Best Things to Do in Hawaii: 12 Hawaii Attractions

by Jen
Best Things to Do in Hawaii
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Are you planning a trip to Hawaii? Here are some of the most exciting, fun, and unique things to do in Hawaii. These beautiful beaches, vibrant cities, and cultural treasures are sure to make for an unforgettable trip.

Are you dreaming of a tropical getaway this year? Here are some of the most exciting, scenic, and unique things to do in Hawaii. These sights, events, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Known for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture, Hawaii is a paradise in the Pacific, offering a rich history and a love for adventure. There are countless activities for thrill-seeking visitors to participate in, from exploring active volcanoes to diving with manta rays.

From the bustling city of Honolulu to the tranquil beauty of Kauai, from the majestic peaks of Mauna Kea to the breathtaking Nā Pali Coast, there is no shortage of things to do and places to visit in Hawaii. There really is something for. That, of course, makes it more important for you to know which places are best suited for your particular interests. To help, I’ve compiled a list of some of my personal favorite Hawaii attractions. Check it out!

With a wealth of natural beauty and cultural treasures, there are countless Hawaii attractions that will appeal to every type of traveler.

These are the top attractions in Hawaii you can't miss!
These are the top attractions in Hawaii you can’t miss!

Best Places to Visit in Hawaii: Unforgettable Island Adventures

Hopefully, you will find the list below useful in deciding which things to do in Hawaii are your highest priorities. As noted above, there’s something for everyone in this tropical paradise, so think carefully, and consider the kind of trip you want to have.

Are you looking for some thrilling adventure and exploration? Or would you prefer a calm, peaceful, and secluded getaway? Whatever you’re planning, Hawaii can accommodate your needs.

1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Big Island

Hawaii is home to some of the most active volcanoes in the world. And there’s no better place to witness this raw, natural power than at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Big Island. This park is a testament to the island’s fiery birth. It showcases the fascinating geology of two of the world’s most active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

Visitors can explore miles of trails that wind through volcanic craters, scalded deserts, and rainforests. You can check out walk-in lava tubes with mesmerizing views of the ocean. The park also preserves and interprets the history and culture of the Native Hawaiian people, who have called this volatile landscape home for centuries.

For an epic experience, visit the park at night to see the glow of the Halema’uma’u Crater against the starlit sky. It’s a sight that captures the awe-inspiring power of nature and is one of the best things to do in Hawaii that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or an adventure seeker, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Just remember to respect the land and follow all safety guidelines during your visit.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park located on the Big Island of Hawaii is known for its stunning and diverse volcanic landscapes.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park located on the Big Island of Hawaii is known for its stunning and diverse volcanic landscapes.

2. Dive with Manta Rays on Big Island

For those who love marine life and are up for an adventure, diving with manta rays on Big Island is one of the most fun things to do in Hawaii. These gentle giants of the sea, with wingspans reaching up to 23 feet, are known for their grace and elegance.

The Kona Coast is one of the best places in the world to have this experience. Here, you can join a night snorkeling or scuba diving tour, where you’ll have the chance to see these magnificent creatures up close as they perform their nightly ballet in search of plankton.

As you float in the water, the manta rays glide effortlessly around you, their large, wing-like pectoral fins propelling them through the water. The sight of these creatures, illuminated by the lights from the dive boats, is nothing short of magical.

This is not just an adventure, but a chance to connect with nature in a profound way. It’s an experience that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the beauty and diversity of life in our oceans.

Remember, while these creatures are friendly and non-aggressive, it’s important to respect them and keep a safe distance. Touching the manta rays is not allowed as it can harm their protective skin coating.

Experience mesmerizing snorkeling or scuba diving tours at Kona Coast.
Experience mesmerizing snorkeling or scuba diving tours at Kona Coast.

3. Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on Big Island

If you’re a lover of flora and fauna, then a visit to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on Big Island is a must. This 40-acre nature preserve is home to more than 2,000 species of tropical plants from around the world, making it a paradise for botany enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

As you wander through the lush, verdant trails, you’ll be surrounded by a dazzling array of colors and fragrances. From towering palms and vibrant orchids to cascading waterfalls and tranquil streams, every corner of the garden offers a new discovery.

