Let’s go Sailing in Hawaii

Every year my wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary by doing something crazy/special. This year, we decided to go on a boat and sail around the Hawaiian islands. In the restaurant there was a beautiful decoration, I remember using white chair covers for weddings, that brought back memories of our wedding. Living & working in America gives us plenty of choices. Hawaii is only 5 hour flight and it costs a few hundred bucks to fly there and back.

We found Kainani Sails operated by Brian “Keao” Shaw & Iwa Hartman on AirBnB.

If you want to feel the true magic of the Maldives, staying in Niyama Private Islands beach pool villas Maldives is your next ‘perfect honeymoon’ idea.

AirBnB is where you get to rent from real people – not hotels or larger charter businesses. We wanted this to be “personal” and special holiday and not have to rush everywhere we visit. Basically doing it at our own pace. Kainani Sails has a boat which is a fully equipped 43′ sailing yacht. It is also their home. Perfect. Let’s go!

Our sailing trip route. Yellow icon was the start & finish. Click map for larger view.
This is us! From left clockwise: Iwa (Crew), Keao (Captain), Urszula & Ernest (me)

What you need to know:

  • You will sail in a fully equipped 43′ sailing yacht. It has kitchen, 2 bathrooms (again don’t expect a hotel bathroom), living room, master cabin with a comfy queen size mattress and 2 smaller cabins and an engine so you can still move when the wind is down. See pictures of it here.
  • There is fresh water on board for bathrooms and drinking.
  • Captain Brian “Keao” Shaw has around 10 years of sailing experience and is USCG certified. Having grown up in Hawaii he also knows the local waters very well.  He will even turn on the motor when a whale is sited to make them aware of us – that’s caring for nature. With Iwa Hartman as his crew you are in great hands. They know how to fix up the yacht and have all the necessary equipment (check out this post if you need marine equipment).
  • On board you will also find surfboards, snorkeling & fishing gear, a 2-person kayak, deck chairs, a small library, outdoor grill, and a 10′ tender with a 15 hp outboard known as the “Zodiac”. Your taxi shuttle to the shore.

Things to prepare before:

  • To prevent nausea and vomiting caused by motion sickness ask your GP for prevention pills. We received Transderm Scop in 10 patches (a 30 day supply). Each patch goes behind your ear and lasts for 3 days.
  • A rashguard to keep yourself from getting burnt by the sun. You will be on the boat, snorkeling, surfing etc… always in the sun. This will protect you from the UV.
  • waterproof housing for your camera. The world below is amazing. You will regret it if you do not have a camera capable of taking video or photos underwater.
  • A book or an iPad with digital books. There’s nothing like kicking back reading a book and watching the sun set or early in the peaceful morning indulging your mind.
  • You and Keao will create your meal schedule to make sure you eat healthy. Done before your trip via email.
  • A waterproof jacket from Vest Home deals When crossing the channels between the islands the wind picks up and waves get larger. You may get splashed when sailing.
  • LED headlamp / torch. When the sun sets you will want additional / personal lighting.
  • Buy some snacks, red wine & alcohol before you board. My favorite is the Chopin Vodka, 4 times distilled and rated well in San Francisco for the last 2 years.

My favorite things to do on the boat

  • My sleeping habit changed from 3am – 8am (ahh the life of an entrepreneur software engineer) to 9:30pm sleep and 6:00am wake up as the sun rises. My body naturally went into this cycle with the sunset and sunrise rhythms. I had a ton of energy each day without a need for caffeine. I did not drink a single drink with caffeine while on board.
  • Sleeping on the stern (back of the boat) under the stars. I created a nice comfy bed and slept under the stars each night – simply amazing! Without any light pollution you could see every star possible with the naked eye. I felt like the character in Altered States tapping into evolutionary state when our ancestors used to sleep under the stars.
  • Sit at the bow (front of the boat) on deck chairs with your partner to enjoy the open seas as you sail.
  • The master cabin has 2 roof windows which open up. Sneaking in and out of the cabin via these windows felt like being a kid again.
  • Take stunning photos from all corners of the boat. Just hold on tight coz the boat does rock with the ocean and leans during full sail.

