For years, I saved up points on my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card and was teetering at close to $3500 in points. Those points, coupled with an intense few years between work, grad school, and running a photography business, had me itching to travel. And the incessant twitching in my eye was probably a sign I needed a break.
And so, Keith and I were on our way to two weeks in Hawai’i, one week in Maui and one week on the Big Island.
We secured a rental car through each island and tried out Turo, which is like Airbnb but for cars. And we then booked rooms through Chase Sapphire points or Airbnb and stayed with friends and family.
We enjoyed our itinerary as it gave us a couple of days in each area to explore and adventure without feeling too rushed. Here’s a quick rundown of two weeks in Hawai’i:
Day 1: Travel San Jose to Maui. Stay in Kihei.
Day 2: Stay in Kihei. We snorkeled at Honolua Bay for loads of tropical fish and sea turtles.
Day 3: Stay in Kihei. Snorkeled at Mokapu Bay. We saw a rare, endangered monk seal on the beach.
Day 4: Stay in Haiku. Early morning snorkel at the spectacular reserve at Ahihi Bay. We then hiked around Iao Valley National Monument.
Day 5: Stay in Haiku. We woke up at 2:30 am to meet Maui Bike and head to Mt. Haleakala for sunrise above the clouds. Then, a long, beautiful bike ride down the mountain. Headed to secret waterfalls in the bamboo forest on the Road to Hana with my niece and her partner. One of the highlights of our trip!
Day 6: Stay in Haiku. The Road to Hana is a must-do. We skipped a lot of the small waterfalls and focused on hiking to the red sands beach and venus pools on the latter part of the road. Impromptu night trip for Milky Way photos that night.
Day 7: Stay in Hilo. Fly from Maui airport to Kona, Big Island, on small Cessna aircraft, with amazing views! Stopped at Waipi’o Valley overlook.
Day 8: Stay in Hilo. Birding on Pu’u O’O trail with Noah and Lauren. See some cuties like the super endangered Akiapola’av (honeycreeper). We checked out Rainbow Falls and then ate the best coconut gelato of my life at Nicoco’s.
Day 9: Stay in Volcano. We started the day by snorkeling at Richardson Beach before heading to Volcano. We stayed in a quaint Airbnb right outside of Volcano National Park. After an afternoon hike to the active lava, we decided to wake up at 3 am and go back for some Milky Way photos. It was surreal to stand in front of the lava at Kilauea and hear it roaring beneath the galaxies. See blog post here.
Day 10: Stay in Volcano. After our late night that turned into watching the sunrise over the coast, I needed a nap. We went back to the park for afternoon hike on Kilauea Iki Trail through the crater and then around the lush vegetation surrounding it.
Day 11: Stay in Waikoloa. We traveled from Volcano down the coast to the south picking up goodies at the most southern US bakery, Punalu’u Bake Shop. We then hiked out to Papakolea, one of only four green sand beaches in the world. If you do this, please don’t take the ride with the locals, as the erosion being caused has highly damaged the fragile ecosystem there!
Day 12: Stay in Waikoloa. We hiked out to the Lone Palm and spied the Golden Pools, landlocked bodies of water connected to the ocean with unique golden algae. Then we detoured to a locals-only hidden black sands beach in Keawaiki Bay, where we spent the afternoon swinging, snorkeling, and basking in the sun, without a soul around! We went out with Sea Paradise for a night dive with the manta rays. These 1000-pound gentle giants feed on plankton and would swim right up to you with their giant mouths open for their buffet dinners. Quite surreal.
Day 13: Stay in Waikoloa. We enjoyed one last day pretending to be fancy at the resort and one last Hawaiian sunset.
Day 14: We stocked up on mac nuts at the store and caught our flight from Kona airport back to San Jose. Until next time!