Jan 17, 2014


Two summers ago, B&P readers helped map out a fun Florida trip.

We had a great time, I was worried it would be another episode of dolphins bumping my junk.  We used airbnb.com to book private cottages rather than hotels.  The casa in St. Augustine could have been written by Nicholas Sparks:

Curls suggested we consider a Hawaii trip this year.  I know nothing about the islands and could use your help.  My exotic travel portfolio is made up of Dollywood and Moline IL, so a visit to the 50th state would be an adventure for sure.

These things matter to me if we visit the islands, in order of importance:

  • Nature
  • Low number of humans
  • Food
  • Mix of low and high energy activities
  • See things you can't anywhere else, like a coffee farm and hula hips
If you've been to Hawaii on vacation, tell me which islands were your favorite and why.  Curls mentioned an 11 mile hike through a Maui bamboo forest.  Yes please and Pigtails would be on my back like a baby monkey miles 6 - 11:

If you're a lucky duck living in HI, let me know in the comments and I'll e-mail you some q's.

Malama pono!



  1. Hi Beard! I went to Maui a few years ago with my grandparents. There are some great things to do on Maui. One would be the inactive volcano Summit of Haleakala National Park. You can take a bus up the mountain and then ride bikes down. The views are gorgeous! Here's the link to that: http://www.cheapmauicarrental.com/haleakala-drive.html. The Road to Hana is also pretty neat. We did a guided tour (don't know the name of the company anymore, sorry) that took us through the rainforest, black sand beach, saw a poi farm, and several other neat things. If driving it on your own though be forewarned that the roads are very small with lots of sharp turns. We also went whale watching which was the highlight of the trip for me. Seeing humpbacks up close in nature is absolutely amazing but they are only there certain times of the year. As far as lodging goes, definitely go with renting a condo. I have been planning a honeymoon recently to Maui and the cost of a condo vs hotel is huge. Plus, you usually get pretty private beaches with a condo stay. Maui is nice cause its low key. It has its crowded areas but they can also easily be avoided. I have no recollection of crowds from my time there so that has to say something. As far as food goes, we usually would grab a bunch of fruit at the fruit stands and make smoothies for breakfast each morning and then either eat a light lunch at the condo and bring snacks while out or just grab something small nearby. Dinners were usually eaten out but fairly affordable if you do your research. "Mixed Plate" in Lahaina was one of my favorites. Hope all this helps!

    1. I started by looking up Mixed Plate and drooled at the variety of food. Then got sidetracked Googling volcanoes, then was hungry so poured a bowl (more like a bucket) of Golden Grahams. Now I'm reading about Maui and the windchill's 0 in Des Moines right now, Pigtails is up roaming the house when she should be in bed, over and out.

  2. Anonymous1/17/2014

    Glass submarine!! I know it sounds a bit cheesy, and of course there will be other people on board, but I was at a conference in Hawaii a couple of years ago and had only a couple of hours free so took a glass submarine trip to the bottom of the ocean an over coral beds- AMAZING fish and stingrays playing, and if I recall it was fairly inexpensive- a little creepy when you see the surface of the water fading in the distance, but very beautiful.

    1. Given this list:

      - Jazzercise
      - Driving cross country to see the world's largest napkin sculpture
      - Glass submarine
      - Wearing jorts to church

      The submarine comes in at #3, just behind the jorts on the cheese factor.

      Just giving you a hard time, and please tell me how I can attend a "work conference" in Hawaii. Omaha's not the same!

  3. I haven't been to or know anything of Hawaii, however I do know Humpback Whales. If you do get a chance, definitely book that into your itinerary as suggested by Allyson ^. We get them along our coast annually and you never get tired of seeing them.

  4. Anonymous1/18/2014

    We did Maui and Kauai for our honeymoon last August. We loved them both but agreed we'd do Kauai again. They are both fantastic islands but if you're looking for less crowds, more nature, and some serious aloha hospitality, Kauai is your place. Canoe some rivers, hike, ATV, hanalei bay, snorkel, the list is endless. But the biggest and best reason to do Kauai is the Na Pali coast. Easily one of the most beautiful places in the world. In the end you can't really go wrong but I'd toss your hat in for Kauai. Mahalo!

