Hawaii: Where the wild things are

REVIEW: Hawaii is considered a trip of a lifetime for good reason. This paradise has wow-factor everywhere you look – from fascinating sea creatures to fiery volcanoes.  While snorkeling off a beach in Maui, I saw what looked like a volleyball stuck between two lava rocks. I reached out to get it and a long tentacle stopped me. It wasn’t a ball. It was an octopus. We blinked at each other as if to say hello, and he swam away.
I could hardly believe it. For a short taxi ride to a public beach and a $15 snorkel set from the local Kmart, I got up close and personal with an octopus. There’s no need to go to the expense of scuba diving here. The sea creatures come to you.
The next day in Kona, Hawaii, while sunbathing on a beach, people around me started grabbing their cameras and pointing at the water. Huge whales were waving their tails at us from the distance. These happy humpbacks usually hang out in Alaska, but from November to May, they vacation in Hawaii too.
If the marine life isn’t enough to impress you, the volcanoes will. When I returned to our cruise ship, the NCL Pride that sails the islands year-round, we cruised past Kilauea, the most active volcano in the world. Bright red streams of lava flowed into the ocean while sparks of fire lit up the night sky.
Kauai is the emerald jewel of the Hawaiian chain, thanks to being born over a plume of hot magma a million years ago. While driving through the jungle, a huge, hairy wild boar shot out of the bushes and ran across the road. It was like seeing Pumba from the Lion King come to life.
However it’s Kauai’s Na Pali coastline that really steals the show. Its green velvet valleys and razor-sharp, red-earth ridges made it perfect for the movie Jurassic Park. The mystical region is mostly inaccessible by land, except by hiking a rugged 18-kilometre path. So the best way to appreciate the dramatic 900-metre cliffs and crashing waves is by ship or helicopter.
Natural wonders never cease in Hawaii. Even on our last day, when we had a few hours to fill before our flight, we visited the very cosmopolitan Waikiki. We walked along the beach to take a photo of the iconic Diamond Head. While sitting on the pier, sipping our Starbucks, sea turtles the size of coffee tables swam by. My son shook his head and summed up Hawaii in one sentence. “This place is wild,” he said.

Hawaii Island Hopping
One of the best ways to visit Hawaii is on a cruise so you can see the most popular spots easily within a week. You will avoid paying inter-island flights and taking time-consuming ferries. Norwegian Cruise Lines is the only cruise line to sail these islands year-round on 7-day voyages for about $1,100 per person. Visit ncl.com.

Published March 27, 2013

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