Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > United States
Reload this Page >

9 days to make the most of Hawaii (too many good things in little time)

9 days to make the most of Hawaii (too many good things in little time)

Old Dec 9th, 2012, 05:20 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 8
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
9 days to make the most of Hawaii (too many good things in little time)

My wife and I are going to travel from Portugal to Hawaii and staying for 9 days, from February 21 - March 1 2013. I am traveling for work reasons and staying in Oahu from Feb 16 - Feb 21, but I think I will hardly have the chance to visit the island properly, so these days don't really count.

We don't have a lot of time to visit, and considering we live almost on the other side of the globe, it's unlikely we will have a lot of chances to go back. So, on the one hand, we want to experience as much as possible of Hawaii in all its diferent aspects, but on the other hand it probably is not ideal to jump between islands, spending a couple of days in each one. We've been researching and trying to come to a conclusion but there's just so much to do and experience that it is now becoming a frustrating task.

Here's our profile and what we are looking for (as best I can describe):

- We are on our early thirties and walking/driving around won't be a problem.
- Our budget is not extremely low, but we would like to save whenever possible. So, high-end resorts and restaurants are probably off. Mid-range, would be the best way to describe where we are at.
- We're looking to spend a two/three days just relaxing at the beach, so nice beaches (there are so many!) would be a big plus (I don't think this is a problem anyway)
- We would like to explore the nature and scenic side of Hawaii, hiking and/or driving
- Also history and local culture are something we value wherever we go, so basically getting away from the more touristic places and getting to know the locals, experience the food, etc.

We've been bouncing between two main plans so far:

a) Our starting and departure point will always be Oahu, due to flights. Our first plan was to spend a couple of days in Oahu and going just around honolulu, then on Feb 23 leave for the Big Island, because we would really like to visit Volcanoes NP. Again, spend a couple days there and visit the coffee plantations. Then, on Feb 25 fly to Maui and spend a few days mostly at the beach there. Also, watching the sunset/sunrise at the top of Haleakala seems just amazing! Finally, travel back to Oahu on March 1 and take our flight back to Europe.

b) As amazing as plan a) seems, I can't help but thinking it's one of those things that works well in theory but not so much in practice. There's a lot of traveling, and the balance between being at more places and actually enjoying them may be a bit off. Reading the guides here at Fodors it seems like a good compromise could be to focus on two instead of three of the islands. Maybe even just one, if it concentrates most of what we are looking for. My first instinct would be to consider a couple of days in Oahu (since we have to be there anyway), and then spend the rest on Big Island. It seems like it has everything: scenic routes (Hamakua), nice beaches (Kohala), local culture (coffee plantations), natural wonders (volcanoes). It just seems like we could spend a whole week there. Although I didn't explore much, maybe Oahu itself could be enough for the entire time and we wouldn't have to move. Maybe I have unfounded prejudices there, but I just fear it may be more touristic and not as genuine and diverse as Big Island.

