TORONTO — There’s nothing like the impending arrival of winter to bring to mind images of sunny Hawaii.
With colder temperatures just around the corner, Hawaii Tourism has been out in full force to inspire travel to the islands, starting with last week’s Aloha Canada event in Toronto, which returned to an in-person format for the first time since 2019. Now back in the limelight, and coupled with relaxed entry requirements at the U.S. border (only proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all air passengers remains), Hawaii is ready for what looks to be a promising winter season.
Travelweek reached out to four of Hawaii’s Island Chapters to discuss what’s new in each destination.
What’s the current vibe like on the island?
Ross Birch, Executive Director, Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau: “Everything that was able to reopen is open full time. We have seen a full recovery with our U.S. market that is filling the gap left from our international markets. The vibe is very upbeat and positive, with lots of activity. We are seeing a slight drop in the booking pace for the future from the U.S. and are greatly looking forward to the return of the Canadian traveller.”
Leanne Pletcher, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau: “The islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai are open and welcoming travellers. The amount of activity and volume of travellers is closing in on 2019 levels, which was a busy year for the islands. Regarding the vibe, while there is renewed energy on the islands, we’re encouraging our visitors to show aloha and participate in our Malama Hawaii program and connect with our community by giving back and volunteering.”
Noelani Schilling-Wheeler, Executive Director, Oahu Visitors Bureau: “Oahu is open and somewhat back to normal, meaning that we are welcoming visitors and back to business but we definitely have more of a focus on mindful and respectful travel while visiting our island, our communities and neighbourhoods and our beautiful sites.”
Sue Kanoho, Executive Director, Kauai Visitors Bureau: “Some businesses did end up closing as a result of the pandemic. Princeville Ranch Adventures is permanently closed, Ono Family Restaurant closed, some activities have different hours due to staffing challenges and we strongly suggest making reservations before arriving on the island to ensure one get the experience you are looking for. Some restaurants are requesting reservations due to staffing issues – not everyone came back to work and some people moved off island during the pandemic. The vibe is good considering what we all went through for the past two and a half years. We are looking for mindful visitors who will respect the island and her people. We have a new Malama Hawaii approach that allows visitors a way to give back to our islands. One opportunity on Kauai is via a beach cleanup through Kauai Surfrider Foundation.”
What are 3 new offerings that Canadians should know about for this winter and beyond?
Birch (Island of Hawaii): “Some of the highlights not to miss or to make sure you review before your upcoming trip are: Umauma Falls Experience (zipline, horseback and ATV all in one location with spectacular views); Night Diving with the Manta Ray experience with a multitude of operators to select from; and top-notch golf experiences at resorts and facilities all within a 30-minute drive. Most of the best golf in the state of Hawaii is located right here on the island of Hawaii. You can’t go wrong no matter what course you choose.”
Pletcher (Maui): Guided sunset and stargazing tours at Haleakala with Maui Stargazing; Halkeakala National Tours with Humble Tours; and volunteer opportunities through the Malama Hawaii Program. Travellers should also take note that Iao Valley Monument State Park will remain closed until Jan. 15, 2023.
Schilling-Wheeler (Oahu): “Advance reservations are recommended for any experience, particularly for hiking up Diamond Head State Monument or snorkelling and swimming at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Travellers can also engage with community authentically by malama (taking care) of our island home with the Malama Hawaii program. On Oahu, they can pull invasive seaweed species from Maunalua Bay with Malama Maunalua, or restore native hardwood trees by planting milo trees at Gunstock Ranch, which has given back ranch land to reforest parts of the ranch. And lastly, if you’ve been to Iolani Palace, the official residence of Hawaii’s last monarchs, revisit and sign up for its new ‘White Glove’ tour or ‘Fit for Royal Fashion’ tour. Other top options include joining UTV Movie Set tours, ziplining, eBiking, sailing or horseback riding at Kualoa Ranch, and registering for the Malama Aina program through which visitors can learn about the intimate relationship Hawaiians have with kalo (taro).”
Kanoho (Kauai): “Visitors should know that Ha’ena State Park, which includes the Kalalau Trail, Ke’e beach and Hanakapi’ai Falls, now requires advance reservations to enter. Without one, they will be denied entry. The Go Ha’ena shuttle now allows day entry to the park for US$35 roundtrip (www.gohaena.com). The Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge also now requires advance reservations to enter the area. You can still park at the overlook for photos, however, without entering the park. Lastly, we have some fairly new activities that are fun, including Kauai Rum Safari, Tasting Kauai Food Tours, and Alakoko Store featuring all Kauai-made products.”
For more information about travel to Hawaii, visit https://www.gohawaii.com/, https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/hawaii-big-island, https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/maui, https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/oahu and https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/kauai.