Everyone goes to Hawaii. Everyone has been to Hawaii. Everyone except me that is, so in November 2013, seeing an ad from a cruise company for a last minute reduced rate, suite for the price of a balcony, fifteen day cruise of the Hawaiian islands, I bit the bullet and decided that I too, would go to Hawaii.
The trip was a whirlwind tour of four islands which only gave me a small sampling of what Hawaii has to offer. I will give an overview of our experiences, island by island.
The port of Hilo is on the big island of Hawaii.
Settled by Polynesians 1,000 years ago, this calming paradise was the trading and cultural center of Hawaii, resting between dense jungle and a usually tranquil Pacific. Overlooking Hilo, Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on Earth; its sister, Kilauea, is the most active. From Hawaii Volcanoes National Park you can see these two world’s most active volcanoes, dramatic lava landscapes and get insight into the birth of the Hawaiian islands from 70 million years of volcanic activity.
For millennia, Hawaiians lived off land and sea. In 1778, life changed irrevocably for the islanders with the arrival of the British adventurer, Captain James Cook. Missionaries followed in the early 1800’s and with them, a host of visitors who would forever change the culture, bringing in hundreds of new species, from dogs to pineapple. The natural sandalwood forests were harvested to near extinction. The rich soil welcomed new crops, from sugar cane to bananas, pineapple to grapes and coffee. Europeans and Americans brought innovation and plagues, wiping out thousands of native Hawaiians.
The ancient Hawaiians believed Hilo was a link to Heaven, a portal to another world. The scenery, the beaches, the volcanoes, the hula, the food, the culture …………. create a calming pace. Hilo is paradise.
The island of Oahu stretches 44 miles long and 30 miles wide. It is a tropical fantasy which offers everything from spectacular beaches lush vegetation, exotic plant life, stunning landscapes, world-class surfing and awe- inspiring history. It attracts 4.5 million visitors every year.
With the arrival of James Cook in 1778, it took another 16 years before a European vessel entered Honolulu’s Harbor. When British captain William Brown sailed into its calm peaceful waters, he took one look at its pristine beauty and named it Fare Haven, which translates to Honolulu in Hawaiian. Honolulu is a bustling, thriving city
with a sparkling harbor, world famous beaches, impressive craters and the home to America’s only palace.
Built by King Kalakaua between 1879 and 1882, the Iolani Palace is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The palace, a four story Italian Renaissance Palace, was considered far ahead of its time, having electricity before the White House and Buckingham Palace.
Oahu may be small but it packs a lot of beauty and fascinating attractions into five regions – Honolulu, North Shore, Central Oahu, Windward Coast and Leeward Coast.
Nawiliwili Harbor, Lihue, Kauai
Kauai is known as the ‘Garden Isle’. It offers a variety of scenery, beaches, villages and a sense of aloofness from the other Hawaiian Islands as it is, along with its neighbor Niihau, the one island that cannot be seen from any of the others. Historically, Kauai was never physically conquered by King Kamehameha but rather, Kauai’s king voluntarily submitted to Kamehameha’s sovereignty and as a result kept much of the island’s autonomy.
Kauai is the fourth largest of the Hawaiian Islands. In the center of the island is Mr. Waialeale, a remnant of the long-extinct volcano that gave birth to Kauai. It is also the wettest spot on earth with 450 inches of rain a year. Along the north shore are the Na Pali cliffs, 14 miles of rich green valleys and steep, narrow cliffs. There is also the desert-like palette of Waimea Canyon, the lush tropical Fern Grotto and the Lumahai Beach.
Lihue is the commercial and governing center of the island.
Formed by two massive volcanoes, Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands. These volcanoes are joined by a rich valley, which gives Maui its nickname, the ‘Valley Isle’.
The spectacular Haleakala Crater, the world’s largest inactive volcano, towers 10,032 feet above sea level. Haleakala means ‘The House of the Sun’.
The island’s varied topography accounts for Maui’s scenic and climatic contrasts. With more than 80 beaches, Mai has more miles of swimmable beach than any other island. Ancient volcanic activity has left sands in a rainbow of colors ranging from white and gold to black, green and garnet. There is an endless sea of sugarcane and pineapple fields with Maui now being the only one of the Hawaiian islands which grows sugarcane.
Maui is a popular tourist destination with more than 2 million visitors a year, second only to Oahu. A colorful waterfront town, Lahaina is Maui’s most popular resort area and was once the Pacific center for America’s whaling fleet. Today the town, preserving the spirit and architecture of the 1800’s, is designated as a National Historic District.
While in Lahaina, a visit to the Maui Ocean center is most interesting. In addition to all the exhibits, the walk through a 54 foot underwater transparent tube surrounded by all manner of marine life takes one right into the undersea world.