The Best of 3-Months on Maui, Hawaii, Kauai, and Oahu

We spent 3 months in Hawaii and thought we would write a “best of” article to provide a shortcut for those of you planning a trip to Hawaii. Overall, we had a wonderful experience, each island has something a little different to offer. The variety on the islands lets you choose the islands that have the vibe and the features that you want.

Beaches and Breakers

Everyone goes to Hawaii for the beaches, duh. They are some of the best in the world and Americans don’t need a passport to visit. Anini Beach in Kauai was a clear winner for us. Secluded and calm, we found eight turtles in one snorkel outing. Po’ipu Beach was fun, too. It was calm on one side with a decent swell on the other. Snorkeling off the beach was not bad, either.

We visited several blowholes around the islands. Maui had Nakalele, but we didn’t make the hike down to get close. Oahu had Halona. Some kids learned the waves can be more surprising than the blowhole. Our favorite blowhole was Spouting Horn in Kauai. You could easily get close enough to hear it breathe.

Drives and Hikes

The most famous drive in Hawaii is The Road to Hana with its 59 one-lane bridges. It is truly a case where the journey matters more than the destination. We also enjoyed the 10k vertical foot drive to Haleakala Crater. I was fascinated by the quickly changing weather. The views were great, too, when the weather permitted. Finally, the Kilauea Chain of Craters Road on the Big Island was wonderful, too. The fields of a’a and Pahoehoe lava flowing to the sea are a stunning reminder of who’s really in charge (Hint: it’s nature). Waimea Canyon in Kauai also surprised us with its beauty and expansive views.

Given Diana’s ongoing rehab during our stay, our hikes were never very long. I’m sure we missed out on some. Our favorite hike was suggested by My Friend Joe. He said to check out the La Perouse Bay trail on Maui. At the end of a drive over a raw patch of a’a lava, the hike winds around lava fields, tide pools, and secluded beaches. Hiking to Makauwahi Cave in Kauai was cool, too, with bonus tortoises at the end.

Flora and Fauna

Many, many of the plants in Hawaii are non-native. It’s hard to imagine what the islands would look like without them. I enjoyed seeing and photographing the many varieties of hibiscus around the islands, one of which is the state flower. So many different colors. We were also intrigued by the Moluccan Albizia tree, which is considered invasive and they are trying to mitigate them. It reminded us of trees we saw on the Serengeti during Our Big Trip.

The nene, a relative of the Canadian goose, is the state bird. The GyPSy Guide told us they were flightless, but we did see them flying in Kauai. With a tendency to get hit crossing roads, we did see many signs and once had to wait for their leisurely stroll to finish. There were also a few lizards and geckos we enjoyed encountering. Kilauea Point Lighthouse in Kauai is a great place to watch shorebirds, including blue-footed boobies and albatross.

I was surprised to see a lot of cardinals all over the islands and I became obsessed with capturing them on film. Of the 100+ shots I took, only a couple were in good focus, but at least I got it!

Weather and Attractions

Winter rains were still in force and flooding and mudslides occurred on Maui and Kauai shortly after we arrived. Weather impacted plans for a snorkel trip on Maui and some drives as well. The rains eventually abated and we settled into temps in the mid-to lower-eighties, with mostly calm winds. Even so, a critical road to Hanalei Bay had limited, one-lane access due to a mudslide a month earlier. Nature wins again.

Due to Covid, many attractions were closed or had limited capacity. Periodically, we were too late to get a reservation. Still, our trips to the USS Arizona Memorial on Oahu and Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island were great. Our helicopter ride on the Na Pali Coast of Kauai was a treat. On Maui, we really enjoyed the whale watch cruise and a slack key guitar show.

I almost forgot one of the best things… The manta dive in Kona is a must! Even if you don’t dive, you can snorkel. Even if you don’t swim, they’ll give you flotation. No excuses! Plan it now, thank me later!

Hawaii Towns

Lahaina was our favorite town. It is walkable with good food and galleries, and it is easy to find parking. Kona was our next favorite, scoring a little lower on food, ease of access, and not much fine art to view. On Kauai and in third, Kapa’a had a good vibe and decent food, but not many upscale places to stay. Down the road, Po’ipu scored better than Kapa’a for lodging and fine dining but felt a little more isolated.

Hawaii Food and Drinks

Fish. Fish, fish, fish. The large variety of tasty fish sometimes made it hard to choose.  I started taking notes just to keep track. You could find and enjoy something good crusted in macadamia nuts almost everywhere. Japanese food was also good and readily available. Our top sushi spot was Kenichi in Kona. The Islander Sake brewery in Honolulu was great fun, too. Local grinds (food) were good, too. Saimin (like ramen), kalua pork, and plate lunches were always a treat.

Some other favorite restaurants. On Maui, pacific’O’Mama’s Fish House (book way early), and Star Noodle, the place with fried soup. Kauai, the Beach House, Keoki’s Paradise, and Brennecke’s in Po’ipu were all good choices. Oahu, Mina’s Fish House was a special treat, thanks to a recommendation from My Friend Joe.

You can begin and end your list of tropical cocktails with the Monkeypod Mai Tai, even if you don’t suck down 13 in a sitting, as we did with friends. There are many other great libations, but none more tasty or unique. It was also easy to develop a taste for the Maui Brewery Coconut Porter. It’s not just for dessert!

Final Thoughts

There are 10 other articles on our recent time in Hawaii, going into greater detail about our Hawaiian adventures, challenges, and insights. You can see a list of them below. As for our favorite island, you can’t go wrong with any of them. But there has to be a winner…

Kauai came out on top. We loved the vibe, the beauty and the beaches. Maui was next with great dining and things to do. Next, the Big Island. We liked the pace of life, but the distances between places made for a lot of drive time. Oahu was a little too developed for us.

Which islands appeal to you?

Prior Hawaii Articles
Our Extended Visit to the Hawaiian Islands
Our First Impressions and Adventures in Maui
Maui on the Mountain and on the Sea
Hana, Lava Love, and the Maui Needle
Volcano Exploration on the Big Island of Hawai’i
So Much More Than Volcanoes on the Big Island
Beaches and Birds on the North Shore of Kauai
Flying High on the Na Pali Coast and Fun in Po’ipu
Impressions of the Oahu Vibe
Visiting Pearl Harbor, Bonzai Beach, and Good Eats on Oahu

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