This is going to be the very first series of 2019! When I was writing this as a single article about our honeymoon in Hawaii, it was over 7000 (!!!) words, so it really made sense to break it up. The series will share how we planned our trip (this article) and what we did and experienced on each island, sharing what we thought about each and island and what we recommend.
7 flights. 5 bedrooms. 3 cars. 3 islands.
We went to Hawai’i! After agonizing over what a honeymoon should entail, where we should go, and scrapping two complete plans, we settled on Hawai’i. Honestly, this was one of the toughest decisions we made and it took us nearly a whole year to figure it out (I wish I was kidding).
Admittedly, I wasn’t as thrilled with the idea of going to Hawai’i as Saad was – but he convinced me. Once I started to do some research, I realized that it wouldn’t feel as cliché as I thought it would be – to honeymoon in Hawai’i. Especially the way we did it. And maybe, ultimately, it didn’t matter if it was cliché. I’d never been there, and I would probably have fun, right?
First of all, it was absolutely wonderful. We had so much fun. There was a healthy mix of beach time and adventure. I wouldn’t say our honeymoon was relaxing per se. We were far too into exploring and really getting to know Hawai’i as much as we could during our brief stay. However, we did have 3 solid days where we did nothing except laze, read, and hang out though.
How we planned this trip
We didn’t have a solid fixed budget.
Honestly, we knew Hawai’i was going to be expensive no matter what we did. We still worked to cut costs without cutting enjoyment, but we’d never done this kind of vacation before so we didn’t know what to expect. We set a loose budget of $10k after some research. Although we spent more than that, I can confidently say now that if you want to, you can vacation in Hawai’i for $10k or a bit less. You won’t enjoy every luxury there is but you won’t be living in hostels or backpacking, etc.
We packed carry-on only
I hate waiting at Baggage Claim and since we were only going for 2 weeks, Saad and I packed just a carry on and backpack each. This was more than enough space for us and we never regretted our decision once. You can see how I pack carry-on only for trips here.
We didn’t stay in any hotels
We looked into it but since we weren’t planning a resort style vacation, we didn’t think it was worth spending so much money on a room with a bed and wifi.
So we booked rooms through AirBnB for the entire trip. We ended up booking 5 rooms: 2 in Honolulu, 1 on Maui, and 2 on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Our experience was fantastic and we would do it again. We didn’t love our AirBnB in Maui; it was at sea level and once in a while you saw some insects. However the place was clean and there were no real issues.
We definitely rented cars
We were there to explore and public transportation wasn’t going to get us anywhere out of the city, really. So we rented cars on every island. The most expensive island to rent on was Big Island ($750 for 5 days in a small sedan!!). However, it was completely worth it. We spent a lot of time driving around all 3 islands. The drives were gorgeous and the exploring we did was incredibly memorable.
We googled and looked up prices on various different websites to get the best rates we could for the car rentals. Half of our bookings were through Orbitz, a couple were through Car Rental 8, and one booking was directly with Avis. We experienced a variety of car rental companies (Advantage, Thrifty, Alamo, and Avis). No complaints about any of them, although we did have a couple issues with our Thrifty rental which were resolved.
We booked a few tours
We booked 2 tours before leaving and booked another one on an impulse while we were in Maui. We knew we wanted to do a lot of exploring on our own, but there were some things that would be far more fun on tours.
The two we booked before leaving were:
Molokini and Turtle Town Snorkelling Adventure – This tour was by the Frogman Charters through Viator.
The Mauna Loa Sunrise Experience – We booked this tour with Hawaii Forest and Trail, again through Viator. We were really excited for this tour and looking forward to going to the top of Mauna Loa to see the sunrise. However, because of the weather it completely fell through. Hawaii Forest and Trail offered us two equivalent options for the same day that we could go on or get a full refund. They did try to get us on another Mauna Loa tour, but we were flying out of Big Island the super early the next day so that wasn’t possible.
We ended up going on their Waterfall hiking adventure and enjoyed ourselves a lot.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here.
We debated which 3 islands to go to. I really wanted to go to Kaui, however it’s the most remote island and we felt we’d perhaps appreciate it more if we experienced the other islands first (yep, we were already planning on going back before going there once).
We were going for 14-ish days so we decided to do 5 days each on the 3 different islands.
We arrived at night on December 14th in Honolulu, Oahu and stayed till the evening of December 17th. (3 days)
The evening of December 17 we flew to Kahului, Maui and stayed till the afternoon of December 22nd. (5 days)
The afternoon of December 22nd we flew to Hilo, Big Island and stayed till December 27th, taking a flight back to Honolulu early morning on December 28th. We split our time in Big Island between Hilo on the east coast and Kona on the west coast. The Island was far too big to explore with a base in one location. (5 days)
We spent two full days in Honolulu (December 28 and December 29) before taking a midnight flight back home. (2 days)
We came home in time for my birthday on December 31st, super tanned and exhausted (but thrilled!).
Looking back, the only change we would make is spend an extra day on the Big Island. There were a lot of things we didn’t get to do because were were short on time and Christmas happened during our stay. We would have much rather had 6 days to explore Big Island and 4 days in Oahu.
We researched things and used Google Trips.
We spent time reading blog posts and watching some YouTube videos to help us figure out what to do on each island and made a list of sights and experiences in Google Docs.
We also heavily used the suggestions and recommendations the Google Trips app gave us. We still left room for us to do things spontaneously and we knew there would be days we just laze on a beach, but it was nice to have some things planned out. All our planned day trips and spots went into our shared Google Calendar.
Google Trips is a fantastic little app, by the way. It took everything from my email and arranged things in an easy and accessible manner in the app for me to have offline (including offline Google Maps for each place we were visiting). It was really handy having all our AirBnB, car, and tour bookings all in one organized spot.
And that’s how we planned it.
So although we didn’t do any heavy planning, we had a good idea of what we wanted to do on our trip. As it got closer to our trip, we started to get more excited. The urge to learn more and look at pictures of where we were going was strong but we resisted. Looking at too many pictures would dampen the first time experience of seeing those places in real life for the first time.
So if I have one piece of advice for someone planning a trip, it’s this:
Avoid looking at too many pictures close to your departure date. Leave a little mystery for when you get there. There’s something amazing about having heard of a place and experiencing it fully for the first time with all of your senses.
It was so much better this way. Now when I look at pictures and videos from other people, I experience flashbacks and memories because hey – I’ve been there. 🙂
Next up in this series: our experiences, what we did, and what we ate in Oahu!