After California our next destinations were the Paradisiac Islands of Hawaii. We arrived early in Honolulu but the next day at 6 am we had the next flight to Big Island. Even though there was not that much time to explore, we tried to make the most out of the day and took a bus to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Site. The park is really nice and a good place to pay respect to its history and the victims. There are a couple of extras you have to pay for, but we just had a stroll along the harbor and had a look at the torpedoes, submarines and other free displays.
After that we had to wait approximately 30 minutes to take the bus for 1.15 hours (buses don’t have a schedule and are extremely slow!) to Waikiki: the most famous beach of the island, so it’s obviously crowded but we still wanted to have a walk around. After waiting another half an hour for the bus (yes, we spent most of the day waiting for/or riding buses) we went back to the airport where we spent the night.
We arrived in Kona, Big Island at 5am. Luckily our car rental company was already open and we also found out that Kmart opens at 6am so we could get our food for the next days right away and got our gas at Ace Hardware store. Thanks to Ale’s Happy Cow! app we also found a vegan breakfast place, the Evolution Bakery where we enjoyed our amazing first meal on the island.
We had found a perfect campsite really close to town but unfortunately it would open the next day as it was a public beach park.
So we had to drive 1 hour down to make our camp at Miloli’i Beach Park. In case you think about camping there, don’t do it. To get to the park you drive through a -not very scenic- area with broken cars next to the street. In the evening locals come down to the park to “hang out” and play music. Luckily, at least during the night it was quiet so we still got a good sleep. The best part of this trip South was our stop at the 2 Step beach. One of the best snorkel spots we’ve found so far in Hawaii. There is an abundance of corals and fish. We were even lucky enough to see a sea turtle swim around and another one just chilling on the little tide pools. Our beach neighbors saw a shark sleeping under a rock, but our luck left us there.
After leaving Miloli’i we could make our way to the ocean campsite we were looking forward to. On the way, we stopped for a morning snorkel at Kahalu’u Beach Park, one of the more popular spots in Kona. Even though it was early, there was already a crowd in the water. However, we were rewarded again by spotting a sea turtle while he enjoyedhis breakfast. We also saw some corals and fishes, but the 2 Step beach was way better.
Our home for the next three days, the Kohanaiki Beach Park surpassed all our expectations. We found the perfect site right by the ocean, in the shade with space for our hammock and with a view of surfers catching waves all day, truly paradise. We enjoyed our new home for some hours with a good breakfast and some chilling in the hammock. In the afternoon we had another short trip planned to visit Makalawena Beach. To get there we had to take a gravel road through a volcanic landscape until we arrived at this little oasis. It is a quiet little beach, great for playing in the ocean and relaxing. There is also a house from the late 1800s that is currently waiting for restoration. We did the little walk to the house and passed it to a more quieter area with palm trees. Here, a little surprise was waiting for us, we found a sea turtle basking in the sun. That and the following sunset were the highlights of this eventful day.
The next morning we took the car up to the Northern part of the island. After a 90 minute drive we arrived at the Pololu Valley Lookout and then followed the short trail that leads down to the beach. This trip North is nice though we would say not a complete must, especially if you go to Waipi’o Valley as well. On the way back to the campsite we thought we would have another beach stop at Hapuna Beach Park. It was highly recommended in the Lonely Planet but didn’t strike us as a must see. So we just headed back to our campsite to enjoy the afternoon and another beautiful sunset.
Hilo Coast and the Volcano National Park
After three days at this campsite it was time to leave and go to the West side of the island. Our first stop was the Waipi’o Valley where we had a campsite booked in Waimanu campground. However, we didn’t know that to get to the campsite it would take us 6 to 8 hours hiking. Since we did not have the time for this we walked down the steep road, across the Waipi’o Beach and did 30 minutes of the Waimanu Trail. From here we had a great view of the valley and after hiking another trail for 45 minutes through a tropical forest we could cool off at some natural pools. After walking the 45 minutes back and another hour steep uphill to get to the car we were physically exhausted and happy to arrive at the next campsite. Here we met a lovely couple from Ukraine and Poland. Tomasz and Ksenya gave us a lot of tips what to do the next days and were also so nice to offer us a ride with their 4×4 to a sunset look out.
The next day we had high expectations visiting the Volcano National Park. However, during the day we did not get very excited. Sure, seeing a lava tunnel, a crater from above and a lot of volcanic landscapes sounds great. But we think that because you can basically drive the whole park you loose a bit the connection with the nature and the actual experience of being in a volcanic landscape. All this was about to change when we drove on to Kalapana. From there you can either walk 1.5 to 2 hours or rent a bike for 10 USD and cycle 30 minutes to a spot where a lava flow hits the ocean. We arrived shortly before sunset and it was a truly amazing experience seeing these two nature forces merging in a giant red cloud. Back at the Volcano National Park where we had our tent ready we made a quick stop at the Jagger Museum from where you can see a crater with active lava – another incredible sighting. Additionally, you have an amazing view of the Milky Way and countless stars. With this breathtaking experience we were dead tired and off to bed.