    1. So I looked at photos of Nā Pali Coast, then looked outside my window at the frozen tundra of Des Moines. Then I looked some more at Kauai and I'm pretty sure that's where we should be right now.

  5. We have lived on Oahu for the past year and have visited Maui, Kauai and Hawaii (the Big Island) numerous times in the past 20+ years.

    Let's see if I can come up with a top 10:

    Maui - Haleakala - my husband has ridden UP the crater a couple of times - 35 miles with over 10,000' of climbing. The ride down is a blast. Or do a guided ride that goes down only - they'll take you up to see the sunset first.

    Kauai - Kayaking the Napali Coast - 17 miles of open ocean (this might be too much for Pigtails)
    Hike the Napali Coast - 11 mile trail, do a lot or a little
    Kayak the Wailua River to the Fern Grotto, then hike to a waterfall.
    Visit Waimea Canyon (Grand Canyon of the Pacific)

    Big Island - See the Active Volcano and more at Volcano National Park
    Take a short Hike to Akaka Falls

    Oahu - Pearl Harbor is a must! Even if you just come to Oahu for a day or so on your way to one of the other islands, make this a priority.
    Diamond Head - great 4 mile run around the crater (you can do that while the girls sleep in.) You can also hike into the crater.
    Hike Koko Head Crater - .75 miles each way, over 1,000' of climbing on railroad ties.

    Of course I didn't mention any of the ocean activities - swimming, snorkeling, scuba, surfing, paddling, jet skiing, parasailing, and more.

    As far as most to least populated:
    Oahu is the most crowded (90% of the state's population is here)
    Maui is the second most crowded, its population is slightly lower than the Big Island, but it's a smaller island.
    Kauai and the Big Island are definitely the least crowded.

    This is way too much for a comment! Please feel free to email me with any questions.

    1. Good info, thank you and I'm starting to Google through your list to learn more.

      Can we do an IA/HI swap sometime? Tasty beef here.

      Have you gotten used to all the eye candy living there for so long...or does it still make your heart skip every now and then?

  6. Anonymous1/19/2014

    the big island!

  7. Kauai is awesome. Not so many people, lots of nature, adventure- hiking, kayaking, sunset cruises. Quiet and breathtaking. and maybe I missed it, but I like that Curls is back :)

    1. That's what I'm thinking too, Kauai is probably what I most want to see based on what I'm reading.

  8. Don't know anything about Hawaii, but St. Augustine is my hometown and I'm lucky to be moving back this year! Hope you loved your visit there.

    1. St. Auggie was better than expected, relaxing after a few days of hustling at Disney and more low key than what we saw a few days later on the beach near Sarasota. Have you eaten at The Back 40 Urban Cafe? It was excellent!


  9. We visited Oahu and Maui a few years ago and loved them! One of my favorite places I've been and I dream of going back.

    We stayed in Waikiki and I loved it and the energy it had. Very walkable area for restaurants, shopping, and the beach. We walked from our condo to Diamond Head and hiked to the top. The views are wonderful. Also the actual beach in Waikiki is pretty nice and kid-friendly. Easy enough waves and good sand.

    If you do stay in Waikiki definitely rent a car to get out of town because the rest of the island is so much emptier (in comparison) and different from Waikiki. We liked snorkeling at Sharks Cove (no sharks but warm water and shallow, only about waist deep for me, very easy way to try out snorkeling), driving along the coast anywhere, and the North Shore. There is a lot to explore but you would really need a car to get out of Waikiki/Honolulu area.

    If you are on Oahu I'd say Pearl Harbor is a definite must. It's incredibly moving and the museum exhibits are very good. It's crazy to see something in person that you've likely heard about most of your life.

    Maui is so much different and much more laid back than Oahu. I kept comparing it to small coastal towns in Florida (in a good way). There are many incredible beaches and great snorkel spots. You pretty much need a car on Maui to get around unless you are staying at a big resort and just want to lay around the whole time.

    Our absolute favorite thing on Maui was driving the Road to Hana. I think it's only about 60 miles but took us around 3 hours with all the curves and stops. There are a ton of waterfalls along the way and lots of little hikes to do. The black sand beach right before Hana is pretty cool to see. That took most of a day and was definitely worth it. We talked about doing it a second time but then didn't get a chance.

