Day 1 –
Anticipation! Excitement! I am finally getting to go on my dream vacation! I have always wanted to go to Hawaii and experience island life and be near and in the ocean. For our 30th wedding anniversary, we decided to make it happen. What better time to celebrate and get a chance to be with our daughter, who is living in Kauai?!
We arrived and were greeted with a big Aloha, by our transfer hosts with gorgeous leis (oh, the smell was delicious and lasted for at least the whole time we were in Honolulu). In fact, during the whole trip, whenever we landed on an island, and at every hotel, we were greeted with leis.
Our first hotel on the trip was the historic Moana Surfrider–the very first hotel on Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach, opening in 1901. Located in the heart of downtown Honolulu, and steps from the ocean, we had an oceanview room. The dining area of the hotel encircled this huge banyan tree, right on the ocean, something I had never seen before. Banyan trees were brought to Hawaii from India–older trees can reach more than 656 feet in =dameter and 98 feet high, with secondary trunks all around it. We saw many banyan trees on the islands.
Around 6:30pm, we met up with our tour group and Julie, our Tour Director. Amazingly, we had a small group of about 28 people on the tour, with maybe 6 to 8 couples celebrating their wedding anniversary and a newlywed couple on their honeymoon. After a welcome dinner at the hotel, we ventured out into the nightlife of Honolulu for a short while—so vibrant!
Day 2 –
We began the day gloriously, by having breakfast on the veranda, overlooking the gentle morning waves on Waikiki beach. I took a short stroll down the beach to take some pictures of Diamondhead and the surrounding area. We had a free day, so we chose to take an optional tour of the eastern side of Oahu. We had one of the best tour guides ever, brimming with so much historical knowledge and lots of fun facts, too! We headed toward Diamondhead and drove as far up to it as possible. There is so much magnificent scenery along the ocean on the way beautiful Hanauma Bay. We also got to see where some of the iconic TV shows were filmed such as Hawaii Five-O, Magnum P.I., and the famous beach from the movie, From Here to Eternity. Another special locale was the area where President Obama and past-President Bush often vacation. At the end of our windward island drive, we ended up atop the Pali Lookout. Pali means cliff, and this is the site of the Battle of Nuuanu, where in 1795 King =Kamehameha won the struggle that finally united Oahu under his rule. A fierce battle, the King forced hundreds of the opposition’s soldiers off the Pali’s cliffs.
While waiting for everyone to get back to the motor coach, I noticed lots of chickens and roosters running around. I asked our guide about them, and he said that many people had chickens on the islands, and over time, they have multiplied, and now run wild.
On the way back to Honolulu, we drove through the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the stretch near our hotel of Waikiki Beach. We saw the statue of Duke, the father of modern surfing. He is celebrated widely in Hawaii as their beloved ambassador to the world through the first half of the 20th century. Not only a noted surfer, he was a natural at all water-related activities. He was an Olympian champion in swimming, earning several gold medals, and a silver one. That evening, we and some other couples in our group ate at a lively beachside restaurant named after him, Duke’s restaurant.
Day 3 –
Off to another great day! In the morning we took our Insight motor coach (with extended leg room) to our exclusive guided tour of Iolani Palace, the only official royal residence in the United States. Our guide was a docent, history professor at a local university. She was so passionate about her Hawaiian ancestry and gave us such insight in to the royal family, who seemed so deeply involved in the welfare of their people. Before that, we walked through the State capitol to approach the rear entrance of the palace. We viewed Washington Place and King Kamehameha’s statue at Aliiolani Hale. This is where we had our group portrait made. Afterwards, we made our way to Pearl Harbor, a somber reminder of the service men and women in WWII that lost their lives. Probably the most poignant time there was on the memorial that hovers over the submerged USS Arizona. As you peer down at the water, you can see air bubbles and oil leakage patches that come from the ship below, as though the trapped men who died that day are still with us now.
Our last night in Honolulu was a little bitter sweet, knowing we had to leave that paradise, but then it was also exciting to think what the next day in Kaui would be like!
