suggestions for an only trip to Hawaii

dachsie

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 13, 2014
I've been posting off and on about my trip in Jan but wanted to put everything down and see if y'all think I am missing something. This will probably be the only trip to Hawaii I will ever have. Going to the BI and Aulani. So here goes:

Big Island- only have 2 days to tour as we have a conference:
Hamakua Macadamia nut factory
Waimea Farmer's Market
Akaka Falls
Honokaa Chocolate farm tour
either Waipo Valley lookout or Pololu Valley lookout - depending on time
Mountain Thunder coffee farm
possibly Kona Farmer's market
Sea Horse Farm
possible whale watch tour unless we do a different tour on Oahu

No time to see volcanoes and I have asthma so not sure its wise.

Aulani - will be there sun-friday:
Pearl Harbor
Dole plantation
Leonard's food tuck malasadas
Kualoa Ranch
Macadamia nut farm new KR
Giovanni shrimp truck
Northshore to see waves, turtles if possible
Haleiwa for shopping and shave ice and dinner
Whale watch, dolphin swim, and snorkel tour possibly
Luau
Pali lookout
Boots and Kimonos
Kailua and Lanikai beaches
drive southern tip near lighthouse, Blowhole
possible Hanuma bay snorkel
Waiola shave ice and pipeline bakery malasadas
Tantalus overlook
Laniwai spa massage
resort time

We actually are flying in to Oahu Sat late afternoon evening and staying in Kapolei. Hoping to get there about 5ish. Am not a big fan of busy crowded places, but I guess we could visit Waikiki but probably won't. Not sure what else we could do except maybe go to the Tantulus lookout for sunset - actually I like that idea come to think of it.

Anyway, is there any "must dos' that we are missing? Its just me an my co-worker friend
 

Plumberries

Earning My Ears
Joined
Jul 8, 2019
Where are you staying on the Big Island? Kona? You only have two days but your sites are all over the island. It depends on how you travel, and I get that you don't think you're going back so you don't want to miss out (and I haven't been to the Big Island in a very long time, so I hear it's a much better/safer drive on the saddle road now), but doing that much would stress me out. (For the Big Island I'm more of a beach or warm springs kind of a person.)

I don't think Waikiki has anything unique to offer, so don't worry about skipping that. I haven't done any of these things in a very long time, but on Oahu I prefer Waimea Falls to Kualoa Ranch (I guess they're not that similar but in my head I put them in the same category.)

Also even though it's expensive and seems a bit childish and touristy (and maybe a controversial opinion) I like the Polynesian Cultural Center because I find it to be a pretty authentic slice of all the major Polynesian cultures. If you do the dinner/show the food may not be authentic luau food, but it's a decent meal, and I find the show to be the best quality and most impressive. It's not a travesty if you skip it the PCC, but I would choose to drop something to go if it's an option.

When near Haleiwa / North Shore / PCC I like to stop at Ted's Bakery. My favorite is chocolate haupia cream pie, but everything is good. If you don't make a stop there, most major grocery stores sell Ted's Bakery pies and cakes, but that may be too much since there are only two of you. Only a few grocery stores and the shop itself sell by the slice (that I'm aware of). I could go on forever about foods I always want in Hawaii. (Waihole Poi Factory near Kualoa Ranch, saimin from pretty much anywhere)
 

nkereina

Last chance to lose your keys.
Joined
Feb 11, 2009
Aulani - will be there sun-friday:
Pearl Harbor
Dole plantation
Leonard's food tuck malasadas
Kualoa Ranch
Macadamia nut farm new KR
Giovanni shrimp truck
Northshore to see waves, turtles if possible
Haleiwa for shopping and shave ice and dinner
Whale watch, dolphin swim, and snorkel tour possibly
Luau
Pali lookout
Boots and Kimonos
Kailua and Lanikai beaches
drive southern tip near lighthouse, Blowhole
possible Hanuma bay snorkel
Waiola shave ice and pipeline bakery malasadas
Tantalus overlook
Laniwai spa massage
resort time
A few comments...

We didn't do the macadamia nut farm so I can't speak to it, but seeing as how you're doing something macadamia nut related on the Big Island, I might put this at the bottom of my list in terms of priority.

