Waimea Canyon Kauai Hawaii

Who knows travel better than those who have dedicated their lives to it? In this series, 7travel talks travel & tips with industry experts. Learn the best travel tips, what mistakes not to make, and what destinations should be on your to-visit list.

Hawaii is one of those destinations where travellers return year after year without batting an eye. Paradise awaits on each of its islands. We spoke to Giselle Radulovic, Country Manager of Hawaii Tourism Oceania, to find out how visitors - repeat visitors and first-timers alike - can get the most out of a Hawaiian holiday, as well as best overall travel tips.

7travel: What are some of your favourite destinations around the world?

Radulovic: When I think about all the travel in my life - and there has been a lot, luckily - I realise that there is a common theme: I love holidays with a bit of adventure and a focus on nature and the outdoors. Some of my all-time favourite destinations have been Patagonia, the Galapagos Islands, and Antarctica. Last year I went to Uganda & Rwanda to see the mountain Gorillas, which has been on my bucket list for a long time.  At the same time, you can also have an adventure exploring a great city such as New York or Paris. Walking the streets and getting lost along the way is the best way - that’s when you’ll find that standout neighbourhood or restaurant that becomes one of your favourite memories.

That’s what I love about Hawaii. Waikiki has world class nightlife, shopping and dining, but just a short drive away you can find yourself off the beaten path on a quiet beach or in a state park walking in a tropical rainforest. You really get the best of both worlds.

Wild gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Uganda

7travel: What is it about Hawaii that keeps visitors returning year after year?

Radulovic: Hawaii is the kind of place that you can visit time and time again and still have things to do to tick off your list. In fact, the repeat visitation to Hawaii for Australians is about 48%. On Oahu alone, there’s so much to explore - you couldn’t possibly do it all in one trip.

Each of Hawaii's six islands offer totally different holiday experiences so if you haven’t ventured past O’ahu then visiting a neighbour island is a must.  There’s everything from volcanoes to rainforests, whale watching and, of course, amazing beaches to explore. There are numerous daily flights between Oahu and neighbour islands and these flights only take 25-40 minutes. I recommend that first-time visitors stay on Oahu first and then visit a neighbour island for a few days for a different perspective.

7travel: What are some of the lesser-known must-do activities that visitors can enjoy at world-famous Waikiki?

Radulovic: If you want to have an authentic local experience, take a very short drive from Waikiki to visit Honolulu’s neighbouring inner suburbs. One of my favourite areas is Kaka’ako, which is right near downtown Honolulu. My pick would be to visit SALT at Kaka’ako – a cultural precinct just 10 minutes away from Ala Moana made up of local boutiques, trendy restaurants and bars. Every year in February, the streets are transformed during the Pow Wow street art festival – the art created is incredible and stays for up for the year.

Street art Kakaako

7travel: When travelling to Hawaii, what are the pros and cons to having ‘touristy’ experiences?

Radulovic: For some travellers, the point of a holiday is to have someone else do the heavy lifting for you. And that’s the best part of ‘tourist’ experiences: a lot of thought has gone into planning to make these experiences really wonderful for tourists. For example if you take a whale watching tour on Maui, you will be looked after by experienced guides who know the best vantage points to see whales and have expert local knowledge and insights.

But, generally speaking, popular tourist attractions will be busy, so you need to plan ahead and book when necessary.  For some people, planning too much in advance takes away from the spontaneity they’re looking for in a holiday, they’d much rather just wake up in the morning and decide what to do that day.

7travel: What do you look for in a holiday?

Radulovic: I look for active holidays where I’m out and about, seeing things I’ve never seen before. But at the end of each trip, I also try to have some down time. Ideally, I’d end a holiday with 3-4 days staying at a lovely hotel or accommodation just to relax and unwind a bit more. For example, last year I spent a very intensive two weeks driving around Uganda, just myself and a tour guide. Lots of early starts and long days, and long treks to find the mountain Gorillas. At the end of the trip I flew home via Cape Town for 4 days to have a rest after my holiday! I stayed on the beach, and pampered myself with spa treatments and cocktails at the pool bar.

Woman sitting on tree stump

7travel: Finally, do you have any big packing tips or tricks that you can share with us?

Radulovic: There’s a school of thought that says you should roll your clothes. In fact, I was taught how to do it best by a friend who is an expert packer, so now that’s what I do. Rolling your clothes means you can use every little crevice in your suitcase and I would say it increases your packing space by about 30%.