Rain keeps some tourists from spending much time in Hilo, but it usually comes in predictably avoidable afternoon showers that nourish the area's botanical treasures. Banyan trees hover over streets, false-front buildings transport you to old Hawaii. Home to the second-largest population (40,000) in the Hawaiian Islands, Hilo is a thriving community based around agriculture and fishing, education, and government activity. Nearby, you can tour beautiful orchid farms on your way to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Kilauea Lodge (www.kilauealodge.com) is a great base for exploration, and dinner here should not be missed.

KAUAI: The Garden Isle

Who should go: If you're looking for tropical rain forests, smooth curves of land stretching into a deep-blue sea, abundant flowers and fruit, and a pace that steps way back into early last century, then this is your paradise.

Minimum stay: Four days.

Pack: Hiking shoes, rain jacket, mos­quito spray, and plenty of film (that goes for all the islands).

What you should know: Kauai is the oldest island in the chain (about six million years old), and she's aged gracefully. Just 100 miles from the bustle of Oahu (and about the same size), you'll immediately settle into this island's slower pace. Make your first stop the Kauai Museum to enrich your geologic and social understanding of Kauai's history.

On the north shore, discover your very own hidden beach near the Kilauea Lighthouse. Drive a bit farther and you'll come to tiny Hanalei and its beautiful white-sand bay, with palm trees swaying and the whole picture-perfect island scene. On past that begins the Kalaulau Trail, a narrow footpath along the Na Pali Coast, cut off from the modern world by stunning 4,000-foot sea cliffs. Prefer to go by boat? Several outfitters offer one- or two-way transport via inflatable boats, saving you the 10-plus mile hike. Exquisite camping along a picturesque crescent-shaped bay is your reward at the end of the trail.