13 Reasons To Visit Hawaii

Paradise? Definitely. But there’s more than simple sun and sand to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. Here are 13 reasons you need to start planning your Hawaiian vacation.

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1. All Hawaii's Beaches are Public

1. All Hawaii's Beaches are Public

Which means that if you can get yourself onto a beach in front of an oceanfront property belonging to one of the huge celebrities who own property here (the list includes Oprah, Ben Stiller, Bette Midler, Pierce Brosnan and even Roseanne Barr), you can plunk yourself down and just enjoy the day in a premium location.

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2. There are Regular Erruptions

2. There are Regular Erruptions

Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, is also one of the best places on earth to see flowing lava. Now part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, its name means "spewing" in the Hawaiian language, and its current eruption-which has been constant since 1983-has resurfaced more than 123 square kilometres of the island. People gather nightly at the Kilauea Overlook to see the orange glow, and companies like Ioloni Air provide daily scenic flights over the liquid hot magma.

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3. It's the Birthplace of Surfing

3. It's the Birthplace of Surfing

The earliest written account of the sport was recorded on the Big Island by one of Captain Cook's crew members, in 1779. Sometimes known as the "sport of kings," it was originally reserved for Hawaiian royalty, but it's now open to all-including visitors who learn at popular surf spots like Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu and the beaches near Lahaina in Maui.

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4. It's Home To the World's Tallest Mountain

4. It's Home To the World's Tallest Mountain

When measured from base to peak (as opposed to feet above sea level), Mauna Kea-Hawaii's highest point-rings in as the world's tallest mountain. While it stands 13,803 feet above sea level, much of the mountain sits below the ocean, and, when that mass is included, its height-33,500 feet-is more than twice the size of Everest's base-to-peak stature.

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5. You Can Hula

5. You Can Hula

Accompanied by chants, this Hawaiian dance was originally used to tell legends, myths and the history of the islands, including their creation stories. These days, this beautiful dance is usually experienced at a luau like the historically sensitive Old Lahaina Luau, where guests also feast on kalua pig, which is cooked in a traditional underground oven, and take in other elements of traditional Hawaiian culture.

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6. You Can See Obama's Old Home

6. You Can See Obama's Old Home

Famously the birthplace of Barack Obama, the president and his family return here every year for their winter vacation-the 5,000 square foot plantation home he now rents on Paradise Point on Oahu is a long, long way from the somewhat seedy apartment in downtown Honolulu that he shared with his mother as a teen (which you can see on one of the many Obama tours available). You can also take this opportunity to scoop up some sweet Aloha-themed Obama bobbleheads.

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7. Hollywood Loves Hawaii

7. Hollywood Loves Hawaii

The islands of Kauai, Oahu and Maui have all served as movie sets for big Hollywood blockbusters and popular TV shows. One location alone, Kualoa Ranch on the windward side of Oahu-a dramatic place with views out to the hat-shaped Mokoliʻi Islet-has hosted shoots for Jurassic Park, Godzilla, 50 First Dates and Lost.

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8. You Can Explore Leper's Island

8. You Can Explore Leper's Island

The island of Molokai, close to Maui, was long home to North America's most famous leper colony, although no active cases of the illness (now properly known as Hansen's Disease) remain. Molokai is also home to the world's tallest sea cliffs, which tower thousands of feet over the crashing Pacific below.

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9. It Has the World's Freshest Pineapples

9. It Has the World's Freshest Pineapples

While very little pineapple is still grown here-only two commercial growers remain on the islands-the Maui Pineapple Tour affords a rare opportunity to venture into the middle of the fields and taste this spiny fruit in its juiciest form, just seconds after being picked off the stalk.

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10. It's Home To America's Only Royal Palace

10. It's Home To America's Only Royal Palace

The stately Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu-which avid TV watchers will recognize as the police headquarters from the current incarnation of Hawaii 5-0-was built in 1882 by King David Kalakaua with all the modern conveniences (it was outfitted with electricity before the White House), and remains the official residence of the Hawaiian royal family.

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11. Elvis Loved It

11. Elvis Loved It

These islands were not only Elvis Presley's preferred vacation destination (he logged a great deal of beach time here), he also filmed three movies in Hawaii (Blue Hawaii, Paradise-Hawaiian Style, and Girls! Girls! Girls!) and broadcast a live concert-the first broadcast beamed around the world by satellite-from the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu arena in 1973. (You can still find a hefty-looking Elvis statue out front of the arena.)

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12. You Can See the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa

12. You Can See the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa

The official state fish of Hawaii, one of the longest words in the Hawaiian language, and the inspiration for numerous songs, restaurants and novelty shirts throughout the islands. It seems almost certain that if its English name-reef triggerfish-was more common, that this humble little swimmer would be far less famous.

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13. You'll Have Some Privacy

13. You'll Have Some Privacy

What better place is there to truly get away? At almost 4,000 kilometres from the nearest continent, Hawaii is usually considered the most isolated population centre on earth.

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