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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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Surfing on Maui, Hawaii

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...more

see the Maui guide
Editors' Pick
Surfing on Oahu, Hawaii

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...more

see the Oahu guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

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

see the Kauai guide
Editors' Pick
Waipio Valley, Honokaa, Big Island, 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...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Waterfalls, Kauai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Kauai guide
Editors' Pick
Whale-Watching at Polihua Beach, Polihua Beach, Lanai, Hawaii

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,...more

see the Lanai guide
Editors' Pick
Windsurfing in Maui, Hawaii

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...more

see the Maui guide
Editors' Pick
Zipline Tour, Koloa, Kauai, 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,...more

see the Kauai 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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