What tour interests you at Kualoa Ranch? We did Kualoa Ranch and Kailua on the same day. We did the VIP Movie Tour at the Ranch and then had lunch, and finished up about 12:30. We then headed over to Kailua for the rest of the afternoon. I might suggest combining where you can, because it was over an hour's drive to the windward side.

Dole Plantation was a one and done for us, so might be something to cut out if you need to. It was time consuming - took us about 3.5 hours to ride the train, browse the gift shop, and eat a Dole Whip. We got there at opening and if you arrive much later than that, parking can be difficult and the lines for the train and other attractions grow pretty quickly. You could combine this with the North Shore, which is what we did. We started at Dole, then headed over to Haleiwa where we had lunch (you could do shrimp truck), shopped, and had Matsumoto's shave ice. We then went past Haleiwa to Laniakea Beach where the turtles are.

Leonard's malasada truck is an easy stop on the way back to Aulani from anywhere you will be coming from. I'm not familiar with Waiola shave ice or Pipeline Bakery, but I might cut them out in favor of Matsumoto's (North Shore) and Leonard's, which I would argue are two most popular shave ice and malasada places.

Pearl Harbor and Hanauma Bay are best done early in the morning. Something to keep in mind when making your itinerary. Hanauma Bay poses parking challenges, and at Pearl Harbor, you'll want to either try to get a tour time online at 60 days in advance or show up early waiting in the standby line for an early tour time. If you don't arrive early, tour times often run out or will be late in the afternoon which means you may have several hours of waiting around. Leaving isn't advisable because of the parking challenges at Pearl Harbor.

I would most definitely find time to visit Waikiki. It was one of our favorite areas and we spent 3 nights there. It's much different than any other area you'll find in Hawaii, and some of the best dining is there too. I might suggest it for an evening even if just for dinner, drinks, and walking the strip. I don't think the beach there is worth spending any time at.

My biggest suggestion would be to combine things where you can so you have ample time to enjoy the resort. During our Aulani stay, we did every other day as a resort day. I'd also suggest Laniwai Spa on your last morning as its a good way to relax before a long flight home, and it would give you access to the locker rooms and showers for the entire day, which is good if you have a later flight home.
 
  • nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2009
    I don't think Waikiki has anything unique to offer, so don't worry about skipping that. I haven't done any of these things in a very long time, but on Oahu I prefer Waimea Falls to Kualoa Ranch (I guess they're not that similar but in my head I put them in the same category.)
    I would respectfully disagree, or at least offer a different perspective for the OP.

    We found Waikiki to have a fun, lively vibe. There seemed to always be something going on there, great people watching, and nice, unique shopping. Many of the restaurants are on the beach and have beautiful sunset views and there are fireworks on Fridays. House Without a Key is a great dinner spot, and the bar with the Banyan Tree in the center at Moana Surfrider was one of my favorite stops. And I know for us as east coasters, when people think of Hawaii, they think of Waikiki. So we couldn't imagine spending time on Oahu and not seeing Waikiki as first timers.

    Waimea Falls and Kualoa Ranch are very different experiences. No tours at Waimea Valley, and its $16 per person admission. Its a paved path amongst beautiful foliage, but not really a hike. The Falls are deep, cold, and have been known to have bacteria in them with limited facilities for changing. You're also required to wear a life vest. Its a unique experience no doubt, but not a place we'd return to. But OP, if Waimea Valley interests you, its something you can do on your North Shore day. Took us about an hour without swimming.

    Kualoa Ranch on the other hand is huge with so many different tour offerings. Something for everyone - ATVs, beach, horseback riding. If someone is a movie buff, this is definitely the place to visit since so many movies have been shot there. The food there is also great since almost everything they serve is grown on the ranch, including the beef. I've heard of others purchasing steaks or burgers there and taking it back to Aulani to grill.

    I would also advise the OP, just as an FYI, that the PCC luau does not serve alcohol and is run by the LDS church. Just mentioning it, but not saying its an issue at all.
     

    dachsie

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 13, 2014
    Where are you staying on the Big Island? Kona? You only have two days but your sites are all over the island. It depends on how you travel, and I get that you don't think you're going back so you don't want to miss out (and I haven't been to the Big Island in a very long time, so I hear it's a much better/safer drive on the saddle road now), but doing that much would stress me out. (For the Big Island I'm more of a beach or warm springs kind of a person.)

