Looking for some fun and exciting things to do in Hawaii? The Hawaiian Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean, are known for their stunning beaches, lush tropical forests, majestic volcanoes, and friendly locals. In this article, our friend Anu Agarwal from Destination Check-Off shares her top 10 things to do in Hawaii!
One of the top destinations in Hawaii is the island of Oahu, which is home to the state capital, Honolulu. Oahu is known for the world-famous Waikiki Beach and the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
Another popular destination in Hawaii is the island of Maui, which is known for its stunning beaches, waterfalls, and natural beauty. The Road to Hana Drive and the Haleakala National Park are top attractions in Maui, along with whale watching during the Winter season.
The Big Island of Hawaii is known for the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and snorkeling with the manta rays!
Visiting Hawaii is an unforgettable experience that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural diversity, and outdoor adventure.
1. Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a really unique and popular thing to do on the Big Island of Hawaii. The park has two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, with Kilauea being the most active volcano with recent eruptions.
You can drive to the Volcanoes park by yourself or take a volcano tour from Hilo. A helicopter tour is also a great way to see the volcanoes and rainforests from above, with breathtaking views of the Hawaii coastline and volcano craters.
On your visit to Hawaii Volcanoes Park, you can walk through lava fields, explore lava caves, and drive to the scenic viewpoints on Crater Rim Drive.
There are many places in the park where you can see volcanic activity, like lava flows, steam vents, and volcanic craters. The Kilauea Iki trail is a really unique hike that's about three miles long and a must-do on Big Island. In this hike, you get to walk through a dormant lava crater and a rainforest and see a really cool Thurston lava tube at the end.
The Kilauea volcano erupts within the Halemaumau Crater, and you can see the steam rising from the crater from different viewpoints in the park, like the overlook at Volcano House. Sometimes, if you stay after dark, you can see red lava glowing if there have been recent eruptions. The night sky is also perfect for stargazing in the park.
Advance reservations are not required to visit the Volcanoes Park, but you would need to pay the National Park entrance fee to visit.
2. Try Snorkeling in Kona
Snorkeling is one of the top things to do in Hawaii, especially on the Big Island. The waters around Big Island have lots of different marine life, like sea turtles, dolphins, and an abundance of other tropical fish.
Snorkeling with Manta rays is a very popular and must-do activity in any Big Island itinerary. It's an amazing opportunity to get close to these gentle giants and see their beauty and grace.
Keauhou Bay, just south of Kailua-Kona, is one of the most popular places to snorkel with manta rays. You can join a guided tour and swim with the mantas in their natural environment at night when they come up to feed on plankton near underwater lights.
Other great spots for snorkeling and diving on Big Island include Kealakekua Bay, Puako Bay, and Kahaluu Beach. At Kealakekua Bay, you can see a lot of marine life, like fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins. You can explore stunning coral reefs and see many different underwater creatures up close. You can take a boat tour to the Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay.
3. Go Whale Watching in Maui
Whale Watching in Maui is a very popular excursion in Hawaii. During the winter months, from December to May, humpback whales migrate from the cold Alaskan waters to the warm waters of Hawaii to breed and give birth. Maui is one of the best places in the world to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
The best chances of seeing whales are by taking a whale-watching tour led by experienced guides who can help you spot whales and provide you with interesting information about these gentle giants. You can choose from a variety of tour operators, with many departing from Lahaina and Ma'alaea harbors.
The best time to go whale watching in Maui is early in the morning when the waters are calm and the sun is not that harsh. However, you can also see them throughout the day. Remember that humpback whales are a protected species, so it is important to give them plenty of space and not disturb them in any way.
During your whale-watching adventure, you may witness a variety of whale behaviors, such as breaching (jumping out of the water), tail slapping, and singing. Don't forget to bring a camera and a sense of wonder as you embark on this adventure.
