Where to even start with such an amazing vacation! Our trip was a total of 12 days- 2 travel days and 10 days on the islands. We flew from Pennsylvania> to San Diego > LA > to Maui (spent 5 days here) then flew to Kauai and spent 5 days there before taking a red eye flight from Kauai>LA>Pennsylvania. The travel days were long (like I was able to edit a whole wedding and read half a book), but the days on the islands were magical and that made it all worth it.
The travel there actually wasn’t too bad! We left PA Sunday night and spent the night in LA. With gaining so much time as you’re flying westward, we landed in LA, grabbed dinner at the Lucha Libre Taco Shop (which was delicious and I highly recommend!) then got some sleep for the night. The next morning we took a mini flight to LA then left there and landed in Maui at 12pm. We still had the whole day ahead of us!
In Maui we rented an AirBnB in Kihei. We actually like renting a lot; we’re even considering Exceptional Villas properties in the Caribbean for our next vacation after it was recommended to us by a friend! We decided to stay on the Southwest side of the island because is was central to a lot of the places that we wanted to see. Kihei was also a more relaxed environment with food trucks, grocery stores, and more locals. When you get farther North towards Lahaina, it becomes touristy with all the resorts and hotels. We liked visiting that area for the day but we definitely enjoyed staying at our AirBnB in Kihei. So that’s something to consider if you are trying to figure out where to stay on your trip to Maui!
THE ROAD TO HANA
We read that if you wanted to do anything that required you to wake up super early (like before 5am), it’s best to do that earlier in your trip before you adjust to the time change. Pennsylvania is 5 hours ahead of Maui so waking up at 4am still felt like 9am those first few days. We decided to do The Road to Hana our first day in Maui. We stopped at a few places along the way, but most of it was enjoying the car ride AND we wanted to make sure we made it past Hana to the southern half of the Haleakala National Park where the Seven Sacred Pools were.
The Road to Hana can only be accessed by driving the island clockwise. So it’s one way there, then you turn around and come back. You want to make sure you start super early or you WILL be stuck behind a line of cars. Our favorite stops along the road were The Black Lava Rock Beach on the Keanea Peninsula, the Black Sand Beach, and the 2 mile hike on the Pipiwai trail to Waimoku Falls in the Haleakala National Park (just past Hana). Because we started our drive at 4:30am, we got to the Black Sand Beach before anyone else. We had the whole place to ourselves! We spent an hour there hiking around before continuing on the road. Our last stop on the road (which was the end of the road) was the Park where we hiked the Pipiwai trail through a bamboo forest. The trail ended before you could get up too close to the waterfall, but it was still super pretty!
Many people said that there is so much to see on the Road to Hana that you could really do it in multiple days, but with getting up early and planning ahead on where we wanted to stop, we were able to see and do everything we wanted. We stopped at a food truck in Hana for dinner on our way back which was excellent! There was a whole group of them just off the road and the food was so good!
This is a must do if you are coming to Maui! This is another event where you have to get up early so it’s best to do it early in your trip. We did it on day 3 and we were just fine. Make sure to get your tickets ahead of time! They are free, but they cap the amount of people there (which makes sense because it’s gets hella crowded). Wake up early and dress warm because the sunrise is up on the crater and it’s freezing. We got there about 40 minutes before sunrise and there were already a ton of people there.
The sunrise was the most amazing thing!! Maybe my favorite thing of the trip. After the sunrise, we drove a little higher up on the crater and took lots of photos which was fun. Coming down the crater, you can stop to eat at Kula Lodge and get breakfast. The food was pretty normal (nothing to write home about) but the view was really pretty! Make sure to get seated by a window!
DAY TRIP TO LAHAINA
Lahaina has lots of fun little shops to visit, shaved ice stands, and beautiful sunsets! If you are looking for a break from sitting on the beach and swimming, this is a fun place to go.
