Translated, the Hawaiian word “alo” means “presence” or “share” and the word “ha” means “breath of life” or “essence of life.” Commonly used as a greeting, aloha means much more than “hello”. It’s an expression of sincerity from the heart. Something to strive for in life – an ethos of treating those around you with love and compassion.
Six unique islands. Six unique experiences. Home to the world’s most active volcanoes, the only royal palace in the U.S. and the welcoming aloha spirit—Hawaii is like no place on earth. Discover the glimmering ocean, emerald valleys and golden sands; get lost in the spiritual beauty of the hula and find out how the warmth of Hawaii’s people wonderfully complement the islands’ perfect temperatures.
While many families decide to visit between December and February during Hawaii’s crowded high season, you can enjoy a peaceful and affordable vacation in November with fewer people around. November is Hawaii’s winter season, but temperatures are still warm enough to enjoy Hawaii’s black sand beaches, lush rainforests, and big waves.
So take a moment. Stumble upon a secluded spot. Discover the food that locals love. Experience a culture full of welcoming aloha. There’s so much more to your Hawai’i holiday than you thought. And you won’t need a road map to find your most memorable moments.
Kaua’i (Garden Island) – Kauai is Hawaii’s fourth largest island. The oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain is draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs aged by time and the elements. Centuries of growth have formed tropical rainforests, forking rivers and cascading waterfalls! Some parts of Kauai are only accessible by sea or air, revealing views beyond your imagination. More than just dramatic beauty, the island is home to a variety of outdoor activities. You can kayak the Wailua River, snorkel on Poipu Beach, hike the trails of Kokee State Park, or go ziplining above Kauai’s lush valleys. But, it is the island’s laid-back atmosphere and rich culture found in its small towns that make it truly timeless. Explore the regions of Kauai and make your escape to discover the undeniable allure of the island.
O’ahu (The gathering place) – The third largest Hawaiian island is home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population, a fusion of East and West cultures rooted in the values and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people. It’s this fundamental contrast between the ancient and the modern that makes discovering Oahu — from bustling city life to laidback surf towns — so enjoyable. You’ll find plenty of different options for exploring Oahu’s different regions, the island’s many activities, its eclectic restaurants and accommodations.
Moloka’i – Hawaii’s fifth largest island, Molokai is only 38 miles long and 10 miles across at its widest point and is home to the highest sea cliffs in the world and the longest continuous fringing reef. Molokai remains true to its island roots, with a high percentage of its population being of Native Hawaiian ancestry who continue to preserve their rural lifestyle thanks to their love of the land. Whether you’re led by a guide along the cliffs leading to Kalaupapa National Historical Park or discovering Papohaku Beach, one of Hawaii’s largest white-sand beaches, Molokai is truly an island of outdoor adventure where Hawaii’s past comes alive!
Lana’i – The smallest inhabited island travellers may visit in Hawaii, Lanai offers big enticements to its visitors. Only nine miles from Maui yet a world away, Lanai can feel like two places. The first is found in luxurious resorts where visitors can indulge in world-class amenities and championship-level golf. The other is found bouncing along the island’s rugged back roads in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle to explore off-the-beaten-path treasures.
Maui – Maui, known also as “The Valley Isle,” is the second largest Hawaiian island. The island beloved for its world-famous beaches, the sacred Iao Valley, views of migrating humpback whales (during winter months), farm-to-table cuisine and the magnificent sunrise and sunset from Haleakala.
Hawai’i – The island of Hawaii is the youngest and largest island in the Hawaiian chain. Nearly twice as big as all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined (hence, its nickname, “Big Island”), its sheer size is awe-inspiring. You can travel through all but four of the world’s different climate zones here, ranging from Wet Tropical to Polar Tundra, a result of the shielding effect and elevations of the massive volcanoes Maunakea and Maunaloa. From the many geological features at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the snow-capped heights of Maunakea; from the lush valleys of the Hilo and Hamakua Coasts to the jet-black sands of Punaluu Beach, the island of Hawaii is an unrivalled expression of the power of nature. However you decide to experience the island, it is sure to leave you humbled!
Customs & Traditions
Native Hawaiian Traditions
- The Honi ihu, or the touching of noses, is a traditional method of greeting one another, whether it’s a man and woman, two men or two women. It allows both people to exchange breath, which is the supremely important life force in Hawaiian understanding, and also share scents and convey a closeness in relationship.
