Catherine is an avid traveler and applies her experience in the environmental sciences to give a global view of travel domestic and abroad.
"...sandy beaches, perfect surf and Hawaiian traditions..."
My visit to Hawaii is one I will always keep with me — the sandy beaches, perfect surf and Hawaiian traditions — until I get a chance to go back again. The best way to spend a Hawaiian vacation is to island hop or more specifically fly between O'ahu and Maui. For those of you that want to get the most of your Hawaiian vacation, or not to mention are afraid of active volcanoes (guilty), should stick with the best two of this pacific island chain, O’ahu and Maui. The two most visited islands for good reason. These islands are the perfect stops for those uncomfortable about visiting those chain of islands that have active volcanoes.You can experience the highly populated island that holds this state's capital, O’ahu, or relax in the lukewarm water or visit the waterfalls in the mountains of the laid back island, Maui.
O’ahu is the heart of Hawaii and home to Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, which is a city made up of high tower hotels, residents and small stores. There are a number of fine and performing arts venues and outdoor festivals that, because of the year round beautiful weather, are always happening. The shopping and nightlife are also great on the island hub. This city of Honolulu is large so it's important to plan ahead of the trip your must-sees in order to ensure you fit all the sites you want to see. GoHawaii is the official site of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and lists current events happening across all the islands including events on Honolulu.
Diamond Head is a crater that has been extinct for 150,000 years. Its large size makes it a hard to miss site, with the crater being 3,520 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit. Once a fort, an observation deck was constructed at the summit in 1910 to provide target sighting and a four level underground complex was built within the walls of the crater as a command post. You can climb to the top most edge of the crater to the observation deck through the man-made stairs and tunnels constructed to make this dormant volcano more accessible. The view at the top of the volcano is well worth the long trek. You can see out past the Pacific Ocean to other smaller islands that make up Hawaii. The entire west side of the island is also in your range of sight along the coast of O’ahu, from Waikiki to Koki Head.
For a relaxing day on the sand visit Waikiki Beach, this is a popular beach for sunbathing due to the close proximity to the hustle and bustle of the capital city and outdoor market places. Not to mention the epic view of Diamond Head from the beach.
For some significant American history, you have to visit Pearl Harbor, which is in quite close proximity to Waikiki and Diamond Head. Just be aware that rainy weather can shut down this port to visitors for the day so if this is a must, give yourself more than a few days in the area incase the weather isn't cooperating. It's the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the US into WWII and it's still the headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet.
To see some amazing pacific wildlife you can visit the Honolulu Zoo. Located between Diamond Head and Waikiki, this capital's zoo has over 42 acres to visit. You know what else is great about all these attractions? They're all located within 30 miles of each other. This island is small but contains so much to see and is a must-see stop during your trip to this island chain.
Visit O'ahu for:
- Diamond Head
- Waikiki Beach
- Koki Head
- Pearl Harbor
- Honolulu Zoo
Hiking Diamond Head
After this island capital, take a short plane ride to Maui. It can be a scary ride on the small plane made for a handful of passengers but that was well worth the hour of shaky nerves to end up on this beautiful, and pristine island of Hawaii. Maui is a mecca for the adventure seekers and those seeking natural, tropical beauty that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. It's an island that is in complete contrast to the highly populated O'ahu with activities to quench any adventure travelers thirst. There are high mountains with breathtaking waterfalls and lukewarm oceans where you can catch a wave.
The geography of Maui Island consists of the beach coastline and the rugged steep hills of the inland. Renting a car is vital for a visit to the second largest island in Hawaii, because of the sheer size and the fact that there is so much to see here past the coast. Driving on the loopy road that circles the entire island will bring you to large, cascading waterfalls and even views of humpback whales, if the season permits. I recall the lukewarm water of Ka'anapali beach that resides right next to the town of Whaler’s Village on Maui. Our hotel was in this area which was a great central location and the beach where I took my first surfing lesson. My first surfing experience was an amazing one, recalling the casual words of my surf instructor, “If you don’t bother the sharks, they won’t bother you.” The lessons also included professional photos of our lessons and my photographer even captured me catching a few waves. They are photos I will always cherish, it was well worth the cost from Ka'anapali Surf Club.
You can eat at the Hula Grill in Whaler’s Village and see a traditional Hawaiian luau. The show is right on the beach with the backdrop of the sunset, and all the Luau's are at sunset so you're always guaranteed this experience with every booking. This village also has other American chain favorites such as Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for some fresh seafood. Just prepare yourself, they put pineapple on everything, including a regular cheese burger I ordered in a local village eatery. Yum!
Visit Maui for:
- Mountain waterfalls
- Warm water surfing
- Whaler’s Village
- Ka’anapali Beach
Planning For the Trip
The weather is always mild and warm, with tropical weather making it always a sunny 72 degrees, while the size of the islands gives an amazing tropical breeze all year long. There is no need to worry about hurricane season here either. You're more than guaranteed to have sunny weather during your trip as raining season is short. For our trip, we used the Fodor's Essential Hawaii: Full-color Travel Guide, which helped us find activities for during our trip and assisted in booking tours because it included websites, contact information and hours for each activity. The colorful photos made it an enjoyable read at home, on the plane and when we arrived. It also included some stories on the history and geography of the islands, which made it an enjoyable read on its own. The giant waterfalls, tropical birds and animals, lukewarm water and the unnecessary currency exchange are all a plus and each reason enough to come to these remarkable strip of islands located in the middle of the Pacific.
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© 2013 Catherine Stolfi
poetryman6969 on March 04, 2015:
Rainbow, waterfalls and tropical beaches. A dream come true!
Leah Kennedy-Jangraw from Massachusetts on March 04, 2013:
Nice informative travel hub, reading your tips and suggestions reminded me of my trip to Hawaii about 5 to 7 years ago. One thing I love about it is it's so naturally beautiful you don't need a lot of money to enjoy it.