Category: Island Travel (Page 1 of 6)

A Day in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo

Off of the bustling coast of Cancun, in Quintana Roo, Mexico, is a small island called Isla Mujeres. Although I had never heard of it before, this little escape is pretty popular with folks that are visiting Cancun, and for good reason. While Cancun is a big, busy city, with a Las Vegas-style strip of hotels along its major shores, Isla Mujeres is home to a small town of the same name. Here, tourists trundle around in golf carts, walk the narrow streets of downtown, and marvel at the brilliant Caribbean Sea that curls around the entire island.

Without knowing anything about it, my love for islands drew me to making the trek to this beautiful corner of the world. And it was one of the most exceptional parts of my Quintana Roo trip.

While we were visiting, we only had a day in Isla Mujeres, and while you could spend longer, a day-trip to the island is a great option for anyone short on time. For travelers like me, Isla Mujeres has a unique hiking area. The island is also a nice place to connect with Mexican culture.

So, if you are charting out your Quintana Roo trip, consider this guide one resource for your planning what to do on Isla Mujeres. It is a realistic look at what it is like to visit the island for a day. And if you are a casual follower of this blog, please enjoy this taste of beautiful Isla Mujeres.

A Day in Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is only about 4.3 miles long (7 km), and 2,130 ft (650 meters wide). So, that should paint a picture for you that this island is very small. Its size makes it a great option for a day-trip (although you could spend longer!). In terms of what to do on Isla Mujeres, of course, that depends on your travel style, but I will be focusing here on exploring the town and hiking on the southern part of the island.

The island is currently characterized by the town that stretches across most of its surface. The ferry terminal is on the northern end of the Isla, and it is here that the dense downtown is located as well. From here, you can wander on foot into many shops and restaurants, and consider renting a golf cart if you want to make it all the way down to the southern tip of the island. A good part of a day in Isla Mujeres will take place among the colorful buildings of town. There are beautiful, white sand beaches on the very northern edge of the island. And these are easily walkable from the ferry terminal.

a day in isla mujeres

(c) ABR 2023

Exploring south is a great idea as well. In my post on hiking in Quintana Roo, I cover the beautiful trails that weave their way across the rocky cliffs of La Punta Sur (the south point). Along the way, you can stop by the Women’s Beading Co-op, where you can purchase exceptional beaded jewelry from the artists themselves.

Take these together with the time it will take to sample some of the wonderful food of the island, and the travel back and forth, and you have a full day on your hands.

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Things to See in Eastern Maui: The Road to Hana and Haleakala

Maui is one of the most popular vacation destinations for Americans, and for good reason. The island is full of beautiful landscapes, exceptional culture, and delicious food. My last post explored some great places for visitors and residents alike to visit in Western Maui. And this week, I’d like to talk about things to see in eastern Maui, and in particular, the Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park. Both have really good options for folks who are looking for hiking opportunities. They are also great options for people exploring by car only, although both will be most easily accessed either with a rental car or a day tour. Let’s sample some great places in eastern Maui and see what might be for you.

Things to See in Eastern Maui Itinerary

While I am packaging all these things to see in Eastern Maui into one post, these are absolutely not to be done in a day. Yes, you could force it, but you would have to miss out on a lot of quiet moments for organic exploration. It also wouldn’t give you much time to explore the trails. Or just take in the beauty of Maui.

The Road to Hana can be done in a day and there are tours that will take you on this loop if you don’t want to drive it yourself. When I first went to Maui, the rental car companies would not allow you to do this whole drive by yourself, but as of 2018, I was not given this restriction when I rented. If you really want to drink it all in though, you might consider doing it in two days and staying in Hana for a night.

things to see in eastern maui

(c) ABR 2019

Haleakala National Park is also a whole day trip, and you will want to pick your day based on the weather. It can be impossible to drive up the road to the summit of the mountain if the weather isn’t good. We had to turn around in the past because the fog was so thick we couldn’t navigate all the turns on the mountain roads.

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Plan Your Daytrip in Western Maui

Maui is full of wonders. It’s got a 10,000+ foot peak, wild landscapes of tropical mountains, unique culture, delicious food, and many places of historical significance. There is so much packed into this island. So, it is hard to pick what to do while you are there. But if you are like me, then you are hoping to sample as much as you can across Maui on your visit. If that’s the boat you are in, this guide will point you in the direction of some great spots in Western Maui. You could pick a few of these for a daytrip in Western Maui, or try to see them all over the course of several days.

Planning Your Daytrip in Western Maui

For culture, Lahaina and Kepaniwai Park have great options, and the Maui Ocean Center is an awesome spot for environmental education. For high adventure, consider climbing into the mountains at Waihe’e Ridge Trail. And for more relaxed places to experience nature, Iao Needle (advanced reservation needed) has you covered. Whether you are a solo hiker, traveling with friends and family, or looking for accessible options, there are at least a couple spots for you on this list.

Route and Road Considerations

(c) ABR 2019

For this driving daytrip in Western Maui, the route itself, if you are starting from Kahului and ending there (without stops), is 2 hours and 40 minutes as estimated by Google. I do tend to find that Google underestimates when you aren’t onsite, often due to changing traffic conditions. I list five different stops along the way, and these are a mix of hiking, nature, and cultural points of interest. That being said, this guide is designed so that you can pick from among some great options, rather than trying to do it all in a day.

I’d suggest selecting your top two or three activities from this list and then planning from there. Alternatively, if you have some more time, you could consider planning to visit the Iao Needle on its own day, or in conjunction with Kahului. Lahaina could also be an entire day of seeing the town, enjoying good food, and visiting cultural sites. So, all together, this could be a 3-4 day chunk of time.

The Road

The road along the northern shore of this daytrip in Western Maui is not your average road. I’d even say that it isn’t a road for everyone, and that’s something, considering I’ve driven in the Dominican Republic, through 2-way, 1-lane tunnels in the Faroe Islands, and on some crazy dirt roads in Molokai. The reason I say this is that much of this road is extremely narrow- basically one lane, but cars can travel in two directions.

Additionally, the road follows the mountainous curves of the island, making it a winding route with many blind corners. We were in a small sedan on this route, and had many iffy moments with other drivers. I typically err on the side of caution on these roads and I pulled over right when I saw someone. However, some drivers were not skilled enough and/or had vehicles that were too large to easily maneuver on the road. In one case, I pulled over as far as I could, and stopped my car, but a Suburban driver honked and waved franticly at me from his truck as he struggled to pass. Unfortunately for him and me, there was no other spot for me to pull over. You just have to be a good, patient, and polite driver on this route.

If narrow conditions and cliffs scare you, and/or you are driving a large vehicle that you are not familiar with or cannot maneuver comfortably, I would not take this road. Luckily, you can access all points in this itinerary without it. You just won’t make a loop of your drive.

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Visiting San Miguel in Channel Islands National Park

Off the mountainous coast of southern California, 26 miles from the mainland, is a low-lying island who’s indigenous name was Tuqan, and which is now known as San Miguel of Channel Islands National Park. Windswept, shadeless, and a 5-6 hour boat ride from Ventura, California, San Miguel is the most difficult island of the National Park to access.

Without a dock, the only landings that can be made are via a small skiff, which can’t drop off or pick up passengers in bad weather. Camping is the only accommodation, and visitors must carry all of their own water and gear up more than 500 ft of canyon from the beach to the campsite. Tuqan isn’t a destination for every traveler, so this post will serve as both a guide to visiting San Miguel in Channel Island National Park and a digest about the island for anyone interested in learning more about it, regardless of their intent to visit.

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

(Please note that I will be using both the “Western” name for San Miguel as well as the traditional, Chumash name as per the information that I could find, Tuqan).

Why I Was Interested in Visiting San Miguel in Channel Islands National Park 

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

(c) ABR 2022

I first started going to the Channel Islands in California when I was a kid. I was visiting Oxnard with my family, and I saw Anacapa off the shore. It enchanted me. All I wanted was to go and see it. It was like the island was calling to me. And my parents obliged me. My dad and I called a company called Island Packers and in a couple days, we were on the boat to Anacapa.

We climbed up the crazy ladder from the sea to the top of the island… and I was surrounded by the ocean, in what felt like another world. I was hooked. Hooked on the Channel Islands and in love with islands.

Over the years, my dad and I went back again and again. We kayaked on Anacapa, camped on Santa Cruz, and hiked through the mountains of Santa Rosa. We kept visiting the islands together until there was just one left (besides Santa Barbara, which has no dock atm) – San Miguel.

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

(c) ABR 2022

So, visiting San Miguel in Channel Islands National Park was fulfilling a dream. It was another adventure with my dad (and maybe the biggest to this point).

I was scared, because sometimes people can’t get picked up from San Miguel, and when I went to San Nicolas with a bunch of Channel Island fanatics (like myself) they told me most people went by plane. It felt like this impossible thing, and a huge unknown.

But it turned out that, yes, it was hard to get to. But everything was ok.

Planning an Expedition

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

(c) ABR 2022

In order to get to San Miguel, there are a few different things that you need to get in order, and there can be stiff competition, depending on the weekend that you want to go.

First, you will need to get your reservations on an Island Packers boat to the island. I suggest doing this as soon as the tickets go on sale. I bought mine early in the 2022 for a trip in October. The year before, I was unable to get tickets because they were full.

After you get your boat tickets, then keep an eye on Recreation.gov for when reservations for a campsite open up. Like the boat tickets, I would suggest trying to hop on and get reservations as soon as they open.

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

Beach drop of equipment on San Miguel (c) ABR 2022

HOWEVER, for both your boat reservations and camping reservations, PLEASE if you decide not to go, cancel ASAP. There are people who really want to go camping and hiking on San Miguel and they can’t if we all get reservations that we don’t keep. A lot of hard-to-get outdoor places get booked up and then a high proportion of people never even go.

There are also rare day trips that Island Packers does. So, if you want to visit, but you don’t want to camp, keep your eyes out for those!

For the hikers among us though, I would definitely encourage visiting San Miguel in Channel Islands National Park for at least two nights.

How to Get to San Miguel Island

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

Getting off the skiff onto the boat home (c) ABR 2022

As I mention above, the main way for us normal folks to get to San Miguel is to book a trip with Island Packers. It is about a 5 hour trip from Ventura, CA to Tuqan, and sometimes a bit longer. It kind of depends on how many stops Island Packers has on their itinerary for the day.

For us, they stopped at both Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa on the way over. On the way home they also stopped in the Rainbow Cave as well. So, I think it took about 6 hours.

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

The hike up from the beach to the campground (c) ABR 2022

If you get seasick, definitely arm yourself with Dramamine, eat before your trip and lightly while on the water, and avoid sitting somewhere on the boat without fresh air or a view of the horizon.

Previously, you could also charter flights to San Miguel, but I don’t think that is possible anymore. The company that used to do that, no longer does. And folks with their own boats can also moor off the island, but I have no idea what kinds of permissions you need from the National Parks to land. You are not allowed to do solo hiking on San Miguel, so I doubt you can land without permission/permits. Visiting San Miguel in Channel Islands National Park is no easy feat.

Hiking on San Miguel Island

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

(c) ABR 2022

It’s no surprise that one of the things I was most looking forward to when visiting San Miguel in Channel Islands National Park was the trails. And hiking on San Miguel is a bit different from your standard hiking experience. Mostly because you are not allow to hike by yourself except from the beach up to the campground, and over to the ranger station.

That’s because the Navy used to bomb San Miguel, and there may still be unexploded ordinance on the island. So, hikers need to travel with National Park rangers or volunteers. Luckily, when you are on the island, there will be someone else there with you to offer hikes and opportunities to explore.

When I was there, we were hosted by a volunteer who had worked for the National Parks before he retired. He took us on a hike everyday, and he was a wealth of knowledge about the natural and human history of Tuqan.

Point Bennett

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

Looking up at San Miguel Hill, the high point of the island (c) ABR 2022

The hike to Point Bennett is the premier trek of San Miguel and it is not a joke of a day hike. It is 14 miles round trip and involves hiking up and down the high point of the island twice, and traversing the rolling hills. A few different blogs that I had read before going said it was a flat hike, but I would beg to differ. It might not have massive elevation gain, but that doesn’t mean this is an easy hike.