Day 4 –
Off we went to Maui, on our Hawaiian Airlines flight. I got a window seat and was treated to a long stretch of a view of Waikiki Beach and =Damondhead! Before we knew it, we landed at Kahului Airport on the magic Isle. The hotel shuttle bus took us up the west coast of Maui to our home for the next 3 nights, the Westin Maui Resort and Spa. All I can say is, “Wow!” What a beautiful resort! The grounds were gorgeous, and our hotel room was facing the west to the ocean. Can you imagine the sunsets?! There aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to describe the beauty of it all! Each hotel on the trip helped us celebrate our anniversaries by leaving bottles of wine in our room, some with special Hawaiian boxes of chocolates with macadamian nuts, and some with fresh pineapple bites! Yummy!
We toured some back roads to visit some Boutique Farms–the Alii Kula Lavender Farm (where I purchased some great soap and body cream,) and then the Surfing Goat dairy (sampling award-winning goat cheeses that are used at the top hotels and restaurants throughout Hawaii). We also had the pleasure of meeting some of the sires and kids, as well as dames. We had a good time feeding them hay. On the way back to the hotel, we had a scrumptious lunch at a beachside restaurant. We topped all of this off with a dip in the beautiful ocean! What more could I ask for?
Day 5 –
Our next day was a free day at our leisure. We and another couple from Malaysia decided to take the optional all-day tour to Heavenly Hana–basically a tour that travels around the perimeter of most of the island. We saw some beautiful spots that most people will never see. Some in our tour took a catamaran cruise and did some snorkeling, while most just stayed at the resort and enjoyed all it had to offer! That evening, we went to =Lahaina, originally the whaling center for Hawaii. In its day, it was one of the premier sites for the whaling ships to come in. The town had a cannery that was booming at that time. Nowadays, it is a quaint village on the sea with many great restaurants and shopping possibilities. Our Australian friends on the tour had a great time shopping there!
Day 6 –
Another day to swim in paradise! Later in the day, we had ukulele lessons offered to us. Our traditional Hawaiian Luau was that evening at the hotel. We had a great celebration with super food and wonderful entertainment. The hula dancers were immensely talented, even the young girls! And the men with the flaming torches were breathtakingly exciting! Could our next island top this experience?
Day 7 –
Off we went to Hilo, Hawaii–the Big Island! As soon as we reached the eastern side of the island, we met with rain. After boarding our beautiful Insight motor coach, we met the driver who would take care of us on this magnificent island. He was always full of surprises about his special talents! He is a local artist who has many works for sale in gift stores and other retail outlets around the island. At the end of our tour, Julie (Tour Director) gave each of us a small drawing of his to remind us of our special time there. On another day, he gave each of us a token that he made from the raffia that is taken from the leaves that make the hula skirt. Mine was a bird. My husband’s was a fish. What a pleasure to have such a kind person driving us around for 2 days. The third day there, our driver was a substitute–but he was a local musician and played the ukulele and serenaded us for a while!
We drove through a gentle rain amongst rolling volcanic hills and lush foliage to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to the world’s largest volcano. First, we had a terrific lunch at the park’s entrance, then drove up to the Jaggar Museum and looked down the huge Kilauea Caldera at the active volcano, steam rising from every crack in the earth’s surface. Next, we drove a short way to the rain forest, and hiked down a ways to the Thurston Lava Tube, which was almost like cave spelunking–very interesting! Hawaii is ever changing with the active volcanoes. After lava flows, the land mass increases further out to sea with the spewing streams headed toward the ocean.
Next, we headed north and drove along the eastern coast. We began to emerge from the rain and saw many waterfalls along the way. Our motor coach headed inward and crossed the northern side of the island until we reached the historic Anna Ranch, set against the backdrop of Waimea’s lush hills. This ranch dates back to the early 19th century. As the family held the ranch since that time, Anna Lindsey became the sole owner in 1939. The ranch was heavily in debt, and she started doing most of the work herself to save it. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. Anna was extremely popular with her local neighbors and eventually employed enough people to work there with cattle, horses, an on-site blacksmith, master saddle maker and leather crafter. There were demonstrations to show us the Hawaiian ranch life in the early 20th century. Anna was quite a horsewoman and loved to participate in parades far and near, wearing one-of-a-kind outfits, many sequined.
