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Archive for December, 2009

On our last day on the Big Island, I started the day with a fishing trip. I chose a half day shared charter on the Sea Wife II. It was only $99 per person. Shauna wasn’t interested in fishing though, especially an early morning trip, so she stayed at the condo to sleep in.
Kona Fishing

I don’t think I would use that charter again though if I returned to Kona. They let you keep your catch, which I thought was definitely a good thing. On most Hawaiian fishing charters the fish goes to the crew, to supplement their wages by selling the day’s catch. But it seemed more like we were just out for a cruise, and they did not have a lot of interest in catching fish.

We came to a very busy spot, with boats everywhere, but they just cruised on by. We even got a few bites near there, but they just kept on cruising rather than sticking around to try and hook into some fish. I would rather have caught a fish (especially a marlin) knowing full well that I wouldn’t get to eat it, than to catch nothing at all.

But my fishing trip certainly was not bad by any means. I did get a great view of the Kona coastline the entire trip:

Fishing along the Kona CoastWe even saw a few whales, although by the time I got my camera they were gone. The best part of the trip was seeing the dolphins at the Honokohau harbor:
Dolphins at Honokohau HarborWe saw them on the way out, and the way in.

DolphinsSo once I got back to the condo, I took Shauna out to the harbor so she could see them as well. They were there all day, and we could easily see them from shore, although they were farther away from shore than when I had first seen them during the fishing trip.

For lunch that day, we went to the Green Flash Coffee Shop and Cafe.
Green Flash Coffee, Kona
We had read about it in the Big Island Revealed Guidebook, and decided to check it out since it was close to our condo. The panini’s and coffee were very good. There is no ocean view though, but they have a few tables out back in a garden area:
Green Flash Coffee, KonaWhile we were eating we noticed that we were not alone. We were surprised that we did not notice how many of these little guys there were running around in the vines…
Green Flash Coffee, Big Island

Our favorite meal on the Big Island was at Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill. We went there on our last night in Hawaii after reading the good reviews on TripAdvisor and Big Island Revealed. The staff were very friendly, and overall it was just a great place for our last Hawaiian meal. The tables are covered with white paper and there are a few crayons for you to draw with while you wait. I had the grilled Ono and scallops, with purple potatoes and vegetables. Shauna had the Club Med Salad with hummus and grilled pita bread. It was one of the best meals during our entire trip, and easily the best we found on the Big Island.
Jackie Rey's - Big Island of Hawaii

If you want to really explore the Big Island of Hawaii I would definitely recommend that you stay longer than three nights. There is so much to see and do that we found ourselves rushing to try and get as much in as we could. And not really taking as much time to enjoy it all as we would have liked. We bought the Big Island Revealed guidebook, and it was a great help on our trip, even though we were limited on time. We have their guidebooks for Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island, and found them to be among the best guidebooks we could find for the Hawaiian Islands.

Overall, we enjoyed The Big Island. It was more laid back like Maui and Kauai as well, which we really liked in comparison to our week spent on the island of Oahu. The Big Island was quite hazy though most of the time though because of the volcano. Apparently it has been that way since an eruption in March of 2008. We are hoping that it clears up before we go back to the Big Island next time, as we do plan to go back someday as there is so much more to see…

Shauna has some more photos of the Big Island on her Flickr account as well.

To see the recap of our first few days on the Big Island, you can check out my other post here.

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My second favorite spot to snorkel was Palauea Beach, also known as White Rock. It is another one of Maui’s Turtle Towns. I had to swim out a bit farther at this beach before I saw any turtles, but there was certainly plenty to see along the way with lots of fish and coral to check out.

Palauea Beach is located on Makena Road, just south of the Fairmont Kea Lani. Parking is along the roadside, and will be obvious once you see all the other cars parked. As with anywhere, make sure not to leave any valuables in your car.

I should also mention that there are no facilities or lifeguards here, so be sure to use your own facilities before you get there. And if you are not a strong swimmer, then one of the charter tours is probably a better bet.

I swam out starting from the rocks in the foreground and headed to the left. It had rained a quite a bit when we first arrived, so the water was a bit murky. But the visibility was quite good towards the end of our trip once the weather improved, with lots of fish and turtles.

