is the third largest and most popular of the Hawaiian Islands
. Its name means "gathering place" and that's what visitors do.
You can gather along the Oahu strip, but as Sophie Monk discovered, just 30 minutes away is a magical place where you can swim with the locals.
How fitting that Sophie Monk could visit the rare Hawaiian monk seal. Named for its folds of skin that resemble a monk's cowl, the loners are critically endangered. Hawaiians call them "the dog that runs in rough water".
Sea Life Park
This is not your average animal park. It has reefs, lagoons, pools and theatres and is a marine refuge. A 30-minute dolphin show is performed at 12.30pm every day. It's in an ocean-side lagoon with private island. Adam Sandler serenaded Drew Barrymore there in the film 50 First Dates
There are three species of dolphins at the park: bottlenose, Pacific bottlenose and Atlantic bottlenose. Something you won't see anywhere else in the world is a "wholphin", a hybrid of a false killer whale and Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. Kekaimalu lost two babies, but a female, Kawili Kai, survived and just months after birth was the size of a year-old bottlenose.
Jeff Pawolski is curator of Sea Life Park. He told Sophie they pump in 83 million litres of sea water every day. The huge creatures have enormous appetites and lunchboxes are loaded, labelled and lined up, along with vitamin supplements. The park goes through around 500kg of fish every day. Older dolphins are given Hawaiian bottled water for extra hydration. Sea lions have daily eye drops administered.
Lucky Sophie got to swim with the dolphins, and even received a couple of wet kisses along the way. Just like people, the creatures have definite personalities and characteristics. There are the mischievous, the work horses and the loafers and those that love to try doing different things.
Dolphin swims involve two dolphins towing you through the water with their dorsal fins, and you can ride them standing on their tails. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Other attractions are feeding sea turtles, spending time with the penguin breeding colony and taking in the sea lion show in the aquarium.
Lotus Hotel at Diamond Head
This 50-room boutique hotel was inspired by the lotus blossom. Situated on the exclusive Gold Coast in Waikiki, it has Asian-inspired de;cor, private paths and the popular San Souci Beach. Beach chairs and towels are provided.
There are many excellent eating places nearby, as well as the 45-hectare Queen Kapiolani Park across the road. It's home to the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium and Waikiki Shell, an outdoor amphitheatre.
Waimanalo, half an hour's drive from Honolulu.
Sea Life Park entry is $31 for adults and $21 for children. Dolphin Swim costs $237 per person. They run for 45 minutes four times a day. The park is open every day between 10.30am and 5pm.
The Lotus at Diamond Head rooms start at around $150 a night. Rooms range between standard to penthouse suites.
Hawaiian Airlines has Aloha Fares to Honolulu:
- Sydney $1125
- Melbourne and Brisbane $1365
- Adelaide $1465
- Perth $1625
For sale until further notice and travel between November 1 to December 9, 2011.
Prices correct at March 31, 2011.
For further information
Ph: 1300 669 106
Sea Life Park
41-202 Kalanianaole Highway No.7
Waimanalo, Hawaii 96795
Phone: +1 808 259 2500
The Lotus at Diamond Head
2885 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96816
Ph: +1 808 545 3510
Oahu Visitors Bureau
Visas: Most Australians do not need a visa, providing they have a machine-readable passport with at least six months' validity after the departure day, have a round-trip non-refundable ticket and do not intend to stay longer than 90 days. Australians need to complete a pre-travel authorisation at www.cbp.gov/esta.
Electricity: 110V to 115V at 60Hz. Outlets take two parallel, flat prongs. Australian visitors will need a US adapter and converter.
Time zone: Hawaii is GMT -10.
Currency: The American dollar.
International dialling code: +1.
Related video: Sophie Monk's kinky Waikiki