Hawaii is a place you hear a lot about. Growing up watching a lot of American TV meant Hawaii was always portrayed as the holiday destination. My understanding did not stretch much further than Waikiki Beach, North Shore, and Pearl Harbour. When I thought of Hawaii I mainly thought of resorts, surfing, and 1960s holiday chic. That view was completely challenged when I actually landed in the ‘Aloha State’. Not only is Hawaii full of beautiful beaches and peaceful spirits, but there is a rich tapestry of culture and history which is intriguing and important to appreciate.
Hawaii became the 50th state in the United States in 1959 but the history of the islands spans millennia before that. It is documented that Polynesians arrived in Hawaii around 1500 years ago on a monumental journey of migration using only the stars as a guide. Centuries later, Tahitians migrated to Hawaii and brought their belief system and social structure.
Captain James Cook arrived on Kauai in 1778 and opened the archipelago up to the West. But he was killed a year later on Hawaii Island. With many warring factions the Hawaiian Islands were all officially under one royal kingdom in 1810. 1820 saw the coming of missionaries to Hawaii. From here Hawaii began to be used as a port for traders and the whaling industry escalated. The native Hawaiian population struggled with disease and control. The Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown by American Colonists in 1893 and became a territory in 1898. The 20th century was also tumultuous as sugar and pineapple plantations brought in a host of immigrants. Hawaii also played a key role in World War II, and the attack on Pearl Habour was a significant event.
All of these historical and cultural developments can be felt and appreciated when visiting this island state. Influences from all over the world have defined the Hawaii of modern-day, and this can be seen and felt. Interspersed with the luscious green rain forests, volcanoes, pumping surf beaches, and fresh food, are chances to learn about a unique culture.
Over the fantastic three weeks I enjoyed seeing parts of Oahu, Maui, and Big Island — and I am eager to get back and see more! The adventure was a whirlwind of road trips, snorkeling, helicoptering over active volcanoes, and having way too much fun. Hopefully in this Hawaii Photo Diary I can show you a bit about what Hawaii has to offer and share the spirit that it encapsulates. And show that it was so much more than what is fed to us on TV.
Also I cannot believe it’s taken me a year to make this post… so here goes!
The flight over
The family jumped on our Jetstar flight to Honolulu just as the sun was setting over the East Coast of Australia. The flight was around 9 hours and seemed to go a lot quicker than expected. Soon enough we were in the sweltering Honolulu Airport and had to transfer over to our Island Air terminal. The terminal was quaint and we felt like we were in an island paradise immediately. Our baggage was weighed on bathroom scales and loaded onto the back of the propeller plane. We waited at the gate for an hour or so with our jetlagged ears delighted by the sounds of ukelele music and free tea and coffee. Not bad.
Soon enough we had taken off. The little plane headed out of Honolulu and provided breathtaking views over Diamond Head. We were en route to Maui and the journey was almost as pretty as what awaited us on the island.
Maui is a luscious island on one side, and sheer volcanic beauty on the other. From what we’d seen from the sky — we were ready to explore it! And jump right in, we did. The highlight of our time on the island of Maui was the Road To Hana which is a winding coastal route with stunning views. Sipping Mai Tais, attending a Hawaiian luau, and watching the rich pink sunsets were all cherries on top.
It was easy to feel as though you were in a tropical dream
The jet-lagged family taking a quick snap before driving onwards to Kaanapali
The dramatic tropical landscapes were immediately evident
Clouds and mountain ridges play at sunset
Less than 10 minutes into the Road To Hana trip and we were at the Pineapple Express
The things that look like stones closest to the end of the beach are actually giant turtles!
Our car for the week in Maui was a bright red Jeep which had a removeable top — it seemed cool until maps, hats and hair went flying everywhere
There are plenty of waterfalls and swimming holes to explore along the Road To Hana
If you fancy a coconut along the way then you are well-supplied
Another popular water hole and waterfall along the route
The Road To Hana hugs the Maui coastline as it covers 103km in 603 bends!
Stunning greenery is everywhere the eye can see!
Dad enjoying a swim at another waterfall. By this stage the crowds had substantially thinned out and the watering holes were becoming more private.
READ MORE: Road To Hana: The Best Hawaiian Road Trip
Beautiful black lava beach along the Road To Hana
Haleakala Volcanic Crater is another amazing place to check out in Maui
The dormant volcano makes for some incredible scenery and there are plenty of opportunities for hiking
Stunning Maui sunsets at Kaanapali Beach
Attending a Hawaiian luau was an amazing experience — although the mai tais were virgin as I wasn’t 21 yet (sadface)
Watching the pig be uncovered for the luau
Our final night in Maui and the sky put on a pretty spectacular show
After an incredible week in Maui it was time to head to Big Island. Another lightweight Island Air Flight in crazily windy conditions eventually saw us land. Big Island is well-known for its volcanic activity with much of the island being covered in blackened lava. It was on Big Island that we were able to take a helicopter ride and see the sheer power of a volcano from above. We split our time between Hilo and Kona, both beautiful towns with their own unique spirit.
The beautiful Akaka Falls
Steam emerging from beneath the ground at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
We hung around until sunset to see the glow of the volcanic cap
I had never really thought about how pineapples grew until I saw this outside my bedroom one morning
American-style schoolbuses operate in Hawaii and add to the beautiful colours of towns like Hilo
More colourful buildings in Hilo, Big Island
The Hilo Farmers Market provided some amazing fresh fruit and vegetables
It was almost time for takeoff with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters!
Seeing a lava stream from above was truly a majestic sight!
Flying over the cone and seeing the sulfur emerge
These signs may seem surreal but they are important — there were many times when just swimming off the beach we would encounter turtles
The vintage Hilo Farmers Market was the perfect place for a snack
Strolling through Hilo looking through antique shops and drinking giant American coffees
Lava is absolutely everywhere
Hawaii’s volcanoes well and truly determine the landscape
Finally finding good coffee
In between all the driving there was plenty of time to enjoy the warm beaches and snorkeling
We unfortunately did not have much time to explore Oahu as we had to get a flight back to Australia. In Honolulu we enjoyed attempting (unsuccessfully) to surf, walking along Waikiki Beach, visiting Pearl Harbour, and relaxing at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. It was a chilled out way to end the adventure.
Waikiki Beach at dusk
Wonderful sunsets at Waikiki Beach
When your room comes with the best-ever view