Hawaii is a state in the Western United States, located in the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles from the U.S. mainland.
Unlike many destinations, Hawaii is not really one destination – but unique and diverse island destinations that all happen to be within the same state.
The six main islands are, from west to east, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii.
With their year-round warm weather, beautiful beaches, natural beauty and incredible cultural heritage, the Hawaiian islands are a remarkable place full of remarkable things to do and see.
So whether you’re looking to relax on a sandy beach, explore a volcanic crater or experience some great Hawaii tours, Hawaii has something for everyone.
Things To Do In Hawaii
1. Diamond Head State Monument
Diamond Head State Monument is one of Hawaii’s most popular tourist destinations.
The monument is a volcanic crater that was formed about 100,000 years ago.
The crater is about 3,000 feet wide and 750 feet deep.
Diamond Head offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu that you can hike to via a trail that takes you to the edge of the crater.
Diamond Head State Monument is also home to a number of WWII-era bunkers and tunnels that are open to the public.
There is a rest stop at a lookout point, and then you’ll make your way through tunnels and up stairs.
Climb 99 steps to get to the second lookout point where you’ll find a WW II bunker. A further 54 steps from there will bring you to the crater’s summit.
The crater rim houses a picnic area, restrooms, drinking fountains and information and historical displays.
One of the most beautiful hikes in the world, Diamond Head offers breath-taking views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean. A must see while in Hawaii.
Address: Diamond Head State Monument, Honolulu, HI 96815
2. Hana Highway – Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is one of the most scenic drives in Hawaii.
Located on the island of Maui, the winding road takes visitors past waterfalls, rainforests, and black sand beaches.
Spectacular views of falls, lush forests, and the sparkling ocean are part of the pleasure of the twisting drive along Maui’s Road to Hana, to tiny, timeless Hana in East Maui.
There are also several hiking trails and lookouts along the way.
The drive can be done in a day, but it is more enjoyable if you take your time and stay overnight in Hana.
One of the best Hawaii activities to see some extraordinary scenery.
3. Haleakala National Park
Located on the island of Maui, Haleakala National Park extends from the summit of Haleakala down the southeast flank of the mountain to the Kipahulu coast near Hana.
Haleakala National Park is home to the world’s largest dormant volcano.
The entire park occupies 30,000 acres of land in Maui, though most visitors focus on a few specific areas of the park.
Visitors can hike or bike down into the crater, or take a scenic drive to the summit for unparalleled views of Maui.
Trails into the crater, where you will definitely need hiking shoes, will lead you past a desert-like landscape, making for unique photo opportunities.
There are also several camping options available within the park.
Several of Maui’s helicopter tours fly over the Haleakala, making for a memorable experience and adding to your Hawaii adventures.
Address: Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii
4. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a protected sea life conservation area and underwater park located on the southeast coast of Oahu in Hawaii.
The bay is home to a wide variety of fish, coral, and other marine life.
It is a popular spot for snorkelling, swimming, and just enjoying the stunning views.
The bay is also home to a number of rock formations that are popular with climbers.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve was established in 1967 to protect the marine life in the bay from over-exploitation.
The preserve is open to the public for free, but visitors are required to watch a short video about the importance of preserving the marine life in the bay.
There are also a number of rules that visitors must follow in order to help protect the sea life.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a great place to learn about the importance of protecting our oceans and the creatures that live in them.
Address: Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, 7455 Kalanianaole Hwy, Honolulu, Hawaii
5. Kailua Beach
Kailua Beach is located on the Windward Coast of Oahu, just north of Lanikai Beach.
Kailua Beach has calm water, a line of palm trees and ironwoods that provide shade on the sand, and a huge park with picnic pavilions where you can escape the heat.
The warm water temperature, steady offshore trade winds, and a protective reef make Kailua Beach the ideal spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing.
You can also take a Kayak around the islands of Kailua Bay on a guided or self-guided boat tour and enjoy some ocean adventures.
Kailua Beach park has bathroom facilities, beach showers, and picnic tables located on the park grounds.
Address: Kailua Beach, 526 Kawailoa Rd, Kailua, HI 96734
6. Waikiki Beach
Waikiki enjoys a reputation for being one of the world’s most famous beach resorts.
Waikiki is located on the south shore of Oahu, the third-largest of the Hawaiian Islands, and it is best known for its famous white sand beach.
The beach is about 2 miles (3.2 km) long and across from it on the other side of the street are many hotels, restaurants, gift shops and beach bars.
Waikiki Beach has a series of beaches, almost all of which are ideal for swimming and water sports, including snorkelling, bodyboarding, Hawaiian paddle sports, and, of course, surfing.
If you like water sports you will be able to rent all kinds of equipment on the beach, such as bodyboards, surfboards and snorkelling gear.
Address: Waikiki Beach, 2335 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI
7. North Shore
The North Shore is located on the Northern coast of the Hawaii island of Oahu, about an hour drive from Honolulu.
