A dream vacation to the Hawaiian Islands is on the bucket list of nearly every baby boomer.
As we contemplate such a trip, the dream bubble that pops up above our head contains beautiful white sand beaches, hula dancers, a Hawaiian Luau, pineapples, tiki-torches, lush, green tropical mountains, volcanoes, moonlit walks on the beach, the sound of a strumming ukulele, and a lot of romance. Right?
However, the real question is this: Can a visit to the Hawaiian Islands live up to all the hype?
As seasoned travelers, we can unequivocally, and resoundingly answer to the affirmative. In fact, we love Hawaii so much, we travel there once each year.
- The Spirit of Aloha - our very first visit to Hawaii was on our honeymoon 26 year ago. The very first thing we noticed was the kind and gracious spirit of the locals. There was a smile on every face, a willingness to go out of their way to be a friend, and even though we were on a tiny spec of lave in the middle of a vast ocean, we immediately felt safe and welcome.
- The Beaches - every year, Dr. Beach puts out a list of the top 10 beaches in America. While these change from year to year, Hawaii is always well represented.
- Best Quality of Air - breath deep my friend, Hawaii Island has some of the cleanest air in the world.
- Hawaiian Cuisine - fresh fish, local grass-fed beef, pork, fresh exotic fruits, Kona coffee. Your taste buds are going to do a non-stop happy dance.
- Water Sports - in Hawaii, you will find world-class surfing, fishing, snorkeling, diving, and kayaking. Heck, we've even been 100 feet under the ocean in a submarine.
- Volcano - Hawaii Island has the world's most active volcano. Spewing, molten lava is a once in a lifetime thing!
- Lush Tropical Mountains - the dense greenery found in Hawaii, along with the colorful flowers is absolutely jaw-dropping.
- Waterfalls - when you get into the rain forests, there is seemingly a waterfall everywhere you look. Some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world are found on the Hawaiian Islands.
- Moonscapes - when you ascend the 14,000 summits of Hawaii's volcanoes, you will see landscapes that resemble the moon. It's otherworldly.
- The Sky - because Hawaii has some of the cleanest air in the world, and the darkest skies in the world, the stars at night are simply magical. I will never, ever, ever forget the stars on a moonless night, high up the side of the mountain on Hawaii Island. My body continually responded with a large drawing of air, accompanied with Ahhh, Ohhhh, Ooooo.
I know, I know, I've painted a pretty rosy picture. Here's a few things to be aware of when you visit the Hawaii Islands:
- Traffic - for the most part, the Hawaiian Islands are filled with two-lane roads. Furthermore, because of the topography of the land, there may only be one two-lane road to get to your destination. I remember being stuck in a string of 50 cars driving to Hana on the island of Maui. If possible, get out early and beat the traffic. You'll thank me later.
- Lava Beaches - while there are many beautiful sand beaches, chances are pretty high that you will want to visit one of Hawaii's famous secluded beaches. In this case you will want to be certain to bring along a pair of water shoes. I'll never forget having the bottoms of my feet shredded by lava rocks in the water as the waves were undulating back and forth. It ruined a great part of my vacation!
- Humidity - Hawaii is a tropical place and humidity levels are high. Take it easy and be certain to drink lots of water.
- Sun Screen - in Hawaii, you are closer to the equator than anywhere else in the United States. Even though temperatures are moderate, and the breezes cool, the sun can scorch. Always wear a good sun screen.
- Daylight - depending on your location in the United States, you might be accustomed to long summer nights. In Hawaii, because of its proximity to the equator, you are going to have 12 hours of darkness, and 12 hours of daylight. Expect the sun to set around 6:30 each night.
- Temperatures - although temperatures can vary depending on which side of the island you might be visiting. Hawaii has some of the most stable temperatures in the world. In some places, the high temperatures never vary more the 6-10 degrees all year long!
- Imports - many things have to be imported to the Hawaiian Islands each day. Gasoline, for example, was over $4.50/gal during our last visit. Just know, if it's imported, it will likely be more expensive.
Well, I think my top ten list WAY exceeds the few warnings in my travel tips. In our opinion, your dreamy perception of Hawaii is certain to match your actual perception.
For heaven sakes, buy a plane ticket and go to Hawaii!
Someone asked, do we intend to make our way to Hawaii every year into the future? Well, as my father used to say, "as long as the good Lord wills, and the creek don't rise"!
Have you been to the Hawaiian Islands? Perhaps you have a few tips to share. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
David and Carol Porter are contributors on the AARP blog, blog regularly at theroamingboomers.com and keep us updated on their travels via their Facebook and Twitter accounts.