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Erupting volcanoes (and earthquakes). Massive flooding. The world's deadliest hiking trail. A rash of snorkeling deaths. Few destinations in the world are as picturesque and relaxing as the Hawai'ian Islands. And few places seem as dangerous. And while Americans have been dreaming of a tropical vacation since Elvis strummed a guitar on its shores in 1961, many of them are now wondering if the risk is worth the trip.
The obvious answer is, yes -- you can safely travel to Hawai'i for vacation this summer. But there are a few things you'll want to watch out for, lest your dreams of an island paradise turn into a nightmare holiday.
The first thing to understand about the Aloha State is that it is an entire archipelago of hundreds of islands, with eight main islands -- Ni'ihau, Kaua'i, O'ahu, Moloka'i, Lana'i, Kaho'olawe, Maui, and the Island of Hawai'i -- only six of which are open to tourists. (And you may want to know someone on Moloka'i before visiting.) Each island has its own geography, climate, and vibe, so a vacation to the islands is really a choose-your-own-adventure trip.
The Big Island is the only one with active volcanoes, so if you're looking to avoid lava, stick to the smaller, older islands. And while there was considerable flood damage on Kaua'i recently, you may consider a visit to boost their economy. And if you like the thought of a bigger city right on the beach or are a Naval history buff, O'ahu is your spot. Want a little bit of everything? Come to Maui.
No matter where you're headed, do your research. Talk to friends and relatives who've visited the islands before, scan local news sites for the latest on weather and safety conditions, peruse some travel guides, and read up on the history of Hawai'i. (And be sure to pack some reef safe sunscreen as well.)
As for those specific dangers listed above? The U.S. Geological Survey released a map showing exactly where the active lava flow is (and isn't). Consider joining a local or guide along the Kalalau Trail. Stick to the old school snorkel setup, as opposed to the new, full face masks.
Be careful and be respectful when visiting the Hawaiian Islands, and you'll have a safe summer vacation. Aloha!
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