Hawaii is famed for its pristine beaches and verdant rainforests – but there’s more to this tropical paradise than meets the eye. Three Qantas travel writers – who uncover hidden gems and secrets all over the globe – share tips, insights and must-dos following their recent trips to the Aloha State.

“Try lemon-pineapple soufflé pancakes – they’re scattered with diced pineapple and are light-as-air.” - Katrina Lobley

“The perfect Hawaiian holiday combines action-packed Oahu with a nearby island where life’s more laidback.

“Kaua‘i, a short hop from Honolulu, is a little off the radar but so worth exploring. Known as the Garden Island, it’s dominated by Mt Waialeale. Within the crater of this inactive shield volcano (one of the wettest places on earth) is a cascade of waterfalls known as the Weeping Wall, which you can hike to.

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“Back at sea level, one of the most fun ways to experience this intensely green landscape is by taking Princeville Makai Golf Club’s sunset golf-cart tour. As you trundle around one of the world’s most scenic courses (with a cooler of drinks in your cart), keep an eye out for the state bird (nēnē) and state tree (kukui or candlenut tree).

“A great base for exploring Kauai is the Koߵa Kea Resort on Po’ߵipu Beach in the south. Dine at in-house restaurant Red Salt where chef Noelani Planas, a Kauai native, is known for signature creations such as lemon-pineapple-soufflé pancakes. Studded with a lemon slice and scattered with diced pineapple, these light-as-air morsels somehow defy gravity.”

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’Alohilani Resort, Hawaii

“Back in Oahu, check into the ’Alohilani Resort close to Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach. From its rooftop bar, view multi-storey nature projections on nearby tower walls while sipping a cocktail.

“Burn off those drinks the next morning by hiking to Diamond Head (non-residents must make a reservation, US$5 a person) or sign up to Kualoa Ranch’s Malama Experience. Getting muddy in a taro patch might sound like a strange activity but it really connects you to this ancient landscape and Hawaiian culture.”

TIP: Enjoy all of Hawaii's secret spots with the Qantas American Express Ultimate Card and receive a $450 Qantas Travel Credit each year to use for eligible international or domestic Qantas flights when booking through American Express Travel Online². The Card has an annual fee of $450. Learn more.

“A boutique-y boho hotel with one of the best pool bars in Hawaii.” – Carla Grossetti

“Sustainable travel experiences abound in Hawaii, where the concept of mālama (to take care of, tend, care for, preserve and protect the land and communities) is part of the cultural identity of the First Peoples. I love that the experience of participating in a sunset sail with Kamoauli in Honolulu honours the mālama mindset by investing a portion of proceeds back into the community.

SKY Waikiki Raw & Bar, Hawaii

TIP: Relax and recharge in Hawaii with the Qantas American Express Ultimate Card and receive two complimentary Qantas Club Lounge invitations each year after your first Card spend on selected Qantas products and services³ and two Amex Centurion® Lounge passes to use at Sydney or Melbourne International Airport⁴. Learn more.

“Those rich pink-ink sunsets can also be enjoyed from the wrap-around rooftop deck at SKY Waikiki Raw & Bar, a hangout with some of the best views in Waikiki. Head here for happy hour to enjoy oyster shooters and lime daiquiris.

“The Surfjack Hotel is a boutique-y boho hotel with one of the coolest ‘dive bars’ in Hawaii. Kick back with a drink on a sun lounger at the Swim Club or grab a complimentary sky-blue cruiser bicycle to pedal five blocks to the main stretch of sand at Waikiki.

“Want to experience a different pace of island life? One of the best toes-in-the-sand experiences on the Island of Hawaiߵi (known as the Big Island) can be enjoyed at the Lava Lava Beach Club on Waikoloa Beach, on the north end of the Kohala Coast. It’s a top spot to kick back and listen to live music just metres from your bungalow on the beach. The pupu (snack) menu is on point: order the kalua pork nachos and a Sandy Toes cocktail (with fresh sage leaves, blueberries, gin, lemon and elderflower liqueur).”


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“Looking straight down at manta rays is a thrill like no other.” - Amanda Woods

“After the lockdowns, my first international flight took me back to Hawaii where I did one of my favourite things – swimming with manta rays.

