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Hawaii...Snorkeling, Whales, Turtles, Mountains...the Hawaiian Islands have it All!

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Our first trip to Hawaii was in 2006, visiting Oahu and the Big Island. We played the traditional tourist and visited the most popular attractions such as Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, North Shore of Ohau, Waikkiki Beach, and the Kilauea Volcano. We loved it so much we went back and traveled to Maui to focus on whale watching and to the Big Island to see the active volcano. Our third trip was for my husband's 50th birthday to Kaui and that trip was about snorkeling with the large sea turtles and to do more whale watching! Our last trip to Hawaii was to the North Shore of Ohau and Maui....our favorite islands to whale watch, snorkel and relax in the sun!

The collage below is from Oahu and Maui. My list of must see are the climb to Diamond Head for a spectaular view of Oahu; Hanauma Bay for snorkeling; Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's North Shore; whale watching while in Maui; seeing the very large turtles and snorkeling with them at Kapalupa Bay; a visit to Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach) on Maui to see the massive sea turtles; and a drive along the North Shore and down the east side of Oahu to see the magnificant lush green landscapes!

“Hawaii is one of our favorite places we have traveled. It has it all! Sun, beach, mountains, snorkleing, whales and turtles! There is something for everyone to do in Hawaii!

I have been asked if Hawaii is worth the very long plane trip....yes, of course it is! The weather is almost perfect; Hawaii is in the United States so it supports U.S. travel; the culture is amazing; the sea turtles, whales and fish are worth the trip alone; and there are beaches everywhere! I recommend going for more than seven nights due to the travel expense and distance, so if you can afford a 10 to 14 day trip, it is definitely more relaxing.

Another top question...should go see the usual tourist attractions? Yes, of course you should! Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Dole Plantation, and the North Shore on Oahu are all attractions you cannot miss! I have been to all of them more than once! We don't like busy cities so I wouln't recommend staying on Waikiki Beach. Waikiki is something to see but definitely not a location to relax! Very busy and big city. We stay on the North Shore at Turtle Bay. It is about a 30 to 40 minute drive to Waikiki Beach but worth the drive to avoid the big city and traffic! Hanauma Bay is worth the visit but the parking is limited so go early!

Maui is my favorite island...beautiful beaches, snorkeling, whales and green lush landscape! We enjoy going out on whale wathcing trips and watching whales from the beach. The whale watching boats are not as adventuresome as the whale boats in Cabo San Lucas, but the trips are educational and give the whales the space and respect they deserve. We have done the Molokini and Turtle Town snorkel tour sailing on a catermaran. It is a must do trip! Gorgeous views, many whales and great snorkeling. Molokini is a half moon shaped island

off the coast of Maui and is a fun day trip. Kapalua Bay is a great spot to snorkel with sea turtles on Maui, which is why this beach is so popular. You an expect to see a handful of turtles when when swimming and snorkeling here. The coral reef is located right off the shore so you don't need to swim far. Maui, along the Kaanapali coast, can be very busy. From Lahaina to Kaanapali can be bumper to bumper traffic. We try to avoid that area during prime time hours and we also prefer to stay in the Wailea area renting a a condo from VRBO. There are plenty of areas on Maui where humpback whales can frequently be seen from the shore during whale season. The scenic McGregor Point lookout west of Maalaea and the beaches of Kaanapali, Kihei and Wailea are also great spots to see whales.

Kaui is a gorgeous laid back island with a more natural feel. You won't find big tourist attractions or bumper to bumer city traffic! Snorkeling is good. We snorkeled with the huge sea turtles. Kaui has a fantastic shoreline with snorkeling beaches and reefs off Kee Beach and Haena Beach Park for snorkeling. Anini Beach offers a lagoon and is great for beginning snorkelers. We did a helicoptor tour of Kaui and a boat trip around the island to see the unpopulated NaPali coast line. It was beautiful but we sailed into a thunderstorm and could see it coming for miles. They boat crew handed out puke buckets and boy did we need them. We were sick for a good portion of the boat trip! The helicopter tour was different....perfect weather with sun and no wind. It was our first helicptor tour. While I enjoyed it, I don't think I will ever do it again. I think I held my breath for most of the flight I was so nervous!

