Performances at the Polynesian Cultural Center cover a wide range of cultural and traditional values of Polynesian people. YVONNE BOHWONGPRASERT

It is Hawaii’s mesmerising Polynesian heritage, culture and history that makes it one of the most enchanting destinations to visit in the US.

While the sun, sand and surf are an additional bonus, its unique past sets it apart from the rest of the country.

Hawaii’s fabled, iconic beaches, nightlife and culinary expeditions live up to their name, but once the novelty wears off, you begin to search for travel experiences that become life-long memories.

It is highly recommended tourists stay a week to experience what the destination has to offer. If you happen to be there for a just a handful of nights, guides suggest you spend it on Oahu, part of the Hawaiian island chain and home to the state capital Honolulu.

Dubbed the heart of Hawaii, Oahu is an East-meets-West multicultural melting pot. There are various sides of historic and contemporary Hawaii that visitors can experience during their stay.

Highlights of this unique and vibrant city include places such as Iolani Palace. A captivating monument, it chronicles the happy and tragic times of King Kalakaua and his sister and successor Queen Lili’uokalani.

One of the island’s most revered landmarks, the American Florentine-style palace houses a number of artefacts, many still in immaculate state, of the royal occupants that once graced this magnificent edifice with their presence.

Palace tours offer a glimpse into the lifestyle of the royals, the resplendent manner in which they entertained state guests, enjoyed the company of friends and more.

West of Honolulu is Pearl Harbor, site of World War II’s 1941 bombing attack and home to the USS Arizona Memorial. Here you find retired servicemen and women working as tour guides, regaling visitors with anecdotes from their time in the service. The Pacific Aviation Museum is one among a handful of sites dedicated to telling the Pearl Harbor story.

Nature enthusiasts with a penchant for archaeology should not miss Waimea Valley on Oahu’s north shore. Housed here are a diverse number of botanical gardens, many of the centuries-old trees brought here as seedlings.

Besides plant life, Waimea Valley also consists of archaeological sites. Hiking through these trails for many is a spiritually awakening experience. History has it that the area was once ruled by a string of kings, chiefs and high priests, giving it spiritual significance that attract both local and foreign visitors.

Next stop is the picturesque Kualoa Ranch, a private nature reserve, which apart from being popular for movie sites, offers ranch and jungle expedition tours. The beach next door is also worth checking out for its eye catching landscapes.

If you happen to enjoy theme parks with a cultural touch, the Polynesian Cultural Center is for you. The theme park showcases everything you would want to know about Polynesia, dances, cuisine and lifestyle. Their performances highlight their core values which includes family, reverence for ancestors, the land and their languages.

If you have a penchant for visiting historical viewpoints, Nu’uanu Pali is a good choice. This is where an estimated 400 warriors died in the battled called “leaping of the anae fish”, referring to the men forced off the cliff during Kamehameha the Great’s reign when he sought to unite all the Hawaiian Islands under one rule.

The aforementioned tourist spots are just a fraction of what visitors can pick from the travel menu. Oahu is also home to the iconic Waikiki beach. It is famed for fine dining, nightlife and shopping.

Given the wealth of attractions and activities tourists are offered, I would suggest visitors focus on a tailor-made travel itinerary that focuses on their interests and passions to help experience Hawaii in a more personalised manner.

AirAsia X flies to Honolulu from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, via Osaka, Japan, four times a week. Visit airasia.com.

Visit iolanipalace.org; waimeavalley.net; polynesia.com; kualoa.com, pearlharboroahu.com; gohawaii.com/oahu.

There are only two seasons in Hawaii, summer and winter. Both are warm, but the winter months have considerably more rain.

On the lively Honolulu streets tourists can bump into everything from residents selling/renting surfboards to youngsters showcasing their music talent. Amiable locals and a lovely subtropical climate makes it a spot for leisurely evening strolls, shopping at brand name and local stores and more. Foodies will be happy to explore the huge selection of eateries that cater to all types of tastes. The island’s business and government hub, Honolulu is a storehouse of Hawaiian culture and history. From historical sites to museums, visitors can choose from a selection of places to spend their vacation. There is also a China Town, historic immigrant gateway and a hip arts district featuring both ethnic and cutting edge restaurants alongside trendsetting art galleries.

Waikiki Beach and Leahi (Diamond Head), which sits along the Honolulu skyline just beyond this popular beach, makes for a pretty picture. Put on your comfy beach slippers to enjoy the sights and sounds of this picturesque beachfront neighbourhood, housed on south shore of the island of Oahu. This is also a good time to try surfing. If hiking is your thing, head to the top of one of Oahu’s most recognised landmarks, the volcanic crater known as Diamond Head. From the top, enjoy panoramic views of Waikiki and Oahu’s south shore. Formed more than 100,000 years ago, the crater was utilised as a tactical military lookout commencing in the early 1900’s and was named a National Natural Landmark in 1968. Air Asia X /YVONNE BOHWONGPRASERT

