Let's accept you can't have a bad time in Hawaii. Here's a list of 10 things you shouldn't miss to have the best possible time.
Top activity: Manta Swim (Kona, Big Island)
The sun has set. The only light comes from a sliver of moon. You, and several other hardy souls, are boated out into the ocean, given wet suits and snorkels and told to jump in. Scuba divers shine powerful light from the ocean's floor. When the manta rays appear, some of them weighing as much as 450 kilograms. You're not supposed to touch them. They didn't get the memo and will slither up and around you. It's primal. www.sunlightonwater.com
Best meal: Indigo (Chinatown, Honolulu, O'ahu) (www.indigo-hawaii.com)
"Protein is personal," says the waiter when asked for a recommendation. He's right, so you should start with an assortment of excellent dim sum, including deep fried, very tender shrimp. The toasted black mustard seed and black peppercorn crusted ahi steak is a piece of heaven. Come on a Friday night and wander through the neighbourhood's many art galleries.
Best massage: Aqua Aloha Surf & Spa (Honolulu, O'ahu)
If any of your stresses have made it onto the island, this is the place to leave them. A 50-minute Swedish and lomi lomi massage will have your eyes rolling back in your head. This moves beyond physical and into spiritual. www.aquaresorts.com
Best chance to make a fool out of yourself: Stand-up paddle surfing
You've seen this on Hawaii Five-O, right? Slender young people with a great sense of balance coast across the waves. If you are neither young nor possessed on great balance, expect to get on, fall off and repeat as necessary. Still, when you finally stand on the board it's a thrill. Google: Gone Surfing Hawaii.
Best sushi: Doraku Sushi (Honolulu, O'ahu)
If you're not sure what to order, put yourself in the staff's hands. Everything is fresh, wonderful and interesting. www.sushidoraku.com
Most fun in a tube: Mountain tubing (Kaua'i Backcountry Adventures, Kaua'i)
They give you a headlamp, a tube and instructions to keep your arms inside. And then they release you into a series of caves, tunnels and flumes. This isn't Disney, so you have to listen to the guides when they shout "bums up!" and "elbows in!"
Nicest person in Hawaii:
OK, so this is a judgment call but if you're on Kaua'i, book a trip on the Kaua'i Plantation Railway. The train trip around 40 hectares of a former plantation is pleasant and the hike through fields of coffee and fruit is interesting. But general manager Pepe Trask is the real attraction. The former lawyer literally built the track himself and, given half a chance, speaks passionately about his love of the island, the property and kayaking.
Most iconic drink: A Mai tai
Insist on drinking it from a glass, not a plastic cup. Demand an umbrella. Make sure you can see a beach, the sea and a palm tree. You're in Hawaii so that shouldn't be a problem. Your bartender with mix light rum, lime juice, orange curacao and dark rum. Have one and all be right with the world. Have three and expect to wake up sunburned and sorry.
Most authentic experience:
OK: so it's another judgment call. But Hilo's (Big Island) Farmer's Market is a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours. Go on a Saturday morning and you'll sample fresh coffee, look at luscious fruits and vegetables you've never seen before and visit with local artisans.
Any place on any island where the sun melts into the sea and strangers break into applause.