The Best Things to do in Hawaii

The 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands are like no other place on earth, boasting unforgettable experiences and incredible natural scenery around every corner. With their spectacular beaches, lush valleys, and active volcanoes, it would take a lifetime to explore everything Hawaii has to offer! 

Outdoor experiences in Hawaii are endless, as you can include epic coastal hikes, world-renowned surf spots, whale watching excursions, and helicopter tours all in one itinerary. If you’re the adventurous type, you can also add swimming with manta rays, paddling down a river, and cage diving with sharks to your list. 

There is a range of unique experiences to choose from, with seeing the sunrise at Haleakala National Park and visiting Pearl Harbor topping most travelers’ lists. Many consider a visit to an active volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and signing up for a surfing lesson on Waikiki Beach to be essential, while off-the-beaten-path adventures can lead to remote island beaches and undiscovered snorkeling spots.  

With so many exciting things to see and do in the Aloha State, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Hawaii. Our Hawaii bucket list includes some of our favorite activities, from adventure tours and sun-kissed beaches to the best hiking trails and wildlife-viewing spots. Choose your adventure in this tropical paradise and let the memories begin!

25 Cool and Unique Things to do in Hawaii

1. Follow Crater Rim Drive in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Cool Things to do in Hawaii: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

At the top of most traveler’s Hawaii bucket list, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park boasts a wide array of incredible landscapes. Most notably, it’s home to two volcanoes, including Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on the planet! 

One of the most popular activities at this national park is the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive. Skirting the edge of the Kilauea Caldera, this drive starts at the Kilauea Visitor Center and features a series of scenic stops, including the Kilauea Overlook and its dramatic views of the caldera. 

Stop at Wahinekapu to see the water vapor rising from steam vents, then marvel at the volcanic crater from the Kilauea Iki Overlook. The Pu’upua’i Overlook features a perch overlooking the massive cinder cone created by lava fountains. Keanakako’i Crater is another site of dramatic geological events.

Encompassing over 300,000 acres, this area also features 150 miles of hiking trails. Along the way, you can expect to see volcanic craters, scalded deserts and rainforests, and ancient petroglyphs.

For an easy hike, follow the Crater Rim Trail along the edge of the Kilauea summit caldera. You can also plan a day hike along the moderate Pu’uloa Trail, where you’ll hike across a lava field to the largest group of petroglyphs in Hawaii. 

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2. See a Famous Black Sand Beach & Green Sea Turtles

Hawaii Bucket List: Black Sand Beach and Green Sea Turtles

While Hawaii is full of beautiful beaches, Punaluu Black Sand Beach is one of the coolest. Not only is it the most famous black sand beach on the islands, but it’s also home to endangered hawksbill turtles and green turtles. 

You can often see these adorable creatures basking in the sun along the beach and swimming in the waters. It’s also a great destination for outdoor recreation, with opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, hiking, and camping. 

Of course, what makes this one of the coolest things to do in Hawaii is the black sand, which is actually made of small pitch-black fragments of lava. In addition to a shimmering shoreline, it also boasts a freshwater tide pool that’s perfect for wading or cooling down when the ocean currents are strong. 

Dotted with swaying rows of coconut palms, this Big Island beach has picnic areas as well as restroom facilities and an outdoor shower in the beach area. You’ll find this beach set on the southeastern Kau coast between the towns of Pahala and Naalehu. 

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3. Go Night Snorkeling with Manta Rays on the Big Island

Hawaii Things to do: Snorkeling with Manta Rays on the Big Island

Most likely a bucket list activity you’ve never dreamed of, embarking on a snorkeling trip at night is for the truly adventurous. It’s one of the most unique things to do in Hawaii for nature lovers. You’ll even have a chance to get up close to giant manta rays on the Big Island!

Giant manta rays are a special part of Hawaii and become visible at night during a night dive or snorkel tour. On your guided journey, you’ll be given a torchlight that shines deep into the ocean so you’ll have the chance to illuminate plankton and attract the mantas to feed. 

