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Traveling Angel: A taste of Japan in Hawaii

Category : Uncategorized

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The Yataimura food court, part of the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, offers delicious Japanese bento style lunch boxes, tradtional hotpots and “street” foods – All of which have become an integral part of Hawaii’s Regional Food Culture.

Tucked away in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Honolulu’s Ala Moana Shopping Center is what seems like a market place a world apart – The Shirokiya Japan Village Walk.

It doesn’t take long for a traveler to the island to see that Hawaii’s Japanese roots run deep. You can order a mochi sampler platter at any local 7-11 convenient store for goodness sake – and it isn’t half bad either. Though I know the Japanese contribution to Hawaii’s cultural identity is so much more than that – I’m not complaining about the delicious mochi to be found almost everywhere you go. Just sayin. Mahalo Japan.

This isn’t the last time you’ll read about Shirokiya in the course of this blog. Its one of my favorite spots downtown. While I hardly advise travelers to frequent a mall of all places when traveling to some place new – especially in Hawaii, with no shortage of natural scenic beauty,  Shirokiya and the Yataimura Food court are the rare exceptions.

Hawaii’s a melting pot if you didn’t already know. Don’t let the leis and chocolate macadamia nuts fool you. Just ask any local what some of their favorite local food fare is and most likely you’ll get responses that vary from Filipino lumpias, Korean barbecue and kimchee, and of course, one of Japan’s gifts to the world – Sushi, in all its wonderful forms, can be found in Hawaii among all the other international offerings.

Shirokiya offers visitors to the island a chance to take two trips in one so to speak, letting you stroll through a little piece of Japan without leaving Honolulu. With Shirokiya’s convenient central location within the Ala Moana shopping center why not check it out?

I Digress.

While I frequent Shirokiya Village walk for my favorite takoyaki (octopus fritters mmmm) bento lunch and katsu chicken curry – almost on a weekly basis – I decided to head down this first week of January to check out the Takasaki Daruma Doll Festival.

Daruma Dolls are a symbol for perseverance and good fortune within the Japanese Culture.

While these little guys whitedarumaare produced in every region of Japan the city of Takasaki has become the headquarters for this New Year Tradition. Takasaki Daruma dolls are unique because of the artful details in the doll’s eyebrows and mustache. If you look closely you might even see that the eyebrows resemble the graceful Japanese crane and the mustache is painted in the motif of the turtle. Each of these animals are symbolic of longevity.

Daruma are sold without the pupils of the eyes drawn in. The right eye of the doll is filled in by the patron once they set a goal or make a wish for the upcoming new year. Only when the goal is achieved is the left eye drawn in!

 

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The dolls come in a variety of colors with different meanings for each hue. Red Daruma emphasize the well being of a family, an increase of luck, good health, safety and success. Yellow dolls bring luck in financial affairs, and protection from disaster – who doesn’t hope for that in a new year right? Pink Daruma are popular among couples and newlyweds for their blessings in love, marriages, and giving birth. White bring promises for relaxation, while Black Daruma are said to ward off evil. Starting a new semester? Learning something new? Try a blue Daruma doll for success in educational pursuits and increased talent. Pretty cool right?

 

12511743_1262372207111471_1283977039_n12511767_1262372153778143_70138144_n Last years Daruma, representative of goals achieved and blessings given through out the year are collected and taken to the local shrine in the traditional New Year “Expression of Gratitude” Ceremony.

It was nice to visit the different stalls, talk with the vendors and be reminded to make my own new year goals. but planning for the future can work up an appetite!

Shirokiya is home to a couple of bakeries and a number food stalls that offer everything from fluffy chocolate cream puffs, dense Japanese style cheesecakes, handmade gyoza, jelly lattes and colorful fresh sushi bentos. Vendors also sell unique Japanese food items and beautifully packaged gift sets of Japanese treats.

