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Science, Photography, and Trip Reviews


Hawaiian Islands

Maui, Kauai, Hawaii, Big Island, & Oahu

Wai'anapanapa, Haleakala, & Iao Valley

Waimea Canyon, Wailua Falls, & Kīlauea Lighthouse

Sunset Cruise, Black Sand Beach, & Volcanoes National Park

Craters, Lava Tube, Whales, Turtles, Captain Cook, & Nature Trails

Waterfall at Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside on the Road to Hana in Maui.

Waterfall at Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside Park on the Road to Hana.

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Visiting the Islands

To appreciate the Hawaiian Islands you have to see more than one island. The islands are very different despite the fact they all contain lovely beaches and beautiful scenery. All of the islands can be considered a tropical paradise. Here I review some of the important sights you can see on Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii - the Big Island. In addition I make some comments about Oahu. If you want to see two of the islands you need at least seven nights. To see three of the islands you need at least ten nights. To get from one island to another you take a plane. But even though the islands are close together you will likely have to go to Honolulu and change planes. You end up traveling for a good part of a day. Even so, it is important and enjoyable to see the different islands.


Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside Park

We took a tour of the Road to Hana. We made a stop at the Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside Park. The park contains 5 acres and is a rest stop where you find a picnic area in a rainforest. There are also waterfalls with pools, and one is pictured at the top of this page.

Wai'anapanapa State Park

Beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park on the Road to Hana in Maui.

Beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park on the Road to Hana.

The name of this 120 acre park, Wai'anapanapa, means "glistening water." The park contains black sand beaches of volcanic origin. You can also visit two caves, see seabird colonies, lava tubes, and a natural stone arch. On our stop on the Road to Hana I took the above picture of a beach scene.

Haleakala National Park

Trail in Haleakalā National Park, Kipahulu on the Road to Hana in Maui.

Trail in Haleakala National Park - Kipahulu on the Road to Hana.

The Haleakala National Park is a United States National Park. It is large at 33,265 acres, and it is spread across the southeastern part of Maui. There are two parts to the park. The coastal region, which is on the Road to Hana, is referred to as Kipahulu. The separate high elevations, referred to as the Summit, is where the famous large crater is found. In the Kipahulu part of the park you find lush vegetation and attractive trails to explore, such as seen in the picture above. There is a trail that goes to Waimoku Falls.

Swimmers and waterfall at Haleakalā National Park, Kipahulu on the Road to Hana in Maui.

Swimmers and waterfall at Haleakala National Park - Kipahulu on the Road to Hana.

The Kipahulu area contains many pools. They are found along the Palikea Stream and contain rare native freshwater fish. Swimmers enjoy the pools as can be seen in the above picture.

Crater at Haleakala National Park in Maui.

Crater at Haleakala National Park - Summit.

The Summit part of the park is not on the Road to Hana but is reached by a separate road. At the highest point you find a sign that gives the elevation as 10,023 feet (3,055 meters). This is the highest peak on Maui. The most prominent and impressive feature of the Summit is the large Haleakala Crater, a portion of which is shown above. It is 6.99 miles across (11.25 kilometers), 2.0 miles (3.2 kilometers) wide, and has a depth of 2,600 feet (790 meters). The volcano has been dormant for years, and is thought to have last erupted between 1480 and 1600. The sunrises and sunsets at the Summit are said to be spectacular. At these times it is very cold there.

Observatory at Haleakala National Park in Maui.

Observatory at Haleakala National Park - Summit.

Not far from the Visitors Center is the Haleakala Observatory, part of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy. The viewing conditions at the elevation there are excellent. They do research on astrophysics projects that cannot be performed anywhere else on our planet. One of their programs is the Maui Space Surveillance System (MSSS), which tracks satellites and debris in space orbiting the Earth. The observatory is seen above.

Iao Valley State Park

Trail in Iao Valley State Park in Maui.

Trail in Iao Valley State Park.

We made a visit to Iao Valley Sate Park in West Mali. It contains 6.2 acres of lush vegetation and contains a famous landmark, the Iao Needle. It is a peaked volcanic mountain that rises 1,200 feet (370 meters) above the valley floor. The park is designated as a National Natural Landmark. The area is a dense rainforest due to receiving an enormous amount of rain, 32.2 feet (9.8 meters) on average each year. A lot of the rain water flows in the Iao Stream. There are trails to explore in the forest, like the one pictured above.


Maui Sheraton hotel.

Maui Sheraton Resort.

We stayed at the Maui Sheraton Resort. It is located on the Ka'anapali Beach on the West Maui coast and contains 23 oceanfront acres. The picture above is of the hotel as seen from the pool. In the evening at dusk they have a Torch and Dive Ceremony. In the picture below you can see lit torches and the diver is ready to dive into the water.

Tourch and dive ceremony at Maui Sheraton hotel.

Torch and dive ceremony at Maui Sheraton Resort.

Kauai - The Garden Island

The island of Kauai is referred to as the Garden Island. Of all of the islands we think that it is the most beautiful. It is a great place for a honeymoon, and we chose it for ours

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon at the Puu Hinahina View Point in Kauai.

Waimea Canyon at the Puu Hinahina View Point.

The Waimea Canyon, which is located on the western side of Kauai, is the most beautiful sight on the Island. This is in part due to its very attractive vibrant colors. You see a lot of red since the canyon has red soil. It was named Wiamea Canyon since the word waimea means "red water" in Hawaiian. A photograph of the canyon is seen above. The Waimea Canyon is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Although the Grand Canyon of Arizona and the Waimea Canyon were both carved over thousands of years by rivers, their origins are quite different. The rocks in the Grand Canyon are of the sedimentary type whereas the Waimea Canyon is of volcanic origin. As a result, the Waimea Canyon is more like the Copper Canyon of Mexico, which is also of volcanic origin, but much larger in size.

Sunny & Rebecca at the Waimea Canyon, Canyon Lookout in Kauai.

Sunny & Rebecca at the Waimea Canyon, Canyon Lookout.

The Wiamea Canyon is approximately 10 miles (16 kilometers) long, 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) wide, and up to 3,600 feet (1,098 meters) deep. It was and is being carved (eroded) by the Waimea River and very heavy rainfall. An extreme amount of water flows from the island's central peak, Mount Walaleal, which receives an average of 38.8 feet (11.8 Meters) of rain water per year. This is one of the wettest places on our planet. You will want your picture taken with the Waimea Canyon in the background, as we did, and seen above. There are long trails for those wanting to go for hikes.

Rooster at the Waimea Canyon, Canyon Lookout in Kauai.

Rooster at the Waimea Canyon, Canyon Lookout.

At the Waimea Canyon and in other parts of Kauai you see lots of feral chickens and roosters. Once domesticated some of them obviously got loose, as there are thousands of these wild fowl. They are considered to be hybrids of the red jungle fowl-like chickens, which were brought to Kauai by Polynesians, and the domesticated chickens brought by Europeans and U.S. settlers. A rooster is pictured above as seen at a Canyon Lookout.

Water Falls

Wailua Falls in Kauai.

Wailua Falls.

Kauai has some impressive water falls, and two of them are close together on the east side of the island. One is Wailua Falls shown above. It is located near Lihue. If you watched the TV program Fantasy Island the Wailua Falls was seen at the beginning of the program. The water fall drops 83 feet (25 meters) and is usually a double-tiered waterfall. But during heavy rain it can become a single waterfall, as appears to be the case above. It feeds into the Wailua River. At the bottom of the waterfall is a pool where you can swim. After seeing this waterfall you can drive a short distance to see the Opaeka'a Waterfall on the Opaeka'a Stream. It is a 151-foot (46 meters) waterfall, and it is also normally a two-tiered waterfall. In heavy rains it too becomes a single wide waterfall. There are photo opportunities.

Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Lighthouse

lighthouse at Kilauea Point in the National Wildlife Refuge in Kauai.

lighthouse at Kilauea Point in the National Wildlife Refuge.

The need for a landfall light to protect ship traffic led to a decision to build a lighthouse on the northern most point of Kauai. The lighthouse at Kilauea Point rests on a narrow lava peninsula that protrudes outward from shore, as seen in the picture above. The 52-foot (16 meters) lighthouse was built in 1913, and has since been named the Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Lighthouse. You can visit the lighthouse for a fee. In 1985 Kilauea Point was also established as a National Wildlife Refuge. It is a sanctuary for many Hawaiian seabirds. Numerous birds can be seen in the skies above the lighthouse. On one of our trips there we saw birds that appeared to be flying backwards, probably the result of wind currents. in addition to the lighthouse and seabirds, the peninsula with 200 foot (61 meters) cliffs plus the great view of the Pacific Ocean is gorgeous. From December through May humpback whales are seen there. This is a sight not to be missed. Take lots of pictures.

