Hawaii is not an island, there are more than just one island.
Before you start planning your itinerary for your trip to Hawaii, first, you need to understand the geographic of this beautiful Hawaii county. The Hawaiian Islands have a total of eight major islands – Oahu, Big Island of Hawaii, Kauai, Mokolai, Maui, Lanai, Kahoolawe & Niihau.
Getting to know Hawaiian Islands
All international flights to Hawaii should be land on Oahu Island – Honolulu, it’s the start of all Hawaii adventure and also consider as one of the most touristy island.
Day 1 – Kuala Lumpur >>> Honolulu
Landed in Honolulu Airport, you may start wondering your transport to the city, there are several airport transfer service you may use, but if you walk out from the airport, keep looking for the staff in yellow uniform and you will find yourself with Roberts Hawaii Express Shuttle. One way from Honolulu Airport to Waikiki cost $16 per person, you can either pay on the spot or book in advance at their website here: www.robertshawaii.com
Where to stay in Honolulu?
Well, Waikiki has the most hotels & resorts, but of course the price is not really an affordable price, my advice would be to search on Airbnb, be sure to always check the location, as Waikiki is quite big.
Spending my first night at Waikiki, I walked along the ‘movie scenic’ beach overseeing spectacular sunset. Along Waikiki beach, there are shopping malls and a lot of restaurants. If you’re looking for cheap foods, you may check out Waikiki Shopping Plaza’s food court.
Day 2 – Honolulu >>> Kona (Big Island)
It took me a very long time to decide, whether I should spend my time in Big Island or should I visit Kauai & Maui, but I eventually chose Big Island, not because Kauai & Maui are not worth visiting, is just because due to the limited time I have in Hawaii, I can only pick one of them. The final decision to Big Island simply because of Hawaii National Volcano Park is a place where I won’t be able to see in any other countries.
Taking a flight from Honolulu to Kona will be the most convenient way, the journey took about an hour and flight fares are around RM400-500 one way.
Renting a car is the best way to travel the Big Island.
In Big Island, public transportation is not as convenient as Oahu, hence renting a car will be the best and probably the most amazing thing to do in Big Island of Hawaii! But in order to drive in Hawaii, you’re required to present an International Driving License and also your home country driving license, also to make sure your home country driving license is still valid and not expired before the end of your car rental.
I booked my rental car through discounthawaiicarrental.com, total price for a 4.5 days car rental cost about $280.
Where to stay in Kona?
The place we stayed is Paniolo Greens Resort, a very nice resort overseeing Mauna Kea, it’s not close to the center of Kona, but the reason why I chose to stay at this resort is because of Mauna Kea, it’s in between Kona city center & Mauna Kea, hence we spent 2 nights here. Very big room and just nice to accommodate 5 of us with 2 rooms and 1 sofa bed, there is a kitchen too and car park is provided for free. The price is around RM 1,371 ($342.55) for 2 nights stay up to 6 people.
Manta Ray Night Dive
I’ve been planning for the Manta Ray Night Dive ever since I planned to go to Kona in Big Island, although I don’t get to see a lot of Manta Ray, but it was a very good experience. I booked the tour through Hawaii Discount website, it cost about $82 per person and I went with Hang Loose Boat Tour.
Enjoy a sunset cruise along the Big Island’s Kona Coast plus the opportunity to snorkel and see manta rays up close, it was a great deal with Snorkel, Fins, Mask, Snacks & Wetsuit (top) included. If you don’t want to get wet or dive, you may ride along for the price of $75 per person (which I think it’s not that worth it because you can’t really see the Mantas from the boat).
So we reached the Honokohau Marina North Boat Ramp at around 4pm, have a rest in the restaurant and checked-in at Hang Loose Boat Tour office around 4.30pm, the boat departs at 5pm right after everyone got their equipment. The tour took around 2 hours, and you get to dive for about an hour, basically anyone can swim or can’t swim can do the tour because most of the time you will be holding a floating board and Manta Rays will swim up close to you as they eat the plankton around the flash lights.
Day 3 – Waipio Valley Lookout – Mauna Kea
Wake up in the morning, get our breakfast cooked in the resort and we headed off to Waipio Valley. The journey from Paniolo Greens Resort to Waipio Valley Lookout is about an hour drive. You will passby Waimea Village on the way to Waipio Valley.
It’s a very beautiful valley when you’re at the lookout, and if you wanna get close to the valley, you will have to trek for about 10km, but if you have a 4WD vehicle, you may drive into the valley. I didn’t get to go in the valley during my trip because we are short of time, but there is a very beautiful huge waterfall inside the valley, a must-visit if you extra time to spare.
Moving on to the station Mauna Kea, you will passby Waimea Village again, stop here for a lunch break as it takes about 2 hours drive to Mauna Kea tourist information center. Be there early and drive up to the summit so that you can enjoy spectacular sunset views! And be sure to bring your jackets on as the temperature may drop drastically right after the sunset.
Amazing sunset all the way to the summit.
- Fuel up full tank before you go up to Mauna Kea or if you planning to drive to the summit.
- Be early and get more information from the tourist center.
- You will need a 4WD to drive to the summit.
Day 4 – Kona >>> Volcano National Park
Today, we wake up early in the morning, waiting to get to the highlight of the trip I would say – Volcano National Park. It was a long drive from Kona to Volcano National Park, about 2 hours journey. Suggest to visit this volcano park with a car as the park is really really really huge, you couldn’t imagine how huge it is, but in order to complete the Crater Rim Drive road, you will need a 45 minutes drive one way.
