Date visited: April 2012
Our blog posts on exciting places have been a little sparse this year and as foreign travel is still in the midst of so much turmoil we decided to dig deep and reminisce with a throwback post. I’ve rummaged through and found my Hawaii trip notes and old photos to put this together.
This was our first visit to Hawaii where we were fortunate to spend 6 nights in Oahu and 6 nights in Kauai together with Laura’s daughter Zoe who was 16 at the time. Our Air Canada flights from London came with a bonus as they included an overnight stop in Calgary on the way and a full day in Vancouver in the way home.
The Hilton Garden Inn at Calgary airport was a convenient place for our one night stopover. A taxi to downtown Calgary was $23 which back then was the equivalent of £16. We went to the top of the Calgary Tower, which had panoramic views of the city. We strolled along Stephen Avenue, the main tourist street although it was fairly quiet so probably out of season. Nearby we had a drink and bite to eat in a place called ‘Earls’, a Canadian dining chain offering a range of burgers, seafood, salads etc.
We continued our journey to Oahu the following day and were surprised that the finger prints, ESTA checks, photo checks etc required for the US immigration was all done while still in Calgary! The 7 hour flight seemed to take a long time although there was a happy atmosphere on the plane as everyone eagerly awaited their arrival in Honolulu – especially when the pilot finally announced “Aloha – welcome to paradise!”
And paradise it was! From the moment we stepped off the plane into the warm, sunny weather and made our way into the airport terminal with its open air walkways lined with tropical plants and flowers. At this point we were grateful not to have to go through any more immigration as we collected our cases and took a taxi to Waikiki Beach and our hotel.
Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii state and is located on the south of Oahu island. Hawaii is made up of 8 major islands and, as I found in Wikipedia, each has its own nickname:
- Hawaii (The Big Island)
- Maui (The Valley Island)
- Oahu (The Gathering Place)
- Kauai (The Garden Isle)
- Molokai (The Friendly Isle)
- Lanai (The Pineapple Isle)
- Ni’ihau (The Forbidden Isle)
- Kaho’olawe (The Target Isle)
As the capital most major international flights arrive in Honolulu and from there you can take a short flight to each of the other islands. We began our stay with 4 nights in Honolulu and stayed in the Aston Waikiki Beach, a high rise hotel at the quieter Diamond Head end of the beach. With the current Covid situation they may no longer do this, but back then on arrival at the hotel, we were given a small square cool bag they called a ‘Bob’ for your breakfast on the beach! The idea is you fill your cool bag with items from the buffet and take this to eat on the beach (or wherever you may choose). This was really pleasant each morning.
We were quite happy to walk along the beach towards the centre of the city however several times a day, the trolley bus stopped outside our hotel should you wish to use it. Throughout our 4 days we spent a bit of time walking around; I was still quite unable to believe I was actually in Hawaii, a place I had dreamed of visiting since I was a child, watching Magnum PI and Hawaii 5-0!
There is a large expanse of bars, restaurants and air-conditioned shops. The Ala Moana is a large open air shopping mall with 350 stores.
From our hotel we were able to get a bus to Pearl Harbour about 10 miles from Honolulu. This isn’t the most practical form of transport as it stopped everywhere and took over an hour. However it was a cheap option at only $2.50 each and half price for Zoe! Entry to Pearl Harbour was free although we had to leave all bags outside the entrance and carry our valuables around while we were in there.
Pearl Harbor is a US naval base and following an attack by the Japanese in December 1941, this began the United States’ entry into World War 2.
We had an interesting albeit sombre morning as we looked around the museum and the memorial.
On the way back we got off at the Ala Moana mall, several stops early and did a bit of shopping before experiencing the trolley bus back!
Another day we got bus number 22 in the opposite direction to Hanauma Bay which took about 30 minutes. Hanauma Bay is a nature reserve; when we arrived there was quite a queue as visitor numbers are limited. We were put into a group and had to watch a video about the bay, the coral and the fish before we were allowed to enter. We stayed for about 3 hours snorkelling and relaxing on the beach before taking the bus back to our hotel.
Following our stay in Honolulu and our last ‘bob’ we checked out of our hotel, headed back to the airport, checked in and were at the departure gate within 5 minutes. The flight with Go Airlines took about 20 minutes before we arrived in Kauai.
We had booked a rental car for our 6 nights in Kauai and picked this up from the airport. This enabled us to explore the island independently. This is a summary of our Kauai adventures:
In contrast with the high rise Waikiki hotel, we stayed in the Islander on the Beach, a low-key, low-rise hotel on a quiet beach. We had a pleasant airy room and it was so peaceful that from our balcony we could hear the waves crashing in the background.
Kauai is known as the ‘garden isle’ thanks to its large covering of tropical rainforest. It is also allegedly the wettest place on Earth so we were anticipating some rain during our stay!
We explored all sides of Kauai and the first day we drove to the black volcanic cliffs of the north of the island and parked the car near to Kilauea Lighthouse. We were able to walk along the cliffs right up to the lighthouse and see the dramatic coastline.
Waimea is the largest canyon in the Pacific and to see it properly you can take helicopter flights over this and the dramatic Na Pali coastline. Unfortunately the weather was misty and we didn’t take the helicopter but from the viewpoint we were still able to see the vast craggy views across this 10 mile long canyon.
Kalalau Lookout Point
This was a spectacular vantage point where you can look out across the wilderness of Kauai’s rugged Na Pali Coast. This is also home of the Kalalau Trail, an 11 mile trail through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world (put Napali coast into Google Images and you will see what we mean…). This is also thought of as one of the world’s most dangerous trails where hikers have died as a result of flash floods or from falling.
Poipu is a small town in the south of Kauai with some interesting features!
Above is the Sprouting Horn, a blowhole located at Poipu.
Also at Poipu are the botanical tropical gardens. At the time of our visit, you were not able to enter and wander around by yourself without being part of a 1.5 hour guided tour. As the weather was rainy we decided against the tour but were still able to admire a part of the gardens which were complimentary for the public.
This is stunning beach is located near the Grand Hyatt hotel. The hotel welcomed us in for drinks and a snack and we were able to use their sun beds and access to this wonderful beach with its soft golden sand, dramatic cliffs and black pebbles. Thankfully, after a rainy start, the weather improved for the rest of this day.
Closer to our hotel we also visited Smiths tropical botanical gardens and for $6 each we were able to wander around the gardens, fern grotto and waterfall.
We spent our final two nights back in Honolulu, this time treating ourselves to a stay in the Honolulu Hilton. The weather was very noticeably different, having gone from pretty rainy Kauai and back into the sunshine of Oahu!
As mentioned, we were fortunate to spend a full day exploring Vancouver on our way home. We began with breakfast along the waterfront before heading to the Vancouver Lookout Tower. We then got bus number 19 to Stanley Park and had a pleasant time wandering through the park and visiting the aquarium.
We went back to the waterfront and had a walk along there, before taking the skytrain back to the airport in time for our evening flight back to London.
What a fantastic time we had and even thought this post has been written 8 years later, we both agree that Hawaii is still one of our favourite places.