Mother Nature saved its best for last with the 50th and final member of the Unites States – Hawaii. Visitors to the archipelago are usually pleasantly surprised to find that Hawaii offers more than tanned surf riders conquering thundering pipelines, smoldering mist as the electric red lava oozes into the ocean, and hip-swaying lei-draped hula dancers.
On the Pacific seabed below, tectonic plates fidget, while above the water the popular islands give another meaning to hotspot. Of the 19 that make up the Hawaii chain of islands, 6 of them are developed as tourist attractions. The beaches of Hawaii offer all the usual beach goodies of swim, surf, and snorkel, from popular beaches crowded with likeminded throngs to hidden stretches of unspoiled sand. Every winter, wave-riders flock to Oahu, while visitors looking for a bit more heat can trek around volcanoes, and discover the many other natural secrets hidden within the islands.
Interesting Facts about Hawaii
- Of the 13 climatic zones, Big Island boasts 11, ranging from sunny coasts, lush rainforests, to snowcapped peaks.
- Mauna Kea, also on Big Island, is the tallest sea mountain in the world and measures over 10,000 metres from the sea floor, that's more than 1,000 metres higher than Mount Everest.
- Originally purchased in 1917 for US$588,000, an early missionary's grandson Harry Baldwin sold Lanai island to James Dole (of Dole Foods) for US$1.1 million in 1922, who then popularized canned pineapples worldwide.
- The birthplace of hula dancing is believed to be Puu Nana on Molokai. It was invented by the deity of hula Laka, sister of the goddess of fire, Pele.
- Developed in the 1880s by Portuguese immigrants to Hawaii, the ukulele pervaded the local culture, helped in part by King David Kalakaua – the last reining monarch of the former Kingdom of Hawaii – who also penned the lyrics for the state song Hawaii Ponoi.
Surf: Island Beaches
With each Hawaiian beach boasting its own unique charm, visitors will be hard pressed not to find one that suits the call of the day. The clear waters and long stretch of sand at Hapuna Beach State Park make it one of the most popular beaches on Big Island, with Waialea Bay, Maniniowali, and Makalawena Beach offering quieter options for snorkeling and swimming.
The island of O'ahu houses about 80 percent of all residents, making it the most developed beach, with the fullest facilities and amenities. The massive winter waves are legendary, while the pristine waters at Hanauma Bay make it a snorkeler's paradise. To get away from the crowds at Waikiki Beach, Kailua offers myriad water based activities, while the bay-protected waters at Lanikai make it one of the best for travelers with children.
On Maui, Kaanapali has one of the country's most active vibes, with all conceivable water sports, as well as beach volleyball and seaside restaurants. Against the backdrop of verdant mountains, Hanalei Bay on the northernmost island of Kauai is one of the most picturesque, with Mahaulepu great for its coastal hike in addition to monk seal-spotting.
On Lanai, Hulopoe Beach offers excellent snorkeling with teeming marine life exhibiting a riot of colors. For a romantic getaway from the crowds, Molokai is the least developed of the islands, with quiet Papohaku beach one of the largest in the country but maintaining a remote allure.
Turf: Inland Attractions
In addition to fun in the surf, Hawaii offers several land attractions. Big Island showcases the raw power of nature, from the primal energy at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to waterfalls along the Hamaku Coast, plus verdant botanical gardens and lush rain forests at Hilo.
Nuuanu Pali on O'ahu not only provides stunning sweeping vistas, but also holds historical importance in the unification of the islands. The 5 historic sites at Pearl Harbor Museum provide a somber reminder of an important past. Hononulu, in addition of being the capital of the state with modern city facilities, also holds the distinction of being the cultural heart of all the islands.
Hana on the eastern shores of Maui is a quaint seaside town, but the route to get there is a destination in itself, with spectacular landscape interrupted with thundering waterfalls. Also known as 'The Garden Isle', Kauai boasts natural splendors, many of which – including the mystic Fern Grotto – can be explored by kayak or canoe down the jungle-lined Wailua River, while the dramatic cliffs at Napali Coast is best viewed from a boat.
The former leper colony of Molokai was where Saint Damien gave his life in helping the people, and where the majority of people are still of indigenous ancestry. Lanai used to be owned by Dole Foods, but now boasts secluded intimacy and the largest ruins of a native village dating back to prehistoric times.
Hawaiian cuisine today is a melting pot of Japanese, Chinese, Polynesian, and several other ethnic influences brought over by immigrants that settled on the islands.
In the early 1990s, a group of the state's most prolific chefs combined their culinary knowledge and pioneered the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement, staying true to the local cross cultural tastes. Ingredients tend to utilize the best of locally sourced items, with modern interpretations with exquisite plate presentations.
The 12 award-winning chefs wave their gastronomic wand over the dishes at their restaurants dotted around the state. For a most casual and fun filled dining experience, luaus are festive feasts featuring local flavors such as the Polynesian taro-based poi, or salads such as the lomi-lomi salmon and the native dish of poke.
Common also is kalua – a cooking method where meats, such as an entire pig – are cooked in an underground sand pit called an imu. Combined with music and hula dancing, luaus are one of the most memorable vibrant dining events on Hawaii.
Villa Holidays in Hawaii
Enigmatic volcanoes, awe inspiring waves, historic sites, and the eclectic fusion that is the local culture, make Hawaii one of the most colorful places in the world to visit. With private residences across 6 unique islands, a Hawaiian villa holiday offers visitors an up close and personal experience of the many faces of mother nature.
Travel & Transport
The state's main airport, Honolulu International Airport, is situated in the capital on Oahu, and several carriers shuttle guests inter-island. Ferries are another option to get from one island to the next, while cars and scooters are the best way to get around a certain area.
Hawaii Top 5 Travel Tips [Bucket List]
1. Whale of a Time
From December / January to April / May every year, Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales. Charter a boat from Maui to see the 40-odd ton whales breach the ocean and make a big splash with their tails.
2. Tee Time
Surprising to some, Hawaii is home to over 70 golf courses. Though Big Island may be the islands' golfing capital, Lanai is home to a challenging 'The Experience at Koele', an 18-hole championship course designed by Ted Robinson and Greg Norman.
3. Between a Rock and the Sun
Inland from the big blue, Hawaii's landscapes are varied, from barren Keahiakawelo ('Garden of the Gods') in Lanai to the Waimea Canyon ('Grand Canyon of the Pacific') in Kauai, painted in mystic red. To watch the sun rise over hard terrain, head to the 3,055m Haleakala volcanic crater in Maui.
4. The Forbidden isle
Take a helicopter tour from Kauai to Niihau, a privately owned island which only opened up to limited tourism in the 1980s. Visitors can join hunting excursions, ATV safaris, and other supervised activities. While you're there, ponder the price tag of US$10,000 when the island was purchased in gold in1864.
5. Riders on the Storm
With North Shore considered the birthplace of big wave surfing, not attempting to learn to surf in Hawaii is almost a sin. Don't worry about wiping out – Oahu-native surfer and musician Jack Johnson did too (albeit quite a gnarly spill), and because of that, look at him now.