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Hawaii Vacations: Villas & Beach Condo Rentals, Activities & Attractions for The Big Island of Hawaii, Maui & Oahu

The Big Island Activities
Maui Activities
Oahu Activities

Activities, Tropical Flowers, Hawaiian Leis on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands are a premier family vacation, honeymoon & wedding destination that offers beautiful beaches, warm tropical weather, coral reefs and clear blue water. Absolute Paradise Vacation Villas & Rentals offers luxury beach rentals & villas at an affordable price.

Below are a few of our favorite restaurants and activities. There are many more to be found in the local island guides as well.
Email at guestservices@absoluteparadise.com
or call us at 949-278-5727 for additional assistance with any excursions or other activities - We are waiting for your call or email.

Hawaii consists primarily of six islands that are visited on a regular basis: Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Island of Hawaii, also called the Big Island. Each island has its own special flavor and it is strongly recommended that one take the time to visit each island to truly understand Hawaii and all that it has to offer. Water sports are common on all the islands, especially swimming with the dolphins, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, boating and whale watching. Other recreation sports include: hiking and bicycling.

Maui has Haleakala National Park which is well known for its morning bike ride from the top to the bottom of the mountain. There are guided downhill bicycle tours from the summit of Haleakala, through the flower farms and small towns of Upcountry to the beach at Paia. In 38 miles, the elevation drops 10,000 feet. Bicycle rentals are available all over the island. The Big Island is the location of the Iron Man Triathlon and many bikers can be seen practicing for this annual event. One must visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial with all of its World War II memorabilia including a trip to see the USS Arizona Memorial. These sites capture the historic events of December 7th, 1941 and the attack of Pearl Harbor.

Below is a brief description of the many activities and attractions on the Hawaiian Islands. Be sure to contact us about our Hawaii vacation packages.

The Big Island of Hawaii: Activities, Attractions, Restaurants & more

Nature lovers flock to Hawaii. Criss-crossed by the most stunning hiking trails the United States has to offer, Hawaii is a hiker's paradise. Opportunities abound for whale watching and even swimming with the dolphins. Visitors come to the Big Island equipped with backpacks and bicycles.

The Iron Man Triathlon has been held since 1978 in the Hawaiian city of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The race consists of a swim in Kailua-Kona Bay, a bike ride across the Hawaiian lava desert and a marathon along the coast from Keauhou to Ali'i Drive.

Because of its slower pace and sparse population, The Big Island is popular with A-List Hollywood Stars. Billy Crystal takes an annual vacation to The Big Island where he likes to frequent Roy's Waikoloa Bar & Grill and Basil's Pizza.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the most popular visitor destination on The Big Island of Hawaii. Consistently active since 1983, Mt. Kilauea's spectacular lava show headlines with a continuous flow of molten rock from its peak to the Pacific Ocean. You can visit its steam vents, lava tubes and old lava flows on foot. you can also take a safe up-close and personal helicopter tour and feel the heat the lava radiates. If you have a few days, you can explore the park in depth. Visitors with a 1-3 hour time frame should head straight to the summit on Crater Rim Drive, an 11-mile road encircling the summit and passing through the desert, the lush tropical rain forest and the caldera floor. Along the way, scenic stops and short walks have been well marked by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. The town of Volcano offers restaurants, gas stations, shops and lodges. For more information, visit National Park Service.

Mauna Kea ObservatoryMauna Kea Observatory: Hawaii's dormant volcano, Mauna Kea, meaning “White Mountain,” soars 13,803 feet above sea level and 33,476 feet above the ocean floor making it the tallest mountain in the world. Largely because of its great height and unusual position, Mauna Kea's summit hosts the world's largest astronomical observatory. Astronomers from 11 countries use Mauna Kea's telescopes with a light gathering power fifteen times greater than those of the Palomar Observatory telescope in California, which, for many years, was the world's largest. The Mauna Kea telescopes gather light 60 times better than even the Hubble Space Telescope. To see this unique star show offered at the top of Mauna Kea, call us to arrange a tour at 949-278-5727 or email us at info@absoluteparadise.com. You will be so glad you did!

