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a VirtualTourist member

Hawaii (State of)

A few questions

Hello all! I am still planning my trip to Hawaii - 14 days - beginning of May. I will spend 4 nights in Honolulu, 5 in Maui and 5 on the Big Island.
After reading a lot, I have now very specific questions.
1) I will go snorkeling and decided to go on Maui (Molokini) and on Big Island (Hapuna). My question is: I've read it could be very crowdy at Hanauma Bay in Oahu, so I've decided to skip it due to time constraints. Will I miss something if I don't go to Hanauma?
2) I am not too sure if I would go to a Luau show because it seems to be more of a tourist trap... Is there any Luau where locals go or that you would recommend? Ulalena in Maui? Paradise Cove in Oahu?
3)Where is the best beach to see and swim with turtles? Black Rock Kanapaali? Turtle town?
4) I will not have a car in Honolulu, except for one day perhaps to go to the North Shore. Where should I stay? What area would be convenient if we have to take the bus? Waikiki ? If so, What part of Waikiki6
5) Is the Blow Hole in Oahu worth it? I wll see the volcano on Big Island and the Craters Road. Should I skip the Blow Hole?
6) Finally are there any buses or transportation means at all on Maui in the Kapalua area?
Thanks all!

13 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Mumbai

I had made hawaii trip last november 2012. I had made Oahu as my base for 5 days and visited Maui one day and other parts of the island . I can answer some of your questions :


2) I am not too sure if I would go to a Luau show because it seems to be more of a tourist trap... Is there any Luau where locals go or that you would recommend? Ulalena in Maui? Paradise Cove in Oahu?

(Paradise Cove in Oahu should be good considering you are in Oahu,exploring the Waikiki for 1-2 days .U can even enjoy the Polynesian Culural show which is very famous and takes almost complete day from noon to night )

4) I will not have a car in Honolulu, except for one day perhaps to go to the North Shore. Where should I stay? What area would be convenient if we have to take the bus? Waikiki ? If so, What part of Waikiki6

(Waikiki is best place to stay .U have many options including food,shopping and other activities barely on foot .Even local buses can get you everywhere you want. Stay close to the Waikiki beach ,that was my favorite spot to enjoy the sunrise and sunset everytime along with hanging out on the beach )


6) Finally are there any buses or transportation means at all on Maui in the Kapalua area?

(I doubt in general the transportation on Maui. I took flight from Oahu to Maui ,visited the main spots on island through tour company since didnt have much time .Also i had skipped Big IsLANd since it mostly contains volcanoes ,was more interested in scenic beauty and beaches )

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Westlake Village

Aloha, on Oahu, if you drive or even take the BUS over to the North Shore, there is great snorkeling at Sharks Cove. It is an excellent snorkeling area and many different shells can be found on the bottom on the sand and reef, but not as many species of fish as at Hanauma Bay. See:

Answer to 1) If you go early enough to Hanauma Bay, the parking is available and you can enjoy a few hours snorkeling in a reef environment. See my VT review of the Bay: [original VT link]

Answer to 2) For the best Luau on Maui, there is the Old Hawaiian Luau in Lahaina that I enjoyed. See:
Answer to 3) On the Big Island the Bay in front of the Marriott, next to the Hilton has many turtles swimming and it is a great area to snorkel, relax, and watch the sunset.
Answer to 4) Getting around without a car is only wise while on Oahu. I do prefer a car, but the hotels charge is high to park. Waikiki is the area to stay, as this is the center of the tourist area and the beach has the view of Diamond Head. Many restaurants as well. The Bus goes everywhere. and there is a Trolley for the Waikiki Area. See for Trolley:
and for the Bus on Oahu:
Answer to 5) Yes, to me the blowhole is a sight to see. From the sound to the spray and to the right of the blowhole, down the cliff is a swimming with the turtles cove. This beach is used by many movie companies and famous scenes have been filmed here. It is a bit of a hike down to the sand, but well worth it. See:
Answer to 6) Maui has buses from Kapalua. See:

Sounds like you have the days down to stay on each Island of Hawaii. Enjoy. Aloha :-)

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Kailua

If you are not going to rent a car on Oahu, then I think staying in Waikiki makes the most sense. You'll have access to public transportation, taxis, and the shuttles offered by the larger commercial tourist operations. Don't miss out on the opportunity to take surfing lessons while in Waikiki.

