National Parks in Hawaii 2017
Posted Monday, September 25, 2017 08:37 PM
This years vacation took us to Hawaii for the two national parks there- one on Maui and the other on the Big Island.  Although I had been to Oahu in 1985 on two business trips, this was my first as a vacation.
This is an account of what we did on vacation based on our interests and need for senior friendly ventures.
Hawaiian Vacation 2017

25 July Tuesday-  Travel Day; Monroe to DFW to Kona on American Airlines then to Maui on Mokulele Airlines.   Checked into Mana Kai Maui Hotel in Kihei in South Maui.  Dinner there while enjoying our first Hawaii sunset.

26 July Wednesday-   Up at 2:40a to drive up to Haleakala Crater for sunrise which was very cold.  After trails and picnic returned to hotel for short rest.  Drove to Lahaina to check out West Maui picking up shave ice along the way.  Went as far as Kapalua then returned to Kihei for dinner.  Sunset was again beautiful.

27 July Thursday-  Up at 7a to meet Nathan our Mahalo tour guide on the Road to Hana Tour.  He was a hoot.  We really enjoyed the tour which went past Hana circling back to Kula doing the full loop with wine tasting at the end.  Saw another beautiful sunset at the hotel.

28 July Friday-  Travel Day;  Decided to beach hop starting with trail to Kamaole Beach III from the hotel.  Saw crabs and turtles one being a large green sea turtle.  Checked out of hotel to eventually get to the airport for hop to Hawaii on Mokulele Airlines.  Stopped at two beaches in Central Maui near Kahului one called Waihee Beach Park  and the other Kanaha Beach Park. Then it was time to go to the airport.  Checked into the Royal Kona in Kailua.  Had dinner there while listening to Luau music nearby.  Enjoyed one more beautiful sunset.

29 July Saturday-  This was the Grand Circle Tour of the Big Island with capable Chris our Wasabi tour guide.  We really enjoyed this tour as well.  After tour ate at hotel grill while enjoying yet another sunset.

30 July Sunday-  Ditched training wheels to retrace part of Saturday tour with stops of our choice.  Found trail to Captain Cook Monument but only traveled a small part of the 3+ mile strenuous trail.  Stopped at Puuhonau o Honaunau(Refuge) for pictures and to check out the beach at Honaunau.  Stopped at a bakery to enjoy purple bread and purple chips and Hawaiian sandwich.  Then went to Hawaiian Volcanoes NP where we traveled down the Chain of Craters Road.  Returned to Jagger Museum to view the lava glow at Kilauea Caldera at 7:30p.    Ate in Hilo then returned to Kailua via the Saddle Road where we enjoyed the 60mph parts of the road instead of the usual less than 50mph speed limits.

31 July Monday-  Back to Honaunau Beach for snorkeling.  Incredible number of colorful tropical fish everywhere.  Continued down the road to Kealakekua Beach Park for more snorkeling and distant view of Captain Cook Monument.  Returned to hotel after stop at White Sands Beach, a nice boogie board stop.  Then went walking the streets of Kailua for local flavor and shopping.   Ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp on the water to complete our day after one more sunset.

 1  August Tuesday-  Flight out at 5:40p so time to explore other parks and the Kohala District in the northern part of the island:

     Kaloko Honokohua Historical Site just below the airport;
     Puukohalo Heiau National Historical Park up the coast;
     Kamehameha Statue at Kapa'au  just past Kawi.

     Returned to airport after stop in Waimea.  Boarded red-eye flight for DFW.

For more detail, continue reading:

26 July

Up at 2:40a seems harsh but since we had crossed 5 times zones and getting to sleep at 8:40 gave us 6 hours of rest.  Also, getting to the top of Haleakala early allowed us to get in some stargazing.  Reservations at were required. We got the last position at a rail where we had a clear view of the sunrise which was great.  After the event, we got cancellations at the visitor center then took the White Hill Trail for a "summit" look.  We then tried a small part of the Sliding Sands Trail.  This what one of those where 1/2 hour down takes 1 hour to climb back up.  We definitely got a feel for the terrain.  We then went to the top of Red Hill  Overlook (10,023'  the real summit) which I am very glad we didn't miss. Beautiful views and garden for silverswords were the attractions.    On the way down, we stopped at Kalahaku Lookout,  Leleiwi  Overlook, Halemau'u Trailhead and finally Hosmer Grove.  Hosmer Grove is where we had a picnic among the trees brought in from around the world as well as endemic species.