- Lei Aloha – A lei given with love – The giving and receiving of the lei, made out of flowers, bird feathers, shells, seeds, hair or ivory, the lei (garland wreath) has become a symbol of Hawaii. Worn on the top of the head or around the neck, lei were used ornamentally by Native Hawaiians, especially chiefs, to signify their rank. Giving a lei was a traditional practice that has become the local custom today. The manner of presenting was also different: it was tied around the neck, rather than casting the lei over the head, respecting the sacredness of a person’s head and back.
- Hawaiian parties are called paina (dinner party) or ahaaina (feast), but a misunderstanding by 19th century newspaper reporters gave these distinctive celebrations the name luau (the name for taro tops, a common ingredient in Hawaiian cuisine), and it stuck. Though not an ancient name usage, the sentiments are similar—they brought together groups of people to enjoy delicious food.
Contemporary Local Customs
- Wearing a flower tucked above your left ear (the same side as your heart) discreetly communicates that you have a significant other, while a flower tucked above your right ear lets others know that you’re available. This practice has no roots in Hawaiian culture, but is a fun local custom.
- It is not common to use a car horn while driving in Hawaii (unless you are honking a friendly hello). Instead, waving or throwing a shaka when someone lets you into their lane is encouraged.
- Don’t take rocks or sand from the beach or lava rocks from a volcano. Superstition says that people who take them will be cursed, which probably gets its roots from the high esteem Hawaiian culture has always held for rocks. A lithic culture, stones were used for many things, such as tools, fences, housing – they can even be forms of deities. Leaving rocks as you found them is the best practice.
- Golf – With breath-taking scenery, one-of-a-kind signature holes and championship-caliber course designs, Hawaii attracts golfers of every level from around the world. Discover a variety of unforgettable courses throughout the islands—from greens lined with black volcanic rough to stunning seaside water hazards. And with more than 70 golf courses at your fingertips, it won’t be difficult to find the perfect course for you.
- Island of Hawaii – The world-renowned Kohala Coast resorts of Waikoloa, Mauna Lani and Mauna Kea feature courses that will linger in your memory long after the game.
- Oahu – Hawaii’s first golf course, the semi-private Moanalua Golf Club built in 1898. There are also luxurious golf resorts that play host to the PGA, like Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s famed North Shore; Ko Olina Golf Club, which curves along the Leeward Coast; and the Greg Norman-designed Royal Hawaiian Golf Club, located 20 minutes from Waikiki in a valley so lush it has been nicknamed “Jurassic Park.”
- Kauai – Three main areas define Kauai golf: Princeville Makai Golf Club on the majestic North Shore; Ocean Course at Hokuala in Lihue – with more oceanfront holes than any other course in Hawaii; and Poipu Bay Golf Course on the on the South Shore.
- Lanai – The 18-hole Manele Golf Course at Four Seasons Lanai is one of Jack Nicklaus’s crowning masterpieces. With three holes built into seaside cliffs, this target-style course roams across natural lava outcroppings on Lanai’s South Shore, delighting players with dazzling views of the Pacific Ocean.
- Molokai – The golf on Molokai is as relaxed as you might expect it to be. At the lovely Ironwood Hills Golf Course, it’s okay to just show up for a tee time. There are no golf pros—not even a clubhouse—just 3,088 yards of upcountry pasture with splendid views.
- Family –
- Hawaii is literally swimming with water-based activities. Kids can pet a sea lion at Sea Life Park, learn to surf from a pro on Waikiki Beach, and see massive humpback whales splashing around during a whale-watching tour on Maui, Molokai or Lanai. Snorkeling is a kid-approved activity all year long; popular spots include the shallow, protected tide pools of Poipu Beach on Kauai and the island of Hawaii’s Kona coast, where you can even swim with dolphins and manta rays.
- Learn to dance the hula at the Smith Family Garden Luau, Polynesian Cultural Center and many other authentic luau on every island. Kids can watch planetarium shows and participate in lava demonstrations at the Bishop Museum, or learn how Hawaii’s early explorers navigated to the shores by the stars at the Imiloa Astronomy Center.
- Let the little ones burn off some energy at Hawaii’s national and state parks from hikes through the clouds at Iao Valley State Park to zipline adventures at Kualoa Ranch, a filming location of Jurassic Park.
