Waianapanapa Beach
Why you should see Hawai‘i
Susan Gildart
AAA Travel Agent
Why you should see Hawai‘i
Right in the heart of the Pacific, the remote and beautiful archipelago of Hawai‘i is about as fabled a vacation destination as they come. Its scenery—palm and pandanus beaches, knife-back ridges cloaked in tropical vegetation, otherworldly volcanic craters and lava fields—is dreamlike, and its indigenous Polynesian culture is alive, strong, and fascinating. It’s easy to feel like you’re at the ends of the Earth in this tropical wonderland, which makes it all the more remarkable how quickly you can reach it from the West Coast.

To help guide us through the fundamentals and highlights of Hawai‘i travel, we turn to Susan Gildart, a AAA travel agent who needed only one trip to fall head over heels for the islands. “Hawai‘i is one of the most unique destinations in the world,” she says. “From volcanic mountains to the lush tropical landscapes, these exotic islands of paradise are just a flight away. No passport necessary!”
TRAVEL AGENT SPOTLIGHT
AAA Travel Agent Susan Gildart
Susan Gildart is here to share her tips and insights on Hawai‘i. AAA can help you plan the perfect trip to Hawai‘i, or wherever your dream vacation is. Contact a AAA travel agent today, or visit a branch to meet with an agent or take advantage of other travel services.
Fast Facts
A chain of 8:
The main Hawaiian islands are, from east to west, Hawai‘i (often called “the Big Island”), Maui, Kaho‘olawe, Lana‘i, Moloka‘i, O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, and Ni‘ihau. A string of uninhabited isles and atolls form the Northwestern Hawai‘ian Islands to the northwest of Ni‘ihau, including French Frigate Shoals and Midway Atoll.
Hawai‘i's hub:
Honolulu on the island of O‘ahu is the capital and biggest city in Hawai‘i, and serves as a popular jumping-off point for explorations of the island chain
Fun fact:
The Hawaiian islands compose the most remote major landmass on the planet, with the nearest significant land—the western coast of North America and other Polynesian islands—more than 2,400 miles away.
What to see
What to eat
Where to stay
Other destinations
What to see
Polynesian Cultural Center
Polynesian Cultural Center
Sprawling across close to 50 acres of O‘ahu’s North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center sets the Hawai‘ian Islands in their Pacific cultural context.
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Polynesian Cultural Center
Sprawling across close to 50 acres of O‘ahu’s North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center sets the Hawai‘ian Islands in their Pacific cultural context. Here you’ll find interpretive villages representing six different Polynesian island nations: Hawai‘i, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji, Aotearoa, and Samoa.

“This O‘ahu attraction will entertain you with shows and fun activities throughout the day, and continue into the evening with a Grand Hawai‘ian Luau," Susan says. "Finally, end the night watching a fantastic production called Ha: Breath of Life.” This show, which portrays the saga of Mana and Lani through music, dance, and fire knives, “is not to be missed!”
Polynesian Cultural Center
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes and submarines attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on the O‘ahu shore—the galvanizing event that ushered America into the Second World War.
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Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes and submarines attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on the O‘ahu shore—the galvanizing event that ushered America into the Second World War. Today, this fateful lagoon falls within the Pearl Harbor National Memorial (formerly part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument), where you can reflect upon the military strike and its repercussions.

“I’d read about it, watched movies depicting it, and heard about it all my life,” Susan says. “But the emotions that come over you when you visit this sacred sight are truly hard to describe.”
Pearl Harbor
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
One of the standout sites in the U.S. National Park Service, Hawai‘i Volcanoes encompasses a pair of extraordinary “fire mountains”.
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Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
One of the standout sites in the U.S. National Park Service, Hawai‘i Volcanoes encompasses a pair of extraordinary “fire mountains”: Mauna Loa, among the largest summits on Earth; and Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes. Kilauea, Susan notes, “is seen by millions of tourists each year, which makes it the most visited attraction in Hawai‘i and the most visited volcano in the world.”

From its bleakly beautiful craters to its thriving rainforest, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is spellbinding. Kilauea stopped erupting in September 2018, and according to the National Park Service, there is no lava to see in the park as of June 2019. That could change on short notice, so be sure to check conditions before visiting.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
The Road to Hana
The Road to Hana
Ranking among the world’s all-out beauty drives, the Road to Hana runs some 65 miles between Kahului and Hana along Maui's northern coast.
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The Road to Hana
Ranking among the world’s all-out beauty drives, the Road to Hana—aka the Hana Highway—runs some 65 miles between Kahului and Hana along Maui's northern coast. On tap is a magnificent distillation of some of Hawai‘i's defining scenery: abundant waterfalls, verdant plant life, postcard-perfect beaches, and ocean vistas:

“The drive to Hana is definitely worth it,” Susan says. “For those who get carsick, though, you might want to refrain" or take motion-sickness medicine.
The Road to Hana
Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon
The awe-inspiring “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” in western Kaua'i is a gaping, colorful abyss more than 2,500 feet deep.
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Waimea Canyon
The awe-inspiring “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” in western Kaua'i is a gaping, colorful abyss more than 2,500 feet deep that you can goggle at from Highway 550, or drop into via an extensive trail network.

