Frommer's Hawaii 2015 by Shannon Wianecki, Martha Cheng, and Jeanne Cooper by Shannon Wianecki, Martha Cheng, and Jeanne Cooper - Read Online

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Frommer's Hawaii 2015 - Shannon Wianecki

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Hawaiian beach.

There’s no place on earth quite like this handful of sun-drenched Pacific islands. Here you’ll find palm-fringed blue lagoons, lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, soaring summits (some capped with snow), a live volcano, and beaches of every hue: gold, red, black, and even green. Roadside stands offer fruits and flowers for pocket change, and award-winning chefs deliver unforgettable feasts. Each of the six main islands possesses its own unique mix of natural and cultural treasures—and the possibilities for adventure, indulgence, and relaxation are endless.

The best Beaches

Lanikai Beach (Oahu): Too gorgeous to be real, this stretch along the Windward Coast is one of Hawaii’s postcard-perfect beaches—a mile of golden sand as soft as powdered sugar bordering translucent turquoise waters. The waters are calm year-round and excellent for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Two tiny offshore islands complete the picture, functioning both as scenic backdrops and bird sanctuaries. See p. 88.

Hapuna Beach (Big Island): A half-mile of tawny sand, as wide as a football field, gently slopes down to crystalline waters that in summer are usually excellent for swimming, snorkeling, and bodysurfing; in winter, the thundering waves should be admired from the shore, where the picnicking and state camping facilities are first-rate. See p. 192.

Lanikai Beach, Oahu.


Waianapanapa State Park (Maui): Maui has many terrific beaches to choose from, but this one is extra special: On the dramatic Hana coast, jet-black sand is pummeled by the azure surf, sea arches and caves dot the shoreline, and a forested path leads to a secret swimming hole, the hiding place of an ancient Hawaiian princess. Plan to picnic or camp here. See p. 283.

Papohaku Beach Park (Molokai): The currents are too strong for swimming here, but the light-blond strand of sand, nearly 300 feet wide and stretching for some 3 miles—one of Hawaii’s longest beaches—is great for picnicking, walking, and watching sunsets, with Oahu shimmering in the distance. See p. 380.

Hulopoe Beach (Lanai): This large sprawl of soft, golden sand is one of the prettiest in the state. Bordered by the regal Four Seasons resort on one side and lava-rock tide pools on the other, this protected marine preserve offers prime swimming, snorkeling, tide-pool exploring, picnicking, camping, and the chance to spy on resident spinner dolphins. See p. 401.

Poipu Beach (Kauai): This popular beach on Kauai’s sunny South Shore has something for everyone: protected swimming, snorkeling, bodyboarding, surfing, and plenty of sand for basking—with a rare Hawaiian monk seal joining sunbathers every so often. See p. 452.

The best Authentic Experiences

Eat Local: People in Hawaii love food. Want to get a local talking? Ask for her favorite place to get poke or saimin or shave ice. The islands offer excellent fine-dining opportunities (see examples below), but they also have plenty of respectable hole-in-the-wall joints and beloved institutions that have hung around for half a century. On Oahu, eat poke at Ono Seafood (p. 122), enjoy true Hawaiian food at Helena’s Hawaiian Food (p. 130), and join the regulars at Liliha Bakery (p. 130) for a loco moco. On Kauai, slurp saimin and shave ice at Hamura’s Saimin Stand (p. 490).

Feel History Come Alive at Pearl Harbor (Oahu): On December 7, 1941, Japanese warplanes bombed Pearl Harbor, forcing the United States to enter World War II. Standing on the deck of the USS Arizona Memorial—the eternal tomb for the 1,177 sailors trapped below when the battleship sank—is a profound experience. You can also visit the USS Missouri Memorial, where the Japanese signed their surrender on September 2, 1945. See p. 61.

Experience Hula: Each year the city of Hilo on the Big Island hosts a prestigious competition celebrating ancient Hawaiian dance: the Merrie Monarch Festival (p. 40). The week after Easter, local halau (hula troupes) perform free shows at several shopping centers. On Oahu, check out the Bishop Museum (p. 58), which stages excellent performances on weekdays, or head to the Halekulani’s House Without a Key (p. 142) at sunset to watch the enchanting Kanoelehua Miller dance beautiful hula under a century-old kiawe tree. On Maui, the Old Lahaina Luau (p. 364) is the real deal, showcasing Hawaiian dance and storytelling nightly on a gracious, beachfront stage.

Ponder Petroglyphs: More than 23,000 ancient rock carvings decorate the lava fields at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (p. 182) on the Big Island. You can see hundreds more on a short hike through the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve (p. 165), near the Fairmont Orchid on the Kohala Coast. Go early in the morning or late afternoon, when the angle of the sun lets you see the forms clearly. On Lanai, fantastic birdmen and canoes are etched into rocks at Shipwreck Beach (p. 403) and Kaunolu Village (p. 400).

Trek to Kalaupapa (Molokai): The only access to this hauntingly beautiful and remote place is by foot, mule, or nine-seater plane. Hikers can descend the 26 switchbacks on the sea cliff’s narrow 3-mile trail, but the Kalaupapa Guided Mule Ride (p. 376) is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure astride sure-footed mules. Once you’ve reached the peninsula, you’ll board the Damien Tours bus (p. 378)—your transport back to a time when islanders with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) were exiled to Molokai and Father Damien devoted his life to care for them.

The best Outdoor Adventures

Witness the Whales: From December to April, humpback whales cruise Hawaiian waters. You can see these gentle giants from almost any shore; simply scan the horizon for a spout. You can hear them, too, by ducking your head below the surface and listening for their otherworldly music. Boats on every island offer whale-watching cruises, but Maui is your best bet for seeing the massive marine mammals up close. Try Trilogy (p. 285) for a first-class catamaran ride, or, if you’re adventurous, climb into an outrigger canoe with Hawaiian Paddle Sports (p. 287).

Visit Volcanoes: The entire island chain is made of volcanoes; don’t miss the opportunity to explore them. On Oahu, the whole family can hike to the top of ancient, world-famous Diamond Head Crater (p. 97). At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (p. 182) on the Big Island, where Kilauea has been erupting since 1983, acres of new black rock and billowing sulfurous steam give hints of Pele’s presence even when red-hot lava isn’t visible. On Maui, Haleakala National Park (p. 294) provides a bird’s-eye view into a long-dormant volcanic crater.

Get Misted by Waterfalls: Waterfalls thundering down into sparkling pools are some of Hawaii’s most beautiful natural wonders. If you’re on the Big Island, head to the spectacular 442-foot Akaka Falls (p. 170), north of Hilo. On Maui, the Road to Hana offers numerous viewing opportunities; at the end of the drive, you’ll find Oheo Gulch (p. 274), with some of the most dramatic and accessible waterfalls on the islands. Kauai is laced with waterfalls, especially along the North Shore and in the Wailua area, where you can drive right up to 151-foot Opaekaa Falls (p. 433) and 80-foot Wailua Falls (p. 433). On Molokai, the 250-foot Moaula Falls (p. 374) can be visited only via a guided cultural hike through breathtaking Halawa Valley, but that, too, is a very special experience.

