written by
Jennifer Jones



So many beautiful epithets can be used to describe Hawaii. Starting from the spiritual beauty of the hula, to the emerald valleys and golden sands, to the visceral power of an active volcano, Hawaii can be called the most magnificent place on Earth. And with its gorgeous beaches, traditional luaus, and world-class surfing, Hawaii rightfully deserves a top spot on every traveler’s list.

Hawaii is an isolated volcanic archipelago in the Central Pacific known for its rugged landscapes of cliffs, waterfalls, tropical foliage and beaches with gold, red, black and even green sands. Whether you’re looking to come face to face with molten lava or feel the sugary soft sand between your toes, you won’t have trouble finding ways to pass the time in this remarkable destination. It’s easy to see why Hawaii has become synonymous with paradise and each of its six main islands — The Big Island, Maui, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, and Lanai— offers something special and different. And if you’re looking for a few suggestions on your next visit, Maui, Kauai, and The Big Island (Hawaii) are personal favorites.

 

MAUI
On the island of Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, you will find more than 80 incredible beaches encompassing 30 miles of total beaches. This popular honeymoon destination is full of natural beauty.

Haleakala National Park encompasses the island’s highest peak, volcanic Haleakala, accessed via scenic, winding Hana Highway. Haleakala Crater is a force of nature in every sense and is visible from almost every point on the island. At 10,023 feet above sea level, this dormant volcano sets the stage for breathtaking views. The best sunrise on the island can be caught at the Haleakala Visitor Center. Just as impressive are Haleakala’s sunsets and the bright, starry skies revealed at night. Spanning more than 30,000 acres of public land, the stunning landscapes of Haleakala National Park range from Mars-like red deserts and rock gardens near the summit to lush waterfalls and streams in the park’s coastal Kipahulu section, near Hana, and the beautiful Pools of Oheo.

Iao Valley State Monument is the place to see if you are looking for the tropical flora of Hawaii. The second wettest place in Hawaii (the wettest, on Kauai, is also unofficially the wettest place on earth), the summit of the valley receives an average of over an inch of rain per day. The main attraction is the ‘Iao Needle, a 1200-foot high peak created by erosion of the softer rock around it over many millennia. The views here are spectacular.

Maui is also well known as the cradle for thousands of humpback whales that return from Alaska every year from late November through April to frolic in the warm waters, mate, give birth, and nurse their young. Stand on the shores of Maui in mid to late winter and you’ll likely see humpback whales jumping and splashing in an impressive display off the coast. Tours are offered via boat or hydroplane if you’d like a closer look.

Makena Beach State Park has the sand dreams are made of: deep, golden, and pillowy. Here you will find crystal-clear water and the occasional pod of dolphins. Swim or snorkel in the pristine water, picnic in the shade or simply sunbathe on the seemingly endless expanse of sand.

Another place not to be missed is Lahaina Town, the second most visited spot in Maui. Lahaina is the only full-featured, walkable “downtown” you’ll find on Maui. Great restaurants, night-life, bars and shops featuring wares ranging from trinkets to exquisite local hand crafts can be found at Lahaina Town. Nearby, the Old Lahaina Luau is possibly the favorite Maui luau with travelers and locals alike. The attention to authentic Hawaiian detail sets this Maui luau apart from others. This luau offers an unforgettable evening complete with mouthwatering Polynesian cuisine, island dances, and a thrilling musical journey through the history of Hawaii and its people.

Beautifully situated on Maui’s Wailea coast, Fairmont Kea Lani is Hawaii’s only all-suite and villa luxury oceanfront resort. This gorgeous hotel was recently named Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ “Hotel of the Year” following a $70 million renovation. This resort offers exceptional cultural, spa, and dining experiences in a spectacular setting that embodies the genuine spirit of aloha.

Accommodations offer picturesque ocean and sunset views with ample space for the entire family. After spending time exploring everything Maui has to offer, unwind at the resort’s award-winning Willow Stream Spa, which offers three swimming pools including an adults-only pool and two activity pools connected by a 140-foot waterslide. Also on site you will find a 24-hour fitness center, Inspire Your Energy fitness and wellness classes, Kids Club, watersports and beach activities, championship golf and tennis nearby, and boutique shopping. The award-winning signature restaurant, K, offers plantation-inspired cuisine featuring Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese dishes.

 

KAUAI
Kauai is also known as the “Garden Isle” because it is filled with rainforests, beaches, swamps, mountains, cascading waterfalls, and everything tropical. Kauai is the “wettest spot on earth,” with an average annual rainfall of 440 inches. Here you will find Waimea Canyon, which is the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and the Napali Coast, which has some of the world’s highest ocean cliffs. Kauai has preserved itself in the face of the 21st century. Here, no town surpasses 10,000 people. By law, no building is taller than a coconut tree, and it is impossible to circumnavigate the coast by car.

