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Aerial Tours

Taking an aerial tour of the Islands opens up a world of perspective. Look down from the sky at the outline of the USS Arizona where it lies in its final resting place below the waters of Pearl Harbor, or get a glimpse of the vast carved expanse of a volcanic crater—here are views only seen by an "eye in the sky." Don't forget your camera.

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. This company stakes its claim as Hawaii's largest 'copter company, with tours on all the major islands and more than two-dozen choppers in its fleet. The 45-minute Oahu tour seats up to 12 passengers and includes narration from your friendly pilot along with sweeping views of Waikiki, the beautiful windward coast, and the North Shore. If you like to see the world from above or are just pinched for time and want to get a quick overview of the whole island without renting a car, this is the way to go. Discounts are available if booked online. 99 Kaulele Pl., Honolulu, HI, 96819. 808/831–8800 or 800/745–2583. www.bluehawaiian.com. From $233.

Island Seaplane Service. Harking back to the days of the earliest air visitors to Hawaii, the seaplane has always had a special spot in island lore. The only seaplane service still operating in Hawaii takes off from Keehi Lagoon. (It was featured in the film, "50 First Dates.") Flight options are either a half-hour southern and eastern Oahu shoreline tour or an hour-long island circle tour. You can also opt for a catered dinner on a floating dock in the lagoon. The Pan Am Clipper may be gone, but you can revisit the experience with this company. 85 Lagoon Dr., Airport area, Honolulu, HI, 96819. 808/836–6273. www.islandseaplane.com. From $179.

Makani Kai Helicopters. This may be the best—if not only—way to see the beautiful Sacred Falls on the windward side of the island, as the park around the falls was closed to hikers after a deadly 1999 rock slide. Makani Kai dips the helicopter down to show you one of Hawaii's former favorite trails and the pristine waterfall it leads to. Tours can last either a half- or full hour. Or the more adventurous can book the 50-minute Doors Off tour in the MD-500, the iconic helicopter from the "Magnum PI" TV series. Customized private charters are available for up to six passengers. Discounts available if booked online. 130 Iolana Pl., Honolulu, HI, 96819. 808/834–5813 or 877/255–8532. www.makanikai.com. From $170.

The Original Glider Rides. "Mr. Bill" has been offering piloted glider (sailplane) rides over the northwest end of Oahu's North Shore since 1970. Choose from piloted scenic rides for one or two passengers in sleek, bubble-top, motorless aircraft with aerial views of mountains, shoreline, coral pools, windsurfing sails, and, in winter, humpback whales. Seeking more thrills? You can also take a more acrobatic ride or take control yourself in a "mini lesson." Flights range from 15 to 60 minutes long and depart continuously from 10 to 5 daily. Dillingham Airfield, 69-132 Farrington Hwy., Waialua, HI, 96791. 808/637–0207. . www.honolulusoaring.com. From $79.

Animal Encounters

Pods of dolphins surround the Islands, and spotting them can be as easy as just getting yourself out in the ocean. They are wild animals, of course, and do not follow a schedule, but a catamaran sail off Waikiki will usually net you a spotting. Dolphins also generally make appearances shortly after sunrise on the West Shore and can be clearly observed from beaches like Makua and Makaha. And while they won't have the peppy music of Sea World in the background, their jumping and spinning is even more awe-inspiring when you realize they are just doing it as a natural part of their lives rather than for a reward.

Some tour operators offer opportunities to swim with dolphins, but keep in mind that these are federally protected marine mammals, so you should always follow the instructions given by the tour operator if you attend one of these trips. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provides specific guidelines for tour operators encountering dolphins through their Dolphin Safe program. The cost for dolphin encounters can be pricey and range from $120 for a chance to swim with wild dolphins on a snorkel cruise to getting in a pool with them as a trainer for a day for $700.

Similarly, you can also swim with sharks, though you do so in a protective cage.

This worldwide dolphin-encounter group has an Oahu location in the Kahala. Trained Atlantic bottlenose dolphins hold court in an enclosed lagoon at the center of the hotel. The Kid's Aquatic Adventure is a 90 minute, in-the-water session of feeding and interacting with sting rays and dolphins. For the adults, there is more variety starting with a 15-minute encounter and going up to the 5½ hour "Trainer for a Day" experience.

Hanauma Bay Dive Tours. For those who are a little timid about entering these waters, this outfitter prvides a tour with a guide to help alleviate your fears. The company's three-hour Dolphin Adventure departs from Waianae Boat Harbor and includes transportation to/from Waikiki. The company also offers cheaper guided snorkeling tours. Waianae Boat Harbor, 85-491 Farrington Hwy, Waianae, HI, 96792. 808/256–8956. www.hanaumabaydivetours.com. From $120.

North Shore Shark Adventures. "You go in the cage, cage goes in the water, you go in the water, shark's in the water." You remember this line from Jaws, and now you get to play the role of Richard Dreyfus, as North Shore Shark Adventures provides you with an interactive experience out of your worst nightmare. The tour allows you to swim and snorkel in a cage as dozens of sharks lurk just feet from you in the open ocean off the North Shore, and all for just $120. They'll provide transportation from Waikiki for an additional charge. If you go, go early, it's the shark's natural feeing time and they are a lot more aggressive. Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor, 66-105 Haleiwa Rd, Boat Slip #40, Haleiwa, HI, 96712. 808/228–5900. sharktourshawaii.com.

Biking

Oahu's coastal roads are flat, well paved, and unfortunately, awash in vehicular traffic. Frankly, biking is no fun in either Waikiki or Honolulu, but things are a bit better outside the city. Your best bet is to cycle early in the morning or get off the road and check out the island’s bike trails.

Honolulu City and County Bike Coordinator. This office can answer all your biking questions concerning trails, permits, and state laws. 808/768–8335. www1.honolulu.gov/dts/bikepage.htm.

Best Spots

Kaena Point Trail. If going up a mountain is not your idea of mountain biking, then perhaps Kaena Point Trail is better suited to your needs. A longer ride (10 miles) but much flatter, this trail takes you oceanside around the westernmost point on the island. You pass sea arches and a mini-blowhole, then finish up with some motocross jumps right before you turn around. There's no drinking water available on this ride, but at least at the end you have the Yokohama beach showers to cool you off. 69–385 Farrington Hwy., Waialua, HI, 96791.

Waimanalo Demonstration Trail. Locals favor biking this 10-mile trail that has breathtaking views as you descend into Waimanalo. There are many flat portions but also some uneven ground to negotiate unless you're willing to carry your bike for small stretches. The trailhead is at the Pali Lookout on the blacktop of Old Pali Rd. Nuuanu Pali Dr., at Pali Lookout, Honolulu, HI, 96817.

West Kaunala Trail. Biking the North Shore may sound like a great idea, but the two-lane road is narrow and traffic-heavy. We suggest you try the West Kaunala Trail. It's a little tricky at times, but with the rain-forest surroundings and beautiful ocean vistas you'll hardly notice your legs burning on the steep ascent at the end. It's about 5½ mile round-trip. Bring water because there's none on the trail unless it comes from the sky. 59-777 Pupukea Rd, at the end of Pupukea Rd., Haleiwa, HI, 96712. Pupukea Rd. is next to Foodland, the only grocery store on North Shore.

Equipment and Tours

Bike Hawaii. Whether it's road tours of the North Shore or muddy off-road adventures in Ka‘a‘awa Valley, this is the company to get you there. There are combination packages that pair cycling with kayaking, snorkeling, sailing or hiking. They also offer guided hikes combined with sailing and snorkeling. The company offers both three-hour road tours and a six-hour mountain-biking foray. Tours include equipment, transportation, water, and lunch. The company will pick you up at your hotel. A highlight is the Urban Cultural Bike Tour, which includes visits to Iolani Palace and historic downtown Honolulu. 877/682–7433. www.bikehawaii.com. From $60.

Hawaii Bicycling League. Don't want to go cycling by yourself? Visit this shop online, and you can get connected with rides and contests. 808/735–5756. www.hbl.org.

Camping in Oahu

If you are looking for a more rugged escape from the resorts of Waikiki, consider pitching a tent on the beach or in the mountains, where you have easy access to hiking trails and the island’s natural features. Camping here is not as highly organized as it is on the mainland: expect few marked sites, scarce electrical outlets, and nary a ranger station. What you find instead are unblemished spots in the woods and on the beach. Both the Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the State Park Service offer recreation areas at which you can camp, both in the mountains and on the beach. All state park and Division of Forestry and Wildlife campsites can now be reserved up to a year in advance online at www.hawaiistateparks.org. The fee is $18 a night per campsite for up to six people. As for the county spots, there are 17 currently available and all require a permit. The good news is that the permits are only $10 per night and are easy to obtain, as long as you’re not trying to go on a holiday weekend. Visit www1.honolulu.gov/parks for more information.

If tent camping sounds a little too rugged, consider cabin camping on the beach. These spots do not offer the amenities of the island's hotels and resorts, but they do provide oceanfront rooms for those on smaller budgets.

Boat Tours and Charters

Being on the water can be the best way to enjoy the Islands. Whether you want to see the fish in action or experience how they taste, there is a tour for you.

For a sailing experience in Oahu, you need go no farther than the beach in front of your hotel in Waikiki. Strung along the sand are several beach catamarans that will provide you with one-hour rides during the day and 90-minute sunset sails. Look for $23 to $25 for day sails and $30 to $34 for sunset rides. Feel free to haggle, especially with the smaller boats. Some provide drinks for free, some charge for them, and some let you pack your own, so keep that in mind when pricing the ride. Or choose to go the ultra-luxe route and charter a boat for a day or week. These run from less than $100 per person per day to over $1,000.

