This post will give you an overview of the best things to do in Hawaii.
I have asked the help of fellow bloggers and travelers who had the pleasure of visiting this amazing destination. Each of them was kind enough to share their experience on the coolest places to visit in Hawaii and things to do.
It’s a place that I have been dreaming of since I was a kid when I was watching movies and series about these magical islands with dramatic coastlines, lush tropical forests, gigantic waves, and hidden waterfalls, where everybody is happy, beautiful, and kind-hearted, where life goes by peacefully and worry-free.
That’s how I pictured Hawaii and I guess that’s how I still dream of it.
I hope you enjoy this collection of activities to do in Hawaii and the best places to visit as much as I did, and most of all I hope you will find it helpful to organize your trip.
But before you book your trip make sure you check when it’s the best time to travel to Hawaii and other practical tips, so that you know what to expect and you can better plan.
The best things to do in Hawaii
1. Snorkeling or diving with Manta Rays – The Big Island
by James Ian @ Travel Collecting
One of the best things to do in Hawaii is snorkeling or diving with manta rays. There is a site near Kailua-Kona on the Big Island where the enormous rays come nightly throughout the year.
A ring of spotlights has been permanently set up on the seabed at Makako Bay, locally called “Manta Heaven”. Just after sunset, they are turned on and the lights attract microscopic plankton.
This is the prime food source of manta rays. Before long, the rays are attracted to the swarms of invisible plankton and swim around the area, scooping up their food in huge open maws.
Certified SCUBA divers kneel on the seafloor around the lights and snorkelers hold on to large rafts, floating safely above the lights.
The experience is not a solitary one, as several boats operate in the area, but it is truly incredible.
As a diver, I knelt, staring around me, seeing nothing by darkness outside the lights.
Suddenly, an enormous alien-like creature with a wingspan about 20 feet wide swooped out of the darkness, mouth wide open to scoop up the plankton.
Several more joined it, swooping and gliding, sometimes just inches above my head. They turned upside down and skimmed near the surface, giving the snorkelers a show too. It was amazing.
Boat trips leave from Honokohau Marina, a 10-minute drive north of Kailua-Kona.
The mantas visit most nights throughout the year, though of course sightings are not guaranteed.
Trips may be canceled if the water is too rough.
Although this part of the Big Island is spared the worst of the winter winds, January and February do tend to have the worst swells and therefore the greatest chance of canceled trips.
TRIP COSTS Trips typically cost $110 for snorkelers and $125 for divers. It is well worth every cent.
2. Take a Helicopter Ride Over Kauai
By Erin McNeaney @ Never ending voyage
If you are wondering what to do in Hawaii out of the ordinary, taking a helicopter ride over the island best Hawaii excursion. It is one of the best things to do in Kauai and was our favorite travel experience in all of Hawaii.
It’s not a cheap activity, but it was well worth the cost for the spectacular views of Hawaii’s oldest and most dramatic island.
From above you really get a sense of Kauai’s diversity from the red canyons of Waimea to the craggy sea cliffs of the Na Pali Coast.
We flew over golden beaches, lush farmland, verdant mountains, and many waterfalls, including one featured in the Jurassic Park movie.
The Na Pali Coast is the most beautiful part of the island and it is especially awe-inspiring from above.
We weaved in and out of the inlets and got incredibly close to the jagged green and orange cliffs, some of which soar 4000 feet above the ocean. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful place.
While you can take a helicopter trip with doors, I was so glad I got over my fear and went with the doors-off option. I felt safe strapped into my seat, more immersed in the scenery, and it was much better for photography without glass obscuring the view.
A helicopter trip with Jack Harter costs $309 per person for a 60-minute flight. They are based at the Lihue airport which is a 25-minute drive from Poipu, the main resort town on the south coast.
You need to wear warm clothes, leave any loose items in your car (including bags and even camera lens caps), and tie back long hair. They have plastic ties available to secure your phone to your wrist.
Make sure you book your helicopter ride for early in your stay to allow time for rescheduling due to bad weather. It also gives you a great overview of the island.
See available helicopter tours in Kauai
3. Cage diving with sharks from Oahu
by Valentina @ Valentina Destinations
Cage diving with sharks is an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience. Oahu is one of the few places in the whole world (and the only place in the US) where you can do this!
Another place where you can do Cage Diving is in Baja California Mexico. Read how to cage dive from a liveaboard in Mexico
Hawaii Shark Encounters is dedicated to shark conservation. So, you can feel certain that your experience is ethical. Also, Hawaii Shark Encounters uses low-impact sustainable practices.
Tours depart from Oahu’s North Shore. The activity costs about $100 per person.
Why protect sharks? Sharks have a valuable role in ocean ecosystems. They help to remove and clean out dead, dying and sickly fish and other organisms.
This tour is dedicated to raising awareness and tolerance for sharks in order to promote more shark conservation. During your tour, you’ll learn more about the biology and environmental role of sharks.
