Großglockner Hochalpenstrasse

An exceedingly natural delight awaits you when driving this panoramic road. On this trip the jounrey is the reward and you really should take your time when driving along this road. In this post you will for once not find a description of one of my hikes but one of a drive through the high alps to Austria’s highest mountain.

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Maui island excursion part 3

Today I want to talk about my favourite tour on Maui. You can split this tour in two for more enjoyment. After all you’ll explore one of the most spectacular coastal drives of the world. I liked the Road to Hana that much that I drove it three times. But before you go on this trip you should keep in mind that on this tour the road is the destination. Sure it can’t hurt when you check out what there is to see and make a first plan where you want to stop. 600 hairpin turns, single lane bridges, bamboo and rainforest, waterfalls and black lava beaches. Just float along.

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Maui Island excursion part 1

Ok, I have to admit that it`s a while since I visited Maui, but back then I have cheched out this island thoroughly and feel able to tell you something about it.
Maui`s nickname is the „Valley Isle“ and is actually divided in 2 parts that are connected through a broad and falt valley. The smaller northwestern part is where you will find most of the island. Between Lahaina and Kapalua are the best known beaches where you can go for a swim in the ocean.
großer Baum in Lahaina, Maui

Banyan Tree, Lahaina

Lahaina and Kaanapali, the best known towns

In Lahaina and Kaanapali you will find one resort next to the other and both towns do live from tourism. Kihei in the southwest has caught up and promotes itself as a family destination. Life is a bit more relaxed and most of the resorts offer condo style accomodation. The luxury resorts are located on the nortwestern tipp in Kapalua and in the southern district of Wailea. And as on most of the Hawaiian islands there are lots of golf courses.

The bigger southern part of Maui is dominated by the 10.000 feet high Haleakala, a dormant volcano, which names translates to house of the rising sun. I will explain why later.

You can’t make a full circle around Maui, so I will split my excursion in three parts. I will start our tour in Lahaina. In the 19th century this was the most important town in Hawaii. The first white settlers, missionairies from New England, built their new homes here. There goal was to bring Christianity to the pagans. Back in those days Lahaina had a very bad reputation, since the port was being used mainly by whalers, that landed here after months at sea and were looking for provisions and fun for the seamen. The missonairies were shocked whent hey first landed here, mainly due to the almost naked natives.

Lahaina, a town with history

historische Krankenstation in Lahaian

Seaman’s Hospital, Lahaina

Front Street still is the main street of the town and is nowadays home to art galleries and restaurants. On the makai (oceanside) side of the street you will find opportunities to drink a sundowner and have dinner with spectacular views. Front Street is the starting point of a historic walk, which will lead you to the most important points of the past. The best location to start your walk is the Baldwin Home Museum,located in one of the oldest houses in town. It was built by Dwight Baldwin who was one of the first settlers to arrive here.

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We continue through a small street that leads us to Lahaina Public Library.The lawn in front of the library used to be a large taro field, before it was converted in a lawn in the 1950`s. Next stop is the Hauola Stone. This piece of rock was seen as a healing stone by the Hawaiian priests. We continue to the light house, which is actually the oldest on the islands. The Pioneer Inn is the oldest hotel on the island and had famous patrons, such as Frnak Sinatra. The Banyan Tree (pictured above) covers with its branches a bit over 40.000 square feet. Those banyan trees  are traditionally the meeting point in every Hawaiian village. This one was planted in 1873. Across the street is the Courthouse where in 1898 the American flag was flown for the first time on the islands.

Hawai 091

Back on Front Street take a right and youb will come Episcopal Church, transferred from across the street back in 1909. When you reach Maluuluolele Park take a trun into Shaw Street and then into Waineè Street. There you’ll see the oldest church on the islands built of stone. On the adjacent cemetry you can visit Queen Keopuolanis grave. She was the first Hawaiian queen that converted to Christianity. On Luakini Street you’ll see the oldes buddhist temple of Hawaii.

Hawai 095From we continue to Prison Street. As the name already says, you will see the old prison of Lahaina. The Hawaiian name for the building is Hale Paahao, which means house with the iron bars. You follow Waine’e Street and take a left into Hale Street. Here you can visit Hale Aloha (House of love), which was built in 1858 in memory of the almost 6.000 people that died of the smallpox. This is the last stop on our historic Lahaina tour.

