Lahaina, Hawaii, US

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Most of Polynesia has stories of the cultural hero and demigod Maui. In Hawaii, he's given credit for fishing up the islands from the ocean floor. He's also the one who caused the sun to move more slowly and who lifted the sky so people had room beneath. It's a long and complicated tale, snaking through dozens of variations.

But to the rest of the world, the word Maui just means the perfect island paradise, and Lahaina is the gateway to its most photogenic areas. 

So how beautiful does a place have to be to win the title of paradise of paradises? Well, start with enormous stretches of beach, some full of surfers, some off bays packed with whales, some sporting nothing but your own footprints. Toss in two volcanic craters, one with a road that takes you from sea level to 3,055 meters (10,023 feet) and through tunnels of jacaranda trees. Then there's the rain forest, which you can experience on a scenic drive so full of twists and turns and waterfalls that 83 kilometers (52 miles) can take most of the day. At the end, though, you're rewarded with yet more falls, plus cool ponds perfect for a soak. 

Yeah, Maui knew what he was doing when he pulled this island out of the sea.