You’ll set out to sea by boat heading for ‘shark grounds.’ It’s about 3 miles off the coast. At shark grounds, you can expect to see Galapagos, Sandbar and (sometimes), even, Tiger sharks. You may also see some Humpback Whales during your tour!
Once you arrive at shark grounds, guests will take turns entering a poly glass cage with snorkeling gear. You don’t need to be a great swimmer! The cage is attached to the side of the boat and it’s easily accessible by a step ladder.
Being inside the cage is such a thrilling experience! Sharks will swim up to you because they are curious. Don’t worry! They don’t attack the cage. Also, you’re guaranteed to see sharks or your money back. Swimming with sharks is one of the unforgettable bucket list activities to enjoy during your stay in Oahu.
See available underwater tours
4. Visit Green Sand Beach – Big Island
By Chris Fry @ Aquarius Traveler
No trip to the Big Island of Hawaii would be complete without visiting Papakolea: Green Sand Beach. The name comes from green olivine crystals that make up the sand that eroded out of the enclosing volcanic cone.
The ocean erodes the green stones and crushes them into fine sand, but considered too fine to be gemstones. Beaches like this are very rare (only 4 Green Sand Beaches in the world), so it’s almost like walking on real jewels.
Green Sand Beach is located about 3 miles (5 km) east of South Point on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The only way to get there from the car park is by walking, but takes about 45 mins each way and knows that there is very little shade. Locals will be standing by at the car park offering 4-wheel drive rides to the beach for a tip (15-minute, very bumpy journey).
This could cost $10 to $20 per person but is well worth it and recommended to do so.
If you’re going to walk, come prepared with supplies like hiking boots, Hat & Sunscreen as many tourists turn back. Take enough water and food to cover you over the journey but more importantly, admire the unique beauty of this location.
The green sand beach can be accessed by a brief but steep trail down the crater wall. Swimming is possible, but the surf is quite strong and there is no lifeguard.
With no phone service, it’s advised to take extreme care. Due to its remote location, it’s rarely crowded and mornings are the least busy time of day.
There are no public facilities near the beach, so visitors are asked to help maintain Green Sand Beach’s awe-inspiring beauty by leaving the beach a little cleaner than when you arrived.
Do not remove any sand from the beach. It is unlawful.
5. Diamond head hike – Oahu
By Kristen Czudak @ Yonderlust Ramblings
If you want to soak up some truly stunning views of Oahu, there is no better vantage point than from the top of the iconic Diamond Head! You can include this hike among all the fun things to do in Hawaii!
This landmark towers over some of Honolulu’s most recognizable spots, including Waikiki Beach, providing a perfect backdrop to this challenging feat!
Diamond Head Crater is located on the southeastern edge of the island of Oahu, just outside the capital of Honolulu.
It is the perfect day hike for those visitors looking to stretch their legs while taking in a unique perspective of the island. This trail is suitable for most adults, teens, and children.
Diamond Head State Monument can be reached either as a walk-in or by vehicle, and is open daily. There is a $1 walk-in entrance fee, or $5 for drive-in.
While this lush, oceanside state monument encompasses an entire park, by far the highlight is the Diamond Head hike to the crater’s summit! This day hike is 0.8 miles in length one way, with a two-hour approximate hike time.
While its scenic panoramas are breathtaking, there is some challenge involved with this uphill hike, including some steep sections, narrow stairs, and a 225-foot tunnel.
The payoff is the stunning, expansive views of Oahu’s coastline and the Pacific from the top of the crater!
One other unique characteristic of this hike is its historical roots. The trail to the summit of Diamond Head was originally established in 1908, as part of Oahu’s military defense system. Along this trail, you can see military remnants over a century old, like the WWII bunker located just beneath the summit.
6. Take a road trip around Ohau
By Noel Morata @ This Hawaii Life
One of the best things to do in Hawaii involves taking a road trip around Oahu, especially around the North Shore of the island.
A popular spot for the famous Banzai pipeline surfing competitions, the North Shore of Oahu is a fun place for outdoor lovers who want to explore the area more in a road trip.
From Honolulu, you can take a round of the island tour and visit iconic places like the trendy coastal town of Haleiwa for some amazing food trucks, shave ice and tour fun galleries and shops.
Then take the coastal drive around the north through fantastic beaches like Waimea, the Banzai pipeline, or Sunset Beach, snorkeling at Sharks Cove and visiting a lovely botanical garden and waterfall hike through Waimea Valley which happens to also host a wonderful and more authentic nightly luau service on-site and this actually includes a free entrance to the botanical garden.
If you continue northeast, you can stop at so many endless white-sand beaches, visit the historic Laie Hawaii temple and grounds of the Latter day Saints, visit the stunning Byodo In Temple – a copy of an exact temple in Kyoto and even visit some lovely Hawaiian plantation farms on the east side of the island.
Taking a drive around the island and North Shore gives you a more relaxed and slow-paced lifestyle of Oahu outside of the crowded tourist areas and you can stop and go as you, please.
7. Flightseeing in Maui
By Lori Sweet & Sylvio Roy @ Voyage Writers
Photos © Voyage Writers
The beautiful islands of Hawai’i can be described as paradise. From lush vegetation to sparkling blue water, delicious food, and friendly people.