I decided to sample a few offerings from the KuluKulu Bakery. Japan is known for their impeccable presentation, attention to detail and use of color, as is evident in different aspects of the culture like delicate, balanced flower 12516092_1262372127111479_64223432_n arranging, precise tea ceremonies with calculated, graceful dance like movements – food is no exception to the Japanese aesthetic. Everywhere I went, something as simple as dikon radishes and ginger were color coordinated packaged in perfect symmetry alongside each other. There was golden brown squid grilled in a light savory sake teriyaki sauce nestled near deep purple octopus and pillowy tempura vegetables …. any takers? no? just me? Shirokiya also has a tasty selection of sandwiches and fresh made smoothies and juices too if you aren’t feeling that adventurous. Its a new year – baby steps.

At KuluKulu Bakery I tried their popular diamond head custard cream puff which was – well … perfection. Airy cream puff pastry full of a delectable cream cheese, whipped cream wonderful vanilla hybrid. Be carefeul. They’re addictive and I can tell might be something of a problem for me in the future. I also had a dainty little blueberry cheesecake tart – fresh and not overly sweet to say nothing of the simple lovely presentation. I also tried mini kulukulu waffles … mini bear and heart shaped waffles individually poured, and filled with a variety of fillings that range from macha green tea, strawberry, and sweet red bean paste. Of course – only for the sake of the cause –  I tried every flavor …. man. The things we do for the sake our jobs …. am I right?

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Everyone will tell you there’s a lot to do in Oahu – and that’s true. What places like Shirokiya offer are a chance to have an adventure  that you might not have thought to have while visiting downtown Honolulu. Hula dancing? Snorkeling? – of course those things are one on your Hawaii “to do” list – as well they should be – but cmon … Sampling Japanese barbecue squid, chit chatting with aunties and uncles from the community, and checking out a New Year Daruma Festival? It doesn’t get much cooler than that. Not without catching another flight I mean!

Happy New Year Travelers! Get out there – Do something new – and All the best wherever it is that 2016 takes you!

Angel for Sit Vacations

Aloha! I'm Angel! a little about me: travel blogger, resident of Oahu's beautiful North Shore, owner of two fat lazy dogs :)

Aloha! I’m Angel! a little about me: travel blogger, resident of Oahu’s beautiful North Shore, owner of two fat lazy dogs :)

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Keep Calm and Hike Makapu’u …

Category : Hawaii

Aloha! Nice to meet you ….

 

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We’ll get to Makapu’u in a minute haha – but first – a little about SIT Vacations’ new blogger on the block.

My name is Angel Mataia. I’m a Pisces – I love long walks along the beach …. hahaha okay okay …

I grew up in Southern California but have made Oahu my home for the past few years. I love it here as you probably can imagine – and if an In N Out Burger ever gets built here  – I’ll have almost no reason to ever leave the island again haha ( My west coasters know what I’m talkin about ! )

My family members have lived on Oahu for far longer than I have; we all currently reside on Oahu’s famed North Shore, with a few dogs, some free range chickens, and bunch of growing kiddos.

The only thing that makes working and living in Hawaii so awesome is the chance it gives us to meet so many of you from all over the world – sooooo …..  COMMENT! Ask questions – tell me about yourself and your Hawaii experiences, or share your own personal travel tips for Hawaii first timers. We’d love to hear any suggestions for us on places to check out while on island. Let me know! and most importantly Let SIT Vacations, take you there :)

The main focus of this blog is to show you around the neighborhood so to speak, share with you some of our favorite sights, sounds, and even flavors of Hawaii. Consider us your newest connection in Hawaii – the long lost Polynesian cousin you never knew you had haha

Here’s to New Places and New Friends!

Angel

Let me start off by saying that I’m not what one would necessarily call an avid hiker. But when a group of friends needed something free but fun to do the general consensus was to trek out to the Windward side of the Island and hike up to the Makapu’u lookout. We took the above photo from the top of the lookout. A view well worth it as most good hikes tend to be. Makapu’u lighthouse trail doesn’t disappoint on scenic beauty – even for someone who didn’t thoroughly enjoy the hike up haha

The Oahu Division of State Parks classifies the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail as “Moderate” and I would agree.

