Travel

Hawaiian Islands

Home to the world's most active volcanoes, the only royal palace in the U.S. and the welcoming aloha spirit - Hawaii is like no place on earth. This unique history of formation and isolation has given rise to breathtaking and extraordinary wonders. Perfect white sand beaches, abundant reefs, towering waterfalls, lush valleys, snow-capped mountains and fiery hot volcanic cauldrons captivate the hearts of those who visit as well as those who call this beautiful place home.

The Hawaiian Islands are one of the most geographically isolated places on earth. Born of a volcanic hotspot rising from the sea floor of the Pacific Ocean, the Hawaiian archipelago formed nearly 75 million years ago. Home to the world’s most active volcanoes, the only royal palace in the U.S. and the welcoming aloha spirit—Hawaii is like no place on earth. This unique history of formation and isolation has given rise to breathtaking and extraordinary wonders. Perfect white sand beaches, abundant reefs, towering waterfalls, lush valleys, snow-capped mountains and fiery hot volcanic cauldrons captivate the hearts of those who visit as well as those who call this beautiful place home. 

Floating all by itself in the middle of the Pacific, Hawaii proudly maintains its own distinct identity apart from the US mainland. Spam, shave ice, surfing, ukulele and slack key guitar music, hula, aloha shirts, ‘rubbah slippah’ (flip-flops) – these are just some of the touchstones of everyday life, island style. Hawaii is proud of its multicultural heritage. On the Hawaiian Islands, the descendants of ancient Polynesians, European explorers, American missionaries and Asian plantation immigrants mix and mingle. What’s remarkable about contemporary Hawaii is that harmonious multiculturalism is the rule, not the exception.

O’ahu – “The Gathering Place”
Photo: M Swiet Productions/Getty Images

The “Heart of Hawaii” is home to the capital city of Honolulu and legendary surf towns like Hale’iwa. The third largest Hawaiian island is home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population, a fusion of East and West cultures rooted in the values and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people. It’s this fundamental contrast between the ancient and the modern that makes discovering O’ahu — from bustling city life to laidback surf towns — so enjoyable.

Surrounded by lush mountain ranges, endless ocean views and rooted in tradition, O’ahu offers a unique cultural style and a variety of activities for both locals and visitors to partake in. Each region of the island has its own personality and makeup, some similar though none exactly alike. From surfing the waves on the North Shore, discovering the street murals in Kakaako, to fine-dining in Waikiki, O’ahu is the perfect island for every traveler.

O’ahu is the home to more than 125 beaches, including the famous Waikiki beach. Capital of Honolulu stretches across the southeastern shores of the island, from Pearl Harbor to Makapu’u Point.

Maui – “The Valley Isle”
Photo: Getty Images

Maui, known also as “The Valley Isle”, is the second largest Hawaiian island. The island beloved for its world famous beaches, the sacred Iao Valley, views of migrating humpback whales (during winter months), farm-to-table cuisine and the magnificent sunrise and sunset from Haleakala. It’s not surprising Maui has been voted “Best Island in the U.S.” by Condé Nast Traveler readers for more than 20 years.

With resorts providing reef-safe sunscreen to help protect Hawaii’s marine life, Maui has been leading the charge toward becoming sustainably responsible. With natural wonders such as Haleakala National Park, Iao Valley, Kahanu Garden, Ke’anae Peninsula, Pipiwai Trail and Waianapanapa State Park as its backyard, it’s no wonder that the industry takes great care of its home for future generations to enjoy. 

Often ranked within the “Top 10” in the United States, Maui’s beaches live up to their hype and name. With over 200 kilometres of coastline and more than 45 kilometres of beaches, there is a beach perfect for all ages, all experiences and all activities. Immersed in Hawaiian culture and history, Maui’s hiking trails prove the journey can be just as fun (and beautiful) as the final destination.

Kaua’i – “The Garden Isle”
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Kaua’i is Hawaii’s fourth largest island and the “Garden Isle” is home to some of the most dramatic scenery in the South Pacific. The oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain is draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs aged by time and the elements. Centuries of growth have formed tropical rainforests, forking rivers and cascading waterfalls. It manages to stay green, too. Known as the second “wettest spot on Earth”, Kaua’i gets about 11.684 mm of rain every year.

