Oh, Hawaii. Like most visitors, when I think about this island destination there is a sense of zen that washes over me and rightfully so. It’s paradise by definition: white sand beaches, pristine waters, coral reefs of every imaginable colour and as much as I love a British Columbian Douglas Fir, those palm trees always remind me that I’m somewhere exotic.
On the flip side, there are many practical things that have made this destination so desirable for decades, beginning in the 1930s when tourism first picked up.
There are multiple direct flights offered by many major airlines so getting there isn’t a fuss. It’s part of the United States, so English is their primary language and they use American currency which has its conveniences. And, the island is safe to travel to, relatively clean and the locals are used to and familiar with hosting tourists.
If all of the above doesn’t have your attention yet, here are a few other reasons why Hawaii ranks high on our list: its home to active volcanoes, the birthplace of surfing and don’t forget the beckoning aloha spirit that always makes us feel at home.
Read on to learn more about our top tips for visiting Hawaii (http://www.gohawaii.com/)
What to eat
Pack your stretchy-pants. They say that you haven’t experienced Hawaii unless you leave a few pounds heavier than you came and to that end, there is plenty of gastronomy to indulge in – from the infamous shrimp platters, to shaved ice to an authentic Hawaiian plate lunch.
Budget-friendly option: Marukame Udon (http://www.toridollusa.com/)
If you’re staying in Waikiki, it isn’t cheap. Cheap dinners aren’t standard which is one of two reasons why this place always has a line out the door and down the block. The other reason: fresh, tasty, hand-made udon.
This cafeteria style restaurant is a cult-favourite on Yelp and rightfully so. You’ll find about seven types of udon – ranging from the classic kake, to a cold bukkake and even curry udon. Then, there is a range of snacks and sides you can add, including an assortment of tempura, to spam musubi.
Marukame Udon (http://www.toridollusa.com/)
2310 Kuhio Ave
Honolulu, Oahu Island
Mid-range option: Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck (http://www.giovannisshrimptruck.com/)
Over on the North Shore side of Hawaii, is a cluster of shrimp trucks that are soaked in butter, lemon and garlic and cooked to perfection. The garlic is almost stewed onto the shrimp forming a thick garlicy sauce. Heaven. It’s a Hawaiian classic, and you need to give it a try.
The most well-known truck would be Giovanni’s, but there is Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp (56-781 Kamehameha Hwy), Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck (56-580 Kamehameha Hwy), and Macky’s Sweet Shrimp Truck (66-632 Kamehameha Hwy).
For $13, you get a plate of shrimp and two scoops of white rice. I’m not a huge fan of the rice, but it’s nice to balance out the shrimp that has a lot of flavour and can pack a punch.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck (http://www.giovannisshrimptruck.com/)
56-505 Kamehameha Hwy
High-end option: Chef Chai (http://chefchai.com/)
Chef Chai is one of the region’s most recognized chefs. His recently opened restaurant is just a short drive away from the Waikiki drag, so easily accessible by car or taxi.
On the menu, you’ll find a wide range of Asian Fusion dishes – ahi tuna in mini waffle cones, steamed catch of the day, and Pacific Rim Cioppino. Personal favourites have to be the seafood appetizers, and desserts. A must try? The coconut cheese cake with Tahitian Vanilla Creme Anglaise is to die for – very light, but sinfully satisfying.
Chef Chai (http://chefchai.com/)
1009 Kapiolani Blvd.
Things to do
If you’re looking for some R&R, there are plenty of beaches, palm trees and maitais to keep you busy for weeks on end. But don’t forget that Hawaii is a haven for plenty of fun activities – water, land and air.
One of Hawaii’s quintessential experiences are luaus – traditional Hawaiian feasts. If you’re a first timer, it will give you a well-rounded literal taste for the culture. At the Polynesian Cultural, stay late for the evening show Ha – Breath of Life – that features over 100 Polynesian natives in a show with animation, fire, and song.
Polynesian Cultural Centre
It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s a helicopter ride around Hawaii Island? If you’re looking for a tour of the Hawaii Islands, there’s no better perspective than that of a bird’s. Soar over valleys, see waterfalls and even volcanoes from an incredible vantage point that makes everything seem much more magnificent.
Swim with dolphins
Swimming with mammals is a bit cliché, but how about 50 or so wild dolphins? Wild Side Speciality Tours (http://www.sailhawaii.com/) is one of the best tour operators that know their animals and marine biology, meaning more animal sightings and interaction for guests.
See tens of spinner dolphins, green sea turtles and the cleaning station and miles of white sand and green valleys along the way.
Wild Side Speciality Tours
Places to stay
In Waikiki, hotels along the main strip aren’t cheap. The good news is, if you’re willing to splurge there are plenty of beautiful properties with stunning views and fabulous accommodations. You’ll always a stone’s throw away from the beach, world-class shopping and great restaurants. Check other options like airbnb to see what cheaper alternative may exist, but be warned that you’ll always be several blocks away from the shoreline as hotels line the beach.
Outrigger on the Beach (www.outriggerreef.com)
Hitched and feeling romantic? The Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach may be for you and your beau. Their signature Hawaiian vow renewal ceremony is free service they offer all their guests twice weekly. It’s no surprise that since its inception, more than 12,000 couples have renewed their vows as part of the hotel’s most popular amenity. Other cultural experiences include hula dancing, ukulele lessons, lei-making and storytelling that will make you feel like a Hawaiian local in no time.
Outrigger on the Beach (www.outriggerreef.com)
2169 Kalia Road
Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk (embassysuites.hilton.com)
In Hawaii, there are no all-inclusive resorts, but the Embassy is as close as it gets. As part of any hotel room booking, they offer complimentary breakfast for all guests (including hot items like omelettes and pancakes), wifi and their manager’s happy hour reception where free drinks and snacks flow daily.
Also lovely is their updated furnishings, décor and suite-style rooms that lets you enjoy Hawaii in style.
Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach (embassysuites.hilton.com)
201 Beachwalk Street
How to get there
Direct flights from Vancouver (YVR) to the Hawaii islands are typically a reasonable 6 hours in length – perfect for two movies and a short nap.
Air Canada, WestJet and Delta airlines have direct flights daily when flying to Honolulu (HNL), Maui (OGG, Kona (KOA), or Kauai (LIH).
Typically, an average flight is $500, but that will fluctuate depending on high and low seasons. If you plan on going on a multi-island trip, try Hawaiian Airlines.
Once you’re on the island, it’s recommended to rent a car if you plan on making day-trips or want to explore on your own.