Why not be amongst a small group of people who get to see it from the sky? Not from a large commercial airplane or small helicopter but while flying in a state of the art Cirrus SR22, with you at the controls.
Among the amazing things to do in Maui, Maui Flight Academy offers several tours ranging from 1 hour to an entire day. You and up to 3 others in your party, can take in the breathtaking views.
Depending on the flight you book, you could fly over a volcano, see the tallest sea cliffs on earth, or the largest coral reef in the United States.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any flying experience. After your initial ground orientation, the instructor sitting in the seat beside you guides you all the way.
You can even switch pilots when you land at the first stop. There is no need to worry that you won’t remember to take photos. There is an option to have the flight recorded so you can relive the experience over and over.
During the flight, you will listen to some beautiful music and commentary.
The instructor pilot has thousands of hours of flight experience and can answer all your questions.
You will even get a flight training certificate towards the pursuit of a pilot’s license if you find the aviation bug bites you.
Cost: starts at $699 US for up to 3 people
Location: Kahului Airport on Maui
Best Time to Go: There is never a bad time in Hawai’i
Among the things to do in Maui, this is for sure the most unique.
Check my article on the best Airbnb in Maui if you need to decide where to stay in Maui.
8. Murals and microbreweries – Oahu
By Maureen Spencer @ So Many Places! So Little Time!
When you’re on Oahu Island in Hawaii make sure you take a trip to Kakaako to check out the amazing street art murals and microbreweries.
Kaka’ako is situated off Ala Moana Avenue, between Waikiki and downtown, and is only a ten-to-fifteen minute bus ride from central Honolulu and well worth the trip.
It’s an old industrial area of Honolulu and has become quite a hip place to hang out.
The Pow Wow Street Art Festival takes place every year around February and a hundred or so local and international artists are invited to create murals and other forms of art on the large walls of industrial buildings throughout the area.
The results are simply stunning. Just wander around the area and enjoy the wide variety of creative artwork on display.
Late afternoon is a good time to visit when it starts to get a little cooler and when you’ve seen all the amazing artwork and you’ve worked up a thirst head into some of the interesting microbreweries to sample their unique brews.
Beer has been brewed in this area since the mid-1900s and in the last five years or so the area has become quite a craft beer hub.
Some of the most popular microbreweries are the Brewseum and Home of the Brave Brewing, the Honolulu BeerWorks, the Waikiki Brewing Company, and the Aloha Beer Company.
9.Visit a black sand beach on Big Island
by Sarah Vanheel @ Cosmopoliclan
When thinking of Hawaiian beaches, the classic golden palm-fringed type is the postcard setting that comes to mind.
But Hawaii’s natural diversity results in some uniquely colored beaches too, such as the Hawaiian black sand beaches.
The black sand is essentially oceanic lava that has been crushed by the waves.
This also means that these beaches are known to have strong currents.
Therefore, they’re not the best places to go for a swim.
You’ll find one black sand beach on Maui and several others on the Big Island, Punalu’u being number one.
This legendary beach is located just half an hour from Hilo town and close to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
It’s equipped with parking spots, picnic benches, restrooms, and a shower. Lifeguards are present every day.
Visiting this black sand beach is an intriguing experience.
The black sand gives the ocean a much deeper shade of blue which accords with the green coconut palms in the backdrop and contrasts with the foam of the waves that hit the beach.
At the waterline, you’ll find a mix of soft sand, lava rocks, and tidal pools. It’s amazing how the sand sparkles in the sunlight, almost resembling little black crystals.
It feels so soft but can be really hot on the feet so it’s important to wear flip-flops at all times.
Not only humans love to relax and absorb the warmth of the soft black sand, turtles do too.
You can often find Hawaiian green sea turtles, known as honu, basking on Punalu’u black sand beach. Remember that these are protected species so it’s important to keep your distance.
Another idyllic, yet lesser-known, feature of Punalu’u Beach is the freshwater pond with its picturesque bridge. You’ll find it hidden behind the palm trees.
10. Hiking the Pipiwai Trail – Maui
by Jess @ I’m Jess Traveling
Arguably the best hike on Maui, hiking the Pipiwai Trail is an absolute must when visiting the Valley Isle and one of the best places to visit in Hawaii.
The trail starts in the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park which can only be accessed on the Eastern side of the island.
Getting there is part of the adventure as you drive the coastal and scenic road to Hana. Entry inside the park is $35 per vehicle or use of a National Park pass.
The hike itself is a 4-mile moderate out-and-back trail suitable for all fitness levels.
The first mile takes you past a handful of lookouts where you can see cascading waterfalls off in the distance. Along the way, you’ll reach a beautiful banyan tree that is very photogenic.
The second mile starts as you enter a majestic bamboo forest. Tall bamboo culms tower all around as you continue into the forest on a raised platform. The best part is the sound of the cracking bamboo swaying in the wind.
