First blog of this series: Hawaii – On a Budget Pt 1
CAUTION: There are websites/tour companies all over the internet offering tickets to visit Pearl Harbor. Many unsuspecting tourists purchase these, unaware that everything there (museums, exhibits) is FREE. Don’t be duped into that!! Now…to take the ferry over to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial requires a reservation…and there’s a $1.50pp processing charge (FROM the US Nat’l Park Service) for that. – (Make your reservation at Recreation.gov http://www.recreation.gov/tourParkDetail. ) but the park itself with it’s exhibits, museums and the actual Memorial is FREE! Note: When making your ferry reservation, you will have the option to add ‘extras’ (audio tours, specialty tours, etc…) to your reservation – and those ‘extras’ DO have a charge associated with them. When we went, we bought ONE audio tour to share. It was a nice addition to our day…but just know…these are OPTIONS. The actual ‘day’ and visit should only cost you the $1.50pp processing fee for the ferry reservation….
NOTE: Make reservations early (especially if traveling during the busy summer months). There are a few tickets available each morning on a ‘first come first serve’ basis, but supply is limited and you’ll need to get in line VERY early to secure one of these. It’s just better to make that reservation beforehand. To repeat that….
YOU NEED A RESERVATION….and MAKE IT EARLY!!! –Just DON’T spend $40 for it….get it for $1.50pp
Diamond Head: This is a very popular attraction – just south of Honolulu. You can drive to the visitor area and look around OR park and hike to the top. If you hike, plan to get an EARLY start – like 6-7 am as it gets very hot in the tropical sun.
Banyan Trees: These can be found many places, but are abundant in the park across the street from Waikiki Beach. You MUST see these!!! This is also a great place for a picnic.
North Shore & Banzai Pipeline: If you have a rental car, you’ll want to be certain to visit the North Shore. You are almost certain to see surfers on the Pipeline….and while up there, make a stop at the Matsumoto Shave Ice shop. The line will be out the door (note my pic where we were waiting in line – OUTside the store…) but the line moves quickly…and gives you just a small idea of what you’re in store for when you get in 🙂 🙂
Waikiki is by far the most ‘popular’ beach area – but…
Consider stays (and beaches) OUTSIDE Honolulu or Waikiki: Oahu is so much more than just Waikiki. If you never leave that area, you’ll never know it. 🙂 Of course, if your only plan while on the island is to spend time on Waikiki Beach, then you can do that without even getting a rental car. Find a Waikiki hotel with an airport shuttle, then walk or take the bus anywhere else you want to go. HOWEVER, if you plan a trip up to the North Shore to see the Banzai Pipeline or want to go to Hanauma Bay….or plan to visit the east side beaches then consider the idea of staying away from the congestion of Honolulu. Kailua is one of several nice towns on the east side. It has everything you could possible need as far as shopping, restaurants, beaches, etc and is much less congested. It’s also prettier in my opinion. It’s about a 20-25 min. drive across the mountains and the drive itself is very scenic. At the very least, if you have a car, consider a drive over there one day to explore their beaches. (BTW, there’s a scenic viewpoint on that road that gives a WONDERFUL view of Oahu, the mountains, the shorelines, etc…)
LOCK YOUR CAR: –especially on the North Shore. Better yet, leave valuables at the room/condo. In all actuality, a locked car will not keep a thief out.
Maui is a very easy island to navigate. That is probably because about half of it is inaccessible. 🙂 The rugged terrain is what MAKES it so beautiful though!!
Road to Hana: This is an incredible drive but if you’re going to do it, START EARLY! I can’t emphasize this enough. There are 629 hairpin curves and 54 one lane bridges. (That’s not an exaggeration….those are the REAL numbers) If you get on the road around 6:30am, you will encounter local traffic, but it won’t be anything like what you’ll encounter at 11 am when tourists are on the road too. The turn outs to view the scenery and waterfalls only accommodate 2-3 cars. Later in the day, you may not (probably won’t) be able to make all the stops you want because they will be “full”. There’s no way to avoid the congestion on the return trip, but getting started early means you can have at least the drive TO Hana free of those stresses and able to stop wherever you want to stop. The tour buses on the road later gives you just one more reason to begin early. These are not reasons to avoid this drive. It’s absolutely breath-taking!! Just get started as early as you can. Allow about 2 1/2 hrs. to get to Hana, and bring a picnic lunch to eat at the black sand beach there…and definitely start back before residents are on the road returning from work.
