By: R. Liaw
Did you know that the Hawaiian archipelago, approximately 3850km from the US mainland and nearly 6500km from Japan, is the most isolated population centre in the world? Learn more about what to do in two fascinating and beautiful islands of this archipelago below:
Known as "the Valley Isle", Maui is the second largest Hawaiian island. It is famous not only for its pristine beaches and resorts, but also for the wide range of activities available. One of the first things you will notice about Maui when leaving the airport, is the surprising amount of chicken roaming the streets freely. In fact, chicken there are about as common as pigeons are in São Paulo.
Below is a list of my favourite things to do there, out of a variety of options:
1. Visiting Haleakalā National park
Haleakalā, the massive shield volcano, makes up about 75% of the whole island (while another volcano on the west forms the other 25%). The visitor centre resides just below the summit, which is 3050m in altitude, making it the highest point in Maui, and when walking near it, you will find multiple fun facts about the park, including its wildlife and geology, both of which are magnets to scientists from all around the world, who come to work at the Haleakalā observatory. The summit is one of the most sought-after telescope sites in the world due to the absence of city lights, its elevation, atmospheric pressure, remarkable clarity, stillness and dryness of the air. It is also extremely important to mention that the view from the top is absolutely amazing, as you can see almost the whole island.
2. Going to a Luau
A luau is a Hawaiian feast where traditional food is served accompanied by entertainment. Luau’s usually occur outdoors, either in the evening or at night, where legends of the first Polynesian explorers arriving at the islands are portrayed by dances (hula) and songs. Fire is usually involved, where skilled performers juggle around batons with flames.
3. Walking through Lahaina shops and watching the sunset
The shops in Lahaina offer locally-made objects, and you will continuously find craftsmen working on wooden sculptures on the road, typical Hawaiian shave-ice shops and fun souvenir stores along the sidewalk. The best view of the sunset on the ocean is located at a viewing point on this road, where the harmonious scenery is simply stunning.
Nicknamed "the Garden Isle" due to the extensive, lush, tropical vegetation covering its surface, this island possesses certainly some of the most beautiful scenery and natural formations of the world, because it is the oldest Hawaiian island as per its geographical location (approximately 5.1 million years old). Its ‘carefully crafted’ memorable cliffs, breathtaking canyons and sculpted mountain ridges really make this island stand out from the others.
That is why I always recommend taking advantage of the nature present there, and the following is how you can do that:
1. View Waimea Canyon from the top
Not only can you take splendid pictures from the Waimea Canyon Lookout Point (1050m in elevation), simply observing the vastness of the scenery is worth the journey. Infinite hues of read, brown, maroon and green can be seen in the canyon, which took hundreds and hundreds of years to form naturally with the help of rivers (you can even spot water scars on the rocks) and wind.
2. Take a boat tour along the Na Pali coastline
The Na Pali coastline features natural sea caves, extraordinary views of cliffs, and more sea animals than you can count. If you opt for a speed boat ride along the coast, make sure to bring a camera because you will most definitely see spinner dolphins, sea turtles, spotted-rays, jellyfish and sea lions up close. The water is a crystal-clear, glass-like green-blue, a beautiful shade that allows you to see to the ocean floor even in deep areas.
3. Snorkel and visit near Nualolo Kai State Park
Nualolo Kai is a part of the Na Pali coast, encircled by rock cliffs. Hundreds of years ago, it used to be home to an early Hawaiian tribe, so it is preserved to such an extent that it is reachable only by authorized boat landing. Nowadays, it is a sanctuary to sustain and re-grow native plants as well as an archeological site.
MUST DO ON BOTH ISLANDS:
If I could go to Hawaii and do only one thing, I would 100% choose going on a helicopter tour, as it is the only way to see a whole Hawaiian island in one go. The pilots make sure to soar through the valleys, point out dozens of waterfalls, do a 360° aerial view of almost every inch of the island (including private-owned properties where thousands of Hollywood movies are shot!), provide fun facts along the way to make the experience even more unforgettable, no matter how many times you do the tour. The ride is extremely safe, as they show us a safety video just like an airplane beforehand and tell us all the instructions carefully. The scenery I observed from the helicopter was in no doubt one of the most beautiful natural formations I have ever witnessed.
WHAT TO EAT:
Poke bowls! These are a delicious Hawaiian dish of fish salad mixed with ingredients of your choice! It is definitely a must when visiting Hawaii due to the freshness of the fish, especially the Ahi (tuna) caught by the locals and taken instantly to markets!
WHEN TO GO:
June, July and August are the best months to go because it is summer in the USA!