After a mile of hiking through the bamboo forest and just when you don’t think the hike could get any better, in the distance you get a glimpse of the star of the show, Waimoku Falls.
Waimoku Falls is a 400-foot waterfall that may be trickling or flowing depending on the season.
Winter months bring more rain thus a more powerful waterfall. There are large rocks to hang and rest on as you take in the beauty and views of the falls.
There’s never a bad time of day to hike the Pipiwai Trail, it is Hawaii after all.
The trail is mostly shaded due to the tall bamboo and rainforest canopy. Mornings will be less crowded and slightly cooler.
Bring snacks as there won’t be stores nearby and prepare to have your mind blown.
11. Join a catamaran cruise off the coast of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu – Oahu
by Sydney Richardson @ A World in Reach
One of my favorite things I did during my visit to Oahu was a catamaran cruise off the coast of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. There are several different cruise operators along Waikiki that run tours, but I had an excellent experience with Maita’i Catamaran.
Maita’i Catamaran offers a couple of different cruise options, including a scenic Tradewind Sail or a romantic Sunset Sail. I opted for the Tradewind Sail, which departs three times each day: 11am, 1pm, and 3pm.
Your experience begins when you meet at the departure point, located on the beach between the Sheraton Waikiki and the Halekulani Hotel. It’s a bit hard to find, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get there before your sail departs.
From there, you’ll have a souvenir photo taken with your travel companions (available for purchase at the end of the cruise) before boarding the catamaran. All sailings are barefoot, so make sure to wear shoes that are easy to remove.
When the cruise begins, you’ll sail off along the Waikiki Coast, enjoying the scenery of Waikiki and the blue water.
You’ll have great views of Diamond Head, one of the best hikes on Oahu. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot some sea life. On my cruise, we spotted sea turtles and humpback whales.
During the sail, your guide will point out spots where you can see the sea life. The boat also has a cash bar serving up soda, beer, and their famous house mai tai.
If you’re sitting near the front of the boat, prepare to get wet. The waves will splash up pretty high!
Make sure to bring along a bag to keep any electronics/personal items (there are places on board to store bags), sunglasses, sunscreen, cash from the bar, a beach towel, and a camera to capture the gorgeous views. Tradewind Sails are $39 for adults, but you can often find discounted tickets on Groupon.
More snorkeling tour options in Oahu
12. Explore Paia the hip beach town in Maui
By Katie Minahan @ Just Chasing Sunsets
Paia is a small, relaxing beach town in Maui Hawai’i. It’s known as the last stop for gas before the road to Hana but, there are many more things to do in Paia than just fill up your tank.
What I love most about Paia is the lack of high rise beachfront hotels and come as you are vibe.
There are 4 beaches in Paia Maui to check out all with free public access, but each with a unique vibe.
As you enter Paia you’ll pass Baldwin Beach Park a mile-long stretch of white sand which has showers, picnic tables, and ample parking. With so many beachside amenities it’s a great spot for families.
The second, smaller beach is Paia Bay which is great for swimming when the waves are calm.
In between these two is Secret Beach, only accessible by walking along the sea wall. This is a clothing-optional beach (if you’ve never swum in your birthday suit in the ocean, I highly recommend it… so freeing).
A bit outside of town is Ho’okipa beach where you can find turtles! Just be sure to give them their space.
Once you’ve had enough of the sand and sea head into Paia town where you’ll find a variety of boutique shops.
The main shop I recommend stopping into is the grocery store, Mana Foods. This grocery store is awesome! It has excellent prepared foods, makes a great matcha latte, and has a wide selection of food to prepare your own home-cooked meal.
If you’re not up for cooking, no sweat. There are plenty of food options in Paia. I highly recommend two budget-friendly options: Paia Fish Market for the Mahi Mahi burger and Paia Bowls for any of their smoothies.
To stay in Paia on a budget, I recommend Aloha Hostel. They offer free pancake breakfast and a wide variety of free tours on the island.
Otherwise, there are plenty of Airbnb options in Maui if you’d rather have an entire home for yourself and live like a local.
If you’re looking for a relaxing beachside and budget-friendly getaway, definitely add Paia Maui to your Hawaii bucket list.
13. Visit the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve – Big Island
Beth from The Frugal Female Abroad
The Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve is an incredible insight into the history of Hawaii. The petroglyphs date back as far as the 13th century. Petroglyphs are images that have been carved in stone.
The petroglyphs depict significant events, although no one knows for certain what the true meaning of these petroglyphs is. In total, there are more than 3000 petroglyphs located within the reserve.
The Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve is located on the Big Island of Hawaii . To reach the reserve, make your way to Holoholokai Beach Park that is located within Mauna Lani Resort. To get to the Mauna Lani Resort you need to travel north from Kailua-Kona along Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. It will take about 40 minutes from Kailua-Kona to reach the reserve.
The reserve that contains the petroglyphs is 223 acres. There is a trailhead at Holoholokai Beach Park. Malama Trail is approximately 1.5 miles long one way. At the beginning of the trail, there is an area containing replica petroglyphs.
