WHAT TO DO IN HAWAII
The islands accessible to visitors include the main 4 islands, Oahu, Maui, Hawaii (aka The Big Island), and Kauai. Also, there are the islands of Lana’i and Moloka’i which are accessible via ferry from Maui. The Hawaiian Islands definitely offer a unique and diverse destination for all types of travelers.
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This post was written by Cassandra
EPIC THINGS TO DO IN HAWAII
Okay, let´s start with the best things to do in Hawaii – you´ll find the top activities for the main island first.
Best Things to See in Maui
Here are the top activities for Maui.
Road to Hana (Maui)
Driving the Road to Hana is an amazing activity you should not miss out when visiting Hawaii.
This is a full-day drive (about 3 hours each way), so you will want to leave early! Boasting amazing scenery along the way, you’ll see rainforests and ocean cliffs. You can also make several stops along the way at various beaches and waterfalls. At the end of the road, you’ll reach the charming town of Hana, where you can relax and grab some food at a local restaurant.
Snorkel Molokini (Maui)
Snorkeling is another of the top things to do in Hawaii.
Molokini is a sunken, extinct volcano crater about 2 miles from the coast! And yes, you can snorkel it! Being submerged for many years, it has developed a reef system, and the rim of the crater protects these tiny ecosystems from the rough waters making it the perfect spot to snorkel. It is a protected marine reserve, though, so you must visit via tour.
See the Sun Rise at Haleakala (Maui)
Watching the sunrise at Haleakala is one of the must-dos in Hawaii.
Haleakala is a dormant volcano known for its gorgeous sunrise views. Take the trip up here early in the morning to see the colors change with the sun. Be sure to dress warm though the altitude keeps it chilly here. If you are more of a thrill-seeker, you can ride a mountain bike down the summit as well. Either way, be sure to book ahead as a tour needs to be arranged in advance.
Best Things to Do on the Big Island
Here are the best things to do in Hawaii, Big Island.
Black Sand Beach (The Big Island)
You have to visit at least one black sand beach in Hawaii. People who visited Santorini in Greece or Iceland might have seen a black beach already – but black beaches are quite special, and in Hawaii, you have the option to see a few.
Black sand beaches are such a surreal experience and definitely worth seeing while in Hawaii. Although there are black sand beaches on each of the islands, The Big Island has the most since it is the only island with an active volcano. One of the best on the island is Punalu’u Beach. There is also a high chance of seeing endangered sea turtles here as well!
Kona Coffee (The Big Island)
One of the top things to do in Hawaii is to learn about Kona Coffee. Kona coffee is not grown anywhere else in the world except on Hawaii Island (aka The Big Island). Due to the high elevation, volcanic soils, and the island’s cloud forests, it is ideal for coffee plantations and creates the perfect environment for the beans to grow.
Coffee farming is a long-lasting tradition in Hawaii, and they make delicious rich and aromatic brews like non-other! If you can visit a plantation and witness the process and do some tastings- definitely do! But even if you can’t make it to a plantation, be sure to drink a cup while here.
Volcano National Park (The Big Island)
The Volcano National Park is one of the top places to visit in Hawaii, and it is a really amazing and humbling experience.
This is where the island is literally still being created by mother nature. You can visit the museum and visitor’s center for some great info and safety information for exploring the park. You can visit several fascinating spots within the park, including the Thurston Lava Tube and the Halema’uma’u crater. If you are lucky, you will see the flowing lava but for a wonderful experience, wait until sundown when you can see the orange glow from the volcano.
Start or end your trip at the nearby winery – at Volcano Winery you can do some tastings of the unique Hawaiian wine and see the vineyards grown in the rich volcanic soil.
Stargaze Mauna Kea (The Big Island)
Mauna Kea is one of the best places in the world to stargaze, and thus it is an activity you should add to your Hawaii itinerary.
Thousands of miles from any light population, you will see more stars than ever before. So much so in fact that the world’s largest telescopes were placed here to view deep into space. On a tour here, you can look through these telescopes as well. Note that due to the altitude, it can be chilly up here.
Find more tips on things to do on Big Island.
Best Things to on Oahu
Find out about fun things to do in Oahu.
Waikiki Beach (Oahu)
Waikiki beach is the famed beach of Honolulu city, lined with high rises featuring tons of events and nightlife, and spending time at this beach is one of the best things to do in Hawaii.
Shopping, restaurants galore, Friday night fireworks over the beach, and rooftop luaus make this one of the US’s top cities. Most people like to stay on this iconic beach area but conveniently located on the city’s waterfront means you still have access to the rest of Honolulu where you can see historic sights like Pearl Harbor or the Hawaiian Royal Palaces, as well as cultural hot spots like Chinatown.
Diamond Head (Oahu)
Diamond Head crater was originally called Le’ahi by the Hawaiians but gained the nickname “Diamond Head” when sailors mistook the calcite for diamonds.
Flying into Oahu, you will see Diamond Head. It is just outside Honolulu city and its relatively easy 45-minute hike to the top makes it an easily accessible natural site for all visitors. Gates open at 6 am, and it’s best to get there early to avoid tourist crowds. Once you get to the top, enjoy a stunning panoramic view of Oahu- gorgeous.
North Shore Surfers (Oahu)
The north shore is famous for surfing and is a nice escape from the city of Honolulu.
If you are a beginner, visit in the summer for more manageable waves; otherwise, winter months bring huge waves and pro surf competitions that are a blast to watch and are amongst some of the best things to do in Hawaii. Be sure also to grab a local favorite here- Hawaiian shaved ice- yum!