The north end of the island has a number of scenic trails where you can go for a hike. The northwest part of the island is very rugged. In fact there are no roads there to drive from the Waimea Canyon to the north end of the island. Instead you have to drive south and go all the way around the island to reach the northern part.


Kauai Sheraton hotel.

Kauai Sheraton Resort.

We stayed at the Kauai Sheraton Resort. It is located in Koloa (Poipu) on the south coast. The picture above is of the hotel from its pool. The ocean can also be seen. Below is a picture of the Pacific Ocean taken from our hotel room.

Ocean view from room at the Kauai Sheraton hotel.

Ocean view from room at the Kauai Sheraton hotel.

Hawaii - The Big Island

Sunset Cruise

Sunset Cruise boat on the Big Island Hawaii.

Sunset Cruise boat.

On one evening we took a three hour guided historic sunset cruise from Kona to Kealakekua Bay where we had dinner on the boat. Historic sights were described along the way. The dinner was a Hawaiian style buffet dinner with music entertainment. The Body Glove boat, seen above, is a two-story boat of 65 feet (20 meters). On the way back we viewed the beautiful sunset. It was a relaxing cruise with scenic views of the ocean and coast.

Whale see on sunset cruise on the Big Island Hawaii.

Whale see on sunset cruise.

From December to May humpback whales come to the warm Hawaiian waters to breed and give birth to their young. The adult whales weigh 40 tons and are 40 feet (12 meters) long. On the sunset cruise we did see whales, and the tail of one is pictured above. We were there in February.

Captain Cook Monument seen on the sunset cruise on the Big Island Hawaii.

Captain Cook Monument seen on the sunset cruise.

The British explorer Captain James Cook and his crew discovered the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. In 1779 they sailed into Kealakekua Bay. On his first trip there the Hawaiians thought that he was a god and honored him. But on a later trip on 14 February 1779 the islanders realized he was just a mortal, and when he got into an altercation with them they killed him and some of his crew. In November 1874 the monument shown above was erected as a memorial to Captain Cook. It is placed near the spot where he was killed. It is a major landmark on the Kona coast. The picture was taken from the boat on the sunset cruise.

Black Sand Beach

Punalu'u Beach, also known as the Black Sand Beach, is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii. It is located on the southeastern Kau coast. The black sand consists of basalt and is the result of hot lava flowing into cool ocean water where it explodes and cools. The lava comes from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The Black Sand Beach is also known for its endangered hawksbill and green turtles, which are found there. Turtles can be seen on the Black Sand Beach shown below. The beach is rocky and is considered to be a dangerous place to swim. The beach water also has a large amount of underground cold fresh water that flows into it.

Turtles seen at the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Park on the Big Island Hawaii.

Turtles seen at the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Park.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, located in the southeastern part of the island, is a U.S. Park that was founded in August 1916. The Big Island consists of five volcanoes of which two are still active: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The park is large consisting of 323,431 acres (505.36 square miles; 1,308.88 square kilometers). The park has been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site. Considering all of the Hawaiian Islands the park is one my favorite places to visit. Here you learn how the islands were built by volcanoes, a process which still continues. The Hawaiian Islands are on the Pacific tectonic plate. The plate moves, although very slowly taking millions of years to advance very far. As the Pacific plate moves it passes over the Hawaiian hotspot in the mantle below the Earth's crust. The hotspot yields submarine volcanoes that have a large number of eruptions of basalt lava with each eruption building upon previous eruptions. Eventually the mass of hardened lava breaks the water surface creating an island. Over 70 million years volcanoes have created the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, which includes the Hawaiian islands. The Big Island is the youngest of the islands. As you move northwest through the islands they are progressively older and older with the furthest one out being the oldest. In time, as the Pacific plate continues to move the Big Island will be left behind and a new Hawaiian island will be added from the hotspot to the island-chain.

Crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea on the Big Island Hawaii.

Halemaumau Crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea.

