Stay on O‘ahu for glorious beaches and a Waikiki buzz, then escape to a heavenly neighbour island. All yours within a 35 to 45 minute flight, add some extra dazzle to your island dream.
Can't bring yourself to pick? Easy!
"Norwegian Cruise Line will take you to all the islands with two overnight island stays in seven days, sailing year-round," says House of Travel Wanganui's Nicola Lynch.
Best for pressing the pause button.
Nicknamed ‘The Garden Isle’ due to a dense backdrop of rainforest, Kaua‘i is the oldest island in the archipelago. Proudly lacking in commercialism, here you can swim along the coastline with nothing but sea turtles.
SECRET FIND: Climb down the steep track to Wailua Falls. It’s quite a scramble to get down; holding onto ropes as you descend the muddy tracks through tangled tree roots, but what a fabulous treat there is at the bottom. A beautiful swimming pool at the base of the waterfall.
MUST-DO: Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm and Distillery Tour showcases OCEAN Organic Vodka. They utilise fields of sugar cane grown on rich, volcanic soil and an eco-friendly manufacturing process using solar-power.
HOT TIP: Waimea Canyon has been dubbed the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ and the best way to see it is by helicopter.
WE SAY: "For secret recipe mai tais, live local music and food raved about by locals, check out Kaua‘i’s Tahiti Nui restaurant. Island-famous pizzas, burgers, steak and seafood, the food is as addictive as the laid-back vibes," says Sam Hepburn of House of Travel Masterton.
Best for beaches, roadies and adventures.
The 102km Hana Highway along Maui’s stunning coastline connects Kahului with the town of Hana. Bountiful with waterfalls, ocean views and rickety road shacks selling coconuts, it’s a lush sliver of unspoilt Hawai‘i and feels like the real deal.
SECRET FIND: The delightful township of Makawao is home to the T. Komoda Store & Bakery. Load up on butter rolls and cream puffs. Ask for the rolls warm!
MUST-DO: The award-winning Maui Wine estate in the town of Ulupalaku crafts pineapples into their signature Hula O Maui; sparkling pineapple wine. Enjoy complimentary tastings and cellar tours.
HOT TIP: Molokini Crater is heaven for snorkellers. With water clarity up to 150km, it’s most crystal-clear first thing in the morning.
WE SAY: “Spoil yourself with a day of pampering. The Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Kea Lani Resort boasts an exceptional ‘experience shower’ inspired by Maui rain," says Amanda Curnow of House of Travel Calder and Lawson.
Best for chasing lava!
Kilauea is the island’s most active volcano. When it’s flowing, you can stand within metres of bubbling lava by booking a hike or boat tour. See where red-hot lava spills into the ocean, a mixture of steam, fire and scorched water.
SECRET FIND: The populous beach of Coconut Island isn’t so much a secret but the community events and barbecues held on its grassy knoll are more hush-hush. The island, officially known as Mokuola is connected from Hilo’s Lili’uokalani Gardens via a footbridge.
MUST-DO: Always topping the ‘Top Ten’ lists for the planet’s best beaches, Hapuna Beach State Park enjoys expansive white sand, black lava flows and the cleanest of water.
HOT TIP: Uncle Robert’s Night Market is a Wednesday night treat. With live music, food stalls and more locals than tourists.
WE SAY: "Big Island’s Green Sand Beach is a bit of an adventure but worth it. You have to drive to the isle’s southernmost tip and then walk 4km to the beach. But the sand is indeed a dazzling green," says Jody Krivan of House of Travel Product Christchurch
Best for surfing, shopping and snorkels.
Hanauma Bay is a gorgeous snorkelling spot. The sea is calm and the water boasts O‘ahu’s largest fish population. Accessible from Waikiki via round-trip shuttles running four times per day, except Tuesday, when the bay is closed.
SECRET FIND: Loco Moco is entwined with Hawaiian culture. A burger patty served with rice, egg and gravy, you can find a classier version at Yamaguchi’s Eating House 1849 in Honolulu.
MUST-DO: After Pearl Harbour, drive just 30 minutes to The Dole Plantation. Home to the world’s largest maze (a pineapple one no less).
HOT TIP: SKY Waikiki is 19 stories above Hawaii’s most famous beach. Honolulu’s ultimate rooftop bar, it features an open-air deck, impressive cuisine and talented drink mixologists.
WE SAY: "Diamond Head, the volcano crater which is as iconic to Waikiki as the Empire State Building is to NYC, makes the most rewarding O‘ahu hike, with 360 degree summit views. Reaching that takes about 1 hour, but the track’s exposed to sunshine so aim for a morning departure and take ample water," says Dalwyn Sinclair of House of Travel Upper Riccarton.