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Now Only Three, a Family Moves On

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

WHO: Robert Cox, 51, and sons Trevor, 17, and Chris, 19, of Reston.

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DREAM TRIP: Hawaii.

BACKGROUND: Before Robert Cox's wife, Anita, died from cancer in November, the couple had planned to visit Hawaii with their sons. Anita had never been there and always wanted to go, Robert Cox said in an e-mail. "The boys would still like to honor their mom's wishes," he wrote. He asked us for help planning a two-week July trip that's part restful (beaches, historical and cultural sites) and part active (surfing lessons, scuba diving). In general, Cox said, he's seeking activities that will help a "family rebounding from their grief."

OUR SUGGESTIONS:

DAYS 1-2: On Oahu, the Coxes have arranged to stay with a family friend who owns a condo on the beach in Honolulu's Waikiki. They'll likely arrive late in the day, giving them time to rest before surfing lessons the next morning. The water off Waikiki is calm, and experienced surfing instructors are plentiful. For example, Hans Hedemann Surf (808-924-7778, http://www.hhsurf.com) offers two-hour group lessons for $75 per person, including transportation from a Waikiki hotel (for those who need it), a private instructor and equipment. Spend the rest of the day on the beach, swimming among sea turtles, and have lunch under the shade of a humongous banyan tree at the Moana Surfrider Hotel's ocean-side bar.

DAYS 3-4: Take in Oahu's cultural and historical sites. Tour the USS Arizona Memorial (808-422-2771, http://www.pearlharbormemorial.com or http://www.nps.gov/usar), a floating shrine to the battleship that lost 1,177 crewmen in the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Go early, because you'll need to wait in line to get free tickets to tour the memorial. Later, visit two other important World War II sites: the battleship USS Missouri (877-644-4896, http://www.ussmissouri.org; $16) and the submarine USS Bowfin (808-423-1341, http://www.bowfin.org; $10). Tip: Purchase a combo pass for the Missouri and Bowfin for $24. To learn about Hawaii's Polynesian past and see ritual artifacts, head to Hawaii's top cultural museum, the Bishop Museum (1525 Bernice St., 808-847-3511, http://www.bishopmuseum.org, $15.95).

Spend time at the lush locale where such movies as "Jurassic Park" and "Godzilla" were filmed. The privately owned Kualoa Ranch (808-237-7321, http://www.kualoa.com) is 45 minutes from Waikiki on the island's northeast coast. Zoom across streams in all-terrain vehicles, ride across hilly fields on horseback and tour the movie sites. The adventurous outings are $99 per person for a half-day and $139 for a full day, including transport from Waikiki hotels. (The ranch has tamer activities, too.)

DAY 5-8: Fly to the Big Island to spend three nights scuba diving and touring the volcanoes. Just about every travel agency in Hawaii offers combo deals for flights, lodging and a rental car. Hawaii-Aloha.com (800-843-8771, http://www.hawaii-aloha.com) quoted a fare of $320 per person for a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Hilo, an economy rental car and lodging at the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Hotel in Kona. The hotel's on-site dive shop, Bottom Time Hawaii (866-463-4836, http://www.bottomtimehawaii.com), offers day outings from $120 per person and $135 for a night dive to see giant manta rays.

Spend a half-day driving through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (808-985-6000, http://www.nps.gov/havo; $10 per car) to explore the summit of Kilauea via the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive and do some easy hikes; pick up maps at the visitors center. (See Splurge, below, for a related adventure.) Other Big Island activities could include a jaunt to the Punalu'u black sand beach in the southern part of the island next to the Sea Mountain Golf Course and visits to ancient sacred sites such as Mookini Heiau, the most famous spot for human sacrifices on the island. It's along the Kohala Coast.

DAYS 9-12: Arrange another combo deal to fly to Maui for three nights; a package through Hawaii-Aloha.com is $350 per person, including lodging at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel. Take another scuba outing at one of Hawaii's must-see spots for divers, Molokini. The crescent-shaped, partially sunken volcanic crater 2 1/2 miles off the island teems with more than 250 species of fish, including butterflyfish, parrotfish and wrasse. Lahaina Divers (800-998-3483, http://www.lahainadivers.com) offers charter dives from $119.

Elsewhere on Maui, tour the quaint town of Lahaina. Drive the twisting, gut-churning Road to Hana past waterfalls, through verdant forests and across more than 50 one-lane bridges, stopping first to pick up a picnic lunch at the Maui Grown Market on the Hana Highway in Haiku.

DAYS 13-14: Spend time relaxing in Waikiki again before heading back to the mainland, perhaps taking a drive to the calm summer waters of the North Shore. Sorry, you won't find the famous 30-foot waves that are commonplace during the winter, but you will encounter phenomenal shrimp "shacks" along the way for a bite to eat.

SPLURGE: It's not often you get to see one of the most active volcanoes on the planet. The glowing, burbling lava flows on the Big Island aren't accessible by foot right now, because earthquakes in 2007 caused them to change their path. But monitor the National Park Service Web site for updates.

Most tourists opt for helicopter rides, but do one better: See the volcano -- and the rest of the Big Island -- aboard a privately chartered Cessna. Island Hoppers (800-538- 7590, http://www.fly-hawaii.com/above) offers tours from Kona International Airport in a three-passenger aircraft for $375 an hour, total. You can design your tour to circle above the volcano, tour the whole island, even touch down at a tiny, northern tip airport to have a picnic lunch on a cliff.

TOTAL COST: The best airfare we found is $858 aboard Continental Airlines, departing from Baltimore-Washington International. Including all flights, lodging and all of the activities listed above except the Cessna flight, this trip will run about $2,500 per person.

-- Elissa Leibowitz Poma


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