Hawaii Stitch8627_editAccording to the Maui Revealed guidebook, the rocks near the top of the photo are also good snorkeling. I didn’t get the chance to compare the two sides though. I guess that will have to be a goal during my next visit as I cannot wait to check out the water here again…

And while I was snorkeling, Shauna was busy taking some great photos:
sand lines

Once again if you are not a strong swimmer, or do not like the thought of swimming at a beach with no lifeguards, then you should probably check out the charter tours as a way to experience the snorkeling at one of Maui’s Turtle Towns. Better safe than sorry when dealing with the ocean. The photo below shows the area I explored the most. Much of the best snorkeling was out closer to the charter boat.

Palauea Beach, Maui

I found a great website for checking out the ocean conditions around Maui, and the other islands as well. It has aerial photos, beach descriptions, hazard ratings, and of course surf conditions. I would recommend checking it out before heading into the water so you know what you are up against.

During our next visit to Maui, I am also hoping to check out Molokini. I want to see if it really is that much better than the snorkeling along the shoreline. I would like to find a tour that doesn’t go to Turtle Town though, since I have found how to reach two of them from shore (Palauea and Maluaka). For the price of a charter tour I would like to spend as much time at Molokini as possible, and skip the areas I can get to from shore on my own.

If you would like to check out some additional photos of Palauea beach (and other sites on Maui) Shauna has posted some on her Flickr account here.

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During our 2009 trip we made a stop at the Iao Valley State Park. We had been keeping an eye on the mountains where the valley is located, but it seemed to always be cloudy out there. We wanted a nice clear day for taking photos.

The day we finally decided to go to the Iao Valley, the weather was great in sunny South Maui, so we figured it was worth a shot. But it definitely was not as nice once we got to the Iao Valley. It was actually raining pretty hard. Although we certainly did not mind, as it cooled us down nicely compared to the usual Hawaiian heat.

Once you get to the parking area, you begin walking up towards the Iao Needle. There is a nature center and heritage gardens to check out along the way:
Iao Needle, Maui

But we wanted to see the Iao Needle from the viewpoint at the top, so we continued up the trail without stopping to explore. There are a number of lookouts above the stream along the way. There are quite a few stairs to climb to get to the top. I  think it took us about five or ten minutes.  We thought it was worth checking out, although we didn’t get very many photos due to the rain.

Iao Needle, MauiOverall we were probably only there for half an hour or so. But by the time we got back down we were quite wet. So we weren’t really into taking our time through the heritage area. Perhaps on our next trip we will spend some more time there and have a closer look.

We did enjoy the drive to the Iao Valley State Park, as it wasn’t raining until we got close to the park. And on a clear day I would imagine the view looking back to Kahului would be quite good. The small town of Wailuku is also on the way. There were quite a few old stone churches and other buildings to look at, and it seemed like a neat little town.

We also stopped at the Maui Tropical Plantation on the way back for a quick look around, but didn’t feel like going on the tour. We read in the Maui Revealed Guidebook that it is a classic tourist trap. But being tourists it seemed like a good place to check out. My aunt and uncle went there during our wedding trip and really enjoyed it. Perhaps on our next trip we will check it out and be able to write a post about it.

All in all we were happy decided to go to the Iao Valley. Next time though we might go earlier in the morning to try and beat the weather. It always seems to get cloudier as the day goes on, and the weather seems to vary quite a bit from one part of the island to the next.

I mentioned above that it was much nicer in South Maui the day we went to check out the Iao Needle. It is hard to believe that this photo was taken on the same day at Secret Cove, only three hours before the two photos posted above. The weather certainly does vary from one part of the island to the next…
Secret Cove, Maui

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A good rental car is almost essential when visiting Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island. At least if you plan to explore the islands.  Oahu has a much better bus system, so it is not as important to have a rental car there. And parking is at a premium in Honolulu, so they are much less convenient there as well. Although if you are staying at Turtle Bay, or somewhere outside of Honolulu, it would likely be much more practical to have a rental car.

