I have been back from vacation for a couple weeks now and I’ve received a few questions on things to do and places to see, and most importantly, things to eat and drink in Hawaii! So, I thought I’d create an overview of our trip. I hope you can use it as a reference if you are ever planning a ten day trip to Hawaii and want to figure out a way to still get some ferments in your diet.
My must eats for the trip were: pineapple ice cream, local kombucha on tap, and local kraut. And I’m happy to report it was a success!!!
Overall, we traveled as a group of eight adults to celebrate Matt’s parents 40th wedding anniversary. The trip was actually 12 days total with two of the days being travel days. This should be a nice resource for planning a ten day trip to Hawaii, including Oahu and the Big Island (Hawaii) on your itinerary.
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Ten Days in Hawaii
Visit Pearl Harbor
Despite what might come up in Google, you do not need to book a tour to visit Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor can be visited independently and reached by city bus or renting your own car. There are three ways to get tickets to visit the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites.
- Walk in tickets: 1300 tickets are available every morning starting at 7am. During peak travel times, you may need to get in line well before that to be sure you get the amount of tickets you need.
- Advanced Purchase: If you know the date you want to visit several months ahead of time, secure your tickets well ahead of time. You’ll need to jump online exactly 60 days before your planned date and reserve the tickets at a cost of $1.50 per ticket. There are 1300 available for this option as well.
- 24 hour Advanced Purchase: You can also secure tickets one day before you visit. You’ll need to be online at 7am HST the day before you want to visit and will incur the same $1.50 charge per ticket. This is what our group did and we were able to secure the amount of tickets we needed and had our pick of times to visit.
For more information, visit the official government website.
Depending on where you are traveling from, you may be jet lagged your first few days in Hawaii. For us midwesterners, this made getting up early very easy (most of us were awake between 3:30am-5am). Consider visiting Pearl Harbor early in the day and then you can return to Honolulu to enjoy other activities as well.
Island Road Trip to North Shore
There are several different driving routes for Oahu. Do your research and chose a route that includes stops you are interested in. Be sure to have a map of the island too, as it makes planning your stops along the drive a lot easier. We ‘freestyled’ it a bit and drove up through the middle of the island to the North Shore and then made our way down the Windward Coast, eventually ending up back in Honolulu. We stopped at the Dole Pineapple Plantation, Turtle Bay Resort, Banzai Pipeline, Byodo-In Temple and a bunch of different parks and look out points. You’ll drive through some amazing villages as well and get a taste for what life may be like for natives of the island.
In retrospect, I wish we would have made a plan for exactly what we wanted to see as we could have managed our time better and possibly spent more time out of the car than in the car. We packed a picnic lunch and this worked well, as we were able to pull over when we were hungry. There is also a group of food trucks set up near Banzai Pipeline, so this would be a great idea for lunch as well. Fish tacos anyone?
Visit Dole Plantation
If renting a car, consider adding a stop at the Dole Pineapple Plantation to your itinerary. We made a quick stop here to enjoy some pineapple ice cream. It’s really good! Grab your ice cream and stroll around the nearby gardens for a bit. If you want to see more of the plantation, you’ll need to purchase tickets for the train that takes you around.
This is a beautiful stop during your island road trip. The staff is very friendly and happy to tell you about the temple and surrounding cemeteries. The Byodo-In Temple was dedicated in 1968 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. It’s getting a little face lift in 2017, so be prepared for some scaffolding if you visit this year.
You can’t visit Oahu without spending a day on Waikiki Beach! Yes, it can be crowded but we still had plenty of fun (even in high season). Depending on availability, you can rent chairs from some of the hotels but we chose to bring a beach blanket and towels. The white sand is awesome and there is plenty of room for swimming, as the surfers tend to stay out a bit further. Take some time walk the beach too, it may not look huge when you first arrive but there is plenty of walking to be done. Make sure to keep an eye out for Duke and to come back for a beautiful sunset view as well!
Diamond Head offers amazing views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean! The awesome part is, you can actually reach the base of Diamond Head on foot, no car needed. If you’re staying in the Waikiki Beach area, Diamond head is about a 2.5 mile walk. The hike up (and down) Diamond Head itself takes about 1.5 hours roundtrip, so be sure to schedule accordingly. If entering as a pedestrian, the cost is $1. Don’t forget your water bottle!
Eating Out in Honolulu
Maui Brewing Company
Maui Brewing Company was a hit with everyone in our group, so we actually ate there twice. They have a large beer selection with something for everyone. I got the Pineapple Mana Wheat bear and the Ahi Tuna Poke bowl on both visits. Both were totally delicious! Others enjoyed the fish and chips, budha bowl, and pizzas. It’s a huge space, so even with a group of eight people, we never had to wait for a table.
