In other words, you like to be in the know—and you’re keen on putting the now into that knowledge.
And whether you’re vacationing in Hawaii or have lived here your whole life, chances are that thirst for knowledge extends to the 50th state. You want to know what’s happening and hot not just on your island du jour, but also throughout the entire archipelago.
With that in mind, we’ve pulled together the most sizzling trends in the Hawaiian Islands (as demonstrated by Google) so that you can take part in the leading activities, get a better sense for each island’s interest and vibe, plan your vacay (or just your Saturday)—and, in short, leave FOMO behind.
It sits on one of the most stunning stretches of sand on the Valley Isle. It comprises 15 acres, much of it lushly landscaped. Its 297 rooms gaze out upon the neighboring islands of Kaho’olawe and Lanai. It’s a mere 9-minute walk to the heart of Wailea—a tony enclave renowned for its above-par golf courses, glam resorts, five-star restaurants, and sensual beauty.
So is it any wonder that the Andaz—which was named one of the top new hotels in the world in 2014 by Condé Nast Traveler—is one of the most popular Maui searches? With its luxe touches—minimalist rooms, three tiers of infinity-edged pools, farm-fresh fare, and a sleek, open-air lobby—Andaz sets the bar for sultry, ultra-modern accommodations. And it certainly needs to be added to our list of Top Maui Resorts.
Not like Maui needed any more international attention—the Valley Isle draws more than 2 million visitors to its shores annually, and was named the “Best Island in the World” for 23 years straight by the much-lauded Condé Nast Traveler—but thank Disney for solidifying its position on the global map: In 2016, the entertainment giant premiered Moana, an animated film featuring the voice of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (himself a veritable local boy) and the engrossing story of a Polynesian chiefess who sets out to find the demigod, Maui. The first movie to be fully dubbed in the Tahitian language, the movie surpassed expectations, earning it as much acclaim—and cash—as Frozen.
But despite the critical acclaim it received, critics were quick to point out that Maui the demigod was one-dimensional at best—a presentation that contradicts the ancient deity revered throughout Hawaiian history.
Maui made national news when it became the first county in the state to start selling alcohol 24/7, even beating Oahu—a place famed for its nightlife—to such Vegas-ish status. Signed into agreement by Mayor Alan Arakawa (but stipulating that bars continue to stop serving at 2 am), supporters cite a number of reasons for the not- insignificant change (prior to May, 2017, retailers had to stop selling by 11pm). Among them? International travelers and fishermen who rise early to hit the sea.
Opponents have been equally vociferous, with the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Hawaii, Carol McNamee, saying, “It seems to fly in the face of a good public policy to reduce drunk driving and therefore keep Maui’s roads and highways as safe as possible…This is very disturbing and very unhealthy for the safety of the community.” No matter where you stand on the issue, you’ve gotta admit that the Four Seasons policy of keeping its main pool open 24/7 has its perks. Moonlit swim, anyone?
Hawaii may not have a team in the NFL, but the state is fairly well-regarded for its sports teams—a fact that led to searches for Maui Invitational dominating the internet.
Officially known as Maui Jim Maui Invitational (sponsored as such by the sunglass titan), the annual college basketball event takes place on the Valley Isle’s western shore, where seven NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams compete. Having got its start in 1984, the much-loved event attracts thousands of visitors to the island, and brought in a record $16 million in 2016.
“This basketball tournament has become one of Hawaii’s marquee sporting events, drawing a field of top collegiate basketball programs from across the country and showcasing Maui’s natural beauty and island culture to a large national audience,” said President and CEO of Hawaii Tourism Authority, George D. Szigeti. In other words, basketball fans best plan their Maui vacation for the fall: 2017’s competition will take place from November 20-22nd at the Lahaina Civic Center.