Hawai 096North of Lahaina is the resort twon of Kaanapali. Not a grown town, but a mere collection of hotels. The few high rises of the island are to be found here. And the longest stretch of beach of the island. In ancient times this area was strictly dedicated to the royals. One attraction to be named is the Whalers Village a mall withlots of stores and a Wahlers Museum. If you want to experience a luau, you should go to the Royal Lahaina, one of the best of the islands. Kaanapaliis the best palce to be, when you plan a few days on the beach while visiting the islands. But it would be a shame, if you take the long fight just to relax on the beach. That’s why I will continue with the tour.

If you like a more quiet vacation spot and still need a beach, you will love Napili Bay. On this small bay there are only two hotels. One of them is the Napili Kai Beach Resort with the Sea House right on the beach. They offer great food and fantastic views of the neighboring island of Lanai. A dream come true.

historisches Schulhaus am Strand

DT Fleming Beach Park

Kapaluais home to some very exclusive hotels and with DT Fleming Beach Park alos offers a beach that is not so crowded. And you will come across this ancient school house, where it must have felt like torture, if you had to attend class. I don’t think I would have survived this.

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An der Nordküste Maui’s

Just beyond Kapalua the street narrows to one lane and you should be ready for adventures if you continue. Those who have the guts will be rewarded with great views of Moloka’i. The road wriggles through towering cliffs. To the right they tower above the street and ton the left they fall steeply into the sea. If you meet oncoming traffic it can happen that you will have to drive in reverse for a while before you will find a plac where they can pass. On this road the route becomes the destination. And it is not for weak nerves. On the northern most tipp of the island you can visit Nakalele Blowhole. Once you have left this spot behind the road continues still very narrow and it does lead through rolling hills where you can discover a pristine part of Maui. Todays tour ends in Kahului, the administrative capital of Maui.

Kahului is also the town where you will find the airport. Apart from that there is not much to see in this big city, Hawaiian speaking, with 26.000 inhabitants. Next to the airport you will find a few shopping center with supermarkets. This is good to know, if you have rented a Condo and want to cook your own meals.

This is the end of todays tour. I hope you did enjoy it.

And as usual, I would be happy to read your comments. And if you have any questions concerning the Hawaiian islands, fell free to contact me.

Maui Island Excursion part 1

Ok, I have to admit it’s been a while since I’ve been to Maui, but during that visit I did explore as much of the island as possible and therefore will be able to tell you something about it.
One of Maui’s nicknames is the „Valley Isle“ and it actually consists of two parts that are linked by braod flat valley. It’s smaller northwestern part is the place where you will find the most hotels along the westcoast. Between Lahaina and Kapalua you will also find the best known beaches. Since the waters between the islands of Moloka’i, Lana’i and Maui are calmer than elsewhere on the islands, you can easily go for a swim here. Weiterlesen

Kauai Island Excursion part 2

Today we will explore the south and the west of Kauai. You can look forward to a bunch of different highlights. So make yourself comfortable and enjoy reading.

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Wailua River

Wailua River and surroundings

The Wailua River is the only river on the Hawaiian Islands, where ships can be used. If you are more of an active person you can book a guided canoe tour. For all of you that think this is too strenuous there are boat rides that go upstream to the Fern Grotto. During this ride you will have comments about the river and it’s surroundings.

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Fern Grotto

The Fern Grotto is remarkable because of the Ferns that grow on the ceiling and which are due to gravity hanging from it. What you won’t see and what you even can’t reach with your canoe are the Wailua Falls. Therefore I would suggest to spend a day hiking in Wailua State Park. Apart from a tropical rainforest you can explore quite a few sacred places of the ancient Hawaiians. The Kamokila Hawaiian Village  is a good starting point to explore this natural preserve. Beginning with a temple and ending with huts where the Polynesian people lived before the Europeans came, there is a whole village to explore and you will get a good impression of life in the old days. There is a nature trail that explains everything. Once you have visited the village you can go on a tour with an Outrigger Canoe, hiking or swimming. As mentioned before Kauai is called the Garden Isle and most attractions have a nature theme.

