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A Guide to the Hawaiian Islands

Published 24 June 2016

Rob Bradley

Rob Bradley

Hawaii is like that overachieving relation who’s always done well for themselves. You know you’re only going to hear good things about them and the fact that their achievements seem unobtainable to you just makes it all the more annoying. However, although once an exclusive celebrity spot, Hawaii is much more affordable these days, and with an exciting assortment of islands, you’ll be spoilt for choice, as Rob Bradley explains.

Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu scenery



My first stop in Hawaii was Oahu and on the advice of friends I decided to stay on the eastern side of the island. Why? Tourists. Or should I say the lack of them. Okay, I’m officially one myself, but who likes snap-happy crowds obstructing their serene views? Cross the mountain range that neatly separates the island and you will find a more classic Hawaii dotted with the obligatory golden beaches and crevice-ridden mountain plateaus. I suggest taking a horseback ride through Kualoa to not only admire the tremendous scenery but to see how many films and TV shows come to mind when navigating your way through the dense undergrowth. If you’re not quite in the Hawaiian mind-set yet, then visit the Polynesian Cultural Centre to experience a traditional Luau. Aside from that, Waimanalo beach awaits you: three miles long, free from crowds and set beside the most aquamarine waters you can find.

Napali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Napali Coast, Kauai



If you’re an adrenaline junkie then I suggest the action-packed island of Kauai. You can admire the Napali coastline from the high-speed comfort of a zodiac raft or hike through the forest-covered canopy that envelopes these craggy peaks. Whilst rafting you may also be lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins swimming alongside your boat. If that isn’t enough, you can gain a unique perspective by taking a lesson on how to operate a motorised paraglider whilst (stomach permitting) admiring the awesome views below. On a gentler note, you can also try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding - the ultra-cool way to travel across water. You’ll be hungry after all that action so be sure to sample the kalua pork, a local delicacy traditionally cooked in an underground oven.

Molokai Sea Cliffs, Hawaii

Molokai sea cliffs



For an out-of-the-ordinary Hawaiian experience, look no further than Molokai, with its volcanic rock-strewn beaches and rugged tree-covered peaks. The island also boasts a former leper colony, which is now only accessible via a steep 300ft cliff that snakes its way down towards the Kalawao Peninsula. To make it all the more interesting, you can descend this cliff on the back of a donkey. A piece of advice: keep your camera handy and keep least one hand on the reins. It turns out there’s a reason for the expression ‘as stubborn as a mule’ – the donkeys have a habit of stopping suddenly; good luck getting them to start again! Remember though, what goes down has to go back up, so enjoy that mule ride back again.

Hulopoe Beach, Lanai, Hawaii

Hulopoe Beach, Lanai



For an authentic Hawaiian experience try Lanai, a former pineapple plantation. There’s just one town (Lanai City) and judging from photos I saw, it hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years. Here, you can visit a place sacred to Hawaiians called ‘Garden of the Gods’, a surreal windswept moonscape best viewed at sunset. Out of the beaches, Shipwreck Beach is the most famous (for its shipwrecked tanker) but I’d suggest Hulopoe Beach Park for something more relaxing. In fact, you’ll feel pretty relaxed anywhere on Lanai, as the locals’ friendly nature is legendary. One time, I was trying to use a pay phone and a local came up to me and said “Hey buddy, nobody uses pay phones anymore. Here – use my mobile.” At this point he walked off, leaving me in the middle of the town square with his smartphone. Having grown up in a city all my life this restored my faith in human nature.

Haleakala Volcanic Crater, Maui, Hawaii

Haleakala Crater, Maui



Maui is the celebrity of the Hawaiian Islands. Frequented by numerous well-known personalities, their sun-kissed holiday photos splashed all over the glossy magazines, it’s inevitable that when you think of Hawaii you tend to think of Maui. Aside from the glitz, the island is renowned for its beaches and beautiful sunsets, so it would be almost criminal if you didn’t capture at least one. I stayed in Kihei and enjoyed many beautiful beach sunsets. However if you prefer a sunrise then head to the top of the Haleakala Crater at dawn, then pick up a pre-booked bicycle and cycle 23 miles down the mountain back to the bike store- not for the faint-hearted but good fun nonetheless. An interesting fact given to me by a local is that females outnumber men by four to one on Maui - so if nothing else it’s a single man’s paradise!

Kilauea Volcano, Big Island, Hawaii

Mount Kilauea, Big Island

The Big Island

As the name suggests, the Big Island is big. A rental car is a good idea here, although you can find alternative forms of transport to take you to the sights. When I chose to view the volcanoes and lava tubes that scatter the island, I went by helicopter. I even flew over Mount Kilauea, the most active volcano in the world, perfectly safe as long as your pilot remembers to fly upwind of the sulphurous gases. I also took a helicopter tour of the Waimanu Valley and its 3,000ft waterfalls. The only other way to reach these cascades is to hike through the forest for a few days.

Head to Hawaii with Round the World Experts' Hawaiian Explorer Journey, which calls on on Mau, the Big Island and Oahu.

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