    I don't think Waikiki has anything unique to offer, so don't worry about skipping that. I haven't done any of these things in a very long time, but on Oahu I prefer Waimea Falls to Kualoa Ranch (I guess they're not that similar but in my head I put them in the same category.)

    Also even though it's expensive and seems a bit childish and touristy (and maybe a controversial opinion) I like the Polynesian Cultural Center because I find it to be a pretty authentic slice of all the major Polynesian cultures. If you do the dinner/show the food may not be authentic luau food, but it's a decent meal, and I find the show to be the best quality and most impressive. It's not a travesty if you skip it the PCC, but I would choose to drop something to go if it's an option.

    When near Haleiwa / North Shore / PCC I like to stop at Ted's Bakery. My favorite is chocolate haupia cream pie, but everything is good. If you don't make a stop there, most major grocery stores sell Ted's Bakery pies and cakes, but that may be too much since there are only two of you. Only a few grocery stores and the shop itself sell by the slice (that I'm aware of). I could go on forever about foods I always want in Hawaii. (Waihole Poi Factory near Kualoa Ranch, saimin from pretty much anywhere)
    Staying in Waikoloa on the BI. Thinking to take Saddle road to Hilo to get to Akaka Falls then head up to Waimea then to the chocolate farm - that tour is at 2pm - then if time Waipo lookout then head back to resort. It will be our first morning so I am sure we will be up early and can leave by 6am. Will catch the Mac nut factory the day we land bur we may skip this cause there is one on the Northshore I found last nite. And since the seahorse farm is by airport we may skip some of conference to go to it before we fly to Oahu. LOL. I am not much of a hang at the beach kind of person but will do some of that the next day after the coffee farm tour.

    Ted's bakery is on the radar too depending on time.
     

    dachsie

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 13, 2014
    A few comments...

    We didn't do the macadamia nut farm so I can't speak to it, but seeing as how you're doing something macadamia nut related on the Big Island, I might put this at the bottom of my list in terms of priority.

    What tour interests you at Kualoa Ranch? We did Kualoa Ranch and Kailua on the same day. We did the VIP Movie Tour at the Ranch and then had lunch, and finished up about 12:30. We then headed over to Kailua for the rest of the afternoon. I might suggest combining where you can, because it was over an hour's drive to the windward side.

    Dole Plantation was a one and done for us, so might be something to cut out if you need to. It was time consuming - took us about 3.5 hours to ride the train, browse the gift shop, and eat a Dole Whip. We got there at opening and if you arrive much later than that, parking can be difficult and the lines for the train and other attractions grow pretty quickly. You could combine this with the North Shore, which is what we did. We started at Dole, then headed over to Haleiwa where we had lunch (you could do shrimp truck), shopped, and had Matsumoto's shave ice. We then went past Haleiwa to Laniakea Beach where the turtles are.

    Leonard's malasada truck is an easy stop on the way back to Aulani from anywhere you will be coming from. I'm not familiar with Waiola shave ice or Pipeline Bakery, but I might cut them out in favor of Matsumoto's (North Shore) and Leonard's, which I would argue are two most popular shave ice and malasada places.

    Pearl Harbor and Hanauma Bay are best done early in the morning. Something to keep in mind when making your itinerary. Hanauma Bay poses parking challenges, and at Pearl Harbor, you'll want to either try to get a tour time online at 60 days in advance or show up early waiting in the standby line for an early tour time. If you don't arrive early, tour times often run out or will be late in the afternoon which means you may have several hours of waiting around. Leaving isn't advisable because of the parking challenges at Pearl Harbor.

    I would most definitely find time to visit Waikiki. It was one of our favorite areas and we spent 3 nights there. It's much different than any other area you'll find in Hawaii, and some of the best dining is there too. I might suggest it for an evening even if just for dinner, drinks, and walking the strip. I don't think the beach there is worth spending any time at.

