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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tustin, California, United States

    Default Roadtrip #8A: The Hawaiian Islands and Back

    After a somewhat lengthy travel hiatus, this year attempts to rekindle the travel bug and inject a few adventures back in the mix.

    For June 2017, Iím embarking on a solo mission to finally conquer the one US state I havenít been to, and spend 10 days bouncing around the four largest Hawaiian islands for a taste of each locale. On Monday, June 5th, Hawaiian Airlines will fly me from LAX to KOA on the Big Island where the journey begins. This forum thread will chronicle the daily adventures as they unfold (or rather when internet is available).

    Per my usual speed-running fare, this trip will be jam-packed with the highlights from each island. Primary destinations include the 2 National Parks, as well as conquering the tallest mountain summit (Mauna Kea) and capital attractions (Pearl Harbor, State Capitol, etc.). Secondary goals are the landmark routes and areas such as the Road to Hana (Maui) and North Shore (Oahu). The Google travel map may give a better perspective, although the routes may look a little archaic. Rental vehicles will be used on each island. (Keeping track of mileage might be a challenge this time around!). This will also be my first trip using AirBnB rentals instead of the pricey hotels on each island. What better way to get to know the locals and save a little cash in the process?

    Hereís whatís on deck:

    Big Island
    Day 0 (Jun 5) - Travel Day, fly to (KOA) Kona - South Point (Kalae) - stay in Pahoa
    Day 1 (Jun 6) - Hawaii Volcanoes NP - Mauna Kea Summit - stay in Kalaoa

    Day 2 (Jun 7) - Travel Day, fly to (LIH) Lihue - Waimea Canyon - stay in Koloa (2 nights)
    Day 3 (Jun 8) - Wailua - Kilauea - Wainiha

    Day 4 (Jun 9) - Travel Day, fly to (OGG) Kahului - stay in Paia (3 nights)
    Day 5 (Jun 10) - Road to Hana
    Day 6 (Jun 11) - Sunrise at summit of Haleakala NP - Lahaina

    Day 7 (Jun 12) - Travel Day, fly to (HNL) Honolulu - Pearl Harbor Memorial - stay in Honolulu
    Day 8 (Jun 13) - Hawaii State Capitol - Waimea (North Shore)
    Day 9 (Jun 14) - Travel Day, fly home (LAX)

    Days 2 and 3 are the only tentative spots on the list, but the rest is more or less locked in. Once favorites are established, I can come back later for extended visits, in addition to visiting the sub islands.

    And of course I must top it off with the obligatory collection of previous adventures:

    RT01 - Summer 2005 - 48 States in 30 Days [Website] [Pics]
    RT02 - Fall 2006 - The Great West [Thread] [Pics]
    RT02a - Spring 2007 - Las Vegas, NV and back [Pics]
    RT03 - Spring 2007 - The National Parks of Utah [Thread] [Pics]
    RT03a - Fall 2007 - San Francisco, CA and back [Thread] [Pics]
    RT03b - Spring 2008 - Cambria, CA and back [Pics]
    RT04 - Fall 2008 - New Mexico and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival [Thread] [Pics]
    RT04a - Spring 2009 - Sedona, AZ and back [Thread] [Pics]
    RT05 - Fall 2009 - Washington, D.C. and the New England states [Thread] [Pics]
    RT06 - Fall 2011 - Victoria, BC and the Pacific Coast [Thread] [Pics]
    RT06a - Spring 2012 - The CA Mojave Desert and back [Thread] [Pics]
    RT07 - Spring 2013 - Alaska and the Arctic Frontier [Thread] [Pics]
    RT08 - Fall 2014 - The Upper Midwest [Thread] [Pics]

    The adventure begins soon. Last minute additional advice always welcome!

  2. Default

    You have a wonderful trip planned. Make sure to set aside some snorkeling time on one or all of the islands. Each has its own special snorkeling gems. I only had 5 full days yet snorkeled Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island. I also did the Napali Coast Raft snorkel trip, heli ride in Kauai, luau, volcanos np, snorkel trip to Molokini, and PART of the road to Hana. You can do a heck of a lot if you plan it right.

    I don't think it's possible to do the entire drive to Hana and back the same day; I know we couldn't. Also be aware that the rain can cause washouts and road closures for hours or days.