Our journey begins

Saturday (Feb 18)

  • For short trips of around a week its cheaper (with coupon) & more convenient to leave your car at the airport parking which was just remodeled by local contractors you can also hire if you click here.
  • We flew out of flew out of Oakland International so parked our car at Park ‘N Fly.

Lahaina Bay – Home for the next week! Aloha!!

  • We flew Hawaiian airlines Boeing 767 into Kahului Airport on Maui (Hawaii). That’s the top part of the island. It’s best to catch a shuttle bus (which fits around 10 people) from the airport to Mala Harbor (the south side of the island in Lahaina). A 1-hr car ride. Grab the shuttle bus as soon as you walk outside the airport.
  • Captain Keao picked us up from the bay on the “Zodiac” (outboard) and took us to the fully equipped 43′ sailing yacht parked further in the Lahaina Bay.
  • Having arrived to the sail boat, we were greeted by Iwa (his crew) and helped on board. I must say this was a very friendly welcome and we felt like at home straight away. Thanks folks!
  • That afternoon we watched an amazing sunset and then star gazed. Using an iPhone app Sky Safari to identify the stars, planets & constellations was super fun… before falling asleep under the stars.
Sunset over Lanai

Sunday (Feb 19)

  • Early morning we set off sail to Honolua Bay. This is the west side of Maui. It was a 5 hour journey and Urszula got to sail the boat under Captain Keao’s supervision. Here’s a nice video of our sailing treck .
  • The private residence bay was amazing. Rich in corals and surrounded by rocky cliffs with 2 beaches where about 2 dozen surfers were catching 6 foot breaks coming from the open sea along the cliff faces. So Keao and I grabbed 2 surfboards (the boat carries 3 surf boards) and we paddled to the break. We had a kick ass time while Urszula went snorkeling & underwater recording with Iwa.
  • As the sun was setting a large pod of Spinner Dolphins came into the bay. I call them Tunas because they the young ones look it. They are famous for their acrobatic displays in which they spin along their longitudinal axis as they leap through the air. Urszula and Iwa set out on a kayak to get closer to these amazing creatures .
Spinner Dolphins playing with us in Honolua Bay. Click pic for larger view.

Monday (Feb 20)

  • We set out sail early towards Maunaloa on Molokai island. A secluded place that reminded me of the 1st episode of Planet of the Apes (1968) when the crew crash lands on a planet in the distant future. Nothing but beach, sand and mother nature.
  • Molokai is the fifth largest of the main Hawaiian Islands. It is one of the least touristy islands and very native.

Tuesday (Feb 21)

  • We departed before sun rise to beat the winds while crossing the channel. However we hit some pretty crazy winds and the seas were angry my friends. I was thinking Mavericks! This was the time I gave in and plonked motion sickness patch on and the waterproof jacket.
  • When we hit Lanai’s Au’au channel the winds settled and oceans calmed down and turned deep blue. I have never seen anything like this before.
Lanai cliff faces west facing
  • We stayed the night in a secluded bay near these amazing rock cliff faces where Urszula came face to face with a 3 meter shark in the coral rich bay.
  • It was funny to watch those touristy charter boats come in loaded with people, they bobbed out for 30 minutes into the water and had to get back on the boat to leave again. What a rush. Did the tourists even get a chance to take in the beauty of the surroundings and underwater. While we kicked back and snorkeled at our own pace taking in everything nature had to offer.

Wednesday (Feb 22)

  • We headed into Lanai Bay and parked the boat amongst other boats. This was a big change to the secluded areas we visited earlier. A lot more populated.
Lanai bay
  • Lanai is sixth-largest of the Hawaiian Islands. A privately owned island. It is also known as the Pineapple Island because of its past as an island-wide pineapple plantation. The only town is Lānaʻi City, a small settlement. Lanai has the longest stretch of coral reef in Hawaii and the beaches on this island are down right deserted.
Secluded cove near Four Seasons at Manele Bay
Secluded cove near Four Seasons at Manele Bay
  • I highly recommend you visit the Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay. A brief walk from the bay and they have great Mojitos (my favorite).
  • The beach at the base of the hotel is also amazing with fascinating tide pools, great snorkeling, red sea cliffs and a stunning cove.
Four Sesons beach at Manele Bay

Thursday (Feb 23)

  • We loved Lanai so much we set sail back to Maui later in the afternoon.
  • Stopping along the way in the middle of the ocean and jumping off the bow to hear the Whales sing under water. (see video) and to feed some crazy black fish (see video). hehehe that was fun! I think they wanted to feed on Urszula.
Sailing back to Maui
  • Sailing back to Lahaina Bay I took charge of being the Captain hehe under Keao’s training around the instrumentation and reading the sails/winds I sailed us back into Lahaina while we all enjoyed the amazing sunset.
Please call me… Captain!

