Recap – Inverness

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Inverness is a really charming, smaller town. It is cute, it was cold, and it is built with a river running through it. William and I arrived in the evening during sunset so that started us off with a pretty good impression of the place. However, since it is small there is not as much to do. We chose it solely because of its location next to Loch Ness. I will be listing how we spent our time in Inverness, how much things cost, and about how much time to delegate there.

River Ness – Free

  • The most prominent buildings of the town are all along the river. It is really beautiful just walking down one side. There are several bridges if you need to cross from one side to the other, and the river probably is not far from where you are staying. For us, it was about a 5 minute walk if that. I got some pretty pictures during the daytime, at sunset, and at night time. You will also pass St. Andrew’s Cathedral, several churches, a few shops including a kilt shop, and the Inverness Castle (not open to visitors).
  • Time we spent – 1 hour

Ness Islands – Free

  • If you walk far enough down the river, all of the sudden there are these little islands in the middle. They are all connected by bridges, and include various nature walks through beautiful trees as well as a playground. Granted it was January, but William and I were essentially the only ones there. We enjoyed the peaceful trails and playing on the teeter-totter!
  • Time we spent – 30 minutes

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Loch Ness – Free

  • We went to the very tip of Loch Ness, located in the town called Dores. We were able to take a public bus straight there from Inverness. I cannot locate the exact price of the fare, but it was very cheap (maybe $3 – 5 round trip?). First of all, the Dores Inn is a pub located right on the lake, and it has very delicious haggis. It also has the truly unique small town British pub feel. I highly recommend it. Secondly, right behind the pub is a walking trail that begins next to the giant Loch Ness sign by the lake. We didn’t follow it to the end, and there was no signage explaining where it went, but it basically followed the loch coast through the trees. It was peaceful, beautiful, and once again we were the only ones. We waked for about 30/40 minutes one way, and then returned. We also got to watch the sun set on Loch Ness which was really breathtaking. There are these higher peaks and valleys surrounding it that added to the scenery which was a surprise to me; I imagined it being more flat.
  • Time we spent – 3 hours (including dinner)

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And that’s pretty much it. One full day in Inverness/Dores was enough to see what I wanted to see. If you like to travel at a more relaxing pace though, another day definitely would not hurt. Also, I’d like to highly recommend the Bed and Breakfast we stayed at – The Quaich. The rooms were nice, the host was kind, and the breakfast was so yummy. It really added to our pleasant Inverness experience.

If I were to go back to this area, I’d specifically want to either:

  • Go back to the hiking trail we found at Loch Ness, and consider camping. Either that or allow a full day of hiking in the area.
  • See other parts of Loch Ness. Urquhart Castle and Fort Augustus are more common Loch Ness viewing sights, but they were harder for us to get to with such little time and limited transportation.

Recap – Maui and Lanai

Hawaii is a big place. William and I went on a 2 week trip covering 4 islands. Therefore, I decided to break this trip into two recap posts – covering 2 islands each instead of one giant Hawaii post.

My sister (once again) had requested a Hawaii post for her friend who is planning a trip there. I hope this helps, and please feel free to comment or contact me with any questions!

William and I flew in July 1st, 2014. We arrived in Maui in Kahului on the east side of the island. I have our basic schedule below to see how much time we delegated for each island.

July 1st – arrived in Kahului, Maui

July 2nd – transferred to west side of island in Lahaina, Maui

July 3rd – Maui

July 4th – Maui

July 5th – Maui

July 6th – Transferred to Lanai

July 7th – Lanai

July 8th – transferred back to Maui to Kahului for flight to Molokai

As you can see, I gave Maui a lot more time. It is a much bigger, more populated island with a lot more to see and do. In fact, I did not care for Lanai that much in general and would recommend skipping it unless you REALLY want to get away from it all.

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Maui

Kanaha Beach Park – Ka’a Point, Kitebeach – Free

  • We had flown all the way from Dallas to Kahului and had a bit of free time left in the evening, so I was just dying to see a beach. This was closest. We didn’t actually relax or swim there, but just walked around, felt the sand, and people watched a bit. The beach was quiet and it is apparently is a place where people like to fly kites and kiteboard. They were everywhere, and I can confirm it was very windy. I imagine based on the nickname and the location of the Kiteboarding school that this area is very windy a lot. I probably would not come here unless I had the intent to participate in an activity involving that much wind. Other beaches are more relaxed and just as beautiful.
  • Time we spent – 30 minuteshawaii

