Wondering what activities and attractions you can’t miss in the Aloha State? Our guide to the best things to do in Hawaii is just what you need!
One of the most famous travel destinations in the world, Hawaii is a tropical paradise full of adventure and breathtaking landscapes.
There are a collection of Hawaiian islands, but we’ll discuss the four main ones – Kauai, Maui, Oahu, and Big Island. Each offers a unique ambiance, culture, and attractive qualities that entice millions of visitors to step on a plane to visit Hawaii every year.
With a rich Hawaiian history, an abundance of beautiful beaches and towering sea cliffs, and endless opportunities for things like whale watching, surfing, hiking, and exploring, you will never run out of fun things to do while visiting Hawaii.
So whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or an active adventurer, here are some of the top activities you should have on your Hawaii bucket list!
If you’re trying to figure out what to do in Hawaii, look no further. Our list of the area’s top attractions includes the best of the best, from walking amongst active volcanoes in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to dipping your toes in the sand of the world-famous Waikiki Beach. Let’s get started!
In Maui, one of the Hawaiian Islands is the Haleakala National Park. It is home to a dormant volcano making up more than 75% of the island, the East Maui Volcano, Haleakala, which translates to “House of the Sun”.
The park protects the surrounding volcanic terrain, other unique ecosystems, like Kipahulu Valley, and stunning natural wonders like the Oheo Gulch.
Attracting more than a million visitors each year, Haleakala National Park is the perfect place for hiking. Its unique volcanic landscape near the summit and the pools and waterfalls near the coastline make for an awe-inspiring dip into Hawaii’s beautiful natural world.
One of the most popular attractions within the park is the Haleakala Crater, which was formed by eons of erosion of the mountaintop, boasting great cinder cones across its floor.
The largest living tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere, the Maui Ocean Center, is one of the best Hawaii activities to take on during your trip.
Full of colorful and unique marine life, the aquarium and oceanography center boasts more than 60 world-class exhibits to peer over native and non-native species.
In the aquarium’s 3D Sphere Experience, life-sized humpback whales swim and soar above visitors. The giant shark tank houses more than 20 sharks, and the 360-degree tank is full of luminescent jellyfish floating about.
And for those looking to experience Hawaii’s prosperous underwater world, consider this eco-friendly tour of the world-famous Molokini reef off of south Maui. Snorkel with green Hawaiian sea turtles and tropical fish on this incredible day trip!
A family-run business since expanded to a prominent enterprise, the Ocean Vodka Organic Farm & Distillery is renowned for its award-winning distilled spirits sourced from its 80-acre organic farm.
The farm grows over 30 species of Polynesian sugar cane. It uses sunlight to power the facility settled on the slopes of Haleakala. Guests are welcomed with open arms to experience Aloha and the nurturing power of Hawaii.
Ocean Vodka Organic Farm & Distillery offers product sampling, guided tours, and a store for visitors to snag spirits and souvenirs.
A world-class surfing and windsurfing spot for advanced surfers and windsurfers, Ho’okipa Beach Park has got waves that touch 30 feet! Of course, only the most experienced surfers should attempt to ride these towering waves.
The beach park is a protected area for honu or “sea turtles.” Many of these turtles wash ashore to Ho’okipa Beach Park for a night’s rest, finding sanctuary in the beach’s sandy shore.
As a result, it is very common to see sea turtles lazing about in the gold-colored sand or swimming in the waters of Ho’okipa Beach Park on Maui’s north shore.
Famous for the tree that grows next to the Old Lahaina Courthouse, within Lāhainā Banyan Court, its most notorious member—the largest Banyan Tree in the United States.
Brought to Hawaii from India in 1873, the tree welcomes plenty of visitors throughout the year wishing to bask under its network of branches that provide ample shade.
The large expanses of the Banyan Tree’s branches make it appear like a collection of trees. Once upon a time, King Kamehameha III, the longest-reigning monarch of Hawaii, celebrated his birthday under these very branches.
In December, the Annual Lighting of the Banyan Tree occurs. This celebratory event begins at the start of the month, where 6,500 lights are strung along and throughout the Banyan Tree’s branches, drawing in hordes of locals and tourists excited to kick off the holiday season.
This is a cool place to check out the local Hawaiian culture in west Maui!
