When planning this whole trip I knew I wanted to visit an island in the pacific on my way from New Zealand to America. There are a lot of islands to choose from but I decided on Hawaii. I just thought they had a bit more to offer than just palmtrees on white beaches. I know that doesn’t sound to bad but as I wanted to spend about two weeks there I knew I would be bored really quickly. So I booked flights to and from Honolulu and just waited what happened.
After a trip through time I arrived in Honolulu late Wednesday evening after leaving Auckland Thursday morning. Yay I won an extra day of travelling. Honolulu was actually quite a shock, after my time in New Zealand I wasn’t anymore used to such big cities and that many skyscrapers. Well but it is the capital of Hawaii and Waikiki is of course so full with tourists they need that many hotels. I decided right there that I’m not going to spend two weeks just on that one island.
Nevertheless my first destination in Honolulu were of course the beaches of Waikiki. They are nice but overrun by tourists and well quite frankly I have seen many beaches on my worldtrip which are a lot prettier. But if it’s just a 5 min walk from the Hostel you’ll end up spending a lot of time there anyways….and the sunsets are incredible. I went out there almost every evening for some photos.
But as you might have figured out by now my style of travel never really involves relaxing. So on my second day I was already of to see Pearl Harbor. Anyone whose ever been to school or seen the Micheal Bay movie should know what this is all about. Great thing is you can just take a public bus for 2,50$ to get there, it might take two hours from Waikiki but it’s way cheaper than going on a tour-bus. Once there you can visit the museum for free as well as the Arizona Memorial. The memorial is on top of the battleship Arizona which was sunk during the battle and lays on the bottom of the harbor to this day. And that basically concludes my educational experiences on Hawaii.
Most of the other days were spent exploring the rather boring downtown of Honolulu and waiting for the sunset. Oh and of course some small hikes. The first was to the top of Diamond Head. The famous crater just outside of Waikiki. It’s a short rather undemanding hike to the top, only the sun can get a bit intense but the views from the top are as expected really great. This viewpoint lets you see all of Honolulu. The other hike was to the Manoa Falls. Quick tip here: If it hasn’t rained in a while don’t bother going there, they will barely exist. Actually don’t walk there at all, spend the 2,50$ on the bus instead of walking through town for 2 hours before even reaching the trailhead.
I didn’t rent a car on Oahu so to see some the rest of the island I had to join a tour and as I also wanted to take good pictures I joined Oahu Photography Tours. They offer great tours to the most interesting photospots on the island at a reasonable prices. Most importantly for me, they start of at sunrise. That gave me the opportunity to get the shoot I was hoping to get on this island. Another highlight of the tour is the Northshore. That’s the place where the gigantic waves are braking. An actionfilled surfshot was exactly what I was after. I might not need the instructions they give you on the tour but they did take me to places I would have never been able to find on my own and that totally made it worth it.
And with that my days on Oahu were almost over. There was just one last picture I had to get: A Hula Girl. I know it’s a cliche but isn’t that what most travel-photography is about? Anyways there is a free Hula show every other night at Waikiki beach just after sunset. Guess who sat in the first row with a gigantic camera on his last evening? The show was really nice and surprisingly long considering it’s for free. The girls were pretty and my seat perfect so I left Oahu with all the pictures I wanted.
In my mind the highlight of Hawaii isn’t Oahu and definitely not Honolulu, it’s the Big Island and that’s were I went next. You can only travel in between the islands by plane and as it is america this makes island hopping a bit more expensive. Otherwise I would have probably visited even more.
The Big Island started of great with dozens of sea turtles right at the beach just hours after I arrived. I was actually just thinking to spend a relaxing evening at the beach but then a saw a turtles head looking out of the water. I was stoked, grabbed my tele lens at ran to the shoreline hoping to see it pop up again. Well it didn’t show up in the water again as it was right next to me a minute later. In fact there were dozens of turtles coming to shore all along the beach. An amazing experience and a good indication of how awesome my time on Big Island was going to be.
The next day I decided it was time for some stars and as you might know the Big Island is actually the best place in the world for stargazing, that’s why all the big observatories are there. And by there I mean Mauna Kea in particular. The highest mountain on Hawaii at about 4200m, tallest mountain in the world, darkest place in the world and of course guarantied clear skies every night. Getting up there was actually quite an adventure on it’s own. This is america so of course you can reach the summit by car but I was only driving an incredibly crappy rental. My car was already struggling just on the way to the visitorcenter which is about halfway. The rest of the road to the summit is actually a steep gravel-road. There was no way my car was going to make that.
I was really disappointed as I really wanted to go up there and see those observatories. Luckily I met a really nice Canadian couple with an SUV that gave me a lift to the top. That was perfect as the top of the mountain is really something you do not want to miss. You feel like you are on another planet, you are on top of the clouds, red volcanic stones everywhere, no plants just white futuristic domes everywhere. Absolutely breathtaking (not just because of the height) and a photographers dream, I took so many photos up there. Afterwards I got back down to the visitorcenter to watch the sunset over the clouds and then ultimately watch the stars. The moon was a bit bright but you could still see an incredible amount of stars. This is one of the most do things if you are on Hawaii.
The Big Island is of course the island of volcanoes so after the stars that’s what I had to see next. So I went to the Volcanoes National Park. A huge park and you can definitely spend more than one day there exploring all the hikes and visiting all the craters. It’s just such a surreal landscape with the old lava flows everywhere forming and reforming it all the time. Also it’s just cool walking on solid lava. All the big flows have been in the 70s and 80s and unfortunately there is no lava flowing at the moment. I really wished I could have seen that, it would have made for some awesome photos. But it wasn’t all just cold black rocks, the highlight is the Halema'uma'u crater.
Said to be the home of the god Pele this gigantic crater is still the most active on the island. You can’t see the lave as it is to deep and you are to far away but once the sun sets the glow of the lave turns the smoke orange. An incredible sight especially when the stars are starting to show up at the same time. If you are on the island, you have to wait there till after sunset.
So there are the two highlights of the island but it has of course so much more to offer. There are for example volcanic black sand beaches, a completely strange sight but cool photo spot, and of course an extremely rugged and beautiful coastline all along.
My personal highlight of the coast was in the north and is called Pololu Valley and seems to be directly out of a movie. You have to drive a tiny and narrow road through the rainforest to get there but that just makes it so much better. Less accessible means less people. The valley itself is in between rugged cliffs covered in waterfalls and end into the ocean via another black sand beach. Inside the valley is an untouched forest where you just expect dinosaurs behind every corner. A great off the beaten path location especially since the other end of the valley, Waipio Valley is currently closed due to a Dengue outbreak.
The only thing Hawaii is not good in is cities, Kona as well as Hilo are really rather boring and pretty empty, you can skip those without regrets and just focus on the incredible nature. Oh by the way, did I tell you there are also great waterfalls all over the island? The most impressive one is Akaka Falls just outside of Hilo.
Well that concludes my time on Hawaii. It was an incredible time and although I did not really like Honolulu, the Big Island is a place I would love to visit again at some point. By the way I did manage to drive over 2100km in my rental in just one week, not to bad considering I was on an island. Now I’m waiting for my flight to Los Angeles where I will stop for just two days before it is time for my next big adventure in Costa Rica. I can’t wait to get there. Anyways here are some more photos from Hawaii, as always clicking on any of the photos will enlarge them.