As we were sitting in the Honolulu airport returning from our trip to the Islands, we met a couple who had just stayed in Honolulu for their week long stay. It was easy to see they were disappointed with the stay as they had spent their entire time in the city, not venturing out of town to experience the rest of Oahu. The Hawaiian Islands have so much to offer, and unless your focus is high end shopping and dining, you will find so little of it in Honolulu.
While the Hawaiian Island have a common history, culture, and share the aloha spirit of hospitality, each Island has some unique geography that gives the Island a character and personality of its own. All the Islands provide picture perfect memories of tropical shores, green slopes and valleys with cascading waterfalls. Experiences can range from relaxing on the beach to zip-lining, to ocean kayaking, snorkeling, biking, shopping, dining. Picture yourself taking that romantic moon lit walk on a beach. Can you feel the trade wind and hear the surf?
Volcanic activity formed the Islands and are a prominent part of each island. Tropical rains keep half of the islands green but the volcanoes block the rain, creating a wet and dry side to the island. Most of the resorts are found on the drier side of the island. This is most apparent on the Big Island, where the wet Hilo side is a rain forest and the dry Kona side looks like a parched lunar landscape.
The oldest of the populated Islands is Kauai, “The Garden Isle”. It is also one of the quieter Islands, a spot for relaxing and rejuvenating the body and spirit. Here you will find serene tropical rivers, beaches so famous for their beauty they are the stars of numerous movies, and Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. You can enjoy hiking on the Napali Coast, learning to paddle board or kayak on a river or on gentle bays. Kauai allow you to be as active or relaxed as you desire.
Oahu is home to the iconic Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. The Hawaiian picture most people have in their minds is the view down Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background. Honolulu is a big city with almost a million people, so do not plan to just stay in Honolulu, you will be missing the “real” Hawaii, which you can also find on Oahu. Just 10 minutes out of town, you can find deserted beaches and lush tropical gardens to tour. The north shore of Oahu features rustic towns, famous surfing beaches and the unique shrimp truck dining stops.
Maui is “The Magic Isle” and offers green-carpeted mountains, quiet waterfall pools, along with luxury resorts and five-star dining. The iconic view of Maui is Haleakala volcano towering over the center of the island. Here you will find zip-lining, biking down Haleakala, sailing, golfing, and shopping ranging from malls to the small towns of “Upcountry”. Maui is probably the most visited of the Islands after Oahu, but smaller towns and rural areas are easy to find. If you really want to get away, the Islands of Lanai and Molokai are part of Maui County and offer quieter getaways.
Hawaii, “The Big Island” is confusing because the name Hawaii is the name for the state and one of the counties (islands). The Big Island is home to Kilauea, the active volcano. This is the only place you can find an active volcano on the Islands. The Big Island is big too. It is best broken into two segments, one to see the volcano based out of Hilo, and one for relaxing at one of the luxurious resorts or condo developments on the Kona side of the island.
Mid December to mid April is “official” humpback whale season, although it is not uncommon to see them before and after season. Boat tours are available to get a closer look at the whales, but they are often close enough to shore for you to see them from the beaches and resorts. Whale season is a good time to have an ocean view room.
Winter on the Islands is from November to April and temperatures will range from the low 70’s to the mid 80’s. The other season, summer offers temperatures into the 90’s but normally trade winds cool you year round. Evenings can cool off, so bringing slacks and a long sleeve shirt or sweater can be a good idea.
Unlike a Caribbean or Mexican vacation, do not plan to spend all your time in your resort. The Island is a major part of your experience, so plan to have a rental car to explore the Island (unless you are in Honolulu). Local dining is also part of the experience, so you will generally not find all-inclusive resorts in Hawaii. There are ways to dine on a budget, so make dining part of your explorations.