Written By; Greg Groszczyk, ShoreTrips Excursion Specialist
One of the best things about ShoreTrips is our focus on meeting the tour guides that we partner with in locations all over the world. Lucky for me, I get to work at ShoreTrips and was able to play a part in this process during a recent trip to Hawaii. Although some of the excursions I will discuss throughout this article may seem incredibly fun and life changing, I want to make sure everyone knows I was in Hawaii for work. Nothing was done for my own personal pleasure. This trip was strictly a service to our countless guests that travel with us to Hawaii every year.
My first stop was in Hawaii’s largest and most vibrant city, Honolulu. As most cruise ships stop and start here we knew we wanted to find tour guides that could customize anything we wanted and cater to impromptu requests. Travelers’ arrivals and departures vary on so many levels that having your own guide for the day allows you to make the most of your time. Who knows when you will be back on tiny islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!
If there is one thing I recommend, it’s getting started early in order to avoid the crowds. This is especially relevant when venturing to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center which was the most emotionally moving location on my entire trip. Exploring the memorial is a sobering experience and consists of three main parts that span the sunken hull of the battleship. The PRIVATE HALF DAY PEARL HARBOR tour lets you learn about the historical events of this area at your own pace.
One thing that blew my mind was the amount of beauty and diverse landscapes that are fit into such a small area. Nothing highlights this more than getting up into the air for a bird’s eye view. A small company who has been providing DELUXE WATERFALL FLIGHTS for over a decade took me up in the air for a day to remember. This vantage point showcased the oldest island in Hawaiia’s namesake, the “Garden Island” and in breathtaking fashion! Only 20% of the island is accessible by car or foot so flying in a state-of-the-art helicopter provides the perfect panorama of the island’s natural beauty.
Gazing down upon the WAIMEA CANYON is one of the highlights of the flight and taking a tour closer to the reddish lava beds quickly became a priority. Once on the ground, my guide took me to a variety of lookouts to better gawk at the canyon as it drops 4,000 feet. A massive earthquake sent streams of lava flowing into a single river that ended up carving out the land. The Waimea River still runs through it today at varying speeds that fluctuate with the island’s rapidly changing weather.
With so little of the island developed by paved roads, it only made sense for my next escapade to include an UTV. You can never see enough waterfalls in Hawaii so the WATERFALL TOUR WITH PICNIC excursion hooked me up with some helmets, goggles and bandana to unleash my inner, off road beast. We were traveling through filming locations used in Jurassic Park so in the back of my mind a T-Rex was chasing me most of the trip.
Whether you dock in Lahaina or Kahului, you are going to enjoy your time on the island of Maui. There is a little bit of something for everyone here, which is one of the main reasons people find themselves coming back here more than anywhere else. The first thing I did here was the first thing anyone should do when arriving in Maui, catch the sunrise. Waking up at 3:30 AM is as hard for me as anyone else but the HALEAKALA SUNRISE, THE EASY WAY program quickly removes any initial grumpiness. My local guide picked me up in a vehicle that took no more than 8 passengers for the journey up to the Haleakala Volcano Summit for a breakfast as we awaited the kaleidoscope of colors that are revealed at first light. It didn’t take long to realize there isn’t another place with this type of beauty on earth!
Although the sunrise comes at a perfectly slow pace it doesn’t mean Maui won’t provide opportunities for the more adventurous spirit. At this point on the trip I had done some traveling by air and by car but it was time to try another mode of transportation. Despite my initial reluctance, for the sake of all future travelers, I agreed to join in on the WEST MAUI ZIP ADVENTURE. Cruising over flowing streams and waterfalls with my feet dangling in the air was an adrenaline rush I wish I could replicate on a regular basis. Even back in Milwaukee I have pictured zip lining from rooftop restaurants down to my car.
If you are looking to combine an adrenaline rush with the sunrise you can actually BIKE DOWN THE HALEAKALA VOLCANO. Experienced biking guides take you all the way up to the crater before leading the charge as you bike 28 miles downhill, only pedaling for 400 yards! This is one of the best run tours on the island and the company outfits you in everything that you need.
While researching your trip, the first thing you will learn about your time in Hilo is that you have to check out VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK. From Yosemite to Acadia, the park system on the mainland has some amazing landmarks but nothing can compare to the Kilauea Volcano. The chance to feel the heat radiating from one of the most active volcanoes in the world is the perfect chance to feel the pulse and enormity of Mother Nature. An award winning naturalist guide brought me through the nearby rainforest to an ancient lava tube while explaining the varying lava landscapes every step of the way. Another diverse Hawaiian ecosystem added to the list!
Hilo is also more than just picturesque landscapes and a HAWAII CHOCOLATE AND COFFEE PLANTATION TOUR is just what I needed after feasting on these vices any chance I had. It’s not every day you can travel 20 minutes along a coastal road and taste some of the freshest coffee and chocolate in the world.
Hawaii might be part of the United States but it has a history that is unique to the rest of the country. There isn’t a better place to learn about this than Kona with famous locations like Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park and Kealakekua Bay. Don’t worry, I still can’t pronounce these names either.
THE SPIRIT OF ALOHA tour is the perfect place to start as you pass quaint town after quaint town, while your local guide gives you history lessons on the Hawaiian natives. The most interesting aspect is the legend around the birthplace of King Kamehameha who was an important ruler that united Hawaii under one Kingdom. Lunch is enjoyed under one of his statues before heading into the Pololu Valley to experience “wave therapy”. A connection with nature is one of the most important facets of being Hawaiian and your guide will invite you to let waves wash a feeling of tranquility over your body.
Looking beyond the tourist sites, a local brought me out to SEE AND TASTE KONA. For years I had my occasional fantasy of living in Hawaii, away from the crowds, and this excursion took me through life as a resident. Traveling through private homes and eating a fresh 3-course brunch had me wishing this tour took place in my life 24/7. Sadly, Kona marked the end of my journey!
As I mentioned from the very beginning, all the tours that I took above and have described for you in this article weren’t done for my enjoyment. The whole purpose of my trip was to find the best guides and tour itineraries throughout Hawaii. If it wasn’t for my place of employment I would have much rather just stayed inside and watched TV. I hope you can appreciate my sacrifice.