In the past four years we’ve been on eight tropical vacations, covering the Pacific to the Caribbean and back again. While each trip has had its special moments, my favourite place for a relaxing adventure would have to be the islands of Hawaii. When one of my friends recently asked for recommendations for her upcoming trip to Maui, I put together a list of my favourite places and activities. If you’re on this site, there’s a good chance you’re interested in more than just luaus and shopping, so I figured I’d share.
*I have yet to do Big Island or Northern Oahu; this post focuses on Kauai and Maui
The Part-Time Trophy Wife Guide to Adventures: AKA the slightly-less-touristy way to see Hawaii.
- Kalalau Trial (North Side)- the hike to the beach is about 45 minutes (2 miles) if you’re doing a steady clip. There is a second section to the waterfall if you’re up for a longer hike, and if you get a park pass you can do the whole trail/camp overnight. Don’t be intimidated by the first 5 minutes though! The views are breathtaking but if you’re afraid of heights this might not be the climb for you. Recommendation: arrive early, as parking spots up near the trail head are CRAZY HARD to find.
- Napali Coast (Leave from South-West Side)- Do not do this trip if you get motion sick (or anyone in your party does). We went with the linked company and aside from some motion sickness, it was a must do trip. Note: if 5 hours on the ocean isn’t your thing, view the coast via a helicopter tour.
- Kauai Coffee Plantation – If coffee is life, stop by this spot for more samples than you can handle. The ice cream is top notch, and you can complete your day with a stop at the Kauai Kookie company – also lots of free goodies. While we’re on the topic of samples, definitely hit up the Koala Rum Company. Your visit comes with a mini tasting tour and a discount on purchases (although it’s cheaper to get the actual rum at the Kauai Costco).
- Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail – This starts right near Poipu Sands (to the left of the Hyatt) and is a fairly easy hike with great views and an AMAZING beach at the end. Pack a picnic and a swimsuit – getting to this beach from the road is a bit of an adventure, so there aren’t that many people there. The hike is will take 1-1.5 hours/way and is 4 miles round trip. Easy enough for kids to hike without the sketchy drop offs of Kalalau.
- Hike Waimea Canyon and kayak Wailua River – Due to wiping out on my morning run the first day of our 2015 island trip, I wasn’t allowed in the water (the island water has leptospirosis and necrotizing fasciitis) so we had to forego these activities, but if you can, go!
- Coconut Coast biking trail – the views were beautiful, but the trail only took about an hour there and back – Not a whole lot to do outside of the path, so I didn’t feel that our bike rentals were money well spent. Child friendly if you’re looking for a slower paced but safe way to get out.
- Nani Moon Meadery – having never tried mead before, we entered this small shop without expectations (aside from being weirded out by the location). The sample flight was a bit pricy, although you did receive a decent amount of mead in return. I’d recommend splitting a flight between two. Honey Mead isn’t for everyone…
Places To Stay:
To truly enjoy Kauai, split your time between the North and the South if you can. Depending on the number of days you’re staying, I 100% recommend using VRBO (if you’re only there for a day or two the cleaning fees may make a hotel better valued). I have never had a bad experience at the Poipu Sands resort – it’s by the ocean, has a pool and bbq, is great value, and is never over crowded.
More recently we spent some time at the Westin Princeville – if you’ve flown out of Hawaii you’ll know that a lot of flights leave in the evening. If you’re not staying at a hotel with a flexible check out policy, you could get left circling the island (with all your baggage) trying to kill time. The Westin has an excellent program which allows you to stay on property the entire day and then use a clean up room to freshen up prior to your flight.
- The road to Hana is beautiful, and there is an amazing hole-in-the-wall (or stand on the highway?) coconut ice cream stand around mile marker 28. DO NOT plan on staying in Hana though. Car theft is an issue on the island, so if you’re driving all that way with your baggage in tow you can’t hit up all the stops (waterfalls, mini hikes) along the road.
- Old Lahaina Luau – if you’re going to do a luau, do it right. This one is a bit pricey, but the food is amazing and the entertainment is good quality. Lahaina is also pretty for a stroll, so come a few hours early.
- Surfing – still game after shark week? We went with Maui Surfer Girls and had a nice small group of only three. The teacher was friendly and funny, and overall good value for our money. Recommendation: sunscreen your butt and upper legs with something heavy-duty and waterproof. You will burn this area otherwise, making for an uncomfortable flight home.
- Snorkelling at the Molokini Crater – Our tour provider was Trilogy, and we were really happy with the level of service and on-board meal (mmm teriyaki chicken).
- If high end shopping is your thing, then definitely check out the Shops at Wailea
- The road to Hana. If coconut ice cream and windy roads don’t sound fun, there isn’t a lot happening in Hana itself. You might want to head out to Paia instead for some boutique shopping, strolling, and good eats.
- Lahaina front street – the majority of shops here are the ones you find all over the island, but it can be a nice stroll. Note: there is also a cheeseburger in heaven right on the waterfront for burger enthusiasts.
- Makena beach – little beach is for nudists if you’re looking for a more freeing experience. Big beach is great too for the more modest.
Places to Stay:
Unlike Kauai, we’ve only been to Maui once. We booked a VRBO in Kihei (where it is much more affordable but still beautiful,) and stayed a few nights in Ka’anapali at another condo. When choosing a place, I like to stick to rentals with multiple recent positive reviews. Also check to see what extras the place has. A lot of condos will provide beach gear and snorkelling equipment. Recommendation: if you love sea turtles, Ka’anapali is the place for you! We stayed just outside in Napili Honokawai and were not disappointed! 6-10 turtles every night. I would highly recommend this listing as well.
For some great shots of the island, head over to my bestie Jen’s page at Blush Sky Photography. She loves Maui as much (or more) as I love Kauai, and would probably live there if the chance ever arose.
Hope this guide helps! One last thing to note, when choosing your rental car, spending an extra hour or two searching *company*coupon* could save you a fair bit of money. We’ve had great experiences with finding codes and renting from Budget on both islands – but it requires a bit of googling.