Hawaii, Oahu, Waikiki, Waikiki Beach, sunbathers, elevated view

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With their fiery volcanoes, palm-fringed beaches, verdant valleys, glorious rainbows and awesome cliffs, the islands of HAWAII boast some of the most spectacularly beautiful scenery on earth. Despite their isolation, two thousand miles out in the Pacific, they belong very definitely to the United States. Pulling in 6.5 million tourists per year, the fiftieth state can seem at times like a gigantic theme park.

Honolulu, on Oahu, is by far the largest city in Hawaii, while Waikiki, its resort annexe, is the main tourist centre. Three other islands attract sizeable numbers of visitors: Hawaii itself, also known as the Big Island in a vain attempt to avoid confusion, Maui and Kauai. All the islands share a similar topography and climate. Ocean winds shed their rain on their northeast, windward coasts, keeping them 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 all year at between 70°F and 85°F, rainfall is heaviest from December to March, which nonetheless remains the most popular time to visit. Although a visit to Hawaii doesn’t have to cost a fortune, the one major expense you can’t avoid, except possibly on Oahu, is car rental.

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