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We’ll Tell You How to Get to Hawaii

We'll tell you how to get to Hawaii and see places like this.

View of Waikiki Beach hotel skyline by Barry Inouye.

How to get to Hawaii? Inquiring minds and potential visitors to Hawaii want to know. The first way is by flying to Hawaii. Most people who want to travel to Hawaii do this. The second longer, but perhaps, more leisurely way to travel to Hawaii is to go there by cruise ship.

How to Get to Hawaii by Air

Fortunately, there are many airlines, domestic and international, that fly to Hawaii. This gives the flying public many options to get to Hawaii. Almost all of the major domestic US airlines fly to Hawaii. This includes: American, United and Delta. Southwest doesn’t offer Hawaii airfare yet; but many in the industry believe they will within the next five years. There are also three regional airlines, Hawaiian, Alaska and Allegiant, that offer daily trips to Hawaii out of their gateway cites on the US mainland.  In fact, Hawaiian offers the most daily flights to and from the Aloha State.

A growing number of international carriers are also flying to Hawaii. For many years, international carriers like Japan Airlines, QANTAS, All Nippon Airways, China Airlines, Air Canada, Philippines, Korean, Asiana, Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways have offered regularly scheduled service to Hawaii. Relatively recent international carriers serving Hawaii include: Jetstar, WestJet, China Eastern Airlines and Air China.

How to Get to Hawaii by Sea

Getting to Hawaii by sea offers some unique challenges for those who are interested in taking this option. Let’s assume you are coming from either the mainland US or Canada. You will need more a week, and often longer, and you will have to travel to one of the North American west coast cities that offer cruises to Hawaii. These include ports like Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego or Vancouver, Canada. Some cruise companies that sail to Hawaii from these ports include Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Celebrity and Norwegian cruise lines.

Cruises on foreign-flagged ship that embark from a US mainland port must continue to an international location before they can make the trip back to their originating port. This is due to US regulations requiring internationally flagged passenger ships to make an international stop before returning to the US. Such international stops include Polynesia, Oceania, Canada and Mexico. This restriction would not apply if you start your cruise outside the US, such as a port like Vancouver. So if you do plan to travel to Hawaii by sea, you’d better prepare to take a longer, but at least, more leisurely vacation.

How to Navigate Through Traffic in Honolulu

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H-1 Freeway. By ErgoSum88 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Even though visiting Hawaii can definitely be a vacation dream come true, the Aloha State’s largest city, Honolulu, is a busy, vibrant metropolitan area with many of the attributes of America’s largest cities, including rush hour traffic.  One national survey has rated the City and County of Honolulu only behind New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area in terms of traffic congestion. There are a number of reasons for this, including lack of highway options, metropolitan Honolulu’s high population density and lack of public transportation alternatives.

Luckily for cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco as well as Honolulu, most tourists are not deterred by rush hour traffic, and neither should you if you, particularly if know how to best deal with it. Regardless if you are renting a car, taking a taxi or riding on public transportation, here are some tips that you can help you spend less time on the road and more time doing on what you came to Honolulu, Hawaii for.

Drive in the Opposite Direction of Heavy Traffic on H-1 – If you’re staying in Waikiki as most tourists staying in Honolulu do, you’re in luck because if you’re driving outside the city in the morning on Honolulu’s major freeway, the H-1, you’re going opposite the flow of the heaviest traffic. But when you’re returning to your Waikiki hotel, try to return before 3:00 pm or after 7:00 pm as the afternoon rush hour on H-1, as you get closer into the city, tends to not favor one direction over another.

Be An Early Bird – Regardless where you are going, if you can, get up early and head out as soon as you can to avoid the morning rush hour traffic. This will not only get you where you want to go faster, but when you arrive at your destination, it will also tend to be less crowded.

Take Along A Good GPS – If you plan to rent a car, a GPS could be a useful tool while driving in Honolulu. Some of the newer fully featured GPS will not only give you directions; but they can also tell you about traffic conditions and how to avoid them. As they are pretty compact, you can bring it along with you or you can rent one from most rental car companies.

