My sweet new cousin-in-law (because clearly that must be the official term…) asked me for some travel tips to Hawaii. Rather than have these images languishing in my hard drive, I thought I would put together some of my favorite memories from my honeymoon on the Aloha island(s).
I will be the first to confess that Hawaii was not on my radar of places to visit. At all. It seemed like such a cliche to honeymoon in Hawaii – and it is, for good reason. I wanted something far more adventurous and off the beaten trail for our first trip as a married couple. Also, I am convinced a little part of me dies every time I go to a resort. But for various reasons Hawaii wound up being the most reasonable choice. And I don’t regret it for an instant.
First off, a mini primer on Hawaii: Hawaii consists of hundreds of islands, but popular among tourists are:
- Maui: a favorite with honeymooners. Has an inactive volcano, beautiful beaches and hotels, and is probably the most luxurious of the islands.
- Big Island (Hawai’i): perfect for adventurers. Has active volcanoes, great scuba/snorkeling (including swimming with manta rays!), great for exploring and hiking.
- Oahu: home to the state capital, and great for city and nightlife lovers.
- Kaua’i: known as the “garden island” and the “grand canyon of the pacific,” it is the perfect island for nature lovers.
- Moloka’i: considered by many to be the most “Hawaiian island”, great for experiencing the local culture (legends say that this was the birthplace of hula).
- Lana’i: good for escaping tourists, (but most activities are centered around the luxurious Four Seasons hotel).
We started our trip in beautiful Maui for some post-wedding R&R. Over the years, I’ve developed a tendency to plan trips to begin with a little downtime, ramp up for some adventure and exploring, and end with something relaxing, like a beach day. Hawaii is a perfect mix of adventure and relaxation.
The Westin Maui may possibly the nicest hotel I have ever been to. I was wowed from the minute I stepped into the lobby (which opens into a lagoon with a small waterfall populated by flamingos and swans!). You really can’t go wrong with any of the resorts in Kaanapali (the western part of Maui), but I would happily stay at the Westin Maui again. I don’t have many photos that do it justice – but offer this pro tip: make sure you get the breakfast buffet. Not many hotel breakfasts are worth it – but Simon still dreams about this one.
The Haleakala is a massive, inactive volcano and boasts the longest downhill bike ride in the world (26 miles). This is among my favorite experiences in Maui. We were picked up before dawn from our hotel and taken to summit where we watched the most incredible sunrise of my life. It was absolutely freezing at 10,000 ft elevation, and the warmest thing I had packed was a single long-sleeved shirt. Thankfully the tour company gave us windbreakers, warm layers and waterproof track pants (essential, particularly on a cloudy day where you are riding through clouds and get completely drenched). From the summit we zipped down on bikes – which in my book, is the only way to fully appreciate the incredible beauty of the volcano, and watch as the scene gradually change from alien-like landscape, descending through the clouds to a lush, tropical paradise.
I know what you’re thinking. A luau has got to be the most touristy thing you could possibly do in Hawaii, and consequently, should be avoided at all costs. I completely agree – but the Old Lahaina Luau is the one exception. This was completely not on my list of to-dos, but I was convinced by a seasoned Maui-traveller who insisted that we book, and I’m so thankful we did. It is more authentic than mosts tourist luaus, and the performances are beautiful. And even if hula isn’t your thing, at minimum, the feast is to die for (and did I mention an open bar is included with the fee?)
The luau begins at dusk and you are free to explore various Hawaiian arts, crafts and games. The luau guests are gathered for the unearthing of the Kalua pig (a traditional method of slow-cooking pork in an imu (underground oven)). The feast continues with hula performances by incredible dancers. Pro tip: make sure you book in advance and try to get seated on the traditional grass mats (which are immediately next to the stage, and offer a better view of the performances).
[Unearthing the Kalua pig]
The Road to Hana is a scenic drive from western Maui to the east of the island. En route are some of the most beautiful sights in Maui, including hidden waterfalls, botanical gardens, black sand beaches and basically – the garden of eden. Fair warning: this is not your average scenic drive but include incredibly sharp turns through mountain terrain. If attempting to do in a day, you want to start as early as possible, because you do not want to get caught on the road after dark.
- The best way to get around Maui is by car. When booking, the rental company will try to upsell you to a convertible. Do it. If there is ever a time in your life you will want to drive around in a convertible – it is in Maui.
- Depending on your schedule, it may be worth booking a night in Hana (if only so you don’t have to drive back in the dark). Hana is where local Hawaiians live if you’re curious about local life
- Bike Maui for Haleakala tours
- Places to stop on the Road to Hana
- The lonely planet’s primer on how to choose a Hawaiian island
More to come: exploring Big Island!