Waipio Valley: This “Valley of the Kings” showcases some of the most unique surviving natural attractions in the world. The beautiful waterfall cascading down mountains into the rivers that feed the taro (a starchy edible tuber) farms. You can enter this area by hiking, horseback tour, ATV or 4 wheel drive tour.

Kealakekua Bay: Captain James Cook, the first European to visit Hawaii, docked in Kealakakua Bay on the Kona Coast. 12 miles from Kailua-Kona, visitors from around the world converge here to enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking. Dolphins that make their home on Kona Coast often treat swimmers to under and above-water shows.

Hapuna State Beach: In 1993, Hapuna State Beach, 30 miles north of Kailua-Kona near Kaahumanu Highway, won first place in America's Best Beaches contest. It is a white sand beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. With a constant temperature between 73 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the continenal shelf is home to a large variety of tropical fish and other organisms. The continental shelf drops abruptly into deep water offering boat fishing and whale watching.

Black Sand Beach: Located on the Big Island of Hawaii near Punalu'u, this black sand beach is home to Hawaiian Sea Turtles. Visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of this beach by combining it with a trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is located off the main highway, south of the town of Volcano.

Kahaluu Beach Park: While the water on this Big Island beach is crystal clear, the sand underwater is black and white. The striped and multi-colored fish swimming along the coral create chorus lines of shifting hues. You can find Kahaluu 4.5 miles south of Kailua-Kona on Alii Drive. To get a glimpse of the gorgeous fish, you can rent snorkeling equipment nearby.

Pauoa Beach: Natural freshwater springs flow from the Big Island and come out beneath the ocean's surface on this white sand beach. Nearby, the Fairmont Orchid Hotel in the Mauna Lani Resort has partnered with the Oceanography Department of the University of Hawaii at Hilo to monitor the ecosystem thriving along the beach's coral reef. This arrangement allows guests to enjoy the nature preserve without violating any laws. A swim beneath the water's surface will reveal parrot fish, spotted eagle rays and more. Like all Hawaiian beaches, Pauoa Beach is open to the public. You can find this treasure of a beach on Mauna Lani Drive, 25 miles south of Kailua-Kona off queen Kaamumanu Highway. The Fairmont Orchid Hotel provides some public parking in its employee lot, but you can also find parking at Holoholokai Beach Park, north of Mauna Lani. The walk to Pauoa Beach is not far.

Big Island Country Club: Hole 17 on the Big Island Country Club golf course is designer Perry Dye's tribute to his father Pete Dye, one of the world's most famous golf course designers. At an altitude of more than a mile, the views of the ocean and the Big Island's terrain is nothing short of breathtaking. With cool breezes keeping golfers in top form, nine of the holes are accented by varying bodies of water, some challenging, some only for show. Hole 17, a par 3, will remind golfers of the same par-3 hole at TPC Sawgrass.

Hamakua Country Club: This 9-hole course covers 15 acres. With more of a casual, community feel, those looking for a rigorous, conditioning experience tend to visit the Big Island's other courses.

Hapuna Golf Course: Designed by golf legends Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, Hapuna Golf Course's popularity stems from both its environmentally-focused design and dramatic rolling terrain.

Hilo Municipal Golf Course: A local favorite and covering just 146 acres, Hilo is the Big Island's only miniature golf course. The absence of sand traps makes this course popular for beginners and pros looking for a break!

Kona Country Club - Ocean Course: Overlooking the tropical Pacific Ocean, this course challenges even the seasoned golfer. Ocean crosswinds blow through this coastal course, often carrying balls from their trajectories. Designed by William Bell, the views of both the ocean and the mountains cannot be topped despite the tricky winds.

Kona Country Club - Alii Mountain Course: Sister to Kona's Ocean Course, the Alii Mountain Course demands focus and skill. Because of the altitude, temperatures are cooler than the 18 holes next to the beach.

