Hawaii’s Magnificent Maui

Hawaii’s Magnificent Maui

Maui, HawaiiIt’s no surprise that Hawaii’s second largest island is often voted “world’s favorite” in reader polls. Maui’s combination of unspoiled beauty, quaint towns, and creature comforts is unmatched. The island’s trade winds give it a temperate year-round climate (75-85°F), making any time the right time to visit.

Maui is driest on the leeward (western) side, home to resort areas, Kapalua, Kaanapali, Kihei, Lahaina, and Wailea. The windward (eastern) side is wetter and more lush. Kahului Airport (OGG) has direct flights from major cities or take a hopper from Honolulu (HNL). There is public transportation available on the island, but rent a car to best experience the island’s hidden gems.

Land and sea activities abound: jet skiing, fishing, kayak tours, kite boarding, parasailing, rafting, whale watching, scuba diving, and surfing lessons. There is no shortage of group or private tours.

Molokini, Maui, Hawaii

The Molokini Express launches beachside


Wailea Beach: Although this beach is lined with resorts and condos, it still remains clean and crowd-free. Popular hotels include Four Seasons, Marriott, Grand Wailea and new edition, Andaz. My husband and I were excited to return to the Four Seasons, where we had honeymooned 17 years ago. It was a different trip with two teens in tow, but equally enjoyable. The boys snorkeled and kayak fished right off the hotel’s beach, and cooled off in the resort pool with its own invigorating waterfall. Conveniently, there is also the secluded, adults-only Serenity Pool.

One afternoon, the kids worked out in the resort’s gym and kept busy in the game room, while we enjoyed a peaceful drink on the Lanai. Our dinners at Four Season’s restaurants Ferraro’s poolside (for Italian) and Spago (Wolfgang Puck’s Hawaiian-California cuisine) were top notch. We browsed the nearby “Shops at Wailea” and one evening took a ride to the Fairmont Hotel to dine outdoors at Nick’s Fish Market.

Four Seasons, Maui, Hawaii

Gearing up for kayak fishing at the Four Seasons

Te Au Moana Luau: This traditional Hawaiian open-air feast, presented just down the beach at the Marriott, brings to life the history of Maui and its unique, Polynesian culture through music, song, and of course, fire eating and hula dancing. A Luau may sound touristy but this was actually a very professional and heartfelt show. Before dinner was served, the traditional roasted pig was lifted out of the Imu (an underground oven lined with banana leaves). The buffet table, filled with steaming plates of long rice, baked Mahi Mahi, chicken Adobo stew, and Kālua pork, was authentic and delicious. The sunset over the Pacific completed the picture.

Luau, Maui, Hawaii

A Luau performance conveys Hawaiian history through dance

Luau, Maui, Hawaii

Samoan Fire Dancers complete the show

Snorkeling in Molokini: To beat the crowds, we sailed out early on Kai Kananis charter catamaran (the Molokini Express) to this crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater located 2.5 miles off of Maui’s south shore. The curved basin creates ideal conditions for snorkeling and diving, providing a protective barrier against waves and currents and a home to over 250 species of fish. The trip includes a stop at Turtle Town, well known for its large turtle population. A memorable day, the sailing staff was helpful and patient with beginners (that would be me). Make sure to pack camera equipment or phones in waterproof bags because you will get wet boarding the catamaran from the beach.

Molokini, Maui, Hawaii

Molokini’s crater serves snorkelers well

Molokini, Maui, Hawaii

An underwater camera is a must for Maui

Sunshine Helicopters Tours: One of the best ways to fully appreciate the island is by air (over 90% of Hawaii is only accessible by helicopter). Catch a glimpse of Maui’s rainforest waterfalls, dormant volcanoes, and expansive green valleys.

Day trip to Lanai: Take a ferry or catamaran to this tranquil place, once known as Pineapple Island. With two high-end resorts (Four Seasons Manele Bay & the Lodge at Koele), Lanai offers secluded luxury and unspoiled nature. Rent a 4WD Jeep (make sure to grab a map) and embark on an off-road adventure, visiting stunning sights like Garden of the Gods and Shipwreck Beach via rugged, one-lane dirt trails.