Also if you drive a car, you may save on the entrance fee because it only cost $25 per vehicle and you can drive in with 5 persons.
ENTRANCE FEES – Effective June 1, 2018
$25.00 per private non-commercial vehicle (capacity 15 or less) – 7 days
$12.00 per pedestrian or bicycle – 7 days
$20.00 per motorcycle – 7 days
$50.00 Hawai‘i Tri-park Annual Pass
Where to stay in Hawaii Volcano National Park?
There are 3 options if you wanna stay at Hawaii Volcano House, it’s either a Luxury Hotel Room, Cabin house or Camp. Luxury Hotel Room cost $300 per night for a double room, Cabin house cost $80 per night for a cabin house for 4 persons and last but not least, camp tent cost $15 per night for the site rental and $40 per night (for each tent, up to 2 tents) for the equipment rental and set-up.
So, my choice of course would be the Cabin house, the pain is there’s no attached bathroom, and you need to use the public bathroom with only 3 cubicles and 1 shower area (not really a room, but with a curtain close only), the good thing is, since it’s quite cold around the area, people don’t really shower that much so there’s no queue in the bathroom.
Due to the recent eruption, the park is closed until further notice, you may want to check the update here if you plan a visit: Hawaii Volcano National Park
Day 5 – Volcano Park >> Hilo >> Kalapana Lava Viewing
Checking out of Hawaii National Volcano Park, we shift to stay in Hilo town for next day flight back to Honolulu. Hilo town is much more happening than Kona but the most amazing activity I’ve ever done is Kalapana Lava Viewing. It’s about 30 minutes drive to Kalapana Lava Viewing entrance, I’ve checked online that people always said it open after 5pm but that’s not the case, we went at 2pm and the place isn’t really guarded or closed.
So we approached one of the bicycle stalls and parked our car, we were told by a lady earlier to not get the bicycle and walk in instead, after a short talk with the stall, we decided to take a car ride which cost $15 per person for a return. The car ride won’t take you to the lava viewing place, but rather than walking a 10km road to the viewing place, the car drop us at point B which is about 5km away from the ocean viewing place.
We were surprised to see there are actually houses along the lava delta road, people do lives in here.
And after a long walk, you’re now at the point where the road path ended and you have to start trek on the lava delta to look for lava flow. There’s no right or wrong direction but you just have to keep trekking and keep walking until you see them.
Lava Flow Viewing by foot, by boat or by helicopter?
If you’re physically strong enough to trek the lava delta, is a MUST-DO! You can get up close to the lava flow and really feel the heat. But if you can’t do the trek, by boat or by helicopter can be an alternative but of course it may be affected by the weather.
Where to stay in Hilo?
I booked a two bedroom suite at Arnott’s Lodge & Hiking Adventures for $175 for one night, it’s a very small hostel but with all the amenities you need. It is also very near to the restaurant and airport which is a good base for people who wanna explore Hilo or Hawaii Volcano National Park, it’s about 45 minutes drive.
Day 6 – Hilo >>> Oahu, Honolulu (North Shore)
We went to Hawaii Skydive Drop zone to make a booking for our next day skydive, it’s nearby North Shore. I can’t believe skydiving in Hawaii can be much cheaper as compare to skydiving in Australia, it cost only $160 for a regular tandem jump 8,000-10,000ft, about 15-20 secs freefall and a video+photo package for another $199. Definitely a great first jump of my life!
Where else to visit when you’re in North Shore – Haleiwa Town. It’s a small town and about 40 minutes drive from Waikiki, but worth to spend a little time here for lunch or tea.
Day 7 – Ka’ena Point State Park (North Shore), Kailua Beach (Lanikai)
After our morning skydive, we drove north to Ka’ena point, the place where I saw it while I’m on the plane for my skydive drop zone. Too bad we only have 1 hour to spend here otherwise I believe it will be another great trail to trek.
Next – Kailua Beach in Lanikai, a must visit for those who love blue ocean. And if you wanna have a really great view of whole Lanikai, you should hike up to Lanikai Pillbox. It’s not a tough hike, about 30minutes to the top. And you may enjoy an evening swim at Kailua beach after the hike.
Day 8 – (Kokohead Crater), Honolulu >>> Kuala Lumpur
Waking up at 5am in the morning and headed to Kokohead Crater as we were attracted by the superb view and the sunrise photos we found online. Bring a torch light if you plan to hike Kokohead Crater for sunrise, you have to do it early, because it’s a really tough hike! I would rate it 4/5 with the very steep stairs.
But the reward is….an amazing view like this.
We started our hike at 6am and reach the top at about 7.45am – 8am, I almost gave up half way and I’m not joking, even veteran that hike together with me, say it’s really tough. And soldiers came here every morning to practice.
After the hike, we went back to our airbnb apartment to shower and pack our stuffs, it was a great morning exercise and it was also a great way to kiss goodbye Hawaii. To sums up my 8 days in Hawaii itinerary, I would say it’s a fruitful one although I can’t make it to Maui or Kauai or Molokai, definitely should plan another trip back in this county!
Do drop a message if you have any question regarding Hawaii or how to plan your itinerary, I will reply and provide as much information as I can. Aloha~~