The Best Hawaii Attractions – Things To Do
With untamed wilderness, bustling outdoor expanses, pristine forests, and stunning scenery, it’s easy to see why the Pacific islands of Hawaii are a favorite pick for travelers. See snow-capped mountains of North America, stroll along glistening beaches with palm trees, drive along the Hana Highway, and explore Hawaii’s charming towns and cities, including Honolulu, Pearl City, Mililani, and Kaneohe.
Best Hawaii Attractions and Activities
Things To Do in Hawaii by City
A region of extremes, Hawaii swings between freezing winters to warm summers and offers a promise of solitude to travelers. The best places to visit in Hawaii include the Waikiki Beach, USS Arizona Memorial, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Perhaps one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor played an important role in America’s history. On December 7th, 1941, a Japanese raid bombed Hawaii and dragged the country into a second world war. The gravesite commemorates thousands of Americans who lost their lives, and exhibits the devastating loss during the attacks.
Start your journey in the visitor center, where you can watch a documentary in the Pacific theater to get more insights about Pearl Harbor’s history and its impact on the country.
After the documentary, tourists can take a ferry ride to the USS Arizona Memorial. It is located right above the sunken USS Arizona, giving you an up-close view of the tragedy. The memorial includes the names of the lost lives.
Hawaii is best known for its incredible beaches. The Waikiki Beach, in particular, is the location of choice for tourists who flock to the golden, crescent-shaped stretch of sand for a quiet getaway. The wide expanses are ideal for families and little ones who want to dip their toes in the Pacific.
The beach is lined with top-rated resorts, luxury hotels, historic sites, and museums. Tiny secluded coves allow honeymoon couples to get away from the crowds. Meanwhile, the vast sandy stretches provide the ultimate photo potentates for Instagram.
Adventure buffs can also participate in a range of outdoor activities, from canoe racing and surfing to swimming and boating.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The Kilauea volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is located at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is one of the most visited attractions in Hawaii and the most visited volcano in the world.
It’s easy to spend several days in the park without getting bored. There are many hiking trails, both big and small, suited to visitors of different experience levels. The park also hosts a lecture series every week called “After Dark in the Park.”
Most tourists want to get a closer view of the lava. The only way is to hike; however, lava hikes are not possible because there is no lava flowing on the surface or access to the site is blocked because it’s too dangerous.
Going near the lava lake is not obligatory because you can view them from the Kīlauea Overlook and Uēkahuna. However, your view may be obstructed by frequent rain and heavy fogs.
At night, the impressive plumes coming from the crater are truly breathtaking and color the sky red. The reddish plumes provide a stark contrast against a starry sky if the weather is clear. During the volcano’s most active periods, visitors have a chance of hearing the boom of gas emissions and witnessing pillars of ash escaping into the air.
Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park
You are probably familiar with this state park if you’ve seen the movie Jurassic Park. Stretched throughout a territory of 17 miles, Na Pali Coast is marked by extraordinary natural beauty with razor-sharp ridges and emerald-hued cliffs towering above the Pacific Ocean. The rugged terrain hasn’t changed much from centuries ago when Hawaiian settlements first explored the deep, narrow valleys.
There are many ways to explore the Na Pali Coast, but the best sights can be found by air or sea. You can take boat tours from Port Allen and guided kayaking trips that bring you up close to the towering cathedral cliffs. The raft tours may even take you to the remote sea caves and hidden beaches if the conditions are right.
Plush resorts and hotels provide great accommodations for tourists who plan on spending several days at the park.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
The Hanauma Bay is a major tourist attraction in Hawaii and all that overuse has taken a toll on the fragile marine ecosystem. Restoration efforts have restored much of the original beauty of the bay, and it is open to visitors once again.
Thirty-two thousand years ago, the Hanauma Bay area was created after a series of violent explosions when a volcano on the island of Oahu erupted. Visit the Hanauma Bay Education Center to learn more about the bay and take part in snorkeling trips to explore some of the best reefs in the world.
Not too long ago, tourists could feed the tropical fish with frozen peas; but the practice has since been discontinued. First-time visitors will be required to watch a short video on marine life and safety lessons.
Snorkeling gear and other essential equipment can be rented for a fee. Take note that securing a spot in the parking lot can be difficult because they tend to fill up quickly during peak season.