On the northern tip of Maui, the Nakalele Blowhole is a natural geyser that surges bursts of seawater that becomes trapped inside the underwater lava tube. The pressure and force of the Nakalele Blowhole result in the water billowing upwards to 100 feet in the air.
In the morning, a rainbow forms from the water spouted out of the Nakalele Blowhole. It’s common to see dolphins and whales playing in the background. Proceeding with caution is necessary when visiting the Nakalele Blowhole.
The rocks around Nakalele Blowhole are very slippery, and the risk of slipping and falling into the blowhole is dangerously high. Stay on the dry rocks to safely enjoy viewing the Nakalele Blowhole.
Look out for Maui’s Heart-Shaped Rock, an Instagram favorite facing the Nakalele Blowhole. In the middle of the rock is a heart framed by the coastal scenery of the seashore.
Read more about the best things to do in Maui, Hawaii here!
Kauai, nicknamed “The Garden Isle”, is a true gem of the Hawaiian Islands. One of the best Hawaii activities here is checking out the spectacular sinkhole and natural pool called the Queen’s Bath. It was named after the mother of Prince Albert and one of the most respected queens of Hawaii, Queen Emma.
Hiking to the Queen’s Bath is a popular attraction in Kauai. The trail to Queen’s Bath, and the numerous other pools surrounding it, leads to a favored lookout spot of the coastal scenery. On the way to the pools is a popular stopping point for pictures and to relax, which includes a waterfall and a refreshing stream.
It’s essential to proceed with caution when considering swimming in the Queen’s Bath and other pools. Avoid entering the pools during turbulent weather conditions. Some other pools have strong currents from the ocean that can drag people out into the open water.
Visiting Queen’s Bath can be a tranquil and calming experience during calm weather. Check the weather report and survey the waves before taking a dip to avoid potential danger!
Notoriously known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, Waimea Canyon State Park achieved its nickname after American explorer John Wesley Powell visited Kauai Island in 1869.
Waimea Canyon was formed because of two vital contributions. The first was the Waimea River, which slithered its path through basalt and lava formations to help create the canyon.
The second was the collapse of the central volcano nearly ten million years ago. Both of these factors of Mother Nature helped construct the natural wonder of Waimea Canyon.
For breathtaking views from above, numerous lookouts atop the canyon’s rim require a bit of trekking, though completely worthwhile, including Puu Hinahina, Waimea Canyon, Kalalau, and Puu o Kila Lookout.
Book a guided tour to see the best of the canyon combined with a cruise down the Wailua River!
Featured in the opening credits of the hit television show, “Fantasy Island”, Wailua Falls are a noteworthy natural feature on Kauai Island.
The double-tiered waterfall is a popular attraction, having risen to quick international fame for its natural beauty.
No hiking is required to bask in the glory of Wailua Falls. The 140-foot waterfall is easily seen from the nearby parking lot. The rushing power of the waterfall is heavily determined by the rainfall higher up the mountain.
If you’re down to put in some work, the one-mile hike to Wailua Falls accesses the pool at the bottom of the falls. Many people choose to take a dip after trekking the slippery slope or hike to the back of the falls for unparalleled views of Wailua Falls underneath.
Ke’e Beach is a family-friendly spot protected by a reef, perfect for beginner swimmers or those looking to snorkel in calm waters.
If you’re searching for peace and solitude, this sandy beach is the best place to settle down, surrounded by Hawaii’s tropical paradise.
Located inside Ha’ena State Park, commonly called “the end of the road”, Ke’e Beach exudes an untainted natural charm, with opportunities for adventure in the park’s numerous other adventure opportunities, including hiking trails, beaches, and caves aged 4,000 years old.
Well-known for its steep emerald cliffs, Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is teeming with prosperous nature and breathtaking landscapes.
Scenes of the original Jurassic Park movie were even shot on this rugged coastline because the views are so spectacular!
One of the best Hawaii attractions, the park has camping sites for visitors to spend ample time in the natural wonderland. From hiking to waterfalls and surfing the waves, Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is the place to do it.
Check out Kalalau Trail, one of the more well-known of the park’s trails. The trail takes hikers on a journey winding through five valleys with a rewarding finishing point at the beach.
For a more unique perspective of the dramatic cliffs, take a scenic flight or a helicopter tour and soar over the mountain peaks from above!
