Normally I start roadtrips in a new thread, but this is more of a follow-up trip to complete the remaining (accessible) islands of Hawaii. I didn't worry so much about mileage, costs, or strict schedules this time, although the achievement of certain goals was certainly kept in play. In any case, keeping the following reports here improves the inclusiveness for anyone looking to research travel plans to Hawaii no matter which island(s).
In February 2022, I flew to Maui and used it as home base for traveling to the two minor islands that don't receive as much attention as the "Big 4" do. This was also an opportunity to try and catch some things in Maui I missed on the last round, with some success.
Feb 5 - Travel Day, fly to Kahului (OGG), stay in Paia, HI (Maui)
Feb 6 - Road to Hana (Waianapanapa State Park, Koki Beach Park)
Feb 7 - Daytrip to Lanai via ferry
Feb 8 - Daytrip to Molokai via commuter plane
Feb 9 - Backroad to Hana (Haleakala National Park - Seven Sacred Pools)
Feb 10 - Beach Day (Sugar Beach)
Feb 11 - Travel Day, fly home (LGB)
This is also my first trip post-pandemic, having to show proof of vaccination at the airport in order to receive a wristband that clears you from a forced quarantine. Hawaii has some of the strictest rules: several establishments also required ID and vaxx-proof to enter (with masks). This will likely no longer apply as the pandemic winds down, but something to consider if deciding to travel during future pandemics.
Saturday, February 5th
It was a super early flight from Long Beach Airport (LGB) using Hawaiian Airlines, but I took advantage of a Black Friday deal to score my seat for super cheap so I can put up with it this once. Wheels were up around 7:25 am PST. Arrived exactly 5 hours later in Kahului Airport on Maui (OGG) at 10:25 am HST. With the Jeep Wrangler rental in hand, it didn't take long to arrive at my base in Paia shortly after 11:00am. As I didn't really have anything on tap for today, I filled up my wares at the nearby supermarket and kept the wandering local. Went to Paia Bay Coffee Bar for lunch and walked some of the shops there. One town I decided to explore this time is Makawao, about 15 minutes away and higher elevation so not quite as warm. Nice place for foodies and galleries but not really my bag (except for the glassblowing studio which was interesting). Headed back to home base, then out again to Peligro’s for dinner.
Sunday, February 6th
I trekked the Road to Hana last time, but wanted to try and fill in the blanks that were missed due to time and weather. As is always recommended, I started the route at 8:30am. First stop on the list was the Garden of Eden Arboretum where you can feed the fowl, observe native flora and waterfalls, and get a peek at the rock from the opening island scene in Jurassic Park. Here it was raining on and off so kind of annoying, but not detrimental.
Garden of Eden Arboretum (Maui)
- First order of business is
finding attractions along the Road to Hana that I missed last time,
the first being the Garden of Eden. In the distance you can see the
rock from the opening island scene in Jurassic Park.
Next stop was the Ke’anae lookout, a mini-peninsula off the town of Ke'anae, with waves crashing against the lava rocks making for a serene location to enjoy, but time is of the essence on this road! Luckily there was no more rain at this point, so it was decided to head all the way to Koki Beach Park, where a mean Huli Huli chicken stand has set up shop; great eating while taking in more beach/rock/wave/island-with-lone-palm tree views.
It's a good point to turn around here before finding yourself wandering on to the treacherous "backside" road of Hana (more on that later). From here it was a backtrack to Wai‘anapanapa State Park, which had eluded me before but not this time. Finally got to witness and trudge upon the famous black sand beach. There was a bit of crowds so I didn't hang around too long, but it's a great park to spend the day if so desired. Continuing on, I revisited the Hana Lava Tube despite seeing it before, just because I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff. That's all the energy I had for today... returned to Paia about 4:30pm. Headed to the nearby town of Ha’iku with dinner at Coleen’s.
Wai'anapanapa State Park (Maui)
- I missed this before due
to heavy rain, but not this time! Black Sand Beach achieved!
Monday, February 7th (Lanai)
Today was exciting as another Hawaiian island can be marked off the list. I boarded the ferry on the west side of Maui in Lahaina, which left at 9:45am and headed straight for the island of Lanai. As this was also whale migration season, there were a few of the mammals galavanting about. The ride was 45 minutes, landing ashore at 10:30am. I met the group tour guide, who first drove us to Lanai Cat Sanctuary, a refuge for over 650 feral cats. There are several kennel areas, divided by cat age. A bag of cat treats is provided upon entry. And let me tell you, if you're a cat lover, expect to stay here all day. With my allergies I had to keep the felines at arms length, but the whole setup is quite a notable cause.
