Almost nine years ago Mr C and I got married on the beautiful island of Kauai. Memories of our wonderful time there, and my time travelling alone the previous year around three of the Hawaiian Islands have all been brought back to the forefront of my mind as I heard that some friends of ours are going to Hawaii for the first time this Christmas.
I began to overflow with enthusiastic ideas of where they MUST visit whilst there, and thought that compiling a post may not only be of more help to them, and maybe inspire others to make the effort to travel to the opposite side of the world from the UK.
This is where most people arrive on the Islands. The main city Honolulu and it’s famous Waikiki beach have been used as the image of the Hawaiian island for almost one hundred years and although it epitomises the sun surf and Hula, it’s a far cry from the rest of the Islands.
It’s a great place to start and end your visit.
- On arrival at the airport it’s worth the short brisk walk to ‘Departures’ and the Aloha airlines ticket desk. Book your tickets here to visit other islands. The planes almost run like buses, with an equivalent UK bus price. Our last visit each island hop cost us £35 compared to over £100 if booked in UK before we left.
- Hopefully you arranged to be met at the airport by a friend who will know to garnish you with an orchid Lei in true Hawaiian tradition. If you are not to be welcomed by friends, or even distant friends of friends, you can book to be greeted with a Lai from a taxi or bus driver transporting you to your hotel.
- Along Waikiki seafront there is a grass stage where dancers will perform a Hula dance each sunset. If you miss it, find a shopping arcade a short walk away with an interior stage also regularly having Hula performances.
- It’s worth hiring a car to just take a tour of the island. You can cover it in a day but it’s really worth spending two or three.The beautifully positioned Sheraton Hotel does a fabulous pineapple cocktail – in a fresh pineapple & you can sit looking down on their network of swimming pools with dolphins entertained by the hotel guests. There are plenty of beautiful beaches all around the Island and the Cultural centre does great shows for tourists. There’s a beautiful rugged coastline nearby great for wave watching.
- The North Shore has some fabulous surfing beaches and if the surf is good be prepared to be sat in traffic on the northbound highway as city dwellers all decide to travel to see the surfers.
- For a great walk, peace & quiet & Albatross watching, park just past Dillingham airfield & wearing sturdy boots as this has some of the clagiest clay on the planet, walk to the headland,Ka’ena Point inexcessable by car but wonderful nesting spot for albatross, sand dunes to shelter alongside seals from the massive waves crashing on the rocky shoreline.
- Pearl Harbour is an absolute must visit for anyone with any interest in World War II history. The site is inspirational and an excellent ( although very American biased) film is shown before you’re escorted by a Veteran or guide out to the sunken wreck. It’s extremely moving and worth half a day at least. It’s possible to pick a pearl from an oyster shell at one of the many jewellery shops.
- Cocktails at the Marina Tiki bar is a great way to spend an evening or lunch time. Extremely Kitsch with pineapple decorations, palms, and lights strung everywhere, it reflects the Elvis style Hawaii & has been used in many films. http://www.lamarianasailingclub.com/?page_id=80
Flying over Kauai is magical. Palm strewn beaches, lush mountain ranges, waterfalls & clusters of colonial style wooden houses lining beaches or hidden in the lush rain forest. This is the oldest Island and the one where we were married. Over my two visits I’ve spent a total of 16 nights on this island and yet could happily spend 16 more. There is so much to see and do, yet it’s also the smallest and quietest of the main tourist destinations.
- Kalapaki Beach, most famous for where Mitzy Gaynor washed that man right out of her hair. The beach is now accessed through an incredible luxury Marriott Hotel from which Stephen Spielburg filmed the incoming storm Hurricane Iniki 1992, the footage was then used in the Jurassic Park. This was the beach where we married as the sun arose in December 2006.
- Hawaiian tradition prevents a road from circulating the whole Island. Although Oahu & Mauai now can be driven around, Kauai & the other islands all have the last segment of road missing, leaving a few miles inaccessible by road allowing ‘souls to find their way to the sea’. It does mean that it’s a very long drive from the start to the end of the road. On Kauai the Kalalau trail, with the most dramatic sea cliffs separates the ends of the road. This trail is worth a walk. We’ve only walked part of it as you need a permit from the Government to complete the trail. This spectacular coastal walk needs two days, with wild camping as there are no facilities or places to stay. The area has been used in many films including 6 days, 5 nights with Harrison Ford & The Lord of the flies at Ke’e beach .
- Ke’e beach is where I go when I meditate. To me it’s the most magical beach that I have ever seen or visited. The ancient woodland with massive exposed root systems hide the sandy bay protected by a coral reef. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset, which on more than one occasion I’ve witnessed it so dramatic that there’s been spontaneous applause from the fellow viewers collected on the beach. The backdrop of the cliffs hides the spot where Hula was said to have first been danced.
- On driving away from Ke’e you pass though a lovely town where ‘Puff the magic dragon’ lived. Hanalei has plenty of lovely shops & restaurants worthy of at least half a day! On the outskirts there is a farmers market where you can buy all manor of exotic fruits. Rambutan were my favourite & I was never without a large paper bag full of them to nibble on whilst on the road!
- Kilauea lighthouse is a lovely spot looking more like a bit of English coastline than an outcrop Of a tropical paradise.
- Kapa’a is a busy market town with interesting shops & a super craft market . I bought the most amazing handpainted sarong here. From here you can hire a kayak and visit some lovely waterfalls. Some are easy to spot just by following the tourist mini cruises but others need a trek through rainforest. You may well spot plenty of wild chickens around here as during the great hurricane Iniki, chickens were lifted into the air from farms then deposited around the island, where they landed they settled, and bred!
- Following highway 50 around past Nawiliwili to Po’ipu is a large area of private farm and ranch land. We hired quad bikes and had a guided tour here, the highlight being a stop at the ridge line looking down on Kipu Kai. This private and most beautiful bay is where Jackie Onassis was taken to stay after her husband was fatally shot. It’s one of the last privately owned beautiful bays in Hawaii that hasn’t been developed. There was much talk whilst we were there of various hotel groups and developers fighting over gaining permission to buy and develop. I suspect that this was the area featured in the film the Descendants with George Cluney playing the honourable man with the power to prevent the development going ahead. There’s also some ancient fishing ponds along the back road.
- Driving around the island Hanapepe is worth a stop and on most Friday evenings has an ‘Artists walk’ where the galleries are open late.
- Waimea Canyon. This is a very impressive find and remarkably secret! It’s said to be deeper than the Grand Canyon & it was a photo of this in a very old travel magazine that inspired my first visit to the islands.
It’s a good idea to set off early to drive here & check for carnivals in the town of Waimea as it’s possible to be stranded on either side of the town! You can stop off at Poipu and watch the blow hole, Spouting Horn great at any time of day but quite spooky at night! From the canyon drive on to the Pu’u o Kila lookout The views are spectacular all the way down to the Kalalau valley where on a clear day you get spectacular views along the Na Pali coastline.
Return back onto highway 50 via the 552, this winding road has the most amazing views, particularly at sunset and stop at…
- …Kekaha beach Park. This is said to be the spot where Captain Cook first saw the islands and made his first landing at Waimea in 1778. You can look a cross to the inhabited but private island of Ni’ihau. This is also a great spot to catch the ‘green flash’ at sunset!
The above list just scratches at the tip of things to do and see on these two most beautiful island. I will carry on with another post, just about ‘The Big Island’ with Mauna Kea and Volcano National Park it’s most famous attractions.
Oh, I almost forgot, from now until you want to forget Hawaii, you have to listen to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole !