Winter Escape: The Hawaiian Islands

hawaii volcano national park, Hawaii travel guide

Hawaii has long captivated travelers.

From its cerulean waters to its active volcanoes to its hospitable people, the island chain lures thousands of visitors each year to its sandy shores. Although tourist-laden and often overrun with mainlanders looking for their sun, sand and surf fix, the youngest American state still boasts hidden and locally-flavored spots that offer an off-the-beaten-path realness. Here is our guide to the best places far from the madding crowds.

Play

Hawaii is a veritable playground and with so many spots to snorkel, surf, dive and hike, you’ll never get bored. The Big Island is known for its active volcanoes so head to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Encompassing 33,000 acres, the park is home to the world-renowned Kiluaea volcano. Drive 10.6 miles around Crator Rim and admire Halemaumau Crater.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Outfitters Kauai runs one of the most comprehensive zip line experiences in Kauai. Expert guides will take you soaring through native foliage at the speed of fun. Maui boasts many scenic drives but one of the best is the 30-mile trek through the Maui Mountains with a final destination of Wailuku. You get the full tropical forest experience but with a bit of bare-knuckle adventure thrown in for good measure.

The Challenge at Manele Golf Course

Oahu is all about the sand and surf so head to Ke Iki Beach for solitude and gentle waves. Winter surfers will enjoy the 20-foot swells at Yokohama Bay, a secluded beach on the island’s Waianae coast. Duffers of all abilities flock to Lanai’s The Challenge at Manele Golf Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus and built on lava outcroppings. Halawa Falls on Molokai is worth the arduous 2 1/2 mile hike not just for the scenery, but for the history lesson as well.

Eat & drink

Hawaii is known for its abundant seafood and its confluence of various ethnic cuisines—from Filipino to Japanese to Portuguese— offers diners a pleasing repast, whatever the island. Kaleo Bar & Grill on the Big Island boasts unique takes on authentic local cuisine. Try the Kalua pork and cabbage.

Lucky Belly

For small plates and authentic ramen head to Lucky Belly in Honolulu. The oxtail dumplings are particularly noteworthy. Mala Ocean Tavern on Maui serves some of the best seafood around, with fried pink snapper a particular favorite. You have to walk through a store to get to Sushi Katsu on Kauai but its worth the effort for the large melt-in-your-mouth pieces of fresh nigiri.

Lanai Ohana Poke Market is a newish eatery that boasts the best poke on the island. Paddlers Inn on tranquil Molokai has long been a local hangout. Opt for fish and chips or country fried steak.

Stay

Luxury resorts abound on Hawaiian islands but accommodations can be found for every price point. Splurge at the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island. You’ll get a villa with your own black volcano steam room. Trust me. It’s beyond divine. Koa Kea Hotel & Resort on Kauai boasts modern rooms with a view but sans the noisy children.

Four Seasons Hualalai

Destination Resorts Hawaii at Wailea Beach Villas recently remodeled their penthouses with new furniture, fabrics and local artwork. You’ll still have that private beach access. Honolulu boasts large hotels up and down Waikiki Beach but The Modern Honolulu is a boutique beauty with a sleek modern design, and a clientele to match. Molokai only has one well-known hotel so opt for a beach house rental. You’ll get privacy and a home-away-from-home experience.