Bye-bye Bali, aloha Hawaii

Go beyond Honolulu

As interest in Hawaii continues to grow, with more than 250,000 Australians and New Zealanders visiting in 2012 (a 33.9 per cent increase compared with 2011), travellers are venturing beyond popular Oahu and its main city of Honolulu to neighbouring islands.

Hawaii Tourism Oceania reports that travel to other islands in the archipelago increased by 20 per cent, with a 21 per cent increase to Kauai, 12 per cent to Maui and 24 per cent for Hawaii Island (Big Island). Visitation to the two smaller islands of Molokai and Lanai increased by 19 per cent and 24 per cent respectively, according to spokeswoman Janaya Birse.

"While visitors have traditionally started with visiting the gateway island of Oahu ... people are discovering that each island is its own unique destination," Birse says.

"Hawaii Island is where you will find all but two of the world's climate zones - generating everything from rainforests to volcanic deserts, snow-capped mountain tops to beautiful black-sand beaches.

Kauai, meanwhile, with only a small portion of the island accessible by land, is best seen by helicopter to see the cliffs of the Napali Coast and chasms of Waimea Canyon.

And while Bali may be a favourite for weddings, there's been a 56.7 per cent spike in couples getting married in Hawaii to 2856, up from 1800.

From Sydney, there are 15 flights a week to Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas or Jetstar; from Brisbane, Hawaiian Airlines flies three times a week; from Melbourne, Jetstar flies twice a week.



Saving Face

Inflight connection, if you feel the need, is now possible on Finnair flights, with passengers able to link their Facebook profile with the seat map on check-in.

Once the two steps are complete, passengers can see others who have done the same and where they are seated.

The Finnish airline says the social check-in service is optional and can be disabled at any time.

Dutch Airline KLM introduced a similar "meet and seat" program in 2012 where passengers, using Facebook and LinkedIn, can request to be seated next to others on flights to and from Amsterdam.


Thank you for the music

Abba may have split up three decades ago but fans have a new reason to visit Sweden's capital, with the opening of a museum dedicated to the pop group. Abba The Museum will be a permanent exhibition in the new Swedish Music Hall of Fame on Stockholm's island of Djurgarden, a five-minute walk from Skansen open-air museum and the Vasa Museum.

Some exhibits are from the ABBAWORLD exhibition that toured Budapest, London, Prague, Melbourne and Sydney between 2009 and 2011 and there are also new stage clothes, artefacts, concert footage and interviews.

For the Anni-Frid or Agnetha devotees there's finally a chance to be dancing queens, albeit in a digitally projected costume.


Take a peak

Mountaineers can pick from multiple ascents with World Expeditions' new trips led by four of the most experienced guides.

Simon Yates will lead the ascent of the remote Mount Blackburn, which, at 4996 metres, is the highest peak in Alaska's Wrangell St Elias Mountain Range (April 2014); Greg Mortimer and Tim Macartney-Snape will take turns leading a new expedition through the passes of the Karakoram Mountain Range of Pakistan, including the Choktoi and Hunza valleys (August 2013 and in 2014); Macartney-Snape will lead climbs of Kyajo Ri (6189 metres) and Pachermo (6187 metres) in the Khumbu region of Nepal, approached from the south (October 2013).

Soren Kruse-Ledet will also lead an expedition in Nepal to the summit of 7126-metre Mount Baruntse (September, 2013).

Aspiring mountaineers can meet Macartney-Snape at World Expedition offices in Brisbane on June 26, in Melbourne on July 31 and in Sydney on July 25.


The strum of us

The popularity of the Cairns Ukulele Festival continues to grow apace with more than 6000 attendees expected at the 2013 event.

The country's largest gathering of four-string-guitar fans - count American business magnate Warren Buffet and musician Pink among them - will this year include the Sweet Hollywaiians, a four-piece string band from Osaka with a love of Hawaiian, swing, ragtime, blues, calypso and Italian music.

Amateurs will be attempting to create a new world record for having the most ukulele players performing the same song at the same time and ukulele-makers from Hawaii will run a two-day instrument-making workshop.

On June 28-July 12.


Send news items to