After a short rest at the hotel, we struck out to explore West Maui with Lahaina being the first target.  Lahaina was very crowded. We went to Banyan Tree Park and the Old Court House before exploring Front Street.  Left Lahaina to travel north to Kapalua then returned to Kihei for dinner.  At the hotel, the sunset was again beautiful.

27 July

While researching tours, our filter was small van, local driver and no retracing Road to Hana.  Our driver was Hawaiian, the van held 8 but we only had 7 because of a cancellation and the route was a circle.  It fit the bill.  Our guide was Nathan (not his Hawaiian name, of course) who was a hoot.  His narration included Hawaiian history, politics, flora, fauna, current events - you name it.  Stops
were at Ho'okipa Surfing Lookout, Keanae Valley Peninsula, Wailua Falls Lookout, Hanawi Falls, Walanapana Park, Charles Lindberg Grave and Tedeschi Winery to name most of them.  For a detailed list of the tour, one can go to the Mahola Tours website and look at FAQ's.  We were very pleased with our choice of a tour.

28 July

Travel day came way too soon.  Since all beaches are public, we decided to start the day by going up Eddie Pu trail toward the Kamaole Beach III.  Saw lots of wildlife including black crabs and a large green sea turtle.  After we checked out of the hotel, we headed south for Wailea and Makena where we stopped at Makena Beach Park which was very nice.  We then headed north to check out beaches north of Kahului.   One was Waihe'e which was not very large or impressive and the other, Kanaha Beach, was just north of the airport.  Would have been nice to spend more time there.

Used Molulele Airlines to hop over to the Big Island to eventually check-in at the Royal Kona Resort in Kailua which just happened to be a few steps from Snorkel Bob's.  Only had time to watch a glorious sunset while dining at the restaurant at Royal Kona. 

29 July

After having so much fun on the Road To Hana "circle" tour it was now time to try the Grand Circle Tour of the Big Island with capable Chris(6th grade teacher) as our guide.  Our filter was the same.  Chris was a native Hawaiian but there were 13 in the van which stretched the limit, but it all worked out.  We picked up the last passenger south of Kailua then started the tour in a counter-clockwise circle.  We stopped at Punalu'u Bake Shop which was a nice stop.  The next stop was at Punalu'u Beach Park to see the black sand beach and the green sea turtles.  Next was Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HVNP) the first stop was the Thurston Lava Tube in a rain forest setting.  Then on to Jagger Museum and a look at the steaming lava.  We had  a nice lunch at a Orchid Farm between the national park and Hilo.  At Hilo we saw where the 1964  tsunami devastated Hilo and then made the obligatory stop at Rainbow Falls.  Then it was off to see the very tall Akaka Falls which was really nice.   Then we went further up the Hamakua Coast to Waipi'o Valley Overlook.  We then entered Parker Ranch Territory.  We passed through Waimea on the way to the Kohala Coast where Chris pulled over the van so we could capture the sunset.  It was a fitting end to a long day but interesting day.  We did not experience the phenomenon called 'A Green Flash' as explained to us by our Wasabi tour guide.

The Maui tour included a light breakfast and lunch.  The Big Island tour included lunch.  But each tour had snacks and drinks on the van available at any stop.  The Big Island tour also provided rain jackets which were needed.

