Why You Need To Do A Tour On The Road To Hana

I have always wanted to visit Maui. After many trips to Waikiki I wanted to explore further afield and finally booked a trip there. I considered booking a car and driving the road to Hana on my own, instead opting into a tour. After a lot of research, I chose the Heavenly Hana Tour with Roberts Hawaii and I am so pleased I did!

Here’s a short list of reasons reasons why a tour is best for the road to Hana:

  • Local insights – where to eat, use bathrooms, best places to swim, secret places
  • Local knowledge & stories – Hawaiian storytelling, local jokes
  • You don’t have to drive those beastly roads! They don’t call it Death Road for nothing.
  • You make loads of new friends
  • You see all the stops and more

And here’s the slightly longer story and reasons…

Our hilarious guide, Bjorn, a tropical Hawaiian Viking picked me up from my hotel at 8am. Bjorn is a wonderfully dramatic and hilarious storyteller. His favourite word was Ono! He loves food (and so do I) – it’s all Ono! His fantastic commentary kind of reminds me of Jack Black and he’s probably the number one reason I suggest to do a tour. There are a lot of little quirks make Maui, Maui, and Bjorn helps you discover them all.

As soon as we were all on board, Bjorn shared around some local crystallised ginger for everyone to try and of course, in case they became ill on the windy roads that take you to the gorgeous Hana. Smart. Actually, Bjorn has ALLL the supplies. Sunblock, bug spray, water, juice, first aid etc… oh and bubbles! Everyone loves making bubbles no matter how old you are. And they make for epic photos!

We were gifted flowers and I learnt that a flower behind the right ear means single and in the left means taken. While we all took admired our flowers we were provided a bit of a history tour as we excited the airport area. What was the last sugar mill in Hawaii has just closed there and the last boat left just before last Christmas. There are 36,000 acres of sugar cane on Maui.

Through the sugar cane fields we made our way towards the greener parts of Maui. And man, is it green! Wild trees and vines grow everywhere, it’s a jungle out there… literally. A tropical jungle, surround by huge volcanic mountains, deep ravines and an always changing coastline.

Quick fact: the first medical marijuana dispensary in Maui just opened. Woody Harrelson bought the rights to grow distribute, harvest and sell weed on the island.

The seats on our minivan are plush, (not leather and sticky) with lots leg room and we are not packed in. We pass the surfing munks, – hilariously, if the surfs up the bell doesn’t get rung at the Monastery!

Our first stop is Ho’okipa Beach Lookout, right next to Paia, the surfing capital of pacific. This beach is more likely to be home to windsurfers with huge surf. While the beach was a cool site, I was super excited to explore the local delicacies at the park! A woman had set up with her mango bread which was a favourite with the locals. Even that early she had nearly sold out, so I bought a mango bread and a new flavour she was trialling, pineapple and coconut – yummm! A few paces to the right was the fruit stand. I ordered a fresh coconut to drink (how could I not?!) and grabbed some passionfruit and guava. I had never eaten guava just on its own before and the smell floating up from the fruit was intoxicatingly sweet.

Back at the minivan, Bjorn had laid out a lovely breakfast for us. Coffee, tea, some coconut and apple pastries and some fruit.

We continued on, stopping to take pictures of the view, at bathrooms and various points of interest with Bjorn telling us the stories of Maui the entire way. What a trooper! I loved the rainbow trees, similar to gum trees and when their bark falls way there are beautiful pastel rainbow colours underneath. We made a stop down by a wicked rough volcanic beach where we could get some shaved ice or a smoothie. Bjorn bought us banana cake there from Sandy’s, it was delicious and moist.

The lunch spot was stunning, Wainapanapa State Park complete with a blowhole, a cave, a stunning black sand beach and a cliff walk with black rocks contrasted by the bright green plants. Just beautiful. We explored then had lunch there, refreshing turkey and salad wraps with fruit and a cookie. While we ate we watched the Mongoose scuttle around, searching for food. They were introduced to keep the rat population down but unfortunately took a better liking for native birds.

We learnt about Maui cruisers which are older sedans that have parts missing. Locals drive them around until they die then dump it and get another Maui cruiser. They leave them on side of road and they eventually become a Maui cruiser BBQ! Someone throws a light on them and they burn away. We also learnt about how on the islands, everything has a medicinal purpose. Bjorn passed around some nuts that were good for constipation and some leaves that were good for the opposite!

Hana Town itself was lovely to explore, a tiny settlement home to the largest heiau in Hawaii. There’s not much there except a general store and a gas station. We made stops at stunning waterfalls, where the water was freezing from coming off the tops of the mountains – would you believe it actually snows there sometimes? I hopped in but only to my waist, I prefer the warmer waters of the beaches.

