Hawaii holiday highlights

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Head to Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, on the island of Oahu for iconic Waikiki Beach escapades, whether you come for the winter swells or the tranquillity of the North Shore. Expect Polynesian flavour, luxury high-rise hotels, laid-back beach vibes, vibrant nightlife and beautiful beaches. It’s the place to come if you want to learn to surf, fancy hiking the legendary Diamond Head Walk or to go snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Lanikai Beach is a glorious stretch of golden sand perfect for families looking for kid friendly swimming and a more secluded spot where kayaking and paddle boarding is the norm. On Oahu there’s also a sombre reminder of Hawaii’s part in the Pacific War – travel west of Honolulu to visit the active military base of Pearl Harbour and see the Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Arizona Memorial. It’s also possible to visit the National Memorial Cemetery and the American-Florentine style Iolani Palace.

The Island of Hawaii (Big Island) is the largest of the archipelago and alongside a perfect palette of white-sand beaches and blue seas lay hidden gems of black cliffs and volcanic landscape, green ferns and cascading waterfalls, gunpowder sands and white-capped mountains. Come here for the famous Hawaii Volcanoes Park, for stargazing under clear night skies on the summit of Mauna Kea (where astronomy students with telescopes will help you search out the constellations) and the wild forests of the Kohala coast. There’s the incredible olive-green sand beaches found at the end of South Point Road, sunset picnics overlooking the lava glow from the Kilaue Iki crater and the coffee scented hills of Kona’s Honaunau plantations. And there’s also championship golf courses and world-class scuba diving.

The Valley Isle of Maui is where sunsets and sunrises meet in a whirlwind of majestic beauty over the iconic Haleakala Crater – the world’s largest dormant volcano. Take the winding road to Hana for verdant rainforests, head to the west side for lavish resorts and fantastic golf courses and make for the North Shore for an authentic taste of island life. Dive alongside sea turtles in Molokini’s underwater volcanic crater, head to the Iao Valley State Park for spellbinding views of the 1200-foot-tall ʻĪao Needle and follow the locals to Ho’okipa State Beach Park for world-class windsurfing, paddle boarding and snorkelling.

Rising 4000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, Kauai’s Na Pali Coast is the jewel of the Garden Isle. The choice of location for the filming of Jurassic Park, its rugged sea cliffs, white-sand beaches and extraordinary sea caves can be explored by boat, kayak and helicopter. Kauai is Hawaii’s oldest island and its natural wonders include Waimea Canyon, the Spouting Horn and the tropical valleys of Limahuli Garden and Preserve at the foot of Mount Makana. Kauai is an extraordinary island for honeymooners and couples with an enchanting mix of beautiful beaches and lush scenery.

Where is Hawaii?

Hawaii is the 50th state of the USA and the only one made up entirely of islands. Located in the Pacific Ocean 2400 miles south west of California, only seven of its 132 volcanic islands are inhabited – Oahu, Hawaii (Big Island), Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kauai and Niihau. Its nickname is the Aloha State and its capital is Honolulu.

Getting around

Transport varies from island to island and depends largely on what you would like to do. If you’d like to explore further afield, you can hire a car or enjoy one of our hand-crafted tours taking you across the islands. If you’re just enjoying the beach and ocean, then relying on shuttles and taxis is the best option. The main islands have plenty of taxis with metred fares. On Oahu, TheBus takes you everywhere from downtown Honolulu to Pearl Harbour and the Waikiki Trolley will take you to most of the main sights. If you opt for a twin-centre holiday you can fly between the islands, and there’s also the option of taking a helicopter over coastline and volcanic landscape on both Kauai and the Big Island.

Hawaii Islands

Oahu Home to the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu, and the most American of the islands, Oahu is the most busiest and vibrant island where you’ll find iconic Waikiki Beach, the lush Winward Coast and the best surfing spot on the island, North Shore. Visit Pearl Harbour, pineapple plantations and famed surf beaches, and expect urban high-rise buildings combined with beautiful sands.

Hawaii (Big Island) On the east you’ll find Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and on the west, spectacular coastline and golden beaches. Inland is clad with jungle hills, cascading waterfalls and the island’s highest peak, Mount Kea. Expect wet tropics, molten lava, slate-coloured sands and volcanic pools. The Big Island is a great place to come if you want to learn how to surf.

Maui The verdant Valley Isle is Hawaii’s second largest island, home to the seasonal whale migration, world-famous beaches, the spellbinding upcountry Haleakala Crater and lush rainforests. South Maui has fantastic golf courses and beautiful beaches and West Maui has an incredible stretch of coastline along Kaanapali Beach.

Kauai The oldest island of Hawaii is an emerald green delight, with rainforests, waterfalls and rivers beings the biggest draw. Some are only accessible by sea or air, and there’s plenty of adventure, whether you want to kayak, canoe or snorkel.

Food and drink

Expect refreshing shave ice, famous Hawaii poke bowls and North Shore garlic shrimp and fresh Pacific Ocean seafood everywhere you go. There’s a generous amount of fresh fruit and vegetables on the islands, as well as side dishes of poi and the sweet dessert of Haupia. There are plenty of surf-inspired hot spots, award-winning restaurants, farm-to-table cuisine and candy coloured shrimp trucks lining the beaches. And you can’t leave Hawaii without experiencing a legendary luau feast. Drink plantation iced tea by day and mai tais by night and don’t forget those refreshing acai bowls to chow down on while at the beach. 

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Hawaii key facts

Time difference

GMT -10 hours


US dollar

Flying time to destination

17¼ hours to Honolulu


English and Hawaiian

Passport & visas

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).

Hawaii good to know


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.

Big Island

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.


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• Give tour guides about $5 per day.