Who among us hasn’t dreamed of looking out over a lush Hawaiian landscape as the morning mist burns off? Or how about digging into some smoked Kalua pork at a luau? Hawaii is on most travellers’ bucket lists, and for good reason. In fact, there’s so much to do on these islands that planning a trip here can be daunting. That’s where we come in — learn about our favourite Hawaiian treasures and pick up some tips and tricks to help you make the most of your vacation.
When it seems like there’s more to see than there are hours in the day, a tour is often your best bet. While tours might be a bit more expensive than a DIY adventure, they can help you experience much more than you could on your own. As an added bonus, tour guides in Hawaii usually have a lot to say about the local culture. We learned a ton about local legends and the history of the islands, and it was so much more fun than reading about it in a book or at a museum.
A trolley tour is a fantastic way to see Waikiki and the surrounding area. The tours are hop-on-hop-off, so you can explore most of the stops at your leisure. We opted for the Blue Line tour, which took us along the awe-inspiring coast. The Halona Blow Hole was one of our favourite stops. There, we saw roaring waves squeeze themselves through lava tubes, causing water to shoot 10 metres into the air.
You can also reach Diamond Head, O’ahu’s most famous landmark, via the Green Line trolley tour. According to legend, this massive crater was the home of Pele, the volcano goddess. It was known as Leahi, which could translate to “wreath of fire.” Some scholars think that the crater got its name because Hawaiians lit fires around the crater’s rim to help canoes find their way. The crater is now known as Diamond Head because Western explorers mistook the area’s calcite crystals for diamonds.
One of our favourite tours was a helicopter tour of Kauai. There was nothing like soaring above Waimea Canyon and Mount Waialeale while our guide told traditional Hawaiian legends. We even saw the Na Pali Coast, where they filmed the movie, South Pacific.
Hawaii is worth visiting for the food alone. We sampled many traditional Hawaiian dishes, as well as new twists on international favourites. Some of the restaurants we visited were so good that we ended up going back again and again!
In Kauai, we tried Loco Moco, a modern Hawaiian favourite. This fusion dish is a scoop of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and a generous helping of brown gravy. It made a fantastic cheat meal!
Shaved ice is a popular treat on hot Hawaiian days. We recommend enjoying a cup as you stroll down Front Street in Maui, a bustling street with plenty of shops, galleries, and restaurants.
It goes without saying that seafood is something you simply must try in Hawaii. Look for restaurants that change their menu daily depending on the catch of the day — that way you’re guaranteed to get the freshest fish and other seafood.
After a day jam-packed with activities, we loved to relax and take in a show. Luckily for us, there was no shortage of entertainment in Hawaii.
As you may have guessed, a luau is one of the most popular entertainment options in Hawaii. Who wouldn’t love a traditional Hawaiian feast accompanied by music and hula dancing? We treated ourselves to the Old Lahaina Luau in Maui. Before dinner, we were able to play some traditional Hawaiian games and try our hands at some hula dance moves. Then it was time to dig into Kalua pork (which was smoked for hours inside a pit), laulau (a delicious dish of minced pork wrapped in leaves), and poke ahi (a salad of raw tuna). After dinner, there was a storytelling show featuring hula dancers who expressed their stories through their movements. The show was set to both traditional and modern songs, so we got a taste of different sides of Hawaiian culture.
Another not-to-be-missed show in Maui is Warren & Annabelle’s comedy magic show. As hard as I try
not to be baffled by magic, this show mystified me. We were chosen to take part in the show, but even with a front-row seat the magicians completely stumped me! Not only were their illusions utterly convincing, but they also had us laughing through the entire act. I will definitely be back if I have the chance to visit Maui again.
No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a day at the beach. Although we found the water a bit chilly when we visited in February, we were more than happy to soak up the spectacular views from our favourite Hawaiian beaches. If swimming is one of your must-dos, try to visit between July and September.
Poipu Beach on Kauai was one of our favourite beaches. A spit of sand stretching out from the beach is a great place to spot endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Nearby, there is a shallow area sheltered by volcanic rocks — a perfect place for children to play. The waves at Poipu are beautiful, so don’t forget your camera!
Koki Beach, near Hana, was another top pick. The dark red sand here was luxuriously soft. Swimming is not recommended here, but the steep waves are perfect for experienced surfers. We loved stretching out on the sand and watching surfers do their thing.
Waikiki Beach is a better choice for beginner surfers, and it’s also very accessible. There are lots of surf schools nearby, and the waves are gentle. Those who aren’t ready to brave the waves can still enjoy the white sand beach and spectacular views of Diamond Head. After all, a trip to Hawaii is what you make it.
PHOTOS BY: CHRIS V. LINTON (@CHRISVLINTON)