The roads to Hana are so incredibly narrow. I would not want to drive them. In many cases you have to find a place in the road wide enough for two cars (only just, a wheel might be on the brink) and even then you have to take the side mirrors in to squeeze past. I would not feel comfortable that close to a cliff with a tight squeeze with another car on the other side! Especially when it was a hire car. They say honeymooners often experience their first fight here on the roads as it’s so hard to drive. At one point we were driving up a hill, with an incredibly large drop right beside us. No barriers, nothing. They call it death road and I can see why. You’d have to have nerves of steel to drive there! At some points the road is so rough it shakes so much you think the bus might fall apart! Thank you Bjorn for keeping us all safe and driving where I would never find the courage to.

The Maui landscape is so incredibly diverse from the mountains, covered in dark clouds to the lush jungle, green and full of life (friendly – no snakes) to the blue-skied coastline, with red, black and white sand, from rough and rocky to beautiful and soft sand. I haven’t covered off many of the stops or things I learnt here, I will let the pictures do the talking.

 

*While this tour was gifted to Wander Wonder Wonton, this review is completely true and authentic. There’s no way I would drive those roads!!

Honolulu Airport Stopover – Luggage Storage & Ubers

I did a bunch of research (googled) before I went to Waikiki, Hawaii and couldn’t find where I could hold my bags and the best way to get around during my stopover at Honolulu Airport. Don’t fret people, I sorted it out.

I wanted to do a tour to and from the airport, then I wouldn’t have to worry about my luggage. I couldn’t find one anywhere. I thought instead I’d uber in, but then I’d have my luggage and that wouldn’t work at the beach. I gave up and decided to stay at the airport. Other option was to hire a car of course but I couldn’t be bothered and knew the roads would be busy as it was the end of the holidays and Waikiki was full! But then I flew over that gorgeous island and there was no way that I was staying there!! Take me to the beach, baby!

What I learnt…
There is somewhere you can hold your luggage at the airport! It’s aptly called Baggage Storage and you can find it at baggage claim E. You can find baggage claim E right by the car park. You exit the main arrivals terminal, turn right outside and just follow it down. It’s well sign posted. Head on the first entrance and walk to the right, the stall is there on your right.

They have a variety of storage options, I paid $15 for my large suitcase which is the day rate. They even had it ready for me when I returned at 7.30pm which I had indicated may be my return time. Well worth the peace of mind knowing your luggage is safe and not having to lug it around the city. Plus you have to pay extra for it in a cab.

The other thing I learnt is that you can’t get an uber out of the airport. I tried and tried, there’s no info. A guy that works at the airport told me that you can’t get ubers there but you can walk to the post office (approx 10 mins) and order one to the city. I would do that next time for sure. Taxis are not only more expensive but there’s often approx a 30 min plus wait. And nobody likes standing around in the heat after a long flight.

The closest beach is A La Moana Park and it has shower and bathroom facilities there. Pack your towel in your hand luggage and happy days! The mall is just across the street, you can run over for a lunch fix of poke or a quick shop.

I did grab poke (and a Cinnabon) at A La Moana but I needed wifi to work and somewhere to charge my phone and laptop. I walked into Waikiki beach and found a bar right on the beach so I could work and watch the waves while drinking cocktails. It was lovely!

I had a quick dip right out from Waikiki and two turtles joined me! Some tacos at Surf n Turf and then it was back to the airport.

You can uber to the airport – it’s approx half the price of taxis and the rate is fixed which is great if there’s traffic. Hawaiian time and all that jazz!

Up & Away: Vancity, Caribbean, NYC & Hawaii

Well that snuck up quickly! I’m 40 minutes away from landing in Hawaii before I transit to Vancouver! I slept the entire flight (no surprises) and now I’m hoping to see whales out of my plane window – it never happens but I’m always hopeful.

I only booked this trip about three weeks ago, I knew I was going but took my sweet time booking it in.

I arrive in Vancouver on the 21st and I’m staying with my friends and working remotely until the 28th. Fortunately I don’t work Friday’s at Wiley anymore (I’m concentrating on my consulting that day) and there’s a public holiday thrown in the mix so it doesn’t make for too much work. My friends have a studio they work out of in Gastown so I spend my days working from there with them and working out where I should go for lunch and dinner. Spoiled for choice and I want to get to all my fave restaurants as well as try all the new ones!

This trip I don’t have many activities planned (other than eating) it’s all about spending time with my friends. We have plans to hike Joffre Lakes and I’m sure we will do some more hikes etc.

Next up, Caribbean! I’m spending six nights at a nice resort on the ridiculously good looking island of St Martin. I intend to sunbathe, chill and drink allllll the cocktails! Again not much planned (I’m working on relaxing here) but we will hire a car for a few days and explore the island. Hopefully get in lots of snorkeling. I can’t wait! Oh and St Barths is only a day trip away too.