This is one of the places that is on every “must do” list for Honolulu. Knowing that, our expectations were pretty low but we were actually all surprised by how good the food was! I ordered the fish tacos and they were spicy with plenty of blackened fish. I also got a ‘South Swell’ cocktail, which is their spin on a margarita. Others ordered the Whiskey Wipeout, which is a spicy whiskey drink. I actually ordered it and subbed vodka on another visit and it was delicious. I highly recommend it! The seating at Dukes is all sorts of confusing, but from what we gathered, any table on the deck or beach area is first come first served. So if you arrive later in the evening, you may have to do some table stalking until something opens up.
Hawaiian Aroma Caffe
This is a super cute coffee and brunch spot inside the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber hotel. They have breakfast and lunch options plus plenty of smoothies and coffee. The decor is beautiful! I made a stop here on our last day to get my hands on an Acai Bowl. It was definitely made to order and totally delicious! They have some local surfer/beach themed goods for sale as well. There are two other locations, so be sure to check the website for which one is closest to you.
Where to stay
We used Airbnb to book a 2 bedroom/2 bath condo that slept eight for our first three nights. It ended up being a timeshare condo in the Wyndham Waikiki property. It had a kitchen with everything we needed to make breakfast and pack lunches for our road trip. Plus, there was an in-unit laundry, an outdoor pool, and a fitness room. If you’re new to Airbnb use this link for $40 towards your first stay.
On our final night, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber. This hotel has a nice pool which we used on our last day to avoid getting salty and sandy at the beach. It’s also connected to Maui Brewing Company, so that was convenient. A bonus, was that we were upgraded at check-in to a room with this great view!
Both places were easy walking distance to Waikiki beach, restaurants, shopping, etc. I’d recommend either spot.
We used Discount Hawaii Car Rental, who helped us secure an eight passenger vehicle even though most car rental websites said they were not available. It was nice to have everyone in one car and not have to attempt to follow each in Honolulu traffic. I’d recommend calling them if you need help finding a larger vehicle.
City bus and Uber for airport
We didn’t rent a car for our last two days on Oahu, as we were only going to be in Honolulu. We used the city bus to get from the airport to the Waikiki Beach area. The bus cost $2.50/person and took about 45 minutes.
We used Uber to get from our hotel back to the airport with a rate of $45 for UberXL, fitting six people and luggage.
We were quoted $80 one-way for taxis from the airport to Waikiki, as we would have needed two vans, we declined.
Big Island (Hawaii)
Snorkeling Boat Cruise Trip
We joined Fair Wind for their Deluxe Kona Coast boat trip and I would recommend them 100%. The cruise included three different stops for swimming, snorkeling and stand up paddle boarding. All equipment plus breakfast and lunch is also included! The food was great and they even had veggie burgers for the vegetarians. Cash bar was available with pretty reasonable prices. Water and iced tea is included and available throughout the trip.
The staff is awesome and they actually pay attention to what’s going on in the water. If someone is starting to drift too far, they are on their way out to reel them back in. I also loved the size of this boat, not too small and not too big. There was no waiting to get off the boat at each stop, allowing you to maximize time in the water.
I’ll be honest, my expectations for the luau were low. I fully expected an unauthentic tourist trap situation. Well, I was wrong and I enjoyed the luau. We chose the sunset luau at Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. The price included open bar, buffet style meal and Polynesian themed entertainment. The food was great and even though I am a vegetarian, I felt there was more than enough options for me.
Even though there tended to be a line at the two bars, it moved fast and the drinks are strong. The bartenders are happy to make mocktails for adults and kids alike. The entertainment was much better than I anticipated and the musicians and dancers were great and the show was the perfect length. As the photo above shows, we were treated to an amazing sunset as well!
Downtown Kona & nearby beaches
We stayed near Kona for most of our trip and made a few different trips into the town. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and coffee shops. There are also several small beach areas including Kahaluʻu Beach, which is a fantastic spot for beginning snorkelers. You’ll also find shops for all of your souvenir needs! Matt and I even found a spot for some kombucha on tap!
Papakōlea Green Sand Beach
We stopped here on our drive over to Volcanoes National Park. We didn’t do our research though and realized it was a 6 mile roundtrip walk from the parking area. Not everyone in our group was prepared to be in the sun that long, so only half actually did it. I walked about half of it and the walk is beautiful. I would definitely put it on my itinerary for next time.
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park has to be on your list when visiting the Big Island. We spent an afternoon plus the next morning there but easily could have spent three days. My favorite part was hiking the Kilaeaua Iki Trail. It takes you down into the crater, across and back up the other side. I’d definitely recommend doing it in the morning as it can get really hot. Volcanoes National Park also has plenty of picnic areas so be sure to pack a lunch!
Akaka Falls State Park
Akaka Falls State Park is home to a beautiful (and huge) waterfall. It was an easy quick stop on our way back to Kona from Volcanoes National Park. There is small entrance fee here that you will need cash for. I believe it’s $5 for a vehicle or $1 per person.