    My biggest suggestion would be to combine things where you can so you have ample time to enjoy the resort. During our Aulani stay, we did every other day as a resort day. I'd also suggest Laniwai Spa on your last morning as its a good way to relax before a long flight home, and it would give you access to the locker rooms and showers for the entire day, which is good if you have a later flight home.
    Planning to do the 8:45 jungle jeep tour at Kualoa then the mac nut place right by it and then head to Giovanni shrimp truck for lunch. then drive towards Haleiwa for the rest of the stuff. May skip that mac nut place as found a farm in Haleiwa that's open til 5pm.

    Planning to do Pearl Harbor for 11am tour and then head to Dole on the day we check in - we are staying at the Hampton in Kapolei the night before. I am going to mass at 7am then heading to PH - going to leave our bags with concierge. After Dole we will pick up the bags and then head to Aulani. May do lunch at Dole and the train and gardens.

    We may not do Hanuma Bay as we are looking at a whale watch, dolphin swim, and snorkel with Wild Side Specialties. Planning two major days - one northshore and one southeast. THe boat tour is a 1/2 day so the rest will be at Aulani - we will have 2.5 days for the resort. Doing the boat tour in the morn and the luau in the eve.

    I had Waimea on the Northshore day but cut it due to y'all's recommendations and time. We may not get some of this stuff done but these are my targets right now. :)

    Oh - and Waoila Ice and Pipeline were from recommendations here. Waiola uses real fruit syrups they make and Pipeline was added after Leafyon recommended it
     

    disneycountrygirl

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 24, 2007
    We've only been to Ohau/Aulani, but your list looks almost perfect. We did so many of those things, and I think your list comprises the best of Ohau. I can recommend doing Kualoa Ranch on your first day. We took the Jungle Expedition tour and the flora and fauna just blew us away...the wonder of it! Nothing like the mainland. Every plant/tree/flower/bush was something new. By the end of the trip, we had "acclimated" to the scenery and we suspected some of the wonder and awe would have been removed post-acclimation.

    The other absolute BEST thing we did was stay on Pacific time, which meant we got up very early, which in particular led to one of the most spectacular events of the trip, which was getting to Haunama Bay pre-sunrise at 5:45am before the crowds. There were maybe 20 other people on the entire beach. The sunrise was glorious. We snorkeled alone (we brought snorkel gear) amongst thousands of fish. Even our toddler who couldn't snorkel could stand in the water surrounded by rainbow fish. At 9 am as we climbed the hill to leave, there were HORDES of people coming down, swarming the beach. If we ever went back, Haunama Bay pre sunrise would be top of our list! We saw it midday and had planned on skipping it, and it would have been a shame if we had (but I wouldn't do it midday. Way too many people.)

    I say if you don't like crowds, you can skip Waikiki too. We didn't like it. To us, it felt like any other dirty and crowded city except it has the hotels and beach strip that felt like a zoo or a circus compared to the peace of the rest of the island. We didn't like the "vibe" and started calling it Wacky-kee for that reason. lol. I know others love it, and I totally respect that. But it wasn't our thing at all.

    Foodwise, the only thing I'd add in was Motsumoto's shaved ice. With the ice cream center - YUM! I also didn't know there were so many foodtrucks where Giovanni's truck is. Had we known, we would have planned our meals differently. We would have hit up that area at least one other day (or 2). It would have been worth the drive for just the food. I feel like we missed out on lots of stuff I would have liked to have tried, but one cannot eat 3 meals in one sitting :-) (and we were giving up our rental car that evening and only doing resort days thereafter :-().
     
  • dachsie

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 13, 2014
    We've only been to Ohau/Aulani, but your list looks almost perfect. We did so many of those things, and I think your list comprises the best of Ohau. I can recommend doing Kualoa Ranch on your first day. We took the Jungle Expedition tour and the flora and fauna just blew us away...the wonder of it! Nothing like the mainland. Every plant/tree/flower/bush was something new. By the end of the trip, we had "acclimated" to the scenery and we suspected some of the wonder and awe would have been removed post-acclimation.

    The other absolute BEST thing we did was stay on Pacific time, which meant we got up very early, which in particular led to one of the most spectacular events of the trip, which was getting to Haunama Bay pre-sunrise at 5:45am before the crowds. There were maybe 20 other people on the entire beach. The sunrise was glorious. We snorkeled alone (we brought snorkel gear) amongst thousands of fish. Even our toddler who couldn't snorkel could stand in the water surrounded by rainbow fish. At 9 am as we climbed the hill to leave, there were HORDES of people coming down, swarming the beach. If we ever went back, Haunama Bay pre sunrise would be top of our list! We saw it midday and had planned on skipping it, and it would have been a shame if we had (but I wouldn't do it midday. Way too many people.)