Hanauma Bay is crowded, and the conditions are not always good. The last time I went the trade winds had been strong for a few days and the visibility in the water was poor. Given that you are going to good places elsewhere on your trip, I would recommend skipping it.

One option for a luau is to stop at the Polynesian Cultural Center for the dinner show, which I've heard is quite good. Most people I've talked to agree that going there for the whole day is too much and the dinner show is the best part anyway. You could work this in on the day you rent your car since its near the north shore, and using the center's shuttle transportation from Waikiki would limit you to spending the entire day there.

The blow hole on Oahu is just one of many stops you could make on a driving tour of eastern Oahu. It not worth it to go there just to see the blow hole, but to also see everything else along that route. Check out [original VT link]. You might be able to find a bus tour that covers this area which leaves and returns from Waikiki.


answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Miami

Welcome to VT,

Ok, first thing's first. As a community, our advice is based solely on self impressions or experiences, sometimes limited to a shortened amount of time spent in one place rather than truly getting to know an area.
I'm not criticizing, just pointing out a couple of things which may lead you in the wrong direction:

"Big Island is only volcanos and was more interested in scenic beauty and beaches..."

Big Island is indeed very beautiful and full of beautiful scenic areas. Problem is, most people who come to the Big Island only do so as a day trip to view volcanos or land in Hilo and move on.
Big Island is the only island with all the distinct eco systems all drivable within one day.
You can go from Snow/skiing to waterfalls and rain forest to arid to beach (black, green, yellow) sand all within one day.
If you ever saw the movie "Water World" the final scene where Kevin Costner comes ashore was filmed on the North Shore of the Big Island, Waipio Valley

Luau's are indeed touristy and not really "authentic". For a true authentic "Luau" you'd have to be invited to a private get together bbq Hawaiian style and that's just not realistically going to happen.
That doesn't take away from the fact that you should indeed sample a Luau as part of the overall experience.

Our best swim with turtles was in Kona (Big Island) at the Black Sand Beach - Punaluu and we were taken there by our friends who live in Kona and had guaranteed us turtles - didn't disappoint, and on the island of Kauai - Anini Beach and all along the north shore of Kauai.

I'd only spend 3 days in Big Island - 1 in Kona 2 in Volcano's National Park area and add time to Maui.
Spend time in Hana driving the Hana Highway (2 days) and the rest in / around your preferred beach area of Maui. Most people choose Kihei or Wailea.
I prefer Kanapali area.
Whichever you choose, you HAVE TO rent a car in Maui, it's the only way to truly see the island.
This island is by far our favorite and there's so much to explore.
If you find a beach crowded (10 or more people), simply drive a mile further down the road and find a secluded area all to yourself.

Make sure and explore area around Ia'o State park, O'heo gulch, hike the bamboo forest to the waterfall, drive to summit of volcano for a sunrise view, bike down the volcano...swim in the 7 sacred pools. Possibilities are endless.
By the way, Maui has an EXCELLENT blowhole - it was our favorite blowhole - Nakalene blowhole and not too far from Lahaina.

Oahu to me was way too crowded, touristy and commercial, not at all unlike Miami Beach where we live.
Additionally, Oahu had poorer beaches than the rest of Hawaii by comparison.
Narrow crowded stretches of beach.


answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Calabasas

I agree with Larry as to the Old Lahaina Luau. While touristy it is good fun and the show is entertaining. You are not going to find luau's that just the locals go to.
While there are buses on Maui, they are not geared for tourists to get around. You can find the Maui bus info at the following website
I don't know why you are limiting your snorkling to Molokini and Hapuna. There are many excellent snorkling beaches, especially on Maui, but the best time is in the morning. Hunauma Bay is well worth the visit (even though you can't buy fish food and throw a handful in the water next to your friend anymore). It is easily accessable by bus from Waikiki, then you spend a few minutes for the required movie, and then go and enjoy. I would be more concerned about the water conditions than it being a little crowded. As to swimming with green sea turtles, I don't recall seeing them around Black Rock in Kaanapali, but I generally avoid that part of Maui. there are many areas off of Wailea and Makena where 75% of the time there are turtles feeding right off shore. The last time in November I was just off the beach at the Makena Beach and Golf resort and there were two no more than 10 feet from shore. It just depend