Afternoon in Lahaina: Spend an afternoon walking around this historic whaling port, now a lively village. Our favorite eatery, Lahaina Grill, offers bistro style dining and true farm to table cuisine. Browse the shops on Front Street, grab dessert at Ono Gelato, and check out the weekly crafts market under the town’s famous supersized Banyan Tree – it is practically a block wide.

Evening in Paia: This former plantation village on the island’s northern coast is now a laid-back town oozing old world Maui charm. If you are headed to Hana, it’s a good stop-off point. Shop at Le Tarte for stunning swimsuits and cover-ups from this world-renowned Maui-based designer team and visit Maui Crafts Guild for locally made works of art. Then, head down to the beach and enjoy native Ahi tuna and Ono (Wahoo) at Polynesian-themed Mama’s Fish House.

Mama's Fish House, Maui, Hawaii

Legendary lobster guacamole with house-made taro and sweet potato chips at Mama’s Fish House

Haleakāla Crater: Located in the National Park, this dormant volcano is 3,000 feet deep and 21 miles around—large enough to fit Manhattan! Sign up for a sunrise tour to catch it in its best light.

Road to Hana: This popular scenic coastal route features 56 miles of winding road with plenty of photo opportunities of ocean views, lush gardens, and sparkling waterfalls. (Be prepared, the round trip can take all day. Click on mauiinformationguide.com for more Road to Hana pointers.)

Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Resorts and condos front the crescent shores of Wailea

Travel tips: For more suggestions on how to make the most of a Hawaii vacation, check out my previous posts on Oahu and Waikiki, or check out gohawaii.com. Throughout our stay, we also made good use of the OpenTable app for restaurant recommendations – and, their newly-redesigned website is very user friendly.

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at mollie@herrickstravel.com. For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: to view my previous posts, and my ENTIRE blog, please click here: uniquefamilytraveler.com. To become a SUBSCRIBER, enter your email address (top, right hand side of the blog or scroll towards the bottom if using cell phone) and then respond to the follow-up email.

Weekend in Waikiki, Oahu

Weekend in Waikiki, Oahu

My last post covered all that is Oahu – “Hawaii’s Happening Island.” But, no visit is complete without a stay in Waikiki, Honolulu’s bustling international oceanfront neighborhood, chock-a-block with resorts, hotels, shops, and restaurants—the perfect contrast to the island’s more remote and pristine, natural settings, highlighted in my recent article. Whether relaxing for a few days or making a brief layover en route to another island, make sure to check out all that awaits you in Waikiki.


Orchids: Located at the Halekulani, this lovely oceanfront restaurant offers an international menu with plenty of seafood and steak. Reserve a spot on the patio for dramatic sunset views, or come on a Sunday for their excellent brunch.

Alan Wong’s: Reservations are a must at Chef Wong’s James Beard award-winning, Hawaiian-regional cuisine restaurant. Its unusual location atop a non-descript office building belies the unique menu, artful presentation, and upscale ambiance that await you within.

Roy’s: Yes, it is part of a large chain of restaurants, but Roy’s can always be counted on for dependable, Pacific Rim fusion cuisine and professional service. It’s a Hawaii original.

House without a Key: This spacious, open-air restaurant at the Halekulani is a great place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or stop by for a signature Mai Tai and a pre-supper appetizer and listen to some Hawaiian-themed musical entertainment. The restaurant takes its name from the first Charlie Chan Noir mystery novel set in 1920’s Hawaii.

Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

A hike up to Diamond Head rewards you with breathtaking vistas of Waikiki

Hula Grill: This beachside eatery with amazing views of Diamond Head is the place for a reasonably priced breakfast in Waikiki. Indulge in Maui Pineapple and Coconut Buttermilk Pancakes and delicious Kona coffee. Located at the Outrigger Waikiki.

Hotels and Resorts: Here are just a few recommendations for beachfront hotels in Waikiki: Halekulani; Royal Hawaiian (The Pink Palace); Moana Surfrider (the city’s first hotel built in 1901); and Hilton Hawaiian Village. Waikiki’s beach has experienced some erosion over the years, so not every beachfront hotel features a sprawling expanse of sand; if that is important to you, make sure to do your research prior to booking.

Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

A stay at the Halekulani offers you views of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head

Kallakaua Avenue & Kuhio Avenue: In the mood for shopping? These two main shopping streets are a great place to stroll and shop, from high end to kitschy souvenir shops.

