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Hawaii's Best 'Neighbor Island' Resorts Revealed

Ever since Captain James Cook discovered Hawaii in 1778, visitors have been in love with this dreamy paradise in the Pacific. For full disclosure, I have prejudice towards this pocket of paradise seeing that my family has lived in Hawaii since 1977 and I'm a proud graduate of the University of Hawaii. Personal connections notwithstanding, whether it's the lovely year-round weather, lush tropical settings, pleasant Polynesian culture or world-class beaches and resorts, the Islands offer a certain allure that resonates on many levels to millions of people who live here year-round or visit the archipelago on a regular basis. Case in point is the record 8.2 million tourists who visited Hawaii in 2014. Unbeknownst to many is the Hawaiian archipelago actually comprises 137 islands and 6,423 square miles. Of course, the top attractions are Hawaii's six main islands, in order of size: Hawaii, or the Big Island as it's commonly called, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Lanai and Molokai. Perhaps the neatest aspect of the main islands, which are located approximately 2,400 miles from the California coast, is each one has unique characteristics. Here's a sampling of the Aloha State's uniquely appealing nature:

  • Oahu, where I grew up, is the bustling "big-city' main island, where more than 70 percent of the state's 1.36 million people reside. This is the home to world renowned Waikiki Beach and its several miles of top-rated resorts, historic Pearl Harbor and famous North Shore surfing spots such as Pipeline, Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach.

  • The Big Island, roughly the size of Connecticut with 4,028 square miles, boasts the majority of the world's climate zones and a relatively small population base of just 186,738. It might be the only place on the planet where one can lay on a black sand beach in the morning, see a live flowing volcano at Kilauea later in the day, then go snow skiing on the world's tallest mountain (Mauna Kea, as measured from the ocean floor).

  • Kauai, known as the Garden Island, is the oldest and greenest of Hawaii's major islands and the site of Captain Cook's first landing. Many movies with South Seas settings have been filmed here, including Jurassic Park. Some popular images are stunning Waimea Canyon, or the "Grand Canyon of Hawaii," and Waialeale, one of the wettest spots in the world with average rainfall of 444 inches.

  • Maui, the state's second largest island at 727 square miles, is the fascinating winter playground for the world's humpback whale population. Well-known Haleakala Crater, the Road to Hana and first-rate resorts along the Wailea "Gold Coast" are just a few of the attractions that draws more than 2.2 million annual visitors - whales not included.

  • Molokai and Lanai, are the least visited of the main islands but special in their own right. Molokai is old Hawaii and underdeveloped, best known as a one-time leper colony. Lanai, known as the Pineapple Isle, is the youngest island of the neighbor island chain at an estimated 140 square miles. Once known for being one of the world's leading producers of pineapple, the island is now privately controlled by billionaire Larry Ellison and recognized for its two Four Seasons resort properties: the Lodge at Koele and Manele Bay.

Now, it might make a little more sense why Mark Twain described Hawaii as the "loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean." If this is starting to whet your appetite as a future place to visit, here's my "Hawaii 5-0" of top neighbor-island resort properties to see (Oahu will be covered in the next issue of this ongoing series of Top Resorts Revealed).

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