Secluded in the sprawling mass of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii and its humble archipelago seems like a small group of islands. But Hawaii’s hospitality feels larger than its perimeter. It is centred around ‘ohana’ or family, and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten. Everyone is welcome, from thrill-seekers and adventurers to whale watchers and art enthusiasts.
Words: Anna Prendergast
After just a few days in Hawaii, you start to understand the true meaning of Lōkahi, the sense of oneness embedded in this state's collective spirit and culture. Here, communities don’t just tolerate nature, they co-exist in harmony with it, even when that nature includes Earth’s most active volcano, Mauna Loa.
Likewise, visitors are encouraged to ‘Travel Pono’ or to travel consciously, helping to preserve Hawaii’s indigenous resources, cultures and communities. Going beyond the archipelago’s cinematic scenery, world-class surf breaks and bewitching beaches, a deep sense of connection brings everyone together as one.
Instead of arriving in Hawaii jet-lagged and jaded, take the time to rest and restore your flight-weary body in Los Angeles. It’s not surprising that this celebrity hangout is frequently voted one of the healthiest cities in the world. West Hollywood’s wellness scene guides you towards personal goals, with everything from holistic massages and cryotherapy to acupuncture and endermologie.
Some will have their moods instantly lifted when saluting California’s sunshine with a Playlist Yoga class, while others get their step count (and heart rate) up at Rise Nation. With an emphasis on incredible farmers’ markets for fresh produce, it’s easy to stay healthy here. Particularly with places like Gracias Madre, where the plant-based Mexican menu gives you a reenergising boost just in time to hit the ground running in Hawaii.
Where to stay: Few things enhance wellbeing like the wagging tail of two pups named Winston and Churchill at The London West Hollywood. Such a friendly greeting, alongside the plush serenity of the A-List rooftop pool and a 24/7 gym, will leave you raring to go.
Lava glows and grumbles beneath the surface, snaking its way down the jagged surface of Hawaii’s volcanoes. Forget the altitude, this is a natural high – adrenalin is pumping as the doors-off helicopter hovers 500 feet above the Earth’s surface to take in the sheer power of these awe-inspiring landmarks. Kids will squeal in delight as they get front row seats in the cockpit with the pilot, who personalises the playlist for the perfect soundtrack to the sky-high experience.
The wide-screen experience is extraordinary, but back on land, you’re invited to a close-up that connects you to a central belief in Hawaiian culture. Here, Mālama ka ‘aina – or caring for the land – encourages people to help the National Park’s seasoned experts manage invasive plant species such as Himalayan ginger and preserve the park’s ecosystem. Meanwhile a short hike reveals the sacred site of the Pu‘uloa Petroglyphs, Hawaii’s largest concentration of volcanic carvings, connecting those who pass through to a forgotten community.
Where to stay: Let the little ones roam Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection with Holoholo Kids Crew while the adults indulge in some spectacular snorkelling in Makaiwa Bay. Skills are tested at the underwater photography workshop, where you can capture the yellow tang and butterflyfish spotted along the way.
From The White Lotus to Moana, the island of Maui is a muse that inspires wayfinding and wanderlust in all that visit. Locals love to repeat the singsong phrase Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi, which means ‘Maui is the best’. And with 30 miles of beaches so big you have to turn your phone on its side, its verdant, volcanic landscape and its cool waterfall-fed pools, we’re inclined to agree.
What’s more, day trips to the White Lotus-worthy private island of Lanai and helicopter tours of Molokai feel like getting a glimpse of a film set where you’re the main character. Live out that dream on the return to Maui, and swim side by side with graceful green sea turtles and tropical fish at the coral reef in Turtle Town. Watching such elegant creatures instils an unforgettable reverence for the Pacific Ocean.
Where to stay: Listen to charming stories about Hawaii’s Polynesian ancestors at an ohana-style meal at Andaz Maui At Wailea Resort. With water lapping on the beach, the ambience is matched perfectly with 15 locally-inspired dishes.
Most visitors to Oahu don’t make it much further than Honolulu’s high-end neighbourhood Waikiki. But beyond the capital’s main hub, you’ll be surprised and delighted by the quirky, colourful neighbourhoods that playfully balance ancient Hawaiian culture with contemporary art, music and design. Follow the island’s westerly breeze towards Kaimuki, where nostalgic notes seep out of vintage shops playing vinyl, or head to Pearl City, where an immersive film at the USS Arizona Memorial is a heart-breaking reminder of Pearl Harbour’s history.
Most surfers wait for winter and search for the best swell in North Shore’s cluster of friendly beach towns (longboarders live for Chun’s Reef and Puaena). The hit of adrenalin catching a wave is certainly a different pace to whale watching, which you can also do here at Haleiwa Harbour. As the sun sets, and you see the midnight blue of a large tail flipper disappear into the abyss below, it feels like pure magic.
Where to stay: There’s never a quiet moment at Halekulani Hotel, which is set apart from the cosmopolitan chaos of Waikiki. One of the first hotels in Hawaii, this resort has been welcoming guests for more than a century, accompanied by the sounds of traditional music and the energy of the hula.
Because of the distinctive shape of its mouth, the manta ray is known as ‘hahalua’ here, or ‘two breaths’, and swimming with these majestic, curious creatures on a sunset cruise off the coast of Na Pali will certainly take yours away. Getting under the skin of Kauai’s scenery is easy, whether you want to feel the wind in your hair as you zipline over 17,000 acres of dense canopy, go offroad in an ATV or kayak beneath the island’s rugged cliffs.
Adventure is around every corner. Alongside this fast-paced excitement, the historic towns like Hanapēpē offer a cinematic slice of Hawaii via Hollywood (it’s the place that inspired Lilo & Stitch). Plantation-style buildings are home to charming shops, local eateries and more art galleries than any other spot on the island. On Fridays, celebrate creativity with personal introductions to local painters, sculptors and craftspeople who open the doors of their studios to show off their wares.
Where to stay: From locally-sourced alaea scrubs and crystal healing to sunrise yoga and physical therapy, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay’s biophilic beachfront wellness centre will soothe and realign body and mind after a day of hiking and biking.
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