I took the photo below in 2008, on the day of our trip along the Northwest Maui Coastline. We had a red impala that I thought would make for a great photo against the red dirt there…
Rental Car, Maui
The best advice I could give on rental cars in Hawaii is to make sure you have your own insurance before you get there. They charge ridiculous amounts for their optional insurance. We did not realize you can get insurance at home that will cover all of the various rental car insurances, so we ended up paying way more than we had planned.

Here in BC the ICBC RoadStar package covers rental car insurance, and I believe it only costs about thirty dollars or so.

I believe some credit card companies cover rental car insurance as well, if you pay for the rental using their card, so keep an eye out for that as well.

Of course you can always go without the extra insurance if you don’t want to pay. But it seems like a sure way to ruin a vacation if something happens to the rental car that you declined the extra insurance on.

During our wedding trip of 2008 we pretty much had to pay the extra fees. We didn’t even realize there were extra optional insurances until we got to Maui. Our flight arrived in Maui at midnight, and we did not know if we had any extra coverage or not. We did know that we did not want to have our wedding trip ruined because we didn’t buy an extra $500 worth of insurance. But of course we were quite upset about having to pay so much.

In 2008 we used Budget Rental Car at the Kahului Airport. As with all the rental car companies at the airport they have shuttle buses to take you to their car lots. Almost everyone in our group rented from Budget, and most were happy, except us of course with the extra fees. It seemed we were one of the few who didn’t know you could get insurance at home. But we would have had to pay the fees at any of the rental companies there, so it was mostly our issue and not Budget’s.

But of course we still didn’t go back to Budget on our 2009 trip. Instead we decided to try Alamo. I checked the rates for each company online quite a bit, and Alamo always seemed to have the lower rates. They were good to deal with. Their shuttle bus takes you to their main building. And once we got through the paperwork, they send you out to their lot to pick a car. They have a group of cars from your car class, and you get to pick the one you want. The even offered us a free upgrade to a convertible, since they were running low on midsize. But we figured we would just get sunburnt more in a convertible, so we kept our midsize.

But as with any rental car, you should make sure to check it over very well before you leave the lot. We even took photos of the marks and scratches we found. We ended up having to return a few of the cars from Alamo. The first had a faulty set of keys. Not a big deal, but for a ten day vacation we wanted to be able to use the auto keypad to open the doors and trunk without putting the key in the actual lock, which is always handy if you have your hands full.

The second car had a bit of a gouge in the front tire. We drove on it for a few days before we noticed it. We checked the photos we had taken before we drove the car off the lot and could clearly see it was there before we drove it. We just didn’t notice when we first got the car. They gave us a new car with no questions asked, but we were happy to have the photos in case we needed proof that we did not damage the tire. Once again we got to pick a car from the lot. I really liked Alamo for that. But of course we checked it over very well before we left. Third time was a charm though, and we had no further troubles.

The photo below shows our third rental car on our adventure of the Hana Highway and the South Coast of Maui, which you can read about here.Highway past Hana
We also rented from Budget on the Big Island, and Alamo on Kauai. Both were good to deal with and we had no complaints.

One last tip would be to check the prices online quite often. We had a car booked, but noticed the same class of car was now listed at almost half the price. So of course I canceled the original reservation and got the newer price. Not sure if that happens often, but it is something to keep an eye on if you think  you got a bad deal.

Hope this all helps, good luck with your travels…

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We went for dinner at the Waterfront Restaurant in Ma’alaea one night during our wedding trip of 2008 . It was well recommended by the Maui Revealed guidebook, so we thought we would check it out as a romantic dinner for two a few days before our wedding.

We did not have difficulty finding it, but the parking lot seemed rather small. We did not have a reservation, although if you want an outside table, reservations are recommended.

Waterfront Restaurant, MauiWe got lucky though, and were able to sit out on the balcony. The outdoor tables are a bit close together, but it was still a great location for dinner right on Ma’alaea Harbor, with a view of South Maui and Molokini in the distance.
Waterfront Restaurant, Maui
We thought it was going to be one of the more expensive dinners during our trip, but once we saw that the menu’s did not have prices for any of the seafood we knew it would be for sure.

