Want to know where to find the best hotels, best restaurants and even the best mai tai in Hawaii? Hawaii Magazine's Readers Choice Awards features places locals like to eat, stay and play, creating an insider's guide for anyone planning a trip to Hawaii.
Maui was voted the best island in Hawai. Readers gave the Valley Isle glowing reviews, with one respondent saying it has "the best mix of quiet, natural scenery and crazy fun activities."
Lahaina, the former whaling center on Maui's west coast, was selected best city or town. Now a charming town full of galleries, inns and a wealth of restaurants, it's a fun diversion for folks staying at the beachfront resorts to the north and south. Much larger and touristy Honolulu/Waikiki came in second.
Oahu has plenty of luxury hotel choices, but for readers, the island's No. 1 is its grande dame, the Royal Hawaiian, which turned 90 last month.
Rounding out the island's top three are the Moana Surfrider and Turtle Bay Resort, located in an idyllic location along the North Shore, about an hour's drive from Honolulu.
The Royal Hawaiian also gets top honors in another category: best mai tai. While the drink apparently originated in California in the 1930s, the rum-based drink is widely associated with the islands. The magazine's readers prefer to sip theirs at the hotel's Mai Tai Bar.
Bartenders are happy to share the recipe too:
1 oz. Bacardi rum
1 tsp. cherry vanilla puree
½ oz. Amaretto di Saronno
½ oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Fresh Govinda orange huice
2 oz. Fresh Govinda pineapple juice
½ oz. Whaler's Dark Rum Float
Head to Kauai for the best park: Waimea Canyon State Park. With its towering red cliffs and tumbling waterfalls, it is sometimes called the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" and one of the top sights in the state.
Maui's Waianapanapa State Park, just off the Hana Highway, was the runner-up in this category.
While on Kauai, head to the Kalaheo area for a taste of the state's best coffee. In addition to selling its wares, Kauai Coffee offers free guided and self-guided tours of its plantation. The Kauai grower and roaster obviously gives better-known Kona brands a run for their money.
Cultural celebrations around Hawaii occur almost weekly, but readers preferred the annual Merrie Monarch Festival, which will be held in Hilo from April 16 to 22. The event honors King David Kalakaua, a 19th century monarch known for his love of the arts.
Choices of where to stay are even fewer on Molokai, where the charming Hotel Molokai was voted best hotel, an easy choice since it's the island's only hotel.
In addition to its stunning, and often empty, beaches, Molokai is also known for what many consider a shocking piece of history, the former leper colony at Kalaupapa. Despite its lovely setting, the town was built to isolate those with leprosy (now called Hansen's disease) from the world.
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