Say 'aloha' to Hawaii's best bets

Summer vacationers can find a range of activities in the Aloha state, from volcano tours to culinary gems to whale watching. But where does one go in the archipelago? Discover the best spots that Hawaii has to offer with these island trip tips.

Known as "The Gathering Place," the third largest Hawaiian island features an eclectic mix of eastern and western influences, from the historic architecture of Iolani to the metropolitan cityscapes of Honolulu. Outdoorsy types can surf the coast and hike iconic Leahi (Diamond Head) for panoramic views of Waikiki. For vacationers seeking a cultural experience, travel writer and Hawaii expert Brian Berusch says, "Lunchtime, get yourself to a world class gallery or museum, and in the evening, have dinner at a James Beard-awarded chef's restaurant."

Called "The Magic Isle," the second largest Hawaiian island is a must for those who want to experience the majestic nature of the islands. Adventurous visitors can hike and camp on the crater, snorkel, or sail at sunset. Berusch says, "The upcountry scene is exploding right now. A lot of hiking, rainforests, backcountry kind of stuff, mountain biking, the Haleakala [National Park] sunrise tours." For those traveling with kids, luaus and whale watching make Lahaina family friendly.

This "Garden Isle" presents lush valleys, jagged cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and sharp mountain spires. Kauai is perfect for vacationers who want to unplug and seek a tranquil and secluded destination. "It's a very secure and kind of hunkered down place,” says Berusch, "a little bit further away from the other islands." That said, travelers should take note: Certain parts of this island can only be reached by horseback, helicopter, or serious hiking.

Hawaii Island (The Big Island)
"The Big Island" is a hit with nature lovers. From Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to sacred and snow-capped Mauna Kea to Panaluu Beach, this massive island features diverse natural wonders. "You've got technically one of the tallest mountains on earth, snow covered and molten lava and nine different climate zones," says Berusch. Which, for travelers, makes for picturesque ziplining, eye-catching treks, excellent bird watching, and stellar SCUBA diving.

The smallest of the islands, Lanai is home to luxurious getaways: "an upcountry, highland ranch-style lodge and then a beautiful resort down on the ocean." But don't expect a bustling, small city; only 30 miles of Lanai's roads are paved, which means ample opportunity for back-roads expeditions to places like Keahiakawelo and Polihua Beach. The secluded, pristine beaches coupled with these resorts' amenities make it a great destination for family reunions or a romantic vacation.