This preserved tropical oasis has an astonishing list of outdoor adventures. A helicopter tour will show you the stunning waterfalls allowing you to also sail along the coast to see the natural majesty. A catamaran snorkeling excursion reveals aquatic wonders, getting you closer to sea caves, Hawaiian monk seals, pods of dolphins, and green sea turtles. Kauai is the only island in the state with navigable rivers, making it perfect for a kayak adventure or inner tube excursion. You can also hike the legendary coast, a 22-mile roundtrip trail that is considered the state’s best backpacking route.

Experiencing Kauai’s emerald green Napali Coast is a must-do. Napali Coast State Wilderness Park lies in the northwest of Kauai. It’s known for its towering sea cliffs, punctuated by narrow valleys, streams, and cascading waterfalls. The 22-mile roundtrip Kalalau Trail is one of the most incredible hikes in America. Every inch of this tropical trail boasts epic views.

Make your escape and spend a day on the sands of Po’ipu. Po’ipu beach is perfect for snorkeling, swimming, boogie boarding, and surfing. The water here is separated by a sandbar; little kids wade around the left side’s shallow, calm water while more advanced swimmers and snorkelers explore the open bay on the right side. The inviting waters of Po’ipu make it popular with travelers, locals, and even local marine life. From December through May, it’s not uncommon to spot humpback whales spouting offshore. Large honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) also swim in these waters. Po’ipu Beach is most famous for the endangered Hawaiian monk seals that sometimes sunbathe on the shore. There
are only about 1,200 Hawaiian monk seals remaining and many swim in the waters of Kauai. You’ll also find restaurants and surf shops nearby.

The locals are proud of their culture and anywhere you eat on Kauai, from the fast food of Bubba’s Burgers to JO2, the latest restaurant from renowned chef Jean Marie Josselin, you are likely to be feasting on sustainably grown meat and vegetables cultivated on the island by local farmers, or fish caught by local anglers just offshore.

Set along the soft white sands of Po’ipu, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa is nestled between magnificent lush mountains and the azure sea. The resort sits on 50 oceanfront acres full of lush gardens, manicured lawns, open courtyards, and pristine pools to relax and enjoy the classic Hawaiian environment.

The accommodations offer unbelievable views. Each spacious room and suite comes with private, Hawaiian-style lanais, plush pillow-top beds, large flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. After a morning of exploring Kauai, play 18 holes on the championship Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course, or relax with a treatment at the open-air Anara Spa. The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort is the perfect place to unwind.

 

HAWAII
Hawaii Island also known as “The Big Island,” is the largest of all the Hawaii islands at about 4,038 square miles, and it is also the youngest. The most active volcano in the world, Kilauea, is located 30 miles southwest of Hilo. Kilauea currently produces 250,000-650,000 cubic yards of lava per day! Like the other islands of Hawaii, on this island you’ll find everything from extravagant resorts to modest local towns. Here you can see the incredible golf courses, white sands of Punaluu Beach, as well as sacred Hawaiian historical sites.

There are five active volcanoes in the state of Hawaii and four of them are on the Big Island. While in Hawaii, be sure to visit one of these monstrous beasts. Volcano tours in Hawaii are the perfect way to experience the rich volcanic history of the Hawaiian Islands. Tours to the most active volcano, Mt. Kilauea, depart from Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hilo on the Big Island. Kilauea, which has been erupting continuously since 1983, is considered one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Get a good view of the crater from the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive, which circles the summit caldera. For a bigger thrill, drive the Chain of Craters Road (19 miles) decending 3,700 feet to the coast and watch the lava enter the ocean.

The Hamakua Coast, located just north of Hilo on the northeastern side of the island, is one of the most beautiful stretches of scenery on the island. The region boasts lush tropical rainforests, stunning waterfalls, and tranquil green valleys. Make sure to take the Old Mamalahoa Highway’s scenic four-mile detour off Hawaii Belt Road for breathtaking views of the Pacific. Another great destination is Mahana Beach, one of the few places in the world to see green sand. The sand gets its unusual color from the mineral olivine. And it happens to be surrounded by turquoise waters and dramatic cliffs.

The island is known for its hundreds of coffee farms in the area growing Kona coffee beans. The distinct taste can be credited to the high elevation, constant cloud coverage, and rich volcanic soil from Hualalai Volcano. Many plantations offer tours and history lessons.

On the Kohala Coast, you will find the Fairmont Orchid. This luxurious Hawaiian resort and spa is an authentic Hawaii Island vacation experience, surrounded by 32 oceanfront acres of lush tropical gardens, cascading waterfalls, and a tranquil white sand beach and lagoon.

The Fairmont Orchid Hawaii is a Four Diamond resort hotel featuring an award-winning spa, a 10,000-square-foot ocean-side pool, six restaurants, beach club, year-round children’s program, golf, fitness center, and tennis pavilion. Dine oceanfront at Brown’s Beach House Restaurant, enjoy live entertainment at Luana Lounge, or Sunset Sessions at Kahakai Beach Bar. For the best sushi on the island, don’t miss Norio’s Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar.

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