Scenic drive on the Kahekili Highway on Maui

Unlike the popular Hana Highway (Road to Hana), the Kahekili Highway (Hwy 340) is one of Maui’s lesser-known scenic drives and for good reason. It traverses a remote area on Maui, the coastline between Honokohai and Waihe’e. On some tourist maps Kahekili Highway is labeled as an ordinary state road and it may appear to be a faster route from the Kapalua area in West Maui to Kahului since when looking at its length, it is indeed shorter in terms of distance.

However, you won’t be able to drive faster than 20 mph and in many areas it will be more like 5 mph. That’s because the Kahekili “highway” is more like a goat trail, especially around the village of Kahakuloa (between mile 14-15 and 10-12). It is mainly a narrow, curvy, cliff-hugging one-lane road without guard rails. There are occasional pullouts if a car is coming from the opposite direction.

Kahekili HighwayYes, it is a scenic drive with beautiful views of Maui’s rugged undeveloped northeastern shore, but it is definitely not for the faint of heart, not for aggressive or impatient drivers or for those afraid of heights or steep drop-offs. Also, it’ll be to your benefit if you feel comfortable having to back up your car under these road conditions or drive within an inch of a cliff wall to let an oncoming car squeeze by.

Here are a few tips if you decide to do this drive:

  • Make sure you’re not violating your rental car agreement (ask the rental car company if they allow their cars to be driven on this road). A four-wheel drive is not necessary since the road is paved.
  • Rent a small car. Big vans or SUVs are more difficult to navigate on this very narrow road, especially since it’s just barely one lane wide but with two-way traffic.
  • Make sure you have enough gas in your tank. This is a remote area with no gas stations along the way.
  • Begin your journey from the Lahaina/Kaanapali side. Like that you’ll be driving on the inside of the road along the cliff and not along the edge. You’ll also be able to look farther ahead of the road to spot oncoming traffic and your passenger will be less frightened.
  • Don’t do this drive in the dark. Start early enough so you’ll reach your destination before the sun sets. Also, it’s best to do this drive on a sunny day as rainfall makes the road slippery.
  • Keep in mind that the driver will have little opportunity to enjoy the views since there are few places to pull over and the eyes will have to focus on the road while driving.
  • And finally, make sure you’re rested and alert before heading out. It takes at least two hours driving time (not counting stops) from West Maui to Kahului.

Not to be confused with the Road to Hana, Maui’s most popular scenic drive, which many find challenging because of its 46 one-lane bridges and 620 curves, but is nowhere near as intense as the Kahekili Highway.

KahakuloaPoints of interest along the way include Honokohau Bay, Nakalele Blowhole and Kahakuloa Head, which is located at the remote Kahakuloa village. The village is quite picturesque with an old church and fishing houses overlooking a curved bay and black-sand beach surrounded by lush vegetation.

If you enjoy scenic drives but are not up to doing this trip on the Kahekili Highway, there’s good news because Maui has many other beautiful areas that are more easily accessible. For an almost otherworldly experience, the Crater Road that leads up to Mt. Haleakala is fascinating, as you could easily get the idea you’re driving up into heaven or on the Moon. And then there is of course the popular Road to Hana, which is less than 15 miles away (linear distance) from Crater Road, but the complete opposite with its super lush surroundings. If you’d rather not drive yourself but let someone else do the driving, consider booking a tour. Like that you enjoy the scenery instead of focusing on the road. There are tours that go up Crater Road to visit the summit of Mt. Haleakala and other tours explore the Road to Hana and its many interesting sights along the way.

Visiting Oahu for the first time: Activities and things to do on Oahu

Visiting Oahu for the first time? There are so many things to do and see here. Here are our recommendations for first-time visitors to the island.

