Volcanoes, Beaches and Jet-Set in Maui

We arrived in Maui after a short 45 minute flight and picked up another Avis car again. We got a non-American car this time. Frist impression of Maui: Hot hot hot! Our plan for the next and last week in Hawaii was to spend the first two days in different locations to drive to far far away Hana (well, it is actually only about 80 miles but yeah, far for this tiny island) and then the following 5 days at one location for day tripping on shorter resized_IMG_4682distances again. We spent the first evening in a home stay more on the country side and only had to share the place with two other guest. One Indian guy who couldn’t even say “hi” and a very odd old lady with drug and alcohol addiction. She told us weird stories about her not being able to stay at her house anymore due to a court decision, supremacies about MH370 flight that “hijacked by ISIS and the plane being hidden somewhere to be used to attack America in the future…” we guess she was hallucinating. In the morning she called Yinru in panic while we were having breakfast and asked her to get ice cubes to take medication. We wonder what the government can do to help people like her, although it is none of our business actually.

We left the place early in the morning to drive all the way on the Road to Hana to theresized_IMG_4655 eastern tip of Maui. The scenic drive lead us through lush rainforests with uncountable one lane bridges, waterfalls and, of course, tons of tourists. We took breaks for a few hours to either hike not very spectacular rainforest trails, cool down by swimming in one of the rivers (which was wonderfully refreshing) or to have lunch at Bradda Hutts BBQ place (a local food truck serving classics from the grill accompanied by famous mac and cheese salads). Since we pre-booked our night at Joe’s place there was no hassle about finding a bed this night. We have to say Maui is horribly expensive comparatively to Oahu or Kauai. Our place was by far the cheapest for 50 USD a night. Prices for accommodation in Maui usually start at a rate of 200 USD per night for a decent hotel which is the reason why we booked an Airbnb for the next five nights (which was still 100 USD a night).

The next day we planned to drive all the way back to the center of Maui…so so impressed with what we hresized_IMG_4793ave seen (the road to Hana was beautiful but not as spectacular as we expected – ok, we might be spoilt from other islands but hey, in Samoa it looked like that everywhere) we went to visit another state park. Luckily we did! It was the most beautiful and special black sand beach we have ever seen. The lava formations and especially the truly black sand (which is, unsurprisingly, very very hot) where a true jaw dropper. We both had a refreshing bath in a small cave nearby before heading back to civilization and finding a proper seafood lunch at Pai’a. Half an hour drive to the south in Kihei was where we would stay for the rest of our time in Maui…if we would ever find it. After having some troubles and not being able to call anyone we found our host Garret. He and his Polish fiancé Ewa warmly welcomed us to their apartment. After a brief welcome we wanted to resized_IMG_4806attend a local Hula performance at sunset on the beach but unfortunately it has been rained out by bad weather and was cancelled. We ended up enjoying the sunset on another beach further north. What sounds weird is reality on those islands (it was the same for Oahu and Kauai): all these islands have very distinctive micro climates. So it is possible to have one place raining the entire day while a 30mins drive away there’s plenty of sunshine. This is one of the reasons why Hawaiis’ landscape is so amazing to drive through. One can literally see dessert, savannah and rainforest within one day here.

The next few days were spent discovering some of Maui’s uncountable beautiful beaches and it’s tempting turquoise waters. We spent hours snorkeling in various places observing thousands of colorful fish and swam with dozens of, sometimes huge, green sea turtles. Our stay with two locals also gave us the opportunity to gain some insights in how life’s like here in Maui. We expected the aloha-spirit to be a bit more relaxing than what we know from Singapore or Switzerland but not that laid back. Rush hour on the streets was usually around 4pm. Our hosts (well one of them was unemployed) left home for work around 9am and was back by 3pm. How laid back is that?

While beaching wouldn’t fully resized_IMG_5263entertain us every day (maybe we are just the type of hyper active travelers that cannot just settle for a week in an all-inclusive hotel) we added some contrast to our program. The visit and short hikes in Iao Valley, a place on west Maui where rainfall is abundant and lush rainforest dominates the scene was  rather unspectacular again. Our afternoon trip the Haleakala National Park and Mauis’ highest peak, the crater summit at an altitude of over 10’000 ft (3’055m) was a unique experience. As on all other island with high peaks moisture usually gets stuck on either side of the mountain creating clouds and lots of rainfall. Since the summit was higher than the inversion weather layer once weresized_IMG_5275 2 reached the very top we were indeed above the clouds. Temperatures plummeted well down to about 15 degrees and the winds were biting. Luckily we had some appropriate attire from New Zealand with us, but wow, we were wondering how all those ladies up there with their hotpants and goosebumps all over the body must have felt…brrr. We stayed at the summit for a while and witnessed a magical sun diving into a sea of clouds at sunset. Around 45mins later an endless sky of millions of clearly visible stars opened up on our way back home around 9pm.

