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Frommer's EasyGuide to Hawaii 2018

Frommer's EasyGuide to Hawaii 2018

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Frommer's EasyGuide to Hawaii 2018

618 pagine
7 ore
Oct 30, 2017


This is Hawaii advice the way a friend would give it to you: fiercely opinionated, funny, and brimming not only with tips about what to see and do, but also what’s not worth your time.Whether you plan to learn to surf; visit World War II sites, top museums, palaces and other historic attractions; hike to waterfalls or the edges of volcanoes; or head to sun-soaked beaches where sea turtles nest, our expert has your back. A seasoned journalist, Jeanette Foster offers opinionated, no-punches-pulled advice on how to smartly explore this exhilarating country.

Frommer’s EasyGuide to Hawaii contains:

Helpful maps, including a fully-detachable fold-out map

Strategic itineraries, including for families and short stays, so you can make the most of your time

Authentic experiences to help you appreciate Hawaiian culture, food, nature sights and customs like a local

Candid reviews of the best restaurants, attractions, tours, shops, and experiences—and advice on the ones not worth your time and

Accurate, up-to-date info on transportation, useful websites, costs, telephone numbers, and more

About Frommer’s: There’s a reason that Frommer’s has been the most trusted name in travel for more than sixty years. Arthur Frommer created the best-selling guide series in 1957 to help American servicemen fulfill their dreams of travel in Europe, and since then, we have published thousands of titles became a household name helping millions upon millions of people realize their own dreams of seeing our planet. Travel is easy with Frommer’s

Oct 30, 2017

Informazioni sull'autore

Jeanette Foster is the author of more than 60 travel books on the Hawaiian Islands and is a resident of the Big Island of Hawai'i. She was assisted by the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park staff to obtain the archival images in the book.

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Frommer's EasyGuide to Hawaii 2018 - Jeanette Foster



The Best of Hawaii

There’s no place on Earth quite like this handful of sun-drenched, mid-Pacific islands. The Hawaii of South Seas literature and Hollywood films really does exist. Here you’ll find palm-fringed blue lagoons, lush rainforests, hidden gardens, cascading waterfalls, wild rivers running through rugged canyons, and soaring volcanoes. And oh, those beaches—gold, red, black, and even green sands caressed by endless surf. The possibilities for adventure—and relaxation—are endless. Each of the six main islands is separate, distinct, and infinitely complex. There’s far too much to see and do on any 2-week vacation, which is why so many people return to the Aloha State year after year.

Unfortunately, even paradise has its share of stifling crowds and tourist schlock. If you’re not careful, your trip to Hawaii could turn into a nightmare of tourist traps selling shells from the Philippines, hokey faux culture like cellophane-skirted hula dancers, overpriced exotic drinks, and a 4-hour timeshare lecture before you get on that free snorkeling trip. That’s where this guide comes in. As a Hawaii resident, I can tell the extraordinary from the merely ordinary. This book steers you away from the crowded, the overrated, and the overpriced—and toward the best Hawaii has to offer. No matter what your budget, this guide helps ensure that every dollar is well spent.

Hawaii’s best Island Experiences

Taking the Plunge: Don mask, fin, and snorkel to explore Hawaii’s magical underwater world, where exotic corals and kaleidoscopic clouds of tropical fish await you—a sea turtle may even come over to check you out. Can’t swim? Then take one of the many submarine tours offered by Atlantis Submarines (;



) on Oahu, the Big Island, and Maui. Check out the Watersports section in each island chapter for more information on all these underwater adventures.

The Hawaiian Islands

Meeting Local Folks: If you go to Hawaii and see only people like the ones back home, you might as well not have come. Extend yourself—leave your hotel, go out and meet the locals (any beach, except Waikiki, is a great place to start), and learn about Hawaii and its people. Just smile and say Owzit?—which means How is it? (It’s good is the usual response)—and you’re on your way to making a new friend.

Feeling History Come Alive at Pearl Harbor (Oahu): The United States could no longer turn its back on World War II after December 7, 1941, when Japanese warplanes bombed Pearl Harbor. Standing on the deck of the USS Arizona Memorial (;



)—the eternal tomb for the 1,177 sailors and Marines trapped below when the battleship sank in just 9 minutes—is a moving experience you’ll never forget. See p. 53.