Visit Honolulu During the Summer – Traffic tends to be less congested during the summers because schools and colleges are out during this time. So there is less traffic on the roads during this time, especially during rush hours.

Visit Attractions by Tour Buses – There are numerous tours companies that will conveniently pick you up at your hotel, take you to major attraction such as the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Diamond Head Crater and more, and then take back to your hotel. Even though you might still be stuck in traffic, at least you’re not doing the driving. So when you get to your destination, you’ll be in a better, more relaxed state of mind to enjoy it.

The History of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Photo courtesy of Barry Inouye.

Uniqueness of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Almost every national park in America has an interesting story as to how it became one. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii is no exception. But Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s history has aspects to it that are probably unique among the country’s national parks. For example, one of leading proponents in creating the park protected an important Hawaiian natural and cultural treasure. But, at the same time, he was also an instrumental player in the downfall of the Hawaiian monarchy. Also, the park might be the only national park that was later divided into two separate national parks.

Today, visitors from all over the world can still see constant volcanic activity within the park. This is especially prominent in the form of continually flowing lava. The flow has been ongoing since 1983 and adding new land mass to the island. The ancient Hawaiians treated Kilauea volcano and its Halemaʻumaʻu caldera as the sacred home of the fire goddess Pele. The high frequency of its spectacular volcanic eruptions and lava flows have fascinated and intrigued the ancient Hawaiians. But it has also done the same to non-native residents and visitors who were fortunate to see them.

The People Behind the Creation of the Park

One of those individuals was Lorrin A. Thurston. Thurston was a powerful player in Hawaiian politics who was one of the leaders behind the overthrow of  the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. He was also a successful businessman as well as the  founder and publisher of the Honolulu Pacific Commercial Advertiser daily newspaper. This newspaper was the forerunner of today’s Honolulu Star Advertiser.

Thurston had a vested interest in making the area a national park. This is because he had purchased a hotel near the rim of Kilauea Volcano, called the Volcano House. But, he also loved the area and even discovered a lava tube which today bears his name, the Thurston Lava Tube. Thurston leveraged his ownership in the newspaper by publishing editorials in favor of establishing a national park. Such actions would help to protect as well as promote the area. He was the leader of the Territory of Hawaii’s lobbying efforts in Congress, including paying for travel expenses of 50 congressmen to visit the volcano.

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Jagger and Thurston, second and third from left, at Kilauea. Source: USGS (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons.

However, it was not until volcanologist Dr. Thomas Jagger arrived in 1912, who founded and directed the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, that Thurston’s lobbying efforts became successful. Together, these two individuals were able to convince Congress of the value of creating a national park in the then Territory of Hawaii.

Lava Flow

Freshly hardened lava flow in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Photo courtesy of Barry Inouye.

Official Establishment of the Park

After 10 years of lobbying efforts, Congress passed legislation to create the park. This Congressional action was subsequently approved by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. The park which, was first named Hawaii National Park, became the nation’s 13th national park and was the first that was established within a territory, rather than within a state, of the country. At the time, the park initially only included the summits of Kilauea, Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii and Haleakala on Maui. Later, the Kilauea caldera area was added to the park. In 1960, through an act of Congress, the Haleakala section of Hawaii National Park on Maui became a separate national park, known as Haleakala National Park. While the section of the park on the Big Island then became known as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Worldwide Recognition of the Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is famous domestically as well as internationally. It very popular among the nation’s 59 national parks, often referred to as “America’s Best Idea.” Prominent  international organizations have recognized Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as a scientifically and culturally important site. In 1980, UNESCO named it as an International Biosphere citing it for its important volcanic sites, unique influence on the island’s ecosystem and cultural and historic sites.  In 1987, UNESCO also designated the park as World Heritage Site.

Hawaii Fun Facts

Learn about Hawaii fun facts here.

