Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hawaii Favorites: Big Island

Next in my Hawaii Favorites series - the Big Island (or Hawaii)!

I've been to the Big Island twice now. The first time I stayed on the Hilo side of the island - I would recommend this side if you plan on taking a helicopter tour, love waterfalls, and want to visit the volcanoes.  But other than that there isn't much to do and very few hotel choices.  Locals also didn't seem to really dig tourists in this area.  

If you prefer more resort-like then you'll want to stay on the Kailua-Kona side (where I stayed during my last trip).  Now the Big Island is definitely not're not going to have a bunch of beaches to choose from (although you can find some if you're up for a drive) and the draw here is really the volcanoes and really awesome waterfalls.  It also always feels way hotter on this island to me than the other islands.  

Favorite things to do:

*Hands down my favorite thing to do on this island (and in the future probably all of the islands) is a helicopter tour.  On my last trip I took one over the volcanoes and actually saw lava.  Pretty cool experience (even if I was terrified at first to get on the helicopter).  I also got to see a waterfall from the air which was definitely worth the initial fear :)

*Punalu'u black sand beach - the.most.amazing.waves.ever.  Just trust me.  You can walk (carefully) from the black sand beach where everyone is checking our the turtles to a somewhat safe rocky ledge where you can take a million (if you're like me) photos of the bluest water and amazing waves. 

*Farmers market in Hilo - they have lots of cool fruits you may not have ever seen before and fun made-on-the-island crafts.   

Favorite waterfalls:

*I'm dedicating a whole section to the waterfalls because they're just that spectacular on this island - and most you can just drive up to the parking lot and get out and enjoy them.  

Rainbow Falls

Akaka Falls

Umauma Falls

Favorite restaurants:

*Pineapples - I've been here three times now.  My favorite drink is the 'real' Hawaiian punch.  I try to get the burger with sweet potato fries.  They're pretty amazing.  The restaurant is also near the farmer's market which is definitely worth a trip.  


*There's a little shave ice place right across from Pineapples - I also go here for shave ice before heading back to my hotel

*Kona brewing company - I talk about them a lot since they brew my favorite (only available on the islands) beer - Wailua Wheat.  Their food is pretty good too and you can take a tour of the brewery (which includes tasting a bunch of different beers at the end).  

Other favorites:

*The sunsets are really pretty on the island (even if it's difficult to find a beach to watch them on ;) )

*Pu'uhpnua o Honaunau - there's a lot of history here - I think you can even take  tour.  To be honest I just came here to take photos of these guys...

Up next - Oahu!


Monday, July 6, 2015

Hawaii Favorites: Kauai

Up next in my Hawaii Favorites series - Kauai!

I've been to Kauai once.  It definitely has a different vibe than the other islands (each one is unique in my opinion).  To me it feels closer to true Hawaiian culture.  It's less touristy - but trust me you'll still run into a lot of crowds - depending on where you go.

At first I didn't really like Kauai and didn't think I'd ever really want to go back. I'd seen everything I wanted to see and Maui was still my favorite.  But looking back I did really enjoy my time there and the island is unbelievably beautiful.

Favorite things to do:

*The biggest draw of the island is that you can't see the majority of it unless you go by boat or air.  I chose air.  I conquered a fear of mine of an island tour with a teeny tiny little plane...would I do it again?  No probably not, but I am SO happy I did it once.  I would however take a helicopter tour again - I did that on the Big Island and I was scared out of my mind until we got up in the air and then I wanted to take a helicopter on all of the islands!  

This the ONLY way to see the Na Pali coast:

*I stayed right on Poipu Beach at the Sheraton.  The hotel seems to cater to families so there were a ton of them there which was a little much for me, I would have preferred a bit more quiet.  But the sunrise and sunset views were unbelievable.  Only problem - everyone loves the sunsets on this beach so it gets quite crowded with locals too.  

*Waimea Canyon - the 'Grand Canyon of Hawaii' - It really is amazing and beautiful - definitely a must do. It's pretty accessible too - you can pull right into lookout spots with parking lots. No hiking required!

*Tree tunnel - I'm not sure if this is the 'official name' for this street but that's what most people call it.  Eucalyptus trees line Maliuhi Rd.  I wouldn't drive out of your way to see it - but it is pretty.  For me it was on my way to the hotel so I saw it many times. 

*Waterfalls are my favorite and I had to check out Wailua Falls - it's accessible, I saw it from the plane tour, AND it's the namesake of my favorite beer from Kona Brewing company.

*I'm obsessed with taking photos of the waves. When I find really amazing waves I'll stay there forever taking different shots.  I love to capture the light shining through the water resulting in the most beautiful shade of aqua blue.

Here's another blowhole too!  I'm quite proud of that first shot :)

Favorite restaurant

*Merriman's Fish House in Poipu.  I had some really great mahi mahi there and the service was really amazing.  

*Breakfast buffet on the Ilima Terrace at the Grand Hyatt.  You have to do this one at least once.  It's pricey but so so so good.  Sorry for the blurry photo I think I was rushing because I was excited about all the good food!  This was the first of TWO plates...and I *always* get one glass of pineapple juice and one glass of guava.  Sometimes when I'm feeling daring I'll do half and half...I know crazy :)

*Koloa rum company - I think you can take a tour but I found this place fairly late in the day so I just went to the shop.  I LOVE this mix - it has everything you need for a great cocktail (on your lanai watching the sunset of course)

Favorite shave ice

*I don't remember the name of the place but it was with all of the little shops on the North shore of Kauai the town is called Hanalei.  It's pretty crowded there but if like little dive spots and shops it's a cool place to check out.  Plus you get to go across this cool steel bridge (circa 1912).

Other favorites:

*Below are a few shots from my lanai.  As I mentioned in my Maui post - I always try to splurge on the best view - it's a big part of whether I enjoy being at the hotel or not. I love sitting on the lanai first thing in the morning and listing out a few things I want to do for the day, just watching the waves, watching the sunset, and enjoying a meal while listening to the waves crash. Pure heaven.  

*Lighthouse at Kilauea - I keep hoping I'll find a lighthouse on one of the islands that you can actually go in - I love the spiral stairs - they make great photo ops!  This isn't one of them.  

It is a good place to visit but just a warning it's a whale sanctuary (which would be cool if it was during the whale season) and a bird sanctuary...and let me tell you they do not discriminate about where they decide to use the bathroom.  I was pretty much ducking the whole time...

*If you're going to visit more than one island you'll most likely take Hawaiian Airlines interisland.  Make sure you get a window seat - it's a great opportunity to get some amazing aerial shots of the islands as you fly over (especially if you're not up for taking a helicopter or small plane tour)

Next up - the Big Island!