Tropical Vacation: Hawaii’s Less Traveled Paradise
As the temperatures drop and days get shorter, and the weather becomes wintry and dreary, we start to think about tropical getaways and sunny destinations. So where better to get away from it all than Hawaii? Hawaii is not only America’s own paradise, but also offers diverse travel experiences on its outer islands – Hawaii’s less traveled paradise. Locals refer to the islands other than Oahu as “the outer islands.” Get to most of the islands in a short amount of time and explore three of the Hawaiian Islands far and wide: Kauai, Maui and Hawaii – the Big Island.
Maui has something for everyone: beautiful beaches for those who prefer a lazy holiday and stunning land and seascapes for thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies.
See: Maui is an adventure-lover’s paradise. Try zip-lining above the bamboo forest and the ocean at Kapalua. On the isolated western side of the island near Hana, you will find one of Maui’s hidden gems, the Red Sand Beach, which looks like a gorgeous alien landscape. Back on the more populated east end of the island, stop by the old whaling village of Lahaina to get a glimpse of Hawaii’s colorful past.
Stay: We like the Kaanapali Beach Hotel because it’s right in the center of all the action on Maui: near some of the state’s best beaches, and close to activities for travelers of all ages. It was also given the “Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel” designation by the Waiaha Foundation, as well as awards from the Hawaiian Tourism Authority. Plus, it’s a gorgeous property on 11 prime acres, with rooms starting at an affordable $159 a night.
Eat: While you’re hanging out in Lahaina, have a bite at Mala Ocean Tavern. There they serve an inventive fusion of Pacific Rim cuisines that includes homemade guacamole made from edamame and salsa, and fresh fish dishes like whole wok-fried local fish with ginger garlic black bean sauce, shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes and snap peas.
Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, and its rugged landscape and primordial jungles have given it the moniker of Hawaii’s “Garden Isle,” so there’s plenty to see and do here.
See: Take a boat ride along the Na Pali Coast, an ancient landscape of towering furrowed cliffs and sea-sprayed beaches like no other place on earth. Hiking the interior mountains of the island, and zip-lining among the trees are two other popular activities, while a visit to the windswept Kilauea Lighthouse—the farthest west in the U.S.—might yield glimpses of red-footed booby birds and graceful Laysan albatrosses. Kauai has no shortage of beaches, but try secluded Mahaleupu along the south shore—just park on the cliff and hike down.
Stay: Most people stay in condos and rented apartments if they’re checking out Kauai for a week or so. For a shorter trip, the Koa Kea is a beautiful boutique property that opened just over a year ago near Poipu Beach; rates start at around $300. The Sheraton Kauai is another good option for those who prefer the amenities of a large chain; rooms at the Sheraton start at $229.
Eat: Hamura’s Saimin is a little hole-in-the-wall noodle shop that’s been getting a lot of attention since it won a James Beard Award for Best American Regional Restaurant. The darling little Kilauea Bakery serves fresh and delicious gluten-free pizzas and baked goods; the other hidden find we’ll share is Fish Express, a little lunch-counter kind of place that specializes in poke, a kind of Hawaiian ceviche.
The Big Island of Hawaii
Hawaii, the island the state takes its name from is also the largest in the chain, and has stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, and an untamed quality that make it a popular vacation spot. To avoid confusion, locals call Hawaii the island, “the Big Island.”
See: Most of what you’ll want to do (and the best coffee!) is on the Kona side of the island in the west – it’s the warm, sunny side of the Big Island. Of course, no visit to Hawaii would be complete without a trip to one of America’s most distinctive national parks, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Take helicopter rides over active craters and lava flows as you survey the dramatic 70 million-year-old landscape. Sportsman will enjoy the marlin fishing off of Kona—some fish get up to 1,000 lbs! More peaceful fish-lovers should instead snorkel in the gentle currents near Captain Cook’s (Kealakekua) Bay.
But don’t forget to relax! After all, Hawaii’s beaches are some of the prettiest in the world. That’s why you should take some time to visit the wide, sandy stretches of Hapuna, which is one of the most popular beaches in the Islands thanks to its gentle wave breaks. Honaunau Beach, with its underworld wonderland of tropical fish and plants, is the place to go, though, if you’re looking for scuba diving adventure.
Stay: On the modest side of the budget spectrum, visitors can get down-home comforts at Pomaikai (Lucky) Farm Bed & Breakfast on a working macadamia nut and coffee farm. The Cliff House is a bit more expensive, but offers breathtaking views of the surrounding cliffs and ocean on the north side of the island near Waimea. Meanwhile, those looking for a splurge should check into the Four Seasons Resort at Hualalai near Kailua—tropical luxury doesn’t come better than this.
Eat: In the morning, stop for a cup of the famous local coffee and some breakfast at Green Flash Coffee in Kailua, while the gourmet burgers at Annie’s Island Fresh Burgers near Cook’s Bay are juicy and delicious. One stop you should make for sure is for a local brew at the Kona Island Brewing Company, where you can also get some fresh pub grub. Kenichi Pacific at the Keauhou Shopping Center is another local favorite thanks to its delicious sushi and Pacific Rim fusion cuisine. For an expensive treat, stop by Brown’s Beach House at the Fairmont Orchid for dishes like quinoa and almond-crusted free range chicken.