Ahmedabad –based travel blogger couple shares with us what left them awestruck when they decided to explore three islands on a nine-day trip to Hawaii. Text and photographs by Vikram and Meenakshi Kothari
Glimmering ocean, emerald valleys, golden sands, active volcanoes, and the welcoming Aloha spirit of its people, wonderfully complement the perfect weather of Hawaii. A trip to this island state could be best planned as an extension of your US holiday. However, visiting from Japan is another feasible option. If you want to explore its remote places and are on a budget, we recommend you break your journey into multiple segments to make it easy, cost-effective and more desirable.
During our nine-day Hawaiian trip, we covered three islands — Oahu, Maui and Big Island. We first flew from San Francisco to the capital city of Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu and also the biggest transit point of the region. However, there are direct flights as well, from San Francisco and Los Angeles to the islands of Oahu, Maui and Big Island. Both internal flights, as well as ships, are available to commute from one island to the other.
Upon reaching Honolulu, we took another flight to the Big Island – a place comprising of some of Hawaii’s most incredible natural wonders and historic sites. It also allows you to travel through four different climate zones, ranging from wet tropical to polar tundra, as a result of the shielding effect and elevations of the massive volcanoes — Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.
From the many geological features at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the snow-capped heights of Mauna Kea, the lush valleys of the Hilo and Hamakua Coasts to the jet-black sands of Punaluu Beach, the Big Island of Hawaii is an unrivalled expression of the power of nature. It even allows you to swim with manta rays, enjoy a horseback ride and go for whale watching, all in a single visit. Here, you also get a chance to witness a fiery volcano, a 420-feet waterfall and a black-sand beach. It is because of all these exciting features, that it’s called ‘Hawaii’s Island of Adventure.’
Big Island has two major towns — Hilo on the east coast and Kailua-Kona on the west coast. We landed at Kona International Airport and checked into the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa. The Kailua Kona Region of the island provides easy access to all the major activities on the island.
Islands are usually famous for their indigenous variety of seafood, but to our surprise, we found two amazing Indian restaurants — Swami’s Dosa Grill and Kamana Kitchen — serving delectable vegetarian food. However, if you like Thai delicacies, there is a great eatery called Krua Thai Cuisine, that we highly recommend.
Visiting the Volcanoes National Park, ascending the Mauna Kea summit and flying in a no-door helicopter over the volcanic crater, were three of the major activities on our bucket list, and so we booked the Mauna Kea Summit and stargazing tour with a local tour company — Mauna Kea Summit Adventures.
High elevation, dry environment and stable airflow make Mauna Kea’s summit one of the best sites in the world for astronomical observation. Upon reaching the summit, we were amazed to find ourselves literally above the clouds. We witnessed one of the best sunsets of our lives, the sky was full of magical and colourful rays. The sunset had transformed the area into a beautiful and quite unearthly spectacle.
As we descended towards the mid-mountain, the sky was equally clear, but the climate and the air density was much more comfortable for stargazing. Our instructor helped us view planets — Mars and Saturn through their professional Celestron telescope.
This indeed was one of the most interesting activities we had done together. The summit area of Mauna Kea is unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere. This volcanic landscape looks as though it was inspired by the beauty of the moon or ripped from the screen of your favourite alien movie.