Known for its beautiful beaches, blue skies and hot volcanoes, plus great food and adventure, Hawaii is a top holiday destination. With six major islands – Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Hawaii – there’s plenty of choice. Oahu, home to the capital Honolulu and golden Waikiki Beach, is the most affordable due to the abundance of hotels, activities and tours.
When it comes to seeing Honolulu’s sights, free options include a visit to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the USS Arizona Memorial.
The night sky lights up with free fireworks every Friday night – it’s hosted by the Hilton Hawaiian Village and best viewed from Waikiki Beach. The streets are also busy with performers and colourful arts and crafts stalls.
The stunning Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is free and showcases beautiful plants from many nations as well as Hawaii’s sweet-scented tropical flowers.
Visitors can get a culture hit at the Hawaii State Art Museum where free tours showcase the work of traditional and contemporary artists.
To watch a free luau feast or hula dancing performance head to the huge Ala Moana open-air shopping mall, or to the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound near the statue of the father of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku.
Speaking of surfing, surf lessons with Waikiki’s Stoke Drift come with a money-back guarantee that you will be riding the waves in no time.
Hunt around for budget accommodation as prices can be competitive – stay in a hostel such as The Beach Waikiki or consider heading up to the north of the island to camp at Malaekahana State Recreation Area.
Hawaii Tourism Authority promotes the Malama Hawaii (gohawaii.com/malama) package, which is about giving back (malama) through volunteering with local organisations and the program includes special accommodation discounts or a free night.
Eating out in Honolulu is cheap with favourite dishes ranging from poke, manapua (like Chinese baos), fish tacos, saimin (the local’s noodle soup), huli huli chicken (served marinated in pineapple and grilled), garlic shrimp, loco moco (usually rice topped with a hamburger patty, but there are myriad variations on the dish) and the classic dessert, shave ice. Food courts are good value, food truck venues are popular and many venues offer happy hours for drinks.
Looking for a little romance? The island of Maui is popular with honeymooners and couples who enjoy its sun-kissed beaches, misty waterfalls, luxe accommodation and adrenalin-pumping adventure tours.
Sunrise or sunset atop the lofty summit of Mount Haleakala is a popular place for popping the question. Don’t forget to take a jacket, it’s usually 30 degrees colder than down at sea level.
For a great bird’s-eye view of the islands jump aboard a scenic helicopter tour. Air Maui offers scenic flights and for the super-romantics, several companies offer custom helicopter charters anywhere you’d like in Hawaii, including to remote pristine beaches with some of the most stunning backdrops on Earth.
Horse-riding is popular with plenty of trails along pretty beaches and lush rainforests.
Nothing like a gentle breeze in your hair and a cocktail in hand to savour those romantic moments, and the popular sunset cruise aboard Pride of Maui features fabulous views and a luau dinner party onboard, plus entertainment by Polynesian dancers. The boat also hosts snorkelling tours; the five-hour adventure departs Maui to visit the exceptional sites of Molokini Crater and Turtle Town.
For eating out there is everything from fine dining to traditional luau feasts. Mama’s Fish House is a romantic oceanfront oasis that’s been around for 40 years. The house-made ice cream and signature guava, lime and ginger cocktail have quite a following.
Dining at Leilani’s on the Beach restaurant comes with ukulele music and great local dishes, while at Ko Restaurant it’s all about creative cross-cultural cuisine.
Splurge on accommodation at the adults-only Hotel Wailea, a Relais & Châteaux property, where you can also take a drive in one of the 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster reproductions.
The all-white Fairmont Kea Lani, Polo Beach is secluded, surrounded by lava rock walls and has an adults-only pool. The hip Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort comes with four outdoor infinity pools and a luxe spa.
Maui and Oahu have the most kid-friendly Hawaiian attractions and activities and family resorts, but if you are looking for something different Kauai is also ideal.
It’s known as the garden island with beautiful, lush emerald green valleys, tropical rainforests and dramatic coastlines with see-saw edged mountains.
The Napali Coast with its steep cliffs that plunge to the ocean is a spectacular sight.
Love hiking? There’s plenty of choice along with zip-lining and horse-riding.
The Queen’s Bath, a sinkhole pool surrounded by large rocks, is a favourite with children who delight in having a play in the warm waters.
Tumbling waterfalls are another feature of this island including the amazing double-tiered Wailua Waterfall. The cascade featured in the opening scene of the long-running TV show Fantasy Island.
Kids will also love a visit to Waimea Canyon, nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific as it stretches for 22 kilometres.
Animal and bird enthusiasts will enjoy spying on them from Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge which is home to some of the largest populations of nesting seabirds found in Hawaii. You can also see spinner dolphins and Hawaiian monk seals in the water, native Hawaiian coastal plants and Hawaii’s state bird – the nene, named after its soft call.
Family-friendly accommodation includes the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa with seven restaurants and an extensive swimming pool complex with waterfalls, waterslides and volleyball net.
There’s also a Camp Hyatt Kids Club with lots of fun activities.
The Marriott Kaua’i Beach Club on Kalapaki Beach claims to have the biggest pool in Hawaii and the Kalapaki Kids Club features watersports, immersions in Hawaiian culture and fun activities.
For family dining, there’s traditional Hawaiian luau feasts. If you love burgers try Bubba Burgers and Street Burger; for Hawaiian-style hot dogs head to Puka Dog; and don’t miss JoJo’s Shave Ice for a treat.
Take me there
Fly: Hawaiian Airlines and Qantas are poised to resume flights between Honolulu and Australia. Hawaiian Airlines has already released fares for flights from Sydney or Brisbane to Honolulu, starting December 17, with the cheapest fare this year priced from $2455* return. Qantas’s first flight out from Sydney is on December 24, priced from $1835 return, or head over in January from $1210 return.
*All fares are as advertised at press time.