When you hear “Hawaii” it’s not hard to connotate the place with other words like “paradise”, “luxury”, “easy going” and “beauty”.
The islands offer something for everyone. Whether it be engaging in water activities like surfing, stand up paddle boarding, diving or snorkelling; or swimming in waterfalls or lazing on the beach; hiking the many look outs, national parks and volcanoes, you are bound to fall in love with the place.
Hawaii is super multicultural with its Polynesian heritage as well as Asian and American influences. The food scene reflects this and you can’t wrong with the traditional Hawaiian food or fusion food.
We stayed in Waikiki whilst in Oahu and although it is Hawaii’s famous and most touristy beach area, it was a good spot to stay due to it’s proximity to tourist sights as well as the beach, restaurants and bars.
Our first day was spent exploring the east coast by car and the North Shore. I had a Hawaiian friend, Charisa who we met on the Inca Trail who kindly showed us around with her boyfriend, Wes. We stopped to admire the many vantage points on the coast and also hung out at the beautiful Waimanalo Bay Beach. It has clear, aquamarine waters and super soft, white sand.
We stopped by at Fresh Catch to get the poké. There are many varieties including the popular ahi, salmon, octopus and other fish. I tried to spicy shoyu ahi and salmon with brown rice and it was delicious!
We went to Turtle Bay and chilled on the beach and went snorkelling. Although we didn’t see any turtles, there were many varieties of fish.
Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore – the waves here are massive and it is a famous surf beach in Hawaii. We arrived here to see the 2017 Volcom Pipe Pro. It was awesome to see a surf competition here and the first Australian to win this competition. Well done to Soli Bailey!
On the way back from the North Shore to Waikiki, we stopped by the Dole Plantation for their famous whip. I got the fresh pineapple on top too.
Koko Head Crater hike – there are approximately 1,040 steps up this former railway track. The super fit walk/run up in less than 15 minutes but we walked it in 30 minutes. The views from the top were phenomenal. You could see across Hanauma Bay and across the rest of the island.
Diamond Head – a relatively flat 0.8 mile hike to the top which took us less than 20 minutes up as we had to dodge through the crowds. We got there are 10am so get there when it opens to avoid the crowds and tour buses. At the top, you are rewarded with 360 degree views of the south east coast to Koko Head and west to Wai’anae Range.
Shopping – check out Waikele Premium Outlets and Ala Moana Shopping Centre as well as the main strip of Waikiki to get your shopping fix and grab some deals!
Go check out the many restaurants on the Waikiki strip as well as downtown. Some of the places we went to include The Cheesecake Factory, Duke’s, Goofy Café for the Hawaiian loco moco, Up Roll Cafe for their sushi burrito, Nobu for a fancy Japanese meal and Sorabol for a delicious Korean feast at any time of the day (24 hour joint).
Honolulu is also known for its bars and clubs. One night we headed to Rumfire, Sky and The Modern. Another night we headed to Mai Tai’s in Ala Moana for some live reggae music and Chinatown for the local experience of bar hopping. We headed to Bar 35 and Manifest which were all fun places! There are many happy hours to check out as well for drink specials and to watch the sun go down.
To explore Maui, you will need to rent a car. We based ourselves in Kaanapali in West Maui.
Old Lahaina Luau – this is known as Maui’s most authentic luau where Hawaiian history, culture and food are the focus. It was a fabulous evening of hula, dancing, feasting and drinking!
Surfing – Lahaina Breakwall north of Kamehameha Iki Park is a favourite spot for novices. We took a 2 hour lesson there and I stood up for most of it which was fun!
Afterwards, we hung out at Makena State Park at the Big Beach. It was nice to catch up with Michele who I went to school with there and it was fun swimming in the huge waves and chilling out.
We checked out Pa’ia, a surf town for some lunch and shopping. Nearby is Baldwin Beach Park which is great for a swim and to relax on the sand.
Road to Hana – this drive is one of the most famous in Hawaii and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. You pass through the lush coast of Maui and pass through dozens of waterfalls and cross 54 stone bridges. Be warned the roads are very windy and it’s said to have 500 twists and turns.
Along the way, we stopped by at different places including The Twin Falls, Wai’anapanapa State Park which is known for it’s black sand beach and Kaihalulu Bay which is a pocket beach known for its red sand. If time permits, there are so many other hikes, pools and waterfalls to explore.
Haleakala National Park – we entered the park ($20 per vehicle) and started the Pipiwai Trail. It’s an easy 2 mile up (approximately 45 minutes) and 2 mile down hike where you walk through lush forest including a bamboo forest. At the end of the trail, you are rewarded with the amazing Waimoku Falls.
Up towards the north of Maui you will come across amazing coastlines. We went to the Nakalele Blowhole which was great to see and they even have a love heart rock formation.
Throughout winter, starting in February, Maui celebrates the migratory humpback whales. Around 10,000 whales migrate to Hawaii from Alaska during the winter. During a kayak tour starting at Olowalu Beach, we were able to see the whales in action. An amazing sight! You can also hear them sing when you go underwater. We kayaked for a couple of ours with the West Maui mountains as the back drop and then went snorkelling.
Liz & I kayaking
Some of my favourite places to eat in Maui was:
– Star Noodle in Lahaina – fusion Asian
– Pacific’O in Lahaina – nice views
– South Maui Fish Company in Kihei – a food truck with the freshest fish. Their poke bowls are amazing!
– Coconut’s Fish Cafe in Kihei – they have their famous fish tacos with 17 ingredients
– Maui Grown Coffee – grab a coffee or hot chocolate and enjoy the view from porch which includes sugar plantation smokestack and cloud capped West Maui mountains.
– The Flatbread Company in Pa’ia – huge, tasty pizzas.
With it’s gorgeous weather all year round, Hawaii should be your next destination for some sun, sand, surf and relaxation as well as for the food and drinking culture!