Hawaii

GENTLE GIANT 1.

A humpback rolls after breaching in Hawaiian blue water. 2. Circular rainbow over Kauai's Koula Valley, beneath Mt. Wai'ale'ale. 3. The Bamboo Forest, Maui. 4. A honu, or green sea turtle.

Whether it's mountain-biking effortlessly down Maui's Halekala, surfing the break at Sandbar (or deciding not to surf it at Avalanche), kayaking through a haunting cloud-draped landscape on the Hanalei River, playing the amazingly unforgiving 18th hole at Ko'olau Golf Club, visiting a moment frozen in time at Pearl Harbor, enjoying the ambience of an authentic lu'au or shopping for the perfect aloha shirt, it seems as if everyone has a reason to want to visit Hawaii. Little wonder that it is the number-one vacation destination in the world.

That's true four times over for traveling divers. The principal islands of Hawaii, Maui, Oahu and Kauai each tempt underwater adventurers with their individual charms. The Big Island — also

DESTINATION PRIMER

AVERAGE WATER TEMP: 74-80°F WHAT TO WEAR: A 3mm fullsuit is your best all-around choice. AVERAGE VIZ: 80-100+ feet WHEN TO GO: Year-round; high summer brings calmest seas. WHAT TO EXPECT: A whole world of diving in one island group, from big-animal encounters to lava tubes and Pacific tropicals. The best advice is to expect the unexpected. LANGUAGE: English, but learning to say "aloha" will bring you smiles and make you new friends. ELECTRICITY: 120 V, 60 cycle; this is America. TIME ZONE: Hawaiian standard time, which is GMT-10.

known to divers simply as "Kona"— has the world-famous manta night dives. Maui has the open-water aquarium known as Molokini Crater. Oahu is Hawaii's wreck capital with underwater history that includes an amazingly intact World War II Corsair warplane. And off Kauai, you can drift in a lava landscape and pay stealthy visits to giant sleeping turtles.

All of this happens against a background that is so stunningly beautiful — with curtain-like green cliffs, black- and white-sand beaches, fragrant flowers and waterfalls that seem to thread straight from heaven — that you'll find yourself scheming up ways to just chuck it all and stay. Not everyone is fortunate enough to visit Hawaii sometime in their life. But everyone who does is working on a plan to come back.

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