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It’s been a few months since my Hawaii honeymoon ended. It was an amazing two weeks and I still think about the trip daily. During this trip, I wrote 16 posts about my Hawaii experience; one for each day I was there.
This post is an attempt to distill those long posts into something more consumable. Naturally, the 16 posts are there if you want to read them but not everyone has that time
During these 16 days, we visited Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. If you’re planning a trip to any of those islands and looking for ideas then you’re in the right place. All told, we spent 10 days on Kauai, 4 days on Maui and 2 days on the Big Island.
Think of this as a way to see what a Hawaii honeymoon or vacation could be and adjust as you see fit. There is no right way to experience Hawaii. It’s a beautiful place and any of the islands we visited will have something for anyone.
I’ve split this post into two parts.
First, for those who don’t want to read too much. Here’s the entire experience in a google sheet. CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO ACCESS IT.
It has everything we did by day with ratings and links. Column F also includes notes for each day. At the bottom of the sheet, you’ll find generic notes about each island as well in case you want a high level overview.
However, if you want more information, the write up below adds more insight to each day along with some pictures. It’s a shortened version of each individual blog post.
In case you want even more then each day below has a link you can click that takes you to my detailed post for each of the 16 days. Hopefully this gives you some great ideas on what to do on your own Hawaii trip which for us started in Kauai.
Kauai is the least visited of the four main islands. As such it offers the perfect mix of tourism and tropical island feel. It is a modern island with all the amenities you could need. The roads are in good condition and there’s no need for a Jeep(unless you like driving them or plan to spend a lot of time at Waimea Canyon as a few trails there required AWD). One thing of note is that the islands don’t have a lot of street lights meaning it gets pretty dark at night. It took me a few days to get used to driving in the pitch black night.
Many worry when they look at the weather forecast and see rain. Don’t! It rains here often but the rains are swift and move through quickly. You can drive ten minutes away and see the sun again. Our forecast showed rain every day and it was the most beautiful ten days we’ve spend anywhere.
Kauai is known as the garden island because of it’s lush green land. There’s a natural beauty here that is difficult to capture in words. Kauai is the perfect place for someone looking to see the earth’s natural splendor.
We did use the Kauai Revealed book during our travels on this island and I highly recommend it.
Day 1 : Travel Day
We traveled from the east coast so it was an all day affair; 5 hour time zone change included. There are no direct flights to Kauai from the east so it was a layover through Oahu. It is a tiring day.
Luckily the airport in Lihue is small and you’re off the plane and at the rental car place in a few minutes.
We stayed in Poipu for the first part of our trip. I am used to well lit roads so traveling through the darkness of a remote island was a new experience. We rented a Jeep but I hated how it drove immediately so we exchanged it the next day for a Hyundai!
Highlights : Getting into bed after a long day of travel
The first thing you’ll notice about Kauai is that chickens are everywhere. Apparently, their natural predator the mongoose doesn’t exist on the island so they run wild. There’s also a $10,000 fine for actively hunting chickens.
We spent the day in Kap’aa on the east side of the island. There’s a lot of good food places hereincluding Art Cafe Hemingway(7.5/10) for brunch and The Spot(6.5/10) for dessert. Good shopping exists here as well if that’s your bag. We spent a few hours walking on the Kap’aa beach park walkway, a paved path that runs along the coast. You can rent bikes right around here as well to take a leisurely bike near the water.
Next we wanted to get some groceries so we wouldn’t have to eat out every meal. As with any island, prices on groceries are high and a Costco membership is nice to have. There’s one in Lihue and the savings on food can be substantial. Gas was also $1/gallon cheaper at Costco than at any other gas station.
The night was rounded out with some shopping at Kukui’ula Village Shopping Center in Poipu and dinner at Eating House 1849(8.5/10).
Highlights : Walk or bike on the paved path near Kap’aa Beach. Grab brunch at Art Cafe Hemingway and get the lemonade. Dinner at Eating House 1849, expensive but delicious.
We spent the day in the Maha’ulepu beach area; lots of great hiking and beautiful views there. The beach itself isn’t amazing for swimming BUT it’s very private as we only saw a few other people there. There’s also some great hiking trails around the beach.