Makalei Golf Club: Visitors and travel professionals alike have deemed this course one of Hawaii's most beautiful. Situated on the slopes on Hualalai, golfers climb and descend 900 feet on their way from highest green to lowest green, all while enjoying vistas of Maui's huge Haleakala mountain across the Pacific Ocean.

Mauna Lani Resorts - Francis H. Li Brown North Course: Centered on the peak of an ancient lava low, this course has some exciting features, namely hole 17, which sits inside a bowl of basalt. This north course of the Mauna Lani Resort boasts lush fairways and lovely greens.

Mauna Lani Resorts - Francis H. Li Brown South Course: Chances are, you've seen a shot of hole 15 on Mauna Lani's South Course which features an over the water shot. It is the most photographed hole in Hawaii and appears in many travel brochures. Spectacular expanses of basalt surround each green.

Big Island Divers: Established in 1984, Big Island Divers is a full service PADI 5 STAR dive store providing daily scuba and snorkel charters. Rental snorkel and scuba gear is available. Captain and crew provide quality personal service that turns a good day of diving into a great adventure during your vacation. Be sure to take in their Manta Night Dive - a truly unbelievable experience that you will remember for a lifetime. www.bigislanddivers.com

Jack's Diving Locker: Jack's Diving Locker is another PADI 5 Star scuba and snorkeling program that delivers a range of customized scuba and snorkel boat charters. They will tailor their adult, junior, specialty and professional programs to match a client's skill and schedule.

Kona Honu Divers, Inc.: With rave reviews from The Big Island Revealed and SCUBA Diving magazine's reader polls, Kona Honu Divers offers all levels of instruction under PADI and SSI guidelines. They provide 2-tank morning charters and snorkling, 1- and 2-tank manta ray night charters. www.konahonudivers.com

Dolphin Journeys: Kailua-Kona's Dolphin Journeys gives visitors the opportunity to swim alongside wild dolphins in the warm Hawaiian waters they call home. It also offers whale watching trips, snorkel tours, eco-tours of the Hawaiian landscape, adventure retreats and more. http://www.dolphinjourneys.com

Kailua Kona: The Big Island of Hawaii's west side town of Kailua-Kona includes a variety of interesting shops and restaurants. Kona Brewing Company, www.konabrewingco.com, serves pizza and beer. Island Lava Java, www.islandlavajavakona.com, features bagels, coffee and sandwiches in a prime seaside location that allows you to watch the ocean splash on the shoreline as you eat. The Old Kona Inn, www.windandsearestaurants.com/konainn, dishes up delicious seafood and incredible mai-tais in an atmosphere of mounted trophy fish and vintage surfboards. Boston Basil's Pizza, www.bostonbasils.com, features casual dining. Huggo's on the Rocks, www.huggos.com, rates high as a local and visitor favorite. It serves fantastic dishes and great mai-tais with an oceanfront view. Check for nightly and weekend entertainment and dancing. Roy's Restaurant, www.roysrestaurant.com, located one-half hour north in the Waikoloa Resort is one of our personal favorites. The resort is home to shops, hotels, golf and a variety of restaurants.

Hilo Town: Packed with shops and restaurants, Hilo Town on the Big Island of Hawaii's east side cannot be missed. The most popular draws include Café Pesto, Ken's House of Pancakes and What's Shakin'.

Call 949-278-5727 to speak to a Villa Specialist today!

Maui: Activities, Attractions, Restaurants & more

The Big Island of Hawaii is not the only island where the tourists wear bike helmets. On Maui, bikers can go from the Wailea Resort on the island's east end to Haleakala National Park which features a morning bike ride from the top to the bottom of Mt. Haleakala. Along the way, bikers fly past the small towns and farms of the “upcountry” clear down to the beach at Pala. It takes only 38 miles to drop from over 10,000 feet on Mt. Haleakala to Pala Beach at sea level.