Lava flowing into the sea.

Peer into Waimea Canyon (Kauai): It may not share the vast dimensions of Arizona’s Grand Canyon, but Kauai’s colorful gorge—a mile wide, 3,600 feet deep, and 14 miles long—has a grandeur all its own, easily viewed from several overlooks just off Kokee Road. Hike to Waipoo Falls to experience its red parapets up close, or take one of the helicopter rides that swoop between its walls like the white-tailed tropicbird. See p. 443.

Explore the Napali Coast (Kauai): With the exception of the Kalalau Valley Overlook, the fluted ridges and deep, primeval valleys of the island’s northwest portion can’t be viewed by car. You must hike the 11-mile Kalalau Trail (p. 467), kayak (p. 456), take a snorkel cruise (p. 458), or book a helicopter ride (p. 445) to experience its wild, stunning beauty.

Four-Wheel It on Lanai (Lanai) Off-roading is a way of life on barely paved Lanai. Rugged trails lead to deserted beaches, abandoned villages, sacred sites, and valleys filled with wild game.

The welcoming Lei

A lei is aloha turned tangible, communicating hello, goodbye, congratulations, and I love you in a single strand of fragrant flowers. Leis are the perfect symbol for the islands: Their fragrance and beauty are enjoyed in the moment, but the aloha they embody lasts long after they’ve faded.

Traditionally, Hawaiians made leis out of flowers, shells, ferns, leaves, nuts, and even seaweed. Some were twisted, some braided, and some strung. Then, as now, they were worn to commemorate special occasions, honor a loved one, or complement a hula dancer’s costume. Leis are available at all of the islands’ airports, from florists, and even at supermarkets. You can find wonderful, inexpensive leis at the half-dozen lei shops on Maunakea Street in Honolulu’s Chinatown, and at Castillo Orchids, 73-4310 Laui St., off Kaiminani Drive in the Kona Palisades subdivision, across from the Kona Airport on the Big Island (  808/329-6070). You can also arrange in advance to have a lei-greeter meet you as you deplane. Greeters of Hawaii ( 800/366-8559) serves the major airports on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

The best Hotels

Halekulani (Oahu;  800/367-2343): When price is no object, this is really the only place to stay. A place of Zen amid the buzz, this beach hotel is the finest Waikiki has to offer. Even if you don’t stay here, pop by for a sunset mai tai at House Without a Key to hear live Hawaiian music while a lovely hula dancer sways to the music. See p. 109.

Royal Hawaiian (Oahu;  800/325-3535): This flamingo-pink oasis, hidden away among blooming gardens within the concrete jungle of Waikiki, is a stunner. It’s vibrant and exotic, from the Spanish-Moorish arches in the common spaces to the pink-and-gold pineapple wallpaper in the rooms in the Historic Wing. See p. 110.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu, the Big Island.

Grand Hyatt Kauai.

Kahala Hotel & Resort (Oahu;  800/367-2525): Situated in one of Oahu’s most prestigious residential areas, the Kahala provides the peace and serenity of a neighbor-island vacation, but with the conveniences of Waikiki just a 10-minute drive away. The lush, tropical grounds include an 800-foot, crescent-shaped beach and a 26,000-square-foot lagoon (home to two bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, and tropical fish). See p. 114.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu (Big Island;  888/340-5662): The seven pools alone will put you in seventh heaven at this exclusive yet environmentally conscious oasis of understated luxury, which also offers a private, 18-hole golf course and an award-winning spa, exquisite dining, and impeccable service—with no resort fee. See p. 220.

Fairmont Orchid Hawaii (Big Island;  800/845-9905): Subtle elegance and warm service mark this recently renovated hotel on the Mauna Lanai Resort, which takes pride in the area’s cultural treasures as well as its golf courses. See p. 225.

Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel (Big Island;  888/977-4623): This is the sleeper on the Kohala Coast—boasting huge rooms, an enormous beach, and an exceptional restaurant, together with a relaxing, low-key atmosphere. See p. 226.

The Fairmont Kea Lani Maui (Maui;  800/659-4100): Each unit in this all-suites hotel has a kitchenette with granite countertop, living room with sofa bed (great for kids), spacious bedroom, and marble bathroom (head immediately for the deep soaking tub). Youngsters will enjoy building volcanoes in the 1,500-square-foot kids’ club, while the entire family can get into rhythm paddling an outrigger canoe from the beach out front. See p. 319.

Travaasa Hana (Maui;  808/248-8211): Nestled in the center of quaint Hana town, this 66-acre resort wraps around Kauiki Head, the dramatic point where Queen Kaahumanu was born. You’ll feel like royalty in one of the Sea Ranch Cottages here. Floor-to-ceiling sliding doors open to spacious lanais, some with private hot tubs. You’ll be far from shopping malls and sports bars, but exotic red-, black-, and white-sand beaches are just a short walk or shuttle ride away. This is luxury in its purest form. See p. 327.

Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay (Lanai;  800/321-4666): This gracious resort on Lanai’s south coast overlooks Hulopoe Beach—one of the finest stretches of sand in the state. Each room has a semi-private lanai with a day bed from which you can gaze at the big blue Pacific to your heart’s content. Other amenities include world-class restaurants, Adirondack chairs beneath swaying palms, and an exercise room with a view so grand that you’ll forget you’re burning calories on a stationary cycle. See p. 407.

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa (Kauai;  800/554-9288): At this sprawling, family-embracing resort in Poipu, the elaborate, multi-tiered fantasy pool and saltwater lagoon more than compensate for the rough waters of Shipwrecks (Keoneloa) Beach. Don’t fret: Calmer Poipu Beach is just a short drive away. Anara Spa and Poipu Bay Golf Course offer excellent adult diversions, too. See p. 482.

Poipu Plantation B&B Inn and Vacation Rentals (Kauai;  800/643-0263): Just a short walk from Brennecke and Poipu beaches, a handsomely renovated 1938 cottage holds four bed-and-breakfast suites, with a half-dozen well-equipped cottage units sharing the quiet compound, managed by gracious innkeepers and their helpful staff. See p. 484.

The best Restaurants

Alan Wong’s Restaurant (Oahu;  808/949-2526): Master strokes at this shrine of Hawaii Regional Cuisine include ginger-crusted fresh onaga (red snapper), a whole-tomato salad dressed with li hing ume (plum powder) vinaigrette, and opihi (limpet) shooters. Alan Wong reinvents local flavors for the fine-dining table in ways that continue to surprise and delight. See p. 131.

