Hawaii has long been on my family’s travel wish list. With its year-round glorious weather, famous beaches and landscapes that have formed the backdrop of many Hollywood blockbusters, the US state is a holiday dream come true. Travelling there is now easier than ever, with Hawaiian Airlines flying direct from Brisbane.
Bags packed and expectations high, we boarded the 10-hour flight to Honolulu on a journey that would stay in our minds – and hearts – forever.
Although commonly referred to as the singular ‘Hawaii’, it’s actually a group of islands collectively known as The Hawaiian Islands. The capital city of Honolulu is located on the island of Oahu and home to the international airport. From here, you can take a connecting flight to the other islands in the group – Molokai, Maui, Lanai, The Big Island and – our destination – Kauai (pronounced Kah-way-he).
Nicknamed ‘The Garden Isle’, Kauai is old-school Hawaii with its traditional architecture and free-roaming chickens. The contrast between modern and traditional was clear when I sat at Starbucks with my morning coffee and was joined by a rooster that sat on the chair next to me. In Kauai, modern comfort blends with traditional Hawaiian culture in the most wonderful way, giving the island a unique charm that stays with you long after you’ve left.
About a 20-minute drive from Lihue Airport is the resort area of Poipu Beach and our accommodation at Kiahuna Plantation Resort by Outrigger. The fully self-contained, condo-style accommodation set on 12 hectares of beautifully landscaped lawns was peaceful and private.
Just across the road from the resort was a shopping village with everything we needed – a grocery store, restaurants, cafes, boutiques and more. After stocking up on the essentials, we set about exploring Poipu Beach and spent the afternoon swimming in the clear ocean. The following day we hired a car to see more of what the enchanting island had to offer.
On Kauai’s South Shore, near Poipu, is the Spouting Horn – a spectacular blowhole that is one of the most-photographed spots on Kauai. Here, the Poipu surf channels into a natural lava tube and releases a huge spout of water that can reach up to 15 metres high.
TIP: Read up on the legend of the lizard Kaikapu before visiting the Spouting Horn for a truly magical experience.
A five-minute drive from Poipu is Koloa, the site of Hawaii’s first successful sugar mill (opened in 1835) which set the precedent for commercial sugar production across the islands. Today, Koloa’s quaint plantation buildings have been carefully restored and are now home to unique shops and restaurants. Old Koloa Town is quintessential Hawaii – it felt like we were in a scene from Lilo and Stitch – and one of the highlights of our trip. And the shave ice tasted amazing.
Before leaving Australia, I was given a tip to try mountain tubing with Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures. Not sure what to expect, we hopped in a four-wheel-drive with our guide and drove into the emerald-green depths of Kauai’s interior. The scenery was incredible but paled in comparison with what we saw after jumping on big inflatable donuts and floating down open canals and through tunnels and flumes, hand-dug during the sugar boom of the 1800s. This was historical engineering – and nature – at its best.
After the relaxing, slow place of Kauai, it took a little time to adjust to the hive of activity that is Honolulu – more specifically, Waikiki. This is modern Hawaii, which I would describe as the Gold Coast on steroids. That’s not a criticism, though – the energy is palpable and entertainment is aplenty. And the shopping… ohhhh, the shopping.
Our accommodation at Outrigger Beachcomber Waikiki was on the main strip – Kalakaua Avenue – and overlooked Waikiki Beach in front and Diamond Head in the distance. For my husband, a keen surfer, this was a pilgrimage of sorts. After all, legendary Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku – considered the ‘father of modern surfing’ in Australia – grew up surfing the waves of Waikiki. Standing at the foot of Duke’s statue was almost a religious experience for him and the resulting photo now has pride of place on the living room wall.
In Honolulu, you can do as much or as little as you like. Hike up Diamond Head if you have the energy, or just relax on the golden shores of Waikiki Beach. Hawaii’s go-to for everything – ABC Stores – sell a wide variety of fresh sandwiches and cold drinks, so we would stock up and spend the day picnicking and swimming at the beach.
TIP: If you’re keen for a wave, you can hire a surfboard on Waikiki Beach, so there’s no need to BYO.
The shopping here is amazing and, if you’re prepared to look, there are some serious bargains to be had. Wear comfortable shoes and save some room in your suitcase – you’re going to need it. Thankfully, Hawaiian Airlines includes two 32kg luggage allowance per person, so between the five of us we were sorted.
About a 45-minute drive from Waikiki is Ka’a’awa Valley – a 1600-hectare private nature reserve known as Hollywood’s ‘Hawaii Backlot’. It is here films including Jurassic World, Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island and Jurassic Park were filmed, along with some of Elvis’ classics in the 1960s. Tours of the area are conducted from Kualoa Ranch and take you through the sets of these movies and more. There are various tours to choose from and you can book online.
Discover the beauty and culture of Hawaii, where adventure awaits. Whether it’s cruising all four islands, immersing yourself in the culture and tradition on a guided tour or simply relaxing on Waikiki Beach, RACQ Travel can help plan your dream Hawaiian holiday.
The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.