When friends learn that I spent the first 17 years of my life in Hawai’i, the reaction is twofold. First, they typically ooh and ahh with undisguised envy. “That must have been an amazing place to grow up,” friends say. And I enthusiastically reply in the affirmative. Hawai’i was and is a wonderful place for children and adults alike, with a safe, clean environment, abundant nature, rich diversity, and a unique culture and history.
The second reaction, one that often comes much later, is a request for advice. Which islands should I visit? What are the best places to eat? What sights should I see?
If you are the type of visitor who likes to plunk down by the pool and never leave your fancy resort for the duration of your stay, the information I offer will be of little use to you. If, however, you want to see all of what Hawai’i has to offer, as a natural, cultural, historical, and culinary destination, read on.
For first time visitors who have just one week in Hawai’i, to get a good feel for the islands, I recommend 3-4 days on O’ahu and 4-5 days on either the Big Island (island of Hawai’i) or Kaua’i. This itinerary offers a taste of the best of both urban and scenic delights.
For a less hectic itinerary, another option is to choose a single island and explore it really well. This allows time for both sightseeing and ample relaxing.
You’ll want to rent a car; public transportation is extremely limited and slow. You’ll also need to fly between the islands.
A BRIEF WORD ABOUT THE OTHER ISLANDS
Maui is also very beautiful and boasts Haleakala, a famous, dormant volcano. Like O’ahu, Maui is highly developed and populated and is very popular with tourists. Maui has a number of large and luxurious resorts, like The Four Seasons and the Grand Wailea. My feeling about Maui is if I want the highly developed urban experience, I’d rather go to O’ahu, but many people love Maui and many mainlanders have made it their home.
Lana’i is a rather exclusive island, a former pineapple plantation, that was opened to the public only very recently and has only one hotel and limited accessibility. Bill Gates got married there.
Moloka’i is known as the island of paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys). It is not a very popular island for tourists, as it lacks resorts, entertainment, the fine beaches of the other islands, and shopping. Its primary tourist attraction was the ranches, the largest of which closed in 2008 for financial reasons.