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Hawaii – 1 Month Volunteer Work and 1 Month Island Hopping | Sarah Helms

Hawaii – 1 Month Volunteer Work and 1 Month Island Hopping

by Sarah Helms – Travel, Boomer Sarah


This was not our first time to the beautiful islands of Hawaii and it will probably not be our last. We signed up for the month of Jan 2020 for volunteer work at Pu’u Kahea Baptist Conference probably 18 months before Jan 2020 as many want to work there during the winter months. We had worked there two times previously, so we knew what type of work we would be doing. I call it “grunt” work as it involves mostly cleaning, washing and folding linens, doing yard work, maintenance work, helping to serve food, and just about anything that is needed. However, the work is necessary so that people can come to the conference center and spent time growing in their Christian faith and learning how to serve others as we serve them. There’s a lot of fellowship with the other volunteers and the camp staff which makes the work pleasant.

The conference center is located within a short walk of Pililaau Army Recreation Center where we could go and spend some time on the beach and watching the gorgeous sunsets. They also have a restaurant called “The Beach House” where you can have dinner or drinks while the sun is setting over the water.

Sunset at Pililaau Army Recreation Center. Photo courtesy Sarah Helms.

We spent the month of February Island hopping, enjoying a week of R&R on each island of Oahu, Kawai, Maui, and the big island, Hawaii. Our first stop was Bellows AF Station on the eastern side of Oahu. Since we had spent the month of Jan on the western side of Oahu and visiting sites on that side of the island, we now could easily see the sites on the eastern and northern parts of Oahu. The cabins at Bellows are adequate as far as amenities, but… location, location, location! The beach, the ocean, and the views are awesome!

Sunrise at Bellows Beach. Photo courtesy of Sarah Helms.

We reserved our Bellows cabin one year in advance and we got one not right on the beach, but across the road, which was still nice. From there we went to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve for snorkeling and hiked up Diamond Head. With both of these places, one needs to arrive early in order to get a parking place and Bellows is located within a short drive of each. Other great sites are the Pali Overlook, Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, and of course the North Shore.

We went to Kaneohe Marine Base to shop the exchange and commissary. We also checked prices for rental cars for the other islands at the ITT/MWR and they saved us $600 over Expedia. That’s something to remember for other trips!

We usually cooked and ate-in for breakfast and dinner, but got lunch one day at Giovanni’s Shrimp in Haleiwa, and ate at Ono’s Steak and Shrimp Shack in Waimanalo, which is very close to Bellows. The coconut shrimp is recommended.


Kauai was the next island where we traveled. I had gotten inter-island tickets on Hawaiian Airlines with Delta points but we had to pay the baggage fees. I had booked condos for Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii through HomeAway. We chose to stay in Kaapa which is centrally located. We have frequently used HomeAway and have usually been pleased with the lodgings. We chose not to stay at Barking Sands because it is so isolated from the rest of the island and it’s actually about the same price to get a one-bedroom condo through Homeaway or AirBnB. No, we didn’t have a beach view, but we could see the ocean from the lanai (porch).

From Kaapa we could drive fairly quickly to the north shore, south shore and the central part of the island to view the beautiful waterfalls. Wiamea Canyon State Park and the Napali coast are probably the highlights of Kauai and are “must-see”. It’s best to get there early as the parking lots at the overlooks fill up quickly. There are views of the Napali Coast from lookouts in the state park. The first time we were on Kauai we went on a snorkel trip that took us to view the Napali Coast from the water. If you haven’t done this, I would highly recommend the trip. Kauai is great for snorkeling both on the south shore and north shore. Kilauea Lighthouse, another highlight of Kauai, is a national preserve. The hours are limited, so check first before you drive that way.

Kilauea Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Sarah Helms.


Maui, here we come! We had stayed on Maui before, but only for a few days, so I was looking forward to having a full week there. It’s a large island with lots of diversity in landscape and climate. We chose a condo in Kihei because of the central location. Vacation rentals are more expensive on Maui as compared to Kaui or the big island, so we had a comfortable studio instead of a full 1-bedroom.

One of the highlights of the week was whale-watching, as winter is the time of calving for the humpbacks. We saw many adult whales with their calves doing all kinds of breaching and tail slapping. Another highlight was snorkeling to Molokini, which is the remnant of a volcano vent with an awesome reef. The reef is protected, so only a certain number of boats can anchor there each day. The fish are plentiful and the coral is beautiful. Haleakalā Volcano National Park is another “must-see” for Maui. Just be sure to bring your warm clothes as the weather can be cold and windy at the summit. Haleakalā has an “other world” landscape and the views of the rest of the island are spectacular!

Sarah Helms at Haleakalu Crater Overlook. Photo courtesy of Sarah Helms.

There are so many things to see on Maui and another one is driving the Hana coast. The road is full of curves and one-lane bridges, so the drive from Kahului airport to Hana takes about 2 hours (without stops). But it is well worth it. There are many waterfalls and places to view the beautiful rugged coast. We drove all the way to Kīpahulu to view Charles Lindbergh’s grave and again, the views are dramatic.

One of the Views of the Hana Coast. Photo courtesy of Sarah Helms.

Island of Hawaii

Our last island to visit was the big island, Hawaii. We stayed in Kailua-Kona for 7 nights because it was well located. Our last night was spent at Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) so we could explore Hawaii Volcanos National Park. The island of Hawaii is very large. Because of that, it is difficult to see it all in a single week. We drove over to the eastern side where Hilo is located and saw waterfalls and breathtaking views of the effects of waves and water on lava rock. We also went to the “Southernmost Point” in the US which was extremely windy when we were there. We drove to the northern part of the island where one can view Maui. Great snorkeling was found at “Two Step” which is next door to the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park or the city of refuge.

Of course, a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must for the Island of Hawaii! The cabin at Kilauea Military Camp was nicely furnished and updated since we were there last. We ate in the dining room and were pleasantly surprised by the service and quality of meals. The food isn’t fancy, but it is tasty. We attended a ranger program in the National Park, drove down to the coast to the latest lava flows, and hiked some. Kilauea is not erupting now and may not erupt again for 20 years, but it’s still interesting to visit the park. Just remember to bring your warm clothes as the weather can be chilly at KMC.

Sarah & Bob Helms – Windy Day Overlooking Kilauea’s Crater. Photo courtesy of Sarah Helms.

Finally, we flew back out of Kona to the mainland. I had gotten airline tickets with American Airline points which helped to keep the trip less expensive. All in all, it was a great visit to Hawaii! ~ by Sarah Helms – Travel, Boomer Sarah


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