Haleakala National Park
The 30,000 acre Haleakala National Park is home to the inactive Haleakala Volcano which towers over everything at over 10,000 feet.
Views of the summit can be seen from the entire island and are breathtaking at sunrise. The dormant volcano is exposed and exhibits lunar-esque features, while other areas of the park are shrouded with thick rain forests that are home to exotic species.
The park is a popular destination for campers, hikers, backpackers, bikers, and boating enthusiasts. It also offers tours like flightseeing with spectacular views from the soaring skies and off-roading adventures on a 4-wheeled ATV.
Thrill-seekers can try their hand at zip lines and bungee jumping. The adventures begin with careful instructions and training before the tourists can embark on their journey.
All in all, this park is a wonderful place for nature buffs all year round. For example, it is possible to backpack, horseback ride, and bike around the park.
Road to Hana Maui
The Road to Hana Maui is known for providing a long, peaceful drive that features incredible sightings and stops that make it the ideal destination for tourists. Stretching across a 52-mile highway with winding and slim bridges, Road to Hana requires motorists to pay attention to how they are driving and it is recommended to plan the entire day.
Plan a trip to the nearby Ho’okipa Beach Park which is located around mile 9 of the Hana Highway. The beach is nestled between the town of Paia and Haiku. It’s a great place to swim, surf, and just lay in the sun.
Another popular pit stop is the Twin Falls, where you can grab some freshly squeezed sugarcane juice and check out gorgeous waterfalls.
Although driving on the road can be a challenge, it is highly recommended for visitors to take advantage of their trip by exploring the region. You can hire a tour guide if you feel that driving the highway isn’t your cup of tea.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
There’s more to Hawaii than wild hiking trails and enchanting beaches. For the off-beat traveler, visit the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens located on Oahu’s Windward Side in Kāneʻohe. It is home to the jagged Kāneʻohe Mountains and a large reservoir.
The garden has an impressive collection of tropical offerings from different regions in the world, including Tropical America, South Asia, Melanesia, Polynesia, Africa, and of course, Hawaii. It was built by the US Army in 1982 to protect Kaneohe from getting flooded.
The botanical gardens provide photo-op opportunities for Instagram and also allow fishing, as long as you carry the right permits. There are reservoirs, hikes, lakes, and beautiful bridges. You can find amazing sites for social media photos because the scenery is well-suited to it.
Kona Coffee Plantation
Kona coffee plantation is a must-visit for coffee enthusiasts. There are several plantations located in Kona offering tours with coffee tasting events that tantalize the taste buds. You can also learn about the coffee selection process and how the world’s favorite drink is made.
It is worth noting that Kona coffee is one of the most expensive beverages in the world. The best time to visit the plantations is to attend the Kona Coffee Culture Festivals during November. The most popular coffee plantations include Greenwell, the Hilo Coffee Mill, and Kona Coffee.
The town of Haleiwa started in the early 1900s as a sugar plantation and grew to include an airfield, which was used for flight training and battle simulations throughout WWII. Today, the town is known as the world’s surfing capital and is part of the Seven-Mile Miracle. Surfers frequently flock to the town to participate in surfing competitions here.
Even if you aren’t a surfer, you can head to Haleiwa North Shore to soak up the sun and enjoy the chill vibes. Visit Macadamia Nut Farm to dry some delicious nut flavors like Cinnamon Macadamia Nuts, Caramel Roasted Macadamia Nuts, and traditional, unflavored offerings.
Get up close and personal by swimming and free diving with sharks in North Shore Oahu. One Ocean Diving offers this experience of a lifetime where you will interact with aquatic species, from dolphins and whales to turtle sand sharks.
Suffice to say, the town of Haleiwa in Hawaii is a must-visit location for tourists who want to experience something they haven’t before.
Everyone loves the primal spectacle of a waterfall as it roars and splashes like a curtain over rock. And this is why Waimea Falls is a top-rated destination in Hawaii with its great waterfalls that offer scenic viewpoints. Waimea Falls is nestled in the heart of Waimea Valley on Oahu’s North Shore
To get to the waterfall, you’ll need to make your way to a paved trail and walk the beaten path. This should be quick to do and relatively easy. Once you’re there, you can dip in the water for a swim – keep in mind that the water can get quite cold during the winter months!
