The area north of Hilo is teeming with waterfalls, but if I had to choose one for a visit, it would be the Akaka Falls. To get there, take the exit between milemarker 13 and 14 to Akaka Falls. You can hike a short round-trip (20-25 minutes) through the area and also see the less impressive Kahuna Falls. The rainforest vegetation is stunning, well worth the effort.
Iolani Palace (Honolulu)
Since Hawaii was unified through the wars of King Kamehameha the Great, all of Hawaii was ruled by a monarch. The Hawaiian kings and queens had extensive diplomatic contacts with the great powers of Europe and America, until immigrated American landowners lead a coup d`etat in 1893 and established a republic, soon (1898) annexed by the United States of America.
The Iolani Palace was built in 1882 and is the only royal palace on the territory of the United States! It can only be visited with a guided tour. Tickets are sold not in the palace, but in the small fortress-like building opposite to the palace.
Scenic Pepe`ekeo Drive (north of Hilo)
A short but exceptionally pretty road is located north of Hilo, on Highway 19 (entry point between milemarker 7 and 8; you rejoin Highway 19 at milemarker 11). It leads through a lush rainforest and past Onemea Bay viewpoint and the "World Botanical Gardens". The drive can easily be combined with a visit to Akaka Falls (take the exit to Highway 220) and on the way back to Rainbow Falls north of Hilo.
Pu`uhonua o Honaunau Historic Site
Also known under the name "Place of refuge", probably easier to pronounce. This is an interesting site for anyone with an interest on Hawaian-Polynesian culture. In this open-air museum, you have recreated historic houses, temples, granaries, wood-carved idols, and also a "place of refuge". Under ancient Hawaiian law, the death penalty was dealt out even for minor transgressions, but if the prosecuted reached the place of refuge, he was out of reach of the law and could return to a normal life, regardless of what he`d done.
Next to the boating pier is Honaunau Bay, a great place for snorkeling and home to a pod of dolphins you might or might not see.
Scenic Kohala Mountain road
While on Big Island, the winding North Kohala Mountain road (Highway 250) is worth the effort - a very different landscape apart from the rest of the island; Hawi village makes for a nice stop before you head back south along the coast on Highway 270. A great daytrip to comine the road with activities would be to start with a horse ride with Paniolo Adventures (midway on Highway 250), then have lunch in Hawi, and head to Hapuna or Mauna Kea Beach for the afternoon.
Honolulu is the obvious starting point of any Hawaii trip. Attractions include
- the Aloha Tower (an observation tower within a shopping mall): nice view of the harbour and financial district
- the Iolani Palace: the Royal Palace of the Hawaiian kings and queens, built 1882. The only royal palace on the territory of the United States!
- the King Kamehameha monument (opposite the Iolani Palace)
- the historical district with the Mission Houses, Washington Place and Kawaiaha`o Church
- the Hawaii state art museum (fantastic restaurant-cafe inside)
- Chinatown (roughly the area between River Road to the north and Maunakea Road to the south, Kukui road to the east) with interesting markets, good restaurants and a Chinese temple.
That`s about it. Nearby attractions like Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbour, Diamond Head Hike, Pali lookout have descriptions in seperate things to do-entries.
While planning your itinerary keep in mind that Honolulu is not the only island with an international airport - if you plan on island-hopping, you can start in Oahu/Honolulu, but you could leave from Big Island/Hilo, too. Or vice versa.
Kahuku Horse Riding
Located in Oahu; a great operator of beach rides along the Kahuku coast on real Arabian horses. Reservation is essential, and you shouldn`t come late (seriously). Suitable for unexperienced riders, but if you like you can gallop along the beach - which, on an Arab Horse, is a bit liking driving a Porsche. Great fun. We even saw a rare Hawaian seal on the beach!
Honolulu`s Chinatown (roughly the area between River Road to the north and Maunakea Road to the south, Kukui road to the east) has interesting markets, good restaurants and a Chinese temple. Kekaulike Market is probably the most interesting part.