However makapu4this wouldn’t be a leisurely hike to take when you stop the rental car to take a look. Wear comfortable shoes, and loose comfy hiking appropriate clothes. The trail is all uphill, on a hot or moderately warm day in Hawaii expect to get fairly sweaty. If you’re anything like me on vacation and have sampled nearly every delicious new offering to come across your plate than Makapu’u Lighthouse trail is great way to work it out without overdoing it while also getting in a healthy dose of Hawaii’s scenic natural beauty. If you are taking a drive and happen to stop by, but aren’t prepared for a full hike its always an option to do a partial walk/hike. The views from every part of the trail are amazing no matter where you are so its still possible to get a good shot for the perfect Instagram post haha … maybe an option for the “lets not and say we did” travelers in your group.

The route is a total of two miles up – round trip. As you can imagine, the uphill route up makes for a quick downhill trip back to the beginning of the trail. Another reason for good shoes – watch your step coming down! The trail is uphill, as I mentioned before, and might be difficult for some but there are resting/lookout points along the way to stop and take a rest if needed. Makapu’u is a perfect trail for the occasional, maybe reluctant and not so outdoorsy hiker as well as the iron man marathon runner in the family. Dogs are also welcome on the trail – so bring your furry friends if you’ve traveled together! A little something to do for everyone … and did I mention free? We like free.

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I’d say about two hours is plenty to enjoy this hike, that’s not only walking time but includes selfie and family photo time as well. The Windward side is a little dryer than some other parts of the island. There isn’t anywhere to get water along the trail so bring plenty with you along with sunscreen and a hat! It gets pretty windy at the summit so make sure you hold on to your hats! The Makapu’u lighthouse itself is off limits but its distinctive red roof makes for some beautiful shots against all the sapphire blue of the coastline – like the one pictured left that I took from a ways down the trail.

Depending on the weather, clear days may provide you with a view of the islands of Moloka’i and Lana’i. From November to May Makapu’u is a great spot to view whales in the bay, but be sure to bring binoculars.

All in All – Makapu’u is worth doing! Its a great day outdoors, you leave having seen some of the best views that Oahu has to offer. If isn’t already on the Hawaii “to do” list – you might want to pencil it in. You’ll be glad you did :)

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Me and some of the guys at the top of Makap’u Lookout

 

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that wind though!

 Happy Travels!

Angel

For SIT Vacations

 


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Off-Topic: Hashtag Success

Category : Uncategorized

This holiday season we at Sit Vacations want to make sure that you get inspired to do what is right and get the success you deserve in the coming years!

Here are some off-topic quotes we found online that can help you get the success that you want.

 


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Hawaii Island Facts

Category : Uncategorized

Before enjoying your Escorted Tours to Hawaii, we have some information for you regarding the islands of Hawaii.

Read them and Enjoy!

 

 


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Move to Hawaii or Just Vacation There?

Category : Uncategorized

WISH YOU WERE HERE!
and there’s a chance you wish you were here too!

With SIT VACATIONS’ NEWEST PROMOTION FOR 2016 its never been easier to see all that Hawaii has to offer in one trip at one affordable all inclusive rate.

See four islands – over two incredible weeks!

There’s something for the lone explorer, the love birds, families and friends … every kind of traveler can find something special here in Beautiful Hawaii.

Hele Mai. Come See Us Soon.
Let SIT VACATIONS take you there.

We found this infographic about moving to Hawaii on one of the people we follow on Pinterest. Read and enjoy.

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Zoom in if you want the image bigger.

 


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5 Things To Do In Hawaii: From A Local’s Perspective

 

Hawaii is the place of the beautiful sand beaches and the beautiful people. There are a lot of things that one can do in Hawaii but as locals we have a five suggestions that would help you make your Hawaii trip more enjoyable and worth it.

