By Carol Cain, on November 20, 2016

A guide to Hawaiʻi: ʻIwa

For many travelers, the adventurous fun and activities are a great part of what makes Hawaiʻi such a great vacation destination. But sometimes what makes your heart skip a beat or your breath pause for a second is found in the silence of nature, in the underwater beauty, or in the poetry of a mele hula. To me, this is the ideal Hawaiʻi getaway. For the curation of my perfect Hawaiʻi vacation, I got the help of Expedia’s Discover Your Aloha website.

Through facial recognition technology and after watching three short videos, I was able to connect to my animal guide, ‘Iwa.  An ‘Iwa is a bird, a calm and visionary personality. I enjoyed getting to know ‘Iwa and what this guide has to offer other free-spirited, culture-loving travelers visiting her beautiful home of Hawaiʻi.

To better understand this all-knowing guide, I spoke to Noelani Gillis Fernandez, an Expedia Local Expert Concierge who was born and raised on Oahu. She is a “Local Expert” in every sense and was a 2014 finalist for global concierge of the year! Let’s see what she has to say about experiencing Hawaiʻi through ‘Iwa.


Carol Cain: Tell us a bit more about yourself.

Noelani Gillis Fernandez: I love to explore. I most enjoy discovering new cultures and experiences that feed my soul.

CC: With so much to see and do throughout Hawaiʻi, what is the best way to begin to experience it all?

NGF: I am a planner, but I also like to leave room for my surroundings to influence my next move. I think the best way to begin to experience Hawaiʻi is by connecting with the nature and relaxing into it. Let the sounds and scents envelope you. A great start is to leave the stresses of everyday life behind and slow down your pace so as to really begin to take it all in. A hike is always a great start to begin your connection with the land.

CC: I love hiking and agree, it really is so soothing to the soul. Where is a great place to start?

NGF: The list is long! However, a great start for those seeking to be fully immersed in our beautifully lush landscape is the Garden of Eden in Maui. This wonderful botanical garden covers 26 acres of trails and photography lovers will enjoy capturing images of the rare trees, flowers, and secluded waterfalls. Pack a picnic and plan to spend your day discovering its hidden treasures. And for those wanting to island hop a bit, a visit to the island of Lānaʻi is a short ferry ride away.

CC: I love Lānaʻi! Walking around Kaiolohia (aka shipwreck beach) was a favorite day for me. Where else can we get a bit of history along the way?

NGF: The Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on the island of Hawaiʻi is a must for anyone who is interested in learning about Hawaiian history and culture. Visitors follow a map for a self guided tour to key attractions in the park, including historic and sacred structures, the Royal Grounds, an ancient Heiau (temple), the City of Refuge, and the Great Wall. Stay late enough to enjoy the sunset as it sets over the Pacific.

CC: Speaking of ocean views, I feel like my most serene moments in Hawaiʻi have been while either near or in the water. What do you recommend to people wanting to get their feet wet a bit?

NGF: Of course. It is impossible to connect with Hawaii without experiencing it from the ocean. The Napali Coast on Kauai is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. It is so remote, the only way to experience the lush green cliffs and cascading waterfalls is from a boat, an air tour, or a guided kayak trip. Go on a snorkeling cruise for an even more memorable experience.


CC: One of my most impactful memories of Hawaiʻi was from a snorkeling tour there. I have never come so close nor seen so much beautiful aquatic life. I agree, it’s a definite must! So much to see! So much to do!

NGF: Yes, but remember, when you start to feel overwhelmed in your planning, let us help you Discover Your Aloha and find the perfect itinerary for you. No need to take it all in at once. Hawaiʻi is always here to welcome you.

CC: And I can’t wait to get back! Thank you for sharing so much with us today. Time to get back to planning my trip!

How do you think you would most enjoy your time in Hawaiʻi?

Noelani Gillis Fernandez is an Expedia Local Expert Concierge who was born and raised on Oahu.  She is a “Local Expert” in every sense and was a 2014 finalist for global concierge of the year.