Must-see attractions on Oahu

Pearl HarborPearl Harbor Pearl Harbor is the most popular historical attraction in Hawaii. More than 1.5 million visitors a year from around the world come here to pay their respect to those who perished on December 7, 1941, in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The most visited monument here is the USS Arizona Memorial, a resting place of 1,102 soldiers who died aboard the USS Arizona battleship. Other top Pearl Harbor attractions are the USS Missouri battleship, the USS Bowfin submarine and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial is free, but you will need to wait in line to get tickets. Other attractions at Pearl Harbor have admission fees. Many visitors come to Pearl Harbor with a guided tour group. All tours include roundtrip transportation, a tour guide and narration, admission tickets (so you don’t have to wait in line) and admission to other Pearl Harbor attractions (if included in the tour description). One thing to keep in mind when visiting Pearl Harbor is that visitors are not allowed to carry bags and other personal items inside the park. You can only bring a camera (without bag) with you.

Sunset BeachCircle Island Tour – You can get a good overview of the island in one day. Many local tour companies offer Oahu circle island tours that will take you to island’s best beaches and top island attractions. A tour around the island usually takes 8-10 hours and begins around 7:30 in the morning when a tour bus will come to pick you up from your hotel. Most of the tours include a professional guide that will tell island stories and point out things of interest along the way. A circle island tour usually includes a visit to the Dole Pineapple Plantation, North Shore Oahu beaches (Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay), the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, Makapuu Lookout and more. Many of these tours start with a visit to Pearl Harbor’s USS Arizona Memorial.

Hawaii VolcanoesNeighbor Island Tour – You have crossed the Pacific to come all the way to the beautiful island of Oahu. All Hawaiian islands are different and unique so it is nice to visit at least one more Hawaiian island while here. For example, you could visit the Big Island of Hawaii for a day, where you can see one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is Hawaii’s number one attraction.

Must-do things on Oahu

Diamond HeadHike Diamond HeadDiamond Head is one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii. People hike to the top of this extinct volcano to enjoy amazing views of Honolulu, Waikiki and the vast ocean. On a clear day you can even see the neighbor islands of Molokai, Lanai and Maui on the horizon. There are a few tours that will take you to Diamond Head. Most of them go there during the day when it is usually busy and hot. There is one unique sunrise tour that goes at 6 in the morning before other tours groups come.

Hawaiian LuauGo to a Hawaiian Luau – Visiting a Hawaiian luau is on the to-do-list of many Hawaii visitors. A few good luaus take place on Oahu; some of them are held on secluded beaches, others directly in Waikiki or at the Polynesian Cultural Center, Oahu’s number one paid attraction. If you want to spend a day learning about Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures, their customs and traditions, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a fun place to explore. Tours to the Polynesian Cultural Center usually include roundtrip transportation, the admission fee and luau tickets.

Hanauma BaySwim or Snorkel at Hanauma BayHanauma Bay is the most popular snorkeling destination in Hawaii. Here you can see plenty of colorful fish, a coral reef and unique marine life. Since the bay is very popular the Hanauma Bay parking lot fills up quickly. If you go with a tour group, you won’t need to worry about parking. Tours include roundtrip transportation from Waikiki, as well as snorkel gear – a high-quality silicon dive mask, snorkel and fins.

Choosing the best Hawaii vacation rental for your Hawaiian vacation

Booking a Hawaiian vacation rental has become a very popular option for Hawaii travelers. There are many vacation rentals on the islands offering hotel-like amenities and all the comforts of home. One of the main reasons why many visitors prefer to book a vacation rental instead of a hotel room is because you know what you are getting. If you stay in a hotel you often don’t know what exact room you are getting, what condition it is in, what view it has, etc. Another advantage of a vacation rental is that you can read reviews of previous visitors to that particular home/condo and get a good idea of what to expect.

Now when you know the advantages of a vacation rental vs. a hotel room, the question of where do we go arises. There are so many vacation rentals in Hawaii that it can be very overwhelming to choose the right one.

