The worst part about Fall in North Dakota is knowing that winter is coming and Winter Is Coming ™. The thought of Winter always finds me thinking about make traveling plans to some place warm. If you know Ashley or me, or read the about page, you know that we love traveling. Instead of cooking a macaroni and cheese dish today, we are going to step into the world of travel and I am going to talk about one of our favorite places to visit… Hawaii! We certainly have not done everything on the islands, but I am going to give a few tips, tricks, and ideas for staying on the Hawaiian islands.
General Hawaii Travel Tips
First, I think it is important to separate out Honolulu from everywhere else in Hawaii. Also, take now that I have only been to Honolulu once. It is nice and might go back to explore Oahu and Honolulu more, but it is a big city. And like all other big cities, there may be different rules that apply.
Rent a vehicle, except maybe in Honolulu
I think renting a vehicle is probably different in Honolulu than elsewhere. If you are going to Honolulu and only staying in that location, I don’t think you need a vehicle. In my experience, it can be a hassle and costly to have a vehicle in ANY big city and Honolulu is no different. There are plenty of tours and excursions that can be had. Plus, now we have Uber and Lyft that make getting around super easy.
Outside of Honolulu, I think it is important to rent a vehicle. I think it is a great idea to splurge on that vehicle (go for the convertible) so you can easily get around and explore. Once you get out of Oahu, the traffic is pretty easy and you can experience things that you just wouldn’t get out of a bus.
Consider a condo instead of a hotel
I have not used Air B&B for Hawaii, but have used VRBO several times. Depending on your budget, you may give up a bit in the realm of amenities, but you get to trade for the things that are important to you.
On our last visit, we had a little efficiency condo. For the cons, we didn’t have turndown service. The room was probably not quite as nice as many hotels, but it was absolutely fine. On the positive side, it still was bigger than most hotel rooms. It had a full kitchen. Parking was free. The view was absolutely amazing. We were sitting on our oceanfront lanai watching the sunset while a mama whale and her baby were splashing around.
KITCHEN! I cannot stress the value of a kitchen enough. If you are anything like me, I don’t really like eating out for 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. I am a good cook and I enjoy cooking. Sure, I like going out to eat, but I don’t need to all the time. Additionally, it is expensive to eat out for every meal! Yes, food in the grocery store is expensive, to begin with, but it is much cheaper to make a trip to Safeway (get a Safeway card if you don’t have one) than to spend a boatload on dining out for every meal.
You ARE a tourist, do a Luau
Yes… Luaus are a tourist thing to do. Are they really a traditional thing as they are presented? Probably not. Who cares? Do one and pick a good one. When you are in Paris, you go to the Louvre and if you are in Venice, you go on a Gondola ride with your sweetie. IMO, going to a Luau is a great experience and worth doing at least once. We don’t go every time, but I think it is a fun thing to do.
You are in Hawaii. Take advantage of the local cuisine and try something you normally wouldn’t eat. I fell in LOVE, LOVE, LOVE with Poke while visiting several years ago. I also discovered seaweed salad. I have since been able to find these things locally (even if Fargo is a little slow to get these sorts of things), but I would have never tried them had I not just made the plunge.
This is beyond just Hawaii travel, but we try to plan at least one fine dining experience per trip. Ever since my trip to Babbo in NYC, I have been chasing the dragon of fine dining. Beyond that, in a week-long trip, I try to find a few other places that are must-eat places. And then, every once in awhile, you just gotta find the stuff that is around you. Some of those experiences can have the best food!
Our experiences on the Islands
We have only been to Kauai once, but I have to say that it probably was my favorite trip to Hawaii. Kauai is like a small town in paradise. If the kind of thing you like to be around is rainforest sorts of views and finding jungle hikes, Kauai is a great place.
There are chickens and roosters running all over the place as a remnant of a 1992 hurricane. Basically, Kauai has a Fantasy Island feel (actually where the intro waterfall was filmed), but with lots of chickens. I also had a pretty great fishing experience there where we caught a huge Mahi Mahi.
