There are so many good reasons to visit the beautiful islands of Hawaii! I’ve visited all of the islands over the years, including a special Mother/Daughter trip to some of the less-visited islands of Lanai and Molokai, and enjoyed many wonderful experiences. Here are some of my personal highlights for each island:

HAWAII, THE BIG ISLAND

The Big Island is quintessential Hawaii: the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, with incredible volcano hikes; the Onizuke Center for International Astronomy, with stargazing tours of 13,796-foot Mauna Kea; or Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, home to some truly exotic animals (like Namaste the white Bengal tiger and Spike the giant anteater).

MAUI, THE VALLEY ISLE

Maui is where natural wonder and Hawaiian sophistication meet. I loved the magnificent sunrise on the bike trip at the 10,023-foot volcano Haleakala. The Road to Hana is an adventure in itself, as long as you know the secret places to stop! An unspoiled tropical oasis filled with flowers and waterfalls, stay in Hana overnight at one of my favorite resorts followed by a visit to the cascading waterfalls the next day. Whale watching in the winter is great near Lahaina.

OAHU, THE GATHERING PLACE

Oahu is where city life melds with paradise. Cosmopolitan Honolulu is filled with upscale shopping and dining, theatre and of course its most famous beach, Waikiki. On Oahu’s North Shore, there is the Polynesian Cultural Center, music, dance, even lei-making. In southeast Oahu near Waikiki is Hanauma Bay, the sea-filled crater of an ancient volcano, protected from rough surf and a perfect place for swimming and snorkeling. I experienced the most magnificent double rainbow from the cliffs of a Ko’olau golf course, definitely one of the most challenging I have ever played.  

KAUAI, THE GARDEN ISLAND

Kauai is Hawaii’s natural wonder. Mind-boggling, multicolored Waimea Canyon is what I would consider hikers’ heaven, with hiking trails running along the canyon’s rims before dipping down inside its walls. Wailua on the eastern coast offers horseback-riding tours that last from a few hours to an entire day, with picnics and swims beneath rainforest waterfalls. Northwestern Kauai’s famed Napali Coast, surrounded by 4,000-foot cliffs, caves, and waterfalls, is perfect for snorkeling and whale-watching. Poipu Beach is famous for its vibrant tropical fish and beautiful beaches.

LANAI, A WORLD AWAY

Famed for his historic pineapple groves, Hawaii’s smallest island offers world-class amenities at the luxurious Four Seasons resorts, rugged back roads for hiking and 4-wheel drives, and beautiful golf courses. I loved watching the Spinner Dolphin acrobatics from Manele Bay! Enjoy the tranquility of a largely untouched world where there are no traffic lights, no crowds, and only 30 miles of paved road. 

MOLOKAI, HAWAIIAN BY NATURE

Unspoiled country and untouched beaches, the chance to truly live as the locals do; that’s Molokai today. Home to the highest sea cliffs in the world and the longest continuous fringing reef off the southern coast, Jill and I enjoyed a horseback ride through the tumbleweeds and white sand beaches, and many other adventures at Kalaupapa National Park.

Whichever island you choose to visit, say MAHALO for the opportunity!

By Sue Shimkus, president of Lake Zurich Travel and a Hawaiian Destination Specialist, and her daughter Jill Rodriguez, a 20-year travel advisor with the company, who have traveled to each of the islands and are ready to share their experience and connections with you. For more information visit LZTravel.com.