Like nearly everyone who's drawn to tropical climates, it's always been a dream of ours to visit the Hawaiian Islands. Known for its breathtaking, concentrated landscapes of volcanoes, mountains, beaches, rainforests and ocean cliffs, Hawaii offers endless opportunities for mind-blowing outdoor adventures.
In addition to being visually stunning, Hawaii also offers a rich cultural draw with fascinating history and traditions, as well as aspects of daily life like the local food and language. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to take our first trip to the Aloha State earlier this month, and are happy to share our travel tips from our experience on the islands of Oahu and Maui.
Travelling Aloha: The Hawaiian Islands
Travelling alongside our best friends from Melbourne, we were eager to arrive, explore and relax after a long flight from Australia to Honolulu, Hawaii.
Oahu: Travel Tips for 'The Gathering Place'
Currently in my second trimester, travelling in comfort was a major concern for such a long journey. Our flight with Hawaiian Airlines was fortunately smooth and accommodating, but the swelling eventually got to me and I arrived with cankles. Sigh... it can't all be picture perfect, right?!
After settling in and enjoying the picturesque view of Diamond Head from our hotel in the heart of Waikiki, we hired a car and drove to the famed north shore of Oahu to visit Waimea Bay and Pipeline, the legendary surf break located off of Ehukai Beach.
Though we happened to visit in summertime, when waves are small compared to the huge barrels seen in winter months, we found plenty to do thanks to the nearby food trucks in Haleiwa. Offering up an assortment of locally made 'ono grinds,' Aji Limo Truck is a boho foodie's dream come true, and there are plenty of places nearby to rent snorkel gear for a little post-food swim in the warm, turquoise waters.
After only a couple minutes snorkeling at Shark's Cove, a part of Pupukea Beach Park, I witnessed my very first Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle! Due to their protected status across the state, as well as an abundance of local algae, these beautiful marine animals thrive in Hawaii and can be seen at most popular beaches throughout the state.
We then took our gear and headed back to Waimea Bay for a relaxing sunbathing session on the beach, a definite favourite location! Looking to make the most of our time on the north shore, we decided to take a 3 kilometer return stroll to nearby Waimea Falls Park, a former theme park turned waterfall swimming hole. Unfortunately, in addition to being extremely crowded, you're required to wear a life jacket to swim in the falls, so we wouldn't necessarily recommend visiting (instead, opt for a less crowded option, of which there are plenty only a short drive away).
The following day, we decided to take a look back at Hawaii's history by taking a tour of the USS Missouri Battleship. We learned incredible facts about not only the battleship, but Hawaii's history and military influence, and would highly recommend this activity for any and all history buffs. Pro Tip: Get there early to beat the crowds!
Kailua Town & Lanikai Beach
A truly tropical gem, we highly recommend making the drive to Kailua, a charming, relaxed beach community home to one of the most gorgeous beaches across the state, the dreamy Lanikai Beach. Overlooking the Mokulua Islands, grab a bite to eat at nearby Buzz's Original Steak House before spending a well-deserved arvo in the sun at this scenic, less touristy hotspot.
Recommended Oahu Restaurants & Shops
Though you're at no shortage for excellent cuisine, no matter what your budget, some of our favourite eats on Oahu were:
- The Cheesecake Factory
- Duke's Waikiki
- ABC Stores - Cheap snacks & takeaway items
- Tiki's Grill & Bar - Cocktails on the rooftop
- The Beach Bar at Moana Surfrider Resort - Cocktails steps away from Waikiki Beach
- Victoria's Secret
- Free People
- Urban Outfitters
Maui: Travel Tips for 'The Valley Isle'
Ready for our next stop, we hopped on a flight with Island Air for our 28 minute commute to Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands.
The West Side - Lahaina, Ka'anapali, Napili & Kapalua
After booking our stay at the Aston Mahana at Ka'anapali, we made the scenic drive from Maui's Kahului Airport along the Pali highway to Lahaina, a popular tourist town and the former capital of Hawaii, before arriving at our peaceful accommodation just past the award-winning Ka'anapali Beach.
