I want to go to Hawaii

And take the missus. She’s been to the other 49 states, and I’ve never been there either. Gonna go in November, probably early November.

Do you live there? What island should we stay on? What is a must see or a not so must see? We don’t surf or play golf. We love exploring nature without being hardcore mountain climbers or anything. Likely we’d enjoy flying over or being near a volcano.

What did you love about going? Fave hotels? Beaches? Things to see?


Go to Maui. Kannapoli area. Love the Westin there. There’s a volcano on Maui you can go up before sunrise in a van, sit and watch the sun come up over the volcano, then ride a bike down to the bottom. The best part of Hawaii is just laying around doing nothing.

We are headed to Kona for 10 days next week. I love the Big Island since there is so much to see and do. Like you we are not Golfers or Surfers, but we do love snorkeling and I at least have my Scuba certification so I may go diving a time or two. There is all sorts of nature to explore on the big island, from the blasted moonscape of the saddle road to the tropical rainforest’s around Hilo. Mostly we stay in Kona when we go since that side has the best snorkeling. It is a day trip to head down south to Volcano National Park to see the only part of the United States that is actively growing.

We always rent a condo and cook our own meals it saves a bunch of money (though not as much as you would think since food is expensive).

I’ve been to Kauai twice, and loved, loved, loved it there. It’s smaller and laid back and seems less crowded. It’s really a beautiful island too.

We got back not long ago from our first Hawaiian vacation.

We did the Big Island - for something really different than you “typical Hawaiian vacation” consider staying up in Volcano, Hawaii. Its this little town outside the park - very cool (but not easy to get to from the Kona airport - easier from Hilo. We were just there for a few hours).

We also did Maui - the Kaanapoli area. That was pretty much a sit on the beach vacation. Kaanapali is a stunning beach. (We stayed at the Aston Villas there).

I’ve been once. Spent a week each on Kauai and the Big Island. I’m not a surfer or golfer, but I snorkel and dive, and the snorkeling and diving is excellent all over Kauai and on the Kona side of the Big Island. The Hilo side of the BI is AWESOME for volcano viewing. I spent a few days on each side.

Even if you don’t dive, if you go to Kona, check out the manta ray experience. Some dive shops take snorkelers. I dove that. It’s listed as one of the top 10 dives in the world: a night time dive in a cove, surrounded by feeding manta rays. Absolutely amazing!! Something I will never forget as long as I live.

Kauai has very little night life. Super quiet. Relaxing. Peaceful. Kona has more, Hilo is more like Kauai. I never ventured into any major touristy areas.

Even if you get a condo and cook your own meals, go to at least one luau. They’re a lot of fun.

We also took a couple of helicopter tours and a fixed wing tour of the volcano. All well worth it. Whale watching less so… Though there were tons of dolphins. Snorkeling trips are ok, but you see just as much doing it yourself if you can get your own snorkeling gear.

The telescopes out there are world class. If science/engineering/big assed expensive stuff is your thing then a tour of those might make for an interesting diversion.

Quick pop in- this is all GREAT !!! Keep em coming, thanks so much for the ideas !

Oh, we went surfing. Even middle age mother me got up on a surfboard. Its something to consider doing.

Maui, although I’ve heard great things about Kauai, too. As others have noted, the beaches in the Kaanapali area really are better than elsewhere, and that is saying quite a bit. But, you’ll also pay for it. We stayed in Kihei for its central location on the island, and it was definitely less expensive. (Interestingly, the beach there was lame by Hawaii standards, although if it was in the continental U.S. people would flock to it.) It was a good point of departure for us, as it seemed to optimize drive times to the southern and northwestern beaches, the road to Hana, and the Mount Haleakala volcano.

About that volcano: on the one hand, the sunrise there is a unique viewing experience- you totally have the sense of being on another world. It’s cool to see. On the flip side, it’s cold, so you’ll have to pack a special set of warm clothes that you’ll never need again (at least on Maui), and there’s always a chance it will be fogged out. You also have to leave around 3:00 a.m. to make it there in time, although this isn’t bad at all if you plan it for your first morning in Hawaii coming from the mainland U.S. due to the time change.

There’s great snorkeling everywhere, so it’s hard to go wrong, but we thought the best was at a marine reserve in Honalua Bay north of Napili. It was a weird little place, not well marked, where you just sort of parked by the side of the road and walked through a forest.

If you end up in the Honolulu area on Oahu, the view from Diamond Head is great, but the walk up is more strenuous than some guide books let on.

Totally envious, here. We so want to go back.

