My office has been getting a quite a few calls for trips to Hawaii this week. I thought that I would share some of my thoughts on the Aloha State and some of the must-see places and fun facts.
The Hawaiian Archipelago is made up of over 130 scattered points of land with eight main islands stretching over 1,600 miles in length. Formed from underwater volcanoes that erupted thousands of years ago, the Hawaiian Islands are the projecting tops of the biggest mountain range in the world. It was admitted as the 50th state in 1959, is the only one to grow coffee, and is responsible for over 1/3 of the world’s pineapples. It is also the most isolated of the 50 states — 2,390 miles from California.
Oahu is the most visited and the most populated island with Honolulu being very urban with high rise hotels, plenty of shopping and delicious food. It’s a great blending of east meets west with native Hawaiian influence mixed in. Waikiki Beach is superb, but you should try surfing North Shore beaches, don’t miss hiking up Diamond Head with its breathtaking views. No visit to the island is complete without a stop at Pearl Harbor. The floating USS Arizona Memorial allows visitors to view the sunken ship and learn about the 1,177 sailors and marines that lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Be sure to pre-purchase your pass for this attraction as it’s often sold out.
With its lush valleys, artsy towns, peaceful beaches and farm-to-table food, Maui is the most picturesque of the Hawaiian Islands and a favorite honeymoon destination. You can look for migrating humpback whales or play golf on a world-class golf course. Be sure to hike the state park with its rivers and waterfalls and see the Iao Needle, a lava relic rising 1,200 feet high. The journey to Hana is considered to be one of the last unsoiled frontiers in Hawaii. The 52-mile drive consists of twists and turns, narrow bridges and captivating views. Rent a convertible or a jeep and, remember, it’s all about the journey.
Kauai is for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. Natural wonders and historic towns are a big draw for visitors and crowds aren’t a problem. Accurately named the “Garden Isle,” Kauai’s forest, valleys and beaches have been featured in many Hollywood movies. Waimea Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” and this greener counterpart is truly a sight to behold. The Waimea Canyon Lookout and other stops along the main drive allow unparalleled views of its 14-miles of cliffs and gorges. Hiking trails here offer opportunities for beginners to expert level. Be sure to see the seventeen miles of Napali Coast with its emerald cliffs that rise from the azure waves of the Pacific Ocean. A visit by hiking, canoeing, boating or a guided helicopter tour will expose you to majestic waterfalls and valleys.
Hawaii Island is known as the “Big Island” because, you guessed it, it is the biggest island in the chain. Hawaii Volcano National Park allows visitors the chance to see volcanoes in action, such as Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world with eruptions and steady flow of glowing lava pouring into the sea. Hear the lava hiss as it hits the sea on a boat tour or hike through craters on one of the 150 trails. Manta Ray Night Swim is another “don’t miss” activity on this Island. Manta rays, measuring as wide as 23 feet, can be spotted during the day, but the gentle giants are more active at night. Boats depart from Kona nightly, giving you the chance to jump into the water with dive flashlights perfect for attracting plankton, the manta’s favorite food.
With the abundance of activities and experiences offered at each of the islands, it can be hard to choose which one to visit. I recommend picking one or two (or all four) and take an island-hopping adventure to make the most of this paradise. Our 50th state has much to offer, in an environment you won’t find in any of the other 49.
Marci DeWitt owns a local travel agency, Anchor and Away Travel, a Dream Vacations franchise. She can be reached by email at mdewitt@DreamVacations.com.