April 29, 2013
May 2, 2013

I chose Hawaii based on the simple fact of “how far can my frequent flier miles get me and my husband?” At the time, as a novice travel consultant, I knew there had to be more to the islands than Don Ho, poi, Mai Tai’s, and muumuu’s so I set out to plan a two-and-a-half week island hopping adventure. The idea caught on with my husband’s family, too, so they joined us to celebrate Christmas for a week on Maui’s quiet North Shore.

We started on Kauai to spend a few days exploring what’s known as the Garden Isle, the oldest and northernmost of the Hawaiian island chain. Some parts of Kauai are only accessible by sea or air so a helicopter excursion (views beyond imagination, trust me!) or a Zodiac boat tour of the Na Pali Coast is a terrific way to get the lay of the land. My three days were filled to the brim with adventure and beauty, so on my next Hawaiian visit I plan to make this my first stop once again and spend more time getting to know her. For honeymooners, Kauai is a romantic spot to kick off a new marriage—I especially like the Grand Hyatt Resort & Spa (splurge on the Lomi Lomi massage at the Anara Spa) located on the southern Poipu Coast, and the St. Regis Princeville Resort in Hanalei on the North Shore.

Next up was a week-long holiday with my husband’s family on Maui’s North Shore just east of Paia, in Huelo, at the start of the Road to Hana. A dirt road lead us to our lovely self-catered home rental, Lookout House, with views that stretched across a small cow pasture towards the expansive Pacific. This quiet east-end location was perfect for our family and afforded easy access to explore Maui’s upcountry town of Makawao, dormant Haleaka and the many discoveries located along the Road to Hana. Don’t forget a swim with the fishes at Molokini Crater, and if you’re visiting Maui from December to April you’ll most certainly see hump back whales. Dining at Mama’s Fish House, timed at sunset, is a must do.

Hawaii, The Big Island, is big—twice the land mass of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined. So, we chose to split our time between the Volcanoes National Park on the east side of the island, staying in Volcano Village, and Kailua-Kona on the west coast. Avid hikers and bikers could spend days exploring the trails and roads surrounding Kilauea. During our visit, the lava flowing views were a good 6-miles each way walking over pahoehoe (hardened smooth unbroken lava) and we weren’t prepared (the National Park service has requirements such as wearing only long pants, a gallon of water, etc.) so instead we trekked the Kilauea Iki Trail, a very rewarding surprise traipsing through rain forest and the still steaming crater floor. The Chain of Craters road is a great way to see the park by car (or bike) and be sure to pop into the Kilauea Visitor Center—it’s definitely worth a visit. Also on the east side of the island, the town of Hilo, often snow-topped Mauna Kea (check out the observatory), and black, red and green sand beaches. The west coast is known for world class golf, its plethora of 5-star resorts and some really lovely beaches. We opted for a modest B&B just outside of town. Our kayak trip was thwarted due to big waves and extremely strong tides however we managed to discover gorgeous Waimea Canyon and the Paniolo (cowboy) country, stumbled upon Greenwell Coffee Farm (founded in 1850) and explored Puuhouna o Honaunau National Historial Park. Divers and snorkelers, and those seeking wild dolphin swim experiences will be right at home on the west coast.

May you find hau’oli (happiness, joy, enjoyment) in Hawaii.