It is a bit of a hike since at the time we went, the main road was closed for a movie shoot.
Since we’re on an island, I figured we’d try an acai bowl at Anake’s Juice Bar(6.5/10). It was decent but one was more than enough for the entire trip. I guess I’m just not an acai bowl guy.
In the afternoon, we took a catamaran trip which was supposed to go to the Na Pali coast. Unfortunately, as can be the case in winter months, the water was a bit too rough. That meant no Na Pali coast but a trip south instead.
It was a dinner cruise with two hours south with the engine on then two hours back with sails. The first part with the engine on was awesome as a pod of spinner dolphins joined us and swam alongside for a good half hour; totally amazing.
The way back with the sail caused me to get a bit sea sick so it was less awesome. The food was decent according to my wife but as I was feeling sea sick, I passed. I didn’t enjoy the romantic vomit session I had over the edge of the boat as the sun descended.
Still, despite that, Captain Andy’s(8.5/10) was a real good time. However, I recommend some medicine ahead of time if you get seasick.
Highlights : Exploring the Maha’ulepu area. Boating alongside spinner dolphins on Captain Andy’s Catamaran tour.
We did an early morning ATV tour at Kipu Ranch Adventures(8/10).
It was a good time. However, it was a bit slow with too many pauses. The good thing is that they allow you to switch drivers and the ride is surprisingly bumpy at times. That meant both me and my wife could get a chance behind the wheel. The ranch itself gives you some beautiful views of the island and they talk about the various movies that have shot there. You also get a chance to swing on the Indiana Jones swing!
I’d recommend it if you’ve never done an ATV tour before as they do a good job. Wear some shoes you don’t mind getting dirty as it’s messy.
Lunch was at local favorite Da Crack(7/10). Huge portions and a good spot for those on the keto diet if you just get meat, guac and cheese.
If you’re staying in or around Poipu, Poipu Beach Park should be a regular stop. We spent a few hours there and it’s a great beach with some easy snorkeling. You’ll find turtles and monk seals just hanging out there too.
Spouting Horn isn’t too far off from here too so give it a visit.
Back in the Kukui’ula Village Shopping Center is Lappert’s ice cream(8.5/10), a spot we came back to a few times for their awesome ice cream.
Highlights : ATV Tour at Kipu Ranch takes you to all sorts of movie shoot areas including the rope swing from Indiana Jones. They even let you swing on it(but don’t jump in the water)! Snorkeling and animal spotting at Poipu Beach. Awesome ice cream at Lappert’s, yum!
The Jack Harter open door helicopter ride is absolutely a must do. It’s a 10/10 experience, once in a lifetime, awe inspiring, amazing and all that stuff.
I’m afraid of heights and was holding to my seat with sweaty palms but am I glad I did it. I did sit in the middle of the front(after asking them to let me switch with my wife) so it was a bit less scary than a window seat. You get a full view of the island including the many parts you can’t access.
There’s too many good pictures to post here so check out the full post by clicking the link above.
It’s expensive but if you can afford it, do it. It was the best thing we did on our Hawaii honeymoon; maybe ever.
We ate lunch at the Beach House(6/10) restaurant. It’s a place with great views but the food was just decent and expensive; not sure if dinner is better.
Dessert was our first(but not last) try of shave ice. If you’re not familiar, it’s not like shaved ice, it’s actually good! It’s made by shaving blocks of ice then adding syrups, ice cream and other things to make for a delicious refreshing treat. Waikomo Shave Ice(9/10) was the first one we tried and the best one of them all.
Kauai has a ton of farmer’s market, seems like there’s one every day and we made a pit stop at one near Poipu. Make sure to pick up some tropical fruit! Starfruit and dragon fruit were my favorite. They actually taste like something on the islands.
Dinner at JO2(8.5/10) in Ka’paa was very good.
Highlights : OPEN DOOR HELICOPTER TOUR – SO AMAZING. Waikomo Shave Ice for the best shave ice for the island. JO2 for the second best dinner we had on the island.
Day 6 : Exploring Waimea Canyon
We spent the entire day drive to and hiking around Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon is on the southwest side of the island and it takes about an hour to get there from Poipu.