These look amazing. But the real treat is further along the trail. At the end of the trail, you will find a large fenced area containing numerous petroglyphs.
The petroglyph reserve can be visited at any time of the year, although the trail would get muddy when it rains. The best time of the day to visit is in the early morning or late afternoon.
This is because the sun is lower in the sky and the petroglyphs have longer shadows making them easier to see and photograph.
There is no cost to visit the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve.
When going on hikes, even short ones, it’s important to be prepared. For this reason, make sure you have water with you. The hike will take about 30 minutes each way. Wear good shoes and enjoy the hike!
14. Visit Kualoa Ranch – Oaho
by Holly @ Globeblogging
On the island of Oahu in Hawaii resides the ultimate must-visit destination for any movie buff. A working cattle ranch and private nature reserve on the eastern side of the island, Kualoa Ranch is best known as Hawaii’s Hollywood set.
It has been the location for blockbusters including Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, Kong: Skull Island, 50 First Dates, and Jumanji, as well as television shows including Lost and Hawaii 5-0.
It’s not all about the movies though. The beautiful and expansive 4000-acre property offers a range of different tours.
Adventure lovers can tour the property in ATV’s, on Horseback, or by bus or jeep, or fly above the picturesque valleys by zipline.
Kids will love the petting zoo, while the tour of the ponds and gardens and learning about the contribution the ranch is making to food production for the island will appeal to the horticulturist in visitors.
A WW2 bunker that winds inside a mountain on the property is partially devoted to memorabilia from the war and partially to movies filmed on the Ranch.
It remains an active set and is featured in the Pearl Harbor film. Several tours offer exceptional views from high points of the property and each tour showcases a different part.
Visitors can also choose a package of three tours over the course of a day, including a buffet lunch of produce from the Ranch
Individual tour prices start at around US $45 for an adult ticket, but packages work out to be better valued.
Kualoa Ranch is located 45 minutes drive from Waikiki, the tourist hub of Oahu. If you don’t have access to a car there is a bus service that runs between Waikiki and the Ranch at a cost of US $15 per person for a round trip, or $10 when booked with a tour package. Tickets can be purchased online through the Ranch website.
15. Skydiving in Oahu
By Kay @ The Awkward Traveller
Hawai’i is one of the most beautifully lush islands in the world – so why not see it from the sky!
On the island of Oahu, the best place to skydive would be on the North Shore, for scenic views for half the crowds.
There isn’t really a bad season to visit Oahu, but if you are able to visit outside of popular holidays and vacation breaks, you can avoid a lot of extra traffic and congestion.
If you choose to skydive with Skydive Hawaii, the largest skydiving facility on the island, the price for a tandem dive (jumping with a skilled professional) is starts at $175USD when you book online.
They also have military and student discounts! Plus, if you stay in Waikiki but do not have a car, Skydive Hawaii offers free shuttle pickup and drop-off for all jumpers from their hotel.
However, if you do have a car, directions are simple: take the H-1 West, then the H-2 North toward Mililani and Wahiawa. Once you get to the site, plan on the duration of your dive to be 2 hours (4 on the weekends), including prep time.
For hesitant jumpers, be sure to get enough sleep the night before and eat a nutritious meal at least two to three hours before your jump. For those prone to motion sickness, take the appropriate medication as the flight can be a little bumpy.
Jumpers must also be under 240lbs (108kg), but there is a $2 fee per pound for jumpers over 200lbs. Sturdy shoes are needed, but aside from bringing a hair tie for longer hair, there aren’t many clothing requirements.
You can buy footage or photos from you jump for $150 or $75 respectively if you buy in advance, or $210 together.
16. Volcanoes National Park
The Big Island
by Ale @ Sea Salt and Fog
Volcanoes National Park is one of the few places in the US where you can see an active volcano, and is a UNESCO world heritage site!
Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Volcanoes National Park has two of the most active volcanoes in the world, Mauna Loa and Kīlauea. This is an amazing place to see firsthand how the Hawaiian Islands were formed.
To get to the park, you’ll need to make the 40-minute drive from Hilo or the 2-hour drive from Kona. There’s a $30 entrance fee per vehicle, which gives you access to the park for seven days.
No matter where you’re coming from, making the drive to Volcanoes is worth it. Because the volcanoes in the park are active, you can see the glowing caldera, as well as see where the lava has flowed into the ocean, creating stunning black lava fields.
The contrast between the black lava and the shining blue ocean is inspiring.
Drive the Crater Rim road to get access to the Nāhuku lava tube, a dark cave formed by flowing lava with cultural significance to the native Hawaiians. It’s worth doing at least once.
The best drive in Volcanoes is Chain of Craters road, which will get you to the side of the park that meets the ocean. On the road you can stop to see petroglyphs, lava fields stretching on for miles, see the endangered Hawaiian bird, the nēnē, and find the Hōlei sea arch.
If you look closely, you can often find sea turtles swimming in the waters by the arch. If you’re an adventurous hiker, you can also make the hike to see the flowing lava – but make sure you come prepared, it’s not for beginners.
