With all the beaches in Hawaii to choose from, Hanalei Bay is still a cut above the rest—as proof, should you doubt, it was rated one of America's top-ten beaches in 2005. A white sandy beach rims the bay, and lifeguards keep visitors safe from swells or and paradise-induced comas.
As backdrop, a green carpet edged by mountains thick with tangled tropical foliage provides vivid color to contrast the ever-changing sky. Kayak out into the bay to put the place in perspective—rent watercraft for a week if you can't soak up the scenery in just an afternoon.
Check out a bike for the day from one of the local rental companies to cruise some of less-beaten paths, but if you're after off-road riding don't settle for anything short of a mountain bike.
A string of beautiful beaches lead west from Hanalei, though some are ripped with strong currents which make swimming—or other water pursuits—dangerous. If you really must get your mask wet try Makua Beach or Kee Beach. Pitch your tent after a hard day of fin-flopping at one of the strands of sand here that permit camping before setting off to view the unforgettable Na Pali Coast west of Hanalei.
Take spare film for the trip to Na Pali—whether you choose to view it from the sea, hike in on foot or cruise past in a helicopter. The reward for visiting this remote location is a glimpse of long, lean green mountains that plummet down into the sea, brushed with the mist of waterfalls and the rainbows of passing storms. Kalalau Trail leads hikers for 11 miles along the coast, though Nualolo Kai and Milolii can't be reached on foot so paddle or join a guided tour for a peek. Pitch a tent at one of the sites open for camping if you've got the supplies.
Hanalei is six miles from the end of Route 56, northwest of Lihue.