A paradise for those who want to rest in an incomparable setting, but also for those who want to take part in water sports or go snorkelling. Hawaii, the 50th state of the United States (Aloha State), is an archipelago of volcanic origin, which comprises eight main islands. Imagine traces of beauty spread over 2400 square kilometres, alongside hundreds of atolls. Breathe the sea breeze, the scent of jasmine, learn to appreciate the variety of landscapes, but also the traditions that are the result of a history so full of many different contributions.
Hawaii is a mix of tradition and innovation, so the flow of discos and the nightlife energy alternates with Japanese ceremonies or the tranquillity of the temples. The varied landscapes, the tropical climate, the variety of beaches, oceans and the majestic volcanoes make it an ideal destination for tourists and a reference point for scholars.
There are so many interesting elements that revolve around the islands, starting with the presence of the only tropical rainforest in the United States. Hawaii also has several coffee plantations, although it is a very rare and refined product. The archipelago has always been the ideal habitat for many animal species, starting with birds. 20% of marine species, numerous varieties of butterfly fish and angel fish are all at home here. Let’s find out together what other treasures the eight main islands hide:
Oahu is the third of the Hawaiian islands, after Maui and Big Island, but we can say it is second to none. It is now a fixed destination of every tourist itinerary and accommodates more than half of the total population. There is no shortage of attractions and services, especially in the capital, Honolulu. In addition to being a city full of ideas, it was also the place of birth of the former American president Barack Obama.
And we have not yet talked about the landscapes that combines lovely beaches with pineapple plantations, not forgetting volcanoes or wild areas. It is also the busiest island with the most transport links: you can arrive on an international flight, and there is a great bus network on the island
There is also history to discover here. Oahu is home to the old naval base of Pearl Harbour, which became famous for theJapanese Air Force attack in December 7, 1941. Every day long lines of people visit the the USS Arizona Memorial which holds the remains of the ship in which more than 1,100 sailors were killed. A place of memory and historical
Honolulu in Hawaiian means “protected bay” due to its strategic location, in one of the few natural ports of the archipelago. Despite being the capital, it is a place that manages to maintain its tranquillity, very different from European chaos. The city centre gives priority to pedestrians over cars and you can visit it on foot. The town is located on the southeast coast. Honolulu has no shortage of architectural mix-ups. You’ll find yourself facing skyscrapers, stunning beaches, lively clubs and restaurants specialising in fish dishes.
The connecting thread here is the balance between ancient and modern, but there is one building that stands out: it is the Iolani Palace. The structure was wanted by King Kamehameha I who chose Honolulu as its capital. There is a museum that pays homage to the very last descendant of the royal dynasty: the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, where you can see the many treasures of Hawaiian crafts. You can find many of the materials inherited from the princess: masks, works of art, even weapons. Here you can discover Polynesian traditions like nowhere else in the world. Inside, you’ll also find a curious collection of insects, as well as a planetarium and a garden
Other museums not to be missed include the Honolulu Academy of Arts, which houses works by American, Asian and European artists, including Monet and Modigliani. To enjoy some nightlife and clubs you must go to Waikiki, the coastal extension of Honolulu. A long row of typical restaurant shops and nightclubs. The area has been frequented since the 19th century, when it was the holiday home of Hawaiian royalty who enjoyed surfing on basic boards
Waikiki soon turned into a residential neighbourhood, with skyscrapers, shops and a lively nightlife. Even its beach (Waikiki Beach) has become one of the most famous in the world, a symbol of luxury tourism: its name in Hawaiian literally means “gushing water” and refers to the springs and streams that fed it when it was separated from the city. The beach is divided into two parts, one where we find the surfers. Other beaches not to be missed are Sandy Beach, Kailua Beach and the three slightly wilder coral beaches: Waimanalo Bay, Kualoa and Malaekahana.
Can you go to Hawaii without seeing volcanoes? Don’t worry, you’re in luck the most emblematic crater (Diamond Head) is close to the capital. Just a two-hour walk for access to unforgettable views. Sea lovers must visit Sea Life Park Hawaii: here you’ll find penguins and dolphins roaming around. You’ll also be able to see stingrays, sea lions and sharks. Further south, inside a cylinder-shaped tower, you will find the Makapuu Point Light, a 14-metre lighthouse
For trekking lovers, the trail of Manoa Falls is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is not for everyone to be able to cross a vault of trees, including guavas and figs. The Oahu Trail will also allow you to see eucalyptus and bamboo. On the slopes, you need to sharpen the view to see wildflowers and traces of ginger. At the end of the journey you will find yourself in front of the Manoa Falls, waterfalls that end up in a crystal-clear pool after a leap of 45 metres
On the island there will be no shortage of places to try out typical cuisine and local dishes, in particular, Lomi Salmon. According to the traditional recipe, salt is rubbed into the salmon with your hands along with some ingredients. The name of the dish already reveals the process: the word “lomi” means rubbing or dough. Another Hawaiian national dish, which is made from the root of taro, a tuber, peeled, boiled then combined with meat.