I think most folks can do it, but go in with realistic expectations. You will be dealing with elevation gain, and 14 miles is quite a distance for one day.

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

Pinnapeds at Point Bennett (c) ABR 2022

But the pay-off for this hike is getting to experience the full landscapes of San Miguel. And you get to visit the beach with hundreds to thousands of seals and sea lions. I never knew how lively these fellas could be while on the beach until I saw so many of them. In particular, the babies were really active, running around in the sand, playing with one another.

Harris/Lester Point

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

(c) ABR 2022

On our third day on Tuqan, we lucked out, and our volunteer offered to take the group out to Lester Point. No one but us wanted to go because everyone else partied all night. So the three of us set out on the 6 mile hike.

Out in this direction, the plant assemblage is a little different than anything we had seen the day before. But this was the trail where we really saw evidence for the long history of people on this island. We crossed many middens, and walked through areas that people have been using for thousands of years.

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

Caliche formations on the way to Harris Pt. (c) ABR 2022

We also were able to see the graves of the Lester family, the last people to live on San Miguel as ranchers.

And at the end of the 3 mile trek out, we enjoyed breathtaking views of the sea. I realized while I was there that the point where we stood and looked out over the ocean, was likely a place where people had been enjoying the views for thousands of years. I haven’t connected like this with a place in the past. So it was eye opening to really feel how the concept “wilderness” has changed the landscape in novel ways… by removing people from it.

San Miguel is a People Place

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

(c) ABR 2022

Today, when you are visiting San Miguel in Channel Islands National Park, you are likely to be one of only 20 people or so on the island (maybe less). It feels like “wilderness,” somewhere meant to be empty of people. Sometimes the weather and wild character of the island even makes it feel inhospitable to people. But Tuqan has been home to people for more than 11,000 years. So, people have populated this wild and beautiful place for thousands of years before recorded history. In fact, I might go so far as to say that the island misses those who once called it home. The empty place that we see now isn’t San Miguel as it has been for thousands of years.

When Europeans first came to San Miguel, the Chumash people called Tuqan home. And there are thousands of years of evidence for their time there. To anyone who is visiting San Miguel Island in Channel Islands National Park now, there are hints of many many years of people everywhere. “Middens” with layers and layers of abalone shells from the people who fished them from the sea and enjoyed them on the rolling hills of San Miguel.

This all changed when Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo arrived in 1542, signaling the arrival of Europeans. With them came disease, and struggles for Chumash freedom. Unfortunately, the indigenous people of Tuqan were forceably removed to missions on the mainland in the 1820s.

visiting san miguel island in channel islands

(c) ABR 2022

After that, sheep ranching took place on San Miguel for about 100 years from the 1850s-1950s. This led to overgrazing, and intense erosion due to the lack of plant coverage across the island. The last ranchers on the island were the Lester family.

In 1948, the Navy reclaimed the island and removed the last ranchers. They used San Miguel for target practice during this time. It wasn’t until 1978 that the National Park started offering opportunities to visit the island again. Although, to this day the island is technically owned by the Navy.

Land Acknowledgement

San Miguel Island or Tuqan is the traditional territory of the Chumash people.

You can learn more about them at the Chumash Indian Museum.

As well as through the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Mission Indians and the Tejon Indian Tribe of California websites. 

More on the Channel Islands

If you are interested in learning more about the Channel Islands, visit my guide for insight into the other islands of the chain, both in the National Park and outside of it.

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What to Do On Lanai for a Day for Nature Lovers

Lanai isn’t quite like the quintessential Hawaii that most visitors envision when they think about coming to the islands. It isn’t quite as tropical, and there really isn’t so much in terms of peopled places to explore (there’s one small town on the island). But if you are looking for time away in a unique place, it offers many adventures and beautiful vistas. Lanai is also a wonderful place to learn more about the history and variety of Hawaii.