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Westlake Village

Aloha. Homanded said: "our advice is based solely on self impressions or experiences, sometimes limited to a shortened amount of time spent in one place rather than truly getting to know an area." So true. As a homeowner on Oahu, I have found that most tourists, Haoles, go for the hokey more than the natural settings and sights. If you enjoy cafeteria luaus then the PCC Polynesian Cultural Center is where to go for you. The PCC is a great and wonderful area of learning of the people of the Pacific, but the Luau that most get is a long table that you sit at, get up and go get your food, mass produced and rushed out to feed the masses. I really don't like the tourist hook of using fire dancers to draw them in, or watered down mai tais and no alcohol at PCC. You would be better off going to a mixed plate location and enjoy the real food of Hawaii. To each his own, but for overall enjoyment of any place in the world, you must get away from the crowd and look for your own pleasure among the locals. Hey, many like buffets, others like gourmet service. Your choice. Take what is said by others and decide to your own taste. Maybe I will start a tour company for tourists who don't want to be tourist, but enjoy my little part of the Island. Of course, the Ka'maianas may get angry with me and give me the stink eye. Eh Brah, need some help. Aloha also means goodbye.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from California

Sometimes local churches and other groups hold benefit luaus that are aimed at the community rather than the tourists. You can check the Star Advertiser ( or pick up a copy of the paper), but of course, those kinds of luaus don't happen all the time, so your chances of hitting one is slim.

Kaumakapili Church in Honolulu has an annual one, but it's in July. Here's a write-up of the 2011 event:

Community luaus are 180 degrees away from the big tourist luaus. They're very casual. No elaborate costumes or umbrella drinks or guys in loincloths twirling fiery batons. They're more like a family parties with good Hawaiian food. Maybe someone has a ukulele and someone else has a guitar, and when they start playing, a couple of other people know the hula to that song and jump up and dance. And everyone "talks story."

If you're not into the flashy stuff, an alternative would be to go to Ono's Hawaiian Food on Kapahulu or Helena's Hawaiian Food ( on North School Street ( or -- as someone already mentioned - the food court at Ala Moana to eat ono food and mix with the locals.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Bucharest

Here's my two cents ...

Hanauma can be crowded but it is so for a reason, that it is a great place to snorkel. I went there twice, both times in the afternoon, and while the beach was crowded there were few people in the water, so it was no problem to snorkel. When I was there conditions were good. Someone mentioned here that when they were there conditions were not so good, winds and poor visibility. That is true of all snorkeling sites, some days are good some are not so good. I've met people who didn't have a great time on Molokini, didn't see many fish, even though most visitors do see a lot and love it. It depends on your luck I guess, but if you go snorkeling two or three times during your trip you are bound to have a great experience.

I saw lots of turtles on Honaunau beach on Big Island, there were around 10 or so very close to the shore. I couldn't say if that's the best place to see turtles, but it was for me.

Waikiki is where 80% of the visitors stay during their vacation in Oahu so it goes without saying that it is the best connected, has shops and restaurants nearby etc.

I didn't think the Blow Hole on Oahu was worth it, but again it depends on the conditions of the surf in that particular day (I also had the chance of seeing another blowhole in Kauai and that was more spectacular for me). But if you're planning to tour the North Shore, the Blow Hole is just a stop on the way there, so you can spare a few minutes (and maybe you'll be luckier than me).

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

I am excited to answer to this because I have booked my return to Hawaii and have a lot of the same interest / activity list.

Once again, I have read the previous advices, and they are very good, I will still give you my personnal input/advice from my experiences.

