You’re sure to feel the aloha spirit from your first moments in Hawaii when a lei is slipped over your head and you get a whiff of the tropics. It’s a spirit that carries throughout the islands, each with its own distinctive blend of natural beauty and a Polynesian melting pot of history and culture.
Trafalgar can take you there. Expertly planned guided vacations give you the best of Oahu, the Big Island, Maui and Kauai, from must-see sights to Trafalgar’s signature “Insider Experiences” that only a local might know. With ample free time, you’re sure to discover your own secrets—and enjoy plenty of beachy R&R too.
As an added bonus for teachers, we’ve included several “Lesson-Plan Destinations” that offer unique experiences or are sites of historical or cultural significance that you may want to share with your students.
OAHU: Welcome to Honolulu and famous Waikiki Beach
Oahu’s postcard-picturesque Waikiki Beach arcs like a crescent moon of sand and surf, crowned by the craggy silhouette of 760-foot-high Leahi or Diamond Head. Steps from your Waikiki hotel, you can explore hip Honolulu and dive into warm Pacific waters. Beachside businesses make it easy to take a surf lesson, rent a bodyboard or set sail aboard a catamaran.
Waikiki Beach Walk, International Market Place and other retail centers lure shoppers with such enticements as designer goods and high-quality Hawaiian crafts to classic kitschy souvenirs. Dashboard hula girl, anyone?
Beyond Waikiki, lovely Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu marks the historic heart of Oahu, the 19th-century home of the Hawaiian monarchy. Leis and flower petals often festoon the nearby statues of King Kamehameha and Queen Liliuokalani.
Of course, exploring Oahu history isn’t complete without a visit to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the USS Arizona Memorial, commemorating the infamous World War II attack.
BIG ISLAND: Volcanoes and coastal pleasures
Nearly twice as big as the other three major Hawaiian islands put together, the Big Island of Hawaii is big in size and spirit—an exuberant land of rumbling volcanoes, molten lava, crashing waterfalls, vast upcountry ranches and the coral-reef wonders of the Kona Coast.
Red-hot Kilauea is the star of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the world’s most active volcano that routinely sends lava glowing and flowing down its flanks and into the Pacific Ocean. The park’s hiking trails lead to lava tubes, black-sand beaches and other volcanic oddities. Make sense of it all by visiting the park’s Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, next door to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
The Kona Coast forms the island’s sunny western side, home to many of the Big Island’s resorts. Water activities reign along this ragged lava-crusted shore with scalloped coves ideal for snorkeling and exploring by kayak or paddleboard. Glass-bottom boats, sailing cruises and even submarine tours offer more ways to get out among the marine life, home to endangered green sea turtles, spinner dolphins and manta rays. The history here is equally rich, with two national historical parks preserving archaeological ruins and sacred temples honoring Hawaiian chiefs.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, including Thomas A. Jaggar Museum
Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
Historic Kailua Village Walking Tour
Kona Coffee Living History Farm
MAUI: Magnificent beaches and natural wonders
Travel magazines routinely name Maui’s beaches among the best in the world, yet the best endorsement comes from Hawaii’s former royalty. Even kings traveled by outrigger canoe to Maui’s Kaanapali Beach when they wanted to frolic in the surf and sand. Today’s visitors can do the same from their oceanside accommodations on Kaanapali Beach.
In nearby Lahaina, open-air restaurants, lively nightspots, galleries, gift shops and historic sights line the narrow streets of this 19th-century whaling village. Whaling ships are long gone, replaced by whale-watching excursions to view the humpbacks that now thrive in Maui’s waters.
Get an inside peek at Maui’s natural bounty with a visit to O’o Farm, an upcountry sustainable farm on the flanks of Mount Haleakala Volcano. After a tour of the gardens, you’ll sit down to a farm-to-table feast that includes just-picked greens, island fruits, a local fresh catch and homegrown coffee.
With a full day of Maui free time, the island tempts in every direction. Hike high on Haleakala. Tee off on a championship golf course with ocean views. Check out the world-class surf scene on the North Shore. Set sail on a sunset cruise. Or kick back on the beach at Kaanapali, living like a king—or a queen.
Hawaii Nature Center
Pacific Whale Foundation whale-watching tours
Haleakala National Park
Whalers Village Museum
KAUAI: Majestic canyon and lush jungles
Verdant Kauai certainly lives up to its Garden Isle nickname, but really, it’s much wilder than any garden. Some 90 percent of this northernmost of the four main Hawaiian islands is uninhabited, a jumbled landscape that is composed of dense jungle, emerald cliffs, waterfalls, flour-white beaches, rugged coastlines and the remarkable multicolored gorges of Waimea Canyon.
Not many places can stand in for primordial jungle or undiscovered islands, but Kauai can. Hollywood filmed Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Fantasy Island and other hits here.
You’ll get your first upclose look during a cruise on the serene Wailua River to Fern Grotto, a natural rock amphitheater cloaked in a canopy of ferns. Once a retreat for royalty, today it entertains guests with Hawaiian music and dance performances.
On the western side of the island, the Napali Coast scribbles an unruly shore of remote cliffs and coves, best viewed on a boat trip or helicopter tour. Helicopter tours also swing inland for Kauai’s wildest natural wonder: Waimea Canyon cleaves a 3,600-foot-deep rift in the wrinkled landscape, painted in a palette of russet rock and a tangle of green.
It would take weeks to explore this Wild West of an island. But like most visitors to the Aloha State, you’ll likely be dreaming of a return trip even before you leave. As they say in the islands, a hui hoi—until we meet again.
Experience the Insider’s Hawaii with Trafalgar
Ready to say aloha? Four different Trafalgar itineraries let you focus on your dream destinations. Want more time in the cosmopolitan capital of Honolulu? Or perhaps an itinerary that includes Kauai? With trips from eight to 13 days departing year-round, there’s a vacation to fit your desires, your schedule and your budget. It’s all just a click away through our partnership with Trafalgar. Aloha!