Maui has beautiful beaches and landscape to offer, besides some really good food too. We had lots of seafood (is there anywhere better to get seafood?) throughout our trip. We tried Cajun fish at Paia fish market, coconut shrimp at Coconut restaurant etc. Even Poke (raw fish with marinade) from supermarket were really good. One highlight dish was hot and spicy shrimp from Geste food truck. It was just a very ordinary food truck parked at road side that serves extraordinary shrimps. As our travel guides suggests, it is “to die for”. Yinru also met her old friend, Judy whom she has not met since Taiwan in 2010. It was a good reunion and we would probably meet again in LA in July.

We have been asked numerous times which of the Hawaiian Islands we like most. Well we have to disappoint you and tell you that we can’t choose one because we like all of them (diplomatic but true). Every island has its own characteristic so it is really hard to pick our favorite island. Oahu has the city vibe, glamour and welcomed us for the very first time. Kauai is more laid back and family oriented scoring with untouched nature while Maui offered a mix of both with impressive sights of the remnants of the creators of all the islands: volcanoes. We left Hawaii with mixed feelings: sad having to leave, happy having created all the memories and knowing that there’s a huge road trip coming up in the west of mainland US for the next, and last chapter of this trip, six weeks. Luckily we made one big mistake while planning our trip to Hawaii: we didn’t visit Big Island – which means: We’ll have to come back one day J until then: Mahalo and Aloha Hawaii.resized_IMG_4823

Kauai, Hawaii’s garden island

The flight to Kauai was looong: about 45minutes. The scheduled flight spent longer time taxing and boarding than actually flying in the air (20mins). We were not seated together so that we had some privacy (Hawaiian Airlines thought so apparently). Yinru spent some time playing candy crush and Roman was busy talking to a blondie sitting next to him. I bet he bribed Hawaiian Airlines to make such seat arrangement…

After arriving at Kauai Airport we were taken by car rental shuttle to collect our car for the following 7days. We had to queue up for one hour to get our car! We got a very American rental car Buick. (mumbles… who would buy that other then Americans? You rarely see it in Europe or Asia at least). As usual the car rental tried to sell us all insurances possible but we did not fall for it. We have Allianz Travel Insurance anyways (really a good product, and we are not saying that because Roman works for them).

Kauai is a little bit easier to explore than Oahu – it is smaller, more laid back and does not have so many streets. You basically have to know to go left or right and then you resized_IMG_4275are on the right track! We chose to stay at Kapa’a for our entire stay because it is sort of located in the middle of the one and only loop highway around the island which makes it strategic to explore the whole island. We arrived at our Hostel which is managed by the owners family who also lives on the same compound. The hostel was pretty much made up of a dated building from the 60s in classical American wooden and another house which is built after the hurricane in 1992. The houses look fragile but cozy and family style. Many of the houses in Kauai survived the major hurricanes in 1982 and 1992, but some did not. Kapa’a was a historic town itself as it has several old buildings which survived the hurricanes. The owner jokingly said the buildings built back then were more solid because they used more cement and materials than needed as they have just experienced hurricane prior to building the buildings. Well we don’t know if that is true, but one thing we know is that if hurricane hits during our visit, we should stay in this top solid 60s building!

Our first day trip in Kauai was to explore the north shore of Kauai. We stopped at a lookout point which overlookresized_IMG_4386ed the valley and the traditional taro plantations the Polynesians once brought to this islands. Then came an old hippie lady (in her 60s maybe) who asked us if we smoke weed. After rejecting her weed offer, she came to us 5minutes later to ask for a lift. As kind as we were, of course we did (hoping that she would offer some free weed and smoking it in the car). It is not difficult to understand why Kauai is called the garden island, along the way there was just beautiful garden island scenery with lots of hills, mountains and greens everywhere (although this is only true for one side of the island which enjoys rainfall – the south west is dry and almost deserts like. At the north shore we got to see how locals enjoy their weekend at the beach with bbq grill, floating plastic castles for the kids and heaps of food: pizzas, chips, ice cream, steaks… Oh boy one had a full box of different chips and Yinru was so jealous! As we were in the resized_IMG_4148neighborhood already we decided to do a detour to the Na Pali Coast even though the weather was bad. No wonder, being one of wettest places on earth with annual rainfall of 12m (10x the amount of where we live in Switzerland), Na Pali coast just has lots of rain. We wanted to check out the condition to hike. When we were there we saw many hikers who came back from their hike looking muddy and completely soaked from the rain. We were quite unsure if we should do it just in case if it rains during the hike it could be very dangerous as it becomes slippery and flash floods could occur. But we will see…

