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Catch the Aloha Spirit by Island Hopping in Hawaii
By: Agha Khan
Aug. 12, 2006 06:15 PM
While many a honeymooning couple has enjoyed a sunset luau at a Maui resort and families have been vacationing on Honolulu’s famed Waikiki beach for decades, surprisingly few travelers know Hawaii off the beaten path. What better way to explore the nooks and crannies of the more popular islands and get to know Hawaii’s less touristy islands than by planning an island-hopping vacation? Whether you want to captain your own yacht or hire a helicopter, Hawaii’s islands were made for exploring. In fact, given the rugged coastal landscape of some islands, there is no other way to see all of Hawaii’s natural beauty. So, pack your bags and follow our ten-day itinerary on three of Hawaii’s most majestic islands designed to give you maximum Aloha spirit.
Day One: Oahu
The island of Oahu is an ideal starting point and transition from the mainland to Hawaiian life. The city of Honolulu, the island and state’s primary hub, is a cosmopolitan city filled with commercial development, hotels, restaurants, shops, spas and nightlife. Oh, and did we mention, the beach? The white sands of Waikiki extend across a stretch of the city, drawing in picnicking local families and guests of upscale resorts alike. Every urban amenity is available, yet Honolulu’s visual landscape of ocean, mountains and tropical foliage remind visitors that they’re not on the mainland anymore. It is Hawaii’s third largest island with much to see and do.
Popular hotels among luxury travelers include the Kahala (formerly the Kahala Mandarin Oriental), whose recent $20 million refurbishment provides updated décor and poolside cabanas outfitted with high tech amenities such as iPod Nanos, flat screen televisions and wireless internet access. Another favorite is the W Honolulu Diamond Head Hotel, which is also completing an interior overhaul in April. Though the trendy W style will remain, the look in each room will be updated and W’s popular signature bed will be added to each room. Beachside Hyatt Regency Hotel and Spa, Halekulani Hotel, Castle Waikiki Shore, and ResortQuest Waikiki Beach Tower attract discerning visitors.
While on Oahu, don’t miss the landscape and sights beyond Honolulu – Waikiki, though beautiful, is only one of many beaches on Oahu. Take in the secluded beaches of Southeast Oahu and try to guess which one served as the backdrop to that infamous scene in “From Here to Eternity”. Take the yacht along the popular surf spots of the North Shore to Kaena Point where Hawaiian tradition holds that souls meet eternity.
Day Four: Kauai
Now that you’ve acclimated to the time difference, the warm, slightly humid climate, and the friendly atmosphere, it’s time to move on to pure Hawaiian spirit in Kauai. Laid-back and less developed yet with every amenity needed for living well, Kauai represents the essence of Hawaiian life. Legislation mandates that no structure is built on Kauai that is taller than a coconut tree, so don’t expect to find high-rise resorts or a skyscraper-filled skyline. The island is, however, filled with rainforest hiking trails, dramatic mountain views and foliage like you’ve never seen before – after all, it is called The Garden Isle.
Kauai is small enough to drive most of the way around within a day – roads stop at the Napali coast on the North Shore, and the only way to traverse the mountains is by helicopter, boat, or, for the very adventurous, a rigorous hike across steep mountains. The reward? Secluded beaches and photo opportunities your friends back home will not believe. The southern tip of the island at Poipu Beach is less dramatic but has more reliably dry weather, and with the gorgeous Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa and fine dining such as Roy’s, it is a popular area to stay. On the Eastern coastline between the two ends of the island are the more populated towns of Kapaa and Lihue. Kapaa has a youthful feeling, its downtown littered with surfer cafes, burger joints and health food shops.
The most magnetic draw of the island is ultimately the North Shore with its emerald mountains and hidden beaches. Starting with the luxurious Princeville Resort in the developed area of Princeville and further, the landscape is magical. For guests of the Princeville Resort, a beach and world-class golf course are available. Further north, several restaurants draw foodies, such as Bali Hai at the Hanalei Bay Resort and Hanalei Dolphin.