The server lets you know which types of fish are available that night. They only serve fresh fish, so their menu depends on what the fishermen were able to supply them with that day. While we were there some spear-fishermen actually came out of the water beside the restaurant with a net full of fish. Not sure if they took it right into the restaurant or not, but it was pretty neat to see.

I decided to try the Hapu’u – Hawaiian Sea Bass – baked with crab-meat stuffing. It was one of the best meals I ate during the entire trip.

Shauna tried the Mahi Mahi broiled with their Hawaiian Salsa. It was alright, but quite expensive for fish with fruit salsa on it. Not nearly as good as the Hapu’u.

During our 2009 trip, I tried to talk her into going back and getting the crab-meat stuffing option, but we decided against spending around $100 for one meal again. And we do not drink, so you can imagine what the bill would look like with some alcohol on it as well. But it remains one of the great memories from our wedding trip, and I am definitely happy we ate there. Maybe next time we will go back again…

Shauna has some additional photos at the Waterfront Restaurant posted on her Flickr account here.

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During our wedding trip of 2008, we decided to spend the second week of our trip on the Island of Oahu. We stayed at the Waikiki Beach Hotel.  The room was very comfortable and had a great view, even though it was only a partial ocean view. One of the best things about it was the free breakfast. You can eat beside the pool, or take the food with you in the cooler they provide. Most mornings we filled up the cooler and went back to the room to eat on the balcony. It was a partial ocean view only because there was a building just to the left of this photo, and our building to the right. It was still quite impressive though…

Waikiki BeachThe hotel is located on the Diamond Head end of Waikiki Beach, so it is a bit of a walk to the International Marketplace. But as with most of the Waikiki hotels the Hilo Hattie and Ala Moana buses stop out front.

We took the elevator to the top floor to check out the view a couple times. It was definitely worth it:
Honolulu Panoramic

On our first full day on Oahu, we went to check out Hanauma Bay for some great snorkeling. The shuttle bus drops you off at the parking area at the top of the hill and you can walk down to the beach. The view on the way down is very good:

Hanauma BayBefore you can go in the water, you have to watch a short video about ocean habitat and preservation of the reef. As with most of Oahu, it was quite busy there. But there are lots of fish to see and I would certainly recommend it if you are on Oahu.

As we were walking back up the hill we noticed a massive school of fish from the road. We had not swam over to this side, so it was tempting to go back and check it out. But the bus was leaving soon so we carried on our way. I wasn’t sure if I would feel comfortable swimming with so many fish anyhow…

School of fish at Hanauma Bay

We wanted to do the circle island tour, but did not want to pay the tour bus rates and be on their set schedules. The hotel does not have much parking for rental cars, so we just rented one for the day. It ended up being one of our favorite days on Oahu. Of course having the Oahu Revealed guidebook helped us out as well. Although I don’t think it is as helpful as their other guidebooks. But their website is great for the links, reviews, and aerial views of resorts.

We started out towards the airport in a clockwise direction. We knew wanted to stop at the Waimea Valley Gardens, so that was our first destination. They have a paved trail with many tropical flowers and trees. At the end of the trail is a freshwater pond and waterfall:

Waimea Valley Audubon Center

From there it was back to the town of Haleiwa for lunch at Haleiwa Joe’s. They had good food and a great view. Definitely worth checking out.
Haleiwa Joe's

We were hoping to see some huge waves along the North Shore, but since we were there in late April, the ocean had calmed down.

Our next stop was Turtle Bay. If I was going to stay on Oahu again, this is the place I would like to stay at. It was still fairly busy, but still much less crowded than Honolulu. The water was quite clear, and the snorkeling was good. It was one of our favorite spots on Oahu.

Turtle Bay, Oahu

By this time, we did not have time to stop at the Polynesian Culture Center. I had been there on a previous trip to Oahu, and my mother went a few days later on this trip. She said it was still very good, and much more interactive than our first trip. They teach you a great deal about each of the Polynesian Islands, while putting on a very good show. Definitely worth checking out.

We did make a quick stop at Pounder’s Beach. The waves were quite big here, although there were a few crazy surfers enjoying them. We preferred to enjoy them from shore, and got some good photos.