When Is a Day Trip to Lanai Right for You?

lanai in a day

(c) ABR 2019

If you are open to and/or looking for a simpler Hawaiian experience, as least in regards to the size of the island and its town, Lanai is a great place to visit, especially if you like hiking, 4-wheeling, and relaxing on beaches with beautiful red cliffs. (I think hunting is big here too, but since I’ve never hunted myself, I can’t speak to it). And if your itinerary is a bit limited on time, Lanai for a day might be ideal for you. You won’t have time to see nearly everything that this island has to offer, but you won’t be disappointed in what you do manage to check out in a day.

How I Figured Out What to Do On Lanai for a Day

lanai in a day

(c) ABR 2019

Generally speaking, my goals when visiting somewhere is to do a bit (or a lot) of hiking, and to learn more about the local culture and history. I also like to try to see as much as I can of the places that I visit, even knowing that I won’t be able to see everything I am hoping to. (Sometimes this is due to a lack of time, or situations that just make it impossible for me to visit). So, these were the goals that I had in mind when planning what I would do on Lanai for a day.

Hiking

The first thing on my list every time, is a good hike (or three). So of course, I started off my planning by search for some good trail options. I am definitely no expert, but as an outsider, it seemed to me that hiking options on Lanai aren’t super common. So, I picked the most official trail that I could find, the Munro trail. I enjoyed it (more below), but if you really want to see the wild side of Lanai from a trail, you might consider looking for a guided tour. The thing to remember about hiking in Hawaii is that there is a lot of private property along trails and crossed by trails. There are also sacred spaces that aren’t always appropriate for visitors. So, be careful about which trails you pick.

Culture and More

lanai in a day

(c) ABR 2019

For the cultural and historic elements of what I planned on doing, planning for Lanai is pretty easy. There is basically just one town on the island – Lanai City. Once I knew that I would be spending some hours in the city, I looked up the best restaurants to try and I looked for cultural institutions like museums, for example, the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center.

Finally, I supplemented my day itinerary, with various unique locations across the island and accessible by 4WD vehicles. Some cursory research revealed there was a wrecked ship I wanted to see, as well as a historic church. I was able to find out more about accessing both from the amazing car rental company that I got a Jeep from for the day.

Please note that I visited Lanai in 2019, so some things will have changed since then, particularly since COVID-19 happened between then and now.

How to Get to Lanai

 

lanai in a day

(c) ABR 2019

For my Lanai in a day trip, I took a ferry from Maui in the morning and then returned in the evening. Specifically, I used Expeditions Lanai Passenger Ferry. If you would like to learn more about this to plan your own trip with the most up-to-date ferry schedules, visit their website here.

You can also fly to Lanai from both Honolulu and the Kahului Airport in Maui. But if you don’t mind boat travel, I think the ferry is a wonderful way to enjoy the ocean and limit a little bit of your carbon emissions. It’s also fairly affordable to take the ferry, and it’s very low stress in terms of boarding.

Getting Around on Lanai 

lanai in a day

(c) ABR 2019

If you are doing Lanai in a day, I would suggest springing for a rental car if you can, and in particular a Jeep or 4WD vehicle. This will allow you to see more of the island in the most efficient amount of time. And there are also many sights that you can’t get to without a 4WD vehicle.

That all being said, prices have changed A LOT since I visited Lanai in 2019. When I visited, I was able to rent a Jeep for the day for $99 USD. Now, I am seeing prices from $200-$295 per day. And I am not sure that the company that I went with is even still out there. This is too bad because they were really supportive while I was there alone. They helped me find a good trail, and they walked me through some 4WD stuff that I didn’t know a lot about. Even so, most of the rental car companies on the island are local, so I think they will likely be a great resource for visitors.

Visiting Lanai City 

lanai in a day

(c) ABR 2019

Even if you are all about nature when you visit Lanai for a day, checking out Lanai City (at least for some food) is a must. When I visited, I spent some time enjoying the main square, which is a large, grassy park. This is not only a beautiful spot for some photography, but it hints at the history of the town and agriculture on the island.

After relaxing in the shade, I found some good eats at one of the surrounding restaurants. There are several great options which include Hawaiian BBQ, fusions, and high-quality Japanese. This also means that there are some really great options for all budgets in town. There are also some nice spots to grab some coffee/tea. I walked over to Coffee Works for a drink and hung out on their beautiful porch for a while. It was a great place to enjoy the atmosphere and quietly observe the goings-ons.

