Nothing says tropical paradise quite like an excursion to the Hawaiian Islands. The volcanic archipelago lost in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean stretches northwest from the Big Island of Hawaii in the south through Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai and Niihau, each with its own identity and topography. Eleven more reefs, islands and atolls comprise the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and are all uninhabited.
Get As Far Away As Possible, Really
Travel to Hawaii, the 50th state of the U.S.A., is the ultimate getaway. The island-chain situated 2300 miles from the mainland is the exposed top of an enormous undersea volcanic mountain range known as the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain and is commonly known as the most remote and isolated island outcropping on Earth.
Geographically, the islands are more subject to tropical weather, large waves and storms on the north/northeast side, know as the windward side. The leeward side of each island, to the southwest, is drier and thus home to the majority of resort towns. The incredible blend of Polynesian, Tahitian and European cultures makes for a dynamic adventure from the traditional luaus and serene Shinto shrines to the hippie-surfer culture abundant in the less touristy locales.
Kauai: A One-Stop Hawaiian Experience
The westerly island of Kauai is one of the lesser inhabited islands and claims many of Hawaiis most stunning natural features. The blend of a more prominent local population with the southern resort region and a priceless backdrop makes Kauai the ultimate escape within an escape.
The north shore offers world renowned surfing and windsurfing next to the wealthy community of Princetown. The dramatically plunging Na Pali Coast State Park in the northwest draws backpackers and nature lovers to its 11-mile Kalalau Trail, the only land access to this rugged and isolated coastline. Sea cliffs and lush valleys alternate along the route that ends at Kalalau Beach. Stone terrace walls and sacred burial grounds of Hawaiian tribes still dot the valleys, while there is a growing naturalist community tucked away at the end of the trail. The wettest place on earth, averaging 460 inches of rainfall per year, is near the peak of Kauais Mount Waialeale. From this point, plunging rivers have carved out the fantastic expanse of Waimea Canyon, coined The Grand Canyon of the Pacific by Mark Twain. The views are a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Resort or Adventure, Pick your Pleasure
Maui is the most popular resort destination in Hawaii. The lush island boasts the riveting and spectacular Hana Highway, which is more about the wondrous journey than the secluded destination, and Mount Haleakala, where a hike into the Haleakala Crater will land you in the center of the worlds largest dormant volcano. The Big Island of Hawaii is the youngest island and nearly entirely comprised of Mauna Loa, the largest shield volcano on Earth. Lounge and snorkel on the Kona side of the island or venture out across lava fields along the eastern coast.
As you can see the Hawaiian Islands offer something for just about any type of traveler.