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As the travel universe expands, an established destination such as Hawaii might seem passe. But, for clients who say they’ve seen and done it all on the islands, expert suggestions from a smart travel agent can be just what it takes to inspire a return visit.
Of Hawaii’s domestic visitors traveling by air, nearly 75 percent have been to the islands before, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority data. That’s all the more reason for agents to pique the jaded client’s curiosity and offer a different spin on the state, says Jay Talwar, chief marketing officer for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
“While iconic activities and attractions appeal to many first-timers, today’s repeat visitors are seeking new ways to immerse themselves in the destination, particularly through authentic culture and culinary experiences,” Talwar said.
One handy method for urging clients to return to Hawaii is to describe an island they haven’t yet explored. Agents can also tap into the growing trend toward active vacations, which Hawaii is answering emphatically. Or, they can recommend a trip timed with one of the state’s dozens of festivals and events.
Hawaii’s classics will always stand ready to welcome the novice traveler. For the been-there-done-thats, however, agents can plant the following seeds and watch them blossom into fresh adventures around the islands.
History LessonsClassic: Oahu newbies shouldn’t miss the USS Arizona Memorial. The quintessential Pearl Harbor landmark symbolizes the 1941 attack that launched America’s involvement in World War II.
Expert: Repeat Pearl Harbor guests can dig deeper into the past during a tour of USS Bowfin, one of only 15 surviving U.S. WWII submarines. Another Pearl Harbor eye-opener is Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, which has a collection of vintage wartime aircraft that will wow history buffs.
Hiking and Nature WalksClassic: A trek up the world-famous Diamond Head volcano rewards neophytes with a breathtaking view of the Honolulu coastline — and beyond.
Expert: On the rural flip side of the island, North Shore EcoTours leads visitors on private trails where they will learn about the area’s rich nature and heritage. Native Hawaiian guides share unique insights into the region while exploring valleys, forests, ridges and mountain pools with clients.
Agriculture and HorticultureClassic: Dole Plantation introduces newcomers to the history of Hawaii’s most celebrated agricultural product: the pineapple.
Expert: Lesser-known fields of gold thrive throughout the winter in the form of vibrant sunflowers. Pioneer Hi-Bred cultivates the orange and yellow blooms at a North Shore holding in Waialua, where travelers can ogle dozens of different varieties across 40 acres.
Local TreatsClassic: Savoring sweet tropical flavors at Matsumoto Shave Ice is a popular indulgence in Haleiwa town during maiden journeys around Oahu.
Expert: Old hands will discover new temptations at Ko Hana rum distillery, home of locally made spirits. Guests can tour a central Oahu spread of heirloom sugarcane, learn about aquaponic farming and sip white and aged rums.
For clients who say they've done it all on the islands, suggest lesser-known activities such as Blue Note Hawaii, which brings in big-name acts. // © 2016 Blue Note Hawaii
At the new Hawaii Island Festival of Birds, visitors can spot rare feathered beauties. // © 2016 Bob Nims
USS Bowfin tours add depth to a Pearl Harbor visit. // © 2016 HTA/Tor Johnson
Clients get energized about Oahu during a North Shore Eco Tours adventure. // © 2016 North Shore Eco Tours
Learn about Hawaii crafts on Volcano Art Center’s porch. // © 2016 Volcano Art Center
Lawai International Center provides inspiration for Kauai visitors. // © 2016 Mike Teruya
Experience the beauty of Kauai’s Princeville Makai Golf Club via a sunset cart tour. // © 2016 Princeville Makai Golf Club
Side-by-side samplings await at Ko Hana Rum Distillery on Oahu. // © 2016 Ari Espay/Liza Poletti
Holei Sea Arch is a lesser-known highlight at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. // © 2016 NPS/S. Geiger
NightlifeClassic: A Waikiki luau at sunset generally tops the list of a preliminary trip to Oahu.
Expert: In the nightlife category, Blue Note Hawaii is now the hottest ticket in town. World-class musicians take the stage at the revamped Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort showroom, which is fast becoming a favorite with local jazz lovers.
Hiking and Nature WalksClassic: Soaking in the sunrise at the 10,023-foot-high summit of Haleakala headlines almost every fledgling vacation on Maui.
Expert: The massive dormant volcano deserves a half day — if not a full day — of exploration on foot. Its 30 miles of hiking trails will enchant even the savviest of Maui visitors with a mix of surprising environments, from cinder deserts and rainforests to native shrublands.
Local AttractionsClassic: For rookies, Iao Valley State Park provides easy access to 1,200-foot-high Iao Needle ridge, one of Maui’s most remarkable natural treasures.
