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What is the first thing you think of when you think of Hawaii? The foaming-white sea lapping at a golden-sand beach surrounded by palm trees swaying in the breeze? Well, sure – Hawaii's one of the world's ultimate beach destinations, an island paradise made for lying out in the sun sipping daiquiris or hitting the waves to surf some righteous tubes.

But what to do if you're one of those people who just can not stand beaches? (Scorching sunburn, salt in your hair and sand everywhere!) If you are a beach hater, do not dismiss Hawaii just yet: there is plenty to do on the Hawaiian islands where you will never have to step foot on sand.

Mauna Kea
This dormant volcano's peak is 4,205m (13,796ft) above sea level - the highest mountain in the state of Hawaii. If you measure from its base underneath the Pacific, though, it is 10,000m (33,000ft) tall - making it the tallest mountain on Earth. With such a clear vantage point, it is no wonder that its snowy summit is dotted with the greatest collection of astronomical telescopes in the world. The Onizuka Center here offers astronomy displays and nightly stargazing programs to the public. Experienced mountaineers can even hike 12 miles to the summit through an otherworldly landscape of volcanic cinder cones and ancient archaeological sites.

Hawai'i National Volcanoes Park
If you would prefer to see some live volcano action, head southeast to this unique national park, where Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, has been erupting continuously since 1983. Depending on conditions the day you visit you may even be able to see fresh molten lava flowing in to the sea (which is slowly but surely making the Big Island even bigger, year after year). But even if the volcano goddess Pele is not cooperating, there are still plenty of intriguing sights within the park's confines: hollowed-out lava tubes, steaming craters, tropical rainforest and old lava trails. Rangers offer guided walks and other activities at the visitors centre.

Upcountry Maui & Haleakala National Park
The volcanic soil and sloped pastures of Mt Haleakala have sustained much of Maui's farming and livestock for the past two centuries, and the paniolo (cowboy) vibe is still strong in towns like rustic Makawao. A drive through the plush pastures of the Kula region will take you past cattle ranches, vineyards with cellar-door sales, goat dairies and a huge lavender farm (with a cafe and gift shop offering lavender versions of just about any foodstuff or cosmetic product you can imagine - and even those you can't).

If you keep driving you can follow a tortuously winding road up the flank of Mt Haleakala itself, up 3,055m (10,023ft) to the summit, where you can explore the surreal, lunar-like landscape - home to unique flora such as the ten-year-blooming Haleakala silversword, which grows nowhere else on Earth - and stare down at clouds filling enormous volcanic craters below you. If you can get up early (or stay up late) enough, book in a tour to catch the sublime sight of sunrise from the peak; you can also have a van take you and a bicycle up to the top so you can ride - er, roll all the way down.

This colourful town was once the whaling capital of the Pacific, where ships would dock for supplies, sailors and shore leave. Today the dance halls, saloons and brothels that kept the whalers busy have been replaced by the best restaurants on Maui, art galleries that host free "art nights" every Friday, bars with live music from Irish traditional to jazz and, of course, souvenir shops (c'mon, it is Hawaii). Meanwhile, Lahaina's seafaring past is kept alive by the numerous whale-watching cruises that depart from its harbour.

Diamond Head
This extinct volcanic tuff cone stands guard over Waikiki and is O'ahu's signature backdrop. You can hike to the top in about an hour or less - a paved trail leads 1.3km (0.8 miles) all the way to the summit, which at 232m (760ft) affords some pretty awesome views of Waikiki.

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