I have been to Hawaii over 10 times and absolutely love the beauty, sense of adventure, and sunshine that Hawaii provides. Before I give the reasons to go to Maui; you will first need to make sure that you have a rental car. You will want to have freedom at least on your first visit; after this visit, you may decide that you want a shuttle to pick you up at the airport and spend the time at your resort. The first visit is one where you will want to explore for the first 3 days; then you can relax!
The Road to Hana is a spectacular journey to Hana. I typically stay on the Kaanapali Side of Maui so it is a 45 minute drive to start the 51 mile journey to Hana from Hwy 360. The drive starts near Paia. I have stopped a few times at Charley’s Restaurant (Willy Nelson’s favorite spots) and then head out for the drive. The first stop for me is typically Mama’s Fish House. A stunning location and I am told amazing seafood (I am allergic to fish and shellfish; so not going inside to eat here). Then on a short drive up the road to Ho’okipa Lookout where from any view, you can see surfing, at times dolphins, and people playing in the surf. This is a location where experienced surfers only should be in this water…I recommend picking up a Road to Hana CD in a gas station before leaving…sometimes your phone will not work based on where you are on this route.
The route has lots of curves, one way bridges, and lots of traffic with slow drivers and more traffic depending on what time you leave.
Along the way you will see countless waterfalls, pull offs, and stopping points such as: Twin Falls, the Garden of Eden, Hana Lava Tube, Wailua Falls before arriving in Hana.
The journey along the way is spectacular. Mile 7 has Rainbow Trees. Hana has a pretty black sand beach and my favorite place to eat is the Hana Ranch.
You will pass by signs that say Haleakala National Park and this is where the famous Bamboo Forest is located.
When you are finished with this visit; keep driving around the back side of the island; some of the best views of Maui are here. Know you want to be on the road before dark and to keep moving.
The drive to the bottom of Haleakala National Park from Kaanapali is around an hour. If you do not like switchbacks or driving without guardrails; then this is not the drive for you. The drive from the bottom to the top takes about 35 minutes and along the way you will see bikes, a few people walking, and lots of cars going up or coming down. When you arrive at the top, there will be a large parking lot and restrooms; there is a ranger station where you can purchase a few souvenirs. Silversword is a beautiful plant that only grows here.
As you go to the top of Haleakala, remember that this is high altitude and Altitude Sickness can occur. The top is over 10,000 feet and higher at the summit.
Haleakala can be seen anytime, but it is recommended that you book Haleakala with a tour group and do a sunrise visit.
When you leave Hana, you continue around the backside of the island and you will see signs for Haleakala National Park. On the left hand side of the road, you will see a turn off with parking lots; pull in here. There is a view of the ocean, restrooms, and the paths that take you to Haleakala or to the Bamboo Forest.
The Bamboo Forest is a hike. Haleakala National Park (the back side) is there along with a path that takes you to the Bamboo Forest. Do not miss this. Know you have to be in good shape to complete this walk; it is a lot of up and down; twists and turns, and tree roots. If you have bad knees, legs that struggle, or hip replacement/knee replacement surgeries; you may want someone in your group to take pictures and show you.
As you walk to the bamboo forest; you follow a river and if you toward the river; be careful as signs are everywhere about the dangers and warnings of deaths that have occurred from falling. There is a well marked path and if you stay on the path; you are safe.
On this path, there are swinging bridges and huge canopy trees. Bring your camera.
The water is the ocean. With that being said, you are on an island and rip tides, waves, and lifeguards are not always where you will want to be. There are tide pools and rocks near water ways (especially the road to Hana) or up by Kapalua where you may be tempted to climb down and be close to the water and get a selfie or picture in general. Remember, if the wave comes and takes you with it; you may not be able to get back where you were. This is not to scare you, but it is a reality.
Snorkeling in Molokini: take a tour company and out for a 2 hour snorkeling trip. There are pretty fish and the water is beautiful. Remember not to go too far from the boat; there is a current. The snorkeling tour company will tell you all about it. Wear a life vest or float on top of it.
There is a nice boat ride from Lahaina to Lanai that goes over some rough water but takes you for a few hours to the 4 Seasons Lanai. It is a beautiful tropical destination if you are looking for something to do. Dolphins will swim next to the boat.
The Ho’opina Lookout has surfing; if you are a beginner; you will want to find an easier area to surf. Lots of small waves around the island. Lahaina is a good beginner location.
We do not really swim in the ocean unless on an excursion. The pools at the hotels usually capture most of our time. We will definitely get into the ocean play/ splash around but as far as going out a distance or standing near a blowhole next to the coast; not so much.
The boat ride from Lahaina to Lanai is nice; suggested if you are on the island more than 4 days.