In the early morning, you can stop at one of the MANY stands where they are baking fresh banana bread made from Hawaiian bananas. You have never tasted banana bread until you’ve tasted THIS banana bread!!! Since we brought our lunch in an insulated lunch bag, I also brought along some butter and a plastic knife. PERFECT!!! 🙂
Sunrise on Haleakala: This is a MUST SEE!! It will require a ‘plan’ however. Beginning in 2017, admittance to see the sunrise requires a reservation. The ‘reservation’ is free…but there’s a $1.50 per car processing fee (I assume to ensure ppl actually show up…) and that can be gotten at recreation.gov (site for all Nat’l Park reservations). This seems to be the Nat’l Parks attempt at ‘crowd control’ as this is one of the most popular things to do on Maui!!! Note…Bring your PRINTED confirmation and ID with you to the gate – where you will be charged the Park admission fee. This fee will give you admittance to the park for 3 days – so Keep Your Receipt if you plan to return. (This varies from the 7 days for most Nat’l Parks….) Next Point: Because sunrise times are constantly changing, refer to the National Park website http://www.nps.gov/hale/sunrise-and-sunset for when to arrive. The website has a LOT of information – ‘what to wear’ and other tips. Plan for 1 – 1.5 hrs to drive from Kahului to the summit, and ‘expect’ a string of traffic as you near the park. Also…plan to arrive about 30 min. before sunrise to allow enough time to wind through the park and UP the mountain. The last time we went, that time frame allowed us to make it all the way to the summit. They close the top parking lot when it gets full so you don’t want to be too late arriving. Perhaps the new ‘limited admittance’ has solved that problem??? I just know that the enclosed glass shelter at the TOP parking lot was very nice as a protection from the wind/cold.
Just a Note: We set our alarm for 2:45, left by 3:15 am and arrived at the summit at 5:15 for a 5:50 sunrise. Arriving at that time, we BARELY made it through the gate to the top!! But Note….Check the website to find out when the sun rises…as times vary every day.
Regardless of the time of year, it’s cold and windy at the summit at 5 am- That enclosed glass shelter really makes a difference!! Bring scarf and gloves…even a packable coat/jacket if you have room in your suitcase, wear jeans or long pants, and bring a blanket (many people are wrapped up in beach towels 🙂 ). It’s obvious that some have taken the blanket from their hotel bed…I guess that’s ok as long as you return it. 🙂 Once the sun comes up, it will warm up within an hour or so. We actually just stayed at the park and stopped at the lookouts/viewpoints and of course, the museum as we drove back down the mountain (volcano). By the time we got down, we had shed the jackets and top layer shirt, so it DOES warm up.
The Big Island is very different from the concept most people have of Hawaii. However, without a visit to this unique island, you don’t really leave with a clear impression of all that Hawaii is.
Volcano National Park: This is a “must-see” on the Big Island. It has all the components you will find at all National Parks with one exception. Things are constantly changing in this park. Depending on the wind, there may be portions of
the park that are closed. The gases emitted from the volcano are dangerous so visitors are not allowed to be downwind from the volcano. That’s why it’s a good idea to have several days on the Big Island. You can call ahead to choose the BEST day to visit the park.
Black Sand Beaches: There are several of these exquisite black sand beaches, both on the Big Island and on Maui. My favorite is Punalu’u Beach at the southern tip of the Big Island just west of Volcano Nat’l Park. It’s a very nice area with tables and restrooms and beautiful water line and volcanic rock. This is definitely worth the time.
COFFEE: The Big Island is known for its coffee. Most people have heard of the Kona coffee on the west shore, but other areas of the island tout their own coffee beans too. Hilo coffee on the opposite (east) side of the island as well as Naalehu at the southern tip are beans to be tasted/tested as well. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, you might want to sample multiple coffee beans before you make your choice….or just sample and/or buy a little of them all. 🙂 Many of the farms have tours and/or displays that tell you how their coffee is grown, harvested, processed, etc.. They ALL have their coffee for sale. Sample it first….it’s pretty strong as a general rule. But no trip to the Big Island is complete without at least one stop at a coffee farm/shop….even for those who don’t drink it.
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