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Aloha!

TLDR version:

Wifey and I are going to Hawaii for about 2 weeks in November. We're going to spend time on Kauai and the Big Island and are looking for suggestions on where to stay and for how long on each island.

More info:

We thought we would want to spend 2 or 3 days in the Hawaii volcano Natl Park but just had a couple friends say that "it's like hiking in a gravel pit so it gets boring fast". We live next to Yellowstone Park too so hotsprings etc. aren't anything new to us. We do want to see flowing lava though.

Our list of things to do/see is;

- snorkel
- see lava
- hike, maybe rent bikes (I don't want to hassle with permits for hiking the Na Pali coast so we're looking for other hiking spots)
- catch some live music (I play ukulele and love slack key guitar)
- see the spot where Capt. Cooke was killed.
- eat seafood / buy seafood to cook ourselves.

We're kicking around the idea of a boat ride around Na Pali coast and/or a helicopter ride too.
 

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Devoid of all flim-flam
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Kaui's Na Pali Coast and the Big Island's Waipi'o Valley are the proverbial tropical paradises. No roads into either of them, of course, and this tenderfoot thinks both are difficult hikes. Drive up the Big Island's Hamakua Coast to the Waipio Overlook to get a glimpse of the Waipio.

And yeah, the Big Island's South Point and the area where Captain Cook got killed ain't bad, either. I haven't been there for a couple years, but I'd still bet that it's still pretty steamy at the point where the Kilauea lava flow hits the Pacific. I frankly don't know where you can reliably come across live Hawaiian music except at the resorts. If you're into steaks, try to get them sourced from the Big Island's cattle country.

Enjoy the trip. BTW, I have a genuine weakness for Honolulu and Waikiki. Truly the Crossroads of the Pacific.
 

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My wife and I spent a few days on Kaua'i. We went the AirBnB route and spent time around Poipou ziplining and enjoying the scenery. I highly recommend Keoki's Paradise for dinner. We also did a kayak excursion down the Wailua River and hike to Secret Falls.

Kaua'i is the most beautiful of the islands. This pains me to say being an 18-year former resident of O'ahu.
 

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If you are into botanical gardens, check out McBryde and Allerton on Kaua'i and the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on the big island.

I'd love to try some cycling on the big island, although I don't know how I'd feel about the heat. The sun can turn a Kona side lava flow into a giant outdoor oven. But there is some really big terrain with fantastic views, and there are long stretches of highway with great pavement and wide shoulders.
 

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Second the kayak trip to Cooke's monument. Snorkeling there is awesome.

Oh, and viewing the manta rays was really not worth it. Briefly saw two rays, or maybe the same one twice, while getting cold and seasick.
 

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I'm only a tourist when it comes to neighbor islands, but on Kauai I really like the drive up to Waimea Canyon then up to the top at Koke'e State Park overlooking the Na Pali coast. You need to head out early as clouds tend to move in as the day progresses. At Koke'e park there are a number of state trails. Keep in mind that other than west (Kona) side of Hawaii and probably Volcanoes Natl Park, most trails start near the shore and head towards the mountains, either up valley or ridge. Expect mud or mud + rain. Bring or buy clothes and most important shoes you can throw away because it will be very hard to get rid of the mud.

On Kauai, Poipu Beach typically is most likely to have good sun and is kind of like a mainland beach area. Kapa'a is centrally located, but not so great from a scenic standpoint and rush hour traffic is horrible. It is close to Wailua River. The boat ride up the river may seem kind of "touristy" but I think it is worth the time / expense. Up the coast, I haven't been to Princeville in a long time and I suspect it is really built up now. I think it has a reputation of being kind of high buck (not that that's good or bad, just an impression). If you do stay at Princeville it's close to Hanalei, which is kind of a "what I imagine Hawaii to be" kind of feel. As far as Kalalau trail, I don't think you need a permit to hike, just to camp overnight (but it's all day to hike in, and the valley is really the reason for the hike so it doesn't make much sense to do the hike unless you plan to stay overnight). Recently the state DLNR guys went in and cleared out all the illegals / "permanent party" which might make the stay a bit nicer (though I think some folks like the "local color" of the illegals).

As far as Hawaii, it really is the "big island". I kind of like Volcanoes, because it's nice and cool, and quiet. I haven't been since Halemaumau has been erupting so don't know how good it is staying up there. Volcano House in the park I think was recently renovated (it was getting a bit dated). I think there's also some BnB type accommodations outside the park in the town of Volcano. Depending on the experience you want, West Hawaii is very much resort-oriented, based at Kona. The weather can be expected to be very dry. On East side Hilo is the main town and the traditional "downtown". It has kind of a nice vibe to it. Expect a fair amount of rain. From Hilo north up the Hamakua coast is the old sugar cane culture area, marked by deep valleys and ridges extending to the sea. South of Hilo in Puna district is kind of the "free living" "off-the-grid" kind of feel. I guess the county has built some access to view the active lava flow. Don't know how far you need to hike in to actually see it. (There has been some dispute about commercial boat operators taking people down the coast to see where the lava is entering the sea.) Typically people drive down towards sunset and hike over the lava with flashlights to see the glowing lava after dark, then hike back in the dark.

If you are driving around / across the island, the Waimea area (HQ of the Parker Ranch) in the saddle between east/west side has been trying to upgrade itself to make it more appealing to tourist trade. I know there is a good restaurant but make sure you have reservations as it has always been crowded in my experience.

BTW there is a bike race (Sea-to-Stars) from west side to the Mauna Kea Visitor Center on Aug 5.

scott s.
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