Maui gives movie stars of all ages a break from their hectic schedules. Gary Shandling, Billy Crystal and Robins Williams once entertained a restaurant's kitchen staff for half an hour pretending to complain about their food. Britney Spears, Denise Richards and Heather Locklear have decorated Maui's beaches from time to time as well.

Lahaina: If you choose to visit Maui, chances are you will land on the west side in Lahaina or in the resorts on the Kihei Coast. Lahaina, the second most well-known town in Hawaii and contains many attractions. From 1820 until 1845, Lahaina was actually the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. During the 1840's, it was an important whaling port in the Pacific Ocean. More than a shopping mecca, Lahaina offers many opportunities to explore the early culture of old Hawaii.

Diving: A partially submerged volcanic crater at Wailea draws divers from around the world. Maui has some of the best diving locations in all of Hawaii. There are literally dozens of PADI-compliant operators and guides. Marine conservation areas situated on Honolua Bay on West Maui and Molokini Beach bring visitors in. Boats at Lahina and Makalaea take people on excursions nearly every day. And there are glass bottom boats and pleasure submarines available for those who wish to view the abundant array of fish on Maui's coral reefs without getting wet.

The Road to Hana: The Hana Highway with 54 bridges crossing 56 miles of steep gorges can be counted among the world's most amazing scenic drives. As you wind along the lava-lined shore, you will pass though old plantation towns and under canopies of ancient forests. One can rent a travel CD that provides a self-guided tour through this area that explains various locations and their significance related to the history and scenic beauty of the islands.

Haleakala: For those hard-core drivers, a trip to the summit of Haleakala must be on the itinerary. At its peak of 10,023 feet above sea level, the 7-mile across and 2-mile wide crater provides a rugged mountainous beauty that is unique to these islands.

Black Rock - Kaanapali Beach: Marked by varied terrain, this beach offers swimming, snorkeling and diving for the entire family. From Black Rock, a path leads you to the beachfront hotels, shopping and restaurants.

Kaanapali Beach - Kaanapali Resort: Kaanapali Beach, three miles long and covered in pure, white sand, stands as Maui's signature beach. Not only do vendors and operators make it easy to snorkel and dive, you can also rent sailboats, catamarans and windsurfers. In 2003, Kaanapali was named “America's Best Beach.”

Makena State Park: This state park boasts an expansive beach 3,300 feet long and 100 feet wide. American hippies in the 1960's created a “tarp town” nearby to take advantage of the area's beauty. They named it Oneloa, meaning “big beach,” and the name stuck. Four miles south of Wailea, you will find the sign for Makena State Park parking area. The lot lies just after the sign.

D. T. Fleming Beach Park - Kapalua: This classic west Maui beach took the “America's Best Beach” title in 2006. A public park, it is well known as a great body and board surfing spot. Geared to families, it includes picnic tables, restrooms and on-duty lifeguards.

Kapalua Beach - Kapalua Resort: Maui old timers call Kapalua Beach "Old Fleming Beach." Named “America's Best Beach” in 1991, when the contest first started, this traditional tropical beach offers swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Launiupoko Beach Park: South of Lahaina, this beach features a unique natural pool of water held in place by a wall of basalt. Popular with families of small children, it contains picnic tables and restrooms.

Napili Bay: Both novice and experienced ocean adventurers appreciate Napili Bay's sandy beaches and wonderful swimming spots. It is south of Kapalua

Puamana Beach County Park: Another great spot for picnics, this beach near Lahaina is complemented by a grassy park with picnic tables and grills for barbeque convenience. Beginner and intermediate surfers enjoy the beach's slightly more gentle waves.

Wahikuli State Park: The calm waters of Wahikuli State Park near Lahaina make swimming, snorkeling and boogie boarding conditions ideal. For those who prefer to remain on shore, this park also provides restrooms, grills and picnic tables.

Kama'ole Beach - Parks I, II & III: These parks located near Kihei are some of the few that contain volleyball nets. With lifeguards on duty, parents can relax and let the kids play. The abundance of parking makes Kama'ole Beach popular during the busy tourist season.

