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Hawaii See And Do

Akaka Falls
End of Akaka Falls Road (off Highway 19)
Honomu , Hawaii
96718
Tel: 808 974 6200

Akaka Falls, 420 feet high, is one of several spectacular waterfalls along the Hamakua coast of the island. It's the easiest one to get to, and the trip there has a little bonus—you'll have to pass Honomu, a tiny-but-sweet country plantation town.

Beaches on Maui

Makena State Park: Big Beach, a ten-minute drive from the resorts at Wailea, is an uncrowded, undeveloped half-mile-long sugar-sand expanse. It's popular with families, despite a monster shore break (getting in the water can be dangerous) and a dearth of public facilities (just portable toilets for the desperate). If you're not toting tykes, hike over the cliff on the west end to clothing-optional Little Beach. Upwards of 500 revelers take part in a free rave there every Sunday at sunset, complete with drum circles, jam sessions, and wild dancing.

Kamaole Parks I, II, + III: Million-dollar homes, condo complexes, parking lots, and public facilities cheapen the natural splendor of these golden beaches, but sandy bottoms, gentle waves, and lifeguards still draw in the swimmers. This trifecta is also conveniently located directly off the highway. Should you get stuck in the South Kihei Road rush-hour crawl (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) don't fight it—just turn off, park, and watch the sunset.

Kaanapali Beach: Maui's signature beach, this three-mile stretch of clean white sand provides ample room for sunbathers from the nearby megaresorts and locals who triumphed over the severely limited public parking situation. Dig Me Beach, in front of the Whalers Village mini mall, is the place to show off your Gucci bikini or ripped bod. Pu'u Keka'a (Black Rock), in front of the Sheraton Maui, is the safest swimming spot and is also good for snorkeling.

Kanaha Beach Park: You can be in the ocean within minutes of arriving on the island (Kanaha is located behind the rental car pickup lots at the Kahului airport). There's a narrow stretch for sunning, a sectioned-off area for swimming, and for entertainment watch the windsurfers and kite boarders in action. Kanaha has a decent surf break, but it's about 150 yards from shore, so don't attempt it unless you're a very confident swimmer.

Hamoa Beach: About three miles southwest of Hana, there's a respectable surf break, snorkeling, and plenty of room to lay out or get a game of beach volleyball going. There's swimming as well, but there are no lifeguards and you'll find wicked currents outside of the bay. The lounge chairs and waitstaff are exclusively for guests of the nearby Hotel Hana-Maui, so bring your own drinks and snacks. As with all Maui beaches, do your very best to leave no trace of your stay behind.

Beaches on Oahu

The most famous beach on Oahu (and possibly in the world), Honolulu's Waikiki Beach lives up to the hype. Though the sections in front of major hotels can get crowded, the scene—a mix of local bathing beauties, Japanese surfers, and pink-roasted visitors—is endlessly entertaining. The surf breaks are far from shore, so there's plenty of gentle water for swimming. And the options for pre- and post-beach drinks, dining, and shopping are numerous. Also in Honolulu, Ala Moana Beach Park's wide stretch of sand, protected swimming area, and ample parking draw families with young children and coolers.

Body-boarders dominate at Sandy Beach, on Oahu's southeastern coast (locals call it "Sandys"), where the pounding shore break makes for gnarly rides. Beginners or casual boogie-boarders should definitely find another spot; reportedly, more injuries occur here than at Pipeline. The beach and adjacent lawn are plenty spacious enough for spectators, though (as well as the occasional landing hang glider). Bring a beach umbrella: There's almost no shade here.

Idyllic, half-mile-long Lanikai Beach, in Kailua, fronts a suburb of multimillion-dollar homes on the shore. Though it's the island's prettiest beach, you'll have to park on the road and walk between the houses to get to it. This is completely kosher—all beaches are public in Hawaii—but there are no facilities of any kind.

The North Shore's Sunset Beach, clearly visible from Kamehameha Highway, has a split personality. Between May and September, it's a family-friendly sunning and swimming beach with a bit of rough shore break; but in October/November and March/April, it morphs into a premier surf spot with killer waves. During these hairy periods, the surf has been known to sweep unattended towels, beach bags, and even beach-walking tourists out to sea.

At the very end of the road on Oahu's west coast, legendary Yokohama Bay is well worth the drive. Its remoteness keeps the crowds away; the only people you'll likely see here are west-side locals. These residents get a bit of a bad rap for being unfriendly, but if you're respectful you won't have any problems with them. Do, however, keep an eye out for strong currents and undertow when you're swimming or boarding.

Hotel Photo
Big Island Beaches
www.gohawaii.com/big_island/learn/kona_coast

Glorious white-sand beaches are not common on the Big Island, but Hapuna Beach is so perfect, it's unlikely you'll want to go anywhere else. Predictably crowded on weekends and holidays, it's at its best in the early morning, which is quiet and stunning. There's very little opportunity for shade, so plan accordingly (and bring your own snacks).

Black-sand Punaluu Beach, on the undeveloped Puna side of the island, is crowded with sunbathers—of the reptilian kind. You'll find one of the largest concentrations of green sea turtles here, and very few groups of people—the swimming conditions aren't great. (Note: Getting within seven feet of the still-endangered species can result in a fine of up to $10,000.) Parking lot robberies have been an issue, so be sure to lock your car.

Kiholo Bay isn't so much a beach as a Blue Lagoon–style paradise—a cool, shallow, brackish inlet populated by turtles and tame fish. Look for a gravel road turnoff from Highway 19 on the Kona side of the island between mile markers 82 and 83. If you don't have a 4WD vehicle, drive (slowly) as far as you can toward the shore, park, and walk south the rest of the way. Don't be surprised if you're the only one here—it's quite a find.

You've seen white, golden, black, maybe even pink—but a green-sand beach? Large deposits of a mineral called olivine have created this beautiful alien waterfront at Papakolea "Green Sands" Beach. Check ocean conditions before you make the trek (about a two-and-a-half-mile hike from the Kaulana boat launch parking lot near South Point, the southernmost point of the United States). If the surf is high and rough, not only will there be no exposed sand, but you'll be in danger of being swept out to sea.

The state recently paved the road to two, still relatively untouristed, local beaches: Kua Bay, on the Kohala Coast, north of the Four Seasons Resort and across from the veterans' cemetery, and "69 Beach" in Puako (the proper name of this spot is Waialea Beach, but the telephone pole that marks it is No. 69).

Many beaches on the Big Island lack public facilities so always bring your own supplies and be diligent about picking up after yourself: With the exception of Hapuna Beach, which is near a resort, the island's beaches are pristine and should stay that way.

