Chasing Rainbows in Hawaii

Ever since a group of intrepid mariners arrived in Hawaii from the Marquesas 1,500 years ago, a successive stream of voyagers, warriors, settlers, missionaries, labourers and now tourists have been chasing rainbows in Hawaii.

And who on earth can blame them? Mile after mile of sand ranging from sugary white to red and jet black surround these islands that are warmed by the sun and caressed by trade winds. And the islands boast an incredible biodiversity, from desert and tropical rainforest to snow-capped mountains and coral reef.

A mere toddler by geological standards, the string of islands and atolls that make up Hawaii was developed in isolation, thousands of miles away from the nearest landmass, due to a chain of dramatic volcanic activity that continues to this very day.

Beginning as volcanoes rising from the sea, life came to the archipelago drifting on the waves, or carried on the winds, and tagged along by sea birds and humans. The result is a unique masterpiece of natural diversity, where 21 of the world’s 22 climatic zones support an incredible 88 Eco-systems.

So, whether you’re interested in hiking to a waterfall to admire it cascade into clear waters; sailing the sea in search of a humpback whale breaching from Pacific waters; pottering around a botanical garden to gaze upon the rare exotic flowers; or sitting beneath a graceful palm to watch a red glazed sun disappear into a glittering Pacific – Hawaii offers today’s more eco-savvy travellers as many surprises as nature herself.

Aerial panoramic image off the coast over Tunnels beach on Hawaiian island of Kauai with Na Pali mountains behind

Some would even say that it’s paradise on earth.

But paradise has many corners – so take a look at our guide to Hawaii’s six main islands – it’ll help you decide which corner of paradise you want to chase rainbows in…


Oahu is the third largest Hawaiian island and the most visited. The island covers an area 608 square miles and boasts some 112 miles of coastline.

Oahu was added to the island kingdom in 1795 when King Kamehameha I, from Hawaii’s Big Island, forced the Oahu king’s forces to surrender at the Battle of Nu’uanu Pali.

With its fine harbours, Oahu gradually became the political, economic, military, educational and cultural centre, and by 1850 the Hawaiian royal court had moved permanently to Honolulu. The bustling city of Honolulu proves that Oahu is more than just sand and surf- it’s the cosmopolitan hub of the island chain.

Not to be missed: Hanauma Bay, Waimea Bay, Waimea Falls, Pearl Harbour and the Polynesian Cultural Centre.


Kauai is the oldest and fourth largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It was built by a massive volcano of which Mount Wai’ale’ale, at 5,148 feet, is the eastern rim.

The island has 90 miles of coastline (and more miles of beach per coastline than any other Hawaiian island) and is remarkable for its spectacular and widely varied landscape. It’s all here – from the desert-like Waimea Canyon, ‘The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,’ to the velvety green Napali Coast, with its cliffs rising to 2,700 feet.

To maintain Kauai’s quiet and small atmosphere, it is forbidden to build properties on the island that are more than four stories high – which is roughly the same height as a palm tree!

Not to be missed: Waimea Canyon State Park, Koke’e State Park, the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, the Napali Coast State Park, Po’ipO Beach and Hanapepe Town

Hawaii (The Big Island)

Hawaii’s Big Island is the youngest and largest of the Hawaiian Islands – and it will continue to grow as long as lava continues to pour out of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano.

If it’s red-hot lava you are looking for, The Big Island is the place to be – Klauea has been erupting since 1983, casting its orange glow on the island and spewing hissing lava into the sea.

Of all the islands, Hawaii’s Big Island is the most ecologically diverse, with natural environments ranging from the desert plains of Ka’u to the snow-capped peak of Mauna Kea.

There are said to be 13 climatic regions on earth and the Big Island has all but two – the Artie and the Saharan.

Not to be missed: The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Akaka Falls, the Volcano Art Centre, the Pu’uhonua O Hiinaunau National Historical Park, and Mauna Kea, which at 28,000 feet above the ocean floor, is the best place on Earth for stargazing.

Beautiful sea and tropical beach


Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It reaches from sea level to 10,023 feet at the summit of the world’s largest dormant volcano, Haleakala.

The island is named after Maui, a mischievous mytho· logical figure of ancient Hawaii whose antics are recorded in historic chants. Legend has it that Maui dragged the Hawaiian Islands out of the ocean with a giant fishhook.

Not to be missed: Haleakala Crater, lao Valley State Park, historic Lahaina Town, snorkelling at Molokini, and whale-watching.


Long ago the friendly island of Molokai was to be known as the ‘lonely isle’ because the power of its Kahuna priests was feared throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The mana (spirit) there was considered to be the strongest and greatest in all Hawaii.

The highest sea cliffs in the world surround the little valleys of Molokai’s east coast, and Kahiwa Falls, where water plunges some 1,750 feet, are the highest falls in Hawaii.

Development on the island has been quite slow. There are no high-rises, no fast-food chains, and there is just one single traffic light on the whole island – because Molokai is all about the slow, simple life.

Not to be missed: The Keonelele sand dunes, the Halawa Valley Lookout, snorkelling in the natural pools of Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove and Moa’ula Falls.

coral reef underwater / lagoon with corals, underwater landscape, snorkeling trip


Hawaii’s most secluded island is the sixth largest and has some 47 miles of coastline. In the olden days, Lanai was known as the ‘isle of contentment’, which conflicts somewhat with the legend that Lanai was once an evil place that was overrun with demons.

It was not until the evil spirits were driven out by Kaululaau, the exiled son of a West Maui king, that the natives finally went to live on Lanaii.

Nowadays Lanaii is all about tranquillity and seclusion. On an island where pineapple was once king, golf and tennis now rule – because this is where the elite come to play.

Not to be missed: The Munro Trail, the Garden of the Gods, the Luahiwa Petroglyphs, Shipwreck Beach, Sweetheart Cove, and watching the turtles swim at Polihua Beach.

A beautiful closeup shot of a large turtle swimming underwater in the ocean

Sky Blue Vickie is a travel and tourism storyteller located in Vancouver. Come with her as she travels the world! Follow her on Instagram @SkyBlueVickie

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