    Ten days! Have a wonderful time.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Keeping mileage -- write down what the mileage is as you pick up, then drop off each vehicle. At the end, add up the 4 totals. I'd be interested since none of the islands are exactly huge. Sounds like a great trip! Have fun!


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tustin, California, United States

    Default Day 0

    SuperShuttle (ExecuCar Express) arrived at my residence around 8:30am PDT, hauling me away to LAX, using Hawaiian Airlines for the first time on a 5-hour flight to Kailua-Kona International Airport, wheels down at 1:25pm HST. Roadtrip start!

    And how did I celebrate touching my 50th and final state? I was so excited I literally began to sweat! No wait, that was the insane humidity hitting me like a truck when stepping onto the tarmac. Yikes. Now I remember why I like deserts the best (see: dry heat).

    It took a little longer than expected to get going, due to a faulty baggage carousel and glacial car rental line, but by 3:00pm I was on my way using Hwy 11 to head south. I made a quick pitstop at Target to pick up some water and snacks. Obviously with the island hopping I can't stock up too much, but I'm making use of a mini-collapsible cooler for the basics.

    I learned two things very quickly. 1) Speed Limits are SLOW. Don't assume 60 miles equals 60 minutes around here. The island may be small, but vehicle speed is heavily regulated so it will take you hours to get where you're going. Even the fast tracks top out at 55MPH, with lower speeds most of the time. 2) The weather is super localized. It'll be sunny and dry in one place, and 5 minutes later you're driving through a rain-infested monsoon jungle, and then back again. I could see rain being dumped on communities up the hill a mile away, but dry as a bone where I was.

    First stop: Kalae/South Point. This is the most southern point in the entire 50 states (fitting), and since I was within a stone's throw, it seemed like common sense to take the extra 30-45 minutes for this. Reaching South Point Road, I detoured 12 miles (where else?) south. While the road was paved, it wasn't in top condition and eventually shrunk to a one-lane road (with northbound vehicles taking precedence while opposing traffic yielded to the shoulder). The first thing you'll notice upon arrival is the Cliff Dive off to the right. There are several old structures that were once used for diving into the ocean dozens of feet below (although from the signs I don't think that's allowed now). Some folks there were jumping off from a lower (safer) point, but I walked on past that and down to the extreme fringes where a stone wall led to lava rocks being inundated with decent-size waves. It was at this point I reveled in my latitude record and snapped away pics. Boom!

    By this time it was almost 6:00pm, which I was already behind schedule with the delays and slow speed limits. I headed back north, reconnecting to Hwy 11 and raced east (as speed limits would allow), but I couldn't make it to the AirBnB destination in Pahoa, HI until well after sundown.

    Legions of croaking frogs surround me as I write this, with the occasional downpour. This is quite a unique state, and it's not even the first day yet. Oh what does the future hold?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tustin, California, United States

    Default Day 1

    I must be out of my mind. I had forgotten how traveling solo unshackles you to set your own pace, but in my case that just accelerates speed-run tendencies. I'm instinctively cramming more things in than ever before.

    Now aware of the extended driving times on this island, I left Pahoa rather early (7:45am) to get started, stopping by a local attraction a few miles down the road, the Lava Trees State Park/Monument. This was a short loop showcasing dozens of trees burned and filled with upheaving lava from the 1700s, now rotted away and leaving only a column of lava rock behind. It's rather fascinating to view these all over the place, as if ancient statues. Good place for a quickie. Didn't want to doddle too much so only spent 20-25 minutes here.

    Next up was one of the bigger items, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Hwy 11 was once again the artery of the day. Happening upon the entrance, I coughed up $30 for the Tri-Peaks pass, seeing as how I'll be visiting Haleakala later on and would save some cash this way. Next came the obligatory "Visitor Center/Watch Video/Figure Out Where to Go" business. I jumped in my car and headed to the point nearest the steaming Halema'uma'u crater, which would be Jaggar Museum. Unfortunately there are no clear shots of lava from these viewpoints, although the vast landscape was still a treat.

    After this I rebounded back near the entrance and diverged south on the Chain of Craters Road. Now here you get to have a little more fun. There's multitudes of stopping points, mostly for lava craters, or lava flows coming from either Mauna Loa or breaking through the surface. As my mom used to say when she visited here years ago, it looks like you're on another planet.

