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The best Authentic Experiences

* Eat Local: People in Hawaii love food. Want to get a local talking? Ask for her favorite place to get poke or saimin or shave ice. The islands offer excellent fine-dining opportunities (see the examples below), but they also have plenty of respectable hole-in-the-wall joints and beloved institutions that have hung around for half a century. On Oahu, eat poke at Ono Seafood, enjoy true Hawaiian food at Helena’s Hawaiian Food, and join the regulars at Liliha Bakery for a loco moco. On Kauai, slurp saimin and shave ice at Hamura’s Saimin Stand.

* Feel History Come Alive at Pearl Harbor (Oahu): On December 7, 1941, Japanese warplanes bombed Pearl Harbor, forcing the United States to enter World War II. Standing on the deck of the USS Arizona Memorial—the eternal tomb for the 1,177 sailors trapped below when the battleship sank—is a profound experience. You can also visit the USS Missouri Memorial, where the Japanese signed their surrender on September 2, 1945.

* Experience Hula: Each year the city of Hilo on the Big Island hosts a prestigious competition celebrating ancient Hawaiian dance: the Merrie Monarch Festival, held the week after Easter. On Molokai, reverent dancers celebrate the birth of hula during the 3-day Ka Hula Piko festival held in mid-summer. Year-round, local halau (hula troupes) perform free shows at several shopping centers. On Oahu, check out the Bishop Museum, which stages excellent performances on weekdays, or head to the Halekulani’s House Without a Key, where the sunset functions as a beautiful backdrop to equally beautiful hula. On Maui, the Old Lahaina Luau is the real deal, showcasing Hawaiian dance and storytelling nightly on a gracious, beachfront stage.

* Ponder Petroglyphs: More than 23,000 ancient rock carvings decorate the lava fields at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. You can see hundreds more on a short hike through the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve, near the Fairmont Orchid on the Kohala Coast. Go early in the morning or late afternoon when the angle of the sun lets you see the forms clearly. On Lanai, fantastic birdmen and canoes are etched into rocks at Luahiwa, Shipwreck Beach, and Kaunolu Village.

* Trek to Kalaupapa (Molokai): The only access to this hauntingly beautiful and remote place is by foot, mule, or nine-seater plane. Hikers can descend the 26 switchbacks on the sea cliff’s narrow 3-mile trail, but the Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure astride sure-footed mules. Once you’ve reached the peninsula, you’ll board the Damien Tours bus—your transport back to a time when islanders with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) were exiled to Molokai and Father Damien devoted his life to care for them.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.