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Hawaii Solo

Last year with the help of many of you I took my wife and her mother to Hawaii for two weeks. I am planning a solo trip back to the islands in November and would like your thoughts on doing it solo vs. being the leader of a small group of three. We spent five nights on The Big Island (three in Hilo and two in Kona) and five in a condo in Maui before going to Oahu for a couple of nights so my MIL could go to Pearl Harbor. We had been there before as a couple. I had to cut the trip short and eliminate Kauai, which I really wanted to see, and plan to go there this time. I'm looking for the best use of two weeks to maximize the time, get in some relaxation and do some of the things I wanted to do last time but didn't because of my TPs wishes. I like active things vs. passive (no museums or churches as in Europe where I've been four times. Thanks.


Posted by
9363 posts

What are the things you wanted to do last time but didn't? Since we don't know what you have and haven't done, it's hard to help with that.

Posted by
8631 posts

Jim in Kauai, the Na Pali coast (on the West) is the big attraction. You can hike in along the ridge line, or boat cruise along the beach side. Helicopter tours flying over the canyon are very popular, if weather is good. We very much enjoyed a slack key guitar show in Hanalei at a cultural center. The best guide book I've seen is the Kauai (or whichever island) Revealed series, which describes a lot of hidden hiking/swimming/snorkeling gems. There are zillions of beaches, many of which have been used in movies, so its fun to check them out. South side is more relaxed - north side more traffic.

Posted by
564 posts

Thanks to Nancy and Stan for your quick replies. I used the Revealed books for The Big Island and Maui and they were a big help. Living there the authors seem to know the right places to go and what to see, but like Rick's books they often turn out of the way places into huge tourist attractions. The list of things I didn't get to do.....parasailing, zip-lining, snorkeling and horseback riding (only done parasailing), deep sea fishing, driving the Road to Hana and spending the night there, sunrise at the top of Haleakala, and golf at Kapalua where the last time they had just aerated the whole course. We did sightseeing things and the beach, but I'm not a beach person except for walking on one. Kauai is a definite and probably Maui, but not sure how to make it all work.

Posted by
8631 posts

Jim on Maui, we enjoyed visiting the winery there (can't recall name) and visiting some of the inland "cowboy" towns. Different feel. We did the sunrise at the volcano (cold!) when they let you bike from the top down to the coast. I don't think they do that now. The road to Hana? Well I hope you know what you're getting in to. Great views for the passengers - the driver just sees blind turns and oncoming trucks. My hands had to be pried off the steering wheel.

Posted by
2896 posts

Kauai is really two islands: the North and East sides, which include Hanalei and its picture postcard beauty, but unfortunately also includes the congested traffic corridor between Kapaa and Lihue which makes a day trip to the much sunnier South and West sides a real pain. Would recommend only doing that once by spending a few days on the North shore, then moving to another place on the South or West side.
Poipu is the big tourist draw on the South shore, but you can save money by opting to stay up the road a bit in Koloa or Kalaheo and just driving the 10-15 minutes to the beach. Kalaheo is pretty central to southside attractions like the helo tours and the Na Pali boats trips - both of which depart from Port Allen - as well as the drive up to Kokee park which has some very nice hikes.
For a real "old Hawaii" plantation experience take a look at the Waimea Plantation Cottages on the West side - not far from the start of the drive up to Kokee and handy for the trip out to Polihale State Beach at the end of a meandering dirt road.
If you stayed in a condo on Maui I'm assuming you were in Kihei, and would recommend striking a bit further afield to places like Hana which have an other-worldly charm of their own. You'll never want to leave.
Best whale watching is from the harbor at Lahaina. Am sure that Maui has its own helo tours, though I doubt they're quite as spectacular as the Jurassic views you'll see on Kauai.
The Na Pali coast hike is pretty hardcore - goes for 11 miles into a very remote valley. Pretty, but parts of it can be treacherous in the wet. The trail hugs the side of a cliff in many places and is not for the faint of heart. Another option is to only walk in a couple of miles to a turnaround point at Hanakapiai beach - a much more mellow experience in all respects. Need to get to the trailhead at Kee beach early though - parking places fill up fast.

Posted by
2127 posts

Do the helicopter tours interest you? Expensive, but breath-taking scenery.

Posted by
1446 posts

Kauai and Oahu pair well, flights wise. I found lots to do on Oahu beyond Honolulu and Waikiki - you could easily spend a few days on the North Shore. I also agree with splitting your time on Kauai.