For the real show, stay in the park after sunset to see the glowing lava light up the night sky, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen in my life.
Like most of Hawaii, every time of year is perfect for visiting Volcanoes. However, due to the high elevation difference between the park and the rest of the island, the weather at the park tends to be colder and rainy, so add a rain jacket and a warm sweater to your Hawaii packing list.
17. Snorkel in Molokini Crater – Maui
by Marcie Cheung @ Hawaii Travel with Kids
Hawaii is known for its amazing snorkeling and one of the best places to snorkel in Hawaii is Molokini Crater, just 3 miles off the coast of Maui.
This is where you’ll jump into the crystal clear water and get to see tropical fish, colorful coral, manta rays, and the famous Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles! See, the crater’s shape protects against rough waves and provides a safe haven for all kinds of marine animals to thrive.
What’s nice about Molokini Crater is that it’s great for snorkelers of all ages and swimming abilities.
The water ranges from 1ft to 50ft deep, so visitors can find a spot that feels comfortable. And snorkelers love it because there’s awesome visibility (more than 150 feet), so it’s easy to see tons of marine life all around.
The best way to get there is to book a Maui snorkeling boat tour to Molokini from Lahaina or Ma’alaea Harbor. There are tons of boat tours available, even eco-tours.
The Pacific Whale Foundation offers some of the best Molokini snorkel tours, including ones geared for traveling to Maui with kids. They will provide you with all your snorkeling gear and will have food and drinks on board. All you need to do is show up!
Molokini Crater is also a popular spot for scuba diving because of all the wondering sea life. Again, you’ll want to book a tour if you want to dive near Molokini Crater.
With many amazing things to do, Maui is a great destination year-round. However, if you go during the winter, you have the chance of seeing humpback whales during your Molokini snorkeling excursion! And your Molokini snorkeling boat tour will leave early in the morning, while the water is calm and peaceful.
No matter when you book your trip to Maui, you’ll definitely want to head to Molokini Crater for a day full of snorkeling and making memories!
Find out the best Airbnb in Maui for a wonderful stay.
18. Snorkeling in Kapalua – Maui
by Keri @ Bon Voyage with Kids
Our family loves Hawaii, and in fact, we travel there every year. Though we have been to all four major Hawaiian Islands, Maui is our absolute favorite because it is a perfect mix of outdoor activities, breathtaking sunsets, and quiet relaxation.
One of the best things to do with kids in Maui for FREE is to spend a few hours snorkeling on Kapalua Bay Beach.
A protected bay with a shallow reef, Kapalua Bay Beach is a phenomenal place to see some of the special underwater residents Hawaii has to offer.
It is calm enough that my kids can snorkel in the area, closer to shore, and see quite a variety of wildlife.
The famous humuhumunukunukuapua’a (or just humu humu for short), a triggerfish known as Hawaii’s state fish, is often spotted there, as well as tropical fish, eels, and an assortment of coral.
There is also a resident turtle who lives in Kapalua Bay but take note that it is against Hawaiian law to go within 10 feet of sea turtles.
You will need to bring your own snorkel gear, but there is a stand on-site that rents floaties if you need them.
The beach is also perfectly suited for spending a day sunning, though you will want to bring your own food, water, towels, and beach accessories.
There are hotels and the wonderful Merrimans restaurant right next to Kapalua Bay, but there aren’t really food vendors for purchasing quick beach snacks. You will find restrooms and foot showers at the beach, so it is a great place to spend a morning, afternoon, or the whole day.
Parking is available, but it fills up quickly. You can pay for parking at the nearby tennis club. I recommend arriving early to avoid the crowds.
If you love your FREE snorkel adventure, you may want to take another day to explore an Eco Adventure snorkel trip to Molokini Crater with the Pacific Whale Foundation. A morning boat trip will take you to the famed site which is home to some of the best snorkeling on all of Hawaii.
Both the snorkeling on Kapalua Bay and with the Pacific Whale Foundation are very family-friendly and definitely one of the best things to do in Hawaii.
19. Go on a Zip Lining Adventure on any island
by Patricia Martin @ Travel Fam Life
When deciding on your zip-lining adventure, there are a few topics to think about. First, which Hawaiian island are you visiting? Then, is this a solo, couple, or family activity?
What time of day are you hoping to enjoy the activity? How much are you expecting to pay? Then, with that in mind, all you have to do is choose the company you feel comfortable with and have a great time.
Zip Lining is an exhilarating, adrenaline, fun-filled activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Most zip line companies allow kids as young as 7 years old and there are a few that allow as young as 5 years old tandem with an adult. There is also a weight requirement for kids, as low as 60 lbs, and adults, which is not to exceed 275 lbs.
Something else to consider is the length of the tour, it can be as low as 30 minutes and as long as 10 hours depending on the tour.
And the amount of hiking you will need to do, some require quite a bit of extraneous uphill hike, so beware whenever booking your adventure.
If your destination is Maui, the Skyline Eco-Adventures can be a great choice, they have a few tours for you to choose from.
