Everybody wants to talk about vaccinations these days, but for a little bit I would prefer to talk about vacations instead; specifically, a vacation to the Hawaiian Islands. I recently took a 10 day trip to Hawaii, splitting my time between the two islands of Oahu and Kauai. This was my second time visiting Oahu, and my first visit to the island of Kauai.
Oahu is the most populated and urban of the Hawaiian Islands. It includes places you may have heard of or even been to before including Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, and Pearl Harbor. However, Oahu has many gems beyond its urban areas as well. Kauai is the oldest of the islands and is nicknamed the “Garden Isle” because of its beautiful green landscapes. Its dramatic landscapes include the cliffs and canyons of Waimea Canyon, tropical rainforests, and the stunning coastline of the Napali Coast.
The 10 days in Hawaii were packed with adventures, but here I will hit the highlights. If you are planning a trip to Hawaii these are the seven things I would recommend the most (in no particular order). Also, if you would like to see video footage from the trip click here!
Side Note: This trip was during August and September. However, if you go to Hawaii in the winter months you have to do some whale watching! On my first trip to Hawaii I went whale watching in Maui and it was incredible.
- Cage Diving with Sharks on the North Shore of Oahu
This experience was on the North Shore of Oahu which is about an hour to hour and a half away from Waikiki Beach. The sharks were Galapagos sharks and ranged in size from about 6-10 feet long. We saw probably 8 different Galapagos sharks swimming around our cage while we were inside. They got so close we could have touched them! Although exhilarating, the experience was not as scary as I expected. These sharks are very gentle, but curious creatures. Our deckhands on the boat taught us a lot about the sharks. They of course told us that sharks are not interested in eating humans, and as it turns out these sharks use sensors on their nose to detect whether something is food or not. They will bump things with their nose in order to decide if they want to eat it or not. Other species of sharks eat larger prey and rely more heavily on their sense of taste which is why cases of mistaken identity can occur. We were also lucky enough to see some playful dolphins on our way out to the site!
- Pearl Harbor
Although this experience was not necessarily the most fun it was still very special. Visiting the site of Pearl Harbor is a humbling experience to say the least. It is difficult to appreciate all of the fun and adventure that Hawaii can be without also appreciating the sacrifices that are also part of Hawaii. At Pearl Harbor you can visit the USS Arizona which is a memorial as well as an underwater grave for many of the soldiers that were aboard that ship on December 7, 1941. The memorial sits above the ship without touching it and you can look into the water and still see parts of the ship. There is also the options to visit the museum exhibits and The Battleship Missouri Memorial.
- Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center
What would a trip to Hawaii be without a luau? This luau did not disappoint either! Attending a luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center can and should be an all day event. The PCC is like an interactive museum or cultural theme park of the Polynesian Islands. It is located on the North Shore, and with the luau tickets we also received admission to the park for the day. The park features six different island villages with shows and activities that teach you about the different cultures. Feel free to walk or take the canoe; we did both! After exploring the different villages we enjoyed a buffet dinner before our show. The show did an amazing job of incorporating all of the different Polynesian cultures into it. Through the different activities and luau the center is able to preserve and pay tribute to these cultures. Profits from ticket sales help to continue that purpose as well as provide college scholarships and employment opportunities to international students.
- Turtle Beach
Another great activity that you cannot miss on the North Shore is a visit to Turtle Beach, also known as Laniakea Beach. This beach is a well known and protected area for Green Sea Turtles in Hawaii. The Green Sea Turtle is a threatened species that can grow to be about 80 years old and 400 lbs. Many kind volunteers on that beach work very hard to protect the turtles and educate people about them. I was able to see about 8 or 10 different turtles swimming, eating, and sunbathing. It isn’t the best place to snorkel as far as visibility goes, but you can definitely see some sea turtles up close here. When it comes to snorkeling, my favorite spot that we tried was Poipu Beach in Kauai. However, I am sure Hawaii has many great places to snorkel if you can avoid big waves and strong currents.
- Doors Off Helicopter Tour of Kauai
Going up in a helicopter was a first for me, but it was certainly one of my favorite things we did. We were able to fly over Waimea Canyon and the Napali Coast. Our pilot was amazing and showed us so many beautiful places on the island. There are only a few ways to see the Napali Coast: by boat, by foot on a multi-day hiking trail called the Kalalau Trail, and by helicopter. By helicopter we were able to see so much from an amazing perspective. I could not stop smiling the entire time! This was when I realized that Kauai might just be the most beautiful place I have ever been.
- Waimea Canyon
There is no shortage of beautiful hikes in Hawaii. It’s hard to go wrong choosing any of them. However, Waimea Canyon in Kauai was my favorite. This natural wonder has been nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. We did the Canyon and Cliff trails. There are waterfalls at the end of the Canyon Trail. If you hike about a mile past the stream where the waterfalls are and the trail appears to end you will make it to a higher, more secluded viewpoint of Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park.
Other hikes I enjoyed include Diamond Head, a volcanic crater on Oahu; and the Kalalau Trail along the Napali Coast of Kauai. Diamond head was an easy 2 hour hike while the Kalalau Trail was a bit more challenging and can take a full day to multiple days depending on how much of it you choose to do.
- Stargazing in Kauai
Potentially the cheapest and easiest but one of the most amazing experiences of this trip was admiring the stars. With minimal interference from city lights on Kauai the view of the stars is indescribable. From virtually any beach shore in Kauai you will find a stunning view of the stars. I found my favorite spots for stargazing at our campsites in Kokee State Park and Anahola Beach.
As they say in Hawaii…
Aloha and mahalo nui loa,