Hawaii has captured the imagination of travellers since Captain Cook first discovered the island chain in 1778.

Obviously things have changed since Cook’s day, but the four main islands of Maui, Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island remain the tropical idylls they always were: palm-strewn beaches, glistening turquoise seas and jagged volcanic peaks.

Hawaiian leiEach island has its own distinct culture: Oahu is the centre of business, shopping and nightlife thanks to the high-rise cityscape of Honolulu and Waikiki. Kauai, on the other hand, is almost completely untouched, providing the perfect place to take a restful break or honeymoon.

Maui is a surfer’s paradise, with its relaxed way of life and endless rolling surf. Last but not least comes the Big Island with its national parks and vast volcanic landscape.


Where to stay

The Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki is an elegant base. A meal at one of three beachside restaurants will soon erase the memories of a long-haul flight.

Waikiki is undergoing a transformation. Recent projects include the eight-acre, £277 million Waikiki Beach Walk, which opened this month and includes five hotels, 47 restaurants and 93,000sq ft of retail space.

For a more secluded break visitors can catch the 30-minute flight to Kauai and head for the Sheraton Kauai Resort. With a prime location at Koloa Beach, it combines top service with an authentic Hawaiian experience.

Similar beachside luxury can also be found at the Renaissance Wailea Beach Resort in Maui, which is surrounded by secluded beaches and magnificent views of the ocean, yet is within easy walking distance of excellent shopping, nightlife and golf.


By day

Waimea Canyon, HawaiiKauai used to be a major producer of sugar cane and the irrigation ditches that once watered the crops have been turned into a unique mountain tubing adventure. Visitors strap on a miner’s helmet, sit in a rubber ring and fly down the mountainside past trees and rock tunnels. But it’s not the only way to explore the scenery as you can also embark on a zip wire tour and literally skim across the treetops.

For floating of a different kind, clients can visit the USS Arizona Memorial Museum on Oahu where they can pay their respects to the 2,000 people killed during World War II in the attack on Pearl Harbor, by boarding a unique floating war memorial standing astride the sunken battleship.

The Molokini Crater, an extinct volcano two-and-a-half miles off Maui’s coast, is considered one of the world’s top 10 best dive sites. Its crescent shape provides protection from waves and currents and at its centre lies a reef that is home to about 250 species of fish – some of which can only be found in Hawaii.

Another dazzling spectacle comes in the shape of Waimea Canyon – known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The enormous chasm lies on the western shore of Kauai and is 10 miles long, one mile wide and more than 3,600ft deep.


By night

A former whaling town on the western side of Maui, Lahaina is a bustling yet remarkably relaxed town that’s full of shops, restaurants, yachts and surfers. At night it becomes the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of wine over some local seafood before taking a stroll on one of its near-perfect beaches.

For something more upbeat, hit Honolulu, Oahu’s party capital with every form of after-dark entertainment you’d expect from a large city. Being Hawaii it often involves a curious mix of the Far East and mid-west, so country and western dancing and hula girls can often be found sharing the same stage.

No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a luau, or Hawaiian feast, which is a traditional way of honouring the local gods with food, dancing and music. At its centre is a stone-walled fire pit called an Imu, which is used as an underground oven to bake a pig wrapped in banana leaves. This is followed by roasted chicken, biscuits, rice, fish, local vegetables and gallons of mai tais – a strong local cocktail made of rum, lime, lemon and orange.


The lowdown

Who flies there: United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Continental run daily services to Hawaii from Heathrow or Gatwick
Flight time: Around 10 hours to Los Angeles, then five hours to Honolulu
Transfers: Honolulu airport is around seven miles west of downtown Waikiki. A shuttle bus runs every 25 minutes and costs £8 for a return trip
Currency: US dollar; £1 = $1.94
Time difference: GMT-11 hours in the winter, GMT-12 hours in the summer
Language: Hawaiian and English
Weather: Warm all year with an average of 28C from April to September and 20C from December to March
Find out more: Hills Balfour – 020 7202 6384 – hawaii-tourism.co.uk


Sample product

All prices are based on departures in March

North America Travel Service has 10 nights’ twin-share accommodation at the five-star Halekulani Hotel on Waikiki Beach for £1,741 per person, including flights with United Airlines.

Hawaiian Dream has 10 nights’ twin-share accommodation at the four-star Sheraton Kauai on Poipu Beach, from £1,600 per person, including scheduled flights from Heathrow and self-drive car hire.

Thomas Cook Signature has seven nights’ room-only at the Royal Lahaina  Resort in Maui from £1,044, including flights with United Airlines.

  • Improve your Hawaii knowledge with the Hawaii Aloha Academy, produced by Hills Balfour and Travel Weekly