Hawai’i….the state of beaches, bikinis, surf boards, and tourists. Previously when I thought about Hawaii, that is what came to mind. But recently I had the opportunity to go and visit the island state for a few weeks and for those that like to be adventurous and explore, there is plenty to do that is not necessarily jam packed with people. My trip began on the island of Kaua’i where I met up with my good friend Casey Luskin. The first day was spent as anyone coming from winter in Wisconsin would do, in the sun on the beach (in my case, TRYING to surf). Then we were off to hike the Na Pali coast on the Kalalau Trail. This was a very neat and beautiful experience as this 22-mile round trip hike follows the undeveloped coast, ducking in and out of the jungle with spectacular views of the coast/ocean from vantage points along the numerous mountain peaks crossed. At the dead end of the trail is a secluded beach basically only accessible to those who hike in – very nice. The hike also included a section of trail along a cliff ledge – not as bad as it seems but a little nerve-wrecking if heights are an issue to you. If time allows, also stop in at the Waimea Canyon State Park to view the canyon. Called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the views are spectacular.
Next up was Maui. A beautiful island that recently saw the end of an era of its sugar cane production. Although only there for less than three days, we saw plenty. Being a National Parks nut, Haleakala National Park was a must. The view was breathtaking and to be honest, you sometimes forget you are in Hawai’i as the dormant volcano is high, cold and the Haleakala Crater is pretty much a desert. Opportunities are abundant with biking down the volcano, viewing the sun rise, and hiking to cabins within the park but be sure to make reservations in advance as some may not be available if you “wing it”. Next up was the drive to Hana. Although not far distance wise (especially in mainland terms), don’t plan to get there anytime soon. The road follows the eastern coast, winding this way and that, rain is always a possibility along with mud slides, and the one lane bridges tend to slow you down but the views and the experience is something I will not forget. From the east side of the island, you can also access the east side of the Haleakala National Park, which over here is a jungle and the only time in my life I can remember walking thru a bamboo forest. Be sure to get into the water and snorkel with the sea turtles – very neat. Also if you need to wet your whistle, I highly recommend Charleys in Paia as you never know who you will run into.
Next was a history lesson on the island of O’ahu. Also being a history buff, this also was a must. Pearl Harbor, USS Missouri, and Ford Island were all amazing and I don’t really have the space to explain it all here. Make sure you have the time to soak it all in and remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for your freedoms! Although the world famous north shore did not have a professional surfing competition going on while there, it none-the-less is without a doubt a surfing community. For the terrible surfers out there (like me), the north shore has many knowledgeable instructors – give it a shot. New Years Eve on Waikiki Beach was a blast, literally, with fireworks over the ocean. And wouldn’t you know it just a short walk from the beach was a Wisconsin bar owned by a guy originally from Madison (this came in handy for the Packers-Lions game!).
The final stop on the trip was Hawai’i, the Big Island. I didn’t have much time here so things were kind of rushed. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park was a must (of course). Standing in the middle of the huge lava fields makes you realize the power of these forces of nature. Be sure to visit the Kilauea’s summit caldera at night to get the most visual effect from the visible “liquid hot magma,” – sorry, a reference to Austin Powers. Unfortunately when I was there, a large chunk of the lava shelf had broken off into the ocean, making it difficult to view the spot where the lava enters the ocean. I have heard this is neat though so try to experience it. The park rangers are helpful so ask them on viewing this as well. Also if you are lucky enough, there are private companies that give tours to the lava fields where you can actual poke the lava with a stick – if you do this I am very jealous of you! On my way back to Kona to catch my flight home, I took the Saddle Road from Hilo to Kona. This road passes the world famous Mauna Kea observatories. If you are a star gazer, this is hands down one of the best places to do it. Dress warm, be sure to allow yourself adjust to the rapid altitude change, and have fun.
Lava Fields at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
The people were wonderful, the local food was amazing (you must eat poke), and the beer was always cold. Hawai’i is an amazing time!
Written by Kevin Staus
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