The drive up is easy but slow. There’s a ton of hiking spots here, definitely worth a few visits if you’re here for hiking. The lookouts are nice but the hikes take you to some awesome views.
Pihea Vista trail and canyon trail are highly recommended. Check out the full post for more pictures as there’s a lot.
Lunch was at Porky’s(8/10) at the foot of the canyon, very good sausage dogs. In fact, all the pork on this island was awesome.
Highlights : Hiking all over Waimea Canyon.
Day 7 included a move to Princeville on the northern side of the island. However, before we left, we stopped at CJM Stables(5.5/10) for their Maha’ulepu beach ride. For a beach ride, it lacked a lot of riding on the beach and was relatively boring.
My horse, Mr. Bojangles, cute as he was, also kept trying to bite my foot and was a bit of a hassle to control.
It turned out to be a pretty boring two hours. I’d suggest just hiking down to Maha’ulepu(see day 3) and skipping the horse ride.
Before we drove south, we stopped at The Lanai(7/10) and grabbed more ice cream at Lappert’s(so good!). We also stopped at Costco to fill up our tank since it’s a $1 cheaper there than anywhere else!
The island is small enough that staying in two different places probably isn’t needed. However, we wanted to get a feel for both sides and chose to stay in Princeville for a few days. It was unfortunate timing since a lot of the northern hikes were out of commission. The northern side is definitely more tropical and gets more rain(especially at night).
Our AirBnB was within walking distance to Princeville Resorts, one of the higher end hotels in the north.
Dinner was at Kauai Ono(9/10) and it was a treat. Kauai Ono is an outdoor dinner served on two communal tables under a tent.
You’ll likely sit next to random strangers and meet some friends while being served a 5 course meal cooked in a small food truck right next to the tent. We sat next to a cool couple from Montana and had a good chat while we ate.
The food was absolutely delicious and the atmosphere was really cool. The portions are small but the meal is filling and presents some very creative dishes. I still recall our awesome pork entree and the mochi churro with spiced hot chocolate for dessert.
It’s pricey at $75/person but well worth it if you can make one of the two weekly dinners. I’d go back in a heartbeat. We would have gone back for a second time if only we were in Kauai longer. Make sure to bring the bug spray though as an outdoor dinner near dusk brings out the mosquitoes.
Highlights : Kauai Ono, best meal on Kauai.
This was a very relaxing day where we just spent some time exploring the area around us and doing a puzzle we found in our AirBnB.
We went to Hanalei for some shopping, had lunch at Three Brothers Deli(6.5/10) and tried more shave ice at JoJo’s(3.5/10). I was not a fan of the fake flavor profile of JoJo’s, a far cry from the real fruit flavors I had at the other places.
We then spent some time hanging out at Hanalei Beach.
It’s a very nice beach with some good waves if you’d like to try surfing. Note that as of right now and likely well into 2019, the area past Hanalei is closed so there’s a lot of things you can’t access.
Highlights : Hanalei Beach and relaxing after a ton of excursions in the south.
Day 9 : Snorkeling and a Kauai Luau
First of all, this was the view from our AirBnB.
I miss that view. The north was definitely a slower pace for us as we relaxed here a bit more. We did a ton of stuff in the south and just wanted to relax a bit here.
Princeville Resorts has a nice private beach you can access even if you don’t stay there(parking sucks though). However, we were close so we walked down there and did some snorkeling. Hideaways beach is also in this area and has solid snorkeling. It is a bit of a haul from the parking area to either beach.
We had a Luau planned near Kap’aa so we headed towards that area after we got back.
Lunch was at Coconut’s Fish Cafe(8.5/10). Their fish tacos were awesome! We stopped to get more shave ice at Hee Fat general store(8/10). It’s a general store(gasp) with a shave ice window inside. It was quite good.
The luau was at Smith’s Family Garden. Honestly, it was a bit boring. It starts way early and there’s big gaps between the garden tour, unearthing the pig, the food and the show. You can walk around the garden freely and get heckled/feed the various ducks and geese there but that gets old fast as the garden isn’t that huge or varied.
The food is buffet style, your tables get called up at random times(we were near last) and you get the various dishes. The pork was good but the rest was rather bland. My wife commented that the potatoes tasted like instant potatoes.