The Divemaster and I did the Big Island and Oahu. He is a seasoned Hawaii man with more than a dozen visits under his belt, so he knows from the islands.

If you’re a diver like we are, the diving is better on the Kona side of the Big Island as previously mentioned, but I was less than impressed. I found the viz very poor overall (I’ll go back to the lower Bahamas for the best diving, methinks). You’re probably better off snorkeling, now that I think about it. And yes, the Mantas are awesome. I just missed a chance to swim with a whale shark, which is one of the few things on my bucket list.

We did Volcanoes National Park, which might not be your thing. With the recent upsurge in eruptions out there, I don’t know if the park is open to visitors at the moment. Easy enough for you to find out.

That said, let me stress that the place is Rugged with a capital R because of the unevenness of the lava fields. We were well prepared, given his previous visits, and it was still a serious workout for both of us. You can and will walk miles of it.

If you decide to walk it – provided it’s even open – wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots (I totally destroyed my New Balance sneakers. I threw them in the trash after we got back to the hotel room. The lava had ripped them to shreds), take plenty of water, a powerful flashlight with extra batteries, extra clothing (it cools off considerably after dark out there) and some lightweight snacks.

The Hawaii Parks Dept. clearly indicates with signs everywhere, you are on your own after dark and after you’ve walked out a certain distance, so take that into consideration. People can and have died out there.

Despite how it sounds, the visit is totally worth it. There is absolutely no light pollution anywhere. The eruption at night is **amazing **and the star field above your head has to be seen to be believed. It was my favorite thing out of all the stuff we did in Hawaii.

Oh, and please Do Not take any of Pele’s Children (pieces of lava or really, anything found on the lava fields no matter how interesting it looks) out of the park or out of the state. The Hawaiian Goddess of Fire will not be best pleased and you will come to regret it. Better a happy goddess than a pissed-off one to ruin your vacation. :smiley:

If anything, leave an offering behind TO Pele before you leave the islands.

On Oahu, I highly recommend Pearl City and Pearl Harbor where the Arizona Memorial, the Mighty Mo (Missouri) and the Bowfin (sub) are on display. Well worth the tours. Waikiki is fun, if touristy, but the Royal Hawaiian Hotel is worth a walk-through. Some serious history, there.

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl Crater) is also worth a walk-through. We didn’t get to the Palace, which I’d have liked to have seen.

We went to the Big Island in December of 2009. My brother’s in the Air Force, so he got us rooms at the military resort in Volcanoes National Park. It was…not what I expected. Fantastic, but not what I expected.

See, when we were invited, El Hubbo and I imagined beaches and warm sun and all that - the typical tropical vacation. This doesn’t describe Volcanoes National Park very well, at all. Volcanoes is at altitude - like 4000 feet (? I forget exactly) in a mostly deciduous forest. The temp was cool, moreso at night, but also during the day. But it was still really neat. There’s a ton of walking trails; one that goes out onto a crater floor. (Not the one that’s constantly “on;” you can’t even get near that one. But one that last erupted in the '60s, I think. Maybe it too is closed now, no idea.) My mom and aunts took a bike tour offered at the park, and really enjoyed it.

From there, we also did day trips. El Hubbo and I packed into the car one day and drove around the north side (stunning. Just stunning.). We drove over to Hilo one day to see what was there. Drove to Kona for a luau (cheesy, but definitely a must do). Drove to the southern-most point in the US. There’s a black sand beach there that’s off-the-beaten-path, but we didn’t go to it (my 5-year-old nephew was tired and cranky, and there’s a bit of a walk to get to it. So we skipped it.). I’m a huge astronomy buff, so we absolutely went up Mauna Kea. You can go inside the Kecks! Fantastic! The visitor’s center has a star-gazing session that starts rather late, which I wanted to do but no one else did, so we headed back down the mountain. If that appeals to you, I’d definitely go. (Bring warm clothes. It’s like 9000 feet at the visitor’s center, colder on top by the telescopes.)

We also arranged a boat trip to see the lava flows - again, I’m not sure if these are going on right now either. There’s morning and evening trips; we took the evening while my parents took the morning. Evening is better; you don’t have to get up at 3 AM (to get there from where we were staying, anyway). Really, really worth the money.

The lava that had been flowing into the ocean stopped in - early March? Then some of cone inside the crater collapsed. For a week, they had a fissure that was spurting lava - but you had to take an air tour to see it - then that stopped. And for three weeks - nothing - not even in the crater.

You can now see a glow from a small lava lake inside the crater.