It’s officially called Hawaii, like the archipelago, but to avoid confusion, it was decided to give it the nickname of Big Island. It is the largest island and, geologically, the youngest. Its tourist vocation is less accentuated and allows visitors to have a holiday with peace of mind and in contact with nature
Less touristy than the islands of Oahu and Maui it is perfect for those who want peace of mind and nature. The island, which extends for over 10,000 kilometres, and so big that its territories vary not just in the type of landscapes, but also in climate. It ranges from tundra to humid climate, you cross the lava of volcanoes, you are in front of snow-capped peaks. You can walk in green valleys or you can go as far as the black beaches of Punaluu Beach.
The Big Island is also home to some of the most impressive waterfalls: Hiilawe Falls. Prepare to watch water leaps of 400 metres. We find ourselves on the Lalakea River. Only the Waihilau Waterfall is able to go higher, 790 metres. The Islands know how to show off fire too. Trekking and nature lovers will have plenty of opportunities to see wonderful volcanic ranges. To begin with, there is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, about forty kilometres from the city of Hilo.
The area is a Unesco Heritage site and allows you to discover different paths, with the opportunity to camp. The park includes two volcanoes that are still active. One is the largest on the planet, it’s called Mauna Loa, and is a colossus of 4,169 metres. The second is the Kilauea Caldera. The area is widely visited on routes and trails stretching out for over 240 kilometres. You can walk amongst extremely rare plant species and exotic animals.
On Big Island, trekking enthusiasts can’t miss the hike on Mauna Kea. The white mountain reaches 4205 metres above sea level. It’s an astronomical point, one of the most important in the world. In fact, the Imaloa Astronomy Centre of Hawaii, a museum that manages to unite nature, religion and science, is a must-see.
Here you will learn how the most modern telescopes work, we will talk about travel, but above all you will learn the logic of the ancient Polynesian maps. They were drawn on the basis of widespread religious beliefs. Heading to the west coast, the city of Kailua is the main town. It is a tourist-oriented, well-organised town with excellent services. Add to this a perfect climate. It is served by an airport, it is also a cruise port and one of the most tourist-concentrated resorts on the whole island.
The main attractions can be visited in the centre. Colourful buildings are transformed into restaurants, shops, and historical sites, such as Hulihee Palace, a museum, formerly the location where the monarchs spent their holidays. There are also several churches to visit. Among the most characteristic features, the small Saint Peter by the Sea, white and blue in colour. A jewel to photograph.
Among the cities not to be missed is, however, Hilo, also home to an international airport: on the northeast side of the island, perfect for shopping, or for taking a break in its typical restaurants. For those who love nature, there are enchanted or picturesque beaches. It hosts the Pacific Tsunami Museum, where you can learn more about the terrible phenomena, which have almost destroyed the area. There is also a farmers’ market, in the centre, where you can taste typical dishes and buy traditional artefacts. There is no shortage of natural beauty in the area. These include the Liliuokalani Garden, with its Japanese-style ponds and gardens, spread over 30 acres.
Maui is the second largest island the Hawaiian archipelago. Here, too, there is no shortage of things to do, starting with the trek on two volcanoes. To get a complete picture, there are also waterfalls, varied landscapes and postcard beaches. The name Maui comes from the demigod of Hawaiian mythology. According to legends, it was James Cook who discovered it, but he could not get in, as he couldn’t find a place to dock.