1) Snorkeling Hanauma Bay was a fluke for us. We both didn't enjoy it that much, thought it was over-touristic, not much to see in the water, etc etc, disapointment for us. We got better snorkel any day we went snorkeling at standard beachs in Maui. The site of Hanauma Bay is really nice tho, the view from the the top is very cool and pretty but, I wouldn't say anything if someone went to Oahu and skipped it.

2) I will myself look into Luaus more carefully, thanks to you all for the advice in the other posts.

3) We loved Turtle Town, all of us. Saw 3-4 Turtles everyday (went 3 to 4 days within our 8-9 day trip to Maui). It seems like Turtle Town can be considerated an area, we personally went to a nice beach that didn't seem to have a name, but was right beside an old golf course, and we had all the turtles we wanted.

We saw a few turtles at Black Rock, and Black Rock is a pretty cool beach, and all that area has a different style of beachs (compared to the south), you should def go there or to that area for a day and see if you like it (again we prefered beachs near turtle town). You can also jump from the rock, which is cool.

4) Central Waikiki is fine, hit up for special prices on hotels, not sure how old/young you are but you can check out hostels also, Waikiki has 3-4 different. Personnally went a few years back to the Sea Side Hostel and it was fine, small, personnal type, good vibe, not expensive, etc. It's no hotel tho. You can rent a car from Waikiki, I find it to be the most expensive place tho to rent a car. I wouldn't take the bus (for the north shore), but that is mostly because I never seem to have enough time in Hawaii and gotta rush things a bit, so car is a lot faster, more convenient. And we are 4 of us, so it's not expensive. So we basically only rent a car the day (or days) we hit the North Shore, the rest of the time, walk or bus (for short distance)

5) No idea, will also look into this !

6) You need a car in Maui, you do.

Other fun suggestions (ding ding ding, read this!) :

- I have never been to Molokini because I have read too many mix-reviews about it, just google it and you seem to have very mixed feelings about it. I have always LOVED my snorkeling on Maui, so many beachs on Maui offer awesome free snorkelling, so we decided not to invest in Molokini.

- Captain Cook at Big Island, oh wooooow Captain Cook, you want good clear water snorkelling. Go there in the morning, rent a Kayak from the locals and enjoy. We got to hang out 25 minutes with Dolphins while kayaking, got to the snorkeling area and were amazed at the quality of the water and the number of colored fishs (didnt see turtles tho).

- Manta Rays nightly dives/snorkel adventures on Big Island, didnt get to do it yet but it seems amaaaaaazing. You should look into that see if you are interested.

- Pīpīwai trail at the end of Hana Road - at the O'heo Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools), you are welcome. Don't miss it.

That's it for tonight, those top 4 suggestions are simply stuff we loved or look into doing, just making sure you are aware they exist, Hawaii has so much to offer, you can search for days and days for activities/stuff to do, and still miss out on some great stuff!!


answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Mumbai

Would be great to have one of our fellow VT members opening their own hotels .

May be hotels section in Hawaii on VT would be less visited since they would know where to head when in Hawaii :):)

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Kailua

I have a vacation rental in Kailua, does that count?

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Westlake Village

To Kellinwood, LOL I tried that once with my home in Kaneohe. Woooeee! Seemed like a good idea at the time. Ouch! No respect from some of the Haoles. Brah, It is better to be left for your return to paradise then to have your slice of heaven tarnished. Plus in my area of Kaneohe, on Lolapua St. near the Kaneohe Bay, the Kama’ainas accept me as one of them and don't like the neighborhood being "invaded. Kailua is different as many tourists visit the area and locals seem to ignore the constant noise and disruption to the Aloha spirit by over zealous visitors. This does not mean we do not have the Aloha Spirit with Malihinis, but the aloha 'aina and 'ohana is stronger than money. A hui hou. :-)

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Berkeley

My advise rent a car where ever you are in state of Hawaii. Bus transportation ok but you'll miss a lot and have to wait long for them sometimes. Hanauma Bay is a must. Ignore the crowd, it is room for everybody. It is a paradise of snorkling and turtles if you are luky and patient.

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