The next couple days we spent snorkeling and traveling around. We found a sunflower field, bought a pineapple, tried a couple beaches, and ate some really good (but really expensive) food. We went to the Kapalua Beach which I really liked. The snorkeling was good but I most liked it because there weren’t too many people there and it was a huge long stretch of beach.
The most amazing hidden gem that we LOVED snorkeling at (and I’m so sad we discovered it on our last day in Maui) was Mokapu Beach Park. It’s right next to Ulua Beach Park (which is where we parked) but if you turn right and walk over that hill of vegetation, it’s way less crowded and actually a better access to the amazing snorkeling! I saw 3 huge turtles over the course of a few hours and the amount of fish and reef right in between Mokapu Beach ad Ulua Beach is unreal. Definitely go here!
PULLED OFF TO A SUNFLOWER FIELD!
We were originally going to try and pick a fresh pineapple from a nearby pineapple farm, but they closed literally minutes before we got there.. so instead we stopped at this sunflower field on the way home and snapped a few photos.
BEST FOOD IN KIHEI
There are so many good food places in Maui, but it’s all pretty expensive so we only ate out if it was a place we really wanted to try. When we travel we always try and make 2/3 of our meals for convenience and to save money. We get an AirBnB with a kitchen, pick up some basic groceries at the store, make eggs/toast/oatmeal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. It’s just so much easier then having to constantly find places to eat.
With that being said, we ate at 2 really awesome places that are worth mentioning. For dinner one night we walked to a pizza food truck called Outrigger Pizza Co. Super fresh and delicious. There might be a bit of a wait but it was so good. The second place was the Kihei Caffe. Their breakfast was to die for and it’s what they are famous for! Wake up early because the line gets long, the tables get taken, and they only take cash (which we didn’t know until we were at the top of the line.. oops).
Kauai is the island that is known to be less touristy because more then 80% of the island is inaccessible by road. You can only really see the island by backpacking, by boat, or by helicopter. It’s the jungle island of Hawaii :)
It was pretty unfortunate timing for our trip to Kauai because the day we landed was the day they were having a pretty terrible hurricane and flooding. Luckily most of the damage was on the north side of the island and we were staying in the south. We weren’t aware of the flooding when we arrived.. but soon did when we tried to drive our rental car up to the northern side of the island and there were literally waterfalls and mudslides forming before our eyes and dumping onto the road!!! After that we turned around and stayed south for the day.
*Also we had the cutest Airbnb in Kauai! A guest house in someone’s backyard and it was the best little surf shack I’ve ever stayed in!*
HIKING WAIMEA CANYON
This is considered the “Grand Canyon” of the Hawaiian islands. We hiked the Awa’awapuhi Trail which takes you all the way to the coastal cliffs! Remember when I mentioned that most of the island isn’t accessible by road?? Well this hike was 6.2 miles round trip of some pretty strenuous terrain (and it was super muddy from all the rains the day before). The views were INCREDIBLE! You can easily get some amazing view at the cliffs edge where the trail ends, but if you continue a tad longer, across a super narrow ridge (with cliffs on both sides mind you), you can see even farther down the coastline. Because of the mud, we were originally not going to walk through that narrow part. If you even slipped on either side you would certainly fall to your death. In hindsight, I wouldn’t do it again. It was suuuuuper sketchy and the views were still amazing where the trail ended. My advice, just be cautious and if it looks too muddy or slippery, better pass that part.
BEACH HOPPING IN KAUAI
Again because of the major flooding, most of the beaches were a mess. Debris everywhere and many beaches were closed to swimming. I’m not able to give you advice on any beaches that were spectacular, but we did a far share of beach hopping for an afternoon and took some fun photos. Love my stripped one piece swimsuit from Cupshe!