    I say if you don't like crowds, you can skip Waikiki too. We didn't like it. To us, it felt like any other dirty and crowded city except it has the hotels and beach strip that felt like a zoo or a circus compared to the peace of the rest of the island. We didn't like the "vibe" and started calling it Wacky-kee for that reason. lol. I know others love it, and I totally respect that. But it wasn't our thing at all.

    Foodwise, the only thing I'd add in was Motsumoto's shaved ice. With the ice cream center - YUM! I also didn't know there were so many foodtrucks where Giovanni's truck is. Had we known, we would have planned our meals differently. We would have hit up that area at least one other day (or 2). It would have been worth the drive for just the food. I feel like we missed out on lots of stuff I would have liked to have tried, but one cannot eat 3 meals in one sitting :-) (and we were giving up our rental car that evening and only doing resort days thereafter :-().
    We will probably hit Matsumoto's on the NS day. I will consider that for Haunama Bay. I think we may go to two different trucks and share :)
     

    nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2009
    Planning to do Pearl Harbor for 11am tour and then head to Dole on the day we check in
    We had a 9:15 Pearl Harbor Tour. We arrived about 7:30, did the free portions, did the tour, and were leaving around 11ish. So that was about 3.5 hours to do the free portions and Arizona without feeling rushed. We are not history buffs by any means, so more time could be spent there for anyone who is. Your tour time also starts with a 20-ish minute video, in addition to the commute to and from the memorial plus time spent at the memorial.

    From Pearl Harbor, you have about a 35 minute commute to Dole if traffic is decent. Dole is a bit in a different direction than Kapolei/Ko Olina area as well. But if you do an 11am Pearl Harbor tour, assuming the free portions are done prior to that, I would guess you'd be finishing up there by 1-1:30, so you'd arrive at Dole by 1:30-2pm or so. Dole is only open until 5pm and at that time of day, I'd expect the lines to be long and parking to be a challenge. It doesn't leave you much time to do the attractions there. If Dole is a must do for you and this is the only day it will work, I would say pick your must-do attraction and do that one first.

    If you're heading to Aulani after Dole, you may run into some highway traffic due to rush hour on the way back.
     

    dachsie

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 13, 2014
    We had a 9:15 Pearl Harbor Tour. We arrived about 7:30, did the free portions, did the tour, and were leaving around 11ish. So that was about 3.5 hours to do the free portions and Arizona without feeling rushed. We are not history buffs by any means, so more time could be spent there for anyone who is. Your tour time also starts with a 20-ish minute video, in addition to the commute to and from the memorial plus time spent at the memorial.

    From Pearl Harbor, you have about a 35 minute commute to Dole if traffic is decent. Dole is a bit in a different direction than Kapolei/Ko Olina area as well. But if you do an 11am Pearl Harbor tour, assuming the free portions are done prior to that, I would guess you'd be finishing up there by 1-1:30, so you'd arrive at Dole by 1:30-2pm or so. Dole is only open until 5pm and at that time of day, I'd expect the lines to be long and parking to be a challenge. It doesn't leave you much time to do the attractions there. If Dole is a must do for you and this is the only day it will work, I would say pick your must-do attraction and do that one first.

    If you're heading to Aulani after Dole, you may run into some highway traffic due to rush hour on the way back.
    Yes, the plan is to do the pre-stuff before the tour and then leave for Dole after the reservation tour. We are going on a Sunday so I am not expecting a lot of rush hour traffic but I could be wrong. I am ok with lines at Dole. Rather do that than give up time on a resort day
     

    nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2009
    Yes, the plan is to do the pre-stuff before the tour and then leave for Dole after the reservation tour. We are going on a Sunday so I am not expecting a lot of rush hour traffic but I could be wrong. I am ok with lines at Dole. Rather do that than give up time on a resort day
    Gotcha. Yes, you won't have to worry about the traffic on a Sunday which helps. I agree better to try it then than give up time on a resort day, but I would also say don't stress yourself out trying to do it at all. I've mentioned before that it was a one and done for us, which is a common sentiment. Cute tourist trap, but not much else unless you have small kids that may take interest in some of the activities. I mentioned up-thread it took us 3.5 hours right when they opened to get through just the train, dole whip, and gift shop so it's definitely a time suck.
     
