In addition to its waterfalls, Hawai'i has other attractions to keep you busy taking photos or admiring the scenery. I’ve singled out some of the features that you’re bound to see upon a visit to these islands. Read below to get a brief introduction to these features.
Haleakala Sunrise (Maui): Many people swear if there's one time it's worth getting up at 3am in the morning to see a sunrise, this is it! Watching the sunrise atop Maui's dormant volcano not only lets you see the sun rise above the clouds, but you can also ride a bike down the road afterwards.
Click here for my travel blog entry on the Haleakala Sunrise.
Sliding Sands Trail (Maui): One of the more unique experiences on Maui is to hike amongst the volcanic badlands and craters atop Haleakala. The Sliding Sands Trail goes right into the heart of the cratered moonscape. You can go as far as you'd like to go, but the views are quite good no matter where you are on the trail.
Pokowai Sea Arch (Maui): It is one of the more impressive natural arches found on Maui. Situated on the dry southeastern side of the island, it makes a nice ending to a scenery-filled day that starts with the Hana Highway and passes through Kipahulu.
Nakalele Blowhole (Maui): The Nakalele Blowhole is an interesting attraction in the less populated part of West Maui. It can spout water up to 100ft and consistently puts on a show when the ocean swells are high.
It's also worth checking out the funky rock formations on the way to the blowhole as well as a smaller blowhole that also performs at high tide.
'Iao Needle (Maui): It is a famous attraction on the east-facing slopes of West Maui that is easily accessible from Central Maui. Just about everyone who visits Maui will probably see this landmark at least once.
In addition to the 'Iao Needle, you might find many locals doing daredevil dives off cliffs into the swimming holes as well as interesting gardens to help decorate the walking trails.
Waihe'e Valley (Maui): It is an impressive valley situated on the northeast side of West Maui. You can see the rugged beauty of the valley from above along the Waihe'e Ridge Trail, or you can experience the valley from within along the Waihe'e Valley Trail.
Na Pali Coast (Kaua'i): It is perhaps the most famous cliffs in all the Hawaiian islands. The wrinkly mountains backing impossibly scenic locations such as the Kalalau Beach and Valley are amongst the most unmistakable and most memorable cliffs you'll ever see. There are many different ways to see this - by helicopter, ocean cruise, kayak, or by foot along the difficult Kalalau Trail.
No matter how you slice and dice it, no trip to the island of Kaua'i is complete without a look at these world famous cliffs. In fact, Na Pali means "the cliffs" in Hawaiian.
Within these cliffs are also waterfalls such as Hanakapi'ai Falls and Hanakoa Falls as well as countless others nestled within the hidden valleys as well as within the grooves of the wrinkled mountains.
There are also natural arches and secluded beaches awaiting those with the fitness and determination in search of a relatively untouched paradise.
There's simply too much to say about Na Pali to fit into this space and I'll leave it up to you to experience this natural wonder however you see fit.
Waimea Canyon (Kaua'i): Known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, it features many characteristics of its counterpart in Arizona such as striated layers exposing the geological history of the island as well as deep canyons and tall temples at the apex. Given the wet nature of Mt Wai'ale'ale and the saturation of the Alaka'i Swamp, it's no wonder that the waters have carved such a canyon a time scale that is much shorter than the relentless carving by the Colorado River in the original Grand Canyon itself.
This is a very popular tourist feature and it is the very reason people come to the very quiet west side of Kaua'i. There are many different ways to see the canyon and even hike in it, but you can get the famous views from the very busy Waimea Canyon Lookout
Kalalau Lookout (Kaua'i): It's hard to believe that as late as the 1930s, the remote valley at the bottom of the lookout had over 5000 Hawaiians living there! Today, it is pretty much desserted except by only goats, hermits, and backpackers. Fortunately, the end of Hwy 560 allows most visitors a chance to see Kalalau Valley without having to walk the Kalalau Trail or pay for a kayak or boat tour to get here.
Less than a mile beyond the busy Kalalau Lookout is the Pu'u o Kila Lookout, which features another look at Kalalau Valley without as much foliage in the foreground. Either way, both lookouts are beautiful and they're definitely worth the time to check out. Of course, your view might be clouded over as clouds usually swirl and obstruct views here.
Spouting Horn (Kaua'i): This popular blowhole near the resort area of Poipu (or Po'ipu) can shoot sea water nearly 100ft. You'll want to be here when the swells are high in order for its best (and noisiest) performances as the blowhole usually gives out a loud hissing sound as it shoots water up. There's lots of drama in its display as the horn usually shoots up an initial jet of water before giving one spout of water in its last gasp before it awaits an incoming swell.