The Big Island is a place I want to visit again someday. We have not been there in many years but I remember it to be lush and green with alot to see and do. Our main reason to travel to the Big Island was to see the active volacano. The Kilauea volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is currently erupting today. When we visited, it was active but slowly flowing lava. Back 10 to 12 years ago, you could walk on the old lava out to the red/orange glowing embers. It was fascinating to see. Punalu'u Beach is a beach between Pahala and Haaleuhu with black sand made of basalt and created by laval flowing into the ocean. The beach is amazing to see! While we only stayed a few nights on the Big Island, we enjoyed it immensly and hope to return soon!


I also get asked many times, "How do you travel so often and keep it affordable?" A few tips are below:

  • For me, planning and researching is part of the excitement of the trip! Visioning is so much fun!!!

  • I plan all of my own trips and research, research, research on the internet. I utilize TripAdvisor, Frommer's, and blogs from other travelers to find the information I need for my trip. I do ALOT of reading and researching. It takes patience to plan a good affordable trip!

  • I have a budget in mind for each trip and challenge myself to stay in the budget. Depending on the location, I typically start planning and booking hotels, cars, etc., approximately 9 months out. Hotel prices usually get more expensive the closer to the trip unless you are willing to do a last minute internet deal. Car rental and airline prices also go up the closer it is to your trip. Occasionally you can get a last minute deal but something else may be more expensive and you are really not saving. I like to plan!

  • For hotels, I use, or I look for hotels with good reviews, pay when you stay, and free cancellation in advance. We look for smaller boutique hotels with good amenities and great locations.

  • We have done all-inclusive in a couple of tropical locations years and years ago but found that we do not eat and drink enough to make it worth the extra expense. We like to go off site from the hotel and experience the local cuisine and traditions. We have not done all-inclusive in the last 15 years. However, all-inclusive is wonderful if you want to stay at the resort for all meals, not rent a car, and have the hotel shuttle you to your destinations. That has worked for us in Jamaica and it was very relaxing! But I would not drive in Jamaica so all-inclusive was the smartest option! If you enjoy all-inclusive, the earlier you book the trip the lower the price. Unless you are game and are not a planner, and are willing to travel where the last minute deal is advertised. Then you could get a great all-inclusive deal!

  • If we are flying, I use the Skyscanner app to check airfare prices and I try not to buy until about 60 to 75 days out. There are times where I will by earlier if the price is super reasonable. I usually do not book on Skyscanner. It will tell me the site that is the most affordable to purchase the tickets and if it is a more well known trust site, I go directly to the site to purchase the tickets. Many times Skyscanner will take you right to the airline website. Skyscanner will search all airlines and will sort by price, times, shortest trip, etc.

  • Have a credit card that gives you miles or hotel points. We will use points for many of our trips. We are American Advantage members and have an Advantage credit card. We try to fly American as often as we can to earn points and then use those points for future airline tickets. Our credit card is tied to our Advantage numbers and awards points as well.

  • We drive if the location is in the United States and we can drive and sightsee along the way. If we need to rent a car, we reserve online using,, or They are usually the most reasonable. I watch for specials and never book a luxury vehicle! We also have a credit card with a low limit that we use for vehicle rentals that provides insurance as a credit card benefit. We always decline the insurance when we are in the United States. If we are traveling out of the United States, we check with the credit card if the insurance is valid internationally. We have found it is valid in Europe, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, but in other locations, we are forced to purchase the liability insurance from the rental car company.

  • While there are free maps online for most destinations, I always go onto Amazon and buy a map of my destination, especially if it is international. I do not buy maps for tropical Caribbean islands. I just get one when we arrive. But for countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, England, Canada, Germany, France, etc., I always purchase a good map. As you do you research, you can use the map to highlight the places you want to visit and the sites you want to see. I have it as a reference later for putting my memories and photos into a photobook!

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