To narrow down your choice, you first need to decide where in Hawaii you would like to go. What can help you decide is if you try to answer the following questions:

1) Do you plan an active vacation?

2) What kind of activities do you plan on doing?

3) Do you want to learn about the Hawaiian culture and the islands?

4) Do you just want to relax and rejuvenate in a tropical setting?

The answers of these questions will help you decide what island is most suitable for you.

Once you know where in Hawaii you want to go, you can look for the perfect accommodation. To help you decide what the best rental for you is, we recommend answering the following questions:

1) Do you want to stay in a condo or in a house?

2) What kind of view do you want – ocean, mountain, both?

3) What is your budget?

The answers of these questions will give you a good idea of what to look for.

New camping fees for 17 City and County of Honolulu campgrounds on Oahu

On March 1, 2013, the City and County of Honolulu introduced camping fees to camp at one of the 17 city campgrounds on Oahu (see list of parks below). In the past, camping at city campgrounds was free. Now you will have to pay for a minimum of 3 nights, which will cost $32. This fee is applicable for all 3-day campgrounds. If you plan to stay at a 5-day campground, the fee is $52. This fee is per campsite, which has room for up to 10 people. You can reserve a campsite at the City and County of Honolulu website camping.honolulu.gov up to 2 weeks in advance.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the introduction of camping fees will make the sites available for more people since in the past it was often times the same people who used to reserve a campsite over and over and if they now have to pay a fee, they may not want to reserve it as often. So others will get a chance to camp there as well. With the new fees, the city plans to use the revenue to better maintain and upgrade the camping facilities.

Here is a list of all 17 city campgrounds:

Bellows Field Beach Park (50 campsites) – 3 day campground
Hauula Beach Park (8 campsites) – 5 day campground
Kahua Kuou (Hoomaluhia) (8 campsites) – 3 day campground
Kahua Lehua (Hoomaluhia) (6 campsites) – 3 day campground
Kahua Nui Makai (Hoomaluhia) (15 campsites) – 3 day campground
Kaiaka Bay Beach Park (7 campsites) – 5 day campground
Kalaeloa Beach Park (13 campsites) – 3 day campground
Keaau Beach Park (25 campsites) – 5 day campground
Kokololio Beach Park (5 campsites) – 5 day campground
Kualoa A Regional Park (7 campsites) – 3 day campground
Kualoa B Regional Park (14 campsites) – 5 day campground
Lualualei Beach Park (6 campsites) – 5 day campground
Maili Beach Park (12 campsites) – 3 day campground
Nanakuli Beach Park (11 campsites) – 5 day campground
Swanzy Beach Park (9 campsites) – 3 day campground
Waimanalo Bay Beach Park (10 campsites) – 5 day campground
Waimanalo Beach Park (19 campsites) – 5 day campground

Camping always begins on Friday starting at 5 pm and extends through the weekend ending on either Monday at 8 am (3 days) or Wednesday at 8 am (5 days).

Keep in mind that campfires and bonfires are illegal on all public beaches and parks in Hawaii. For cooking you may only use above-ground barbecue grills, but they have to be at least 12 inches off the ground. The use of propane grills and generators (for electricity) is also not allowed. Pets are not allowed either.

If you are planning to camp during a holiday weekend, it is a good idea to make your reservation as soon as possible because campsites get reserved within hours. And one final note: Camping at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park has been suspended as of March 1, 2013, due to construction. The campsite will open when the area is deemed safe.

Xtreme Bugs! exhibit at the Bishop Museum fun for kids

The Bishop Museum’s Xtreme Bugs! exhibit is fun for kids as well as for the young at heart. This is one of the museum’s special exhibits, on display until the end of March 2013. You’ll find the exhibit on the lawn in front of the museum’s Science Adventure Center. The huge bugs and critters are even moving and make sounds, and the signs next to each one are informative and offer some fun facts. A total of 20 giant animatronic insects can be explored – from a 12-foot tarantula and an 18-foot honeybee to a 20-foot Japanese hornet. The display also features over 130 station insects and flora.

