We were recently tagged by Sheila at Go Visit Hawaii in a Hawaii travel secrets meme. While we’ve only been to Hawaii once, for our honeymoon in early 2008, we did spend two weeks there and absolutely loved every single day of it. I don’t know if these three ideas are hidden secrets or not but I do know we had a blast doing them and totally recommend them.
On our honeymoon, we spent a week in Kauai, four days on the Big Island (two in Hilo, two in Kona), and three days in Oahu.
Kauai Sea Riders
For our wedding, my father-in-law’s good friends gave us their timeshare in Lihue, Kauai for the week (awesome!) and introduced us to Captain Tara of Kauai Sea Riders (About Tara). Every time they visit, they go on one of Captain Tara’s tours and in our week there we went on two! The first was a snorkel tour where I went snorkeling for the first time in my life and the second was a whale watching tour.
The best part of going on these tours was Captain Tara and her wealth of knowledge. As a marine biologist with thirty years of experience in Hawaii, she knows absolutely everything about the animals, their patterns, and ecological preservation. We were able to go to places that were lesser known because of her experience. Some captains will take you to the popular places and, if there’s nothing there, blame it on bad luck. Not so with Tara, she knows her stuff and there’s no such thing as bad luck.
On our trip we saw rays, dolphins (they jumped out of the water!) and huge tortoises – not to mention hundreds of absolutely beautiful fish.
We originally were only going to go whale watching but due to a scheduling issue, our first trip became a snorkeling trip and the second one was the whale watching. The best part about whale watching with Tara was that we were on a Zodiac, the same type of rigid-hull inflatable boat, which is the same type of water craft the US Marines use. This gives the boat the ability to move very fast.
We must have spent hours just chasing and seeing whales (that second part is crucial, you can go for hours and see nothing!). They slapped the water, they breached (jumped out of the water), and otherwise swam around in their pods.
So if you’re in Kauai and looking for an accomplished guide, you won’t be disappointed with Kauai Sea Riders.
Sunset in Waikiki
As Sheila has said on numerous occasions, people ditch the beach around sunset. One of our gems is sitting on the beach just watching the sun set because it can be one of the most beautiful sights in the world. You have the ocean air, the soft sand, perhaps music playing in the background if you’re near the outdoor restaurant seating of a hotel, and just watching the sun float gently over the horizon.
Driving from Hilo to Kona
For our visit to the Big Island, we stayed half the time in the Hilo and half the time in Kona. Hilo gets a lot of rain and the foliage is very lush and rainforest-y. Kona doesn’t and so the area is rockier and more arid. So to get the full Big Island experience, we decided to fly into Hilo and fly out of Kona, splitting our time equally.
One of the gems of the trip was the beautiful drive between the two and watching the landscape change from a rainforest to something more temperate. We took a scenic drive across the top of the island on route 19, rather than cutting through the island on Saddle Road (we heard the driving could be a bit treacherous). One of the really awesome parts was that about halfway in our trip, we went through an area with fields of lava rock. What’s fun about it are the messages people leave using lighter colored rocks.
There are a lot of Jim Loves Martha type of “notes” along with every other kind you can think of (Jim and Martha were here, etc.). It’s a fun, but long, drive that you should definitely try if you enjoy scenic drives.
Those are my three hidden gems, one of which isn’t that hidden because Sheila’s written about it before, but definitely must do’s if you visit Hawaii!