Photos: Hawaiian paradise

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  1. Waimea Canyon, Kauai

    Kalalau Valley, on Kauai's west side, is more than 3,000 feet deep and provides stunning panoramic views. Waimea is nicknamed "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." (John Borthwick / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii

    Men row their Hawaiian outrigger canoe towards Waikiki beach, with Diamond Head in the background. Outrigger canoes are now used for recreation purposes and to ride the waves, but in times past they were the main means of transportation between the Hawaiian Islands. (Mike Nelson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The tranquil waters of Oahu

    Hanauma Bay is one of the finest stretches of beach in the world. (Eric L Wheater / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Surfer's paradise

    Australian Luke Egan competes on Oahu's North Shore, one of the best places in Hawaii to ride the big waves. (AFP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Water colors

    A school of manini fish pass over a coral reef at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Donald Miralle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Wailua Falls

    The beautiful 83-foot tiered Wailua Falls is an easily accessible, must-see waterfall on the island of Kauai. Wailua Falls was first made famous when it was featured in the television show, "Fantasy Island." (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Emerald peaks

    The iconic, towering emerald peaks of the 1,200-foot Iao Needle, stand out in Maui's Iao Valley State Park. (Adina Tovy Amsel / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Historic reminder

    The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, marks the resting place of many of the battleship's 1,177 crew members who lost their lives during the Attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 by the Japanese. The memorial is the "ground zero" of World War II. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aloha!

    Hula dancers welcome the sailing crew of a Hokule'a, a canoe, into Kailua Bay. (Ronen Zilberman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The heart of Hawaii

    The sun sets on Honolulu, Oahu's capital and Hawaii's largest, most populous city. (Robert Y. Ono / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Polynesian heat

    Brandon OFueo Maneafaiga, 23, of Waianae, Hawaii balances two flaming knifes during the 13th Annual World Fireknife Championship at the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Laie, Hawaii. (Lucy Pemoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Explosive attraction

    People watch from a viewing area as an explosion takes place on Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Legend says the volcano goddess Pele dug fire pits as she traveled from island to island looking for a home with her brothers and sisters. She finally settled at Kilauea's summit, where she lives at Halemaumau crater. (Leigh Hilbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Forces of nature

    The Dragon's Teeth are bizarre lava formations eroded by wind and salt spray at Makalua-puna Point. (Karl Lehmann / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Heaven on Earth

    Astronomy observatories are seen on the peak of the snow-covered, Mauna Kea mountain near Hilo, Hawaii. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano. (Tim Wright / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. On the way to Sainthood

    Tourists walk through a cemetery past the grave, left, of Father Damien at Kalawao, Hawaii. After cancer patient Audrey Toguchi prayed to Father Damien, known for helping leprosy patients in Hawaii, to help her, and her cancer went away, Pope Benedict XVI approved the case in July 2008 as Damien's second miracle, opening the way for the 19th century Belgian priest to be declared a saint. (Eric Risberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Cool colors

    Rainbow eucalyptus (Mindanao Gum) trees grow in Keanae, Maui. Once a year, these magnificent trees shed their bark and take on the colors of the rainbow. (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Magic Sands

    An aerial view of La'aloa Beach Park or Magic Sands beach in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The beach is called Magic Sands because when rough surf hits, all of the sand is emptied off the beach and temporarily moved out to sea. (Brian Powers / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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By Travel columnist

Development is coming to Kauai in giant steps. And along with more hotels, more condos, and more timeshare properties are more tour companies offering more activities — at a cost, of course. Nevertheless, the best activities on the Garden Isle are still free or nearly so. Here are my favorites.

1. Stick your head in the sea
Kauai doesn’t have the best snorkeling in the islands, but it’s a heck of a lot better than any snorkeling I’ve done in Des Moines. The best beaches for snorkeling are on the north shore, but almost any cove or reef will suit the casual underwater spectator.

(Hint: Take your own mask, fins and snorkel or buy a set when you arrive. If you use them only one other time in your life, it’s cheaper than renting — and you won’t be sucking on somebody else’s cooties.)

2. Take a hike
Probably one of the most popular hikes on the island is along the Kalalau trail. And although it’s popular, it isn’t all that crowded because it isn’t all that easy either. If you are in fairly good shape — and you aren’t dragging along little kids — it is worth the effort.

The trailhead is at the end of the road on the North Shore. It offers spectacular views of the Na Pali coast from the Na Pali coast. At two miles you’ll arrive at Hanakapiai Beach. From there, you’ve got three choices: Continue on to Kalalau (for serious backpackers only), ford the stream and turn inland to Hanakapiai Falls (another and a more strenuous two miles to a fantastic 300-foot waterfall) or return (my favorite).

(Hint: Wear sturdy shoes and don’t hesitate to walk through the water and mud. You’re shoes will be indelibly red by the time you return no matter how careful you try to be. Better yet, just take and old pair of sneakers to Kauai and toss them before heading home.)

3. Get some sand between your toes
The beaches of Kauai are relatively uncrowded, but if you want a stretch of sand all to yourself, head to Polihale State Park — a two-mile long beach with very few folks. There are no conveniences anywhere near the beach so make sure to take everything you need, and be mindful that the surf on this northwest facing shore can be treacherous.

(Hint: The sunsets from the beach are reported to be awesome. However, you don’t want to be out there after dark. I’d suggest a sunset view from Kekaha Beach Park on the way back.)

4. Check out the boobies (The seabird kind; not the Sports Illustrated kind. Sorry guys.)
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge offers a little history, a little nature and a grand view of the pacific all for a $2.00 entrance fee. And it is one of the best places to catch sight of humpback whales as they migrate from Alaska.

(Hint: Take a pair of binoculars to spy on the lives of the cliff-dwelling birds and, if you are there between December and April, to spot a humpback. Guided walks by volunteers are given periodically. Call 808-828-1413 for details.)

5. Park it
Kokee State Park is up the road from Waimea canyon. The natural history museum is worth a couple of bucks donation, and the views from the Kalalau and Puu O Kila lookouts — if it’s not foggy — are dramatic. So too is the view from Waimea Canyon Lookout on the road up to Kokee State Park. Be sure to stop.

(Hint: State Park docents and Sierra Club members occasionally offer guided hikes. Check the local newspaper and call for reservations.) Each of these activities can fill up a day, but if you like, you can string a couple together too. Just make sure to time your travel to avoid traffic. With the increase in development an increase in traffic has arrived in Kauai as well.

Terry Riley, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., is a corporate psychologist specializing in the management of travel behavior. Terry is the author of "Travel Can Be Murder" and "The Complete Travel Diet." He also edits Travel Fox, a satirical news report. E-mail Terryor visit his Web site.Check out the forums on Tripso.com!

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