Friday (Feb 24)

  • Early morning we hit the surf in Lahaina Bay with our surfboards. Plenty of people catching perfect waves.
Surfs up!
  • Lunch time we said our goodbyes – it was tough after such an amazing week with Iwa & Keao. Not only did we have an amazing time but we also made friends. That is something we will never forget. Keao dropped us off at Lahaina bay port where the friendly folks at Enterprise car rental picked us up for the next journey in Maui.

Wow, we sailed in Hawaii

We couldn’t have asked for a better trip. Both Keao and Iwa were outstanding hosts. From looking after us with healthy food (we got some recipes), entertainment, history lessons of the sights, sailing lessons to opening up their stunning waterfront property (the 43′ sailing yacht) to us. We felt like we were at home but away from home. Urszula counted 76 Whales during our trip! I started to call this whale pollution because there were so many of the them hehe I really decompressed and disconnected from my reality and lived a life which I can only compare to what I believe our ancestors did once when they were one with nature.

Here’s a short video of our trip

Want to experience the same?

Everyone should at least one in their life sail. Especially around beautiful Hawaii.

Check out more photos here on Flickr

Here’s how to get in-touch with Keao or Iwa from Kainani Sails:

Videos you should watch:

~ Ernest

Hawaii: Big Island with 3 Volcanoes

Our 1st trip to Hawaii after visiting the Cayman Islands and it was to the Big Island. Why Big Island? cause it’s damn big, has 3 volcanoes and there’s plenty to do outdoor both under water, on land and in air.

Yap, if you want to let yourself loose and get back in touch with nature then this is the island you should be visiting. If you want to party and have a night life then this isn’t your island. Matter of fact, just head out to Ibiza if you want to do that.

Note: You can click on each of the pictures below to open up a larger version on my flickr account. Enjoy!

Big Island, Hawaii – notice the red A, that’s the island.

We stayed on the Big Island

Just the Big Island. As you will see below there is plenty to do there. We stayed at Keauhou Beach Resort, hired a car from Alamo (read my car rental traps before you get one) and off we went on our adventure. Here’s what happened.

Keauhou Beach Resort – where we stayed
View from our balcony

Stuff to watch out for

Like any place you visit in this world you will no doubt come across few areas that get you under your skin.

  • Roads are very narrow. Both for driving and for parking. Kind of reminds me of the roads in Australia and very unlike American wide roads.
  • Most roads do not have street lights. Night driving gets frilly especially when you see those signs to watch out for Donkey’s crossing or Mongoose sliding across the road like snakes. Use high beams. I’m sure this is done on purpose since the Big Island is the home of Mauna Kea Observatory.
  • Average speed limit is… wait for it.. 35 mph. wtf! yes, driving around this island is slow and nerve wrecking when time is precious. Stay away from driving on major roads during the traffic window 3.30-5pm – it crawls. At the resorts, tourists are taught to pull over and let the faster locals pass by since they need to get their kids to school – so are there 2 speed limits.. locals and tourists.
  • Expedia affiliations with Wyndham Vacation Resorts. They will try to lure you (not a pleasant experience) for a 2 hour of your time to listen to their sales staff try to sell you “Timeshare Accommodations”. For your time, you will get $100 off any Expedia booking you do on the island. You work out whether it’s worth it for you. I gave it a shot since I wanted to learn more about this Timeshare I hear people talking about and quiet frankly it reminds me of Bartercard in Australia (thumbs down). Also in light of AirBnB disrupting the rental market, timeshare accommodation is just a waste of money for me. However I got my $100 off Expedia booking – yay!

Cool stuff to do

Since we only had 1 week to do this we needed to make sure that we covered as much in/on water, land and air as much as we could in that week.

