Best Things to do in Hawaii
Collected by Amanda Castleman, AFAR Local Expert
Hawaii is the 50th state, but really it's its own planet. Soar above hot lava in a helicopter, surf waves as tall as your house, or take a music lesson from a member of the Ukulele Hall of Fame! These are just a few of Hawaii's top attractions.
75-5669 Ali'i Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA
A great introduction to the ocean floor for non-divers, this 48-passenger submersible dips down to 100 feet off the Big Island. It explores 25 acres of vibrant coral gardens that have bloomed on ancient lava formations. Highlights include two...
Holoholokai Beach Park Rd, Puako, HI 96743, USA
Around 11,000 humpbacks—a quarter to a third of the global population, by some estimates—visit Hawaii from November until early May. They migrate here to mate and give birth. Intensely focused on procreation, these marine mammals don't...
1525 Bernice St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
The largest museum in Hawaii studies and preserves the history of the islands and the Pacific—for those interested in local culture, it's a must. The Victorian building originally housed family heirlooms from Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop,...
Waikīkī, HI 96815, USA
One of the most recognizable sites in Hawaii, this volcanic ash cone overlooks Waikiki's coastline—a tectonic memory from an explosion half a million years ago, measuring almost 3,500 feet across. British sailors named it Diamond Head in the...
Haleakalā, a huge and dormant shield volcano, forms more than 75 percent of Maui's landmass. As such, it pretty much demands you ascend it to peer down into the crater, into the island's very soul. Legend claims the demigod Māui snared the sun...
600 Imiloa Pl, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
NASA-funded ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center brings the wonders of space down to earth on the Big Island with a mix of Hawaiian culture and modern, whiz-bang science. It includes a state-of-the-art planetarium, a replica of Mauna Kea's summit, and a...
Waialua, HI 96791, USA
Ancient Hawaiians believed their souls would leap into the spirit world from this lava shoreline on the western tip of Oahu. These days, people jump off here in gliders instead, soaking up views of the Waiʻanae coast to the south, Mokuleʻia to the...
74-4968 Mamalahoa Hwy, Holualoa, HI 96725, USA
Hawaiians once lived in harmony with the land: farming, fishing, and harvesting fruit. Today, the state imports 80 to 90 percent of its food. Visit Kaloko-Honokōhau to catch a glimpse of the Big Island's ancient agricultural traditions, which...
2005 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
This family-run luthier shop has been handcrafting world-renowned instruments since 1916. They are often made of koa, a native wood prized for its luminous, almost psychedelic wood grain patterns. The company's rich-toned ukes inspire beginners...
2000 Plantation Club Dr, Lahaina, HI 96761, USA
Home to the PGA Tour's Tournament of Champions each January, Kapalua Golf sprawls south of the Ritz-Carlton (the resort itself is set slightly back from the sea to preserve an ancient Hawaiian burial ground). Choose the Arnold...
Laniakea Beach, North Shore, HI 96712, USA
More commonly known as Turtle Beach, this Oahu North Shore cove often attracts honu, aka Chelonia mydas, the largest of the hard-shelled sea turtles. These big, friendly giants can reach 400 pounds as adults and are herbivorous, feeding primarily...
177 Makaala St, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
Winter snow can frost the tallest peak in Hawaii, technically measuring 13,800 feet. In fact, Mauna Kea holds the world record at 33,500 feet tall when measured from its submerged base to its summit (compared with Everest's 29,000 feet)! The...
76 Kamehameha Ave, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
Explore the coral-reef wonders of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands at this free and incredibly family-friendly center on the Big Island. Interactive displays include a volcanic exhibit, a submersible with robot arms, and a huge 3,500-gallon...
Kapaa, HI 96746, USA
Swift streams and waterfalls continue to carve these vertiginous and rugged valleys as they pour down into the sea. One of the most stunning wilderness areas on earth, it also contains ancient Hawaiian ruins of graves, temples, house platforms,...
Haleiwa, HI 96712, USA
One of surfing's most famous sites, the North Shore churns out giant walls of water for world-class riders each winter. When the wave faces loom to around 30 to 40 feet at Waimea Bay, the Super Bowl of surfing kicks off. The Quiksilver in Memory...
2699 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
Ease into the wave-riding scene with this uniquely soulful surf school on Oahu. Sean Anderson had been teaching for 20 years when he saw the family of a deceased surfer struggling to get into the water. With Susan Geraci he launched the Ohana Surf...
Olowalu Beach, Hawaii 96761, USA
If you snorkel only once, make it at Olowalu, home to Maui's most diverse marine populations. Slap on some reef-friendly sunscreen and explore more than 100 acres of some of the healthiest coral structures in Hawaii. Watch manta rays and green sea...
Once an oyster-farming backwater, this area was held sacred to the shark goddess Ka‘ahupahau. But it's forever etched into America's psyche due to the 1941 Japanese surprise attack on the naval base, which launched the U.S. into WWII's...
Hwy 50, Waimea, HI 96796, USA
Spectacular sands—making up the longest stretch of beach in Hawaii—sweep for 15 miles starting here, fringed by postcard-perfect turquoise water. This patch of ocean is rough, rowdy, and perilous: Watch for sneaker waves as you stroll...
State Hwy 160, Hōnaunau, HI 96726, USA
Catch a glimpse of what Hawaii looked like before European contact. An unmissable destination for culture buffs, this sacred area stretches along the lava flats of the Big Island's western coast. Behind a massive wall stands an ancient pu'uhonua...
1, Keomoku Highway, Lanai City, HI 96763, USA
Wide-open expanses and breathtaking scenery make the Pineapple Isle ideal for horseback riding. Hop in the saddle and wind along trails through the rustling ironwoods and red hills of Lanai. These excursions—available at all skill...
2259 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
A renowned group of Hawaiian watermen worked on the Waikiki beaches during the first half of the 20th century. These "Beachboys" shared their culture, aloha, and intimate knowledge of the ocean—and led the revival of traditional aquatic...
Waianapanapa, Hana, HI 96713, USA
A lovely state park stretches along the rugged volcanic shoreline on Maui's west side, three miles from Hana. A 2.2-mile out-and-back hike starts at the black-sand beach and follows the dramatic coast. Explore lava tubes, photograph rock arches,...
2777 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
The second-oldest public aquarium in the United States, this classic attraction dates back to 1904 and has amassed 3,500 marine animals since then. The emphasis remains on aquatic life in the Pacific, including seahorses, giant clams, and deeply...
78-128 Ehukai St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA
The ancient Hawaiians revered mantas as ʻaumakua (family or personal gods). With up to 25-foot wingspans, these majestic sea creatures feed on some of the sea's smallest organisms: zooplankton. Strap on a snorkel to watch them dine at night, doing...
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