Book your scenic helicopter tour over Kauai on Get Your Guide!
Within the heart of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are two active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Mauna Loa is the world’s largest active subaerial volcano, and Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes on Hawaii’s Big Island.
The park has intriguing natural features such as a trekkable lava tube, steaming sulfur banks, and a hardening lava lake. One of the volcanoes, Kilauea, has been actively erupting since 1983, while the other volcano, Mauna Loa, most recently erupted in 2022.
Locals and tourists travel to see the mighty two active volcanoes and view intriguing points of interest, such as Halema‘uma‘u Crater, Haʻakulamanu (Sulphur Banks), and Devastation Trail, which was previously home to a rainforest.
The former vacation home for royals, Kona is found on the west coast of the Big Island. There are many spectacular historical sites on the Kona coast, such as Mokuaikaua Church and Hulihee Palace.
Dating back to the 1800s, Mokuaikaua Church remains Hawaii’s oldest Christian church. Then, Hulihee Palace, the former vacation home for royals that ages back to 1838. The palace now serves as a museum preserving Victorian artifacts of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapi’olani’s reign.
But that’s not all the town is known for! Kona is world-famous for its deep-sea fishing opportunities, going so far as to host the International Billfish Tournament every year.
Snorkeling, scuba diving, and boat tours where you can spot manta rays are other adventurous Hawaii activities that attract people to this charming historic town.
A black sand beach and one of the most famous of them in Hawaii, Punaluu Beach’s sand is made from basalt.
This natural product, basalt, is formed from lava that flows into the ocean. Specifically, this basalt originates from the nearby Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which resulted in the famous black sand Punaluu Beach.
A favorite stop for locals and tourists, the black sand beach teeming with coconut palm trees is one you’ll never forget.
It is also well-known for its sightings of the endangered Hawksbill and Hawaiian green sea turtles that laze on shore. And like any other beach in Hawaii, you’ll find people swimming, snorkeling, surfing, and relaxing in the sun.
Check out our list of the best things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital city!
The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is a true nature-filled paradise that attracts scientists, photographers, gardeners, and many tourists.
The garden is dedicated to preserving and displaying the world’s tropical plants and teaching visitors the importance of conserving the world’s rainforests.
Homing over 2,000 plant species, the botanical garden features a bird aviary, waterfalls, trails, an orchid garden, and gorgeous outlooks of Onomea Bay.
A boardwalk leads visitors through the valley and along Onomea Bay, where visitors can bask in the beauty and enrichment of the captivating garden.
For a special treat, buy a tropical bouquet from the National Tropical Botanical Garden once you’re done exploring!
Smack dab in the middle of the Big Island is Kailua-Kona, the coffee-growing paradise and home of the world-famous Kona Coffee.
Rated amongst the best gourmet coffees in the world, Kona Coffee is sourced from the Big Island of Hawaii, specifically on two volcanoes on Big Island. And if you’re a coffee drinker or lover of Kona Coffee, you will want to participate in a coffee farm tour.
Numerous farms grow Kona Coffee, including Kona Coffee Living History Farm, Kuaiwi Farm, and Sunshower Coffee Farm, to name only a few. Each coffee farm offers unique farm and tasting opportunities to see how Kona Coffee is made, some of which allow visitors to roast and take home their coffee!
Once a playground for Hawaiian royals, Waikiki Beach is now a tourist hot spot for surfing, partying, and relaxing. The clear blue waters draw the eyes, and the soul, to relish in its appealing beauty, drawing in visitors from all over the world and locals to simmer in its sands.
In Waikiki, the legendary surfer, Duke Kahanamoku, grew up surfing and teaching others how to surf. Known as the “father of modern surfing”, this famed surfer became a world surfing ambassador and won five medals in the Olympics.
His legacy impacted Hawaii and the world, hence the iconic Duke Kahanamoku Statue on the beach.
Between savoring the stunning beach, stop over to Waikiki Beach Walk, the open-air shopping mall, for some retail therapy.
Find more activities with our list of the best things to do in Waikiki!
Hosting the world’s top surfing competitions, North Shore is a reputed mecca for big surfing events such as the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the winter waves boasting swells exceeding thirty feet.