In terms of cultural offerings, the Lana’i Culture and Heritage Center will be your go-to for learning more about the culture and history of the island. I visited their little museum after I had gotten some food and relaxed in the park. The temperature was getting a little higher at that point, and it was a great opportunity to rest and explore all at once. That being said, as of April 2022, the museum is closed – they do have a digital guide that you can download, however, to learn more about Lanai while they are closed.

Hiking in the Woods

lanai in a day

(c) ABR 2019

The first thing that I wanted to do was find a trail; this was easier said than done. Hiking on Hawaii is a bit complicated, because you need to be careful with the suggestions that you find online. Trails might be on private land or even lead to sacred spaces that aren’t meant for visitors. Due to this, it is best to try to find established trails – don’t just find a AllTrails map or blog post on where to go.

The best way to make sure the trail is established is to do a bit of extra research and see who owns the trail and what the rules around parking and useage are. You might also check official sources of information like the state tourism bureau or land management agencies. For instance, the trail that I ended up finding on Lanai was the Munro trail, which is featured on the Hawaiian tourism website.

The great thing about the Munro trail is that it is sufficiently long for anyone looking for a challenge while you are seeing Lanai in a day and it has elevation gain. I ended up hiking 8 miles round trip, but I believe that you could make the trip 12 miles if you so choose. This trail will also lead you to the high-point of the island.

More on the Munro Trail

lanai in a day

(c) ABR 2019

The Munro trail also has beautiful views of the unique forest of Lanai and the island itself. Unlike many of the other Hawaiian islands, Lanai is somewhat low-lying and its forests aren’t quite as tropical. You will still get the benefit of verdant, shady trails, but you will also see the Cook Island/Norfolk pines that the island is known for. There are also several spots where the forest will break and you can get some amazing views of the rolling hills of the island, the ocean beyond with Molokai in the distance.

That all being said, this isn’t a peaceful trail that you can expect to share with only hikers, bikers, and horse-back riders, because Munro trail is also an OHV trail/dirt road. That means that you will be sharing the track with OHV vehicles and trucks. I didn’t find this too bad, as everyone on the trail with me was polite. But it did feel a little unsafe at times, particularly because not everyone driving the road seemed to expect hikers. They drove a little fast and some seemed surprised to see me. So, it is really important to hike to the side of the trail, and keep your senses attuned for any vehicles approaching.

Hiking on the Beach 

lanai in a day

(c) ABR 2019

I also did a bit of hiking on the beaches while doing Lanai in a day.

The first time, I was trying to make it to the ship wreck that you can see from shore, and I wasn’t comfortable enough with 4WD to drive down the sandy road. (Whether you are comfortable driving in sand or not, remember to stay on roads.It is important to stay off of the beach with any 4WD vehicle on Lanai. This is detrimental for the beach ecosystem, and many people do get stuck in the sand.) So, I took a nice stroll through the white sand and coastal shrubs towards the wreck. I didn’t end up making it, but I did get a nice work out in the soft, sand.

lanai in a day

(c) ABR 2019

The second time that I hiked on a Lanai beach was along the red cliffs near the ferry port. This wasn’t a planned locale for me, but it ended up being one of the most beautiful spots that I was able to visit on the island. Here, you can relax on the sandy beach, or you can follow a trail up onto the cliffs for some amazing views of the ocean.

More Remote Places to Explore

lanai in a day

(c) ABR 2019

4WD is pretty essential to any Lanai in a day trip, because so many parts of the island are only accessible by dirt roads which are sometimes rough or too sandy for regular cars. This includes the famous shipwreck (which I missed), and yes, you can actually drive up Munro trail rather than hike it.

There is also a historic church and Japanese graveyard to be visited on the back side of the island. All of these places, tucked along the dirt roads, are historic treasures for respectful visitors to enjoy.

Be careful and polite on the road, and Lanai’s back country roads will reward you.

Learn More About Hawaii

We are just visitors to Hawaii, but we have other posts about our adventures on Molokai and I have a couple posts full of suggestions for people looking for a hike or an itinerary for nature and history on the island.

