Cue the pedal-steel guitar, drape yourself in a flower print shirt, and make your way to the tropical paradise of Hawaii. Sound touristy? You betcha. But with breathtaking scenery around every corner, it’s totally worth it. From some of the world’s most famous waves to volcanoes covered in lush forests, the islands of the 50th state are full of fantastic places to see and things to do. So say aloha to the daily grind and say aloha to the most incredible vacation of your life.
1. Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The Big Island of Hawaii is overflowing with beautiful nature, and much of that is the result of overflowing volcanoes. The park is brimming with volcanic activity and is home to Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Most visitors require at least a day to completely absorb the breadth of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hike or zip-line through the park’s mountains, forests, and waterfalls. If you stick around the island after nightfall, you’ll experience some of the best stargazing in the world. Talk about a perfect way to end the day.
2. Go whale watching in Maui
While Hawaii’s full of incredible wildlife, nature, and culture to soak up, there’s only one way to guarantee you have a whale of a time. Head to Maui for some of the best whale watching in the world. Nothing beats seeing these enormous creatures hoist themselves out of the ocean to wave hello to you. Between mid-December and mid-May, travelers are essentially guaranteed to see whales. If you happen to catch a glimpse of bad luck instead, most tour companies will let you hop on another whale watching tour for free.
3. Circle the island on a tour of Oahu
Tours come in all shapes, but if you’re headed to Hawaii you’ll want to make the rounds on a circle island tour of Oahu. These tours are the best way to make the most of your time in Hawaii. Take in the island’s most famous sights all at once, like Sunset Beach, Waimea Waterfall, and the iconic North Shore. Sure, you could spend your entire vacation on the many pristine beaches (and we wouldn’t blame you). To venture beyond the island life, however, hop on a tour to hit secret spots most people won’t get a chance to visit.
4. Discover the history of Pearl Harbor
As one of the most prominent sites of World War II, Pearl Harbor is one of Hawaii’s most visited destinations. Explore the memorial of the sunken battleship USS Arizona and learn what launched the United States into the war. The artifacts and memorabilia you’ll see from the infamous attack help bring the history to life. With visitors from around the world, we highly recommend skipping the line on a small group tour. You’ll make the most of your time at the monuments and get a chance to truly dig into the history of the base.
5. Dive in at Molokini
One of the world’s most famous snorkeling and diving destinations, Molokini Crater is home to an amazing array of underwater wildlife and habitats. The crater’s crystal clear waters make it easy to see the smallest details under the sea. Spend time swimming around the coral reefs or make friends with some sea turtles passing by at Turtle Town (but don’t touch them, of course). And always keep your eyes peeled for the occasional octopus, eel, or school of colorful fish.
The road to Hana? More like the road to heaven. Maui’s magnificent coastline is the perfect backdrop for a day of adventure. From rainforests and jungles to desert-like landscapes, the island’s diverse nature will keep you in awe. At just under 65 miles (105 kilometers), traveling the highway is manageable in a day, especially with a tour guide to show you the best sights. You’ll find famous spots like Ho’okipa Lookout, Huelo Lookout, Honomanu Black Sand Beach, and much more along the winding roads.
8. Soak up Haleakala’s sunrise
If you’ve ever wanted to sit above the clouds while watching the sun rise, then a trip to Haleakala National Park is a must. Renowned for its stunning beauty, you’ll get to look over the park from its 10,023 foot (3,055 meter) high summit. While you may have to wake up early to catch the sunrise, the trip back down is a breeze if you take the park’s zip-line course. Can you think of a better way to start the day? Neither can we.
9. Feast at a traditional Luau
Sure, you might think you know what goes on at a luau, but these classic Hawaiian celebrations will have you saying “Lu-WOW!” From the hula dancers to the iconic kalua pig, guests at these celebrations are guaranteed to walk away smiling (if you can manage to walk at all after the delicious meal). But many luau celebrations do more than entertain, some will tell the story of Hawaii through a culinary journey through time. So throw on a lei, kick back, relax, and let the culture soak deep into your belly.
Plan your trip to Hawaii