Satellite image of Hawaii. By Jacques Descloitres [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Need to learn about some interesting Hawaii fun facts? If so, please read on. Hawaii is a very small state in the country and comprises very little land mass compared to other countries in the world.  Despite that, the Hawaiian Islands is a worldwide leader in an amazingly large number of areas.  Furthermore, it stands unique compared to other states in the US. The Aloha State’s leadership and uniqueness in such areas constitute our list of Hawaii fun facts.

Areas of Hawaii’s Worldwide Leadership

  • Being nearly 2,400 miles from the nearest continental land mass, Hawaii has the most isolated population on earth.
  • Spanning over 1,500 miles, the Hawaiian Islands is the world’s longest island chain.
  • Hawaii’s Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world and has been continually erupting for the over 30 years.
  • Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii is the world’s tallest mountain when measured from its base on the ocean floor at 33,476 feet.
  • Haleakalā on Maui is the world’s largest dormant volcano, forming more than 75% of the island.
  • Kilauea Iki on the Big Island of Hawaii is the world’s most active volcano.
  • Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii, by volume, is the world’s most massive volcano.
  • Molokai’s north shore has the world’s tallest sea cliffs measuring more than 3,000 feet high.
  • Mauna Kea on Big Island of Hawaii houses the world’s biggest telescope.
  • The Big Island of Hawaii leads the world in harvesting macadamia nuts and orchids.

Areas of Hawaii’s Uniqueness Compared to Other States

  • Hawaii is the only state in the country that grows coffee, cocoa and vanilla beans.
  • Ka Lae, popularly known as South Point on the Big Island, is the southernmost point in the United States.
  • Covering over 1,500 miles, Hawaii is the widest state in the United States.
  • Hawaii is the only state in the nation with its own time zone, Hawaiian Standard Time.
  • Hawaii is the only state in the nation with a tropical rain forest.
  • Iolani Palace on the island of Oahu is the only royal palace in the country.
  • Hawaii is the only state comprised entirely of islands.
  • Hawaii is the only state in United States where Caucasians are in minority. In fact, every race and ethnicity is a minority in Hawaii.
  • Hawaii is the only state that honors a king when it celebrates every June 11 as King Kamehameha Day.

Popular Hawaiian Flowers

Protea cynaroides or king protea

The Protea flower by Da Legend, Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Being given flowers from Hawaii, whether they are in the form of a floral arrangement, a bouquet or especially a lei always makes for a special gift of Aloha.  The Aloha State’s warm but temperate climate, fertile soil, clean air and abundance of rainfall often make it an ideal place for exotic flowers to bloom and thrive.  Hawaii has a diverse range of flowers of all kinds; but there is a universal commonality for almost all of them, which is:  almost all of them are not originally from Hawaii.  They were all at some time brought into Hawaii where they have found themselves an ideal home.  Here is a sampling of some of the most popular and well-known ones.

Protea – This flowering plant was originally introduced into the island of Maui in the mid-1980s and was imported from South Africa as well as from Australia.  These unusually looking, but stunningly beautiful, flowers with brightly colored stamens and pistils are known for their ability to last a long time in a vase or even when they are dried, and because of that, have become a very popular flower that is exported to many places in the world.

StrelitziaReginae001

Bird of paradise. By Plane777 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:IMG_8679.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Bird of Paradise – This popular ornamental plant is originally from the Cape of Good Hope area of South Africa. It is so called because its brightly colored and ornate flower resembles al bird that would come from a tropical area. Even though it does not share a close resemblance, it is a close relative of the banana plant. This plant is popular in Hawaii and can be found growing and thriving in the home of many local residents.

Heliconia_sp2_by_Wilder

Heliconia. By Lezumbalaberenjena at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Heliconia – This popular ornamental plant is related to the bird of paradise and the banana plant; but is originally from South and Central America. The plant, which is sturdy and can last a long time after they are cut and displayed in vases, can grow up to 6 feet tall. Like the bird of paradise, you can find a number of the 22 species found in Hawaii growing in the yards of many local residents.

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Anthurium. By Calyponte (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Anthurium – This plant with its waxy and glossy flower was brought to Hawaii in the late 1800 from, of all places, England. It can last very long in a vase, making it very popular as a flower arrangement. While the flower can last a relatively long time, the plant needs a lot of water and requires protection from the sun and wind. The anthurium is one of Hawaii’s biggest exported flower and nursery products.

