I have cancer in my bones. It’s going to limit me at some point. But guess what, not today! Today I’m going to reach for my goals and check off those bucket list experiences. My recent adventure island-hopping in Hawaii pushed me both physically and mentally. I did things I probably should not tell my Dr. about. But oh what an exciting trip!
Of course I would be the one to turn a lazy, tropical island vacation into a get-up-and-go adventure. Most people I know go to Hawaii to relax on the beach or enjoy the lavish pools. It’s not exactly my style, but Hawaii did not leave us hanging and provided the best of both worlds! Relaxation and adventure. There is SO much to do and see in Hawaii. Just ask my best friend Yingka who helped make all my dreams come true for this trip. She’s been to Hawaii SEVEN times, and was still down for more! Or maybe she just loves me ❤
We started in Oahu, which is packed with both touristy attractions and hidden gems. The Dole Plantation was one of my favorite stops. They are known for their world record pineapple-shaped maze and their Dole Whips! We spent a good couple hours there, enjoying the train tour and shopping in their fabulous gift shop.
Look what they have at the Dole Plantation! Rainbow Eucalyptus! Saw these on Pinterest and they do exist!
Know where else you can find Dole Whips? Disneyland. Know who has the most amazing resort in all of the Hawaiian islands? Disney. Know who showed up and crashed their exclusive guest-only property? These girls! We explored the resort, lounged on their beach and enjoyed a meal complete with Mickey Mouse dessert.
Also, Oahu has some great hikes. We did two hikes, one to Manoa Falls which was relatively short and featured lush greenery and a 150 foot waterfall.
The other up to Diamond Head Crater – a mandatory hike if you’re on Oahu. A steep, 30 minute hike up with stunning views! Get there for sunrise, or just get there early because parking is a you-know-what.
The hikes were amazing. Know what else is amazing there? The food! Have mercy, we ate so much. A combination of fine dining and street food gave us a well-rounded tasty tour of Hawaii. Be sure to get Malasadas (Hawaiian donuts) in Oahu if you get the chance to go. They are divine! Shave ice is also a must. Two very famous spots are Matsumoto in Oahu and Ululani’s in Maui. Ululani’s is a true winner! Whatever you thought shave ice tastes like, throw those thoughts right out the window. I had no idea this is what TRUE shave ice was like.
There is a really fun, beautiful restaurant in the middle/East part of Oahu called Haleiwa Joe’s. Highly recommended for your #diningwithaview moment.
Ok enough eating. Time for beach! We checked out Waikiki Beach (of course), the North Shore where the surfers catch their dangerous pipe and one of the best beaches in the world Waimanalo Beach.
We’re almost done with Oahu, but we had one more stop to make. The memorial dedicated to the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Time to get my national park passport book out! If you happen to be planning your Hawaiian trip more than 3 months in advance, be sure to book tickets then. Otherwise, set your alarm and take advantage of your early jet lag by getting in line by 6am! I was there at 5:45am with bells on. Love my national parks! 15 minutes later, the line started to build up down the block. Apparantly it is like that every day.
World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is an extra special monument. The emotions feel so raw here, even though this event happened in 1944. Every oil bubble that floated to the surface as I peered down on the submerged ship gave me chills. They call them the “tears of the Arizona”. We lost 2,403 lives during the attack, 1,000 of which are still submerged in this war grave. All I can say is, thank you to our military for your selfless service!
We could have spent way more time on Oahu, but 3 more islands were calling our name so we had to head out. Next up was the Big Island!
Big Island was a true treasue. I checked off some major bucket list items here, and experienced some of the prettiest island weather you could possible have. God certainly carved out some fantastic days for all the important parts. I’m so grateful!
Our first day was all about national park sites and exploring the Kona coast. In Kona, you must visit a coffee farm! It was so interesting, whether or not you are a coffee fan.
On the second day, we did a full lava tour! Check out my blog post on just this day’s adventures. Here I am as Pele… or I just have a bad sunburn after the hike. Hiking on black lava fields is no joke.
