Smouldering volcanoes, tropical rainforests, idyllic beaches, legendary surf and blistering sunshine: you need a good excuse not to visit Hawaii.
Oahu, home to the state capital Honolulu, is the most popular island. Big-wave surfing took off here in the 1950s and pros still pilgrimage to Waimea Bay for its epic swells. You don’t have to be a veteran boarder to take advantage of the conditions, though: Waikiki Beach offers an easier ride for those still finding their feet.
The second largest of Hawaii’s islands, Maui seems to win every best beach award going. But those looking to sizzle on the sand will struggle to beat Makena Beach, which is a regular Instagram star. If you’re not content lounging on the shore, ascend nearby Haleakala, the island’s highest peak, to marvel at its exquisite panoramas.
Just across the water, tiny Lanai’s luxury resorts and golf courses may bleed your wallet dry, but go for the day and you can rumble across lunar like landscapes in a 4-wheel drive, gaze at ghostly shipwrecks and hike through virgin rainforests. Unspoiled Molokai is also a short ferry hop from Maui and lays claim to the world’s highest sea cliffs.
Visitors can get as close as they dare to an active volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, on Hawaii Island, where hyperactive Kilauea has been spewing out copious amounts of lava every day since 1983.
And then there’s Kauai, Hawaii’s northernmost island. Offering jagged cliffs, primal rainforests and barrelling waterfalls, it’s paradise for adventure travellers, who can spot green sea turtles off Poipu Beach, hike through Waimea Canyon and kayak down the raging Waimea River. The only disappointment is leaving.
16,734 sq km (6,461 sq miles).
1.4 million (2015).
85.6 per sq km.