Queen Ka’ahumanu Center – Free

  • This is just a fun little shopping mall. It’s nothing special. We still had a bit more time in the evening, but didn’t want to go outside of Kahului for the night PLUS we were hungry so that’s how we stumbled in here. It did have a Starbucks.
  • Time we spent – 1 hour

Hana Highway – Free

  • I highly recommend making sure you have a rental car just so you can make this drive (plus public transportation in Maui is not great). It is a beautiful stretch of road, mostly along the coast and through greenery galore. It does change elevation a lot, is usually one lane, and has a lot of twists and turns. Even with my motion sickness medicine, we had to stop a few times because I couldn’t take it (and sometimes just to take photos). BUT IT WAS STILL WORTH IT. There are also really cute, remote little shops and restaurants along the way you can stop at. At this point, our plan was just to try and drive around Maui in a clockwise direction until it got late. We drove the entirety of the Hana Highway starting in Kahului, and ending in Haleakala National Park. It took about 3 hours of driving, not including any of our stops.
  • Time we spent – 4 hours

Waianapanapa State Park – Free

  • I mainly was interested in visiting the beaches here because I read they had black sand! I thought it was really cool to see. The beach was small. There were really cool rock formations right along the water that the waves would splash against. They were fun to climb and explore around. There were also underwater caves here. We weren’t planning on swimming so just saw the entrance to a cave with a group getting ready to swim in it. If you have time, I think it’d be worth your time. I know most people stay on the northwest side of the island though, so it is a bit far from there.
  • Time we spent – 1 hourhawaii3

Haleakala National Park – $25

  • Haleakala has two different sections to the park: the coastal area and the summit area. On this particular day with the Hana Highway, we did the coastal part. We first viewed the Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe’o which is a really short, easy walk for a beautiful view. It’s all of this water flowing into the ocean, except it certain areas it kind of pools up (hence the name). Then we decided to do a 4 mile round trip hike to see the Waimoku Falls. It was a scenic, easy, flat walk. It is well worth it to see the waterfall, and it is one of the biggest waterfalls I have ever seen up close. There was a sign telling us we couldn’t go past that point, but everybody else was straight up under the falls and swimming around so we walked over too. I have mixed feelings about this decision: it was so beautiful and amazing to actually stand under it, but I also now realize the negative impact tourists have on nature. So, if you go, at least consider the consequences of crossing the sign unlike I did. I’d also like to add that even though driving here on the west side of the island is not part of the park, it was very interesting terrain and I’d recommend coming to the park on the Hana Highway and leaving in the opposite direction, or vice versa, like we did.
  • We came back a couple of days later to do the summit side (included in the 7 day pass admission, which is only per car by the way), which is also definitely worth your time. The drive up has a lot of switchbacks and can be a bit nauseating if you have motion sickness like me. It is also really, really, really high up. Above the clouds. So keep in mind the elevation change, as well as how hot and close to the sun you are. I got one of the worst sunburns EVER here. I also got proposed to on a hiking trail near the top! Where we stopped our car to start a hike, the hiking trail was pretty long so we only went about 30 minutes in, which was enough to see into the crater. We also drove to the visitor center at the very top for the ultimate high views directly inside. The colors are stunning, the terrain is fascinating and it’s crazy to me how much the summit area drastically changes from the coastal area in the same park.
  • Time we spent – 3 hours (coastal), 3 hours (summit)

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    Makena State Park – Free

  • I had read that this was a highly rated beach which is the sole reason we chose it for our “typical, lay on a beach in Hawaii” experience. If you know me though, I run 100 miles per hour and have a hard time relaxing. So we weren’t here all day, but I did read a bit, lay down, walk along the coast, and get in the water. It was a very beautiful beach, and a lot less touristy than all of the beaches in the north on the resort strip. Makena was not very crowded at all and pretty quiet.
  • Time we spent – 2 hourshawaii6

The Shops at Wailea – Free

  • This was a nice, outdoor shopping center not too far away from the Makena Beach. It is nothing special or out of the ordinary, although I would like to point out that this is where we discovered Ali’I Nui and signed up for a snorkel tour. I’d probably skip this unless you love shopping everywhere.
  • Time we spent – 30 minutes

Whaler’s Village – Free

  • Once again, lots of outdoor shopping! This area is larger though and surrounded by giant resorts right next to the beach. The whole area in and around Whaler’s Village is worth strolling through. If you stay at any of the main resorts in Kaanapali, you will already be in this area. I can definitely see how some tourists just come to a Hawaiian resort and spend the entire time there. There are plenty of restaurants, variety, and so much beach!
  • Time we spent – 2 hourshawaii7

