Hawaii: When you've done Waikiki

By Leila George

Take the less-travelled path and you'll find the best beauty spots and activities Hawaii has to offer, writes Leila George.
Kauai's cool, windswept ridges and coastline. Photo / Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson
Kauai's cool, windswept ridges and coastline. Photo / Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

There's a lot more to Hawaii than Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbour - here's a look, island by island, of what not to miss, and alternative sights to see if you're on a return visit.

KAUAI

If you've been to: The Kalalau Lookout at Kokee State Park, and taken in its high-elevation vista of the Napali Coast's lush Kalalau Valley and ocean beyond ...

Next time, check out: The park's multiple hiking trails, taking in the towering heights of the cool, windswept ridges of Napali and lush mist-enshrouded landscape surrounding the plateau of Mt Waialeale.

Waterfalls cascade in the Waimea Canyon park. Here you can also take bicycle tours or hike the Kukui trail.  Photo / Hawaii Tourism
Waterfalls cascade in the Waimea Canyon park. Here you can also take bicycle tours or hike the Kukui trail. Photo / Hawaii Tourism


If you've been to: Waimea Canyon, but taken in its visual grandeur of the 22km-long gorge only from its scenic lookouts ...

Next time, check out: The less-travelled vistas of Waimea Canyon State Park from the Kukui Trail (which descends 600m to the canyon floor) or the Iliau Nature Loop Trail (which skirts the canyon's west rim).

If sightseeing from a two-wheel-perch is more your thing, take a sunrise or afternoon downhill bicycle tour with Outfitters Kauai descending canyon-hugging Kokee Road from its 1100m elevation to sea level.

If you've been to: Wailua River State Park and navigated its tranquil waters to the hanging emerald flora that gave the lava rock cavern Fern Grotto its name ...

Next time, check out: The three beautiful gardens of the non-profit National Tropical Botanical Garden organisation - Limahuli Garden and Preserve, which restores the native and canoe plant terraces of an early Hawaiian agricultural river valley; Allerton Garden, a tranquil, surprise-filled marriage of ornamental and tropical flora, art and landscape design; and McBryde Garden, with its prodigious collection of tropical flora from Hawaii and around the world.

OAHU

If you've been to: The Waikiki and Honolulu observation platform at Diamond Head State Monument, the volcanic tuff cone that is one of Hawaii's most recognised landmarks ...

Next time, check out: The surprisingly diverse eateries on Monsarrat Ave at the foot of Leahi (Diamond Head's given Hawaiian name), including Diamond Head Market & Grill, Pioneer Saloon, Monsarrat Ave Shave Ice, South Shore Grill, Bogart's Cafe, and Shaka Pressed Juice.

Pearl Harbour in Oahu. Photo / Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Tor Johnson
Pearl Harbour in Oahu. Photo / Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Tor Johnson


If you've been to: The Manoa Falls Trail on Oahu, and hiked its 1.3km length winding through the deepest, rainforest-covered pockets of urban Honolulu's Manoa Valley to the 45m waterfall ...

Next time, check out: The Harold L. Lyon Arboretum, a 80ha collection of native and non-native tropical botanical gardens, also in the back of Manoa Valley, featuring its own collection of rainforest and waterfall hiking trails.

If you've been to: The Pearl Harbor Visitor Centre at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and taken its perennially-popular boat tour to the USS Arizona Memorial ...

Next time, check out: The three additional World War II museums, which are part of the non-profit Pearl Harbor Historic Sites organisation - the Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, both on Ford Island, and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, neighbouring the Pearl Harbor Visitor Centre. On Ford Island, visit the USS Oklahoma Memorial, honouring crew who lost their lives when the battleship was sunk during the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. And if you're visiting this year, look for announcements throughout the year of special tours and events commemorating this year's 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

MAUI

If you've been to: The summit of Maui's Haleakala volcano for sunrise, along with the hundreds of others converging each day to watch the rise of the morning sun illuminate the peak's radiant, rust-colored cinder ...