Sleep. Of course, this is often not ideal if you want to tour the place but if you have a 14 day trip to Hawaii the first thing that you should do is sleep and enjoy some time in dreamland, this also gets you the energy you need for the next days and for the hiking and swimming adventures.

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Hike. Hawaii is not just known for it’s beaches but also for it’s  and the light house, locals think that other than swimming you must also hike and enjoy the peaceful and serene view of the mountains. Let us call it view from the top. You might also like the fact that there are hidden waterfalls in Hawaii that tourists love.

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Interact with Locals. The best way to tour Hawaii is through an escorted tour. This way, locals can help you get through every detail of Hawaii and you get a view of Hawaii from an insider’s perspective. Interacting with a culture you are also not familiar with will help you divert your attention away from your problems and learn.

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Swim. Of course, no trip to Hawaii is complete without any swimming. Swim your heart’s content with the best clear waters and sand.

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Relax. You deserve it. You may want to tour Hawaii, interact with the local, hike and swim but never forget to relax. You are in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Relax. Take a deep breath. Enjoy shave ice and the company of mother nature.

So what are you waiting for? Book a Hawaii trip now and see where it gets you!


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5 Hidden and Must-Have Experiences for Your Hawaii Vacation

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Heading for Hawaii for your next getaway? You have made a good decision about your destination, and now it’s time to ponder over what you should do in Hawaii and where to roam.

As you would have been planning for your trip and scouting for Big Island vacation packages, looking for the best things to do in Hawaii, you would probably stumble upon the regular articles and information about the most popular destination in the city of Honolulu, i.e. Waikiki. But, the exotic beachfront is not the only place to hangout, there are so many other places and activities that are usually by-passed by the visitors, but are equally great for your serene joy and exotic experience.

Take a break from the crowded streets and beaches and enjoy a pristine and amazing atmosphere with this guide:

1. Pow Wow Hawaii Festival

Kaka’ako is a small town, situated between the Honolulu’s downtown and Waikiki. It is a historically significant industrial district. The festival of Pow Wow Hawaii held each year in February is a great convergence of artists from around the globe. Here you will get to experience a different world of murals, engulfed in a sea of colors. The unique thing that you will get to see is that the painters and artists paint the area’s walls with distinctive and large murals, which remain till the succeeding year festival.

2. Kaka’ako Farmers’ Market

The weekly Kaka’ako Farmers’ Market is a paradise for all those travel enthusiasts who are looking to indulge in the local and exotic, fresh Hawaiian produce.

3. Honolulu Night Market

Who says that amazing night life is inside the clubs? Head over to Auahi Street and experience the amazing vibe and energy of the Honolulu Night Market, held once a month, filled with stalls all over the street selling delicious locally produced food, along with fashion and art items.

4. Honolulu Museum of Art

This is one place, which you cannot afford to miss. It has a highly impressive collection of arts and paintings. Along with the main building, the two other attractions in the vicinity are:

Spalding House – Situated in Makiki Heights, this is a museum of contemporary art, constituting of local artist’s flavors.
Shangri La Museum – This museum is located in Black Point neighborhood, on the eastern side of the Diamond Head. The museum constitutes impressive collection of Islamic artwork, new and old, collected and brought by the wealthy heiress, Doris Duke.

5. Food

Hawaii is praised by visitors from across the globe for its authentic and exotic cuisines. In Waikiki, you will find several, affordable restaurants serving local and global food produce, made in delicious manner, and served with gracefulness. From upmarket dishes, to poolside snacks, authentic Hawaii dishes, amazing Japanese cuisine to re-invented Asian food, there is no lack of scrumptiousness.

Make sure that when you book your Hawaii travel package, you include your itinerary with all these amazing experiences, which will provide you with lasting memories for lifetime.


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Soak, Swim and Float in Water in your Next Samoa Vacation

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From the moment you arrive at Samoa, you realise that’s what you were looking for holidays. The beautiful beaches, lush green environment at perfect stretch of cliff-backed turquoise lagoon and friendly locals give you a warm welcome to spend some time at pacific paradise. Thanks to absence of any real industry in the beautiful island and its extreme isolation, which has turned Samoa vacation, a perfect choice of nature lovers, vacationers and adventure seekers.