Pounder's Beach, Oahu

We could have spent more time exploring around the east coast of the island, but decided to head back to the hotel.

One day while sitting at the Starbucks down the street, we noticed a bunch of small geckos running around. We got a lot of photos of them, but this was one of my favorites:
Waikiki wildlife

There were a lot of great sunsets during our week on Oahu as well. And lots of sailboats, and kayakers to include in the photos:

Waikiki SunsetThis is one of my favorite sunset photos we took:
Waikiki Beach Sunset

We found that the only time Waikiki Beach was not completely packed was at night, or early in the morning. It was a big difference for us after our quiet week on the island of Maui. The beaches there were busy, but certainly not as busy as Waikiki or Hanauma Beach. But we did get some good night photos at Waikiki:

Waikiki Beach at night

Our two favorite restaurants on Oahu were right across the street from the Waikiki Beach Hotel at the Marriott. Sansei Seafood and Sushi and The Kuhio Beach Grill. You can check out my post on Sansei here. The Kuhio Beach Grill had a nightly buffet, and each night was different. It might have been one of the only restaurants we ate dinner at if we had found it sooner. The food was amazing. You can’t get much better than a fresh seafood and crab-leg buffet.

We went to Perry’s Smorg a few nights before we found the buffet at the Marriott. There was no comparison at all between the two. I would not recommend Perry’s to anyone. The food was not good, and it was quite dark there.

Overall, we preferred all of the other Hawaiian islands quite a bit more than Oahu. Part of the reason might be that we didn’t have our own car, other than the one day, so we were more restricted to what we could do and where we could go. But it didn’t seem like a good idea to have a rental car the whole time with not much room for parking at the hotel, and the extra fees that comes with it.

We actually decided to take a day trip to Kauai, just to get away Honolulu, which I have described in another post here. It ended up being one of the best parts of our two week trip, and we are looking forward to going back to Kauai. We might go back to Oahu sometime, but only for a few days in order to check out Turtle Bay, Hanauma Bay, the Polynesian Culture Center, and of course Pearl Harbor (which we never got around to doing this trip).  We would not be spending another whole week though, and definitely not staying at Waikiki Beach.

Everything was just too busy there. Honolulu is a big city, and staying at Waikiki Beach is like being in most other large cities on the mainland – with large buildings, and people everywhere. It seemed hotter than the other islands as well – perhaps because of all the buildings and concrete. Of course the beach is great, but it was just too crowded for us. Even being in the ocean there felt more like a swimming pool – with people everywhere. It was certainly not the same type of Hawaiian experience as we found on the other islands.

How much you like Oahu will depend on what you are looking for I suppose. If you have never been to Hawaii before, and want to see some of the great tourist attractions, then Oahu is a good place to go for that. And if you like the city scene, with more of a night-life, then Waikiki is probably a great place to stay. But we did not find it relaxing at all compared to the laid back islands of Maui and Kauai.

Although you cannot get photos like this on the other islands…
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

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As I mentioned in my post on the Island of Oahu, we found Oahu to be too busy and noisy for our liking.  So we decided to get away for a day to the Island of Kauai. We booked our inter-island flights  and a rental car from the Waikiki Beach hotel, where we were spending the second week of our wedding trip in 2008.

We got an early flight to Kauai, and a return flight after dark, so that we would have as much time as possible to explore the island. It is only a fifteen or twenty minute flight, so we were there quite early in the day.

When doing our initial research for where to stay during our honeymoon, we had considered staying at Kuhio Shores in Poipu, on the South Coast of Kauai. So after we got our rental car we figured we would head that way to check it out for a future trip.

It didn’t take long to be impressed by Kauai. We realized right away that this island was much more our style. There is a tree tunnel you drive through on the way to Poipu. It was definitely a big change from the concrete surroundings of Honolulu.
Tree tunnel, Kauai
Kuhio Shores was exactly as it appears on their website – right on the ocean with a small beach on either side. Definitely a place I would like to stay, and appeared to be a much better place for us than the busy Waikiki Beach. But we left all our bags at the hotel, so we carried on with our adventure as there was so much more to see.