Watching for Whales: If you happen to be in Hawaii during humpback-whale season (roughly Dec–Apr), don’t miss the opportunity to see these gentle giants. A host of boats—from small inflatables to high-tech, high-speed sailing catamarans—provide a range of whale-watching cruises on every island. One of my favorites is along the Big Island’s Kona Coast, where Captain Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watch Learning Adventures (;



) takes you right to the whales year-round (pilot, sperm, false killer, melon-headed, pygmy killer, and beaked whales call Hawaii home even when humpbacks aren’t in residence). See p. 128.

Creeping up to the Ooze (Big Island): Kilauea volcano has been adding land to the Big Island continuously since 1983. The volcano goddess Pele continues to blow smoke and plumage into the air from the main crater of Halemaumau. If conditions are right, you can walk up to the red-hot lava and see it ooze along, or you can stand at the shoreline and watch with awe as 2,000°F (1,092°C) molten fire pours into the ocean. Or, you can also take to the air in a helicopter and see the volcano goddess’s work from above. See p. 123.

Going Big-Game Fishing off the Kona Coast (Big Island): Don’t pass up the opportunity to try your luck in the sport-fishing capital of the world, where 1,000-pound marlin are taken from the sea just about every month of the year. Not looking to set a world record? Kona’s charter-boat captains specialize in conservation and will be glad to tag any fish you angle and then let it go so someone else can have the fun of fighting a big-game fish tomorrow. See p. 129.

Greeting the Rising Sun from atop Haleakala (Maui): Bundle up in warm clothing, fill a thermos full of hot java, and drive up to the summit to watch the sky turn from inky black to muted charcoal as a small sliver of orange light forms on the horizon. There’s something magical about standing at 10,000 feet, breathing in the rarefied air, and watching the first rays of sun streak across the sky. See p. 177.

Soaring over the Na Pali Coast (Kauai): A helicopter flight is the only way to see the spectacular, surreal beauty of Kauai. Your chopper will dip low over razor-thin cliffs, fluttering past sparkling waterfalls and swooping down into the canyons and valleys of the fabled Na Pali Coast. See p. 236.

Hawaii’s best Beaches

Lanikai Beach (Oahu): Too gorgeous to be real, this stretch along the Windward Coast is one of Hawaii’s postcard-perfect beaches—a mile of golden sand as soft as powdered sugar bordering translucent turquoise waters. The waters are calm year-round and excellent for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Two tiny offshore islands complete the picture. See p. 72.

Hapuna Beach (Big Island): This half-mile-long crescent regularly wins kudos in the world’s top travel magazines as the most beautiful beach in Hawaii—some consider it one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. One look and you’ll see why: Perfect cream-colored sand slopes down to crystal-clear water that’s great for swimming, snorkeling, and bodysurfing in summer; come winter, waves thunder in like stampeding horses. The facilities for picnicking and camping are top-notch, and there’s plenty of parking. See p. 126.

Kapalua Beach (Maui): On an island with many great beaches, Kapalua takes the prize. This golden crescent with swaying palms is protected from strong winds and currents by two outstretched lava-rock promontories. Its calm waters are perfect for snorkeling, swimming, and kayaking. Facilities include showers, restrooms, and lifeguards. See p. 186.

Haena Beach (Kauai): Backed by verdant cliffs, this curvaceous North Shore beach has starred as Paradise in many a movie. It’s easy to see why Hollywood loves Haena Beach, with its grainy golden sand and translucent turquoise waters. Summer months bring calm waters for swimming and snorkeling; winter brings mighty waves for surfers. Numerous facilities include picnic tables, restrooms, and showers. See p. 246.

Hawaii’s best Outdoors

Volcanoes: The entire island chain is made of volcanoes; don’t miss the opportunity to see one. On Oahu, the entire family can hike to the top of ancient, world-famous Diamond Head (p. 76). At the other end of the spectrum is fire-breathing Kilauea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, on the Big Island, where you can get an up-close-and-personal experience with the red-hot lava ooze (p. 90). On Maui, Haleakala National Park provides a bird’s-eye view into a long-dormant volcanic crater (p. 177).

Waterfalls: Rushing waterfalls thundering downward into sparkling freshwater pools are some of Hawaii’s most beautiful natural wonders. If you’re on the Big Island, stop by Rainbow Falls (p. 119) in Hilo, or the spectacular 442-foot Akaka Falls (p. 115) just outside Hilo. On Maui, the Road to Hana offers numerous viewing opportunities; at the end of the drive, you’ll find Oheo Gulch (also known as the Seven Sacred Pools), with some of the most dramatic and accessible waterfalls on the islands (p. 185). Kauai is loaded with waterfalls, especially along the North Shore and in the Wailua area, where you’ll find 40-foot Opaekaa Falls (p. 238), probably the best-looking drive-up waterfall on Kauai.

