“…the peacefullest, restfullest, balmiest, dreamiest haven of refuge for a worn and weary spirit the surface of the Earth can offer.” Mark Twain’s words can only be describing one place…Hawaii!
Hawaii consists of eight major islands plus 124 small ones, although when we think of this isolated group of islands sitting in the central Pacific Ocean, four major islands come to mind; Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. The natural beauty of each is breathtaking! Towering waterfalls, verdant rainforests, brilliant aromatic gardens, and pristine beaches of gold, red, white, green or black sand!
Yet, it is said that the true beauty of Hawaii lies within its people, a melting pot of many cultures, beliefs and heritages. The Islands’ “aloha spirit” references the attitude for which the Hawaiian Islands are so famous. Aloha means hello, goodbye, love, sympathy, compassion, affection and so much more! This warm acceptance of all people is the very foundation of their culture. Why wouldn’t you want to come and envelop yourself in its welcoming hospitality?
When is the best time to travel to Hawaii? Anytime! In Hawaii there are two types of weather- perfect and more perfect. Average air temperature varies from about 78 degrees in August to 72 degrees in February (it is a bit rainier in the winter). Temperatures are very stable because the islands are surrounded by a huge, deep, warm ocean. The ocean water temperature only varies from about 76 to 81 degrees. Visit year-round and enjoy everything the Islands have to offer. Hiking, snorkeling, boating, biking, golfing, kayaking…well, you get the picture! But which is island is the right island for you?
The island of Maui has been repeatedly voted “best island in the world” by readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine. While the beaches are undoubtedly a big draw, there’s so much more to do! Imagine heading up to the summit of Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano in the world, to watch the magical sunrise! Remember to dress warmly- its 10,023 feet above sea level! Of course you can head down the same way you came up, but there’s a better way. How about biking the 28 miles down the slopes including a famous series of switchbacks! Or admire the spectacular natural beauty of Maui as you travel along the 68 mile Hana Highway. This scenic Maui coastal road consists of over 600 curves and more than 50 one-lane bridges! Your reward at the end is being able to take a dip in the Pools of Oheo where you’ll discover beautifully tiered pools fed by cascading waterfalls. Absolutely lovely!
You’ll find the cities of Honolulu and Waikiki on the island of Oahu. The widest range of restaurants, shopping, as well as the best nightlife in the Islands is here. No trip to Oahu would be complete without visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, the final resting place for many of the 1177 crew members who lost their lives on December 7, 1941.
Don’t miss the Polynesian Cultural Center, located on Oahu’s north shore. Within eight simulated tropical villages, performers demonstrate various arts and crafts from throughout Polynesia. Be sure to stay for the authentic luau where you’ll enjoy traditional Hawaiian music, food and maybe even learn to hula!
The Big Island is made up of five connected volcanoes, two of which are extinct, one is dormant, and two are very active. There’s not a better place to understand the awesome nature of volcanoes than at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You’ll see native rain forests, walk through a lava tube, discover remarkable volcanic formations and a splendid diversity of geography and climate. Depending on what’s happening with the active flow, you may walk out to view the red hot lava or witness it spewing into the ocean! For a history lesson visit Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. In ancient times, this area was considered a sacred sanctuary – a place where if you had broken a law or faced death, you could run away and escape to this place of refuge” and you would be saved forever. Enjoy a walk around the partially restored 16th-century village, complete with thatched huts, canoes, forbidding idols, and a temple that holds the bones of 23 Hawaiian chiefs.
Kauai is often called the Garden Isle because of its endless beauty… emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires, precipitous cliffs, and reefs teeming with colorful fish! The island has lush tropical rainforests, and cascading waterfalls, many so remote they can only be seen by
helicopter! If you want to stay with your feet more firmly planted, Waimea Canyon, dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is a great place to hike. Numerous lookouts offer terrific views of every aspect of this natural wonder and depending on the time of day the gorge reflects a rainbow of red, green, blue, gray or purple hues. Over at the Princeville Ranch climb onto a horse for a ride across ranch pastures with breathtaking panoramic views of both the mountains and ocean. Watch out for herds of cattle-this is a working ranch! Some tours continue with a hike down a trail through a tropical forest with views of lush valleys. Follow the sounds of rushing water to a magnificent fern-lined 80-foot waterfall where you’re welcome to picnic and take a refreshing dip.
Cruising is an ideal way to experience Hawaii as most itineraries include all the main islands, many with overnight stays! This affords you the flexibility to plan a variety of activities in each port. Maybe you’ll head out for an early morning hike before an afternoon relaxing on the beach, or you may choose to dedicate an entire day to driving the Road to Hana! Your ship travels late in the evening so you never have wasted travel days as would be the case if you were to take inter-island flights. Unfortunately, even the airports in paradise have security lines and baggage checks!
You can cruise Hawaii year-round on a 7-night inter-island itinerary round trip from Honolulu, with the option to add a couple of days pre or post on Oahu. For those with more time, cruises of 11-15 nights leave from California giving you multiple sea days to relax and enjoy the ship. Either way, a cruise to Hawaii lets you enjoy all the beauty and adventure each island has to offer.