On the other hand, the person who did succeed in landing on the island was the French Admiral La Perouse in 1786. And in his honour there is a bay with a golden sand beach, near Wailea. The seabed of the coasts is suitable for diving and snorkelling. The climate is perfect too. Among the natural wonders of the area there are the Honokohau Falls, waterfalls that fall from 335 metres amidst lush vegetation
Have fun here recognising the places chosen by Spielberg for his “Jurassic Park””. There will also be the opportunity to discover daily town life: Lahaina is the best-known and largest in this area; From 1820 to 1845, it was the capital of the kingdom of Hawaii, as well as the residence of the kings. The climate is sunny and dry, in fact the name Lahaina means “relentless sun”. The narrow streets of this pretty town contain the atmosphere of the 1800s. Front Street is the heart: go and explore this pedestrian street with its colourful buildings. Guests can enter shops, restaurants, and art galleries. The road also opens onto green areas and other times it grants unique glimpses of the ocean
To the north is the capital of the island, Wailuku, full of bars and shops. There is no shortage of museums either, where you can learn about Polynesian culture and traditions. Nearby is Hookipa Beach, a surfer’s paradise. Thanks to the huge waves, it is the home of the surfing and windsurfing championships. The best known beach resorts stand where the climate is drier and sunnier. To the south is the great Makena Beach: golden sand, lush vegetation and clear waters ideal for snorkelling.
The east coast is covered by lush tropical forest. The road that winds around it is one of the most scenic routes. There are also curiosities: the largest volcano on the island, Haleakala, provides lunar landscape that tourists love. Nothing stops them on the climb to 3000. Determined to climb to about 3000 metres high, there are those who walk, those who go by car, bus or even bike. Among the many the trails, divided according to the degree of difficulty; in addition to the craters and the ocean, you can also see the clouds from below. Don’t miss the astronomy observatory.
Nicknamed “The Garden Island” for the size of its forests, Kauai, is jagged and has two peaks that exceed 1500 metres: Kawaikini, reaches 1,598 metres, and Waialeal is a slightly lower volcano. On the island just keep your eyes open to admire cliffs mingling with sandy expanses, before gently entering clear water. You will have the opportunity to experience the relaxed style of the inhabitants. The first European to set foot in Kauai was the English admiral James Cook, in 1778.
The variety of landscapes and natural views on the island is unique and varied, mixing rainforest, deserts, swamps, rugged mountains with rolling cultivated hills. Visitors are captivated by the coasts, where there are beautiful sandy beaches palm trees, sheltered from the strongest winds. One example is Anini beach. It is a protected bay where the sea is calm and ideal for bathing and snorkelling, given the presence of a coral reef. In this enchanted beach, the sand is pink, the water is clear and along the beach you will encounter luxurious villas with large gardens
In Kauai, nature shows off with the Na Pali Coast, a majestic cliff overlooking the ocean. A jewel that stretches for 35 kilometres inside the park of the same name. Among other treasures we find the Kilauea Lighthouse,another special park. The area stretches and ends with a lighthouse. From above, you can even witness the transit of whales from November to April. You can come across the Nene, Hawaii’s wild geese.
Slowness and simplicity are the ingredients behind the visit to Molokai. Sixty miles long, “the friendly island” is an explosion of lush forests, nestled in a crystal clear ocean. The highest point, at just over 1500 metres, is the Kamakou: It is surrounded by cliffs overhanging the clear sea. You will find peace and quiet here, as there are only 8,000 inhabitants, many of whom are indigenous.
One the most interesting areas is the Kalaupapa Peninsula, whose mountains sometimes plunge into a light mist, and are constantly affected by high, rough waves. Beautiful and isolated, it is home to an ancient leper colony where a Belgian priest, father Damien worked with the sick. He devoted his life to caring for the needy, and worked to build churches and houses. The story of the generous missionary, who died of leprosy, was also told in two biographical films: “The Cursed Island”, from 1959, and “Molokai: The Story of Father Damien” (1999). Today the whole area has become a national historic park. You can only visit in groups and with an authorised guide.
Kamakou, the highest mountain in Molokai, touched by clouds and the protagonist of a local legend cannot be missed. According to tradition, local women brought the placenta of newborns here: a good omen to guarantee them a peaceful life. The town of Kaunakakai is the largest and most welcoming centre of the island. Stroll on the pier, visit two churches, such as St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and the Kaluaaha Church. If you have a green fingers, go to a garden nursery: here you can discover all the steps required to make the famous Hawaiian garlands . The most tourist-oriented area is the village of Molokai Ranch: the area covers 21,000 hectares and includes a farm and many spaces for outdoor sports activities, including mountain biking, kayaking and snorkelling.
The beaches are quiet, but attention must be paid to the currents. The best known is Papohaku Beach (Three Mile Beach) which is located to the west, in Papohaku Beach Park. It has white sand, and extends for over 5 kilometres. From mid-December until March, you can spot whales on a guided boat or catamaran tour. A magical and immersive experience, in addition to the vision of the giants of the sea, you will be involved with the crew in teamwork.
