Plan Your Trip: Hawaii and Cook Islands

Plan_Your_Trip_Dream_Big_03.jpg

ISLANDS encourages travelers to "Dream Big" in the December 2009 issue of the magazine (on sale in the ISLANDS Gift Shop). Here are two featured trips from that issue: an all-new way to see Hawaii by water with the Kelea Surf Spa on Oahu and an exploration of the Cook Islands with dream stays on Rarotonga and Aitutaki. So, for even more island travel ideas, see the table of contents of the "Dream Big" issue.

Fly direct from the West Coast to Honolulu, Oahu (HNL), or Kahului, Maui (OGG), on airlines including American.

Go during the big-wave months from November to March to see pro surfers riding giants.

Stay at the Kelea Surf Spa on Oahu, where you can learn to surf at this all-inclusive camp for women only. Six-night packages start at $1,895 and includes beachfront accommodations, healthy meals from a private chef, yoga and a massage. On Maui, the Inn at Mama's Fish House is near waves that Queen Kelea surfed.

Eat taro burgers on Oahu at Shark Cove Grill next to the surfers still dripping. Look for the blue RV across from the Shark Cove. For dinner, just head to Haleiwa Joe's Seafood Grill for ahi sashimi, local greens and mai tais. Get dessert at Matsumoto's, an iconic shave-ice shop (be sure to try the lilikoi all-natural syrup). Or try Ted's Bakery for decadent chocolate haupia pie. On Maui, watch surfers at the Beach House at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. In Paia, get fish tacos at Milagros, 808-579-8755.

Watch the best surfers shred 12 world-class breaks on this two-mile round-trip beach hike on Maui. Start at Ehukai Beach Park to see the action at Pipeline; then walk northeast to the bay at the Velzyland break.

Try kitesurfing, stand-up paddleboarding and windsurfing at Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport.

Fly Air New Zealand direct from Los Angeles (LAX) to the Cook Islands' main island of Rarotonga (RAR). Aitutaki (AIT) is less than an hour north on Air Rarotonga.

Stay at a classic resort on Rarotonga, the Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa. The sun is always shining here on Aroa Beach. Rates from $185. The intimate Sea Change Villas feature plunge pools and picturesque views of the lagoon. Rates from $360. On Aitutaki itself, the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa is the only resort on the lagoon -- and the only one with overwater bungalows. Rates from $290. Romantic Tamanu Beach has freshwater pools, a great beach and fantastic barbecues. Rates from $220. Mama Ruru's Akaiami Paradise, on the seaplane motu, has one six-person lodge and a beach bungalow. Rates from $440.

Cruise in a pontoon boat with Aitutaki Adventures for an all-day lagoon tour. Snorkel among giant clams, explore sandbars and learn island lore, e-mail captpuna@aitutaki.net.ck.

Ride in a yellow 4x4 with Aitutaki Discovery Safari Tours to see ancient marae (temple ground) & World War II ruins.

Dive into an underwater journey along the outer reef of Aitutaki Lagoon with Bubbles Below.