The Hawaiian Islands have long been America's tropical playground, a volcanic archipelago in the middle of the Pacific that is the country's most surprising state. Before they became an American territory, before Captain Cook dubbed them the Sandwich Islands, the Hawaiian Islands were the home of a Polynesian culture whose roots still run deep. In Hawaii's floral-scented valleys and on its black-sand beaches, that legacy lives on in an aloha spirit that promises a welcome as warm as the ocean breezes. Some 4,300 kilometers (2,700 miles) from Hawaii, another legendary archipelago awaits travelers to the Pacific: Tahiti. Here, Polynesian and French cultures meet under blue skies on lush islands ringed by blue lagoons.