Izakaya Gaku (Oahu;  808/589-1329): The city is dotted with izakayas, Japanese pubs serving small plates made for sharing, and Izakaya Gaku is the best of them all. You’ll discover life beyond maguro and hamachi nigiri with seasonal, uncommon seafood such as sea bass sashimi and grilled ray. Thanks to the large population of Japanese nationals living in Honolulu, the Japanese food here is some of the best outside of Japan. But it’s not just straight-from-Tokyo fare at Gaku; the chefs here scour fish markets around town daily for the best local fish. See p. 131.

The Pig and the Lady (Oahu;  808/585-8255): This casual restaurant, with its traditional Vietnamese noodle soups and playful interpretations of Southeast Asian food, is both soulful and surprising. The soulful: the pho of the day, drawing on recipes from chef Andrew Le’s mother. The surprising: hand-cut pasta with pork and lilikoi (passionfruit). The best of both worlds: a pho French dip banh mi, with slices of tender brisket and a cup of pho broth for dipping. See p. 129.

Vintage Cave (Oahu;  808/441-1744): The interior is a bit odd: luxe-man-cave-meets-brick-lined art gallery (18 original Picasso drawings hang in the dining room), but the food is amazing. It’s Honolulu’s most stunning (and its priciest). There’s only one menu a night, and it’s constantly changing. The young chef, Chris Kajioka, sources near and far for his ingredients, from Big Island baby lettuces to amadai (tilefish) from Japan, and applies impeccable technique to it all. See p. 125.

Ka’ana Kitchen (Maui;  808/573-1234): Treat Chef Isaac Bancaco’s grid menu like a gourmet bingo card; every combo is a winner. Start off with a hand-mixed cocktail and the ahi tataki: ruby red tuna, heirloom tomato, and fresh burratta decorated with black salt and nasturtium petals. The $45 breakfast buffet grants you access to the kitchen’s novel chilled countertops, stocked with every delicacy and fresh juice you could imagine. See p. 318.

Mama’s Fish House (Maui;  808/579-8488): Overlooking Kuau Cove on Maui’s north shore, this restaurant is a South Pacific fantasy. Every nook is decorated with some fanciful artifact of salt-kissed adventure. The menu lists the anglers who reeled in the day’s catch; you can order ono caught by Keith Nakamura along the 40-fathom ledge near Hana or deep-water ahi seared with coconut and lime. The Tahitian Pearl dessert is almost too stunning to eat. Though pricey, a meal at Mama’s is a complete experience. See p. 354.

Merriman’s (Waimea, Big Island,  808/885-6822; Kapalua, Maui,  808/669-6400; and Poipu, Kauai,  808/742-8385; Chef Peter Merriman, one of the founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, oversees a locally inspired culinary empire that includes Merriman’s and Monkeypod Kitchen outlets on Maui, Kauai (p. 498), and Oahu. He completely renovated his original Waimea restaurant in 2014, adding a bar and Sunday brunch, but held onto his high standards under the direction of exciting young chef Zach Sato. See p. 240.

Mama’s Fish House, Maui.

Da Poke Shack (Kailua-Kona, Big Island;  808/329-7653): The islands’ diced raw, marinated seafood specialty comes in many varieties at this hole in the wall, which prepares them so expertly that patrons make repeat visits just to try them all. See p. 234.

Bar Acuda (Hanalei, Kauai;  808/826-7081): When the sun goes down, the surfing set freshens up for a night on the town at this stylish tapas bar, created by a former star of San Francisco’s culinary scene and centered around fresh seafood and seasonal pairings inspired by Mediterranean cuisine. See p. 492.

The Beach House (Poipu, Kauai;  808/742-1424): Sunset should be listed as its own course on the menu here because everyone stops to ogle it or snap pictures from the oceanfront lawn. But the food, which is just as good at lunch, stands on its own merits, from a crackerjack kitchen that was sourcing ingredients locally long before farm-to-table became a buzzword. See p. 495.

Nobu Lanai (Lanai;  808/565-2290): Lanai now ranks among New York, Milan, Budapest, and Mexico City as somewhere one can dine at a Nobu restaurant—a measure of how fun a place is, in the immortal words of pop star Madonna. The best way to experience this epicurean phenomenon is to order the omakase—the chef’s tasting menu—for $120. Each dish is as delicious as it is artful. See p. 409.

The best of Hawaii for Kids

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawaii (Oahu;  714/520-7001): Disney built this high-rise hotel and spa (with timeshare condos) on 21 acres on the beach, about an hour’s drive from Waikiki. It’s a great destination for families, with a full children’s program, plus areas and activities for teens and tweens. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and other Disney characters walk the resort and stop to take photos with kids. See p. 116.

Dole Pineapple Plantation (Oahu;  808/621-8408): Get the kids (and yourself!) a Dole Whip and fresh pineapple, and then take them through the main attraction: part maze, part scavenger hunt. They’ll also enjoy the Pineapple Express, a short train ride on a single-engine diesel locomotive around the plantation’s grounds. See p. 80.

Build Sandcastles on Kailua Beach (Oahu): This gorgeous beach is kid-friendly, with sand that slopes gently into the water. The waves vary in spots—perfect for the young ones to splash around and older kids to boogie board. The broad stretch of sand is also great for building castles. See p. 88.

Slumber Party at the Aquarium (Maui): Kids can book a sleepover in the Maui Ocean Center, staying up into the wee hours to watch glowing jellyfish and other nocturnal animals. See p. 263.

Snorkel in Kealakekua Bay (Big Island): Everyone can enjoy the dazzling display of marine life here on a Fair Wind cruise ( 800/677-9461 or 808/322-2788), which offers inner tubes and underwater viewing boxes for little ones (or older ones) who don’t want to get their faces wet. Two water slides and a spacious boat with a friendly crew also make this a treat. See p. 198.

Dole Plantation, Oahu.

Play at Lydgate Park (Kauai): If kids tire of snorkeling in the protected swimming area of Lydgate Beach, a giant wooden fantasy play structure and bridge to the dunes await, along with grassy fields and several miles of biking trails. See p. 432.

Ride a Sugarcane Train (Kauai): At Kilohana Plantation (p. 431), families can enjoy an inexpensive, narrated train ride through fields, forest, and orchards, with a stop to feed sheep, goats, and wild pigs.

Surfer in Waikiki.

For most people, the fetching dollops of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean are a dream destination—but their sheer distance from practically everywhere else makes getting here sometimes daunting. So once you finally arrive in the Hawaiian Islands, you’ll want to make the most of your time. In this chapter we’ve built five 1-week itineraries for Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai, each one designed to hit the highlights and provide a revealing window into the real Hawaii.

You can follow these itineraries to the letter or use them to build your own personalized trip. Whatever you do, don’t max out your days. This is Hawaii, after all—allow time to do nothing but relax. Smell the sweet perfume of plumeria, listen to the wind rustling through a bamboo forest, and feel the caress of the gentle Pacific.

A Week on Oahu

Oahu is so stunning that the alii, the kings of Hawaii, made it the capital of the island nation. Below, I’ve presumed that you are staying in Waikiki; if your hotel is in another location, be sure to factor in extra time for traveling.

Day 1:

Unwind from your plane ride with a little sun and sand. Take a dip in the ocean at the most famous beach in the world: Waikiki Beach (p. 85). Catch the sunset with a mai tai, Hawaiian music, and some of the loveliest hula you’ll ever see at House Without a Key (p. 142).

Day 2:

Head to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor (p. 61), site of the infamous Pearl Harbor attack. You’ll have reserved your ticket ahead of time online, so you’ll skip the lines and head straight to the memorial. On your way back, stop in Chinatown for lunch and browse its trendy boutiques (p. 138). For dinner tonight, go local. Head to the Highway Inn (p. 126) for kalua pig, laulau, pipikaula, and poi.

Day 3:

Fuel up on fresh fruit smoothies and chocolate banana bread at Tucker & Bevvy (p. 121) before heading to the North Shore (see Central Oahu & the North Shore, on p. 80). Stop in the quaint town of Haleiwa for a pineapple-lilikoi-mango treat at Matsumoto Shave Ice (p. 83), and then grab a picnic lunch from Beet Box Café (p. 134). Pick one of the gorgeous North Shore beaches for a day of swimming and sunbathing. Waimea Beach Park (p. 90) is a favorite, no matter the season. In the winter, if the waves are pumping and conditions are right, head to Pipeline (p. 83) and watch pro surfers ride this tube-like wave over razor-sharp reef. As you make your way back south, hit the shrimp trucks at Kahuku (p. 134). While there’s still daylight, take the longer coastal road back into Honolulu. On the way back to Waikiki, stop at Town (p. 132) or 12th Ave Grill (p. 132) for dinner.

Waikiki Beach.

Day 4:

Head out early in the morning to grab a fried malasada dipped in sugar at Leonard’s Bakery (p. 123) on your way to snorkeling at Hanauma Bay (p. 86). If you’re a strong swimmer and the water is calm (check with the lifeguard), head out past the reef and away from the crowds, where the water’s clearer and you’ll see more fish and the occasional turtle. Continue beach-hopping down the coastline—check out Sandy Beach (p. 86) to watch body-surfing daredevils. Hike the Makapuu Lighthouse (p. 97), an easy trail with views to Molokai and Lanai on a clear day. In the winter, you may even see migrating humpback whales. Turn back to take the Pali Highway home to Waikiki—and be sure to stop at the Nuuanu Pali Lookout (p. 66).

Day 5: Surf in Waikiki, Glimpse Historic Honolulu & Experience Hawaiian Culture

Waikiki has great waves for learning. Take an early-morning surf lesson (p. 95) and you’ll be up on your board in no time. Poke at Ono Seafood (p. 122) makes a great post-surf meal. Then head to downtown Honolulu to see some of the city’s historic sites, including the Iolani Palace (p. 60) and Kawaiahao Church (p. 61). Spend the afternoon at the Bishop Museum (p. 58) to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture. Head up to Puu Ualakaa State Park (p. 67) to watch the sunset over Honolulu. For dinner, get a taste of Honolulu’s spectacular Japanese cuisine at Izakaya Gaku (p. 131).

Iolani Palace.

Day 6:

On your last full day on Oahu, travel over the Pali Highway to the windward side of the island and spend a day at Kailua Beach (p. 88). Kailua is the perfect beach to kayak or stand-up paddle to the Mokulua Islands (or the Mokes, as the locals call it) or simply relax. By now, you’ve gone native, cuisine-wise, so for your last dinner on Oahu, try local reinvented for fine dining at Alan Wong’s Restaurant (p. 131).

Day 7:

Head to the Honolulu Museum of Art for your tour of Shangri La (p. 59), the private palace of tobacco heiress Doris Duke. Filled with Islamic art, the interior is stunning, but so is the location, on a cliff facing Diamond Head and overlooking a hidden surf break. Pick up souvenirs at the museum’s gift shop. On your way to the airport, be sure to stop at one of the Maunakea Street lei shops (p. 140) in Chinatown to buy a sweet-smelling souvenir of your trip.

A Week on the Big Island of Hawaii

Because of the distances involved, a week is barely enough time to see the entire Big Island; it’s best to plan for 2 weeks—or even better, a return visit. Nevertheless, here is a way to see most of the highlights, changing hotels as you go.

Day 1:

Since most flights arrive at lunchtime or later, check into your Kona Coast lodgings and go for a stroll through historic Kailua-Kona, including Hulihee Palace (p. 157) and Mokuaikaua Church (p. 159). Wear sandals so you can dip your feet in one of the pocket coves, such as Kamakahonu Bay, within sight of Kamehameha’s historic compound, and enjoy an early dinner at an ocean-view restaurant to view a spectacular sunset. Don’t unpack—you’ll be on the road early the next day, taking advantage of your internal clock’s Mainland time.

Day 2:

The day starts with a morning snorkel tour (plus breakfast and lunch) aboard the Fair Wind II (p. 198), sailing to the historic preserve of Kealakekua Bay. After returning to Keauhou Bay, head south to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (p. 182), by way of Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park (p. 163) and the Kau Coffee Mill (p. 185), for a pick-me-up. Check into Volcano Village lodgings (p. 231) or Volcano House (p. 232) in the park, where you’ll dine in full view of Kilauea’s fiery evening glow.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Day 3:

Stop at the national park’s Kilauea Visitor Center to learn about current lava viewing (if any) and the day’s free ranger-led walks. Take Crater Rim Road past billowing Halemaumau Crater (p. 182) to see Thurston Lava Tube (p. 183), Devastation Trail (p. 215), and other sights before driving down Chain of Craters Road, leading to a vast petroglyph field and the 2003 lava flow that smothered the roadway. After sunset, visit the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum (open till 7:30pm; p. 183) and its observation deck for yet another look at Pele’s power.

Day 4:

It’s just a 45-minute drive from Volcano to Hilo (p. 175), so after breakfast go to the Imiloa: Astronomy Center of Hawaii (p. 177), opening at 9am. Then explore Banyan Drive (p. 175), Liliuokalani Gardens (p. 175), and one of Hilo’s small but intriguing museums, such as the free Mokupapapa Discovery Center (p. 178). Stroll through Nani Mau Gardens (p. 178) or Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (p. 171) before driving along the pastoral Hamakua Coast (p. 229), stopping at breathtaking Akaka Falls (p. 170) and the similarly stunning Waipio Valley Lookout (p. 173). Dine on farm-fresh cuisine in Waimea or Kawaihae (p. 239) before checking into your Kohala Coast hotel.

