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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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Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

King David Kalakaua built this palace in 1882, as a symbol to the world that Hawaiian royalty was as grand as any in Europe. Only two Hawaiian royals ever lived...more

see the Oahu guide
Editors' Pick
Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii

The world's largest collection of telescopes (13) on top of Hawaii's highest mountain, Mauna Kea, has long distinguished Hawaii as a mecca for astronomers. For...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Hulopoe Beach, Lanai, Hawaii

This perfect white-sand swath just west of Manele Bay has rocky tide pools and a marine preserve (on the beach's eastern side). Hulopoe is known for its clear,...more

see the Lanai guide
Editors' Pick
Horseback Riding, Lanai City, Lanai, Hawaii

This well-kept facility reflects the Hawaiian love of horses, which became central to the economy when they were introduced to Lanai in 1803. Located about half...more

see the Lanai guide
Editors' Pick
Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

This very centrally located museum has more than 50,000 works of art, including pieces from such masters as Picasso, Gauguin, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Rauschenberg,...more

see the Oahu guide
Editors' Pick
Hilo Hattie, Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii

All kitsch, all the time. Named after a 1930s entertainer and hula dancer, this emporium is one-stop shopping for Hawaiian music CDs, his and hers Hawaiian...more

see the Big Island guide
Editors' Pick
Hilo Coffee Mill, Mountain View, Big Island, Hawaii

This mill sits not in Hilo but on 24 verdant acres in the blink-and-you'll-miss-it town of Mountain View just south on Highway 11 (chances are you'll smell the...more

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

Although Oahu is heavily populated (it has 800,000 people, or 80 percent of the state population), much of it is still undeveloped, lovely, and crisscrossed by...more

see the Oahu 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
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
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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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