What comes with beautiful beaches? In Hawaii, it's great surf. Phoebe Tilelli outlines the best breaks and surf on Maui, Oahu and Kauai as well as the chilled out extras nearby such as just chopped coconut juice and relaxed jam sessions.
Hawaii is the home of surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku who introduced surfing to Australia and the rest of the world. Learning to surf is a rite of passage here, so be sure to ditch the hula skirt and pick up a board no matter what your skill level. Due to the increase of tourism over the years, local surfers have become protective and territorial about their favourite breaks. Be careful when venturing to breaks that are off the tourist path because you won't always be welcomed with a friendly aloha. But don't let this put you off. The warm water combined with a stunning perspective of the coast from the seat of your board will be enough to keep you coming back even if you do get unceremoniously dumped a few times. Whether you're keen to learn on a giant mal with the kids in tow, or ready for cut backs on a short board with the pros, Hawaii has something to offer everyone.
Waikiki is perfect for beginner surfers and families. People tend to use long boards or Malibu boards here making it easier for the long paddle out and for catching smaller waves. Hire a giant floral mal or even a stand up paddle board and get lessons from one of the Big Kahuna's on the beach. These instructors are normally Hawaiian locals and give the best advice on how to catch that perfect ride.
The waves here are small and gentle so before you know it you'll be hangin' ten with a view of Diamond Head, the dormant volcano at the end of the beach. The crowds can be a downside on this beach however people watching between waves is part of the experience. If you're lucky you might even see locals with their dogs on board as well as tandem surfers throwing their partners in the air.
If you have more experience and don't need an instructor, wait and go out in the evenings when it's less crowded. Watch the sun set, see turtles bob their heads above water and listen to the ukulele music floating out to sea from Duke's Beach Bar.
For the hard core surfers, Oahu's North Shore arguably has some of the best surf in the world with professionals flocking here every winter to brave the 20ft barrels at Bonzai Pipeline. Even if you're not up for the challenge it's a great place to visit and definitely worth the drive. The beaches are stunning and festivals are often held when competitions are on. Pipeline Masters 2013 is held in December and is free to watch.
When visiting the North Shore swing by the Ron Artis Family Band. This family of 11 children all play different instruments and sing in a shack found in Haleiwa town. Before you spot the shack you'll often hear the blues beats playing from the other end of town. You won't miss this place with its colourful painted surf boards decorating the front yard like an outdoor art gallery. Watch them jam as they rehearse their original music and pick up one of their many cd's.
On Waikiki beach opposite the Princess Kaiulani Hotel be sure to visit the Duke Kahanamoku statue where it's tradition to place your frangipani leis around Dukes neck as remembrance to the Father of Hawaiian surf culture.
The Outrigger Waikiki is a family favourite with prime location right on the beach, recently renovated pool area and the popular Dukes restaurant and bar in the lobby. Average nightly rates start from $304.
Escape the crowds and drive South from Lahaina to Wailea where you'll find Makena beach park. This is divided between Big Beach and Little Beach which are separated by a rocky headland. The almost one mile stretch of sand at Big Beach is paradise for body boarders with plenty of room to move and usually not too many surfers due to big shore breaks.
If you'd like to get in touch with your inner hippie venture over the headland at the Northern end via the cliff trail and you'll find Little Beach glittering down below. Remember to pack the sun block and leave the camera behind. Shuffle along the cliff edge, peer a little closer and you'll see that clothing here is optional. Wax up, dive in and wash the Maui red dirt from your feet. But be ready for an interesting view. Even the surfers leave their cozi's on the sand and work on their tans from out at sea while waiting for the next set.
After a morning surf rest your tired arms and fill your hungry stomach while sitting in the shade of a palm tree at Aloha Mixed Plate. Located in the busy old whaling village of Lahaina, this is the place to get an authentic taste of Hawaiian cuisine with an ocean view. Forget fretting over the menu not knowing what to choose. The cheap and tasty food here is offered as a mixed plate so you can have a try of everything. Don't go past Hawaiian favourite, Kalua Pork wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in an underground oven. The coconut prawns are also a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Aqua Hotels and Resorts have a secluded boutique haven located in Wailea only a short distance from Makena Beach. Hotel Wailea Maui offers a Private Beach Club and up to 12% discount for Australian residents. Nightly rates start from $285.
Kauai's South shore is where you'll find Poipu-once named America's best stretch of coast, where the sun comes out almost every day of the year. Head to Kiahuna beach where lessons are available outside Kiahuna Beach Plantation. Just to the left there's a break further out for more confident surfers. Paddle out with caution watching for sea urchin spikes against your finger tips as the water here is shallow.
If you're goofy this is the spot for you with a perfect left that breaks over the reef. Once you make it out there try to acquaint yourselves with the locals who can point out the rough areas. You don't want to find yourself scrambling over the rocks that hide in shallow waters on the right hand side. You might come out looking more like a porcupine than a pro with more than just a bruised ego.
Hanalei Bay is the Hollywood of Kauai, home to surfing stars including shark attack victim Bethany Hamilton, pro surfer Alana Blanchard and the late Andy Irons. Irons died a three time world champ at 32 years old and you can find his memorial site at this beach where his ashes were scattered in 2010. Go surfing here and you'll often drift among flowers left floating in the water by Andy's family, friends and fans.
If you're visiting between December and May pack your binoculars and keep your eye out for Humpback whales which are often spotted spouting and splashing off the shores of Poipu.
When visiting Hanalei, stop at Ke'e beach at the foot of the Napali coast walking track. Well known local boys climb resident's coconut trees and sell their findings. Most days you'll see their ute piled with coconuts parked against the back drop of black jagged cliffs as they hang out listening to Hawaiian music. After a long surf, salty tourists and locals alike come to quench their thirst, kick back and enjoy the cool coconut water. Although this looks like a chilled out summer job, rumour has it they can make over $500 a day on these juicy treats!
The four diamond Grand Hyatt Kauai is located on Poipu road surrounded by many of Poipu's beaches with Kiahuna very close by. Hire a car and take a day trip from here up to Hanalei Bay. Nightly rates start from $294.
If you get lost on one of the coastal roads on any of Hawaii's islands, you may have to ask for directions on how to get to the beach or hotel you were heading for. But don't expect any directions that are based on a compass point. North, south, west and east does not feature in the local lexicon. Instead, you must orientate yourself based on your surroundings. Hawaiians reference the direction of the mountains as "mauka" and the ocean as "makai". And it makes total sense to keep it simple. Who needs a compass or a map when scenery can be your guide