Water is known as elixir for life due to its endless virtuous in keeping you fit and healthy. Not just by drinking water, water activities are also great way of staying fit. No matter what is your reason to soak in water, Samoa is a perfect holiday destination for swimming, snorkelling and soaking in water. Travellers here love to get indulge in a variety of water activities. Samoa travel gives you chance to get immersed in crystal clear water and enjoy some of the most enchanting under-sea adventures:

Surfing

Samoa is increasingly become the favourite destinations of surfers around the world. Its two popular main islands of Upolu and Savaii proffer a diverse surfing experience that no surfer wants to miss. Some of the popular surfing spots in Savaii are Lano and Ananoa Beach in the southwest, and Manase and Fagamalo in the north. There are also several resorts to catering to surfing lovers in Upolu and Savaii.

Diving

Upolu and Savaii are the popular dive sports where you can get chance to play with spinner dolphins, stingrays and whales and almost nine hundred fish species. With its protecting reefs, it provides easy way to dive inside as well as outside the reefs. These dive spots are perfect for all certification levels and also for dive training. Located at Vaiala beach, Apia’s Palolo Deep National Marine Reserve is one of the safest spots for diving. Besides it, Fish Bowl near the airport also offers a wide marine life to explore.

Snorkelling

Palolo Deep Marine Reserve in Apia town is a popular snorkelling destination. In the South East area, Lalomanu is the perfect place for those wishing to explore the underwater world. One thing to be recommended here is not forget taking along an underwater camera to capture the clicks for a lifetime memory.

Fishing

If you love fishing, Samoa is a perfect Pacific destination for you. Samoa’s surrounding reefs are underwater playground for a variety of fishes and coral reef species including masimasi, marlin, albacore, wahoo, sailfish, giant trevally, dolphin fish, barracuda, dog tooth tuna and yellow-fin tuna. There also professional fishing operators and charters in Samoa. You can join them for few hours to enjoy fishing at the shore or you can also opt for an adventurous charter to idyllic fishing destinations.

If you are planning for Samoa vacation, get Samoa travel deals and don’t forget to prepare yourself to indulge in playful underwater and activities to explore the beautiful world under the sea.

Divers, snorkellers, surfers, kayakers and paddleboarders may even spot turtles near the edge of the fringing coral reef.


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Explore the Beautiful Hawaiian Islands in your Next Vacation

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For decades, the “Sandwich Island,” has been revered by travellers from around the world. It’s natural landscape is second to none in beauty. Now known as Hawaii to many, this archipelago of heaven has radiated love and Aloha ever since its discovery by Captain James Cook in 1778. Palm trees swaying and white sandy beach creates a paradise feeling that cannot be replicated unless experienced first-hand. Each island is gifted with beauty that comparing them would be injustice. But to fully appreciate what they can offer, one has to visit it themselves. Whether it is for short or long-term, it will only take a day to understand why words cannot express the uniqueness of its mana (spiritual power). But if you have to start somewhere, let it be Waikiki.

Waikiki, Oahu

Sunset

Sunset symbolizes the end of another sunny day; in Waikiki it demonstrates the amazing colours of Hawaii’s heaven and its golden skies. A moment mostly enjoyed in peace as the calm ocean reflects the last rays of the day’s sun. As the sun set, Waikiki springs into life on the stretch. Solo artists show off their art on the street or on stage. There is a dinner show guarantee you will enjoy and also fit your budget.

Surf and Water

He’enalu or surfing as now known was once a privilege reserved just for the Ali’i or chiefs of Hawaii. What is a vacation to these islands and try surfing? Well Waikiki is the best place to learn because of its gentle small waves that allows a beginner to catch their first taste of this addiction. You can borrow a board from a friend or use board rentals located along the beach. It needs a lot of fall until you get better at it and then it’s a never ending hobby. But if balancing is not your thing, there are sail canoes that take you out towards Diamond head and just enjoy the wind through your hair. Or you can catch a wave with an outrigger canoe with your friends. They also offer this on the beach for a small price.