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Wailua State Park

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Wailua State Park

Lihue, the capital of Kauai

Leaving Wailua you will soon arrive in Lihue. The town itself is not very interesting. Hanamaulu Bay offers a swimmable beach, but the airport is rather close here. Kalapaki Beach is also a swimmable beach and apart from a few shops and bars you will find the Kauai Beach Marriott here. The hotel is not very inviting seen from the outside, but the interior is just beautiful. The most remarkable part of the hotel is the large pool in form of a hibiscus flower.

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Plumeria

An excursion into the world of legends

From the Nawiliwili Harbor, where you can sometimes see cruise ships, you will access the  Huleia National Wildlife Refuge. Part of this Park is the  Alekoko Fish Pond. The old Polynesians have a legend concerning this pond. Long before the Polynesians there were people living on the islands: the Menehune. These small people grew only to be 2,5ft. high, but possessed supernatural strenghts. They are very shy and so there aren’t many people that have actually seen them. When the chief of the Polynesians decided to built this new pond he went to the Menehune and asked them for help. They agreed to bulit it in one night, but insisted that no one would watch them doing it. The chief gladly accepted and so on the next full moon the Menehune started their task. A Hawaiian prince and his princess had a date the very same night and when they heard the noise of the construction going on they decided to sneak to the site and watch. Of course they were found and the Menehune ended their work instantly. The pond was only finished many years later by Asian plantation workers. As for the two lovers, they were punished by being transformed into rocks which can still be seen in the hills next to the pond.

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Kilohana Plantation railway

Kilohana Plantation

When we continue we will reach Kilohana Plantation. The name of it translates to „Place not to be missed“. The plantation home can be visited and offers a good sight into the life of the rich that were living here in the old days. A part of the house is nowadays the home of one of the best restaurants on Kauai. Gaylords at Kilohana offers fine dining at its best with ingredients from Hawaii. If you are lucky enough to get a table in the courtyard you will certainly pass a memorable meal. On the grounds you can also explore a few stores, especially the Koloa Rum Company Store is not to be missed. This the only distillery on the islands that produces rum which actually tastes very good. But the highlight of the plantation is the historical train that runs around the grounds. During the ride you will get more interesting information about the work life on a plantation. If you want to go to a luau I can recommend Kalamaku. Every tuesday and friday night you can experience a great show. Not as authentic as others, but very professionell.

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Plumeria

Koloa, Kauai

To reach our next stop it takes only a short drive. Koloa is a small historic village where the plantation workers used to live. You can see one of the oldest sugar mills in Hawaii. The houses are home to a few souvenir shops and galleries. It’s worth a short stroll.

Kauai’s southern coast, Poipu

Poipu on the southern coast is a resort town with a broad selection of mostly luxurious hotels and beautiful beaches. A bit inland there are two small shopping malls. On Mondays and Thursdays afternoon your shopping spree at the Poipu Shopping Village will be accompangied by a free live Hula show. On Wednesdays the Shops at Kukui’ula offer a Culinary Market with live-cooking and tasting. On Friday nights you can listen to Hawaiian musicians playing here. I want to point one shop at Kukui’ula: Lappert’s Hawaii sells very tasty ice cream made of Hawaiian ingredients. Delicious…….

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Orchiddengarten in der Kiahuna Plantation

Poipu has pristine beaches, where you can at least most of the time take a swim. But on certain days the currents are too strong for doing it. You have the choice between several bays. Baby Beach is suitable for kids, while Brennecke’s Beach is best for body surfing. The most popular are Poipu Beach and Shipwreck Beach. But only Poipu Beach has a lifeguard on duty. On this beach I had an encounter with a Hawaiian Monk Seal, although I first realized that a bunch of people were tying ropes and therefore cutting off a part of the beach. The conservation of flora and fauna is very important to Hawaiians and a lot of them engage in volunteering. Oh, and I found the seal most impressive.

A bit further west you will find another spouting horn. As I have told you before  you will find these along the coast of the islands. When the tide is high the water is pressed through them and builds fountains.

An impressive natural sight: the Napali Coast

From Poipu we continue to Ele’ele and Hanapepe. The drive leads us through coffee plantations that have replaced the pineapple and sugar cane fields. Hawaiian coffee tastes, due to the volcanic soil, different as any other coffees. It has less acidity, but a very intense taste. My favorite is still the Kona coffee, but I will tell you more about it, when I am writing about the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island.