One in Ka’anapali, an 11-zipline course with beautiful views of the ocean, and Haleakala, a 5-zipline course located just miles from Haleakala National Park. The company partners with 1% For The Planet in efforts to conserve the Hawaiian habitat.
In the Big Island, the companies that offer zip lining are going to be located in Hilo, due to all rainforest vegetation on that side of the Island.
You can also use Skyline Eco-Adventures in their Akaka Falls Tour or you can check Kapohokine Adventures, they allow kids 5 years old to zip tandem with a guide on some of the long lines that the little ones don’t meet the weight requirements.
Whenever ziplining, don’t forget to wear close-toed shoes, all the companies request that, a lot of sunscreens, bug spray, and a hat (make sure it’s a baseball cap).
20. The Road to Hana – Maui
The Road to Hana is easily one of the best things to do in Hawaii. This full day drive is one of the most popular activities during a visit to the island of Maui.
Beginning near the Maui airport and ending in the town of Hana, the Road to Hana is a stunning coastal drive that has incredible stops ranging from hikes to waterfalls to epic viewpoints.
The Road to Hana drive can definitely be done on your own. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it on your own, there are options for shared and private tours with a guide as well. I would recommend getting the Gypsy Guide app and downloading their guide for Road to Hana. The app helps you navigate the drive and notifies you when you’ve reached a great place to stop.
Not only will you need to set aside a full day for the drive, but you’ll want to start super early. I recommend planning to leave early enough that you’ll reach the starting point by the airport just as the sun is beginning to rise.
You’ll get a head start on everybody else to avoid crowds and you’ll have plenty of daylight to finish the drive with as many stops as you please.
Along the Road to Hana, make sure to stop at places like Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach, the Seven Sacred Pools, Twin Falls, the Garden of Eden, Pua’a Kaa State Wayside Park, and more!
Since the Road to Hana drive is a full day experience, I highly recommend packing snacks, lunch, and plenty of water to bring with you. Don’t forget, anything you take in with you, you have to take out!
Make sure to bring hiking shoes, a towel, and a bathing suit with you so you can enjoy all the swimming spots along the way.
Some of the best stops along the Road the Hana drive are the secret ones you’ll stumble upon, so stop anywhere that looks interesting to you. And of course, make sure to enjoy and soak in all the beauty around you!
21. Food tour in Oahu
by Nicole Sunderland @ Eat live travel drink
When looking for the best things to do in Hawaii, a food tour of Oahu’s best eats should be on the top of your bucket list!
Oahu is one of the best girls’ trips destinations in the world and you are going to eat the best food here.
The first place you MUST visit is Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu. This bakery is FAMOUS for its piping hot malasadas, which are Portuguese dough filled with your choice of filling and covered with a sugar of choice. Highly recommend the custard-filled malasada rolled in cinnamon and sugar.
They are made fresh to order and best served hot!
The next stop on your Oahu food tour is on the North Shore.
It is about an hour’s drive from Honolulu depending on traffic. This iconic shrimp truck, Giovanni’s, always has a really long line – but for good reason. The shrimp is sensational. And it is nothing fancy – a plate of garlic rice and shrimp that has been cooked in a lot of butter with various spices. The shrimp here will change your life – and it is on the cheaper side of getting food in Oahu. So don’t miss this stop.
While you are in the North Shore, you should stop by the Dole Pineapple Plantation for a visit.
If you don’t have time to spend touring the grounds, at least get a Dole Whip from inside the gift shop. Dole Whip is one of those treats that very few places in the entire world sell and has a cult following – THAT GOOD!
You can get this delicious pineapple ice cream by itself, in a pineapple sundae, a pineapple float. Or even just in a cone if you like. There are many ways to enjoy it!
22. Cliff Jumping on North Shore – Oahu
by Amanda @ Fly Stay Luxe
Oahu’s North Shore is well known for many reasons… hiking, big wave surfing, snorkeling with turtles, delicious food trucks, and of course, cliff jumping!
As you drive north along the Kamehameha Highway from the town of Hale’iwa, there are several great places to snorkel, swim, and surf. One of the best places to stop is Waimea Bay, which is famous for hosting high-profile big wave surfing competitions during December.
On the southern side of the beach is a large rocky outcrop, which is the perfect spot to conquer your fear of heights and take a leap of faith into the pristine blue waters of Waimea Bay.
The large rock is easily accessible and you’ll see a small line-up of beachgoers climbing up the rock to leap off into the sparkling ocean below.
Having many other wannabe thrill-seekers around made it easier to feel the exhilaration of that one usually wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience anywhere else in the world. Don’t forget to ask your fellow cliff-jumpers to count you down to build up the adrenaline.
There are plenty of other things to do around Waimea Bay, and you could easily spend an entire day exploring this one area.
Across the road from Waimea Bay Beach is the entrance to Waimea Valley, which offers some fantastic hiking, and swimming holes at Waimea Falls. A little further north along the Kamehameha Highway is Shark’s Bay, a well-known snorkeling and cave diving spot.