I am sorry for the long message, I basically tried to give you as much information as possible. One way or another, we'll have to decide quickly because prices and availability are looking grimmer by the day. We would really apreciate any insight on these questions. It's a good kind of frustration, but we need to settle on a final decision.
jateles is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 06:42 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 1
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Aloha Jateles,
My husband and I spent a month in hawaii and are looking forward to doing it again. Oahu is rich in destinations and experiences though you must find your own path. Honestly, we would recommend flying into the big island and one day is truly enough.
On Oahu, Things we loved, three tables a great beach hideaway on the north shore, and Lanikai and the shrimp trucks there. We drove around the island and through as well which only takes about 30 minutes non rush hour to the north shore. We snorkeled at a new beach each day for hours and be mindful of the dangerous shore rips and the scorpionfish, easy to step upon.We arose each day, packed picnic lunch and headed out to a different beach/beaches each day. Each one is so very different. We loved hiking diamondhead even though its crowded later in the day, take water, you will need it. We most remember Pearl Harbor, the dole pineapple plantation, The Paradise Cove luau was wonderful, the music, the whole experience was so romantic. I would also recommend the food tour which is the number one rated tour and learning to surf with the offduty firemen. We stay at a nondescript hotel with no pool called the Waikiki Circle, perrrfect location, parking right below the building and the driveway dumps you right into the main drag. We will stay there again, clean, adequate, and we love the staff.There is even a surfboard rack where you can stow your board. Enjoy your trip! We love the nightlife and incredible restaurants. check out groupon hawaii and the entertainment book for hawaii .We actually saved $200 on our flight/hotel with a coupon from the entertainment book. The time difference is a factor, lol the city awakens around 9 and all you see are tourists wandering about, unable to sleep, yet nothing is quite going on but surf lessons. The night extends to one or two am, with everyone out walking and enjoying the exceptional weather and gentle breezes. There is also a hiking group that recommends great trails. Do not miss Haunama Bay for snorkeling, and prepare for the surprisingly chilly water in Hawaii. Oh and we did spring for the Lei Greeting at the airport, a fond memory.When we were planning this trip, I asked my daughter who was living in Kona how to do it, she said you can spend a lot of cash or a little and basically you will take away the experience you choose, and we chose to steep ourselves in the beauty of the islands, the waters, the lands, the people, and that beauty forever changed our hearts, More beauty than the eyes can hold. Aloha Michele and Wayne.
oceano is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 09:35 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 49,521
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
nice post oceano.

Hanauma Bay is one of my favorite places but get there EARLY!!
http://www1.honolulu.gov/parks/facil...nformation.htm

North Shore & Haleiwa (a small surfing community)
http://haleiwatown.com/

Pearl Harbor Memorial (if you are interested in WWII history)
http://www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm

Iolani Palace (the home of Hawaiian Royalty before their country was taken over by US decree - a sad story in Hawaiian history.
http://www.iolanipalace.org/
nanabee is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 09:54 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 26,197
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Oahu is really only "touristy" around Waikiki - that doesn't make Waikiki bad, just more crowded, dense and fewer "regular Hawaiians" (meaning people who live and work in Hawaii, and not necessarily in the tourist industry). The rest of Oahu is wonderful, too. Kailua and Lanikai are beautiful (we spent a morning kayaking there), and have a pleasant "real" town to boot. Diamond Head offers a nice climb and great views, and the drive there from Waikiki is really nice, through some beautiful high-end residential areas (do you get the TV show "Hawaii 5-0"? If you do, watch it -- they're often on this part of the island). The drive from Kailua to the North Shore on the H-3 is truly one of the world's most spectacular drives. Haleiwa has a "surfer" vibe - cute littletown with great shave ice places, among other things. Obviously, fantastic beaches on the north shore (although they may still be a little rough for swimming in February?). of course, there are other "sights" such as Pearl Harbor, the Doris Duke Estate, Polynesian Cultural Center. I've only ever been to the first of those - a must for every American, I don't know if it will have the same meaning for you.

I think with 9 days and what might truly be a 1-time trip given where you live (we loved our time in Portugal by the way, Lisbon is a wonderful city to visit), I'd opt for 3-4 days on Oahu and the rest on another island, but I would personally choose Kauai because of it's natural beauty. We've been on Maui, Kauai and Oahu many times - the Big Island only once so I can't opine on that. Maui is great, we always have a lot of fun - but it isn't as jaw-droppingly beautiful as Kauai.
sf7307 is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 10:01 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 49,521
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I agree with sf7307 about Kauai. It is "jaw-droppingly beautiful as her/his post mentiones. It is like going back in time maybe 50 years ago and you feel the beauty and peace of nature. We stayed at Princeville (a time share exchange) one year and every morning we looked out our windows to see the green, heavily wooded mountains and the mist over the mountain tops which created the most beautiful rainbows. We had little gecko "friends" who greated us every morning by plastering themselves on the glass windows!

