Dreaming of a tropical escape? The Hawai‘ian Islands will not disappoint. Here are our top five reasons why you should pull out your suitcase and visit Hawai‘i.
Tropical climate, vast white-sand beaches, multiple national parks, and a rich culture – it’s hard for Hawai‘i to do any wrong. There are plenty of reasons why this island archipelago should be your go-to for your next international escape; here are just some of them.
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1. Bask on the many sparkling beaches and bays
Maui was voted ‘Best Island in the U.S’ by Condé Nast Traveler readers for more than two decades, and it continues to live up to its reputation. One of the best ways to appreciate its beauty is through its beaches. Kā‘anapali Beach is Maui’s signature beach and a swimmer’s paradise with clear, gentle waters and more than 1.5 kilometres of white sand. On the island’s south shore, head to Mākena Beach State Park. Nestled between two black lava outcroppings, Mākena provides great views of the islands of Molokini and Kaho‘olawe.
When in O‘ahu you can’t miss Waikīkī Beach, but there are plenty of other beaches to explore. Talk to the locals and they’ll tell you to head to Ala Moana Beach. Kid-friendly in every way, this almost one-kilometre-long stretch of pristine beach is where island residents love to picnic on weekends, play tennis on the ten lighted courts, and jog the park's almost four-kilometre perimeter. Further east, Hōnaunau Bay Nature Preserve is arguably the most famous of Hawai‘i’s snorkelling beaches and one of the best in the world for viewing marine life up close.
On the Island of Hawai‘i don’t miss Kahalu‘u Beach Park, a tiny, sheltered cove teeming with fish, and shallow, calm waters making it a top snorkelling spot.
2. Stay in world-renowned resorts you won’t want to leave
If beachside vibes are your jam, then Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort is where you should bed. Singing to its own tune following a US$80 million renovation, the beachfront resort on the western edge of Waikīkī has had a complete refresh. Almost nothing was left untouched, including an overhaul of the restaurant and bar, Kani Ka Pila Grille, famed for its live music featuring local artists. Sit back and soak it all up while you breathe in the sea air of Waikīkī Beach. When you’re not rocking to the local music, swim in the sprawling outdoor pool or take it easy in a private cabana on plush chaise lounges.
If you want to be the envy of your friends, ‘Alohilani Resort is the place to be. Overlooking Waikīkī Beach, the resort’s restaurant and pool bar, Swell, has been dubbed ‘Instagram-Worthy’ by both Departures Magazine and Instyle – and it’s not hard to see why. There’s a heated saltwater infinity pool, glowing firepits, and a video art series.
Sip from the impressive cocktail menu, savour local favourites like poke and kālua pork, fish tacos and tangy teriyaki wings and stay until the sun goes down when it turns into a buzzing bar with local musicians and DJs. Equally impressive (and Instagrammable) is the resort’s two-story saltwater indoor Oceanarium teeming with colourful native Hawai‘ian reef fish.
If keeping the kids cool is your plan, choose Sheraton Waikiki. Think: two slides, one that’s 21 metres long and another that’s 4.5 metres high, two whirlpools, an interactive fountain area, inflation floatation devices, and poolside cabanas. Need we say more? You will literally while away your days here and the only distraction will be the kids running up to grab a bite to eat poolside, while you sip on a cocktail and cheers to the resort for its forward-thinking.
Later, when the kids are well and truly in need of a rest, take up the babysitting service and take a dip in the beachfront infinity pool – North America's longest oceanfront infinity pool – where you can float on a water beanbag and admire views of Waikīkī Beach and Diamond Head
3. Get out of your comfort zone
Don your hiking boots, grab your water bottle and head to Haleakalā Crater – a dormant volcano that towers over the island of Maui. At more than 10,000 feet (3,055 metres) above sea level, you will have your head in the clouds before you reach the summit (literally). The best bit: the sun rising above the vast sea of clouds, a spectacle described by Mark Twain as “the most sublime spectacle I have ever witnessed”.
If there is one place in the world where you should learn to surf, it has to be the sport’s birthplace. Follow in the wake of legends like Hawai‘ian waterman Duke Kahanamoku – who was solely credited with polarising surfing across the globe in the 1920s – and grab a board from the many surf rental businesses to hit the waves of Waikīkī on O‘ahu. There are also plenty of instructors on hand to help get you on your feet regardless, whichever island you choose.
Built for stability and speed, the Hawai‘ian outrigger canoe was created to withstand the challenges of sailing and fishing on the wild waves of the Pacific Ocean. Still widely practiced today, outrigger canoe paddling is a competitive sport and an experience most resorts offer. Grab the family and make some magical memories on the water while partaking in this ancient Hawai‘ian tradition.
4. Dine on mouthwatering local morsels
You wouldn’t go to Italy and not eat pizza and pasta, and the same should be said for the incredible traditional, local foods of Hawai‘i. Start any meal with pūpū, a Hawai‘ian appetiser. Every local restaurant in Hawai‘i has a range to dine on from poke dishes to sushi. Another tasty morsel you can’t miss is loco moco – hamburger steak and egg over rice and covered in gravy – at Café 100 in Hilo on the Island of Hawai‘i, which is said to have originated the name. For the sweet tooth, try malasadas (a Portuguese doughnut). You’ll find a line of people queuing for one at Leonard’s Bakery in Kapahulu on O‘ahu or ask any local to point you in the direction of their favourite bakery where you can find one.
For those wanting to make a meal of it, there is an increasing number of local chefs who have carved a name in the farm-to-table movement. Try Koko Head Café in Honolulu helmed by Lee Anne Wong, that serves up American brunch classics with an Asian twist; Erik Leong of Mahina & Sun’s who has taken a new twist on local comfort foods; and Sheldon Simeon, author and chef of Tin Roof Café, who has evolved the traditional ma and pa shop with authentic fresh ingredients – and ultimately just serves damn fine food.
5. Make lasting memories while giving back
Pay it forward by taking part in an experience with the knowledge you are giving back. The Mālama Hawai‘i Program is an initiative that has teamed up with partners including Hawai‘ian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, where you can plant a tree while guides talk about the history of Hawai‘i and explain how your tree will contribute to healing the local ecosystem. Multiple hotels also play their part, like ‘Alohilani Resort, where you can plant a tree in the ‘Alohilani Forest on the North Shore of O‘ahu, capped off with dinner for two back at the resort.
Want to make a sea change? Try your hand as a community scientist with the Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program. Simply pick up your supplies (an upcycled grain bag donated by Maui Brewing Company) at PacWhale Eco-Adventures’ Ocean Store in Lahaina or Mā‘alaea and head out to clean up any part of Maui’s coastline. With the help of travellers, more than 50,000 pieces of debris have already been removed from the ocean.
Looking for more reasons why you should visit Hawai‘i? Check out Where to Eat, Drink, Stay and Play in Hawai‘i and 5 Reasons Why Maui is the Mother of Family Holidays.