With more than 80 kilometres of sandy beaches and 160 kilometres of hiking trails, numerous navigable rivers and waterways and plentiful waterfalls, rain forests and valleys, every day on Kaua’i is an adventure to behold. There’s the volcanic crater of Wai’ale’ale and the high-elevation bog of the Alaka’i in the middle of the island. The desert-like terrain of Waimea Canyon occupies the west side, and the roller coaster of cliffs and valleys line up along the northwestern Napali Coast. Some parts of Kaua’i are only accessible by sea or air, revealing views beyond your imagination.

Hawai’i – “The Big Island”
Photo: Matt Anderson Photography/Getty Images

The island of Hawaii is the youngest and largest island in the Hawaiian chain. Nearly twice as big as all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined (hence, its nickname, “The Big Island”), its sheer size is awe-inspiring. You can travel through all but four of the world’s different climate zones here, ranging from Wet Tropical to Polar Tundra, a result of the shielding effect and elevations of the massive volcanoes Maunakea and Maunaloa. From the many geological features at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the snow-capped heights of Maunakea; from the lush valleys of the Hilo and Hamakua Coasts to the jet-black sands of Punalu’u Beach, the island of Hawai’i is an unrivaled expression of the power of nature.

From active volcanoes to coffee farms and beautiful beaches to rich history, there’s lots to see on the island of Hawai’i. The Big Island features some of the most picturesque and varied beach landscapes in the world. From white sand to black sand beaches (and a few other colors in-between), visitors can see first-hand how volcanic activity has shaped and influenced the beauty of Hawai’i.

Moloka’i – “The Friendly Isle”
Photo: gohawaii.com

Hawaii’s fifth largest island, Moloka’i is only 61 kilometres long and 16 kilometres across at its widest point. Moloka’i remains true to its island roots, with a high percentage of its population being of Native Hawaiian ancestry who continue to preserve their rural lifestyle thanks to their love of the land. Known as the “Most Hawaiian Island,” Moloka’i is as untouched Hawaii as travelers can experience. Moloka’i takes you back in time as the least “touristy” of the main islands.

With the tallest sea cliffs in the world, the largest barrier reef system in the United States, and the longest white sand beach in Hawaii, this tiny, modest island offers surprising natural wonders worthy of anyone looking to disconnect and Let Hawaii Happen.

Lana’i – “The Pineapple Isle”
Photo: Getty Images

The smallest inhabited island in Hawaii, Lana’i offers big enticements to its visitors. Only 14 kilometres from Maui, yet a world away, Lana’i can feel like two places. The 360-square-kilometre island, known through much of the 20th century for its landscape dominating pineapple fields, has a unique combination of natural beauty, small-town comforts and modern luxury. With three beaches safely and easily accessible, Hulopoe Bay, Kaiolohia and Polihua Beach all sporting stretches of powdery white sand for kilometres, visitors and residents can find themselves suddenly alone on Lana’i.

Once known for its pineapple plantation days, Lana’i’s culture is not only paved by the industrial farming of the sweet fruit, but also deeply rooted in ancient Hawaiian traditions. Recently, however, Lana’i’s been making headlines after tech tycoon Larry Ellison bought 98 percent of the island from L.A. billionaire David Murdock.

Ni’ihau – “The Forbidden Isle”

Ni’ihau is the seventh largest Hawaiian Island. It’s known as the Forbidden Isle because it’s generally off-limits to all but relatives of the island’s owners, U.S. Navy personnel and government officials. There are a few supervised activity tours and hunting safaris that opened to tourists in the late 1980s, but for the most part, the island remains fairly isolated from the rest of civilization. Only about 200 people live on Ni’ihau.

Kaho’olawe – “The Target Isle

Kaho’olawe is the smallest of the islands. It became known as the “The Target Isle” after serving as a training ground of the U.S. Army during WWII. Today, the state still prohibits the public from accessing the island because there is no way to guarantee that it is free of unexploded bombs. It is the only Hawaiian island that is uninhabited.

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