From the hustle and bustle of Oahu, the pure romance of Maui, and off-the-beaten-path pursuits on Lanai and Molokai, the Hawaiian Islands are worth more than enough to fulfill a lifetime’s worth of dreams.
So, where do you begin?
Hawaii’s pristine beaches and lush valleys offer endless outdoor experiences. This includes surfing, skydiving, hiking, paddle sports, helicopter tours, whale-watching, and zip-lining
You can also swim with manta rays at night, hover down tunnels on old sugar plantations and stroll a lunar landscape at Garden of the Gods.
Choose your journey, and start collecting memories!
The Hawaiian Islands were first settled as early as 400 CE. Back then, Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands took a 2,000 miles journey to Hawaii’s Big Island riding canoes.
As skilled crops men and fishers, Hawaiians lived in small communities ruled by tribal chiefs. These tribes battle against each other for territory.
The first person to set foot in Hawaii was a European named Captain James Cook.
He landed on the island of Kauai in 1778. He also named the islands after the Earl of Sandwich. A year later, Captain Cook was killed in a confrontation with Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay.
Between 1791 and 1810, King Kamehameha conquered the other islands and united the entire archipelago into one kingdom. He became Hawaii’s first king, and his death anniversary (June 11) is known as the King Kamehameha Day.
In 1820, the first Christian missionaries came. Shortly afterwards, Western traders and whalers came to the islands. Unfortunately, they also brought diseases that devastated the native Hawaiian population.
Hawaiians had numbered about 300,000 when Cook arrived, but by 1853, the native population went down to 70,000.
In 1893, American colonists gained control of Hawaii’s sugar-based economy. They overthrew the kingdom and established the Republic of Hawaii. With an agreement that consists of the American elite, the U.S. annexed Hawaii as a territory in 1898.
Within the 1890s, the last Hawaiian ruler, Queen Lili’uokalani, was dethroned, imprisoned, and forced to abdicate.
Honolulu’s Iolani Palace, where the former queen lived during her reign, was restored to its late 19th-century appearance in the 1970s. And it is now open to the public for tours and concerts.
The author of “Aloha Oe,” Hawaii’s signature song, remains a Hawaiian heroine.
Meanwhile, December 7, 1941 remains infamous. That’s because this is the day more than 2,300 Americans were killed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The U.S.S. Arizona, which sank along with its 1,100 men aboard, was turned into a memorial in 1962.
The attack forced the U.S. to get involved in World War II, which ended with an unconditional Japanese surrender. Today, World War II buffs can tour Missouri, which is still anchored in Pearl Harbor.
Must-Visit Parks and Monuments
Among the stunning natural and historical sites in Hawaii, Maui’s Haleakala National Park is a must-visit. Also known as “House of the Sun,” it is an immense shield volcano that offers unparalleled sunrise views.
At the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, a solemn air surrounded the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. This is dedicated to those who died in the 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor.
The striking power of disintegration is on view at Kauai’s Waimea Canyon State Park. Also dubbed as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” it came to be after the volcano collapse that formed the island.
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, known for its magnificent mask carvings, is a sacred place for refuge that Hawaiians used in ancient times.
Hawaii is the home to five active volcanoes in the world. Four of them can be seen on Hawaii Island: Kīlauea, Maunaloa, Hualālai, and Maunakea. The fifth one, Haleakalā, is located on Maui.
The most popular place where you can see the volcanoes is in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is also home to two active volcanoes: Kilauea and Maunaloa.
There is currently no lava flow in the park, but if you’re lucky, you may see steam.
But visitors must stay on designated trails and should not approach the lava. It would also be better to check the weather and volcano conditions before visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Be amazed at colorful canyons, valleys, and waterfalls while hiking the 35.5-kilometer Napali Coast. It boasts crystal-clear, turquoise waters, wherein you can snorkel in the Molokini Crater off the coast of Maui.
Take a surfing lesson to know how to ride the waves at the famous Waikiki Beach. You can also trek to Lanai’s less-traveled island to see the Kaunolu Village Site, a prehistoric Hawaiian fishing village.
On Kauai, try waterfall rappelling, tubing through the old sugar plantation chutes, or kayaking at the peaceful Wailua River amid ancient mountains and rainforests.
Off the Kohala Coast of Hawaii, in December through April, take a whale-watching cruise at sunset and listen to whale songs on an underwater hydrophone.
Only in Hawaii
To experience classic Hawaii, take a special hula dance lesson and learn to make leis with the Hawaii Hula Company.
In the spring, the Merrie Monarch Festival chooses the best hula groups for a spectacular competition and other traditional cultural activities.
You’ll see slack-key guitarists, known as ki ho’alu, playing at the Outrigger resorts in Waikiki. There’s also the Slack Key Festival in Kona every September.
