Hawai'i: Escape the Chill
Feel the warmth of aloha in Hawai'i
Sweaters and pumpkin-flavored lattes may be festive and cozy, but why settle for brisk mornings and overcast skies when you could be in balmy weather and sunshine? Escape the chill and head to Hawai'i, where summer seems endless. You could be wearing a swimsuit and have a tropical drink in your hand in just six hours.
Marvel at the athleticism of professional surfers who charge waves as high as 20 feet by spending a day on the North Shore. Every winter, this famous seven-mile coastline is pummeled with enormous waves and hosts elite surfing competitions that can be viewed by the public. Watch the Vans World Cup of Surfing at the end of November, and the Billabong Pipe Masters in December.
Shop till You Drop
The International Market Place has been in the heart of Waikīkī and a neighborhood icon since the 1950s. It recently got a much-needed facelift and reopened in the fall with 75 stores, including Hawaiʻi’s first Saks Fifth Avenue. If you haven’t been to Waikīkī in a while, you’ll want to see how it’s been transformed from a maze of souvenir kiosks into a chic shopping center with three levels, all while preserving the century-old banyan tree in the center.
Sip a Mai Tai
Tiki bars and tropical drinks may be all the rage in California right now, but while you’re in the islands you’ve got to try a mai tai at the source, the Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian. The oceanfront bar has a million-dollar view of Waikīkī Beach and in 1953 was the first place in Hawaiʻi to serve the cocktail. (The recipe was created by “Trader Vic,” who claimed to have invented it at his restaurant in San Francisco.) Have a drink at a real tiki bar, La Mariana Sailing Club, a historic restaurant that is almost 60 years old. Decorated with puffer fish lanterns, carved tikis, and antiques, it’s the last tiki bar in Honolulu.
See 40-Ton Giants
The Valley Isle is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales. Every winter, as many as 10,000 whales migrate to Maui’s warm waters from Alaska to give birth and mate, and they can be seen breaching, tail-slapping, and blowing from the coast, from Makena all the way up to Kapalua. Book a whale watching tour to see these gentle giants.
Bike Down a Volcano
No trip to Maui is complete without greeting the day by watching the sunrise from atop Haleakalā, a dormant volcano that looms more than 10,000 feet over the island. Instead of simply driving up the mountain and back, you can book a tour with Haleakala Bike Company and cycle your way down from an elevation of 6,500 feet all the way back to sea level at your own pace.
Hawaiʻi has a burgeoning craft beer scene, and Maui Brewing Company has received acclaim for its island-inspired ales. Sit on the scenic deck at the Lahaina brewery and sip a coconut porter or pineapple ale while listening to live bands. The brewery also hosts daily tours.
Much of the Garden Isle’s beauty, like the isolated Nāpali Coast, is hidden from view. Booking a helicopter tour is the best way to experience the island and see waterfalls, beaches, and mountains that aren’t accessible by car or on foot. You’ll also get an unforgettable view of the inhospitable Nāpali Coast, dramatic sea cliffs that snake down the west coast of Kaua‘i for 16 miles and reach heights of 4,000 feet.
Head over to Hanapēpē, a scenic town on the island’s west side, on Fridays for Art Night. The charming main street has 16 different art galleries that stay open late for the weekly festival, which is packed with food trucks and live bands. If Hanapēpē looks familiar, the town was the inspiration for the village in Disney’s Lilo & Stitch.
A Hawaiian Christmas
If you’re here in December, learn how to say “Mele Kalikimaka” at the annual Christmas parade in Līhuʻe. The festival commences when the historic county building and surrounding coconut trees come to life with twinkling lights, and the parade travels on Rice Street throughout the town.
Visit Wailuku River State Park near Hilo, where you can walk right to Rainbow Falls. The picturesque falls plunge over a lava cave and drop 80 feet into a calm pool, and the colors of the rainbow can often be seen in the mist. Another must-see is ‘Akaka Falls: It’s more than 440 feet high and can be accessed by a short trail through a rainforest.
Molten lava recently broke through the surface at the caldera at Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes (and one of the few that you can drive right up to!). You can look right into the fiery crater from the lookout point at the Jaggar Museum in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.
Meet Sea Life
The Kailua-Kona side of the Big Island usually has hot, sunny weather, along with prime spots for snorkeling. Spot colorful tropical fish and thriving coral reefs at Kahalu‘u Beach Park, a protected cove, where a posted sign explains the types of fish and sea urchins living in the bay. Up north on the Kohala Coast, Spencer Beach Park is a sandy beach with shady spots, picnic tables, and calm waters that’s a great destination for the whole family.