HAWAII TRAVEL GUIDE -DECEMBER 2020
Hello loves! It's been a while since my last blog post, but the last couple months of 2020 have been nothing short of busy. In the month of December, I travelled to Miami for a week and worked from home, New York City for a weekend and finally ended the year with 10 day holiday to the Hawaiian Islands, and it was absolutely breathtaking. While we did travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were strict measures in place so I'm listing all the FAQ I've been getting about traveling to Hawaii right now at the end of this post!
We arrived in Honolulu from Boston after our long 14 hour flight, and then boarded our connecting flight to the island of Maui. Renting a car in Maui is super important as you will literally need it for EVERYTHING! We picked up rental and headed to our AIRBNB.
We stayed in the Lahaina region of the island, it was closer to all the shops, and dining. It is also where majority of the hotels are located but found ourselves driving at least an hour each day for adventures which we didn't mind. Our Airbnb was perfect, it was called Noelani Condominium Resort It was absolutely beautiful, spacious, stunning balcony with ocean views. The property is on the west and we saw beautiful sunsets daily. The sound of the waves can be heard throughout the day which was so calming. They also had two pools and a hot tub which we took advantage of every night. We would rate it 10/10 for sure.
THINGS TO DO
There are so many things to do in the island of Maui, we stayed for 5 days and still had plenty of things we could've done if we stayed longer. One of my favorite things to do was watching the sunset from the beach, I honestly get so emotional and mesmerized by sunsets. I think they are a great reminder no matter the circumstance, each day can end beautfully. So certainly be sure to catch the sunset from the west side of the island.
Black Sand Beach
This beach is about 2.5 hour drive through the Rainforest via Highway-360 which consists of narrow road full of twists and turns, so beware while driving but enjoy the stunning views. There were so many waterfalls on the way, where people would stop by for a quick dip or pictures. Along the way we also saw a lot of local street vendors selling coconut water, juices fruits etc. so be sure to carry cash. The beach itself was absolutely gorgeous with beautiful turquoise water. I do recommend bringing water shoes as the black sand/rocks can be a bit painful on the feet.
The twin waterfalls was a very easy ~30 minute hike. There there are two trails to choose from, the longer trails leads to the twin waterfalls, the shorter trails leads to a smaller waterfalls (pictured above). We are glad we did both the hikes because each of the waterfalls were so unique. The smaller waterfall had ropes for the brave souls to jump off. The water was SUPER cold but on a sunny day once you're in, it feels great. The twin waterfalls was equally beautiful. There is a small food truck selling fresh pineapple, and coconut water at the entrance of twin falls which was refreshing after the swim.
SNORKELING TO MOLOKINI CRATER
There are a lot of snorkeling tours from the Marina area to the Molokini Crater, abroad a Catamaran. We chose ours from Viator (~$100) and it included breakfast, lunch and snorkeling gear. This particular cruise departed at ~7AM in the morning which was great, because we were back by noon and beat the major heat. The breakfast was a muffin and yogurt. Lunch consisted of salad and on our way back we were served alcoholic drinks for ~$6. The snorkeling experience itself was absolutely magical, we saw a lot of different species of fish, lots of reefs and they had all the safety measures in place which was great.
Ali'i'Kula Lavender Fields are located in the Kula region of Maui near the mountains. There is a botanical garden here that you can visit for entry fee of ~$3. The views from these fields were so mesmerizing, beautiful mountain landscape overlooking the ocean. It makes for a perfect picnic spot to chill in the afternoon and of course an amazing photo backdrop :) It is also very close to Haleakala National Park which is also next on my list and a MUST SEE.
HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK
This national park is a place that can't be missed. The dormant volcanic landscape offers some of the best views that you probably don't get to see at other national parks. You can drive all the up to the summit to see the crater or park your car and hike up along the trails. The most popular thing to do at Haleakala is to watch the sunrise from the summit. The visit to see the sunrise are by reservations only and book up well in advance so I recommend looking into that early. However, you don't need a reservation for afternoons or sunsets. We could not get a sunrise reservation so we went during the day and again, the views from this ~10,0000 ft altitude are so surreal. We could see the clouds at eye-level, truly a 'top of the world' feeling. Be sure to bring a jacket because we didn't and were freezing even during the afternoon.
After five wonderful days in Maui, we headed back to the main island of Oahu (Honolulu) to celebrate New Years. The Honolulu city itself felt a bit crowded especially after arriving from the quiet and calm island of Maui. It is definitely more urban especially the Waikiki beach area where all the major hotel and tourists hot spots are located. Majority of the restaurants on Waikiki beach were open with limited hours, so we never had a problem dining out.