Hawaii Duck Tours. Offering three itineraries, these unique tours in WWII-era amphibious assault vehicles take advantage of the ducks' dual means of travel by navigating the streets of Oahu and then gliding into the water in sheltered bays. The Honolulu City Tour takes you through Waikiki to downtown Honolulu and Chinatown passing historic landmarks along the way. The Pearl Harbor tours give you the option of visiting the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument (aka The Arizona Memorial) for $89 or, for $10 more, you can visit the USS Missiouri. Both spend some time on the water at Keehi Lagoon. For $69, the Maunalua Bay Tour takes you east out of Waikiki past Diamond Head toward Hawaii Kai for some time on the water off the coast of Koko Head Crater. All tours offer pick up at central locations in Waikiki. Ala Wai Boat Harbor, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/988–3825. www.hawaiiducktours.com. From $49.

Hawaii Nautical. With two locations in Waikiki and one on the Waianae Coast, this outfit offers a wide variety of cruise options including guaranteed dolphin sightings, gourmet dinners, lunches, snorkeling, scuba diving, or sunset viewing. Three-hour cruises, including lunch and two drinks, depart from the Kewalo Basin Harbor just outside of Waikiki. (The company's Port Waikiki Cruises runs sails from the Hilton Pier off the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki.) For those interested in leaving from the Waianae Coast, three-hour morning and two-hour afternoon snorkel tours are available from the Waianae Boat Harbor on Farrington Highway (91-607 Malakole St., 808/234–7245). Prices include all gear, food, and two alcoholic beverages. The dock in the Waianae Boat Harbor is a little more out of the way, but this is a much more luxurious option than what is offered in Waikiki. Three-hour morning and two-hour afternoon tours of the west side of Oahu include stops for observing dolphins from the boat and a snorkel spot well populated with fish. All gear, snacks, sandwiches, and two alcoholic beverages make for a more complete experience. Pickup in Ko Olina is free, but the company will also pick you up and take you back Waikiki for an addional fee. Book sails for any location by phone. Kewalo Basin Harbor, 1125 Ala Moana Blvd., Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/234–7245. www.hawaiinautical.com. From $109.

Honolulu Sailing Company. With a small fleet of mono- and multi-hull sail and power boats, the Honolulu Sailing Company combines boat charters with sailing instruction opportunities. Itineraries may include chartered, private day-sails or power boating around Oahu as well as multiday interisland cruises. Kewalo Basin Harbor, 1125 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI, 96814. 808/239–3900. www.honsail.com.

Maitai Catamaran. Taking off from the stretch of sand between the Sheraton Waikiki and the Halekulani Hotel, this 44-foot cat is the fastest and sleekest on the beach. There are a variety of tours to choose from, including a sunset sail and a snorkel excursion. If you have a need for speed and enjoy a little more upscale experience, this is the boat for you. Waikiki Beach, between Sheraton Waikiki and Halekulani Hotel, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/922–5665 or 800/462–7975. www.maitaicatamaran.net. From $28.

Makani Catamaran. This 65-foot Makani is the top catamaran in Hawaii for luxury, from its Bose stereo system to its LCD TVs to its freshwater bathrooms. It sails out of Kewalo Basin three times daily, offering breakfast, "city lights" dinner cruises, and Friday night "fireworks" cruises. Kewalo Basin Harbor, 1125 Ala Moana Blvd., Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI, 96814. 808/591–9000. www.sailmakani.com. From $49.

Na Hoku II Catamaran. Features a variety music and free booze in its $30 price tag. The 45-foot catamaran is tied up near the Westin Moana Surfrider hotel and sails four times daily. Its sister cat, the 43-foot-long Manu Kai, takes the same amount of passengers for the same price. Make reservations in advance for the sunset sail as the boat fills up quickly. Waikiki Beach, between Moana Surfrider Hotel and Duke's Barefoot Bar, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/554–5990. nahokuiiandmanukai.com. $30.

Star of Honolulu Cruises. Founded in 1957, this company recently expanded its fleet to include the 65-foot Dolfin Star, docked on Oahu's west coast. It offers everything from snorkeling cruises in the pristine waters off the Waianae coast to gourmet-dinner cruises with live entertainment to seasonal whale-watching sails on one of two vessels. Popular cruises teach you how to string lei and dance hula. Two-hour whale-watching-excursion rates begin at $33 per person, while dinner cruises start at $86 and go up to $189. The company has a second location at 85-491 Farrington Highway in Waianae. Aloha Tower Marketplace, 1 Aloha Tower Dr., Downtown, Honolulu, HI, 96813. 808/983–7827 or 800/334–6191. www.starofhonolulu.com.

Tradewind Charters. This company's half-day private excursions can include sailing, snorkeling, reef fishing, and whale-watching. Traveling on these luxury yachts not only gets you away from the crowds, but also gives you the opportunity to "take the helm" if you wish. The cruises may include snorkeling at an exclusive anchorage, as well as hands-on snorkeling and sailing instruction. Base charter prices cover up to six passengers. Kewalo Basin Harbor, 1125 Ala Moana Blvd., Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI, 96814. 808/227–4956 or 800/829–4899. www.tradewindcharters.com. From $495.

Body Boarding and Bodysurfing

Body boarding (or sponging) has long been a popular alternative to surfing for a couple of reasons. First, the start-up cost is much less—a usable board can be purchased for $30 to $40 or can be rented on the beach for $5 an hour. Second, it's a whole lot easier to ride a body board than to tame a surfboard. All you have to do is paddle out to the waves, then turn toward the beach as the wave approaches and kick like crazy.

Most grocery and convenience stores sell body boards. Though these boards don’t compare to what the pros use, beginners won't notice a difference in their handling on smaller waves.

Though they are not absolutely necessary for body boarding, fins do give you a tremendous advantage when you’re paddling. If you plan to go out into bigger surf, we would also suggest getting a leash, which reduces the chance you’ll lose your board. The smaller, sturdier versions of dive fins used for body boarding sell for $25 to $60 at surf and dive stores, and sporting-goods stores. Most beach stands don’t rent fins with the boards, so if you want them you'll probably need to buy them.

Bodysurfing requires far less equipment—just a pair of swim fins with heel straps—but it can be a lot more challenging to master. Typically, surf breaks that are good for body boarding are good for bodysurfing.

If the direction of the current or dangers of the break are not readily apparent to you, don't hesitate to ask a lifeguard for advice.

Best Spots

Body boarding and bodysurfing can be done anywhere there are waves, but due to the paddling advantage surfers have over spongers, it's usually more fun to go to surf breaks exclusively for body boarding.

Bellows Beach. On Oahu's windward side, Bellows Field Beach has shallow waters and a consistent break that makes it an ideal spot for body boarders and bodysurfers. (Surfing isn't allowed between the two lifeguard towers.) But take note: the Portuguese man-o-war, a blue jellyfish-like invertebrate that delivers painful and powerful stings, is often seen here. 41-043 Kalanianaole Hwy., Waimanalo.

Kuhio Beach Park. This beach is an easy spot for first-timers to check out the action. The Wall, a break near the large pedestrian walkway called Kapahulu Groin, is the quintessential body-boarding spot. The soft, rolling waves make it perfect for beginners. Even during summer's south swells, it's relatively tame because of the outer reefs. Waikiki Beach, between the Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel and the Kapahulu Groin, Honolulu.

Makapuu Beach. With its extended waves, Makapuu Beach is a sponger's dream. If you're a little more timid, go to the far end of the beach to Keiki's, where the waves are mellowed by Makapuu Point. Although the main break at Makapuu is much less dangerous than Sandy's, check out the ocean floor—the sands are always shifting, sometimes exposing coral heads and rocks. Always check (or ask lifeguards about) the currents, which can get pretty strong. 41-095 Kalanianaole Hwy., across from Sea Life Park.

Sandy Beach. The best spot—and arguably one of the most dangerous—on the island for advanced body boarding is Sandy Beach, located on Oahu's eastern shore. Dubbed one of the most treacherous shore breaks in the nation, the break can be extremely dangerous even when it's small. As lifeguards will attest, there are more neck injuries suffered here than at any other surf break in the United States. It's awesome for the advanced, but know its danger before paddling out. 8800 Kalanianaole Hwy., 2 miles east of Hanauma Bay, Honolulu.

Waimanalo Beach Park. With the longest sand beach on Oahu's windward side, Waimanalo Bay has a shallow sandbar at the water's edge that provides good waves for body boarding and bodysurfing. It's an ideal break for novices because of its soft waves. Like Walls in Waikiki, this area is protected by an outer reef. And like Bellows, it's favored by the dangerous Portuguese man-o-war. Aloiloi St., Waimanalo.

Equipment

There are more than 30 rental spots along Waikiki Beach, all offering basically the same prices. But if you plan to body board for more than just an hour, we would suggest buying an inexpensive board for $20 to $40 at an ABC Store—there are more than 30 in the Waikiki area—and giving it to a kid at the end of your vacation. It will be more cost-effective for you, and you’ll be passing along some aloha spirit in the process.

Deep-Sea Fishing

Fishing isn’t just a sport in Hawaii, it’s a way of life. A number of charter boats with experienced crews can take you on a sportfishing adventure throughout the year. Sure, the bigger yellowfin tuna (ahi) are generally caught in summer, and the coveted spearfish are more frequent in winter, but you can still hook them any day of the year. You can also find dolphinfish (mahimahi), wahoo (ono), skipjacks, and the king—Pacific blue marlin—ripe for the picking on any given day. The largest marlin ever caught, weighing in at 1,805 pounds, was reeled in along Oahu’s coast.

