I’ve been back from my Hawaiian adventures about five days now and it’s scary how quick it’s all gone. I’d been planning this once in a lifetime trip for almost a year, searching for tour operators, locations, flights and more and in the blink of an eye it’s over. But this just means I can look forward to my next adventure.
I chose to book a tour with a brand called Trek America who work alongside Grand American Adventures (and a few other smaller travel brands). I only heard about the brand as I stumbled across a fellow bloggers travel diary about her trip and on further research, I found a bunch of other blogs about trips and everyone raved about the brand so I was sold. In all honesty, I didn’t think to myself Hawaii was where I wanted to go to begin with, I decided to see which tours ran over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend so I could minimize how much time I needed off work and that’s where I stumbled across the tour. For just six days off work, I managed to have 11 days away and a recovery day afterward. Win.
On Friday 7th April I headed to Heathrow for a midday flight to begin my adventures, I had one 11.5 hour flight to San Francisco and after a 2-hour layover a 5.5-hour flight to Kona on the Hawaiin big island. Now a lot of people assumed when I said I was going to Hawaii that I was going to Honolulu (the capital) but this city is actually on one of the smaller islands called Oahu. I, in fact, traveled to the island which is actually called Hawai’i (or the Big Island).
I pre-booked my airport transportation through Speedi Shuttle which was recommended by Trek America and managed to get to my h0tel a mere half an hour after stepping off my plane. It makes a huge difference not having passport control at Kona airport (because all flights are domestic from mainland America and not international). When I arrived at the hotel and checked in I was sharing a room with another girl who was also on the tour so it was nice to know one person before beginning the tour the next day. Due to a long day of traveling, we both nodded off ready to go and meet our tour leader and other travelers at 7.30am.
The tour itself began on Saturday 8th April where we met our awesome tour leader Jesse along with the four other girls doing the tour with me. I shouldn’t have been surprised by such a small group as it was the start of the season and although it was a little quiet it actually worked out well as we had plenty of van space, and less people to cook for each day.
For the next eight days, we traveled around the island exploring everything it had to offer. I’m not going to speak about each thing day-by-day (although I might do some separate posts on this) but I will give an overview of what we did. Accommodation wise it was a mixture of camping and other things, day 1 was camping on a beach which despite looking beautiful was a bit of a pain due to all the sand, the next two nights we had the cutest cabins located in the Volcano National Park, then we moved onto a hostel in Hilo for a night, the next night was spent in a small isolated camp site, finishing with two nights at a beach view camp site which sadly had no shower facilities. I was thankful this was at the end to be honest.
As a place the whole trip itself was eco-friendly with the campsites being very green, providing their own recycled water and any beach front showers either not allowing you to use soap or requiring you to use all natural items. It makes me feel that bit better knowing I can help be a green tourist and not ruin any of the beauty of the island. At every campsite which we used we were careful to recycle everything we could, not to leave any trash and to maintain that the sites were left as we had found them. Over on the other island Honolulu boasts the most solar power users in the country, and from conversations we had this is something which the big island is striving to do by providing natural energy resources harnessed from wind, water and the sun.
With Trek America, you pay money per day into a food kitty (normally $10 in mainland America and $15 in Hawaii as it’s more expensive) and for this pretty much all your food is included. During our trip, we had two dinners’ out and two lunches’ but everything else came from the kitty. Our tour leader made a trip to Costco before the trip started and stocked up on so much and we ate like absolute queens’ all week from our fancy packed lunches to spinach and cheese ravioli for dinner. There’s not much room to be fussy with food when it comes to Trek America as it’s a group effort and everyone generally eats the same. For us, this meant a few days where we ate no meat as one of the girls was vegetarian.
Each day we would hop into the van around 9 am and thankfully unlike the mainland America tours, we never had more than about a 2-hour drive anywhere so we’d be back by 7pm latest. Some of the highlights of the trip included:
- Snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay (or Capitan Cook Bay) which is the location which inspired Finding Nemo’s and where Captain Cook himself drowned
- Hiking into a Volcanic crater in the National Park
- Seeing the glow of the lava of Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes which are still active today
- Exploring the Botanical Gardens which were stunning
- Seeing an endangered turtle just chilling on the beach
- Relaxing on black sand beaches where the colour changed due to lava
- Going on a helicopter ride right over the volcanoes and waterfalls
- Seeing Waihilau Falls in the isolated Waimanu Valley. Measuring 2,600 feet it’s the thirteenth tallest waterfall in the world
- Relaxing in the hot spring pools
By Saturday afternoon when our tour finished I couldn’t believe things had come to an end. Thankfully I had booked a final night in the hotel which I shared with another girl and four of us managed to have a farewell dinner before all heading our separate ways. Traveling home was a bit of a nightmare with three separate flights for me which ended up changing super last minute. When I arrived at Kona Airport at 11am Sunday I found out my first flight had been delayed by a few hours meaning I’d miss all my connections so I was moved to separate flights which lead me to go Kona- Los Angeles – Washington – Heathrow. Walking through at 9pm after 24 hours travelling was knackering but the trip was so worth it.