There are an awful lot of grumpy people in London at the moment. They’re fed up with the daily commute on overcrowded trains, the fellow passengers sneezing all over them, and the realisation that they just don’t have the will power to keep any New Year resolutions. But actually their crabbiness does not stem from any of these things. It’s all down to a bad case of seasonal affective disorder, aka winter depression.
For different reasons, these people have decided to live in an overpopulated, polluted, and very-wet city. They find themselves longing to be somewhere sunny, constantly dreaming of those never-ending summer days, the sea, and the outdoors.
I’m no doctor, but I think a trip to Hawaii might just fix their tempers – it worked for me. The 50th state of the USA is the most isolated population centre in the world, and is constantly being reformed by eruptions of undersea volcanoes. It’s not just a place for beach holidays and partying – though there’s plenty of that on offer – but also offers the chance to see flowing lava, whales, and 8000 species of animal found nowhere else on the planet. Hawaii is all about water sports, rainforest treks, waterfalls, cocktails with small umbrellas, and Hula girls.
It’s a myth that the place costs an arm and a leg. For around £1500 – including flights, car rental, accommodation, food, and activities – I spent 3 weeks out there. Isn’t it nice that a car in the US only costs about £5? The best place for the parties and nightlife is certainly the island of Oahu, the most populated of the lot – the North Shore is also renowned for surfing (it’s where they filmed James Bond riding the waves in Die Another Day).
An English accent is a sure-fire way of making friends. You know that scene in Love Actually when the quiet English chap goes into a bar? Well, it is actually like that in Honolulu. No sooner had I ordered a beer before I was explaining which “Circus” I lived in in London, that the UK hadn’t adopted the Euro, and that England is not the same thing as Britain. They were very nice to me – they even thanked me for Blair going to Iraq…I’m afraid to say that my moral beliefs quickly left the room when confronted with several voluptuous blondes. When asked where I was residing, I stated the local hostel. I was told to not be silly, I could stay at theirs. I’m deadly serious.
During the daytime, Oahu has oodles to offer. There’s the world-famous Hanauma Bay, a snorkelling paradise with hundreds of tropical fish and turtles. The Byodo-In temple is a scale replica of the temple at Uji in Japan, and the Buddha is the largest carved figure to be built since ancient times. Then there’s Pearl Harbour and the USS Arizona memorial. And treks through the rainforests, not forgetting the countless sun-kissed beaches.
The oddest site on Oahu is the Church of Latter Day Saints temple. It lies within a huge compound full of spotless white houses. It was pretty scary – there was even a brainwash-learning centre. Avoid at all costs.
The Big Island (called Hawaii) is not to be missed. Don’t let the rain in Hilo (the rainiest city in the US) get you down – Hapuna Beach, rated one of the best in the world, can be found at the other side of the island with its turquoise sea and white sand. There are also great diving opportunities – one can go night diving with Manta Rays that have 15ft wingspans.
The village of Volcano (population 2000) is located next to the Volcano National Park, where you can see the world’s most active volcano glowing at night. By the coast, it is possible to witness new land in the making where the lava reaches the ocean.
The Big Island is also host to the world’s tallest mountain – Mauna Kea, which starts at the ocean floor and climbs 13,700ft above sea level. It is possible to drive to the peak, where there are numerous observatories. The landscape resembles Mars, and it is here that Apollo astronauts rehearsed with their lunar rover.
The Big Island is much quieter than Oahu. For that reason, it is worth sandwiching your trip there between your stay in Oahu – but the volcanoes are a must see.