Aloha Hawaii

MOUN­TAINS, SUN­SETS AND BEACHES FOR MILES – EV­ERY­ONE LOVES HAWAII BUT IS IT AN AF­FORD­ABLE DES­TI­NA­TION FOR A FAM­ILY OF FOUR? DEB­BIE HAR­RI­SON WENT TO FIND OUT

Little Treasures - - TRAVEL -

I’ve al­ways wanted to go to Hawaii. It’s been on my bucket list since Mag­num PI, but the cost of get­ting there and then hav­ing to spend eye-wa­ter­ing Amer­i­can dol­lars has put it out of my reach. Hawaii as a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion be­came more of a pipe dream once we had chil­dren and be­came a fam­ily of four. Or so I thought… One rainy day in June, af­ter an en­tire fort­night of gloomy, cold days, I was fed up. I needed an in­jec­tion of vi­ta­min D. I couldn’t last an­other Auck­land win­ter with­out a stint of sun­shine to warm my bones, so I vis­ited our lo­cal travel agent and asked for pam­phlets for Fiji and (meekly) a quote for Hawaii. Sur­pris­ingly, the quotes were on parr. Hawaii is of­fi­cially one of the fastest grow­ing hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions for New Zealan­ders. Di­rect flights and the NZ dol­lar at an all-time high is enough to con­vince an ad­di­tional 27,000 Kiwis per year to visit to Hawaii. The high de­mand, full flights and the ad­di­tion of an­other air­line into the equa­tion has re­sulted in more flights and com­pet­i­tive pric­ing. To em­pha­sise how much more af­ford­able it has be­come to fly here, it was re­ported that three years ago a re­turn trip would have cost around $2,000 per per­son – now the same fare can be as low as $699. Hawaii is no longer the pipe dream. One slight com­pro­mise was ac­com­mo­da­tion – “a solid 3.5 star,” said the travel agent, wryly. Trans­la­tion: grand in its day but over­due a makeover. That stuff doesn’t bother us – it was clean with fresh linen daily, fluffy tow­els, friendly staff, one block from the beach and op­po­site the zoo. In­stead of night life, we fell asleep to the sound of chim­panzees chat­ting. Amaz­ing how your tastes change once you have kids! Oahu is the third largest of the Hawai­ian islands, the busiest, and home to two-thirds of the pop­u­la­tion. It’s the is­land you fly into (Honolulu Air­port) and home to the fa­mous Waikiki beach. Our ho­tel, Queen Ka­pi­olani, was down the Di­a­mond Head end of Waikiki, the qui­eter end of the busy strip and a 15-minute am­ble from the cen­tre of the ac­tion. Di­a­mond Head is a fa­mous vol­canic tuff cone and it made a good back­drop to many of our fam­ily hol­i­day pho­tos. It’s also a travel at­trac­tion – many peo­ple hike it for the re­ward­ing views from the top, but it’s at least a one-hour re­turn trip and in­cludes 99 steps so we’ve saved that ad­ven­ture for a fu­ture visit when the kids are a lit­tle older (and mum is a lit­tle fit­ter).

