Published: 27 November 2013 by: Rhonda Bannister

Image: HTA Tor Johnson

The islands of Hawaii have been a siren call to travellers for hundreds of years and now with the Aussie dollar in the stratosphere and more flights from the east coast including the new Hawaiian Airlines flights direct from Brisbane, it's Australians by the thousands who are enjoying a love affair with these amazing islands.

I heard so many Australian accents on our recent visit to Waikiki that i could have closed my eyes and easily pictured walking through surfers Paradise - except for the alohas and Mahalos whispered like a Hawaiian serenade by every local we came in contact with. Here the word Aloha is more than a greeting of hello and goodbye - it’s an attitude and a spiritual energy that’s infectious because you’ll definitely feel lighter and happier while you’re here. Hawaiians love Aussies and go out of their way to make you feel very welcome!

Image: Gordon Tipene

Hawaii is made up of a group of eight main islands and numerous atolls; the six main tourist islands of Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Kauai, Lanai and Hawaii (known simply as the Big Island to avoid confusion), offer the visitor a completely different experience so if time allows, including at least two islands in your itinerary would make a fabulous holiday.

The Big Island is the home of the volcanic activity that created this chain of islands – and Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, still spews forth lava and flashing fireworks. it’s also the home of multi-coloured sands, moonscapes and luxury golf resorts.

Maui is the island of rainbows, mountains, waterfalls, lush rainforests and rare fauna and flora ... and also has its share of golf courses, moonscapes and spectacular scenery. Here you can watch the amazing winter display put on for humans by the monsters of the deep as they cavort, breach and blow offshore.

Image: Dreamstime

Kauai, the garden isle, is about splendiferous scenery, spectacular sunsets and submarine wonders. It’s here that you’ll see the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’. Nature lovers adore this island and they can hike, mountaineer, snorkel and scuba dive to their hearts’ content. A cruise along the rugged Na Pali coastline where the rugged cliffs rise as high as 1200 metres and a helicopter ride over the awesome Waimea canyon is the stuff holiday memories are made of.

Molokai and Lanai are the mellow islands, perfect for those who really like to get away from the world.

But it’s the island of Oahu with its idyllic weather, rugged mountain landscape and enchanting wave-dashed coastline that shines like a beacon for couples looking for sophisticated island romance - in a word - Waikiki, with its five-star accommodation, fabulous shopping opportunities, plethora of internationally renowned restaurants and fun bars and clubs!
This is one of the world’s premier holiday destinations and when you stroll along the beach at sunrise or sit beachfront at the famous Mai Tai bar mesmerised by the golden lights of the setting sun sparkling on diamond head you’ll understand why.

Image: HTA Tor Johnson

This iconic bar is part of the ‘Grand dame of Waikiki’, the oceanfront Pink Palace more formally known as the royal Hawaiian hotel, part of Starwood Hotel’s Luxury collection. Built in spanish-moorish style in 1927, in its heyday the hotel hosted the likes of Hollywood celebrities, wealthy tycoons, royalty and heads of state.

You no longer have to be famous or wealthy to enjoy its warm service and luxury accommodation - we stayed here and loved the great location right on the pearly white sands of Waikiki where we spent our days sunning and surfing, only interrupting our languid pursuits to prop our behinds on a comfortable seat at the beachside restaurant to enjoy a long lunch before a few hours shopping and then back to the Pink Palace for sunset cocktails at the Mai Tai bar ... the perfect relaxing holiday for stressed-out couples.

But for those who like to do more than laze their days away on the beach, renting a car to tour the island is a must. The adventure begins as soon as you leave the downtown traffic snarl and make your way into the island’s scenic interior. Here, you will see nature at her most spectacular as you drive past magnificent sculpted mountains, jagged peaks and verdant valleys. Dotted around the island are more than 50 beach parks where you can stop to snorkel, swim, surf or picnic, always in the midst of nature’s abundant beauty.

Image: HTA Tor Johnson

Man-made attractions also abound, including quaint little townships with their tottering buildings, ancient sacred sites, the Bishop Museum where you can easily spend hours engrossed in Hawaiian history and the Polynesian cultural centre offering an authentic insight into seven Polynesian cultures along with a fantastic evening show. You should spend at least a half day visiting the poignant sights of the USS Arizona and Missouri memorials at Pearl harbour.