30 July

As indicated above we struck out on our own to retrace the part of the tour route we wanted.  The first stop was at the town of Captain Cook where we located and did a small part of the 3.8 mile strenuous trail to the Captain Cook monument. The next  stop was the Refuge(Pu'uhonau o Honaunau) where we caught a ranger talk about the heiau(temple). We secured a cancellation.   While there we checked out the snorkeling at Honaunau Beach Park with plans to return the next day. Next stop was the Punalu'u Bakery again where we enjoyed lunch.  It was then on to HVNP to checkout the visitor center to get cancellations and  ranger advice on what to do.  In order to actually see the lava flow into the ocean, the ranger said we needed to drive eastward from the park then to the coast.  What was left was a 4 mile one-way hike to the viewing area.  Since Marilyn has back problems (as do I and mine is worse than hers) and I have knee problems (as does Marilyn and hers is worse than mine), we decided to pass on that hike which we thought was not senior friendly.  Instead we chose the Chain of Craters road which included a trail (.7mi) to Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs.  We then went to the end of the road to view the Sea Arch.  We could see the steam caused by the lava flow to the sea but could not see any lava from the Sea Arch.  We then headed back to Jagger Museum to view the lava glow which was very nice.    Then it was on to Hilo for a bite to eat.  We took Saddle Road, which goes between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, to get back to Kailua faster than retracing.  No sunset viewing for this day.

31 July

It was now time to get outfitted at Snorkel Bob's.   I needed the RX version which was quickly configured.  The next stop was Honaunau Beach.  We entered at Two-Step and it was like jumping into an aquarium.  The fish are most prevalent around the rocks and less prevalent in the sandy areas.  It was a unique experience.  Traveled up a single-lane road from Honaunau to Kealakekua Bay Park.  One more snorkeling adventure but not nearly as good as Honaunau but also not nearly as crowded. Looked across the bay at the Captain Cook obelisk.  Then it was time to go back to the hotel after checking out White Sands Beach where we saw lots of boogie-boarders.  Then it was time to do the tourist walk to Kailua for the local flavor and souvenirs.  Ate at Bubba Gumps.

1 August

 Red-eye flight out at 5:40p so there was time to explore other parks and the Kohala District in the northern part of the island.

Kaloko Honokohua Historical Site just below the Kona airport -- Shows how ancient Hawaiians lived as shore dwellers with fish ponds and fish traps.   The place was rich with petroglyphs.  Spent only enough time to do one trail and get cancellations.

Pu'ukohalo Heiau National Historical Park located on Hwy 270.  Very significant heiau on the Big Island which involved King Kamehameha.  Did one trail and explored Spencer Park after getting cancellations.  Marilyn really liked Spencer Park.
Kamehameha Statue at Kapa'au  just past Kawi-- Near Kamehameha's birthplace.  This completed out exploration of the northern part of the Big Island.

After taking pictures of the statue, had delicious mango smoothies at a store just across the street. Almost better than the statue.

Drove down the picturesque Hwy 250 to Waimea so as not to return on Hwy 270.  Very nice with elevations to 3,000'.  So we drove up the coast highway and returned on a mountainous highway.   Ate in Waimea then it was time to turn our attention to turning in our rental car and checking our bags for the red-eye back to the mainland.

I was surprised at the maps and info contained in the Dollar (Car rental) Vacation Planner, one for Maui and one for the Big Island.

We used it quite frequently.  But the map I was most impressed with is the "Mau Driving Map" that I picked up somewhere??? but never used since I only opened it when we got home.   For Maui visitors I highly recommend this free map which even has locations of traffic lights. I'll text a picture if anyone is interested but I do not know where I got it - maybe the hotel.

Instead of using your phone as a flashlight I suggest you take a real flashlight - you can never tell when you might find yourself at an unlit porta-potty at 4:30a on the side of a mountain headed to Haleakeala or in a lava tube with failing lights.  Once the battery on your phone is low, not much good happens unless you have a power booster for your phone.  I also recommend one of those.

We take the tours for the wealth of info provided by the tour guide and the fact that someone else is doing the driving.  Sometimes they go where the rental cars shouldn't.  After the tour we can then concentrate on stops we want that perhaps were not tour stops.  Our tour guides were outstanding.

Cancellations referred to are ink stamps in the National Park Passport Book at visitor centers some of which date the visit.   Actual stamps featuring the national parks can be purchased for the Passport.   It is a great way to document when one visited a national park.

Had to leave but didn't want to!