    Seeing the sunrise from the top of Haleakala would be another must for me. We drove but I know people who have biked down. You need to get there fairly early for a good spot (I think we were there an hour before the sunrise and by the time it did come up it was at least 5-6 people deep all around). The sunrise is spectacular.

    I dream of getting to go back some day. I'd love to revisit those two island and see Kauai and the Big Island. So much to see and pretty much everything is gorgeous. The water is the most incredible view.

    I bought and read the guidebooks by Andrew Doughty before we left and all his recommendations were spot on. For food and attractions and seeing things off the beaten path.

    Good luck with your planning and hope you share how the trip goes!!

    1. My favorite thing you listed is the Maui day drive to Hana. Part of the magic with vacations are the drives, a layer you lose when flying. Driving is how we did all vacations growing up, you really get to experience the locals and do an adhoc stop for lunch at that sketchy looking seafood truck parked along the shoulder. Driving allows for a more spontaneous afternoon: spot a comely single track, pull over and explore on foot for an hour.

      I'll check out the Doughty guidebooks, thanks for your help!

  10. Anonymous1/21/2014

    I'll second a couple of Kathy's remarks ^^

    Oahu - Pearl Harbor is a must... and I would repeat that again. I don't think you should skip that, even though it will consume a day.

    Diamond Head - did the hike, and it was filled with people and a lot of "single-file death-march". Also, my Goddaughter freaked from the heights, and froze. So, beware if any in your party are at all height phobic. I don't think I would do that trail again.

    Expanding a bit on Oahu, Northshore was really interesting - we walked several beaches a found ourselves within 10 feet of nesting sea turtles which was pretty cool. Chilled and watched the surfers. If you can get in, the Marine base was an eye-opening experience... nothing like having a cargo carier swoop in about 250' overhead unexpectedly, plus cheap gift shops on base.

    I really don't think I would tour the Dole plantation again. Getting around Honolulu was a zoo, so I would minimize any travel downtown.

    Given your criteria, I would just hit Pearl Harbor and then head to another island.

    I went for 10 days, and that was just right. You have to go long enough to make the flight worthwhile. PEACE OUT!
    - anon

    1. Yes, agree Pearl Harbor is a must see even for 10 minutes. I chuckle when people return from HI and they can't believe how many Japanese tourists are there visiting. Hawaii straddles our continents, and Dec 7, 1941 means the same to both.

      Glad you mentioned the D.Head march of hell. Parts of Colorado trails were like that on our last visit, stuffed with sweaty humans and it pretty much deflated the nature balloon. Advice on what NOT to see is as helpful as the opposite.

      I haven't heard peace out for a few years, a classic, adios!

  11. Kaui is awesome. My husband and I went on our honeymoon. We did a lazy river ride in Kaui, and it was beautiful! The big island was fun too, Volcanoes are super fun.=)

  12. Anonymous1/22/2014

    Love Maui - we stay in Napili for beautiful beaches, wonderful snorkeling, turtles galore! We stay in condos so we can cook most meals. Kids can run down to the beach. Groceries are expensive but there is a Costco by the airport for stocking up purposes. Lots of great hikes and stuff to do. We usually alternate snorkeling and trips every other day. Maui is more crowded but the beaches are the best.

    Oahu is like Los Angeles to me - too many cars, people, etc. BUT, I will say taking my 12yo son to Pearl Harbor has to be one of the highlights of my life. He's a big WW2 buff and having him experience the sadness of the memorial was a moving experience. The USS Missouri was great fun. We flew from Maui for the day.

    Kauai is amazing. Beaches are rougher there, which I don't enjoy as much. But the beauty of the island is stunning.

