HawaiiThe ultimate escape, the ideal vacation, the perfect setting. These descriptions are commonly used when describing one place -- Hawaii. It's perhaps the first place that comes to mind when one hears the word "paradise" and it's universally at the top of vacation wish lists every year. But there's much more to this tropical wonderland than palm trees, sexy golden bodies and surfboards. Hawaii is a gorgeous land, filled with nature's most scenic attributes and all the trappings to make for a vacation of a lifetime.
Welcome to the Islands of Hawaii
While the entire archipelago is considered Hawaii, it's actually made up of eight major islands, six of which are currently available for tourism. These islands include Hawaii (the Big Island), Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau and Kahoolawe. The island of Niihau is privately owned and visitors to the island are usually restricted to family members or invited guests. Currently, efforts are being made to rehabilitate Kahoolawe from a former U.S. Naval bombing range into a tourist destination, but the island is as of yet, still uninhabitable.
Flying in to Hawaii
The majority of flights to Hawaii land in Honolulu, which is on the island of Oahu. Since the Hawaiian Islands are a part of the United States, there is no need for a passport and traveling to Hawaii is treated no differently than any state to state flight. Although Honolulu sees the most air traffic, some flights are also available for arrivals on Kahului, located on Maui, Kona on the Big Island, and Lihue, which is on Kauai. Upon departing your plane, you are warmly greeted by a traditional Hawaiian lei placed around your neck.
The Treasures of Hawaii
Hawaii is filled with lush, verdant foliage, cascading waterfalls and picturesque mountainous peaks. From a visitor's perspective, there's simply no place in the world that's more visually stunning. Here's what you can expect from each of Hawaii's islands.
Hawaii is the largest of the Hawaiian islands, larger than the rest of the islands combined, in fact, and it's the one most people associate with the Hawaiian vacation. To reduce confusion, it is universally called "The Big Island" rather than Hawaii. It has two of the world's largest mountains, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, as well as the most active volcano in the world in Kilauea. Kona is the most popular tourist spot on the Big Island. The island is filled with gorgeous botanical gardens and National Parks where visitors can learn about Hawaiian traditions while taking in the visual treats.
Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands and is routinely considered one of the best places to visit in the world. The island is nicknamed, "the Valley Isle" thanks to its beautiful, green valley ideally situated between the eastern and western coastal towns. Maui is the ideal outdoorsman's vacation. From snorkeling beneath the crystal clear waters and hiking through Haleakala National Park to biking along some of the most incredible mountain trails and watching the whales as they come in to breed in the winter, Maui offers nature at her finest. Accommodations range from luxurious beachside homes and hotels like the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, to cozy cottages and condominiums.
The green-covered hills and tropical flowers which canvas this island are what lend Kauai its nickname of "The Garden Island." Everywhere you look is a vision of natural splendor. From the impressive rocky cliffs overlooking the pounding surf below, to the sublime sandy beaches perfect for tanning to the lush greenery everywhere else, Kauai is a photographer's heaven. Needless to say, there are plenty Hawaii tours available! The southern shore features the small town of Hanapepe, where visitors can find art galleries and craft boutiques and the south eastern side has Lihu`e, where you can find the Kaua`i Museum and the Hawaiian version of the shopping mall at Kukui Grove Center.
Oahu is the third-largest of the Hawaiian Islands and it's the most popular destination for Hawaii travel. The famous Waikiki Beach is part of the reason for the island's popularity, as is the city of Honolulu. All along Oahu are pristine white beaches and Waimea Bay offers the archetype of surfer dude mentality with its monster waves. Oahu is also home to the USS Arizona National Memorial, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the most popular paid tourist attraction in Hawaii in the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Known as "The Friendly Isle," Molokai offers some of the great golf getaways in Hawaii, Ironwood Hills Golf Course and Kaluakoi Golf Course. It's also home to the Kalaupapa National Historical Park. The island's other two state parks, Papohaku Beach Park and One Ali'i Beach Park, make great places to camp and feature public bathrooms and showers. Molokai is one of Hawaii's least developed islands.
On Lanai, visitors can hike the Munro Trail for a scenic view of the other islands, enjoy the spinner dolphins as they play in Hulopoe Bay or try their hand at the island's two famous golf courses, The Challenge at Manele and The Experience at Koele. Accommodations can be very limited on this small island and may be booked months in advance. For an inspiring experience, rent a four-wheel drive vehicle and visit the "Garden of the Gods."
Although it's part of the United States, the 50th state in fact, Hawaii is culturally unique and unlike anything you've ever imagined. The mystery, the magic and the majesty of Hawaii's islands wait to provide you with the vacation of a lifetime. Reward yourself or your family with the epitome of the word "vacation," a trip to Hawaii.