One of the highlights of the garden is the Orchid Garden, which houses a stunning collection of exotic orchids. The Palm Vista, with its panoramic view of towering palms, is another must-see. And don’t miss the Boardwalk Trail, which takes you through a beautiful rainforest and along the stunning Onomea Bay.

The garden is also home to a variety of bird species, so don’t forget to bring your binoculars! Whether you’re a serious botanist or just someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden offers a serene and enchanting experience. With its charm and tranquillity, it’s not hard to see why this attraction is one of the best places to visit in Hawaii!

Discover serenity at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on Big Island, a captivating haven of lush tropical flora.
Discover serenity at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on Big Island, a captivating haven of lush tropical flora.

4. Bike Mauna Kea on Big Island

Are you looking for adventure-filled things to do in Hawaii? Then biking Mauna Kea on Big Island is an absolute must. Rising from sea level in Hilo to over 13,000 feet, Mauna Kea is the highest peak in Hawaii and offers a challenging yet rewarding biking experience.

The ride begins with a steady climb through lush rainforests and past ancient lava flows. As you ascend, the vegetation becomes sparse and the landscape transforms into a lunar-like desert, offering panoramic views of the island and the Pacific Ocean.

Reaching the summit is an achievement in itself, but the real thrill comes from the exhilarating downhill ride. With the wind in your face and the stunning landscape unfolding before you, it’s a ride you won’t soon forget.

Remember, the altitude and the challenging terrain make this a demanding ride, so it’s essential to be in good physical condition and to come prepared with plenty of water and sun protection. Guided tours are available and recommended for first-time visitors to HI.

Bike Hilo to Mauna Kea's 13,000+ ft peak, conquer Hawaii's highest.
Bike Hilo to Mauna Kea’s 13,000+ ft peak, conquer Hawaii’s highest.

5. Sail the Nā Pali Coast on Kauai

The Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park on Kauai is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Hawaii. With over 6,000 acres and 16 miles of undeveloped coastline, it’s natural beauty is best seen from the water.

Sailing along the Nā Pali Coast is an unforgettable experience. As you glide along the crystal-clear waters, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of towering sea cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and secluded beaches. Along the way, you might even spot dolphins, sea turtles, and during the winter months, humpback whales.

There are several boat tours available, ranging from large catamarans to smaller, more intimate vessels. Some tours even include snorkeling stops at pristine coral reefs, where you can swim with tropical fish and sea turtles.

Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-time visitor, sailing the Nā Pali Coast is a must-do on any Hawaii bucket list. It’s a chance to connect with nature, experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the Hawaiian landscape, and create memories that will last for years to come.

Add Nā Pali Coast sailing to your Hawaii bucket list; connect with nature and embrace the stunning Hawaiian landscape.
Add Nā Pali Coast sailing to your Hawaii bucket list; connect with nature and embrace the stunning Hawaiian landscape.

6. Drive Waimea Canyon on Kauai

Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon on Kauai is a sight to behold. Approximately ten miles long and up to 3,000 feet deep, the canyon offers stunning panoramic views of rugged cliffs, deep valleys, and cascading waterfalls.

A drive along the Waimea Canyon Drive takes you to several lookout points. Each viewpoint offers a unique perspective of the canyon’s vastness and beauty. The journey culminates at Pu’u o Kila Lookout, where you can see the Nā Pali Coast on a clear day.

Remember to bring your camera, as the canyon’s dramatic landscape, especially at sunrise or sunset, makes for some incredible photo opportunities. Whether you choose to explore by car or on foot, Waimea Canyon is one of the best places to visit in Hawaii.

And if you’re looking for the best hikes to do in Hawaii, there are trails ranging from easy nature walks to challenging hikes leading to the canyon floor. The Cliff Trail to Waipo’o Falls is a popular choice. It offers stunning views of the canyon and a close-up view of the waterfall. Is this one of the top HI attractions? You bet!