  13. Anonymous1/27/2014

    We spent 10 days in Hawaii in early June 2012, with 2 nights on Oahu, and 4 nights each on Kauai and Maui. Oahu was included to see Pearl Harbor and to hike up Diamond Head. For your objectives, I would suggest Kauai, as it is very lush, peaceful and has many potential adventures (Waimea Canyon is spectacular as is the Na Pali coast). However, if you can spend a few days in Maui to drive the Road to Hana (including the backside), you really won't be disappointed. We drove the backside (I believe it is considered the Upcountry area of Maui) and it was spectacular - you see more cows than people (you are probably already familiar with this experience) and it looks like you are driving on the moon at times, the scenery is so unusual and desolate. The occasional view of a cinder cone is pretty amazing.

    You could probably get by with 3 nights in Kauai and Maui or 4 and 3 and have a pretty amazing vacation. We live more than 10 hours away by plane, so we crammed as much in our trip as possible since we knew it would be a decade or longer before we could come back.

    Also, for restaurants, we loved the local fish markets in Kauai, especially in Kilauea. We found plenty of great eats and for a still-family owned, traditional luau, the Smith Family luau might be fun for Pigtails. In Maui, Kihei Caffe has a great breakfast (this fueled us up for the first half of our Hana drive) and Home Maid Café has some of the best malasadas around. You also should check out either Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop or Star Noodle (I believe these are operated by the same chef) for some delicious cheaper eats.

    Hope you have a wonderful time - it really is a beautiful adventure!

  14. Anonymous3/24/2014

    About 7-8 years ago, my parents took my two (younger) sisters and I on the last "family vacation" (I'm now 31, so I lucked out getting an all-expenses paid vacation to Hawaii at that age, but NO complaints here). Most family vacations before were road trips and camping, which were also fun, with one other big trip, to DisneyWorld. My parents didn't have a lot of money when we were growing up, so they saved for one last big trip that we'd all go on before we all left the nest. We went to Maui for something like 8 days. Stayed in a hotel that wasn't ON the beach, but just across the road, in a town called Kehei (or something similar) and it was perfect - included a breakfast buffet every morning with tons of freshly cut fruit and fresh squeezed POG juice (pineapple orange guava), among the standard fare of pastries, juice/coffee/tea etc.; at night, they had a little band that played by the pool, and was perfect for winding down after activities all day before heading out for a late dinner or early bed time. We went para-sailing and I now para-sail anytime it's an option when I travel. We also went on a day-long snorkeling trip. We had a rental car and one of the days we drove the "road to Hana" and took a picnic with us, so we did several small hikes to waterfalls, and found quiet spots to sit and eat on the cliffs looking down at the ocean and spotting the honu (sea turtles), found a black sand beach and a red sand beach. We tried to find the nude beach but couldn't, ha! My dad didn't want us finding it though. Went to a pineapple plantation. Went hiking in the Iao Valley. Went on a helicopter tour (expensive, but worth it -- best views! we bought the DVD of our flight). Other things too, like a dinner cruise (meh, half the family was sea sick and throwing up over the side the whole time, and this was the first night we were there, so we bought boxes and boxes of dramamine after that, and they were fine the rest of the trip), seeing the banyon tree in Lahaina, driving out and up the western coast, several luaus, etc. If we'd stayed longer, we would have fit in the trip up to the top of the mountain, haleakala or something like that, to watch the sunrise (I think there are lots of options here - biking up and back, driving up and biking back, the sunrise thing, etc.), or maybe some whale watching -- which wasn't in season when we were there -- of course, I don't think the snorkeling or parasailing or dinner cruise would have happened if it were whale migration season, so blessing/curse. We jam-packed our days with adventures, ate lots of good food (the shaved ice was SO good on a hot day!), and we did a lot of shopping to boot (family of five, four of which are women, so of course there was shopping happening). I'm sure I'm forgetting things, but it was a wonderful experience. Of course, being from the Pacific Northwest, the plant life wasn't quite as impressive to us as the sun was, and, at the time, a hike we did to "twin falls" was rather disappointing, but when you grow up hiking to the top of Multnomah Falls on a regular basis, anything you don't have to tilt your head all the way back to look up at seems "less than" when you slog through mud and humidity and across fallen trees to get to. On the flip side, a vacation to Portland/Mount Hood would not disappoint if you're looking for outdoorsy fun that doesn't cost much (the hiking and such here is generally free, after gas to the trailhead and any sort of forest pass you might need, which is $5).


Thanks for the note, check back for my response!