Since 2012, the Valley Isle has seen a dramatic rise in shark attacks. The latest occurred in October of 2016, when an unidentified species attacked a female snorkeler off of Charley Young Beach in South Kihei. While the victim survived, the attack served as a reminder of the ocean’s potential perils. Indeed, Maui has the highest number of shark attacks in the Hawaiian Islands; in the past two decades, it’s seen more than double the number of shark bites of any other island.
And it isn’t just because Maui is widely considered no ka oi: University of Hawaii researcher and marine biologist Carl Meyer says the ocean surrounding Maui County (which also comprises Kaho’olawe, Molokai, and Lanai) has “more preferred tiger shark habitat than all other islands combined;” a “large and protected shallow ocean shelf” that acts as a “magnet” for pupping, mating, and, well, existing.
But before you cancel your snorkeling plans, know that Meyer also affirms that shark attacks remain a “rare event.” “Swimming in the ocean is what amounts to swimming in a wilderness-type environment,” administrator of DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources, Bruce Anderson, echoes. “Sharks are part of this environment. We have to accept that they are there and take precautions to avoid encounters that are going to occur from time to time.”
Among such precautions? Staying sand-side when the water is murky, refraining from swimming solo, and staying close to the beach: Most attacks happen at least 30 feet off shore.
Maui has long been at the helm of the Aloha State’s internationally acclaimed culinary scene, helping give rise to Hawaiian Regional Cuisine (a niche of fare that fuses East and West flavors and relies on timeworn techniques and Hawaii’s bounty) and compelling star chefs like Sam Choy, Roy Yamaguchi, and Peter Merriman to open restaurants on its shores.
But that doesn’t mean that Maui residents—and its 2.2 million annual visitors—don’t relish their comfort eats. The interest in Slappy Cakes shows it. The chain restaurant— which, as its name suggests, is famous for its pancakes—is one of the most hopping spots on the island, and brings new meaning to the word “decadence” with dishes like their Maui Cakes: a tall stack piled high with toasted coconut and topped with haupia cream and lilikoi syrup. Other top contenders for Maui dining trends include Fleetwood’s (Mick Fleetwood’s eponymous and super-sleek restaurant on Lahaina’s Front Street), Maui Fish and Pasta, Morimoto Maui, and Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop. To phrase it differently, Maui’s got you covered when it comes to satisfying your cravings.
Maui might be globally known for its epic ocean adventures, but its land-based options are just as spectacular. Chief among them? The island’s terrific hiking trails, which run the gamut from fierce, uphill treks (Waihe’e Ridge being one of the most gratifying) to soulful, gentle ambles (check out Kipahulu’s Pipiwai Trail if that’s more your jam). Also wildly popular is Twin Falls—a pair of waterfalls that require a ramble through the jungle to reach. Located on the island’s raw and rustic North Shore, the attraction tends to get crowded (it’s free and readily accessible). But the dearth of total seclusion is well-worth it: The falls, trails, and view summarize Maui itself: They’re exquisite and wholly memorable.
Wanderlust got its start in Squaw Valley in 2009, when Michael Franti, Broken Social Circle, Spoon, and Girl Talk joined forces with some of the most eminent yogis in the Western World (including Shiva Rea and Annie Carpenter) for a festival of unprecedented proportions. Since then, the folksy, bluesy, and super-soulful fête has expanded to seven festivals throughout the United States and Canada, each equipped with world-class musicians, yoga and meditation classes, inspirational speakers, and organic food and libations.
Given that Hawaii is a healing center in itself, it’s hardly a surprise that the heavily-attended event made its way to the Aloha State’s third largest island. Held at the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s fabled North Shore, its 2016 event meshed the beats of DJ Drez with celebrity chefs (such as Koko Head Café owner Lee Ann Wong), superlative speakers (like filmmaker Keegan Kuhn), and unrivaled yoga instruction (including classes by Yoga Journal’s “Thoreau of Yoga,” Eoin Finn).