There are enough accommodation and dining options to suit any budget from backpacker to five star, and whether you use Honolulu as a stopover to North America and Canada, or plan a longer vacation to also experience the other islands of Hawaii, you’ll find that it will be a journey of discovery that you will want to experience more than once.

Shopping
While our dollar is strong just let your hair down and go for it because the prices are fantastic - especially if you are flying with Hawaiian Airlines as every passenger receives a baggage allowance of two x 32Kg +12 kg cabin baggage! Send a day at the Ala Moana centre (alamoanacenter.com/) where you’ll find around 400 shops and restaurants and if you’re a fan of outlet shopping try Waikele Premium outlets where the prices are excellent for a huge range of top brands (premiumoutlets.com). And right in Waikiki, the royal hawaiian centre houses the largest concentration of flagship stores in Hawaii including Apple store, Cartier, Hermès, Salvatore Ferragamo, Kate Spade New York, Tourneau, Juicy Couture and Fendi (royalhawaiiancenter.com).

Image: HTA Tor Johnson

Eat, Drink, Party
There’s no shortage of great places to wine and dine but our favourites include the iconic Duke’s, named after the famous sportsman and surfer, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku where the food’s as cool as the beach view (www.dukeswaikiki.com); the very hip and vibrant Rumfire at the Sheraton Waikiki with a menu as hot and tasty as its name (rumfirewaikiki.com); we highly recommend the Okonomiyaki pancake at Chibo Japanese Restaurant in the Royal Hawaiian Centre - the food’s fantastic and the ambience is - well, so Japanese! (chibohawaii.com); try a “vint-edge” cocktail at the Sheraton’s adults only pool bar, ‘Edge of Waikiki’ (sheraton-waikiki.com) before a fine-dining experience at the Royal Hawaiian’s sleek, multi-award winning Azure Restaurant where Chef Jon Matsubara turns the freshest, daily seafood into an exquisite taste sensation (azurewaikiki.com). For critically acclaimed, tasty and healthy gastronomic delights prepared without the use of butter or salt, Chef Chai Chaowasaree’s restaurant, ‘Chef Chai’ which opened in February 2013 at Kapiolani Blvd, is the place to go - Chef Chai oversees the in-flight business-class menu for Hawaiian Airlines -(chefchai.com). Watch the pastel coloured sunset over the Kahala coast as you cruise just offshore aboard the state-of-the-art vessel Atlantis Navatek 1 while enjoying a deluxe five-course dinner. The royal sunset dinner cruise includes entertainment and is a different way to view diamond head and Waikiki (atlantisadventures.com).

 Image: HTA Tor Johnson

Image: HTA Tor Johnson

Sightseeing
The Waikiki trolleys will take you wherever you want to go - three different coloured, bell-ringing trolleys that whisk you around for shopping trips, scenic tours and historic sites of Honolulu from just $2 a trip from Waikiki to Ala Moana, or purchase an inclusive four-day, three-line passport which has over $100 of value-added bonuses - the best way to get around!

A Couple’s Spa
There’s a magical energy in Waikiki, known all too well to generation upon generation of native Hawaiians, that has the power to heal, restore and rejuvenate the senses, so make sure you enjoy a special couples’ Lomi Lomi massage - a holistic healing tradition beyond simple massage also known as a loving hands massage ... after all, this is its home! the spa at the beachfront, historic Moana Surfrider Hotel offers a tranquil few hours with access to the steam room and jacuzzi before and after your massage (moana-surfrider.com).

Couples Will Love 
Dining right on the beachfront (hotels line the beach of Waikiki) under the moon and then walking along the beach hand in hand as the stars twinkle in a velvet sky - it's so romantic!

Image: HTA Kirk Lee Aider

Don't Miss
Driving around the island - there's so much to see and discover and the island is just so scenic.

FACT FILE

Getting There
Hawaiian Airlines flies daily from Sydney to Honolulu and three times per week from Brisbane. Onward Connections are available to the neighbouring islands of Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island, and eleven US mainland destinations. For more information speak to your travel agent, call reservations on 1300 669 106 or visit hawaiianairlines.com.au

Need To Know
As well as completing the online process known as ESTA - the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation - Australian passport holders must now present their ESTA documentation at check in.the ESTA process must be completed online via the website esta.cbp.dhs.gov at least 72 hours prior to travel to the USA. Once completed, applicants will receive a travel authorisation number, which must be presented when checking in at the airport.

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