Paradise indeed!
nanabee is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 10:07 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 517
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I love Kauai, but I would disagree with nanabee here and recommend that you prioritize given your short time and limit to 2 islands, especially if you are going to the Big Island. I think if you want to see the Volcanoes national park, then you should definitely go to the Big Island. You can also Akaka falls and the spectacular rain forest.
Kurosawa is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 10:07 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 49,521
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If you do go to Kauai don't forget to try the cultural experience of:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...ai_Hawaii.html

It is a hole in the wall, dump of a place but the experience is pure Hawaii old school.
nanabee is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 10:09 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 517
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Here is some information about Akaka falls: http://www.gohawaii.com/big-island/r...lls-state-park.
Kurosawa is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 10:10 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 819
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
My DH and I have been visiting Hawaii in January and February for over 30 years. This is a season to stay south on any of the islands; northern shores will be cool, wet and windy with rough ocean conditions. This is most true of Kauai, Oahu and to some extent on Maui. The Hilo area of Big Island and Hana on Maui will have some of the same, as will higher elevations.

I suggest that you enjoy Oahu in your non-working hours and for a few days afterwards. Rent a car for a day to tour east and north shores. Then hop to Maui for the rest of your visit. I would stay in Wailea or Kihei for better weather and to be closer to the main sights of the island: Haleakala and Upcountry, Iao Valley, and Road to Hana. Unless your flight home leaves from Honolulu in the early morning, you can fly Maui-Honolulu and just stay in airport security on departure day. (No need for a hotel in Honolulu and back and forth to HNL.)
ChiSue is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 10:10 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 49,521
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If they have definately decided to go to the Big Island in addition to Oahu, then yes, you are right Kurosawa, a third island (Kauai) would be too much for a nine day trip. Good point and thanks for clarifing it.
nanabee is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 10:17 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 26,197
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm a "her"!

I also agree - if you're set on the Big Island, that's all I would do in addition to Oahu.
sf7307 is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 10:18 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 8
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi everyone. I can't thank you enough for all your kind messages and suggestions! It's the first time I am posting in such forums, and I am genuinely thankful for the time and thought you took to write these. I will be sure to do the same for people coming to Europe (Portugal in particular).

Your suggestions were tremendously helpful. I have been discussing with my wife and I think (as difficult as it is) we have now "dropped" Maui and will focus on Oahu and Big Island. As I said in my original post, my opinion on Oahu was totally based on what I read and the gut feeling I got. Oceana's amazing post made me rethink all that, and nanabee's and sf7307's follow-ups kind of settled things for us. We checked all your suggestions and got really excited to know these places. Terrific suggestions, all of them!

We still have a soft-spot for the Vulcanoes in Big Island, so we're considering flying there and spending 1 night (so, two days in total). Besides the VNP, there are two other spots we were keen on visiting: Kona coffee plantations (as portuguese, we enjoy our coffee) and the Hamakua coast drive, of which we read great things. These two seem to be mutually exclusive if we plan on visiting VNP and spend only two days, so we have to decide based on what is more memorable. A matter of opinion, I guess, but either way we probably would arrive at Kona Airport, do the tour and depart from Hilo. Question is, do we go west from Kona throughthe coffee plantations or east through Hamakua...

Then we would go back to Oahu and for that we have quite a lot of possibilities, thanks to you!!

Side note 1 - We are both great sushi enthusiasts and read good things about sushi in Hawaii. Any places you would recommend in Oahu (Big Island may be tricky since we don't have much time there).

Side note 2 - sf7307, thank you for your kind words about Lisbon. It is indeed an amazing place, as it is Portugal in general. Such a small country with so much diversity. I am biased of course, but (particularly during these rough times) it's very comforting to know there's something intangible but so good about one's country.
jateles is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 10:19 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 8
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Wow! While I wrote my last post, a few more of you replied. I cannot thank you enough! Will go through the most recent suggestions!
jateles is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 10:20 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 49,521
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
>

The weather throughout all the islands (both north & south shores) will be very warm - probably in the mid 70's to mid 80's. The north shores however, will be rainy.
nanabee is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 10:25 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 819
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Whoops -- got cut off. I wanted to add that you will be in Hawaii during Whale Season, best viewed from Maui. Maui also has a wide choice of hotels, condos and restaurants. I would seek a condo for a one-week stay, saving on meals, hotel 'resort fees' and parking. Maui has many easy-access beaches from which to snorkel. It has two of the best luau in the state. (You may still be able to get reservations.)

