The sparkling blue ocean under an endless cobalt sky, picture-perfect beaches, gorgeous mountain scenery and a rich tradition of indigenous culture – all draped in a carefree aloha vibe.
“The loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean,” the American author Mark Twain had famously said of Hawaii. Soak up the delights of Waikiki Beach before heading out to other islands of this lush archipelago. The lagoon-like beach sprawls itself in a majestic languor along a two-mile golden strip lined with swaying palms, and the sublimely turquoise waters are just-the-perfect warm to be the world’s surfing hotspot. Check out the Waikiki Aquarium - the perfect place to know about Hawaiian marine life and the sea communities of the South Pacific. If you just want to chill it out, get a lounger and ensconce yourself under the tropical sun.
Emblematic of Honolulu and the island of Oahu, Diamond Head Crater on the eastern flanks of Waikiki is an extinct volcanic tuff cone, whose famous ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin. Hike up the steep trail to the crater summit for stupendous views of Waikiki and the best views of the crater itself can be had from the Diamond Head State Monument.
Running parallel to the Waikiki Beach is the buzzing Kalakaua Avenue, the beating heart of Honolulu. The one-mile stretch is choc-a-bloc with fine dining venues, towering hotels, ritzy shops and always pulsates with an electrifying energy. Put on that floral Hawaiian shirt and navigate your way through the thriving thoroughfare to the Honolulu Zoo, home to hundreds of exotic, indigenous species of animals. Head further south to the verdant Kapio’lani, the sprawling public park for a laze-out luncheon on the grass.
Embark northward along the winding coastal road where imposing volcanic cliffs tumble down straight into the Pacific, drive past Hanuama Bay, a popular snorkeling destination, and arrive at The North Shore to immerse yourself into the authentic island life. The serene sea life is juxtaposed with tumultuous waves that sweep above the capricious reefs, forming picturesque crests. Catch them if you can if you are an expert with the surfboard!
If you have savoured the pleasures of Oahu, plan out the next phase of your Hawaiian holiday to any of the other main islands - Maui, Kaua’i, Hawaii (Big Island), Lana’i and Moloka’I – each with a uniquely distinct appeal.
The peaceful retreat of Kaua’i with its lush green tropical charm, pink-flowering rainbow shower rees and quaint towns is perfect for you if you are looking for a quiet sojourn in this Polynesian paradise.
Sun-kissed beaches, stunning coral atolls and moderate hikes to beautiful waterfalls, the island of Maui shapes up a reclining beach holiday with a bit of adventure thrown in. If you are there, do not miss the westside towns of Kaanapali and Lahaina, where luxury and heritage come together for an unbeatable blend.
The largest in the Hawaiian archipelago, Big Island dazzles with an incredible scenery of snow-capped peaks, black sand beaches and deep, mist-shrouded rainforests. The sunny Kona District that covers most part of the western side of the island is famous for its deep-sea fishing and the cooler upland slopes, where the world-renowned Kona coffee, favourite with the connoisseurs for its distinctive flavor notes, is grown.
Located at Kalakaua Avenue in the heart of Waikiki, Luxury Row is Hawaii’s uber-splurgy shopping destination that offers finest collection of luxury and leisure labels from across the globe. Housed inside this 111,000 square-foot retail conclave is Chanel’s three-level flagship boutique. Gucci, Golden Goose and Bottega Veneta are few of the other international superbrands that call Luxury Row their Hawaiian home.
Owned by Brookfield Retail Group, Ala Moana is the largest open-air shopping center in the world. An Oahu attraction in itself, the mega mall is anchored by iconic retail powerhouses such as Bloomingdales, Macy's, Marshalls, Neiman Marcus and Target. The beautiful open-air design lends a breezy environment with foliage and beautiful winding koi ponds that stretch through sections of this premier shopping destination that hosts hundreds of stores and fine dining establishments.
