TODAY   |  May 20, 2013

Taking in the sights and sounds of Hawaii

From Oahu, the heart of Hawaii and home of Honolulu, to Kauai, the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain, TODAY’s Matt Lauer takes a look at the lush tropical forests, dramatic cliffs, and rich cultural history of the islands.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> our world is made up of four elements, water, fire, earth and air. nowhere else do those elements burst to life like they do right here in hawaii . oahu , the heart of hawaii , home to honolulu and the waters of waikiki beach .

>> different types of surf and waves we have around this island, it can be stormy, and choppy, and dangerous at times, but it can be also big and clean.

>> reporter: on any given day these waters of teeming with activity but the ocean is more than a playground.

>> the ocean is life. it's a magical place.

>> reporter: oahu is the first stop for many visitors to hawaii . the locals say even tourist also never truly leave.

>> my parents always taught me a hawaiian is anyone who walks on our beach, anyone who swims in our water becomes part of our family. perfect day on oahu is tomorrow.

>> reporter: from a thirst for thrills to a destination of discovery.

>> many by chance describe everything on the island, the mountains and the wind and the spirit, the spirit of kauai .

>> reporter: kauai is the oldest island in the hawaiian chain , known for its lush tropical forests , dramatic cliffs and thought to be the birthplace of hula.

>> when we're dancing the hula and describe the ocean, we dip our hands into the water and the sun would be something nice and big and bright.

>> reporter: hula is a form of story telling and the story of kauai is about embracing the senses. from fantasy to fireworks.

>> seeing the power down there reminds us that everything in life really is as it should be.

>> reporter: hawaii island , also called the big island s home to mauno loa and kilauea, two of the most active volcanos of the world.

>> we call them fingers and toes of lava. it moves slowly, creeps along, instantly changing the landscape.

>> reporter: this hawaii island landscape has grown by 500 acres from recent times from these lava flows .

>> people think of volcano flows as destructive, but none of this would be here without this incredible power.

>> reporter: from the fire down below to the golden glow of skies up above.

>> the colors change. banana yellow, lemon yellow . tangerine oranges, and the bottom of your jaw just goes, ooh. yes. this is morning.

>> reporter: maui is home to the volcano haleakala, its literal translation house of the sun.

>> i've been up here for 25 years. i have never in all that time seen the same sunrise.

>> reporter: visitors come from all over the world to watch this unique sunrise above the clouds .

>> the person next to you, you may not know but you will form a new relationship.

>> reporter: hawaii , water, earth, fire, air, a place to be challenged, to reflect, to excite, and to renew your spirit. you know the good news is we get to spend a weekend here. the bad news is we could have used a couple of weeks because to get out to the other islands would be amazing but we at least get to see it by videotape.