There's nothing like Hawaii

I love Hawaii. I adore Hawaii. There IS nothing like Hawaii. To compare to other beach holidays, I have been to the Caribbean and I have been to Mexico too. Both all inclusive resorts. Although they were lovely, nothing does compare to Hawaii.

That word - all inclusive. When I list the reasons why I prefer Hawaii, that's probably the first one that comes to mind. Nothing wrong with the all inclusive - in fact with kids it is soooo easy a holiday. No worries about food. No time wasted in restaurants waiting for menus and wait staff when you could be out at the beach. When the girl was a baby and a toddler, the all inclusive was perfect for us.

The downside? You miss out on experiencing where you are - it can be a bit like a heremetically sealed bubble. And that is the main reason why I love Hawaii. It's not just a resort or one hotel, it's an entire culture just waiting for you. You know that cliched surfer, hang loose vibe? It exists, it is real and it is fabulous.

Hawaii is all about hanging loose. Taking it easy, bro. No worries, no rush. A perfect antidote to our busy lives. There is nothing like living in flip flops, a bathing suit and a sarong. Walking the length of Waikiki Beach. Feeling the sand between your toes and the sun on your face. A simpler life inspires me too. More space to think and dream...

I'll share some of my favourite places and activities - some of the REAL Hawaii. This'll be all about the island of Oahu.

Let's start with what to do. Outrigger canoeing off of Waikiki Beach. That's Diamond Head in the background. The water IS that blue and clear, don't let anyone tell you any different! Yes, it's Honolulu and there are lots of hotels on the beach but it is an incredible beach. Outrigger canoeing is like surfing - you paddle like crazy to catch a wave and then when you do, it's time to sit back and enjoy the ride. 

Snorkeling is another activity not to miss. Hanauma Bay is renowned for its snorkeling but it can get quite hectic during high season. Go early in the morning. Better yet, splurge on a catamaran trip off of Waikiki Beach. I had avoided these for years as I thought they were too touristy and cheesy. Was I wrong! This year we went and snorkeled with sea turtles and octopus and all sorts of fish. 

Surfing is fun too and easy on the south shore. The waves are small, the surf boards long and stable, and the instructors skilled in giving you a great experience. Leave the north shore for the pros! December is when they gather for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Definitely not for amateurs!

Rent a car for a day or two and drive around the island. The north shore and the town of Haleiwe is about a 45 minute drive from Honolulu up the west coast of Oahu. It's a small surfer town with a great vibe and good coffee. Even if the Triple Crown of surfing is over, if you are there in December/January, you will see some amazing local surfers catch the really BIG waves.

Drive up the east coast to Kailua - either along the coast or over the mountains on the Pali highway. It's windier on the east shore and kite boarding heaven. Walk down to the beach and watch the kiteboarders skim across the waves.Grab another Hawaiian treat - shave ice - at Island Snow. It's Obama's favourite and worth the trip. 

Old Hawaii is still around on Waikiki Beach and lives on in the Royal Hawaiian. My inlaws honeymooned at this hotel 50 years ago. In addition to this lovely main building you could rent grass huts on the beach.

When you are in Hawaii you must try one of the local favourites, the loco moco. Everyone eats it. Try the Rainbow Drive In for a classic take on this Hawaiian plate lunch. The loco moco is not for the faint of heart - rice topped with two hamburger patties, onions, gravy and a couple of fried eggs. An upscale take on it is at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room. He has a more expensive restaurant in Honolulu but the Pineapple Room is a yummy compromise.

After a day in the sun, there's nothing better than relaxing with some pupu's and a Mai Tai or two. Pu pu's are appetizers in Hawaiian. And THE best place for Mai Tai's is at the Halekulani. Go to the House Without a Key restaurant (more casual than La Mer) and sit outside enjoying the live music while watching the sun go down. In addition to the regular menu, on Tuesdays and Thursdays the chef cooks outside on a barbecue.

Aloha. Just thinking about Hawaii brings a smile to my face. It brings back that feeling of calm. Have you been there? Or do you have your own favourite bit of paradise for your winter escape?

P.S. Take a peek at Heidi's lovely curated collection of Hawaii art at her blog Mish, Mash, Make. She finds the most lovely things in her series 52 Fridays - An Art Tour of America.