With its lush mountains, golden sands, rich history and aloha spirit, Hawaii is like no other place on earth. When planning your vacation, there are so many incredible activities to choose from. Hawaii consists of eight main islands, but only six are open to tourists and locals. Each island has its distinct character, history and unique activities to experience. From the Big Island to Kauai, here are the best things to do in Hawaii.
1. See Hawaii’s volcanoes
The Big Island is the youngest of the Hawaiian islands, but also the largest. With its landmass, there’s lots to see and do here, but one that really stands out is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 45 miles southwest of Hilo, the park is home to two volcanoes: Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on earth and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive shield volcano.. The opportunity to experience nature’s wonders and witness the primal process of creation and destruction makes this a sacred place and one of the most popular things to do in Hawaii.
2. Learn about Hawaii’s history
Hawaii has gone through lots of transitions, from the very first Hawaiian settlers to colonialism and government changes. One of things to do in Hawaii that cannot be missed is to learn about its sacred culture. In Oahu, definitely visit the Polynesian Cultural Center for activities, shows, and presentations about Hawaiian culture. On the Big Island, learn about early Hawaii life at the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. On Kauai, check out the Grove Farm Museum in Lihue and the Waioli Mission House in Hanalei!
3. Take up surfing
Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing. Known as ‘hee nalu’ in ancient Hawaiian, surfing was not just a sport, but a spiritual practice reserved for Hawaiian royalty. Today, surfing is available to everyone throughout the world and the islands of Hawaii remain as some of the best places in the world for surfing. For amateurs, Waikiki Beach, Castles and Ala Moana Bowls in South Oahu are great spots to learn the sport. If you just want to spectate, watch the pros at Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay, or Jaws and Honolua Bay in Maui.
4. Join a luau feast
Nothing initiates you into Hawaiian culture like a luau feast. This fun Hawaiian tradition is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike and everyone should attend at least one luau in their lifetime! Enjoy an evening of Hawaiian party with local food, entertainment, and tropical cocktails. Learn Hawaiian arts and crafts with your friends and family, like basket weaving or lei making. Watch cultural presentations and get lost in the melody of Hawaiian music, hula and fire dance performances.
5. Go beach hopping
Hawaii’s beaches are likely one of the biggest reasons why you want to visit Hawaii! Who doesn’t dream of relaxing days lazing by the beach and taking in the Hawaiian breeze? You just can’t leave Hawaii without getting a golden tan! If you’re traveling with children, visit Kailua Beach or Hanauma Bay on Oahu, which are great for swimming and building sandcastles. For some fun like cliff jumping and water activities, check out the three-mile long Kaanapali Beach on Maui. If you want to swim with manta rays, look into adventures in Big Island!
6. Chase waterfalls
Thanks to its epic landscape, Hawaii is home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls. From powerful falls to multi-cascades and even twin waterfalls, Hawaii has it all. Retreating into nature and spending an afternoon hiking to waterfalls are some of the best things to do in Hawaii! Sacred Falls and Waimea Falls in Oahu, Wailua Falls in Kauai, Olo’upena Falls in Molokai – these are just some of the amazing waterfalls you have to see in person!
7. Visit Pearl Harbor
Visiting Pearl Harbor is an emotional and memorable experience for many. It is one of the most visited places in the Hawaiian Islands, and for good reason. People go to pay their respects and to learn more about what happened on December 7th, 1941. Though often referred to as a single entity, Pearl Harbor is a mix of activities that include museums, ship tours, and historical sites. Together, they provide an overview of World War II and the impacts on both the United States and Hawaii. Since Pearl Harbor is an active military base, bags are not allowed into the memorial sites. So consider bringing only what you need!