Skip to main content

Just back from: Island hopping in Hawaii

  • iReporter Adrienne Papania recommends a helicopter tour to see remote Kauai
  • A black sand beach on the Big Island made a lasting impression on Papania
  • Macadamia nut-crusted scallops at Hilo Bay Cafe made for the top culinary moment

(CNN) -- A visit to the Aloha State rates high on many a travel wish list.

Warm, floral breezes skip across the remote and spectacular Hawaiian Islands, home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, lava-laced volcanoes, and more.

iReporter Adrienne Papania, of Cincinnati, Ohio, recently returned from an island-hopping Hawaiian getaway. Papania, 58, and her sister, brother and sister-in-law jumped between Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island.

The group stayed mostly in oceanfront two-bedroom condos. Their experience at Kahana Village in Lahaina, Maui, was particularly welcoming, complete with a festive Mai Tai party with live Hawaiian music.

"Honestly, though, while all of our accommodations were great, we were not in our rooms much since we had a lot of exploring to do," Papania said.

Papania shared her favorite discoveries on

Adrienne Papania recently took an activity-packed trip to Hawaii
Adrienne Papania recently took an activity-packed trip to Hawaii

Don't-miss experiences

Oahu: Hike up Diamond Head Crater -- It wasn't an easy trek for us, but the views once we arrived were breathtaking.

Kauai: Helicopter tour of the island -- You can't get to some parts of the island very easily without hiking, so the ride provides a panoramic view of what we would not have seen. This trip was very much worth the money!

Maui: Sunrise at Haleakala -- We were told it would be cold when we did the sunrise at Haleakala... and it was! Fifty degrees doesn't sound too bad, but we sure were freezing even with jackets and blankets. But the experience is not to be missed.

Big Island: Black Sand Beach -- This was an unexpected stop on our way to the Volcanoes National Park. The sand there is literally black, a byproduct of the lava that surrounds the island. It was absolutely gorgeous, and there were several huge sea turtles close to the shore.

All islands: Fabulous sunsets

Share your recent travel tales on Just back from

First impressions. Did they change?

Impressions changed dramatically from island to island. They each are so different and beautiful, from the populous, energy-filled Oahu, to the lush environment of Kauai, the valleys of Maui and the lava terrain of the Big Island.

Travel Snapshots: Natural beauty shines in Aloha State

Lasting memory

For me, the most significant lasting memory (and it's hard to pick one) was the Black Sand Beach. It was something I had never seen before, and it was just beautiful beyond words.

Three adjectives that capture this place

Scenic; distinctive; adventure-filled. (And I'll throw in beautiful!)

Biggest surprise

My biggest surprise was the helicopter ride on Kauai. We would have missed a lot of the beauty of that island, especially the Na Pali Coast and the Waimea Canyon.

I would highly recommend [Blue Hawaiian Helicopters]. I was very apprehensive about the idea of a helicopter ride and even took a motion sickness prevention pill just in case. But our pilot, Dawn, who was a former Coast Guard pilot, did a great job.

The ride didn't come cheap, but it was a ride of a lifetime! We all agreed we would do it again, maybe on the Big Island next time.

Most delicious food or drink

Our favorite meal was in Hilo on the Big Island at a place called the Hilo Bay Cafe. We had macadamia nut-crusted scallops, and they were absolutely delicious.

Our favorite drinks were at the luau in Old Lahaina on Maui, where they served a tasty frozen lava flow. You use rum, coconut rum, strawberries, banana, pineapple juice and coconut cream. It's a recipe we hope to replicate at home soon!

The whole night was a great experience, starting with receiving our gorgeous fuchsia/white plumeria leis; watching the natives display their craft skills around the perimeter of the venue (making jewelry, woodworking, weaving palms into flowers and animals, making poi, etc.); watching the removal of the pig from the imu; a great meal; and finally the show.

The dancers were incredible, and all the songs followed a tale they wove into a story of their Hawaiian heritage.

Have you been to Hawaii? Share your comments below and post your travel tales on Just back from.