Some of the most reliable pleasures of Hawaii travel include exploring its national parks, multiethnic cuisine and indigenous culture. A luxurious spa treatment rarely goes amiss, though some may prefer the riskier adventure of scuba with sharks. Here’s an island-by-island look at what’s new in those various vacation modes:
– Jeanne Cooper
Online reservations are now required to view sunrise from the summit district of Haleakala National Park. The cost is $1.50 per vehicle, payable via www.recreation.gov up to 60 days in advance; the receipt and photo ID must be presented to enter the area between 3 and 7 a.m. The fee is in addition to park admission, which costs $20 per car and is valid for three days. Note: The park holds 30 spaces in reserve until 24 hours before the next sunrise, so die-hards can always try to rebook quickly if skies are cloudy.
Meanwhile, in the park’s Kipahulu district, the tiered pools of Oheo Gulch (nicknamed the “Seven Sacred Pools”) have been closed indefinitely following a rock slide Jan. 3 that prompted concerns of further slides, especially during the typically rainy winter months. Check the park website for updates. www.nps.gov/hale
Sea Life Park’s new Shark Tank Experience allows novice and experienced divers to swim with the sharks — blacktip and whitetip reef, sandbar and hammerhead varieties — in a 300,000-gallon aquarium. The daily adventure takes place at 2:30 p.m.; admission to the park is included in the $199 fee (www.sharktankscuba.com).
If you’d rather eat than think about the possibility of being eaten, new options appear as regularly as surf in Waikiki. Royal Hawaiian Hotel is marking its 90th anniversary by opening the first stand-alone bakery among island hotels. Open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, the Royal Hawaiian Bakery sells classic and tropical-themed pastries, such as Koloa pineapple coffee cake and haupia cream brioche. www.royal-hawaiian.com
One hotel down, at the Outrigger Waikiki, the Hula Grill Waikiki now serves brunch seven days a week, from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; locally sourced poke tacos, strawberry mochi waffles, local eggs and ahi katsu sandwiches reflect island style (www.hulagrillwaikiki.com). The new Waikiki Yokocho in Waikiki Shopping Plaza takes its inspiration from Japan’s food-filled alleyways (yokocho), offering 14 intimate restaurants and bars. The latest to open is 28-seat Tsujita Ramen, known for its Ajitama Tsukemen ($13), a slow-cooked broth with soft-boiled egg accompanied by thick noodles and other toppings. www.waikiki-yokocho.com, www.tsujita-hawaii.com
Honolulu’s Kakaako neighborhood has attracted two spin-offs of popular restaurants. Piggy Smalls, a Ward Village offshoot of Chinatown’s the Pig and the Lady, offers Vietnamese specialties such as “pho-strami” banh mi sandwiches and vegan pho (www.thepigandthelady.com/piggysmalls).
Visitors to Poipu Beach no longer have to wonder what’s the story with the four towering tikis overlooking 13 acres that for years were covered with brush and weeds. A new viewing platform and walkway sport five interpretive signs sharing detailed stories of Ke Kahua O Kaneioluma (“the Kaneioluma complex”), first mapped in 1959 and including a centuries-old heiau (temple), rock walls, home sites, games arena and fishpond. www.kaneiolouma.com
Visitors to the Kohala Coast looking for other evening entertainment will soon be able to see first-run movies in a new cinema with leather seats, cocktails, wood-fired pizza and more. Currently under construction, the three-screen Waikoloa Luxury Cinemas plans to open this spring in Queens’ MarketPlace. www.hawaiicinemas.com
There’s a new way to view Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park (www.nps.gov/kaho) as well as the historic and cultural sites of Kailua-Kona and Keauhou. Using an all new Hydra-Terra amphibious tour bus, Big Island Duck Tours (www.bigislandduck.com) takes 40 passengers on a tour/pub quiz that cruises down 7½ miles of Alii Drive, then heads to Honokohau Harbor for an actual cruise past ancient fishponds and a former Hawaiian village. Tours start at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday; the cost is $49 adults, $35 ages 2 to 18. www.bigislandduck.com
While the reopening of the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele has been pushed back till next year, the other resort on Larry Ellison’s island continues to increase its luxury quotient. At the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, the eight treatment rooms at the new Hawanawana Spa include four couples’ suites with side-by-side treatment beds, rain showers, and a cozy living and dining area.
Given that most guests from the mainland spend hours waiting for connecting flights in Honolulu to Lanai, the resort has opened its own airport lounge, on the second floor of Honolulu’s Overseas Terminal. Guests can check into their room; book dinner, a spa treatment or other activity; and enjoy free Wi-Fi, movies, food and drink, among other amenities. www.fourseasons.com/lanai
Ferry service from Maui ended in late October, increasing pressure on the limited nonstop flights to the island. Hawaiian Airlines’ Ohana (www.hawaiianairlines.com) offers daily service on 48-passenger turboprops from Honolulu, Maui’s Kahului airport and Lanai, while Mokulele Airlines (www.mokuleleairlines.com) and Makani Kai Air (www.makanikaiair.com) offer daily service from Honolulu on nine-passenger turboprops.
Book flights and lodging early for popular events such as the Molokai Ka Hula Piko Festival, June 1-3, www.kahulapiko.com, or the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championship, July 30, www.molokai2oahu.com.