When choosing a fishing boat in the Islands, keep in mind the immensity of the surrounding ocean. Look for veteran captains who have decades of experience. Better yet, find those who care about Hawaii’s fragile marine environment. Many captains now tag and release their catches to preserve the state’s fishing grounds.

The general rule for the catch is an even split with the crew. Unfortunately, there are no "freeze-and-ship" providers in the state, so unless you plan to eat the fish while you're here, you'll probably want to leave it with the boat. Most boats do offer mounting services for trophy fish; ask your captain.

Prices vary greatly, but expect to pay from around $75 per person for a spot on a boat with more than 20 people to $2,000 for an overnight trip for up to 6 people. Besides the gift of fish, a gratuity of 10% to 20% is standard, but use your own discretion depending on how you feel about the overall experience.

Boats and Charters

Hawaii Fishing Charters. Based out of Ko Olina resort, Captain Jim and his crew try to bring the full Hawaiian experience to their fishing trips. Although most fishing boats head straight out to the open ocean, Captain Jim trolls along the leeward coast, giving visitors a nice sense of the island while stalking the fish. Your cheapest option will be a shared charter, and prices increase from there. The company also offers a private overnighter to Molokai's Penguin Banks, reputed to be some of Hawaii's best fishing grounds, for up to four people. Ko Olina Resort and Marina, 92 Aliinui Dr., Kapolei, HI, 96707. 808/208–2512. From $375.

Maggie Joe Sport Fishing. The oldest sportfishing company on Oahu boasts landing one of the largest marlins every caught out of Kewalo Basin. With a fleet of three boats including the 53-foot custom Maggie Joe (which can hold up to 15 anglers and has air-conditioned cabins, hot showers, and cutting-edge fishing equipment) they can offer a variety of off-shore fishing packages including night shark fishing. A marine taxidermist can mount the monster you reel in. Half-day exclusive on the 41-foot Sea Hawk or the 38-foot Ruckus can accommodate up to six people and are the cheapest option. Charters on the larger Maggie Joe can start at ¾-day or a full day (but not a half-day). It even offers a nighttime shark fishing tour at $550, where you spend three hours off Waikiki in search of these predators. Kewalo Basin, 1025 Ala Moana Blvd., Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI, 96813. 808/591–8888 or 877/806–3474. www.maggiejoe.com. Half-day charters from $744.

Magic Sportfishing. This 50-foot Pacifica fishing yacht, aptly named Magic, boasts a slew of sportfishing records, including some of largest marlins caught in local tournaments and the most mahimahi hooked during a one-day charter. This yacht is very comfortable, with twin diesel engines that provide a smooth ride, air-conditioning, and a cozy seating area. The boat can accommodate up to six passengers and offers both shared and full charters. Kewalo Basin Harbor, 1125 Ala Moana Blvd., Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/596–2998 or 808/286–2998. www.magicsportfishing.com. From $200 per person for shared charter; from $975 for a private charter.

Sashimi Fun Fishing. With a glass-bottomed boat, speed boat, and two 65-foot fishing vessels, Sashimi Fun Fishing offers a variety of water activities. Choose a shark hunt, rock 'n' roll blues cruise, or traditional deep sea fishing. Or, for those who aren't quite ready to troll for big game in the open-ocean swells, you can take a trip that combines a dinner cruise with fishing and music. The boat keeps close enough to shore so that while you're hooking reef fish, you can still see Oahu. The cruise includes a local barbecue dinner or you can cook what you catch. Rates can include hotel transportation. Kewalo Basin Harbor, 1125 Ala Moana Blvd., Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI, 96814. 808/955–3474. www.808955fish.com. From $63 per person for shared trips.

Going With a Guide

Hawaii Nature Center. A good choice for families, the center in upper Makiki Valley conducts a number of programs for both adults and children. There are guided hikes into tropical settings that reveal hidden waterfalls and protected forest reserves. They don't run tours every day so it's a good idea to get advance reservations. 2131 Makiki Heights Dr., Makiki Heights, Honolulu, HI, 96822. 808/955–0100. www.hawaiinaturecenter.org.

Oahu Nature Tours. Guides explain the native flora and fauna and history that are your companions on their various walking and hiking tours on Oahu. This outfitter also offers tours of historic sites like the Arizona Memorial and Punchbowl. There are even several different birding tours, perfect for those interested in spotting one of Hawaii's native honeycreepers. Tours include pick-up at centralized Waikiki locations. 808/924–2473. www.oahunaturetours.com.

Golf

Unlike on the other Hawaiian Islands, the majority of Oahu's golf courses are not associated with hotels and resorts. In fact, of the island's three dozen–plus courses, only five are tied to lodging and none of them is in the tourist hub of Waikiki.

Municipal courses are a good choice for budget-conscious golfers but are more crowded and are not always maintained to the same standard as the private courses. Your best bet is to call the day you want to play and inquire about walk-on availability. Greens fees are standard at city courses: walking rate, $55 for visitors; riding cart, $20 for 18 holes; pull carts, $4.

Greens fees listed here are the highest course rates per round on weekdays and weekends for U.S. residents. (Some courses charge non–U.S. residents higher prices.) Discounts are often available for resort guests and for those who book tee times online. Twilight fees are usually offered; call individual courses for information.

Tips for Golfing in Hawaii

Before you head out to the first tee, there are a few things you should know about golf in Hawaii:

All resort courses and many daily-fee courses provide rental clubs. In many cases, they're the latest lines from Titleist, Ping, Callaway, and the like. This is true for both men and women, as well as left-handers, which means you don't have to schlep clubs across the Pacific.

Most courses offer deals varying from twilight deep-discount rates to frequent-visitor discounts, even for tourists. Ask questions when calling pro shops, and don't just accept the first quote—deals abound if you persist.

Pro shops at most courses are well stocked with balls, tees, and other accoutrements, so even if you bring your own bag, it needn't weigh a ton.

Come spikeless—very few Hawaii courses still permit metal spikes.

Sunscreen. Buy it, apply it (minimum 30 SPF). The subtropical rays of the sun are intense, even in December.

Resort courses, in particular, offer more than the usual three sets of tees, sometimes four or five. So bite off as much or little challenge as you can chew. Tee it up from the tips and you'll end up playing a few 600-yard par-5s and see a few 250-yard forced carries.

In theory, you can play golf in Hawaii 365 days a year. But there's a reason the Hawaiian Islands are so green. Better to bring an umbrella and light jacket and not use them than not to bring them and get soaked.

Unless you play a muni or certain daily-fee courses, plan on taking a cart. Riding carts are mandatory at most courses and are included in the greens fees.

Honolulu

There is only one spot to golf near Waikiki and it is the busiest course in America. While not a very imaginative layout, the price is right and the advantage of walking from your hotel to the course is not to be overlooked. Just make sure you bring a newspaper because it will be a little while before you tee off.

Ala Wai Municipal Golf Course. Just across the Ala Wai Canal from Waikiki, this municipal golf course is said to host more rounds than any other U.S. course—up to 500 per day. Not that it's a great course, just really convenient. Although residents can obtain a city golf card that allows automated tee-time reservation over the phone, the best bet for a visitor is to show up and expect to wait at least an hour. The course itself is flat. Robin Nelson did some redesign work in the 1990s, adding mounding, trees and a lake. The Ala Wai Canal comes into play on several holes on the back nine, including the treacherous 18th. There's also an on-site restaurant and bar. 404 Kapahulu Ave., Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/733–7387 starter's office; 808/738–4652 golf shop. www.honolulu.gov/des/golf/alawai.htm. $55. 18 holes, 5861 yards, par 70.

Moanalua Golf Club. Said to be (but not without dispute) the oldest golf club west of the Rockies, this 9-holer is private but allows public play except on weekend and holiday mornings. Near Pearl Harbor and nestled in the hardwoods, this course will remind you more of golf in Pennsylvania than the tropics, but it offers the cheapest green fees in the area, and by the time you get here, you'll probably be over the whole palm tree theme anyway. The course is a bit quirky, but the final two holes, a par-3 off a cliff to a smallish tree-rimmed green and a par-4 with an approach to a green set snugly between stream and jungle, are classic. 1250 Ala Aolani St., Salt Lake, Honolulu, HI, 96819. 808/839–2411. $45, including cart; $60 unlimited play (weekdays only). 9 holes, 2972 yards, par 36.

Southeast Oahu

Prepare to keep your ball down on this windy corner of Oahu. You'll get beautiful ocean vistas, but you may need them to soothe you once your perfect drive gets blown 40 yards off course by a gusting trade wind.

Hawaii Kai Golf Course. The Championship Golf Course (William F. Bell, 1973) winds through a Honolulu suburb at the foot of Koko Crater. Homes (and the liability of a broken window) come into play on many holes, but they are offset by views of the nearby Pacific and a crafty routing of holes. With several lakes, lots of trees, and bunkers in all the wrong places, Hawaii Kai really is a "championship" golf course, especially when the trade winds howl. The Executive Course (1962), a par-54 track, is the first of only three courses in Hawaii built by Robert Trent Jones Sr. Although a few changes have been made to his original design, you can find the usual Jones attributes, including raised greens and lots of risk-reward options. Greens fees include cart. 8902 Kalanianaole Hwy., Hawaii Kai, HI, 96825. 808/395–2358. www.hawaiikaigolf.com. $115 for Championship Course; $38.50 for Executive Course. Championship Course: 18 holes, 6222 yards, par 72; Executive Course: 18 holes, 2223 yards, par 54.

