With frequent cheap, direct flights and plenty to do when you get there, there are many reasons to love Hawaii, writes Jane Jurgens. Here are just a few . . .
Though there's plenty to do in Hawaii, you could easily spend all your time at the many pristine beaches — the islands boast more than 1200 kilometres of shoreline and more than 400 named beaches. There's even a variety of colours to choose from — white sand beaches, yellow sand beaches, black sand beaches, red sand beaches — even a green sand beach. If you favour surf over relaxation, head to the North Shore of Oahu for world-class breaks.
Hawaii has a reputation for great shopping — people even arrange their trips to coincide with the famed Black Friday sales in November. In fact, you could spend so much time shopping that you might even miss the beach — but don't do that. Save some of your spending money by venturing to the outlet malls — Waikele Premium Outlets is one of the best, a 30-minute drive from Waikiki.
For high-end shopping, head to Kalakaua Ave's Luxury Row — you'll find the biggest names in luxury retail here, including Hugo Boss, Chanel, Miu Miu and Gucci. And of course, all keen shoppers should make a pilgrimage to the world's largest outdoor shopping centre: Ala Moana. It contains the department stores Macy's, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, as well as Japanese department store Shirokiya.
Outside the malls and city streets you'll also find a wealth of craft fairs, farmers' markets and flea markets — perfect for picking up authentic, locally made souvenirs.
Each of the Hawaiian islands was formed by volcanic eruptions, leaving a fascinating landscape to explore. On Kauai, a helicopter tour takes visitors right into the crater of Mt Waialeale — known as the wettest place on earth, despite its sunny location. Or get your legs moving on Oahu, where a hike to the top of Diamond Head is a must-do for first-time visitors. For some real volcanic action, head to Kilauea on The Big Island — Hawaii — it's been in a constant state of eruption since 1983.
There's a whole other world to be discovered under the sea - so get your snorkels out and dive in. There are many great spots to snorkel and dive around the islands, with water that's warm all year round and incredible reef ecosystems to explore. If you're lucky, you might get a glimpse of a green sea turtle or Hawaiian monk seal. Molokini Crater in Maui is a great place to start — this sunken volcanic crater is just a quick boat ride away and the sheltered waters are crystal clear.
Be sure to try some of the local delicacies — from raw fish to fried Spam sushi, Hawaiian cuisine encompasses the diverse cultures of the islands. Poke is one local dish that's currently taking over the world — this raw fish salad is mixed with things like seaweed, avocado, edamame or spicy mayo. Grab some to-go from a local poke shop offering fresh fish and enjoy a beachside picnic. Don't forget to get a refreshing shaved ice — it's a true culinary art in Hawaii, with a multitude of flavours to try.
There's also a bounty of fresh pineapple to make your stay that much sweeter, as well as rich locally grown Kona coffee to start your day right.
The people of Hawaii are just as colourful as the landscapes. In addition to the original Polynesian population, the islands are home to groups from all around the world, including Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Latinos and more.
Many came to Hawaii to work on the sugar and pineapple plantations and each of their groups brought their unique cultures with them. Tourism is a big industry and most locals promote the "aloha spirit" — in fact, it's even part of the law in Hawaii, although it's not seriously enforced.
There's a wealth of interesting history to dive into in Hawaii, from the early Polynesian settlers to the arrival of Captain Cook about 1000 years later in 1778 - he was killed the following year by a group of locals.
In 1795, the islands were united by King Kamehameha I, but after missionaries from New England arrived, the monarchy was overthrown and replaced with the Republic of Hawaii. This only lasted until 1898, when the United States annexed Hawaii. And most famously, in 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. In 1959, Hawaii officially became the 50th US state.
Oahu is home to some of Hawaii's most visited museums, including the Bishop Museum dedicated to studying and preserving Hawaiian history, the Iolani Palace, the only official state residence of royalty in the United States; Puuloa (Pearl Harbor), the largest natural harbour in Hawaii and the only naval base in the United States to be designated a National Historical Landmark; and the Honolulu Museum of Art, which has a collection of more than 38,000 works of art from cultures around the world.
From the museum you can also take a guided tour to heiress Doris Duke's amazing home, Shangri-La, where you'll find more than 3000 objects of Islamic art. You'll find other museums scattered across the Hawaiian islands; see gohawaii.com for more details.
IF YOU GO
Getting there: helloworld has Hawaii "4 nights & flights" deals on sale from $1299pp, twin share.