You could fly into one Island, back from the other, and just buy one inter-island flight. I'd start with Kauai and finish with Oahu.

The sea tends to be quite rough in Kauai in the winter months though. That's why I much prefer the Island of Hawaii between Jan-March.

Posted by
6788 posts

Lots of good advice above, I'll add mine. Yes, spend part of your time on the north coast (it's actually somewhat isolated). Do the (easy part) of the Na Pali coast hike - turn around at the beach, it's a spectacular hike, not really difficult (gets muddy in places, though). Yes, the parking for the trail-head fills up, get there early or be prepared to hunt for a legal parking spot. Also spend some of your time on the east/south - we liked Poipu, despite its somewhat high-end/developed feel. We weren't crazy about the more populated eastern coast, but there are certainly more budget-friendly options there. You will want a car to get the best of the island. All of the islands are somewhat expensive, Kauai seems a bit more so than the others. There's a Costco in Lihue, take advantage of it if you want to stretch your budget (we bought half our meals there, one way or another) - of course, it helps if you are staying someplace with some kitchen facilities - we found condos were great for us (as a solo traveler, maybe not so simple to make that work for your budget, but consider it). Yes also to the recommended guide book - that one is awesome. Helicopter tour? Oh yes. A big expense, but it's really the only way to get a good view of the best parts of the Na Pali coast. Jack Harter Helicopters is the outfit to go with - they have helicopters with no doors, so there's nothing but air (and your harness, of course) between you and the world below - makes for glare-free photos and an experience you'll never forget. We did the Na Pali boat trip also; that was just so-so, and did not compare at all to the helicopter views (neither did the price). The boat was just OK. By all means, do make the drive all the way out to the west end and Polihale state park - really wonderful beaches (strong surf, it'll kick your butt but is safe as long as you're paying attention). The so-called "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" (out towards the west end) is worth seeing, though doesn't really live up to the name. Note: Kauai is the northernmost of the (easily visited) Hawaiian Islands. It's cooler that the others and it rains a LOT more there - expect rain often and you won't be disappointed.

Kauai is awesome, I love the place.

Posted by
206 posts

I hope the OP doesn't mind me hijacking their post. I am thinking of booking to Hawaii in November for our 20th wedding anniversary (hence date is inflexible). Our main thing would be snorkelling but also culture and volcanoes. Is the sea conditions OK in November for snorkelling (still not sure on Maui or Oahu) or should I save my money and do Hawaii when we can go at a calmer time of year and try to find another idea for anniversary??

Posted by
544 posts

Hi slavender,
I think as far as sea conditions, it's more a matter of wind speed and direction whether snorkeling will be good at a given spot. Last time I was on Maui my friends and I went on a kayak tour. The wind was unusually strong, so they had us caravan to a more sheltered spot on the island to launch and still had a great paddle with plenty of turtles, whale sightings and snorkeling. I think winter is the best time to escape to Hawaii and November would be great.

Also the VRBO rentals at Papakea Resort, look for one with AC in the bedrooms, are the best value I have found on Maui. Good kitchens, with ants of course (this is Hawaii after all), pools, hot tubs, gas grills, and wifi. The people in their office that work for Expedia make booking things super easy while you're there. I was suspicious, so I double checked prices, but found them to be the same or cheaper and way easier than trying to arrange things on my own.

Posted by
116 posts

Hi Jim and slavendar, too! I love Kauai and look forward to another trip next year. We used to stay in Poipu, but realized we were driving to the north shore all the time because we loved the scenery and beaches better there. We like to stay near Hanalei, Princeville or Kilauea now. The only problem with staying on the north shore in November is that the weather tends to be a lot rainier in the fall and winter months. We kayaked the Na Pali coast in June but you wouldn't want to do that in November! You can still enjoy the Na Pali coast by helicopter or by hiking in November, but be extra cautious of slippery trails and flooding during rains. There is good kayaking on the south shore and great hiking in the Waimea canyon in Nov. Water activities like snorkeling and scuba are best done on the south and west shores during Nov. but in the spring and summer you can't beat the north shore beaches. There are a few different ziplines on Kauai, horseback riding, ATV tours, etc. for folks who like to be active. I like to alternate busy, active days (kayaking, hiking) with laid back beach days of snorkeling, boogie boarding and doing absolutely nothing but contemplating my next vacation (and shave ice!). Enjoy! Jenny