Windward Oahu

Windward Oahu is what you expect when you think of golfing in the Islands. Lush, tropical foliage will surround you, with towering mountains framing one shot and the crystal blue Pacific framing the next. While it's a bit more expensive to golf on this side, and a good deal wetter, the memories and pictures you take on these courses will last a lifetime.

Koolau Golf Club. Koolau Golf Club is marketed as the toughest golf course in Hawaii and one of the most challenging in the country. Dick Nugent and Jack Tuthill (1992) routed 10 holes over jungle ravines that require at least a 110-yard carry. The par-4 18th may be the most difficult closing hole in golf. The tee shot from the regular tees must carry 200 yards of ravine, 250 from the blue tees. The approach shot is back across the ravine, 200 yards to a well-bunkered green. Set at the Windward base of the Koolau Mountains, the course is as much beauty as beast. Kaneohe Bay is visible from most holes, orchids and yellow ginger bloom, the shama thrush (Hawaii's best singer since Don Ho) chirps, and waterfalls flute down the sheer, green mountains above. Greens fee includes cart. 45-550 Kionaole Rd., Kaneohe, HI, 96744. 808/236–4653. www.koolaugolfclub.com. $145. 18 holes, 7310 yards, par 72.

Olomana Golf Links. Bob and Robert L. Baldock are the architects of record for this layout, but so much has changed since it opened in 1969 that they would recognize little of it. A turf specialist was brought in to improve fairways and greens, tees were rebuilt, new bunkers added, and mangroves cut back to make better use of natural wetlands. But what really puts Olomana on the map is that this is where wunderkind Michelle Wie learned the game. 41-1801 Kalanianaole Hwy., Waimanalo, HI, 96795. 808/259–7926. www.pacificlinks.com/olomana. $100. 18 holes, 6306 yards, par 72.

Royal Hawaiian Golf Club. In the cool, lush Maunawili Valley, Pete and Perry Dye created what can only be called target jungle golf. In other words, the rough is usually dense jungle, and you may not hit a driver on three of the four par-5s, or several par-4s, including the perilous 18th that plays off a cliff to a narrow green protected by a creek. Mt. Olomana's twin peaks tower over the course. The back nine wanders deep into the valley, and includes an island green (par-3 11th) and perhaps the loveliest inland hole in Hawaii (par-4 12th). 770 Auloa Rd., at Luana Hills Rd., Kailua, HI, 96734. 808/275–4614 or 808/262–2139. www.pacificlinks.com/royalhawaiian. $155. 18 holes, 6193 yards, par 72.

North Shore

The North Shore has both the cheapest and most expensive courses on the island. You can play nine holes in your bare feet, and you can chunk up the course played by both the LPGA and Champions Tour here, too. Don't try to go the barefoot route on the LPGA course, or the only course you may be allowed on in the Islands will be the Kahuku muni.

Kahuku Municipal Golf Course. The only true links course in Hawaii, this 9-hole municipal course is not for everyone. Maintenance is an ongoing issue, and in summer it can look a bit like the Serengeti. It's walking-only (a few pull-carts are available for rent); there's no pro shop, just a starter who sells lost-and-found balls; and the 19th hole is a soda machine and a covered picnic bench. And yet the course stretches out along the blue Pacific where surf crashes on the shore, the turf underfoot is spongy, sea mist drifts across the links, and wildflowers bloom in the rough. 56-501 Kamehameha Hwy., Kahuku, HI, 96731. 808/293–5842. www1.honolulu.gov/des/golf/kahuku.htm. $27.50. 9 holes, 2,699 yds, par 35.

Turtle Bay Resort & Spa. When the Lazarus of golf courses, the Fazio Course at Turtle Bay (George Fazio, 1971), rose from the dead in 2002, Turtle Bay on Oahu's rugged North Shore became a premier golf destination. Two holes had been plowed under when the Palmer Course at Turtle Bay (Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, 1992) was built, while the other seven lay fallow, and the front nine remained open. Then new owners came along and re-created holes 13 and 14 using Fazio's original plans, and the Fazio became whole again. It's a terrific track with 90 bunkers. The gem at Turtle Bay, though, is the Palmer Course. The front nine is mostly open as it skirts Punahoolapa Marsh, a nature sanctuary, while the back nine plunges into the wetlands and winds along the coast. The short par-4 17th runs along the rocky shore, with a diabolical string of bunkers cutting diagonally across the fairway from tee to green. 57-049 Kuilima Dr., Kahuku, HI, 96731. 808/293–8574. www.turtlebaygolf.com. Fazio Course, $115 for 18 holes, $75 for 9 holes; Palmer Course, $185. Fazio Course: 18 holes, 6769 yards, par 72; Palmer Course: 18 holes, 6795 yards, par 72.

Central Oahu

Golf courses are densest here in Central Oahu, where plantations morphed into tract housing and golf courses were added to anchor communities. The vegetation is much sparser, but some of the best greens around can be found here. Play early to avoid the hot afternoons, but if you can handle the heat, note that most courses offer substantial discounts for twilight hours.

Hawaii Country Club. Also known as Kunia—but not to be confused with Royal Kunia a few miles away—this course is in the middle of sugarcane fields and dates to plantation times. Several par-4s are driveable, including the 9th and 18th holes. This is a fun course, but it's a bit rough around the edges. 94-1211 Kunia Rd., Waipahu, HI, 96797. 808/621–5654. www.hawaiicc.com. $70. 18 holes, 5910 yards, par 71.

Mililani Golf Course. Located on Oahu's central plain, Mililani is usually a few degrees cooler than downtown, 25 minutes away. The eucalyptus trees through which the course plays add to the cool factor, and stands of Norfolk pines give Mililani a "mainland course" feel. Bob and Robert L. Baldock (1966) make good use of an old irrigation ditch reminiscent of a Scottish burn. 95-176 Kuahelani Ave., Mililani, HI, 96789. 808/623–2222. www.mililanigolf.com. $99. 18 holes, 6274 yards, par 72.

Pearl Country Club. Carved in the hillside high above Pearl Harbor, the 18 holes here are really two courses. The front nine rambles out along gently sloping terrain, while the back nine zigzags up and down a steeper portion of the slope as it rises into the Koolau Mountains. The views of Pearl Harbor are breathtaking. 98-535 Kaonohi St., Aiea, HI, 96701. 808/487–3802. www.pearlcc.com. $140. 18 holes, 6232 yards, par 72.

Royal Kunia Country Club. At one time the PGA Tour considered buying Royal Kunia Country Club and hosting the Sony Open there. It's that good. Every hole offers fabulous views from Diamond Head to Pearl Harbor to the nearby Waianae Mountains. Robin Nelson's eye for natural sight lines and dexterity with water features adds to the visual pleasure. 94-1509 Anonui St., Waipahu, HI, 96759. 808/688–9222. $150. 18 holes, 6507 yards, par 72.

Waikele Country Club. Outlet stores are not the only bargain at Waikele. The adjacent golf course is a daily-fee course that offers a private clublike atmosphere and a terrific Ted Robinson (1992) layout. The target off the tee is Diamond Head, with Pearl Harbor to the right. Robinson's water features are less distinctive here but define the short par-4 fourth hole, with a lake running down the left side of the fairway and guarding the green; and the par-3 17th, which plays across a lake. The par-4 18th is a terrific closing hole, with a lake lurking on the right side of the green. 94-200 Paioa Pl., Waipahu, HI, 96797. 808/676–9000. www.golfwaikele.com. $140. 18 holes, 6261 yards, par 72.

West (Leeward) Oahu

On the leeward side of the mountains, shielded from the rains that drench the Kaneohe side, West Oahu is arid and sunny and has a unique kind of beauty. The Ewa area is dotted with golf courses and new development, so you'll have your pick of a number of different options—golfers generally choose courses in Ewa and Kapolei because they provide a totally different landscape from Waikiki or the North Shore. The resort courses on the west side are a long drive from town, but the beaches are magnificent, and you can find deals if you’re combining a room with a round or two on the greens.

Coral Creek Golf Course. On the Ewa Plain, 4 miles inland, Coral Creek is cut from ancient coral—left from when this area was still underwater. Robin Nelson (1999) does some of his best work in making use of the coral, and of some dynamite, blasting out portions to create dramatic lakes and tee and green sites. They could just as easily call it Coral Cliffs, because of the 30- to 40-foot cliffs Nelson created. They include the par-3 10th green's grotto and waterfall, and the vertical drop-off on the right side of the par-4 18th green. An ancient creek meanders across the course, but there's not much water, just enough to be a babbling nuisance. 91-1111 Geiger Rd., Ewa Beach, HI, 96706. 808/441–4653. . www.coralcreekgolfhawaii.com. $140. 18 holes, 6808 yds, par 72.

Ewa Beach Golf Club. A private course open to the public, Ewa is one of the delightful products of the too-brief collaboration of Robin Nelson and Rodney Wright (1992). Trees are very much part of the character here, but there are also elements of links golf, such as a double green shared by the 2nd and 16th holes. 91-050 Fort Weaver Rd., Ewa Beach, HI, 96706. 808/689–6565. www.ewabeachgc.com. $160. 18 holes, 5861 yards, par 72.

Hawaii Prince Golf Course. Affiliated with the Hawaii Prince Hotel in Waikiki, the Hawaii Prince Golf Course (not to be confused with the Prince Course at Princeville, Kauai) has a links feel to it, and it is popular with local charity fund-raiser golf tournaments. Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay (1991) took what had been flat, featureless sugarcane fields and sculpted 27 challenging, varied holes. Mounding breaks up the landscape, as do 10 lakes. Water comes into play on six holes of the A course, three of B, and seven of C. The most difficult combination is A and C (A and B from the forward tees). 91-1200 Fort Weaver Rd., Ewa Beach, HI, 96706. 808/944–4567. www.princeresortshawaii.com. $77 for 9 holes, $160 for 18 holes. A Course: 9 holes, 3138 yards, par 36; B Course: 9 holes, 3099 yards, par 36; C Course: 9 holes, 3076 yards, par 36.