While on Kauai, don’t miss the opportunity to golf on some of the world’s most highly ranked golf courses. Try the Princeville Resort’s Makai Course and Prince Course, 45 holes designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The Poipu Bay Golf Course is an absolute must for golfers. The course, also designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., plays host to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf every November. For a unique experience on a course woven into 750 acres of native ecosystem – including 40 acres of freshwater lagoons – the Kauai Lagoons Golf Club’s Kiele Course is a Jack Nicklaus-designed masterpiece.
Day Seven: The Big Island of Hawaii
The island of Hawaii, known as The Big Island is a study in contradictions – black lava rock from its five volcanoes and the white sand beaches all the islands are known for. The spectacular landscape includes glittering waterfalls nestled in tropical jungles, the snowcapped mountain peak of the world’s tallest sea mountain Mauna Kea, and the black lava rocks intermingled with sandy beaches of white, golden and shades of green. Despite its size (it’s roughly the size of Connecticut), it is the least populated of all the islands of the Hawaiian archipelago.
Although it boasts several luxury hotels and resorts, Hawaii is more inclined to inspire spiritual awe and wonderment than the desire for pampering. It is also an adventurer’s dream – kayakers will delight in its coastline’s caves and the beaches only accessible by boat. Hop off the boat and take in the colorful, majestic life under the sea with scuba or snorkeling gear. On the island, hiking, biking and horseback riding will take you far, far away from it all onto volcanoes and deep inside rainforests.
The Kohala Coast is graced with several beautiful places to stay. Visitors looking for luxurious amenities will find them at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Mauna Lani Resort and Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.
While on The Big Island, don’t miss the chance to see eleven types of terrain in one helicopter tour. Strap in and prepare yourself for jaw-dropping grandeur. Sunshine Helicopters offers four types of tours on request. (www.sunshinehelicopters.com) Some would argue that you’ve never seen a truly majestic sunset until you’ve seen one from the observatory at Mauna Kea, named the white mountain for its snowcapped peak. The Hawaii Forest and Trail tour agency will take you up to their collection of telescopes for a sunset view and dinner at a historic ranch nearby.
Oahu Inside Tips
• If you happen to be an active or retired military or civilian Department of Defense employee, you’re in luck. The beautiful Hale Koa Hotel right on Waikiki Beach and adjacent to Fort DeRussy is reserved just for you – and, at less than half what neighboring luxury hotels cost.
• Looking for the ultimate in romance? Then book the Vera Wang Suite at the Halekulani – if you can. Booked up frequently for honeymoons and anniversaries, the 2,100 square foot suite with 600 foot lanai designed by the celebrated wedding dress designer, is arguably the most beautiful hotel suite in all of Hawaii.
• Want to experience old Hawaiian glamour? Then the Royal Hawaiian, a pink structure built in 1927 as a Spanish-Moorish homage to Rudolph Valentino on an elite stretch of Waikiki, is for you. The grande dame of Honolulu hotels, its architecture and décor will take you back to a bygone age of Queen Kaahumanu who used to summer on the very same stretch of beach.
Kauai Inside Tips
• Many well-heeled visitors opt to rent private homes rather than stay at one of the hotels or resorts. Kauai Chill maintains three homes in Hanalei – one oceanfront and two with mountain views, all of which can include maid, catering and massage services. (www.kauaichill.com) Secret Beach Hideaway is another slice of heaven on the North Shore offering private cottages on acres of land on one of the area’s most beautiful beaches. (www.secretbeachkauai.com)
• Want to be in trusted hands? Have Pure Kauai organize your accommodations and time in Kauai through their special spa and adventure getaways. Pure Kauai will arrange exceptional North Shore accommodations in private condos or architecturally masterful estates. Then the capable staff will tone you with hiking, snorkeling, horseback riding, kayaking, personal training, and yoga and pamper you with massages, facials and healthy meals. It is a full-service experience with no expense spared. (www.purekauai.com)
Hawaii Inside Tips
• Although the Hapuna Beach Prince and Mauna Kea Beach are sister hotels, rates at the Hapuna are invariably less expensive with no less service or desirable location.
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