  • DisneyKrayzie2

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Mar 6, 2019
    Don’t under estimate how big the Big Island is, you will be spending lots of time driving. To get from Waikoloa Beach to Hilo you looking at a 2 hour drive each way. Waipo Valley was one of my favorite places, rest of family wasn’t as impressed. Akaka falls was great, I’d suggest Rainbow falls as well, its right in Hilo, easy quick access if your already in town. I don’t think I would ever do BI without going to the volcano. The black sand beach in Punalu’u is great, but with your limited time probably not recommended. Another thing I would recommend is a snorkel tour to Captain Cooks, we did this on Fair Wind Cruises and loved it. The Hamakua Macadamia nut tour isn’t much, can do that pretty quick on your way to Waimea. If you go to Kona farmers market I would also walk the shops along Ali’i drive. Also can spend lots of time at the Hilton Waikoloa Beach even if you don’t stay there it’s fun to explore. There’s also King’s and Queen’s Marketplaces in Waikoloa beach. I enjoyed the Luau at the Marriott, even though I was sick and couldn’t eat the wonderful food.
     

    dachsie

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 13, 2014
    Don’t under estimate how big the Big Island is, you will be spending lots of time driving. To get from Waikoloa Beach to Hilo you looking at a 2 hour drive each way. Waipo Valley was one of my favorite places, rest of family wasn’t as impressed. Akaka falls was great, I’d suggest Rainbow falls as well, its right in Hilo, easy quick access if your already in town. I don’t think I would ever do BI without going to the volcano. The black sand beach in Punalu’u is great, but with your limited time probably not recommended. Another thing I would recommend is a snorkel tour to Captain Cooks, we did this on Fair Wind Cruises and loved it. The Hamakua Macadamia nut tour isn’t much, can do that pretty quick on your way to Waimea. If you go to Kona farmers market I would also walk the shops along Ali’i drive. Also can spend lots of time at the Hilton Waikoloa Beach even if you don’t stay there it’s fun to explore. There’s also King’s and Queen’s Marketplaces in Waikoloa beach. I enjoyed the Luau at the Marriott, even though I was sick and couldn’t eat the wonderful food.
    We are staying at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in the Ocean Tower. I knew we have a lot of driving, which I don't mind. Providing its accessible, planing to take Saddle road to Hilo and will stop at Rainbow Falls if we do and make way north and around back to the Hilton. Will probably do the Hamakua Nut Factory the day we land and then rest at resort. We get in midday. Thanks!
     

    Mommy2Logan

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 11, 2019
    I’m obsessed with pineapples but I thought the plantation tour was lame. Basically a gift shop and a train ride with some information on pineapples that you could read about online. Tourist trap and really crowded (went on a Sunday). I would remove this from this list.
     

    ebonyeyes

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Nov 12, 2008
    I agree with Mommy2Logan...Dole was kind of lame to us as well. A tourist trap for sure and super crowded. The maze is long and the train ride (IMO)was not the highlight. You could visit the gift shop and grab a dole whip and be on your way.
     

    cgattis

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 1, 2009
    A few of my opinions....I think you should schedule more time to just stop along your drives and look at beaches, waterfalls, etc. You don’t have to “hang” at the beach—like sit down and lounge around. But I don’t want you to miss all the gorgeous natural beauty. Lots of those farm tours seem pretty lame to me—mostly just a free tourvto get you to buy their products—but that’s my opinion. They could be in beautiful locations as well.

    I really think you should try to see some of VNP, even if you can’t stay outside long (unless of course you really think it will make you sick). You can check the air quality ahead of time. I think you could probably at least see the Thurston lava tube. Also as another poster said, Rainbow Falls is right in Hilo (and you park essentially right at it, so it can be quick) but there is also a cool banyan tree there if you want to see one up close. There’s also one in Kona right down at the pier too.

