It does not matter if you have never been to Hawaii or if you have visited there 20 times, there is always something new and wonderful about these islands.
Even though these paradise islands are positioned more than 2,000 miles off the U.S. mainland west coast, Hawaii is still a state, therefore you are not traveling to a foreign country.
Which island to stay on depends on your particular lifestyle. Do you like action with many things to do and see? Are you a shopping person? Do you wish to be with many other tourists enjoying the beaches and desire many different options for daily pursuits? If so, then I would recommend Oahu. The main city on this island is Honolulu and close by is famous Waikiki Beach with many fine hotels, restaurants, marketplaces, condo complexes, parks, shows and an abundance of tourists from all over the world. Something for almost everyone on a tropical vacation.
The Honolulu airport is served by major airlines operating from various mainland cities including New York, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. It’s only a 20-minute ride by taxi to the Waikiki hotels.
Oahu is home to 80 percent of Hawaii’s population and the state capital is located in Honolulu. On this island you will find a multifaceted blend of stunning natural beauty with the comforts of today’s life. Here is nightlife, great dining opportunities and fantastic beaches. You might want to take a hike to the top of Diamond Head Crater; arrange a tour of the USS Arizona and USS Missouri, which reminds one of the Pearl Harbor attack Dec. 7, 1941; or take a drive to Haleiwa and the North Shore to take in the beauty of this part of Oahu. You’ll probably see surfers as you pass close to shore.
And, if this is your first visit, book a feast at a Hawaiian luau and eat some items you have never tasted before. Take the camera because there will be a traditional hula show also.
Make sure to rent a car for at least two days in order to visit all the sights here.
Take in the Diamond Head Market & Grill, just outside of Waikiki and try some gourmet items, both inside at the deli or outside at the counter.
If you are planning only a week in Hawaii, I suggest spending three days in Waikiki and then taking a short flight to either Maui or Kauai for the remainder of your visit. If you have visited Hawaii in the past, then you will probably head directly to one of the outer islands for your vacation.
If you want space, then perhaps the Big Island of Hawaii is for you.
The Big Island offers a variety of climatic zones across its vast topography and is great for exploring in a rented vehicle. You’ll find cattle ranches in the cooler highlands such as the famous Parker Ranch. Mauna Kea is 13,779 ft. and often has snow in its upper regions during the winter months.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will be of interest. Here, you will see an active volcano spewing fire and ash creating new land as well as destruction. The lava flows cool and create a larger island. A night visit to the Kilauea volcano is spectacular.
While you are here, be sure to take a scenic drive down the lush Hamaukua Coast and you can sunbathe on the white sand beaches of Hapuna Beach State Park.
This is a large island and you can spend time driving the highways to see new sights with every turn. There are fine hotels here for almost every budget and this year rates for many have been reduced.
Every Wednesday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., 200 plus vendors gather at the Hilo Farmer’s Market. Here, you can try tropical fruits that you never knew existed, such a mangosteen, white pineapple, rambutan, lychee, soursop and durian. This is where the locals shop.
One of the smaller islands is Kauai. There are fewer tourists here. You will need to rent a car to get around. You’ll find lush greenery, tropical flowers of all colors, palm lined beaches, very friendly people and a canyon that is a smaller version of Arizona’s Grand Canyon.
Coming in by air, you will land at the small town of Lihue where you can pick up your car, then travel to the hotel you have selected. Again, as in most of the other islands, you can select from five star properties to one of the more budget hotels. Many are situated on fine beaches rimmed with picturesque palms. Many tropically set films have been made here; especially around a private golf club/condo area know as Princeville.
Be sure to drive to Waimea Canyon. The deep canyon with marvelous colors is worth the drive. Plan a day for this activity.
You must also take in a day exploring the scenery around the Napali Coast. In fact, if you your budget permits, take a helicopter tour of the area for this amazing scenic wonder.
Kauai is one of my favorites to just relax and be comfortable. And, you might enjoy dropping in to the Kilauea Fish Market. The owners buy fish — ‘ahi, mahimahi, ono — from a handful of Kauai North Shore fishermen and offer it to you raw and preseasoned to cook for yourself, or grilled with a daily homemade special sauce, such as the sesame miso butter. They also can give you a half-pound fish wrap stuffed with ’ahi, local greens, crunchy veggies, organic brown rice and a creamy oriental dressing.
You can even kayak down the Wailua River. This is the only navigable river in Hawaii.
I have spent weeks here in the past and would like to do so again sometime.
Another very popular “out island” is Maui. If you are a golfer, this is it. There are quite a few very fine courses you may wish to play. This island has many high quality hotels, many of which are located at the water’s edge with fantastic palm lined beaches that provide wonderful opportunities to swim, sun bathe and to just relax under the shade of a palm tree.
I like Maui because it is fairly large and provides several variations in scenery and climate. You can enjoy staying in a fine hotel or condo at one of the famous beaches and drive easy highways to different locations for sports, swimming spots, shopping in interesting towns, and more. If on Maui, be sure to take a day to drive up to the Haleakala Crater, which is roughly the size of Manhattan. I often like to have lunch about half-way up to enjoy the amazing sights of the island from this height.
There are 81 beaches on Maui with a combined shoreline that spans 120 miles. You also want to visit the Iao Needle, which is a 2,250 ft. stone pillar that was once used as a natural altar.
Lahaina was a thriving whaling port in the mid-1800’s and still, approximately 3,000 humpback whales visit Maui each winter.
This is the second largest of the Hawaiian islands and another one of my favorites.
If you don’t mind a winding road, take a drive to the scenic little town of Hana.
This is where Charles Lindberg spent his last days and is buried there.
Drop into Thierry Michelier’s Kula restaurant, La Provence, and get tropical scones, apple turnovers, quiches, tarts, and croissants from Wednesday through Sunday, which are the only days he is open. On Saturdays and Sundays he makes salmon and spinach crepe to kill for.
Plan a visit soon — relax, get some sun and come home a new person. I have never known an individual who didn’t love these islands. You will too.