Aloha - A First Timer's Guide To Hawaii

15 June 2014
Read Time: 2.5 mins

If you’ve never been to Hawaii, planning a trip may seem daunting at first. After all, there are six main islands to choose from and the experiences that await you – from the relaxing to the thrill-seeking – are as diverse as the islands themselves. Here, we take you island hopping and introduce you to what you’ll find on your tropical Hawaiian getaway.
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Kauai

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 Kauai's rugged Na Pali coast

Kauai is Hawaii’s northernmost, oldest and fifth-largest island. It boasts widely varying terrain, from picturesque white sand beaches, fertile green valleys and rainforests, to more rugged landscapes of canyons, cliffs and mountains.

The lush surroundings make Hawaii ideal for outdoor exploration. Hire a kayak and paddle your way to Wailua Falls; discover Waimea Canyon - ‘the Grand Canyon of the Pacific,' or take in the spectacular panoramic views from the Napali Coast.

Keen to do a bit of underwater exploration? Kauai is a haven for snorkelling, too. Beginners will enjoy the quiet lagoon at Anini Beach Park, while other great spots include Kee Beach, Haena Beach Park and Poipu Beach Park.
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Oahu

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 Surf's up at Waikiki Beach, Oahu

For a more cosmopolitan outlook head to Oahu, Hawaii’s most populous island. Here you’ll find the perfect blend of city and island life, with rich history, plentiful shopping, lively entertainment and breathtaking natural attractions.

For sun and surf, you can’t go past Waikiki. Take a surfing lesson, sunbathe and sip mai tais at one of the resorts that line this popular beach.
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Maui

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 Maui's glorious coastline

If hitting the beach is foremost on your itinerary, you’re spoiled for choice in Maui. You’ll find white, black and red-sand beaches where you can sunbathe, surf, or sneak off for some secluded romance. To sample a handful of favourites, try popular white-sand Kaanapali Beach, Wailea Beach, the Kamaole Beach Parks, Polo Beach, HA Baldwin Beach Park and Hana Beach Park.

If and when you do leave the beach, don’t miss out on Maui’s stunning scenery. Explore picturesque Haleakala National Park and drive the famous winding road to Hana to see some of the best around. Even if you’re not typically a morning person, rise early – at least once – to catch the magnificent sunrise from the summit at Haleakala, Maui’s highest peak.
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Hawaii

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 Wooden statues in Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Park

The island of Hawaii boasts a number of nicknames, including ‘the Big Island’ – as it’s larger than all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined – and ‘Hawaii’s Island of Adventure.' Equally true to this moniker, Hawaii offers plenty of stimulation, from hiking and horse riding to scuba diving and snorkelling. But most notable, perhaps, are the adventures you’ll find of the volcanic variety.

Start at World Heritage-listed Volcanoes National Park. Here, you’ll find Mauna Loa and Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. On foot, you can hike trails over volcanic craters and walk through the Thurston Lava Tube, a spectacular cave resulting from molten lava solidifying within its chamber. By car, follow Crater Rim Drive, a drive encircling the Kilauea Caldera. For an extra-special adventure, take a helicopter ride and get a bird’s-eye view.
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Molokai

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 Ocean views out to Molokai

Like its island siblings, Molokai offers plenty of white-sand beaches, gorgeous scenery and outdoor adventures. But if you’re looking for some insight into Hawaiian history and culture, then Molokai is ideal. Almost half the residents of the island claim Native Hawaiian ancestry - and it shows in the rich traditions, unspoiled landscape and friendly vibe.

Your must-have history itinerary should include some time in Kaunakakai, Kalaupapa National Historical Park, the Hawaiian fishponds of Molokai and Halawa Valley. Naturally you mustn't miss the famous Hawaiian hula either, which some legends say originated here.
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Lanai

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 Waves crash at Lanai Lookout, East Oahu

If your idea of adventure is to seek out luxury, relaxation, romance or all of the above, Lanai will not disappoint. The island’s two opulent Four Seasons resorts boast luxurious amenities, fine dining and Hawaii’s trademark natural beauty. Be sure to book some pampering treatments at the resorts’ spa facilities.

As they tick the romantic box, these resorts are popular for both weddings and honeymoons. Another romance alert - lovebirds should visit Puu Pehe, a.k.a. Sweetheart Rock, to take an opportune selfie. And to really get away from it all, find the truly tranquil and secluded beaches of Polihua and Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach) on North Lanai.

Kasey Clark

Kasey Clark is the founder and editor of food, wine, and travel blog The Hungry Expat.com. She spent 18 years as a magazine editor, has freelanced for many years, and recently joined King Content as a lead editor and content strategist. When she’s not blogging or strategising content, she provides editorial and communications services on a contract basis.