Big Island, Hawaii

A Beginner's Guide to Hawaii

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Looking for some travel inspiration? You're in the right place! This month, Will Hide makes his way to Exodus' newest destination - Hawaii...

I was in Hawaii earlier this year and was totally blown away. I can’t deny that it’s a long old way from London if you do it in one go, usually. But the rewards at the end of the 20-hour journey are immense, and if you don’t fancy doing that, you could stop off in mainland America en-route for a day or two. But either way, it’s an easier journey than Captain Cook had, so just load up your iPad and you’ll be there in just a binge-watched season or two of Game of Thrones.

 Explore Hawaii on our Hawaii Islands Adventure trip.

Big IslandHawaii's Big Island 

If you’ve seen pictures of the wide, golden expanses of Waikiki Beach on Oahu, toned surfers riding the waves or women in grass skirts at a luau (a traditional feast and party), then Hawaii is not going to disappoint. (The latter might be a bit cheesy, but many hotels lay one on for guests and a few Mai Tai cocktails in, you might even be up on stage shaking those hips.)

Waikiki BeachWaikiki Beach, Oahu

You’ll definitely want to visit Pearl Harbor – the scene of America’s forced entry into WWII, when Japanese planes attacked the naval base there in December 1941 – and journey up to the north coast, which is a lot more laid back than bustling Waikiki and Honolulu.

Pearl Harbour, HawaiiPearl Harbour, Hawaii

You’ll be able to practice your Hawaiian too: actually, you only need two words, aloha (hello) and mahalo (thank you).

And try some local food such as poké (marinated raw local fish with rice and veggies: healthy and extremely delicious) or, for something different, Spam Musubi, which is rice topped with fried Spam and bound together with a sliver of nori seaweed. Let’s just say it’s an acquired taste and a bit less healthy, but Hawaiians get through about six million cans of Spam a year! 

Couple taking photo of Waterfall HawaiiCouple taking a photo of Waterfall Hawaii

 The next stop is the Big Island, also (somewhat confusingly) called Hawaii, same as the state. It’s an amazingly diverse place with a hot, sunny, dry west coast where black lava rock is piled alongside its roads, and a high ridge of volcanoes – some extinct, some definitely not – down the middle which block rain coming over and so making the east coast one of the wettest spots in America.

Kauai Beach

Kauai Beach

Don’t worry, it’s more of a lunchtime downpour than a rain-all-day affair, and consequently, the east is extremely lush and green. Down in the south, a visit to Volcanoes National Park is a must. This is still very much an active zone with steaming craters and red-hot lava tumbling into the sea. On the way to the beautiful Waipio Valley, look out for some of the island’s local cowboys called Paniolo.

Volcanoes National Park, HawaiiVolcanoes National Park

If you’ve got time, it’s worth the ascent to the telescopes at Mauna Kea planetary observatory at 9,200ft above sea level, for some of the clearest night skies you’ll ever see. (But wrap up warm.)

The last stop on the three-island tour, Maui, is a short plane hop away. This island really is where Hawaii goes from laid back to almost horizontal. It’s a place of gorgeous beaches and waterfalls, great surf and amazing food: at some restaurants, it even gives the name of the guy who caught your fish that morning.

Surfer in Ala Moana Beach, Hawaii

Surfer in Ala Moana Beach, Hawaii


Diver in Hawaii

 Diver in Hawaii

You’ll certainly want to eat first if you go cycling, but an iconic way to tackle the island on two wheels is to get up early – very, very early – to see the sun rise at the top of Mt Haleakala and then bike 23 miles down. Luckily gravity does most of the hard work for you and you’ll certainly have justified extra French toast and pancakes for breakfast afterwards.

Then perhaps relax on Ka’anapali Beach, go snorkelling or go out for a boat ride to spot humpback whales as they migrate through the archipelago. Another great reason to visit in winter, the whale migration season runs from November to May.

Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical ParkPu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park

I'm not a big fan of the overused phrase ‘bucket list’ but I have to say, having visited Hawaii this year, the islands that make up this chain are now very definitely on mine and I’m glad and privileged to say that I’ve been.

Discover Hawaii on our Hawaii Islands Adventure trip.

Will Hide is a London-based travel writer who spent 12 years on the travel desk of the Times before turning freelance. He still writes regularly for the Times as well as the FT, Telegraph and numerous magazines. You can follow his travels at Been There, Done It.

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