    I agree with those who said skip Dole (we had Dole whips at Aulani!) and Waikiki, but again—I wanted to see natural beauty, not man-made touristy stuff. Kualoa sounds like a fun way to have some adventure in a controlled environment; we didn’t have time but may go if we get back to Oahu. We did enjoy Haleiwa town and got some great lemonade on the way back (the town closet to the Dole plantation—can’t remember the name).

    Our favorite times were snorkeling—there are shrimp trucks right across from Sharks Cove if you wanted to kill two birds. We loved Hanauma Bay too. The sunrise sounds amazing but we arrived right around 1:00 and easily caught a parking spot as the early birds were leaving. You have to remember it’s inside a giant crater so even if there are lots of people, there’s plenty of room. We still felt like we had the water to ourselves even at mid-day.

    Anyway, whatever you do, you and your friend are going to have a blast. :)
     

    dachsie

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 13, 2014
    I am planning to take Saddle rd over to Hilo unless there is a problem with the protesters, and will stop at Rainbow Falls. Then plan to take a scenic drive on the way to Akaka Falls. The coffee farm has a lava tube on it and the climate is different they said so thats why we chose it - Mountain Thunder. And the chocolate farm is interest to both of us who love chocolate. LOL. I've heard mixed things on Dole but we will probably go - may not spend a lot of time there tho. The big issue with snorkeling is we are going in Jan so I am sure Shark's cove will be out for that. We are going to take Wildside Specialties tour's Whale watch, dolphin swim and snorkel cruise so we can snorkel safely. Am also hoping to snorkel at A-bay
     

    jsmith

    <font color=darkorchid>And now I am off to get my
    Joined
    Nov 21, 2000
    Just my opinion, we are military and have spent a good bit of time on both Oahu and the Big Island. Wayyyy to much take your money touristy stuff and not enough once in a life time things to see. There are two beautiful, Fascinating National Parks on the west side of the big island Pu'uhonua O Honaunau and Pu'ukohola Heiau that give amazing insite into the lives of the pre-European contact Hawaiians-I would chose both of those over some of the farm tours and markets because those are farm tours and markets. Or at least over doubling up on Mac Farm tours. The coffee plantation is probably worth the visit. Visiting HVNP is definitely something you should consider. Understanding your breathing issues it might still be worth while as a once in a lifetime thing. The bay at Captain Cook has some amazing snorkeling and if you have time the Pacific Tsunami warning center and museum in Hilo is interesting. The black sand beach is one of the best opportunities to see turtles if you are not going to snorkel.
    Driving on both islands will be time consuming. yes Oahu is about the same size as Houston but Houston is surrounded by 8 lane highways-most of the driving in the islands is two lane and can get extremely congested. There are a number of shrimp trucks-and Giovanni is not our favorite. The shrimp are farmed, as they are not native to those waters and most of the trucks serve a very similar menu. Matismoto's for shave ice-yummm. and I prefer to go to the bakery in Waikiki for Leonards but also Yummmmmm. Dole is totally a tourist trap and if you are constrained on time I would skip it. I love Haunama Bay but it will be time consuming. There are some required videos to watch and the beach there, particularly on the weekend will be quiet crowded. Absolutely Kimo and Boots for breakfast but be aware its common for the wait to exceed two hours, even during the week. I would get up-drive up the Pali for the sunrise and try to be in Kailua at 0700 when they open. Find one good authentic Hawaiian plate lunch joint on either island ( we like Keneke's in Waimanalo but there are many around the islands.) The one thing I don't see on your list that someone else suggested is the Polynesian Cultural Center. Even if you don't want to tour the center the night show is probably the best show in the islands. In the past one could purchase tickets for the night show without a meal which I would do because honestly except for the taro rolls the food is nothing to write home about. There are other Luaus with much better food.
    Overall your plan is pretty ambitious if you want to have resort time, mostly because of the driving involved and the time things can take. I would decide which things are MUST dos and do those first. Enjoy-Hawaii is a beautiful place.
     

    Plumberries

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jul 8, 2019
    I agree with pretty much everything jsmith said. Also if you're still set on going to Hilo, I'd make a quick stop at Big Island Candies if there are no huge tour buses, especially because you mentioned loving chocolate. The products are pricey, but everything is tastes amazing and they have generous free samples of almost all of it.
     

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