Kapolei Golf Course. This is a Ted Robinson water wonderland with waterfalls and four lakes—three so big they have names—coming into play on 10 holes. Set on rolling terrain, Kapolei is a serious golf course, especially when the wind blows. 91-701 Farrington Hwy., Kapolei, HI, 96707. 808/674–2227. www.kapoleigolfcourse.com. $185. 18 holes, 6136 yards, par 72.

Ko Olina Golf Club. Hawaii's golden age of golf-course architecture came to Oahu when Ko Olina Golf Club opened in 1989. Ted Robinson, king of the water features, went splash-happy here, creating nine lakes that come into play on eight holes, including the par-3 12th, where you reach the tee by driving behind a Disney-like waterfall. Tactically, though, the most dramatic is the par-4 18th, where the approach is a minimum 120 yards across a lake to a two-tiered green guarded on the left by a cascading waterfall. Today, Ko Olina, affiliated with the adjacent Ihilani Resort and Spa (guests receive discounted rates), has matured into one of Hawaii's top courses. You can niggle about routing issues—the first three holes play into the trade winds (and the morning sun), and two consecutive par-5s on the back nine play into the trades—but Robinson does enough solid design to make those of passing concern. The course provides free transportation from Waikiki hotels. 92-1220 Aliinui Dr., Ko Olina, HI, 96797. 808/676–5300. . www.koolinagolf.com. $99 for 9 holes, $199 for 18 holes. 18 holes, 6432 yards, par 72.

Makaha Valley Country Club. This course (William F. Bell, 1968), known locally as Makaha East, is indeed a valley course, taking great advantage of the steep valley walls and natural terrain. It's shorter than the nearby West course, but offers plenty of challenge from the back tees. The double-dogleg, downhill-uphill, par-5 18th is a doozy of a closer. 84-627 Makaha Valley Rd., Waianae, HI, 96792. 808/695–7111. www.makahavalleycc.com. $65 for 18 holes, $40 for 9 holes. 18 holes, 6260 yards, par 71.

West Loch Municipal Golf Course. The best of Honolulu's municipal courses, this Robin Nelson (1991) design plays along Pearl Harbor's West Loch. In the process of building the course, wetlands were actually expanded, increasing bird habitat. 91-1126 Okupe St., Ewa Beach, HI, 96706. 808/675–6076. www1.honolulu.gov/des/golf/westloch.htm. $55. 18 holes, 6,335 yds, par 72.

Hiking

The trails of Oahu cover a full spectrum of environments: desert walks through cactus, slippery paths through bamboo-filled rain forest, and scrambling rock climbs up ancient volcanic calderas. The only thing you won't find is an overnighter, as even the longest of hikes won't take you more than half a day. In addition to being short in length, many of the prime hikes are within 10 minutes of downtown Waikiki, meaning that you won't have to spend your whole day getting back to nature.

Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources. Go to this web site for information on all major hiking trails on Oahu. You can also obtain camping permits for state parks here. 1151 Punchbowl St., Room 130, Honolulu, HI, 96813. 808/587–0300. . www.hawaiistateparks.org.

Na Ala Hele Trails and Access. Contact the Na Ala Hele ("Trails To Go On") folks for a free hiking-safety guide and trail information. The interactive website has maps and information about the current status of trails on all of the islands. You can also stop in their office for free printed maps and information. 1151 Punchbowl St., Room 325, Downtown, Honolulu, HI, 96813. 808/587–0166. www.hawaiitrails.org.

Best Spots

Diamond Head Crater. Every vacation has requirements that must be fulfilled so that when your neighbors ask, you can say, "Yeah, did it." Climbing Diamond Head is high on that list of things to do on Oahu. It's a moderately easy hike if you're in good physical condition, but be prepared to climb many stairs along the way. Be sure to bring a water bottle because it's hot and dry. Only a mile up, a clearly marked trail with handrails scales the inside of this extinct volcano. At the top, the fabled final 99 steps take you up to the pillbox overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu. It's a breathtaking view and a lot cheaper than taking a helicopter ride for the same photo op. Last entry for hikers is 4:30 pm. Diamond Head Rd. at 18th Ave., Diamond Head, Honolulu, HI, 96815. Enter on east side of crater; there's limited parking inside, so most park on street and walk in. www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/oahu/Index.cfm?park_id=15. $1 per person; $5 to park. Daily 6–6.

Kaena Point Trail. Kaena Point is one of the island’s last easily accessible pockets of nature left largely untouched. For more than a quarter century, the state has protected nearly 60 acres of land at the point, first as a nature preserve and, more recently, as an ecosystem restoration project for endangered and protected coastal plants and seabirds.The uneven 5-mile trail around the point can be entered from two locations—Keawaula Beach (aka Yokohama Bay) at the end of Farrington Highway on Oahu’s western coastline, or Mokuleia at the same highway’s north coast endpoint. It's a rugged coastline hike without much shade, so bring lots of water and sunscreen. Keep a lookout for the Laysan albatrosses; these enormous birds have recently returned to the area. Don't be surprised if they come in for a closer look at you, too. 81-780 Farrington Hwy., Waianae, HI, 96792. Take Farrington Hwy. to its end at Yokohamas. Hike in on old 4WD trail. www.hawaiistateparks.org/hiking/oahu/index.cfm?hike_id=21.

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. For the less adventurous hiker and anyone looking for a great view, this paved trail that runs up the side of Makapuu Point in Southeast Oahu fits the bill. Early on, the trail is surrounded by lava rock but, as you ascend, foliage—the tiny white koa haole flower, the cream-tinged spikes of the kiawe, and, if you go early enough, the stunning night-blooming cereus—begins taking over the barren rock. At the easternmost tip of Oahu, where the island divides the sea, this trail gives you a spectacular view of the cobalt ocean meeting the land in a cacophony of white caps. To the south are several tide pools and the lighthouse, while the eastern view looks down upon Manana (Rabbit Island) and Kaohikaipu islets, two bird sanctuaries just off the coast. The 2-mile round-trip hike is a great break on a circle-island trip. From late December to early May, this is a great perch to see migrating humpback whales. Be sure not to leave valuables in your car as break-ins, even in the parking lot, are common. Makapuu Lighthouse Rd., Makapuu, Honolulu, HI, 96825. Take Kalanianaole Hwy. to base of Makapuu Point. Look for parking lot. www.hawaiistateparks.org/hiking/oahu/index.cfm?hike_id=23.

Manoa Falls Trail. Travel up into the valley beyond Honolulu to make the Manoa Falls hike. Though only a mile long, this well-trafficked path—visited by an estimated 100,000 hikers a year—passes through so many different ecosystems that you feel as if you're in an arboretum—and you're not far off. (The beautiful Lyon Arboretum is right near the trailhead, if you want to make another stop.) Walk among the elephant ear ape plants, ruddy fir trees, and a bamboo forest straight out of China. At the top is a 150-foot waterfall, which can be an impressive cascade, or, if rain has been sparse, the falls can be little more than a trickle. This hike is more about the journey than the destination; make sure you bring some mosquito repellent because they grow 'em big up here. 3998 Manoa Rd., Manoa, Honolulu, HI, 96822. West Manoa Rd. is behind Manoa Valley in Paradise Park. Take West Manoa Rd. to end, park on side of road or in parking lot for a small fee, and follow trail signs in. hawaiitrails.ehawaii.gov/trail.php?TrailID=OA+19+007.

Maunawili Falls. Want to find a waterfall that you can actually swim in? Then Maunawili Falls is your trip. In fact, even if you don't want to get wet, you're going to have to cross Maunawili Stream several times to get to the falls. Along the 1½-mile trek enjoy the ginger, vines, and heliconia before greeting fern-shrouded falls that are made for swimming. The water is not the clearest, but it's cool and refreshing after battling the bugs to get here. Be sure to bring mosquito repellant. 1221 Kelewina St., Kailua, HI, 96734. Take Pali Hwy. (Rte. 61) from Honolulu through the tunnels, then take the 3rd right onto Auloa Rd., then take the left fork immediately. At the dead end, climb over the vehicle gate to find the trailhead.

Trails at Turtle Bay Resort. When on the North Shore, check out the Turtle Bay Resort, which has more than 12 miles of trails and oceanside pathways. You can pick up a map of the resort property that includes trail and coastal jogging paths. 57-091 Kamehameha Hwy., Kahuku, HI, 96731. 808/293–8811. www.turtlebayresort.com.

Tips for Hiking in Hawaii

When hiking the waterfall and rain-forest trails, use insect repellent. The dampness draws huge swarms of bloodsuckers that can ruin a walk in the woods.

Volcanic rock is very porous and therefore likely to be loose. Rock climbing is strongly discouraged, as you never know which little ledge is going to go.

Avoid hiking after heavy rains and check for flash flood warnings. Keep in mind that those large boulders in the idyllic pools beneath the waterfalls were carried by torrential flows high up in the mountains.

Always let someone know where you're going and never hike alone. The foliage gets very dense, and, small as the island is, hikers have been known to get lost for a week or longer.

Horseback Riding

A great way to see the island is atop a horse, leaving the direction to the pack while you drink in the views of mountains or the ocean. It may seem like a cliché, but there really is nothing like riding a horse with spectacular ocean views to put you in a romantic state of mind.

