Of the hundreds of islands that make up the Hawaiian Archipelago, eight main islands–Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, Maui and Hawai’i (the “Big Island”) — comprise what’s known the world over as Hawaii. But despite its status as the 50th US state, there is more than 4,000 kilometres of Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and its closest neighbour, California.
Located on the Big Island, Hawaii’s capital Honolulu is a modern, vibrant city set against the dramatic backdrop of the sparkling blue Pacific. Its world-famous suburb Waikiki is a favourite among tourists who flock to its gorgeous white-sand beach, made famous by a generation of surfers and golden-skinned sun worshippers.
At the far end of Waikiki’s crescent-shaped shoreline lies an extinct volcano known as Diamond Head Crater. Visitors who hike the 2.2km trail to the 170-metre-high summit are treated to spectacular views of the beach, city and shimmering ocean beyond.
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Hawaii’s most visited attraction, Volcanoes National Park gives visitors an up-close look at these fire-breathing geological wonders.
The park is home to Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, as well as the largest–Mauna Loa.
Peering down into the volcano’s gaping maw, it’s possible to view the magma bubbling and flaming within its scorching caldera.
Hikers can also witness the rare sight of lava flowing directly into the ocean, creating great billows of smoke and steam.
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The Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial is a tribute to those who perished in the surprise attack that signalled the start of America’s involvement in WWII. The sunken battleship Arizona is clearly visible from a viewing platform positioned directly over the wreck, while other portions of the ship can be seen protruding from the water. Another historical warship, the USS Missouri, is moored nearby, offering tours of its upper deck area.
The scenic vista at Waipio Valley is one of the Big Island’s most beautiful nature sights. The steep, lush cliff walls frame the verdant canyon, black sand beach, white-capped surf backdropped by deep-blue ocean waters. On the island of Maui, Haleakala National Park gives visitors access to the inactive Haleakala Volcano. The 3,000-metre summit provides a stunning view of the entire island, as well as the barren, lunar-like landscape of Haleakala’s dormant crater.
Also on Maui, the sleepy town of Hana is a haven of traditional Hawaiian culture. Due to its isolated location far from the more populated parts of the island, the residents of Hana live the way islanders did in decades past, while the scenic stretch of highway running to the town takes visitors through lush forests and offers gorgeous ocean views.
For a more in-depth cultural experience, the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu is well worth a visit. The centre features music, dance, craft demonstrations, and games that portray the culture and daily life of the Polynesian islanders of Hawaii, Tahiti, Marquesas, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, as well New Zealand’s Maoris. Adding to the authenticity, many of the performers come from the islands whose heritage they portray, making a visit to the centre a truly enriching and educational experience.