Day 5:

Start by exploring Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site (p. 164), the temple Kamehameha built to the war god, Ku, and sign up for a free ride on a traditional outrigger sailing canoe. Continue north on Hwy. 270 to Lapakahi State Historical Park (p. 166) to see the outlines of a 14th-century Hawaiian village, and have lunch in Hawi or Kapaau, home of the original King Kamehameha Statue (p. 166) in Kapaau. The final northbound stop is the picturesque Pololu Valley Lookout (p. 167). Heading south in the late afternoon, stop at the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve (p. 165). To learn more Hawaiian lore, book one of Kohala’s evening luaus (p. 250).

The Pololu Valley Lookout.

Day 6:

You’ve earned a morning at the beach, and the Big Island’s prettiest are on the Kohala Coast: Anaehoomalu Bay (A-Bay), Hapuna, and Kaunaoa (see Beaches, p. 188). Skip the scuba, though, because in the afternoon you’re heading up the 13,796-foot Mauna Kea (p. 167), sacred to Hawaiians and revered by astronomers. Let an expert with 4WD, cold-weather gear, and telescopes for stargazing take you there: Mauna Kea Summit Adventures (p. 169) or Hawaii Forest & Trail (p. 169).

Day 7:

On your last full day, visit one of North Kona’s gorgeous beaches hidden behind lava fields, such as Kekaha Kai State Park (p. 190) or the tranquil cove at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park (p. 157) in the morning. In the afternoon, relax with a spa treatment at the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii’s Spa Without Walls (p. 225) or another Kohala resort spa, or tour a Kona coffee farm (p. 160), and pick up gourmet beans as souvenirs.

A Week on Maui

You’ll need at least a week to savor Maui’s best experiences. I recommend splitting your vacation between East and West Maui, starting with sultry, sunny beaches and ending in the rejuvenating rainforest. I’ve designed this itinerary around a stay in West Maui for the first 3 days, but it works just as well if you stay in Wailea or Kihei. To minimize driving, move your headquarters to lush East Maui on Day 4. Stay at one of the island’s charming B&Bs or the exquisite Traavasa Hana resort.

Old Lahaina Luau.

Day 1: Arrive & Explore West Maui

After checking into your hotel, head immediately for one of West Maui’s prime beaches (p. 227). After a reviving dip in the ocean, spend a couple of hours walking around the historic old town of Lahaina (p. 254). As the sun sets, immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture at Old Lahaina Luau (p. 364).

Day 2: Sail to Lanai

You’ll likely wake up early on your first morning here, so take advantage and board an early-morning trip with Trilogy (p. 285) the best sailing/snorkeling operation in Hawaii. You’ll spend the day (breakfast and lunch included) sailing to Lanai, snorkeling, touring the island, and sailing back to Lahaina. You’ll have the afternoon free to shop or nap.

Day 3: Sunbathe in South Maui

Take a drive out to Makena State Beach Park (p. 282) and soak in the raw beauty of this wild shore. On the way, pay a visit to the sharks and sea turtles at the Maui Ocean Center (p. 263), in Maalaea. Linger in South Maui to enjoy the sunset and dine at one of the area’s terrific restaurants (recommendations start on p. 331).

Day 4: Ascend a 10,000-Foot Volcano

Head to the 10,023-foot summit of Haleakala, the island’s massive dormant volcano. Witnessing the sunrise here can be phenomenal (as well as mind-numbingly cold and crowded). Hiking in the Haleakala National Park (p. 266) is awe-inspiring any time of day. On your way back down the mountain, stop and tour Upcountry Maui (p. 265), particularly the communities of Kula, Makawao, and Paia. Plan for a sunset dinner in Paia at Mama’s Fish House (p. 354). Stay at a nearby B&B or the chic Paia Inn (p. 324).

Day 5: Drive the Hana Highway

Pack a lunch and spend the entire day driving the scenic Hana Highway (p. 269). Pull over often and get out to take photos, smell the flowers, and jump in mountain-stream pools. Wave to everyone, move off the road for those speeding by, and breathe in Hawaii. Spend the night in Hana (hotel recommendations start on p. 327).

Day 6: Relax in Heavenly Hana

Take an early-morning hike along the black sands of Waianapanapa State Park (p. 283), and then explore the tiny town of Hana (p. 273). Be sure to see the Hana Cultural Center & Museum (p. 273), Hasegawa General Store, and Hana Coast Gallery. Get a picnic lunch and drive out to the Kipahulu end of Haleakala National Park at Oheo Gulch (p. 274). Hike to the waterfalls and swim in the pools. Splurge on dinner at the Travaasa Hana hotel (p. 327).

Day 7: Relax & Shop

Depending on how much time you have on your final day, you can relax on the beach, get pampered in a spa, or shop for souvenirs. Spa-goers have a range of terrific spas to choose from, and fashionistas should check out the boutiques in Makawao and Paia (recommendations start on p. 361). If you have time, check out the gardens and waterfalls at Iao Valley (p. 260).

A Week on Kauai

Because much of the Garden Island, including the Napali Coast, is inaccessible to cars, a week will just suffice to view its beauty. To save driving time, split your stay between the North and South shores (detailed below) or stay on the East Side, but avoid the main road at rush hour.

Day 1:

From the airport, stop by Hamura’s Saimin Stand (p. 490) or another Lihue lunch counter (see Plate Lunch, Bento & Poke, p. 490) for a classic taste of Kauai, before driving through the bustling Coconut Coast on your way to the serenity of the rural North Shore (p. 433). Soak in the views at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge & Lighthouse (p. 435), and then poke around Kilauea’s Kong Lung Historic Market Center (p. 503). After checking in to your lodgings, pick up snorkel gear for the next day.

Day 2:

Thanks to the time difference, you’ll have a head start driving across the nine one-lane bridges on the way to the end of the road and popular Kee Beach (p. 450). If conditions permit, hike at least a half-hour out on the challenging Kalalau Trail (p. 467), for glimpses of the stunning Napali Coast, or tackle the first 2 miles to Hanakapiai Beach, 3 to 4 hours round-trip. After (or instead of) hiking, snorkel at Kee and equally gorgeous Tunnels (Makua) Beach (p. 451), accessed from Haena Beach Park (p. 451). Eat lunch in Haena, and then spend time in the jewel-box setting of Limahuli Garden and Preserve (p. 435). Return to Hanalei to explore shops and galleries; after dinner, enjoy live Hawaiian music at the venerable Tahiti Nui (p. 507).

Kayaking in Hanalei River.

Day 3:

Taking advantage of the ocean’s calmer morning conditions, the day begins on Hanalei Bay, kayaking, surfing, or snorkeling (see Watersports, p. 454), or just frolicking at one of the three different beach parks (p. 446). If the waves are too rough, head instead to lagoon-like Anini Beach (p. 449). In the afternoon, try ziplining (p. 470) or horseback riding (p. 468) amid waterfalls and green mountains; the less adventurous (who’ve booked in advance) can tour delightful Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens (p. 436). Savor views of Hanalei Bay and Bali Hai over cocktails at the St. Regis Princeville (p. 479) before dinner at Bar Acuda (p. 492).