These gentle giants put on a spectacular show, allowing snorkelers to watch as they frolic in the waters below. With no teeth, stingers, or barbs, you can simply sit and watch the surreal views of the 15-foot-wide creatures going on a feeding frenzy.

If you’re ready to sign up for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, Jack’s Diving Locker and Fair Wind are two popular tour companies in the town of Kailua-Kona. Both tours include snorkeling equipment and professional guides that will assist you in the water. 

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4. Hike Through a Lava Tube on the Big Island

Best Things to do in Hawaii: Lava Tube on the Big Island

Hawaii is known for its epic hikes and exploring its lava tubes is one of the most interesting ways to learn about its unique geological features. Located along Crater Rim Drive, Thurston Lava Tube is the most easily accessible lava tube. 

It’s a top attraction in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, featuring a large 500-year-old cave that was left behind after a lava flow. To reach this lava tube, you’ll have to take a short hike through the lush rainforest. Once inside, you’ll discover ceilings that reach up to 20 feet high and lighting that illuminates its length of 600 feet. 

It’s a must-do attraction in Hawaii but also a great introduction to the geology of lava tubes. While you’re exploring, take a peek at the solidified drips and waves of once-liquid lava. They form beautiful landscapes, with unique shapes and colors of minerals draining from the rocks. 

If you want to explore more lava tubes in Hawaii, you’re spoiled for choice! Kaumana Caves Park, Kazumura Cave, the Kula Kai Caverns, and the Huehue lava tube are also popular destinations. 

5. Explore the Spectacular Waipio Valley 

Fun Things to do in Hawaii: Waipio Valley

​​Waipio Valley is one of the most beautiful destinations in Hawaii. The valley is not only home to dramatic 2,500-foot cliffs but it also boasts the 1,300-foot-tall Hiilawe Falls. Split by the Waipi’o River, this Big Island site offers dramatic views of the valleys along Kohala Mountain. 

Often referred to as the “Valley of the Kings” due to its royal heritage and importance as an early capital, it’s home to a steep road that rises 800 feet in just 0.6 miles. Hiking or driving this region is possible, with the Waipio Valley Lookout being a popular viewpoint. 

From here, you can take in stunning views over the valley and marvel at the high sea cliffs that stretch out into the ocean. If you want to venture further down to the valley floor, you’ll need a 4WD car to traverse the narrow road. 

Once there, you’ll reach a beautiful black sand beach and the beginning of the Muliwai Trail. It’s also where you can capture views of the cascading Kaluahine Falls, which is best seen during the rainy months. Hiking down to the beach is an option but is only advised for experienced hikers. 

6. Visit Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden

Unique Things to do in Hawaii: Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden
Images courtesy of Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden, photographed by Andrew Hara

Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden is a must-see attraction when visiting Hawaii’s Big Island, as this nature lover’s paradise is filled with tropical flowers and natural treasures around every corner. Inside the lush 20-acre valley, you’ll find over 2,000 species of tropical plants to admire. 

It’s also a living classroom and natural greenhouse, featuring beautiful, easy-to-navigate nature trails that meander through a true tropical rainforest. On a leisurely hike through this garden, you’ll cross bubbling streams, pass several beautiful waterfalls, and come across stunning ocean vistas along the Pacific Coast. 

You’ll have plenty of places to admire your surroundings in this unique habitat. On your self-guided adventure, stop to see the garden’s biggest highlights, including the Twin Rocks Vista, Monkeypod Trees, Orchid Garden, Palm Jungle, and Founders Birdhouse. 

Stop and savor the views at one of the picnic areas and take out your camera to snap a photo of the picturesque Onomea Falls. The round-trip hike is about one mile in length and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. 

To reach this family-friendly attraction, you can take the Scenic Route (Old Mamalahoa Rd). It’s only about seven miles north of Hilo and a short drive from Kona. 