Shopping and Things-to-do

Waikiki is small and big enough that it’s the perfect place window shop. With the varieties of store to choose from, you will find a store that meets your budget. From Louis Vuitton to the numerous ABC stores, you will find a souvenir for yourself, a relative or a friend at home. There is also the trolley that goes around Waikiki and ends at the Alamoana Shopping Centre where there are more shops to choose from. The Honolulu Zoo and Aquarium is at the end of the stretch for a small entrance fee. Diamond head hike is a ten minute taxi ride from your hotel and takes 35 minutes to hike up to the summit for some breathtaking views of Kahala and Waikiki.

Waikiki have a lot to offer for your trip. Take advantage of our 7 day packages for a quick escape from life. Treat yourself to a vacation and zip a mai-tai on the beach a enjoy the glamorous beauty of this island. Waikiki is ready anytime; it’s just waiting on YOU.

Whether you wish to have lifetime memory of your honeymoon journey or wish to spend splendid time with friends and family, Hawaii is a vacation destination for all. It is important to do some research or seek advertise from tour agencies to make a better choice whether you want to include few or all Hawaii vacation deals.


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Hawaii – Island of Romance

Island of Romance, Fantasy Island, or Paradise, every visitor has endowed Hawaii with endearing and enchanting titles after falling in love with the people, culture and traditions of Hawaii. The most isolated chain of islands that floats in the Pacific Ocean like a flower lei. Each island has its own unique tale and character. Your trip and memories depends on which of these islands you visit. But one thing they all have in common, “you will fall in love” anyhow no matter which one you choose.

Oahu

Oahu, also nickname as the Gathering Island is full of life. If you like the outdoors, there is plenty of short and long romantic hiking trails with phenomenal views of the island and nature. Numerous water activities vary from snorkeling in the north shore, to fishing the open oceans, sunset dinner cruise, parasailing or even swimming with the dolphins. The Polynesian Cultural Center for a day full of learning about the native Hawaiians but don’t forget to visit the number one tourist attraction on the island, Pearl Harbor Memorial. Waikiki is also full of excitement at night. Night clubs with different style of entertainments and glamorous dinner shows to liven up your night.

Maui

Maui, also known as the Magic Isle has plenty of beautiful landscapes and cascading waterfalls to relax your senses. Some of the top beaches in the world are found on Maui. Just relax on the white sand and enjoy the stunning shorelines. Outdoor activities range from hiking Iao Valley to biking down Haleakala. But if you like the water, Molokini is the best island for snorkeling with sea turtles, colorful lagoon fish and rich coral reef.

Kauai: The Garden Isle

The northern most island is Kauai. Being the oldest of the Hawaiian archipelago, it is the most green and lushes. Its rich volcanic soil attracted agricultural companies both in the past and the present. Hollywood and the filming industry have also featured the island multiple times in academy winning films. The island just shouts relaxation. Days are longer and time seems to stand still here in the green Garden Island.

Hawaii: The Big Island

Hawaii, also known as the Big Island is almost twice the size of all of the other Hawaiian Islands together. Most popular attractions of the Big Island includes colored-sand beaches at Papakolea (green) and Punalu’u (black). The Volcano National Park for a whole day learning about volcanoes, or swimming with the majestic Manta rays at night. The historic town of Kona is perfect for a romantic getaway.

So whether you want to spend your whole trip on one, or share your time among all islands, you are sure to call this place your second home. Whatever you are looking for, romance, excitement, fun or just relaxation, these islands will sure deliver.

If you have just made your mind and looking for lucrative last minute deals to Hawaii, you will get plenty of options. Being a popular holiday destination, most of travel agencies offer an array of Hawaii vacation packages for all wishes and budget.