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1. Stunning beaches
You’d be hard pushed to find a bad patch of sand in picture-perfect Hawai`i, but if you’re staying on Oahu and you’re bored of Waikiki, take an easy bus ride to Makapu'u and check out its stunning white sand beach. A gem (amongst many) Makapu'u Beach is nestled in a cove-like bay and is defined by its cascading drifts of sand. It’s an easy day jaunt from Waikiki, with a lighthouse to explore on the cliff side and convenient restroom facilities beside the beach.
Surfers of course must head to Waimea Bay on O`ahu’s North Shore – the birthplace of surfing. Also a top spot if you’re simply an admirer of the sport; the season between November and February is commonly referred to as ‘Big Wave Season’ when the water is replete with some of the most skilled surfers on the planet. If you’re not one of them, we recommend you stick with paddling by the sea edge, sunbathing or enjoying a picnic; these waves aren’t just big, they’re dangerous.
HOT tip: Our third favourite beach resides on Maui. Offering a whopping 5km of white sand, Kaanapali Beach is seemingly never-ending, and with bountiful snorkelling opportunities, plentiful resorts and nearby golf courses, the activities are endless too.
2. Glorious food
Oahu’s famed North Shore food trucks are not a tourist trap. Repeat: are NOT a tourist trap.
Certainly, they’re frequented by a daily bombardment of tourists (as well as hordes of locals) but that’s because, wholly-macaroni the food is sublime. These wagon-style food trucks have been a Hawaiian institution for decades, no more so than the renowned shrimp trucks, but you’ll also find an entire smorgasbord of international flavours, from southern soul food to malasadas.
Anyway, back to that shrimp. Keep an eye out for Giovanni’s – one of the original and best – they serve their shrimps with a simple blend of butter, garlic, lemon and salt which will certainly leave your taste buds in a tiz, but other combinations such as hot and spicy, lemon pepper or spicy pineapple are just as delicious.
HOT tip: The towns of Hale‘iwa and Kahuku on O`ahu’s North Shore are heaving with tantilising food truck options. Giovanni’s can be located at 66-472 Kamehameha Highway, Hale‘iwa.
3. Family fun
Maui has it all. Especially for families. Where do we even start with this tropical island of fun-filled excitement? As well as plenty of beach fun, the outstanding Maui Ocean Center is a state-of-the-art aquarium, complete with fully immersed sea-tunnel and educational displays that focus on ocean ecology, whale life and Hawaiian culture.
For outdoor shenanigans, take the kids for a surf lesson, you can even book private lessons so they feel extra safe and comfortable. Then there are waterfalls to swim in, dormant volcanoes to hike and parasailing above the sapphire coloured sea.
However, the absolute Maui must-do is definitely the ziplining at Maui Zipline Company. With five ziplines to choose from, soaring through tropical plantation at heights of 300-900 feet has never so easy. Particularly good for younger children because they can accommodate lighter weights, there’s also a coffee shop next door for parents who don’t have the same energy levels as excitable pint-sized zipliners. Can’t say no to a little Hawaiian caffeine boost.
HOT tip: If you have older children, you might like to look into alternative ziplining companies; Maui Zipline adheres to a younger crowd and first-timers.
4. Solo adventures
Kauai. The Garden Island; a mecca for travellers whether you’re socialising with many or seeking pure, unadulterated solitude. If you’re going solo, fear not, you’re guaranteed to make friends, and if you’d really rather not, there are plenty of isolated spots to appease your inner hermit too.
It would be borderline criminal to visit here and not partake in a kayaking adventure along the fifteen-mile stretch of rugged Ne Pali coastline. There isn’t a word to describe quite how breath taking this beautiful landscape actually is, but the ‘wow moment’ happens for everyone. Defined by towering cliff side that’s cloaked in colour; as imposing as they are grand, lava formed sea caves and thundering waterfalls, take the all-day tour and you’ll spend up to six hours navigating Kauai’s finest natural wonders. You’ll need to be physically fit and calm in tough waters, and if you’re prone to motion sickness, we suggest you put down the paddle and stay on land.
HOT tip: After some solo pampering that’s a little less strenuous? If you’re in Kauai on a Friday, definitely check out Hanapepe Town’s Art Night. As the island’s art capital, the plantation-style village boasts plentiful art galleries, many of which open their studio doors on a Friday night to celebrate local artwork. The perfect opportunity to pick up a memento.
5. Non stop culture
Hardly any tourists visit Molokai, so it must be rubbish, right? Wrong.
To the contrary, it’s a little under-discovered treasure and although it’s not the easiest of Hawaii’s islands to get to, its fierce preservation of traditional Hawaii is the exact reason you should make the effort. Holding onto its island roots with a very firm grasp, Molokai has a distinctly Jurassic feel about it, with the world's tallest sea cliffs looming like verdant giants and waterfalls that have been falling for thousands upon thousands of years. With a mere 8,000 inhabitants, the locals have proudly implemented the cultural values of their ancestry and it’s an experience that’ll stay with you forever. A time capsule of old Hawai`i, don’t go with an itinerary, simply turn up, chill out and absorb the laid back Molokai vibes.
HOT tip: Send yourself a Hawaiian coconut. You think we jest but we don’t. Hoolehua’s US Post Office is home to ‘Post a Nut’. Turn up (with your coconut) slap on a stamp and it’ll be waiting for you in the mail box on your return.
6. Shave ice
It isn't a snow cone, okay? Don't make that mistake. Hawaii's renowned ice dessert is made from shaved ice, rather than crushed ice. And also, you can't call it 'shaved ice', in Hawaii they always call it 'shave ice.' Found in every small town and village that dot the islands, and more often than not, served from the quintessential roadside shack, flavoured syrups are added to the ice in a range of wonderful Insta-worthy rainbow colours. Thought to have arrived in hawaii via Japanese plantation workers, it's a centuries old treat that will both cool you down and delight your taste buds.
HOT tip: There are a medley of artificial syrups to add to your shave ice, but keep an eye out for more authentic island flavours instead. Such as guava, pineapple, coconut cream, passion fruit, li hing mui, lychee, kiwi fruit and mango - to name but a few!
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