plane and flew over to Lihue on Kauai.
Kauai is extremely lush. It’s a small island but has beaches, jungles, and canyons. There’s pretty much just one road that makes a “C” around the island - there are many parts on the inside of the island that you can’t access by car. Kauai is not as touristy as the Big Island, and it’s not super crowded. There’s not many big resorts. Also pretty much everything is quiet and shut down by 9pm. Most people in Hawaii seem to go to bed early and get up early, so you’re getting the most out of the daylight. It’s kind of nice.
For the first part of the week, we stayed in Princeville, on the north shore. Our airbnb was a nice condo in a smallish development, with lots of space and a porch. It was also within a 5 minute walk to a really private beach. We all agreed this was the most beautiful area we stayed in throughout the trip. Beaches all over the place that aren’t crowded, great hiking trails, green, lush jungle everywhere. Really beautiful.
The second part of the week we moved to the south shore of Kauai and stayed in a condo in Koloa. This area had more resorts, and therefore more tourists, and just more people in general.
The Big Island is significantly larger than Kauai, but it’s still kind of small - we ended up seeing most of the island on our trip. It’s busier, has much larger cities, more tourists, and more roads.
We flew into Kona and stayed in Kona the first part of the week. It was fine, but it was probably the least favorite area that we stayed in. It’s busy, lots of tourists, lots of souvenir shops selling junk, crowded beaches. I mean, the beaches are still awesome, but, more crowded than Kauai for sure. Our airbnb here was a condo within walking distance to a few beaches and shops.
For the last part of the trip, we stayed in Kalapana, on the southern part of the Big Island. This is close to all the volcano activity, and Volcanoes National Park. Nick’s friends Matt and Lauren (who we knew from Ithaca) actually moved here 8 months ago to build and open an airbnb on the lava flow. It’s crazy, and awesome. They’ve made enough progress on it that people can stay there (so we did), but there’s still more work to be done before all the rooms will be open. It’s kind of like a motel - private rooms and bathrooms, with a large shared outdoor kitchen in the middle. And like I said, it’s built on lava rock. At night you can see lava glowing about 5 miles away. It’s a pretty remote location. It was really cool - I will write more about that when I blog about this specific part of the trip.
We rented a car on both islands the whole time we were here. It would be pretty difficult to see much without a car. We had Jeep Wrangler in Kauai and a BMW SUV in Kona. The car rental on the Big Island was about double the price of the rental in Kauai - I guess there’s a shortage of cars on the Big Island so rentals are expensive and hard to get. We had to wait in line at Budget rental for over 4 hours for our rental car in Kona, even though we had a reservation. It was kind of a mess.
On both islands there are certain places you have to have 4WD to access. There are some crazy roads that rental cars are not allowed to drive on (super steep), or ones that guards will not let you drive on unless you have 4WD.
If you didn’t rent a car, you would probably need to stay in a resort area that has beaches close by. There’s lots of companies that do tours and excursions, so you could still get out to see some of the sights on the islands, but, I would definitely recommend getting a car.
We went grocery shopping a few times so we could save money and have most of our meals at home. We still did go out to eat for snacks and treats, and a few meals, though. Vegetarian options were pretty easy to find. As expected, food is more expensive than it is on the mainland, but, oh well. A popular treat, especially on Kauai, is shave ice - really finely shaved sno cone, with whatever tropical flavor syrup you want, and served on top of a scoop of ice cream. Very refreshing.
The biggest issue we had with food was that restaurants close really early. A few times we had long days and by the time we wanted to eat dinner, a lot of restaurants were already closed.
Essential Items to bring
It’s kind of overwhelming to pack for a 2 week trip. These were the items I found to be essential on this trip:
- Sunscreen, obviously (get the kind that is safe for coral reefs! Lots of sunscreen contains oxybenzone, which kills reefs)
- More than one bathing suit
- Board shorts and a rash guard/shirt if you plan on going in the ocean (waves can beat you up pretty easily)
- Rain jacket. The weather changes very suddenly and at higher elevations it’s often rainy.
- Sandals or reef shoes that you can walk around in and get wet. I loved my Chacos for this, but Tevas or some sandal like that would be good too. Many of the areas we went had rocky bottoms, so you’d want shoes on when you swim. Also, many beaches require a short hike to get to, so flip-flops really aren’t a good option.
- Hiking boots that you are willing to get wet. Since some areas get a lot of rain, some of the trails we hiked were quite muddy. The traction of a hiking boot was really helpful. We also had to cross a few streams, so quick-drying, lightweight hiking boots would be great. My Keens were great for all of the hikes.
- Dramamine if you plan on doing anything on the ocean or in the air (like helicopter or parasailing)
- Good conditioner or hair detangler. Ocean winds can really knot you up.
- Good book for beach reading. I read A Year With Eleanor, which is young woman’s story of how every day for a year, she did something that she was scared of. I did a few scary things on this trip, so it was fitting!
- A good camera, if you have one -- lots of beautiful things to take pictures of.
- If you plan on going up in elevation on any of the volcanoes, bring warm clothes (at minimum, pants, sweatshirt, jacket, and hat).