Hawaii From Pleasant Holidays
Many destinations offer warm ocean waters and spotless sandy beaches, but nowhere else on earth can you find quite the same experience as in Hawaii.
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With its majestic volcanoes and palm-fringed beaches, Hawaii holds some of the most superb scenery on earth. Firmly established among the world's greatest vacation playgrounds, it combines top-quality hotels and restaurants with almost unlimited opportunities not only for sheer self-indulgence, but also for activities such as surfing, diving, golf and hiking. Visiting Hawaii does not, however, have to be expensive; budget facilities on all the islands are listed throughout this guide, together with advice on making the most of your money.
Despite the crowds, the islands have not been ruined by tourism. Resort development is concentrated into surprisingly small regions - Waikiki is the classic example, holding half the state's hotel rooms in just two square miles - and it's always possible to venture off into pristine wilderness, or to camp on the seashore or mountainside.
The islands of Hawaii poke from the Pacific more than two thousand miles off the west coast of America. In total, there are well over a hundred of them, the weather-beaten summits of a chain of submarine volcanoes that stretches almost to Japan. Most, however, are no more than tiny atolls. Only the seven largest, lying south of the Tropic of Cancer at the southeast end of the archipelago, are inhabited, and only six welcome visitors. Those are Oahu (the site of the state capital Honolulu and its resort annex of Waikiki), Hawaii itself (more commonly known as the Big Island in a vain attempt to avoid confusion), Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kauai.
All the islands share a similar topography, having been formed in the same way and exposed to the same winds and rains. Each is much wetter on its north and east - windward - coasts, which are characterized by stupendous sea cliffs, verdant stream-cut valleys and dense tropical vegetation. The south and west - leeward or "Kona" - coasts are much drier, often virtually barren, and make ideal locations for big resorts.