TRAVEL: Sandy beaches and a turquoise ocean

Sarah Loughlin travel piece in Hawaii. Relaxing on Kaanapali Beach
An idyllic place to relax: Kaanapali Beach

Sarah Loughlin’s top tips on where to stay and what to do on two of Hawaii’s most popular islands

Oahu

IN Waikiki, the relaxing sound of Hawaiian music floats on the breeze.

You can hear it as you walk the busy shopping streets, relax on the beach or wait for your next wave surfing in the bay. It has been Hawaii’s most popular destination since the first hotel was built in 1901. The Moana Surfrider, otherwise known as the First Lady of Waikiki, still stands in the middle of the white sandy beach looking out over the brilliant turquoise ocean and the impressive Diamond Head Volcano. Now run by well-know hotel chain Starwood, the Moana (moana-surfrider.com) retains its original 1900s charm but with all the modern amenities. A magnificent banyan tree provides shade in the beachfront courtyard, where you can relax by the pool or take afternoon tea made by their resident award-winning pastry chef.

Waikiki beach, bustling with swimmers and sunbathers, is the birthplace of surfing and has ideal waves for longboards. It can be busy but if you avoid the 9 am rush there are plenty of waves to go around. Holidaymakers float near the shore on lilos while the gentle waves roll in. From the beach you can ride in a traditional outrigger canoe. The crew give you a quick lesson before you all head out on the boat to surf some waves ($20 per person). Waikiki is the best place in Hawaii if you enjoy a bit of nightlife. The shops are all open late, so you can have an after-dinner browse if you want to make the most of the nice weather during the day. The hotels spread along the beachfront have happy hour from about 4 pm, including Rumfire at the Sheraton, which offers $5 cocktails. So grab a drink and watch the sun go down before heading out for dinner.

There is a lot of fantastic food here. Both its American and Asian settlers and also the native Polynesian heritage have influenced Hawaiian cuisine, but make sure to do some research before you go to avoid eating variations of spam and squeezy cheese.

To get a great view of Waikiki book a table at Sky Waikiki. This roof-top open-air lounge boasts fantastic views of the city as well as nightly live music. Make sure to try the chicken sliders and deconstructed Mai Tai while you are there. Alternatively, if you want to dine somewhere oceanfront, head to the Orchid for luxury ambience, great service and excellent food.

Like Jersey this chain of islands is placed between two countries and over the years has got caught up in their disagreements. The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 and the islands were taken over by the USA. Historically used as a strategic naval base by the Americans, Hawai came under attack in 1941 in the well-known Pearl Harbour bombings, which officially brought America into the Second World War. It is always interesting to hear accounts of the war from other countries’ perspectives, and these are provided by the exhibits at the Pearl Harbour Memorial.

Pearl Harbour itself is free to enter and you can pick up an audio guide for the museums for $7.50. You can book free tickets online for the film and the boat out to the USS Arizona Memorial, a floating museum which sits over the site where the warship was sunk. From Pearl Harbour you can also visit sites such as the USS Bowfin Submarine and the USS Missouri, the ship where the Japanese officially surrendered to end the Second World War.

Hire a car from www.discountusacarrental.com – they offer packages which include a free tank of petrol, three drivers and a Garmin GPS which gives you an audio guide of the island as you drive around. Head up to the North Shore for a few days – scattered with small villages, huge surf and white sandy beaches, it is a great place to explore. Along the North Shore you will find well-equipped rental houses close to the beach, such as Hawaiiana Hale (797543), which has its own pool.

Food and surf are the main attractions here. From Haleiwa drive east towards Kahuku and stop to watch the surfers at the gigantic breaks along the way. As you head east you will start to see the famous North Shore shrimp trucks appearing – stop at Romy’s for their garlic shrimp, a local speciality. If you are looking for a sit-down affair head to the newly opened Beach House, in Haleiwa – the food is both reasonably priced ($13–15) and incredible. The cocktails are moreish and the ocean views are second to none. Make sure to check out Waimea Falls ($16 entry) on your visit. The gentle 30-minute walk through the botanical gardens to the waterfall is a perfect way to start the day.

