Where to go when you have 7 weeks in Hawaii?

Posted on Jun 12, 2015

Where to go when you have 7 weeks in Hawaii?

When we made plans for our round the world trip, Hawaii always was on the list. We like volcano’s so we wanted to see the youngest and most active volcano on earth and we would also like to experience some of the best beaches in the world. Also Hawaii makes a nice stop on a journey between New Zealand and the USA. So we booked a flight to Honolulu and a flight out of Honolulu 7 weeks later and didn’t make any plans for the time in between. The state Hawaii consists of eight major islands and several small atolls and islets: Oahu, Big Island, Maui and Kauai are the four largest, while Lanai and Molokai are two of the smaller ones that you can also easily visit. So the biggest choice you need to make is how many islands do you want to visit and which ones? To make choosing even more difficult most of the islands have different sides that can be totally different. The North Shore has huge waves in the winter, but is dead flat in summer; the Puna coast of Big Island is a tropical rainforest and it rains a lot, while the other side of the island is mainly lava rocks, etc, etc.


So in this post we will look back at our 7 weeks here and tell you what we choose (and what not), why we did this and how we experienced it. We will not try to rank it or give a top 10 as every island we visited had something special and is well worth a visit. Somewhere I read that basically whatever you choose you can’t go really wrong as there are great beaches everywhere in Hawaii and on most islands all the attractions are only a one hours drive away anyhow.


Our flight was booked to Honolulu so we decided to make the island Oahu our first stop. Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and is the only thing close to a real city in Hawaii. Traffic jams, high rise buildings, you’ve got it all. Honolulu is also home to Waikiki beach, the most well known beach of Hawaii and place where you can find most of the tourists resorts. We prefer to have a beach by ourself and not share it with thousands of others, so we decided to rent a holiday home in a more ‘rural’ area on the windward coast, which is only half an hour from ‘town’ as the locals call it. We ended up in Waimanalo beach and our home was literary a few steps away from the beach. Waimanalo beach was recently selected by a ‘beach professor’ as the nr 1 beach of the USA, so I think we made a good choice here. We loved the beach, it was quiet and had endless miles of white sandy beaches and often you could see a couple making their wedding pictures on the beach as this is a classical picture perfect beach. Oahu has a lot of activities, great beaches and all facilities that you can think of (Wholefoods supermarket, malls, public transport, etc) so you could easily stay here for your whole trip. We didn’t and we only stayed for one week, which was okay but we also wouldn’t have mind staying a few days longer as there is plenty to do and see on this island.


Selecting our second island was a bit more difficult. We wanted to visit one of the smaller islands and we tossed and turned between Maui and Kauai. Lots of people go to Maui. It has great beaches for snorkelling, also has lots of activities suitable for kids and has a very diverse landscape. Kauai on the other hand is a bit smaller, has a slower pace and is home to the ‘Grand Canyon’ of the Pacific. When we asked around someone advised us not to go to Kauai as “it is a bit boring as there is only beaches and nature”. Well that’s exactly what we are after, so we booked Kauai. The first week we stayed in a condo near Poipu beach in the south. A child-friendly beach as it is protected by a reef and also a good spot for snorkelling. It can rain a lot on the interior of Kauai, but Poipu has some of the best weather, and that’s exactly what we experienced. Most times when it was raining at the condo it was sunny at the beach, which was 5 minutes down the road. As it is Hawaii a beach is always nearby, but a short drive from Poipu is Glass Beach where you can find all kind of colours of sea glass, which is a lot of fun when you are a beach comber like us. Besides beaching we also visited the canyon and we went to see a Lu’au show. Perfect for a week and Poipu is definitely recommend for families with small children.


The second part of our time on this island we stayed on the North Shore in Princeville. Princeville is a resort village next to Hanalei bay. We could not afford to stay in one of the upscale resorts, but we found a very nice vacation rental with sweeping views in a slightly older apartment complex. It rained a bit more here then in Poipu but it was never really bad and most days it rained for maybe two hours and then it cleared-up again and we could go for a swim in the pool or the sea. We have seen the most spectaculair rainbows on this part of the island. It was here that we got hooked on snorkelling on Anini beach and that we did a ‘real hike’ up the rough Na Pali coast. We stayed in the north for close to two weeks which was okay for us as Petra needed to travel out by herself for a few days, but otherwise I think that one week on the North shore and one week on the South shore would be enough to get a good experience of this island. And the thing we noticed with Kauai is that it invites you to not ‘do’ so much, but just ‘be’, which was a surprising energy to experience, but once we had the hang of it we really got to experience what locals call ‘island time’, and you really get to relax and go with the flow of things. We really fell in love with Kauai.


Our third island was the island of Hawai’i, also called Big Island. And it is big (relatively). If you take all the other islands together they only make-up for about half of Big Island. Big Island probably has the most distinct climate difference between the Hilo side and the Kona side (the two cities on either side of the island). The Hilo side gives easy access to the Volcano National Park with its  active volcano, while the Kona side has the better beaches and sunnier weather. It’s about 2.5 hour drive from one end to the other so it makes sense to split your trip and stay a few days on the Kona side for the volcanic action and the remainder on the other side. And so we did. The first week we stayed in the Puna district in the midst of a tropical rainforest. It was great for us as it reminded us a lot of  Gabon where we haved lived before. If you like volcano’s, peering in craters, swimming in lava rock pools then this side of the island is great. We can also recommend to consider to take a helicopter ride to get a different perspective on how massive the volcano active area is.


But on this side of the island it does rain a lot (like in most days) and humidity is really high. So after a great week here we were also glad to drive to the other side and see the sun again. Kona was a pleasant surprise as it had lots more in store for us then we had expected (we thought it would be one big tourist trap) and we experienced a great last 10 days on Hawai’i. There is lots of black lava fields on this side of the island and if you drive out of Kona to the north and you see the summit of Mouna Kea and the lava fields running down all the way to the ocean, you can really feel the vastness and magnitude of all this and we found it pretty impressive. There are also lots of beaches, some great for snorkelling and others for sun bathing or just plain relaxing. There are plenty of holiday resorts and tourist attractions and shops in and around Kona, which we thought would be corny, but it actually didn’t bother us. We just laughed about the immense crowd of people all snorkelling at the same time and the traffic slowing us way down. We actually enjoyed the convenience the tourist industry brought us! There is plenty to do in Kona and you can go dolphin watching, sunset cruising or even take a submarine to explore the underwater world. We did the latter and we really enjoyed it as it gives such a new and different perspective to seeing the abundant marine life that is normally hidden from us. We have watched some of the best and most colourful sunsets of our trip from the beach at our resort here which made for a great way to end our day with the kids and have them settle in to bed time energy.


So there you have it. Our 7 weeks in Hawaii. If we would come back would we visit the same places? Probably yes as we had such good times here, but maybe not as we would also like to explore Maui or maybe even one of the smaller islands. Will we come back? Yes, for sure. We have fallen in love with this piece of paradise, and we will want to come back again.


ps: there are also new pictures uploaded at the bottom of this page