The Bishop Museum in Honolulu houses the world’s most extensive collection of Polynesian artifacts. Meanwhile, the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu’s northeast coast gives visitors an authentic luau dinner and show.
The island of Molokai is the home to the Kalaupapa National Historical Park. The historical park protects the leprosy colonies that operated there until 1969.
There hasn’t been much to talk about Hawaiian cuisine in the past. That’s because dining in Hawaii usually meant eating dishes with imported ingredients.
But, within the last two decades, Hawaii has experienced a culinary revolution that gave birth to a new cuisine.
In 1992, twelve Hawaii chefs came together and formed an organization named Hawaii Regional Cuisine.
The goal of this culinary movement was to connect local agriculture with Hawaii’s restaurant industry. Plus, they aim to blend Hawaii’s different flavors with the cuisine of the world.
Many island chefs today take advantage of using fresh ingredients grown in the Islands. This includes cattle from upland pastures, fish caught fresh in Hawaiian waters, and fruits and vegetables are grown from rich, volcanic soil.
Four of the chefs who founded the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement have restaurants on Oahu:
- Sam Choy: Sam Choy’s Breakfast and Lunch & Crab
- George Mavrothalassitis: Chef Mavro
- Alan Wong: Alan Wong’s Restaurant
- Roy Yamaguchi: Roy’s Waikiki Beach, Roy’s Hawaii Kai, and Roy’s Ko Olina
Three of the original chefs have restaurants on Maui:
- Mark Ellman: Mala Ocean Tavern
- Beverly Gannon: Hali’imaile General Store, Joe’s, and Gannon’s
- Peter Merriman: Hula Grill and Merriman’s Kapalua
Moreover, Peter Merriman and Roy Yamaguchi have restaurants on the Big Island of Hawaii and Kauai.
Besides these fine dining establishments featuring Hawaiian fusion cuisine, there are also many opportunities in the Islands to try random local food. The food islanders eat daily that exhibits Hawaii’s diverse community.
One of the most popular dishes is the mere plate lunch. It consists of two scoops of rice topped with a fried egg, a hamburger patty, and gravy.
Varieties of the dish include macaroni salad, fried fish, kalua pig, chicken or teriyaki beef, or Japanese style tonkatsu. Plate lunches are prepared at many casual restaurants, beachside lounges, and roadside stands.
Some of the most desirable island foods can be seen in small, family-run neighborhood restaurants. Mind you, most of them are affordable yet offer huge servings.
You’ll see these spots everywhere. Some are in a modest neighborhood in the middle of Waikiki. At the same time, others are in a small town on the other side of the island. Others are no more than food carts on the side of the road.
Dining in Hawaii can be quite bold. There are dozens of delicious fish varieties with alien names, from the ahi and opakapaka to mahi-mahi and Ulua.
As for island cultivation, vegetables flourish in Hawaii’s lava-rich soil. A real surprise is the Hawaii-grown fruits, such as fresh and flavorful mangos, papayas, lychee, lilikoi or passion fruit, star fruit, guava, pineapple, and banana.
There are also lots of island-raised meat. The Big Island of Hawaii is home to one of the most extensive cattle ranches in the United States, with about 26,000 sources of cattle. There are other ranches in Hawaii, including Kualoa Ranch, Maui Cattle Company, Haleakala Ranch, and Molokai Ranch.
A great spot to try local cuisine is at a luau, a Hawaiian feast that proclaims life, companionship, and great food.
When you visit, you’re likely to be welcomed with a flower or shell lei. At some luaus, guests are asked to participate in a variety of ventures, such as lei making, spear throwing, and hula dancing.
You know the celebration is about to start when you see the unearthing of the roast pig from the imu, an underground oven.
The roast pig is the centerpiece of the all-you-can-eat luau meal. But you’ll also find other common island foods, such as Lomi Lomi salmon, haupia, taro rolls, and poi or taro paste.
The poi is best savored with something else as it is a sticky, starchy paste that people unused to its taste often don’t like. But be sure to take a sample so that you can say you at least attempted it.
After dinner, all luaus have a variety of Polynesian shows highlighting Polynesian music and dances. A typical example is a hula.
Because of Hawaii’s large Asian population, oriental tastes probably have the most significant impact. The wealth of Asian restaurants in the Islands articulates for itself. But overall, Hawaii has become a culinary mecca with cuisines from all over the world.
It’s easy to see why Hawaii has become compatible with paradise.
That a look at their beaches, technicolor coral reefs, and volcanoes that invited the adventurous spirits.
Snapshots of these islands disseminated in the cobalt-blue Pacific Ocean are divine! Sunrises and sunsets are so sensational that they cause for presentation all by themselves.
As tropical getaways go, Hawaii couldn’t be more relaxed or more worth the trip. But keep in mind that touring these Polynesian isles isn’t always cheap.
Regardless, swimming in crystal waterfall pools or lazing on golden-sand beaches lets you discover what you’re looking for.