Gardens: The islands are redolent with the sweet scent of flowers. For a glimpse of the full breadth and beauty of Hawaii’s spectacular range of tropical flora, I suggest spending an afternoon at a lush garden. On Oahu, amid the high-rises of downtown Honolulu, the leafy oasis of Foster Botanical Garden (p. 54) showcases 26 native Hawaiian trees and the last stand of several rare trees, including an East African, whose white flowers bloom only at night. On the Big Island, Liliuokalani Gardens (p. 118), the largest formal Japanese garden this side of Tokyo, resembles a postcard from Asia, with bonsai, carp ponds, pagodas, and even a moon-gate bridge. At Maui’s Iao Valley Botanic Garden (p. 174), you can take a leisurely self-guided stroll through more than 700 native and exotic plants, including orchids, proteas, and bromeliads. On lush Kauai, Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens (p. 241), on some 240 acres, is sprinkled with around 70 life-size (some larger-than-life-size) whimsical bronze statues, hidden off the beaten path of the North Shore.

Marine Life Conservation Areas: Nine underwater parks are spread across Hawaii, most notably Waikiki Beach (p. 69) and Hanauma Bay (p. 69), on Oahu; Kealakekua Bay (p. 129), on the Big Island; and Molokini, just off the coast of Maui (see Watersports, in chapter 6). Be sure to bring snorkel gear.

Waimea Canyon (Kauai): This valley, known for its reddish lava beds, reminds many people who see it of Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Kauai’s version is bursting with ever-changing color, just like Arizona’s, but it’s smaller—only a mile wide, 3,567 feet deep, and 12 miles long. All this grandeur was caused by a massive earthquake that sent all the streams flowing into a single river, which then carved this picturesque canyon. You can stop by the road and look at it, hike down into it, or swoop through it by helicopter. See p. 234.

Hawaii’s best Cultural Experiences

Experiencing the Hula: For a real, authentic hula experience on Oahu, check out Halekulani’s House Without a Key (p. 83) at sunset to watch the enchanting Kanoelehua Miller dance beautiful hula under a century-old kiawe tree. The first week after Easter is Hawaii’s biggest and most prestigious hula extravaganza, the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival (p. 90), in Hilo on the Big Island; tickets sell out by January 1, so reserve early.

Visiting the Missionary’s Hawaii (Maui): On your way to Hana, on the famous Hana Highway, take a spin into the tiny village of Huelo, and visit the 1853 historic Kaulanapueo Church (p. 182). Sitting in the coral and cement church will give you a feel for the New England missionaries who traveled thousands of miles from their home to spread the good word to Hawaiians.

Seeing How the Royalty Lived (Kauai): Wander through the magnificent grounds of the McBryde Garden (p. 233) royal home of Queen Emma in the 1860s. Famous for the elaborate formal gardens, popular during that century, with waterfalls, bubbling streams, manicured plants and statues.

Watching the Ancient Hawaiian Sport of Canoe Paddling (Oahu): From February to September, on weekday evenings and weekend days, hundreds of canoe paddlers gather at Ala Wai Canal and practice the Hawaiian sport of canoe paddling. Find a comfortable spot at Ala Wai Park, next to the canal, and watch this ancient sport come to life.

Attending a Hawaiian-Language Church Service (Oahu): Kawaiaha’o Church (



) is the Westminster Abbey of Hawaii. The coral church is a perfect setting in which to experience an all-Hawaiian service, held several times a year, on Sunday at 9am, complete with Hawaiian song. Admission is free; let your conscience be your guide regarding donations. See p. 52.

Buying a Lei in Chinatown (Oahu): There’s a host of cultural sights and experiences to be had in Honolulu’s Chinatown. Wander through this several-square-block area with its jumble of exotic shops selling herbs, Chinese groceries, and acupuncture services. Before you leave, check out the lei sellers on Maunakea Street (near N. Hotel St.), where Hawaii’s finest leis go for as little as $15. If you’d like a little guidance, follow the walking tour described on p. 56.

Listening to Old-Fashioned Talk Story with Hawaiian Song and Dance (Big Island): Once a month, under a full moon, Twilight at Kalahuipua’a, a celebration of the Hawaiian culture that includes storytelling, singing, and dancing, takes place ocean-side at Mauna Lani Resort, (



). It hearkens back to another time in Hawaii, when family and neighbors would gather on back porches to sing, dance, and talk story. See p. 140.

