The “Land of Enchantment” has it all. Warm sun, endless beaches caressed by deep blue Pacific waters, adventures by day and romantic evenings, create memories that last a lifetime.
Hawaii is a destination that lives up to the hype and expectations of a first time visitor, and has an allure for those who want to return and experience undiscovered adventures. Every time we returned to the islands, we have found new and exciting places to explore and things to do.
Honolulu is usually the starting point for first time visitors. World famous Waikiki Beach is lined with plush hotels, sun worshipers, surfers, and those who just like watching the action. We found a variety in the level of accommodations, restaurants, and activities. I recommend Honolulu to our first time visitors since this is the hub for all that Oahu has to offer. The city is bustling with activity and excitement, and has a lot to see and do. The best way to get around is by bus. A day pass is inexpensive and easily gets you anywhere you may want to go. Parking is limited, and most hotels charge you to park your car. I love trees. The variety and beauty of the flora is spectacular and I always take time to visit the local parks. At the south end of town is the Diamond Head overlook. A 15-minute hike rewards visitors with a spectacular view of Waikiki Beach and the beauty of the multicolored blues of the ocean. Another favorite is Hanauma Bay, a snorkeler’s paradise. Fish of every color and shape, eagerly surround those who take a bag of frozen peas to hand feed the critters. Don’t worry, they don’t bite the hand that feeds them. An underwater camera is a must for this adventure, and are readily available at most stores. The Punchbowl on the east side of the city, is a military cemetery which is interesting for history buffs. The bus will take you to Pearl Harbor. I recommend calling ahead for a reservation since this is one of the most popular sites. About 10 miles east of the city is the Pali highway overlook which provides a spectacular view of the north side of the island. Close to Pearl Harbor is Aloha Stadium, home of the islands biggest swap meet. This is where the locals shop for the best deals and is the best place to buy souvenirs. It is easy to spend several hours here, and they have a food court. My mom loves to buy the canned oysters, or pick out a live one. Each oyster contains a pearl, sometimes two, that can be mounted in a setting. Be sure to check which days are open.
After a day or two in Honolulu, I recommend renting a car or changing hotels to the quieter side of the island. The North Shore is the home of the Pipeline where the world surfing championships are held. We always visit Turtle Bay Resort. Walk out to the point behind the hotel and experience 30 foot waves and the fools who surf them. The view is one you will never forget. Turtle Bay has a protected lagoon, which oddly enough, is where you will find sea turtles. This is my preferred place to snorkel. There aren’t as many fish as Hanauma Bay, but there aren’t as many people either, and it’s free.
The Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore is a must, especially for first timers. Open six days a week, this adventure is a full day experience. There is an admission, but it is a good value for all you get. Visit several “islands of the Pacific”, in one location, and end your day with the best Luau and evening show found anywhere. This experience is the highlight for most visitors to the islands, and definitely one of mine. On our way to the North Shore is the Dole Pineapple Plantation. A great place to stop for some pineapple ice cream and fresh pineapple, the best in the world. While the kids race through the maze, we like to wander through the pineapple gardens.
Some say that a good way to see the insider’s view of Oahu, is to take advantage of a service where you can hire a local to be your tour guide for the day. This is where you will find hidden waterfalls and the lagoons that only the locals know about. Other than the swap meet, you should notice that there aren’t many locals at the places listed in this article.
Miles and miles of beaches with no one around. This is the island of escape. If you just want to lay in the sun, unwind, and rejuvenate yourself, Maui is for you. There are things to do on Maui, but you won’t find the people and the options as on Oahu. My favorite adventure is the Haleakala sunrise and bicycle ride. A tour will take you to the summit of this tall mountain just in time for a spectacular sunrise near the Palomar Observatory, after which, the fun starts. A 27 mile bike ride that is like no other. Don’t worry if you are out of shape because it is all downhill. The views are stunning, the experience exhilarating, and memorable. You start at the top of the mountain and finish at the ocean with a huge sense of accomplishment. The tour provider follows behind for those who are less adventurous and want to ride in the comfort of the van. Rent a car and explore the island at your own pace. The “up country” and winery make a great destination. The road to Hana is nothing short of spectacular. We suggest driving about an hour, then turning around and heading back. It is 3 hours one way to Hana, and 3 hours back. Too much driving for me, but the switchback scenery is worth every minute, up to a point.
Hawaii -The Big Island
The power and majesty of dormant and live volcanoes are manifest here. Volcano National Park transforms you into a world I didn’t know existed before. You can walk through a dormant volcano tube, watch lava creeping down the mountain, and experience what looks like Martian landscape.