We did try taro paste, poi, but the rest of the dishes didn’t seem all that Hawaiian. The fruit selection was weak too as I was hoping for some more tropical fruits and not just mango and cantaloupe.
It’s a tourist staple but I don’t really recommend it.
Highlights : Snorkeling at the Princeville Resorts beach, fish tacos at Coconut’s.
This was our last day on the island(sob!) so we wanted to take it easy. We stopped at a farmer’s market and got some Rambutan and a sugarloaf pineapple frosty. A frosty is frozen fruit pushed through a juicer and it was quite good. The Rambutan is that weird hairy fruit and it tastes much like a grape.
I really love the various farmer’s markets around the island. You can get some great fruit and some great treats there too.
We’re big fans of escape rooms and it just so happened that Kauai had one. If you’re not familiar, you get locked in a room and try to get out in an hour by solving puzzles, opening locks and other cool things.
The Kauai escape room was actually quite good and one of the better ones we’ve done. The island theme was very well done and it had a great finale. Highly recommended!
Lunch was at Gaylord’s at Kilohana(7/10). It’s this old plantation with a few stores and a restaurant and it was pretty good.
We made a pit stop at Kap’aa on the way home. That included walking around on the beach and some more shave ice at Wailua Shave Ice(8/10).
We packed at home and got ready to go to Maui, our second stop.
Overall, Kauai was an absolute treat. Ten days felt like the perfect amount of time to spend here but we still didn’t want to leave. We did a ton of stuff in the south then took it easy in the north. Both sides have their appeal but since a good portion of the north is still closed, it’s less of a destination at the moment. Until that opens, I’d suggest either staying south or in Kap’aa.
Highlights : Kauai Escape Room and trying more weird tropical fruits.
Our 10 day stay in Kauai was over and it was time to move to Maui. Kauai was simply amazing but I was eager to see what Maui was like.
We had a 1 P.M. flight which is somewhat annoying since it splits the day into two. We got there about 2 hours before the flight. That turned out to be way too much time since the airports are tiny and lines move quickly. I think you can easily get there 45 minutes ahead of your flight and not have a problem. We really should have stopped and had brunch in Kap’aa. That mistake will haunt me forever as I wanted more of that Cafe Hemingway lemonade!
Inter island travel is very easy but it does still eat up a good part of the day. The flight from Kauai to Maui was only 40 minutes. However, you’re dropping off a rental car, dropping off bags then doing the reverse on the other side.
As with Kauai, our first stop here was Costco followed by check-in at our AirBnB in Kihei.
First impressions of Maui are of an islands that’s a bit more built up than Kauai with less of a tropical garden feel. Unfortunately, we only had a few days here but we tried to make the best of the timer here.
Dinner on our first Maui night was at The Mill House(7.5/10). The food here was good not great but the setting was absolutely beautiful. I’d recommend it just for that alone.
And just like that, day one in Maui was over. As I said inter island travel is easy but the packing, flying and unpacking does take up a majority of the day. It’s much easier just to visit one island because travel really does make for a limited and tiring day.
Highlights : Dinner at the Mill House and finally visiting Maui.
Day 12 : Exploring Lahaina and Western Maui
Day 12 was originally a road to Hana day but the weather on that side of the island was ugly so we headed west.
The western side is a scenic drive from Kihei and makes for a great day trip. We first stopped at Lahaina, a popular tourist destination.
Front street is a great stop for some food, shopping and beautiful views.
Maui and especially this western side definitely had a more tourist feeling to it than Kauai. If you want beaches and resorts and shopping then the western side of the islands has that in spades.
The weather here was a bit warmer too so we headed towards the Kaanapali Beach area further north. There’s some great shopping areas here like the Whaler’s Shopping Village. Parking here is expensive but it’s right near the resorts and allows for access to the Kaanapali beach walking paths.
We had lunch at Hula Grill(7/10) and did another escape room at Maui Escape Games. This one was a bit less fun than the one on Kauai but still enjoyable. It was a scorcher outside so we were glad to get out of the heat for a while. The good thing is that restaurants will stamp your parking card for 4 hrs which is nice since parking is $8/hr here!
