I still can’t believe that last month I was in Hawaii. It was a long haul to get there and a long stay on the islands. It was gorgeous, great food, good people. I loved it. I’ll be honest, it was overwhelming to plan. The islands themselves can be confusing as you may find something fun to do and it’s on a different island than you thought. Or you want to do something and it can be difficult to research it. In the end we decided to split our time between two islands. The Island of Hawaii and then Maui. Maui is definitely the most popular in terms of vacationing and is quite developed. The Island of Hawaii however is none of those things. We felt off the beaten path the whole time. It was hands down my favorite of the two. In terms of development, it’s probably the second to least most developed (Kuaia being the “green island” because it hasn’t been developed much at all).
When trying to decide between what you want to visit and experience, try to narrow down your islands. I had met with a few folks from The Island of Hawaii so I had an interest to go there and explore the volcanos and Kona. Maui was required as my friend had to be there for work and two of my close friends from high school now live there. If you ever have the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend it and make sure to visit a few different places!
WHERE TO STAY
The Island of Hawaii – Hapuna Beach Resort – I’ll be honest, this was our ONLY option. There was some sort of big conference happening the days we were there and everything was booked up. It was either this $500 a night hotel, or “mattress on lawn” AirBNB (can’t make this shit up). In the end, it worked out just fine. We did however demand to be in a newly renovated room as the hotel is going through some major renovations. I would’ve been pretty upset if we spent that kind of money and ended up in a 1980’s worn in hotel room. The new room was stunning, insane views of the ocean and the food was fantastic.
Maui – Westin Maui – We stayed at the Westin Maui and to be honest, it was your standard Westin. It also was a stay, shop, play sort of set up. It was not in any way an authentic feel of the island. But if you’ve got kids and you need to keep them busy and want to shop, this is a great area in Lahaina. This was another, we had no option, kind of stay. My friend had work meetings in Maui and this is where the company booked them. It was a perfectly fine hotel. But it’s definitely family focused. Oh and did I mention there were adorable flamingos that live there? They are too cute!
Maui has lots of great areas and I visited Wailea, Paia and Makawao during my stay. Wailea is another very developed resort area. Paia was the surfer town and Makawao is this insanely cool cowboy town that my friends took me to for dinner one night. Lahaina and Wailea are definitely the two spots you’ll find the most resorts.
WHERE TO EAT
Makawao Steak House – Makawao – Spend an afternoon in this cute town and grab an amazing steak dinner at this cowboy inspired restaurant.
Paia Bowls – Paia – Amazing acai bowls in the heart of Paia
Cafe Mambo – Paia – Great coffee pick me up, sandwiches, and light lunch fare
Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquor – All over the island – Why am I recommending a liquor store? Well, it’s got the best poké on the island. Yes, you read that right. I asked the bartender for the best local poké and he immediately said this joint. They even let you sample before you buy. Even my friends who live on the island said it was a favorite.
Mama’s Fish House – Although delicious, it’s overpriced and the portions were fine. If you’ve got money to burn, go for it. If not, skip it. The place is beautiful though and is nestled up on the beach all by itself.
Lahaina Fish Company – In downtown Lahaina, this was classic Hawaiian fare. Great seafood in a casual setting.
Merriman’s – Our last dinner of the trip, this was a company dinner with my friend and not something we would’ve probably done as it was very pricey! The food was incredible though. They have an awesome terrace though that overlooks the water making it a great place to watch sunset.
THE ISLAND OF HAWAII
*We were only on The Island of Hawaii for 2 days so we didn’t have a lot of opportunities to explore restaurants. One whole day was spent on a tour which fed us lunch and dinner, leaving us just one meal outside of our hotel that we hated so I’m not listing it!
Basik Acai – Kona – No fuss acai bowls with a view of the ocean
Ola Brew – We tried the Ola Brew beers while on The Island of Hawaii and loved them. They just opened their brewery and we didn’t get a chance to visit but it looks like fun and we know the beer is good!
Whether you’re traveling as a blogger or a tourist, I truly believe it’s great to work with a photographer to capture some great photos and memories of your trip. It’s an hour or two of your day with guaranteed pictures you’ll cherish forever. Plus, the local photographers always seem to have the best recommendations on what to see, do and obviously eat.
Photo by Eric J Franke
THINGS TO SEE & DO
The Island of Hawaii
Hawaii Forest & Trail Volcano Tour – There are two options for the volcano tour. We opted for the twilight one and it had minimal hiking (but the above insane view). Personally, we would’ve liked to have hiked more, but we chose this based on our timeline for the day. We LOVED this tour though. Our tour guide Peter was amazing and so full of knowledge. After 12 hours I felt like I knew everything there was to know about Hawaiian culture, history and the unique landscape. Plus, the food was amazing which rarely happens on these tours.
Black Sand Beach – Bring water shoes! The sand and rocks are HOT. This was a fun little stop to lay on the beach for a little while before heading to Southern Point.
Southern Point – The southern most point of the United States. This cliff is impressive and terrifying. If you have small children, hold on tight! This was just a 15 minute drive from Black Sand Beach.
Fair Wind Tours – The snorkeling in Hawaii is incredible and I highly recommend doing a tour on any of the islands you visit. Fair Wind offers some really luxurious tours and one incredibly unique one, night swimming with manta rays! Be sure to book a visit if you’re on The Island of Hawaii.
Sail Maui – This is the sail tour we did to Molokini. I’ll be honest, we were spoiled after Hawaii Forest & Trail. This tour was good, just sort of to the point, nothing special.
Twin Falls – About an hour from Lahaina, this is a fun hike and trail to view some gorgeous falls. Bring water shoes and snacks!
POME Maui Surf Lessons – My friend did a private surf lesson one day (I refuse to surf after one really awful experience). She absolutely loved it. They do not provide rash guards, so be sure to bring your own!
THINGS TO NOTE
Getting Around – Rent a car! We needed a car on both islands for sure. Unless you plan to just hang at the beach the whole time, you won’t. But we wanted to explore the islands which are totally drivable in a single afternoon. It’s a fun way to see the different areas and landscape. I wish we had a more fun car like a convertible or Jeep, as the Hyundai beauty we had was kind of a piece of crap and not as fun. There is Uber on Maui, but don’t think there was any on The Island of Hawaii. I used Turo for the first time while on Maui and loved it! You can get $25 off your first trip by clicking here.
Check Other Airports – It’s super easy to pop around from island to island. We made a big mistake though of flying into the main airport on Maui from The Island of Hawaii Island which was 45 minutes from our hotel. Turns out there was an airport not far at all from our hotel, it just wasn’t a major airport. Getting between the islands is super quick and easy and pretty affordable.
Use Coral Reef Safe Sunscreen – While we don’t think about this much on the mainland, this was brought to my attention by blogger, Elanaloo. Sunscreen as we know is full of toxins and chemicals and every time we lather it on our bodies and then hop into the ocean, it comes off our skin and into the eco-system. It’s destroying the coral reefs and it’s a very sad reality of what humans are doing to the world. You can read more about it here and this brand is highly recommended and available on Amazon to use on your next beach vacation.