From upscale conclaves on Kalakaua Avenue to discount stores at the premium outlets, Waikiki Beach Walk is a shopaholic’s paradise with its trendy and classy beachfront outposts, glitzy jewellery stores, specialty and novelty shops dealing with exotic Hawaii-only souvenir pieces. A plethora of arthouse cafes and galleries on the tree-fringed stretch ensure that you can have a leisurely cuppa and watch some cool art after a shopping spree.
Restaurants & Bars
Over the centuries, culinary influences from across the globe have seeped into the native flavours of Hawaii, and the output is a delectable melding of culinary traditions.
Hawaii’s regional cuisine does not get much better than at Merriman’s. Each of the three outlets at Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island shines with authentic flavours and unique flair, where the signature delicacies are crafted almost entirely with local seafood, meat and vegetables. A pioneer in the “Farm to Table” concept, Chef-Restauranteur Peter Merriman relies on sustainability and serves the freshest products and catches of the day. The 3-course prix-fixe dinner on the open air lanai is a connoisseur’s delight.
The first Michelin sushi bar in Honolulu, Maru Sushi is an Omakase sushi restaurant that is rooted in the traditional Edomae style, where sushi is prepared in full view of the customers. Chef Takeshi Kawasaki continues to honour these traditions and carefully crafts his menu to feature the distinctive flavours of each season. Both the sushi counter and the private chamber exude an intimate vibe where the masterchef interacts with the patrons and explains his creations, the ingredients of which are flown in from Japan.
Waikiki-based La Mer blends French haute cuisine, stellar service and spellbinding sea views. Serene and sophisticated, the fine dining enclave is an unparalleled degustation destination, where divine delicacies are paired with a consummate wine list. An iconic Hawaii institution for three decades, La Mer is an integral part of your splash-out island experience.
The signature restaurant of Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui island, Ko is the playground of executive chef Jonathan Pasion, who puts together the culinary influences of Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese to create award-winning cuisine that embraces the immigrant cuisine culture but remains rooted in ethnic Hawaiian food traditions. The brunch is simply the best you can find in Hawaii and a few standouts are Garlic Shrimp and Scallop Pancit and Korean Braised Short Ribs.
An intimate cocktail lounge with dim lighting and dark wood panelling, Lewer’s Lounge is the perfect place to enjoy classic cocktails created by none other than the ‘King of Cocktails’ Dale De Groff while listening to live light jazz renditions by legends such as Maggie Heron and Rocky Holmes. Perched inside the luxurious Halekulani Resort, this is a classy spot to throw a small party while you are in Hawaii.
Museums & the Arts
Founded in memory of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last heir of the Kamehameha dynasty, Bishop Museum in Honolulu’s historic Kalihi district is Hawaii’s largest museum dedicated to studying and preserving the history and cultural legacy of the archipelago. With a stunning collection of Polynesian artifacts and natural science exhibits that are endemic to the Pacific region, this is an unmissable treasure trove. Undoubtedly an enriching experience with the museum’s engaging exhibits, planetarium shows and interactive programs.
The former residence of Hawaiian royal family in downtown Honolulu, the stately and elegant Iolani Palace encapsulates the Pacific archipelago’s imperial past within its opulent interiors. The grand hall, the imperial library and the throne room together with a fascinating display of wardrobe, jewellery and objet d’art of the monarchs that ruled Hawaii till the end of the 19th-century give you an insight into a storied, technicolour past.
A space for learning about the global culture of art and design through innovative exhibitions, educational initiatives and public programs Honolulu Museum of Art and Shangri-La (HoMA) is the largest fine-arts museum of Hawaii. Operating since 1927, this beautifully laid out museum houses more than 60,000 pieces of Asian, European and Polynesian art in multiple galleries interspersed with courtyards and ponds. The monthly ARTafterDARK events hosted by HoMA from January to October every year is a bit of a fusion of nightlife with art where exhibitions, live music and food stalls enliven the art-inspired, thematic events.
