Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Hawaiian Vacation: Leis, Luaus, And Luscious Landscape

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 islands, reefs 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 Hawaii's 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 Kauai's Mount Wai'ale'ale. 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 spectacular and riveting 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 world's
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.

From the bustle of Honolulu and Waikiki on Oahu to the tranquil
serenity of Lanai's sandy beaches, a journey to the middle of
the Pacific will certainly prove to you that Hawaii is more than
just pineapples and coffee.