The Snorkeling in Molokini is very nice.
We stay on the Kaanapali side of the island but if you decide to stay near Wailea; check the updates on bacteria as sometimes this can affect the time in the water.
This is a popular location for all of the major hotels and there is plenty of beach available for all.
Lahaina is a pretty location where there are lots of shops; good location to walk around. Surfers are nearby and the park has beautiful trees. There are galleries and lots of companies trying to get business for tours on Maui.
Kaanapali Beach is a hotel zone. There is Whalers Village (major shopping area) that is quite happening at night. All of the beaches here are extremely nice.
Kapalua is further north; near the Ritz Carlton you will find Dragon’s Teeth and beautiful forests. As you drive around the top part of Kapalua, you will find many cliffs and witness surfers climbing down the cliffs
I have been to Maui over 10 times; for as short of a stay as 2 days and as long as two weeks. If you have questions, please ask!
I’ve wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand since I can remember. We had the opportunity over the summer of 2017 and jumped at the chance even though our time was somewhat limited. Not sure what the optimal time is to see both countries – but most suggest at least a couple weeks for each. That being said you can (and we did) have an amazing adventure in less than 2 weeks.
We only had 12 days to see both countries and made the most of it. We moved at a good clip but were not rushed and had plenty of time to relax. The first leg of our trip we visited Sydney, The Great Barrier Reef and The Whitsundays. The second part of our journey we hit some of the major cities in New Zealand including Queenstown, Christchurch and Auckland. Transportation, food and lodging was not cheap but it was definitely not prohibitive. You can save big if using points for the transpacific flight. We booked most of our hotels through Hotels.com and even earned a free nights stay along the way.
The flight there and back was expensive ($2067 round trip) and long (14 hours there and 12 hours back to/from LAX). We were able to use points to cover one of the round trip tickets on American Airlines. The intercity flights between Australian Cities and New Zealand (via Quantas and Jetstar) were not too bad at $100-$300 each.
We flew from Columbus, OH to LAX and then on to Sydney. From Sydney we immediately departed for the Whitsundays where we spent the next 3 days. We stayed at Arlie Beach, Queensland and were able to find a hotel at a very reasonable price. The first day we booked a half day Excursion from Airlie Beach out to the Great Barrier Reef via Cruise Whitsundays (about $199/person).
The trip out to the reef took about 2 hours. The Seas can be rough but luckily they were not too bad the day we went. We spent the next 2 ½ to 3 hours on a large pontoon boat right on The Great Barrier Reef where we were served lunch and then could partake in a snorkel safari, semi-submersible boat ride, and see fish and other aquatic sea life including some beautiful coral. There were a few small sharks in the water but luckily none looked like they wanted to eat us!
The next day we took another Cruise Whitsundays Tour (@$109) which took us around the Whitsunday islands including a stop on beautiful Whitehaven Beach . Know that you must take a ferry or water taxi from island to island to get to pick up/drop off points for the cruises and these can cost anywhere from 50-60$ per person each way. Unfortunately there is no other way to get around the islands unless you bring your own boat….
The follow day we flew back to Sydney where we spent the next 2 days exploring the City, Harbor, Harbor Bridge, Opera House, and Sydney Eye Tower. We took the Big Bus Sydney Hop-on-Hop-off Tour ($67/person for 2 days) which allowed us to explore the city at our own pace. We used the OPAL Card which also saved us money on trains, buses and ferries.
Our 2nd day we took a short excursion by train to Featherdale Wildlife Park where we could see much of the native Australian wildlife and we got to hold and have our pictures taken with a Koala bear! There were also incredibly cute kangaroos. The park is easy to get to (about 45 km west of Sydney, 45min by car, 1:15h by train.) The experience was well worth it at $32/adult, $17/child.
Next it was off to New Zealand. From Sydney we flew to Queenstown which is an absolutely beautiful town perched on the shore of Lake Wakatipu and nestled in the Southern Alpine Mountains. There is plenty for tourists to do with lots of skiing, restaurants and shops. There is also an abundance of outdoor recreational activities.
The following morning we took a day trip to Milford Sound which maybe one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We had to get up early in the morning and took a bus to the sound Kiwi Discovery was purchased by Go Orange. Once there we had about a 2 hour cruise on the Sound where we were fed lunch and took in not only the scenery but also some wildlife! $179.00 per person. The video on the bus ride back was spectacular as well: The World’s Fastest Indian
The next day we headed to Christcurch. It was amazing to see the amount of Devastation that still persisted more than 6 years after the 2011 earthquake. Many buildings still remained abandoned. The most striking was the Christchurch Cathedral.
The following morning we set off for a day-long round trip via the KiwiRail TranzAlpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth (@ $260/person). This trip takes you across through the Alpine Mountains and through Arthur’s Pass.