Hotel Photo
Challenge at Manele
1 Challenge Drive
Lanai , Hawaii
96763
Tel: 808 565 2222
www.gohawaii.com/stories/stories.html?video=6

The Pacific Ocean is your water hazard on this dazzling Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course. Try not to be distracted as you work your way through: Like the Experience at Koele, the Challenge at Manele has a dramatic signature hole, its 12th, which overlooks a 150-foot cliff drop to Hulopoe Bay and the pounding surf below. Guests of the Hotel Lanai, Lodge at Koele, and Manele Bay receive a discount on greens fees.

Contemporary Museum
2411 Makiki Heights Drive
Honolulu , Hawaii
Tel: 808 526 1322
www.tcmhi.org

Hidden away in the tony suburb of Makiki, the Contemporary has an impressive collection of lesser-known works by modern-art masters. There are paintings by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Motherwell, and Richard Diebenkorn; sculpture by Deborah Butterfield; photography by William Wegman; and glasswork by Dale Chihuly. The café on the grounds is a lovely, serene place to lunch, and children are welcome to play among the outdoor installations in the garden.

Diving + Snorkeling on Oahu

The diving isn't as spectacular around Oahu as it is off Hawaii's outer islands (the deep water isn't quite as clear here). But there are some terrific plane-wreck dives, including the sunken Beechcraft plane off Waianae, and the Corsair crash site off Hawaii Kai, where garden eels "sprout" from their holes in the ocean floor. For trips to these sites, as well as shore dives off the North Shore, contact Oahu Dive Center, the largest and most reputable operator on the island (808-263-7333; www.oahudivecenter.com).

Good snorkeling can be had off almost every Oahu beach; in particular, Sharks Cove and Kuilima Cove on the North Shore are great during the summer, when the water is calm (no worries—you're unlikely to see sharks). The best snorkeling spot by far, though, is Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, a placid cove where the tropical fish have led protected lives since 1967. They're consequently tame as puppies, and swarm around snorkelers in hopes of getting a snack (feeding the fish isn't allowed, though obviously someone is doing it). It can be a little alarming to have hundreds of fish swooping in at you—and even nibbling at you—but they're harmless, and once you get used to it, it's actually pretty fun. There's a beautiful beach at Hanauma where you're welcome to spend the day, although you'll need to pay parking and entry fees (both under $5), and watch a short conservation film before you're allowed to walk down to the sand. The food at the sole snack stand is good but pricey (808-396-4229; www.co.honolulu.hi.us/parks/facility/hanaumabay).

Diving in Maui

Diving wannabes take note: Maui's waters are warm, clear, teeming with sea life, and calm (at least on the island's south side). In other words, this an ideal place to get certified (it takes less than one week). Better yet, the abundance of dive shops has driven the price of certification down to about $300. Maui Dreams Dive Co. has a solid reputation for safety and environmental awareness. For the certified, it's hard to argue with 25 years of experience diving on Maui—not that Mike Severns likes to brag. He and his team lead dives to all of the main areas of interest: Molokini, Makena, La Perouse Bay, the Kanaio coast, and the St. Anthony wreck.

Hotel Photo
Diving on the Big Island
www.gohawaii.com/big_island/learn/kona_coast

The west side of the Big Island—one of the most popular dive destinations in the state—is nearly ideal for underwater exploration: The water is warm, calm, and clear, and there is little wind. Two long-established outfits among the dozen or so dive operators are Aloha Dive Company and Dive Makai Charters. Both have high safety standards, respect the ocean environment, and are straightforward about the day's conditions: Some days you have your pick of dive spots; on others, they'll decide which is the clearest and safest for you. Private day charters are available, as are night dives with manta rays. The latter is hardly an exclusive deal—some nights, it feels like every other diver on the island is out with you—but the manta rays are quite exquisite and very playful.

Hotel Photo
Experience at Koele
Keomuku Highway
Lanai , Hawaii
96763
Tel: 808 565 4653
www.gohawaii.com/stories/stories.html?video=6

Cool up-country surroundings have influenced the design of the Lodge at Koele's championship golf course, the Experience at Koele. Created by Greg Norman and Ted Robinson, the 163-acre, 18-hole course is lush with wildflowers, banyans, and pines, with terraced water hazards and steep valley gorges. Prepare for a whammy of a 17th hole, which leads to an extraordinary 200-foot drop into Lanai's deepest ravine. Guests of the Hotel Lanai, Lodge at Koele and Manele Bay receive a discount on greens fees.

Feast at Lele
505 Front Street
Lahaina , Hawaii
96761
Tel: 866 244 5353 (toll free)
Tel: 808 667 5353
www.feastatlele.com

Maui's most upscale luau unfolds on the beachfront at Lahaina (Lele is the historical name). No stale buffet food here; couples and groups sit at individual tables with their own waiter who serves four courses from the Polynesian diaspora prepared by chef James McDonald (executive chef at Pacifico'o). The food corresponds with four dance performances from Hawaii, Tahiti, Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Samoa. It's a lovely evening, with the waves lapping gently at the sand, the Hollywood lighting, the authentic flavors of the food, and performances with short breaks in between so you can stroll the beach. However, the set menu can't be altered and younger kids might get a little restless, so should probably be left with a sitter back at the hotel. Endless cocktails on the luau menu are included in the ticket price ($110 per person), but top shelf liquor, wines or other cocktails are extra.

Fishing on the Big Island
Kona Sea Sports
78–607 Ihilani Place
Kailua-Kona , Hawaii
96740
Tel: 808 937 6944 (day)
Tel: 808 322 3955 (evening)
www.konaseasports.com

From May to October, big-game tournaments, with prize money totaling up to $1,000,000, inspire an atmosphere as competitive as the World Poker Championship. Newbies who want a taste of the hunt for monster-size marlin, wahoo, mahimahi, and tuna can charter a boat (they're easy to come by, thanks to the high density of sportfishers who live here year-round). Otherwise, the friendly folks at Kona Sea Sports offer sportfishing tours, in addition to snorkeling, diving, and swimming with dolphins. They practice "catch and release" for the big billfish (unless the fish are severely injured), but any fish you catch under 50 pounds is yours to keep. Booking two weeks in advance is recommended.

Garden of the Gods
Keahikawelo , Hawaii
96763

Nothing much grows in Keahikawelo (translated from Hawaiian as "Garden of the Gods"), a desert expanse of red, lavender, and brown dirt. But the spooky Martian barrenness makes a dramatic backdrop for volcanic rock pinnacles shaped by hundreds of years of wind erosion to resemble a rough-hewn tiki. You can walk between the formations, which are scattered around as if placed by a divine force, but be aware that this area is very isolated, and there's no shelter. Use common sense and bring lots of water. To get here, head northwest on Polihua Road from Lanai City. It's only about six miles, but the trip takes 25 minutes because the road is so bumpy, and if there's been rain, it will be muddy. Ask when you rent your jeep if anything is off-limits that day. Go slow for the sake of your kidneys, and look out for vehicles heading in the opposite direction. On the way, you'll drive through the Kanepuu Conservation Area, a native dry-land forest that's home to the endangered Hawaiian gardenia. There's a small sign by the side of the road to mark the beginning of a short self-guided trail. Afterward, you can hike or drive another four miles to two-mile-long, white-sand Polihua Beach, or Kaena Point, an ancient Hawaiian religious site located about a mile southwest of Polihua.