The laid-back North Shore is a stretch of coast known for big waves and professional surfing contests at Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach.
It encompasses the 17-mile north-facing coastal area between Ka’ena Point in the west and eastward to Kahuku Point.
The shoreline is dotted with pristine beaches and beautiful waves that attract surfers from all over the globe.
In addition to surfing, the North Shore is also a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
Many North Shore beaches don’t have lifeguards, although some do.
However, there are posted signs on the beaches so you can be aware of the warnings.
8. Pololu Valley Lookout
The Pololu Valley Lookout is one of the best things to do in Hawaii to take in the stunning views of the Big Island of Hawaii.
It’s located on the north shore of the island, near the town of Hawi.
The lookout point is about a mile hike from the trailhead, and it’s well worth the effort.
Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with breath-taking views of the valley below and the ocean beyond.
If you are visiting in the winter months this is a great place to do a spot of whale watching and try and see humpback whales.
From scenic overlook, visitors can hike down the steep rocky trail to beautiful black sand and rocky beach with views of the Hamakua coast.
Address: 52-5100 Akoni Pule Hwy, Kapaau, HI 96755
9. Kona Coffee Farm Tour
Coffee is one of Hawaii’s most important exports, and Kona coffee farm Hawaii tours can greatly expand your knowledge and appreciation of coffee cultivation.
The Big Island is famous for growing Kona coffee beans, and one of the best things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island is tour one of the Kona coffee farms.
The combination of the Big Island volcanic landscape meets the warm, humid weather patterns means these coffee plants grow so well which, in turn, makes a delicious cup of coffee.
There are now hundreds of coffee farms of all sizes clustered along the scenic roads on the Hualalai and Mauna Loa slopes. Many of these farms offer tours to the public.
No visit to the Big Island is complete without a tour around one of its famed Kona coffee farms – complete with a complimentary cup.
10. Nakalele Blowhole
The Nakalele Blowhole is a natural wonder located on Maui’s north shore, Hawaii.
This thrilling geyser can shoot water up to 100 feet in the air, and is a popular tourist attraction in the Hawaiian islands.
Despite its impressive height, the Nakalele Blowhole is actually quite small compared to other geysers around the world.
It’s formed by an underwater lava tube that’s been eroded over time by the ocean waves.
As the waves crash into the lava tube, they force air and water up through a narrow opening, creating the spectacular blowhole effect.
The best time to see the Nakalele Blowhole is during high tide, when there’s more water flowing into the lava tube.
The blowhole is also more active during the winter months, when the waves are typically larger.
Address: Nakalele Blowhole, Poelua Bay, Wailuku, HI 96793
11. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is on Hawaii Island (the Big Island).
Located 45 miles southwest of Hilo, the park is home to two volcanoes including Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on earth and Mauna Loa.
The Crater Rim Drive passes steam vents and the Jaggar Museum, which features volcanology exhibits and a viewpoint overlooking Halema’uma’u Crater.
There are also several lava tubes you can visit around the island but Nahuku is the most easily accessible and is a fantastic example of a massive lava cave.
Take a walk through Nahuku, known as the Thurston Lava Tubes, a 500-year-old lava cave located at an altitude of 3,900 feet on Kilauea Crater in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Most people who come to the park also hope to see some lava flow.
Check in at the Kilauea Visitor Center for up-to-date information on hiking trails, safety precautions and where to expect lava flow.
The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
12. Akaka Falls State Park
Akaka Falls State Park is located on the Big Island of Hawaii and is home to one of the most popular waterfalls in the state.
Visitors may explore the rainforest on a self-guided walking tour to breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the Kahuna Falls and ‘Akaka Falls, which plunge 442 feet into a stream-eroded valley.
The paved route, which includes multiple steps in places makes an easy to follow loop offering stunning viewpoints of the two waterfalls.
The park is also home to a number of hiking trails, picnic areas, and scenic lookouts.
Address: Akaka Falls State Park, 875 Akaka Falls Rd, Honomu, HI 96728
13. Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens is one of the most popular educational botanical gardens on the Big Island.
The Garden is home to many different kinds of tropical plants.
Throughout this garden valley, nature trails meander through a true tropical rain forest, crossing bubbling streams, passing several beautiful waterfalls, and curving around the rugged Pacific coast.
Visitors can learn about the different plants and animals that live in the garden, and can also take part in activities such as hiking, picnicking, and bird watching.
The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is a great place to visit if you’re looking to learn about different kinds of plants and animals.
The garden is open every day from sunrise to sunset.
Address: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, 27-717 Mamalahoa Hwy, Papaikou, HI 96781
14. Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center is a family-friendly cultural tourist attraction and living museum in Laie, on Oahu’s northern shore.
The center features seven unique Polynesian villages representing different cultures from across the Pacific Ocean.