As Susan puts it: “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific—what more can you say but, ‘Spectacular!’ ”
Waimea Canyon
Moloka‘i by mule
Moloka‘i by mule
Ride mule-back down a steep path to the far-flung coastal village of Kalaupapa in the north of Moloka‘i, walled off by grand sea cliffs.
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Moloka‘i by mule
Ride mule-back down a steep path to the far-flung coastal village of Kalaupapa in the north of Moloka‘i, walled off by grand sea cliffs.

“This is for that adventurous traveler who is seeking a unique, off-the-beaten-path adventure,” Susan says.
Moloka‘i by mule
What to eat
Traditional luau food
Traditional luau food
Communal cooking and feasting combined with music and dancing makes the luau one of the best-known cultural experiences in Hawai‘i.
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Traditional luau food
Communal cooking and feasting combined with music and dancing makes the luau one of the best-known cultural experiences in Hawai‘i.

“This celebration of Hawaiian culture is not to be missed,” Susan says. Dishes at luaus often include kalua pig roasted in an underground oven, the taro-root starch known as poi, and the zestily seasoned raw fish called poke.
Traditional luau food
Spam
Spam
Yes, you read that right: Spam, the humble canned meat brought to Hawai‘i by the U.S. military and enthusiastically adapted into local cuisine.
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Spam
Yes, you read that right: Spam, the humble canned meat brought to Hawai‘i by the U.S. military and enthusiastically adapted into local cuisine.

“Hawai‘i consumes more Spam than any other state,” Susan explains. “It can be found in many dishes, from Spam fried rice to Spam eggs. Hawai‘i even hosts a Spam festival each year.”
Spam
Kona coffee
Kona coffee
Among the most coveted Hawaiian exports is Kona coffee, grown on the rich volcanic slopes of the Big Island’s Kona Districts.
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Kona coffee
Among the most coveted Hawaiian exports is Kona coffee, grown on the rich volcanic slopes of the Big Island’s Kona Districts.

Susan: “For coffee lovers, this is a must-try!”
Kona coffee
Where to stay
Stay on O‘ahu
Stay on O‘ahu
"In O‘ahu, consider iconic Waikiki Beach for surfing, shopping, and easy transportation around the island," Susan says. "If you’re in the mood for a quieter and more peaceful relaxation-focused getaway, Turtle Bay in the north may be more up your alley.”.
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Stay on Maui
Stay on Maui
“In Maui,” Susan says, “consider the Wailea area if you’re a golf enthusiast. For great stretches of beach, plentiful restaurants, and nightlife, look into the Ka'anapali area.”
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Other destinations
Los Angeles
Los Angeles
Add an extended layover in the City of Angels to break up your travels and take advantage of L.A.’s one-of-a-kind draws. “Los Angeles offers so many possibilities, from Disneyland and Hollywood to all the great beaches,” Susan notes.
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San Francisco
San Francisco
“Another great West Coast stopover,” Susan says. “The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Fisherman’s Wharf all come to mind as places to visit here before or after your Hawai‘i explorations.”
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A Hawaiian cruise
A Hawaiian cruise
Getting out on a boat during your vacation among the Pacific beauty-scapes of the Hawaiian archipelago is certainly well worth it—and you’ve got many options for doing so. “You can embark out of Honolulu for a seven-night cruise to see the islands,” Susan says, “or maybe, if time permits, you might think about sailing from the West Coast to Hawai‘i.” Now there’s an enticing-sounding voyage!
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AAA can help put together the right trip for you
Navigating all the options is no small task when considering a trip to Hawai‘i. A travel agent can help find the itinerary that's right for you, whatever your culinary, historical, artistic, and leisure goals. Get a AAA travel agent's help planning your personalized Hawai‘i adventure by calling our dedicated travel agent phone line, submitting a request for assistance online, or finding a AAA branch near you.
1Boost Your Benefit offer: Must be booked by December 31, 2019 with travel complete by June 30, 2020. Minimum five-night stay at participating AAA Vacations® properties required. $150 activity voucher is nonrefundable, nontransferable, has no cash value, and applies to the following destinations: Mexico, Hawai‘i, Central & South America, and select Caribbean destinations. Savings not reflected in rates shown and applies to the following destinations $75 savings: USA (excluding Hawai’i), Canada; $150 savings: Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Asia, select Caribbean destinations (Anguilla, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Curaçao, Grand Cayman, Grenada, Martinique, St. Barts, St. Croix, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Martin and St. Maarten, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Turks & Caicos), Tahiti (French Polynesia), Fiji, and Cook Islands.
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