Onward to our 5-star Fairmont Orchid Hotel in the Kona area! Everywhere you turn in the hotel, you encounter beautiful orchids! This property is amazing and very widespread. Every evening, if you walk past the huge pool area and near the beachside restaurant/bar, you can see stingrays swimming near the shore. Lights are directed to the rocky beach for better viewing, and we saw the huge sea turtles that would slowly climb ashore. Many times during the day, you could also see the green sea turtles on the shore drying themselves in the sunlight.
Day 8 –
I have to say that breakfast during the whole tour became my most favorite meal of the day! Each hotel offered such a grand buffet for us–and the local fresh fruit was amazing! After breakfast, we headed down the west coast of Hawaii to a coffee farm. We saw how many of the locals in the area produced some of the best coffee in the world. Many of the farms were owned and operated by Chinese immigrants. The ingenuity of the farmers was astounding. They came up with great ways of producing the wonderful coffee, and we were able to sample some that was freshly made for us. I haven’t even mentioned the beautiful flowers, trees, and fauna that we have been seeing on this magical tour.
Next on the agenda, was the Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. Julie put us to the test and said we wouldn’t be able to get back on the motor coach until we could say this name correctly. As we learned on the tour, King Kamehameha (who finally united the islands) was from the Big Island of Hawaii. The penalty for breaking any laws of his kingdom at the time he became king were extremely severe–death. He came up with a plan of some sort of leniency, giving some hope to first-time offenders. If the accused person could make it to the place of refuge (according to Polynesian legends that’s what Puuhonua or Honaunau means), then the person would be forgiven for his/her crime. Unfortunately, it was not easy to get to this place. The only approach is by sea. The accused person was set free and given a head start to get there. Part of the trek might be land, but eventually the person would have to swim. Not an easy task with the dangers in the water, like sharks. On our way back to the northern Kona coast, we stopped in the historic town of Kailua to have lunch on our own and walk around the harbor.
Day 9 –
Our last full day on Hawaii was a free day. We decided to do a helicopter tour that was to take us over the volcanoes and then to see the beautiful waterfalls and thick vegetation in the mountains of the north. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, and the volcano part of the flight was cancelled due to low cloud coverage and bad visibility. We decided to go ahead with the northern part of the flight, which was spectacular.
That evening we had our first Farewell Dinner. We had such a great time talking, laughing, and enjoying our sumptuous meal. We had to say goodbye to several of our new friends as they were ending their Hawaiian Dream tour here.
Day 10 –
Six of the couples and us flew on to Kauai–the Garden Isle. Upon arrival, the tour group went on to the northern part of the island to see Opaekaa Falls and the Spouting Horn Blowhole. We, on the =oher hand, anxiously awaited our daughter to meet us and take us to the hotel. What a beautiful drive through the eucalyptus “Tunnel of trees” to Poipu, where we stayed the next 2 nights at our Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa on a beautiful bay on the south of the island of Kauai.
Day 11 –
After breakfast, we departed for Waimea Canyon on the western side of the island, stopping at the small town of Waimea to see the monument and statue for Captain James Cook. He changed the course of history for Hawaii when sailing into this harbor in 1778–reportedly the first westerner to ever set foot on the islands. Next we drove up the winding hillsides to view the spectacular Canyon. As you probably know, many movies have been filmed in this area of Kauai, like Jurissac Park. This area is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Some of our traveling friends took the helicopter ride over the canyon and the northwest coast of the island for terrific views of steep waterfalls and the rugged coastline with pristine beaches laced along the steep cliffs.
Later, we met at the Tidepools Restaurant at our hotel for our second farewell dinner. This was a fantastic way to end our trip. We dined in the open-air thatched huts, with waterfalls and koi-filled lagoons surrounding us. Of course, we were sad to say goodbye to our very special new friends and wonderful tour director, Julie. We rested well that evening, knowing that we really did have the dream vacation of our lives!
Julie & Insight Vacations!
Note: The tour is a little bit different. Check the new itinerary on our website. The name is now Luxurious Hawaiian Escape.