We drove to island cream(9/10), an ice cream/gelato place in a strip mall for some of the best ice cream style treats in our life. The place was fantastic and the service was awesome, highly recommended.
Since it was still hot, we did another escape room(got our parking stamped here too) and walked on the Kaanapali Beach path. It’s a beautiful walk right near the beach. You’ll pass by all the fancy resorts in this area as this is a huge tourist destination.
By this time, it had cooled down so we went back to front street in Lahaina to see the Banyan Tree and have some dinner. The banyan tree is an old huge tree in the middle of a square. The tree has multiple roots that connect underground and covers almost a full acre. It’s pretty neat.
We checked out the many cool art galleries in the area. There was some really cool local art on display.
The views as the sun started to go down were quite pretty too.
Dinner was at Lahaina Grill(9/10), just off of front street. The only downside is the lack of a view which is disappointing since it’s so close to the ocean. The food and service were fantastic although the price has the usual tourist mark up with $30 appetizers and $50 entrees. Still, a fantastic meal even if a bit over priced.
Overall, I can see why people love to vacation on this side of the island. There’s a lot of stuff to do and we barely scratched the surface.
The beaches here are fantastic with clear water and soft sand. If you’re in the market for beaches then know that Maui beaches are definitely a step above Kauai.
However, Maui does have a less authentic feel to it. It’s still beautiful but it’s not the same natural beauty you get in Kauai. It’s more of a tourist focused experience and while I liked that, I’m glad to experience Kauai too to feel the difference between the two.
Highlights : Lahaina front street window shopping, Kaanapali Beach and walking path, Island Cream(so good!), diner at Lahaina Grill.
Day 13 : Haleakala Crater
We had a choice, either spend all day doing the road to Hana or see the Crater and take it easy. We chose the latter.
I think we make a good decision. This is one of those days where I suggest you check out the entire post because there’s so many beautiful things to see out there.
The ride up to the top of the crater does take some time. It’s not too scary although be aware that you’re right near the edge quite a bit and there’s nothing stopping you from flying off the side!
Note that if you want to see the sunrise, make sure to make reservations online and get there at 3 A.M. We chose to sleep in so we made it up there mid day. It was still awesome!
The views are nothing short of fantastic and you feel like you’re on Mars. It’s definitely an out of this world location. If you’re there at night after seeing the sunset, I hear it’s a perfect place to look at stars. Note that it does get cold up there so bring a jacket with you. I’d wager there’s a good 30 degree temperature drop from bottom to top.
This was one of my favorite places to visit during the trip. The views are just that great.
After we spent a few hours here, we drove back down and stopped at South Maui Fish Company(8/10) for some fish tacos. They were quite good and stuffed with fish. Only downside for me was the sauce.
After lunch, we walked around the area, did some window shopping and then headed to Kamaole Beach park. It’s a nice beach and we spent a bit of time walking around. It’s not a huge beach but a very nice stop if you’re in the area.
Dinner was at home, where we started packing. Yup, unfortunately Maui was done. It was a short but eventful stay and there were still plenty of things we didn’t get to do. We’d save that for the return trip! In an ideal world, we’d have a few more days here to do the road to Hana and some more exploration. However, the Big Island called.
Day 14 : Big Island Time!
We had a little bit of time on Maui before our flight. I wanted to check out yet another hyped shave ice place. Ululani’s Shave Ice(8/10) was quite good. However, it wasn’t quite as good as some of the Kauai places. The nice thing is that Sugar Beach Bake Shop(7/10) is right nearby and we picked up a few snacks for our flight.
On top of that, when we sat down near the water across the street from Ululani’s, some couple offered us some free pot to celebrate our wedding and their impending nuptials. We did not partake!
We also visited the Humpback Whale National Sanctuary, a cute little museum on the same street. It’s small but seems to be a good place to spot whales when in season.
After that quick pit stop, we dropped off our car and yada yada yada, we were on the big island(Hawaii).
Hawaii(BI) is HUGE compared to Maui or Kauai. The airport is cute too with little huts instead of actual buildings. Since the island is big, it took forever to get anywhere and you’ll definitely be driving more here.
