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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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Lanai Pine Sporting Clays and Archery Range, Lanai City, Lanai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Lanai guide
Editors' Pick
Lanai Surf School and Surf Safari, Lanai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Lanai guide
Editors' Pick
Maui Film Festival, Hawaii

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...more

see the Maui guide
Editors' Pick
Mauna Kea, Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii

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...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Merrie Monarch Festival, Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii

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,...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Mountain Biking, Haleakala National Park, Maui, 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...more

see the Maui guide
Editors' Pick
Munro Trail, Lanai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Lanai guide
Editors' Pick
North Shore Beaches, Kauai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Kauai guide
Editors' Pick
Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

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...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Pacific Tsunami Museum, Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii

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...more

see the Big Island 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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