Day 4:

After breakfast, head south. Visit Kilauea’s Anaina Hou Community Park (p. 433) for Kauai-themed mini-golf in a botanical garden or a hike or bike (rentals available) along the scenic Wai Koa loop trail. Stop for a bite to eat at a funky cafe in Kapaa, and then drive to Opaekaa Falls and see the cultural sites of Wailua River State Park (p. 433). After crossing through busy Lihue, admire the scenery on the way to Old Koloa Town (p. 504), where you can browse the quaint shops before checking into your Poipu lodgings. Pick a dinner spot from the many choices in the Shops at Kukuiula, such as Merriman’s Gourmet Pizza and Burgers (p. 498).

Day 5:

Today you splurge on a snorkel boat or Zodiac raft tour (p. 454) to the fluted ridges and pristine valleys of the Napali Coast, or a helicopter tour (p. 445) that provides amazing views of Napali, Waimea Canyon, waterfalls, and more. In either case, it’s an unforgettable experience—but don’t book this for your last day, in case weather forces rescheduling. After your boat returns, hoist a draft beer at Kauai Island Brewery & Grill (p. 500) or try the free samples at nearby Kauai Coffee. For helicopter tours, most of which depart from Lihue, book a late-morning tour (after rush hour); have lunch in Lihue, and then drive to Wailua Falls (p. 420) before perusing the shops, tasting rum, or riding the train at Kilohana Plantation (p. 431), which also hosts the island’s best luau (p. 432).

Napali Coast from helicopter.

Day 6:

Start your drive early to the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon (p. 443), which you’ll view from several breathtaking overlooks from Highway 550 (Kokee Rd.). Stay on the road through forested Kokee State Park (p. 441) to the Kalalau Valley Lookout (p. 437), and wait for any mists to part for a magnificent view. Stop by the Kokee Museum (p. 468) for trail information for a hike after lunch at Kokee Lodge (p. 501). If you’re not a hiker, hit the waves at Salt Pond Beach or stroll through rustic Hanapepe (p. 505), home to a Friday night art walk (p. 508).

Day 7:

Spend the morning at glorious Poipu Beach (p. 452) before the crowds arrive, and then head over to Shipwrecks (Keoneloa) Beach (p. 453) to hike along the coastal Mahaulepu Heritage Trail (p. 467). Later, indulge in a spa treatment at Anara Spa at the Grand Hyatt Kauai (p. 482) or take a tour (booked in advance) at the National Tropical Botanical Garden (p. 439). Check out the flume of Spouting Horn (p. 441) before sunset cocktails at RumFire Poipu Beach in the Sheraton Kauai (p. 483) and dinner at the Beach House (p. 495) or Red Salt (p. 498).

Fire Dancers.

Since the Polynesians ventured across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands 1,000 years ago, these floating jewels have continued to call visitors from around the globe.

Located in one of the most remote and isolated places on the planet, the islands bask in the warm waters of the Pacific, where they are blessed by a tropical sun and cooled by gentle year-round trade winds—creating what might be the most ideal climate imaginable. Mother Nature has carved out verdant valleys, hung brilliant rainbows in the sky, and trimmed the islands with sandy beaches in a spectrum of colors. The indigenous Hawaiian culture embodies the spirit of aloha, an easy-going generosity that takes the shape of flower leis freely given, monumental feasts shared with friends and family, and hypnotic Hawaiian melodies played late into the tropical night.

Visitors are drawn to Hawaii not only for its incredible beauty, but also for its opportunities for adventure. Go on, gaze into that fiery volcano, swim in a sea of rainbow-colored fish, tee off on a championship golf course, hike through a rainforest to hidden waterfalls, and kayak into the deep end of the ocean, where whales leap out of the water for reasons still mysterious. Looking for rest and relaxation? You’ll discover that life moves at an unhurried pace here. Extra doses of sun and sea allow both body and mind to recharge.

Hawaii is a sensory experience that will remain with you, locked in your memory, long after your tan fades. Years later, a sweet fragrance, the sun’s warmth on your face, or the sound of the ocean breeze will deliver you back to the time you spent in the Hawaiian Islands.

The First Hawaiians

The Hawaiian Islands were born of violent volcanic eruptions that took place deep beneath the ocean’s surface about 70 million years ago and continue today. As each island emerged, the wind and rain began to carve beauty from barren rock. Molten mountains spewed forth rivers of fire that cooled into stone. Severe tropical storms battered and blasted the cooling lava rock. Ferocious earthquakes and persistent rains formed the islands into precipitous valleys, jagged cliffs, and recumbent flatlands. The result of several million years’ worth of natural sculpture is a tropical dreamscape of flora and fauna, ringed by coral reefs.

Throughout the Middle Ages, while Western sailors clung to the edges of continents for fear of falling off the earth’s edge, Polynesian voyagers crisscrossed the planet’s largest ocean. The first people to colonize Hawaii were unsurpassed navigators. Using the stars, birds, and currents as guides, they sailed double-hulled canoes across thousands of miles, zeroing in on tiny islands in the center of the Pacific. They packed their vessels with food, plants, medicine, tools, and animals: everything necessary for building a new life on a distant shore. Over a span of 800 years, the great Polynesian migration connected a vast triangle of islands stretching from New Zealand to Hawaii to Easter Island and encompassing the many diverse archipelagos in between. Archaeologists surmise that Hawaii’s first wave of settlers came via the Marquesas Islands sometime after a.d. 1000, though oral histories suggest a much earlier date.

Over the ensuing centuries, a distinctly Hawaiian culture arose. Sailors became farmers and fishermen. These early Hawaiians were as skilled on land as they had been at sea; they built highly productive fish ponds, aqueducts to irrigate terraced kalo loi (taro patches), and 3-acre heiau (temples) with 50-foot-high rock walls. Farmers cultivated more than 400 varieties of kalo, their staple food; 300 types of sweet potato; and 40 different bananas. Each variety served a different need—some were drought resistant, others medicinal, and others good for babies. Hawaiian women fashioned intricately patterned kapa (barkcloth)—some of the finest in all of Polynesia. Each of the Hawaiian Islands was its own kingdom, governed by alii (high-ranking chiefs) who drew their authority from an established caste system and kapu (taboos). Those who broke the kapu could be sacrificed.

The ancient Hawaiian creation chant, the Kumulipo, depicts a universe that began when heat and light emerged out of darkness, followed by the first life form: a coral polyp. The 2,000-line epic poem is a grand genealogy, describing how all species are interrelated, from gently waving seaweeds to mighty human warriors. It is the basis for the Hawaiian concept of kuleana, a word that simultaneously refers to privilege and responsibility. To this day, Native Hawaiians view the care of their natural resources as a filial duty and honor.

