Travel: Another Day in Paradise

Article excerpt

Byline: Tara Weingarten (With Jamie Huish)

It's time to pack your hula skirt. With summer about to start, few destinations attract as many tourists from families to honeymooners--as Hawaii. Just ask the 7.4 million people who visited last year. Drawn by the surf and sun, they arrive to discover other riches: rain forests, desert hikes, marine life. Emily McCary, who vacationed in Maui in 2003, visited a volcano with her son, Cooper, 7 at the time. They stood 10,023 feet above sea level at Haleakala National Park, gazing at the vast black crater below. "When we got home, he wanted to read everything he could about volcanoes," she says.

Here's how to make your family vacation a blast, without taking out a second mortgage: the average round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Oahu costs $585.20, according to the Hawaii Travel and Tourism Authority. Peak season (in July) runs higher. But you can save by searching ata.com (ATA flies to Honolulu) or booking a package, with hotel stay, on priceline.com . In general, flying to Oahu can be easier--because it attracts more visitors, 4.75 million last year. From there, catch a plane to other islands (gohawaii.com ).

Maui is a great choice for families. Marvel at the moon-like barren landscape of Haleakala National Park ($10 per car; nps.gov/hale for hiking maps). Though the volcano hasn't seen lava flow in 400 years, it's expected to someday. (Don't worry, it won't be tomorrow.) Then, trek through a verdant rain forest in Hana, off Highway 31. Our favorite accommodation is the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa (rates from $495). A water park with a 2,000-foot-long lazy river, and poolside dining, keep kids occupied--and you relaxing in the Hawaiian sun. …