We stopped for an early dinner at Foster’s Kitchen(5.5/10) before checking in to our place in Kona.
Overall, this was a very uneventful day. Even though the travel isn’t too difficult between islands, it still takes up a good part of the day. On top of that, I was starting to feel pretty crappy so we stayed in at night.
We didn’t get a great view of the island on the first day. However, we planned to change that the next day as we had a 2hr drive to the Volcanoes National Park.
The original plan for this vacation was to go to Kauai then the Big Island. However, the volcanic explosion forced us to change that and added Maui to our plans. Still, we weren’t going to come this far and not see a volcano!
Day 15 : Volcanoes National Park
I was feeling pretty sick when we woke up BUT volcano! My wife was cool enough to drive.
One thing to know about Hawaii A.K.A. the big island is that the name doesn’t lie. It’s a haul from one side of the island to the other.
We were in Kona and headed southeast to the Volcanoes National Park. The whole drive took about 2hrs but there’s some cool pit stops on the way. On top of that, you get to see Hawaii’s various climate zones. Hawaii has 10 of the worlds 14 climate zones and many are on display on the way to the volcano from Kona.
It’s a really neat drive with plenty of vistas and changes in scenery. I wouldn’t want to do it every day but it was nice to do it once.
On the way, we stopped at Paradise Meadows, this cool farm that sold coffee, THE BEST macadamia nuts and chocolates and cookies. We got a few gifts to take back home there.
They recommended stopping at the black sand beach so we did as it was on the way. There we saw black sand(gasp!) and a bunch of turtles in the water. It doesn’t seem like a great beach for swimming since it’s very rocky but very good for turtle watching(and seeing black sand).
After our pit stops, we headed to our final destination and let me tell you, Volcanoes National Park is awesome!
Despite the fact that a few areas were closed(it did just spew lava recently after all) and despite the fact that no active lava was flowing, it was just awesome to see.
There’s some great hikes that take you near sulphur vents and some awesome plants that you won’t see anywhere else.
After that, you can get to the Caldera which is an awesome sight too.
If hiking is not your thing then you can also take a long drive to see all the land that was created by the lava flows in the past.
The Chain of Craters Road takes you all the way down to the water and there’s plenty of stops along the way to check out dried lava banks and craters.
It’s very cool to see but also to stand on dried lava that was just spewing a few decades ago.
I definitely recommend taking the drive. It’s about 18 miles and descends over 3000 feet(which was not good for my sickly ears).
It ends near the water where you can overlook a beautiful sea arch.
This was definitely a full day visit and we’d likely come back to check out some of the stuff that was closed. It was really a cool day.
Instead of going back the way we came, we headed towards Hilo to see the other side of the island. We had dinner at Pineapples Island Fresh Cuisine(4/10).
We wanted to see as much of the island as possible so we took route 200 back towards Kona. It was a longer trip but took us between two huge mountains Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa – both beautiful to see, even if from a distance. It was VERY foggy in this area and quite a drive. The various changes in elevation were doing a number on my ears and I was dreading our flight back home.
It was unfortunate to know our Hawaii Honeymoon was coming to an end. However, it ended on a great note with a day seeing some volcanoes up close and personal. I couldn’t have asked for a better last day.
It was a short stay on the Big Island but a beautiful one. The one thing we didn’t get to see here were the beaches which I hear can be fantastic.
And that was it. The Hawaii Honeymoon was done. We spent 14 days in Hawaii(I don’t count 1 and 16!) and visited three islands.
It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to go back. Honestly, Hawaii changed my thoughts of what a vacation can be. I’m honestly not a huge traveler. However, I would go back to Hawaii in a hot second and plan to in a few years. There’s so much to do there and we didn’t even scratch the surface on a few islands.
For most, I’d probably suggest 2 islands if you have a similar timeline as us. We just wanted to see the volcano but the travel does take away from the actual vacation time!
Hopefully, my visit and my experiences in Hawaii will give you some ideas as you plan your Hawaii honeymoon or vacation in general. I think we had a good blend of excitement and relaxation. It’s an amazing place to visit and I highly recommend. My Hawaii honeymoon was the best vacation I’ve ever had. Hopefully your Hawaii visit is just as good!