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Napali Coast

Hanapepe is the starting point for excursions to one of the most beautiful regions of Kauai, the Napali Coast. This stretch of the coast can only be reached by water or from the air but is for me one of the most stunning coast lines on this planet. I recommend that you book a snorkeling tour to explore it. You’ll have to get up rather early in the morning, but you will be part of an awesome tour. When leaving Hanapepe your catamaran will be guided by dolphins. Apparently the best time to watch those highly intelligent animals is early morning. I am always enraptured by their games. Aboard the ship you will be served breakfast which you can relish in peace, since it’ll take some time before you reach the northern coast. At the turning point you will get a climpse of Ni’ihau, the forbidden island, which can be visited by invitation only. It used to be a plantation, but today it is protected by the owners and they aim to preserve the original Hawaiian culture. On your way back you should have your camera ready. You will have the sun in your back and the perfect light for some great shots of the colorful cliffs. At different locations you can see waterfalls tumbling over high cliffs into the ocean, while on other stretches you will see romantic beaches inviting you for a swim. In my first part of the Kauai excursion I wrote about the Kalalau Trail that runs along this coast. At some point the captain will anchor and you’ll be snorkeling. I never was a big friend of this sport, since all my attempts ended with a feeling that I drank half the ocean. But after the instruction by the crew aboard this catamaran, I was able to snorkel and was delighted. The underwater world off the Hawaiian coast is colorful and offers a broad variety. And if you are lucky you might even swim with a honu (turtle). The best to describe all this is to show you pictures. So here you go:

From Hanapepe we continue a bit further west to Waimea. There is not much to be told about this small town unless you are lookign for a romantic hideaway. The Waimea Plantation Cottages used to be a plantation and the small houses for the employees were turned into vacation homes. On the grounds you will also find a small black beach without lifeguard and in it’s natural state. Something else wouldn’t fit here.

THE highlight of Kauai: Waimea Canyon

One more reason why you should go to Waimea. This is the starting point for our grande finale of our tour around the island. The road is climbing the mountains and will lead you to the rim of  Waimea Canyon. It is the second largest in the US and is also called the Grand Caynon of the Pacific. It is about 10 miles long and up to 3000 feet deep. In contrast to it’s big brother you will see apart from colorful stones a lot of green, since due to the precipitation there are plants growing  in niches and on ledges.

Hiking in Waimea Canyon

There are two different trails you can take to explore the canyon. The short Ililau Trail is a nature path with lots of information about the formation of the canyon plus the flora and fauna of this area. If you hike the Kukui Trail you will descend along the western side about 2000 feet towards the ground. There you can camp overnight, but you will have to get a permission in the park. Since it can get very hot in the canyon you should start your tour early in the morning. And please keep in mind that you will have to climb those 2000 feet again. You will be rewarded with pure nature and fantastic views. And don’t forget to take enough water. There are no possibilities to buy anything on your way.

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Napali Coast

If you don’t want to make the descend, there are more trails to be found that’ll bring you to the top of the cliffs of the Napali Coast. And in this part of Kauai you will realize why this island is called the Garden Island.

Before I close my post for today, one more tip. If you like helicopter flights this is the place to treat you to one. This way you will see all this beauty from above. A truly unforgettable event.

Did I give you enough reasons to go to Kauai? Have you been there before and have more recommendations for first timers? I am looking forward to your comments.

Mahalo nui loa for your attention.

Kauai Island Excursiuon Part I

Today we are going to explore another island.

Deck Chairs in a typical garden

Smith’s Family Garden Luau

Kauai’s nickname ist the Garden Isle and there is a reason for it. Since the mountains on Kauai aren’t as high as on the other islands, the rain is more widely spread. Plus it rains a bit more than on the other islands. But don’t worry, long lasting downpours are rather seldom. On the other hand the region around Mount Wai’ale’ale is one of the wettest on this planet. Weiterlesen

Oahu – circle island tour

Sunrise over Koko Head Crater

Koko Head Crater

Oahu’s south: Luxury in Kahala, nature in Hanauma Bay

In todays post we will start again in Waikiki and go on a tour around Oahu. Diamond Head is the landmark of Honolulu. The crater of this dormant volcano offers a great view of the skyscrapers forming the skyline of Waikiki. You can ascent it by a toll road and go for a hike up there. Those who are ready for some exercise wil  be starting the hike in Queen Kapiolani Park and climb the steep stairs to the top. On a bright day you can even see Molokai and Lanai from here.

