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Los Angeles, L.A. and City of Angels are all names for this sprawling Southern California megalopolis known for its glamour, its ethnic diversity and its dynamic energy. The largest city in the state of California and the second largest in the United States, Los Angeles is a relatively young city. In 1820, it was a bicultural community of just 650 American and Mexican residents. After the completion of the transcontinental railroads in the 1880s, it began to grow. The old ranches were subdivided; the symbol of the city became the suburban house, set amid the orange groves in a glorious land of sunshine. The real boom came with the mushrooming aeronautics business, and the film and television industries.
L.A.’s colourful melange of shopping malls, palm trees and swimming pools is at once bafflingly strange and startlingly familiar thanks to the celluloid self-image that has spread all over the world. Los Angeles is glitz and glamour, but also rich in artistic creativity as evident in its architecture, from Mission Revival and Art Deco to the latest in post-modern designs. You can see it in paintings and sculptures, and it can be experienced in the performing arts that extend well beyond the city’s international fame for film, television and recorded music. Add fine dining, iconic beaches and countless attractions, and you have found the appeal of this great destination.
Hilo on the Big Island’s east coast is Hawaii’s charming capital and its largest town. Frequent rainfall in the area around Hilo accounts for an abundance of tropical plants and has earned Hilo the nickname “City of Rainbows”.
Hawaii, which lends its name to the rest of the Aloha State, is called the “Big Island” because it is larger than the next three largest Hawaiian Islands combined. The island continues to grow due to the seemingly endless lava flowing from Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano.
More of “Old Hawaii” survives on the Big Island than on any of the others. All across the island one can find sleepy old towns, little changed for a century. This was the birthplace of King Kamehameha, and the base from which he ruled all of the Hawaiian Islands.
The second-largest island in the Hawaiian chain, Maui is known as the Valley Isle; it attracts roughly a third of all visitors to Hawaii. Located in the middle of the archipelago, Maui, perhaps more than any of the other islands, epitomises what most visitors have in mind when they picture a Hawaiian tropical paradise. With an abundance of golden beaches, lush valleys with sparkling waterfalls, dense rainforests and pristine seas, the Valley Isle is a perfect holiday destination.
Maui is home to a handful of farms and ranches, a dwindling number of sugar plantations, quaint historic towns and Hawaii’s best known dormant volcano, Haleakala, famed for its moon-like craters, towering cinder cones and austere landscape.
The small centre of Lahaina is filled with shops, restaurants and art galleries. On the ocean side of Front Street stands the landmark Banyan tree. It was planted in 1873 and reputedly is the largest of its kind in Hawaii. To the north of Lahaina lies the Kaanapali resort area, where luxury hotels line the sandy beach.
Nawiliwili Beach Park is a beach park and port on the south-east coast of the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.
Honolulu’s setting on the Pacific Ocean, backed by dramatic cliffs and the extinct volcanoes of Punchbowl and Diamond Head, is spectacular. Three-quarters of Hawaii’s population live on the island of Oahu and 80 percent of visitors to Hawaii arrive in Honolulu. Some remain here for their entire vacation; others use it as gateway to the other islands.
Until the arrival of Europeans, Honolulu was just a small, laid-back town. As more and more foreign ships arrived and used adjacent Pearl Harbour, King Kamehameha declared Honolulu the capital.
Kailua-Kona is a town on the west coast of Hawaii Island (the Big Island). Hulihee Palace is a former royal vacation home dating from 1838. Mokuaikaua Church, from the 1800s, is Hawaii’s oldest Christian church. On Kailua Bay, reconstructed thatched houses at Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark mark King Kamehameha I’s residence. Colorful coral lies off Kamakahonu Beach. Kailua Pier has boat moorings.
Think of French Polynesia and you are automatically transported to the white sands of Tahiti, the blue seas of Bora Bora or, at the very least, the iconic statues of Easter Island. Now, imagine a place that is home to that majestic trinity, but has no crowds and is full of island authenticity that is rare in these global times. You have just imagined Nuku Hiva. The island is the second largest after Tahiti in the archipelago, but is yet to be discovered by tourism.
Fakarava is oblong shaped and has an almost continuous string of reef and motu stretching for 40 km (25 mi) on its eastern edge. It’s the second largest of the Tuamotu atolls, located 450 km (280 mi) northeast of Tahiti, and 120 km (75 mi) southeast of Rangiroa. It’s renowned for the drift diving in its two passes—Garuae (also spelled Ngarue) in the north near the main town of Rotoava (and the airport) and Tamakohua Pass, 48 km (30 mi) across the lagoon in the south.
The tiny village of Tetamanu, situated by the southern pass, was once the capital of the Tuamotus and houses the first church built in the archipelago in 1874. In 2006 the entire atoll was deemed an UNESCO biosphere reserve; to preserve the lagoon no overwater bungalows have been built in it. Fakarava was “discovered” by Russian explorer Fabian Gottlieb Von Bellingshausen in 1820; some 20 years later missionaries arrived, in the guise of fanatical Catholic priest Honore Laval, and began building churches.
If you have ever dreamt up your ideal island holiday, we suspect it goes something like this: Soapy blue seas? Check. Sparkling white beaches? Check. Thatched wooden huts, gently sloping palm trees and kaleidoscopic marine life? Check, check and check. And yet, even by ticking every box, first time viewing of Bora Bora still beggars belief. This tropical hideaway less than 12 m2 in the heart of the South Pacific has been toping travel wish lists for years.
Long considered the realm of honeymooners – spectacularly romantic sunsets are a speciality – Bora Bora is not just for wandering with your love. If the prismatic shades of blue of the world’s most beautiful lagoon do not fill you up, then perhaps underwater scooters and aqua Safaris will charge your batteries. If exploring Bora Bora’s lush hinterland is more your glass of tequila sunrise, then trips around the island (often stopping off at the celebrity haunt Bloody Mary Restaurant & Bar) are a must. Bora Bora’s peaceful ambience has not always been the case. The island was a US supply base, known as “Operation Bobcat” during WWII. During this time, Bora Bora was home to nine ships, 20,000 tons of equipment and nearly 7,000 men. Eight massive 7-inch naval cannons were installed around the island, all but one of which is still in place. Although little is known of the history of the island, it is known that Bora Bora was called Vava’u in ancient times. This supports belief that the island was colonised by Tongans prior to French annex in 1888.
Formed by two ancient volcanoes and joined at the isthmus of Taravao, Tahiti is the largest island of the Society Archipelago and the economic heart of French Polynesia. Ever since the famous French impressionist painter Paul Gauguin immortalized Tahitian maidens in vibrant colors on his canvasses, Tahiti has had a mysterious allure and still summons up all the romance of the South Pacific as a tropical paradise.
Rising in the center, Mount Orohena and Mount Aorai are the highest points; deep valleys radiate in all directions from these central peaks. Steep slopes drop abruptly from the high plateaus to coastal plains. The northeast coast is rugged and rocky without a barrier reef, and thus exposed to intense, pounding surf. Villages lie on a narrow strip between mountains and ocean. The south coast is broad and gentle with large gardens and coconut groves; a barrier reef shields it from the sea.
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