The next day started early because we wanted to hike the Kilauea Iki trail. We definitely made the right decision. We ysaw only five other people doing this amazing jungle/crater hike. After that we met with Tomasz and Ksenya in the town of Hilo. If you are here, check out the Abundant Life store. A supermarket that offers organic, vegetarian and vegan products. Also, it has a section where you can buy products and store them in your own container to avoid plastic garbage. Additionally, you can get a healthy lunch. With our new friends we made our way in a 4×4 up the Mauna Kea to watch the sunset. Arriving at the top you have an amazing view over the numerous observatories, the other mountains, a sea of clouds and sometimes the ocean. But nothing compares to the colors of the sky and clouds when the sun sets. You have to see it with your own eyes to understand why it is such a popular tourist spot. The only problem with the altitude and the late hour are the freezing temperatures. We left a lot of our warm clothes in a locker at the Honolulu airport so we were not really prepared for being outside at 0 degrees. During the sunset, we huddled up under a blanket and sleeping bag but once the darkness took over we were happy to go back into the car. After driving back to Hilo and returning the car we separated ways from our new travel friends and hope we will see them next year in Poland or somewhere else in Europe.
We planned to stay at another State campground by the coast around 40 minutes south of Hilo. However, arriving there in complete darkness we did not even find the area to pitch the tent. Since we also did not feel really comfortable we decided to leave the park in search for another accommodation. We were about to drive to Pahoa to look for a hostel when Ale remembered that there was another private campsite close. Arriving at that hour without reservation is really uncommon and we were super lucky that Mojo, the owner of the Hedonisia camp, was still awake and had one more spot for a tent available. These occasions really make you think that things happen for a reason. The next morning we woke up just to find one of the most amazing campsites we stayed at. Set in the Hawaiian jungle, the campsite consists of an open air toilet and shower (covered by a natural rock), compost and several different accommodation options. Mojo, being a long time feminist, also offers a jungle women program that empowers women and teaches them that they can do more than they think by themselves without relying on men. Check out our article about Mojo and his “Jungle Queen” and other programs. After enjoying a relaxing morning at the Hedonisia Eco-Community, we spend our last day in Big Island driving back to the Kona side. We cooked a yummy dinner and spent the last sunset on this island at the old airport beach park. Since we had an early flight to Maui the next morning we decided to save some money and sleep in the car at the airport.
Our trip to Maui began with a little gift. When we booked our flight with Mokulele Airlines we expected a normal airplane that would take us to the other island. Little did we know that our plane would actually be a small 9 passenger Cessna plane. What followed was one of the best experiences in our lives. We had incredible views of both islands just paying the usual airfare, where other people pay 200 USD for a scenic plane ride.
Sunrise viewing in Haleakala
When we arrived in Maui we made our way straight away to the Haleakala National Park where we had a permit for the sunrise gazing the next morning. We got the year pass for three National Parks for 30 USD (each individual entrance costs 25 USD) so we didn’t have to pay entrance fee nor for camping at the Hosmer campground. The next morning at 4 am, we made our way up to watch the sunrise, and took tea, blanket and sleeping bags to be prepared for the very cold morning in altitude. Similar to the sunset in Big Island the view is breathtaking with the sun rising over the clouds and illuminating the sky and the surrounding mountains.
We then drove to the Western side of Maui where we stayed two nights at the Olowalu campground. It is a nice place, but very expensive and apart from the nice shower and bathrooms we are not sure how the price is justified. Especially when you get woken up by roosters everyday at 5.30 am. On the other side there are not a lot of campsites around to choose from.
We then made our way up to explore the northern beaches. We first went to Honolua Bay, one of the best snorkel spots on the island. And we were not disappointed by the variety of corals and fishes. The highlight was following a green turtle whilst enjoying his lunch. The next stop was Napili beach which is small but very nice and also has some snorkeling to offer. After that we wanted to watch the free cliff diving show of the Sheraton which was rather disappointing. Also the free show at the Ka’anapali Beach hotel is definitely not a must see.
Road to Hana and East Maui
We left the next morning on one of the most popular tourist activities on Maui, the famous Road to Hana. This 40 mile drive towards a small town is filled with lookouts, waterfalls and natural pools. Since it was Sunday there were a lot of tourists and locals around. The best advice we can give is not to turn around at Hana and head back, but to continue along the coast all the way to Kipahulu. With a permit you can stay at the Wai’anapanapa campground before continuing your trip. The quiet Koki and Hamoa Beach were some of the best we have seen on the island. Then shortly after the 48 mile marker you can climb a little wall on the left side of the road before a small bridge and follow a path to the Venus Pools. There you can admire local cliff diving experts performing their daring jumps and take a splash yourself. I was so proud of Ale for overcoming her fear and diving into the pool.