Back to an old favourite after the Caribbean for three days, New York City, baby! My only plans here revolve around rooftop bars and food. There’s a Dumpling restaurant I want to visit (also the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world) and a ramen place…

Then I fly to Hawaii. I booked flights to Maui however it’s 98% full and stupid exxy, plus I found out my good friend is in Waikiki so I thought I’d cancel my flights. Unfortunately I booked through a travel agent (I don’t usually) and to change that flight it would cost me $350 as they would have to reissue all my other flights. Ridiculous. With that in mind, my plan now is to head there for one night, do a day tour (road to Hana?) and fly back that night. I’d spend the next two nights in Waikiki with Nikita & Jake and fly back on the fourth to Brisbane.

Any hints, tips, places to eat, drink, shop or party on my travels?! I particularly would love some ideas for St Martin and Maui.

Peace from the sky!

Air Park Karaoke – Rockin’ Out

I am visiting Hawaii with a group of nine and a couple of us wanted to give karaoke a go while the other half were dubious.

We booked a private room at Air Park Karaoke across from Ala Moana to give it a whirl and man did we rock out!

It was a slow start, but after a few rainbow shots (amazing try them if you’re there!) we were singing our little hearts out. We had a VERY wide range of music choices in the room and sang everything from Linkin Park to Queen, Righteous Brothers to Eminem and Bruno Mars. Personally, I think my rendition of Chop Suey by System of a Down was the best but the others may debate that.

We had a bunch of fun together and everyone relaxed. Dan (my brother) had me in hysterics with his renditions of songs in different voices using both the microphones. Steph (my cousin) and I smashed out Unchained Melody, a song from our childhood and I think Laura (family friend) lost her voice rapping to Eminem!

The bar is on call, you just push the service button and Ta Daaa! A bar tender appears to shake you up a delicious cocktail. I was partial to Moscow Mules but I hear the Pink Delicious was yummy and sweet too. Oh and you can order in Japanese platters too.

Highly recommend for a fun night out together in Waikiki!

 

Coconut Hotel Waikiki Bliss

Ever had one of those travel experiences where you just couldn’t wait to be at your destination? You know the ones… flight delay, long flight, crying babies, crappy airport food. Well I had a fairly decent one. It started with a big night out in New York, a seven hour flight delay and then a ten hour flight. Then when I landed in Honolulu my ’15’ minute shuttle took over an hour. Instead of getting in at 4pm, I got in at 1am. Anyway now for the good stuff!

I arrived at Coconut Waikiki Hotel, greeted by the friendly and compassionate reception staff and got up to my room and nearly cried it was so great! The TV was on with welcoming Hawaii tunes and scenes, the bed was huge and plush with soooo many pillows! The room was expansive, with a full bathroom, another separate toilet and a kitchenette. Perfect.

I dive bombed that bed!! I have never been so happy to roll around and smother myself in pillows. I was exhausted and oh-so-happy! Anddd I fell straight to sleep.

I woke up the next day after a great sleep in my comfy bed and was able to walk straight out into the heart of Waikiki. The hotel is located far enough off the main strip that it is not loud but safely lit up and only a couple of blocks walk to the main restaurant and shopping areas. For me that’s ideal.

And the view… oh, the view. I watched the sun rise and a rain shower sweep across the island followed by that gorgeous warm glow as the sun came back out across the water from behind the clouds.

Hot Tip – if you book direct there’s no resort fees and 15% off! Oh and breakfast is inclusive. Pretty sweet deal!

I’ll definitely be back – I’ll let the pictures do the talking….

*While this hotel room was complimentary, my review is completely authentic and true.

Hawaii Day Seven

Today was one of my fave days.

I got up early and went snorkelling at Hanuama Bay. Such a beautiful place, and great snorkelling. Unfortunately for us it was a little choppy and I managed to get completely sunburnt but it was awesome.

I met Caity, a really lovely Aussie chick from Canberra. We were each others snorkelling buddies and we spent a few hours chilling on the beach and chatting. I told her about some local food joints I wanted I check out and she was keen to come so the awesome bus driver dropped its off right by them.

Holy wow they’re amazing! I will do a local food blog but Ono’s, Rainbows & the blue hole in the wall are amazing. Plus Leonardo’s for donuts! Yum.

We walked home – was so long and hot! Got changed and spent the afternoon chilling & swimming at Waikiki beach.

Yard House for dinner – they have so many different beers! Largest draft selection in the world. I had lobster garlic noodles with prawns and crab. Didn’t realise lobster and crayfish tasted so different. I definitely prefer crayfish.

Home early to get a decent sleep.

So sad tomorrow is my last day.

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