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Hawaii on Land

March 26, 2012 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent


Four Seasons Hualalai Signature Course
Four Seasons Hualalai Signature Course spans out 7,100 yards and was designed by legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus.


If your Hawaii-bound clients want to avoid the beach for a day (or when—not if—it rains), there are plenty of things to do throughout the island that don’t involve sand and surf at all. Here are just a few selections.


Activities at the Polynesian Cultural Center can range from a brief meal and visit to a full-day experience. Different areas represent and recreate Polynesian destinations like Tonga, Tahiti, Marquesas, Fiji, Aotearoa, Samoa and, of course, Hawaii itself. In the Samoa section, families can learn how to make fire (without matches) and crack coconuts. In Aotearoa, they can learn Maori cultural activities, and even get a temporary Maori tattoo. In the Hawaii section, they can learn about ancient Hawaiian forms of games like checkers and bowling, or ride a Fijian biribiri. Interaction is encouraged, and kids and adults alike can climb trees or learn to paddle an outrigger canoe. The Polynesian Cultural Center is in the town of Laie, located on the northeast end of Oahu. Agents can make reservations for their clients at

Since Honolulu is a major cosmopolitan state capital, it should come as no surprise that there are loads of shopping opportunities throughout the city. Tamara Aalto, product manager at tour operator All About Hawaii, recommends spending a day in the city’s stores. The Ala Moana Shopping Center is one of the largest open-air malls in the world and has more than 200 stores. “The Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki has four floors and 100+ shops,” she notes, and recommends stopping for meals in top-notch restaurants like Wolfgang Puck’s Steakhouse. Other indoor attractions include Oahu’s Bishop Museum, the largest natural and cultural history museum in Hawaii, and the Queen Emma Summer Palace, a historical landmark.

June Cuba of All Travel Company & All Honeymoons and Romantic Travel recommends taking a tour of the historic Pearl Harbor and touring the memorial over the USS Arizona. Visitors can also tour the USS Missouri, where World War II ended and the Gulf War began. Diamond Head, one of the biggest mountains on the island, is a worthy challenge for hikers of all levels, and Honolulu is a beautiful city to tour on bike or on foot. (Make sure your clients bring good walking shoes.)


Haleakala is Maui’s main mountain, and a popular activity for visitors is hiking or driving up the slopes in the pre-dawn hours to watch the sun rise from the highest point on the island. (If dawn is too early, sunset from the mountain is a beautiful sight as well—just remind your clients that they’ll need good shoes, and that temperatures at the top will be surprisingly cold.)

There are several zipline and ropes courses around Maui, one of the most popular being the adventure center at Kapalua. The two miles of parallel ziplines let couples (or families) fly over the landscape together.


Polynesian Culture Center
Visitors at the Polynesian Culture Center learn the Samoan “umu” method for cooking food.


Susan Kownacki, director of sales and marketing at Blue Sky Tours, says that exploring the small towns and shopping on Maui is a great way to spend a day. Lahaina—one of the oldest cities in Maui—has “Front Street,” while Wailea has the “Wailea Shops.” She also recommends visiting the Road to Hana, or the Surfing Goat Dairy.

Hawaii, the Big Island

One of the most popular land-based attractions on Hawaii Island is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which includes both Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa. Cuba recommends taking a helicopter tour (preferably one without doors) over the volcanoes, adding that this is the best way to see the mountains and the lava floes. Kownacki recommends staying atop Mauna Kea to do some stargazing at night.

On the northeast coast of the island, the Waipio Valley was once the home of Hawaiian kings, and today is alush and verdant destination for hikers. The valley has some spectacular waterfalls, and great places for picnicing.

There are also several notable golf courses on the island. Cuba recommends playing at the Four Seasons Hualalai Signature Course, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus and sprawls out over 7,100 yards, and the two courses at Mauna Lani North and South. (There’s also a keiki—or child—course for younger golfers—the only course of its kind in Hawaii.)


At the St. Regis Princeville, the Makai Golf Club has already earned many awards, and is a must for any serious golfer. The club has two courses: the nine-hole par-36 Woods Course and the 18-hole par-72 Makai Course.

Cuba recommends a tour of Waimea Canyon and visiting the botanical gardens. Movie tours are also a great way to see where numerous films and TV shows were created—most recently, the Oscar-nominated The Descendants. Kownacki suggests hiking the Napali Coast as a day-trip, or even for camping overnight. “Visits to Waimea Canyon and one of the tropical botanical gardens are a must,” she says.

Ultimately, Cuba says, she always recommends a wide range of activities for her clients, and tries to have them booked before they go.

“No matter which island, I always recommend a helicopter ride, luau and a snorkel trip. The one thing I always tell people is to get in the car and tour everywhere they can...Hawaii does have beaches, but that is not the reason to go. There is so much more to do and see. Every island has so much to offer.”

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About the Author

Jena Tesse Fox
Jena Tesse Fox covers Europe, Africa, Australia/South Pacific and business travel for the Questex Travel Group's publications. The daughter of history teachers, she can spend...

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