The eight islands collectively known as Hawaii offer abundant opportunities for surf, sun and scenic beauty. Here are the top things to do in Hawaii among the four most popular islands for visitors:
Also known as “The Big Island” to prevent confusion, the island of Hawaii is the largest in the chain. Here are the must-see and dos:
- Drive to Hilo off of Highway 220 and take a short hike through Akaka Falls State Park to see both Kahuna and Akaka falls, which are gorgeous.
- Take a guided tour of wild, verdant Waipio Valley. You’ll see the Kaluahine Waterfalls, which rush down a nearby cliff and into the ocean, as well as lush greenery at every turn. Go on a horseback riding tour with Na’alapa Stables or take a rough-riding tour on your own ATV with Ride the Rim.
- Check out the well-known Hilo Farmers Market to taste and purchase some of the best local Hawaiian goods: seafood, produce, clothing and crafts. It’s open every day, but the most popular days are Wednesday and Saturday. You’ll find everything from pineapples to bongo drums sold by more than 100 vendors here.
- Hit the legendary beaches. Some of the most beautiful are Papakolea Beach - it’s challenging to get to, but is one of the only beaches with olive green-colored sand in the U.S. - and Hapuna Beach State Park. Don’t miss a trip to the more remote Kealakekua Bay on the west side for excellent snorkeling and views of Spinner dolphins and sea turtles.
- Take a stroll in Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park for a dose of Hawaiian history in the form of detailed ki’i wood carvings and temples. You’ll also spot Honu’s here, which are Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.
Maui is known for its luxurious Pacific beauty. Here are the top places to see on this island:
- Catch the sunrise at the volcanic crater in Haleakala National Park. It’s a 30-minute drive from base to crater and early mornings here are cold, but the views are amazing.
- Don’t miss the Old Lahaina Luau - supposedly one of the best and most traditional in the state. The Lahaina Luau lasts three hours, accompanied by dancing, roasted pork, lomi lomi salmon and mashed taro.
- If you’re staying in Kahului, a popular Maui city, take a scenic 55-mile drive to Hana. Pack a picnic and stop along the way - this stunning winding drive over lush hills high above the ocean is well worth a slow trip.
- Nothing looks crazier than the Kaihalulu Beach in Hana. The exotic red sand beach, towering trees and deep turquoise water provides a seascape like nothing you’ve seen before.
- Check out the world’s largest dormant volcano in Haleakala National Park. It will take you two hours to reach the summit, but there are many scenic overlooks along the way. Hike popular Pipiwai trail - a four-mile stretch around the Seven Sacred Pools of Oheo Gulch, where you can stop for a relaxing swim near tiny waterfalls.
Here are some of the best things to do on this pretty island, which is the farthest land north and west of the chain:
- Visit the magnificent and breathtaking Na Pali Coast, where sharp cliffs of varying heights jut into the sky, creating an other-worldly effect near the ocean. One of the best ways to see Na Pali is via helicopter tour from Sunshine Helicopters, which also takes you over the vibrant green Waimea Canyon.
- If you’re an experienced hiker, dare yourself to take the 11-mile muddy and rocky hike on Kalalau Trail for an unparalleled view of Na Pali.
- Hit the links at Poipu Bay Golf Course. See if you can keep your mind on the game while surrounded by acres of tropical beauty, ocean views and even cute creatures, like the turtles, monk seals and geese that often hang out on the greens.
- Lounge on the beaches. The locals hang out at a relatively calm beach called Kalapaki, but there’s also Po’ipu, Lumahai and Hanakapi’ai beaches that are perfect for sunbathing.
- See the Kilauea Lighthouse on the northernmost point, not far from the National Wildlife Refuge.
- Take surf or stand-up paddleboard lessons at the Hamilton School of Surfing or rent kayaks, boogie boards and pedal boats from Hanalei River Watersports on the Hanalei Bay.
Oahu is the most populous Hawaiian island and home to Honolulu. Here are the best things to do here:
- Head to world-famous Waikiki and Sunset beaches and Waimea Bay to sunbathe and watch surfers. Sprawling Kailua Beach Park is perfect for families. You can watch windsurfers with colorful kites, swim in the cerulean waters or have a picnic on the sand.
- Go hiking at Diamond Head, a 300,000 year-old crater created by one massive volcanic eruption. The best time to go is in the early morning when the temperatures are cooler.
- Visit the lovely Honolulu Museum of Art to see Georgia O’Keeffe’s Maui landscape paintings, an excellent collection of Asian art and even some works by Picasso and van Gogh.
- Pay homage at the Pearl Harbor and U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. It’s located where the famous invasion took place in 1941, you can even ride with a U.S. Navy boat to see the memorial up close and pay your respects.
- Check out ‘Iolani Palace, which once belonged to King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuokalani. It’s an interesting sight as it stands out next to other Hawaiian architecture.