The Bishop Museum’s Xtreme Bugs! exhibit is fun for kids as well as for the young at heart. This is one of the museum’s special exhibits, on display until the end of March 2013. You’ll find the exhibit on the lawn in front of the museum’s Science Adventure Center. The huge bugs and critters are even moving and make sounds, and the signs next to each one are informative and offer some fun facts. A total of 20 giant animatronic insects can be explored – from a 12-foot tarantula and an 18-foot honeybee to a 20-foot Japanese hornet. The display also features over 130 station insects and flora.

Historic Honolulu Chinatown Walking Tour

Honolulu’s Chinatown has an interesting history and some of the island’s oldest buildings are located in this neighborhood. Do a self-guided walking tour through Chinatown to explore some of Honolulu’s oldest buildings and historic landmarks.

The McCandless Building

Built in 1906, the McCandless Building was constructed with blue stone from the Mo’ili’ili and Kapalama quarries. It was one of Honolulu’s first modern office buildings, featuring a tile and marble entryway and a functioning basement (only a few buildings in Honolulu have this). The building was originally supposed to be a two-story building, but during its construction the plans were changed and instead it was built with four stories. A fifth story with a different architectural style was added in 1914. It was occupied by the Commercial Club, which later became the Chamber of Commerce. Harry Livingston Kerr designed the building for the McCandless brothers. In the late 1800s, James McCandless (and his brothers Lincoln and John) drilled artesian wells around the island to make water available for the arid sugar plantations on leeward Oahu. The brothers were part of the Committee of Safety, which was instrumental in the abrogation of Queen Lili’uokalani and the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893.

Location: 925 Bethel Street

Melchers Building

Built of coral blocks in 1854 but since then covered with layers of stucco and plaster, the two-story Melchers Building is the oldest commercial structure in Honolulu. In its prime, it was finished with glass cabinets and koa wood shelves, which were stately furnishings for an office during this time. In 1973, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Melchers Building used to house the retail firm of Melchers and Reiner. The building’s style is 19th Century Commercial.

Location: 51 Merchant Street

The Friend

Reverend John Diell established the Oahu Bethel Church in 1837 for the seamen who came to Honolulu between 1840 and 1870. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1886, but the following year George Lucas built a new two-story house which served as the office for The Friend, a church publication and the self-described “Oldest Newspaper West of the Rockies.” Bethel Street was named after the church.

Location: 926 Bethel Street

Mendonca Building

Joseph Mendonca was a businessman who invested in several properties around Chinatown. Mendonca was part of the Annexation Party’s Committee on Public Safety in the 1890s. Together with William Wilder, Samuel Dole and others, Mendonca seized the government offices at Ali’iolani Hale and moved to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy, which also led to the imprisonment of Queen Lili’uokalani. After the devastating 17-day-long Chinatown fire in 1900, the Mendonca Block was one of the first major structures that began the rebuilding process. The Italianate-style brick building was completed in 1901.

Location: 1109 Maunakea Street

The Perry Block

This building was one of the few that survived the big Chinatown fire in 1900 since it was one of the few made out of brick at the time. The Perry Block was built in 1889 by Anna Perry, the widow of the Portuguese consul Jason Perry. It housed the Lederer’s Bar until 1985 and then a police station for 10 years.

Location: Corner of Nu’uanu Avenue and Hotel Street

Kamehameha V Post Office

In 1851, the Kingdom of Hawaii organized its own postal system. King Kamehameha V authorized the building of a post office, which was completed in 1871. It was built out of concrete blocks and iron bars, which back then was an experimental construction method in Europe and unheard of in Hawaii. It was the main Honolulu post office until 1922 and has once also housed the publishing and printing facilities of the Hawaiian Gazette, a driver’s education office and the Honolulu District Courts. The Renaissance Revival style building is the oldest reinforced concrete structure in America. Since 1993 it is occupied by the Kumu Kahua Theatre.