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5-Day Molokai Itinerary for Hikers

When I set off for Molokai, I wasn’t 100% sure what the experience was going to be like. This isn’t as popular an island as most of the more accessible parts of Hawaii. I also didn’t really find any itineraries that fit my preferences – e.g. an itinerary for a hiker. So, after visiting and having a wonderful time, I wanted to put together a 5-day Molokai itinerary for hikers. This will take you to several different, unique ecosystems that characterize the island, and give you space to enjoy some of the culture and history of Molokai as well.

Who Might Like This Itinerary

molokai itinerary

(c) ABR 2019

This definitely isn’t the 5-day Molokai itinerary for everyone, mostly because I think it is pretty high energy. And not everyone is looking for that on vacation. Furthermore, two of the day’s trails are pretty hard to get to and require both a 4WD vehicle and some careful drivers. You need to know when to turn back if things just aren’t safe on the road, on the trail, or due to weather.

Now that I’ve told you why you might NOT like this itinerary, why don’t I tell you why it’s awesome.

(1) This schedule features some of the most unique environmental and cultural experiences on Molokai.

(2) You will get a workout everyday. Believe me, even shorter trails in Hawaii will really take it out of you. (Unless you are a Hawaiian hiker, then I am sure it is old hat). Whether you are trekking across a beach, or navigating rainforest trails, there is no shortage of physical activity here.

(3) Every day is completely different than the last. You will never feel like you saw the same thing twice. And when you leave, you will definitely be feeling like you made the best use of your limited time on this amazing island.

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Kamakou Preserve: Tropical Mountain Hiking in Molokai, HI

I recently found out that my Polish ancestors were mountain folk, and so perhaps my love for the mountains has been passed down to me. Whatever it is, the mountains always call to me and Mololai’s heights were no different. However, unlike the readily accessible mountains of Phoenix, Molokai’s mountains are steep, can be treacherous, and/or aren’t always to be scaled (private land or sacred land). So, for me, the Nature Conservancy’s Kamakou Preserve was the perfect place for mountain hiking in Molokai. I got to see some very different ecosystems, a more temperate forest and then a tropical bog. Also, the views were out of this world.

While mountain hiking in Molokai isn’t easy, for those travelers who are willing to do it responsibly and respectfully, it is an amazing and unique experience. The challenge that it presents offers you an opportunity to explore your own limits. And the mountains offer a view into the wild heart of the Hawaiian islands. If this hike isn’t for you, I’ve got you covered with some cool photos of the forest and the bog. And no matter your location or travel style, I will include information in this blog about the conservation of Kamakou Preserve and how to support this important work.

Mountain Hiking in Molokai is a True Adventure

Mountain hiking in Molokai and Hawaii in general is like basically nowhere else in the United States. I hike hundreds of miles a year, in difficult desert terrain where people die every year. Despite that, even I found hiking in the mountains of Molokai to be extra difficult. Furthermore, there is lots of private land and sacred places in the mountains. And visitors need to be respectful of these spots.

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Mo’omomi Preserve: Beach Hiking in Molokai

When most people think about the beach, they usually envision themselves relaxing in the sand. Or at most, they see themselves walking along, picking up shells and enjoying the surf. Some of us, however, are just hikers through and through, and we can’t help but want to trek out further… even if that involves hiking through loads of… sand.

Point being, beach hiking isn’t for everyone. But beach hiking in Molokai, Hawaii, USA, is something that the hikers among you should consider. That’s because Molokai is home to Mo’omomi Preserve, where the Nature Conservancy is protecting this unique coastal environment.

 

Beach Hiking in Molokai, HI

Mo'omomi Preserve

(c) ABR 2019

Hawaii is known around the world for its beautiful, tropical beaches. Molokai is no exception; the island has many exceptional beaches where you can enjoy soft sand, the crystal, blue ocean, and be surrounded by the nature of Hawaii. Not all of them are tropical – including the beaches of Mo’omomi Preserve, but they are all representations of the ecosystems that make these islands unique. While beach hiking isn’t easy, I think this really special place is worth your time when you are on Molokai. Places like this have all but disappeared.