Western Contact

Cook’s Ill-Fated Voyage

In the dawn hours of January 18, 1778, Captain James Cook of the HMS Resolution spotted an unfamiliar set of islands, which he later named for his benefactor, the Earl of Sandwich. The 50-year-old sea captain was already famous in Britain for discovering much of the South Pacific. Now on his third great voyage of exploration, Cook had set sail from Tahiti northward across uncharted waters. He was searching for the mythical Northwest Passage that was said to link the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. On his way, he stumbled upon Hawaii (aka the Sandwich Isles) quite by chance.

With the arrival of the Resolution, Stone Age Hawaii entered the age of iron. Sailors swapped nails and munitions for fresh water, pigs, and the affections of Hawaiian women. Tragically, the foreigners brought with them a terrible cargo: syphilis, measles, and other diseases that decimated the Hawaiian people. Captain Cook estimated the native population at 400,000 in 1778. (Later historians claim it could have been as high as 900,000.) By the time Christian missionaries arrived 40 years later, the number of Native Hawaiians had plummeted to just 150,000.

In a skirmish over a stolen boat, Cook was killed by a blow to the head. His British countrymen sailed home, leaving Hawaii forever altered. The islands were now on the sea charts, and traders on the fur route between Canada and China stopped here to get fresh water. More trade—and more disastrous liaisons—ensued.

Two more sea captains left indelible marks on the Islands. The first was American John Kendrick, who in 1791 filled his ship with fragrant Hawaiian sandalwood and sailed to China. By 1825, Hawaii’s sandalwood groves were gone. The second was Englishman George Vancouver, who in 1793 left behind cows and sheep, which ventured out to graze in the islands’ native forest and hastened the spread of invasive species. King Kamehameha I sent for cowboys from Mexico and Spain to round up the wild livestock, thus beginning the islands’ paniolo (cowboy) tradition.

King Kamehameha.

King David Kalakaua.

King Kamehameha I was an ambitious alii who used western guns to unite the islands under single rule. After his death in 1819, the tightly woven Hawaiian society began to unravel. One of his successors, Queen Kaahumanu, abolished the kapu system, opening the door for religion of another form.

Staying to Do Well

In April 1820, missionaries bent on converting Hawaiians arrived from New England. The newcomers clothed the natives, banned them from dancing the hula, and nearly dismantled the ancient culture. The churchgoers tried to keep sailors and whalers out of the bawdy houses, where whiskey flowed and the virtue of native women was never safe. To their credit, the missionaries created a 12-letter alphabet for the Hawaiian language, taught reading and writing, started a printing press, and began recording the islands’ history, which until that time had been preserved solely in memorized chants.

Children of the missionaries became business leaders and politicians. They married Hawaiians and stayed on in the islands, causing one wag to remark that the missionaries came to do good and stayed to do well. In 1848, King Kamehameha III enacted the Great Mahele (division). Intended to guarantee Native Hawaiians rights to their land, it ultimately enabled foreigners to take ownership of vast tracts of land. Within two generations, more than 80 percent of all private land was in haole (foreign) hands. Businessmen planted acre after acre in sugarcane and imported waves of immigrants to work the fields: Chinese starting in 1852, Japanese in 1885, and Portuguese in 1878.

King David Kalakaua was elected to the throne in 1874. This popular Merrie Monarch built Iolani Palace in 1882, threw extravagant parties, and lifted the prohibitions on the hula and other native arts. For this, he was much loved. He proclaimed that hula is the language of the heart and, therefore, the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people. He also gave Pearl Harbor to the United States; it became the westernmost bastion of the U.S. Navy. While visiting chilly San Francisco in 1891, King Kalakaua caught a cold and died in the royal suite of the Sheraton Palace. His sister, Queen Liliuokalani, assumed the throne.

Is Everyone hawaiian in Hawaii?

The sugar and pineapple plantations brought so many different people to Hawaii that the state is now a remarkable potpourri of ethnic groups: Native Hawaiians were joined by Caucasians, Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, Portuguese, Puerto Ricans, Samoans, Tongans, Tahitians, and other Asian and Pacific Islanders. Add to that a sprinkling of Vietnamese, Canadians, African Americans, American Indians, South Americans, and Europeans of every stripe. Many people retain an element of the traditions of their homeland. Some Japanese Americans in Hawaii, generations removed from the homeland, are more traditional than the Japanese of Tokyo. The same is true of many Chinese, Koreans, and Filipinos, making Hawaii a kind of living museum of Asian and Pacific cultures.

The Overthrow

For years, a group of American sugar plantation owners and missionary descendants had been machinating against the monarchy. On January 17, 1893, with the support of the U.S. minister to Hawaii and the Marines, the conspirators imprisoned Queen Liliuokalani in her own palace. To avoid bloodshed, she abdicated the throne, trusting that the United States government would right the wrong. As the Queen waited in vain, she penned the sorrowful lyric Aloha Oe, Hawaii’s song of farewell.

U.S. President Grover Cleveland’s attempt to restore the monarchy was thwarted by congress. Sanford Dole, a powerful sugar plantation owner, appointed himself president of the newly declared Republic of Hawaii. His fellow sugarcane planters, known as the Big Five, controlled banking, shipping, hardware, and every other facet of economic life on the islands. In 1898, through annexation, Hawaii became an American territory ruled by Dole.

Oahu’s central Ewa Plain soon filled with row crops. The Dole family planted pineapple on its sprawling acreage. Planters imported more contract laborers from Puerto Rico (1900), Korea (1903), and the Philippines (1907–31). Many of the new immigrants stayed on to establish families and become a part of the islands. Meanwhile, Native Hawaiians became a landless minority. Their language was banned in schools and their cultural practices devalued, forced into hiding.

For nearly a century in Hawaii, sugar was king, generously subsidized by the U.S. government. Sugar is a thirsty crop, and plantation owners oversaw the construction of flumes and aqueducts that channeled mountain streams down to parched plains, where waving fields of cane soon grew. The waters that once fed taro patches dried up. The sugar planters dominated the territory’s economy, shaped its social fabric, and kept the islands in a colonial plantation era with bosses and field hands. But the workers eventually went on strike for higher wages and improved working conditions, and the planters found themselves unable to compete with cheap third-world labor costs.

Tourism Takes Hold

Tourism in Hawaii began in the 1860s. Kilauea volcano was one of the world’s prime attractions for adventure travelers. In 1865, a grass Volcano House was built on the rim of Halemaumau Crater to shelter visitors; it was Hawaii’s first tourist hotel. But the visitor industry really got off the ground with the demise of the plantation era.

