We all know about Hawaii being one of the desired destinations for honeymooners, vacationers, and beach lovers. My husband and I had been somewhat reluctant travelers to Hawaii last February. It seems that most of the people who have been to Hawaii, they love it there and very few people say Hawaii is/seems overrated and we are the latter one.
Our friends in Chicago invited us to stay with them in Big Island where they rented a beautiful house for two weeks. We decided that since we will never go to Hawaii on our own, why not go with friends who have been going there religiously for over seven years. Perhaps some of their "Hawaii love" would rub off on us. We started with the Big Island for 5 days, then visited the Island of Kauai for 4 days.
Here are things we liked about Hawaii and things we didn't like.
Liked people. All the Hawaiian people we encountered in 10 days, they all were very pleasant and relaxed, which seem to be the way of living there. That's how I've been wanting myself to be for many years but it is very difficult to do strangely. Not the pleasant part but being and staying relaxed. You can achieve relaxation for a short period by getting massages or going to the beach but i find it very hard to achieve and retain a peaceful and relaxed state-of-mind for a long period of time. Maybe I need to move to Hawaii for a while and hang out with Hawaiians!
Liked helicopter ride in Kauai by " Blue Hawaiian Helicopters". This is a must in Kauai. It's a little expensive I think but well worth it. The whole 55 minutes of the helicopter ride feels pretty surreal and dreamy. Especially when we were flying over the Na Pali Coast and a few more other spots, Jurassic Park Falls and Bali Hai Cliffs (?). It's one of those moments that you will remember forever as you float in the sky in awe of nature.
I was really looking forward to exploring some trails but the bad weather prevented us from doing it. How disappointing that was!
Didn't like the boat ride to see the lava flow on the Big Island. I didn't go, because I know how I am on boats and didn't want to get sick, but I can report via my husband... HATED IT! Even the tour guide stated that this had been the worst turbulence they had ever experienced in all of the years they had been doing this. Frankly, it bordered on reckless to go out in these conditions. The water was so rough that they hardly saw anything, but had a hell of time on the boat trying not to be thrown in the water. Several people spent the entire four hours vomiting. They talked about the horrible experience for the next 3 days.
Tips on renting a car: You don't need a 4-wheel drive. And you certainly don't need a Jeep. If you think you are going to go off-road be sure you read the fine print. First, you have to pay more. Second, and here's the twist, you are not allowed to go on off road or certain tourist destinations even with 4-wheel drive Jeeps. And if you do, you are not covered by insurance.
We found out the hard way, when we were on the way to Summit of Mauna Kea and got a flat tire in our Jeep. It was an unpaved road, but was certainly not "off-road" as you would imagine it. It was simply a flat gravel road. While we were working on the flat tire, and noticed all kinds of cars go by us. We noticed another Jeep with flat tire as it passed us, and pointed it out to them. It was a funny and somewhat ridiculous scene where two Jeeps, not more than ten feet apart, sit there with flat tires as the other regular cars were passing by us without any problems. The even more frustrating thing about this ordeal is that when we got the flat tire, we were actually on the way down after having to turn around when the Jeep sounded a warning that there was no oil. As it turns out, you couldn't even be a slight angle in this vehicle because the oil in the pan shifts to one end, giving it the impression it is empty. If A jeep can't do that, not sure what good it is. Needles to say, we never made to the top of Summit of Mauna.
Didn't like the food too much. When I go to a new place, I'm always eager to try things that I've never tried before or locals favorite hangouts, rather than eating at a hotel where you are staying at or searching out for what's familiar to you. That's one of the benefits of traveling that I look forward. If I don't have a good eating experience where I go, the whole trip feels less than satisfactory. Since there is a huge Japanese population in Hawaii, I was expecting some authentic Japanese food that I love. But I couldn't find it anywhere. Even ones that were recommended by the locals weren't that great which surprised me. But there are two places that I can recommend with ease.
The First one is "Rapanui Island Cafe" in Kona Big island. Some say it's a Indonesian, or Hawaiian island food. The most accurate description would be Thai food with a New Zealand twist since the owner is from New Zealand. The place is tucked in all the way in the back of a small strip mall.
I wasn't sure about the ambience when I arrived because the place is tiny and a little dark but if you sit outside, you can even say that it's kind of cozy setting. It always has been food first and ambience second for me, so if the meal is great, it doesn't matter too much as long as the place is clean.
One of the most popular items at Rapanui is Paw Paw Chicken. The Satai combination plate was pretty yummy and you can tell that the ingredients they use are very fresh. It's one of those places that you wish you had near your home, so you can go there two, three times a week and try every dish on the menu!
75-5701 Alii Dr.
Kailua Kona, HI
The second one is "Coco Cafe" in Kauai. The food category is "international" I should say. The 80% of the sitting area is outdoor in the back yard. It has a little stage with random collection of assorted chairs and tables. It felt very delicate as if a strong wind gust would blow away the whole place within minutes. But again the most important thing is food. The popular items here seem to be Tofu Potstickers, Samosa with Chutney, Ahi Nori Wrap, Seafood Gumbo.
We were there for lunch but i can see that the place could be a fun and cozy place in the evening with the music and more crowd. But watch out for the mosquitos!!! The owners know about the mosquito problems but they didn't seem to care or improve the situation. They moved to Hawaii to live a quiet and laid-back life and that surly shows in how they are running their business especially on the laid-back side.
In short, the majestic volcano, water falls, infinite lava fields... were awesome but wasn't a unique experience as I wanted it to be. Maybe because I didn't have enough good meals? That would have definitely helped.
Aloha Hawaii! It was lovely to see you but won't be retuning again soon.