Here's the thing - everyone thinks they already know everything there is to know about Hawaii because they've seen a few episodes of Hawaii Five O (and yes, no one is arguing that the 60s version was better, so let's not even go there). But having been to Hawaii - and expecting not much more than a pleasant few days in the sun as a stopover en route to the other 49 States of America - I can tell you that there is more to these islands than first meets the eye.
Sure, there is the glitzy strip of Waikiki that is everything you imagine it will be - shoulder to shoulder tourists sunburning themselves on resort towels in the sand and posers strutting the street in heels and not much else. But go even a few streets back, or to the other side of O'ahu for a start, and you'll see a much less plastic side of the last state to join the US of A. Rolling hills of pineapple plantations, picture perfect waterfalls and - not so unexpectedly - breathtaking, untamed surf breaks. And that's just O'ahu - Hawaii's other islands offer even more opportunities to break free from the pack and explore a pretty unique part of the world.
So in the interest of whetting your appetite, here are the top 3 things I didn't know about Hawaii before I went...
1. There's more to Hawaii than beaches
The beaches are amazing (with the possible exception of Waikiki - I don't need such close proximity to my fellow man in a beach experience). And an important point to not is that they are all publicly accessible, even if they nudge up to a fancy resort or a gated community of some sort. But they are actually not the coolest natural occurring drawcard of the islands. There are plummeting cliffs, pristine forests, acres of marine parks (including the 360,000 km2 of reefs, atolls and deep sea of the protected Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which is an area larger than all of the national parks in the US combined), and there's something about impressive waves too... But the coolest natural attraction in Hawaii in my book is the volcanoes. Which brings me to number 2.
2. Hawaii is getting bigger all the time
That's right - while most sea-kissing places are worrying about losing land to climate change and rising oceans, Hawaii is actually adding to its land mass every day. And it's all thanks to Kīlauea, part of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, which has been erupting continuously since 1983 and is possibly the world's most active volcano. As the lava flows into the sea it solidifies and extends the coastline out bit by bit. Locals have been built shacks on the new rocky outcrops in a kind of modern day land rush. Combined with the spectacle of molten hot lava spewing into the sea, it makes for pretty interesting exploring! And exploring makes me hungry. And that leads me to point 3.
3. The food is actually pretty good
I was expecting lots of greasy burgers and sugar dipped doughnuts. But in actual fact, there is plenty of great food to be had in Hawaii. There are farmers' markets a plenty on these islands, with no shortage of tropical fruit and fresh veggies. Coffee plantations are proud of their brews and local vodka made with sugar cane and deep-ocean mineral water is there for the taking. Roadside trucks offer fruity smoothies, a mean shave ice, and some decent plate lunches. And then there are Hawaii's specialties - furikake chicken, malasada (Hawaiian-Portuguese doughnuts) and manju (sweet buns filled with coconut, sweet potato, and other good stuff). I'm back on a sun-soaked holiday just thinking about it!
So happy travels Aimee - and stay tuned for her hot tips and pics direct from Hawaii for 10 sun-filled days from Friday!