Expert: In the park’s adjacent town of Wailuku, foodies can relish tasty and affordable meals at under-the-tourist-radar eateries. Locals recommend haunts such as Tokyo Tei and Ichiban Okazuya.
Water ActivitiesClassic: A snorkel or sunset cruise from Lahaina Harbor excites newbies with dramatic views of neighboring islands.
Expert: Clients can ride all the way to Lanai or Molokai on the ferries from Expeditions or Sea Link of Hawaii. Frequented by residents, the ferries deliver a stress-free way to check out one of Maui’s humbler neighbors and return after a day of adventuring.
Stunning ViewsClassic: Driving the Hana Highway is de rigueur for Maui beginners, who marvel at its waterfalls through the windows of their rental vehicles.
Expert: Insiders can get out of the car; gear up with helmets, harnesses and carabiners; and get face-to-face with 30- to 50-foot-high waterfalls during a tour with Rappel Maui. The company promises safe thrills for climbers of all skills.
Local TreatsClassic: Most introductory Maui itineraries include tours and tastings at MauiWine, located in the cool upcountry region.
Expert: Returnees who prefer the stronger stuff can try Ocean Organic Vodka’s farm and distillery tour, which demonstrates how organic sugarcane and deep ocean mineral water turn into a distinctive island elixir. Another Maui spirit specialist, Haliimaile Distilling Company, offers heady tours and samples as well.
Natural BeautyClassic: An initial visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park wouldn’t be right without a stroll through Thurston Lava Tube and a look at glowing lava in Halemaumau Crater after dark.
Expert: The park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also lays claim to less-publicized lures such as the 90-foot-high Holei Sea Arch. Created within the past century, the arch will eventually disappear, making it a powerful piece of natural artwork.
Cultural LessonsClassic: Hands-on Hawaiian arts and crafts demonstrations at hotels and resorts provide a great cultural lesson for island initiates.
Expert: Clients can take creativity to the next level by joining Aloha Friday workshops on the porch of the national park’s Volcano Art Center. During these free, weekly gatherings, island gurus spin stories while teaching ancient skills such as lauhala leaf weaving and kapa (clothing made from bark) beating.
Film EventsClassic: Movie mavens love the screenings and superstar sightings at the glamorous Hawaii International Film Festival on Oahu and Maui Film Festival at Wailea.
Expert: On Hawaii Island, Big Island FilmFestival is a smaller but equally stimulating celluloid celebration. Held each May, the five-day affair includes daytime flicks, double features under the evening sky, social events, celebrity salutes and a closing night concert.
Wildlife SpottingClassic: Budding Hawaii Island visitors never forget a humpback whale-watching cruise during the winter months.
Expert: For wildlife spotting of a loftier sort, habitual guests can coordinate their next visit with the inaugural Hawaii Island Festival of Birds, which will take place Sept. 24-25. It will feature workshops, bird-watching and a day trip with local experts along the island’s brand-new, 90-mile-long, cross-island birding trail.
Hiking and Nature WalksClassic: Perched at an elevation of 4,000 feet, Kalalau Lookout at Kokee State Park gives Kauai greenhorns spectacular views of an island formed millions of years ago.
Expert: Kauai masters can explore Kokee even further during self-guided nature walks. Armed with a trail map from Kokee Natural History Museum, clients can meander through misty forests of native plants such as maile and mokihana and introduced flora including cedar and redwood trees.
Stunning ViewsClassic: On Napali Coast boat tours, views of soaring, chiseled sea cliffs give visitors an inspirational perspective on Kauai and its immense natural beauty.
Expert: Another deeply meaningful Kauai experience awaits at the low-profile Lawai International Center. Set in a centuries-old cultural and spiritual gathering place, its landscape is highlighted by 88 Buddhist shrines, which replicate a traditional Japanese pilgrimage route.
Classic: First-time Kauai visits often include views of Waimea Canyon from scenic overlooks or helicopter flyovers.
Expert: An outing with Kayak Kauai engrosses veteran visitors in the 14-mile-long canyon, notable for its mesmerizing red and orange walls. The hike culminates at Waipoo Falls, a dazzling cascade surrounded by fragrant ginger blossoms.
Golf ActivitiesClassic: Golfers new to Kauai rave about its championship courses, which have been designed by big-name architects.
Expert: Princeville Makai Golf Club has come up with novel ways for clients to witness its ravishing fairways without lifting a putter. Guests can greet the day during sunrise yoga classes on its oceanview seventh-hole tee. Come sunset, family and friends can relax on the north shore greens during a self-guided golf-cart tour, enhanced by drinks and snacks.