English and Hawaiian
Brits must have a full 10-year British Passport that's valid for six months after you return to the UK. You'll also need a USA visa or waiver form/ESTA. Apply for your ESTA at least 72 hours before travelling (http://esta.cbp.dhs.gov).
Ka Molokai Makahiki Festival
Celebrate the harvest with hula, food and traditional games such as tug-of-war, lawn bowling and arm wrestling.
January - March
Hawaii Opera Theatre Season
Watch three spell-binding operas during this five-week season, held at the Neal S Blaisdell Center in Honolulu.
Parade of Whales
Celebrate these beautiful animals with floats, music and marching bands.
The Great Maui Whale Festival
Celebrate the endangered humpback whale and learn more about the species, with watches, talks, walks, music and art.
Created to promote harmony between Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific, this festival features musicians, performers and artists and a fantastic parade in Waikiki.
Merrie Monarch Festival
Join in the fun at this hula competition on Big Island, with a vibrant parade, wonderful exhibitions, concerts and competitions.
Maui Classical Music Festival
Watch breathtaking concerts as musicians perform pieces by composers including Beethoven and Bach.
Big Island Film Festival
Celebrate the work of local and international talent with screenings, concerts and talks from film-makers.
King Kamehameha Day Celebration
Join Hawaiians in celebrating the king that united these beautiful islands, with a floral parade and music.
Getting there & around
From the UK, flights are via the US mainland to Honolulu on Oahu, taking five and a half to six hours from San Francisco or Los Angeles. These destinations offer great stopover options if you’re looking for a city and beach combination. Of course you can also stay on more than one Hawaiian island – just ask one of our Personal Travel Experts to help you create your trip. Inter-island flights make island hopping a breeze and we recommend combining two or even three islands if you have time. From Oahu, it’s around a half hour flight to Lihue airport on Kauai and Kahului airport on Maui, and 45 minutes to Hilo and Kona airports on Big Island.
Oahu is the perfect island for first-timers looking for a taste of Hawaii’s highlights – a verdant interior, vibrant city life and one of the most famous surfing spots. It’s Hawaii’s most popular and most developed island, blending modern life with ancient Hawaiian traditions.
Honolulu is by far Hawaii’s largest city. Birthplace of Barack Obama, it’s home to attractions including Pearl Harbour's historic Arizona War Memorial. On the south shore of Honolulu, the urban neighbourhood of Waikiki is world-famous for its long sandy beach, big-name high-rise hotels, shops, eateries and buzzing nightlife. Its South Beach Miami vibe is popular with visitors looking to sunbathe by day and wine and dine by night.
Waikiki is also a great base for exploring the rest of Oahu. Head to the North Shore to discover a quieter pace of life, with miles of white-sand beaches dotted with picturesque harbours and big waves. This is a surfer’s paradise with some of the biggest annual surf competitions held here. Go snorkelling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, gliding through a clear underwater paradise of colourful fish and pristine reefs, and journey to Nuuanu Pali Lookout to take in spectacular views of the dramatic Koolau Cliffs and Windward Coast. Shop till you drop in Oahu's open-air malls and boutiques, and watch divers leap off the cliffs in Waimea Valley National Park. For an insight into the spirit, culture and people of Polynesia, visit the Polynesian Cultural Centre, where you can see authentic island villages and join in with traditional activities.
Known as the ‘Valley Isle’, Maui boasts some of Hawaii’s most diverse and beautiful scenery is regularly voted one of the world's best islands. Explore the lush tropical and volcanic landscapes by car, stopping along the way at dramatic black and white sandy beaches. Dive alongside sea turtles in Molokini’s underwater volcanic crater, or from December to May spot the vast numbers of humpback whales that migrate off the coast of Wailea to bask in the warm waters.
Discover the 30,000-acre Haleakala National Park, home to Maui’s highest peak, Mount Haleakala. Thanks to the conditions at the summit, the Haleakala Observatory is possibly the best place in the world for stargazing. Watching the sunrise from the summit is a must (go early to secure a good spot – it does get busy) before an adrenalin-pumping bike ride down its rugged slopes. On the way down, stop for a well-deserved pancake breakfast at the famous Kula Lodge with its sweeping mountain and ocean views.
Hawaii, known as ‘Big Island’ to avoid confusion, has to be seen to be believed. This awesome land is famous for Volcanoes National Park, home to Kilauea – one of the world's most active volcanoes; the sacred Mauna Kea – earth's highest sea mountain; and Mauna Loa – the largest volcano on earth, surrounded by an ever-growing lunar-like landscape of lava flow. Wander along the 150 miles of hiking trails that wind their way through the volcanic landscape; and hike through the undisturbed Thurston Lava Tube, once passed through by a river of red-hot lava and today a spectacular walking route. On the slopes of Mauna Kea, which is twice as high as Mount Everest base-to-peak, enjoy some of the world's best stargazing opportunities thanks to the altitude, the absence of light pollution and regularly clear skies. Astronomy buffs will also love the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station.
On Big Island you’ll also find a wealth of watersports, world-class golf courses and important historical and cultural sites. Highlights include the Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park on the Kona Coast, the Kealakekua Bay Historical District – the site of Captain Cook's unfortunate demise – and the Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site, which is the site of an Ancient Hawaii temple and a collection of other ruins.
The ‘Garden Isle’ of Kauai holds itself gently aloof from the rest of the Hawaiian islands – it can only be seen from its private neighbour, Niihau. The oldest of Hawaii’s main islands, Kauai has been shaped by millions of years of erosion and boasts dramatic scenery and miles of beautiful sandy beaches. A good road circles most of the island but leaves the Nā Pali Coast gloriously untouched. This striking lush landscape was the backdrop for films including Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Arc. Following the challenging 11-mile Kalalau hiking trail, which links the beaches of Ke'e and Kalalau and traverses five verdant valleys, is the only way to experience the Nā Pali coastline by land. But if the hike is a bit of a stretch, the view is equally impressive from water or air. On a cruise along the coast, you might spot dolphins leaping in the slipstream or the tail lob of a whale.
The rugged Waimea Canyon, proudly known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, was created by an earthquake that almost split Kauai into two islands and it has been long since been eroded by the waters of the Waimea River. The canyon is approximately 10 miles long, a mile wide and over 3,000ft deep and one of the best views is from the Waimea Canyon Overlook. Bask on one of the uncrowded white-sand beaches, many of which are great spots to surf, go mountain tubing down Lihue’s water flumes or shoot down zip-lines above the rainforest. Tee off on championship golf courses and unwind with a traditional Lomi Lomi massage in a sumptuous spa.
Heritage & cuisine
Hawaii has a rich Polynesian heritage which the locals are proud of and there’s a strong ‘aloha’ spirit. Traditional song, dance and art make up a huge part of the culture, with hula and lei some of the most recognisable. The Hawaiian canoe is a symbol of significance and you’ll find that many hotels offer canoeing experiences to educate guests about its history. There are a number of heritage sites across the islands, including the Pu‘uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park on Big Island that’s home to historic Hawaiian temples, and Maui’s ‘Īao Valley State Monument – a site of spiritual and cultural importance.
The cuisine is a real mix of influences. Some of the most popular dishes include lomilomi salmon (diced raw salted salmon mixed with tomato and onion salad), kalua pork (salted pork roasted in an underground oven) and poi (mashed taro root). ‘Shave ice’ is a popular Hawaiian speciality – an ice-based treat with flavoured syrup; a bit like a slushie or snow cone, the difference being that the ice is shaved from a block instead of crushed.
• If you're happy with the service, tip 15-20% in restaurants, bars and taxis
• Give tour guides about $5 per day.