- Family friendly resorts like the Aulani Resort brings Disney magic to Oahu, with daily activities and pool parties with appearances by Mickey and his friends. On the island of Hawaii, Hilton Waikoloa Village boasts a lazy river and sprawling saltwater lagoon that’s home to several dolphins; kids can even shadow a dolphin trainer during their stay! More great family-friendly Hawaiian hotels include Turtle Bay on Oahu, Grand Wailea and Kaanapali Beach Hotel on Maui and Hilton Garden Inn Kauai. Best of all, many resorts offer day camps for kids that give parents some much-needed solo time.
- Haleakala National Park, Maui – Here on the slopes of Maui’s volcano, life is a mix of geologic wonders and cowboy culture, with a thirty-mile system of trails to follow on foot or horseback. Watching the sunrise atop Haleakala volcano is an unforgettable experience, as is driving the winding 64-mile Hana Highway. Not for the faint-hearted, this zig-zagging route along Maui’s north-eastern shore affords incredible views of waterfalls, beaches and tropical rainforests.
- Na Pali Coast, Kauai – Inaccessible to vehicles, the Na Pali Coast can be enjoyed in a number of ways – helicopter, kayak, paddleboard, or boat. For a full-on Jurassic Park perspective, they don’t come better than a helicopter experience. Alternatively, sunset sailing trip affords stunning views of the same coastline from the sea. Or, if you’re fit (and fearless), you could hike the coastline’s Kalalau Trail. While this trek is difficult (guaranteed to get your heart thumping), it’s more than worth the effort, as you’ll discover when you reach the Kalalau Beach endpoint.
- Hawaii Volcanoes N.P, Big Island – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is made up of its southernmost volcanoes – Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Besides its active volcanoes, the park’s landscape includes the windswept deserts of Ka‘u, arctic tundra, and canopied rainforest. The main attraction of the park is Kilauea, which has erupted consistently since 1983. Getting to the part of the park where you can see molton lava takes time – most visitors spend a full day doing this.
World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Oahu – Honolulu’s Pearl Harbour is an important part of this national monument devoted to sites pertaining to World War II history in three states. Guided and audio tours are available to such memorable sites as the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Battleship Missouri, Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Bowfin.
- Kualoa Ranch, Oahu – This working cattle ranch on the windward coast is also a center for an array of adventures, including horseback rides, ATV touring, nature walks, catamaran excursions, tours of the many film sites on the property, and their newly added zipline excursions.
Luau of Hawaii – One of the most festive experiences to be had on a visit to the Hawaiian Islands is a luau – a Hawaiian feast featuring lively music and vibrant cultural performances from Hawaii and greater Polynesia.
History of the Luau – The first feast in Hawaii resembling a modern-day luau was probably held in 1819. Before then, the kapu system of restrictions, religion and resource management separated men and women at mealtimes, even in times of celebration. Other names for these feasts are ahaaina or paina, but over the course of time, the nickname luau – a reference to the taro leaves at the core of many popular dishes – stuck. Two centuries later, luau are still being celebrated. But it is important to note that despite the name and its Hawaiian roots, not all food or entertainment at a luau today is Hawaiian. A contemporary luau in Hawaii reflects our multi-cultural society. Food at a family luau is as diverse as the various branches of the family tree. Entertainment at a visitor luau often includes dances and music from other Polynesian cultures.
Popular Luau Dishes:
- Poi: Pounded taro plant root; a starch meant to be eaten with everything.
- Kalua Pig: Pork prepared in an imu (underground oven) and shredded.
- Laulau: Meat wrapped in luau (taro) leaves and steamed, traditionally prepared in an imu.
- Haupia: Coconut pudding.
- Poke: A term that literally means to cut into pieces, this newly global delicacy is traditionally prepared with raw fish, shoyu (soy sauce), green onions, kukui nut (candlenut), and limu (seaweed).
- Finding Big Waves, Oahu’s North Shore – The winter season (November through March) is Hawaii’s prime surfing season, with the biggest Pacific Ocean waves hitting the north shores of each island. In particular, Oahu’s North Shore boasts one of Hawaii’s best November surfing spots, though you can catch the best waves in mid-December and January. If you’re still learning the basics of surfing, you can find calm waves along the southern beaches year-round.
References from gohawaii.com
Photo Credits to go hawaii