Location: 46 Merchant Street

Hawaii Travel Trends

Ever wondered when is the best time to visit Hawaii in terms of cost or availability? Or how long most visitors to Hawaii vacation in the Islands, where they go and where they come from? Here is some interesting data about Hawaii travel trends. According to research done by Flipkey, Honolulu, Hawaii’s state capital on the island of Oahu, is the overall #1 destination of Hawaii travelers, followed by Kihei on Maui’s south shore and then Waikiki on Oahu.

The graphic below will also tell you the top destinations by party size and cost. The most expensive area to vacation in Hawaii according to this research is the Wailea-Makena region on Maui’s south shore and the least expensive Pahala in the Big Island’s Ka’u District. Couples (parties of 2) are the most common group size of visitors to Hawaii (45 percent), followed by parties of 4 (19 percent). Hawaii is a popular wedding and honeymoon destination, and one of the peak tourist seasons is around Valentine’s Day.

When it comes to cost, the highest average price per night is $397 around Christmas, followed by $372 around Valentine’s Day. The months of June, July and August range between $428-300 per night. If you are on a budget and are wondering when you can find good accommodation deals in Hawaii, you may want to plan your vacation around the end of April or September. Fifty percent of Hawaii travelers are interested in vacation rentals that range between $100-199 per night.

Now you may wonder how many days most visitors stay in Hawaii. According to this research, the average length of stay in Hawaii is 12.4 days around New Year’s Day, followed by 7.3 days in December and 4.8 days in mid-August. The most popular vacation length is exactly 7 days. Where do Hawaii travelers come from? Most are from the West Coast of the United States and Canada. The #1 place of origin is California (19.4 percent), followed by British Columbia (8.5 percent) and Washington (7.6 percent). Thirty-four percent of visitors to Hawaii arrive from international locations.

Check out the graph below, which sums up this travel trend data nicely.

 

Cruising along the south shore of Oahu

Cruising along Oahu’s south shore is a fun thing to do any time of the day or year. The pictures below were taken during Hawaii’s whale season, which runs from November through March. This is when thousands of humpback whales migrate from the cold waters off Alaska to Hawaii to mate, birth and raise their young. If you go on a whale watching tour you’ll be able to see these majestic mammals. Whale watching tours are offered on Oahu, as well as on the neighbor islands (Kauai, Maui and the Big Island).

Ala Moana Beach

Waikiki Coast

Diamond Head Crater

Kahala Coast

Kakaako Park

Sand Island

Aloha Tower Marketplace

Humpback Whale

10 Picture-Perfect Beaches in Hawaii

Many people visit Hawaii for the Islands’ great beaches. Each Hawaiian island is unique and so are the beaches. Here is a list of some of our favorite beaches in Hawaii.

Lanikai Beach, Oahu

Hanauma Bay, Oahu

Waimea Bay, Oahu

Sunset Beach, Oahu

Kailua Beach, Oahu

Kahana Beach, Maui

Mauna Kea Beach, Big Island

Tunnels Beach, Kauai

Kepuhi Beach, Molokai

Most Commonly Seen Birds in Hawaii

Here is a collection of some of the most commonly seen birds in Hawaii. Especially the Zebra Doves seem to be everywhere. The Hawaiian Stilt and the Nene (Hawaiian Goose) are native to Hawaii. The Nene is the state bird of Hawaii. Areas where they can be spotted include Maui (Haleakala National Park), on the Big Island (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Mauna Loa), on Kauai (Koke’e State Park and Kilauea Point) and on Molokai.

House Finch

Mynah

Black Crowned Night Hero

Cattle Egret

Grey Francolin

Hawaiian Goose Nene

Hawaiian Stilt

Northern Cardinal

Red-Crested Cardinal

Rock Dove

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Zebra Dove