There is something special, some would say magical, about the Hawaiian Islands. The opportunity to revisit the islands came with an invitation to attend the Hawaii Travel Exchange, a partnership of Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and Luxury Travel Advisor Magazine. Together they select 150 qualified travel advisors from around the country to come to Hawaii to learn, explore, and experience this amazing destination.
I arrived in Kona, on the island of Hawai’i (The Big Island) a few days early to explore before meeting with the Travel Exchange. The first thing you notice stepping off the plane in Kona is all the lava. The locals call it “lava shock”. The airport is built on a massive lava flow from the 1801 eruption, Hu’ehu’e, which added about 2 square miles to the island. The abundance of this jet-black lava creates a truly unique and beautiful juxtaposition against the azure blue water, brightly colored trees and flowering plants.
I spent the next two days exploring powder-white sand beaches, nighttime snorkeling with 14-foot manta rays in Keauhou, sampling goodies from Punalu’u Bake Shop, hiking the King’s Trail, examining ancient petroglyphs, and shopping for gifts at the large open-air market in Kona.
After a couple of days soaking up the sun and exploring the Kona Coast it was time to head north to Waikoloa for the Hawaii Travel Exchange, where I checked into my new home, Halii Kai at Waikoloa. These are gorgeous, brand new and well-appointed townhomes – many overlooking the Pacific and the island of Maui across the ‘Alenuihāhā channel.
The next several days were full of one on one meetings with hotels, activity providers, tour operators, and different island chambers. I had the opportunity to inspect many of the islands hotels, with my favorites being the Fairmont Orchid, the Mani Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, and my all-time favorite – the Four Seasons Hualālai.
Next stop was Kauai. This is the island that truly surprised me. They call Kauai the Garden Isle – and for good reason. It's lush with flowing rivers, cascading waterfalls, thick jungle, towering sea-cliffs, and massive canyons.
Kauai was filled with many wonderful experiences and sights, but the highlight was sailing the Nāpali coast. Some of the largest sea cliffs in the world line this coast creating stunning, almost other-worldly views. On Kaua’i, like Hawai’I, I was able to tour and inspect many different hotels and resorts. This proved more difficult because there are so many great hotels on Kaua’i. Of all the properties I was able to see, there were a few I really loved. Surprisingly, the Courtyard by Marriott was a favorite, along with the Sheraton, and St. Regis Princeville. The quality and variety of hotels on Kaua’i provide every budget a great hotel option.
The Hawaiian Islands are a truly unique destination. Whether you’re looking for Romance, Adventure, Family Travel, or just some R&R – the Hawaiian Islands have it all. Through all my years travelling to far-off, exotic corners of the world, I finally made it and was enchanted. I am already planning my next adventure to Hawaii for 2013.