Visiting Ancient Hawaii’s Most Sacred Temple (Big Island): On the Kohala Coast, next to where King Kamehameha the Great was born, stands Hawaii’s oldest, largest, and most sacred religious site: the 1,500-year-old Mookini Luakini Heiau, used by kings to pray and offer human sacrifices. This massive three-story stone temple, dedicated to Ku, the Hawaiian god of war, was erected in a.d. 480. It’s said that each stone was passed from hand to hand from Pololu Valley, 14 miles away, by 18,000 men who worked from sunset to sunrise. For group visits contact Momi Lum (



or 808/961-9540).

The welcoming Lei

Nothing makes you feel more welcome than a lei. The tropical beauty of the delicate garland, the deliciously sweet fragrance of the blossoms, the sensual way the flowers curl softly around your neck—there’s no doubt about it: Getting lei’d in Hawaii is a sensuous experience.

Leis are much more than just a decorative necklace of flowers—they’re also one of the nicest ways to say hello, goodbye, congratulations, I salute you, my sympathies are with you, or I love you.

During ancient times, leis given to alii (royalty) were accompanied by a bow, because it was kapu (forbidden) for a commoner to raise his arms higher than the king’s head. The presentation of a kiss with a lei didn’t come about until World War II; it’s generally attributed to an entertainer who kissed an officer on a dare and then quickly presented him with her lei, saying it was an old Hawaiian custom. It wasn’t then, but it sure caught on fast.

Lei-making is a tropical art form. All leis are fashioned by hand in a variety of traditional patterns; some are sewn with hundreds of tiny blooms or shells, or bits of ferns and leaves. Some are twisted, some braided, some strung. Every island has its own special flower lei—the lei of the land, so to speak. On Oahu, the choice is ilima, a small orange flower. Big Islanders prefer the lehua, a large, delicate red puff. On Maui, it’s the lokelani, a small rose; on Kauai, it’s the mokihana, a fragrant green vine and berry; on Molokai, it’s the kukui, the white blossom of a candlenut tree; and on Lanai, it’s the kaunaoa, a bright yellow moss. Residents of Niihau use the island’s abundant seashells to make leis that were once prized by royalty and are now worth a small fortune.

Leis are available at all of the islands’ airports, from florists, and even at supermarkets. You can find wonderful inexpensive leis at the half-dozen lei shops on Maunakea Street in Honolulu’s Chinatown and, on the Big Island, at Castillo Orchids (



73-4310 Laui St.), off Kaiminani Drive in the Kona Palisades subdivision, across from the Kona Airport. If you plan ahead, you can also arrange to have a lei-greeter meet you as you deplane; Greeters of Hawaii (



or 808/836-3246) serves the Honolulu (Oahu), Kona (Big Island), Kahului (Maui), and Lihue (Kauai) airports.

Hunting for Petroglyphs (Big Island): Archaeologists are still uncertain exactly what these ancient rock carvings mean. The majority are found in the 233-acre Puako Petroglyph Archaeological District, near Mauna Lani Resort on the Kohala Coast. The best time to hunt for these intricate depictions of ancient life is either early in the morning or late afternoon, when the angle of the sun lets you see the forms clearly. See p. 111.

Exploring Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park (Big Island): This sacred site on the southern Kona Coast (;



) was once a place of refuge and a revered place of rejuvenation. You can walk the same consecrated grounds where priests once conducted holy ceremonies and glimpse the ancient way of life in pre-contact Hawaii in the re-created 180-acre village. See p. 110.

Hawaii’s best Family Beaches

Hanauma Bay (Oahu): It can get crowded, but for clear, warm, calm waters; an abundance of fish that are so friendly they’ll swim right up to your face mask; a beautiful setting; and easy access, there’s no place like Hanauma Bay. Just wade in waist-deep and look down to see more than 50 species of reef and inshore fish. Snorkelers hug the safe, shallow inner bay—it’s like swimming in an outdoor aquarium. See p. 69.

Kahaluu Beach (Big Island): The calm, shallow waters of Kahaluu are perfect for beginning snorkelers or those who are unsure of their swimming abilities and want the comfort of being able to stand up at any time. The sunlight through the shallow waters casts a dazzling spotlight on the colorful sea life and coral formations. See p. 124.

Kealakekua Bay (Big Island): Mile-wide Kealakekua Bay, at the foot of massive U-shaped sea cliffs, is rich with marine life, snorkelers, and history. A white obelisk marks the spot where, in 1778, the great British navigator Captain James Cook, who charted most of the Pacific, was killed by Hawaiians. The bay itself is a marine sanctuary that teems with schools of polychromatic tropical fish. See p. 129.

