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Hawaii: islands and marvels

Say 'Hawaii' and the mind immediately conjures images of brightly coloured flowers, palm-fringed beaches, hula dancing and exotic floral lei. You've seen it in the movies, but can our photo gallery inspire you to visit and see the beautiful archipelago first hand?

Leave your work clothes behind. Just pack a bag with bikinis, sandals and pareos, and head west. Way out west. Hawaii may be the 50th American state, but the archipelago is actually the northernmost island group in Polynesia, set way off in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, around 2,000 miles south west of the North American mainland. The whole chain of Hawaiian islands stretches for over 1,500 miles and numbers in the hundreds. There are eight main islands, though, with names as evocative as Kauai ('the garden isle'), Molokai ('the friendly isle'), Oahu ('the gathering place') home to the state capital Honolulu and the legendary Waikiki Beach, and Hawaii itself – known as Big Island to distinguish it from the State of Hawaii.

The islands bask in a tropical climate and with a total of around 750 miles of coastline offer endless beaches of fine white sand, and an almost unspoiled natural habitat that makes it a dream location. It's also the perfect holiday destination for water sports enthusiasts – windsurfing, diving, canoeing... – whale watching, volcano exploration, or just enjoying the sun, sands and scenery.

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Hawaii, Big Island
The islands were formed by volcanic activity, and there are still active volcanoes on the Big Island / © Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson 

Honolulu
Honolulu, the state capital, on the southeast coast of the island of Oahu, the third largest - and the most populous - of the islands / © Hawaii Tourism Authority / Chuck Painter 

Hawaii
Turtles in the waters off Maui, the second largest island of the archipelago / © Hawaii Tourism Authority / Ron Dahlquist 

Hawaii
At around six million years old, the volcanic island of Kauai is the oldest of the eight main islands / © Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson 

Hawaii
Akaka Falls, in the Akaka Falls State Park, is the second highest waterfall on the island of Hawaii / © Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson 

Makua Beach, Kauai
Makua Beach, Kauai, is just one of the many beautiful beaches on the shores of the Hawaiian archipelago / © Hawaii Tourism Authority / Dana Edmunds 

Hawaiian beach
Kauai – the garden isle – boasts the richest vegetation of the island chain; the fertile land allows a wide range of fruits and produce to be cultivated / © Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson 

Hawaii
Hawaii is a popular cinema location. Kauai and Ohau both appeared in Jurassic Park, and On Stranger Tides, the most recent of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, also features locations around the islands / © Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson 

Hawaii
The island of Hawaii has five active volcanoes, among them, Kilauea, one of the most active on the planet / © Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson 

Hawaii
The Lei Day procession in 2008, when Paulette Kahalepuna, an expert feather-lei artesan, was named May Queen / © Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson 

Hawaii
The Royal Hawaiian Center, overlooking Waikiki Beach, Honolulu / © Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson