Hawaii: Maui Island

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Every time we were at the airport, it was sad to leave one island, but it was nice to know that it’s not the end… no just yet. Goodbye The Big Island.

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Another hop with the efficient Hawaiian Airlines and we are in for another adventure. Hello Maui.

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Before the trip, so many people asked if we were going to Maui. They said we shouldn’t miss it and so we rearranged our flights. We thought we might as well do as much as we can since this might be the only chance to see the island. I don’t want to sound spoilt, the island is amazing and we saw some incredible stuff out there, but… It was, let’s say, too manicured for our liking. Coming from wild Kauai and crazy Big Island, we found Maui a bit too overbuilt with extravagant hotels and expensive villas with massive gates blocking the view of the golden sand beaches.  The island is definitely worth seeing, but if we were to plan a trip to Hawaii again, we would go there first and then hop to the other islands. To us, it just wasn’t as exciting. Having said that, every time we moaned how much we missed the wild landscape of The Big Island or the lush greenery of Kaua’i, Maui island defensively presented us with a more wild landscape and stunning views.

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To me Maui seemed like the fearless surfers paradise, with huge crystal clear waves rolling into the shore and crashing on to the nearby rocks. Watching the surfers so near the rocky shoreline was a bit uncomfortable.

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I am sure they know what they are doing, but seeing a few memorial crosses at the top of the rocks wasn’t that reassuring after all.

Hawaii: Hapuna Beach, The Big Island

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We had a truly  incredible time exploring The Big Island, but there’s only so much you can do without rest. Hapuna Beach is perfect for a lazy day with a book. The white sand beach, stretching for 2 miles also provides a very safe practice ground for surfing newbies.

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We spent all day at the beach and had lots of fun boogie boarding in the  turquoise, crystal clear water.

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After a day of rest we said farewell to The Big Island and hopped to Maui.

 

Hawaii: School time! The Big Island

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This is one of my favourite shots. A yellow school bus was my obsession while on The Big Island. Mainly because I’ve never really seen a typical American school bus before. Back home we don’t really have them nor do they in London. Every time I saw a yellow bus coming, I was too late to take a clear picture. By the time I got my camera out and turned it on, it was long gone… But after many attempts, I finally succeeded!

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Hawaii: the magnificent Mauna Kea, The Big Island

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I want to dedicate this post to one lovely Swiss couple who helped our dream come true!

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When you are on The Big Island you have have have to go to the summit of Mauna Kea. It’s a one million year old volcano that has not been active for about 4,600 years and reaches over 13,000 feet  in height, which is, I believe over 4km high. It’s the tallest peak in Hawaii and on a clear day you can admire the snowy top from afar. I also saw it from the plane on our way to Maui Island.

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You can get there by a four-wheel drive car or take a tour. Anyway, I suggest you rent a Jeep and forget the tour unless you can’t drive. We only rented a little car as we were initially planning to take a tour to the top of Mauna Kea.  Bear in mind that you can only get to the Information Centre in a little car, which is about 3 km high and don’t forget to lookout for invisible cows! It’s so foggy up there, you can’t see a thing in front of you!  Getting to the very top, there is a dirt road which is  much steeper and might be slippery at times. I wouldn’t risk getting up there in a regular car and anyway you are not allowed to do that.

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If you are up for a tour, get it booked well in advance. We tried to book  it at the last minute and were unsuccessful. But I can confidently say: thank god we didn’t manage to book a tour! It takes about 8 hours, you are in a people carrier with tinted windows  all day and stop in places you want and, most importantly, don’t want! Ok, so you get some food… but 8 hour tour is too big a luxury time wise when you are travelling independently and trying to see as many things as you can in a short space of time. Plus, a tour coasts over $200 per person.

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So here is what we did and what I recommend you do! We parked our car at the Information Center, put a few layers of warm clothes and walking boots on and trotted off to the main road to hitch hike. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed, lots of people do that! After standing just for a few seconds by the road, a Jeep stopped next to us and a lovely and hyper active Swiss couple invited us to join them! Yayy!  Soon enough we were ascending through the clouds, having a pleasant chat and exchanging our experiences about the island.

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It was such a happy moment as at the start, when we couldn’t get a tour booked, we were feeling pretty low.

