Arguably one of the most exotic destinations in the United States,
the Hawaiian Islands awaits exploration. Without a passport in hand, travelers can visit from one to six different islands, or any combination. This is the trip of a lifetime for some, and a had-to return trip for others. Visitor arrivals are growing at 6.0 percent for 2018, according to Hawaii’s Department of Business and Economic Development & Tourism.
The Hawaiian Islands are a remote, faraway place of natural beauty. An archipelago of six main islands situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean near the Tropic of Cancer, Hawaii will not disappoint first-time travelers. Each island has its own distinct character and ambience. This story describes a three-island itinerary best arranged for two weeks, though 10 days can be enough to see three islands.
It’s relatively easy to take a 30- or 45-minute flight from one island to another on carriers such as Hawaiian Airlines (www.hawaiianairlines.com), founded in 1929, and Mokulele Airlines (www.mokuleleairlines.com), founded in 1994. For some flights, travelers need to connect though Oahu. Flight time from Ohau’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) on Oahu to the Big Island is 45 to 50 minutes. Flight time between Oahu and Kauai’s Lihue Airport (LIH) is 30 minutes.
This journey begins on Oahu. If you like beaches, spend time at Waikiki Beach, and situate yourself in one of the hotels there. www.gohawaii.com/islands/oahu/accommodations
Strolling along the beach gives you a true sense of where you are. Soak in the sun and waves. If you’re escaping a cold winter elsewhere, just being at Waikiki can be enough. If you want to do and see more, consider checking out Waikiki Beach Walk. Developed in 2007, it’s a hotel and retail mixed-use center with an outdoor entertainment plaza, 40 retailers and six restaurants.
For history enthusiasts, a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is an awesome reminder of the Japanese attack that triggered U.S. entry into World War II. According to the Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau, an estimated 2,335 military personnel died Dec. 7, 1941. The attack also killed 68 civilians.
Dedicated in 1962, the 184-foot long memorial is situated above the sunken battleship Arizona. The memorial was designed to sag in the middle but stands strong at either end to symbolize the initial American defeat and ultimate victory in World War II. www.visitpearlharbor.org
The Big Island
The Big Island, also known as Hawaii Island, is among the most exotic destinations in the United States. Its landscape is unlike any most domestic travelers have seen. This is not the classic tropical island dotted with palm trees and white sand beaches, though there are some. Instead, this island, which is almost twice the size of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined, intrigues travelers with black sand beaches as well as white sand beaches. In all, there are 266 miles of coastline on this island and 10 different climate zones, ranging from very wet to cold. Yet, the cold zone is only at the summit of Mauna Kea, a mountain on the Big Island where snow does fall.
Never fear. This will have little, if anything, to do with travelers’ experiences on the Big Island.
Some luxury properties are situated along the Kohala Coast, one of most appealing parts of the Big Island on the northwestern side of the island. Among them are the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (www.maunakeabeachhotel.com) and the Fairmont Orchid (www.fairmont.com/orchid-hawaii). Once situated, travelers can venture beyond the resorts by rental car or day tour.
Here are a few places worth seeing on the west coast. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area is situated on the west coast in South Kohala off Highway 19 between the Mauna Kea and the Orchid resorts. Lifeguards are present, yet during high surf, be aware that rip currents mean dangerous conditions for swimmers and novice surfers. Better to watch, or hike the coastal trail of 61.8 acres.
The Pu`uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is located farther down the coast on Highway 160 in Honaunau. This U.S. National Park was literally a place of refuge or sanctuary for Hawaiians who had broken sacred laws, or kapu. The refuge, home of the ruling chief, offered a second chance. Learn about the ancient Hawaiian culture and view the Ki’i, carved wooden statues that still stand. (www.nps.gov/puho/learn/historyculture/puuhonua-o-honaunau.htm)
At this writing, most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains closed due to earthquakes, corrosive volcanic ash and continuing explosions from Halema’uma’u, the summit crater of the Kilauea Volcano, according to the National Park Service.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park lies approximately 100 miles from the Kohala and Kona coasts on the northwest and west coasts of the Big Island. The drive from the west coast to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is 2.75 to 3.25 hours, depending on which route travelers take.
To check on the status or the air quality on the island, visit the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, www.hvcb.org Other helpful and informative sites are www.usgs.gov/news/k-lauea-volcano-erupts and www.hawaiitourismauthority.org
Finally, visit the island of Kauai, known as the garden island, where craggy cliffs and lush, green vegetation abound. Here are a couple of places to consider and things to do in Kauai:
Visit Waimea Canyon and the NaPali Coast. Known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the canyon stretches approximately 14 miles long, 1 mile wide and 3,600 feet deep on the southwest coast of Kauai. The NaPali Coast is on the northwest part of Kauai. See it by land, sea or air. We experienced an hour-long helicopter tour that swoops above the emerald waters, revealing the cliffs and canyon.
For more breathtaking scenery, Wailua Falls on the east coast, immortalized in the opening scene of the 1970s television series, Fantasy Island, are famous and worth seeing.
The Kilauea Lighthouse is farther north on Kauai. This more than 100-year-old lighthouse was commissioned on May 1, 1913 and restored just in time for its centennial celebration. Situated on a rocky peninsula on Kauai’s north shore, the structure stands 180 feet above the Pacific Ocean. Tours must be scheduled in advance. Visit www.fws.gov/refuge/Kilauea_Point or www.gohawaii.com/islands/kauai