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HAWAII may be a place that thrives on tourism, but isn’t exactly set up to be tourist-friendly.
The actual island of Hawaii, often called the Big Island, is just 150 kilometres across at its widest point, and in that small land mass are 11 different climate zones.
So, quite literally, if you don’t like the weather where you are, drive an hour to find something completely different. Tropical rainforest, polar tundra or hot desert, they’re all there.
Throw in volcanoes and the two tallest mountains in the world when measured from their base below the ocean, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the Big Island is a tourist mecca, but it is still largely unspoilt by tourism development.
Yes, there are many resorts, but for mine the Big Island is where you’re still most likely to have a “real” Hawaiian experience without the tourist veneer.
Maui was our second stop and to say we weren’t really prepared for the prices there is an understatement.
Overnight accommodation generally comes at rates even Sydney’s notoriously expensive hotels would baulk at charging. Plenty of relatively modest hotels had offerings at $AU1000 a night. Then on top of that there’s the nightly “resort fee”, which it seems every place charges, of around $AU50 a night. Then there’s parking… it adds up.
The food on Maui was exceptional, with roadside stalls proving especially good. I even broke one of my golden travel rules and ate seafood (usually definitely “restaurant only” on holidays) from one. And it was glorious.
What you need to weigh up about Maui is whether the stunning scenery, the great food and the tourist drives are worth the seemingly unending stream of people after your money. Not just the resorts, but the stalls set up along many streets offering “discounts” for activities such as whale watching or helicopter tours in exchange for your willingness to sit through a timeshare purchase presentation.
Our final few days were spent in Honolulu. Waikiki Beach was a disappointment, hotels and other buildings encroach right up to, and indeed on to, the sand. One hotel has even been built over the beach to install an infinity pool, which means you can’t access the sand at all between it and the water.
There’s plenty of shopping, the USS Arizona Memorial is worth doing (despite the number of tourists taking inappropriate selfies) but again, as a tourist you’ll need to do a bit of work. A couple of examples; set your GPS for Pearl Harbor and you’ll wind up at the operating Naval Base on the wrong side of the harbour. And there are no signs on your way to warn you of that outcome. If you’re on the road looking for the massive Dole Pineapple Plantation, you won’t see anything to indicate you’re on the right road until you get there.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time, but for a holiday, at times Hawaii was just a little bit too much work.
And with this, as I return from vacation to take up a new job, I sign off as a columnist for “CityNews”. I hope you’ve enjoyed my take on events and items near and far as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing them with you.