Jasminum Sambac or Pikake

Pikake. By Diegovishnu at Malayalam Wikipedia. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Pikake – This fragrant flower, otherwise known as the jasmine, is a very popular flower in Hawaii, particularly for lei-making. The plant is originally from India. When used in lei-making in Hawaii, its buds, rather than the bloomed flowers, are used. Typically, a number of pikake strands are combined in a lei with a greater number of odd numbered strands indicating how popular or important the recipient is to the one giving the pikake lei. In Hawaii, pikake leis are usually given to female prom dates.

Hedychium_coronarium_or white ginger lily by_Wilder

Ginger. Lezumbalaberenjena at English Wikipedia (from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ginger – Is another fragrant flower with a lovely lingering scent used in lei making. The plant is originally from eastern India. As they are very delicate, much skill is needed to make leis from the ginger plant. Furthermore, because they do not last very long and because of the effort required to make them into leis, those who receive them in the form of leis can well appreciate their transitory beauty as well the skill and patience that went into making them.

The Road to Hana

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Seaside view along the Hana Highway by Barry Inouye.

One of the most picturesque drives you can take in Hawaii or perhaps anywhere else in the world could very well be the road to the idyllic town of Hana on the island of Maui. The approximately 64 mile journey along the Hana Highway from Maui’s largest town of Kahului to Hana can take 2 ½ hours, provided you don’t stop along the way.  But you should stop by as many places as you can because the when driving to Hana, the goal should not be the destination, but the journey.

Plan on making your sure-to-be memorable journey–to and from one of the most famous places on Maui–a whole day affair.  Not only because there are a lot of things to see; but most of the road will be narrow and winding with more than 600 curves. There are 59 bridges along the way, while 46 of them can only be traversed by cars going in the same direction. The highway was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2001.

There are many interesting and scenic stops that you should make during your journey to Hana as well as after you pass the town. You can visit one of innumerable secluded waterfalls in a lush tropical setting made possible by abundant rainfall along the northern slopes of Haleakala. Some of the more notable waterfalls that you can see on the Hana Highway include:  Twin Falls at Mile Marker 2, Upper Waikani Falls or the Three Bears at Mile Marker 19, Hanawai Falls at Mile Marker 24 and Wailua Falls at Mile Marker 45.

There are a number of quiet and beautiful public roadside areas, such as the Kaumahina State Wayside Park, Wailua Valley State Wayside Park and the Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park. Stop at any one of these parks to take a break from your drive and enjoy some of Maui’s best places for leisurely strolls and relaxation.  In addition to waterfalls and parks, there are numerous scenic lookout spots as well as roadside stands where you can sample exotic fruits and other locally made food products.

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View from a scenic lookout along the Hana Highway by Barry Inouye.

Other very notable places to stop include the Garden of Eden Arboretum and the Keanae Arboretum where you can see a large number of native plants and farm crops on display. You should also stop by the Kahanu Garden which is a part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Once used as a sugar plantation and pasture, the garden is now used to showcase Hawaiian plants, history and culture. The area is also home to the Pi’ilanihale Heiau or temple which is one of the largest in all of Polynesia.

Once you get to the town of Hana, take the time to explore the sights and attractions for which the town has become famous for. One of the things you definitely do here is to head out to Wai’anapanapa State Park, which feature the black sand beach named Pa’iloa.  You can also visit the Wai’anapanapa freshwater caves which are good examples of anchialine pools, which are landlocked bodies of water, typically freshwater, with a subterranean connection to the ocean. Such pools are unique to places where there are aquifers within coastal bedrock formed by lava, as in the case of Hawaii.

Another must see place in Hana is the rustic and inventory-crammed Hasegawa General Store. The store sells almost anything and everything to the local Hana residents and visitors and has been a long-time part of local island lore and culture.

