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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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Studio Maui, Haiku, Maui, Hawaii

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,...more

see the Maui guide
Editors' Pick
Spa at Four Seasons Manele Bay, Lanai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Lanai guide
Editors' Pick
South, East, and West Shore Beaches, Kauai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Kauai guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Snorkeling on the Big Island, Hawaii

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...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Snorkeling in Maui, Hawaii

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...more

see the Maui guide
Editors' Pick
Shipwreck Beach, Lanai, Hawaii

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...more

see the Lanai guide
Editors' Pick
Shangri La Doris Duke Estate, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

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...more

see the Oahu guide
Editors' Pick
Parker Ranch Historic Home Tour, Waimea, Big Island, Hawaii

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...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
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
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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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