And while the aim of Wanderlust is to share the values of mindfulness, ethical consumerism, and love, the transformative power of its Oahu festival is credited to the very beauty of the island—a place where you can not only stand up paddle on lullaby waves and practice yoga under the sun, but do both simultaneously.
Craigslist is always trending, even in paradise—and particularly on Oahu. Wonder why? As the most populated island in Hawaii, its 953,000 residents (and counting) strive hard to keep a toe in the island’s sand, whether that means securing great digs in a city notorious for its spendy rents or nailing a job that’ll meet the islands’ ultra-high cost of living: Hawaii topped New York and California as the most expensive state in the U.S. (#wortheverypenny.)
Oahu may be widely known for its metropolitan feel (think: superior shopping, wonderful museums, and the best nightlife in Hawaii), but its outdoors adventures are just as stellar—and that goes beyond the monumental waves that hit its renowned North Shore.
Mermaid Cave is but one example of the island’s awesome natural wonders. Tucked into Waianae on Oahu’s west side, the place is genuinely a hidden gem—a hole carved into a shelf of jagged lava rocks that takes intrepid swimmers into an underwater grotto. With its aquamarine water and sunlight spooling through, this Nanakuli Beach Park jewel is an adventurer’s paradise. But beware: The waves that rollick these shores in the winter months can render Mermaid Cave uber-dangerous.
Best Hikes on Oahu
From vistas of Makua Valley to trails riven with waterfalls, Oahu’s hiking scene is outright amazing, rendering this leading search a no-brainer. Whether you’re an Oahu rez or just visiting for a spell, you can scout out a trek to fit your fancy. For some, this may mean a short, 4-mile hike on Old Pali Road to Likelike Falls (where greenery abounds and the cascade thrills). For others, this may mean a 5-mile climb along Makapu’u Ridge to Waimanolo, where one of Oahu’s most gorgeous beaches glistens with toothpaste-blue water. Whatever suits your mood (and activity level), one thing remains the same: Oahu’s diverse, striking beauty can be found in spades.
Stairway to Heaven
Speaking of remarkable hikes: Oahu’s Stairway to Heaven is one of the hottest topics on the web, thanks to the legendary status it’s earned as the grandest attraction on the island. Comprised of 3,922 stairs, Stairway to Heaven—or Ha’iku Stairs—leads audacious voyagers along the Ko’olau Ridge to heart-stopping views of Kaneohe and its breathtaking bay. Hardly conceived to entice tourists to its top—the trail was constructed in 1942 to provide access to a U.S. Navy radio facility—the precipitous climb has nonetheless been attracting hikers to its ascent for decades (despite the fact that it’s been closed to the public since 1987). Violators may face charges if caught; from 2014 to 2015 alone, 11 hikers were detained and another 463 were cited. Still, dozens of people elect to risk it on a daily basis, if only to catch sight of the magnificent island from up high.
Four Seasons Oahu
Oahu certainly isn’t at a loss for posh accommodations; after all, “The Gathering Place” is home to Hawaii’s state capital and the iconic Waikiki, where glittering resorts—from the beloved The Royal Hawaiian to the venerable Halekulani—tower over the sea. But it was the June 2016 opening of Oahu’s first Four Seasons that garnered—and continues to draw—major web attention.
And for good cause. Situated 17 miles west of Honolulu International Airport, the extravagant resort is tucked into the town of Ko Olina, a pretty suburb that sits on the oceanfront. 371 rooms gaze upon the Pacific—all of them equipped with floor-to-ceiling windows and private lanais—while an adults-only pool lures patrons into the sun-warmed quiet. Considering it as an option? Guaranteed you’ll feel like royalty: The 17-story resort’s next door neighbor is no one else than the Lanikuhonua estate, which once catered to Hawaii’s ali’i.