Having explored the northern part from Kapa’a seen, on Sunday we decided to do the resized_IMG_4177other direction, the southern part of the island. We gave some Canadian girls a lift to a beach and we were quite surprised by how “influent” their English is. In Quebec, Canada, French is spoken and English is rather a foreign language for them. After dropping the ladies off, we visited Lawai International Center. It offered some interesting insights into Japanese/Buddhist beliefs and the spiritual place. Some of the volunteers there were Christians or of other beliefs, but they all worked hard together to keep this placresized_IMG_4217e alive and even spent one whole year building a temple there. If only everyone in this world puts their differences aside and work for the better of the world, our planet would be a much lovelier place. We chilled out at Poi’pu beach afterwards. This place was so sunny whilst the other part of the island were just cloudy. We saw a turtle just at beach feeding and a monk seal drying on the shore.

Being a Swiss, Roman has a habit of checking the weather. Sometimes it is good that we can plan our activities accordingly but sometimes Yinru would like to be more spontaneous. In Kauai Roman’s habit has proved to be a good one once again. On resized_IMG_4306Monday when the weather was bad it was a day for laundry, some shopping and short visit to soso spectacular waterfalls. We decided to keep the exciting Na Pali Coast hike for Tuesday, when the weather was forecasted to be good. The wait for good weather was worth it. The weather conditions were perfect (though hot) to hike at Na Pali coast. We arrived at the park and had difficulties to find a free parking spot around 10am. There were so many people there to either hike or to visit the Ke’e beach! After finally parking our car at some odd but legal spot, we started to hike along this rugged and beautiful coastline. The target: a hike to waterfalls that is 8 Mile return (about 13km). That was one of the most challenging hike ever due to the trail setting that cuts through rough jungle with numerous stream crossings. For the last half a mile we literally had to half climb. The view at waterfalls was rewarding. We had a refreshing bath at these gigantic, over 100m tall falls. It was a resized_IMG_4383tough but worthy hike, especially when you are constantly entertained by good (butt) views as some teenies were hiking in underwear. Well, why not? The hike cost us our last energy on the way back in the evening sun. In total we spent more than 5hrs walking, crawling and climbing covering over 13km and 800m in height.

Our last two days on Kauai were well spent. We had a day trip to Waimea Canyon, which is also known as the Grand Canyon of pacific and a famous movie scene from Jurassic Parc. The Canyon offers stunning views in all colors. We had to stop multiresized_IMG_4416ple times on the way simply because it was so beautiful. However we were not so lucky with the view on Na Pali coast from this side of the island. The view at lookouts on 4’000ft coastal viewpoints were all covered in clouds. Well maybe next time we will come back again when the clouds are nicer to us. Our last day on Kauai was spent on beach on north shore. We had a snorkeling day at tunnels beach with one of the highlights of the trip: snorkeling with dozens of turtles! We felt like we won the lottery when we saw so many turtles while snorkeling! They were feeding on the planets between the rocks and were not shy when human swam a little closer.

After spending one week on Kauai, we are heading to the next island, Maui. The airport at Kauai was not worth mentioning at all other than their chaotic, inefficient check-in process… Kauai had been really nice to us. Let’s stay tuned and see what the next island, Maui has to offer!DCIM100GOPRO

Back to civilization: Aloha Hawai’i

Our flight to Honolulu with Fiji Airways was delayed by 4hrs. Luckily we were informed by our travel agency about the late departure in advance so we didn’t have to linger around at Faleolo Airport (with its only-3-gates infrastructure, it reminds you more of a kiosk than a proper international airport. Just a comparison: Zurich Airport has 67 Gates). When we finally boarded, everyone seated and ready to take off, the captain announced a further delay. The ground staff had to unload some cargo before we could depart because the plane exceeded its maximum take-off weight (what’s going on here eh?). Anyway, we arrived Honolulu after a smooth flight at 5 c’clock in the morning instead of midnight but we didn’t worry too resized_IMG_3721much about that: We departed Samoa on Friday night, but since we have crossed the date line during our flight, when we arrived at Hawaii it was again Friday the 22nd of May 2015 early morning so we got the entire day back J. As we sat in the cab to get to our hostel in Waikiki dawn has broken and the sky started to brighten. We didn’t bother much about the two guys sleeping in our 4-share room and went for a short nap until 9am.