In 1901, W. C. Peacock built the elegant Beaux Arts Moana Hotel on Waikiki Beach, and W. C. Weedon convinced Honolulu businessmen to bankroll his plan to advertise Hawaii in San Francisco. Armed with a stereopticon and tinted photos of Waikiki, Weedon sailed off in 1902 for 6 months of lecture tours to introduce those remarkable people and the beautiful lands of Hawaii. He drew packed houses. A tourism promotion bureau was formed in 1903, and about 2,000 visitors came to Hawaii that year.

The steamship was Hawaii’s tourism lifeline. It took 41⁄2 days to sail from San Francisco to Honolulu. Streamers, leis, and pomp welcomed each Matson liner at downtown’s Aloha Tower. Well-heeled visitors brought trunks, servants, and Rolls-Royces and stayed for months. Hawaiians amused visitors with personal tours, floral parades, and shows spotlighting that naughty dance, the hula.

Beginning in 1935 and running for the next 40 years, Webley Edwards’s weekly live radio show, Hawaii Calls, planted the sounds of Waikiki—surf, sliding steel guitar, sweet Hawaiian harmonies, drumbeats—in the hearts of millions of listeners in the United States, Australia, and Canada.

By 1936, visitors could fly to Honolulu from San Francisco on the Hawaii Clipper, a seven-passenger Pan American Martin M-130 flying boat, for $360 one-way. The flight took 21 hours, 33 minutes. Modern tourism was born, with five flying boats providing daily service. The 1941 visitor count was a brisk 31,846 through December 6.

World War II & Its Aftermath

On December 7, 1941, Japanese Zeros came out of the rising sun to bomb American warships based at Pearl Harbor. This was the day of infamy that plunged the United States into World War II.

The attack brought immediate changes to the islands. Martial law was declared, stripping the Big Five cartel of its absolute power in a single day. Japanese Americans and German Americans were interned. Hawaii was blacked out at night, Waikiki Beach was strung with barbed wire, and Aloha Tower was painted in camouflage. Only young men bound for the Pacific came to Hawaii during the war years. Many came back to graves in a cemetery called Punchbowl.

Speaking hawaiian

Most everyone in Hawaii speaks English. But many folks now also speak olelo Hawaii, the native language of these Islands. You will regularly hear aloha and mahalo (thank you). If you’ve just arrived, you’re a malihini. Someone who’s been here a long time is a kamaaina. When you finish a job or your meal, you are pau (finished). On Friday, it’s pau hana, work finished. You eat pupu (Hawaii’s version of hors d’oeuvres) when you go pau hana.

The Hawaiian alphabet, created by the New England missionaries, has only 12 letters: the five regular vowels (a, e, i, o, and u) and seven consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, and w). The vowels are pronounced in the Roman fashion: that is, ah, ay, ee, oh, and oo (as in too)—not ay, ee, eye, oh, and you, as in English. For example, huhu is pronounced who-who. Most vowels are sounded separately, though some are pronounced together, as in Kalakaua: "kah-lah-cow-ah."

The postwar years saw the beginnings of Hawaii’s faux culture. The authentic traditions had long been suppressed, and into the void flowed a consumable brand of aloha. Harry Yee invented the Blue Hawaii cocktail and dropped in a tiny Japanese parasol. Vic Bergeron created the mai tai, a drink made of rum and fresh lime juice, and opened Trader Vic’s, America’s first themed restaurant that featured the art, decor, and food of Polynesia. Arthur Godfrey picked up a ukulele and began singing hapa-haole tunes on early TV shows. In 1955, Henry J. Kaiser built the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and the 11-story high-rise Princess Kaiulani Hotel opened on a site where the real princess once played. Hawaii greeted 109,000 visitors that year.


In 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. That year also saw the arrival of the first jet airliners, which brought 250,000 tourists to the state. Aloha spirit began to buckle under the sheer force of numbers. Waikiki’s room count nearly doubled in 2 years, from 16,000 units in 1969 to 31,000 in 1971, and kept increasing until city fathers finally clamped down on growth. By 1980, annual arrivals had reached 4 million.

In the early 1980s, the Japanese began traveling overseas in record numbers, bringing with them plenty of yen to spend. Their effect on sales in Hawaii was phenomenal: European boutiques opened branches in Honolulu, and duty-free shopping became the main supporter of Honolulu International Airport. Japanese investors competed for the chance to own or build part of Hawaii. Hotels sold so fast and at such unbelievable prices that heads began to spin with dollar signs.

In 1986, Hawaii’s visitor count passed 5 million. Two years later, it went over 6 million. Fantasy megaresorts bloomed on the neighbor islands like giant artificial flowers, swelling the luxury market with ever-swanker accommodations. The visitor count was at a record 6.7 million in 1990 when the Gulf War and worldwide recessions burst the bubble in early 1991. The following year, Hurricane Iniki devastated Kauai. Airfare wars sent Americans to Mexico and the Caribbean. Overbuilt with luxury hotels, Hawaii slashed its room rates, giving middle-class consumers access to high-end digs at affordable prices—a trend that continues as Hawaii struggles to stay atop the tourism heap. Still, Hawaii’s tourism industry had a record-breaking 2013, welcoming more than 8.2 million visitors, who spent a whopping $14.5 billion. The machine that runs Hawaii’s economy appears to be back on track.

Hawaii Today

A Cultural Renaissance

Despite the ever-increasing influx of foreign people and customs, the Native Hawaiian culture is experiencing a rebirth. It began in earnest in 1976, when members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society launched Hokulea, a double-hulled canoe of the sort that hadn’t been seen on these shores in centuries. The Hokulea’s daring crew sailed her 2,500 miles to Tahiti without using modern instruments, relying instead on ancient navigational techniques. Most historians at that time discounted Polynesian wayfinding methods as rudimentary; the prevailing theory was that Pacific Islanders had discovered Hawaii by accident, not intention. The Hokulea’s successful voyage sparked a fire in hearts of indigenous islanders across the Pacific, who reclaimed their identity as a sophisticated, powerful people with unique wisdom to offer the world.

Hula girls.

The Hawaiian language found new life, too. In 1984, a group of educators and parents recognized that, with fewer than 50 children fluent in Hawaiian, the language was dangerously close to extinction. They started a preschool where keiki (children) learned lessons purely in Hawaiian. They overcame numerous bureaucratic obstacles (including a law still on the books forbidding instruction in Hawaiian) to establish Hawaiian-language-immersion programs across the state that run from preschool through post-graduate education.

Hula—which never fully disappeared despite the missionaries’ best efforts—is thriving. At the annual Merrie Monarch festival commemorating King Kalakaua, hula halau (troupes) from Hawaii and beyond gather to demonstrate their skill and artistry. Fans of the ancient dance form are glued to the live broadcast of what is known as the Olympics of hula. Kumu hula (hula teachers) have safeguarded many Hawaiian cultural practices as part of their art: the making of kapa, the collection and cultivation of native herbs, and the observation of kuleana, an individual’s responsibility to the community.

In that same spirit, in May 2014,