It's hard to imagine a more exciting family holiday destination than Hawaii.
Fun-loving kids from four to 94 fall under its spell.
The main island of Oahu is a sequestered Eden, brimming with bougainvillea, lush vegetation, pristine beaches and a warm, blue ocean.
Travelling to Hawaii has never been easier with regular Air New Zealand services and the new Hawaiian Airlines non-stop flights from Auckland to Honolulu three times a week.
Arriving in Honolulu, you cannot help but be enraptured by the simple beauty of the island of Oahu and the friendly spirit of this amply blessed Aloha State.
The island is a tantalising blend of exquisite natural wonders and worldly pleasures, like these 10 iconic attractions that are either free - or easy on the pocket.
Hawaiians like to say that this is the best beach in the world. It’s no idle boast when you sit on the perfectly smooth golden sand and watch people splashing about in clear, warm water, which rolls in on uniform waves that sweep up the beach to a backdrop of magnificent high-rise hotels.
In the balmy evenings, the beach takes on a different character. Music fills the air, illuminations create dancing shadows on the sand, weekend outdoor movies flicker on a screen and lovers stroll hand in hand on a palm-fringed beach walk under the flamingo-pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
ALA MOANA CENTRE
This open-air shopping centre is one of the largest in the world. The favourite shopping haunt of locals and tourists, it has 200 shops and offers entertainment year round on a large stage.
The food court has more than 20 restaurants and seating for 1300 people. Regular Ala Moana shuttle buses operate to and from popular tourist areas.
If you enjoy a little mystery and excitement amid a colourful melting pot of southeast asian cultures, head to downtown Honolulu. It's a total sensoryexperience where you can get lost in the strange sights, sounds and smells and fill your tummy with global treats like yummy dim sum and scrmptious sushi.
Prices are attractive and there is lots of variety. You can view shrines and art exhibits, consult a herbalist or feng-shui expert, watch a dragon procession or visit a noodle factory or a Buddhist temple.
Only minutes from Waikiki Beach is this beautifully laid out municipal zoo with lush vegetation and an attractive flamingo pool just inside the gate.
Seek out some of the rare critters in their enclosures, like the Hawaiian nene goose, galapagos turtles and cute francois monkeys. Kids love to stroke the llamas in the petting zoo. During the full moon transition period, special Zoo by Moonlight guided tours give you a close-up view of the nocturnal animals.
CHILDREN’S DISCOVERY CENTRE
What child between 3 and 13 doesn’t like to play a ball game like volleyball – with a robot?
There are hours of entertainment and interactive displays here for kids and parents alike.
The Discovery Centre in Kakaako Waterfront Park is the ideal place for children to learn about a vast range of subjects from physiology to sociology, science and biology with a wealth of learning toys and even a tour of the Global Village.
Walk a few blocks southeast of Waikiki Beach and you’ll be able to meet about 400 different aquatic species that live in the bountiful seas around the Hawaiian archipelago. There are great educational opportunities for children of all ages here, as expert staff love to answer questions. They also run interesting guided tours.
Sharks in myriad forms make their presence felt and the cute monk seals and sea turtles are super cool.
The walk to the summit of this ancient volcanic crater is a highlight of a Honolulu holiday for all the family.
The moderate grade trail begins inside the crater and climbs steeply at times, passing through tunnels, until the top is reached after 45 minutes.
The reward for the climb is a spectacular 360-degree panorama of much of the southern portion of Oahu Island.
This is a true outdoor adventure, so footwear, bottled water, sun cream and a flashlight torch are recommended.
The first glimpse of this beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay with its smooth, clear turquoise waters leaves most visitors spellbound.
It’s the ultimate natural marine sanctuary with myriad species of tropical fish seemingly unafraid of humankind. Inside the protective reef the waist-deep water is ideal for novice snorkelers and swimmers.
It’s only a short drive up the Nimitz Highway past the airport and on to Highway 99 to reach the bustling metropolis of Pearl City and the famous harbour where the battleship USS Arizona is a permanent memorial to the sailors that perished on December 7, 1941.
Taking the shuttle launch from shore to the striking monument on the vessel’s midsection is an emotional experience. The deck of the once-mighty warship is just visible 2 metres below the surface. This is Honolulu’s No 1 attraction.
CIRCLE ISLAND DRIVE
For a truly memorable day, hire a car and circle Oahu Island on an anti-clockwise loop. Begin at Waikiki and take in Diamond Head, Koko Head, Hanaumu Bay and Makapuu Beach, then follow the coast to Kailua.
From there, a short side trip leads to the green, scalloped cliffs of Pali Lookout. Continue to the Polynesian Cultural Centre and Kahuku, where you can enjoy the local delicacy, shrimp, before rounding the corner to the surfing spot of Sunset Beach and beautiful Waimea Falls.
- © Fairfax NZ News