Tresized_IMG_3165he next day we got up and met our room mate. He introduced himself and Roman asked immediately “are you from Germany or Switzerland?” – his name was Hans, a more common name in German speaking region. Yeap, the other side of the world and the Swiss reunited J the next few days we basically spent time around Waikiki area. This place does live up to its reputation with long beaches, big waves for lots surfers and many Asian tourists, mainly Japanese. Inresized_IMG_3740 Waikiki or Honolulu you can get Japanese food everywhere, probably even more than burgers! A hike up to the Diamond Head which allows an overview of Waikiki and Honolulu is a must when you are in Oahu. Oh boy, was the view amazing! We also explored Honolulu downtown and Chinatown, which were not that spectacular. The food in Chinatown of course did not disappoint us, but you could tell that this place used to be much busier than it is now. The Foster botanic garden near Chinatown was a highlight though. Besides some of the plants being native to Hawaii and can’t be found elsewhere on earth, this garden also houses some special orchids.

The hostel that we were staying at is called Waikiki Beachside Hostel. It was exactly what we needed: quality accommodation at affordable price at the beachfront of Waikiki. We have a little more privacy and space because it is a semi-private room built in a resized_IMG_3824dorm. It means when you enter the room, you will first see two single beds, then kitchenette and bathroom. When you walk past these two beds you will come to another room with our beds inside. So we share the kitchen and toilet with 2 other people but have our own little room at the same time, paying only a few dollars more. We would highly recommend this hostel to anyone who want some budget-but-good accommodation with the possibility to get to know some other people without feeling too much like being in a big animal stall.

As said, one of the good things about staying in hostel is meeting other interesting people. An Indian living in San Francisco stayed with us for the first three nights. Sid’s (You might not want to know his full Indian name) a very funny guy. All four of us (we, Hans and Sid) once went to dine at a famous udon noodles place. Initially Sid said he just ate so he is only getting a beer. In the end he ended with the most food on his plate. We also went snorkeling with him on self-drive day tour to Hanauma Bay. He was taking selfies every 15 minutes (ok maybe not that often), being excited as it was his “virgin snorkel”. After Sid left, a Columbian who is in his 40s came to join us. South Americans are maybe very different from us, not better or worse, just different. Rico was very hospitable and also funny in a way. Yinru once bought him a coffee and Rico was so touched that he told Roman what a wonderful girl Yinru is (it is really just a coffee, but he kept repeating how good his day is because of it). He also invited us to visit him in Columbia and he will make us a good cup of coffee. But we weren’t the only ones Rico has invited to have coffee at his hometown: As we went to have dinner together once and there was a good looking Brazilian waitresresized_IMG_3840s. Rico invited her to visit Columbia when she goes back to Brazil and that he would make a coffee for her. He also asked her to dance with us after our dinner. So random. We also spent a lot of time with Hans, visiting Pearl Harbor and North Shore together. Pearl Harbor was a touching experience, and an amazing one too when we were lucky enough to witness a military aircraft carrier, Carl Vinson, docking and all the staff lining up on the top deck of the vessel. We rented a Mustang convertible to explore the North Shoreresized_IMG_3916 together with Hans. Despite all the hassle about insurances and finding a good car hire deal for we were most amazed about American law and their issues with liability when least expected: When hiring snorkeling gear. Hans hired a set of snorkel gear (We bought our own back in New Zealand so we don’t need to), the company listed a full page of liability exclusion which had to be signed and requested a credit card imprint if anything is lost, broken or not returned. So hiring snorkel gear is more troublesome than hiring a Mustang in the USA. North Shore offered one of the nicest spots to snorkel at a place called Sharks Cove. The sharks were shy that day so unfortunately we did not see any of them but many many beautiful unique fish as well as a turtle made up for that.

One week at Oahu felt so short! Soon our first week in Hawaii came to an end. We enjoyed our first Hawaiian Aloha experience a lot, for its perfect weather, beautiful beaches and waters, and its convenience of being able to talk to people, taking a bus to everywhere and find more than one choice of what to eat or where to go (different than in Samoa). Obviously one week was rather short for what Oahu has to offer but we are both convinced that this won’t be our last visit to Hawaii. Next stop: “Garden-Island” Kauai!