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Be prepared for altitude sickness once at the top. I was running out of breath after every few steps. The oxygen there is 40% thinner than at sea level and that makes you feel pretty dizzy and uncoordinated. You sort of get use to it after a while, but still, it always feels as if you’ve been running up hill for a mile or so and need to catch your breath. And it’s freezing up there too! At the Information Center I was bitching about some guys putting skiing jackets on; how cold can it be? And believe me, I ate my words later, when at the summit! So make sure you have something warm and comfortable to wear in your car boot before you take on the challenge of climbing the volcano.

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Mauna Kea is incredibly beautiful. The air is fresh and you really feel like you are on top of the world. Apparently, if you measure the volcano from the bottom base in the ocean right up to the top, it would be the tallest peak on the planet, twice as tall as Mount Everest.

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The best time to get there is just before sunset. But make sure you leave yourselves plenty of time to enjoy it, because you will have to leave the volcano soon after the sun goes down. The sunset was wonderful, painted in deep yellow and purple colours. The blue sky was as blue as it can get. Watching the sun go down into the clouds was so inspiring.

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The best sunset in my life! My hands were freezing, but I couldn’t stop taking pictures. At that moment I was having the time of my life.

Hawaii: Akaka Falls State Park, The Big Island

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After feasting our eyes on the wonderful tropical plants at the Hawaiian Tropical Garden, we popped into Honomu, a quiet old sugar town famous for Akaka Falls State Park.

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We took the half  mile loop trail through the rain forest full of beautiful banyan and monkeypod trees, ginger, wild orchid  and enormous bamboo groves. The trail is very easy, I did it in my flip flops and a skirt, so no challenges there.

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 I loved watching the majestic 420ft Akaka Falls, plunging down the lush green fern.

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The sound of water tumbling down to the pool below was wondrous.  

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. The Big Island

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Until now I can’t believe how magnificent The Big Island is. The entire island chain is the result of the volcanic activity, the ongoing birth of Hawaii. It’s one of a few places in the world where visitors can come face to face with an active volcano.

We spent all day in the incredible ‘Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’. Starting out with a walk along the steaming sulphur banks on the rim of the crater where rocky vents have been coloured yellow, orange and neon green by the sulphuric gasses naturally released here daily. You can feel the heat by holding your hand above the cracked land and the steam is so strong that sometimes it’s hard to breath. Fumes emitted here include sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. These two gases react chemically to produce pure sulphur, a yellow mineral know to Hawaiians as the Waist of Pele (Volcano Goddess in Hawaiian mythology). Those crystals are fragile and coated with sulphuric acid, so trying to touch them probably wouldn’t be a good idea. The smell of sulphur is quite strong and reminded me of rotten eggs,  but it’s not something you couldn’t deal with.

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Hiking down to the Kilauea Iki crater floor was fascinating. As soon as we touched base within the crater, it made me feel so small and my head was full of all sorts of thoughts… you know… what if it suddenly decided to erupt… It was silent only for about 50 years after all… not for so long. But I pushed out all those thoughts and enjoyed the incredible experience.  It was like I imagine it would be walking on the moon! The floor there is sort of soft and bouncy, and the warm steam is still coming out of the cracked earth.

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We obviously wanted to visit the youngest and the most active volcano on earth. Kilauea in Hawaiian means ‘spewing’ referring to its  frequent lava activity.  The first eruption of the volcano is recorded in 1823 and it has been actively erupting ever since. In older days, there was a possibility to come very close and walk around the rim of the crater, however the fume coming out of the volcano has been considered too toxic and now the viewing platform is further away. Nonetheless a good spot to admire the living wonder of the island.

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To see the spectacular show of the volcano, you have to come back to the viewing platform later, after dark. While waiting for the darkness we had a breathtaking drive down to the Sea Arch. 

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Needless to say it was one of the greatest days on the island, but the most amazing thing of all was watching the glowing red lava bubbling in the dark later on.

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The view was hypnotising, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Minutes later, like lots of other wonders of Hawaii, the red glow was covered by fog, but we didn’t move. We knew well by then that patience will be rewarded. A group of tourists were chanting and singing for the volcano to reveal its enchanting beauty. We even convinced an older couple to stay and wait for the fog to shift. They weren’t too keen to start with as they arrived just a minute or two after the fog covered the glow. We kept them occupied and to their surprise, the fog started shifting away and the red glow was even brighter than the first time round. Happy ending for sure!