They were concerned when we were there because everything was shut up tight - except for some steam, nothing was coming out. There were some disturbing earthquakes - and with all that, they are concerned something is going to blow open and they don’t know where or when (they have some ideas, which is why some areas of the park have been closed).

My wife and I did our first Hawaii trip in early November, ten years ago. It was a great time to be there.

We rented an apartment maybe a mile from the beach, somewhere in the Kihei-Wailea area on Maui. Sampled different beaches each morning and afternoon. Hawaii has public-access laws, so you can go to whichever beach you want, regardless of where you’re staying. Not only do you have the right to be on the beach, but there has to be pedestrian access from whatever public road is nearby.

If you go to Maui, I highly recommend the Wizard Publications guide, Maui Revealed. And they’ve got similar guides for Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island, which I haven’t used, but I certainly would if I were planning a trip to one of the other islands.

It even has online updates - IIRC, if you purchase the guide, there’s a code in the back to enter to access the updates, so that if, say, a good restaurant has turned into a crappy restaurant between the publication of the book and the time you head out, you aren’t working with outdated reviews.

My wife and I found their descriptions of individual beaches to be right on, and their reviews of restaurants were extremely helpful in picking good places to eat while we were there.

I’ve been to Hawaii four times now. Haven’t been to Kauai yet, but have been to the other 3 major islands.

Oahu is home to Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor. Expect all the normal crowds, traffic, restaurants and stores you’d expect on a mainland city, then add in a beautiful, though crowded beach. The north end of Oahu is much quieter and known for its surfing. If you’re into history, USS Arizona memorial (aka Pearl Harbor), Mighty Mo, Fishbowl cemetery, etc make for a great all-day tour. You can find tons of affordable lodging on Oahu.

Kauai - I’ve never been but it’s reportedly the most naturally beautiful of the islands. If you’d like to get back to nature, this is the place to be. It doesn’t have tons of restaurants and activities, though. Lots of folks go here with the sole intention of chilling out.

Big Island - The youngest of the islands (and it’s still growing!), which you can tell the second you land in Kona. You’ll drive by endless fields of black volcanic rock that has nothing growing on it except some scrub bushes. Very cool, but not exactly what most people envision when they think of Hawaii. Good snorkeling and diving off Big Island. Then there’s the big draw, which is the active volcano, which is definitely worth exploring. You’ll be doing a lot more driving on Big Island than other islands. When they say it’s big, they aren’t kidding. You’ll have to pack up and move to the other side if you want to do it right.

Maui - My favorite island. The only island where you can easily day trip to another island (Molokai and Lanai - via a ferry), if that’s your pleasure. It’s a fairly compact place – you could traverse the whole island in a day if you wanted to. I prefer Ka’anapali but others prefer the more elegant Wailea area. There are tons of activities and restaurants to choose from on Maui. You’ll also get more traffic and crowds here than you’ll get on either Kauai or Big Island, but in my opinion it’s manageable.

I’ve been to Kauai once and Big Island twice.

Kauai is a garden - lovely vistas and abundant flowers. They have one of the wettest spots on earth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Waialeale) and you can see rainbows at that spot almost constantly. I probably would not go back though.

Big Island has Volcanoes national park, which has a lot of nice walks of varying difficulties. You can go up to the top of Mauna Kea, by tour or by renting a 4-wheel drive, and that is an almost unreal world up there. If you’d like a different sort of adventure, you could go to Green Sand Beach; be aware that it’s a long drive, plus a long walk; however the walk is on even ground, so it’s not strenuous. There’s also some wonderful rain forests on the wet side of the island.

In Kailua-Kona, there’s a beach in the middle of town that has wonderful snorkeling. It’s got giant sea turtles and a number of tropical fishes, and they are all downright tame, because people go and feed them. I had a couple of the humuhumu’s come up to me, then swim off in a huff because I didn’t have any food for them.

My wife and I went on a slightly-longer-than-a-week vacation to Hawaii about six years ago, and loved every minute of it.

Our approach, though, was to take a cruise. The cruise lines all have boats that essentially sail to a different island each night, arriving at the new port early in the morning. You get to spend a full day bumming around an island you’ve never seen before, then spend the night sleeping while your hotel room transports itself to another island - and you don’t even have to pack/unpack.

This approach is particularly interesting if you’re into volcanoes and volcanic islands, because you get to see a two million year old volcanic island, a 1.5 million year old one, a one million year old one, etc.

My wife and I tended to take the cruise-line-sponsored tours, but many of our fellow passengers simply rented a car each day and invented their own tours.