Realising we were in the perfect area to explore by motorbike, we decided to splurge and hire Harley Davidsons for the day! Thankfully our hubbies are experienced motorcycle riders, but for those who aren't, you can easily rent a scooter for a more manageable transportation option.
Driving the coast with our snorkel gear in tow, we stopped at the nearby beaches of Kapalua and Napili Bay, both easy to find, for some snorkeling and relaxed beach lounging. We enjoyed a scenic lunch overlooking Napili Bay at the Sea House Restaurant, which also doubles as a great happy hour spot from 2pm to 4:30pm. Pro Tip: The parking for Napili Bay can get crowded, so be prepared for a walk from your car!
Snorkeling at Molokini Crater & Turtle Town
One of the most popular snorkeling areas in the state, Maui's Molokini Crater is located a few kilometers off the southern shoreline, offering pristine visibility, abundant endemic marine life, and protection from the wind.
Seeking a 5 star experience, we opted for the Deluxe Snorkel Sail with Alii Nui Maui, who took us to both Molokini Crater and Turtle Town, a nearby snorkeling area known for its population of resident Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and underwater cave formations.
While you may spend a little more money with this company, it's worth it. The all-female crew were absolutely amazing, the food was delicious and alcohol and drinks are included in the cost. What a wonderful day on the water!
Fishing, Shopping & Driving on the Other Side
The next morning, the guys decided to head out early on a fishing charter while we went shopping. Being from Australia, I have never driven on the right hand side of the road, and therefore was fairly scared to attempt it for the first time. Luckily we decided to get the extra insurance, because sure enough I hit a gutter in the car park and damaged the tire! Pro Tip: If it's your first time driving on the other side of the road, splurge for the insurance.
Fortunately, the boys had a smoother day and managed to catch some Mahimahi and Snapper, which we cooked up for an awesome lunch picnic with a view. Later in the evening, we ventured out for some dinner at Hula Grill, which offers amazing sunset views across 'Black Rock', or Ka'anapali Beach.
For our final day, I was craving some relaxation time, so we started our morning with a little stroll and came across several lovely market stalls with a variety of local vendors selling goods. We spent the majority of the day sunbathing and snorkeling before enjoying a final leisurely dinner at The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. It was the perfect spot to end our holiday on a high!
Tips for Travelling While Pregnant
- Pregnancy Travel Insurance - While unfortunately your baby isn't covered under any insurance before 26 weeks, make sure you are covered! The baby wouldn't be covered if you were to have it while you're away, so just keep this in mind. If you are over 26 weeks pregnant, the only insurance I could find was through Columbus Direct, though it's definitely pricey.
- Compression Tights - These are a must on the plane to prevent clots and fluid build-up. Be sure to get up and walk around as often as possible during the flight as well!
- Pillows - We all know how uncomfortable plane seats can be, especially on a long flight, so I recommend taking the Bellybean maternity pillow, which doesn't take up too much room while travelling.
- Talk to Your Doctor - Make sure you have a letter saying you are fine to travel, and talk with them about tasking Aspirin or other blood-clotting medication beforehand.
- Hydrate - Drink HEAPS of water! Not only will you prevent dehydration, but it also helps with fluid retention.
- Change Cash Before you Travel - While not pregnancy-related, we didn't see any money changers anywhere in Hawaii except for the airport, which are notorious for having poor exchange rates.
- Don't Piss Off the Locals - Just kidding, they are beautiful, friendly people. Show respect and you'll get it in return.
Overall we had an absolutely wonderful time, and would definitely recommend Hawaii as a destination for both relaxed and adventurous travellers. While we didn't have time to do everything on our list, that just means we'll have to make it back!
Safe and happy travels to you all, and until next time... aloha, and shoots!