If you want to be close to the restaurants, bar area I recommend staying in Waikiki, however, if you want more of a quiet, relaxing vibe, I'd say look into other alternatives on the island of Oahu to avoid the city rush. We stayed on Waikiki Beach however, in retrospect, I would've preferred staying in a remote place, to truly feel the island vibes.
THINGS TO DO
We were in Oahu for shorter duration however we still were able to see some of the popular sights.
HO'OMALUHIA BOTANICAL GARDEN
Okay this gorgeous entry way to the botanical gardens makes for a perfect instagram photo, the only catch? There is no photograph allowed. This road is shared with pedestrians and cars so it's nearly impossible to get the road to yourself. Also, the park ranger and security contstanly drive around specifically asking people who are dressed nice to not take any pictures, EVEN when you are walking. It thought it was absurd, but I guess they probably have many people stopping to take pictures which causes traffic. To get the picture above, we went there bright and early in the morning and stopped for literally 2 mins to snap this shot with my iPhone before getting yelled at for stopping to take pics LOL.
But if you don't care for the perfect instagram picture here, drive along the way and you will reach the visitor center to enter the gardens (free of cost) The views from this place and mountains with ridges are truly a sight to see. There is a lake inside the garden which swans and lots of colorful fish. The road is about ~5 miles long with stops along the way to stop. After you pass the entry way there no photography restrictions. I highly recommend checking out this unique garden when in Oahu.
THE BYODO-IN TEMPLE
This Buddhist temple is one the most beautiful temples I have ever seen. It was located in the middle of the mountains with lots of animal sand birds chirping around which made it so peaceful and calming. They even have a meditation area in the back where you can hear the waterfalls which is absolutely magical. The entry for this temple is $5 and definitely worth the visit to start off your day.
Okay you guys, this beach had the most GORGEOUS blue and turquoise water with white sand. This was about ~40 minutes drive from Honolulu located on the other side of the island. There were so many coral reefs right off the shore and it made for a perfect place for snorkeling.
One of the things to do in Hawaii are definitely seeing a LUAU. We attended Chief's Luau which was around $140 pp which included food and two alcoholic drinks. The food could've been better but we anticipated that and ate before we arrived. The performance and show however, were absolutely spectacular. It was 1.5 hrs of dance performances, songs, and incredible fire shows. This Luau is specifically located in a water park so the backdrop and ambience made it that much better. Definitely worth watching at least once when in Hawaii.
There were a lot of hikes that we did thought the trip that I didn't capture but Hawaiian islands are all about adventures and being outdoors so pack lot of bathing suits, athleisure and sunscreen and you will have an incredible time (even during these unprecedented times).
Hope you found this helpful! Please DM me on instagram if you have any questions!
SHOP THE POST
COVID-19 Logistics: Unlike my travels to Miami, and NYC in December, Hawaii had stricter guidelines in place. Firstly, Hawaii requires all travelers to produce a negative covid test (PCR based) within 72 hours (3 days) of your departure date. Secondly, the COVID test has to be conducted at a trusted healthcare partner. We used AFC Urgent care as they offer COVID tests for travel, the cost was $200 per person. The results are typically released within 1-2 days, however it is VERY crucial that you get your results BEFORE boarding your flight to Hawaii AND upload it to their website or they will not be accepted at the airport. Lastly, unlike any other state, YES, the government officials check for a negative COVID test at the airport as you arrive before exiting the airport. More information here
One important thing to note here is if you are planning to travel between the islands, you will need a negative COVID test as well. For example, if you arrive at Honolulu with a negative test, stay in Honolulu for 3-4 days and decide to visit any other island, you will need a separate negative COVID test since the first test is no longer valid since it's been more than 72 hours. We did not know this however, luckily, our itinerary was planned as such that we did not need a negative test again. Once we landed in Honolulu, we had to show negative test then, we immediately had a connecting flight to Maui. Once we arrived at the island of Maui, they checked for our COVID test again so we were able to use the same test. After spending few days in Maui, we decided to go back to Oahu (Honolulu) however to go back to the main land (Oahu) you DO NOT need a COVID test. However, from Maui, if you wanted to travel to any other islands, you DO need to produce a new negative test. Hope this information helps! Feel free to DM me on instagram for more information :) It seems like a hassle, but once you are there, the sights are truly magical and worth it.