We also did a great little hike/walk to see one of their largest waterfalls – Akaka Falls.
Before we left the Big Island, we stopped at Hawaii Islands National Park for my stamp and a little exploration. No lava to be found here, but interesting none-the-less. Always check the park website before coming as conditions change rapidly. We hiked in an underground lava tube (Thurston’s), found some steam vents and checked out their very interesting museum. We would have loved to see more but they closed off half the park due to toxic volcanic fumes.
Off to Maui! Maui is a great island. It is more laid back than Oahu and has some great beaches and hikes. There is also the Road to Hana which I would love to do some day! It was SO rainy when we were there, but we managed to get a few cool experiences like…
Nakalele Blow Hole! A natural phenomena where the sea surges up through a hole and explodes violently like a whale’s blowhole. Just be careful when you visit. We saw two tourists get knocked into the rocks pretty harshly.
Watch the sunrise at Haleakala National Park summit. Get there about 45 min to an hour before the sunrise because of traffic. Oh, and now you have to make a reservation well in advance. We got lucky! I snagged the last one about a week prior.
Soak in the amazing sunsets! They seem to change color before your very eyes! From orange to pink.
And enjoy a fabulous dinner in a fabulous atmosphere in Lahaina.
Last stop on this island-hopping tour was Molokai. I don’t hear a lot about Molokai, but I’ll tell you… it was stunning! It is known for having the highest sea cliffs in the world. They are between 3600 and 3900 feet tall. I snapped a couple shots from the plane.
I visited because there is a very unusual national park site there called Kalaupapa National Historical Park. This park is dedicated to not only preserving the history of how and when leprosy was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands, but it also still serves as home to patients who were treated and cured there. King Kamehameha V, of the Hawaiian Islands, banished all afflicted to the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula on the north shore of Molokai. Here, more than 8,000 people have died. It has a very fascinating history and I recommend everyone to watch the movie Molokai: The Story of Father Damien. Father Damien dedicated his life to helping the people inflicted by this horrible disease and eventually contracted it and died from it.
Don’t worry, it is very hard to contract leprosy. Studies suggest that you have to be genetically predisposed to it and/or you have to have long-term contact with someone who has it. It’s also curable. All the patients at Kalaupapa have been cured and are no longer transmitting the disease. So Doc! Don’t worry, I’m good 🙂
The residents that currently live there aren’t too keen on visitors and you have to be invited (ie: one of two tour groups). It’s also not easy to get to! I had to take two tiny airplanes, one to Molokai from Maui and then another one from Molokai airport down the cliffs to Kalaupapa airport. You can also hike down the cliffs or take a mule tour. A couple hours on a mule? No thanks. Being that I was traveling alone on this excursion, I decided the safe bet was to fly. Though, my fear of flying was only amplified more by how tiny this plane was. A first for me! Luckily no problems. How cute is their teeny weeny airport?!
From Molokai it was back to Maui and then home. I checked off ALL 8 national park sites in Hawaii on this trip, covering 4 islands. What a trip! My dream of visiting all 418 national park sites is getting closer to being a reality after this trip. I have to say, this was definitely one of the more memorable trips and I’m so glad to have shared it with my bestie.
We’ll see you again Hawaii. Mahalo for the amazing memories!
Keep reading below for the list of all sites on our itinerary.
*We spent 2.5 days here and it was fairly rushed. I’d recommend at least 3 to 4 to see and do all we did below.
Waikiki Beach – A must visit beach when on Oahu, full of lively bars and restaurants and blue, calm waters.
Pearl Harbor & WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument – You cannot go to Oahu and not visit Pearl Harbor. Plan ahead and book tickets, or get up very very early. It takes about 4 hours to see this park.
Honouliuli National Monument – I did a drive-by because it is not yet open to the public. It will tell the history of internment camps and prisoners of war in Hawaii during WWII.
Dole Pineapple Plantation – A fun spot for a train tour, world’s largest maze and Dole Whip!
North Shore & Bonzai Pipeline – Check out the waves at this infamous local spot for surfers.
