It has been over 30 years since my last visit to the Hawaiian Islands and when the opportunity presented itself for my wife and me to return, I didn’t hesitate. This trip would include Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii. I was already daydreaming about the turquoise water, warm tropical breezes and the rich natural beauty of both Hawaii’s natural landscape and its people.
We flew via American Airlines, which has daily flights to Honolulu from several major cities across the US. If you decide to splurge, as we did, then their first class cabin service includes amenities such as roomy, fully reclining seats and a dining menu designed by renowned Hawaiian chef Sam Choy. Some of the meals include macadamia nut pancakes, hibachi chicken, island braised short ribs, and signature sundaes.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort was our home for the first 3 nights. This award-winning property is Waikiki’s only self-contained resort and is a small lush city unto itself. Our oceanfront room had a stunning view of the beach and emerald-green Pacific. The Hilton here truly caters to families and there is more than enough to keep both kids and adults occupied, including a large expanse of private beach, 4 swimming pools, 20 restaurants and bars, 90 retail shops and a variety of activities including hula dancing and lei-making lessons.
We arrived on a Sunday just in time for the Waikiki Luau held on the property’s great lawn with a lagoon as the backdrop. We were presented with flower lei upon arriving and we enjoyed a dinner buffet with Hawaiian specialties such as huli huli chicken, macadamia nut encrusted mahi mahi, and guava cake for dessert. There was also live music with traditional Hawaiian dancers. The entire event was fantastic and a must-see while here.
There are numerous activities for all ages from which to choose but the one that made my pulse race was a tour through Segway of Hawaii, located on the Hilton grounds. My guide took me down the main shopping area, past Waikiki and up Diamond Head, pointing out interesting things to see along the way. If you have never been on a Segway, I would give it my highest recommendation as an experience you won’t forget.
For those considering matrimony or, if like me, you’re just a hopeless romantic, Best Bridal of Hawaii’s Ocean Crystal Chapel is a gorgeous venue right on the Hilton grounds. With ocean views and seating for 85 guests, this is a wonderful place to get hitched or do what we did and renew your vows. I secretly arranged this for our 30th anniversary and the staff at Best Bridal did an amazing job of coordinating every little detail including hiring a photographer, videographer and pastor to conduct the ceremony.
If shopping is your passion, then make your way to Kalakaua Boulevard, which reminded me of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, or to the mega mall, Ala Moana. Another gem is Waiola Shaved Ice, a short 20-minute walk from the hotel. With ice that is powdery as snow and home-made syrups, this is an oasis of cool refreshment on a hot day.
We flew to the Big Island of Hawaii for our last three days and stayed at The Hilton Waikoloa Village. This sprawling property is set amongst lush landscaping, swimming pools, waterfalls, bridges, and millions of dollars worth of artwork strategically placed throughout. The grounds are so far-reaching that transportation is provided by a tram as well as motorboats that traverse canals just like in Venice.
With over 1200 rooms, you can choose from garden or ocean views or overlooking one of two 18-hole championship golf courses. Dining is casual or elegant and we enjoyed a beautiful dinner with a view of the ocean at sunset at the hotel’s Kamuela Provision Company on our first night.
Without a doubt, the most popular on-site activity is the Dolphin Quest interactive program. Here, kids of any age can learn about these friendly mammals and watch them glide, jump and frolic in water.
We reserved one day to see the rest of Hawaii. After renting a car, we drove north along the Kohala Coast and then inland along Highway 19, exploring the many small towns. After sightseeing in Hilo, we followed Highway 11 to the end to see one of the highlights of any visit here—Volcanoes National Park and the lava flow from Kilauea exploding into the ocean with great plumes of steam, ash and red hot lava. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see nature at its rawest and the show after dark is nothing short of spectacular.
Hawaii, like the elements that formed the islands, is always in a constant state of change. But the spirit of this land, the friendliness of its people and the beauty of the tropical paradise seem to remain constant no matter how long it has been since you may have last visited.
Hilton Hawaiian Village
Best Bridal Hawaii
With seven chapels on Oahu they can plan every aspect of your wedding or vow renewal.
Segway of Hawaii
Tours include Wakiki, Diamond Head, Culture and History, and a fireworks ride.
Waiola Store (Shaved Ice)
2135 Waiola St, Honolulu
Big Island Visitors Bureau
Hilton Waikoloa Village
Volcanoes National Park
The park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Kilauea Visitor Center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Daily flights to Honolulu and Kona from many cities in the US. Premium cabin seating features Hawaiian menu designed by Sam Choy.