Don’t plan on just stopping in Hana as there is still much to see beyond this town. In Kipahulu, stop by the Palapala Ho’omau Church to visit the grave of one of America’s most famous aviators, Charles Lindbergh. In his latter years, Lindbergh and his wife lived in this part of Maui on a half time basis and loved it so much he opted to be buried here when he died in 1974. Another very famous attraction in the Kipahulu area is the Ohe’o Gulch or Seven Sacred Pools area. Here, you can find waterfalls, picturesque freshwater swimming pools, forest trails, waterfalls and a historic heiau.  This area, stretching down from Haleakala’s summit, was added to Haleakala National Park in 1969.

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Seven Sacred Pools in Kipahulu by Barry Inouye.

Historic Lighthouses in Hawaii

(Kauai, HAWAII) -- Kilauea Lighthouse is seen from a designated lookout point, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008. Kilauea Lighthouse began illuminating the way for mariners in 1913. It served as a pivotal navigation aid for ships sailing on the Orient run. The historic light station consists of a concrete lighthouse, three field stone keepers' quarters, a fuel oil shed, cisterns, and a supply-landing platform. It is one of the nation's most intact historic light stations. 
 (U.S. Coast Guard photo / PA3 Michael De Nyse)

Kilauea Lighthouse. By United States Coast Guard, PA3 Michael De Nyse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

There are a number of historic lighthouses in the Aloha State that you might want to visit on your next trip to Hawaii.  In addition to their historic value, many of them offer commanding views of the Pacific Ocean as well as great opportunities to view a wide range of marine wildlife.  And best of all, they can be seen and experienced for little or no cost.

Kilauea Lighthouse – The Kilauea Lighthouse was built in 1913 and is located on the northern part of the island of Kauai. The facility is unique in that it is the only lighthouse in the state of Hawaii that is opened to visitors.  In addition to serving as a vital navigational aid to mariners, the Kilauea lighthouse was famous during World War II for offering radio beacon signals to aviators who had veered off course on their way to landing on one of Hawaii’s military airfields.

While it no longer serves as a lighthouse, since 1985 it has become the focal point of the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Here at the refuge, in addition to the scenic coastal vistas, you can see the marine wildlife such as seabirds, like the Laysan albatross and wedged-tailed shearwater, and marine mammals, such as the green sea turtle and humpback whale. The Kilauea Lighthouse was even depicted in several scenes in Disney’s popular animated movie, Lilo and Stitch.

Kalaupapa Lighthouse. By Boucher, Jack E. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Kalaupapa Lighthouse – This lighthouse, the tallest in the State of Hawaii, was completed in 1909 in response to the increasing amount of maritime traffic in the Kaiwi Channel which separated the islands of Oahu and Molokai. Kalaupapa was an ideal location for the lighthouse because it was located on a long peninsula that jutted out 2 miles into the sea from the north side of the island of Molokai. But Kalaupapa was also the isolated quarantine home for those in Hawaii who were afflicted with Hansen disease, then called leprosy. Initially, lawmakers were reluctant to build a strategically important navigational aid and to have personnel stationed nearby to those who were afflicted with the then incurable Hansen disease.

At 138 feet tall, the Kalaupapa Lighthouse is not only the tallest lighthouse in Hawaii, but it is also reputed to be the tallest one in the Pacific. Today, the lighthouse and the nearby settlement, still home to those once afflicted with the now curable Hansen disease, are part of the Kalaupapa National Historic District, which is administered by the National Park Service.

Flying over Makapu’u Lighthouse area. By U.S. Navy (Rear Admral Robert S. Quackenbush collection) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Makapu’u Lighthouse – Makapu’u Lighthouse, located on the eastern tip of Oahu, was built in 1909 for the same reason as Kalaupapa Lighthouse, which was to provide an urgently needed navigational aid in response to the increasing amount of ships sailing though the sometimes treacherous Kaiwi Channel. The lighthouse is the only one its kind in the US that was outfitted with the then technologically advanced hyperradiant Fresnel lens and, back then, was the largest one of its kind ever built.

