Islands of Aloha
Dreaming of a white Christmas? Upstate New York rarely disappoints! But, if a vacation is on the top of your wish list this year, why not celebrate the holidays in beautiful Hawaii?
To prepare, here are the Hawaiian Christmas Top 10, according to CoconutRoads.com:
1. Wear shorts and sandals to a nighttime Christmas parade. Afterwards, go for a midnight swim.
2. Build a snowman out of sand on the beach.
3. Build a real snowman at the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island. Decorate him with a lei and coconut frond hat.
4. Snowboard Mauna Kea’s snowy slopes, then drive down the mountain to Hapuna Beach. Grab some lunch from the concession stand, wiggle your toes in the warm sands and boogie board in the warm waters.
5. Celebrate the 23rd Honolulu City Lights on Oahu. The 63-foot Norfolk Island pine will be decked out and lit in front of City Hall. Beautiful Hawaiian Christmas trees and wreath exhibits are on display. The spectacular Light Parade is held early in December, but there are month-long festivities. Enjoy the lights, decorations and warmth of aloha and its tropical climate. Enjoy on foot or take the Aloha Tower Marketplace Holiday Lights Trolley.
6. Hawaii’s resorts will be a festive sight for the holidays. On the Big Island of Hawaii, the Waikoloa Hilton has an awesome train display and Christmas decorations, not to mention the lagoon, waterfalls and boats that take you around the resort, year-round.
7. Shop at the islands’ craft fairs, listed in the island newspapers. Hand-woven ornaments and wreaths made from coconut frond, kukui nut and monkey tree pods are popular requests.
8. Take the children to greet an authentic Hawaiian Santa when he magically arrives in his bright red canoe at Waikiki and other beaches.
9. Watch the Hawaii Yacht Club Christmas Boat Parade.
10. Attend a Hawaiian Christmas concert.
How do I get there?
If flying from Albany, United Airlines gets high marks for frequency of schedules. Although flight time is about 11 hours, the five-hour time change can have you in Honolulu by 3:30pm; enough time to catch the sunset over Waikiki Beach. Flying on to Kauai, Maui or the Big Island? Expect to arrive around 5pm, island time.
Return flights from Honolulu to the northeast operate late afternoons. When planning your vacation, allow an extra day to fly home. Example: Depart Honolulu 5pm. Arrive Albany by 11am the next day.
When to go
Daytime temperatures are in the 80s, annually. Evenings may dip into the high 60s.
Hurricane season: June-November. The last major hurricane was in 1992, on Kauai.
Rainy season: March-November. Tropical showers make rainbows more frequent!
Dry season: April-October.
What can I do there?
Consider a minimum of four nights on each island. Winning combinations include: Oahu and Kauai, Oahu and Maui, The Big Island and Maui. Why? These islands have an appealing contrast.
Examples: Hoping to spot whales? Maui, Kauai and the Big Island have an abundance of humpback whales from November-May.
Love to golf? There are 103 courses to choose from.
Want to book a luau? Which island? What time?
Visit www.gohawaii.com to search the events page for each island.
Oahu -The heart of Hawaii
The state capital, Honolulu, is here. Historic significance makes this the perfect starting point for your trip to Hawaii.
Pearl Harbor – Still the most visited attraction in Hawaii.
USS Arizona – Wreckage where 1,177 American soldiers sacrificed their lives for our freedom when they were attacked on December 7, 1941. Shuttle boats transport visitors to a floating memorial that rests above the ship. Toss a flower lei or wreath above the site, or simply take a moment to pay tribute. www.nps.gov/usar.
Iolani Palace – Hawaii’s national treasure and only state residence to royalty in the United States. Home to Hawaii’s last monarchy – King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani. Tours available. www.Iolanipalace.org.
Diamond Head Crater – (Ancient Hawaiians name it Le’ahi, meaning brow of the tuna) Signature landmark of Hawaii; 760-foot extinct volcano over 300,000 years old. Hike the region. Climb 175 steps to its summit for spectacular panoramic vistas.
Old enough to remember the TV series “Hawaii Five-0”? (Jack Lord ended each show saying, “Book ’em, Danno.”) Footage was taped in Honolulu and within the island of Oahu. The crime fighting plots seemed almost secondary to the authentic scenery and music, keeping the show running for 12 years.
From Waikiki Beach to the International Market Place, there are over 101 things to do on Oahu! Visit gohawaii.about.com/cs/oahuactivities/a/101oahu_3.htm.
Maui, the magic isle
Maui is a world-renowned destination. Lush emerald mountains and rushing waterfalls offer visitors the choice of privacy (paradise style), as well as a long list of activities. While Maui gets droves of honeymooners, it’s also an ideal family destination.
Haleakala Downhill Bike Ride – Experience the world’s longest downhill bicycle ride along Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano in the world. Begin at daybreak and watch stunning landscape unfold before your eyes.
Hana/Haleakal Helicopter Adventure – Hover above breathtaking views of Maui’s dramatic coastline and cascading waterfalls. Many companies provide a taping of your personal flight, including narration. Verify this feature when booking.
Molokai and Lana’I are Hawaii’s least populated islands. Ferry service is available to both, from Maui. www.visitmaui.com.
Big Island of Hawaii – island of adventure
Known as the land of fire and ice, Hawaii’s diversity is far too amazing to capture in one visit. Extreme variations in landscape make Hawaii a thrilling place to explore.
Two airports service the island: Kona and Hilo. Kona, on the west coast, is the state coffee capital. Hilo, on the east coast, has spectacular waterfalls and lush plant growth.
The Big Island experiences unusual weather conditions for its size. Hilo has the rainiest region, with over 130 inches a year. In contrast, the northwest gets less than five inches of rain annually.
Mauna Kea, is one of five massive volcanoes which formed the island of Hawaii. Its name translates to “white mountain”, because during the winter it is snow covered. You can reach the mountain by road. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are the two largest mountains on earth, if measured from their base over 30,000 feet from the ocean floor.
Drive to Volcano National Park, home to Mauna Kea, still very much an active volcano. Brave a helicopter tour above the cone to view the bubbling molten lava.
What else can you find on the Big Island? Dramatic black sand beaches to encrusted lava landscapes, orchids to blooming cactus, yesterday’s heritage and tomorrow’s progress. Visit www.bigisland.org.
Kaua’I, the garden isle
Hawaii’s oldest island is abundantly rich in natural wonders, tropical forests and breathtaking vistas. Combined with Kauai’s laid back lifestyle, this could be your island paradise.
Waimea Canyon – Nicknamed “the grand canyon of the Pacific” by Mark Twain, this massive canyon has stunning views of tropical forest, canopies and valleys.
Beach lover? Kauai has 45 white sand beaches. The Travel Channel ranked Po’ipu Beach as the world’s best beach.
More than 60 movies and television shows have been filmed on the island, including “Blue Hawaii” with Elvis Presley, as well as “Jurassic Park” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Visit www.kauaidiscovery.com.
Hawaii may be that once in a lifetime trip. With any luck, you’ll return again and again.
“Mele Kalikimaka” (“Merry Christmas”) and Hau’ Oli Lanui ( Happy holidays).
Linda McClain, CTA, is owner of Linda McClain Travel Services “From The Islands To The Highlands, No Dream Is Too Far From Here!” For more information call 372.7657 or visit www.lindamcclaintravel.net.