4. Attend a Luau
Attending a luau is a traditional Hawaiian experience that is very unique to Hawaii. There are several luaus held across the Hawaiian islands, with some of the most popular being the Old Lahaina Luau on Maui and the Polynesian Cultural Center Luau on Oahu.
A luau is a celebration of Hawaiian culture, food, and entertainment that usually occurs in the evening. The event usually starts with a lei greeting, welcoming guests with a beautiful flower lei around their necks.
The highlight of the luau is the Hawaiian feast, which typically features a kalua pig, poi, lomi salmon, and other traditional Hawaiian dishes. Guests can also enjoy a variety of tropical drinks, including mai tais and other fruity cocktails.
As you dine, you will be entertained by hula dancers who perform to the beat of live Hawaiian music. The dancers will tell stories through their movements, often depicting tales of love, nature, and other Hawaiian legends.
Attending a luau is a great way to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture, traditions, and local cuisine and is one of the best things to do in Hawaii.
5. Drive on the Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is a scenic drive that winds along the northeastern coast of Maui, Hawaii, and is considered one of the most breathtaking drives in the world. The 52-mile-long road takes you through lush rainforests, past cascading waterfalls, and along stunning ocean vistas.
The drive can take anywhere from four hours to all day, depending on how many Road to Hana stops you explore. While the road is technically paved the entire way, it's narrow and winding and has over 600 hairpin turns and 59 bridges, most of which are one-lane bridges, so it's not for the faint of heart.
That said, the drive is well worth the effort, as it takes you through some of the most beautiful landscapes you'll ever see. You'll pass by picturesque towns, villages, lush rainforests, and stunning waterfalls and streams. You'll also have the opportunity to stop at various points of interest, including botanical gardens, black-sand beaches, and historical landmarks.
Some of the most popular waterfalls on the Road to Hana include Twin Falls, Upper Waikani Falls, and Wailua Falls. These cascading waterfalls are breathtaking, and many of them are easily accessible from the road. Another highlight is the Wainapanapa black sand beach. Reservations are required to visit this very popular beach near Hana.
Another highlight of the drive is the town of Hana itself. This small, picturesque town is the endpoint of the drive, and it's well worth spending some time exploring. Here, you'll find a charming mix of local shops, restaurants, food trucks, and some of the island's most beautiful beaches, like Koki Beach and Hamoa Beach.
6. Experience Sunrise at Haleakala
Visiting the summit of Haleakala National Park in Maui for sunrise is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should not be missed if you are ever in Maui. The summit is located at an elevation of 10,023 feet, and it's the highest point on the island. To witness the sunrise from the summit, you must wake up early and make your way to the top before the sun starts to rise. Sometimes, this requires waking up at 3 AM!
Sunrise at Haleakala is so popular that you need to make advance reservations on the National Park website to enter the summit area between 3 AM and 7 AM. The drive to the summit takes about two hours from most areas of the island, so it's important to plan ahead and leave plenty of time to get there before sunrise. The road to the summit is narrow, steep, and winding, so it's important to drive carefully and be prepared for the altitude.
As the sun starts to rise, the colors of the sky begin to change, and the views become more and more breathtaking. The vast crater spreads out before you, and you can see the entire island of Maui stretching out to the horizon. The clouds below you look like a sea of cotton candy, and the sunrise's colors make everything seem glowing.
The temperature at the summit can be quite cold, so it's important to dress warmly and bring plenty of layers. You can bring blankets, jackets, and even hot drinks to keep yourself warm while you wait for the sunrise.
If you cannot get the reservations for sunrise, you can also go later in the day to see the sunset at Haleakala Summit, which is equally amazing!
7. Visit Pearl Harbor Memorial
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii and is built over the sunken remains of the USS Arizona battleship, which serves as a tomb for the 1,177 sailors who lost their lives during the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor in the year 1941. Visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial is a powerful experience to honor the memory of the brave men and women who lost their lives.
