Just back from Hawaii

Kuoni tailormade travel expert, Scott Catchpole, just returned from an incredible adventure in Hawaii. He shared the highlights of his journey to the Aloha State with us, from the best places to stay and must-try local dishes to embracing the island philosophy of ‘Living Pono’.


Travel Snapshot: where did you go?

A whistle-stop tour of two iconic Hawaiian islands: Kauai and Maui.


Why visit Hawaii?

Hawaii is on many bucket lists for its stunning beaches, vibrant culture and amazing natural beauty – think fiery-red volcanic landscapes, Jurassic-Park-Esque rainforests and surfers’ dream shorelines like Waikiki Beach. The Aloha spirit and warm hospitality of the locals make you feel so welcome – expect to be greeted with a lei, a beautiful flower garland, and friendly smiles everywhere you go. There are surprisingly over 130 islands in the Hawaii archipelago, but only four are well known: Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Big Island. Each has a unique charm and whether you're into adventure, relaxation or a mix of both, we can design an itinerary that works for you.


When did you travel?

I visited during the high season (June to August). It’s a great time to go if you enjoy hot weather but be aware that the main hotspots can be busy in summer. The best time to visit Hawaii? It depends on what you're looking for. For sunny days and dry conditions, plan your trip between April and October. If you prefer fewer crowds and better deals, consider going in the shoulder seasons of April to June or September to November. The winter months (December to March) bring top surf conditions, but it can be a bit rainier.


Island Identities


Kauai

Kauai: The ‘Garden Isle’

It’s easy to see why Kauai is known as the ‘Garden Isle’ – this paradisical island is a tropical Eden, where you’re surrounded by nature's finest work. You'll find countless waterfalls and the breathtaking Napali Coast, accessible only by air, boat or a challenging hike, is a highlight you can't miss. Check out Kalalau Lookout, Ha’ena State Park, Waimea Canyon and Makauwahi Cave to really get a feel for the island's natural beauty. With no native land mammals, the bird life is everywhere and unafraid, offering fantastic up-close encounters.


Maui

Maui: The ‘Valley Isle’

Maui is a larger, more populous island famous for its beaches – including Makena Beach, the backdrop of many magazine photo shoots. The golden coastline, with its volcanic backdrop, has a better-developed infrastructure than Kauai; you’ll find all the big-name hotel chains like Sheraton and Fairmont staking their claim on the shores.

The ocean around Maui is calm so there’s spectacular snorkelling from most beaches; I spotted a sea turtle and schools of tropical fish while snorkelling at Kaanapali Beach. Beyond the resorts, there's so much to explore. One of the highlights was watching the sunrise over Haleakala Crater, even though it required a 1:30 AM wake-up call, it was totally worth it. For those who love hiking, head to the Hana area on the east coast for scenic trails and unique black sand beaches. Plus, don’t miss the famed Road to Hana – a 64-mile drive with postcard-perfect views at every twist and turn.


Favourite stay of the trip?


Kauai Shores Hotel

Kauai

Kauai offers a fantastic mix of hotels for every budget, from charming, cosy spots to sprawling, five-star resorts with perfectly manicured gardens. I loved the vibe of Kauai Shores Hotel. This smaller, characterful hotel has a relaxed Ohana vibe and is right on the beach with live music in the evenings. It’s close to shops and restaurants and offers free bike hire so you can explore the island on two wheels. The food was fantastic at Lava Lava Beach Club – tucking into coconut-crusted shrimp and sipping Mai Tai cocktails during sunset was a quintessential Hawaii moment.


The Westin Maui Resort & Spa

Maui

On Maui, Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort stood out for its sleek design and fun experiences like the daily outrigger canoe trips. However, The Westin Maui Resort & Spa gets my overall vote. It’s right on Kaanapali Beach and many rooms have dazzling ocean views. I recommend upgrading to a room in the Hokupaa Wing for exclusive access to the Lanai Club Room, which serves light food all day and provides a peaceful spot for a quiet drink or a relaxing dip in the club pool.


Napoli Coast, Kauai

Good to know


It’s not just a beach holiday…

Hawaii is way more than just beautiful beaches. Sure, it’s the paradise you’ve always imagined, but there’s so much more to explore and you’ll likely not spend long on the sun lounger. We suggest mixing things up with a multi-island itinerary. We can share our ideas and tailor-make a trip that’s perfect for you, but we’ve set up some suggested itineraries to get you started.


 Recent events

Maui experienced a devastating wildfire last year, especially in Lahaina. While this small town was badly hit, it’s just a small part of the island. The community has shown amazing resilience, and the surrounding areas are still as beautiful and vibrant as ever.


Local cuisine not to miss

Step outside the resorts, follow the locals, and you'll find some amazing food experiences in Hawaii. Hunt out fresh seafood at the fish market in Maui, scour the markets for sweet papaya and pineapple served on a stick, and queue up at beachside food shacks for local specialities like poke, loco moco and shaved ice topped with a fruity flavoured syrup.


The heart of Hawaii

Hawaiian values are all about living in harmony with nature and each other. The spirit of ‘Aloha’ means love, peace, and compassion. ‘Malama’ is about taking care of the land and community, while ‘Living Pono’ means doing what's right and living ethically. These values create a culture of respect for the environment and strong community bonds, making Hawaii a place where kindness, sustainability and cultural pride are part of everyday life.


How to get there

Hawaii is quite a distance away. I took an 11-hour flight to San Francisco followed by a 5-hour flight to Hawaii. Considering the layovers and time difference, I’d recommend breaking up the journey with a few nights on the US west coast to avoid jet lag and make the most of your trip. Los Angeles and Las Vegas are other recommended stops.


Top tips


Book activities in advance

Hawaii is a popular destination and many of the best activities and tours can book up quickly, especially during peak season. To make sure you don’t miss out on must-see experiences like snorkelling trips, hiking excursions and cultural tours, it’s a good idea to book these activities in advance. This not only guarantees your spot but allows you to plan your itinerary more effectively and make the most of your time on the islands.


Sunscreen

Non-reef-safe sunscreen is banned in Hawaii to protect the surrounding waters, which is a top priority for the locals. Be sure to bring reef-safe sunscreen or pick some up at local stores on the islands. Little Hands Hawaii is a great locally sourced brand to consider.


Hire a car

Other than on the island of Oahu, hiring a car will greatly enhance your holiday experience. There’s so much to explore on each island, and while tours are available, nothing beats the freedom of driving around at your own pace. The roads are safe and easy to navigate, and on Kauai, where there is only one major road – it’s virtually impossible to get lost.

The Road to Hana, Maui

About Scott



With 23 years as a globe-trotting chef, Scott has amassed a wealth of travel experience, working in countries like Canada, the USA and New Zealand. He’s been with Kuoni for six years and has visited over 50 countries. When he’s not planning unforgettable trips for our travellers, you’ll find him in Muay Thai training sessions or carving up slopes on a snowboarding adventure. His top travel moment? Travelling from Hong Kong to Moscow by land, where he hitchhiked in Mongolia and rode the iconic Trans-Siberian Railway.


Inspired?


To start planning your Hawaii holiday with Scott and the tailor-made team, call us on 0800 294 9730. Alternatively, pop in or make an appointment in your local Kuoni store.

This feature was created on 10th July 2024. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Heather Flanagan.

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