Lanai has a breathtaking coastline with fabulous beaches and cliffs, and a lovely inland forest. A miniature paradise to experience according to your needs and possibilities: it is a place with two faces: comfort and relaxation and adventure, aboard off-road vehicles, to explore wonderful areas off the beaten track. There’s another reason to visit Lanai, to taste the pineapples. The island is in fact nicknamed “The Pineapple Island, ” for the huge plantations of the fruit, cultivated only for internal use. Lanai has only in recent years experienced the presence of tourists, yet you will find smiles, friendliness and a huge welcome here
The climate helps too: mild and with little rain. Even the small town centre has dream beaches, the most famous being Hulopoe Beach, which is located to the south, in Hulopoe Bay. This large public beach is the best for those who want to relax and lie down for hours on the golden sand, but also for those who love snorkelling thanks to the amount of sea creatures. With perfect clear waters for diving and a picnic area with tables and ovens for the barbecue.
There is also a natural pool to discover on the eastern side of the bay. A jewel carved into volcanic rock. Here, you will feel you are inside a small aquarium, with the hermit crabs, patella and small fluorescent fish. The beach is in a protected area and tourists are advised to be respectful and not take away rocks, shells or sand. A treat not to be missed in the area are Lanai’s rock gardens: to reach them you have to travel more than 11 kilometres.
Here, the scenery of picturesque rocks and geological formations attract not only professionals, but nature lovers too. The boulders bear a trace of the ancient eruptions, and they look like they have been sculpted. Colours range from red tones, orange, purple to earth colour, and change according to the light that hits them. The centre of the area is Dole Park, a green area where people meet and have picnics in the shade of the pines. Around this area are the clubs, shops, restaurants and meeting points of the city. Visit the shops producing artefacts and handicrafts, or take a break in the restaurants to get to know the local cuisine. There is also a touch of culture in the Lanai Art Centre. Works by local artists are on show here: a mix of styles and techniques that ranges from watercolours to colourful sculptures.
Niihau is the smallest and most isolated of the inhabited islands of Hawaii. If you want to imagine an extreme place, this is the right destination. There are no hotels, streets or restaurants. The only settlement is located in Puuwai, an independent, autonomous village where the community lives, as if time has stood still. The only activities are fishing, livestock and a little bit of agriculture. Yet we are talking about a paradise, full of beauty and charm. A jewel of just 180 square kilometres and is surrounded by cliffs and beaches formed by countless tiny shells. Some Niihau residents spend days collecting and selecting the best shells, with which to create refined necklaces.
For more than 150 years, the island has belonged to the Scottish Sinclair family, who, to honour a promise, has managed to keep Niihau isolated from the rest of the world. The island has only dirt paths that allow you to move around the territory. Only a few, then, manage to get permission to come here, with the idea of preserve the precious ecosystem. Even the Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, was denied landing by helicopter.
The smallest of the islands was used by the Americans as a military base. Over time it has always been sparsely populated, and today it is occasionally inhabited. It is very close to Maui, as the two islands are only 17 kilometres from each other. You can visit it in an original way: becoming volunteers working on the island (an experience that children can also do). The “expeditions” sail from Maui, and there are several activities to do and schedule. From planting new shrubs, to eliminating invasive herbs. The work also alternates moments of leisure with cultural activities. The volunteers learn the history of the island through characteristic songs and dances.
The beauty of the Hawaiian Islands
Eight islands that give endless opportunities: Hawaii tells fairytale and wild stories and knows how to offer unique natural spectacles, in a continuation of volcanoes and parks. There is no shortage of archaeological remains or modern constructions hosting clubs, shopping malls in the area. Hawaii’s culture is a crossroads of influences, which mingle with the native tradition.
There is one constant in the islands, you will always be greeted by dazzling smiles, flower necklaces and magical sunsets, with colours that look like they have been painted. Nature is lush and bursting everywhere, the coral reef is a work of art that provides calm waters.
Waterfalls and craters will then transport you to special sets. There is also the possibility to do a lot of sports. Even golf, if you’re a fan: the islands host more than 100 courses with unbelievable views. Hawaii is a heavenly and unspoiled place and it is no coincidence that its beauty has served as a backdrop for so many successes: Some of the famous films shot there, have been Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park. It’s time to plan the next film of your holidays. Action! Destination Hawaii.