Happy Trails Hawaii. Take a guided horseback ride above the North Shore's Waimea Bay along trails that offer panoramic views from Kaena Point to the famous surfing spots. Specializing in families, they have groups of no more than 10 and provide instruction. Children 6 and older are welcome. You can take either a 90-minute or 2-hour ride. Reservations are required. 59-231 Pupukea Rd., Pupukea, HI, 96712. Go 1 mile mauka (toward mountain) up Pupukea Rd. Office is on right. 808/638–7433. happytrailshawaii.com. $79 for 1½ hrs, $99 for 2 hrs.

Kualoa Ranch. This 4,000-acre working ranch across from Kualoa Beach Park on the Windward side leads trail rides in the breathtaking Kaaawa Valley and the site of such movie backlots as "Jurassic Park," "Godzilla" and "50 First Dates." The hour-long tour visits the ranch's historic 800-year-old Hawaiian fishpond. The most basic offering is a one-hour trail ride. Kualoa has other activities such as bus and Jeep tours, all-terrain-vehicle trail rides, and children's activities, which may be combined for half- or full-day package rates. 49-560 Kamehameha Hwy., Kaneohe, HI, 96744. 800/231–7321 or 808/237–7321. www.kualoa.com. $69 for 1 hr, $99 for 2 hrs.

Turtle Bay Stables. Trail rides follow the 12-mile-long coastline and even step out onto sandy beaches fronting this luxe resort on Oahu's fabled North Shore. The stables here are part of the resort but can be utilized by nonguests. The sunset ride is a definite must. A basic trail ride lasts 45 minutes and you'll visit filming sites for ABC's "Lost" and "Pirates of the Caribbean." Turtle Bay Resort, 57-091 Kamehemeha Hwy., Kahuku, HI, 96731. 808/293–6024. www.turtlebayresort.com/Things-To-Do/Sports-Recreation/Horse-Riding. From $70.

Jet Skiing and Waterskiing

Aloha Jet Ski. Skip across the surface of the immense Keehi Lagoon as planes from Honolulu International Airport soar above you. After an instructional safety course, you can try your hand at navigating the buoyed course. The company provides free pick-up and drop-off from Waikiki hotels. Waverunners can either be operated tandem or solo. Keehi Lagoon, Sand Island Access Rd., Honolulu, HI, 96819. 808/721–1754. www.alohajetski.com. From $49 per person for a tandem trip from $78 for a solo trip.

Hawaii Water Sports Center. This company transforms Maunalua Bay into a water park with activities for all ages. You can bounce around in a bumper tube, zoom around on Jet Skis, wake board, scuba dive, or ride the six-person banana boats. Jet Ski rentals can be as short as 30 minutes. Koko Marina Center, 7192 Kalanianaole Hwy., Honolulu, HI, 96825. 808/395–3773. www.hawaiiwatersportscenter.com. From $49.

H2O Sports Hawaii. Parasailing, banana boats, bumper boats, snorkeling, and scuba diving: this company offers a wide variety of tours and activities on the water. But the Jet Pack is H2O's most famous program. Pumping 1,000 gallons of sea water per minute through the pack gets you airborne like a character in a sci-fi film. With a 90% success rate for first-time flyers, this safety-conscious outfitter allows you to rocket into the air or walk on water. Launches for first-timers last 15 minutes and depart from a floating platform in Maunalua Bay near Hawaii Kai, but you can add additional time if you can't bear to stop. Make your reservations early as flights book up more than two weeks in advance, and note that the company is only open weekdays. Hawaii Kai Shopping Center, 377 Keahole St, Near Long's Drugs, Hawaii Kai, HI, 96825. 808/396-0100. www.h3osportshawaii.com. From $199.

Jogging

In Honolulu, the most popular places to jog are the two parks, Kapiolani and Ala Moana, at either end of Waikiki. In both cases, the loop around the park is just under 2 miles. You can run a 4-mile ring around Diamond Head crater, past scenic views, luxurious homes, and herds of other joggers.

Hawaii State Department of Health Community Resources Section. This department provides a free "Honolulu Walking Map" and "The Fitness Fun Map," which list more than two dozen walking and jogging routes and suggested itineraries. 1250 Punchbowl St., Room 422, Honolulu, HI, 96813. 808/586–4488. www.healthyhawaii.com/.

Honolulu Marathon. The Honolulu Marathon is a thrilling event to watch as well as to participate in. Join the throngs who cheer at the finish line at Kapi‘olani Park as internationally famous and local runners tackle the 26.2-mi challenge. It's held on the second Sunday in December and is sponsored by the Honolulu Marathon Association. 808/734–7200. www.honolulumarathon.org.

Running Room. Once you leave Honolulu, it gets trickier to find places to jog that are scenic as well as safe. It's best to stick to the well-traveled routes, or ask the experienced folks at this store for advice. Their web site includes information about local races as well as a list of jogging routes complete with maps. 819 Kapahulu Ave., Kapahulu, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/737–2422. www.runningroomhawaii.com.

Kayaking

Kayaking is an easy way to explore the ocean—and Oahu’s natural beauty—without much effort or skill. It offers a vantage point not afforded by swimming or surfing, and a workout you won’t get lounging on a catamaran. Even novices can get in a kayak and enjoy the island’s scenery.

The ability to travel long distances can also get you into trouble. Experts agree that rookies should stay on the windward side. Their reasoning is simple: if you get tired, break or lose an oar, or just plain pass out, the onshore winds will eventually blow you back to the beach. The same cannot be said for the offshore breezes of the North Shore and West Oahu.

Kayaks are specialized: some are better suited for riding waves while others are designed for traveling long distances. Your outfitter can address your needs depending on your skill level. Sharing your plans with your outfitter can lead to a more enjoyable—and safer—experience. Expect to pay from $45 for a half-day single rental to $125 for a guided kayak tour with lunch. Some kayaking outfitters also rent stand-up paddleboards.

Best Spots

If you want to try your hand at surfing kayaks, Bellows Field Beach (near Waimanalo Town Center, entrance on Kalanianaole Highway) on the windward side and Mokuleia Beach (across from Dillingham Airfield) on the North Shore are two great spots. Hard-to-reach breaks, the ones that surfers exhaust themselves trying to reach, are easily accessed by kayak. The buoyancy of the kayak also allows you to catch the wave earlier and get out in front of the white wash. One reminder on these spots: if you're a little green, stick to Bellows Field Beach with those onshore winds. Generally speaking, you don't want to be catching waves where surfers are; in Waikiki, however, pretty much anything goes.

The perennial favorite of kayakers is Lanikai Beach, on the island's windward side. Tucked away in an upscale residential area, this award-winning beach has become a popular spot for amateur kayakers because of its calm waters and onshore winds. More adventurous paddlers can head to the Mokulua Islands, two islets less than 1 mile from the beach. You can land on Moku Nui, which has surf breaks and small beaches great for picnicking. Take a dip in Queen's Bath, a small saltwater swimming hole.

For something a little different, try the Kahana River on the island's windward side, which empties into the ocean at Kahana Bay Beach Park. The river may not have the blue water of the ocean, but the majestic Koolau Mountains, with waterfalls during rainy months, make for a picturesque backdrop. It's a short jaunt, about 2 miles round-trip from the beach, but it's tranquil and packed with rain-forest foliage. Bring mosquito repellent.

Kayaking to The Mokes

The Mokulua Islands—commonly referred to as "The Mokes"—are two islets off Lanikai Beach. The larger of the islands, Moku Niu, is a perfect kayaking destination and a popular place for picnics. The islands are state-protected bird sanctuaries, and sometimes you can catch a glimpse of one of the 11 different kinds of seabirds that nest there. Some outfitters offer guided tours. But since the water between the islets and Lanikai is typically calm and as it would be impossible to miss them, spend your money on sunscreen and snacks instead and enjoy the paddle.

Equipment, Lessons, and Tours

Go Bananas. Staffers make sure that you rent the appropriate kayak for your abilities, and can also outfit your rental car with soft racks to transport your boat to the beach. (The racks are included in the rental fee.) The store also carries clothing and kayaking accessories and rents stand-up paddleboards. Full-day rates begin at $30 for single kayaks, $45 for doubles, and $30 for stand-up paddleboards. (There's a second location in Aiea, which is closer to the North Shore.) 799 Kapahulu Ave., Kapahulu, Honolulu, HI, 96816. 808/737–9514. 808/732–7646. www.gobananaswatersports.com.

Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks. One of the best places for beginners to rent kayaks is Kailua Beach, and Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks has an ideal location just across the street. Guided kayak tours start at $129 for two hours or, for the more adventurous, rent a kayak and venture to the Mokulua Islands off Lanikai. They also rent snorkeling equipment, stand-up paddleboards, kiteboarding gear, and bikes. Kayak rentals start at $69 for a half day in a double kayak, $59 for single. (Discounts are given if booked online.) Kailua Beach Shopping Center, 130 Kailua Rd., Kailua, HI, 96734. 808/262–2555 or 888/457–5737. www.kailuasailboards.com.

Surf 'N Sea. This outfitter is located in a rustic wooden building on the beach, so in minutes you can start paddling. Full-day rates begin at $60 for single kayaks, $75 for doubles Keep in mind that these plastic boats are great from spring to fall, but winter weather can be hazardous for even veteran kayakers. This company offers just about any surf-related activity you can imagine on the North Shore in addition to kayaking. 62-595 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, HI, 96712. 800/899–7873. www.surfnsea.com.