  1. Lava everywhere!! don’t get scared. First  thing you will notice when you fly in is plenty of black rock that looks like unfinished land renovations. That is the laval from over 100 years ago. It’s all over the island. A’a (as in a a it hurts when you step on it) is the most common and looks like sharp small rocks stacked on top of each other. 2nd most common is Pahoehoe, like frozen liquid water.

    Big Island Landscape

  2. Kapoho Tide Pools. Spectacular location. A place I could live. The pools are great for snorkeling and only a meter or so deep.

    Kapoho Tide Pools

  3. Helicopter ride over the Island. This is the BEST way to see the whole island inc. Hilo falls (if not in dry season). The ride is around 3 hours and it is spectacular. We went with Paradise Helicopters and flew in a 6 passenger Bell 407 helicopter. The seating of this chopper basically allows for 5 people to have window seats. The only downside was seeing other choppers get really close to the lava while we always stayed up really high.
  4. Punallu Beach. Know for the black sand and often called the black beach. You get to see many turtles beaching and feel the unique black grains that make this the black beach.

    Punallu beach (black beach)

  5. Kealakekua Bay. Also know for the memorial resting place of Captain Cook. The bay here is the BEST location for snorkelling. PLenty to see underwater and beautiful crystal clear visibility.

    Captain Cook, Kealakekua Bay

  6. Waipio Valley. “Waipiʻo” means “curved water” in the Hawaiian language. It was the location of the ancient grass palace of the ancient kings of Hawaii with the nioi stands. You can go horse riding down into the valley if you have the time else just admire the views, take some photos and go to Pololū Valley.

    Waipio Valley

  7. Pololū Valley. The word Pololū means long spear in the Hawaiian language. It is the Northernmost of a series of erosional valleys forming the east coast of Kohala Mountain on the Island of Hawaiʻi. Go for a hike down the mountain and onto the beach where you will find many Zen like rock structures and a peaceful atmosphere that you can fall asleep to. Lovely place! The hike down is around 15 mins.

    Pololu Valley

  8. Beaches to see– A Beach, Makalawena Beach, Hapuna Beach, Kaunao Beach and Kua Bay. If you are from Australia or Asia then these beaches are the norm but still a great place to catch a wave.

    Kua Bay

  9. Night swimming with Manta Rays.There is a 90% chance you will see them. The adventure starts in the evening as a bunch of boats (with you on one of them) go out onto the ocean. All the boats park in a large circle and wait for the sun to set.
    We park and wait for the sun to set

    A bunch of divers jump into the water with flood lights and light the ocean from the bottom up. This attracts plankton which in turn attracts massive Manta Rays. You enjoy the 40 minute feeding fest from above as they Manta’s swoop in loops consuming the plankton.

    Swimming with Manta Rays at night. VIDEO:

  10. Dolphin & Whale experience. Get to see spinner dolphins famous for their acrobatic displays in which they spin longitudinally along their axis as they leap through the air. These dolphins return from the deep ocean in the morning after a long night of hunting and cruise along the shore line to bay to sleep. So choose a crew that will leave as early as 7am so you don’t have to swim with the dolphins when they sleep rather when they are cruising along the shore line. We went with Dolphin Discoveries, threw ourself in-front of a pod of 80 dolphins 4 times, got to see whales breaching and we also snorkeled. Heaps of fun!Swimming with the Dolphins VIDEO:
    Humpback Whale watching with breaches VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq6Y1RGqJ2Y

Stuff you can skip the tour and do yourself

  • Volcanic National Park including lava cave– this costs around $180 per person and is an all day driving adventure around the island. Stuff you can do if you hire a car. If you don’t have a car, then do this one.

    Kilauea Volcano – most active volcano in the world

  • Sunset Lava cruise.Dont expect to see lava pouring into the ocean. We didn’t. However we did see an amazing coast line created by the lava, lava tubes and steam where the earth was still cooling from a previous flow.If you want to see an amazing sunset stop anywhere on a hill as the sun sets over Hawaii and enjoy – like we did below.

    Sunset in Hawaii – Everywhere!

Stuff I wish we got to see

Here is stuff I didn’t get to see since 1 week isn’t enough to see everything. This is for my next visit.

Enjoy your Big Island adventure, I’m sure you will enjoy every minute of it!

PS. If you want to go here shoot me an email. Supposedly this is a private beach!

Private beach

PPS. I have more photos of the Hawaii trip on my Flickr account here.

~ Ernest