As I sit here in our Denver apartment, snuggled up in sweaters and blankets while watching the snow fall rapidly outside my window, it’s hard to believe that I was basking in the tropical sunshine of Hawaii a little less than 3 months ago.
I don’t think I’ve been anywhere as tropical as Hawaii (save for Brazil, but that’s a whole other world in itself). From the bluest ocean water with the most colorful fish, to the waterfalls spilling over lush mountains, Hawaii has some of the most unrivaled scenery I’ve ever seen.
Due to its location and the large amount of tourists who want to get to the beautiful Aloha State, Hawaii isn’t the cheapest place to travel to. But my parents had a timeshare with some extra room on the Big Island and they wanted to meet up for a big family trip. So, we thought, why not. With my parents taking care of lodging, the only thing we had to do was find a reasonable flight during the September dates they set.
Direct flights from Denver to Hawaii were way too expensive to consider, so instead we looked for flights with layovers in cities we had never been, like Portland and Seattle. Using Google Flights, we tracked our flights and hoped for the best. In the end, we were able to get our tickets from Denver –> Portland –> San Francisco –> Hawaii and then Hawaii –> Seattle –> Denver for about $360 each. We were also able to spend a day in Portland & Seattle ~ 2 cities that we definitely want to return to in the future (blog posts to come)!
It’s hard to sum up our week-long trip in just one blog post, but I’ll give it a try.
On the Big Island, Kona, we:
- Swam in the bluest water on some of the most beautiful beaches
- Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay) is where we spent most of our time laying out and snorkeling with sea turtles
- Went to a luau
- We went to the Island Breeze Luau – He ‘Ohana Kakou in Kailua-Kona, which featured a Hawaiian buffet (complete with alcoholic beverages) and Polynesian dancing for about $75 each – check their website for discounts!
- Saw a bunch of feral cats
- I love cats so I thought it was the greatest thing, but apparently they’re an invasive species in Hawaii
- Watched the sunset at Kuana’oa Bay
- We also got to swim with some giant manta rays here as well!
- Checked out Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
- We were lucky to be there on the first day it opened since the eruption this past summer, so it was free!
- Note: because of the eruption, the park was dried out, meaning there was no flowing lava. Check their website to find out more
- & of course, walked on a ton of old lava
- Nearly all of Kona is covered in it! Truly a unique sight to see
To get to Maui, we took a very small flight – we’re talking 8 people on the plane, so practically private for our group of 6 – above the ocean and the islands. That $90 Mokulele Airlines flight was a memorable experience in itself.
In Maui, we…
- Watched the sunrise from Haleakalā Crater
- Hint: you must make a reservation online either 60 days in advance or be one of the few to get a last-minute reservation 2 days in advance @ 4PM sharp to see the sunrise from the crater)
- Survived the Road to Hana
- Plan your stops ahead of time – there are mile markers along the way & so many cool things to see!
- Be sure to stop at Wai’anapanapa State Park for hiking trails to scenery like no other, including a black sand beach and sea caves!
- Remember to bring cash, as most all vendors along the road don’t take credit card
- & hiked to the most beautiful & highest waterfalls I’d ever seen
- One of the last stops on the Road to Hana, Wailua Falls was one of the most impressive, as it cascades 80 feet down the jungle wall
Hawaii is truly another world that I am so happy I had the chance to explore.
Now my only question is – where to next?