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With its year round tropical climate, and landscape ranging from soaring volcanoes to palm-fringed beaches, Hawaii’s natural beauty is a wonder to explore for a holiday of pure relaxation and bliss. Hawaii is made up of eight main islands, of which The Big Island, Maui and Oahu are the largest three – the latter being the location of the well-known Waikiki beach and being the location for the majority of films and TV shows shot on location on the islands.
Here are Vada, we were drawn in by the nature and luxurious locations, and discovered an open and welcoming culture built on melting pot of influences from America and Asia. So here is our guide to the next destination for the LGBT community. This guide focusses on Maui and Oahu, but if you are able to plan an excursion to one of the other islands (and we highly recommend that you do), each will unravel its own slightly different vibe and give you another reason to fall in love with these Polynesian Islands.
What to do
Whatever your itinerary whilst visiting Hawaii, most definitely take time to explore the natural beauty, and unique flora and fauna the islands have to offer. Any concierge desk at a hotel will be able to offer some local knowledge, and there are many popular hikes and walks that are well documented. One of the most popular is of course the Diamond Head Summit trail in the State Monument, on the island of Oahu.
Besides working up a sweat outdoors, Hawaii offers many more unique activities and events for tourists. Here are our recommendations.
Whale watching with Pacific Whale Foundation
Mating season for humpback whales in Maui is December to April, so if you’re planning a visit during winter in the UK then there is almost a guarantee of spotting these beautiful creatures. Daily tours run throughout the season and the trip includes listening to the whale song through underwater hydrophone.
Even if you choose not to go out on a boat, with a keen eye you may even spot whales from the coast on Maui, so keep a look out – we saw several!
The Pacific Whale foundation also organise dolphin watching tours between May and November.
The price is $39 + tax per person, and for more information visit pacificwhale.org.
There are many luaus organised across the Hawaiian islands, and its most definitely a traditional experience that visitors should try to include in a visit to Hawaii. Imagine hula dancing, entertainment, an abundance of food and Mai Tai cocktails.
We attended the Wailele Polynesian Luau at the Westin hotel in Maui (see part one of our LGBT guide for more details). This offers a buffet dinner and unlimited drinks (including Mai Tai’s if they tickle your fancy) with entertainment throughout the evening, including dances from various Polynesian islands including Hawaii, culminating in the fire-knife dance, definitely worth waiting for.
Visit the Wailele Polynesian Luau website for more information – prices from $115 + tax
Alternatively on O’ahu, the Luau at Paradise Cove is said to be the finest Hawaii has to offer. See paradisecove.com for more information. Whilst a Luau is an absolute must-do for Hawaii, we suggest that one per trip will suffice.
If you’ve seen Jurassic Park (or World), Pearl Harbour, Along Came Polly, Fifty First Dates or watched an episode of Lost, then you will have seen filming on location in Hawaii, specifically at Kualoa Ranch. In fact, it seems almost every movie and TV that is filmed on location in Hawaii is somewhere on the 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch, which boasts many different terrain types (jungle, valley, farm land, reservoirs and even some beach).
To explore some of the natural beauty of the ranch, and to see filming locations Kualoa offer a variety of activities and tours including a movie site tour, food tour, horseback riding, quad bike (ATV), jungle and nature expedition, ocean voyage tour, fishpond tour a secret beach tour and zip-lining.
We explored the ranch via the jungle tour ($45.95) and Zip-lining tour ($159.95). The former is mainly in an elevated truck with seats and a short hike, which give you fantastic views across the entire Kualoa ranch. We were also told about sets for a couple of upcoming 2017 films including Snatched with Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer. Zip-lining offers an exhilarating way to experience the valley where so many movies have been filmed. For thrill seekers, this is definitely one to try, and the guides are very beginner-friendly too!
Transport is available to/from the Waikiki area of Oahu. Ticket prices and all the tours details visit kualoa.com.
Pearl Harbour memorial
Located on Oahu, the Pearl Harbour memorial is without a doubt the most moving cultural site on the islands of Hawaii. The site allows visitors to explore WWII through the events that happened at Pearl Harbour, and USS Arizona Memorial is a fitting way to commemorate the victims of the attach on Pearl Harbour.
The Pearly Harbour memorial is state-run and therefore free entry. There are organised transfers from hotels in the Waikiki area (price circa $10 per person), but if there are two or more of you, we found a taxi (or Uber) more convenient and at $25, the cost is similar per person. For more information visit pearlharbourhistoricsites.org.
Hula’s catamaran cruise
Hula’s Bar organises a weekly gay Catamaran Cruise, where men show off in the board shorts (or speedos) and women in their bikinis. The sail takes you along the coast of Oahu just off Diamond Head Crater. If you’re lucky you’ll also be able to spot spinner dolphins and green sea turtles, and, if the conditions are safe, you’ll be able to swim in the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
Tickets are priced at $22 for a 90 minute ride, and include a complimentary Mai Tai or draft beer at the beer, with more available for cash purchase. More information can be found at hulas.com.
Surfing a wave at Kaisers surf break by Waikiki beach is perhaps one of the coolest holiday memories you can make. We tried a two-hour lesson organised by Waikiki Beach Activities, who say even first time surfers will be able to stand up and ride a wave – and we did, several times. The warm waters mean no wetsuit is needed, just turn up in swim shorts. Waikiki Beach Activities provide the board, leash and a rash-guard top for a 2-hour lesson – prices start at $95. For more information visit waikikibeachactivities.com.
Bishop Museum in Oahu is the Hawaii state museum of Culture and Natural History. Permanent galleries allow visitors to explore Hawaiian gods and beliefs of the world of pre-contact Hawaii, the importance of land and people and the realm inhabited by the gods and the royal family. Current exhibits include Homefront Hawaii, a 75th commemoration to Pearl Harbour, and Journeys – heritage of the northwestern Hawaiian islands. For more information on getting to Bishop Museum and ticket prices, visit bishopmuseum.org.
For more information on what to do in Hawaii, visit GoHawaii.com/Uk.