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.

hawaii12

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)

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    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

    hawaii15
    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

Recap – Edinburgh

I’ve had a recent request about what to do in Edinburgh from my sister on behalf of her good friend, Leeann. I’ve put together the attractions we visited in order on our trip (2013), along with my overall review, cost (as of 2017), and about how much time we designated for each one.

edinburgh8
My husband at Edinburgh Castle

We took a 4 hour bus ride to Edinburgh from Inverness on a Thursday. We arrived around noon, got checked in, and then took a public bus to get to the main part of the city.

Princes Street – Free

  • This is the street our bus dropped us off at. It’s very big, busy and full of shops and restaurants. William and I used it mainly to find our meals throughout the days. It’s nothing really special to go out of your way to see, but if you chose to walk down it, it would take about 15 minutes. I’d recommend just going to have a meal here (since it is located just downhill from most of the other attractions). I guess if you are really into shopping, there are some cool places and department stores located here.
  • Time we spent – 15 minutes

Scott Monument – Free

  • This is just a really cool, tall looking monument similar in architecture to the buildings and churches in this area. It is right off of Princes Street next to the bus stop. However, I don’t think you need to necessarily make the trek all the way over specifically just to get close to the monument. Since Edinburgh has a lot of variations in elevation, you can see the monument from almost any of the higher points in the city, such as Edinburgh Castle or Calton Hill. Since our bus stopped right next to it, we took a few minutes to take pictures and admire it but then moved right along.
  • Time we spent – 5 minutes

Edinburgh Castle – 17BP (British Pounds)

  • This was probably my favorite attraction in Edinburgh, as well as one of my favorite castles in Europe. It’s really dark, gloomy, and haunting, which is also how I felt about most of Edinburgh. However, I was also at the castle at dusk on a gloomy, rainy day in winter. There are several different rooms and buildings to explore, as well as points of interest around the grounds. When we went, we were able to join a free tour for about 30 minutes. The only downside was the tour guide’s Scottish accent was so think, we could barely understand him. You can also visit the prison. Highly recommend!
  • Time we spent – 2 hours

    edinburgh5
    Edinburgh Castle at night

Royal Mile – Free

  • The Royal Mile is a can’t miss! It is a mile-long stretch of road between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. There are shops, inns, historic landmarks, and homes all along. I just love the atmosphere and look of it. William and I strolled back and forth multiple times along it as we waited for a night time tour we had booked to start.
  • Time we spent – 1 hour (most shops closed in evening time when we were there, but we are not avid shoppers anyway).

    edinburgh7
    Royal Mile

Mercat Tours – 13BP

  • There are underground vaults you can access via a tour right off of the Royal Mile in front of the St. Giles Cathedral. Through Mercat Tours, we took the Hidden and Haunted Tour, which is the only one they offer after dark. They told us some history, but mainly just creepy tales and stories. I remember in each room the guide would tell us if there was a specific ghost that “inhabited” that room, and any interactions they’ve had with guests. It was definitely eerie, and I had trouble sleeping that night! More information on the history of the underground vaults can be found here.
  • Time we spent – 1 hour 30 minutes

St. Giles Cathedral – Free

  • This cathedral is built in the classic Gothic style, and it is along the Royal Mile. It’s got beautiful stained glass windows, and is well known for the Crown Steeple on top. Even if you don’t have a lot of time, it is definitely worth a quick peek inside!
  • Time we spent – 15 minutes

    edinburgh6
    St. Giles Cathedral

Royal Botanic Garden – Free

  • This is a really beautiful, large garden area that we started our next morning at. It is a bit farther away from the main part of the city; we had to take a bus to get there. Though it is very lovely, I don’t know if it’s anything extraordinarily different from what you could see at other gardens in the US. Probably not worth going out of your way if you are short on time. Even though most of the gardens are free, the glasshouses do charge a fee.
  • Time we spent – 1 hour

Scottish National Gallery – Free

  • To be quite honest with you, I don’t remember much about this gallery! Sometimes I go to so many museums and see so much art in such short chunks of time, it starts to blend together. From what I do remember however, I enjoyed the selections. They were more classic pieces, and I wished that I had more time. It’s conveniently located between the Royal Mile and Princes Street, and there was a man playing the bagpipe right outside! If you are a super art lover, there are 2 other galleries that are free (just a bit more out of the way): The National Portrait Gallery and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
  • Time we spent – 1 hour (wish we had spent 2)

Palace of Holyroodhouse and Holyrood Abbey – 12.5BP

  • This is the official residence for the Queen in Edinburgh (and once long ago Mary Queen of Scots), and it’s filled with so much history! You get to view a lot of the rooms in their full, royal decor, and there’s a lot of information about events, past and present, available. You can also get to see the ruins of the Abbey. Audio guides are available, and though we didn’t partake, I’ve heard many visitors find them useful.
  • Time we spent – 1 hour 30 minutes

    edinburgh4
    The Ruins of Holyrood Abbey

Arthur’s Seat – Free

  • This is where I nearly DIED. Since we visited the UK in January, and clearly spent a lot of time outside in the cold, I had developed a pretty bad cold myself. I couldn’t breathe and constantly needed to blow my nose. So naturally, let’s go hiking! I had seen this park on a map and pictured it being flat in my head. I liked the fact that it was supposedly tied to the legend of King Arthur (some say it got its name because Camelot was here). When we had finished the Palace of Holyroodhouse and were looking at this park from the bottom, it looked like it would only take about 20 minutes to climb up. We can do that, I thought. Then, 2 HOURS LATER, we finally got to the top. From the bottom, you couldn’t see the other larger hill terrain you have to continue climbing up. And even though normally, I could have probably hiked up in about an hour, I really struggled on this hike. We ran out of tissues for my nose, I was breathing through my mouth like crazy, and I needed constant breaks. I know it sounds miserable, but William and I really wanted to make it to the top. And the views were worth it. It really is a beautiful park, and seeing all of Edinburgh from that high up was awesome. You know what was not worth it, though? The actual “Arthur’s Seat” statue/piece of stone/maybe it’s nothing at the top. Call me crazy, I just thought maybe there would be a statue or chair or monument carved from some kind of artistic skill. Not a block.
  • Time we spent – 3 hours (including downhill climb and rest at top) 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Calton Hill – Free

  • Calton Hill is mainly known to be a good area for viewing Edinburgh from above. It is much easier to climb up than Arthur’s Seat, and has a better view of the Royal Mile. It also has, what seemed to me, a really random mish-mash of monuments. One of them looks like the Parthenon in Athens. I just recently discovered that this is known as “Edinburgh’s Disgrace” because it ran out of funding to finish, but it still looks pretty cool. We probably could have appreciated this spot more if we were here during the daytime. Since we were up at night, there wasn’t a lot of lighting, and therefore we couldn’t read any signs (if there were any).
  • Time we spent – 30 minutes
edinburgh
The top of Calton Hill with a beautiful view of the city behind (including the castle)

We spent a full day and a half in Edinburgh, but I probably could have easily spent at least another full day here. If I were to go back, some attractions I’m interested in checking out are:

  • National Museum of Scotland – Free
  • Royal Yacht Britannia – 15.5BP (Ship used by the Queen and the royal family/Princess Diana had her honeymoon on this yacht)

If you have any other advice/tips on traveling in Edinburgh, please share with me! I hope that anyone traveling to the area finds this helpful. Have a great trip Leeann!