Ready for a workout with just enough risk to make things interesting? The Islands are your destination for adventures — paddling, hiking, biking, and surfing among them. One thing you can’t do is rock-climb; formations are too crumbly and unstable. Get ready to earn that umbrella drink at sunset.
Kayaking Nā Pali Coast, Kaua’i. Experience the majesty of this stunning shoreline of sheer cliffs and deep-cut valleys from the water. This once-in-a-lifetime adventure is a summer-only jaunt.
Haleakalā Downhill, Maui. Tour operators drive you and your rented bike literally into the clouds, then let you loose to pedal and coast, pedal and coast, down the long looping Haleakalā Highway. Don’t let them talk you into this unless you’ve ridden a bike in traffic recently.
Surfing. You can’t learn to surf in a day, but with the proper instruction, you’ll probably manage at least a ride or two — and the thrill is unforgettable. Upper body strength is a must. Beach boys offer quickie lessons; if you’re serious, look for a reputable surfing school with multiday training sessions.
The Underwater World
Hawai’i is heaven for snorkelers and divers. Nearly 600 species of tropical fish inhabit the colorful coral reefs and lava tubes. Incredible spots are easy to reach; picking which ones to try is a matter of time, expense, and personal preference. Snorkeling is easy. Equipment rentals and excursions are inexpensive, and even fraidy-cats, first-timers, and people with claustrophobia can handle the relatively simple skill set required.
Molokini, Maui. The tiny quarter-moon of Molokini, a half-sunken crater that forms a naturally sheltered bay, is a snorkeler’s dream. Sometimes too many snorkelers have the same dream — go in the early morning for the least human company.
Tables & Shark’s Cove, O’ahu. Snorkelers and divers in your group? Tables, a series of onshore reefs, offers safe paddling, while neighboring Shark’s Cove is the most popular cavern dive on the island. These are summer-only spots, however, as winter storms kick up that legendary North Shore surf.
Kealakekua Bay, the Big Island. Dramatic cliffs shelter this marine reserve, where spinner dolphins and tropical fish greet snorkelers and kayakers.
Cathedrals & Sergeant Major Reef, Lāna’i. If you want to avoid crowds, we’ve got one word for you: Lāna’i. Hulopoe Beach has safe and interesting snorkeling, while Cathedrals and Sergeant Major Reef are legendary for diving.
Hawaii’s resort hotels know how to pamper you. Their goal is to fulfill your every desire so completely that you never feel the need, or indeed the energy, to go off property.
Halekūlani Hotel, Oahu. What Waikiki’s venerable Halekūlani lacks in size, it more than makes up for in service. There is quite simply nothing that is too much to ask. Expect the exceptional in the signature restaurant, La Mer.
Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea Hotel, Maui. Dissolve your stress in the termé, a hydrotherapy circuit including baths from Roman to Japanese furo and Swiss-jet showers.
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, Big Island. If you really want to indulge yourself, rent a lagoon-side bungalow the size of a small house, complete with butler service.
Hyatt Regency Kauai, Kaua’i. This is another got-everything resort: it’s family- and honeymooner-friendly with large rooms and beautiful views (whale-watching from the balcony, no less). Its best feature, however, is the Anara Spa, where treatment rooms open onto private gardens.
Lying Back at the Beach
No one ever gets as much beach time in Hawai’i as they planned to, it seems, but it’s a problem of time, not beaches. Beaches of every size, color (even green), and description line the state’s many shorelines. They have different strengths: some are great for sitting but not so great for swimming; some offer beach-park amenities like lifeguards and showers, whereas others are more private and isolated. Read up before you head out.
Kailua & Lanikai Beaches, O’ahu. Popular see-and-be-seen spots, these slim, white-sand beaches draw sunbathers, walkers, swimmers, and kayakers to Oahu’s Windward shores.
Mākena (Big & Little) Beach, Maui. Big Beach is just that — its wide expanse and impressive length can swallow up a lot of folks, so it never feels crowded. Little Beach, over the hill, is where the nude sunbathers hang out.
Hāpuna Beach, Big Island. This wide white-sand beach has it all: space, parking, and, in summer when waters are calm, swimming, snorkeling, and bodysurfing.
Po’ipū Beach Park, Kaua’i. Kauai has more beautiful and more isolated beaches, but, if you’re looking to sunbathe, swim, picnic, and people-watch, this one is right up there.
Hulopo’e Beach, Lānai. The protected half-circle of white sand fronting the Mānele Resort offers grassy areas for picnicking, clear waters for snorkeling and swimming, and tide pools for exploring.