A trip that made my life complete
I wasn't originally attracted by beach oriented trips. Since I was a kid, I didn't like the fact that everyone's fantasy trip was all about going to the beach. I found it very cliché. That's also what kept me away from my now very deep connection to the sea for a very long time. Later on, I read that Hawaii was a volcanic archipelago covered by the lushest nature in the world ; I knew I was already in love. The islands are home to very few poisonous or lethal living creatures, compare to the diversity that's present. Can you believe that mosquitoes were not even existent before 1826, and brought there by shameful Europeans, the consequence being the decimation of many native birds. A mosquito less place, imagine how nice! A living utopia...
So I went there for a 2 weeks bliss, and would like to share some of my pieces of treasure:
Here I had the chance to have nothing left but a red mustang at the rental car company, which I enjoyed a lot for once in my life. The encounter with the famous spam musubi for breakfast was also particularly touching.
- Leahi (Diamond Head) hike. Quite a simple 1 hour hike, at the end of the afternoon, ideally to watch the sunset next to Honolulu skyline.
- Free outdoor Hula show, at Kuhio beach. Seemed like a welcoming set up to me, as it happened right the night I arrived. It is offered every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, starts with the traditional blowing of conch shell, as well as torch lighting, and unfolds all along the sunset time. So seducing!
- Marukame Udon, Kuhio ave, Honolulu: tasteful udon made to order, meaning you can even chose if you want it hot or cold for most of them. Plus an abundant choice of side dishes and tempura to complete your order.
- Pearl Harbor USS Arizona memorial and USS Bowfin submarine: a must, at least to realize that you are on a peaceful tiny dot of land in the midst of the vastness of the ocean.
- Leonard's bakery, Honolulu: let's go straight for a full box of 6 to 12 malasadas (golden-rich Portuguese doughnuts) of your choice, among which: Lilikoi (passion fruit), Custard, Haupia (coconut), Cinnamon, and more, with a flavour of the month.
- Royal Grove hotel, Waikiki: a reasonably priced motel, with a charming vintage Honolulu style.
#2 Hawaii (Big Island)
- Umekes poke, Kailua Kona: the first poke encounter, the one I can never forget. Frankly, I could fight for it, or swim to be back then. The preparations are so very léchées. You would actually lick your finger to their tips to make sure you got enough of it.
- Da-Poke Shack, Kailua Kona: just because you couldn't get enough of poke, I have to mention this other top-rank poke place, where the variety is just incredible, and of course one of the most tasteful one.
- Manta night dive with Jack's diving locker, Kailua Kona
- Discovery Antiques & Ice Cream store, Kealakekua: the antiques and records lovers' haven, with items at all prices. Plus an unpredictable super-creamy home-made ice cream bar.
- Greenwell Farms, Kealakekua: enjoy a free visit of this coffee farm. One of the most genuine and green one. A coffee tasting welcome I wasn't able to leave, since every one of the grand crus would arouse my mind and my mouth with more joy! LOved the cinnamon honey too.
- Ka'awa Loa Plantation guesthouse, Captain Cook: I could almost write it's been the best accommodation ever in my entire life! Michael and Greg hosted me like a queen, offering exquisite home-made treats and pastries at any time of the day, as well as a marvellous breakfast on the patio accompanied by lime-green lizards around us, while gazing at a steep breathtaking view above Captain Cook creek afar.
- Captain Cook snorkelling: one of the best spots we tried all over the trip. Just rent a canoe along the shore and paddle 'til reaching Captain Cook's statue snorkelling area.
- Kaaloa's Super J's, Captain Cook: a authentic Hawaiian food road-side restaurant, where you can eventually try your first (maybe?) Laulau. Nowadays, Laulau is a plate lunch, usually pork or chicken wrapped in taro leaf, served with a side of rice and macaroni salad.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: the 1st time I cried out of happiness
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Namakanipaio campground: a great cheap location to sleep in peace. It's super clean, and convenient to reach any area in the park, especially easy and quick to come back when you go watching the lava lake at night. You should definitely stay 3 to 4 days in the park if you are a volcano-lover like me.