Further along, again, you’ll find Ehukai Pillbox hiking spot and Turtle Bay, where you can swim with the gentle giants of the sea. Don’t forget to stop off for a bite to eat at the famous North Shore Shrimp Truck at Pupukea.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay along North Shore, there are some great Airbnbs available along Kamehameha Highway near Waimea Bay or Hale’iwa township.
23. Hiking in ‘Akaka Falls on Big Island
by Jyoti @ Story At Every Corner
Akaka falls state park offers beautiful hikes on Hawaii’s big island. It is filled with lush green tropical vegetation. The tropical flowers are absolutely gorgeous. Some flowers are incredibly huge and others tiny.
The highlight of the park is the very tall ‘Akaka waterfall.
It is nestled among the lush greenery of the hills and falls directly into the lake at it base. It’s a sight worth visiting.
If you have a little more time, there is a trail that takes you down to the base of the waterfall, if not, the top is pretty amazing too.
The hike is on boardwalks, which are well-maintained by the park rangers. With the hilly terrain, the boardwalk has many steps that can be wet because of frequent rains.
Logistics for visiting ‘Akaka falls:
- The park is located on ‘Akaka Falls Road (Highway 220), 3.6 miles southwest of Honomu.
- To get there, use your favorite Maps app. The route is quite easy to follow.
- There is a small fee of about $5 per car to park, payable at a booth in the parking lot. It’s free for Hawai’i residents.
- The trailhead is right at the parking lot.
The trail is closed during COVID-19 shelter-in-place.
This is an easy hike and is highly recommended for nature lovers.
24. Visit Haleakala National Park at sunrise – Maui
by Katie @ Katie B Traveling
While on Maui, watching the sunrise at Haleakala National Park is a must. You can be one of the first people to watch the sunrise in the last US time zone, above the clouds at 10,023.
From sea level to the highest peak on Maui, standing on the world’s largest dormant volcano. You will need to book a $1 permit per car to enter the national park which will let you in as early as 3 am.
This is how they ensure there is enough parking at sunrise with such a high demand. You may book your permit through recreation.gov up to 60 days in advance.
As you enter the park at dark, don’t forget to look up.
As you ascend above the clouds, you will have a light and air pollution-free insane view of the stars.
As the sky starts to turn to blue hour get your spot for sunrise. From there watch as the sky turns from navy to royal and as the light fluffy clouds turn to fire.
It truly is a beautiful scene you can’t find anywhere else.
Cost: $1 Permit in advance, $30 entrance fee on the day of
25. Stairway to heaven hike – Oahu
by Jackson Groves @ Journey Era
The Stairway to Heaven hike also known as the Haiku Stairs is found in the center of the island called Oahu in Hawaii. It is one of the most adventurous hikes and epic experiences in all of Hawaii, which says a lot.
Hidden in the center of the island among dense vegetation, you will climb 3,922 stairs, which lead you up the imposing mountain ridge.
At times throughout the hike, there is often a vertical incline, with only a hand-rail to catch you while you climb the ladder.
There are many sections that truly do seem like an exposed ladder although with common sense and in fair weather conditions it isn’t as dangerous as it sounds.
However, many rescues have taken place on this hike to save stranded climbers.
The total hike takes around 3-hours for the return trip but you can expect to spend an hour or so at the summit taking in the incredible views of the ridges and vast coastline from the top viewpoint.
The stairs were originally constructed in 1942 by the U.S. Navy as a top-secret facility for transmitting radio signals to ships that were sailing throughout the Pacific Ocean.
The stairs were then opened to the public for hiking until 1987 when they were unfortunately deemed unsafe because of disrepair.
This is probably the most famous of all the hikes on Oahu and has been covered by most newspaper outlets.
Things to Do in Hawaii: Frequently Asked Questions
What activities can be done in Hawaii?
There are so many things to do in Hawaii both for outdoors fanatics and for those who love cultural activities, foodies, and more. From spectacular surfing, amazing snorkeling, and hiking to culinary delights, and cultural events, there is a lot to do in the Hawaii for all sorts of travelers.
How many days are needed in Hawaii?
It depends on what you would like to do. There are so many things that you would need a month on every island to see everything and enjoy it fully.
But since this is something difficult to achieve for budget or work reasons, I would budget 10 days to two weeks if possible, to make the most of it.
Is Hawaii very expensive?
Yes, it’s quite more expensive than the average cost of a vacation in the United States or anywhere else, really. But, as usual, it all depends on where you are coming from.
If budget is your concern, I would plan ahead and check out hotel and flight rates before booking anything.
Before you go:
I hope this post has been helpful. We have been writing a lot about Hawaii, since it’s one of the Editor’s favorite destinations and the home of our writer, Val. Here below I am going to leave you some of our recent posts that may be of your interest.
About the Author
Hello there! This is Isabella, this blog’s author, and a cat lover. I am an Italian expatriate with a Mexican Residence. After 7 years of living in Cancun, I have decided to leave my job and explore my beloved Mexico and the rest of this beautiful world, starting from South America, while sharing my travel stories and offering useful travel tips about traveling as a solo female traveler and digital nomad.