I don’t know about you but I’m a big fan of a big finish. Whether it’s from a particularly fine bottle of wine, a Puccini opera or a close sporting contest, those concluding moments that leave you spellbound and desperately wanting more can be memorable.
Happy to report that my final night in Hawaii provided just such a fitting climax to my two-week tour.
Back in the eighties, the marketing gurus at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (HHV) in Waikiki decided to stage a fireworks display and invited Barron Hilton, the patriarch of the chain, to attend. He liked the idea so much he suggested they hold the event EVERY Friday (way to blow the budget, boss!). So, at 7.45pm every Friday since 1988, the resort (http://www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com/) has staged a free fireworks show right on the beach outside the property, to which some 5,000 people usually attend. It’s become an iconic Waikiki activity.
Now, watching from the beach is great but jump aboard the Spirit of Aloha catamaran operated by Waikiki Beach Activities (http://waikikibeachactivities.com/) and you’ll be guaranteed one of the best evenings in Hawaii. You have dinner, a few drinks, sail around for 90-minutes and then settle back to watch the fireworks under the stars. Truly a ‘must-do’ experience.
Not that you’ll be short of things to do if you stay at the HHV – indeed, some guests never leave the resort, which is probably why it vies with the Hilton in New York as the most popular in the chain. Set on almost nine hectares of prime beachfront, it has more than 90 shops, the Mandara Spa, five pools, 18 restaurants and bars and a range of accommodation options, guaranteed to suit all travelling types and most budgets.
We stayed on the 11th floor of the Ali’i Tower which has its own check-in desk (very handy to avoid the masses at main reception) and concierge services. The tower also has a private pool on the second floor (another great spot for the aforementioned fireworks show) and fitness centre. But the big drawcard is the view, which from our room was straight out over the Pacific Ocean. Sitting on the balcony with a bottle of wine watching the sun go down was another truly memorable experience.
Those who are tempted to explore beyond the boundaries of the resort will not be disappointed. Waikiki has changed tremendously since I was last here back in the early 90’s. Millions of dollars have been spent ‘cleaning up’ the city, which had become a little tired and rundown. Now it is a sparkling jewel, with wide pedestrian pathways, designer shops and a positive ambiance, definitely a grown-up version of what it once was.
I thoroughly enjoyed my two weeks in Hawaii and I’m sure that despite the current less-than-favourable exchange rate it will continue to resonate with Australian travellers in 2016. You can do as little or as much as you want and the beauty of the individual islands is that they are all so very different. Just pick one that suits and you’ll soon understand the meaning of the ‘Aloha’ spirit.
Jon Underwood was travelling courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines, Hilton, Castle Resorts, Disney and Avis.
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