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!
Things To Do In Hawaii
Things To Do On The Island of Hawaii
Visit Volcanoes National Park
Visiting the volcanoes national park is a must do. It contains two of the world’s most active volcanoes. You can walk through a lava tube and hike along the crater, you can even see lava flowing into the ocean.
We did the Hawaii Forest & Trail Volcano Tour and chose the twilight option. It had minimal hiking and honestly, wish we went with the more hiking option.
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.
Do Some Stargazing
Did you know that the high elevation of the Island of Hawaii makes it one of the best spots in the world for stargazing? Check out Mauna Kea for some of the most advanced observatories and get a sight for your eyes.
Visit Black Sand Beach
For a beach day, try visiting Black Sand Beach. Definitely 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.
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.
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.
Snorkel at Kealakekua Bay
This is a protected bay on the west coast of the Island of Hawaii. There is an abundance of incredible sea life here. Colorful fish, sea turtles and dolphins.
Visit Akaka Falls State Park
On the east coast of the island, visit this 442 foot waterfall of Akaka Falls State Park. There’s a trail you can also hike to take in the views and scenic spots.
Things To Do In Maui
Sail To Molokini
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. But it was really fun to get to snorkel with all of the colorful fish and if you’re lucky you may catch some dolphins or whales breaching. We got to see several dolphins swim alongside our boat. It was such a treat!
About an hour from Lahaina, this is a fun hike and trail to view some gorgeous falls. Bring water shoes and snacks! Check out my tips to visiting Twin Falls here!
Take A Surfing Lesson With POME Maui Surf
One of the best hobbies that the Hawaiins partake in is surfing. Try your hand at this sport with a surfing lesson at POME Maui Surf. They do not provide rash guards, so be sure to bring your own!
Visit Haleakala National Park
Watch the sunrise from the summit of the dormant Haleakala volcano at this national park. Learn more about this park here.
Ho’okipa Beach Park
Whether you want to just walk along the beach, or try a little surfing, this is a beautiful beach park to visit. It’s not far from Mama’s Fish House, so if you’re near there, be sure to make a pitstop. We saw several sea turtles hanging out on the beach when we visited.
Road To Hana
One of the most popular experiences to partake in when visiting Maui is exploring the road to Hana. This is a scenic drive along the coastline with stops at various waterfalls, beaches and even small little towns. There are food stops along the way as well to try local fruits and dishes.
Where To Stay In Hawaii
Where To Stay In Hawaii – Big Island
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 ask 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.
Best Time To Visit The Big Island In Hawaii
The best time to visit the Big Island of Hawaii is usually between March and September. This is going to be your best chance for the least amount of rain and beautiful weather.
Where To Stay In Maui
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 perfect quintessential surfer town with cute shops, a beach and great poke bowls and acai bowls. And as for Makawao, this is an insanely cool cowboy town that my friends took me to for dinner one night.
When it comes to where to stay, you’ll probably find the most options in Lahaina and Wailea. These are definitely the two spots you’ll find the most resorts.
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!
Best Time To Visit Maui
Since Maui is a very popular vacation destination, you will want to keep in mind peak times to visit. April and May, along with August, September and early October are going to be the least crowded while still getting the best weather. June and July are the busiest months on the island so keep this in mind when planning your vacation.
The weather will be beautiful most of the year so if you can choose a slower month to relax, great. Plus, if you want to check out the whales, which just jump out of the water and it is one of the coolest things to see, you’ll want to visit in January. This is around peak migration period for the whales.
Where To Eat In The Big Island
Makawao Steak House – Makawao
Spend an afternoon in this cute town and grab an amazing steak dinner at this cowboy inspired restaurant. Come hungry, these portions are large. This is a great steak meal you’ll enjoy with all the fixings.
Paia Bowls – Paia
Amazing acai bowls in the heart of Paia. It’s just a tiny little stand that is serving up fresh acai bowls. They’re topped with all sorts of fruits. One sweeter and more delicious than the next.
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 just 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.
Our last dinner of the trip and it was the best way to finish off the trip. This place is definitely a high end spot and the food was incredible though. They have an awesome terrace though that overlooks the water making it a great place to watch sunset.
Where To Eat On The Island Of Hawaii
Basik Acai – Kona
No fuss acai bowls with a view of the ocean. This is located in a little shopping area too so you can walk around a bit after you enjoy your acai bowl.
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! If you’re into beer, definitely check this place out.
PHOTOGRAPHERS IN HAWAII
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 Know Before Visiting Hawaii
What’s The Best Way To Get Around The Big Island And Maui?
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.
What’s The Best Way To Fly To Different Hawaiian Islands?
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.
What Type Of Sunscreen Can You Bring To Hawaii?
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.
Do You Need A Passport To Go To Hawaii?
While Hawaii feels like a totally different country than the contiguous United States, it is still the US. You do not need a passport to visit. And you won’t need to change your outlets. It really felt so wild to be somewhere so different and tropical and still just be in the United States.
What Is Hawaii Known For?
Hawaii is known for so much. From the beautiful beaches, gorgeous water, and incredible food, there is a long list of amazing things on these islands. Depending on what you enjoy, you can dive into surfing, whale watching, the local cuisine and exploring the beautiful habitat of the islands.