One of the most beautiful islands of the archipelago, Kauai has earned itself the sobriquet “Garden Island” for its natural splendour that includes the stunning Na Pali coast and the vast Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The ruggedly beautiful island is moistly off-limits to automobiles, and a private airplane tour is the best option to savour the ethereal beauty of Kauai. The twin-engine 5-seater aircrafts with huge windows provide an exhilarating experience as you fly clockwise over the sun-kissed beaches, the vast stretches of coffee fields, verdant valleys, the surreal sea cliffs of Na Pali and the beautiful canyons of Olokele and Waimea.
The attack on Pearl Harbour was one of the most impactful events of World War II, and still revered as a memorial for deceased military personnel and fallen heroes who lost their lives on the fateful day of December 7, 1941. The main attraction is the Arizona Memorial, a stationary platform built over the sunken remains of the U.S.S. Arizona. Located on nearby Ford Island is the historic Battleship Missouri that has gone down the annals of modern history. It was on the deck of this 900-ft. long ship the Japanese soldiers surrendered in September 1945, an event that officially marked the end of the bloodiest war in human history.
The 2.4 kilometre out-and-back Redwood trail in Polipoli State Park near Kula in Maui is an unmissable gem that not many trippers know! An easy loop hike that winds its way through a dense woodland of mature, coastal redwood trees that were planted in the 1920s and upland scrub foliage. Just remember that the trail is not very well-marked, so a navigation app will be helpful, and road to the trailhead is only fit for a 4WD.
With ideally warm waters and prolific swells, Hawaii is arguably the surfing capital of the world. This incredible sport has shaped the identity of the island and this is where the best surfers battle it out with the some of the most challenging sweep of waves on the planet. If you are up to the game, grab your surfboard and head out to any of the surfing hotspots in Oahu, Maui, Kauai or Big Island. Just keep in mind that the summer waves are tamer and best suited for beginners and those with intermediate skill levels, while the high and mighty winter surfs are meant for the pro.
There is no dearth of championship-calibre golf courses with gorgeous slopes that gently tumble to the ocean, stunningly verdant fairways and spectacular seafront links within easy reach of a plethora of beach activities. Hawaii is an enticing allurement for golfers of all skill levels to have a leisurely or challenging tee time and top it up with the joys of island life. Turtle Bay Palmer on Oahu's North Shore is an Arnold Palmer signature design and arguably the best course of Hawaii.
The canoe is an integral part of ancient Hawaiian culture that manifests itself in the spectacular outrigger canoe races that are held summer long every weekend around the island of Oahu. The participants range from teenagers to elderly ladies and the game, which is locally called paddling, remain a huge crowd-puller.
Must Buy Souvenir
Made from a single cut on folded fabric, Hawaiian quilt is a distinctive craft of the archipelago that dates back to 1820s when missionaries introduced the unique quilting style that uses large and symmetric applique patterns and floral motifs in bold colours. They can be used as linens, tablecloths, blankets and wall hangings. Make some room in your suitcase for this treasured souvenir from the Aloha state that you can get from the flea market or the upmarket retail house Moana Quilts, based out of Waikiki.
Peppered across the sprawling archipelago, a wide array of luxurious, over-the-top properties build up the glittering hotel scene of Hawaii. From wonderfully curated boutique enclaves oozing an intimate vibe to resorts with on-site golf courses and snorkeling coves within easy reach – the uber-opulent beachfront options are fit for the most discerning global traveller.
A 20-minute taxi ride from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) is the quickest way to reach Downtown Honolulu. Bus number 20 runs via Downtown Honolulu and Ala Moana Center to Waikiki in about 50 minutes.
Bus tours can be a convenient option to explore the islands and for most of them you can get around by rental car service, shuttle, taxi, cab app services like Uber or Lyft and even by a well-laid public transportation network.
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