After visiting the falls, make a pit stop in nearby Honomu. The Wood Shop Gallery sells Tropical Dreams Ice Cream and it’s delicious!
Waipio Valley Lookout
The Waipio Valley Lookout is another quick and easy stop on your way back to Kona from Volcanoes National Park. It’s a beautiful lookout point that can’t be missed. Unfortunately, it was raining and foggy when we stopped but a quick Google search will show you just how pretty this spot is. There is also an option to hike down to the beach area, but it is very steep and you would want to be in good shape as the trip back up will be tough.
Where to stay
We stayed at two different Airbnb properties on the Big Island.
We rented this 3 bedroom/ 3 bath house for most of our stay. It is located in a quiet gated community in Kona and had plenty of room for all eight of us. We loved having a kitchen to cook a few meals and the in-unit laundry was super useful too. This house was also stocked with plenty of beach towels, coolers, boogie boards, etc. The best part was the lanai area that had a wonderful view of the sunset each night!
We also stayed in this property for the night we spent near Volcanoes National Park. It was nice to have two days in the area as there is so much to see. There isn’t much to do in Volcano Village itself but this was a perfect spot for getting cleaned up and rested for another day of sight seeing. The property itself is a little dated but it had everything we needed, plus it is really close to Volcanoes National Park.
Remember to use this link for $40 off your first Airbnb stay!
Where to eat
Fermented Food and Drinks
Big Island Booch Kombucha
I first found this kombucha at the KTA Super Store but I was also able to find it on tap. I tried several different flavors and really enjoyed them all. My favorite was the Ginger I had on tap at Fosters Kitchen. This company is based in Hilo and they also run the Conscious Culture Cafe, an organic spot focused on vegetarian and vegan meals. They even have kombucha happy hour!
Conscious Cultures Sauerkraut
This is a chic outdoorsy spot overlooking the ocean. This place has plenty of locally sourced produce and proteins, plus two flavors of kombucha on tap! Matt and I stopped one day and each tried a flavor; Hibiscus Citrus and Ginger. YUM!
Naked Hippie Brew
I found Naked Hippie Brew at the grocery store as well. They offer several different flavors of Jun at very reasonable prices to boot!
Other Places to Eat
Tropics Tap House
Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this place. We tried this spot as it was touted as a cheaper alternative to all of the resort restaurants in the Waikoloa Bay area, plus plenty of craft beer. The food was pretty mediocre and half of the their taps were out. The service wasn’t great either, so all in all, it was a miss.
Humpys Big Island Alehouse
Great spot for March Madness or other sporting events. We visited during happy hour to catch the Wisconsin Badgers Sweet 16 game. The manager was super accommodating and made sure ample TVs were turned to our game so everyone could see. They have tons of beers on tap and the bartender was very sweet and knowledgable. Their happy hour is awesome and they have a great view of the sunset as well. I’d definitely recommend this spot.
All eight of us opted to buy non-stop flights in and out of Honolulu. This allowed us to arrive in Honolulu during the late afternoon and still be able to walk around the city and enjoy dinner, before resting up for the next day. Our flights back to the mainland were red-eyes arriving back to either MSP or ORD between 5-6am. I’m not particularly fond of red eyes, but they are pretty much unavoidable when flying Hawaii to the midwest.
Six of us traveled economy on Delta’s seasonal non-stop flight between MSP and HNL. The flight was around 9 hours each way, but overall pretty comfortable. We were served two meals, snacks and unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Plus, chocolate covered macadamia nuts just prior to landing. We were also given blankets, pillows, eye masks and headphones. We had seat back on-demand entertainment which included many new movies (even recent Oscar-nominated films).
The other two members of our group flew economy on United non-stop between ORD and HNL. The flight time was about the same but the service was not. They did not have any in seat entertainment and were not served any meals or snacks. Non-alcoholic drinks were provided.
We used Island Air to fly between islands. Everything went as it should. I will note that if your bags weighs more than 16 lbs, you will need to check them at a cost of $25 per bag.
//Hawaii Travel Tips//
Cell Phone: Our group had a mix of Sprint and Verizon users. Both worked fine everywhere on Oahu but Verizon offered much better coverage on the Big Island.
Pack Food: Food is expensive in Hawaii. Pack snacks and other pantry staples if you have room in your luggage.
Clothing: While it was 80°F and sunny daily, we did need long sleeves and pants on the night we stayed in the Volcano Village area on the Big Island.
Cash vs Card: We were able to use credit cards everywhere. We came home with nearly all of the cash we brought.
Travel Insurance: Consider insuring your trip in case the unexpected happens. We recommend Allianz for travel insurance. They offer a variety of different plans and will provide you with a free quote.