The Islands of Aloha: Active Adventures
Written by Raha Wright
Sure, you could spend your entire Hawaiian vacation lazing away on Hawai'i's amazing beaches. But for active travelers, endless days in the sun just don't do the trick. Here, adventures from snorkeling and surfing to hiking and ziplining will take you to spots you never knew existed.
Surfers can agree on one thing: The fewer crowds, the better. On Lana'i, breaks may be sparse, but with an island population of around 3,000, catching a solo session has never been this easy. Newbies can get a crash course in the ancient sport by hooking up with Lana'i Surf School and Surf Safari, an outfitter founded by Lana'i-born-and-raised surf champ Nick Palumbo. After a 4x4 safari, which drives through an old whaling village and offers views of Moloka'i and West Maui, you'll land at secluded Lopa Beach for your own chance at riding the big one. Bonus: Already a pro? The outfitter has boards for rent in all shapes and sizes. 808-306-9837; www.lanaisurfsafari.com.
Hike the Napali Coast
Even the most experienced backpacker will admit that Kaua'i's 11-mile Kalalau Trail - part of the Napali Coast State Park - is a hairraising journey. Infinite switchbacks and drop-offs that disappear into the Pacific Ocean may not appeal to everyone, but escaping inside lush valleys and marveling at the eroded coastline make the effort worth it. The trek's ultimate reward, however, is camping at Kalalau Beach. Picture sparkling white sands, sea caves and a backdrop of fluted green cliffs. If you've got the energy, a painless two-mile hike leads to a freshwater pool in the back of the valley. Note: Beach conditions change with the season and ocean swimming is not recommended. For more infomation and to obtain a day-use hiking or camping permit, call 808-274-3444 or visit www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/kauai.
It's hard to imagine a better snorkeling spot than the Big Island's Kealakekua Bay. Clear waters give way to impossible visibility, steep cliffs hold the bones of ancient chiefs, and a monument to Captain James Cook stands just a stone's throw from where he was killed by Hawaiians in 1779. Don a snorkel mask and you'll get up close and personal with hundreds of tropical fish, such as psychedelic wrasses and yellow tangs. Even better, stick your head above water and you may see a pod of Hawaiian spinner dolphins, which often cruise around the bay's turquoise waters. Access is only possible by boat, kayak or a rugged downhill hike. To call the shots, go on a private kayak tour with Kona Boys. Guides are well versed in cultural tidbits and, if you're feeling sluggish, will put most of the muscle into the paddle back to shore. 808-328-1234; www.konaboys.com.
Hotel Buzz: Kohala Coast, Big Island
This December, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel will reopen after a twoyear- long, $150 million repair and renovation. Damage from an October 2006 earthquake prompted the ambitious makeover, and highlights include larger rooms, a refreshed spa, fitness center and retail shops, and a restoration of the Mauna Kea Golf Course guided by Rees Jones, son of original course designer, Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
When the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel opened in 1965, it was declared one of the "Three greatest hotels in the world" by Esquire magazine. Hotelier Laurance S. Rockefeller was so ambitious with regard to its architectural design - and the building's conformity to its natural island landscape - that its construction cost $15 million, making it the most expensive hotel ever built. 866-977-4589; www.MaunaKeaPreview.com.
Zip Through the Sky
If hiking through a forest isn't your forte, why not fly over it? Mimic a bird and get strapped into a zipline with Maui's Skyline Eco-Adventures. Its two courses, one on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano and the other near Ka'anapali, take you high above treetops and over moving streams. In between each zip, tour guides talk about native species and the region's natural history. 808-878-8400; www.skylinehawaii.com.
Ride a Mule
Okay, so it's not everyone's vacation dream to ride a mule. But what if it takes you down the world's tallest sea cliffs? Connect with Moloka'i Mule Ride and relax as you cross 26 switchbacks and watch waves pound the island's stunning northern coast. And for a taste of local history, the trek leads to Kalaupapa National Historical Park, where you'll learn about the area's past life as a former Hansen's disease (leprosy) colony. 800-567-7550; www.muleride.com.
On the surface, O'ahu may seem like just another island in the Pacific Ocean. But its people, its bustling city and its tropical landscape create a diverse location that's like nowhere else. If you're seeking a romantic destination that has more than just a pretty beach - which O'ahu has miles of - this is the place for which you've been searching.
With a multitude of outdoor activities and a happening nightlife, the South Shore of O'ahu is an urban island fantasy that keeps your itinerary packed.