Molokini (Maui): The islet of Molokini is shaped like a crescent moon that fell from the sky. Its shallow concave side serves as a sheltering backstop against sea currents for tiny tropical fish; its opposite side is a deepwater cliff inhabited by spiny lobsters, moray eels, and white-tipped sharks. Neophyte snorkelers should report to the concave side, experienced scuba divers the other. The clear water and abundant marine life make this islet off the Makena coast one of Hawaii’s most popular dive spots, so expect crowds. See Watersports in chapter 5.

Kee Beach (Kauai): Where the road ends on the North Shore, you’ll find a dandy little reddish-gold beach almost too beautiful to be real. It borders a reef-protected cove at the foot of fluted volcanic cliffs. Swimming and snorkeling are safe inside the reef, where long-nosed butterfly fish flitter about and schools of taape (bluestripe snapper) swarm over the coral. See p. 245.

Hawaii’s best Active Adventures

Swimming with Sharks (Oahu): You are out in the blue depths of the open ocean when suddenly you see a form in the distance. As it gets closer, the distinct sleek, pale gray shape of a 6-foot-long reef shark appears. Your heart beats faster—it’s a moment you will never forget. But you aren’t worried; you’re protected by a shark cage, courtesy of North Shore Shark Adventures (



p. 74). This is a memory you’ll share with your friends for years to come.

Experiencing Where the Gods Live (Big Island): As the muted colors of sunset slowly fade and the brilliantly lit stars become noticeable in the sky, you breathe in the cool, crisp, rarefied air at 13,000 feet atop Hawaii’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea, for a view the ancient Hawaiians thought was only experienced by the gods. Mauna Kea Summit Adventures (;



p. 114) has been taking visitors up to the top for more than a decade, serving them a delicious picnic dinner, and treating them to views of the stars of Hawaii (with and without high-tech telescopes). You’ll never look at the night stars again without thinking of the sweet memory of the heavens over Hawaii.

Snorkeling to the Pineapple Isle (Maui): The best snorkel-sailing trip in all Hawaii takes place off the island of Maui—the day sail and snorkel to Lanai, provided by Trilogy (;



[6284]; p. 191). The journey to Lanai (complete with hot, homemade cinnamon buns) is smooth sailing. The beach picnic (with lunch) and snorkeling off Lanai’s Hulopoe Beach fill a day that will linger in your memory long after your tan has faded (be sure to take the personalized tour of the island).

Tubing into the Past (Kauai): In the days when sugar was king in Hawaii, the most fun activity on a hot, hot day was to grab an old inner tube and jump into the irrigation ditches surrounding the sugar cane field. You can return to those old days with Kauai Backcountry Adventures (;



p. 250). All you have to do is sit in the inner tube and gently float along the gravity-fed stream, passing by tropical forests, going through lava tunnels, and finally reaching a big mountain pool where a picnic lunch awaits.

Hawaii’s best Restaurants

Alan Wong’s Restaurant (Oahu;;



): For a romantic night out, try the cuisine of Alan Wong, one of Hawaii’s most popular chefs and one of the founders of Hawaiian Regional cuisine. You’ll be a convert after a couple of bites. See p. 44.

Chef Mavro Restaurant (Oahu;;



): Foodie alert: If you only have 1 night on Oahu, this is the restaurant to try. Chef/owner George Mavrothalassitis, a native of Provence (and a James Beard Award winner), specializes in Provence-cuisine-marries-Hawaii-produce. You will not be disappointed. See p. 44.

Gannon’s—A Pacific View Restaurant (Maui;;



): A must-visit to sample celebrity chef Bev Gannon’s creative dishes at moderate price (for Maui). See p. 169.

Hilo Bay Cafe (Big Island;;



): If you’re craving creative, healthy cuisine in a mellow atmosphere with a spectacular view of Hilo Bay, this is the place for you. The innovative menu ranges from spanakopita to praline scallops. See p. 106.

Pampering in paradise

Hawaii’s spas have raised the art of relaxation and healing to a new level. The traditional Greco-Roman-style spas have evolved into airy, open facilities that embrace the tropics. Spa-goers in Hawaii want to hear the sound of the ocean, smell the salt air, and feel the caress of the warm breeze. They want to experience Hawaiian products and traditional treatments they can get only here.

Today’s spas offer a wide diversity of treatments. Massage options include Hawaiian lomilomi, Swedish, aromatherapy, craniosacral (massaging the head), shiatsu (no oil, just deep thumb pressure on acupuncture points), Thai (another oil-less massage involving stretching), and hot stone. There are even side-by-side massages for couples and duo massages—two massage therapists working on you at once.

