Hawaii, with its remote Pacific location, blissfully far from everywhere, is an adventure-seeker’s paradise…
Hawaii is more accessible than one might think, especially Oahu, the island home to the city of Honolulu and an international airport. With one beautiful vista after the next and then some, Oahu makes for an ideal holiday destination, with more activities and attractions than anyone could shake a home-grown Dole pineapple at. Numerous airlines fly into Honolulu, from around the globe.
Landing at Honolulu’s quaint little airport, is almost like entering a time warp, as an aloha-style bus transports you from plane to terminal and the much less officious feel of immigration, than at mainland US airports. If you are as lucky as I indeed was, then you are greeted by the perfect tour guide, who places a traditional Hawaiian ‘Lei’ around your weary neck, and greets you with a welcoming smile.
Hawaii is a massive US military base, and reminders abound of the importance of this strategic location both presently and during WWII, such as Pearl Harbour and the USS Arizona memorial. Despite this, however, Oahu has a distinctly relaxed feel.
If on a shorter visit, say a week, then rent a car from any one of the usual major services, and position yourself at one of the main hotels on the well-beaten track of Waikiki. This may be tourist central, but you’ll have everything you could possibly need, including reliable hotel brand names, access to the myriad of activities, beaches, surfing and dive companies, as well as a full spectrum of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and entertainment opportunities, including traditional Hawaiian Luaus and Hula dancing.
A few major highways crisscross the island and make navigating around to different hiking trails and scenic hotspots a breeze. Although a sat-nav in your rental car will ensure getting off the beaten track is effortless and you will leave with no shortage of memory-laden epic photos. Be sure to take your hiking boots and other comfortable footwear, as well as a good stock of swim and beachwear. If the ocean is your playground too, whether you paddle, surf, dive, bodyboard, fish or hope to learn any of these, then there is a complete abundance of opportunities to knock yourself out with.
Island Divers Hawaii is located in Hawaii Kai and offers half- and full-day trips to some of the best dive spots and wrecks around Oahu and beyond, with reasonable rates and fully inclusive packages. From the end of December, humpback whale season begins and if you are lucky, you can enjoy the sight of these graceful creatures, passing by. The more adventurous water lovers will also enjoy cliff jumping at Spitting Caves or the China Wall, or kayaking out to the islands off Kailua, while beachcombers can watch the world go by, from the comfort of Lanikai Beach.
Hawaii is a hiking haven, with everything from short trails to challenging peaks. Sports shoes with traction, or preferably hiking boots donned, arm yourself with a minimum of water, snacks, sunscreen, phone and camera (your smartphone can dual as a camera, but you certainly do not want to find yourself lost on a mountain without means of communicating where you are, on the more difficult trails). Rockclimbers take your gear, as Oahu has some perfect spots with challenging routes, such as Mokule’ia – be sure to sign up at Hawaii Climbing Commission before you go, to climb legally.
There are volcanic craters, Second World War bunkers, ancient trees and a copious, lavish splendour of fauna and flora to admire. Diamond Head and the Pillbox trails offer both breathtaking, awe-inspiring views and a sense of the power of nature, as well as historic insights into Oahu. Koko Head is not for the faint of heart, with a virtually vertical climb, along an abandoned railtrack – the ultimate stepper experience. If you like your pace a little less pulse-raising, then you can take a gentle stroll to the viewpoints of Tantalus Park or the Pali Lookout. The Manoa Falls have a choice of levels of difficulty for different tracks, while the Blow Hole and Makapu Tide Pools at Hawaii Kai offer stunning visual intensity.
The Northshore, where the Pipeline Masters surf championships take place, offers a superb day out and a chance to indulge in the local food culture – think shave-ice, exotic fruit and shrimp trucks. With major stretches of beach, including Waimen Bay, legendary waves and professional-level surfing, avoid weekends, or get there early, to ensure a parking spot. Along the way, no visit to the Northshore is complete without a stop at Turtle Beach. Here, the local residents basking on the shores and in the shallow waters are giant green turtles, each named and well-loved. Brutus snoozes among the rocks, unbothered by camera-touting visitors, as long as they keep a respectful distance.
For the truly active, there are annual marathons and regular hash runs, crossfit studios, skydiving centres and many more opportunities to get out and about. At the end of each day, pick a spot and watch the enigmatic sunsets and consider how lucky you truly are to have treated yourself to the eden that is Hawaii.