A hike can get you up close and personal with any destination's natural beauty. But if you don't know a native plant from an exotic, or an ancient rock wall from a replica, you'll walk away with a less satisfying experience. Instead, go on a jaunt with Hina Adventures. The outfitter's owners, both of whom were born and raised on O'ahu, lead cultural hikes throughout the island and point out the medicinal use of plants, as well as the legend and history behind each enchanting locale. Novice and advanced trekkers are welcome, as hikes vary from easy rainforest strolls to nine-mile treks along the base of a 2,000-foot volcanic cliff.
In the last few years, stand-up paddle boarding has gained popularity in the water-sports world, thanks in large part to legendary big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton. The sport's origin, however, dates back to the 1960s, when Waikiki beach boys, a group of watermen who taught visitors how to surf, began to stand up on their surfboards, using long paddles to catch waves and steer through the water. To test your own skills, connect with Paddle Core Fitness. Lessons, which are given at Ala Moana Beach Park near Waikiki, will have you standing within minutes and deliver an intense fullbody workout. The best part? Below your feet, fish, reef and turtles are within view.
Whether you left the kids at home or you're traveling as a family, there's always
an unlimited supply of fun and unique sites to see and things to do on O'ahu.
From November through March, roughly 10,000 humpback whales migrate from the cold waters of Alaska to Hawai'i to mate and give birth. Though their day-to-day movements are unpredictable, witnessing their acrobatic stunts is not a tough endeavor. Hop on a boat out of Kewalo Basin for your chance to see one of these 45-ton marine mammals breach, or even better, catch a glimpse of a mother with its newborn calf.
Honolulu's Chinatown is home to a unique mix of cultures. To get a feel for this enclave, spend a day exploring its markets. Countless vendors are tucked away in historic buildings and sell everything from fresh tropical produce to meat and local fish. On Maunakea Street, lei stands such as Cindy's Lei Shoppe, which has been in business since the 1960s, display intricately woven masterpieces made of tuberose, ginger, pikake and plumeria flowers. (Insider tip: Go as a couple and pick out fragrant leis to wear in the evening.) If you're feeling artsy, the area also boasts a number of galleries featuring the work of local artists like Pegge Hopper, whose distinct paintings of Island women are recognized across the world.
Discover Great Deals. Support a Great Cause.
Book a trip to the Island of O'ahu, the heart of Hawai'i, and experience the perfect Hawaiian getaway. This fall, select O'ahu partners will join together in a special program - Travel Pink, Travel O'ahu - to support the Hawai'i Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Visit O'ahu, rejuvenate and support those contributing to the cause. For details, go to www.visit-oahu.com/travelpink.
In the evening hours, Chinatown's hip restaurants and trendy bars are a favorite among Honolulu residents. For entertainment, take in a show at the historic Hawai'i Theatre. Built in 1922 and dubbed the "Pride of the Pacific," the 1,400-seat landmark features performances from hula shows to contemporary operas.
In August, Waikiki's nightlife quotient got a boost with the debut of Waikiki nei. The theatrical stage production tells the story of Waikiki's fascinating history through acrobatics, acting, dancing and live music. Or, if a lu'au is what you crave, head down the beach to the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Lu'au on the Lagoon. Festivities begin when Hawaiian fishermen arrive in a canoe and teach guests the hukilau, a song and dance about fishing. Also, before feasting on island fare, a pig is unearthed from an imu, a traditional underground oven.
For open spaces, endless beaches and a relaxed vibe, head to the island's North Shore. In the winter months, monstrous swells send perfect waves - and a pilgrimage of surfers - to this world-famous coast. Take part in the action by watching 270 competitors from 17 nations compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, held from November 12 through December 20, 2008, at Hale'iwa Ali'i Beach Park, Sunset Beach and the legendary Banzai Pipeline.
If adventure is on your must-do list, check in with Original Glider Rides at Dillingham Airfield. Glider planes do flips, spins and rolls, while a domeshaped window allows for incredible views of the lush Wai'anae Mountain Range. (Bonus: You and your honey can sit side-by-side behind the pilot.)
To see the North Shore's archaeological sites, go on a
tour with Mauka Makai Excursions. Guides interpret the
meaning and purpose behind a fishing shrine, heiau (temples)
and other ancient Hawaiian landmarks.
Photos from top to bottom courtesy of: Hawai'i Tourism Authority (HTA) / Robert Coello, Aaron Brown, 2008, Prince Resorts Hawai'i, Ric Noyle/Hilton Hawaiian Village, Hawai'i Tourism Authority/Chuck Painter