WHEN you hear the word Hawaii, you think coconuts, frangipanis, ukuleles, grass skirts, pineapples and surfing.
But there is so much more to the 50th state of the US than meets the eye.
The country is rich in culture and history as well as being picturesque and diverse in activities.
Upon landing at Honolulu International Airport on the island of Oahu, I fell instantly in love.
I have never been welcomed by ground staff as warmly as I was there. The Hawaiian language is so beautiful and nothing beats being serenaded by a Hawaiian man in the native tongue.
There are six major islands to visit in Hawaii: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Hawaii's Big Island.
You'll find each island has its own distinct personality and offers its own adventures, activities and sights.
Mark Twain called Hawaii, "That peaceful land, that beautiful land... the climate, one long delicious summer day, and the good that die experience no change, for they but fall asleep in one heaven and wake up in another".
I spent just under a week on Oahu (with a couple of extra days on Maui), which gave me time to get around the whole island, as well as do some hiking, snorkelling, partying and lazing at the beach.
My decision to spend time on Oahu stemmed from my childhood, growing up watching Elvis Presley's Blue Hawaii and as a teen dreaming about being a famous surfer after watching Blue Crush.
Despite grand plans to learn to surf, my lack of co-ordination kept me from taking the plunge. For me, walking on uneven ground, such as sand, is challenging enough, so trying to stand up on a board in the ocean just seemed too dangerous.
The magical island of Oahu is also home to world-famous Waikiki beach, Pearl Harbor, the North Shore and the dramatic mountain views from the Nuuanu Pali Lookout.
Instead of surfing, I opted for snorkelling with turtles at the quaint beach of Haleiwa and hiking up the Diamond Head Summit Trail near Waikiki.
I have to admit being one of only four people swimming with wild turtles on Haleiwa beach was not only the highlight of my trip, but also one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
The trip around the island was only a few dollars, on public transport and took about five hours, plus stops at the major attractions along the way, popular beaches, quaint villages and the Dole pineapple plantation.
But the long bus ride went fast after meeting three guys from Germany and spending the day exploring with them.
Nothing beats travelling alone, with no plans. I love nothing more than meeting a stranger and tagging along with them or letting them join me on my adventures.
It is amazing how fast you become close to someone you meet while backpacking, you have to trust them whole-heartedly and embrace the entire experience.
The people you meet definitely make your holiday unforgettable and the Hawaiian Islands are teaming with like-minded people.
The best thing about these heavenly islands is you can do as little or as much as you like, and I have to admit for most of my holiday, I just lazed on the beach, soaking up the rays and drank Hawaiian punch in a cute little bar on the Waikiki strip.
Average temperature: 24˚-29˚ c
Capital city: Honolulu
Languages: English and Hawaiian
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