In the area, you’ll find highly favored beaches for sunbathing and enjoying a romantic stroll, including Sunset Beach and ‘Ehukai Beach.
Next, drive to the quaint surf town of Hale’iwa, the world’s surfing capital, where locals go to cool off from the sun with a refreshing round of flavored shaved ice. There’s so much to enjoy and adventure along Oahu’s North Shore!
Featured as Hawaii’s top tourist attraction, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a living museum featuring six island villages.
Each village represents various cultures of the islands: Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Tahiti, and Fiji.
Visitors can learn more about these unique cultures through educational exhibitions. Other attractions at the Polynesian Cultural Center continue to attract visitors from all over the world. For example, the award-winning Ali’i Luau hosted at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which honors Hawaii’s last monarch.
And you don’t want to miss the center’s famous show, “Ha: Breath of Life”, which combines fire, traditional song and dance, and other dramatic effects for a spectacular performance.
Drawing in more than a million people a year, the USS Arizona Memorial is located within the national historic landmark, Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. Checking out this spot that memorializes the historic event from WWII is one of the best Hawaii activities.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial teaches others about one of the pivotal moments in United States history, honoring fallen men and women. It includes nine historic sites representing different facets of the Pacific War.
The USS Arizona Memorial was established over the sunken battleship, the USS Arizona, which was attacked during the Japanese Naval Force’s attack on Pearl Harbor. It is the final resting place for 1,177 crew members killed when the ship was bombed.
Pearl Harbor is also home to other landmarks like the USS Nevada, USS Curtis, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, and more.
This guided tour is an educational experience that takes visitors through important historical sites throughout Honolulu, including Iolani Palace and Pearl Harbor.
One of the largest beach parks on Oahu, Kailua Beach Park is a popular family-friendly beach full of activity and things to do!
The attraction has beach volleyball courts, showers, lifeguard stands, picnic tables, restrooms, and BBQ pits—so you and the family can spend all day savoring the beachside views. The white-sanded beach is notorious for its calm swimming area, perfect for beginners and families.
Rent out some equipment for kayaking, kitesurfing, and paddleboarding on the peaceful waters. Then, see Kailua Bay’s canoe-racing club in action! Canoes are a historic and honored tradition in Hawaii. Watch these traditional canoers race across the ocean of Kailua Beach Park for a timely treat!
One of the best things to do in Hawaii is to go for a snorkel or scuba dive in Hanauma Bay, one of Hawaii’s most famous attractions.
Hanauma Bay is a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park formed within a volcanic cone. Hawaiian royalty once used the well-loved bay for fishing and other recreational activities.
Today, Hanauma Bay is visited by millions of people throughout the year wishing to experience its encompassing rejuvenation and natural beauty. Nature lovers will have a blast seeing the colorful marine life on a snorkeling tour of this beautiful spot in the Pacific Ocean.
One of the best Hawaii activities is taking to the ocean to spot some magnificent whales!
December through to March is the best time to see whales in Hawaii, so hop on a local whale-watching tour so you can see these massive creatures frolicking out in the Pacific.
This tour combines the sightseeing of whale watching tours with the rosy ambiance of a sunset cruise.
So you can enjoy scenic views of Waikiki while spotting local humpback whales playing in the ocean on this epic boat tour!
One of the best things to do in Hawaii is to go to the Diamond Head State Monument, which is recognized for its outstanding landscapes and is perfect for hiking.
Called Lēʻahi by Hawaiians, which translates to “brow of the tuna”, the monument received its name after its tuna-like fin formation on the ridgeline.
And then, when British soldiers first saw the area in the 19th century, they named it “Diamond Head” after the sparkling calcite crystals on the crater formed around 300,000 years ago during a volcanic eruption.
People travel worldwide to hike the Diamond Head Summit Trail, which climbs from the bottom of the crater floor to the scenic overlook on top.
The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is one of Hawaii’s best spots to see incredible coastline views.
This rewarding hike features the historic Makapu’u Lighthouse, featuring the largest lens of any lighthouse in the United States. Built in 1909, the red-roofed lighthouse is a stunning spectacle with an ocean backdrop where whales and dolphins are often sighted between November and May.
The trail is under two miles and relatively easy to travel, with many families taking the route to reach the top and bask in the dazzling views near the lighthouse.
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