While the first Polynesians arrived in Hawaii in the 4th century A.D., it wasn’t until 1779 that riding waves on a hardwood board made its way into Hawaiian culture. But what a splash it created: By 1905, Olympic medalist, sheriff of Honolulu, and native Hawaiian Duke Kahanomoku helped turn an island tradition into an international fascination, sending aspiring and accomplished surfers to Oahu in droves. Changes were seen across the decades, even centuries—prior to Duke’s era, Western contact with Hawaii deadened the sport for a time as customary practices were discouraged, even spurned, by missionaries—but what has remained the same are the colossal, glossy waves of the islands. To date, many assert that Oahu—which is home to the likes of Waimea, Sunset, Makaha, and more—is the best place to surf in the world.
The surety of this is reinforced by the steady interest in Surfline on Oahu. The company—which got its start forecasting swells in Huntington Beach, California—has gleaned an outstanding reputation as the ultimate source for the latest and greatest on waves, allowing surfers to rely less on word of mouth (and seasonal tendencies) to find the perfect break, and more on the precision of modern technology. Meaning, Surfline may be trending now, but it’s also downright timeless.
Aqua Kauai Beach Resort
Kauai may be more sedate than its celebrity siblings, Maui and Oahu, but it’s precisely that serenity that drives A-list stars to its quiet banks. Aqua Kauai Beach Resort crystallizes that tranquility, rendering it a leading choice for people looking to book a stay on the restful isle. Situated on 25 acres of oceanfront property, the boutique resort offers views of bucolic pastures and miles and miles of the Pacific, while its on-site amenities—pools enhanced with waterslides and waterfalls, restaurants, a spa, and live entertainment—make it easy to stay put. When and if you do leave, you’ll be in just the right place—Aqua Kauai Beach Resort is nestled smack dab in the center of the island.
Donald McKinley Glover—aka Childish Gambino—earned his chops as a writer on Tina Fey’s much-lauded 30 Rock before making some serious waves as a recording artist, receiving glowing reviews for his first album, Camp, before winning two Grammy Award nominations for his groundbreaking LP, Because the Internet. But it’s his most recent compilation—a “mixtape” dubbed “STN MTN/Kauai”—that’s gaining traction (and leading many to searches of Hawaii’s lushest island).
“It’s a Gangsta Grillz mixtape that goes into an EP,” the California-born and Georgia-raised artist explained to Complex. “The Gangsta Grillz mixtape is a dream, and the dream ends when I wake up in Kauai. And they go into each other; it’s one complete project.”
Best part yet? Proceeds from the album will go to keeping Kauai clean (and wouldn’t we all want to wake up there?)
Kauai Beer Company
Kauai draws discerning travelers to its verdant shores—and those discerning travelers have a distinguished palette for exceptional beers. Thank Jim Guerber and his son Justin for giving them and kama’aina the opportunity to imbibe with major flair. After dabbling in home brewing in California, the father and Hawaii transplant brewed his “first beer with a name” on Kauai—a quickly popular concoction dubbed “Black Limousine” that he sold at fundraisers and other events before opening Kauai Beer Company in downtown Lihue.
Here, Black Limousine has continued to lead sales, while other island-inspired swills lure guests inside in swells. No surprise there: Brews range from a Lihue Lager that takes advantage of the area’s soft water, to a Tropical Armadillo that delivers the best in American Pale Ale. And it’s not just the beers that are superb: Their menu reflects Kauai’s rich culture by featuring taro fries and tempura beer-battered Lawai Valley mushrooms. Can we get a hana hou?
Two of the countless charms of the Garden Isle are its lack of ostentation and its love of tranquility. The foodie scene here is dynamite—think: an unending celebration of the island’s bounty—but tends towards the quieter side, with bento venues just as coveted as farm-to-fork cafés.
That said, one of its hottest new spots is La Spezia, a contemporary wine bar and restaurant located in Old Koloa Town. Here, Italy meets the islands, demonstrated in dishes that range from ravioli with smoked salmon, lemon-dill cream, and fried capers, to fresco del mare straight from the Pacific.