One small od­dity about Hawaii, un­less you splurge on ac­com­mo­da­tion: many of the ho­tels don’t of­fer sep­a­rate bed­rooms. We had one big room with ev­ery­thing in it: TV, small kitch­enette, two dou­ble beds. We didn’t spend much time in our ho­tel room. Hawaii is in­cred­i­ble for fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties – our days were spent ad­ven­tur­ing, shop­ping and beach­ing, re­turn­ing only for show­ers and to drop off bags of shop­ping and dis­carded swim­ming gear. Hawaii was def­i­nitely the busiest fam­ily hol­i­day we’ve done – there was so much to do and we didn’t want to miss any­thing out. We spent 70 per cent of our time at the beach – long, lazy days, peo­ple watch­ing and mag­a­zine read­ing while the kids splashed around in the shal­lows. Waikiki Beach is post­card per­fect: white sand, crys­tal clear wa­ter, flow­er­ing frangi­pani trees in­ter­min­gled with palm trees, tow­er­ing ho­tels and a pink palace lin­ing the edges. It gets hot, so ar­rive early to grab a spot in the shade of a tree or buy a cheap um­brella. You can pay to sit un­der the sup­plied um­brel­las but at $25USD for two hours, you’re bet­ter sav­ing that for cock­tails! There are worse things in life than sit­ting un­der the tree at the Moana Surfrider Beach Bar at sun­set, sip­ping on a pina co­lada while the kids play on the beach. Bless the ge­nius who thought of build­ing a break wall to cre­ate a la­goon in cer­tain ar­eas of the beach. It means kids (and adults) have a calm place to splash in with­out get­ting tossed about by the surf, which can be dumpy in the af­ter­noons. Each night the kids would ex­claim over how much sand was in their togs, in their hair, up their nose – the stuff child­hood mem­o­ries are made of. We spent our lunchtimes ex­plor­ing the streets, shel­ter­ing from the mid­day sun and soaking up the air con­di­tion­ing in stores. Ev­ery­one had warned me the shop­ping was good, and it didn’t dis­ap­point. Our big­gest splurge turned out to be a trip high­light. We booked a lux­ury all-day is­land cir­cle tour which in­cluded morn­ing tea (pur­ple taro dough­nuts – yum) and lunch. We thought about driv­ing our­selves around the is­land but de­cided we’d rather leave it to an ex­pert. When I ask the kids what they loved about Hawaii, both say this trip. Though it’s an early start at 7.30am and late re­turn to the ho­tel at 5.30pm, a lot of cool stuff hap­pens in this one day. We stopped at a cof­fee farm to learn about cof­fee beans, had a pineap­ple whip ice cream at the Dole Plan­ta­tion Farm and saw how pineap­ples grow – hands up who else thought they grew in trees? We dis­cov­ered it takes 18 months for a plant to grow its first pineap­ple and that its first har­vest is the only sweet one – sub­se­quent pineap­ples are sour and are sent to the Philip­pines to be canned and mixed with sugar to sweeten them up. By the way, cof­fee and pineap­ple are the only things pro­duced in Hawaii – ev­ery­thing else is im­ported. Around the is­land we stopped for lunch and a lazy pad­dle on a pri­vately owned stream, where we spot­ted two turtles swim­ming 10 me­tres away from us. Day. Made. We also tried shaved ice here, which doesn’t hold a can­dle to Tip Top, in our opin­ion, even with its fancy flavours of Pina Cola, Ly­chee, and Blue Hawaii. We later walked through the Hawaii Botan­i­cal Gar­dens, home to over 2,500 plant species. It was like be­ing in a gi­ant glass house filled with ex­otic and lush plants. I must have taken 15 pho­tos of a clump of mon­stera the size of two log­ging trucks. The scale of the trees along this walk were like noth­ing else. We sim­ply don’t have trees that old (or big) in NZ. The Botan­i­cal Gar­dens walk was a 3km round trip – make sure you’ve got a front pack or stroller. The re­ward is a re­fresh­ing swim at the bot­tom of a water­fall at the end – and we needed it in the ex­treme heat. My hus­band, a surf­ing fan, had been han­ker­ing to see the fa­mous North Shore beaches, even though in sum­mer they are flat and do not show a hint of the 50-foot waves. We drove past Waimea (where they hold The Ed­die com­pe­ti­tion), Ehukai Beach (where they hold the Pipe Mas­ters) and had a quick dip at Sun­set Beach, one of the pret­ti­est beaches I’ve ever been to. With the North Shore ticked off the bucket list, we left the sun­shine be­hind and drove up into the moun­tains to see the By­odo-in Tem­ple, shrouded in an eerie mist. This pic­turesque tem­ple is a half-size replica of the fa­mous tem­ple in Ja­pan that was built to honour

the 100-year an­niver­sary of the first Ja­panese im­mi­grants to Hawaii. We rang the bell, lit in­cense and left it as an of­fer­ing at the foot of a huge Bud­dha and checked out the huge koi in the ponds that sur­rounded the tem­ple. It was a sur­pris­ingly beau­ti­ful but short ex­pe­ri­ence for us all. The last stop was at the Nu­uanu Pali Look­out – the view­point from here was in­cred­i­ble (and windy). It was the site of the Bat­tle of Nu‘uanu, one of the blood­i­est con­flicts in Hawai­ian his­tory. Leg­end has it the chief pushed all of his en­e­mies off the cliff here, which had my son scour­ing for skulls in the val­leys be­low. Not only did this tour give us a good over­sight of Oahu, it also gave us ex­pe­ri­ences we wouldn’t have sought out if we had been left to our own de­vices. Would I rec­om­mend Hawaii as a whole? Ab­so­lutely, with­out a doubt. As much as I love the laid­back, re­laxed vibe of the islands, I en­vi­sion many great fam­ily mem­o­ries be­ing made at Waikiki for years to come.

“HAWAII IS IN­CRED­I­BLE FOR FAM­ILY AC­TIV­I­TIES. OUR DAYS WERE SPENT AD­VEN­TUR­ING, SHOP­PING AND BEACH­ING, RE­TURN­ING ONLY FOR SHOW­ERS AND TO DROP OFF SHOP­PING AND BEACH GEAR”

Take a leaf out of Deb­bie’s book and book a win­ter break to Hawaii. It’s the fastest grow­ing hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion for New Zealan­ders and the sights will take your breath away.

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