Hawaii – For a magical first time visit to the islands…

Sandbar at Waikiki beachFor a lot of people, a vacation to Hawaii is a dream come true.  It was on my bucket list for only 20 years before I finally had an opportunity to visit two of the islands.  Located in the beautiful Pacific Ocean, it is the perfect exotic tropical getaway.  Unfortunately, most of us have only a week to 10 days to spare and with so many options, it is often daunting to pick which islands to go to and what to see.

For our vacation, we picked the islands of Oahu and Kauai.  My sister was the master planner and the itinerary she came up with was awesome.  Below is what we were able to accomplish in a week during the month of June.  We hope it gives you some cool ideas on how to spend your time there.

Day 1: We arrived in Honolulu late in the evening.  It does take time to get there from Mainland USA (we flew from SFO), but the time difference helps.  Once we checked in, we ate at a restaurant close to the hotel and called it a night.

Day 2: Spent the morning exploring the beach near the hotel.  We stayed close to Waikiki beach so we had an opportunity to spend some time there.  But, in the hopes of making it a productive day, we headed towards the Polynesian Cultural Center.   We spent the rest of the afternoon there and watched the evening show before heading back to the hotel.

Day 3:  Early in the morning we headed to Hanauma Bay.  Because we reached there very early in the morning (by 6:45am), we had no issues finding parking or a great spot on the beach.  The water was not too clear, but, as the morning progressed, snorkelling was a blast. 

Important Note 1:  I am not an avid swimmer and am not fond of swimming in waters where I cannot feel the bottom.  Hanauma Bay was a BOON for people like me.  I was able to thoroughly enjoy the water and snorkelling activities without being afraid.  I, of course made sure I did not step on any of the fragile reefs.

After spending a couple of hours there, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up.  We then headed to Pearl Harbour.  Here was our first mistake on the trip.  We did not book tickets in advance, so, unfortunately, by the time we got there, we were not able to get tickets to visit the USS Arizona.  We were however able to visit the USS Bowfin Submarine.  The kids really enjoyed the submarine tour and were shocked to see how small the living quarters really are.

We still had some daylight left, so we headed to Diamond Head and thoroughly enjoyed the hike up and soaked in the spectacular views from the top.

Later in the evening we enjoyed the Waikiki Shopping area before calling it a night.

Day 4:  After breakfast we headed to the Dole Plantation where the kids enjoyed the maze and the plantation tour.  The plantation tour was interesting as we were able to see how pineapples actually grew!  After lunch at the plantation, we headed to Turtle Beach where we saw some large turtles trying to reach shore.  Afterward, we went to Waimea Valley where we hiked up to the falls.  We spent the evening back at the hotel chilling out.

Day 5:  Waikiki Beach. period.  Hands down one of the best beaches I have ever been to.   As I mentioned earlier, I am not a huge fan of water.  I managed to spend over 5 hours just chilling either in the water or on the beach.  Right across from The Royal Hawaiian hotel, there is a long sandbar that enables newbies like me really enjoy the water without fear.  I had never before enjoyed the water near a beach so much. 

Later in the afternoon, we enjoyed shopping for some authentic Hawaiian shirts and other souvenirs.

Day 6:  Spent the morning at Waikiki Beach before heading to the airport.  We reached Kauai late in the morning.  After eating brunch, we headed to Waimea Canyon.  The drive and the views that followed were spectacular to say the least.  Later, we headed to our hotel which was near Princeville.  Spent the evening chilling out and enjoying the hotel facilities.

Day 7: Enjoyed the beach by the hotel.  Late in the afternoon, we went to the lighthouse area near Princeville before heading to Napali Coast State Park to watch the sunset.

Day 8: Spent the morning enjoying the facilities in the hotel.  Late in the morning, we headed to Hanalei Town from where we went on a Napali Coast boat tour.  It was SPECTACULAR!   Along with the amazing landscape views, we were able to see dolphins and many other marine life.   Well worth the money we spent. 

Day 9:  In the morning, our group split up.  Some of us went to the Hindu Monastery while the rest continued to enjoy the hotel facilities.  The Hindu Monastery was special for those of us who went there as we were able to enjoy the morning prayers.  We also had an opportunity to visit the Rudraksha forest nearby.

Early in the evening we headed back to the airport and headed home.

Tips:

Oahu – Even if you don’t enjoy swimming too much, bring your swimming gear.  Waikiki Beach and Hanauma Bay give you an opportunity to enjoy water like you never have before… calm waters, perfect temperature, just plain magic (experience from June)! 

Pearl Harbour – History lessons are very important and Pearl Harbour does have a lot of significance in how the events there shaped the history of the world.  If this is important to you as well, then make sure you book your tickets to the memorial ahead of time.

If you are an avid traveller, then I would place the Polynesian Cultural Center and Dole Plantation a little bit lower on the things to do.  The kids did enjoy the activities in both places a lot more than the adults.

Finally, if you are looking for authentic Hawaiian wear (men – shirts may be?), Oahu has some really nice choices.  Read the labels carefully.  Shirts that are designed and made in Hawaii are a lot more expensive but well worth it!  You will be able to find many souvenirs that look Hawaiian but are made elsewhere.

Kauai – Yes, it rains, sometimes, a lot.  Be prepared and give yourself some cushion.  Boat tours are cancelled in the last minute due to weather conditions so some of the activities may or may not happen as planned.  The good news is that the hotels are well equipped and the kids will enjoy the stay regardless.

Bottomline: The two islands in Hawaii did not disappoint.  We did budget appropriately (yes, it is on the more expensive side) but I will definitely be back to visit some of the other islands.  Not ready to cross Hawaii off my bucket list yet!

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