4th of July Celebration in Lahaina – Free

  • This just a typical celebration in downtown Lahaina, which is a very cute part of the town. There are lots of restaurants, lots of people everywhere, and performers. We spent an hour just walking around and exploring, listened to an Elvis impersonator and then found a good viewing spot for fireworks over the ocean while watching the sunset since Lahaina is on the west side of the island. It was one of the most magnificent sunsets ever, the fireworks were great, and it was quite a way to celebrate our proposal. I recommend at least showing up in time for the sunset and fireworks.
  • Time we spent – 2 hours

Ali’I Nui catamaran snorkel tour to Molokini and Turtle Town – $189

  • This was quite a splurge for us. Since I didn’t have time to really plan this trip the way I usually do, we just signed up in a shopping center for this tour about 2 days out. I bet you could get better deals in advance, as well as compare companies. You could also get a tour that offers less to the customers but gets you to the same places. This was a baller, nice ship complete with all the drinks and food we could want. It also included transportation to Maalaea by bus to the boat. We also did the deluxe, longer sail since we wanted to do both locations. I had never snorkeled before, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to. The first stop, Molokini, was a beautiful area and there were lots of colorful schools of fish in it. I didn’t see anything scary, and the water was very clear. At our 2nd stop, Turtle Town, we did in fact see and swim right next to sea turtles. Also lots of fish here. I’m glad we did both stops, but if you are on a budget, I’d recommend choosing the Turtle Town area. But maybe that’s just because I love turtles.
  • Time we spent – 8 hours including all driving and transferring

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    Molokini

Maui Ocean Center – $29.95

  • We actually did this after our time in Lanai. We took a ferry to Lanai from Maui and actually just parked our rental car for free in Lahaina (it was cheaper and more convenient). So when we were ready for our 3rd island, Molokai, the best option was to come back to Maui and fly over. So we had one more day and night here. We stopped here at the Maui Ocean Center just because it was on our drive back to Kahului, where we were staying next to the airport again. It was a nice aquarium, and we enjoyed our time there. I don’t think it’s one of the biggest must-see’s in Hawaii though.
  • Time we spent – 2 hourshawaii19

Lanai

Hulopoe Beach – Free

  • This is the only big beach in Lanai, and even then, there was hardly anyone on it. The Four Seasons resort is right next to it. If you stay on this island (at least when we went), your only lodging choices were $500 a night at the Four Seasons, or staying inland at the Hotel Lanai for much less. Guess which we picked? Even though we weren’t a Four Seasons resort guest, we were able to park in the parking lot and walk right through the hotel onto the beach with no problems. We came pretty late and watched the sunset there. Definitely a nice resort and beach if you are rich and literally want to get away from it all. Otherwise, it’s not special enough to make the whole ferry or flight over for.
  • Time we spent – 1 ½ hourshawaii18

Lanai City Center – Free

  • This is almost the entirety of Lanai City, and it’s basically just a square of shops, restaurants, etc. situated around a little park. Nothing special, but if you are in Lanai anyway, it is good to walk around, see what you can get in the town, and maybe find some food to eat. It has a very local feel.
  • Time we spent – 30 minutes

Shipwreck Beach – Free

  • This is pretty remote, and you can only get here if you have a rental with 4 wheel drive. Paved roads disappear and it gets bumpy and tight. I actually expected there to be something resembling a beach, but really it was just a drive to see an abandoned ship out on the water. You can’t even get that close to it. I wouldn’t bother.
  • Time we spent – 1 hour (including drive)hawaii16

Garden of the Gods – Free

  • This area is just a bunch of rocks. I was pretty disappointed. They are very red rocks, and it definitely does not seem like something you would ever see in Hawaii. However, just go to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and you’ll be a lot happier. Also, driving the vehicle on the roads in this area worried me.
  • Time we spent – 1 hour (including drive)hawaii17

As you can tell, I was not that impressed with Lanai. Due to its remoteness too, everything is SO expensive! The food is expensive. Rental cars are expensive, and the gas for them is insane. I wasn’t impressed with Lanai City, so really I didn’t care about anything on the island. If I ever came back, all I would do is:

  • Stay at the Four Seasons Resort for a very short period of time using points and relax without a car.

If I went back to Maui, I’d be interested in:

  • Staying in Kaanapali or Kapalua in the Northwest
  • Revisiting the Hana Highway and Haleakala National Park

I’m biased though. Since William proposed to me at Haleakala, it and all of Maui will always be pretty special for us.hawaii8