Hawaii is a chain of more than 100 volcanic islands, but most tourists spend their time on the three largest: Hawaii, home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and often called the Big Island; Maui, to the west, with 80 golden beaches; and Oahu, farther west, home to Honolulu and world-famous Waikiki Beach. Most overseas flights land in Honolulu. Regional flights are the best way to travel from island to island.
For romantic vacations in Hawaii, head to Maui, where 120 miles of shoreline, 80 beaches and dozens of cozy B&B inns create a grown-up tropical retreat. Spend the day sunbathing and swimming at Kapalua Beach, its strand fringed with palms and its waters calm and refreshing. Drive to the top of Mount Haleakala to share an unforgettable sunrise and the opportunity to be kissed 10,000 feet above sea level. Sunset views are naturally best on the western coast—just choose a restaurant with a terrace and relax over mai tais. Seaside hotels guarantee a quiet evening, with the sound of the surf lulling you to sleep.
Each of Hawaii’s islands claim picture-perfect beaches, but none is more famous that Oahu’s Waikiki Beach. Book a hotel on Hawaii’s famous strand and make the short walk to the water for sunbathing, swimming or surfing lessons. Visit Oahu’s North Shore beaches, like Pipeline, to watch some of the finest surfers in the world. Maui’s Kaanapali Beach is one of the island’s best, with four miles of golden sand, first-rate snorkeling at Black Rock, and ample beach hotels and outdoor cafés. The Big Island’s beaches are few but unusual: Punaluu, a black-sand beach; Green Sands Beach near Ka Lae; and Anaehoomalu Bay’s salt-and-pepper beach.
Wisps of steam rise as glowing molten lava bubbles up at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Drive through the charred, otherworldly landscape created by Mount Kilauea at Hawaii’s most popular park, located on The Big Island. On Maui, Haleakala National Park is home to the world’s largest dormant volcano. It takes two hours to drive to the summit, but the sweeping views from 10,000 feet reward the trip.
Learn about King Kamehameha in the regal halls of Honolulu’s Iolani Palace, America’s only imperial residence. Vibrant grass skirts and pounding drums mesmerize visitors at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu’s North Shore, where native island customs come alive through music, dance and authentic luau feasts. For 20th-century history head to the USS Arizona Memorial, where displays recount the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the Second World War.