Keawakapu Beach: With the Wailea Resort just a half mile away, those who come specifically to enjoy Hawaii's beaches will be more than satisfied with Keawakapu Beach, near Kihei. While weather and wave conditions vary, beautiful days make it a perfect tropical vacation destination.

Kihei Beach: This beach has more than long, beautiful stretches of sand. Visitors can explore the coves and tide pools that stretch over six miles of the Kihei coastline. Lifeguards, restrooms and picnic facilities can be found, but only in certain locations.

Mai Poina ‘Oe Ia‘u Beach Park: With significant crosswinds, visitors and locals alike appreciate this beach near Kihei for its kite-surfing and wind-surfing. Those participating in these activities during the winter months are sure to see a humpback whale or two swimming alongside them.

Maluaka Beach: This beach, adjacent to the Maui Prince Hotel near Makena, offers excellent swimming and snorkeling. Green sea turtles are abundant here.

Mokapu Beach Park: This beach near Wailea makes getting your water sports equipment easy. The Renaissance Wailea Beach Resort has both food and equipment rentals nearby. This is a great location for snorkeling.

Polo Beach: Polo Beach near Wailea won “American's Best Beach” in 1999. With picnic tables and restrooms available, both visitors and locals enjoy a day at this beach.

Ulua Beach Park: The excellent swimming, snorkeling and beach activities at Ulua Beach Park near Wailea offer much to do. Walkers and joggers appreciate the beach's long, straight stretch.

Wailea Beach: Everything is here at Wailea Beach in Wailea: hotels, restaurants, equipment rental operations, restrooms and shops stand on a convenient paved beach walk.

Hana Beach Park: Hawaii has some magnificent beaches, but Hana Beach Park offers some of the best swimming. Before heading out, however, check to see if the community is not holding one of its many festivals here.

Red Sand Beach: Oxidation of rocks from ancient volcanic activity has rendered this sand red. Considered a “secret beach,” free spirits enjoy the challenge of reaching the Red Sand Beach near Hana. Make sure to get accurate directions!

Wai'anapanapa State Park: Cabins and camping make this park a lure for nature lovers. Beyond the camping area stretches a black sand beach. The swimming and snorkeling are excellent. Also available are freshwater pools in the caves nearby. Wai'anapanapa State Park is near Hana

Kapalua Bay Golf Course: This rolling and hilly terrain creates 68 bunkers and 8 water hazards. Its picturesque 5th hole puts golfers on the very edge, looking into the Pacific Ocean.

Ka'anapali Kai Golf Resort: These rolling fairways offer gorgeous ocean views. The course challenges are best for golfers with accuracy rather than with long drives.

Kahili Golf Course: It is a pleasant course. Golfers can eat at the nearby restaurant after working up an appetite.

Makena North Golf Course: This expansive course takes up 1,800 acres of unspoiled natural beauty. Golfers get to see all kinds of native flora and fauna.

Makena South Golf Course: For golfers desiring tranquility and peace, this course delivers.

The Plantation Golf Course: The site of the Mercedes Championships as well as the start of the PGA Tour season, this course offers large-scale terrain features, deep valleys, sprawling fairways and lovely greens.

Royal Kaanapali Golf Course: Expansive fairways give way to panoramic vistas of both ocean and mountains.

Wailea Blue Golf Course: This resort course offers golfers spectacular ocean and mountain views. The resort offers special rates for families.

Wailea Emerald Golf Course: This family friendly and award-winning course offers a spectacular view of the natural sites of Hawaii.

Wailea Gold Golf Course: Another award-winner, this course is home to the Host of Champions and LPGA Skins Games.

Maui Dive Shop: With 9 locations, the Maui Dive Shop arranges luaus, helicopter tours, dinner cruises, bike tours and horseback riding. Originally a dive shop, it has expanded to meet visitor demand. This shop allows you to combine different activities at a discount price.