Twogood Kayaks Hawaii. The outfitter offers kayak rentals, lessons, and guided tours. Guides are trained in the history, geology, and birds of the area. Full-day rental rates begin at $55 for single kayaks, $65 for doubles. Fully guided kayak excursions are $125 for adults and includes lunch, snorkeling gear, and transportation to and from Waikiki. 134B Hamakua Dr., Kailua, HI, 96737. 808/262–5656. www.twogoodkayaks.com.

Scuba Diving

Not all of Hawaii’s beauty is above water. What lurks below can be just as magnificent.

While snorkeling provides adequate access to this underwater world, nothing gives you the freedom—or depth, quite literally—as scuba.

The diving on Oahu is comparable with any you might do in the tropics, but its uniqueness comes from the isolated environment of the Islands. There are literally hundreds of species of fish and marine life that you can find only in this chain. In fact, about 25% of Hawaii’s marine life can be seen here only—nowhere else in the world. Adding to the singularity of diving off Oahu is the human history of the region. Military activities and tragedies of the 20th century filled the waters surrounding Oahu with wreckage that the ocean creatures have since turned into their homes.

Although instructors certified to license you in scuba are plentiful in the Islands, we suggest that you get your PADI certification before coming, as a week of classes may be a bit of a commitment on a short vacation. Expect to pay around $100 for a two-tank boat dive (provided that you are certified). You can go on short, shallow introductory dives without the certification, but the best dives require it and cost a bit more.

Best Spots

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. On Oahu's southeast shore, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is home to more than 250 different species of fish, of which a quarter can be found nowhere else in the world. This has made this volcanic crater bay one of the most popular dive sites in the state. It's a long walk from the parking lot to the beach—even longer lugging equipment—so consider hooking up with a licensed dive-tour operator. Preservation efforts have aided the bay's delicate ecosystem, so expect to see various butterfly fish, surgeonfish, tangs, parrot fish, and endangered Hawaiian sea turtles. 7455 Kalanianaole Hwy., Honolulu 808/396–4229.

Hundred Foot Hole. Once an ancient Hawaiian fishing ground reserved for royalty, the Hundred Foot Hole is a cluster of volcanic boulders that have created ledges, caves, and a large open-ended cavern perfect for diving. Accessible from shore, this spot near Diamond Head attracts octopus, manta rays, and the occasional white-tip shark. Honolulu.

Mahi Waianae. Hawaii's waters are littered with shipwrecks, but one of the most intact and accessible is the Mahi Waianae, a 165-foot minesweeper that was sunk in 1982 off the Waianae Coast. It lays upright in about 90 feet of calm and clear water, encrusted in coral and patrolled by white spotted eagle rays and millet seed butterfly fish. The wreck serves as an artificial reef for such Hawaii aquatic residents as blue-striped snappers, puffer fish, lionfish, moray eels, and octopus. Visibility averages about 100 feet, making this one of the most popular dives on the island. Waianae.

Maunalua Bay. The bay stretches about 7 miles, from Portlock Point to Black Point on Oahu's southeastern shore. Teeming with marine life, this spot has several accessible dive sites of varying difficulty. The shallow-water Turtle Canyon is home to endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles. Fantasy Reef is another shallow dive with three plateaus of volcanic rock lined with coral that is home to fish, eels, and sea turtles. In about 85 feet of water, Baby Barge is an easy-to-penetrate sunken vessel encrusted in coral. An advanced dive, the wreck of a Vought F4U Corsair gives you a close-up look at garden eels and stingrays. Honolulu.

Shark's Cove. Oahu's best shore dive is accessible only during the summer months. Shark's Cove, on Oahu's North Shore, churns with monster surf during the winter, making this popular snorkeling and diving spot extremely dangerous. In summer, the cavernous lava tubes and tunnels are great for both novices and experienced divers. Some dive-tour companies offer round-trip transportation from Waikiki. Haleiwa.

Three Tables. A short walk from Shark's Cove is Three Tables, named for a trio of flat rocks running perpendicular to shore. There are lava tubes to the right of these rocks that break the surface and then extend out about 50 feet. While this area isn't as active as Shark's Cove, you can still spot octopus, moray eels, parrot fish, green sea turtles, and the occasional shark. Haleiwa.

Equipment, Lessons, and Tours

Hanauma Bay Dive Tours. You can guess the specialty here. This company offers introductory courses in the federally protected reserve for divers ages 12 and above. The company also offers guided snorkel tours in the bay. 460 Ena Rd., Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/256–8956 or 800/505–8956. www.hanaumabaydivetours.com. From $120 (1-tank dive).

Surf 'N Sea. The North Shore headquarters for all things water-related is also great for diving. An interesting perk—a cameraman can shoot a video of you diving. It's hard to see facial expressions under the water, but it still might be fun for those who want to prove that they took the plunge. Two-tank shore dives are the most economical choice (prices for noncertified divers are higher), but the company also offers boat dives, and in the summer, night dives are available for only slightly more. 62-595 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, HI, 96712. 800/899–7873. www.surfnsea.com. From $100 (2-tank shore dives).

Snorkeling

If you can swim, you can snorkel. And you don’t need any formal training, either.

Snorkeling is a favorite pastime for both visitors and residents and can be done anywhere there's enough water to stick your face in. You can pick up a mask and snorkel at a corner ABC store for around $35, including fins, and get going on your own or pay up to $175 for a luxurious snorkel cruise including lunch and drinks. Each spot will have its great days depending on the weather and time of year, so consult with the purveyor of your gear for tips on where the best viewing is that day. Keep in mind that the North Shore should be attempted only when the waves are calm, namely in the summertime.

Make sure you put plenty of sunscreen on your back (or better yet, wear a T-shirt) because once you start gazing below, your head may not come back up for hours.

Best Spots

Electric Beach. Directly across from the electricity plant—hence the name—Electric Beach is a haven for tropical fish, making it a great snorkeling spot. The expulsion of hot water from the plant raises the temperature of the ocean, attracting Hawaiian green sea turtles, spotted moray eels, and spinner dolphins. Although the visibility is not always the best, the crowds are small and the fish are guaranteed. Farrington Hwy., 1 mile west of Ko Olina Resort, Kapolei.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. What Waimea Bay is to surfing, Hanauma Bay in Southeast Oahu is to snorkeling. Easily the most popular snorkeling spot on the island, it's home to more more than 250 different species of marine life. Due to the protection of the narrow mouth of the cove and the prodigious reef, you will be hard-pressed to find a place you will feel safer while snorkeling. 7455 Kalanianaole Hwy., Honolulu 808/396–4229.

Queen's Surf Beach. On the edge of Waikiki, Queen's Surf is a marine reserve located between Kapahulu Groin and the Waikiki Aquarium. It's not as chock-full of fish as Hanauma Bay, but it has its share of colorful reef fish and the occasional Hawaiian green sea turtle. Just yards from shore, it's a great spot for an escape if you're stuck in Waikiki and have grown weary of watching the surfers. Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu.

Shark's Cove. Great shallows protected by a huge reef make Shark's Cove on the North Shore a prime spot for snorkelers, even young ones, in the summer. You'll find a plethora of critters, from crabs to octopus, in water that's no more than waist deep. When the winter swells come, this area can turn treacherous. Kamehameha Hwy., across from Foodland, Haleiwa.

Equipment and Tours

Hanauma Bay Rental Stand. You can get masks, fins, and snorkels right at the park. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, 7455 Kalanianaole Hwy., Hawaii Kai, HI, 96825.

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Excursions. If you're going to Hanauma Bay, you have three options: take a chance with limited parking spaces at the park, take The Bus, or contact Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Excursions.They provide transportation to and from Waikiki hotels, equipment, and instruction on how to use the equipment for a reasonable price that does not include the park entrance fee. Guided snorkeling tours are more expensive. 808/306–3393. www.hanaumabaysnorkel.com. From $22.

Snorkel Bob's. This place has all the stuff you'll need—and more—to make your water adventures more enjoyable. Bob makes his own gear and is active in protecting reef fish species. Feel free to ask the staff about good snorkeling spots, as the best ones can vary with weather and the seasons. 700 Kapahulu Ave., Kapahulu, Honolulu, HI, 96816. 808/735–7944 or 800/262–7725. www.snorkelbob.com.

Submarine Tours

Atlantis Submarines. This is the underwater adventure for the unadventurous. Not fond of swimming, but want to see what you've been missing? Board this high-tech 64-passenger vessel for a ride past shipwrecks, turtle breeding grounds, and coral reefs. The tours, which depart from the pier at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, are available in several languages. A smaller 48-passenger boat with underwater viewing windows is a bit cheaper than the submarine trip. (Discounts are available if booked online.) Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa, 2005 Kalia Rd., Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/973–1296 or 800/381–0237. www.atlantisadventures.com. From $109.

Surfing

Perhaps no word is more associated with Hawaii than surfing. Every year the best of the best gather on Oahu’s North Shore to compete in their version of the Super Bowl: the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The pros dominate the waves for a month, but the rest of the year belongs to folks just trying to have fun.

Oahu is unique because it has so many famous spots: Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Kaiser Bowls, and Sunset Beach. These spots, however, require experience. However, with most dependable sets and access to lessons, Waikiki is still a great place for beginners to learn or for novice surfers to catch predictable waves. Group lessons on Waikiki Beach start at $30, but if you really want to fine-tune your skills, you can pay up to $500 for a daylong private outing with a former pro.

The island also has miles of coastline with surf spots that are perfect for everyday surfers. But remember this surfer's credo: when in doubt, don’t go out. If you’re unsure about conditions, stay on the beach and, talk to locals to get more info about surf breaks before trying yourself.

