Many destinations offer warm ocean waters and spotless sandy beaches, but nowhere else on earth can you find quite the same experience as in Hawaii.
With its majestic volcanoes and palm-fringed beaches, Hawaii holds some of the most superb scenery on earth. Firmly established among the world's greatest vacation playgrounds, it combines top-quality hotels and restaurants with almost unlimited opportunities not only for sheer self-indulgence, but also for activities such as surfing, diving, golf and hiking. Visiting Hawaii does not, however, have to be expensive; budget facilities on all the islands are listed throughout this guide, together with advice on making the most of your money.
Maui Island was created millions of years ago by two volcanoes that flowed together to form the "Valley Isle". In legend, however, the island was named after the demi-god Maui, who is said to have pulled the Hawaiian chain from the Pacific while he was on a fishing expedition.
Whichever explanation you prefer, magical Maui is known for its indescribable sunsets, water sports, multi-colored beaches, lush rainforests alive with waterfalls, quaint fishing villages, serpentine road to charming Hana, rolling hills with sprawling ranches, world-class golf and tennis, Haleakala crater, and historic Lahaina Town, the former government and whaling capital of Hawaii. Maui is also known for its spectacular resorts, where guests receive the finest in services, accommodations, and deluxe amenities.
Maui and its immediate neighbours offer probably the best scuba diving in the Hawaiian islands. The most popular spots are in the vicinity of Molokini Crater, off South Maui. Learners and inexperienced divers start by exploring the sheltered, shallow "Inside Crater" area, and eventually progress to the "Back Wall," with its huge drop-offs. There's also good shore diving at Black Rock in Ka'anapali and in La Pérouse Bay, while the most spectacular dives of all lie off southern Lanai, within easy reach of a day's boat-trip from Maui. A huge number of companies arrange diving excursions in the waters off Maui and Lanai, with the largest operator being Maui Dive Shop.
Parasailing, which is a bit like waterskiing, except you suddenly find yourself several hundred feet up in the air, has become very popular in the waters just off Ka'anapali and Lahaina in West Maui. To avoid disturbing humpback whales during their winter migrations, however, it's only permitted between mid-May and mid-December.
Surf aficionados rate several Maui sites as equal to anything on Oahu's fabled North Shore, with Honolua Bay on the northern tip of West Maui, and Jaws off Ha'iku in the east, as the greatest of all. You need to be a real expert to join the locals who surf at these kind of places, however - beginners would do better to start out at spots such as Lahaina and Ka'anapali beaches. The peak season is between November and March.Maui is the world's most sublime windsurfing destination. Legendary Ho'okipa Beach Park, just east of Pa'ia on the central isthmus, is a mecca for devotees and plays host to major championships throughout most of the year. Strong winds rather than high surf are of most importance to windsurfers, so the peak season is the summer.