“The third time was as mind-blowing as the first as I joined Eka Canoe Adventures at Keauhou Bay, 20 minutes south of Kailua-Kona, which is on the Big Island. We hopped off a Moana-style Hawaiian sailing canoe into the dark water at night and held onto flotation devices with lights that attract plankton that in turn attract manta rays.

“Manta rays have a wingspan of up to seven metres and looking straight down those huge mouths as they swim straight towards you is a thrill like no other.

“Over on Oahu my favourite thing is to head up to the North Shore. As soon as I see those Jurassic movie-star mountains I feel transported to another world and things get even better after checking into the Turtle Bay Resort.

“After a major renovation, this stunning resort is better than ever. Every room has ocean views and the resort’s within easy reach of Kawela Bay which has appeared in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and more.

TIP: Indulge in Hawaii’s greatest surprises with a Qantas American Express Ultimate Card. You’ll receive a complimentary Qantas Wine Premium Membership, plus you’ll earn 3 Qantas Points per dollar spent on all Qantas Wine purchases.5 Learn More.

Matsumoto Shave Ice, Hawaii

“While on the North Shore, a visit to Matsumoto Shave Ice is a must. Matsumoto started as a shave-ice stand in a grocery store in 1956 and now serves more than 1000 shave ices in a single sunny day at the Haleߵiwa Store Lots. Try a scoop of vanilla ice-cream underneath a mound of shave ice smothered in liliko’i (passionfruit) syrup and a condensed milk “snowcap”.

“Speaking of treats for your tastebuds: in the SALT complex of Kaka‘ako district of Honolulu, Moku Kitchen serves excellent poke and locally sourced Hawaiian ranch-style specials from the rotisserie oven along with mai tais topped with a delicious liliko’i foam.”

Experience all that Hawaii has to offer with the Qantas American Express Ultimate Card. Earn 100,000 bonus Qantas Points* when you apply online by 2 April 2024, are approved, and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases on your new Qantas American Express Ultimate Card within the first 3 months. T&Cs apply. Available to new American Express Card Members only.

Plus, receive a $450 Qantas Travel Credit each year to use for eligible international or domestic Qantas flights when booking through American Express Travel Online². Learn more.

Getting there

Fly Jetstar Sydney to Hawaii Economy return for one person for 52,000 Qantas Points plus AUD $318 taxes, fees and carrier charges^.

The Card offer, benefits and features mentioned throughout are subject to Exclusions, Terms and Conditions. Click here to learn more.

SEE ALSO: The Ultimate Insiders’ Guide to Bali’s Surprises

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*Receive 100,000 bonus Qantas Points when you apply online by 2 April 2024, are approved, and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases on your new Qantas American Express Ultimate Card within the first 3 months from the Card approval date. This offer is only available to new American Express Card Members. If you are an existing David Jones Card Member and don’t hold or have previously held any other American Express Card(s) in the past 18 months, you will be eligible for the offer. All other Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited, in the preceding 18 month period are ineligible for the bonus Qantas Points offer. Eligible purchases do not include Card fees and charges, for example annual fees, interest, late payment, cash advances, balance transfers, traveller’s cheques and foreign currency conversion. Qantas Points are earned in accordance with and subject to the Qantas American Express Card Points Terms and Conditions. 100,000 bonus Qantas Points will be awarded to the eligible Card Member’s account 8-10 weeks after the spend criteria has been met. Qantas Frequent Flyer membership and the earning and redemption of points are subject to the Terms and Conditions of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program available at qantas.com/terms. This advertised offer is not applicable or valid in conjunction with any other advertised or promotional offer.

^Qantas Points and taxes, fees and carrier charges quoted for Classic Flight Rewards are accurate as at 1 November 2023 and are subject to change. Classic Flight Rewards are subject to capacity controls, availability is limited and some flights may not have any Classic Flight Rewards available. Taxes, fees and carrier charges are payable to Qantas (excluding any amounts payable to third parties at the airport) in addition to the points required. For more information, visit qantas.com/classicflightrewards.

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