Golfing on the Big Island

With more than a dozen world-class courses, the Big Island is Hawaii's premier golf destination, known for tricky shoreline holes (the classic shot over water and lava field onto the green), challenging winds, and rolling hills. Greens fees for the Kohala courses are akin to highway robbery, although guests pay less when they play where they're staying. Playing is much more affordable on the more modest Waimea, Volcano, and Hilo courses. Due to the blazing sun, it's best to tee off in the morning, but golfers who can stand the heat can take advantage of discounted greens fees after 3 pm.

Damage sustained during a 2007 earthquake closed the Kohala Coast's Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and its 1964 Robert Trent Jones, Sr., golf course (the standard of excellence in these parts), but there are still many more to choose from. In Kailua-Kona, the Jack Nicklaus–designed course at the Hualalai Golf Club is relatively protected from the wind and is one of the most player-friendly courses on the island (open only to Four Seasons guests). The ocean- and lava field–views from the popular, well-maintained Mauna Lani Francis H. I'i Brown South Course in Waimea may distract you from your game. The Waikoloa Kings Course is tough, with many lava obstacles, but also stunning 360 degree views. Close to Kohala, the Waimea Country Club is affordable, and generally cooler temperatures mean you can play all day; as long as mist, fog, and rain don't cut your outing short. At 40,000 feet above sea level, the Volcano Golf & Country Club can be chilly and sometimes wet; unlike at most other courses, afternoon rounds are favored over morning play and there's very little wind. Locals are the usual foursomes at the small, nine-hole Hamakua Country Club—it's casual, great for beginners, and since Hilo is one of the rainiest places in the state, the course is always lush.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
27–717 Old Mamalahoa Highway
Papaikou , Hawaii
96781
Tel: 808 964 5233
www.htbg.com

Located eight miles north of Hilo at Onomea Bay, this lush garden is composed of easy-to-navigate nature trails running through a rain forest of rare and endangered flora. Beautiful and buggy—be sure to bring deet.

Open daily 9 am to 5 pm; last entry at 4 pm.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Highway 11
Hawaii
96718
Tel: 808 985 6000
www.nps.gov/havo

Note: Due to an eruption that began on March 5, 2011, Chain of Craters Road, all east rift and coastal trails, and the Kulanaokuaiki Campground have been closed until further notice. See the National Park Service Web site for the latest info.

If you had to have one defining reason to go to the Big Island, the erupting Kilauea caldera would be it (lava-spewing Puu Oo crater went on a brief sabbatical in 2007, leaving Kilauea dry for the first time in more than 20 years, but the dry spell was short-lived). Nearly two million people visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park each year. Looking at the lines of cars parked on the Chain of Craters Road and people hiking in while carrying gifts, you'd think aliens had landed; most of these pilgrims bring water, cameras, and offerings to the volcano goddess, Pele (be mindful not to litter in the park). You can't get as close as you could in past years, but it's still so hot you may feel as if you're dinner walking on the grill. Get situated before sunset to see the molten lava fingers glowing red down the hillsides and flowing into the sea. Over half of the park is designated an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site and is great for hiking. Camping is allowed, and there's Volcano House, a very decent restaurant and hotel inside the grounds (Crater Rim Dr.; 808-967-7321; www.volcanohousehotel.com). Driving and hiking will get you close to the active flow, but only a helicopter can transport you directly over the crater for a look in. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is the island's most established operation and absolutely worth the money. If you're prone to motion sickness, take precautions before boarding the aircraft for the 50-minute "Circle of Fire" and waterfall tour.

Next to the Kilauea Visitor Center, the Volcano Art Center gallery is run by a nonprofit organization and holds workshops, classes, special events, and local art exhibits (Crater Rim Dr.; Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano; 866-967-7565; www.volcanoartcenter.org).

Helicopter Tours of Kauai

Kauai is a place where filmmakers come for the scenery: Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blue Hawaii, and South Pacific were all filmed here. And there's no better way to appreciate the beauty than by helicopter, which can get you to places that are impossible to reach by car or on foot, including the crater of Mount Waialeale, a massive, Edenic green gorge surrounded by walls of weeping waterfalls—one of the most beautiful places on earth. Most island outfits run similar circuits around the island, but Blue Hawaiian Helicopters (800-745-2583 [toll-free] or 808-871-8844) and Heli USA Airways (866-936-1234 [toll-free] or 808-826-6591) both have EcoStars, a chopper that's more environmentally friendly than most. Island Helicopters now has exclusive rights to land at the Jurassic Park waterfall—you can get out and walk around for 25 minutes as long as you don't mind wearing shoe booties to protect the native plant species (800-829-5999 [toll-free] or 808-245-8558). But the most unique offering comes from Niihau Helicopters, which offers tours of the "Forbidden Island" of Niihau, a privately owned island located off Kauai's west coast (877-441-3500 [toll-free] or 808-338-1234).—Updated by Cathay Che

Hotel Photo
Hiking the Kalalau Trail
Trailhead at Kee Beach
End of Highway 560
Na Pali Coast , Hawaii
96766
www.gohawaii.com/stories/stories.html?video=18

Since the only way to access the breathtaking Na Pali Coast is from its waters, which are choppy most of the year, the next best thing is seeing it on foot from high above the ocean. The Kalalau Trail affords you that option, but this hike is no walk in the park. The stunning vistas, the natural beauty of the local flora and fauna, and the opportunity to cross riverbeds (and get your feet wet and dirty) is well worth the sweat as you trek uphill. Bring plenty of water—the sun is strong on the bluffs—and a camera. Even the most jaded globetrotter will be unable to resist these postcard-worthy photo opportunities.

Hiking on the Big Island

Well-marked and challenging trails crisscross Volcanoes National Park (you'll get a map upon entering), including the popular hikes down and across Kilauea Iki Trail, to Napau Trail, along Byron Ledge and the daylong Crater Rim Trail (808-985-6000; www.nps.gov/havo). Lightweights and families can try the 15-minute trek along the Malama Trail, just north of the Mauna Lani resort, to see Hawaiian petroglyphs. For the really hardy, the steep walk down and even more exhausting hike back up the Waipio Valley is worthwhile—it's a sacred spot to Hawaiians.

Hiking on Maui

Maui's network of hiking trails, beaten paths and otherwise, suit trekkers at all fitness levels: Our favorites include the six-mile Lahaina Pali Trail (near touristy Lahaina), which ends at Papalua Beach, and the strenuous nine-mile Kaupo Trail, which leads up Haleakala to Kaupo Gap (the site of free raves when the moon is full). The centrally located Iao Valley State Park has some easy paved trails that will barely make you break a sweat—except from mosquito-swatting (apply repellent liberally). Most people come to gawk at the Iao Needle, a phallic stone of Kanaloa, Hawaiian god of the ocean, and take a dip in the natural pools. See www.hawaiitrails.org for more hiking information.