    Down I descended to near the ocean, not stopping until a "Road Closed" at the 20-mile marker prevented further passage. I saw farther on down the road steaming columns coming from the ocean edge, and I knew that's where lava was currently dumping into the ocean. Unfortunately it was a 10-mile round-trip hike, and in this sticky weather that's a "hell no" in my book. I made conversation with one of the rangers at that point, where she guided me to Holei Sea Arch jutting out from the cliffs there. The wind was picking up something fierce so I kept my visit brief. I had skipped a lot of the viewpoints on the way down, but hit a number of them coming back up. (I don't know why that seems more efficient to me.) Plenty of pictures were taken of the lava grounds, craters, and distant views of the steam columns from the ocean. It was almost noon at this point and I had to be on the other side of the island in 4 hours. I raced back up and out of Hawaii Volcanoes, but not before stopping at the Volcano House gift shop for the MSP (Magnet/Shotglass/Postcard) and even a new shirt, which I don't purchase very often.

    Shortly after 1:30pm I was on my way to the east side of the island. Hilo seemed like a decent place to stop for a bite, so I found a deli and chomped the local food/salad bar while ordering a meat sandwich for later. It wasn't long before I headed away from Hilo using Hwy 2000 west to run into Hwy 200, all uphill at this point.

    What's out here? Let me tell you, dear. Something you should do yourself should the time be presented to you. I stopped at the Mauna Kea Recreation Area at 3:45pm and regrouped while waiting for a shuttle to pick me up, and so it did, the Mauna Kea Summit Adventures. I was the last and only one at this pick-up point so got to ride shotgun in the shuttle (very lucky for me!) I know it's a tour group and it sounds kinda hokey, but it really is one of the best ways to get up to the summit of Mauna Kea without attempting to do it yourself. There were two shuttles with two very knowledgable hosts, talking up everything about the mountain.

    First we stopped at the Visitor Information Center, where we all de-boarded with an included meal (or someone like me who opted out of that and munched the deli sandwich from earlier). A gift shop and some various other things occupied here, but nothing that caught my attention.

    At 5:50pm sharp, both shuttles began heading up to the summit. The first half of the road isn't paved so a lot of bumping was going on. The last half, however, was smooth sailing all the way to the top at 13,803 feet. Here there are 13 super large observatories that make use of the clear skies almost every night. While waiting for the sun to set, one of the guides explained the history (and possible fate) of each one. They're all for different countries, which is a cool thing as far as assisting world exploration.

    Shortly after 7:09pm, the vast amounts of clouds gave way to the satisfying oranges and reds accompanying such a spectacle. My camera batteries must have been screaming something fierce with all the pics I was taking. It lasted a good 30 minutes or so. After that we left the observatories and scaled down the mountain a ways around 12,000 feet to find a space for the sky gazing part. They had a pair of 11" Celestron (read: super expensive) telescopes, where we took turns looking at stars, nebulas, planets, all the good stuff. In between that I'm trying to get in my own time lapse images of the stars, with a little success but hoping I have better pics than I think I do.

    After 2 hours of that, back down the mountain we came. Luckily I was the first one to be dropped off, so I threw all my stuff in the car and continued west using Hwys 200/190 to the outskirts of Kona to my next AirBnB destination. A lot of downhill driving from this point!

    That's all for the Big Island! Time to head to the next destination. I don't think there will be any empty plates on deck. (Good!)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Maybe you will even tarry a bit?

    Quite the adventure you are on -- thank for the reports.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tustin, California, United States

    Default Day 2

    Now who in tarnation thought it was a good idea to bring chickens/roosters to the islands? Even with the windows shut, one jarred me awake at 5:00am, rather annoying but I guess it keeps me on an early schedule, but man it's tempting to go out there and stir up fried chicken for breakfast.

    My 2nd AirBnB place near Kalaoa, HI was super cool, providing spectacular views of the Kona valley 10 miles away. I reorganized personal belongings and left around 7:30am, plunging south to Kona and fueling up the rental before returning to the airport. Once there, it was time to bid adieu to the Big Island and fly over to Island #2 of Kauai. The jet stream keeps in my favor with a 39-minute flight, landing around 10:50am.

