Where to Eat, Sleep, and Explore in Hawaii
Beyond Honolulu’s sprawl, the island of Oahu is as distinctive and diverse as any of its neighbors. The difference: After filling up on miles-long white-sand beaches, epic surf, and awe-inspiring vistas, visitors still have access to some of the country’s finest shopping and dining. Charlene Davé of Virtuoso’s on-site tour operator in Hawaii says, “There’s every imaginable designer store in Waikiki, Ala Moana Center is comprehensive, and Kailua has cute boutiques – plus Oahu has some of the most picturesque beaches in Hawaii.”
Kauai is the oldest of Hawaii’s main islands, and you can see its ancientness in its stunningly eroded landscapes. With fluted emerald cliffs, taro fields aglow at sunset, and thread-thin waterfalls, the Garden Isle hews most closely to the postcard image of Polynesia. Devotees love its white-sand beaches fronting crystalline lagoons, deliberately downbeat tempo, and emphasis on taking it slow to breathe in the beauty.
There’s a reason the rich and famous (Oprah Winfrey, Clint Eastwood, and Willie Nelson, to name a few) buy homes on Maui. Some say it’s Oahu without the hassle: just cosmopolitan enough to support superior dining and shopping, but not so urbanized that you can’t find empty beaches and wilderness. Maui’s varied landscapes – Mount Haleakala’s alpine environment, Kaupo’s dry prairie, Hana’s jungles – share an island so small that you can experience all of them in just a few days.
It’s said there are two kinds of visitors to Hawaii: those who love Lanai and those who haven’t been there. There’s not much to do on the Pineapple Isle, and that’s the point: On this low-gear tropical sanctuary, time creeps and visitors can relax without the nagging feeling of missing out. “I really love Lanai,” advisor Kari Mollan says. “It’s so quiet, you just want to walk the orchid gardens at Koele or sit in a rocking chair and play chess. Stay for a week, bring a lot of books, and just enjoy it.”
A place of superlatives and extremes, Hawaii Island (locals are moving away from calling it the “Big Island”) is the United States’ largest island and southernmost point. Site of the world’s tallest mountain (Mauna Kea – 32,696 feet from its seafloor base to its summit) as well as the country’s newest real estate (Kilauea volcano has been adding new oceanfront daily since 1983). The state’s most ecologically diverse island, comprising ten climate zones, from wintry summits to blistering lava deserts. It even has the world’s longest lava tube and the only happy-face spider. Hawaii Island’s otherworldly landscapes and supernatural beauty emanate a tangible vibration, the mana of a new land forming.
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