Hiking on Oahu

Although Oahu is heavily populated (it has 800,000 people, or 80 percent of the state population), much of it is still undeveloped, lovely, and crisscrossed by safe, well-marked hiking trails. Of course, most tourists do the obvious hike up the 760-foot Diamond Head. The 1.4-mile, round-trip trek takes about 90 minutes and is pretty challenging for the average person, especially on a hot day, but the sweeping view of Waikiki is unbeatable. The trail starts at a clearly marked parking lot off Diamond Head Road; there are no facilities.

At Waimea Valley on the North Shore, hikes range from an easy meander through tropical gardens to a steep, .75-mile-long hike to a 40-foot waterfall. (You can swim at the falls when the water's high enough.) The valley is protected by Audubon Society gatekeepers, so you'll pay entry and parking fees to get in (Audubon Center, 808-638-9199; waimea.audubon.org). For other suggested hikes, check out the helpful Oahu hiking website www.backyardoahu.com.

Hilo Coffee Mill
17–995 Volcano Highway (Highway 11)
Mountain View , Hawaii
96771
Tel: Tel: 866 982 5551 (toll-free)
Tel: 808 968 1333
www.hilocoffeemill.com

This mill sits not in Hilo but on 24 verdant acres in the blink-and-you'll-miss-it town of Mountain View just south on Highway 11 (chances are you'll smell the place before you see it). Green coffee beans from family farms throughout the state are processed here in small batches, packaged on-site, and distributed to many of the island's best restaurants. Stop into the café to power up for an outing to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (the mill is on the way) and get a quick tour of the entire process, or just purchase some bags of beans to take home.

Open Mondays through Fridays 7 am to 4 pm, Saturdays 8 am to 4 pm.

Hilo Hattie
111 E. Puainako Street
Building G
Hilo , Hawaii
96720
Tel: 808 961 3077
www.hilohattie.com

All kitsch, all the time. Named after a 1930s entertainer and hula dancer, this emporium is one-stop shopping for Hawaiian music CDs, his and hers Hawaiian shirts, tiki home decor, Hello Kitty Hawaii, even mini ukuleles. And free coffee and shell leis when you walk in the door. Check the Web site for additional locations.

Open daily 8:30 am to 6 pm.

Honolulu Academy of Arts
900 S. Beretania Street
Honolulu , Hawaii
Tel: 808 532 8700
info@honoluluacademy.org
www.honoluluacademy.org

This very centrally located museum has more than 50,000 works of art, including pieces from such masters as Picasso, Gauguin, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Rauschenberg, and Noguchi. It also offers studio art classes for both adults and children, and hosts events throughout the year. Themed ARTafterDARK parties, held the last Friday of every month, attract Honolulu's equivalent of young society: people in their twenties to forties looking to network and connect.

Closed Mondays.

Horseback Riding
Stables at Four Seasons Resort Lanai, Lodge at Koele
1 Keomoku Highway
Lanai City , Hawaii
96763
Tel: 808 565 4555

This well-kept facility reflects the Hawaiian love of horses, which became central to the economy when they were introduced to Lanai in 1803. Located about half a mile from the Lodge, the stable offers trail rides for every level of experience. The Koele trail is good for beginners, while the Paniolo Trail and the Mahana Trail are more challenging. All meander to areas off the main road that are difficult to access otherwise. Expect to see lots of deer, native plants, and birds; untouched land; hidden valleys; and, if you continue to the shore, stretches of coast not accessible to many. Sunset trail rides and "Sweetheart" romance trail rides just for two are among the more creative options. Note that children must be at least nine years of age and four-foot-six to ride, and no person weighing over 225 pounds is allowed on a horse.

Hulopoe Beach
Manele Road
Lanai , Hawaii
96763

This perfect white-sand swath just west of Manele Bay has rocky tide pools and a marine preserve (on the beach's eastern side). Hulopoe is known for its clear, aquamarine waters and exceptional snorkeling and swimming. Thanks to the island's relative isolation and a small human population, Lanai's coral reefs are thriving with parrot fish, sea stars, Barber pole shrimp, and limpets; spinner dolphins and humpback whales have also been known to make guest appearances. On calm days, you can spend all day snorkeling. When there's a swell, check out the small pods of talented local surfers tackling the wickedly challenging shorebreak.

Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii
600 Imiloa Place
Hilo , Hawaii
96720
Tel: 808 969 9700
www.imiloahawaii.org

The world's largest collection of telescopes (13) on top of Hawaii's highest mountain, Mauna Kea, has long distinguished Hawaii as a mecca for astronomers. For the rest of us, the Imiloa Astronomy Center at the University of Hawaii's Science and Technology Park in Hilo strives to make a powerful connection between the expertise of the indigenous Hawaiians who navigated by the stars and advancements in the field today. Visitors begin with a planetarium show called Mauna Kea: Between Earth and Sky, which raises as many questions as it answers about the origin of the universe, then walk through interactive displays. Kids under 5 won't get much out of the place, but it is a good rainy-day activity, and in Hilo, those days come frequently. The café (open to the public) has a growing local following and is a good place to grab a quick, tasty lunch.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 9 am to 4 pm.

Iolani Palace
Corner of King and Richard streets
Honolulu , Hawaii
Tel: 808 522 0832
info@iolanipalace.org
www.iolanipalace.org

King David Kalakaua built this palace in 1882, as a symbol to the world that Hawaiian royalty was as grand as any in Europe. Only two Hawaiian royals ever lived here, though: Kalakaua, who was childless, and his sister, Queen Liliuokalani, who succeeded him only to be overthrown and put under house arrest in 1895. Today, the well-preserved structure, filled with period furniture, royal portraits, and a showcase of the Hawaiian crown jewels, gives a glimpse into the state's majestic (and tragic) past.

Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Ironman Triathlon
Kohala Coast , Hawaii
www.ironman.com

Every year in October, the Kohala Coast hosts the awe-inspiring Ironman Triathlon world championship: a 2.4-mile ocean swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride through a lava field, followed by a 26.2-mile run—all executed in one day under the blazing sun. (Spectators should be aware that there isn't much sun cover on the sidelines either.) For a week before and a week after the event, the quiet coast bustles with camera crews and some of the most hard-core athletes you'll ever meet. And not just energetic twentysomethings—there are triathletes who compete through their 60s. After the event, the whole bay-front strip of Alii Drive turns into an Ironman after-party.

