The islands of HAWAII , with their volcanoes , palm-fringed beaches , verdant valleys , glorious rainbows and awesome cliffs , hold some of the most spectacularly beautiful scenery on earth. However, despite their isolation, two thousand miles out in the Pacific, they belong very definitely to the United States. If you expect your South Seas idyll to be completely unspoiled, forget it; the fantasy of a dream holiday in Paradise remains firmly rooted in the creature comforts of home. With seven million tourists per year, including honeymooners from all over the world, frequent fliers cashing in their mileage, and almost two million Japanese, the islands can seem like a gigantic theme park.
Honolulu , by far the largest city of the fiftieth state, and with its resort annex of Waikiki also the main tourist center, is on Oahu . The biggest island, Hawaii itself, is known as the Big Island in a vain attempt to avoid confusion. Maui and Kauai also attract mass tourism, while smaller Molokai remains far quieter. All the islands share a similar topography and climate . Ocean winds from the northeast shed their rain on the windward coast, keeping it 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 throughout the year at between 70°F and 85°F, rainfall is heaviest from December to March. That is nonetheless the most popular time to visit, enabling mid- to upper-range hotels to add a premium of at least $30 per night to their standard room rates. A visit to Hawaii doesn't have to cost a fortune, however; there are plenty of budget facilities if you know where to look. The one major expense you really can't avoid, except possibly on Oahu, is car rental - rates are very reasonable, but gas is pricey.