Hawaii Points of Interest

Best Hawaii Activities

Planning a trip to the Aloha State can seem bit overwhelming; nearly all of the information available to us points to the same conclusion: Hawaii is a magical place, and this enchantment permeates each of the islands. This summation is most certainly accurate.

In fact, Her spell is so strong that many people report having life-changing experiences during their visit. But even with so many wonderful sights to see and things to do, there are a few experiences that really should be at the top of your list. So take some notes as we share our version of the Top 10 Things to Do in Hawaii.

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Haleakala Crater

Haleakala Crater

Maui’s Haleakala National Park definitely deserves top billing. Considered by many as the ultimate Hawaiian experience, Haleakala translates to ‘House of the Sun’, and you’ll see why as you make your way to the summit. Head out early and be prepared for a stunning sunrise. Enjoy the rare plants such as the silversword, and jaw-dropping views of the valley below. It’s recommended to be prepared with sunscreen and also warm clothing, as temperatures can be quite cold. Once you make it to the summit you’ll realize why this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor/USS Arizona Memorial

Honolulu, Oahu is home to this historic site that earns rave reviews from visitors from all walks of life. Learn about an event that changed history and pay tribute to those who lost their lives during WWII, specifically in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Pearl Harbor is part of the larger World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and, in addition to the USS Arizona Memorial, also includes the Battleship USS Missouri, and the USS Utah Memorial. This is an awe-inspiring and especially solemn experience; a definite must-do.

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

Yet another of Kauai’s natural wonders is the Waimea Canyon. Known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, it stretches a whopping 10 miles long and 3,500 feet deep. Waimea translates to ‘red waters’ and the Waimea River, which flows through the canyon, has an interesting red hue. There are three different lookout points on the ride up, as well as lots of great trails to hike if you like. Visitors consistently rate this experience as ‘breathtaking’, which seems a bit of an understatement. 

NaPali Coast Sunset

NaPali Coast

Kauai’s NaPali Coast offers up what many consider to be the most spectacular scenery in the world- lush green cliffs, dramatic waterfalls, seemingly bottomless valleys, and unparalleled views of the Pacific. Although it can’t be accessed by land vehicles, you can hike your way along the many side trails. The Kalalau Trail is specifically famous (or infamous!) as a very strenuous but rewarding hike. Plan your trip in advance, as you’ll need a permit for camping. If you’d prefer not to hike, choose a boat, kayak, or helicopter adventure and enjoy the sights without the trek. No matter how you choose to get there, the NaPali Coast will not disappoint.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii’s Big Island is home to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you’ll find Mount Kilauea, the world’s most continuously active volcano, which allows you to walk on land younger than you! If that weren’t enough, you can also visit the world’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa. It’s best to reserve more than one day for your trip, as the park features several educational stops such as the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, the Volcano Art Center, and the Puna-Ka’u Historic Archeological District. There are also several hiking trails which provide the best way to see the park; some of the most popular are the Kilauea Iki Trail, Thurston Lava Tube, and Devastation Trail. You’ll want to leave your mark on this freshly-formed, magnificent ground!

Kaanapali Beach

Kaanapali Beach

Maui’s Kaanapali Beach makes frequent appearances on many a "Best Beach" list and it’s easy to see why. This 3-mile long stretch of soft white sand fronts many luxury hotels and resorts, as well as exceptional restaurants and shops. You can enjoy the crystal-clear waters while swimming or simply walking along the shore. Head out to the famous Black Rock for some amazing snorkeling- a large variety of colorful fish and Hawaiian sea turtles can be found here. If you’d prefer to just relax and lounge, it’s the perfect place for that, too.

Mauna Kea Summit

Mauna Kea Summit

Located on the Big Island, the dormant Mauna Kea presents a regal profile that stands proudly, dominating most of the island’s landscape. It is the world’s tallest mountain, measured from its sea floor base to the top. A sacred place in Hawaiian culture, it offers a view beyond compare, making it the perfect place for star gazing. Rent a car or 4x4 or take a tour and stop at the Visitors Center (the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy) to learn about Mauna Kea as you get used to the change in altitude. The views from this point are spectacular, but we encourage you to make it to the summit for an awesome experience. And don’t forget the warm clothing- you’ll need it. 

Diamond Head

Diamond Head

One of the series of Honolulu’s volcanic cones, Diamond Head just might be the world’s most recognized volcanic crater- it is shaped like a tuna’s dorsal fin. The trail leading to the summit was constructed in 1908 as part of a military defense system. Today, it allows visitors to climb to the top and make what is likely the most popular hike on Oahu. The trailhead to the summit is about 0.8 miles one way, but can be quite steep in places and has lots of stairs. Make sure to carry water, sunscreen, and sturdy shoes. The trek up is more than worth it, as you’ll enjoy unparalleled 360-degree views of the island from the summit.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

The Big Island is home to the lush and beautiful Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and nature preserve. Here you’ll find over 2,000 species of plants, including heliconia, orchids, palms, and much more. The garden has a number of nature trails that guide you through this tropical paradise, enjoying waterfalls, streams, and gorgeous views of Onomea Bay along the way. You’ll also want to watch the many tropical birds that make their homes here. This masterful garden was a gift from a businessman, Dan J. Lutkenhouse, as a way to preserve the beauty and seclusion of the area. We think you’ll be grateful to have visited such a magical place. 

Waianapanapa State Park

Waianapanapa State Park

Waianapanana State Park is a highlight of Maui and the Road to Hana. Its crowning glory just might be its exotic black sand beach made from volcanic sediment. This jet black sand, together with the lush green jungle and azure Pacific waters, make for a stunning sight not to be missed. The park isn’t just a quick photo-op on the Road to Hana, however. Explore the sea cave, lava tubes, and even archaeological remnants along the hiking trail. It’s a stop the whole family will love. 

Manini'owali Beach

Honorable Mention

Manini'owali Beach

If you’re on the Big Island, head to this great spot also known as Kua Bay or Mile 88 (for the nearest mile marker). The silky white sand and surreal blue waters are simply spellbinding. When waters are calm you’ll find lots of swimmers taking a dip, and snorkelers checking out the vibrant tropical fish and Hawaiian sea turtles. Boogie boarding is also popular, as is lying along the shore and enjoying this perfect slice of paradise. 

We hope you enjoyed our take on the Top 10 Things to Do in Hawaii. And speaking of 'take'… don’t forget to take your sense of adventure and spirit of Aloha- they’re guaranteed to make your Hawaiian adventure even more fabulous!

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Article Edited/Contributed by: John C. Derrick & Michele Lopez
Published/Updated:

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