Hawaii: A Great Place To Play, Relax And Enjoy Life

TRAVEL TALK

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I can't remember how many times I have visited Hawaii, I guess many, but here is a place that rarely disappoints.

Within the island group, you can find sandy, palm-lined beaches for relaxing, go snorkeling, cruise down a volcano on a mountain bike, ski at Mauna Kea Crater, hike, take in an afternoon luau ... it's all in Hawaii. Airfares to the Islands are not unreasonable with flying time from Sky Harbor Airport to Honolulu or Maui in about six-and-a-half hours. Hawaii is served from Phoenix by Hawaiian Airlines, U.S. Airways, and ATA.

You can choose accommodations in two- and three-star hotels from $125 per night to four- and five-star properties in the range of $275 to $500 per night. It's up to you and your budget.

The Islands in the Hawaii group are: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and the so-called big island, Hawaii. Each has its charms. Which should you visit? It depends on what you are going to Hawaii for. If you want night life and a large city feeling, then you want Waikiki Beach on Oahu, which is part of Honolulu. Here you will find something to do every minute of the day and night. Oahu is very beautiful and offers many sightseeing opportunities. On all the islands, you will want to rent an automobile so you have independence and won't feel stuck at your hotel or resort.

Oahu

Oahu is the third largest of the inhabited Islands, and is home to about three-quarters of the state's population of 1.2 million. Here, you can whale watch, cruise in a catamaran, take in a luau (feast) and ride the waves with your surfboard. I always like to take a rented car and circle the Island. It will take about three hours with several stops, which should include the Hawaiian Cultural Center. I recommend taking a tour of the battleship USS Arizona Memorial. It will depict the important events of Dec. 7, 1941, and the destruction of a major part of our Pacific Naval fleet, which was in Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack. The USS Arizona was also the location of the Japanese surrender in 1945 with General MacArthur officiating. You are free to tour major parts of the ship.

Waikiki

Waikiki is usually a good location to get budget accommodations. There are many hotels in all grades to choose from. The only five-star hotels in Oahu are the famous Halekulani hotel located in the middle of Waikiki, and 20 minutes from Waikiki is the beautiful and secluded Kahala hotel and resort that offers quiet surroundings, semi-private beaches, large swimming pools, some with dolphins, and wonderful dining. The hotel runs a complimentary shuttle bus from the Kahala into Waikiki on a regular schedule.

Maui

Maui is another very popular island. There are many fine hotels and resorts available with marvelous beaches, great dining and plenty of sightseeing possibilities. You can visit the Haleakala Crater, the largest dormant volcano in the world at 10,023 feet. There are lush rain forests, hiking trails, and breathtaking sights around almost every corner. You can take in a whimsical train ride, explore for humpback whales, and sightsee from a helicopter.

Kauai

Kauai is less populated and extremely beautiful. It is known as the garden island. Kauai is home to the wettest spot on earth, Mount

Waialeale. It averages 485 inches of rain per year. The beaches here are wonderful and the island has marvelous nature preserves. You can take a boat ride up the Waialua River to visit the famous Fern Grotto. Be sure to rent a car on this island in order to really see it all. You'll want to drive to Hawaii's version of the Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon.

The Big Island

The Big Island is Hawaii. The terrain here is composed of almost every different sight you can imagine. Great beaches, dense rain forests, and the snow-covered peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. You'll want to visit Volcano Park to watch the steam rise from the hot magma as it works its way to the sea. This is a good island to go bike riding, horseback riding and to take a helicopter ride over the hot lava of the volcano.

Lanai is Hawaii's most secluded. It once hosted the world's largest pineapple plantation. Now it is home to some 5,000 residents. Most live in the cool heights of Lanai City, which overlooks the red dirt fields below.

Molokai was once a home for lepers. Today, this island enjoys a small population. There is not a lot of activity here so you would have to be content with golfing, hiking and plain old taking it easy! How wonderful!

Golfing is great on all the Islands. It's a great way to enjoy the sport, and to take in the fantastic scenery.

Norwegian Cruise Line-America will have four ships in the Hawaiian market next year offering 7-, 10- and 11-day cruises. A cruise through the islands allows you to take in the highlights of the five most popular islands and the best part is you unpack only once. This is a great way to experience Hawaii for the first time. You get a sample of the various islands and then decide which one is best for you on your next visit.

When to go? The summer is more warm and humid, especially August. Spring and fall are often the best times to visit.

Your travel agent can assist you with your Hawaii plans and can answer your questions. You can also book online or by phone through various sources such as an airline, hotel group or cruise line.

You will be able to book sightseeing tours after you arrive in the islands, usually from the travel desk at your hotel.

Have a wonderful vacation. Hawaii is a great place to play, relax and enjoy life.

The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii can be contacted by dialing 1-808-545-4300.

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