The Hawaiian Islands are made up of several tropical escapes: the Big Island of Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, Kaho’olawe, Lanai and Ni’ihau. The islands are home to virtually every geographic formation, terrain and climate to be found on earth and the possibilities for outdoor enthusiasts are boundless. You can find deserts of lava and the Big Island and rainforests on Kauai; on Molokai you’ll find the world’s tallest sea cliffs and miles of pristine beaches.
The culture is almost as varied. You can discover almost every nation and ethnicity represented in the 50th state’s food, music, festivals and art. You can enjoy hula and hip-hop, the Honolulu Symphony and local theatre companies.
The climate varies little from winter to summer. All Hawaiian Islands have a dry side and a wet side. The terrain on each island determines the differences. Right now the water temperature averages 74 degrees. The outside temperatures vary from mid-70s to low 80s at the beaches. The summer is a little warmer.
There are great resorts and hotels, as well as budget hotels. Some like to rent condominiums for a little more privacy. All are available.
The most popular islands for tourism are Oahu, Maui, the Big Island of Hawaii, and Kauai. If you really want to get away from the crowd, research Molokai and Lanai and see if one of these suits you.
There is something to please on every Hawaiian island. The most popular is Oahu with its Waikiki Beach. Here are wonderful hotels and fantastic ethnic restaurants.
As with most of the islands, I suggest renting a car to give you complete independence. Do what you want to do when you want to.
If this is your first visit, take a “round the island” tour to get acquainted, then, revisit those locations that interest you. However there are some “musts” for the perfect Hawaiian Islands vacation:
• You don’t want to miss seeing Pearl Harbor to take in the history of Dec. 7, 1941.
• Make sure you book a luau at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel and be sure to bring your camera.
• Plan a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center.
• Surfers must make Oahu a destination — at this time of year the best waves are at the Pipeline and Sunset beaches.
Visitors can enjoy golfing, snorkeling and lots of wonderful beaches, sunny skies and warm temperatures. There are always many activities and shopping opportunities on Oahu. Personally, I love just dropping into a small ethnic restaurant and have lunch in Waikiki. Try eating foods from nations you have not yet visited. Forget taking the bathing suit, it is easy to find one that fits along with sandals and beach towel at one of the many little shops located around hotels.
If you feel like living deluxe, look into the Kahala Hotel located a few miles from the crowds at Waikiki. The property is situated on several acres, allowing privacy and upscale ambiance. The restaurants here are special and the rooms are large and nicely furnished. The service is some of the best on the island. The hotel enjoys a very nice spread of beach and a pool where you can swim with dolphins. It operates a complimentary shuttle service to and from Waikiki on a regular schedule. Learn more by phoning 800-367-2525.
Next month, March 13 to March 15 you can experience the Honolulu Festival celebrating cultures from across the Pacific. This three-day event of art, music, dance and crafts is filled with spectacular sights and sounds, including aboriginal dance performances. For additional details go online to www.honolulufestival. com.
US Airways Vacations recently advertised a six-night package to Honolulu with accommodations at the Oahu Waikiki West hotel at $538 from Phoenix.
You may prefer quieter surroundings that the surrounding islands offer. On Maui there are great hotels and resorts that fit almost any budget. The beaches are some of the best in this part of the world. Lahaina is a major resort area with a whaling village. Kaanapali, with its long beaches and major resorts is attractive to many. The central Maui town of Kahului is the business center of the island.
Golfing on Maui is renowned worldwide. You can stay or book a game or two at some of the best resorts around.
A rental car is a must or you will feel stranded at your resort. Be sure to take a drive up to Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano in the world. You can go up to 8,000 feet for incredible views. I always enjoy having lunch about halfway up for good food and scenic views.
A visit to Hana is enjoyable. The winding road is a test of your driving skills, but the destination is well worth the trip. Here is where Charles Lindberg spent his last days and where he is buried. The town is charming and the coast is rugged.
Kauai is another favorite if you want to be away from the crowds. Like the other islands, there is much to see and do. Take your rental car to visit their version of the Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon. You can also see the Wailua River and check out the little town of Lihue where the airport is. Golfing is perfect here with one of the major spots being Princeville. Several major motion pictures were filmed here and it is filled with tropical beauty.
You may enjoy booking a sea tour with Captain Andy on his catamaran. He will take you to the Na Pale coastal area where you’ll view steep cliffs dropping into the sea, along with sea caves, waterfalls and maybe you will be lucky enough to see whales and dolphins. Dinner and drinks will be served at sunset.
If you want mountains, volcanoes and wide, open spaces, then perhaps the Big Island will suit you. The beaches are a bonus. Here is a good selection of hotels and I like the fact that since it is the largest of the islands, you have a number of places to see and attractions to visit.
If you just want to visit Hawaii to take it easy, consider a seven-day cruise on NCL America’s Pride of America. You fly into Honolulu and are transferred to the ship. Unpack once, settle back and enjoy the luxury. Let the crew cook your meals and enjoy the entertainment provided during the evenings. The ship stops at the Big Island, Maui and Kauai before returning to Honolulu. You can rent cars at each island to see the sights for the day or book a tour arranged by the cruise line. It just depends on how independent you want to be. NCL America offers a fly/cruise package, as do other well-known tour operators.
I always recommend seeing a travel professional to assist you in planning your Hawaiian vacation. They can give you brochures and updated information pertaining to your desired destination. Along with their advice, you can search the Web for additional material.
Hawaii is usually a sure bet for relaxation, fun, sports and interesting activity that you may not be able to get here on the mainland.