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7. Hike the Beautiful Na Pali Coast

What to do in Hawaii: Na Pali Coast

Catering to outdoor enthusiasts, the beautiful Na Pali Coast is one of the best hiking areas of Kauai. Beloved for its captivating coastal views, the Kalalau Trail is the most popular walking route in this area. You’ll find it nestled within the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park

Stretching for 11 miles, the trail is broken into four different sections where you’ll have ample opportunities to soak up gorgeous ocean views. You can tailor your hike around the level of challenge you’re looking for and how long you want to spend. 

Leading from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach, the hike will lead you along the Na Pali Coast and is the only land access to this part of the island’s coast. Along the way, you’ll traverse five valleys before dropping to sea level at Kalalau Beach, one of the best beaches in Hawaii!

While you’re sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, expect to see natural landscapes of lush greenery and cascading waterfalls. Only about a mile into the hike, you’ll reach the stunning Pali Lookout, which is one of the highest points of the trail. 

Be aware that the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail – from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach – is open for day use without a permit. However, advanced reservations are required to enter Ha’ena State Park (with a 900 visitor per day limit). 

8. Drive Waimea Canyon on Kauai

Cool Things to do in Hawaii: Waimea Canyon on Kauai

Considered Kauai’s crown jewel, Waimea Canyon is often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Featuring 3,000-foot cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and deep valley gorges, this geological wonder is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Hawaii!

Volcanic activity millions of years ago helped form the canyon, with erosion and rainfall continuing to chisel it away. It stretches 14 miles long and one mile wide and features stunning views of the region’s crested buttes. Driving along its main road, Waimea Canyon Drive is a popular activity and leads to the Waimea Canyon Overlook, where you can marvel at the deep, colorful gorge.

From the Cliff Trail, you can even sit atop Waipo’o Falls for incredible panoramic vistas. Before you reach the Pu’u O Kila Lookout, which features a 4,000-foot elevation capstone, consider stopping at the Koke’e Natural History Museum to learn more about the region through interpretive exhibits.

You can follow the mountainous road to the end at Kokee State Park, where you’ll also find scenic hiking trails. Covered in forest landscapes, the 45 miles of trails here are dotted with native plants and offer beautiful views of Waimea Canyon. Look up, as you’ll often see colorful native birds fluttering above!

9. Snorkel with Sea Turtles at Tunnels in Kauai

Hawaii Bucket List: Tunnels in Kauai

Snorkel lovers visiting Kauai should add Tunnels Beach, also known as Makua Beach, to their Hawaii bucket list. It’s one of the best snorkeling spots on the island for a reason, as you’ll discover not only a medley of colorful fish but also green turtles!

This beach features shallow swimmable areas, making it an ideal place to don a snorkel and mask and discover Hawaii’s underwater treasures. The reef that sits beyond the wide, long beach is protected by a small crescent-shaped bay.

In the waters, you can see big coral formations as well as sea turtles and colorful fish swimming by, including reef triggerfish, parrotfish, and arc-eye hawkfish. Keep your eyes peeled, as you might get lucky and spot a Hawaiian monk seal resting on the beach!

Makua Beach is about one mile before the end of the road in Haena State Park, along the northern coast of Kauai. Other top snorkeling spots in Kauai to spot sea turtles include Anini, Turtle Cove and Ke’e Beach on the North Shore and Kuhio Shores, Kipu Kai Beach, and Koloa Landing on the South Shore.

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10. Paddle Along the Wailua River

Hawaii Things to do: Wailua River

A paddling paradise, the Wailua River is Kauai’s largest navigable river. Located about 15 minutes north of Lihue on Kauai’s east side, this 20-mile-long river winds past beautiful waterfalls and emerald-green landscapes.

It offers an adventure of a lifetime for nature lovers and a chance to see two popular and accessible waterfalls: Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls. Opaekaa Falls towers at 151 feet tall and 40 feet wide, while Wailua Falls is at the south end of the river and cascades into two streams, plunging 80 feet. 

Flowing from the over 5,000-foot Mount Waialeale in the center of the island, this scenic river is a popular place for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and canoeing. If you want to explore Fern Grotto, one of Kauai’s signature attractions and natural lava rock surrounded by tropical foliage, you can sign up for one of the open-air riverboat tours. 

