Hawaii may no longer epitomize an exotic destination, but its beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls and rainbows still beckon, as do iconic locales such as Waikiki, Haleakala, Lahaina and the Na Pali Coast. Today’s visitors can also expect new cultural and adventure experiences, as well as world-class golf and tropical spas. Each island offers distinct delights; all retain the spirit of aloha.
For its admirers, there’s truth behind the old saying “Maui no ka ’oi” — “Maui is the best.” The Valley Isle offers some of the world’s finest white-sand beaches, sunrises from dormant volcanoes, ocean vistas along the rainforest road to Hana and enticing shops and restaurants in the historic former whaling center of Lahaina. Maui also boasts a state-of-the-art marine park, humpback whale watching in winter, world-class windsurfing, upcountry farms and ranches, and the islands’ largest ancient temple, Pi’ilanihale Heiau.
Hawaiian weather is pleasant all year; the winter holidays are the busiest season.
Excellent Dining Options
In addition to the restaurants I recommend in Honolulu, the following are also noteworthy. In Waimea on the Big Island, Merriman’s (65-1227 Opelo Road, Tel.  885-6822) is home to chef-owner Peter Merriman, who for more than 25 years has championed Hawaii’s regional food, and Red Water Café (65-1299 Kawaihae Road, Tel.  885-9299) features outstanding casual fare of both Asian and Western derivation.
In Hawi, also on the Big Island, Sushi Rock (55-3435 Akoni Pule Highway, Tel.  889-5900) might be unassuming in appearance, but the food is imaginative and beautifully executed. On Maui, at Hali‘imaile General Store (900 Hali‘imaile Road, Tel.  572-2666) chef-owner Beverly Gannon has long been a star on the Hawaii culinary scene and continues to shine here. And a recent meal at Mama’s Fish House Restaurant (799 Poho Place, Paia. Tel.  579-8488), on Maui’s beautiful North Shore, confirmed why it remains popular.
Honolulu’s Pegge Hopper Gallery (1164 Nu’uanu Avenue, tel.  524-1160) displays the works of its namesake artist. Her striking depictions of island women are imbued with a dignified, languorous sensuality. Both originals and prints are available. I also recommend stopping in Hawaiian Quilt Collection (226 Lewers Street, #227, tel.  924-9889), with four Honolulu locations, which sells handcrafted pieces with custom and traditional Hawaiian designs. Look for comforters, pillow covers, wall hangings, runners and bags.
A Hawaiian Cruise
On our most recent visit to Hawaii, instead of hopping from resort to resort, we opted to sail aboard UnCruise’s 36-passenger Safari Explorer. Our seven-night journey from the Big Island to Molokai, with stops at Maui and Lanai, proved memorable in every way. The trip includes ports of call inaccessible to larger vessels — notably Molokai, which is closed to other cruise ships — and affords wildlife sightings difficult to experience on your own, the whale watching being particularly good.