by Isabel Conway –
Our five seat helicopter soars into the sky and hovers briefly above Kauai’s pristine magnificent landscape before dipping inside the sheer walls of a forested canyon, landing beside a spectacularly high waterfall.
Popular helicopter tours that take in much of Kauai’s interior do not come cheap but this one swooping down over extra- terrestrial gorges, valleys and cliffs, including Waimea Canyon popularly known as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is worth every $, because it is a truly once in a lifetime experience.
Kauai has starred in numerous movies from ’Lost’ and the ‘Descendants’ starring George Clooney whose storyline closely matches historic events in Hawaii, much of whose terrain is privately owned since the sugar plantation tycoon times, to the Jurassic Park original and sequels.
ANCIENT PACIFIC VOLCANIC ISLANDS
Formed over six million years ago, Kauai is the oldest and most northerly of the main Hawaiian Islands and rates at the top of most travel wish lists to the Pacific volcanic archipelago, 5 hours away by air from the nearest point on the US mainland. A half hour flight from Honolulu with Island Air (islandair.com) transports holidaymakers to the ‘garden island’- Kauai that’s at least six million years old.
We stay a couple of nights at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, overlooking a crescent bay created for legendry Hawaiian sunsets. The luxury resort has six restaurants and Kukuiula, a nearby upscale village is crammed with fun beach bars and retail therapy opportunities.
It would take at least a month to properly explore Hawaii’s six diverse islands. We manage two, Kauai and Oahu with barely time to shake off the jet lag of the 7,000 mile outward journey and 11 hour time difference before the spell is broken and it’s time to leave paradise lost.
SURFING ON WAIKIKI BEACH
The picture postcard idyll of Hawaii came alive in the arrivals hall of Honolulu airport on Oahu where a garland of fragrant fresh flowers that conveys welcome, celebration, love and good luck is draped over the shoulders of all the new arrivals….just like in the Hawaii Five O TV series.
High rise Honolulu, capitol of the 50th State of the United States is gateway to Oahu’s famous Waikiki beach. The Hilton Hawaiian village Waikiki Beach Resort is the perfect base for relaxing away that jetlag, then paddling the island’s only authentic double hulled canoe or taking a cruise around off shore landmarks. By sundown the Hilton’s swaying hula dancers and ukulele players are centre stage while you enjoy a Mai-Tai cocktail on the beachside terrace.
On Waikiki beach we are persuaded to join locals and out of towners in the surf, paddling out to catch a baby roller, after a crash course lesson with the Hilton’s Waikiki Beach Activities (www.waikikibeachactivities.com) . Some quickly get the hang of it, others resemble the Hunchback of Notre Dame crouching their way shore wards but you’ll still want to hum the Hawaii Five O theme tune.
DON’T MISS HISTORIC PEARL HARBOUR OR JURASSIC PARK
Historic Pearl Harbour, less than an hour’s drive from downtown Honolulu is a not to be missed Oahu landmark where on December 7, 1941 more than 350 Japanese planes launched a surprise attack on the unsuspecting US pacific fleet, drawing America into WW2.
At Kualoa, one of Oahu’s historic sites on the northern coast Here we come across Jurassic Park movie memorabilia including the T-Rex Paddock in the midst of a beautiful nature reserve. We all pile out of our tour bus to pose beside that same fallen tree behind which Jurassic Park’s children watched in absolute terror T-Rex making a meal out of his opponent.
SAVE THE BEST UNTIL LAST AT SEA
Saving the best until last, we explore Kauai from the sea, searching for humpback whales on the horizon and swimming beside green sea turtles while snorkelling from Captain Andy’s Northern Star catamaran (www.napali.com) The crew busy themselves firing up the lunchtime BBQ , cooling the wine and loading the music deck with soothing tunes. Louis Armstrong croons ‘What a Wonderful World’ over the loudspeakers and as finales go this one is perfect.
GETTING TO HAWAII:
Aer Lingus operates direct flights between Dublin and San Francisco, Los United Angles and Seattle with good transfer domestic services to Honolulu almost 4 hours distant (see www.aerlingus.com for latest fares) For Hawaii –US mainland combination packages see your local travel shop for deals. United (www.united.com) daily flights from Dublin to Honolulu via its US hub Newark prices from €1374,94 return. Also visit www.GoHawaii.com/UK
Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort on Oahu (www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com) seven night stay from $1,799 – double occupancy. On Kauai Grand |Hyatt Resort & Spa luxury ocean front double seven night stay from $3,150 (https://kauai.grand.hyatt.com)
BEST TIME TO GO
Hawaii has a generally perfect all year climate; car rental best option (from around €30 per day) for getting around.
Its worth splurging out $275 pp to spend an hour soaring over Kauai’s awesome north coast and Waimea’s 10 mile long gargantuan chasm of ancient lava rock , landing at Jurassic Waterfall with Island Helicopters (www.islandhelicopters.com)