Big Island is probably my favorite island, but we have never stayed less than two weeks there. If you want to see both the sunny Kohala coast area and the volcano it means staying in both places -- too far to drive to Hilo and back in a day and have more than a couple of hours to view Volcano National Park. It's a really, really big island. Come back to Hawaii again and visit it AND Kauai. (Summer is best for little Kauai.)

Get your rental car(s) reserved immediately and your lodgings ASAP. This is High Season in Hawaii!

BTW, people keep returning to Hawaii to slow down, get on Island Time, and appreciate the Aloha. You'll miss the essence if you try to see *everything*.
ChiSue is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 11:19 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,304
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I would not even bother going to the Big Island for just one night.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 11:20 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 3,106
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Good advice from ChiSue about booking your car now, there are at least 3 posts over on Trip Advisor about Big Island being out of rental cars, vans and even U Haul trucks over Christmas.
jamie99 is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 12:13 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 3,613
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Feb 21 is the week after President's Day holiday and car rentals may get to be expensive.
Marginal is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 01:44 PM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 8
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi everyone. Once again, thank you for all your suggestions! We have taken them into account and incorporated them with out own preference list to put together a preliminary plan:

Feb 21 - Starting point at Honolulu

Feb 22 (early morning) - Fly to Big Island (Hilo airpt)

Feb 22 - Feb 25 - Based on Hilo visit Vulcanoes NP (this is the main reason we want to go to Big Island), Hamakua Coast and Akaka (on different days). Should there be time, go to Kona coffee plantations.

Feb 25 (early morning) - Fly to Oahu

Feb 25 - March 1 - Explore Oahu as much as possible, taking into account many of your suggestions. We don't have a specific itinerary yet, but considering driving around doesn't take too much time, maybe we "make camp" in one place (maybe Lanikai beach?) and then explore the island from. Eventually staying one night somewhere else, in case we have to drive for long to some of the places.

March 2 (very early morning) - Fly back (sadly...)

I know this is always a matter of opinion, but does it seem fairly reasonable? Again, we really appreciate any insight you might have. The main thing with this plan is that we wanted to check the vulcanoes in Big Island. Since we are going there, and in order to relax a bit, we thought we might check a couple of other things, and then still have a few days at Oahu. One thing is certain: I am sure we'll feel the urge to go back to Hawaii. I already feel there's so much we'll have to leave out...some of your suggestions seem amazing but in the end we have to prioritize and something has to be left for next time.
jateles is offline  
Old Dec 9th, 2012, 02:20 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 819
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Winter is rainy season in Hilo. You can view Akaka Falls in an hour. The Hamakua Coast is entirely agricultural. Coffee and macadamia nut plantations are on the Kona side of the island -- not fascinating unless this is your business. There are no beaches in your plan for Big Island -- that would be Kohala Coast (where there are several nice hotels).

I wouldn't book Hilo any time of year, but definitely not in winter. Hilo is a commercial port and U.S. Government town. However, you could fly into Hilo, see VNP, then drive north along the Hamakua Coast, see Akaka, see Waipio Valley, transition wet-to-dry in ranch country Waimea, then stay Kohala area and fly back to HNL from Kona. (A lot of driving.)

I would choose a week in Wailea on Maui for snorkeling, whale watch, Haleakala, Iao Valley, Lahaina, possibly Road to Hana.

There has been volcanic activity this month. Whether there will be some while you are in Hawaii is anybody's guess. Will you be OK if the only molten lava you see is in the films shown at the ranger station at VNP?

This may all come down to where you can find lodgings and a rental car! Staying right on Oahu would be fine too. I'd rather be rained on at Turtle Bay than in Hilo. LOL
ChiSue is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:18 AM.