Drive Waimea Canyon for lookouts, vast beauty, and Nā Pali Coast view.
Drive Waimea Canyon for lookouts, vast beauty, and Nā Pali Coast view.

7. Hike the Kalalau Trail on Kauai

For travelers seeking adventure-filled things to do in Hawaii, hiking the Kalalau Trail on Kauai is a must. This trail stretches 11 miles along the Nā Pali Coast from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach. It provides incredible views of Kauai’s coastline and valleys.

The trail is challenging, with steep inclines and declines, but the stunning views of the emerald-green cliffs, deep valleys, and the azure Pacific Ocean make the effort worthwhile. Along the way, you’ll pass through lush jungle, across rushing streams, and by cascading waterfalls.

The trail ends at the secluded Kalalau Beach, where you can relax and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Camping is allowed with a permit, making it possible to spend a night under the stars in this beautiful location.

Remember, the trail can be dangerous, especially in wet weather, and is recommended for experienced hikers. Always check the weather before you go and bring plenty of water and snacks. And of course, leave no trace to preserve the beauty of the trail for future hikers.

Don't miss hiking Kalalau Trail, an 11-mile Nā Pali Coast journey with breathtaking views.
Don’t miss hiking Kalalau Trail, an 11-mile Nā Pali Coast journey with breathtaking views.

8. Explore the Charm of Lahaina Town on Maui

Steeped in history, Lahaina Town on Maui is among the best places to visit in Hawaii for any traveler. Once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the early nineteenth century and a bustling whaling port, today Lahaina is a lively town filled with art, culture, and unique attractions.

Stroll down Front Street, the town’s main artery, where you’ll find an array of shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Visit the historic Baldwin Home Museum, the oldest house still standing on Maui, and the large Banyan Tree Park, home to one of the largest banyan trees in the United States.

Lahaina is also a gateway to the beautiful beaches of West Maui. Just a short drive away, you’ll find Ka’anapali Beach, known for its white sand and clear water, and Kapalua Bay, a great spot for snorkeling.

In the evening, don’t miss the chance to attend a traditional Hawaiian luau. With a feast of Hawaiian cuisine, music, and hula dancing, it’s a fun and immersive way to experience local culture and one of the best things to do in Hawaii for couples.

Whether you’re a history buff, a beach lover, or a foodie, Lahaina Town offers a taste of Hawaii’s past and present that’s sure to charm.

Explore Front Street's shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
Explore Front Street’s shops, art galleries, and restaurants.

9. Snorkel with Sea Turtles at Tunnels Beach on Kauai

For an unforgettable underwater adventure, head to Tunnels Beach on Kauai. Known for its extensive coral reef, Tunnels Beach is one of the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii, offering the chance to swim alongside sea turtles and a variety of tropical fish.

The beach gets its name from the many underwater tunnels and arches formed by the reef. As you explore these natural formations, you’ll be surrounded by a vibrant array of marine life. From colorful parrotfish and butterflyfish to majestic green sea turtles, it’s like swimming in a living aquarium!

Remember to respect the sea turtles and keep a safe distance. These creatures are protected by law and touching them is strictly prohibited. Also, be aware of the ocean conditions and never snorkel alone.

After your snorkeling adventure, relax on Tunnels Beach, one of the best beaches in Hawaii, and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a perfect way to spend a day in paradise.

Experience Hawaii's finest snorkeling at Tunnels Beach, swimming with sea turtles and tropical fish.
Experience Hawaii’s finest snorkeling at Tunnels Beach, swimming with sea turtles and tropical fish.

10. Kayak to a Secret Waterfall and Hike Wailua Canyon on Kauai

For a day filled with adventure and stunning natural beauty, consider a kayak and hiking trip along the scenic Wailua River on Kauai. This journey takes you through lush rainforests, past ancient Hawaiian temples, and to a secret waterfall.

Start your adventure with a leisurely kayak trip along the tranquil Wailua River, the only navigable river in Hawaii. As you paddle, you’ll enjoy views of the verdant valley and the towering Makaleha Mountains.