There are eight main islands in the US state of Hawaii, Oahu being the most populated. With regular connecting Hawaiian Airlines flights it is easy to get between them, and the view is fantastic on the short scenic trip. Hop over to Maui, ‘The Valley Isle’, to continue your adventure.

 

Sarah Loughlin travel piece in Hawaii. HaleaKala's volcano
HaleaKala's volcano.

 

Maui

I HAD never come face to face with a sea turtle until I visited Kaanapali.

Sarah Loughlin travel piece in Hawaii. Sarah snorkelling at the Sheraton Maui
Sarah snorkelling at the Sheraton Maui

From the Sheraton Maui you can swim just off the beach and explore the reef around the Black Rock (snorkel rental $8). While snorkelling we could hear whales calling to each other and see sea turtles going about their business, all the while surrounded by hundreds of tropical fish. As we got out of the water we saw the whales jumping and slapping their fins in the distance. It was magical. Back on land happy hour at the Cliff Dive Bar is 3–5 pm and the nightly Black Rock cliff diving ceremony is one not to be missed. The Sheraton (www.sheraton-maui.com) feels like a real island getaway, as the sun goes down over the lagoon-style pool and tiki torches light up the resort.

This area of West Maui is not only home to fantastic snorkelling, but great resorts, bars and restaurants as well. When you walk into the Westin, sister hotel of the Sheraton, you can’t help but be mesmerised by the huge waterfall in the open-air lobby. As the flamingos preen themselves in the lagoon, and a coconut-husking demonstration takes place, you could not be further from home. Having recently won an award for their sustainability efforts the Westin (www.westinmaui.com) has very impressive grounds filled with fascinating local plants.

 

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Fire knife dance at the Westin Maui’s Polynesian Luau

Whalers Village, less than a ten-minute walk from the hotels, is great for shopping, live music and restaurants. There is also a complimentary Starwood Shuttle that will take you in between their resorts. Make sure to dine at Pulehu, located at the Westin Villas Resort. This gourmet Italian restaurant has amazing food, great service and a tropical resort atmosphere. To see more of West Maui take the Starwood shuttle a few stops further to Lahaina. This quaint former whaling town has lots going on – stop in at one of the over-water restaurants for lunch, or a happy hour sundowner. Make sure to experience a traditional Hawaiian luau while on the island – the Westin’s Wailele Polynesian Luau ($115) offers great Hawaiian food, unlimited tropical cocktails and a glimpse of island culture from all over the Pacific.

If you want to explore further afield rent a car from www.discountusacarrental.com and drive the road to Hana. This 65-mile road is packed full of waterfalls, hairpin mountain bends and panoramic ocean views. It takes all day so if you just want to drive a small section and turn around, stop in Paia on the way home - a small Hawaiian town full of hipster cafes and art galleries. Stop for lunch and try Cafe Mambo’s Hawaiian specialty, the Kalua Pork Burger. A trip to Hawaii would not be complete without seeing one of the towering volcanoes that created the islands. Wake up before light and drive up to the top of the Haleakala volcano to see the sunrise over the island ($15 per car).

Kihei in South Maui is said to be the sunniest place in the island. Craft beer enthusiasts should visit the Maui Brewing Co. Opened in 2005, this family-owned venture is the largest craft brewery in Hawaii. Made with fresh local and mainland US ingredients, Maui Brewing Company's (mauibrewingco.com) beer is now sold in 13 different countries around the world. They are focused on local island life and sustainability, and they have recently invested in industry leading solar technology which they are hoping will allow them to run their brewery 100% solar powered. Take a tour of the Brewery ($15) and taste some of the new beers to finish up your Hawaiian adventure.

Fly to Hawaii with Hawaiian airlines via major US international airports such as JFK, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Book at www.hawaiianairlines.com.

Sarah Loughlin is a travel writer from London. For more travel tips and ideas, visit www.itsonlyaplanerideaway.com

 

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