The land that surrounded the lighthouse was declared surplus by the Coast Guard and was transferred to the State of Hawaii in 1987. Since then, the road to the lighthouse has become one of the most popular hiking trails in the entire State of Hawaii park system. The trail offers spectacular views of the rugged surrounding coastline, seasonally migrating humpback whales and the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.

Things to Do In Waikiki

There are many great things to do in Waikiki.

View of Waikiki skyline by Barry Inouye.

Looking for things to do in Waikiki?  Most people who visit the Aloha State end up staying in the Waikiki area of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. This is because this is where almost all of Oahu’s and the State of Hawaii’s hotels are located.  More than half of the State of Hawaii’s 54,000-plus hotel room units are located on Oahu.  And most of them can be found in Waikiki.  So if you are the typical visitor to Hawaii, chances are that you will be spending some time in the Waikiki area. And generally speaking, you will either be staying at a hotel or visiting the sights at this world renowned tourist destination area.  Here are some of the many and interesting things to do in Waikiki.

Spend Time on the Beach

There is the world famous Waikiki Beach and other surrounding beaches right at your doorstep.  So take advantage of it.  You can swim, sunbathe, body surf or surf.  If you don’t know how to surf, there are a number of places in Waikiki that can teach you how.  Many tourists may not be aware that the beaches in Waikiki are, for the most part, not naturally formed ones.  Much of the beach areas are made up of sand imported from other places from Hawaii as well as from outside of Hawaii. Others may not know that besides Waikiki Beach, there are also the Duke Kahanomuku, Fort DeRussy, Gray’s, Queen’s Surf, Kapiolani and Sans Souci beaches, all in the Waikiki area. Plus, even though some large Waikiki hotel properties might be directly fronting them, by law, all beaches in the entire State of Hawaii are public.

Go to a Museum, Aquarium or Zoo

Within close walking distance of your hotel in Waikiki, you can visit the US Army Museum of Hawaii in the Ft. DeRussy, the Waikiki Aquarium and the Honolulu Zoo. The US Army Museum is located in what used to be a coastal defense fortification. It showcases memorabilia from the early Hawaiian era to the Vietnam War. The Waikiki Aquarium is a relatively small, but interesting, place to get a better perspective of the wide variety of sea life. The aquarium focuses on Hawaiian reef sea life, such as those that can be found right off Waikiki.  Nearby, the Honolulu Zoo is also worth seeing as it features nearly 1,000 animals and numerous family-oriented events. Also, it is the only zoo in America founded by a sovereign monarch.

Shop Till You Drop

All along Waikiki you will find places to shop. Here, you can find a wide range of shopping opportunities. This includes high end designer clothiers and jewelers, convenience stores, souvenir shops and a number of large shopping centers. The largest shopping centers in Waikiki are the Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikiki Shopping Plaza and DFS T Galleria.

Spend Time on or Even Under the Water

You can go sailing on a fast moving catamaran or even take a submarine ride. Here, you can see a sunken ship and airplane as well as loads of Hawaiian reef fishes that school around them.  Catamaran sailing and the Atlantis submarine ride are available at the Hilton Pier. They are located in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki.

Get Some Fresh Air, Exercise and Great Views

Runners can take a brisk and invigorating morning jog along Kapiolani Park and then along the Ala Wai Canal and back to your hotel. If you like to hike, you can take a city bus taking you to a tunnel that leads into Diamond Head Crater. From there, you can take a short, but exhilarating, 45 minute hike up the crater summit. It will take you through old World War I era fortifications. They include a system of underground tunnels, steep and long stairwells and concrete observations points. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best commanding views of Waikiki.  Diamond Head summit is also a great place to view the Hawaiian sunrise. Many visitors make the early morning trek up the crater to see this morning spectacle.

View of Wakikiki from Diamond Head

View of Waikiki from Diamond Head summit. by Barry Inouye.

Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park by Barry Inouye.

If there is any one beach that is a favorite of local residents of the Aloha State, it could very well be the Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu.  This popular 100 acre public beach park is located on the Ewa (west) side of Waikiki and directly in front of the massive shopping center of the same name, the Ala Moana Shopping Center.  It’s been a place where generations of residents have brought their families to enjoy picnics, have social events, bask in the sun on a wide white sand beach and to swim.  For many others, it’s also a convenient place to surf, jog or play tennis.