Island Scuba: Join Island Scuba's professionals on their boat, the Maka Kai. They will whisk you away to clear waters for 1 or 2 tank diving either on the island of Lanai or Molokini Crater. They will also guide you in your snorkeling, sailing, whale watching or swimming with dolphins adventures. If you have the inclination, Island Scuba provides scuba diving certification classes where you can start, continue or complete any part of your PADI, NAUI or SDI certification. They provide a referral letter upon successful completion. They lead ocean beach diving expeditions four times a day at Turtle Reef or Black Rock and provide introductory scuba diving lessons for beginners on Ka'anapali Beach's Maui Marriott Hotel. Island Scuba also rents surfboards and teaches surfing lessons three times a day.

Call 949-278-5727 to speak to a Villa Specialist today!

Oahu: Activities, Attractions, Restaurants & more

Home of the Hawaiian Island's capital, Honolulu, more guests visit Oahu than any of the other Hawaiian Islands. With many with beach front hotels, shops, bars and restaurants, Honolulu provides a large variety of activities to choose from. Bars are open late providing opportunities to party until the early morning.

Waikiki offers luxury goods from Tiffany & Co, Chanel, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent to discount goods at ABC Stores and the world famous International Market Place. The Royal Shopping Center contains 150 shops on its four levels. Foreign visitors to Hawaii can enjoy duty-free savings on luxury items and other goods.

Nick Stahl of “Sleepwalking” visits Oahu regularly. Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake like to surf Oahu's waves. David Spade, Kelly Clarkson, Sandra Bullock and Will Smith have also been spotted wandering the island's streets and shops.

Honolulu: Oahu is the island most often visited by travelers to Hawaii. It is known as "The Gathering Place." There are so many things to do that you will never be able to do them all in just one visit. Oahu is home to the state capital, Honolulu, which is a metropolis of commerce. There are so many restaurants to choose from, so many shops to browse and the nightlife often goes on until the early morning hours. Waikiki is a great place to shop and offers prestigious retailers such as Tiffany & Co., Chanel, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent as well as more modest stores such as the ever-present ABC Stores and the world-famous International Market Place. The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center contains 150 stores and restaurants on four levels. The DFS Galleria is the only place for foreign guests in Hawaii to enjoy duty-free savings on the world's leading luxury brands. However, just minutes away from all of this you will find the beautiful peaceful shores of Hawaii's most diverse island.

Kawela Bay / Turtle Bay - North Shore: Situated on the northeastern tip of Oahu, the bay is shielded from the largest waves. Swimmers and fishermen have an easy time here. It is also popular for walkers and joggers who like a long stretch of solid sand to exercise on and the opportunity to pick up a discarded turtle shell now and again. In fact, Turtle Bay is named for the turtles which frequented the shores to lay their eggs. Somewhat scared off at this point, the turtles (“honu” in Hawaiian) still swim by the shoreline, delighting swimmers and sunbathers as they poke their heads above the waterline for a peek. With a broad and sloping terrain, this beach can lure visitors into a nap. Turtle Bay, a member of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign (NHBC) and certified by the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, has fulfilled 60 environmental and service-based criteria. Each month, it is careful to file a monthly monitoring report.

Sunset Beach - North Shore: Surfers know Sunset Beach as the longest stretch of surf spots in the world. Running from Ehukai Beach to Sunset Point, Sunset Beach became subdivided by wave breaks. The resulting wave formations have created unique and distinct surf spots: Pupukea, Back Doors, Off-the-Wall, Log Cabins and Cloudbreak. While family members surf, little ones can play in the warm sand.

Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) - North Shore: The beach at “Ehukai”, Hawaiian for “reddish-tinged water”, reflects the setting Sun's amber hues before it drops into the ocean. Because massive tubes form from the curling waves, surfers have dubbed the break there “Banzai Pipeline.” During the winter months, wave crests reach ten feet and inexperienced surfers and swimmers avoid it. Home to popular surfing events, Banzai Pipeline can be crowded. It is also a member of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign (NHBC) and certified by the Laboratory for Coastal Resarch at Florida International University.