Find out about more free things to do in Oahu.
Best Things to Do on Kauai
Here are the best things to do on Kauai.
Waimea Canyon (Kauai)
Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” this is one of the most popular spots to visit on the island.
It has tons of hiking trails as well as sightseeing outlooks via car. The gorgeous colors of the stone with the lush green vegetation are definitely worth a visit while on the island!
Napali Coast (Kauai)
This is one of the most iconic sights of all of Hawaii. Even if you haven’t heard the name before, you have most likely seen an image of Napali Coast.
The dramatic cliffs and rock walls against the Pacific Ocean are stunning. As previously mentioned, much of Kauai is inaccessible via car, and this includes the Napali coast. In fact, the only way to see this area is via helicopter or boat. Although pricey, helicopter rides are worth the amazing views, but if you want a more up-close experience, try one of the sailing trips that visit the coast daily.
Best Things to Do on Moloka’i
Here are tips for the best things to do in Moloka’i.
Hike Halawa Valley (Moloka’i)
You can take a ferry to Moloka’i from the island of Maui.
A hike along this trail will lead you to the stunning 250-foot waterfall Mo’oula, definitely a sight worth seeing. Please note that a guide is required to hike this area!
Best Things to Do on Lana’i
Let´s talk about the best things to do on Lana´í
Visit the cliffs of Pu’upehe Bay (Lana’i)
The location of “Sweetheart Rock” is a gorgeous sight of cliffs going into the Pacific.
It is about a 30-minute hike up the cliffs to see the iconic landmark offshore, and if you’re lucky, you may spot dolphins! Take the hike later in the day to catch the sunset and have an evening picnic.
Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching.
The whales migrate down during the winter months (Dec-March) to give birth to their calves. The most common whale to see is a humpback whale. If you are lucky, you may see one breach- where they leaped straight out of the water and come crashing down with a splash!
HAWAII TRAVEL TIPS
So, let´s start with the travel tips for Hawaii.
Safety Tips (for Female Travelers) for Hawaii
- Most of Hawaii is safe even at night, so just exercising common sense will keep you out of any potential trouble.
- Most importantly, be aware of your surroundings – always.
- Don’t go out drinking alone, and be careful not to expose your money/valuables or leave them unattended on the beach.
- Trust your gut if a person or situation doesn‘t feel right- leave and don’t share your hotel information with people you don’t trust.
- If you don’t feel comfortable walking, grab a taxi.
- Be conscious that every city has good and bad areas- research before you go so you know your good areas and stay in them.
- English is the main language here, making navigation for most quite easy.
- Like anywhere else, catcalling does happen. I always recommend ignoring and continuing walking. It’s best to avoid confrontation, especially if traveling solo.
How to Get Around Hawaii
Getting around varies from island to island as they are each structured differently.
- On the island of Oahu: if you stay in the Honolulu area, you would mainly walk or use taxi and bus services since it is a city environment.
- On the island of Maui or the Big Island: I recommend a car rental to get around easily or to discover it by motorcycle.
- On the other hand, if you visit the island of Kauai, 80% of this island is inaccessible by car, so I wouldn’t bother with a car rental here and would stick to using transfers and tours.
To get between these 4 main islands, you would need to fly. Flights are typically about 45 minutes long.
If visiting the 2 smaller islands of Lanai or Molokai, they are both accessible via ferry from Maui.
Things to Pack for Hawaii
Be sure to pack a variety of clothing, although it will be tropical weather most of the time. If you decide to head up into the mountains, it can be quite chilly. I also recommend always having bug spray and sunblock available. Also, bring sneakers for active days and a raincoat for any tropical showers.
Where to Stay in Hawaii
Most of these are good mid-range hotels except for Kalani on The Big Island, which offers more cabin-style accommodations.
- Oahu Honolulu/Waikiki – Check out the latest rates for Aston Waikiki Beach.
- Oahu North Shore – Check out the latest Rates for Courtyard Oahu North Shore
- The Big Island Kona (west side) – Check out the latest rates for Aston Kona by the sea.
- The Big Island Pahoa (east side) – Check out the latest rates for the Kalani retreat here.
- Kauai – Check out the latest rates for Courtyard Coconut Beach
- Maui – Check out the latest rates for Kaanapali Beach Hotel
Best Time to Visit Hawaii
- The best time to travel to Hawaii is: anytime! There is no off-season, and the temperature is constantly 70s – 80s Fahrenheit year-round.
- If you visit Hawaii in winter, check out the Hawaii winter guide.
- Looking for more general travel tips (especially for backpackers)? Here for more travel tips.
Costs to Visit Hawaii
- The USD is a fairly strong currency, so traveling here can be costly for some nations. Also, as it often happens on islands, many things are imported which can affect costs.
- I found expenses higher when in city areas like Honolulu and more affordable in rural areas such as the east coast on the Big Island.
- Of course, as with anywhere else, finding great local spots to eat is an option for saving money.
- If you opt for a condo or apartment-style accommodation, you can also cook some meals to save money.
- Also, most of Hawaii’s tap water is fine to drink, so there is no need for bottled water purchases.
- Unfortunately, though, bargaining is not an option while shopping here, so spend wisely!
- Click here to find out more about the food and culture in Hawaii.
Also, make sure to check out the Hawaii itinerary if you want to find out how to plan your Hawaii trip.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cassandra is a US-female travel addict that loves traveling the world and a freelance writer at ArzoTravels. She has made traveling her priority, and so she has traveled for the last few years. She has also become a regular contributor for this website – Arzo Travels.