Laniakea Turtle Beach – Stopped to see turtles sunning but found none 😦
Leonard’s Bakery – You haven’t had donuts until you’ve had fresh, hot malasadas.
Diamond Head Crater – Go for an early morning hike (sunrise if you can) and feast your eyes on views for days.
Manoa Falls – An easy hike with views, lush greenery and a waterfall with swimming hole.
Disney’s Aulani Resort – An amazing resort if you have kids, but also fun to visit for a day and peruse the grounds.
Waimanalo Beach – One of Hawaii’s best beaches featuring white sugary sand and beautiful blue-green water.
Haleiwa Joe’s – A fun restaurant with great atmosphere in a Hawaiian garden.
KCC’s Farmer’s Market – Great spot to sample fresh, local food!
Cinnamon’s Restaurant – Famous for their DELICIOUS guava chiffon pancakes!
*We spent 2.5 days on this island. A full day for national parks on the Kona side, which really only included short visits, and a full day on the Hilo side to see lava. The last half day we did Hawaii Volcanos National Park which takes a minimum of 4 hours to see but could be a whole day depending on the conditions.
Safari Helicopter Tours – For a first-time helicopter ride, you can’t beat lava lakes and waterfalls! One of the highlights of the trip!
Akaka Falls – Easy, short hike/nature walk to their 442 foot waterfall.
Lava Hike – Hands down, no question, one of the coolest moments of my life! We saw LAVA!!!
Broke Da Mouth Catering & Restaurant – Delicious traditional Hawaiian fare.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Great introductory stop to all things lava + has some cool hikes like Thurston’s Lava Tube.
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park – The prettiest park in Hawaii, with stunning beach views and some awesome archaeological, royal grounds.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park – An ancient Hawaiian settlement.
Pu’ukohala Heiau National Historic Park – Considered one of the most historically significant sites in Hawaii, Kamehamea I build this place of worship around 1790 and dedicated it to the war god Kūka’ilimoku.
Two Ladies Kitchen – Delicious and unique mochi!
Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation – Take a tour of a coffee plantation and taste delicious, virtually no-acid Kona coffee (the most expensive coffee in the world!).
*We spent 3 days on this island. Maui is more laid back, but we could have easily bumped this up to 4-5 days had the weather been better. Save some time for lounging on the beach and just enjoying the atmosphere. We also did not see anything but the sunrise on Haleakala NP but they have hikes and other things to do so plan at least a half a day following the sunrise depending on conditions.
Nakalele Blowhole – Powerful geyser-like water spout.
Lahaina – The place for people watching and dining with a view.
Kayaking at Maluaka Beach – We saw turtles!
Haleakalā National Park – Known as “The House of the Sun”, this is a dormant volcano park known for it’s stunning sunrise at 10,023 feet!
Surfing Goat Dairy Farm – Take a tour of their goat farm and sample their delicious cheese and goat cheese truffles!
Ululani’s Shave Ice – Best shave ice in the world!
Kapalua Coastal Trail – Easy hike along the coast; also leads to a man-made rock labyrinth called Dragon’s Teeth.
Makena Beach – Maui’s largest beach. Soft sand and blue water.
Kaanapali Beach – One of the better beaches in Maui.
Sheraton Maui Cliff Dive & Torch Ceremony – Short ceremony where a guy lights a torch and jumps off a cliff. I’m sure there is more to it than this, but we walked up just as it was happening. The bar nearby is good!
Kula Lodge – Great place for breakfast after watching the sun rise on Haleakala summit.
*To see the National Park, this is almost a full day experience. You have to get up very early to catch a flight from Maui or Oahu into Molokai, then another early flight to Kalaupapa or you take a mule ride or hike. Then the tour lasts about 4 hours, followed by 2 more flights to get back to one of the main islands.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park – NP site dedicated to the trials of leprosy and King Kamehameha’s order to banish people inflicted with what was once a very misunderstood disease. It also celebrates Father Damien’s work on the island and his dedication to the people.