Halona Blowhole (O'ahu): The blowhole lies on the eastern side of Oahu. Situated in close proximity to Sandy Beach, it puts on a show when the swells are high. A large car park with viewing deck allows you to get a good look at the blowhole from a distance. There is a short path leading closer to the blowhole, but the authorities closed it off due to safety and liability concerns.
Pali Lookout (O'ahu): This very popular lookout gives you a nice view of eastern Oahu. Included in the panorama are the fluted wrinkly cliffs from which the lookout got its name as well as the town of Kaneohe. Bring your windbreaker as this lookout sits near a natural wind channel where trade winds get funneled into an opening in the mountains.
Waikiki Beach (O'ahu): This world famous beach is actually a series of beaches. Featured here are of course the long sandy beaches fronted by a relatively calm ocean and backed by high rise resorts and ocean-view restaurants. Just about everyone who visits Oahu will spend some of their time at this beach. Besides walking and sunbathing, you might also find people swimming and surfing here. There is such a plethora of activity here that it's amazing to see so many people from so many different places congregating for pleasure. It's hard to ignore the energy of the place.
In the winter time, this beach is also great for seeing sunsets. Julie and I enjoyed one of these while dining at the Ocean House. It was a great kodak moment as hundreds of other people joined us in viewing the beauty of nature from the busy beach.
North Shore Surfing (O'ahu): You don't have to be a surfer to appreciate the spectacle of daredevil surfers braving giant waves on Oahu's North Shore in the winter months. The Bonzai Pipeline is world famous amongst surfers for its large and nearly perfect barrel-shaped waves (hence the name). At Waimea Bay, if the waves get to at least 20ft tall (from the back of the wave or 40ft from the face of the wave), they hold the Eddie Aikau Invitational instead of closing the beach. And it is here that you'll see the world's best surfers risk their lives to ride the monster waves. By the way, if you see "Eddie Would Go" shirts and bumper stickers, this is the late Hawaiian hero they're talking.
Waianapanapa State Park (Maui): This public park gives you relief from waterfall fatigue as you drive the Highway to Hana. Located just minutes from Hana Town itself, you'll find a gorgeous black sand beach, lava caves, lava tubes, blowholes, rock formations, coastline views, and lava arches. It's easy to lose track of time here and spend hours wandering around here checking out the park's natural wonders.
Once at the very popular park, there are easy trails going along the coastline allowing you access to the above-mentioned attractions. The presence of the volcanic features testifies to the volcanic history of Haleakala volcano and offers a glimpse into some of the geologic processes that have shaped the Hawaiian Islands.
Thurston Lava Tube (Big Island): This was the largest lava tube that I had ever been in. It's a well-known tourist attraction in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and it has artificial lighting in its main section. There is also opportunities for further exploration into the cave if you have a torch. The popular loop trail also goes through a native rainforest before and after entering the impressive tube.
The tube very much feels like a cave though the porous lava tends to let water seep through when it has been raining. Lava tubes are very common in Hawai'i and they indicate the youth of the land. Over time, the lava tube will eventually erode and collapse. Older islands like Kaua'i lack lava tubes for this reason.
Holei Sea Arch (Big Island): This impressive sea arch is located near the end of the eerie Chain of Craters Road about a half-mile before the lava flow of 2003 covered the road. The arch is the result of the relentless pounding of the powerful surf chipping away at the relatively fresh lava surface. Thus, you get to see nature's power and grace all embodied in such features as this natural arch.
Flowing Lava (Big Island): Witnessing flowing lava in person is one of the most unique and most unforgettable experiences one can have. For it is here that you witness the creation of the earth's crust. It's no wonder why early Hawaiians associated volcanic activity with Madame Pele - the Goddess of Fire.
Witnessing a lava flow varies all the time. On the day we happened to see it, we had to hike about seven miles round trip with most of it in the dark. It's a hot hike that's full of hazards and you'll need to be prepared with plenty of water, good shoes, and a good flashlight with spare batteries.
So why did we hike in the dark? That's because the most optimal viewing occurs in the dark when the glowing lava is better showcased and not competing against the harsh lighting of the day. This is perhaps the one natural attraction that people come to the Big Island for, and if you're fortunate to see it, the scene before you will stay in your mind for life.
Pololu Valley Lookout (Big Island): This impressive valley is the westernmost of the seven forested valleys of the Kohala Coast. The view from the overlook as well as partway down the trail is mindblowing as you're treated to views of the sea cliff as well as the undeveloped valley down below. During our visit here, we were also fortunate enough to see a whale making its presence known just offshore from the valley.
Waipi'o Valley Lookout (Big Island): The lookout into this sacred valley is a tantalizing teaser of the natural wonders that lie within its depths. Featured at this lookout are the taro fields and black sand beach in the valley floor, the Z-trail on the opposite side, and the very steep road that goes into the valley itself.
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