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The islands of HAWAII , with their volcanoes , palm-fringed
beaches , verdant valleys , glorious rainbows and awesome cliffs
, hold some of the most spectacularly beautiful scenery on earth.
However, despite their isolation, two thousand miles out in
the Pacific, they belong very definitely to the United States.
If you expect your South Seas idyll to be completely unspoiled,
forget it; the fantasy of a dream holiday in Paradise remains
firmly rooted in the creature comforts of home. With seven million
tourists per year, including honeymooners from all over the
world, frequent fliers cashing in their mileage, and almost
two million Japanese, the islands can seem like a gigantic theme
Honolulu , by far the largest city of the fiftieth state, and
with its resort annex of Waikiki also the main tourist center,
is on Oahu . The biggest island, Hawaii itself, is known as
the Big Island in a vain attempt to avoid confusion. Maui and
Kauai also attract mass tourism, while smaller Molokai remains
far quieter. All the islands share a similar topography and
climate . Ocean winds from the northeast shed their rain on
the windward coast, keeping it wet and green; the southwest,
leeward (or "Kona") coasts can be almost barren, and
so make ideal locations for big resorts. While temperatures
remain consistent throughout the year at between 70°F and
85°F, rainfall is heaviest from December to March. That
is nonetheless the most popular time to visit, enabling mid-
to upper-range hotels to add a premium of at least $30 per night
to their standard room rates. A visit to Hawaii doesn't have
to cost a fortune, however; there are plenty of budget facilities
if you know where to look. The one major expense you really
can't avoid, except possibly on Oahu, is car rental - rates
are very reasonable, but gas is pricey.
Honolulu, just under six hours by plane from the US west coast,
is one of the world's busiest centers for air traffic; return
fares from LA, San Francisco and Seattle start at around $350.
There are also direct flights from the mainland to Maui, the
Big Island and Kauai. Many flights to the US from Australia
- such as those on Continental - include free stopovers in Hawaii.
European travelers should buy all-inclusive tickets from Europe.
The principal inter-island carriers are Hawaiian Airlines (Oahu
tel 1-808/838-1555, US tel 1-800/367-5320, ) and Aloha Air (Oahu
tel 808/484-1111, US tel 1-800/367-5250, ), together with its
subsidiary Island Air (Oahu tel 808/484-2222, US tel 1-800/323-3345).
They connect all the major islands several times per day, with
standard one-way fares of around $85. Discount travel agents,
and virtually all resorts, hotels, B&B agencies and even
hostels in Hawaii can arrange discounts on inter-island flights.
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