Waikiki Beach Walk: Lewers Street has been completely rebuilt and transformed into a hub for all-suite and resort hotels, stores, and cafes, and yes, even a Starbucks. Stop in at Quiksilver for board shorts, Crazy Shirts for fun, logo T’s, and Island Sole, for fantastic “slippers” (that’s flip flops to us mainlanders).

Royal Hawaiian Center: Had enough of the sun? Take an afternoon stroll around this open-air, four-level shopping and dining complex with a convenient food court on level two.

ABC Stores: A convenience store and souvenir shop all rolled up in one. A great place to stock up on beach supplies, grocery items and snacks, inexpensive gifts, and health and beauty products. They are open early and stay open late every day.

Ala Moana Shopping Center: If you really can’t survive without some retail therapy, head to Hawaii’s largest shopping center for souvenirs and gifts—everything from high end to beach fashion, it’s all under one roof.

Atlantis Submarine: We didn’t have a chance to go, but this was recommended by the concierge for a view of Oahu from beneath the waves. The narrated tour gives you a close up view of tropical fish and sunken ships. To get a discount, book your tickets online. (But, keep in mind, if you are claustrophobic, this would not be a good choice!)

Pearl Harbor: My last post mentioned this moving site, but make sure to take time to visit all the stops (besides the USS Arizona Memorial): USS Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, and Pacific Aviation Museum – all are connected by a shuttle. Pick up the excellent audio tour so you don’t miss out on a bit of history. Due to increased security, no handbags, back packs, or diaper bags are allowed, so be sure to check them at the lockers or better yet, leave non-valuables in your car.

Tour Guide: You will not be disappointed if you book with Keawe Adventures. Their experienced guides can arrange snorkeling, surfing, historic tours, Pearl Harbor tours, military history tours and more, and they will meet you right at your Waikiki hotel.

Diamond Head: Before you go home, make sure to hike to the top of this former military installation to get the perfect bird’s eye view of all that is Waikiki and help seal your memories of this beautiful place.

Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii

USS Arizona Memorial–a somber tribute to America’s fallen heroes

Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu’s Pacific coastal beauty greets you at every turn

To complete your Hawaiian adventure, stay tuned for my next post on Maui, Hawaii.

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at mollie@herrickstravel.com. For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: to view my previous posts, and my ENTIRE blog, please click here: uniquefamilytraveler.com. To become a SUBSCRIBER, please enter your email address in the box on the upper right hand side of the blog, or scroll all the way to the bottom, and then make sure to respond to the follow-up email (check spam folder).

Oahu: Hawaii’s Happening Island

Oahu: Hawaii’s Happening Island

Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu, Hawaii’s third largest and most populated island may not always be a traveler’s first pick when island hopping around the 50th state, but it should be. Home to the state capital, (Honolulu), Oahu offers the perfect combination of big city amenities and idyllic hideaways. For some great visuals, catch a glimpse of the island in Hollywood hits like Jurassic Park, The Descendants, and Pearl Harbor, or classic films such as Tora! Tora! Tora! and From Here to Eternity.

Our recent trip to Hawaii included a stop on Oahu, and in four days, we managed to squeeze in all manner of sightseeing, snorkeling, sun, and surf.


Pearl Harbor: The bombing of Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) propelled the U.S. into WWII, destroyed twelve American warships and 188 aircraft and killed 2,335 American servicemen and 68 civilians. Explore on your own (go early or reserve a spot online) or hire a guide to escort you through memorable and moving sites like the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.

Keawe Adventures: We used this company to give us a personal and educational day tour of Pearl Harbor (they will purchase entry tickets for you in advance). A Keawe guide can meet you at your hotel and escort you on a variety of other island tours—snorkeling, fly fishing, historic tours, and surfing lessons, to name just a few.

Byodo-In Temple Take scenic Pali Highway north and visit this Buddhist temple located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. Built in 1968 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, it’s actually a replica of a 950-year–old temple in Japan. Even on a rainy day, we enjoyed the lush grounds stopping to feed the 10,000 Japanese Koi, studying the (nine-foot) meditation Buddha, and taking a turn ringing the (three-ton) brass temple bell—it brings good luck!

Byodo-In Temple

The serene Byodo-In Temple was featured in an episode of ABC’s “Lost”

Kailua: After a visit to the temple, head east to Kailua Beach where you can rent a kayak or paddle board or just run your feet through the fine, white sand. Take a lunch break on the deck at local favorite, Buzz’s Original Steakhouse, right across the street. Afterwards, pick up Highway 72 and head south along the windward coast—it takes you on a dramatic and winding ride to the southern coast with views of Mānana Island, also known as Rabbit Island.