Widely considered one of the preeminent eateries on the island, La Spezia also has a sumptuous Sunday brunch, complete with Hawaiian sweet bread French toast brimming with brie, raspberry jam, and bacon.
Though all of Hawaii is a sanctuary, the oldest island in the archipelago still might go down as the most therapeutic. Swaths of fertile, untouched land, crystalline waters, nature but a pulse away, peace around every bend—Kauai embodies the principles of healing.
Common Ground underscores this notion. The 47-acre organic farm is part of the original parcel of the Guava Kai Plantation on the island’s rain-swept North Shore, and grows an abundance of fruits and vegetables. And while their farm-to-table café closed in 2014, Common Ground offers a variety of special events (both public and private), including farmer’s markets, health and wellness speakers, and family picnic days. In regards to the closure of their cherished café, owner Cameron Christopher Jaeb said, “The bottom line is we really want to find the smartest way to get the ‘food is medicine’ message out there.” Kudos to that (and seconds).
Kauai Athletic Club
Between the glassy waves and first-rate hiking, one might be led to believe that most Kauaians get their move on in the great outdoors. And while this is true, kama’aina and visitors alike also like to sweat it out in topnotch facilities—hence the interest in Kauai Athletic Club. With two locations—Lihue and Kapaa—this full-service fitness center offers it all, including yoga workshops, Zumba classes, free weights, and a smoothie “lab.” Consider it the perfect option for a rainy day, which isn’t as unlikely as it sounds: the island’s Mt. Waialeale is the 8th wettest place on Earth, bringing in roughly 9,763 mm of rain per year.
Kauai Juice Co.
From sustainable living to hyper-local dining, Kauai sure knows how to keep it au naturel—especially when it comes to its refreshments. Kauai Juice Co.—a labor of love created by a team of health enthusiasts who wanted to encourage mindful living and locally-sourced products—is just one outfit that consistently trends up. Juices from this Kapaa institution are cold-pressed, glass-bottled, and comprised entirely of organic Hawaiian ingredients, with luscious flavors that range from Orange Crush (pineapple, turmeric, and carrot) to Rainbow Unicorn Juice with beets, carrots, pineapple, kale, chard, blueberries, and lemon.
Not the tropical cocktail, mind you: The Big Island is home not only to the Kona region that first gave the world Hawaiian coffee, but also to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park—a 323,431-acre stretch of land that includes the volcanoes Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The former continues to actively erupt—reinforcing Kilauea’s definition as “much spreading” or “spewing”—while the latter has remained mum for nearly 33 years. But, as the most massive shield volcano on Earth—Mauna Loa hovers 13,679 feet above sea level—its last eruption wasn’t without a bang. In 1950, its southwestern rift zone emitted 376 million cubic meters of lava and reached 15 miles out to the ocean within a mere three hours, thus going down as the largest rift event in modern volcanic history. Today, more than 1.3 million people visit the park per year, making it a boon for the economy. “Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the most popular destination on the island of Hawaii and one of the most visited attractions statewide, is vital to the economic well-being both of our island and state economies,” said park superintendent Cindy Orlando, citing that the park brings in more than $88.2 million annually and supports 1,162 jobs.
Big Island Thieves
From goats and guns to drugs and cars, the Big Island has seen a recent spate of thefts—so much so “Big Island Thieves” is one of the top queries on Google.
And for good cause: smash and grabs, bike thefts, making off with backpacks and purses while their rightful owners are out snorkeling—all are as common in Hawaii as they are on the mainland, in part, some surmise, because of the gulf between the haves and the have-nots.
But, while more serious offenses such as auto theft have seen a decline on the Big Island (a 22% drop since 2016), the Big Island Thieves Facebook group has “grown exponentially,” according to one of its founders. The aim of the public forum is to allow people to share tips, complaints, info, and more, all in the name of #takebigislandback.
Big Island Hurricane
It isn’t just Hawaii’s daily sunshine that’s so fantastic: Its unique position in the Pacific makes it an out-and-out paradise in terms of weather. Tornados, hail, extreme dry heat—all rarely hit the eight-island chain of islands.