Besides swimming in the falls, you can take part in a wide range of cultural activities, including Hawaiian games and storytelling.
Stretching over 89,000 acres and 400 miles of trails (best covered by car), Lana’i Island is the ideal place for anyone who wants to go off-grid. Watch the waves crash on 18 miles of secluded beaches and the occasional dolphin sighting.
Play golf at the dramatic Manele Golf Course and visit the largest surviving ruins of an ancient Hawaiian Village at Kauno Fishing Village. We recommend renting a vehicle to freely explore unique locations on the island, such as Gardens of the Gods, Puu Pehe Beach, and Sweetheart Rocks. Other activities you can do include swimming, scuba diving, horse riding, and snorkeling.
This historic national landmark was built by King Kalakaua in 1882 and was the home of the state’s last reigning monarchs and served as the official residence of royalty in the country. The palace’s architecture was influenced by European styles and included Hawaii’s first electric light systems, telephones, and flush toilets.
The interior decor includes a dramatic koa staircase, historical portraits of Hawaiian royalty, ornate furniture, and artifacts from around the world.
Touring through this palace’s throne room, dining room, and reception gives you a sneak peek into the kind of diners and balls held here. Also worth noting is the palace’s location, which deserves to be explored thoroughly.
Right behind Iolani Palace is the State Capitol Building and Washington Place. Across South King Street, you’ll find King Kamehameha I’s statue and Aliiolani Hale. To the west, you’ll discover the historic Kawaiahaʻo Church and the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site. To the east is the Hawaii State Art Museum and the town’s main arts district.
Polynesian Cultural Center
Comprising of 42-acres of land, Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the most popular and biggest attractions in Hawaii. It is located on Oahu’s North Shore only a few miles from Waikiki. It was established to preserve the cultural heritage and traditions of Polynesia.
The grounds represent six different Island Villages, each personifying the culture of the islands it represents Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Aotearoa, and Tonga. Visitors will be greeted with musical performances and other aspects of entertainment that provide a glimpse into Polynesian culture.
Waimea Canyon State Park
Visiting Waimea Canyon State Park is a must during your trip to Hawaii. Sculpted over millions of years by rivers and floods pouring down from Mount Waialeale, Waimea Canyon is considered to be one of the wettest places on the planet. It is home to the Waimea River which is rimmed by amber-toned canyon walls.
The best way to access Waimea Canyon is through the Kokee Road or Waimea Canyon Drive. Both make their way from sea level all the way up to the canyon, which stands at over 3,600 feet. The two roads intersect at the canyon, so it’s not important which one you choose. Both offer gorgeous views of the coastline, and neither is more scenic or faster than the other.
Keep an eye out for the several native birds that call the place home. You may even spot the Nene goose, the state bird of Hawaii. Note that certain locations in Waimea Canyon for hiking require permits. Check with the ranger station for maps and permits.
Panaʻewa Rainforest Zoo
The Panaʻewa Rainforest Zoo is a 12-acre rainforest full of exotic animals and plants. The zoo features over 80 animals and 40 plants, making it a one-of-a-kind site in the US. The lush and wet rainforest creates the ideal environment for viewing animals in Hawaii.
The most popular exhibition at the Panaʻewa Rainforest Zoo is the tiger, where you can spend a few hours getting up close and personal with the fearsome beast. Cap off the event by visiting the snack bar for a quick bite to eat and check out the gift shop to pack a few souvenirs to bring back home. Children, in particular, will be drawn to the zoo because of the large playground area that is designed to pique their interest and keep them busy.
The zoo is free for visitors but welcomes donations.
As mentioned earlier, Hawaii is a beautiful southern state with plenty of tourist attractions. Visitors to the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park can enjoy hundreds of thousands of acres of natural outdoor spaces with adventure waiting at every turn.
In addition, Hawaii is home to exciting adventure parks, ancient sights, coffee plantations, and much more.
Finally, Hawaii has a rich cultural history depicted through arts, entertainment, and historical landmarks.
You can have a wonderful time in the Aloha State; you just have to plan it right. Make sure to use our list of the best attractions in Hawaii to plan your itinerary. Let us know if this guide helped you in your journey and if you should the list to include more attractions.