Body treatments for the entire body or just the face involve a variety of herbal wraps, masks, or scrubs using a range of ingredients from seaweed to salt to mud, with or without accompanying aromatherapy. After you have been rubbed and scrubbed, most spas offer an array of water treatments—a sort of hydromassage in a tub with jets and an assortment of colored crystals, oils, and scents.

Those are just the traditional treatments. Most spas also provide a range of alternative healthcare options, such as acupuncture, and more exotic treatments, such as Ayurvedic and siddha from India or Reiki from Japan. Some use cutting-edge treatments, such as Maui’s Grand Wailea Resort’s full-spectrum color-light therapy pod (based on NASA’s work with astronauts).

Of course, all this pampering doesn’t come cheap. Massages start at $150 for 50 minutes and start at $250 for 80 minutes; body treatments are in the $150 to $425 range; and alternative healthcare treatments can be as high as $160 to $300. But you may think it’s worth the expense to banish your tension and stress.

JO 2 (Kauai;;



): One of 12 chefs who started Hawaiian regional cuisine in the 1980s, Jean-Marie Josselin has opened a new restaurant in a small, non-descript shopping center offering some of Kauai’s most innovative cuisine. See p. 230.

Kauai Grill (Kauai;;



): The views of the craggy, Bali Hai–like cliffs and the Pacific Ocean below would be enough to lure you into this romantic, signature restaurant of the St. Regis Princeville, but the food, from award-winning chef Jean-George Vongerichten, makes this place a must try on every foodie’s list. See p. 231.

Napua at Mauna Lani Beach Club (Big Island;;



): It looks like something Hollywood would create: nestled on an isolated sandy beach cove, an open-air restaurant with live Hawaiian music overlooking the ocean, and serving mouthwatering Pacific Rim cuisine. See p. 104.


Suggested Hawaii Itineraries

What should I do in Hawaii? This is the most common question that readers ask me. The purpose of this chapter is to give you my expert advice on the best things to see and do on each island and how to do them so you can spend more time doing and less time getting there.

First, here’s the best advice I can give you: Do not plan to see more than one island per week. With the exception of the ferry between Maui and Lanai, getting from one island to another is an all-day affair once you figure in packing, checking out of and into hotels, driving to and from airports, and dealing with rental cars, not to mention time actually spent at the airport and on the flight. Don’t waste a day of your vacation seeing our interisland air terminals.

Second, don’t max out your days. This is Hawaii—allow some time to do nothing but relax. You most likely will arrive jet-lagged, so it’s a good idea to ease into your vacation. In fact, exposure to sunlight can help reset your internal clock, so I include time at the beach on the first day of most of these itineraries.

Third, if this is your first trip to Hawaii, think of it as a scouting trip. Hawaii is too beautiful, too sensual, too enticing to see just once in a lifetime. You’ll be back—you don’t need to see and do everything on this trip.

Finally, keep in mind that the following itineraries are designed to appeal to a wide range of people. If you have a specific interest, check out chapter 1, The Best of Hawaii, to plan your trip around your passion.

One last thing: You will need a car to get around the islands. Oahu has adequate public transportation, but even so, it’s set up for residents, not tourists carrying coolers and beach toys (all carry-ons must fit under the bus seat). So plan to rent a car. But also plan to get out of the car as much as possible—to smell the sweet perfume of plumeria, to hear the sound of the wind through a bamboo forest, and to plunge into the gentle waters of the Pacific.

A Week on Oahu

Oahu is so stunning that the alii, the kings of Hawaii, made it the capital of the island nation. Below, I’ve presumed that you are staying in Waikiki; if your hotel is in another location, be sure to factor in extra time for traveling.

Day 1: Arriving & Seeing Waikiki Beach

After you get off the plane, lather up in sunscreen and head for the most famous beach in the world—Waikiki Beach (p. 69). If you have kids in tow or you can’t handle a whole afternoon in the intense sun, check out Hawaii’s water world at the Waikiki Aquarium (p. 55) or gain insight into Waikiki’s past on the Waikiki Historic Trail (p. 47), a 2-mile trail marked with bronzed surfboards. Be sure to catch the sunset (anywhere on Waikiki Beach will do) and get an early dinner.