- Also, consider stopping by for a picnic on your way down to Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs and Holei Sea Arch. There's an area with wooden tables and a fantastic view over different layers, textures and colours of lava flows to the ocean.
- Mauna Kea observatories: the 2nd time I cried out of happiness
The astronomy precinct houses 13 international telescopes, all super-massive and among the most powerful ones in the world. This infinite Martian field composition of metallic dodecahedrons and domes can only leave you bouche-bée and petrified.
- Arnott's Lodge, Hilo: again, you can camp here for cheap, and enjoy their clean showers and smily staff. But most of all, you can join their tour with discount to Mauna Kea observatories if you don't have a jeep or are not sure wether you'll make it alive on its deadly road up, and mainly down. What we did was to drive to the information center by ourselves, then join the tour up and back from the observatory plateau for an out of this world sunset, then leave the group in order to enjoy the free stargazing activity offered by the center and highly-knowledgeable volunteer staff starting at 6PM, using professional telescopes. You should not miss that. Eventually, be careful and slow while driving back to Hilo in a total darkness for a period of time.
- Imiloa Astronomy Center, Hilo: In case you have a little time, meaning not enough to go for a hike, you should definitely visit this very modern and well-designed museum, displaying exhibits as well as a planetarium or video projections. What I truly appreciate is their Hawaiian beliefs and knowledge oriented presentation.
- Hamura Saimin, Lihue: a mix of Chinese and Japanese traditional style noodles, in a highly-coloured fashion.
- Waimea canyon: about half-day to drive up if you stop often to take pictures and hike little tracks.
- Kokee campground: at the top of the road leaning along the canyon. One of the cleanest and safest campground in Hawaii (together with the Volcanoes National Park). Calm and convenient.
- Aunty Lilikoi, Waimea: if you are fond of passion fruit, stop by and try the passion fruit pure juice, the honey, or all kind of condiments.
- Jojo's shave ice, Waimea & Wailua shave ice, Kapaa: both very good with plain flavours. Not fond of cold food and beverages, I mainly wanted to experience the Li Hing Mui flavour, because of my love for dried plums coming from my Vietnamese grandma.
- Vicky's fabrics shop, Kapaa: luxuriant flowery Hawaiian fabrics, I must say I was desolated to choose...
- Vintage shirts stores:
#1 Aloha from Kauai, Kapaa: hosted by a lovely lady, giving sincere love to her well-maintained shop. What I loved the most is the mix of brand-new Hawaiian crafts and a rack of vintage Hawaiian shirts, where I found my best and cheapest ones.
#2 Aloha from Hanalei, Hanalei: here a much larger outdoor rack of vintage Hawaiian shirts, prices are good too.
- Hanalei: a town which has been spotted for several Hollywood movies, no wonder why. It's pier has a real glamorous vibe when the sunset comes. Get yourself a Mai Tai right before you go watching the blissful sunset on the beach, and you'll experience surreality.
- Hanalei Poi, Hanalei: this shack has been the perfect ending gem for me since I couldn't find a place where I could taste several native dishes all along my way. Wondering what could the famous Poi possibly taste like, I discovered a thick and rich creamy and glutinous textured taro mash. Just every texture I like. Plus, try the pork or chicken Luau and other taro-based specialties.
- Napali coast hike: I could not believe my eyes, or maybe my eyes were not able to believe the colours that were there surrounding me. It was like having polarized lenses all over. The blue... the green...smashing into your brain! One of the hottest and dampest day in my life, make sure to bring HUGE amount of water, which I need, and wasn't even enough.
- Smith Family Garden Luau, Kapaa: though I hate participating mass activities, I wanted to make sure I would try the Luau, the ancestral Hawaiian meal serving Kalua pig, poi and plenty of other mouth-watering delicacies. With an enchanting Polynesian dance show at the end. I saw Pele Goddess for real, and remained fascinated by her since.
- Koloa Rum Company, Lihue: indulge yourself with a tasting experience, with refined bites, and make sure to leave with a bottle of Original Koloa Kauai Spice Rum and another one of Coffee.