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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, I’m embarking on a solo mission to finally conquer the one US state I haven’t 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).

    Update: In February 2022 I returned to Maui as a launching point for visiting two more islands (Lanai and Molokai) with the full report added at the end of this thread.

    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 chaotic. 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?

    Here’s what’s 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)

    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!
    Last edited by Kinless; 03-05-2022 at 05:30 PM.

  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
    Central Missouri


    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

    Day 0 - Aloha (Travel Day)
    Monday, June 5, 2017 - 9:00pm HST

    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!

    Kalae, HI (Big Island) - First item on the list was coming to the
    most southern point of all 50 states, which is right here.

    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?
    Last edited by Kinless; 12-30-2021 at 12:53 PM.

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

    Default Day 1

    Day 1 - Volcano Rush
    Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 11:50pm HST

    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 25 minutes here.

    Lava Tree State Monument, HI (Big Island) - Lava rose
    from the deep in the 1700s, burning trees as they go and
    using the hollowed out trunks to mold these lava stumps.

    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.

    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI (Big Island) -
    I'll accept forgiveness for thinking you were on Mars.

    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.

    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI (Big Island) - Holei Sea Arch
    was made over 500 years ago, but it's only a matter of time before it
    gets pummeled by forces of the sea.

    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.

    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI (Big Island) - In the
    distance, lava flowing into the ocean creates columns of steam.

    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.

    But first, in order to acclimate to the higher elevation we stopped 9200 ft (2800 m) up 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.

    Mauna Kea, HI (Big Island) - Time to head to the highest
    point of Hawaii. Here's the visitor center where you must
    acclimate for a bit before the full ascension to the peak.

    At 5:50pm sharp, both shuttles began heading up to the summit. The first half of the road isn't paved so a bit of bumping and thrashing was at play. 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.

    Mauna Kea, HI (Big Island) -
    It's so pretty... oh so pretty...

    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!)
    Last edited by Kinless; 12-30-2021 at 12:53 PM.

  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.


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