After kayaking, you’ll embark on a hike through the tropical rainforest. The trail leads you to the enchanting Uluwehi Falls, also known as Secret Falls, a 120-foot waterfall that cascades into a natural pool. Coined by many as the best waterfall in Hawaii, you can take a refreshing swim and enjoy a picnic lunch surrounded by the beauty of nature.

This adventure offers a unique way to experience the natural beauty of Kauai and learn about the island’s rich history and culture. It’s easy to see why this is one of the best things to do in Hawaii!

Hike to Uluwehi Falls, Hawaii's 120-foot waterfall, for a refreshing swim and picnic in nature.
Hike to Uluwehi Falls, Hawaii’s 120-foot waterfall, for a refreshing swim and picnic in nature.

11. Discover the Vibrant City Life in Honolulu

Honolulu, the capital city of Hawaii, is a vibrant metropolis that beautifully blends urban living with tropical paradise. One of the best places to visit in Hawaii, it’s a city rich in history, culture, and natural beauty, offering a variety of experiences for every type of traveler.

Start your exploration in Waikiki, a neighborhood known for its beautiful beaches, world-class shopping, and vibrant nightlife. Don’t miss the chance to learn to surf, visit the Honolulu Zoo, or simply relax on the iconic Waikiki Beach.

For history buffs, a visit to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial is a must. This historic site offers a sobering reminder of the events of December 7, 1941, and serves as a tribute to the lives lost during the attack.

Art and culture enthusiasts will love the Honolulu Museum of Art and the Bishop Museum, which offer extensive collections of Hawaiian and Pacific art and artifacts. For nature lovers, a hike up to the Diamond Head Crater offers stunning panoramic views of the city and the Pacific Ocean.

At the end of the day, enjoy a meal at one of Honolulu’s many restaurants, where you can sample local cuisine like poke, kalua pig, and shave ice. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or cultural experiences, there are things to do in Honolulu for everyone.

Honolulu, Hawaii's captivating capital, is a perfect blend of city life and tropical beauty.
Honolulu, Hawaii’s captivating capital, is a perfect blend of city life and tropical beauty.

12. Drive the Road to Hana on Maui

No trip to Hawaii would be complete without taking the famous Road to Hana on Maui. This scenic drive is renowned for its stunning views, winding curves, and narrow bridges, offering a journey that’s as memorable as the destination itself.

The road stretches for about 52 miles from Kahului to the town of Hana. It passes through lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic ocean vistas. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to stop and explore. You can take a dip in the cool pools of Ohe’o Gulch, explore the black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park, or stroll through the beautiful Garden of Eden Arboretum.

Once you reach Hana, take some time to enjoy this charming town. Visit the Hana Cultural Center and Museum to learn about the area’s history or relax on the beautiful Hamoa Beach.

Remember, the journey is the destination on the Road to Hana. Take your time, enjoy the sights, and savor the experience. It’s one of the best things to do in Hawaii that encapsulates the beauty, diversity, and spirit of the state.

Next: Watch my YouTube video on the Road to Hana

Iconic Road to Hana in Maui - scenic views, winding curves, and unforgettable drive.
Iconic Road to Hana in Maui – scenic views, winding curves, and unforgettable drive.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Hawaii

Looking for more information on the best things to do in Hawaii? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Hawaii:

What activities is Hawaii known for?

Hawaii, a tropical paradise in the Pacific, is renowned for many fun HI activities:

  1. Surfing: Hawaii is often considered the birthplace of modern surfing. Iconic spots like Waikiki and the North Shore of Oahu draw enthusiasts from around the world.
  2. Snorkeling and Diving: Vibrant coral reefs, clear waters, and diverse marine life make Hawaii a premier destination for underwater exploration.
  3. Luau: Traditional Hawaiian parties that feature Polynesian music, hula dancing, and a feast, offering a taste of local culture.
  4. Hiking: From volcanic craters like Diamond Head to lush rainforests and waterfalls in locations like the Na Pali Coast, Hawaii offers varied hiking experiences.
  5. Whale Watching: Particularly between December and April, when humpback whales migrate to Hawaiian waters for mating and birthing.
  6. Hawaiian Lei Making: Creating and wearing these iconic floral garlands is a cherished tradition.
  7. Paddle Sports: Including stand-up paddleboarding and outrigger canoeing in the serene waters.
  8. Volcano Exploration: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island lets visitors witness active volcanoes. You can also learn about the islands’ geologic history.
  9. Golfing: With its scenic landscapes, Hawaii boasts some of the world’s most beautiful golf courses.
  10. Beach Relaxation: Simply enjoying the pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and watching the sunset.