Cat Sanctuary (Lanai)
- Wanna feed/sponsor/adopt a cat?
Choose from 650 felines! While feeding, some will follow you,
some will scatter, and some just don't care. Sounds about right!
After an hour the tour van came back and whisked us away to the heart of the island: Lanai City. As the town is higher in elevation, I couldn't help at marvel at the tall "pine" trees in their central park. If you've ever been to an alpine forest, that's what it feels like here. Lunch was served at the Blue Ginger Cafe. There were a few shops and galleries, and one convenience store. There's really not that much to do here for the casual tourist, but 3,000 residents apparently love the tranquility here, and I can see why.
Lanai City (Lanai) -
In Dole Park, it sort of feels like you're up around Big Bear
Lake (or any alpine forest really). Nice and tranquil I say.
Unfortunately there wasn't quite enough time to see other attractions on Lanai, such as Shipwreck Beach or Garden of the Gods, as those required 4x4 vehicles and I didn't sign up for that. Gotta mark it for next time I suppose. The tour van got everyone back to the harbor by 2:00pm for our return ferry. By this time the seas were much rougher for the first half so the ride back was rather jostling. I knew better and stayed in the shielded interior, enjoying watching the outsiders get splashed despite the crew's advance warnings. Noticed a few dolphins here and there upon approach to Maui. After landing, a little time was spent wandering Lahaina, although I had done this before. It's a little touristy so I had enough of that and went back to home base. Dinner would be spent at Casanova’s in Makawao for the evening.
Tuesday, February 8th (Molokai)
Wham, bam, just like that another island which completes the entire chain. Now, the only reliable way to arrive at this island is by plane. But instead of the larger commercial airlines, I used a commuter that came with the tour package (Mokulele Airlines) using a 9-seat Cessna 208. Haven't flown in anything this small since the Alaska trip! The 8:00 am flight from Maui (OGG) only took 45 minutes to reach Molokai Airport (MKK). At the terminal, I met John my tour guide, along with a couple from Oahu (Jeff and Alicia). Today we have 6 hours to explore what makes Molokai tick. We started off on Mauna Loa Highway which is the island's main artery.
Kepuhi Beach (Molokai) -
This uninhabited beach stretches for about
3 miles. If you don't fancy crowds, there's no better place to set up shop!
First place we hit (after stopping at a shop for souvenirs) was on the far west end of the island, Kepuhi Beach, a long 3-mile stretch of brilliant sand with hardly any visitors, and perhaps 3-4 private homes. If you want a beach virtually all to yourself, this would be it. Next stop was Purdy’s Macadamia Nut farm, a small business of harvesting 7 acres of Macadamia Nuts year-round. I cracked one open and gave it a try, which sternly reminded me why I don’t like nuts. But as they have their own bees, they collect honey to which I did purchase a bottle.
Continuing on, next stop was the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center, which hosts the nearby RW Meyer Sugar Mill. This relic, once driven by nothing more than mules and steam, was used back in the pioneering days before falling into disrepair and subsequently restored during the 1980s to its former glory.
RW Meyer Sugar Mill (Molokai) -
This sugar mill was restored
to its prime condition during the olden days, original equipment and all.
Those of you who know their history may remember that Molokai was the final destination for those infected with leprosy from 1865-1969. The museum itself contained a special exhibit of folks from that Leper Colony who lived on the north peninsula for those 104 years. From the museum, we headed toward the north end of the island via Route 470 to Pala’au State Park, featuring a viewpoint of Kalaupapa peninsula where the entire leper colony lived, and where 5 of the original outcasts remain as of this writing. Even more fascinating are the dozens of workers and millions of dollars per year keep the place maintained while the remaining residences are still alive! In addition to the viewpoint, a five-minute walk will lead you to an offbeat feature called Phallic Rock, which looks... um... just as described.
Kalaupapa Peninsula (Molokai) -
The ex-leper colony town
of Kalaupapa on this peninsula is still run by the government and
costs $7 million to maintain every year... all for the 5 people who
decided never to leave. That law's still on the books!
It was time to backtrack down the highway to the south end of the island, through the town of Kaunakakai on Route 450, and to Saint Joseph Church & Cemetery, one of the 6 quaint churches that St. Damien built during the leprosy era. Our last stop was back in town for a bite to eat, with a drive around the (mostly commercial) harbor, then finally back to Molokai airport. Our tour guide, being somewhat of a native, was very helpful and knowledgable, to which I give 5 stars! Cessna wheels were up at 4:05pm with a return to Maui at 4:30pm. Dinner that night was at the impossible-to-reserve Mama’s Fish House (don't ask how I got in lol).