RAFTING ALONG THE NA PALI COAST
The Na Pali Coast is one of the most iconic coasts in the world. If your a movie buff, countless films were shot along this coast including Pirates of the Caribbean, King Kong, Avatar, and Jurassic World! It’s only accessible by boat and it also has some of the more incredible snorkeling spots. We read about the snorkeling at the Nualolo Kai beach and found a rafting expedition that would take you there. Now you don’t need to be all the way on The Na Pali Coast to get some rafting in though, if you are looking for something closer to home there is the lake tahoe rafting company, American Whitewater Expeditions for the lovers of adventure!
Now this rafting expedition is not for the faint of heart. You have to sign a waiver beforehand stating that you aren’t pregnant, have existing back problems, or any other health problems. The expedition was 6 hours of bouncing over the waves on a high powered navy raft. We were darting in and out of sea caves, getting soaked under waterfalls, chased a pod of whales, and even saw a 10 foot shark!! (Our captains had never seen a shark that big on their previous trips!!) We docked halfway through at the Nualolo Kai beach and went snorkeling (where we saw a sting ray and sea turtles), ate lunch, and saw some ancient artifacts from earlier civilization on the island. I was very impressed with how fun and knowledgable our captains were! It was my 27th birthday that day too and it’s one I will always remember :) I’d highly recommend booking this Rafting Expedition through Captain Andy’s!
EATING IN KAUAI
There were a few places that we ate that are worth noting! First was El Pastor Tacos. We stopped at this food truck right after we landed in Kauai and it was delicious!
Next was Dukes Kauai! We went there for my birthday dinner and it was super good! Beach view, great food, and a little more fine dining for a nice night out. Don’t forget to order their Hula Pie before you leave ;)
The third place was a total hole in the wall called Da Crack! Don’t let the name fool you because this food was amazing! We had just been hiking all day so this Mexican cuisine sounded delicious, and it did not disappoint. You build your own burrito, bowl, or taco, although I think most go for the burrito and just load everything in it. The line was so long (which really says something for how good their food is). If you are in Kauai, this place needs to be a must stop for food.
The last thing that you have to eat at least once in Hawaii is a Poke Bowl. Period. We got one in Kauai at the Fish Express, however they are all the same and are all really good! We had never had one before so we told the guy to just put whatever he thought was good in it. And boy was it good!
BLUE HAWAIIAN HELICOPTER TOUR
Our last excursion we had planned in Kauai was a kayaking trip to a waterfall in the middle of the island. With all the flooding, the rivers were a mess so the excursion got rescheduled to the day we were going to fly out. Our flight was a red eye, so even though it wasn’t ideal to go on a kayaking trip that morning without having our Airbnb to come back to, we weren’t about to cancel. So that morning we didn’t shower and dressed in our swimsuits and hiking clothes (we were going to be kayaking then hiking to the waterfall). As we had just packed up the car and checked out of our Airbnb, we get a call saying the excursion was cancelled because the rivers were still too high…. so long story short, we got our money back then paid 3x’s that to book a last minute helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters!
This was an amazing end to our trip and if you have the money, it’s totally worth it! Although the kayaking would’ve been amazing, we got to see the entire island of Kauai and it was double cool for us because we had done the rafting tour of the Na Pali Coast just the day before, but this time we got to see it again from the air! Our pilot took us to hidden waterfalls, the Waimea Canyon that we hiked in, and even showed us some spots where Jurassic World was filmed. Fun Fact- remember the helicopter that Simon Masrani (the CEO of jurassic world) flew over the ridge and into the Pterodactyl Aviary? Well that helicopter was a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter, and our pilot flew over that same ridge with us! Except there wasn’t an aviary filled with dinosaurs on the other side ;)
Our trip was amazing! We felt like 5 days at each island was perfect and we did everything we wanted to do! If you end up visiting any of these islands, I hope this post helps guide you as you are planning your trip! Feel free to comment below with any questions you may have!
Grab Your Guide
A lot of moving pieces go into planning a wedding day timeline and I know it can be overwhelming! Grab my free guide to plan the perfect timeline for your day.