Back at the bottom we first drive to the upscale neighborhood of Kahala. The hotel with the same name is one of my favorites. A real luxury treat with a more or less private beach. In the lobby you’ll find a gallery with pictures of celebrities that have already spent some nights here. One of the highlights is the spa, where every treatment room is a separate suite with it’s own bathtub. If you feel like, you can get  your treatment in a hut in the luscious gardens.

We continue our tour in a counterclockwise direction and will soon arrive at Hanauma Bay.

Hanauma Bay, snorklers paradise

Hanauma Bay

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Strand in Kapolei

Oahu – Pearl Harbor and Kapolei

Aloha stadium and flea market

If you continue direction airport, you’ll pass the Aloha Stadium. If you are in the mood for a game, here’s the place to go.  On Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. there is a huge farmer’s market on the parking lot. You can also buy souvenirs, handcrafts and clothes here. And on top you get free live entertainment.

Entry to USS Arizona Memorial

Entry to USS Arizona Memorial

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii’s darkest hour

A bit further north you will come upon one of the best known monuments from younger history: Pearl Harbor. This is the place where on Dec. 07 1942 Japanese bombs hit the totally unprepared US Marine. During this attack around 2.400 people lost their life which led to the USA entering into World War II. On land you can explore a huge visitor center with video performances and a large photo exhibition, that show you the events in a sometimes drastic, but always very interesting way. But please be aware that due to high security measures you are not allowed to take any bags with you. The entry is set up as if you go through security at the airport. If you do have a bag with you there are a few lockers where you can store them. The visitor center is also the place where the boat tours through the harbor start, during which you will get a close look onto the sunken ships that are still lying there in the water. If you want to be on one of those boat tours you will have either to be at the visitor center by 06:30 a.m., make an online reservation before you are coming to Hawaii, or simply book a tour that picks you up at your Waikiki Hotel. As I mentioned you will pass the ships that were sunk on this Dec. 07 during this tour. The highlight is a stop at the USS Arizona Memorial which is a very emotional moment that guarantees goose bumps.

USS Arizona Memorial

USS Arizona Memorial

If you are on one of the guided tours out of Waikiki you will also pass by the Punchbowl Crater which is a national cemetry. This is a spectacular location, but privat access is strongly limited.

Punchbowl Crater

Punchbowl Crater

Kapolei, calm and luxury

A bit further up the road direction north you will arrive after a 30 minute drive (depending on the traffic) in Kapolei. Here you’ll find several small bays with nice beaches. Although a beach in the US can’t be in private hands, these beaches are only reachable when you pass through the hotels that were built next to them. There are 2 hotels I want to mention by name. In mid-2016 the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina will open it’s doors after an extensive renovation. I still know it from it’s days as JW Marriott and it is a place for a romantic getaway, if you can afford it. Next to it is the Aulani, a Disney Resort. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of Disney, but the hints of Mickey and his friends are very decent. The architecture is inspired by typical Hawaiian houses and if you like large pool areas, this is paradise. The interior offers a large collection of Hawaiian and Polynesian art. But of course you will have the possibility to book one of those famous character breakfasts with Goofy and the others, or meet them on the grounds. I personally think that for a family vacation this place is a bit overprized. Since, according to Disney, Disney World Orlando is the happiest place on earth they tell the kids here, that the characters also need some vacation from time to time and they spend it in Hawaii. This is why Goofy wears an Aloha Shirt here.

Fisherman on a beautiful beach

Fisherman on the beach

If you continue North on the West coast of the island you will, so I was told, still see beautiful scenery, but there is not much to explore for visitors. The beaches are not kept clean and the few settlements along that coast aren’t the best ones on the island.

That much for Honolulu and it’s surroundings. In my next post I will take you on a tour around this beautiful island. If you have any comments, fell free to leave them at the bottom of this page.

Mahalo for following my blog.

Oahu – Honlulu and Waikiki

Oahu is not the biggest, but the most densly inhabited island. It is the seat of the state government and the US-Marine as well as the Airforce have large bases here. In the Honolulu metropolitan area live almost a million people.