Wednesday, February 9th
With the main goals out of the way, I thought it would be a decent gamble to try re-visiting Haleakala National Park (not the summit). I had done the "backroad" to Hana before, but decided to change it up and take the long way around (from the south) using Route 31. Stopped at Grandma’s for a french toast breakfast, then continued the highway with lovely views of the tiny island of Kaho'olawe on the way. Last time I was through here, the environment was very arid with dried scrub, but due to recent heavy rainfall, this side of the island was much more green than usual. Getting into the thick of the highway, I had forgotten how severely rugged and bumpy this road was. Make sure to get your bathroom breaks out of the way first! Definitely helps to have a 4x4.
Over two hours later, first stop was something unintentionally skipped the first time: Palapala Ho’omau church and cemetery, where the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh is interred. It's super easy to miss so you have to know where you're going. The church grounds were quaint, and the cemetery has many crude graves. Lindbergh's rock-covered site is sparsely littered with model airplanes from previous visitors. There's also an adjacent tiny park for just hanging out if desired.
Charles Lindbergh's Grave (Maui) -
This was easy to miss
(as was the case last time) but for this round I made sure to visit
the grave of this famous aviator, who passed away on this island.
Haleakala National Park was just a mile further along the road. Unfortunately, I didn't bother to check the status on the NPS website, finding out that the Seven Sacred Pools are permanently closed for swimming (ugh). At least it wasn’t raining this time so I could walk the ˝ mile trail and take pics. There was a longer 2-mile trail to the interior where several waterfalls could be viewed, but this old man didn’t feel the endurance for that. After this visit concluded, I dreaded using the backroad again, so it was decided to just continue the rest of the highway through Hana and back to home base, even though I had gone through it just days before, but that was better than enduring the bumpy ride back. I don't think too many folks can say they did the road to Hana twice in a week! Pretty sure I never need to drive this road ever again either. :) Took another 2 hours but returned to home base by 3:30pm. I spent the rest of the day taking a well-earned nap before going to the local Flatbread Company in Paia for dinner, with pizza and salad.
Seven Sacred Pools (Maui) -
Unfortunately these pools are
permanently closed to swimmers so all I could do was take shots
of the falls. Still a beauty.
Thursday, February 10th
With all primary goals out of the way, I just wanted to spend the day relaxing. I tried one of those healthy breakfasts at the Choice Health Bar in town to start the morning, and afterwards headed off to Sugar Beach in the central southern part of the island and found a little place to camp out for a few hours and just bask in the Hawaii sun. There weren't any big waves here so it was easy to wade in to the 78°F water. After this, I headed to Papawai Lookout for any more possible whale sightings, but it was pretty light. Oh well, back to home base I go. I spent the rest of the afternoon perusing the shops for souvenirs and gifts. The final meal was a jaunt to the town of Hail'imaile at their General Store (which yes does include a restaurant).
Friday, February 11th
That's all I have to report! Spent the morning cleaning up and figuring out how to pack all these purchased goodies in a simple carry-on suitcase. (I made it work). Headed to Kahului Airport (OGG) for the 11:55am flight, wheels up around 12:15pm HST. Landed back at Long Beach (LGB) around 7:00pm PST.
It was really nice to get out and stretch the recreational muscles. Maybe it's due to the lack of an official trip for almost five years, or maybe the deep desire to kick this pandemic to the curb, but I tremendously enjoyed the encore presentation of Hawaii with two new islands to explore. If you like cats and alpine environments, Lanai would be your go-to island. If you're into (non-military) historical aspects I would definitely recommend Molokai. Both islands have way more to do than what I was able to squeeze in, especially the recreational/outdoor folk. Give them a go if you're fortunate to have a few extra days at your disposal.
As far as the final two (private) islands, it is possible to steal away on a beach of the "Forbidden Isle" of Ni'ihau for a few hours via helicopter (just don't bother the locals). The smallest island of Kaho'olawe allows no one except those who wish to volunteer for restoration efforts (erosion control, removal of invasive species, etc.) and the waiting list for this is long. You wouldn't be going for fun, you'd be going to work! Maybe some day after my other territory goals are complete will I attempt these.
Thanks for reading!
I took a few hundred pics but posted just a few for most to get the gist. Although I put a few photos in with the reports, the full set of 32 large photos is on Facebook and Google Photos.