Waimea Beach - North Shore OahuWaimea Beach - North Shore: With waves reaching 20 feet tall, Waimea Beach draws big-wave surfers from around the world, all hoping to catch “The Big One.” Experienced surfers come to attend the Quicksilver Eddie Aikau International Competition, a contest that gets canceled if the waves do not reach a height of 20 feet or greater. Making this beach even more challenging, the shore break is considered one of the most dangerous in the world. Spectators getting too close have been pulled into the ocean, often having to be saved by dedicated lifeguards. Summer weather conditions tame these waves, rendering them almost flat so that swimmers and those who want to fish can do so with little risk.

Ka'ena Point - North Shore: Ka'ena Point is at the northwestern tip of Oahu. Those wanting to escape society land here to find a dry, barren stretch of land far away from any Hawaiian town. A desert trail weaves about Ka'ena Point, displaying the area's desert flora and fauna. The island of Kauai stands across the ocean, and on a clear day, reveals itself quite well. While the tidal currents make Ka'ena Point's beaches somewhat unsafe, a hiking trip allows travelers to get an idea of Hawaii's terrain before settlers arrived.

Waikiki Beach - South Shore: Visited by 4 million tourists every year, Waikiki Beach has recently had a renaissance. Developers have remodeled many of the beachfront properties, stores and facilities, giving visitors more pleasing scenery. Rental services, restaurants and shops abound, making any visit convenient and fun. It is a member of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign (NHBC) and certified by the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University.

Ala Moana Beach / Magic Island - South Shore: A fringing reef makes Ala Moana Beach waters shallow, calm and safe. Just across the street of the Ala Moana Shopping Center, its location enables family members to conveniently split activities between shopping and swimming. Locals and visitors alike bask in the warm sun and picnic in the nearby park. Making this beach even more unusual, a man-made peninsula named Magic Island extends from Moana Beach, and man-made sea walls cradle a shallow lagoon. Because of these varied amenities, toddlers and young children populate this beach year round.

Hanauma Bay - South Shore: This body of water qualifies as a bay because it lies between two dormant volcanic craters in southeast Oahu. The clear, shallow waters here contain a multitude of tropical fish and other marine life. Visitors can have a life-changing experience snorkeling. To preserve the natural ecosystem, the government has renovated the area significantly, adding the Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center. It also improved the parking for easier access. For these reasons, Hanauma Bay remains popular with families. It is involved in the National Healthy Beaches Campaign (NHBC) and is certified by the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. Those who plan on going to this beach need to arrive early to get a parking spot. Once the parking fills up, the beach itself closes due to capacity limits.

Sandy Beach - South Shore: Another of Oahu's most popular beaches, Sandy Beach, is located at the southeastern tip, next to the famous Halona Blowhole. The Halona Blowhole is famous for the way the waves smash into the rugged lava cliffs. They enter a cavern where some water is forced up through a hole in dramatic fashion, similar to La Bufadora in Ensenada, Mexico. The sloping beaches stop where waves pound the shoreline. Cool breezes temper the sun's rays. The waves are great for boogie boarders and body surfers, but the shore break has injured even experienced swimmers. Lifeguards are on duty.

East Shore Beaches Oahu

Makapu'u Beach - East Shore: Even against some stiff competition, Makapu'u Beach and Sea Life Park remain Oahu's most famous marine attractions. High above on a towering 600 foot sea cliff, the U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse watches over boats and sunbathers alike. Tucked between rugged cliffs and jagged lava rocks, Makapu'u Beach holds tidepools filled with all kinds of marine creatures.

Waimanalo Beach - East Shore: Waimanalo Beach is a quaint, rural town complete with horse stables and farms. Waimanaio Beach has four miles of beach with waves just as gentle and lovely as those on the other east shore beaches. It is involved in the National Healthy Beaches Campaign (NHBC) and is certified by the Laboratory for Coastal Resarch at Florida International University.