By this time we were getting hungry, and hoped to find a place to eat breakfast. However unlike most of our trips, we had no plans, and no idea where to find a restaurant. We did know we wanted to check out the Waimea Canyon though, so we headed in that direction.

As we were passing through the small town of Kalaheo, we noticed the very busy Kalaheo Cafe and Coffee Co and decided it looked like a great place for breakfast. We both had their omelette – you can build your own from the list of choices. It was very good. My wife was very happy with the coffee as well. I got the apple juice – it was the best apple juice I have ever drank. Here is what they looked like in April 2008:
Kalaheo Cafe

After breakfast it was on to the Waimea Canyon. The road to the canyon winds back and forth as you go up and away from the ocean. It makes for some great views and we stopped a few times to enjoy it. Once we got to the canyon, we were amazed by the sheer size of it. It is still one of our favorite sights in all of Hawaii.
Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

We wanted to carry on to the second lookout as well, but figured we should carry on with our adventure. You can’t drive all the way around Kauai though, and we wanted to check out the North Coast, so we had to head back the way we came.

We headed back along the highway and ended up at Lydgate Beach Park. It was a nice sandy beach. It didn’t look good for swimming the day we were there though as it was quite rough. I am not sure if that is a normal thing or not, but I found a great website for checking the ocean conditions: http://hawaiibeachsafety.com/kauai

I have also come across another great site with information on the many great beaches and trails: http://www.kauaiexplorer.com/

After we had looked around there for a bit, we headed up the coast some more. As we were driving I noticed a sign for the Kiluea Lighthouse. As I turned in Shauna asked why I would want to go to a lighthouse, and said that we should keep going and never mind stopping. Once we got there however, we were both quite happy we stopped to have a look. This ended up being one of our favorite photos of the entire trip.

Kiluea LighthouseFrom there we continued our trip along the North Coast. We really enjoyed the drive along the north side of the island with the beaches, taro fields, mountains, and so much else to see. This is the wetter side of the island, so it was much greener than the dry south side.
There were so many great sandy beaches throughout Kauai, although I cannot remember the name of this one. I think it might be Anini Beach though, since you can just see the Kiluea Lighthouse in the distance at the top left of the photo.Kauai beach

As we looked at the map the rental car company gave us, we realized we had forgotten to stop at Wailua Falls, which along with the Waimea Canyon was one of the few places on Kauai we knew we wanted to see. So we made our way there next. It was very easy to get to and another place that should not be missed. This photo was taken from the lookout alongside the road:
Wailua Falls

By this time it was getting to be dinner time, so we went to Lihue to try and find something to eat. We drove around for a bit, but did not see anywhere we liked. On our drive through Kapa’a we saw a place called the Wahoo Seafood Grill. So we went back up there to check it out. The food was good, but a bit pricey. We sat out on the balcony area with a coconut grove next door:
Apr 24 2008 0384

By the time we were done dinner it was getting dark. So it was back to the airport and our hotel on Oahu. During the shuttle ride back to the hotel we found that there was some other people who had also taken a similar day trip to Kauai. They were also very happy with their day. We had a good time exchanging stories of where we went and what we saw. It also gave us something to talk about to distract us from the crazy driving the shuttle was doing. (watch out for those guys)

Overall we would recommend a trip to Kauai for anyone looking for a relaxing vacation. It seemed to be very laid back, much more like Maui than the busy island of Oahu. There was a lot to see and a lot to do. And we found ourselves wishing we had chosen Kauai over Oahu as our honeymoon location. We will likely visit Kauai during our next trip to Hawaii – along with Maui of course which is still our favorite.

Recently, we have been looking at potential places to stay during our next trip to Kauai. Kuhio Shores, mentioned above, is still a definite possibility. But now there are at least two other condominium complexes we are looking at: The Sealodge and Pali Ke Kua. They both have a number of websites, so I haven’t included any of their links. However there is a great link on the Kauai Revealed website where you can view aerial photos of any resort on the island, with reviews as well. It is a very good website, and they make really good guidebooks. If you have read my other posts you will know how much I like to recommend them.

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