There's a lot more to the islands than sunscreen and sand
The 50th state is a quarter more expensive than the mainland -- but its outdoor fun doesn't have to be.
Take surf lessons with the barrel-chested guys at Waikiki Beach. The waves are notoriously gentle for beginners -- unless you're Greg Brady, that is. Aloha Beach Services offers the cheapest lessons at $35 an hour (others are $75 and up) and guarantees to get you up on a wave -- solo -- within one lesson. These dudes are too busy hanging loose to answer phones, so visit the ABS stand on foot.
If surfing's too old school for you, strap your feet onto a plank and then get yanked around the ocean at the end of an enormous kite. It's kiteboarding, Hawaii's latest sports craze. Head to Kailua, with its strong, steady winds, and study with Naish Hawaii, where a 90-minute tutorial costs $100. Too rich? Learning plain, old wind-surfing runs $55. And renting sailboards is cheaper yet, from $20.
The Big Island
For glassy coves offering encounters with the rock stars of the reef set -- the islands' endangered green sea turtles -- just ask for directions to Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (call it the City of Refuge and you'll be fine), about 22 miles south of Kailua-Kona on the island's west coast. On shore, massive tikis glower down as you discover the harrowing tale of how the City of Refuge got its name. Hint: It involves hungry sharks.
Rent a boat from Kayak Kauai Outbound and paddle two miles upstream on the Hanalei River, where you can ogle endangered Hawaiian ducks, gallinules, and coots. Then drift back downstream about three miles, to the mouth of the river, where you can paddle out to the break and join the locals in a bit of wave riding at one of the island's best surf spots. Kayak Kauai has a convenient dock right off the riverbank in Hanalei Town.
Twenty bucks pretty much assures you sightings of humpback whales with the Pacific Whale Foundation. From December to mid-May, when its boats go out, passengers also sometimes see pilot whales, false killer whales, and dolphins. Cross your fingers, because on the two-hour trip you may luck into the ultimate "get": a humpback mother with a calf. And since the PWF is a nonprofit (85 percent of its fees are used for education and research), you may even be able to write off the trip as a charitable donation.
Despite the proximity (nine miles) of the islands, flights between Maui and Lanai are expensive ($150 round trip). Instead, hop on the Expeditions Lanai ferry, which crosses the Auau Channel from Lahaina Harbor, Maui, five times a day. You'll spend one third the money and have much more fun. The company also offers packages, like one including a round-trip ride plus a Jeep rental for exploring Lanai's Mars-like landscapes and pristine beaches.
Fresh air Hawaii