Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Hawaii

Tunnels Beach, Kauaʻi Claire and husband Tom on Tunnels Beach, Kauaʻi © Claire Richardson

Claire Richardson, Picture Editor at Lonely Planet Traveller magazine, recently returned from her honeymoon to Hawaii, USA.

Tell us more… For our honeymoon, my new husband and I were lucky enough to spend two adventure-packed weeks exploring three of Hawaii’s stunning islands. We sipped Mai Tais on Waikiki beach, swooped over towering cliffs along the Na Pali Coast in a doors-off helicopter and spent a night in a treehouse down the road from one of the world’s most active volcanoes!

In a nutshell... Hawaii is a volcanic archipelago, made up of eight main islands, six of which are open to visitors. Sat smack-bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the nearest landmass is well over 2000 miles away, making these islands some of the most remote in the world. There's a wonderful blend of Polynesian, American and Japanese culture as various people have made Hawaii their home over the centuries.

The Cathedrals on the Na Pali Coast, Kauaʻi The dramatic cliff face known as The Cathedrals on the Na Pali Coast, Kauaʻi © Claire Richardson

Best cinematic moment… Kauaʻi feels like a movie set, having served as the backdrop to countless Hollywood films over the last 80 years, from classics like South Pacific shot in Hanalei Bay to Indiana Jones and all the Jurassic Park movies! The line of green mountains with dozens of cascading waterfalls is simply stunning; one of the best ways to take it all in and a definite highlight of our trip was flying over Kauaʻi in a doors-off helicopter. Yep no doors! We could literally feel the spray coming off the waterfalls as we flew past. For a film nut like me, I found hovering over the grassy green plains where they filmed Jurassic park incredibly exciting. With John Williams’ soundtrack playing in my head, I imagined running from the stampede of dinosaurs and raging T-rex!

Bizarre encounters… One of the strangest sights and sounds on Kauaʻi has to be the island’s wild roosters. Crowing day and night – beware the 4am wake up call, pack earplugs - you’ll find them wandering all over the island, even on the beach. The story goes that Hurricane Inici tore through Kauaʻi in 1992 destroying many chicken coops, thus releasing them to roam the island forevermore.

A sea turtle swimming off the coast of Hawaii Island A sea turtle swimming right towards Claire's camera © Claire Richardson

Fave activity? We love to snorkel and Hawaii was full of opportunities to float in clear turquoise waters looking for colourful fish. One of the experiences on my bucket list is to swim with a turtle and I finally got to tick it off at Two Step when out of a shoal of yellow fish emerged a gorgeous sea turtle! You must give them their space though and not get too close, as this is their habitat.

Good grub? Highlights included breakfast burritos at the Hanalei Bay Farmer’s market on Kauaʻi (held every Saturday) and fresh poke at Da Poke Shack on the Kona coast side of Hawaiʻi Island. Poke is marinated raw fish usually diced and served in a salad. I also loved the rainbow shaved ice you find everywhere on the islands.

Pele's Hair on Chain of Crater's road, Hawaii Island Pele's Hair on Chain of Crater's road © Claire Richardson

Best island for volcanoes… To end our adventure, we chose Hawaiʻi Island, home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea (pronounced Kila-way-a). We visited the smoking crater during the day but also went back at night when the lava bubbles glowed neon red against the night skies. Driving down the Chain of Craters road was like travelling through a moonscape, as you pass through old lava flows on the way down to the sea. The blackened tunnels of lava are known as Pele’s hair after Pele the Hawaiian goddess of the Volcano. To top off our epic trip, we spent the night in a hand-built tree house, drifting off to sleep to the sounds of the rainforest.

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Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what Product Editor Kathryn Rowan got up to on her recent trip to Tasmania, Australia.