Best Spots

Makaha Beach Park. If you like to ride waves, try Makaha Beach on Oahu's west side. It has legendary, interminable rights that allow riders to perform all manner of stunts: from six-man canoes with everyone doing headstands to bully boards (oversize body boards) with whole families along for the ride. Mainly known as a longboarding spot, it's predominantly local but respectful to outsiders. Use caution in the winter, as the surf can get huge. It's not called Makaha—which means "fierce"—for nothing. 84-369 Farrington Hwy., Waianae.

Sunset Beach. If you want to impress your surfing buddies back home, catch a wave at the famous Sunset Beach on Oahu's North Shore. Two of the more manageable breaks are Kammie Land (or Kammie's) and Sunset Point. For the daring, Sunset is part of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing for a reason. Thick waves and long rides await, but you're going to want to have a thick board and a thicker skull. Surf etiquette here is a must, as it's mostly local. 59-104 Kamehameha Hwy., 1 mile north of Ehukai Beach Park, Haleiwa.

Ulukou Beach. In Waikiki you can paddle out to Populars, a break at Ulukou Beach. Nice and easy, Populars—or Pops—never breaks too hard and is friendly to both newbies and veterans. It's one of the best places to surf during pumping south swells, as this thick wave breaks in open ocean, making it more rideable. The only downside is the long paddle out to the break from Kuhio Beach, but that keeps the crowds manageable. Waikiki Beach, in front of the Sheraton Waikiki hotel, Honolulu.

White Plains Beach. Known among locals as "mini Waikiki," the surf at White Plains breaks in numerous spots, preventing the logjams that are inevitable at many of Oahu's more popular spots. It's a great break for novice to intermediate surfers, though you do have to keep a lookout for wayward boards. From the H1, take the Makakilo exit. Off H1, Kapolei.

Equipment and Lessons

Aloha Beach Services. It may sound like a cliché, but there's no better way to learn to surf than from a beach boy in Waikiki. And there's no one better than Harry "Didi" Robello, a second-generation beach boy and owner of Aloha Beach Services. Learn to surf in an hour-long group lesson, a semiprivate lesson, or with just you and an instructor. You can also rent a board here. 2365 Kalakaua Ave., on beach near Moana Surfrider, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/922–3111. www.alohabeachservices.com. Lessons from $40, board rentals from $15.

Faith Surf School. Professional surfer Tony Moniz started his own surf school in 2000, and since then he and his wife Tammy have helped thousands of people catch their first waves in Waikiki. The 90-minute group lessons include all equipment and are the cheapest option. You can pay more (sometimes a lot more) for semiprivate lessons with up to three people or private lessons. You can also book an all-day surf tour with Moniz, riding waves with him at his favorite breaks. Sheraton Waikiki, 2255 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/931–6262. www.faithsurfschool.com. From $60.

Hans Hedemann Surf School. Hans Hedemann spent 17 years on the professional surfer circuit. He and his staff offer surfing, bodysurfing, and stand-up paddleboard instruction, four-day intensive surf camps, and fine-tuning courses with Hedemann himself. One-hour group lessons are the cheapest option, but private lessons are also available. There are also locations at Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, the Kahala Hotel and the Halekulani in Waikiki. Park Shore Waiki, 2586 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/924–7778 or 808/447–6755. www.hhsurf.com. From $50.

Surf 'N Sea. This is a one-stop shop for surfers (and other water-sports enthusiasts) on the North Shore. Rent a shortboard by the hour or for a full day. Three-hour group lessons are offered, as well as surf safaris for experienced surfers, which can last between four to five hours. 62-595 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, HI, 96712. 800/899–7873 or 808/637–9887. www.surfnsea.com. Lessons from $85; rentals from $5 per hr.

Oahu Surfing Tips

A few things to remember when surfing in Oahu:

The waves switch with the seasons—they're big in the south in summer and loom large in the north in winter. If you're not experienced, it's best to go where the waves are small. There will be smaller crowds, and your chances of injury will dramatically decrease.

Always wear a leash. It may not look the coolest, but when your board gets swept away from you and you're swimming a half mile after it, you'll remember this advice.

Watch where you're going. Take a few minutes and scan the surf from the shore. Observe how big it is, where it's breaking, and how quickly the sets are coming. This will allow you to get in and out more easily and to spend more time riding waves and less time paddling.

Ask a local before going out: they’re the best bet for specifics about surf breaks.

Tennis

While tennis has given way to golf as the biggest resort attraction, and many of the hotel courts have closed, there are still locations in Waikiki to get your tennis match on. Both sides of Waikiki are framed by tennis complexes, with Ala Moana Park containing a 12-court spread, and two different sets at Kapiolani Park. Play is free at public courts, which are readily available during the day—but they tend to fill up after the sun goes down and the asphalt cools off.

Ala Moana Park Tennis Courts. With ten public courts, those located in Ala Moana Park are the closest to the ewa (west) end of Waikiki. Ala Moana Park, 1141 Ala Moana Blvd, Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI, 96814. 808/592–2288.

Department of Parks and Recreation. O‘ahu has 181 public tennis courts that are free and open for play on a first-come, first-served basis; you're limited to 45 minutes of court time if others are waiting to play. A complete listing is free of charge from the Department of Parks and Recreation. 808/971–7150. www1.honolulu.gov/parks/programs.

Diamond Head Tennis Center. Across the street from Kapiolani Park, this center has ten courts open to the public. 3908 Paki Ave., Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/768-4626.

Kapiolani Tennis Courts. There are four courts for play here. 2765 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/768–4626.

Waikiki Tennis Club. On the rooftop of the Pacific Beach Hotel you can play on the only synthetic clay court in the Hawaiian Islands which is open to the public. Hotel guests play for free but courts are also open to nonguests. Make reservations via the tennis club's web site. Pacific Beach Hotel, 2490 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/206–6735. www.thewaikikitennisclub.com.

Volleyball

With no shortage of sand, beach volleyball is an extremely popular sport on the Islands.

Best Spots

There are sand-volleyball courts in Waikiki near Fort DeRussy. These are open to the public, so talent levels vary. However, the winner-plays-on policy here guarantees a higher level of play as the day progresses. For more advanced play, go to Queen's Beach, where you must bring your own net (which can lead to court possessiveness). This is the area where college kids and pros come when they're in town.

Whale-Watching

December is marked by the arrival of snow in much of America, but in Hawaii it marks the return of the humpback whale. These migrating behemoths move south from their North Pacific homes during the winter months for courtship and calving, and they put on quite a show. Watching males and females alike throwing themselves out of the ocean and into the sunset awes even the saltiest of sailors. Newborn calves riding gently next to their 2-ton mothers will stir you to your core. These gentle giants can be seen from the shore as they make a splash, but there is nothing like having your boat rocking beneath you in the wake of a whale's breach.

Atlantis Navatek Cruises. Offering the only cuise on Oahu to guarantee a whale sighting, the 140-foot catamaran Navatek 1 bills itself as the smoothest whale-watching tour on Oahu. Because of the boat's size, you can choose from indoor or outdoor viewing while listenting to Hawaiian music and an onboard naturalist who provides information as you search for the leviathans. Included among the offerings are two-hour morning cruises as well as lunch cruises. Departures are from the historic Aloha Tower Market Place at Pier 6. Check-in begins 30 minutes before departure. Arrive early to get a table near a window for the best views while you dine. Aloha Tower Market Place, 1 Aloha Tower Drive, Pier 6, Downtown, Honolulu, HI, 96813. 800/548–6262. www.atlantisadventures.com. From $44.

Wild Side Specialty Tours. Boasting a marine-biologist crew, this company takes you to undisturbed snorkeling areas. Along the way you may see dolphins and turtles. The company promises a sighting of migrating whales year-round on some itineraries. Tours may depart as early as 8 am from Waianae, so it's important to plan ahead. The three-hour deluxe wildlife tour is the most popular option. Waianae Boat Harbor, 87-1286 Farrington Hwy., Waianae, HI, 96792. 808/306–7273. sailhawaii.com. From $175.

Windsurfing and Kiteboarding

Those who call windsurfing and kiteboarding cheating because they require no paddling have never tried hanging on to a sail or kite. It will turn your arms to spaghetti quicker than paddling ever could, and the speeds you generate earn these sports the label of "extreme."

Windsurfing was born here in the Islands. For amateurs, the windward side is best because the onshore breezes will bring you back to land even if you’re not a pro. The newer sport of kiteboarding is tougher but more exhilarating, as the kite will sometimes take you in the air for hundreds of feet. Recent changes to local laws prohibit lessons on the beach, so renting equipment is your only option on Oahu, leaving these sports as options only for those who know what they’re doing.

Equipment Rental

Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks. Within walking distance of Kailua Beach, this outfitter offers everything you'll need for a day on the water including kayak and stand-up paddleboarding lessons, rentals, and guided tours. And this beach, with its gusty winds in the late morning and afternoon, is a popular spot for kiteboarding. Kiteboard rentals start at $35 for a half day, kites are $25 for the day, and it's another $5 to rent a harness. Kailua Beach Center, 130 Kailua Rd., Kailua, HI, 96734. 808/262–2555. www.kailuasailboards.com.

Naish Hawaii. While they are prohibited by law from providing instruction, Naish Hawaii continues as the sole provider of equipment rentals for those who are already proficient. You can rent windsurfing equipment and kiteboards for a half-day or for 24 hours. The company also rents stand-up paddleboards by the half-day or for 24 hours. 155A Hamakua Dr., Kailua, HI, 96734. 808/262–6068. www.naish.com. Windsurfers from $50; kiteboards from $25.