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Hawaii see + do

Is Hawaii the land of a million honeymoons, a billion postcards, a thousand travel clichés? It is, and for good reason: The beaches here are some of the most spectacular on earth, and their backdrop of green, mist-shrouded mountains is, for many people, the very image of paradise. Is Hawaii also overdeveloped and oversanitized? Yes, in parts, but seven million people a year wouldn't be making the trek if there was nothing unique to see and do in Hawaii.

Your choice of island is critical, and largely dependent on what kind of trip you want (although if all you want is a good beach, you can't go wrong). The Big Island alone has 10 of the world's 12 climatic zones, which should make possible a few firsts: your first time surfing and snowboarding in the same day, perhaps, or your first time seeing an active lava flow. However its sheer size means that getting between attractions will require a significant amount of driving. Oahu, home to 80 percent of the state's population, has a thriving art scene; the largest outdoor shopping mall in the United States; and nightclubs, sporting events, and museums. Not least, Oahu's north shore is home to the best surfing in the world. Maui is Hawaii's most popular island and probably its prettiest, a place where you can join a drumming circle at Makena Beach, and ten minutes later be shopping at Louis Vuitton in the Shops at Wailea. Kauai is still lazy and discoverable: You can drive around the whole island (well, the parts that are paved) in less than three hours, find a deserted beach, go mountain tubing, hike a canyon, or watch for whales along a coastline that stood in for Spielberg's Jurassic Park.

The smaller, lesser-known islands of Lanai and Molokai are worth considering. Lanai is dominated by the Four Seasons resorts but feels like a private getaway: Beach lovers can swim (sometimes with dolphins) and snorkel in the marine sanctuary of Hulopoe Bay, go horseback riding, and golf at two world-class courses with breathtaking views. Molokai, doable as a day trip from Maui, is barely touched by tourism, with no major hotels. It offers a glimpse into native Hawaiian people and culture, and has hiking, paddling, horseback riding, and more.

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Feast at Lele, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

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...more

see the Maui guide
Editors' Pick
Fishing on the Big Island, Hawaii

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....more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Garden of the Gods, Keahikawelo, Lanai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Lanai guide
Editors' Pick
Golfing on the Big Island, Hawaii

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...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Papaikou, Big Island, Hawaii

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...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii

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...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Helicopter Tours of Kauai, Kauai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Kauai guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Hiking the Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Kauai guide
Editors' Pick
Hiking on the Big Island, Big Island, Hawaii

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...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Hiking on Maui, Hawaii

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...more

see the Maui guide
Editors' Pick
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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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