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Things to Do in Hawaii

There’s something in the water, and it’s probably you


You fly over hours of it to get there, and technically it’s the same ocean that surrounds our own fair city, but there’s something unique about the quality of the water that laps at the shores of the Hawaiian Islands that makes it well worth the five-hour hop across the pond.

The sheer variety of beaches and environments across the six major islands makes for a nearly endless list of water sports to partake in. Here’s just a sampling.


Every kind of ocean adventure can be had on Maui, but if there’s a category this island owns, you’ll find it where wind meets water. Maui is the undisputed windsurfing capital of the Pacific—maybe the world. The unique combination of trade winds and topography provides a strong, steady breeze running parallel to the shores off Kahului. Experts flock to Ho‘okipa from the world over, but beginners are better off at Kanaha Beach, where various outfitters offer gear and lessons to those eager to be gone with the wind.

Hawaiian Islands are home to more than 7,000 marine species


Stand-Up Paddling
When you hear someone say “SUP,” it’s not short for “What’s up?” anymore. In the islands, it’s the abbreviation for stand-up paddling, the newest twist on the ancient sport of surfing. On a large, stable board, the rider remains standing and propels through the water with a long paddle.

On the open ocean it can be very challenging, but in calm waters SUP can be a serene experience easily enjoyed by a first-timer. Kaua‘i, with its unusual number of calm, freshwater rivers, is the perfect place to give it a try.  Various outfitters offer tours that roam deep into the interior of this lush island, where participants do a combination of paddling and hiking to explore areas of Kaua‘i that would otherwise be out of reach.  All this, and it’s great for your abs.

The Big Island:

The shoreline of Hawai‘i’s biggest and newest island (growing every day, thanks to the Kilauea volcano) tends toward the dramatic, rather than the swimmable. Although there are some truly stunning green- and black-sand beaches, ocean entry on this island tends to be a little rockier and less accessible. However, this means the reef and sea life is healthier and more vibrant than just about anywhere else in the islands. This makes the Big Island perfect for snorkeling.

One of the best spots is in South Kona, at Kealakekua Bay, a truly gorgeous spot. Here you’ll find the Captain Cook Monument, a modest white pillar surrounded by a field of healthy coral and a plethora of darting schools of colorful tropical fish. Yellow tang, triggerfish, butterflyfish, and parrotfish—just beneath the surface is an aquatic candy store of fish, many of them endemic to Hawai‘i.


Aim for the Sky
O‘ahu has the largest number of swimming beaches of any of the islands, and you could hardly hit them all in a lifetime of vacations. They range from the kid-friendly sands of Waikiki to lightly traveled beaches where the jungle creeps right up to the shoreline, such as Kahana Bay on the windward side, and world-class boogie-boarding spots like Sandy Beach, where a heavy shore break requires some expertise to venture into the water.

The activities available here are just as diverse, with a few you won’t find anywhere else. Those in search of something completely different might try a jet pack: pure James Bond on the calm waters of Maunalua Bay. A 10-minute flight strapped into your own personal water-propelled jet pack will have you soaring 30 feet into the sky, and give you something unprecedented to talk about when you get back to shore on wobbly knees.


Hawai‘i’s least-visited, least- developed island may not have a stoplight or a Starbucks, but it just happens to be home to some of the tallest sea cliffs in the world. These awesome pali are the main attraction of an adventurous, three-day kayaking trip along Moloka‘i’s north coast. But day-trippers will find plenty of amazing kayaking trips along the south shore as well. And the low level of visitor activity means you can often have the ocean to yourself.

Kahuku Beach is the best place to see a green sea turtle


If you want to discover what’s magical about Lana‘i (aside from its four-star resorts, of course), you’ll have to go deep—60 feet deep, to be precise, to two of the premier scuba destinations in all of Hawaii: the famed Cathedrals 1 and 2. These undersea grottos make for gorgeous intermediate-level diving, complete with sea arches, pinnacles, and various caves to explore. Since they’re as popular with fish, turtles, and spinner dolphins as they are with divers, you can count on meeting some friends along the way. Try to go at dawn for the best visibility.

Drying Off . . .

Underwater, overwater, standing up, lying down, propelled by the wind or by dint of your own paddle, Hawai‘i’s ocean offers the potential for endless adventure and discovery. Caution and proper training are always advisable, and don’t forget the most important thing: a dinner reservation for the evening, where you can sit back with a drink and contemplate those endless blue waters and how you might challenge them tomorrow.

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