Kahua Ranch
59–564 Kohala Mountain Road
Waimea , Hawaii
96743
Tel: 808 882 4646
info@kahuaranch.com
www.kahuaranch.com

In addition to raising grass-fed livestock that you've probably already eaten in a nice restaurant on the West Coast, Kahua Ranch—8,500 acres on the northern end of the island—operates a renewable-energy enterprise, ATV tours, and its own retail store, where it sells everything from ranch wear to beef and lamb chops. The ATV tours are nothing to write home about, but it's worth stopping by to get schooled by a paniolo (Hawaiian for cowboy).

Open Mondays through Saturdays; by appointment only.

Lanai Pine Sporting Clays and Archery Range
Four Seasons Resort Lanai, Lodge at Koele
1 Keomoku Highway
Lanai City , Hawaii
96763
Tel: 808 565 4060

Even if you don't hunt (or more specifically, would never hunt), you can have fun on this unexpected outing without compromising your ethics. First-timers are sternly instructed on safety guidelines, fitted with lightweight shotguns (to minimize recoil), and given lessons as they proceed with an instructor through the 14 shooting-range stations in this 200-acre pine-wooded valley. The targets are disks, still called "clays" though they're now made of compressed fertilizer that seems to keep the area trees very happy. There are archery and air-rifle ranges, too, on what is now the grandest facility of its kind in the state. Ask the staff which celebrities have visited (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Selleck, for example), and who sucked—they'll tell you.

Lanai Surf School and Surf Safari
428 Lanai Avenue
Lanai , Hawaii
96763
www.lanaisurfsafari.com

Big secret revealed: There's good surf on Lanai and hardly anyone around to take advantage of it (though admittedly, it's not easy to get to). Unless you're a badass who surfs Pipeline every winter, you should book a four-hour surf safari in a four-by-four with this husband-and-wife team. Affable Nick Palumbo was raised on Lanai (so you'll get the local perspective on the best spots for your level), and his wife, Alex, specializes in teaching women and girls. It's a reputable outfit—all the instructors have at least 15 years of surfing experience and are CPR-, first aid–, and Hawaii-lifeguard–certified. Lanai Surf School is also the choice of the Four Seasons. Surfboard and gear rentals are available.

Maui Film Festival
Hawaii
Tel: 808 572 3456
www.mauifilmfestival.com

Maui is crawling with boldfaced names, but during the week of the annual Maui Film Festival in mid-June, it's just ridiculous. The festival shows a good number of quality indie films (though a few mediocre big-budget films have been known to slip in as well), and it's a good time for anyone with $10 to buy a ticket (tickets to private parties and events are extra). Best of all, some screenings are held under the stars on the green of the Wailea Golf Club. The MFF also runs a popular weekly series of movies at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, along with a series of academy screenings the public can attend during the holiday season (www.mauiarts.org).

Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea Access Road (off Highway 200)
Hilo , Hawaii
96720
Tel: 808 961 2180
www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis/

Mauna Kea, 14,000 feet above sea level, is the highest peak on the island. It's an all-day affair to drive up there, and definitely worth it if there's snow (for the novelty value). But the air is thin—you may suffer from altitude sickness—and you should bring your own supplies. The summit of Mauna Kea is recognized as one of the world's best places to observe stars, so about a dozen of the finest telescopes are situated here, along with some of the world's best astronomers. Most of these facilities are for experts only, but there are free tours on Saturday and Sunday, and the visitors center hosts a stargazing program nightly from 6 to 10 pm.

Open daily 9 am to 10 pm.

Merrie Monarch Festival
Edith Kanakaole Multipurpose Stadium
350 Kalanikoa Street
Hilo , Hawaii
96720
Tel: 808 935 9168
www.merriemonarchfestival.org

Held the week after Easter in Hilo, this is the showcase and competition for the best and the brightest stars of the hula dance world. It's traditional, authentic, intense Hawaiian hula with strong chanting and rhythmic drumbeats. Amazing to behold, the guardians of Hawaiiana and many in the Hawaiian community attend in all their finery, but that means there's not a lot of room for tourists. Also broadcast on local television.

Held Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings the week after Easter.

Mountain Biking
Haleakala National Park , Hawaii

Imagine riding 30 miles from the 10,000-foot summit of a dormant volcano. Steeply downhill. On a bike. Sounds awesome—and it is—but this excursion isn't for everyone. To catch the sunrise at the top of Haleakala, you need to leave your resort as early as 2 am. Temperatures at the top dip below freezing, and it very well might rain on the way down, so riders must wear a helmet with a face shield and full rain gear—typically, a bright yellow slicker and pants. It's not much of a workout (except for the hand you use to squeeze the brake), but you share a road with vehicles, so there are some risks. Maui Downhill takes safety seriously and has an excellent track record (808-871-2155; www.mauidownhill.com). Afterwards, even the heavily bandaged say it's one of the best things they've ever done: Magnificent 360-degree views of Maui and beyond, a crash course in volcanic geology, and the opportunity to pass through multiple climatic zones, all before breakfast.

Munro Trail
Follow the signs from Cemetery Road, past the Lodge at Koele
Lanai , Hawaii
96763

Hike along the high ridge to Lanaihale summit, and you'll be rewarded. At 3,370 feet, it's the only place in the state where you can see six Hawaiian islands at once: Lanai, Maui, Kahoolawe, Molokai, Oahu, and the Big Island. You'll wend your way through dense rain forests full of eucalyptus and pine, that open up to vast panoramas of canyons and ocean. Mountain bikers and four-wheel-drive vehicles can also access this dirt trail, named after New Zealand naturalist George Munro, who planted the ubiquitous Cook Island pines to create a watershed for Lanai.

North Shore Beaches

Anini Beach: Protected by the longest reef in Hawaii, this sweet spot is generally safe for swimming and snorkeling, and is one of the few places on the island to windsurf and kitesurf. Since water depths range from four feet to 100 feet, it is also a popular place to shore dive. Turn off Highway 56 between mile markers 25 and 26 onto Kahili Wai Road, then veer toward the ocean onto Anini Road, which ends at the beach.

Hanalei Bay and Beach Park: This long crescent of sand is great for a beach walk or run, and is an immensely popular place to socialize with Hanalei's attractive locals. It's swimmable in calm conditions, but when big swells roll in, advanced surfers and boogie boarders from around the state provide quite a show. Between mile markers four and five on Highway 56, turn toward the ocean on Weke Road.

Lumahai Beach: One of the most romantic yet dangerous spots on the island, Lumahai Beach was immortalized in South Pacific as the place where Mitzi Gaynor washed that man right out of her hair. That makes this wide swath of sand a great place for a photo op as well as for sunbathing or a picnic, but it's rarely swimmable. There is no lifeguard on duty, and the cove is not protected by a reef, so currents are fast and furious. You'll find it on Highway 560, near the town of Hanalei, between mile markers five and six.

Kee Beach, Haena State Park: Literally at the end of Highway 560 (just past mile marker 10) is one of the most visited beaches on the island. Swimmers enjoy the protected lagoon; snorkelers and divers come for the wealth of tropical fish just beyond the reef; and hikers catch the beginning of the Kalalau Trail on the western end. For your safety, do not venture past the lagoon if the waves are washing over the reef, and avoid the vicious sucking current at the reef opening on the western end.

Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm
734460 Queen Kaahumanu Highway
Kailua-Kona , Hawaii
96740
Tel: 808 329 6640
www.seahorse.com

Hold and feed a live sea horse! An exciting prospect at any age, and the one-hour tour of this sustainable sea horse farm is well worth the price tag. Located in the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii complex, the farm provides sea horses for the majority of the world's aquariums, since wild sea horses often die when stolen from the ocean and put into the tank. That's not a problem with these sea horses, bred in captivity and so tame that at one point on the tour you're able to stick your hand into the water and have a little sea horse curl its tail around your finger. The $30 tour ($20 for children) also includes a natural snack of fresh kelp and a ton of pretty convincing information about why we should all take better care of our planet's oceans.—Cathay Che

Pacific Tsunami Museum
130 Kamehameha Avenue
Hilo , Hawaii
96720
Tel: 808 935 0926
www.tsunami.org

In Hawaii, tsunamis, more than any other natural disaster, have been responsible for killing the most people. From 1900 to 1964, small tidal waves hit Hilo every seven years. A 1946 tsunami destroyed beachfront neighborhoods, flooded downtown, changed the coastal landscape, and killed about 159 people. This museum stands as a memorial and a source of information to demystify the big-wave phenomenon.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 9 am to 4 pm.

Parker Ranch Historic Home Tour
67–1435 Mamalahoa Highway
Waimea , Hawaii
96743
Tel: 808 885 2313
Tel: 808 885 5433
visitor@parkerranch.com
www.parkerranch.com

Founded in 1847, Parker Ranch is one of the oldest and largest privately owned ranches in the United States. Because a drive through Waimea affords views of the lands, an official tour may seem redundant; but it's worth a stop for an ATV tour, horseback riding, hunting, and the often overlooked but delightful Parker Ranch Historic Home Tour. The home tour includes a brief history of John Palmer Parker, who befriended King Kamehameha, married a Hawaiian princess and built the ranch, and a walk through the family's original wood cabin, Mana Hana. In a radical jump from past to present, the tour also includes a walk through the Puuopelu estate of Richard Parker Smart, last descendant to live on the ranch (until the late '80s). A Broadway actor before resettling on the Big Island, Parker Smart collected Impressionist art while traveling abroad and amassed one of the most impressive private collections in the state.

Shangri La Doris Duke Estate
4055 Papu Circle
Honolulu , Hawaii
Tel: 808 734 1941
www.shangrilahawaii.org

Though many rich and famous types have made Hawaii their hideaway, few of them have opened their spectacular compounds to the public. Fortunately, gawkers can get their fix by touring Doris Duke's opulent 1937 estate at Black Point. Three tours are made of the property every day (up to a dozen people per tour, operated by the Honolulu Academy of Arts, 866-385-3849). Some of the rooms are off-limits, but visitors will get to see Duke's extraordinary collection of Islamic art. Roughly 3,500 pieces of furniture, tile, and ceramics, some dating back as far as 1500 B.C., decorate the estate. See the website for an excellent virtual preview.

Closed Sundays through Tuesdays, and the month of September.

Shipwreck Beach
Northeast end of Highway 44
Lanai , Hawaii
96763

Another four-wheel-drive destination, this eight-mile rocky lava beach is located down a long series of scenic switchbacks on Lanai's northeastern shore. The rusted concrete hull of the 1940s Liberty ship comes into view about halfway down the descent, as does the island of Molokai, a few miles across Kalohi Channel. Due to the unpredictability of these waters, the shallow coral reef just offshore has become the watery grave of several seagoing vessels since the 1800s. From the beach, you'll find trails to old lighthouse ruins and ancient rock petroglyphs.

Snorkeling in Maui

Snorkeling is the most democratic of all water activities—you don't need expensive equipment or certification, to be in good shape, or even to be able to swim (although it sure helps). Most resort beaches have a spot where you can spy on colorful coral, fish, and turtles. But the really special underwater life can be seen at Molokini Crater, located between the islands of Maui and Kahoolawe. Kai Kanani, which leaves from the Maui Prince Hotel in Makena, stands out from the crowd of outfitters because of its location. Makena is much closer to Molokini than Maalaea—where most other boat tours launch—so you can get to the crater in just 20 minutes.

Hotel Photo
Snorkeling on the Big Island
www.gohawaii.com/big_island/learn/kona_coast

There are many, many spots with incredible visibility—up to 100 feet—along the west side of the island (even right off the Mauna Lani and Mauna Kea resorts). There are also two incredible swimming and snorkeling spots on the southeast side. The first, Champagne Pond, is a calm ocean cove heated by the volcano. The water is also slightly effervescent, but that doesn't seem to bother the abundant fish and turtles. It's accessed from a dirt road off Highway 132 (heading toward Kapoho from Hilo); a four-wheel-drive vehicle is a must. At Kapoho "Wai Opae" Tide Pools, a collection of spring-fed brackish pools, beginners will feel safe and even the most jaded snorkelers will be impressed by the coral and fish. To reach it, drive to Kapoho at the end of Highway 132, then south on Highway 137 to Kapoho Kai Road.

South, East, and West Shore Beaches

Kalapaki Beach: Fronting the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club and Duke's Canoe Club Kauai restaurant (3610 Rice St.; 808-246-9599; www.dukeskauai.com), this southeastern shore beach attracts both locals and tourists, who sunbathe on the ample sand or swim and boogie board in the partially protected bay. The gentle rolling waves and sandy bottom make it the most popular spot on the island to learn to surf. The Anchor Cove shopping center is also here, along with tour operators for surfboard and kayak rentals, or sailboat and catamaran cruises. Take Rice Street off Highway 50 at the zero mile marker in Lihue.

Poipu Beach Park: This southern shore beach park is divided by a sandbar (technically called a tombolo). Swimming to the left of the sandy divide is semiprotected and almost always safe, while the right side is good for snorkeling in calm conditions. Take Highway 50 to Highway 520 toward the ocean and turn left onto Poipu Beach Road. You can't really get lost on the way here, just confused: This shoreline has one lovely beach after another, as well as a row of familiar hotels like the Sheraton Kauai (2440 Hoonani Rd.; 808-742-1661; www.sheraton-kauai.com) and the Grand Hyatt.

Polihale Beach Park: At the end of Highway 50, continue along the dirt road about five miles until you reach this shockingly secluded, 300-foot-wide beach surrounded by sand dunes that stop short at the beginning of the Na Pali Coast on the western shore. Bring your own shade, snacks, and plenty of water (it gets hot on the west side of the island). And since there are no lifeguards, do not swim here—the swells can get big enough to shake the beach, and the undertow is unforgiving.