    The car rental for this round is a Jeep Wrangler, which I'm learning is not quite as spacious as the normal sedans/minivans I'm used to. Still it feels great to tool around the island in one. Just 4 miles from the airport in Lihue was the first stop: Mark's Place, where you can order a delicious BBQ chicken over noodles with your choice of sides. They have plenty of other things on the menu, so go check that out! After that was getting settled in Koloa, HI, the basecamp for the next 48 hours.

    Before long before I took off again, heading west on Route 50 to reach Waimea, then turning north on Route 550 for Waimea Canyon State Park. Here are several viewpoints of what some call the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" and man does it impress. The Waimea Canyon gorge goes wide and deep with layers of colors red to green. Helicopters were in view, providing their guests an even more personal encounter. Moving further up the road reveals different perspectives, including a prominent waterfall. Near the end of the 14-mile road, those viewpoints turn to the northwest, providing stunning views of the Kalalau valley and also a glimpse toward the neighboring private island of Ni'ihau. There's also plenty of fowl around these parts, so watch for them crossing the road and in parking lots. If you've got a few hours to spend exploring, definitely head up here.

    That's all for Day 2, time to explore the northeast part of the island, coming up next...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tustin, California, United States

    Default Day 3

    Another day, another cramming 47 things to do all in the space of 10 hours because I'm loony like that.

    Having already explored Waimea Canyon and the south/western part of the island of Kauai, it was time to rebound the other direction and look at the northeastern region. From Koloa, Route 550 was used to once again take hold of Route 50 and head east toward Lihue. A transition to Route 56 will take you all the way to Hanalei, but it doesn't stop there. Changing to Route 560 extends the journey past Wainiha to the northwesterly part of the island. I found the one-lane bridges fascinating, where local courtesy requests 5-7 cars each side take their turns crossing. Now that I've reached the end of the line, it's time to backtrack and start exploring.

    At the end of Route 560 is Ke'e Beach, a nice little spot if you want to get some sun but not arriving here until 11:30am will net you thousands of visitors. There was really no room to park so didn't doddle here too long. Along Route 560 are a few caves on the inland side of the road that can be explored. I went into one further down the road and it extends a good 50 yards into the towering cliffs.

    Continuing along, I stopped for a few shots along the western beaches of Hanalei Bay. But I continued on through Princeville, HI, to a little hidden spot in the northern fringes. It took a long time to park as spaces were not plentiful, but I found the trailhead that leads to Queen's Bath. It's a rough path with rocks and many roots sticking out of the ground (although they could be used as steps in places) so it's geared for those who can handle it. But at the end you're rewarded with lovely scenery of the rock formations, one area which was shaped to form a pool of water collected from the ocean waves. There were plenty of folk here (mostly tweeners) hanging around, swimming, jumping off cliffs into the water, and whatnot. I snapped my usual shots here, including some sea turtles that happened to be gallivanting for food along the coves. Good stuff.

    Next stop was Kilauea lighthouse in the next town over, but before doing that, it was decided to grab some local grub for lunch at Kilauea Fish Market, a little north from downtown Kilauea. Excellent of course (what Hawaiian food isn't?). After that was reaching the lighthouse at the end of the road, and also the farthest north on the island. Being a National landmark, there is a nominal $5.00 fee to enter (free with a Parks pass). This also happens to be a wildlife preserve, with plenty of fowl flying around, camping out across the small bay. The lighthouse itself is over 100 years old, refurbished plenty of times. There's a little bit of history here for those interested.

    Back to Route 56 and down the eastern shores again, the last thing on the list was Opeaka'a Falls off Route 580, but being so late in the day at this point, the sun wasn't in the optimal place and was too shadowy for any decent pics. Oh well, that's how it goes. Back to Koloa I go.

    Not a bad little island, definitely has the scenery and lushest green landscapes, I must say. Time for the next island. Keep it tuned here!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tustin, California, United States

    Default Day 4

    Today's travel day was an early one, but that's OK since my biological clock seems to be stuck on Pacific Time. I might as well keep waking up at 5:00am HST every morning, it'll be less painful when it's time to head back.