Lanikai Beach - East Shore: Rated the number one beach in the United States by Condé Nast publishing company, Lanikai Beach has many features that will convince anyone it deserves that honor. It is featured regularly as seen in many travel brochures and travel publications. Sparkling white sand, clear blue water, droves of marine life and tropical scenery provide everything the Hawaiian tourist is looking for. Located in a residential neighborhood filled with tree-lined streets, parking can be an issue. You can usually get parking on the side streets and public right-of-ways that lead to the beach.

Kailua Beach - East Shore: If Lanikai Beach proves too crowded or difficult, Kailua Beach just around the corner has nearly all of the qualities its sister beach boasts. Here you will find a boat ramp and restrooms, where Lanikai has neither. This beach also features vendors ready to rent you a sailboard, kayak or canoe. Safe for swimming and snorkeling, the mile long beach gives visitors a great view to the blue horizon. While it is never quite reached the top spot, Kailua Beach has made many top ten lists. In fact, many captains of industry, Hollywood stars and government leaders make Kailua Beach their vacation destination. Recently, Harrison Ford, Justin Timberlake and President Obama have all stayed at Kailua Beach.

Kualoa Regional Park: Great for shell seekers, the beach at Kualoa Regional Park is known for having beautiful shells. Rising from a coral reef, the shore is lined with a mixture of coral rubble and sand. This beach also has a convenient kayak destination: the small island off the coast called Chinaman's Hat. Visible from the beach, it is easy to find. An expansive green area and adjacent restrooms at this beach makes flying kites and picnicking pleasant. Located directly across the street from Kualoa Ranch, this area can satisfy family members with different touring goals.

Golf Courses - Oahu: More golf courses wind around Oahu than any of Hawaii's other islands. Its ideal weather, beautiful expanses and top-drawer courses draw professional and amateur golfers from all over the world. Each year, professional players compete in The Sony Open, Turtle Bay Championship, SBS Open and Field's Open. It is a golfer's paradise.

Pearl Harbor: On December 7, 1941, the United States was drawn into World War II when the Japanese sent hundreds of war planes to bomb the naval base at Oahu's Pearl Harbor. Attacked with no warning, the United States lost 2,335 troops and several ships, most notably the USS Arizona and her 1,177 men , most of whom still lie in the ocean depths. Today, over 1,500,000 people visit Pearl Harbor annually. In 1999, the U.S. Navy docked the Battleship Missouri there to enjoy its hard-won retirement and provide even more historical interest.

Polynesian Cultural Center: Before anyone of European descent ever made it to Oahu's shores, people of Polynesia and Tahiti paddled huge canoes weighed down by supplies, goats, pigs, pottery and clothing, landed on Hawaii's wide, sandy beaches. Those who want to find out more about these fascinating cultures should visit the Polynesian Cultural Center which features seven Polynesian island replicas in a beautifully landscaped 42-acre setting. The history of Hawaii's Royalty is showcased in the center's Ali'i Luau, along with the changing forms of Hawaiian hula dance and activities. Once you have experienced it, it is easy to see why this production has been voted Oahu's Best Luau. At the center's main lagoon, catch the Rainbows of Paradise Canoe Pageant. Finally, the Polynesian Cultural Center's IMAX theater shows exciting and educational films depicting Hawaii's historical, cultural and natural resources.

Historic Honolulu: Hawaii's most historic buildings lie at the heart of Honolulu. The island chain's very last monarchs lived in Iolani Palace, and most do not know that it is the only palace in the United States. Tours of the Hawaii State Capitol, the Kamehameha I statue, Kawaiaha'o Church (Hawaii's first Christian church), the Mission House Museum and the Old Federal building help you and your family understand how Hawaii was first colonized by Polynesians and later by Europeans. Conveniently, all of these gems are located within walking distance of Honolulu's downtown parking lot at the Aloha Tower.

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