How to choose a Hawaiian island
Kauai: Best for beaches, hiking, food
The Northern bubble - With the closest traffic light 20 miles away, the North Shore is home to many who came to check in and stayed to tune out. Surfing, hiking and a contagious laid-back vibe perpetuate the North Shore life.
Sunny Po'ipu - The most consistently sunny area on the island, Po'ipu is like a tropical version of sleep-away camp. Smiles abound on the South Shore as most days offer activities galore.
Canyons and cliffs - The rugged terrain on the Garden Island ranges from gaping chasms to sheer coastal cliffs, balanced out by copious verdant flora and topped by the wettest spot on Earth shrouded in cloud. As dramatic as any landscape on the planet, it is exemplary of Mother Earth's highest potential for land creation.
Island hopping itineraries
Island hopping is a great way to get more of a taste of the islands, but make sure you budget enough time to relax between your flights. Here are two recommended multi-island itineraries:
Maui, Lanai and Molokai (two weeks)
If you have time, money and want culture, outdoor adventure and peaceful relaxation in equal measure, combine a trip to Maui, Molokai and Lanai - half the time, you will not even need to drive. This trip is for lovers, culture vultures and anyone happy to spend a little more for plush lodgings and gourmet eats. But you also have to be willing to rough it once in a while, when the rewards - hidden waterfalls, epic sea cliffs - make it worthwhile.
First, spend five to six days in Maui. Make it easy on yourself: get a hotel room or a condo for the duration at Ka'anapali or Kapalua. Immerse yourself in Lahaina's whaling history and browse Kaanapali's Whalers Village Museum, enjoy some old-school aloha at the Old Lahaina Luau, take a whale-watching cruise, and for a thrill, try ziplining. As for beach time, some of Hawaii's most seductive strands await nearby, like Kapalua Beach or Honolua Bay. Take one full day to hike Haleakalā National Park's summit moonscapes and another to lazily drive down the Road to Hana, stopping off for waterfall hikes and to buy fresh coconuts.
Next, hop over to Lanai and take your pick of world-class resorts located in Lanai City and at Manele Bay, staying three or four nights. Things have been a little hectic so far, so play a round of golf, snorkel at Hulopoe Beach or take in the vistas from the Munro Trail. To really get away from it all, rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle and head for the Garden of the Gods and Shipwreck Beach.
Finally, spend four or five days on Molokai. Stay in a condo or B&B near small-town Kaunakakai. Day one: explore East Molokai, checking out Halawa Valley and perhaps a waterfall or two. Day two: trek to the Kalaupapa Peninsula and munch macadamia nuts at Purdy's farm. Day three: head out to the remote beaches of the island's West End or penetrate the dense forests of the Kamakou Preserve.
Oahu, Big Island and Kauai (three to four weeks)
If you want to live in the scenery (not just admire it), consider combining Oahu, the Big Island and Kauai, all of which together offer the hiking and backcountry adventures of a lifetime plus plenty of traditional and contemporary Hawaiian culture, not to mention tasty treats for your tummy. If you do not have three to four weeks consider doing just two of the islands.
Start on the capital island of Oahu, basing yourself in Waikiki or Kailua for a week. Among the major cultural sights around Honolulu, do not miss the Bishop Museum, Iolani Palace, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and Pearl Harbor. Along with time spent on Waikiki's beaches, snorkel at Hanauma Bay and hike to Manoa Falls after visiting the Lyon Arboretum. End each day exploring Honolulu's cuisine scene and enjoying heavenly Hawaiian music and hula with sunset cocktails by the ocean. Drive up the Windward Coast to the North Shore for surfing, stand-up paddle boarding and windy walks out to Kaena Point.