Day 2: Visiting Pearl Harbor & Honolulu’s Chinatown

Head to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor (p. 53). Get here as early as possible—by the afternoon, the lines are 2 hours long. While you’re here, be sure to see the USS Missouri Memorial (p. 54) and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park (p. 54). On your way back, stop in Chinatown for lunch and a self-guided walking tour (p. 56). In the afternoon, take a nap or head for the beach at Ala Moana Beach Park (p. 69) or a shopping spree across the street at the Ala Moana Center (p. 82). Have dinner in Honolulu or the surrounding area.

Day 3: Exploring the North Shore & the Polynesian Cultural Center

Start your day with a drive to the North Shore (see Central Oahu & the North Shore, p. 67). If you’re up early, have breakfast in the quaint town of Haleiwa; if not, at least stop and get a picnic lunch before you beach-hop down the coast of the North Shore and choose from some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, like Waimea Beach Park (p. 73). After lunch, head for the Polynesian Cultural Center, in Laie (p. 67). Allow at least 2 hours to tour this mini-glimpse of the Pacific. Continue driving down the coast road to the small town of Kailua. Stay for dinner here to avoid the traffic back to Waikiki.

Day 4: Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay

If it’s not Tuesday (when the park is closed), head out in the morning for the spectacular snorkeling at Hanauma Bay (p. 69). Continue beach-hopping down the coastline—check out Sandy Beach (p. 70) and Makapuu Beach Park (p. 70) to see which one appeals to you. Then turn back to take the Pali Highway home to Waikiki, and be sure to stop at the Pali Lookout (p. 55).

Day 5: Hiking a Rainforest , Glimpsing Historic Honolulu & Experiencing Hawaiian Culture

You could probably use a day out of the sun by now, so try a short hike into the rainforest, just a 15-minute drive from downtown Honolulu. Be sure to wear good hiking or trail shoes for the Manoa Falls Trail, and bring mosquito repellent. Next, head for downtown Honolulu to see some of the city’s historic sites, including the Iolani Palace, Kawaiaha’o Church, and Mission Houses Museum (coverage starts on p. 47). To see where you’ve been, go to the top of the Aloha Tower, at the Aloha Tower Marketplace, for a bird’s-eye view of Honolulu. Grab lunch at the Marketplace or one of the nearby restaurants. Spend the afternoon at the Bishop Museum (p. 50) to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture.

Day 6: Relaxing at Kailua Beach

On your last full day on Oahu, travel over the Pali Highway to the windward side of the island and spend a day at Kailua Beach (p. 72)—but before you leave Waikiki, drop by MAC 24-7 (p. 43) to pick up a picnic lunch. Kailua is the perfect beach on which to just relax or snorkel or try something different, such as kayaking or windsurfing. You can spend the entire day here, or you can take an afternoon hike at the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden (p. 67).

Day 7: Shopping & Museum-Hopping

Been having too much fun to shop for gifts for your friends back home? You can find a great selection of stores in Waikiki at the Ala Moana Center (p. 82), the DFS Galleria, the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center (p. 82), and the newly renovated International Market Place in Waikiki (p. 80). If you’re more interested in looking than buying, check out the Honolulu Museum of Art (p. 50), the Spalding House, or the Hawaii State Art Museum (p. 63). On your way to the airport, be sure to stop at one of the Maunakea Street lei shops (p. 59) in Chinatown to buy a sweet-smelling souvenir of your trip.

A Week on the Big Island of Hawaii

A week is barely enough time to see the entire Big Island; 2 weeks would be better. But if your schedule doesn’t allow more time, this tour lets you see the highlights of this huge island (twice the size of all the other islands combined). The itinerary is set up for those staying in Kailua-Kona or on the Kohala Coast; I suggest you also spend at least 2 nights in Volcano Village to enjoy Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Day 1: Arriving & Making Beach Time

After you settle into your hotel, head for the beach: Snorkelers should go to Kahaluu Beach Park (p. 124); beach aficionados can choose from Anaehoomalu Bay (A-Bay), Hapuna Beach, and Kaunaoa Beach (Mauna Kea Beach), depending on whether you want to snorkel, body board, or just relax (see reviews starting on p. 126 to help you decide). When the sun starts to wane, head for old Kailua-Kona town (coverage starts on p. 107) and wander through the Hulihee Palace, Mokuaikaua Church, and Kamehameha’s Compound at Kamakahonu Bay. Find a spot on the pier or along the sea wall to watch the sunset and then head for dinner in Kailua-Kona or Keauhou.

Day 2: Enjoying a Morning Sail & Afternoon Drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Because you most likely will be up early on your first day in Hawaii (and still on mainland time), take advantage of it and book a morning sail/snorkel tour with Fair Wind (p. 128) to Kealakekua Bay, a marine-life preserve. After you return to Keauhou, start driving south. Great stops along the way are Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park (p. 110), South Point (p. 124), and Green Sand Beach (Papakolea Beach; p. 127). Then head up Mauna Loa to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (p. 119) and stay at one of the quaint B&Bs in the tiny village of Volcano (a list of recommended accommodations starts on p. 99).