Probably the coolest thing we did here was kayak the Na Pali coast. It may have been one of the single most stunning experiences I have had… definitely in the top 20. The entire experience, other than the pain (I will get to that), was like one big postcard. The kind of postcard where a person might think, “hey, that was photoshopped.” Nope. It was beautiful.
It was actually a pretty difficult trek and for two people who don’t kayak (and certainly not on the ocean), the two-person kayak trip over 17 miles was a test of our marriage. HA! There was at least one couple that didn’t quite know what they were getting into and dropped out right at the point of no return. Yes, there is a point where they say it becomes a really big deal to stop. Another gal didn’t know about her sea sickness until we were past that point and that poor girl was miserable, but had to keep going.
And the chaffing. Oh my God, the chaffing. If any of you are runners, you might know the pain of chaffing (I am a chaffer, I guess). Except, instead of my inner thighs, it was on my armpits. Unlike running, where I have had years to understand how to mitigate the problems, I went straight to chaffing hell and paid for it for the next 2 days.
I am making it sound fun, right? Lol. Despite all of that… we knew what we were getting into and the payoff was huge. Dolphins and turtles were swimming right with us. The entire journey was a like a postcard. We explored caves and got to see all sorts of nature and accomplish this thing that not many have done. It was absolutely spectacular.
Hawaii The Big Island
While my favorite individual trip to Hawaii was to Kauai, my favorite island to visit is the island of Hawaii, aka The Big Island. What Kauai lacks in size and different ecologies, the big island more than makes up for it. It is a big island and while it maintains that small town feel that Kauai has, it has quite a bit to do.
Exploring the active volcano is great fun. On our first trip, we explored the National Park. There are some pretty spectacular park trails there. We were there near closing time and there really was almost nobody around. The trails are loosely marked by piles of rock. It was a little spooky. I did, however, get a picture with a rainbow. It was neat.
Another really cool experience we had on the big island was a swimming with the dolphins experience. It wasn’t like the kind of experience you might get on a cruise or anything where you get the feeling that these dolphins were somehow contained in an area or lured only with food.
For this excursion, the boat tried to predict where the dolphins passed by and plopped us off there. Then, they came by. We would get back on the boat and try to get ahead of them.
We were lucky enough to find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a pack of spinner dolphins. It was really really neat.
I feel like you start to lose a little bit of that small town feel in Maui, but it still is awesome and really has some great things to offer.
Ashley and I added matching tattoos in downtown Kahului during our honeymoon. That area is great to walk around in and has a beautiful old banyan tree. It is definitely worth an afternoon or two on this part of the island looking around, shopping, and eating.
Of our experiences on Maui, I think one really stands out as the most stunning. We biked down the volcano. This included a SUPER EARLY wake up where we drove up to the top of the volcano and watched the sunrise. This was another one of those “oh wow” moments. Then, we spent the next hour or two rolling down the big hill. The biking was fun and easy (it’s all downhill), but the sunrise was spectacular.
We have the least experience on this island. We did spend a few nights here on our honeymoon. We went to a Luau here and I remember that I enjoyed people watching as we walked up and down Waikiki. One thing that I recall from that trip is a tour guide that informed us about what is native to HI vs what is not. He told us that Waikiki beach is entirely manmade. He indicated that almost everything that we might stereotypically think of as Hawaiian, was brought to the islands by man. Even the pineapple is not native to Hawaii.
One thing I do recommend is to take some tours of the WWII memorials. I found these to be informative and a reminder of both the terror and bravery that war can bring.
I suspect that this might be a place where a hotel might be more economical and practical, but once again, we have only been here once. I have heard that there are some really great things outside the city of Honolulu and do think about exploring this part of the Hawaiian islands.
That is it
Well, that is my two cents on Hawaii. While my furnace starts to kick on and morning frost kills off summer’s garden bounty, my mind can’t keep away from warm places. Hawaii is one of those places that allows us to be in a tropical place while being able to have some of the comforts of not leaving the country.