Hawaii holidays

Experience Hawaii

Experience [destination]

Best Places to Visit

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the 'Big Island' of Hawaii is a must-see for anyone interested in the volcanic origins of the islands, and of the ongoing geothermal activity in the region. As a natural phenomenon, there is no guarantee of seeing spectacular activity, but the views of steam vents and lava cauldrons should still be breath-taking.

Waimea Canyon on Kauai is a ten-mile canyon that reaches 3,600 feet in depth - a huge geological feature for a relatively small island. With its lush greenery and thundering waterfalls, it provides a different viewpoint on Hawaii's volcanic landscape. Access can be by car, bicycle or hiking, or if you are less confident about getting there yourself, there are guided tours available.

For an overnight activity, the summit of Mauna Kea is accessible if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle capable of traversing the rocky terrain to nearly 14,000 feet. Ascent is not recommended in a vehicle that isn’t specifically designed for the surface, which is steep, uneven and strewn with boulders. An alternative is to spend the night at the Visitor Centre at 9,000 feet, although this again is slightly less comfortable than you might get at more tourist-focused locations. The reward for a cold night at high altitude is an unparalleled view of the stars - particularly of the Milky Way, which can be viewed through telescopes with the assistance of the staff at the Visitor Centre.

While most holidays to Hawaii are inspired by its natural beauty and culture, one site of significant historical interest is Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Oahu. The USS Arizona Memorial—part-funded by an Elvis Presley benefit concert—opened in 1962 and receives more than two million visitors each year. A floating bridge allows around 200 people at a time to visit the Arizona's wreckage and pay their respects to the fallen crew, but there is also a free Visitor Centre on land if you don't want to visit the wreck itself.

Top Landmarks

Mauna Kea is the highest point in the state of Hawaii at 13,796 feet above sea level. This is just the tip of the iceberg—or in this case, volcano—as the cone measures 33,000 feet, or 10,000 metres, including its underwater segment. At about a million years old, and with its last eruption roughly 5,000 years ago, the volcano is now considered dormant and is used for unbeatable views of the night sky by amateur and professional astronomers alike.

The Cook Landing Site at the mouth of the Waimea River on Kauai is a significant destination for European visitors in particular. Captain James Cook arrived here on January 20th 1778 and is believed to be the first European traveller ever to have sighted the Hawaiian islands; this was where he first set foot on them.

Iolani Palace in Honolulu on the island of Oahu is a unique example of royal architecture in the USA. It was built in 1879-82 on the site of an earlier palace that was razed to the ground due to extensive termite damage. The new Iolani Palace was inspired by its European equivalents and built in the unique American Florentine style, but Hawaii's monarchy did not enjoy its use for long. In 1893 the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown and it was renamed as the Executive Building for the new Republic of Hawaii. The Republic became a US state in 1959 and the palace remains the only official royal residence in the modern-day USA.

Entertainment

Oahu is your first-choice destination for the busiest entertainment schedule all year round, with live music in the parks and concert halls, and even in some of the hotels.

Of course many visitors want to attend a luau, and these take place throughout the Hawaiian islands. You can expect to be greeted in the traditional style with a lei placed around your neck, and there's likely to be hula dancing and local cuisine served up too.

The cultural diversity of the islands is often celebrated in its own right - so instead of attending an event focused on a specific aspect of Hawaii, you might instead encounter a festival that embraces all ethnicities and backgrounds in a single programme.

Kuhio Beach in Waikiki has an occasional weekend event called Sunset on the Beach, where a 30-foot screen erected on Queen's Surf Beach is used for a film screening.

There are plenty of crafts, too - Big Wind Kite Factory in Maunaloa is more than just a kite shop, as you can custom-order your own design and watch it being built right in front of you.

Island Soap & Candle Works in Kilauea is an ethical paradise for toiletries, with all its soap produced in-house using sustainably sourced palm oil, eco-friendly packaging and renewable energy generated on-site too.

Finally, for a creative souvenir on any budget, the Kamoa Ukulele Company in Kapa'a is staffed by musically gifted individuals in their own right, who can help you to choose an instrument from $100 to over $1,000.

Dining Out

Hawaii's cuisine is a combination of fresh seafood and American-style grills. A third of the world's pineapples are grown here, so try some during your visit for freshness you probably won't have experienced before.

Formal dining is shunned by many visitors in favour of relaxed outdoor or takeout meals, including traditional Hawaiian poke bowls. Some of the best examples can be found at hole-in-the-wall businesses, so if you don't want to compromise on taste, be prepared to either take your food with you or hope a nearby picnic table is free.

Hawaiian food has eastern influences too, so expect examples of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai cuisine on many of the menus. Fish dishes are common and often among the best options, especially if you want something a little lighter like sushi. Kimchi is often available too.

