We planned out much of the trip through the archipelago in advance, but made a few impulsive stops as well. It was an unforgettable experience, and the destinations I'm highlighting here are only a fraction of what the islands have to offer. But if you're planning a Hawaii trip, any of these places are sure to leave you with happy memories.
Grand Hyatt Kauai
If you stay here, the key thing to remember is that you don't want to spend all your time at the resort. After all, it's possible when your hotel includes a beach, several pools, a surprisingly swift water slide, a couple of lagoons, fire pits, several restaurants and shops, a golf course, a spa, musical performances, and an atrium with tropical birds. We managed to enjoy most of these amenities when we got back from a daily excursion. There's also a coastal trail to the east which gives a stunning view of the sunrise.
This botanical garden was formerly the grounds of a private home, so it had more variety than you would see if you were just walking through a typical natural area. Several beautiful water features and interesting structures are spread throughout the grounds. Allerton Gardens has also been used for a few films, most notably the enormous Moreton Bay fig trees that appear in Jurassic Park. We signed up for a sunset tour, which took us on a guided walk through the gardens and a dinner at the usually inaccessible homestead. Definitely a good way to start out the honeymoon.
Little Fish Coffee
Kauai Island Brewery and Grill
Craft breweries have been popping up all over the place, and Hawaii is no exception. This one had a nice relaxing atmosphere and a staff that was accommodating in every way. The samplers they offered were enormous (giving you a chance to try something like eight of their beers), and they also had some great sampler plates. An upper level includes a line of classic pinball machines if you feel in need of a diversion.
Wings Over Kauai
Thankfully, they directed us to the Hula Grill, a nearby sister restaurant. They got us in right away, had a tasty menu, and offered us a few Kona beer samples to help us choose which one we wanted. Perhaps most importantly, they also had the famous Duke's hula pie, a Matterhorn-shaped pile of ice cream and fudge.
The tour is so named because it brings you to a beach where you go snorkeling and looking for sea turtles. This, unfortunately, was the most underwhelming part of the tour. The beach was distinguished by shallow water, somewhat rough waves, and a lot of sharp coral. After blundering around for a little while, getting a few painful cuts, and spotting a grand total of one sea turtle (on the beach), we had to give up. The "circle island" portion of the tour is very well-done, but the main feature could use a better beach.
Top of Waikiki
Nature Tours "Jurassic Park Waterfall" tour
Buho Cocina y Cantina
Pearl Harbor and the USS Missouri
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
There are plenty of tour options to see this park (we got one through Arnott's Lodge), as well as helicopter trips to see the lava flows from overhead. You can choose to go with one of these or try the more open-ended way of driving through the various roads and checking out the trails.
There's nowhere else in the United States to see landscapes like the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, so this is not a place to be missed. There are several places to explore, including overlooks of vast craters and calderas; enormous fields of lava, frozen where the flow cooled and hardened; the Thurston Lava Tube, a cavern large enough to comfortably walk through; and numerous steam vents. Our tour ended with a long walk around the Kilauea crater and a visit to the Jaggar Museum, which includes a great deal of information on the geology of the islands. Visiting during the evening always provides an impressive sight, with the crater's glow becoming more pronounced as the sun sets.
Kaimu Beach Park
MacKenzie State Park
MacKenzie State Park includes old lava flows and sea cliffs, where you can watch the waves crash into the shore and throw up huge sprays. It's well worth a visit, but you'll definitely want to make sure you stay a safe distance from the ledges. Over the years, several fishermen and other visitors have been caught off guard by rogue waves and swept into the sea.
Lava Tree State Park
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
Akaka Falls State Park
Big Island Brewhaus & Taco Tako Taqueria
We opted to check out Two Steps, a popular site located near the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park (or City of Refuge for those who broke the island's sacred laws). This oceanfront site is named for a natural ledge, part of an old lava flow, that gives you an easy way to get into the water. It was fascinating to see the coral and tropical fish swimming below, and snorkelers have also reported seeing creatures such as turtles, octopuses, and even dolphins. The lava is slippery when wet, and sharp if you fall, so be careful getting around.
Kona Brewing Company
Donkey Balls Chocolate
Captain Cook monument
The monument itself is a fairly standard monolith. There's a more subtle marker showing the actual spot where Cook was killed, while the monument includes both tributes left by various visitors and the remnants of attempts to deface the language about how Cook "discovered" the islands. You don't come all this way just to gawk at a slab of stone, though; the site is great for snorkeling, with calm waters and huge schools of fish.