Before the 1920s, this area was a neglected wetland area, which was used in part to deposit trash.  Around that time, a boat channel dredged by the Hawaiian Dredging Company to connect the Ala Wai Boat Harbor to the Kewalo Basin Harbor. Today this channel provides swimmers with an excellent venue for people to do some long distance swimming.

Hawaiian Dredging Company eventually filled in the wetland area by depositing waste materials from the dredging projects it was involved in and created a parkland area.  In the 1950s, sand was deposited to create a half mile stretch of white sand beach.  The combination of this wide white sand beach and the sandy, rock-free bottom of the former boat channel, particularly on the east side of the beach, makes this place a favorite place among local residents and visitors alike.

In the 1960s, a man-made peninsula was created on the east end of the park as part of a hotel development plan.  The hotel was never; built but what remained became a beautiful extension of the park with a beautiful lagoon at the end of the peninsula. This area also used to provide much needed additional parking for park users.

Parking at Ala Moana Beach Park is free; but because of its popularity, it’s somewhat limited on weekends and holiday.  There are shower facilities as well as a number of concessionaires that sell food.  Because of its relative closeness to Waikiki and its hotels, it offers a great alternative for tourists looking for a nice and convenient place to spend on the beach, swim and to soak up the warm Hawaiian sun.

The Hawaii Hotspot

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach by Barry Inouye.

If you come to this article thinking it’s about a great new nightclub, popular restaurant or exciting attraction, unfortunately, you’re not going to find it here.  So what is this other type of Hawaii hotspot all about then?

The Hawaii Hotspot is how the Hawaiian Island Chain was formed over the course of 70 million years.  The Hawaiian Islands have sat over what geologists have theorized as a geologic hotspot where magna from the earth’s core has been pushing upwards, creating volcanic underwater seamounts and islands, such as Hawaii, over millions of years.  But this hotspot not only created the Hawaiian Islands Chain, but many other islands throughout the Pacific.

According to this now widely-accepted theory first advanced in 1963 by Canadian geologist, J. Tuzo Wilson, tectonic forces have been moving the Pacific Ocean geologic plate under in a northwesterly direction over millions of year over this hotspot where the Hawaiian Island Chain is currently located.   As the plate moves over this volcanic hotspot, it has created a chain of undersea seamounts and islands that stretches over 3,600 miles from the Aleutian Trench off the coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula to where Hawaii is today.  This chain of seamounts and islands is called the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamount Chain.

Originally, the Pacific plate was moving north while the hotspot created a series of volcanic islands and seamounts along the way.  Then 43 million years later, it took a westerly direction to where the Hawaiian Island Chain is located today.  So this is why the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamount Chain today has a wide “V” shaped configuration as noted in the image below.

Hawaii hotspot

By National Geophysical Data Center/USGS (http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/image/2minrelief.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Over time, the volcanic islands that were created through this process have been eroded away and now lay thousands of feet below the surface in the form of seamounts.  Because the tectonic plate moved from east to west, the seamounts, islets and islands that lay east are younger than those located west. This explains why the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, lying west of the 8 major Hawaiian Islands, are older and have been reduced, over the course of time by the relentless forces of erosion into very small atolls or small rocky islets that are barely above the ocean surface, further west, all that is left are underwater seamounts.

It also foretells the future of the 8 major Hawaiian Islands, when one day, millions of years into the future, they will ultimately suffer the same fate as the Northwestern Hawaii Islands and will slowly sink back into the Pacific Ocean.  But at the same time, to the east of Hawaiian Islands, a new island is being created over the Hawaii Hotspot.

Southeast off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, a new Hawaiian island, named Loihi, has been forming over the last 400,000 years.  It is still about 3,000 feet below the ocean.  Scientists believe that this new Hawaiian island will rise above the surface sometime in the next 10,000 to 100,000 years.