Waikiki and Diamond Head seen from the ocean

Waikiki and Diamond Head seen from the ocean

Waikiki Beach, skyscrapers on one of the worlds best known beaches

Waikiki Beach is the touristic center. When I first came here I thought that the lively center around Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues is just another city on the ocean, but didn’t have it’s own flair. When I came back a couple of years later I realized that the city is working hard on creating it’s very own atmosphere and therefore made it something real special. It was much cleaner and everywhere renovations went on. Thus they cleaned the areas that were not that nice. With the Beachwalk they had even built a new road with shops and restaurants that is a great place for a stroll. Nowadays this cleaning up is a bit overdone for my taste and the city is trying to create an oasis of luxury. The International Market Place, a market with booths selling souvenirs had to go to and make space for a new luxury mall. The final outcome will be that tourists with a regular budget won’t be able to afford to stay in Waikiki anymore. The speculators have taken over.

Waikiki beach seen from Diamond Head

Waikiki seen from Diamond Head

Downtown Honolulu, a bit away from the masses

But at the moment there are still a few affordable hotels to get acclimatized for a couple of days. The locals have now rediscovered the center of Honolulu which is located a bit more inland and you will find a lot of clubs and restaurants. During the day there is also quite a lot to do in downtown. For one thing you can go and visit Chinatown, but there is also a lot of Hawaiian history to be discovered. Honolulu has the only royal palace in the United States and the Bernice P. Bishop Museum displays the worlds largest collection of Polynesian art. Those who prefer to be on the beach could opt for Waikiki Beach. Here you can learn to surf, paddle in an Outrigger canoe and get acquainted with Stand up paddling. I personally think that there are too many people on this tiny stretch of beach. But the closer you get to Diamond Head the wider and calmer the beach. Therefore I would recommend to take a bus or a stroll before you place you blanket on the beach.

Sunset over Waikiki Beach

Sunset over Waikiki Beach

Waikiki, a shoppers paradise

If you want to go shopping, you should definitively go to Kalakaua Avenue. Here you will find a wide variety from expensive designer stores to the omnipresent ABC-Stores. They are a mixture between supermarket/deli and souvenirshop. So if you are in need of a snack or new sunscreen this is the place to go. If you want to spend more than just a few days on Oahu, I would recommend to book an appartment. This way you can prepare your own breakfast and dinner  easily. On my first visit I just did that and had a tuna steak and salad every night. Delicious!

Just a few minutes drive from Waikiki towards the airport is the Ala Moana Mall. A large shopping center with over 190 shops and restaurants. Here you will find a variety of expensive designer stores, but also the most common American labels for casual wear. It’s worth to spend an afternoon there and to look for a sale. It is not really bargain hunting, but not really overprized either. My favorite shop  is Hilo Hatties . A souvenir shop that offers better quality than the ABC-stores. This is where I bought my Alohashirts. A little note concerning souvenirs. In almost all stores they offer seeds and seedlings of typical Hawaiian plants. I think that’s a cool idea. Who wouldn’t love to have a hibiscus or plumeria in his own living room. But you will have to hide them well in your luggage, cause it’s not allowed to take them outside the US. The official reason for it is that the officials want to prevent the islands from plant illnesses to be imported. But shouldn’t they than rather check your bags when you are coming to the islands and not when you’re leaving?

Aloha Tower Market Place

Aloha Tower Market Place

Aloha Tower Market Place

A bit further down the road direction airport is the Aloha Tower Marketplace. Here you will find a few more shops, but what makes this area special is the fact that it is very popular among the locals with a variety of movie theaters, bars and restaurants. This is also the terminal for cruise ships and boat trips. I once was on one of those daily boat tours and when we finally reached the open sea, we were accompanied by a rather large school of dolphins.

Dolphins following a boat

You will come across those funny guys pretty often without having to visit an aquarium or zoo. I could watch them for hours when they are swimming next to a boat and entertain the people with their jumps. For me this is one of the moments when the world seems to be good a place. The best chances to see dolphins is to go out in the early morning.

Do you want to read more about Hawaii? Then you’ll just have to follow this blog and wait what I still have in store for you.

A big Mahalo for your attention. Comments are welcome.