After this fun break we went to our campground for this night in Kipahulu Bay. The campground lies in the Haleakala National Park and before cooking we did a beautiful 3.2 km hike through a bamboo forest to one of the highest waterfalls I have seen in my life. Again we had to go into the tent fairly early because on the East side of Maui the tropical rain hits you in strong shower intervals throughout the day.
West and South Maui
We started our journey back to the westside to stay two more nights at the Olowalu campground. The last days in Maui we needed to dry our clothes and equipment from the heavy rainfall on the other side of Maui and to exploring the beaches in South Maui. Especially our relaxing time at the Big Beach and the snorkeling at Maluaka Beach are really great memories.
Kauai and Oahu
The next Hawaii destination on our list was Kauai, the garden island. We planned to not rent a car here, however after talking to some fellow travelers and since we did not have too many days here we spontaneously got a vehicle.
Hanalei and the Napali Coast
Upon arrival we pretty much straight away headed to the Wailua Falls, definitely not a must see, before heading up the coast to our hippie accommodation. After a month of camping we enjoyed just chilling for an afternoon and getting a rest before some days of hiking.
The next day we left early to hike a trail at the Napali coast. The most popular hike is 11 miles which ends at a campsite where you spend the night before heading back the next day. However, the campground is booked out way in advance so you have to book with at least a couple of months anticipation. Since we were not that organized we hikes a trail along the breathtaking coast before turning inland to the Hanakapi´ai waterfalls. Even though you encounter a lot of people, especially on the first part of the track, a hike in this area is an absolute must. The trail first leads you along the coast until you cross a stream and reach a beach. Here you can go on towards the waterfalls or choose the long Kalalau Trail.
We really enjoyed the jungle hike, which includes several stream crossings and light rock climbing. All the 4 hour one way effort is worth it when you reach the final destination and have a snack and a splash at the waterfalls. When arriving back at the trail start you can enjoy a well deserved break the beach. With a coral reef 3 meters into the water it is also a really good spot for snorkeling. We then headed towards Hanalei Bay which is the main tourist town on the Island. One spot not to miss is the view from the Hanalei Pier over the Napali Coast Mountain Range. Next we made our way to the Koke´e National Park.
Koke´e State Park and Waimea State Park
The next day we planned another hike and were not sure which one to choose because there are so many in the area. We definitely recommend staying at least 3 days in the park and doing two hikes for they are supposed to be very different. After talking to a ranger we chose the Alakai Swamp Trail, a 6 mile round way with always changing landscapes. It is recommended to start the trail latest at 7 am because at around 10, 10.30 am the clouds start to cover the view at the destination of the trail. We began the hike way later than that but since it was so highly recommended we decided to risk it.
You start from the Pu’u O Kila Lookout which right away gives you a stunning view of cliffs and the Napali Coast Line. Further you make your way up and down through a lush rainforest and then at the final stretch you go through the swamp land that gives the trail its name. When we arrived at the final lookout we were really lucky because we had two short periods where we could enjoy the view over Hanalei Bay and the coastline. A few moments later the fog came back and covered the view entirely. After waiting another ten minutes without the view improving we decided to head back.
After returning to the car we drove towards the lookout of the Waimea Canyon, the great canyon of the pacific. We did not really research this area and so we were amazingly surprised by the breathtaking view over the canyon and the coast in the distance.
The next day we were waiting for the confirmation of Ales helicopter tour, which is supposed to be one of the best experiences here because you can see 20% of the island on land, the rest is only visible from the air. However, we were disappointed that none of the companies could confirm a time and in the end Ale could not book an hour with any company. So we spent the day renting bikes and going along the Kapa´a coastline, enjoying a nice dinner in town before heading to Starbucks to steal internet to watch Game of Thrones in the car and then we spent our last night at the airport to catch an early flight back to Oahu, our final destination in Hawaii.
After arriving at Honolulu airport we head straight away up towards the north coast where we booked a campsite in the Malaekahana State Park. After the check in we headed to the quiet Kawela Beach Park for a nap by the beach. Afterwards we headed to Laniakea Beach and loved our close encounter with the massive Green Sea Turtles that soak up the sun lying on the beach. After a quick stop at the beautiful Waimea Beach we went back to the campsite and good the first taste of floodings that increased the next day.
When we woke up we had no idea what was about to happen to us that day. We planned a big road trip to visit the popular snorkeling spot at Hanauma Bay. But when we arrived after the 1.5 hour drive we found out that the park is closed on tuesdays. We then moved on to the Waimanalo beach, where Ale wanted to revisit her memories when she went to Hawaii the first time. We were not too impressed with the main beach but then we found Sherwood Beach where we could enjoy the sun a bit.
We decided to return our car that day instead of the next. On the way to the airport the heavy, tropical rain storms started and did not stop until the night. So we were really happy not to camp in that storm and also enjoyed the comfort of a hotel bed after 6 weeks of camping.
On our last in Hawaii, we just hiked up the Diamond Head for an 360 degrees view Honolulu and the surrounding areas. The afternoon we enjoyed the hotel pool and prepared our luggage for the trip to Australia.