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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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Akaka Falls, Honomu, Big Island, Hawaii

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...more

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

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...more

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

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...more

see the Oahu guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Big Island Beaches, Hawaii

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...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Challenge at Manele, Lanai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Lanai guide
Editors' Pick
Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

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...more

see the Oahu guide
Editors' Pick
Diving + Snorkeling on Oahu, Hawaii

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...more

see the Oahu guide
Editors' Pick
Diving in Maui, Hawaii

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...more

see the Maui guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Diving on the Big Island, Hawaii

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,...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Experience at Koele, Lanai City, Lanai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Lanai 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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