Day 3: Exploring an Active Volcano

The highlight of your trip most likely will be the incredible Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (p. 119). Your first stop should be the Visitor Center; then you can explore Halemaumau Crater, Thurston Lava Tube, Devastation Trail, and the other sights in the crater. Find out from the rangers how to get to the current lava flow. In the afternoon, drive down to the current flow and walk out as far as the rangers will allow. Go eat a nice dinner in Volcano or Hilo (both p. 106) and return to the flow after dark, armed with a flashlight, water bottle, and jacket. Because you were here earlier during the day, the path to the volcano after dark will be familiar to you. Seeing the ribbon of red lava snake its way down the side of the mountain and then thunder into the ocean is a sight you will never forget. You are going to be tired after this full day, so I recommend spending another night in Volcano.

Day 4: Touring Old Hawaii: Hilo Town , Akaka Falls , Waipio Valley & Cowboy Country

It’s just a 45-minute drive from Volcano to Hilo (coverage starts on p. 117), so plan to arrive early in the morning, grab a cup of joe at Bears’ Coffee (p. 103), and wander through the old town, being sure to see Banyan Drive, Liliuokalani Gardens, Lyman Museum & Mission House, the Pacific Tsunami Museum, and one of the wonderful botanical gardens, such as Nani Mau Gardens. Head up the Hamakua Coast, stopping at Akaka Falls (p. 115) and Honokaa for lunch. Afterward, be sure to see Waipio Valley (p. 116), the birthplace of Hawaii’s kings. Spend the night along the Kohala Coast.

Day 5: Stepping Back in Time on the Kohala Coast

Get an early start on your trip back in time. The first stop is just south of Kawaihae, at the Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site (p. 110), the temple Kamehameha built to the war god to ensure his success in battle. Allow at least an hour here. Keep driving up Hwy. 270 to Lapakahi State Historical Park for a view of a typical 14th-century Hawaiian village. Plan a lunch stop in Hawi or Kapaau at either Bamboo (p. 105) and stop by the Original King Kamehameha Statue (p. 112) in Kapaau. The final stop on your northward journey is the Pololu Valley Lookout (p. 112). On your way back, in the late afternoon (the best time for viewing), be sure to stop at the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological District (p. 111). Make reservations at either the Fairmont Orchid’s Hawaii Loa Luau (p. 139) or at the Sheraton Keauhou’s luau, Haleo (p. 140) for the perfect ending to your trip back in time.

Day 6: Seeing Mauna Kea

Sleep in, have a lazy morning at the beach, and in the afternoon plan to explore Hawaii’s tallest mountain (and dormant volcano), Mauna Kea (p. 112). You need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to climb to the top of the 13,796-foot Mauna Kea, so I recommend booking with the experts, Mauna Kea Summit Adventures (p. 114), for a 7- to 8-hour visit to this mountain, sacred to the Hawaiians and treasured by astronomers around the globe.

Day 7: Relaxing & Shopping

Depending on how much time you have on your final day, I recommend either relaxing on the beach or being pampered at a spa. Spa-goers can choose from a range of terrific spas among the Kohala resorts (reviews begin on p. 95). Shoppers have lots of options—see my recommendations starting on p. 137.

A Week on Maui

I’ve outlined the highlights of Maui for those who have just 7 days and want to see everything. Two suggestions: First, spend 2 nights in Hana, a decision you will not regret; and second, take the Trilogy boat trip to Lanai for the day. I’ve designed this itinerary assuming you’ll stay in West Maui for 5 days. If you are staying elsewhere (like Wailea or Kihei), allow extra driving time.

Day 1: Arriving & Seeing Kapalua Beach

After checking into your hotel, head for Kapalua Beach (p. 186). After an hour or two in the sun, drive to Lahaina (p. 174) and spend a couple of hours walking the historic old town. Go to the Old Lahaina Luau (p. 209) at sunset to experience the wonders of Hawaiian culture and dance.

Day 2: Going Up a 10,000-Foot Volcano & Down Again

You’ll likely wake up early on your first day in Hawaii, so take advantage of it and head up to the 10,000-foot dormant volcano, Haleakala. You can hike in the crater (p. 196), speed down the mountain on a bicycle (p. 200), or just wander around the national park. You don’t have to be

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