Spa at Four Seasons Manele Bay
Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay
1 Manele Bay Road
Lanai , Hawaii
96763
Tel: 808 565 2088
www.fourseasons.com/manelebay/spa.html

Spa culture is huge in Hawaii—perhaps because there are so many native traditions and botanicals to draw upon—and an expected part of a five-star hotel experience. But until a 10,000-square-foot facility opens at the Lodge at Koele in 2009, the pressure is on this small but decadent 11-room spa, the only one on Lanai. It's (expectedly) tough to snag an appointment in high season for an aromatic Ali'i banana-coconut scrub, a Ki Pola Ko'olu (cooling ti-leaf wrap) with lavender-infused aloe vera gel, a Limu (Hawaiian seaweed) wrap, or a Lomi Lomi massage. (Make your reservation when you book your room.) If they can't squeeze you in, arrange a private after-hours spa party for up to eight people, which includes a 50-minute treatment for each person, followed by pupus served in the relaxation area.

Studio Maui
810 Haiku Road
Haiku , Hawaii
96708
Tel: 808 575 9390
www.thestudiomaui.com

Eighteen-dollar yoga classes have come to Maui, and you'll have to fight for yoga mat space with at least 20 other detoxifying souls for the privilege. Still, there's something about the island that makes you want to be healthier, and the people here (a beautiful toned crowd of windsurfers, Internet millionaires, and organic farmers) will inspire you. Studio Maui also offers an impressive menu of other classes—from Pilates to tribal belly dancing—in its beautiful, modern warehouse space.

Surfing on the Big Island

Contrary to popular belief, there's good surfing on the Big Island, mostly along the west side, from Kawaihae to Captain Cook. The problem is that the breaks aren't easy to access. Two (often crowded) exceptions to this rule are Banyans, clearly visible from Kona's Alii Drive (just south of the Kona Bali Kai Hotel), and Honolii, visible from Highway 19 about five minutes outside of Hilo (turn into the Alae Point community and drive down toward the water). Highly skilled wave riders should seek out Pine Trees, on the Kona side of the island, off Highway 19: Take the dirt road near mile marker 94 (you'll need a truck or 4WD) to the Natural Energy Lab, then follow the dirt road off the parking lot for about a mile until you see the break—there actually aren't any pine trees to mark the spot. Visitors should bring drinks and snacks to share with the territorial locals. New to surfing? Kahaluu Beach Park in Kona is one of the best spots for beginners and surf lessons.

If surfing seems intimidating, you may want to try your foot at stand-up paddling—a.k.a. paddle surfing—which involves balancing on an oversize surfboard and propelling yourself with a single paddle. It's all the rage because it has a much quicker learning curve, which makes it a lot more fun, too: You will not only stand up on your first day, but if you're in reasonable shape, you can expect to master it within an hour. It's easiest if the ocean is flat, and it becomes more challenging when you attempt to catch waves. To get started, take a lesson with trusted Kona Boys, located in Kailua town on the Kona side of the island.—Cathay Che

Surfing on Kauai

Although Oahu's north shore is the undisputed epicenter of Hawaiian surf culture, insiders will tell you that some of the best surf—for intermediate and advanced riders—is on Kauai's wild west side at Waimea State Park or Polihale Beach. Newbies should opt for the mellower south side of the island. The Margo Oberg Surf School, run by a seven-time world champion, has been teaching novices since the 1970s and has enthusiastic teachers who guarantee you'll get up on your board. Classes are held three to four times per day; it's best to sign up at least two days in advance (Poipu Beach, Koloa; 808-332-6100; www.surfonkauai.com). If surfing seems intimidating, you might want to try your foot at paddle surfing—balancing on an oversize surfboard while propelling yourself with a single paddle, similar to kayaking. It's all the rage now because it has a much quicker learning curve than traditional surfing: You'll not only stand up on your first day, but if you're in reasonable shape, you can expect to master it within an hour. Paddle surfing is much easier if the ocean is flat and gets more challenging when you attempt to catch waves. To get started, take a lesson with Hawaiian Surfing Adventures in Hanalei Bay (808-482-0749; www.hawaiiansurfingadventures.com).

Surfing on Maui

Maui has several forgiving breaks that are visible from Route 30 (around Lahaina), including those at Launiupoko Beach Park and Puamana Beach Park. Beginners on the south side should tackle the gentle baby break at Sugar Cove on South Kihei Road. Both novices and advanced riders can enhance their performance and ocean safety by investing in at least one day of surf lessons. Hunky twins Tide and Kiva Rivers, known as surf instructors to the stars (Adrien Brody, Zach Braff, Jake Gyllenhaal), have been riding Maui's waves since they were toddlers and can introduce experienced surfers to Maui's less obvious spots (Rivers to the Sea; 808-280-8795; www.riverstothesea.com). Goofy Foot Surf School is one of the best outfits on the island for group lessons. Owner Tim Sherer and his instructors are ambassadors for the sport, and their enthusiasm is contagious (505 Front St.; 808-244-9283; www.goofyfootsurfschool.com).

The north shore's unifying event is Jaws, a 60- to 100-foot monster swell that only breaks about six times per year, between November and January. Hundreds of spectators crowd the cliffs of a remote pineapple field to watch daring experts, such as Maui resident Laird Hamilton, ride the waves. The bellmen at your resort will know if the surf's up and can tell you where to go: The viewing spot is off an unmarked road in Haiku, so you'll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle and very specific directions to find it. Otherwise, head to Hookipa Beach Park or Honolua Bay, where there's usually a show.

If surfing seems intimidating, you may want to try your foot at stand-up paddling—a.k.a. paddle surfing—which involves balancing on an oversize surfboard and propelling yourself with a single paddle. It's all the rage on Maui because it has a much quicker learning curve, which makes it a lot more fun, too: You will not only stand up on your first day, but if you're in reasonable shape, you can expect to master it within an hour. It's easiest if the ocean is flat, and gets more challenging when you attempt to catch waves. To get started, take a lesson with Maria Souza, Laird Hamilton's ex-wife (808-579-9231; www.standuppaddlesurfschool.com).

Surfing on Oahu

If Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing, then Oahu is its capital. The North Shore is famous worldwide for the much-photographed, super-advanced break known as Pipeline, the multiple breaks at Sunset Beach, and the big waves of Waimea Bay. Between October and May, the crowds at these spots double, as surfers from all over the world (and tour buses full of spectators) make their pilgrimages. The Vans Triple Crown—the Super Bowl of surfing—is held in Oahu every year between late November and early December (www.triplecrownofsurfing.com).

Waikiki Beach was once surfed only by Hawaiian royals, but today it's often crowded. Still, the gentle waves are ideal for beginners. Legendary Hawaiian surfer Dane Kealoha started his own surf school at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki in 2008 and offers some of the best private lessons in town (808-924-3263; www.hyattsurfacademy.com). Top-notch lessons for younger kids (as well as adults) are given by surf-loving off-duty firemen of the Honolulu-based Hawaiian Fire Surf School. They take students out to an empty break on the west side of Oahu, where there are no witnesses to embarrassing first-time wipeouts (808-737-3473; www.hawaiianfire.com).