Starting as a submarine volcano, as described above, Kilauea emerged above the ocean as a land volcano around 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. It is considered to be between 300,000 and 600,000 years old. It is classified as a shield volcano, which means the lava flows as a fluid. The fluid is of low viscosity, so the fluid flows easily and far. Successive eruptions add layers with a profile shape like that of a warrior's shield lying on the ground. The volcano remains very active. Within the Kilauea volcano caldera is the Halemaumau Crater, which is quite large. It is 3,000 feet (915 meters) across and 300 feet (91.5 meters) deep. Steam is coming out of the crater as can be see in the above picture. It is considered to be a sacred site being the home of Pele, the volcano goddess. The other active volcano Mauna Loa is located at the summit of the park. It is the most massive active volcano on our planet. Its elevation is 13,677 feet (4,169 m). Like Kilauea it is a shield volcano. It is thought to have been erupting for 700,000 or more years, and to have emerged above the ocean surface about 400,000 years ago. When the Pacific plate moves Mauna Loa away from the hotspot it will become extinct. At the park summit you also find the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Since 1912 scientists have monitored Mauna Loa. Since 1958 they have been monitoring the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That data led to the finding that the Earth is undergoing climate change due to the rising level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The nearby Mauna Loa Solar Observatory conducts measurements of the sun. The dormant volcano Mauna Kea is even a little bit higher than Mauna Loa with an elevation of 13,802 feet (4.207 meters). An interesting fact is that when the elevation is measured from the ocean floor the height is over 33,000 feet (10,000 meters). When measured this way Mauna Loa is the tallest mountain in the world. It is about a million years old. The summit is considered to be one of the best places in the world to study astronomy. As a resul,t researchers from a number of countries use different telescopes there to search the night sky.

Lava tube at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island Hawaii.

Thurston lava tube at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Not far from the Visitor Center and the Halemaumau Crater of the Kilauea volcano is the Thurston lava tube. It is named after its founder Lorrin Thurston who discovered it in 1913. It is also called Nahuku and is considered to be a lava cave. They are formed when red hot flowing lava cools on the outside while the hot lava continues to flow on the inside. Eventually the cool outside top and sides harden and attach to the bottom forming a shell around the flowing hot lava. When the hot lava stops flowing a lava tube is left. The Thurston Lava Tube is pictured above. It is large enough for people to walk through. The tube is dated at 500 years.

Rebecca on the trail to the lava tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island Hawaii.

Rebecca on the trail near the Thurston Lava Tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

You come out of the Thurston Lava Tube to find a beautiful trail through trees and lots of ferns. Rebecca is shown on the trail in the above picture. It is a tropical rainforest. The park has lots of trails to hike through. There is a Crater Rim Drive of 10.6 miles which goes around the Kilauea Caldera to visit park attractions. You see the Kilauea Visitors Center, Volcano Art Center, Sulphur Banks Trail, Jaggar Museum, Halemaumau Overlook, Halemaumau Crater, Devastation Trail, Thurston Lava Tube, and the Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook. The Jaggar Museum is named after Thomas A. Jaggar who was a pioneer in the study of volcanology in the park. The museum has displays and videos of volcanoes. The Visitors Center also explains how the islands were created. Park rangers will tell you if there is an eruption in progress and where to go to see it. We saw hot lava that had recently flowed on one of our trips to the Big Island. We also saw fields of coffee in the southwest, macadamia nuts in the east, and very large cattle ranches in the north part of the island.


Hawaii (Big Island) Sheraton hotel.

Hawaii (Big Island) Sheraton Resort.

On the Big Island we stayed at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa located at Keauhou Bay. The resort is pictured above with the pool. The Pacific Ocean is in the background. A nice feature of this resort when we were there was a free trolley that made stops the hotel throughout the day and evening. We were able to take it to downtown and back when we wanted to eat in town or shop.


Oahu has important sights to visit. The most important one for many of us is the Memorial in Pearl Harbor to those that were killed or wounded when Japan bombed our Navy fleet and aircraft in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The USS Arizona took a direct hit and it sunk to the bottom with many dead entombed inside where they still rest. The Memorial has been built over the sunken USS Arizona. The unexpected attack led to our entry into the War in the Pacific during the Second World War. Other places to visit include Honolulu, Waikiki, and Diamond Head. Outside of Honolulu there are mountain trails in the western and eastern parts of the island and great surfing beaches on the North Shore.

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Photos by Sunny Breeding. Photo of us in Kauai by an unknown tourist. We sell prints and images.