The Polynesian islands of Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), Tahiti, and Hawaii are all represented. An exhibit on the Rapa Nui people is also available.
Visitors can learn about the history and traditions of each culture through song, dance, and other traditional arts.
Families can take part in fun activities for all ages and watch authentic cultural performances.
The Ali’i Luau, a Hawaiian dinner that has won numerous awards, is also notable. It begins at 5 p.m., with a traditional Hawaiian feast.
Set on 42 acres, the Polynesian Cultural Center also has a private lagoon that hosts daily canoe tours.
Another main highlight is the Hā: Breath of Life, a 90-minute award-winning night show, which takes place in the Center’s 2,800-seat Pacific Theater.
The Polynesian Cultural Center also offers a variety of educational programs and cultural events throughout the year.
A visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the most popular things to do in Oahu, Hawaii for families.
Address: Polynesian Cultural Center, 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy, Laie, HI 96762
15. Black Sand Beach
Punaluʻu beach is the most famous black sand beach of Hawaii and is colloquially called ‘Black Sand Beach’.
The Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Black Sand Beach gets its name from the black sand that is found in abundance here.
The black sand is actually lava rock that has been ground down over time by the ocean waves.
The beach is also well known for its dramatic cliffs, clear waters, and excellent surfing conditions.
Being the most expansive and easily accessible of all black sand beaches on the Big Island, Punaluʻu is well-suited for seeing sea turtles, sunbathing, coastal hikes or a nice picnic.
Black Sand Beach is a great place to relax and enjoy the incredible views.
It’s also a popular spot for photography enthusiasts and surfers alike.
16. Pearl Harbor National Memorial
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a United States National Monument located in Hawaii.
The monument commemorates the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as the ensuing American entry into World War II.
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial consists of two distinct units: the Visitors Center and the USS Arizona Memorial.
The Visitor Center tells the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor through exhibits, audio-visual presentations, and displays of artefacts.
The USS Arizona Memorial is a floating memorial that marks the final resting place of 1,177 crewmen who lost their lives when the USS Arizona was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
More than two million people visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial each year.
Admission to the Visitor Center is free, and tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Is it worth island hopping in the Hawaiian islands?
Island hopping in Hawaii is absolutely worth it.
The Hawaiian islands are all incredibly different and it’s easy to get from island to island.
But it’s important to know that island hopping can be time consuming so you want to make sure your trip is long enough for these extra travel days.
Is Laniakea Beach, Hawaii called Turtle Beach?
Laniakea Beach on Oahu’s north shore is better known as Turtle Beach for the many Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles that call this place home and bask in the sun.
The best time to see Hawaiian sea turtles in Hawaii is summer (May-October).
During this time, the waves are calm and the water and sand are much warmer than in the winter months.
Which of the Hawaiian islands are best for whale watching tours?
While South Maui and West Maui are the best locations for humpback whale spotting, the other islands also see many whales in season.
There are fabulous whale watching tours on Kauai, the island of Oahu, and off the shores of the Big Island.
Does Hawaii have a Grand canyon?
Waimea Canyon, on Kauai’s West Side, is described as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
Although not as big or as old as its Arizona cousin, you won’t encounter anything else like this geological wonder in Hawaii.
Where is Jurassic Park in Hawaii?
Jurassic Valley, where a series of Jurassic Park movies were filmed, is located at Kualoa Ranch on Oahu.
Kualoa ranch is a 4,000 acre private nature reserve located on the east side of one of the Hawaiian Islands named Oahu.
Does Kona Hawaii have good beaches?
Kahalu’u Beach Park is located on Kahalu’u Bay just south of Kona, this beach is known as the top snorkeling beach on the Kona Coast, on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The exceptionally calm water is a result of the expansive coral reefs full of tropical fish that surround the beach, making this an equally good beach for families with children.
Which of the Hawaiian islands is best for a helicopter tour?
A helicopter tour of all the islands is quite nice, but if you have a choice go with Kauai or the Big Island.
Kauai is my top pick for a helicopter tour because of the views of Waimea Canyon, the Na Pali Coast, and seeing the remote waterfalls at the Waialeale Crater.
Try and fly at the right time of day for a helicopter tour. Typically, late morning or early in the afternoon are the best times to fly in Hawaii.
Where should I go for my first time visiting Hawaii?
Oahu is the best Hawaiian island for first-timers and family vacations.
You’ll find tons of activities, giving a great balance between stunning natural landscapes and unique Hawaiian history.
Hawaii’s ‘Big Island,’ has the best Hawaii snorkelling, scuba diving, and other ocean sports.
How many days do I need to visit Hawaii?
While many vacations are five to seven days long, we recommend staying for at least 10 days to enjoy your Hawaiian vacation.
The time change is difficult to adjust to at first and takes about 3 days to get fully acclimated.
Is Kailua and Kona the same?
Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) is a sunny seaside town located in the heart of the Kona district on the western coast of the Big Island.