The islands of Hawaii, America’s 50th state, nestle in the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, some five hours’ flying time south-west of California.
Most visitors to Hawaii will begin on the island of Oahu – aptly named ‘The Gathering Place’ – to be greeted in the traditional Hawaiian manner with a ‘lei’ of exquisitely perfumed flowers. Oahu is a land of stark contrasts, with the tranquil unspoilt northern coastline and fascinating Polynesian Cultural Centre less than an hour’s drive from Honolulu’s large shopping centres and the ubiquitous resort hotels and lively entertainment of Waikiki in the south, where Pearl Harbour and the now-extinct Diamond Head remain favourite tourist spots.
Known as ‘The Emerald Isle’ because of its lush greenery and tropical forests, many consider Kauai to be the prettiest of the Hawaiian islands. The Wailua River’s ‘Fern Grotto’ is the setting for countless romantic weddings and to the north, the vast expanse of sands at Lumahai Beach was the setting for the filming of ‘South Pacific’. At Kauai’s south-west tip, Waimea is where Captain Cook allegedly first landed in 1778, and the intrepid explorer would surely have been awe-struck by Waimea Canyon, Hawaii’s very own ‘Grand Canyon’.
‘The Garden Isle’ of Maui is steeped in history and home of the delightful old whaling town of Lahaina, once Hawaii’s capital. The main resort area is Kaanapali Beach on the west coast, its backdrop of hills and mountains the perfect setting for the fabulous beaches and world-class golf courses and tennis facilities. You may be tempted to spend much of your time lazing under the sun but if nothing else, try to make the journey to watch the sun rise over the magnificent Haleakala Crater.
A drive around the coastline of ‘The Big Island’, will reveal why Hawaii is often also referred to as ‘The Orchid Isle’, with its many varieties of exotic flower seemingly displayed around every corner. Not to be missed are the beautiful Akaka Falls and the breathtaking Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where an 11-mile drive encircles the still-active Kilauea Crater. To the north, Mauna Kea, the highest point in the Pacific whilst to the east, the glistening black sands are the legacy from when Hawaii was alive with active volcanoes.
Set on 42 acres of Oahu’s North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center showcases villages and exhibits representing the island cultures of Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, and Easter Island. The award-winning Ali’i Luau takes guests on a journey to learn about Hawaii’s royalty while enjoying traditional Hawaiian food and entertainment. a lagoon that hosts canoe tours through the day and an exciting Canoe Pageant in the afternoon. The day ends with the stunning ‘Ha: Breath of Life’ show, featuring over 100 performers and the thrill of Samoan fire knife dancing.
This fabulous ‘double-edged’ excursion first transports you by coach to Haleakala’s 10,023-foot summit, where a guided tour of the park ends with the incredible sunrise at the crater, one of the most breathtaking sights imaginable. You will then be provided with mountain bikes, helmets, backpacks, lunch and all other necessary gear for your self-guided 23-mile bike ride down the beautiful mountain slopes, during which you will experience the remarkable change in temperature as you descend to sea level, to arrive back in mid-afternoon.
For an unusual Hawaii adventure, cruise on an open-air boat up the Wailua River, Hawaii’s only navigable river whose waters pour down from Mt. Wai’ale’ale’, one of the wettest spots on earth. During the 2-mile journey, you will learn stories and traditions of ancient Hawaii, then on arrival, you will encounter a fascinating lava rock grotto awash with tropical ferns. Here, you will be serenaded by Hawaiian musicians playing local island songs, with the remarkable acoustics within this natural amphitheatre amplifying the singing and guitar accompaniment.