Neither do hurricanes—at least most of the time: In 1992, Hurricane Iniki struck the archipelago and did substantial damage on Kauai (where, at the time, Steven Spielberg was filming Jurassic Park). In the years that followed, all was relatively calm (save for the threat of 2014’s Hurricane Iselle), when, in 2016, Hurricane Madeline was predicted to hit the southern end of the Big Island (with Hurricane Lester trailing right behind). Mercifully, Madeline—which was believed to bring 130 mph Category 4 winds to Hawaii—weakened to a tropical storm as it brushed by just south of the Big Island. Nevertheless, visitors and locals keep an eye out for hurricanes. Far from shocking: According to The Weather Channel, Iniki was “the deadliest and by far the costliest hurricane to ever strike Hawaii.”
Big Island Brewhaus
As the youngest island in Hawaii, the Big Island weighs in at 4,028 square miles (and growing), making it larger than all of the other islands combined and making it the biggest island in the United States and the third largest in Polynesia (New Zealand’s two main islands score first and second place). Translation? That, well, bigness extends to the flavor and quality of its island-brewed beers, which are served to great acclaim at the Big Island Brewhaus in Waimea. Here, artisan crafter Thomas Kerns (formerly of the renowned Maui Brew Co.) distills concoctions in an array of tastes, including a whole-cone hop flower Holy Humulus IPA, a wicked-refreshing Starshine Ginger Beer, and a smooth but robust The Red Sea of Cacao. The highlight of the experience is that you’ll be absorbing it all at the highest brewpub in the islands.
Big Island Grill Menu
Widely considered the quintessential Hawaiian meal, “plate lunch” got its start during the sugarcane boom in the 1880s, when plantation workers would ferry lunches to work with them in bento boxes and rice was used as an economical way to fortify leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Since then, the hearty meal—which often consists of meat, rice, and potato or macaroni salad—has persevered as the go-to dish for islanders (and is offered everywhere from food trucks to food courts). Big Island Grill—a sweet, homey spot in Kailua-Kona—pays homage to this Hawaiian favorite by featuring lunches that touch upon this tradition, including plates of chicken katsu with standard and not-so-standard sides (such as garlic mashed potatoes and steamed veggies), and Kalua pork and cabbage. And is it ever popular—it’s not only a top trend online, but the restaurant is also almost always full. Visiting this imposing isle? Big Island Grill is worth the wait—you’ll be just as stuffed (and totally satisfied).
Big Island Hikes
From formidable lava tubes to native rainforests, the Big Island offers nearly every hike imaginable to man—including the chance to trek in the snow (and, conversely, scramble close to flowing lava). Indeed, if “adventuring” is your thing, the Big Island is certain to exceed your expectations. Take the Kilauea Iki Trail at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, for example. The 4-mile loop hike leads climbers from the rim of Kilauea Iki’s crater to a hardened lava lake, while offering ambles through ohia forests along the way. Feeling indefatigable? Consider the Mauna Loa Observatory Trail, a 12-hour, 13-mile hike that starts at 11,150 feet above sea level and takes dauntless trekkers across toothed lava terrain and near pit craters and spatter cones. With the Pacific gleaming below and the volcano’s acme shimmering above, this is just one Hawaiian hike that offers the finest in beauty and diversity—which, let’s face it, never goes out of style.
Big Island Jobs
While Hawaii has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country (as of January 2017, it was at 2.8%—the lowest in a decade, and 2 points lower than the national average of 4.8%), the Big Island has the highest percentage of jobless residents in Hawaii—and, at 9.3%, much higher at that. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Big Island jobs on Craigslist is one of the leading searches in regards to the island. Those who call the place home ought to experience some relief in knowing that the establishment of Alaska Airlines at Kona will reinvigorate the tourism industry—and, in turn, result in more opportunities.