    A quick hop to the Lihue Airport prepared me for the short flight to Kahului Airport on Island #3 of Maui, wheels down at 8:50am HST. After picking up yet another Jeep Wrangler (Safari edition) and getting settled in the neighboring town of Paia, HI, this was an opportunity to kick back on a lighter day, as the heavy-lifting travel days would be over the weekend.

    I headed down Hwy 311/Hwy 31 to the Wailea/Makena area. This is the district with the fancy hotels and upscale shopping. I tooled around The Shops at Wailea for a bit and got a bite to eat. Afterward I discovered the Wailea Beach Path and walked amongst a few of the fancy hotels along the coast, such as the Fremont, Villas, and the family-friendly Grand Wailea with a mini waterpark. Would have loved to go in that had I been a guest. A few places were prepping for weddings and luaus. No shortage of stuff around here if all you want to do is lounge about in the midst of all that Hawaii-ness.

    The feet were starting to complain so I called it a day and headed back up to Paia. There was a Milagros Food Co with tasty Mexican cuisine. Never had a crab and lobster quesadilla before, but it was delish.

    Hold on to your hats folks, because this weekend in Maui is about to get a little crazy. Stick around to see what's in store.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tustin, California, United States

    Default Day 5

    This entire day was reserved for one purpose and one purpose only: the Road to Hana.

    Although some say it's difficult to do the whole thing in one day, this speed-runner was determined to prove otherwise. Route 36 would be the starting highway along the northern shores of Maui, but that soon turned into Route 360 and where the fun begins. It's as they say, lots of gnarly curves and hairpin turns, some with a speed limit as little as 10MPH, with many passes and bridges shrunk down to one-lane, thereby making it essential to yield and keep your distance to avoid any unwelcome vehicular contact.

    Starting before 8:00am as I did gives you the best chance of a full day round trip. You'll also find dozens of shops along the road, mostly food stands with the locals selling what they've grown. But there are a few gift shops along the way as well. I stopped at the first sizable one I came across. Within a few minutes after walking into the shop, I happen to glance outside and it was suddenly pouring rain like nobody's business. Where did that come from??? Running back to the jeep was the only option.

    But you and I should expect this, it's one of the rainiest places around after all. When driving along on Route 360 it will turn from sunny to overcast to drizzly to downpour, with variations on each. This microclimate is fascinating, but also annoying when it hampers your sightseeing. The whole area is virtually a rainforest with some of the lushest greenery around. A few places were notched off the list, such as an old village in Ke'anae, Waikani Falls (one of many falls found on this route), Nahiku Wayside, and Kalahu Point. (These stops can be researched in any Hana guide.) Unfortunately the excessive rain prevented stopping at the black sand beach of Waianapanapa State Park.

    A little after 12:00pm, the town of Hana was reached. There's no mini downtown shops here like I was expecting. The only notable thing here is the Travassa Hana resort where I stopped for lunch and there were a few places of business to check out.

    After an hour or so of that, it was time to go. But instead of going back, it was decided to press on using the backroad, meaning continuing south along the coastline. The primary goal at this point was to visit the Ohe'o Pools (aka the Seven Sacred Pools) which is part of Haleakala National Park, but when finally pulling up to that location, it was closed for swimming due to falling rocks, plus it was raining at a decent clip anyway, so the idea was ultimately scrapped. Poops. I had seen on the map that Charles Lindbergh (the aviator) gravesite was around here, but trying to find any entrance or sign for it was out of the question as well. Bah! No time to play detective now.

    As Route 360 turned into Route 31, the weather and landscape began dramatically changing due to meandering into the rain shadow of Maui's mountain ranges. The rains all but disappeared, lush forests turned into dry prairie fields, winds were fierce, the road was no longer smooth, either gravel or badly paved, and to top it off was only 1.5 car widths, meaning any one coming in the opposite direction had to figure out on their own how to get around each other. No wonder some rental companies forbid taking this road. (The Jeep powered through it all like a champ.) But I enjoyed every minute of this path. It's an adventure if you're up for such challenges!

    It took another 3 hours, but came out alive on the other side with Route 37, and found my way back to the north side of the island and returned to home base by 5:00pm. So yes Virginia, you can make the Road to Hana in a day, but only if you prepare correctly and choose your destinations sparingly.

    What else is on deck? I have to go to bed REALLY early for this next excursion. Just you wait and see.

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