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail: It may be a little narrow, but this one-hour trail hike can be handled by most people. The trail takes you around the 646-foot-high sea bluff on which the lighthouse is perched and offers you gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean.

Kailua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

The turquoise waters of Kailua Beach are a hub for water sports

Diamond Head State Monument: Hike to the summit for perfect 360-degree vistas of Honolulu and Waikiki. This .8-mile trip takes you to the top of this (750-ft.) volcanic cone, which once served as a military installation. The hike includes several switchbacks and some almost vertical steps; it’s steep but not too difficult. Wear rubber soled shoes and download a flashlight app to light the way through some dark tunnels. Get there early for a spot in the parking lot and allow an hour for the complete hike (plus extra time to stop and take gorgeous pictures from the bunkers and lookout points).

Kahala Hotel: This lovely beachside resort is a good place to stop for lunch after a rigorous hike up Diamond Head. Treat yourself to a Mai Tai, and sit outside on the terrace at Plumeria Beach House and enjoy the stunning coastal views and Pacific breezes.

Polynesian Cultural Center: We did not get a chance to go, but many recommended this destination, sort of a cross between a theme park and a living museum. If you are unfamiliar with Polynesian island culture, or have never been to a luau, this would be a good option.

Waikiki: Honolulu’s bustling oceanfront neighborhood is chock-a-block with resorts, hotels, shops, restaurants and nightlife. Click here to read my article on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in Waikiki.

Diamond Head State Monument, Oahu, Hawaii

A view of the massive crater of Diamond Head State Monument

Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii

Take time to explore the Pacific Aviation Museum during a visit to Pearl Harbor


Although Oahu’s North Shore has become synonymous with surfing, it offers so much more. It’s easy to spend a long day meandering along its coastal route, stopping to visit the tiny towns, coves, and beaches along the way. If you prefer an extended stay, check into tranquil Turtle Bay Resort.

Haleiwa: This famous North Shore rustic beach town, 34 miles from Waikiki, features a honkytonk main street lined with boutiques, cafes, crafts, and Hawaiian shaved ice stands. There’s also plenty of fishing charter boats and tackle shops. Stop at one of the famous retro shrimp trucks for a plate of succulent garlic and butter shrimp. Our favorite truck? “Big Wave” on Kamehameha Highway.

Sharks Cove: Rated by Scuba Diving Magazine as one of the “Top Twelve Shore Dives in the World,” this small, rocky bay’s blue waters host an impressive amount of sea life. Make sure to wear sturdy water shoes since the bottom is lined with large smooth boulders and coral, which form small caves making perfect habitats for fish. Just to the south of the cove is Pupukea with its child-friendly tide pools. Go EARLY to beat the crowds. Across the way is Sharks Cove Grill, a “no-frills roadside food truck.” Order a plate of tasty shrimp skewers and rice and take a seat at their outdoor picnic tables.

Waimea Beach Park: This expansive and deep, bowl-shaped beach features gentle waves in the summer, great for little kids, and good for snorkeling near the reefs. In the winter, when the waves are rough, it attracts big wave surfing. Make a day of it and explore the nearby botanical gardens and Waimea Falls.

Dole Pineapple Plantation: On the way up to the North Shore or on your way back to Waikiki, stop here for a tour and a bit of island heritage and savor what fresh pineapple really tastes like.

Haleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii

A visit to Haleiwa is not complete without a stop at its famous shrimp trucks

Sharks Cove, Oahu, Hawaii

Catch a glimpse of butterfly fish, parrot fish, tang, and trigger fish at Sharks Cove

Sharks Cove Grill, Oahu, Hawaii

After a morning snorkel, Sharks Cove Grill’s steaming grilled shrimp hits the spot

Spending time in Waikiki? Click here to read my article on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in Waikiki.

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at mollie@herrickstravel.com. For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: to view my previous posts, and my ENTIRE blog, please click here: uniquefamilytraveler.com. To become a SUBSCRIBER, please enter your email address in the box on the upper right hand side of the blog, or scroll all the way to the bottom, and then make sure to respond to the follow-up email (check spam folder).