Experiencing the beach as a hiker is a different experience. It can still be relaxing, if you don’t have a mileage goal. But it can also be quite the physical challenge to trek across miles of sand. If you have ever hiked or ran in sand, you know and if you know, you know. But for those who haven’t tried it or been exposed to it by hiking in general, sand hiking is 2x as hard due to the sinkage. You will definitely be slower than you are used to being. Furthermore, most beaches lack shade, so if you aren’t used to hiking exposed, there is that added challenge.

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montserrat itinerary

A Montserrat Itinerary – My Favorite Things to Do In Montserrat

If you haven’t read the first part of My Favorite Things to Do in Montserrat, you may wish to check that out, because this second part will not discuss the Soufrière Hills volcano and Plymouth except for an inclusion in the Montserrat itinerary at the end of this post. This little Caribbean country is now known for this active volcano and the swath of destruction that it has left behind on the larger south section of this tropical paradise. However, before anyone knew that the Soufrière Hills hid a living volcano capable of turning life on the island upside down for more than a decade, Montserrat was a treasure trove of natural wonders. It was and remains home to sweeping mountains, crystal clear springs of water, and wondrous black-sand beaches. It’s the perfect place for any intrepid explorer, especially nature lovers.

[Until the COVID-19 outbreak settles down and international travel is safe again, please consider this an inspirational post. This is not encouragement to travel at this time, especially not to a small country like Montserrat.]

(4) Go for a Hike

montserrat itinerary

Cassava Ghaut trail (c) ABR 2020

A lot of people don’t seem to realize how amazing the Caribbean is for hiking. And hiking in Montserrat is no exception. Hands down, the trails on this island are one of my favorite things to do in Montserrat. That being said, I MUST remind you that hiking is dangerous. Never go out alone unless you are very experienced. In any case, always let a third party know where you are going and when you plan on getting back. Bring good shoes, water, and food with you, and always start early in the day so that you don’t get caught at night. You always hike at your own risk, but if you get in trouble you get put other people at risk as well. So BE CAREFUL!

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My Favorite Things to Do In Montserrat

There are things to do in Montserrat for hikers, beach-goers, and history buffs. The island of Montserrat in the Caribbean is a territory of the UK, and not particularly well known outside of the region. Currently, what makes it particularly unique is that it is home to an active stratovolcano, which has made more than half of the island unliveable and dangerous with its rapidly moving pyroclastic flows. This activity began in 1995 and has continued sporadically to this day (although the last explosion as of 2020 was in 2010).

While this is, in fact, very interesting, Montserrat is also home to beautiful volcanic beaches, great hiking paths, and a very friendly community. Much like the other islands that I have visited throughout the Caribbean, this is a very special place, which should be more than a stop on a cruise ship itinerary. No matter your travel style, the island has something for you, and you should plan on spending at least 2-3 days here in order to get a good taste of the country. It might just steal your heart in that time!

2020 COVID-19 Disclaimer: Please do not consider this post encouragement to travel before it is safe.

Like the rest of the world, Montserrat is protecting it’s people by limiting travel and quarantining people that fly in. It shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s no time to travel overseas at the moment. But I do hope this will serve as inspiration to visit the island when it is safe to do so for yourself and when it is safe for everyone living in Montserrat as well. I visited Montserrat in February before the outbreak stopped the world.

(1) Tour the Island and Plymouth with Montserrat Island Tours

things to do in Montserrat

Sunny teaching us about the history of Plymouth (c) ABR 2020

Plymouth is the former capital of Montserrat, and the only place that visitors can get a sense for the impact that the Soufriere Hills Volcano has had on this little island nation. If you are silly like me, and think that you can just wander your way on over there by yourself in a rental vehicle, think again.

Zone V, where Plymouth and the volcano both live, are the heart of Montserrat’s exclusion zone, and due to the years and years of pyroclastic flows and floods of ash, it is off-limits. That being said, a visit to Plymouth is definitely #1 among the things to do in Montserrat, because it is a totally unique experience. And you can go… with a local guide who has permission from the government and follows very specific safety rules. While there are many good guides on Montserrat, I went with Montserrat Island Tours, and I absolutely loved them.

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