If you want a taste of the USA, Hawaii does it in inimitable fashion, and you're likely to find the option of a steak on many menus, even in some of the smaller seafood restaurants. Head to the beach for a proper grill though, with half-racks of ribs in sweet and sticky barbecue sauce, served with rice, slaw and chunks of those fresh pineapples.

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Need to know

Need to know [destination]

Language

The universal language of Hawaii is English. There is a local Hawaiian language, but it is not widely spoken, and if you hear non-English conversation during your stay it is likely to be in Japanese.

Currency

The currency used throughout Hawaii is the US dollar, as the islands as a whole form the 50th US state. It's generally better to take dollars with you, rather than take cash in sterling and exchange it in Florida. Travellers' cheques in US dollars are an alternative, but if you don't want to carry a large amount of cash, use your credit or debit card instead - you will get the bank exchange rate, often with much smaller fees than if you use a tourist bureau de change. If your UK bank charges high fees on such transactions, consider a prepaid travel card in US dollars, as these are widely accepted too.

Visas

You should be able to qualify for visa-free travel to Hawaii as it is part of the USA. The US Visa Waiver Programme applies to British Citizens with a full passport for up to 90 days. Check if you need to register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) in order to qualify for the VWP. If you don't qualify, contact your nearest US Consulate or Embassy in order to obtain a visa.

Climate

Temperatures are warm but comfortable all year round, thanks to the trade winds that blow across the islands, so expect the upper 20°C from April to November, and the lower 20s from December to March. If you're a surfer, the best tidal conditions are usually between November and February in the north of the islands.

Main Airports

Flights to the Big Island arrive at Kona International Airport (KOA) or Hilo International Airport (ITO), to the west and east of the island respectively. Kona is the busier of the two for visitors arriving in Hawaii, and the Hele-On Bus provides an easy connection into the nearby town of Kailua-Kona.

However, most visitors do not arrive directly to the Big Island, but instead land at Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu. This is served by several international carriers, along with all major domestic carriers if you need to make a connection to the other islands.

Flight Options

If you are travelling between the islands, there are three carriers: Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air and Mokulele Airlines. The earlier you can book, the better - flights do sell out, especially at peak times of year, and advance tickets will often cost less.

Travel Advice

If you’re planning on visiting Hawaii during high season, be prepared to pay a little more for your package holiday. High season takes place from mid-December to mid-April, while prices are generally lower during April, May, September, November and October. Hawaii also has dry and rainy seasons, occurring from April to October and November to March respectively. Though Hawaii has experienced powerful hurricanes in the past, luckily, they are rare.

Other Transport Options

Flying to Hawaii is by far the most popular choice for tourists, but another option would be to fly part-way, before transferring to a boat. Cruise ships can be pricey, but if you can afford to do something a little different, they’re a great way to see more along the way, becoming part of the trip, rather than the journey.

Getting Around

Both tourists and locals state that the best way to get around Hawaii is by sea-bound island-hopping, on either a boat, cruise ship or canoe. The islands themselves also have a well-developed road system, meaning buses and taxis are plentiful.

Bus

Oahu's main bus service is simply called The Bus and is based in Honolulu, with routes that cover many of the main tourist areas - enough to satisfy all but the most ardent of explorers.

You can also travel shorter distances by bicycle, which is a great way to do some sightseeing at your own pace. Most buses can accommodate two bicycles in addition to their two wheelchair passenger spaces, so if you want to travel to a destination and then cycle back, or vice versa, this shouldn't be a problem.

Train

Unfortunately, trains are no longer used as public transportation in Hawaii. However, since a rail network was once used to connect Hawaii’s sugar plantations, you can still ride historic trains for fun on the islands of Oahu and Maui.

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HAWAII`S WEATHER TODAY

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AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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FACTS

  1. Hawaii is the 50th state in the USA, and also the name of the largest Hawaiian island - usually called the Big Island to avoid confusion.
  2. The Hawaiian alphabet has just 12 letters, including the vowels A, E, I, O, U and the consonants H, K, L, M, N, P, W.
  3. Hawaii has eight main islands: the Big Island, Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe.
  4. Hawaii has no ethnic majority group - about a third of people are Caucasian, and a third Japanese-American, but most people have some mix of different ethnicities too.

FACTS

  1. Hawaii is the 50th state in the USA, and also the name of the largest Hawaiian island - usually called the Big Island to avoid confusion.
  2. The Hawaiian alphabet has just 12 letters, including the vowels A, E, I, O, U and the consonants H, K, L, M, N, P, W.
  3. Hawaii has eight main islands: the Big Island, Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe.
  4. Hawaii has no ethnic majority group - about a third of people are Caucasian, and a third Japanese-American, but most people have some mix of different ethnicities too.

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