Hawaii’s fusion of natural beauty, adventure, and rich cultural traditions ensures a plethora of activities for travelers of all tastes.

When is the best time to visit Hawaii?

Hawaii is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit can depend on your preferences. If you’re looking for the best weather and least amount of rain, April, May, September, and October are often ideal. These months typically offer comfortable temperatures and less crowding.

For surfers, winter months bring the biggest waves, especially on the north shores of the islands. Whale watchers should also consider visiting between December and April when humpback whales are most commonly sighted.

How many days vacation in Hawaii is enough?

The ideal length for a vacation in Hawaii depends on what you want to experience, but here’s some general guideline:

  • Short Stay (4-6 days): Best for a single-island visit. This gives you enough time to explore key attractions, relax on the beaches, and partake in activities like snorkeling or luaus.
  • Medium Stay (7-10 days): Suitable for thoroughly exploring one island or visiting two islands. This allows time for multiple activities such as hiking, taking island tours, or even surfing lessons, with days to spare for relaxation.
  • Long Stay (11-14 days or more): Ideal for visiting two or more islands. This will give you a comprehensive experience of Hawaii’s diverse landscapes and cultures. This length allows for a mix of adventure, exploration, and relaxation.

Regardless of duration, even a short trip can be fulfilling if planned well. However, considering travel time (especially if coming from distant locations) and the variety each island offers, many visitors find 7-10 days to be a good balance between exploration and relaxation.

Do I need a car in Hawaii?

While it’s possible to use public transportation or tours to get around, renting a car gives you the most flexibility to explore at your own pace, especially if you plan to visit more remote areas or multiple attractions in one day. Each island has unique sights that are often spread out. So having a car allows you to see more during your trip.

What should I pack for a trip to Hawaii?

Pack light, breathable clothing, a good pair of walking shoes for hiking, swimwear, a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen. A light rain jacket is also a good idea as showers can occur unexpectedly. This is especially true if you’re visiting the windward side of the islands or higher elevations. Don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning scenery!

Do I need a visa to visit Hawaii?

As Hawaii is a U.S. state, the same rules apply as visiting mainland USA. International visitors will generally need a visa unless they qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. Be sure to check the current requirements before your trip.

Is Hawaii expensive to visit?

Hawaii is known to be more expensive than many other U.S. destinations due to its remote location. However, costs can be managed by planning ahead, eating at local food spots, and choosing accommodations to fit your budget. Consider visiting during the shoulder seasons for potentially lower prices on flights and accommodations.

What are some local foods to try in Hawaii?

Hawaii has a rich culinary scene that reflects its diverse cultural influences. Be sure to try local specialties like poke (raw fish salad), kalua pig (slow-roasted pork), laulau (pork wrapped in taro leaf), and shave ice (a sweet treat similar to a snow cone).

Recap: Hawaii Awaits – Your Ultimate Tropical Getaway

From its stunning natural beauty to its rich cultural heritage, there’s a wealth of things to do in Hawaii for every traveler. Whether you’re seeking adventure in the form of hiking, surfing, or diving, relaxation on pristine beaches, or a deep dive into local culture through its food, music, and history, you’ll find it in the Aloha State.

Each island has its unique charm and attractions, and part of the magic of a trip to Hawaii is discovering these differences. So, whether you’re exploring the bustling city of Honolulu, driving the scenic Road to Hana, or sailing along the Nā Pali Coast, you’re sure to create unforgettable memories.

Pack your bags, book your tickets, and get ready to experience the warmth and hospitality of Hawaii. As the locals say, “E komo mai” – welcome!

Things to do in Hawaii for all types of travelers
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