While the Hawaiian Islands are now very americanised they still have a charm of their own and there are many beautiful places to go there.
You can choose to visit one island or a number of them. There are 8 main islands, created by the mid Pacific ocean volcanic hotspot they sit above. The islands have been formed over millions of years in a chain while the tectonic plate above the hotspot moved to the west. The largest island, referred to as the ‘Big Island’ is still above the hotspot and there is continual volcanic activity on the island.
Most visitors will arrive on the island of Oʻahu. This is the most populated island and has the major city of Honolulu where visitors fly into. Honolulu is situated on the south more sheltered side of the island and is a major beach resort as well as having the full facilities of a American city.
The beach area is known as Waikiki and here you can engage in all types of beach activity while being overlooked by the picture postcard extinct volcanic cone of Diamond Head. This is a good place to try your hand at surfing as the waves are smaller than the big waves along the North Shore.
Honolulu is great for dining, nightlife and shopping. The city is multi racial with residents and visitors from Japan, China, the US mainland and Polynesia – this is reflected in the wide variety of eating experiences here.
While Honolulu has much to offer, to get out into the island you will need to hire a car or take ‘TheBus’ around the island. A car gives the maximum flexibility but the bus will very cheaply take you around the island and out to the North Shore to the famous surfing beaches. Beaches to check out include: Pipeline, Sunset and Waimea. The towns on the North Shore are generally quite small but you can stay at beach houses, backpackers, rentals and bungalows along the beach.
The reef varies in how close it is to the beach along the North Shore but there is good swimming and snorkelling at Sharks Cove, Kuilima Cove and Three Tables Beach. Watch out for swells and rips and snorkel in safe areas of the beach.
Each Hawaiian Island is worth visiting for different reasons. Maui for example has the Haleakala National Park with the island’s highest peak Haleakala, with pools and waterfalls and many golden beaches. Local flights between the islands are by Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, and Island Air and have a chilled out relaxed feel compared to flights on the American mainland.
To see live volcanic activity you need to visit the Big Island. The big island is made from five shield volcanoes. If you have a clear day it is well worth getting a window seat to see the larger peaks as you fly into the island. Mauna Loa and Kilauea are active. Kilauea has been continually active for many years, the lava flowing through underground tubes meet the sea where it explodes. This looks fantastic late in the day. You can also walk through the Thurston Lava Tube – a five hundred year old cave where lava once flowed though.
Within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park you may see the Nene – Hawaii’s state bird. Of the 67 initial species of bird found by settlers in Hawaii, 23 are now extinct and 30 are endangered. 90% the fauna in Hawaii is specially adapted to their home and has evolved into new species and exist nowhere else in the world.
Kauaʻi is well worth visiting for its stunning Na Pali coastline and the gorges of Waimea Canyon. You can do a day walk into Na Pali along the cliffs or take a longer trek up to five days reaching Kalalau and Hanakoa camp sites. There is another campsite reachable by sea. The cliffs are amazing both from the sea level, or from the Na Pali lookout high on the cliffs overlooking Kalalau Valley reachable by road. As you drive up to the Na Pali lookout the cliffs are on your left and on your right is the Waimea gorge looking like a smaller Grand Canyon.
If you have a high budget there are also boat trips along the coastline or helicopter fly overs for more amazing views. Also on Kauaʻi the second highest peak Mount Waiʻaleʻale is one of the wettest places on earth – bring your mac.
Image (cc) @skyseeker Flickr