Next time, check out: The summit area's 48km of Haleakala National Park hiking trails, offering opportunities for hours-long (Keoneheehee [Sliding Sands] Trail), day-length (Halemauu Trail) and overnight (Kaupo Trail) treks in all sorts of environments, from high-elevation native shrub forests and cinder desert, to dense tropical rainforest. Further downslope, stroll through Hosmer Grove, where the towering non-native trees of a 1927 exercise in experimental timber industry and watershed forestation borders and contrasts with the native trees, ferns and shrubs of Haleakala's 2134m elevation.

Haleakala, on Maui offers of 48km of hiking trails. Photo / Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson
Haleakala, on Maui offers of 48km of hiking trails. Photo / Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson


If you've been to: Iao Valley State Monument, the extraordinarily verdant West Maui Mountains erosional valley, home to the towering, vegetation-covered, stream-cut lava pinnacle Kukaemoku (more famously known as Iao Needle) ...

Next time, check out: One (or two, or three) of the many low-key, big-menu local eateries in neighbouring Wailuku, ever-popular and ever-filled with residents drawn to their mouthwatering comfort food favourites. Check out Tiffany's Bar & Grill, Sam Sato's, Tokyo Tei, Stillwell's Bakery & Cafe and the Geste Shrimp Truck.

If you've been to: West Maui, gazed out from Lahaina's Front Street seawall or sat on the beaches at Kaanapali, Napili and Kapalua and wondered why you've never been to those two islands across the channel ...

Next time, check out: The islands of Lanai and Molokai on a day trip from Lahaina Harbor. Take off early in the morning on Expeditions' Maui-Lanai ferry or Sea Link of Hawaii's Maui-Molokai Ferry and return after a full day of adventuring. On Lanai, rent a Jeep for paved (Hulopoe Beach), unpaved (Polihua Beach, Kaiolohia aka Shipwreck Beach) or cool, upland forest run on the evergreen Munro Trail. Head to Molokai and spend your morning in small town Kaunakakai, followed by an afternoon on one of Hawaii's longest white sand beaches, Papohaku. Or spend the day at one of the Hawaiian Islands' most remote peninsulas at historic Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

HAWAI'I ISLAND

If you've been to: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and checked off everything on your list of must-explore places ...

Next time, check out: Hawai'i Island's four other National Park Service-managed parks, sites and trails - Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park and the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail. Each has a unique story to tell of its importance and role in Hawaiian culture and history. Each also has a great website with all the information you'll need to begin exploring.

Historic Kailua-Konai village  on the big island of Hawaii. Photo / Big Island Visitors Bureau
Historic Kailua-Konai village on the big island of Hawaii. Photo / Big Island Visitors Bureau


If you've been to: Hawai'i Island's scenic Hamakua Coast via modern Mamalahoa Highway (aka Hawai'i Belt Road), traversing its greenery-rich ravines, soaring steel bridges and vast agricultural fields, while taking in its ocean views on the quick ...

Next time, check out: the remaining, at times even more rewardingly scenic pockets of Old Mamalahoa Highway, once the main road connecting the many sugar plantation towns of the Hamakua Coast. Its still-drivable remaining segments offer a slower-paced, back-in-time view of Hamakua, crossing century-old bridges and lush rainforests, and rambling past remnant structures of the coast's sugar plantation history, small towns and rugged coastline.

If you've been to: Akaka Falls and Waianunue (aka Rainbow) Falls and gazed longingly at each cascade from their ground-level lookouts ...

Next time, check out: Hiking and helicopter tours of the island's Hilo, Hamakua and North Kohala districts showcasing other interior and coastline waterfalls, streams and forest reserves within the vast eastside slopes of Maunakea and Kohala mountains. From birding tours in the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge and ziplining at Umauma Falls to hikes into Pololu Valley and scenic flights taking in the North Kohala cliffs and valleys, there's an adventure for every forest and waterfall fan.

Checklist

GETTING THERE

Hawaiian Airlines has a sale for fares between Auckland and Honolulu until March 31. Economy Class return fares start at $1095. hawaiianairlines.com

- NZ Herald

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