I recently said goodbye to the glorious beaches of South East Asia to explore beaches further afield and from Singapore you don’t get much further than Hawaii!
When travelling to Hawaii the first thing you need to decide is which island. The islands are as follows:
1. Hawaii – The Big Island
3. O’ahu – The main island and key international airport
Each of the islands has its own appeal and charm. The islands are easy to hop between on Hawaiin Airlines. However, as our trip was short we restricted ourselves to two islands: The Big Island and O’ahu.
The people on both islands are incredible friendly and welcoming. You will be greeted with a warm “Aloha” wherever you go.
The Big Island was an unexpected delight for me. We had set aside only a few days of our trip to stay on the Big Island but in hindsight I could have spent the entire trip here. The first couple of days were spent exploring the islands many beaches. Mostly these are short strips of beach. Compared to Asia, you don’t have the fine white sand but each is unique and has its own charm.
On one beach we found a charming beach club complete with Reggae artist who quickly got us into the holiday and Hawaiin spirit. The beach was also home to incredible snorkelling. The area is mainly hard coral but has many beautiful coral cones and schools of tropical fish.
On another beach we were blessed with giant sea turtles who came right to the shore to feed at the rocks.
A third beach was black sand from the volcano. There’s also an elusive Green Sand beach – warning if you want to go to it you can’t drive. There’s a carpark at the top, from there it’s about a 1.5 hour trek. There are often locals in the carpark with giant 4X4s who can make it to the beach and will take you for a small fee.
The beaches here are clean and safe. Most have facilities such as toilets and a beach shower but not much else. Compared to the beaches on O’ahu these are more peaceful and picturesque. You won’t find anyone offering beds or water sports here just locals enjoying the peach and quiet.
Beaches are just one side of the Big Island. The other side is the spectacular volcano and landscape. Kilauea Volcano is a highly active volcano. When we were there it wasn’t currently spilling any lava but you can see activity in the form of steam vents throughout the Volcano National Park.
The National Park is easy to access with a car (you don’t need a 4X4 there’s sadly no off-roading!) At the entry to the National Park is a visitors center which will provide an update to the latest conditions on the volcano and provide recommendations on hiking trails. For those who would rather rest their legs, most of the volcano can be viewed from the comfort of your vehicle. However, if you’re to do just one hike, make sure you walk to where the latest lava flows in 2004 covered the road. You’ll be able to walk on the newest land in Hawaii!
To access the lava flow you’ll drive approximately 45 minutes down the side of the mountain to the ocean. It is a spectacular drive through the lava fields with stunning views of the ocean. There are many places to pull over and take photos. The walk to the new lava is approximately 15 – 20 minutes.
O’ahu – Shoppers paradise
O’ahu is definitely the key tourist island and has a very different feel to the big island. This is “package holiday” paradise and the place welcomes numerous tourists from mainland US as well as South America and Asia.
O’ahu has some charm – the mountains and still stunning and the sea still clear but with it’s busy highways and towering hotel concrete blocks it definitely lacks the charm of the Big Island.
But there are two things here that can’t be missed: Pearl Harbour and Shopping!
O’ahu (especially for us non-Americans) is shoppers paradise. All the big brands have outlets here with far lower prices than you can get back home. There is tax but it’s only 4.7%. The outlets are easily accessible from the main beach/area of Waikiki which also houses the main shopping belt. There are cheap shuttle buses which regularly take people to and from the malls / outlets.
A trip to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without visiting the monument and historical sites at Pearl Harbour. There are many tour companies which will arrange your trip or you can go solo. Quick tip – when you look on the government website it will likely tell you there are no tickets remaining. Fear not – if you arrive early (and I do mean early aka 7am) they have “on the door tickets”. We choose a tour company as we didn’t want to get up early. Imagine our horror then when they told us they were picking us up at 6.30am! The tour companies also don’t have the tickets they just send a scout in the morning to queue up and buy. For this privilege and the coach there you will pay as much as USD 100. Anyway rant over…
Having recently visited Hiroshima (blog on this coming I promise) I was eager to visit Pearl Harbour to see the other side of the equation. Both the memorial and the historical sites/museums have been put together very well presenting facts from both sides without bias. The memorial itself is a breathtaking structure floating on the Arizona ship which lays below it. From the memorial you will have views of parts of the boat below which are visible just below the surface. As many of the soldiers were never not recovered from the wreckage it is fitting that the memorial has been built in the water over their ship which is also now their tomb. A moving experience indeed and a touching end to the trip to pay tribute to brave men and women who lost their lives in order that we can freely travel today.
– Hire a car in the Big Island (you will need it) you can do without in O’ahu
– Take water booties for snorkeling there are a lot of sea urchins
– Unless you really need a commercial fix spend less time on O’ahu and more on neighbouring islands. The beaches on O’ahu are crowded and nothing special.
p.s. There are never any filters used on my photos. The sea really is that blue!