Hawaii: Top Tips from the Locals
It’s where volcanoes rise up through fragrant air, tropical waters teem with wildlife and a traditional culture is treasured – and shared. There’s no place on Earth quite like Hawai‘i. Explore this unique chain of islands with the help of those in the know…
WHO: Peter Colombo
DO: Go wildlife watching
“The Auau Channel between Maui and Lāna‘i is ideal for viewing humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins,” says Ultimate Whale Watch & Snorkel’s Peter Colombo (pictured below). “When I first moved here I thought I was going to spend my whole time surfing, but I fell in love with the wildlife instead.”
The company offers visitors a front-row seat for whale encounters in small vessels, and an opportunity to see spinner dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins, false killer whales (Peter’s favourite), melon-headed whales and whale sharks. And the group’s snorkel tour provides the chance to swim among these animals, as well as endangered honu turtles (green sea turtles) and reef fish.
When it comes to other wildlife-viewing spots on Maui, Peter recommends the Honolua Bay conservation area and Olowalu, the largest and oldest reef on the island. “Just remember to keep a safe distance
and wear natural sunscreen,” Peter warns.
The island of Hawaii
WHO: Jessica Ferracane
DO: Visit secret beaches and volcanoes
Without volcanoes, there’d be no Hawai‘i,” says Jessica Ferracane, who works at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, home to two of Earth’s most active volcanoes. “Volcanoes are nature’s most dynamic phenomena. People come to connect with that raw energy.”
Last year, 2,016,702 people visited the park, but this year fiery Kilauea began erupting and parts had to be closed. “Despite this, the Island of Hawai‘i is still a safe, beautiful place to visit,” says Jessica. Lava rock leads down to hidden coves and picture-perfect beaches that burst from the rugged coastline. The best-kept secret is Shipman Beach, only accessible via an easy-to-moderate hike. Trails across the Island of Hawai‘i offer unusual terrain, botanic curiosities and ever-changing views.
“When I first visited the island I was astonished that an active volcano would support ecosystems that are so lush and full of life!” says Jessica. “I love the 11-mile Crater Rim Trail, which winds along the edge of Kilauea’s caldera and affords sweeping views of its massive summit.”
WHO: Greg Solatorio
DO: Uncover authentic culture
“We don’t take from Mother Nature because it is not ours to take. We ask and we borrow,” says native Hawaiian Greg Solatorio. He lives off the land in Halawa Valley on Moloka‘i, the fifth-largest Hawaiian island. It’s just 38 miles long and 10 miles wide, and there are no mega resorts here – just pure wilderness and authentic culture.
Halawa is home to the state’s oldest settlement. After a tsunami destroyed the village in 1946, nature reclaimed it, coating the mountains in a thick rainforest. Greg leads cultural hikes in his beloved land. He blows the pu (conch shell) to announce his guests’ arrival, and greets them by pressing his nose and forehead to theirs – a gesture that exchanges ha, the breath of life. In his hillside shack overlooking the valley, Greg shares its past and explains misunderstood terms. “‘Aloha’ actually means love. Everyone is always telling each other they love each other!” he laughs.
Greg wears a red kikeppa (sarong) to signify his cultural practitioner status. His neck is adorned with ti leaves and a kukui nut lei (symbolising the circle of life), with a pig’s tusk indicating the cove at the mouth of the valley he comes from. “I was taught that culture is not secret, it is sacred. The minute we don’t share it, that’s the minute it dies,” he says, leading the way to Mo’oula Falls barefoot and pointing out native species and worship sites along the way. The tour ends with a lesson in the art of making palm leaf origami fish – a memento of time spent in this special land and culture.
WHO: Ku'uipo Mccarty
DO: Taste the farm-to-table scene
Built over 800 years ago, Moli‘i is the only remaining ancient Hawaiian fish pond on O‘ahu. And Kualoa Ranch, home to the pond, is the first farm to sell certified grown-to-maturity oysters in Hawai‘i in three decades. “Because of the magic of Moli‘i, we can get a harvestable half-shell oyster in six to seven months,” says Ku’uipo McCarty (pictured above) as she plucks an oyster from the tank and skilfully shucks it. “Our biggest joy is to provide a quality homegrown product.”
At Kualoa Ranch, an immersive experience awaits. Guests can throw nets with local fishermen, crack cacao nuts with farmers and harvest oysters alongside Ku’uipo and her team, then dine on a freshly prepared meal overlooking the land they’ve explored.
Then there’s Mina’s Fish House in the Four Seasons O‘ahu at Ko Olina, where you can feast on whole grilled and baked fish dishes, shared family-style and paired with the perfect wine. As Jared Chang, the island’s only ‘fish sommelier’, says, “Just as wine is different on everyone’s palate, so is fish, making it a unique, incredible experience.”
WHO: Sue Kanoho
DO: Enjoy dramatic views in a tranquil setting
“The thing I love about Kaua‘i is you can be as adventurous as you want to be, or just hang out at the beach,” says Sue Kanoho, who first landed on the island 31 years ago and is now the Executive Director of Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau.
Much of the island is inaccessible by car (take a helicopter or plane to see its idyllic interior), but you can hike the Ridge Trail into Waimea Canyon or join a boat tour up the Na Pali coastline. With rugged cliffs, a mist rising up from the valley floor and waterfalls cascading high above, it looks prehistoric.
But, says Sue, “People are the heart of Kaua‘i. On tours, you get to see into their lives. When you live on this island, you want to share it – and protect it. Here, there’s a sense of community.”
Planning your Hawaiian holiday? Chat to a Flight Centre Expert to tailor make your perfect Journey.