Rentals are readily available all over the island, but if you want to purchase a board, Country Feeling Surfboards is a good bet. To bring that natural, easy "country feeling" back to riding the waves, surfers Jeff Bushman and Kyle Bernhardt shape their surfboards out of environmentally friendly materials. They substitute soy- and sugar-based products for polyurethane foam, and use sun-cured resins and deck inlays made from hemp, organic cotton, silk, or bamboo. Even better, their boards are actually affordable (they start at $625). Order a custom model via their Web site at least three weeks before your trip, and you can pick it up on Oahu's North Shore when you arrive (808-638-7192; www.countryfeelingsurfboards.com).

If surfing seems intimidating, you may want to try your foot at stand-up paddling—a.k.a. paddle surfing—which involves balancing on an oversize surfboard and propelling yourself with a single paddle. It's all the rage because it has a much quicker learning curve, which makes it a lot more fun, too: You will not only stand up on your first day, but if you're in reasonable shape, you can expect to master it within an hour. It's easiest if the ocean is flat and gets more challenging when you attempt to catch waves. To get started, take a lesson at the Nancy Emerson School of Surfing (808-244-7873; www.mauisurfclinics.com).

Hotel Photo
Waimea Canyon
Kokee Road (Highway. 552 off of Highway 50)
Kauai , Hawaii
www.gohawaii.com/stories/stories.html?video=18

A drive through Waimea Canyon—nicknamed "the Grand Canyon of the Pacific"—is an ideal way to start off the day: Morning offers the best views of the more-than-3,400-foot plunge, and it's also a good idea to avoid the heat of the afternoon. You can drive through and stop along the road to take in the magnificent views, or park your car and hike down any number of trails. Stop by the Kokee Natural History Museum to get a little background on the Kokee area, and pick up a map before you set out on foot (808-335-9975; www.kokee.org/natural-history-museum).

Waipio Valley
Old Government Road (off Highway 240)
Honokaa , Hawaii

This hidden valley can be viewed from an outlook near Honokaa when driving along the Hamakua coastline, but if you want to see the idyllic, untouched wonder up close, the road down is pitched at a ridiculously steep 45-degree angle. Even with a four-wheel drive, you'll be better off in the hands of professionals. Try the Waipio Valley Wagon Tours held at 10:30, 12:30, and 2:30 Mondays through Saturdays, September through April; Mondays through Fridays May through August (45–3625 Mamane St.; 808-775-9518; www.waipiovalleywagontours.com). Don't even think about walking it unless you're training for the Ironman Triathlon—your knees will be totally blown out by the time you get to the bottom, and then how in the world will you get back up?

Waterfalls

Kauai's waterfalls vary greatly in their degree of accessibility, but they're all beautiful. Helicopter tours provide the easiest viewing of the grandest inland falls, but you can't feel the spray on your face or swim in the cool mountain pools. (A note about that though: Each year between 50 and 100 people in Hawaii are diagnosed with leptospirosis, caused by bacteria found in mountain freshwater. Don't swim if you have open cuts, and avoid drinking untreated water.) Recent rainfall will affect the appearance of most waterfalls, but the best time to get that postcard-perfect shot is early morning.

Hanakapiai Falls: If you're tough enough to attempt the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, and you have the required camping permit, you can see these dramatic falls—a 100-foot sheer drop down a black lava rock wall. It's located two miles from Hanakapiai Beach, itself two miles from Kee Beach. Reward yourself by swimming in the freshwater pool, but beware of slippery surfaces on the way in and falling rocks directly under the falls.

Opaekaa Falls: Since these 150-foot falls are not accessible by river or trail (after two deaths in 2006, the state prohibited hiking there), you won't feel like a wimp taking your pictures at the crowded lookout. Unlike many waterfalls on the island that are dependent on rainwater, these lacy falls are North Wailua River runoff, so you can count on a rushing flow year-round. The name Opaekaa ("rolling shrimp") refers to the crustaceans tumbling in the turbulent waters at the base of the falls. To reach the lookout, take Highway 56 to Kuamoo Road at mile marker six and drive one and a half miles.

Wailua Falls: These 80-foot falls are easily accessible for viewing and photography (no hiking required). If they look familiar, you're dating yourself—the opening scene of 1970s kitsch-fest Fantasy Island was filmed here. The brave can attempt the extremely slippery tral down to the bottom of the falls and take a dip; hiking behind the falls is not recommended. In ancient times, warriors would leap from the top of the falls to prove their bravery, but unless you are a professional cliff diver and your camera crew and team of paramedics are standing by, don't attempt it. Take Highway 56 north to Maalo Road and drive to the end of the road.

Whale-Watching at Polihua Beach
Polihua Beach , Hawaii
96763

This secluded north shore beach got its name, Polihua (Hawaiian for "egg nest"), from the many sea turtles that once laid eggs on its shores. These days, humpback whales are the predominant animals sighted here during the seasonal migration (December to April). You'll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get to the beach, which is a tooth-rattling 12 miles down a rocky dirt road that begins near the Lodge at Koele. Bring lots of water and sunscreen, as there are no beach facilities. Strong currents make the water treacherous for swimmers, but it's a great spot for collecting puka shells and other beach treasures.

Windsurfing in Maui

The surf on Maui is good, but the wind is better and more consistent—making the island one of the world's premier windsurfing spots. Windsurfing does require a lot of upper-body strength, but it's more accessible to the average person than surfing and you'll certainly spend less time waiting and more time standing up. Instruction from Alan Cadiz's HST Windsurfing and Kitesurfing School, the most established on the island, will get you started. Kanaha Beach Park, where HST conducts lessons, is good for beginners, while Hookipa Beach Park is good for advanced wave riders. Novices can go out as early as 9 a.m., but more experienced windsurfers have to wait till 11 a.m. because they share the breaks with paddle (regular) surfers—lifeguards can tell the difference and enforce this rule.

Zipline Tour
Koloa , Hawaii

Inspired by the zip lines he saw in the rain forests of Costa Rica, Rick Haviland came home to Hawaii and installed his own zip line in the pastoral Kipu Ranch, enabling guests to harness up and sail 50 feet above the ground. The launch pad is a Swiss Family Robinson–style tree house in a huge banyan. From there you take off and soar past waterfalls and over the river until you reach a huge mango tree on the other side, then return toward the landing pad. Haviland's company, Outfitters Kauai, also leads kayaking, biking, and hiking trips all over the island. His favorite: the Kipu Falls Safari, which combines kayaking, zip line, rope swings, swimming, lunch, and a hayride (Poipu Plaza, 2827 Poipu Road, Koloa; 888-742-9887; www.outfitterskauai.com).

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.