Reservations are required to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. To reach the memorial, you will board a Navy shuttle boat that takes you to the memorial, which is situated in the middle of the harbor. As the boat approaches the memorial, you can see the remains of the USS Arizona just beneath the water's surface.
You can walk around and view the various exhibits showcasing that fateful day's events. It is a sobering reminder of the human cost of war. You can also take a guided tour of the USS Bowfin submarine and the USS Missouri battleship, both of which played important roles during World War II.
The Pearl Harbor Memorial is the most visited attraction in Oahu and is a short drive or cab ride from the Waikiki resort area.
8. Experience a black sand beach
Hawaii is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, including several that feature unique black sand. These beaches result from volcanic activity, and the black sand is tiny pieces of black lava rocks that have eroded over time. The stunning contrast between the black sand and the crystal-clear blue water is a sight to see.
One of Hawaii's most famous black sand beaches is Punalu'u Beach, located on the Big Island. The beach is known for its fine black sand and green sea turtles basking in the sun on the beach, adding to the beauty of the already spectacular scenery.
Another popular black sand beach is Waianapanapa Beach, located on the Road to Hana Drive in Maui. This beach features black sand and dramatic sea cliffs, and lava caves. The beach is surrounded by lush green foliage, making it a picture-perfect spot for photography.
9. Explore a Waterfall Hike
Hawaii is home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, and many of these stunning natural wonders can be accessed by hiking through lush rainforests and scenic trails.
One of Hawaii's most popular waterfall hikes is the Pipiwai trail to Waimoku Falls, located in Haleakala National Park on Maui. The trail is approximately 4 miles round trip and takes you through a unique bamboo forest and past several smaller waterfalls before reaching the 400-foot tall towering Waimoku Falls.
Another popular waterfall hike on Maui is the Twin Falls trail on the road to Hana. The trail is relatively short, at just over 1 mile round trip, and takes you through a lush jungle to a set of twin waterfalls. The falls are surrounded by beautiful greenery and offer the perfect spot for a refreshing dip.
In Big Island, the Akaka Falls is one of the best waterfalls in the eastern Hilo region. The falls drop an impressive 442 feet into a lush, green canyon below. You take a short hike through the lush rainforest to reach the falls. The trail is well-maintained and features a series of stairs and footbridges that wind through the dense foliage. Along the way, you will see a variety of native plants and wildlife, including bamboo groves, orchids, and colorful birds.
The Manoa Falls hike is a popular trail located in the Manoa Valley on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The hike is approximately 1.5 miles round trip and takes you through lush rainforest to the base of the stunning Manoa Falls.
10. Relax on the White Sand Beaches
Hawaii is known for its stunning beaches, with crystal-clear waters, white sands, and scenic landscapes. With so many beautiful beaches to choose from, it can be hard to decide which ones to visit.
Waikiki Beach, located on the island of Oahu, is one of the most famous beaches in the world and is known for its calm waters, white sand, and iconic views of the Diamond Head Volcano crater. You can enjoy swimming, surfing, or just lounging on the beach here.
Kaanapali Beach, located on the west coast of Maui, is a three-mile stretch of golden sand with crystal-clear waters. The beach is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding, and there are plenty of restaurants and shops nearby, like Whaler's Village.
Hapuna Beach, on Big Island's Kohala Coast, is known for its white sand and turquoise waters. The beach is perfect for swimming and sunbathing and is one of the best family-friendly beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Conclusion: Top 10 Things to Do in Hawaii
Hawaii is surely a bucket list destination with a variety of incredible things to do here. In Hawaii, you will find amazing natural attractions like powerful volcanoes, lush rainforests, unique black sand beaches, and gushing waterfalls to experience. Hawaii also has a range of water activities to enjoy, like snorkeling, swimming, surfing, scuba diving, whale watching, and more. Hikers can enjoy various waterfall hikes and volcano mountain hikes.
Visiting Hawaii is an incredible experience that gives you a chance to relax, explore, and immerse yourself in unique experiences, adventures, and activities.