By Kristen Shirley
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.
Every Hawaiian island has its own identity, so it’s tough to know where to start. All the properties have beautiful beaches, but Kristen Shirley shows you everything else Hawaii has to offer…
Hawaii. Just the word itself is magical. In the central Pacific Ocean, the most isolated populated area in the world is an exotic, tropical oasis. Part of the US, the archipelago is easy to travel to, but it has a unique culture and landscape. Its natural beauty is awe-inspiring, with green valleys, red canyons, black sand beaches, turquoise water, cliffs, rainforests and waterfalls.
The islands are also the world’s biggest mountain range. From sea floor to top, 33,000ft Mauna Kea is higher than Mount Everest is from sea level to top. Smaller, lush mountains rise from the beaches, making it feel like you are surfing into a painting. There are dormant volcanoes to hike and chances to see lava bubbling into the ocean, the islands growing a little each day.
The water is teeming with life including giant sea turtles, vibrant coral, fish, dolphins and even whales. The aloha spirit is all around; friendly, welcoming and laid-back. Just one visit to the islands will show why so many people visit year after year, and why people have made Hawaii their second home (or made the islands their only home).