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Kahala resort beach, Honolulu

Hawaii... the name conjures up magical images of tropical beaches and sun drenched vacations. A top honeymoon destination, a great family vacation spot, and a popular business meeting destination, the islands of Hawaii bring a taste of native culture that sets them apart from the mainland as a leisure destination.

Settled by Polynesians somewhere in the first millennium, it wasn't until Captain Cook visited in 1778 that the Western world took note of these green jewels in the Pacific. The British explorer named them — the "Sandwich Islands."

Although the native inhabitants continued to rule Hawaii throughout the 19th century, Queen Liliuokalani eventually lost her throne, under questionable circumstances, to expanding U.S. business interests. The native government was disbanded and Sanford Dole replaced the Queen as President of the Republic of Hawaii near the turn of the 20th century.

map showing the hawaiian island chainHawaii soon became an official U.S. territory and, a few decades later, was the reason the U.S. entered World War II, following the Japanese attack on an American naval base near Honolulu at Pearl Harbor.

Today, the U.S. military presence is easy to see on most of the islands. Active and retired members of all branches of the armed forces, along with their families, are happy to call Hawaii their adopted home.

Hawaii's warm climate, sandy beaches, warm breezes and scenic beauty make it a vacationer's paradise and immensely popular with honeymooners, surfers, spring breakers and sun worshipers from around the world.

Hawaii is comprised of eight main islands - Hawaii, Kahoolawe, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau - and its most famous beach, Waikiki, is located on Oahu's south shore.

But the sun, sand and surf are only a small part of the island attractions!

The culture of the first people still defines the Hawaiian experience. Visitors are greeted with a flower lei and a bright smiling Aloha! as they arrive. Beach luaus, outrigger canoe races and hula dances are the most familiar ancient traditions that you can share, but if you take the time to see the less traveled sections and museums, you'll also learn the rich history of the people who first settled the land.

In addition to its tropical allure, Hawaii also offers vacation goers national parks and historic centers such as the Haleakala National Park on Maui, the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, and Iolani Palace, the former residence of the islands' last monarchs.

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Kid-friendly Hawaii

Besides Hawaii beaches, of course, no trip to Hawaii would be complete without a genuine Hawaiian luaus which are wonderful family feasts offered by many resort hotels and restaurants throughout the islands.

While visiting Oahu, don't miss the Waikiki Aquarium, and the Honolulu zoo. For an extra special thrill, also make your way to Sea Life Park where, in addition to seeing spectacular displays of sharks and reef fish kids get an opportunity to swim with the dolphins!

Located about a half-hour drive from Waikiki, make an entire day trip to the Dole Plantation where kids can learn about pineapple growing aboard the Pineapple Express, and later take a stroll through the Pineapple Garden Maze.

More about Hawaii travel around the Web:

Go Hawaii
- The official tourism site chock full of useful info on family vacations, golfing, wedding & honeymoon planner, art, history & culture plus hotel booking, dining, weather info and separate guides for each island.

Aloha from Maui - Top attractions, activities, wedding & honeymoon planner, maps, pictures, travel tips, and a good backgrounder on Hawaiian culture.

The Oahu Visitors Bureau - The official site featuring facts, information and pictures of popular golf courses, favorite wedding spots, family fun, sports, art & culture, hotels & restaurants, plus additional guides to Waikiki, Honolulu, the Windward Coast and shore areas.

Molokai - The Most Hawaiian Island - Generous helping of info on accommodations, transportation, visitor activities, a special report on the Kalaupapa Peninsula, photo tours, FAQ's, weather info, event schedule.

Discover Kauai - The complete guide including island culture, visitor attractions, parks & beaches, hotels & restaurants, event calendar, related links.

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