Waimea Valley is an ‘ahupua’a’, a division of land stretching from the mountains to the sea. ‘If you imagine the island like a pie, each slice is an ahupua’a,’ says our native Samoan guide. Land, she said, was divided this way in Hawaii for numerous reasons, the most crucial being to guarantee each community within the ahupua’a had the resources required to survive. Resources are found at various elevations and places within each ahupua’a. For example, in the uplands medicinal plants are found. Trees for constructing canoes and houses and other structures are found here. Birds are caught and released for making feather adornments. Plains and midland regions are where most agricultural crops are farmed such as banana, taro, sweet potato, coconut and more. The seaside region offers food and other resources from the ocean; besides salt, the obvious array of fish, octopus, shells, seaweed and more. With more than 121 hectares of conservation land, Waimea Valley is wonderland for learning. By connecting young people to what the valley means to them they empower and engage younger generations to not only deepen their understanding of Hawaii’s rich history and traditions, but to also become environmental and cultural stewards in our global community. Waimea Valley’s educational programmes are designed to perpetuate indigenous knowledge in meaningful ways that extend beyond the classroom. From problem-solving skills to building self confidence, strengthening ancestral ties and igniting a renewed curiosity about our world, Waimea Valley’s hands-on framework for learning can be customised to meet educational needs and goals for all ages. Air Asia X /YVONNE BOHWONGPRASERT

A tour of Pearl Harbor transports you back to Dec 7, 1941 when Japan launched a surprise attack on American soil. Named after the pearl oysters once harvested there, it is not just the largest natural harbour in Hawaii but also the only naval base in the US to be appointed a National Historical Landmark. Being on location where the catastrophic aerial attack on Pearl Harbor took a reported 2,390 lives and left hundreds injured, can be an overwhelming experience, especially when one realises that the incident drove America into World War II. Pearl Harbor today recognises this history-altering moment with the Pearl Harbor historic sites: USS Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park and Pacific Aviation Museum. At the USS Arizona Memorial, we were told by an elderly tour guide that a little after 8am on Dec 7th, 1941, the USS Arizona battleship was hammered by a 1,760-pound bomb. The calamitous explosion sank the gigantic vessel in a reported nine minutes, killing 1,177 crewmen. Today, the USS Arizona Memorial is a spot to learn about this historic attack and pay ones respects to the brave soldiers that fell on that fateful day. It is advisable to start at the Visitor Center where a documentary on the attack is aired and take a look at plaques honouring lives lost. Another spot worth checking out is the Pacific Aviation Museum, located within former World War II airplane hangars on Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island. The immersive aviation museum offers interactive simulators and exhibits chronicling the stories behind authentic World War II fighter planes and bombers. xxxx

On the lively Honolulu streets tourists can bump into everything from residents selling/renting surfboards to youngsters showcasing their music talent. Amiable locals and a lovely subtropical climate makes it a spot for leisurely evening strolls, shopping at brand name and local stores and more. Foodies will be happy to explore the huge selection of eateries that cater to all types of tastes. The island’s business and government hub, Honolulu is a storehouse of Hawaiian culture and history. From historical sites to museums, visitors can choose from a selection of places to spend their vacation. There is also a China Town, historic immigrant gateway and a hip arts district featuring both ethnic and cutting edge restaurants alongside trendsetting art galleries.

The Polynesian Cultural Center, housed in Laie, on the northern point of Oahu, is designed to offer visitors everything they need to know about the Polynesian people. Within eight simulated tropical villages, performers, many of them students, demonstrate through song and dance various cultural and traditional practices throughout Polynesia, namely Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa and Samoa. It’s not just knowledge one gets here but a prime rib buffet and luau-style food options, too that make the trip more of an adventure. The evening show ‘Breath Of Life’ is an amazing performance, but a tad bit slow. The theatrical performance focuses on the poignant theme of family, culture, tradition and love. The audience is treated to a Polynesian dance, music and blazing fire and knife performances by more than 100 Polynesian artists. A good mix of special effects, animation and sound takes the audience through a Pacific isle saga of birth and death, love and family, victory and tragedy. Due to the number of items on offer, make certain you set aside an entire day for this visit. Each village puts on different shows throughout the day and one should not forget sunscreen, a hand fan and comfortable walking shoes. Activities at the theme park include fire-making, Tahitian spear-throwing, Samoan cooking, canoe tours and more. Activities are geared towards adults and children.

Nu’uanu Pali Lookout is more than just a tourist spot. Its historical significance dates back to the 1700s when King Kamehameha fought his last battle in his war to unite all the Hawaiian islands with an army of reportedly 10,000 soldiers. In 1795, a couple of hundred warriors are believed to have been driven off the cliff to their demise 305m below by Kamehameha’s men. Legend has it that on some nights, audible screams of perished warriors can still be heard. During a road construction in 1848, it was reported that workers unearthed 80 skulls believed to have belonged to the warriors. The lookout is located on a 363m-high mountain pass surrounded by peaks as high as 914m. From on top you’ll enjoy a mind-blowing panoramic view of the towns of Kaneohe and Kailua, Kaneohe Bay, Chinaman’s Hat Island, the breathtaking Ko’olau Mountain Range and, of course, the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. More often than not it’s very windy, so hold on to your hats, hairpieces, small dogs and children… and yes sometimes yourself!



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