Hawaii is certainly very ‘hot’ for Kiwi travellers now – with the introduction of Hawaiian Airlines flights from Auckland in 2013 we now have very competitive airfares with two carriers and it’s fast becoming a destination in it’s own right and not just a stopover on the way to or from the mainland USA or Europe. In fact the flights are so busy, there’s currently a hefty $600 surcharge with Air NZ to stop off here on the way home from Europe or the USA!
Hawaii’s appeal is that it is big enough to offer a variety of experiences from ‘flop and drop’ beach breaks to active holidays featuring mountain biking, the latest craze of paddle boarding and of course the State sport of surfing! The shopping is great, the beaches legendary and the food pleasingly Polynesian – we hope you like pineapple!
Hawaii’s beaches are legendary – many are picture perfect with white sand and warm water. There are numerous ‘Beach Parks’ with lifeguards on duty and picnic and playgrounds for families adjacent. You must try the Hawaiian spin on snowcones – delicious and refreshing ‘shaved ice’ to cool you down!
When to go – With a beautiful climate all year Hawaii is an anytime destination, it gets a little breezier and cloudier in the winter (Oct-April) – hence the influx of pro surfers! As so much is imported (petrol/power prices in particular are much higher than the US mainland), Hawai’i has never been a cheap US State to visit, but with the current excellent NZ$/US$ exchange rate, it is currently better value than it has been for many years.
Where to stay – this is usually a straight choice between a hotels/resort – with all the usual resort facilities, restaurants and bars, and often beachside OR a ‘condo’ – without restaurants/bars but offering self-catering facilities – laundry/kitchen etc. Condos are great for families as you’ll have more space but you’ll usually need a car for dining or to drive to a nearby beach.
This is the newest of the American States, the 50th and joined in 1959. It’s capital is Honolulu on the island of Oahu. The Islands were visited by Captain Cook twice and were named the Sandwich Isles and this is why even today the Hawaiian flag contains the Union jack in the top corner just like Australia and New Zealand. This is the only US state made up entirely of Islands, there are 8 in total but there’s 4 main islands you might visit – O’ahu, Maui, Kaua’i and the “big island” of Hawaii.
O’ahu – Your international flight will bring you into the rather tired Honolulu International Airport – resembling a typical Pacific Island airport but on a bigger scale. I think it’s fair to say that it could do with a spruce up. Never mind, it’s not too far from there to downtown Waikiki, the centre of action for holiday-makers. This is where the majority of hotels are concentrated, just near the long stretches of Golden beaches. Waikiki is pretty built up – think Queensland’s Surfers Paradise, and is very popular with Japanese and American holidaymakers. The best way to see everything is the Waikiki Trolley bus.
Must do’s Shoppers should head for the Ala Moana shopping centre, the worlds largest open air shopping centre with over 290 shops. Prices are best on the ground floor!
Families with school age kids might consider a day trip to the Wet’ n’ Wild water park at Kapolei – Ok, this one is a little run down and during out of season some of the rides are on 30 minute rotations, but it’s still great fun and a nice place to cool off!
If you only do one excursion in Oahu it should be to Pearl Harbour & the USS Arizona, a very moving tribute to those who lost their life here on December 7th 1941.
North Shore – resembling a Kiwi ‘bach’ community, this seems like a world away (but only an hour’s drive) from the hustle and bustle Honolulu where the surfers head to, especially in the Winter for the big waves at iconic breaks like the Pipeline, Sunset Beach & Waimea. Every beach up here is spectacular, and this must have the highest quota of beautiful bronzed people on the planet!
Maui – This is probably the most romantic destination in Hawaii and famous for its incredible sun rises and sun sets.
Must do’s – the two places to head for are Lahaina on the West coast and Hana on the East coast. Lahaina is a pretty little town with many little art galleries and restaurants. Hana is all about the journey – the ‘Road to Hana’ contains 600 hairpins and 54 narrow bridges – marketed as the trip of a lifetime.
Nestled between the 2 towns is Haleakala Volcano National park which covers 75% of the island and the volcano crater is a staggering 11kms across 800m deep. You can drive right to the top of this!
Kau’ai – Ian’s favourite – this is the ‘Garden Isle’ and the place for active travellers keen to try adventures like Zipline and kayaking. The scenery is spectacular – you can now do ‘Waimea – the Director’s Cut’ tours of the island to visit the many film locations used for Jurassic Park, the Descendants, Raiders of the Lost Ark, South Pacific etc.
Must do’s: Waimea Canyon State Park – the ‘Grand Canyon of the South Pacific’ and if you have the time and budget – a helicopter tour to the extraordinary Na Pali coast – think ‘Jurassic Park’!
‘Hawaii’ – The Big Island – This is the place for Volcano fans, at the ‘Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’ you can actually see new land being created as molten lava plunges into the sea and the sudden meeting of hot rock and cool water creates a vast steam cloud that can be seen from miles away; going after dark is even more amazing. If you are on a cruise ship, it will cruise past the coast at night so you can see the lava from Kilauea reaching the ocean.
Must do’s : Visit the town of Kona for its famous coffee and learn about the history of King Kamehameha the great who had a run in with Captain cook which ultimately led to Cooks’ death in 1779. If you have time, drive to the summit of Mauna Kea (13,796 ft) for the views and the observatories there.