From Christchurch we left for Auckland. Once in Auckland we rented a car and drove to The Hobbiton (“Middle Earth” where the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings was filmed) which was about 2h and 15min southeast of Auckland. From there it was onto the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves which was about another 1.5h southwest.
The round trip leaving and returning to Auckland is easily doable in one day if you get an early start. It did take bit of getting used to driving on the Right side of the road! We spent our final night exploring Auckland before departing for LAX the following morning.
We were only able to sample some of Australia and New Zealand in 12 days but had an amazing trip and that left us plenty to see when we go back! This vacation can be a bit pricy but there are ways to save money. Overall it was well worth the cost. Australia and New Zealand are undoubtably two of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
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When I see these deals, sometimes I am a bit skeptical on whether or not it is a legit deal. This particular deal came open and within a few weeks, I figured it was good enough to try and booked it.
A couple of definitions that may help you to better understand me before you read any further: I am frugal most of the time but will splurge on experiences or something I deem valuable. For me, being frugal looks at what I place value on (whether it is a restaurant or amazing hotel or experience) and being cheap looks at the least expensive tour or least expensive hotel in the area.
WOWAir offers 5 hour non-stop flights from Baltimore to Reykjavik at $99.00 fare each way. It is important to know that you do not get a carry on, personal item, and luggage with this airline. WOW Air has certain restrictions on luggage and even personal item (the size and weight) so make sure that you read that information instead of showing up at the airport and paying more than you should.
Leaves the United States in the evening; arriving in Reykjavik in the early morning hours.
I had a personal item and checked bag only. I wore my coat on the plane and also wore my Sorel heavy boots while my tennis shoes were packed in the suitcase. All of my heaviest items were worn on the plane. I live in Ohio and based on the deal; drove 6 hours to Baltimore to catch the flight. Gas cost $99.00 roundtrip from Columbus, Ohio to Baltimore, MD.
You can spend very little in Iceland if you rented a car, paid for gas, and stayed at the least expensive hotel/ Air BNB/ hostel.
Airfare including bags, taxes, and seats: $283.00 per person roundtrip
Rental Car: Blue Car Rental for a Land Rover SUV with insurance including the wind, volcanic ash, etc. coverage for 4 full days was $767.12 USD This included a wi-fi transmitter in the car so we could talk on WhatsApp and use the google map feature on the cell phone with no additional costs.
Drive from Airport to Glacier Lagoon with stops along the way at waterfalls and at Vik. (7 hour drive) Hotel Stay Expenses: Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon: $146.30 USD. Pictures from Day 1 below. Hotel was very nice; the dinner at the hotel was very expensive. $60.00 USD per person.
Drove from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon to the Golden Circle and then to Hotel Husafell; on the way stopping along the Golden Circle and the Solheimasandur Plane Crash! It was a long walk to the plane and there are no restrooms along the path; maybe close to 5 miles roundtrip. The Solheimasandur Plane Crash is 10 miles from Skogafoss and 17 minutes from Vik. Look for stopped cars.
Hotel Husafell was a wonderful hotel $263.61 for the night and it included a viewing of the Northern Lights. The hotel is located near the Glacier and is removed from most lights; absolutely stunning location. We arrived late and dinner was no longer served, however, the chef brought us some food anyway. Highly recommended.
The next morning included an excursion: Into the Glacier (for 2 people: $344.80) riding in a NATO missile truck with wifi that will climb the glacier so you can see the inside. It was incredible. We walked next door to board the truck for our excursion.
After the morning spent on the Glacier, we packed up and did the Golden Circle Tour for a second day.
We headed toward our next hotel: Ion Adventure Hotell for $345.23 a night; close to our next morning’s excursion. Included a geothermal pool experience (Northern Lights can be viewed if it is clear) and the accommodation was quite spectacular.
Guide to Iceland Silfra Fissure included a Dry Suit to experience swimming in the Silfa Fissure (snorkeling between tectonic plates between North America and Europe). for $300.36 for two people. The Dry Suit allows you to float; you can see me floating on my bottom and see the pictures from the GoPro.
After the excursion, it was time for a ride into Reykjavik to explore the city and take in some of the shopping. Our hotel was the Fosshotel Reykjavik for $202.32 for the night. It was centrally located.
Our last day was spent in the morning at the Blue Lagoon before boarding the plane to return to Baltimore. $108.19 for two people. There are several price points with the Blue Lagoon; we opted for the least expensive and brought our own travel towels and had flip flops. It saved us around $100.00.
Travel Insurance $144 for 2 people.
This trip is absolutely amazing and while we could have gone much cheaper; it was a quality vacation with above average accommodations. Book the trip and Go!
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