Essential Hawaii

By | Category: Travel destinations

Headed to Hawaii which, next month, is marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor? Don’t miss these essential Hawaii experiences

Hit the beach
Hawaii is best known for its beautiful beaches. Waikiki is arguably Hawaii’s most famous beach but it’s Hanauma Bay ( – a protected marine life park – that’s currently hogging the headlines having been named America’s best beach on an annual top 10 list compiled by coastal science professor Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach.  And rightly so: this beloved bowl shaped  bay is the place to get up close and personal with Hawaii’s colourful state fish – the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (humuhumu for short). Alternatively make for Oahu’s Windward coast where you’ll find Kailua with its white sand, azure waters and wave conditions for just about every water sport imaginable and Lanikai – consistently crowned one of the world’s most spectacular beaches by travel magazines. Then there’s North Shore – a surfing mecca that draws pros from around the world owing to its waves, which are as high as houses.

Take a hike

Hawaii isn’t all about beaches… Hikers will be in seventh heaven as there are numerous trails, all of which are free to access, and serve up the kind of heart stopping vistas you’ll be dreaming about for months afterwards. Don’t miss Diamond Head Park – O’ahu’s best known landmark.The trail to the summit of this 475-acre crater was built in 1908 as part of the US Army Coastal Artillery Defense System. Allow around an hour to hike to the top of the crater rim and back and don’t forget your camera: the views of the Waianae Range (to the west) and Koko Head (to the east) are spectacular.
Alternatively lace up your hiking boots and make for Manoa Falls – a favourite of US president Barack Obama (who spent part of his childhood in Hawaii) – where you can stride out through rocky stream-beds, bamboo forests and banyan trees, before reaching the 150-foot tall waterfall. Don’t be tempted to leap in though: leptospirosis (a bacterial infection caused by exposure to water) and falling rocks makes swimming inadvisable.

Cultural fix
On Friday nights, don’t miss Hilton Hawaiian Village’s (  fabulous, complimentary firework display on Waikiki Beach, that’s proved popular with visitors and O’ahu local alike since it was first introduced in the eighties.
JAT also recommends experiencing  an authentic luau (a traditional Hawaiian party or feast). Typically the sounding of a conch shell signals the beginning of the evening’s festivities: expect an entertaining evening of Hawaiian culinary delights (think poke – raw fish marinated in soy sauce – and haupia – coconut custard), culture, history and Polynesian dancing….
Make no mistake: locals are keen to make sure that their cultural traditions aren’t forgotten and, subsequently, sites such as the Royal Hawaiian Centre ( host free arts and craft, hula, ukulele and lomi lomi (indigenous Hawaiian healing massage) classes in addition to staging performances by Hawaiian storytellers and musicians who are keen to share with malihini  (visitors), the history and heritage of their homeland.

Plan a visit to Pearl Harbor

Paying your respects to those who lost their life in the Japanese attack on 8 December 1941 that pushed America into WW11 at Pearl Harbor (, is a rite of a passage. Particularly this year – aka the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor (which resulted in five battleships being sunk and 2,500 American lives lost).
There are numerous sites to explore including
the Battleship Missouri Memorial ( and Pacific Aviation Museum ( and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park but the most signifcant WW11 site is the USS Arizona Memorial. Boat trips to the offshore shrine – which was built over the midsection of the sunken USS Arizona – depart from the visitor centre every 15 minutes from 8am-3pm, but our advice is to arrive early as the day’s allotment of tickets is often gone by 12 midday.

Eat like a local
Want to eat like a local? Seek out a Farmers Market such as the Saturday Farmers Market at KCC ( where you can get stuck into a range of Hawaiian foods  like loco moco, masaladas and more  that represent this exotic chain of islands’ multi-cultural make-up while also getting to hang out with Hawaii locals who love to eat.
Or rock up at Rainbow Drive-In ( – a colourful Kanaina Avenue diner that was a favourite hang-out of the teenage Obama. Fast forward to today and the US President still pops into Rainbow Drive-In for  a plate lunch. Consisting of macaroni salad served with two scoops of rice and everything from Korean barbecue to chicken katsu, the plate lunch is a popular – and crucially affordable – Hawaiian ono grind (good eat).

Tiki time
No visit to Hawaii is complete without tasting a tropical tiki cocktail (or two), for the islands are as synonymous with the Mai Tai and Blue Hawaii –as they are with pineapples, surfing, volcanoes and aloha.

Wondering where to try the Mai Tai, which fuses two rums, fresh lime juice, orange Curacai, rock candy syrup and almond syrup), and Blue Hawaii ( a colourful fruit flavoured cocktail). Taste the tropics at Dukes (, a surf themed party bar named after legendary Hawaiian waterman, Duke Kahanamoku, who broke world swimming records  before appearing in more than 15 Hollywood films.

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