Aloha! Welcome to Hawaii!

Map of Hawaii Kauai Oahu Maui Hawaii

Hawaii Travel Tips

Hawaii is a safe place to visit. The tsunami watch for Hawaii has been lifted. For further travel advisory information and updates, you should visit Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada prior to your journey.

To fit in with the locals, why not learn the common phrases?

We found it most convenient to rent a car on each of the islands visited. You must be 18 years with a valid US drivers license or an International Driving Permit (IDP) issued by your home country. Learn the rules of the road in Hawaii before getting behind the wheel. The main thing to remember is, you are in Hawaii. There should be no hurry so have patience so forget about road rage.

Oahu, Hawaii (Big Island), and Kauai

Our first trip to Hawaii was in 2004. It was also our first international trip together. As it was late November when we went, the warm weather was a welcome change from the Canadian chill. We did not even complain about the wall of humidity that hit us when we deplaned.

As I mentioned in the above "tips", we rented a car on each of the three islands. This makes it much easier to explore at our own pace. On Oahu, we drove around the entire island, known as the circle drive. Highlights of Oahu include:

  • Waikiki even though it is a total tourist trap, but it is also part of the true Oahu experience. There are many stores and the international market of course, but our favourite one-stop-shop was the ABC Store, which felt like there was one every 5 stores down.
  • Dole Pineapple Plantation because we love fresh pineapple. They have a large outdoor maze and a botantical garden on-site.
  • Diamond Head is a crater that has been extinct for around 150,000 years. This is an easy-terrain hike that will only take about 1.5 hours to complete. The most physical aspect of the hike are the stairs - there are about 170 steps, but the 360-degree views from the top are fantastic.
  • The beaches on Oahu are clean and plentiful. We stopped at many but cannot remember all the names. Some of the ones listed here are familiar, especially Makapu'u Beach Park and Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. This was the first time Jaime tried snorkelling and became hooked on viewing the colourful life just beneath the surface of the water (we are still trying to get her comfortable with scuba diving, but that is another story.)
  • Waikiki beach
  • Us with show parrots
  • View of Honolulu from Diamond Head
  • Manana (Rabbit) and Kaohikaipu (Turtle) Islands
  • Bird of Paradise flower

Back to Top

Hawaii island, also known as The Big Island, is very different than Oahu in that it is much less commercial. Also instead of seeing grass, flowers and water, you are surrounded by black volcanic rock. Our main purpose for visiting the island was to view the lava but unfortunately during the time we were there, it was not visible. A little disappointing, but it gives us a reason to go back. The three main things we did on the island were:

  • Mauna Kea is an inactive volcano that sits 13,796 feet (4,200 m) above sea level. To prevent altitude sickness, visitors are encouraged to stop at the visitor station (at 9,200 ft or 3,000 m) for at least half an hour. Not only does the altitude affect humans, but our rental car was also losing power. It is important to note that car rental companies have some strict regulations about taking their cars up to the summit. I'm not so sure we were actually allowed to venture up in our rental, but we made it without incident. We highly recommend going up for sunrise or sunset. We caught the sunset and being above the cloud line, this was a spectacular sight.
  • Another "must-do" on the Big Island is hiking in Volcano National Park. We crossed the Kilauea volcano crater so we were basically hiking across lava rock. Be careful when touching or sitting on the rock as they are quite sharp. Steam was visible in may places, rising through the cracks in the rock and there was a distinct sulpher odour. By the time we arrived back at the car, we had hiked almost 10 miles. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks.
  • Snorkelling on Big Island turned out to be a real treat as we were surrounded by many green sea turtles. They are large and graceful and you can get quite close, but do not disturb them! They are protected and if you are caught harassing a sea turtle, you can be fined up to US$50,000. But who would want to harm a turtle? We have not swam with so many sea turtles again since, though wherever we go, we do ask the locals where we might spot them.

As a side note, we had flown into, and booked our accommodations on the Kailua/Kona side of the island because it was cheaper, however, consider flying into Hilo on the west side as it is significantly closer to Volcano National Park.

  • Sunset at Mauna Kea
  • Hiking at Volcano National Park
  • Gecko found in our room
  • Green sea turtle
  • Jaime ziplining
  • Us at the watering hole

Back to Top

As we were planning our original trip to Hawaii, I had an image in my mind of what it would be like and Kauai embodies that image. As we were driving from the airport to our hotel, we were surrounded by lush vegetation and overhead was a large rainbow. Kauai is beautiful and you get a sense of peace and tranquility. The main attraction on this small island is that Na Pali Coast. You can spend weeks hiking the entire coast, but as we prefer plumbing and comfy beds over tents and outhouses, we stuck to a day hike. The trek was incredibly muddy and slippery, but the views were picture perfect. It was on this island that we also hooked ourselves up and zip-lined. Nelson was brave enough to zip across hanging upside down! He also climbed up a ledge at the private watering hole and swung out like tarzan on a rope and dropped into the very cold water.

  • Rainbow
  • Big waves
  • Na Pali Coast

Back to Top

Maui

We could not get enough of Hawaii so we went back in 2006, but this time we decided to experience Maui. Our opinion is that if you can only stay on one island for your vacation, choose Maui because it offers the best of everything - there are great beaches, you can hike a volcano, there are lovely gardens and there is a little bit of shopping. Things worth mentioning?

  • Haleakala Crater is an active volcano rising over 10,000 feet above sea level. The journey up is quite interesting because being down at sea level, you are in shorts and sandals, but as we were slowly ascending, our car thermometer was showing a signifcant decrease in temperature. By the time we reached the top, we were in our winter gear. Most people tend to rise early and drive up for sunrise. Nelson and I went up twice, once for sunrise and once for sunset. They were both unforgettable moments. Of course we hiked in the park and landsscape resembled something out of a sci-fi movie. There are tour companies that offer biking down Haleakala and although it sounded interesting, we were more interested in taking pictures.
  • Check out the massive Banyan Tree in Lahaina. The slanted picture below of what looks like a park of trees, is actual a single banyan. It was imported from India and planted in 1873. Today, it stans over 60 feet high with 12 major tranks, stretching over a 200 foot area!
  • The drive back from Hana on the south side of the island was fun. Most books will tell you that the drive to Hana is a must-do, but we disagree. It is the rainy side (we were there in September) and with all the switchbacks, Jaime was feeling car sick. Hana itself is quaint. That's all we have to say about that.
  • Ioa Valley is excellent for an afternoon outing, especially if you are into photography.
  • Sign up for a Luau if you have time. Interesting entertainment and a lot of food!
  • Single banyan tree
  • Bike tour down Haleakala
  • Nelson hiking
  • Jaime snorkelling
  • Green sea turtle
  • Frog
  • Palm trees by night

Back to Top

If you have any questions for us about our Hawaiian experience, or want more information contact us.