Paniolo Adventures Horseride
I you want to get to know the beautiful North Kohala countryside, there is no better way than to join a horseride with Paniolo Adventures (pre-booking essential, base located just a few metres north of milemarker 13, Highway 250). It is suitable even for unexperienced riders, great docile horses in good shape, friendly guides, and they don`t do nose-to-tail rides. A 2 1/2 hour ride costs between 90-100 USD.
Captain Cook Memorial
This memorial in Kelaukea Bay is dedicated to the British explorer James Cook, who discovered the Hawaii islands on his last voyage in 1778/1779 (he wasn`t even looking for them, but en route to Alaska, searching for the Northwest Passage). After a cordial welcome by the Hawaiians of Kauai`i in January 1778, a second visit in February 1779 in Kelaukea Bay went disastrously wrong, and Cook was killed by a warrior on the shore, where the memorial stands today.
There are several ways to get there (though not by car): either hire a kayak (several operators near Captain Cook village), take part in an organized snorkeling trip or tour, or hike there (ca. 1 1/2 hours one way). For hiking, drive on the Mamalahoa Highway (11), turn left shortly after milemarker 110 on Napoopoo Road. After a few metres on that road, a small sign on the right side indicates the hiking path.
The bay is a great place to snorkel. Exotic fish are no rarity here - you can even see them without actually going in the water (see the yellow dots on the water surface?).
Scenic Drive Highway 72 (southeast Oahu)
Though not the most direct route between Waikiki and Kailua, Highway 72 is a scenic alternative with several worthwhile stops:
- Hanauma Bay (great for snorkeling)
- Koko Crater & Botanical Gardens
- Halona Blowhole (see the photo): incoming waves are funneled into a blowhole and literally erupt through it
- Makapu`u Beach and Lighthouse (Makapu`u Head)
Diamond Head Hike
Leaving Waikiki in eastern direction (past Kapiolani Park/Waiki Aquarium and entering Diamond Head road), you can stop at the Diamond Head parking lot and hike towards the panoramic viewpoint. The classic vista of the Waikiki beach and skyline can be seen from the top, clear weather provided. The return trip takes ca. 1 1/2 hours - despite its shortness exhausting due to its steepness. Usually crowded, but well worth the effort. The park closes at 6 p.m., so don`t start too late.
Sea Horse Farm
Just south of Kona airport (exit around milemarker 94, sign "Natural Energy Lab") a commercial Seahorse Farm is well worth visiting. The price is a little steep, but you will get an enthusiastic tour of the farm and see seahorses in different stages of growth (and even get one to wrap its tail around your finger). The farm was established to prevent the extinction of the rare wild seahorses by offering farm-raised species for collectors and aquariums.
Reserve ahead a place on a tour (usually twice daily) as the farm can only be visited with a guided tour. Bring water and food as no restaurants or shops are nearby.
Big Island Beaches
Big Island has some exceptional beaches, mainly concentrated on the western shore, less so in the other parts of the island. The highest concentration of beaches is on Highway 19 between Keahole airport and Kawaihae town, my favourites being Mauna Kea Beach (admission through the Mauna Kea resort-entrance, even if you are not a guest; parking fee) and Hapuna Beach. An impressive but less accessible small beach is Green Sand Beach near South Point (see separate tip).
Driving north from Kailua on the Kahekili (83) Highway direction Kane`ohe, you will drive past the "Valley of the Temples", basically a big cemetery with churches and temples dedicated to different religions. If you take the exit into the valley and drive all the way through, stop at the beautiful Byodo-In Temple, a replica of a Japanese buddhist shrine built in the 1960`s in memory of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.
Hawaii (State of) Hotels
Upon arrival to the Halekulani you are greeted at the desk and assigned a staff member to tour you...more
The hotel room I had, had a balcony. When I looked to the right, I had a view to the ocean.more
2417 Prince Edward Street, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96815, United States
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