If you've always dreamed of vacationing in paradise, there is simply no other destination that fits the bill better than the islands of Hawaii. With a year-round average temperature between 80 and 87 degrees, any time is a great time to visit.
Our 50th state is comprised of a chain of islands. Of those, there are six main islands in the chain that are inhabited and welcome tourists. Each of the islands has it's own special appeal that keep people coming back again and again. The two main entry points to the islands are Honolulu, the state's capital located on the island of Oahu, and Kahului on the island of Maui. From either of these airports the other four islands of Kauai, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii (referred to locally as simply "The Big Island") are easily accessible using Hawaii's interisland airlines; Aloha and Hawaiian.
For first timers visiting Hawaii, you can't help but begin with the island of Oahu. Considered to be the heart of Hawaii, here is where you will find most of your major tourist attractions. The famed Waikiki Beach (one of my all-time favorites), stretches for miles warmed by the golden sun with the water a consistent 72-76 degrees year round. For a truly breathtaking view of Waikiki, hike to the summit of the extinct Diamond Head volcano. For shopping enthusiasts, the International Marketplace offers hours of bargain hunting. Pearl Harbor, with the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri are just a short distance away. Oahu is also the only place in the United States where you can visit a royal palace. Being that Hawaii was originally ruled by a monarchy, the beautifully restored Iolani Palace is rich with Hawaiian history. The north shore of Oahu is home to the Polynesian Cultural Center, great golfing, and the surfing capital of the world; the Banzai Pipeline. For great snorkeling, it doesn't get any better and Hanauma Bay on Oahu's protected southeast shore. As the sun begins to set over Waikiki Beach, soak up the local flavor with a sunset cocktail and dinner at Duke's Canoe Club, named after legendary surfer Duke Kananamoko.
Maui is the second most visited of the Hawaiian islands. Most repeat visitors bypass Oahu and head straight for Maui. This in part is due to the fact that Maui offers a perfect blend of sightseeing opportunities and relaxation. Not nearly as built up as Oahu, Maui offers more natural beauty. The major resort areas of Maui are Kaanapali, Kapalua, and Wailea. Kaanapali is one of the finest beaches you will find in Hawaii stretching four miles on the northwest side of the island. Just two miles south of Kaanapali is the historic fishing village of Lahaina, where whale watching is at it's peak from December thru April. Continuing south, you'll come to Wailea, a resort oasis with championship golf courses, luxury hotels, great watersports and upscale shopping. If you're up for a little adventure, why not greet the day by viewing the sunrise at the summit of Haleakala Crater and then bike all the way down to the beach.
Kauai is the oldest and furthest west of the Hawaiian Islands. An island steeped in natural beauty, Kauai offers a wonderful experience for those who love the great outdoors. Kauai is home to Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Though there are several viewing locations, the best way to experience the vast expanse of Waimea Canyon is by helicopter flightseeing tour; it is an experience you will never forget. Waimea Canyon also offers hiking opportunities. The beautiful Na Pali Coast, with its folded green cliffs, covers the western coastline of Kauai. Much of the Na Pali Coast is reachable only by boat or via helicopter flightseeing tour. For those a little less adventurous, travel by boat down the Wailua River to the Fern Grotto. Kauai has strict building codes so that nothing detracts from the natural beauty of the island. Buildings can be no taller than a mature coconut tree. This leads the more relaxed feeling that is prevalent throughout the island. It is important to note Kauai is not a destination for true beach enthusiasts as the surf is a bit rougher than on Oahu or Maui because it is the first point of impact as the waves travel across the Pacific from Asia. The resorts of Kauai make up for this with more luxurious pool areas than you may find on the other islands.
If you’re looking for true luxury resorts, erupting volcanoes, and the perfect cup of coffee, you’re headed to the Big Island of Hawaii. Hawaii is not only the name of our 50th state, but also the name of its largest island. It’s here that you’ll find the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You might choose to drive the rim of Kilauea Caldera where you’ll view fresh lava flows, steam holes and scenic overlooks. Continue to the summit of Mauna Kea where between 6pm and 10pm daily you can stargaze at the Onizuka Visitors Center. The Kona Coffee Belt unfolds in a long stretch of coffee farms where each fall brings the Kona Coffee Fest. If the frontier is more your spirit, make a visit to Parker Ranch and visit with real Hawaiian cowboys. Cross over to the east for a day trip to Hilo and visit Rainbow Falls or stroll the pleasant streets lined with restaurants, shops and historic Victorian homes.
For those looking for a little adventure without the crowds, visit the tranquil beauty of Lanai. Once the island plantation for the Dole Company, pineapples were grown here from the 1920’s until the early 1990’s. It was James Dole who planted the Cook Island Pines that still dot the landscape. Few pineapples are still grown here today. The Lodge at Koele and the Manele Bay Hotel bear the imprint of billionaire James Murdock. Here you’ll find a variety of both land and water sports as well as service that is very British in style. Thus is some of the appeal that attracts celebrities to the island who enjoy the isolation from tourists and crowds. Beyond the resorts, the island is wide open for exploring. Venture northwest on a jeep road from Koele and you’ll encounter an arid landscape strewn with boulders. This is the Garden of the Gods where the remains of ancient volcanic eruptions are touched only by the softening island light. Experienced hikers and four-wheelers can ascend the Munro Trail to the summit of Lanaihale, the highest point on the island where you can enjoy the five-island-view.
If you really want to get away from it all, then the island of Molokai may be just what the doctor ordered. Here, you’ll find miles of wide, unspoiled beaches and wonderful serenity. Everything moves at a slower pace. The island is relatively undeveloped where no building can be taller than a coconut tree and stoplights simply don’t exist. Land and water sports abound. Tour a coffee plantation or a macadamia nut farm, or visit the pristine Moomoni Dunes on the North Shore. The scenic Halawa Valley on the northeast tip of the island offers a dramatic landscape of folded walls draped in green. Along the stunning coastline, you may encounter the incredible Kahiwa Falls which cascades 1,750 feet into the Pacific Ocean.
There is so much Hawaii out there just waiting for you! My best advise is to not try to do it all in one trip, unless you have at least two full weeks, or you’re booking a really good escorted tour or a cruise that stops at each island. If you’ve only got a week to spend in paradise, I recommend not more than two islands. Ten days will get you three.