The Hawaiian Islands: Sand, Surf & Tropical Trails - United Hub

The Hawaiian Islands: Sand, surf & tropical trails

By Bob Cooper

Why travel far away when you can enjoy beautiful beaches, water sports, snorkeling, rainforest hiking and tropical weather close to home? Hawaii has all that and more on its five major islands, known worldwide for their array of outdoor activity indulgences.

Oahu

Oahu, the state's most populous island, might be the best choice for people-watching, international cuisine, shopping and nightlife, but it also offers plenty of outdoor fun. Right in Honolulu, you can hike to the top of Diamond Head, the volcanic bluff that overlooks the city, or trek through a rainforest to Manoa Falls. Afterward you can cool off by body-surfing, boogie-boarding, stand-up paddleboarding or outrigger canoe paddling at Waikiki Beach. Elsewhere on Oahu, you can do the short hike to Makapuu Lighthouse, watch big-wave surfing at a North Shore beach, or ride horses or ATVs at 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch, where dozens of movies have been filmed. All are within a 40-minute drive of Honolulu.

Beach path in Maui

Maui

Many activities besides sunbathing can be enjoyed at Kaanapali and Wailea, Maui's two major beach resort areas. At Kaanapali these include snorkeling right from the beach at Black Rock and a full menu of ocean sports. The long, wide beach at Wailea is fringed by a boardwalk beach path ideal for walking or jogging and world-class golf courses for perfecting your swing. Once you tire of the resort crowds, head to Hookipa Beach for the surfing scene or Haleakala National Park. The two most popular activities on Haleakala, a 10,023-foot dormant volcano, are hiking to or across the crater or biking down its twisty road—a 23-mile, 6,000 vertical-foot thrill ride on fat-tire bikes supplied by bike-touring companies.

Aerial view of the island of Kauai

Kauai

Intermittent year-round deluges in Kauai make the National Tropical Botanical Garden, which offers a variety of guided and self-guided tours, seem almost unnecessary. All that rain makes the whole island a tropical paradise. Hikers with sturdy boots and raingear adore the dozens of miles of trails that lace Waimea Canyon, the 3,500-foot-deep “Grand Canyon of the Pacific." When it's not closed by torrential rains, cliff-hugging Kalalau Trail on the rugged Napali Coast is an even more dramatic Kauai hike. River kayaking on the state's longest navigable river, the Wailua, is another great option. And when you're all tuckered out, you can still relax on the beach, as Kauai boasts the most miles (50) of beaches of any island.

Tropical beach on the "Big Island"

Hawaii

The “Big Island" of Hawaii offers many outdoor activities even during closures of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for volcanic activity, which only covers one small corner of the island. The island is more than twice the size of Oahu, Maui and Kauai combined, with most activity locations found near the two large towns, Hilo and Kona (also called Kailua-Kona). Two black-sand beaches, New Kaimu and Punaluu, and the short hike to Akaka Falls are near Hilo, while Kona is best known among outdoor lovers for golf, snorkeling and the Hawaii Ironman course, which super-fit visitors are welcome to try.

Lanai Island

Lanai

Seekers of solitude eventually find their way to Lanai, with its single small town and handful of hotels. Most visitors reach Lanai via passenger ferry, which leaves five times daily from Maui. Sightings of dolphins and whales are common during the one-hour ($30) crossing. Besides golf and snorkeling, popular activities include horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking on the island's web of hundreds of miles of dirt roads and trails.

Getting there

After more than 70 years of service, we're proud to offer an expansive network with the most nonstop flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii. United offers numerous flights to Hawaii, including 18 nonstop routes and up to 37 daily departures from multiple U.S. mainland cities to Honolulu (Oahu), Kahului (Maui), Lihue (Kauai) and Kona (Hawaii), as well as flights from Los Angeles to Hilo (Hawaii). From premium cabins with flat-bed seats on select routes and an Economy Plus seating option with extra legroom and in-seat power to overnight return flights - for one more day at the beach, we are trying to make your journey as relaxing and seamless as possible. MileagePlus® Rewards can help pay for your beach resort once you arrive. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your Hawaii getaway.

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