Unlike most of its Mainland counterparts, the Wailua River doesn’t have any rapids, which means it’s usually calm and gentle for a relaxing adventure. If you prefer to tour the natural wonder with an expert, Kayak Wailua, Ali’i Kayaks, and Wailua Kayak Adventures all offer guided kayaking adventures. 

11. Go Mountain Tubing & Discover Kauai’s Natural Beauty

Best Things to do in Hawaii: Discover Kauai’s Natural Beauty
Images courtesy of Kauai Backcountry Adventures, photographed by Jaxon Communications

While you may have never heard of it, mountain tubing is one of the coolest things to do in Hawaii. Offering a one-of-a-kind experience for adventure-seekers, an excursion with Kauai Backcountry Adventures includes tubing down the flowing waters and past some of Kauai’s most beautiful landscapes. 

Ideal for visitors aged five and older, this three-hour tour starts with a four-wheel-drive excursion through the former Lihue Plantation lands. Once you reach the island’s pristine interior, you’ll hop in the emerald green waters and start your tubing adventure.

It’s actually the only tubing activity of this kind on Kauai and Kauai Backcountry Adventures is the only eco-tour company with access to these lands. The highlight of the tour is the views, where you’ll discover spectacular vistas of the ocean, coastline, mountains, and valleys. 

You and the group will float down the open canals through amazing tunnels and flumes hand-dug by plantation workers more than a century ago. While you’re floating, you can explore their interiors with your complimentary headlamp. In the end, you’ll be treated to a picnic lunch and have a chance to take a dip in a natural swimming hole. 

If you’re up for more adventure, Kauai Backcountry Adventures also offers zip-lining excursions. On this activity, you’ll soar down the tropical valley via seven exhilarating zip-lines before reaching a mountain swimming hole. 

12. Swim in the Seven Sacred Pools & Hike the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls

Fun Things to do in Hawaii: Swim in the Seven Sacred Pools and Hike the Pipiwai Trail

Without a doubt, the quiet and peaceful town of Hana should be on your Hawaii itinerary for many reasons. Located on the eastern shore of Maui, it’s considered to be one of the last unspoiled Hawaiian frontiers. 

To get here, you’ll have to navigate the hairpin turns on the legendary Road to Hana. It’s worth the white-knuckle drive though, as you’ll have the chance to admire incredible island views of rainforests, waterfalls, and dramatic seascapes along the way. Many travelers choose to road trip this route on a tour or with a professional guide.

Once there, you’ll have to venture 10 miles south to reach Haleakala National Park in Kipahulu. It’s here you’ll find the park’s most popular adventure, a hike along the Pipiwai Trail. The hike will lead you to the picture-perfect 400-foot-tall Waimoku Falls. 

Another famous natural wonder in this national park is the Pools of Oheo in Ohio Gulch. With its beautifully tiered pools fed by waterfalls and stunning natural setting, it’s a perfect spot to take a dip in Hawaii’s inviting waters.

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13. Take a Helicopter Tour Over Maui

Must do things in Hawaii: Helicopter Tour Over Maui

For a bird’s-eye view of Hawaii’s most incredible scenery, sign up for a thrilling helicopter tour over Maui. It’s the most scenic way to see the entire island, where you’ll soar above Hawaii’s mountains, waterfalls, and remote wonders that can only be seen by air. 

Offering a glimpse of the impressive Haleakala Crater from above, it’s the perfect combination of sightseeing and adventure. You’ll also get a chance to see Maui’s lush green rainforests, colorful beaches, and unique topography that includes 88 miles of undeveloped coastline. 

Most tours can tailor your experience based on what sights you prefer to see, from the world’s largest dormant volcano to the beautiful Hana Rainforest to the longest fringing coral reefs in the United States. 

Pacific Helicopter offers private tours, while Air Maui has cliffside landings and Blue Hawaiian offers a range of specific site tours. Maui Helicopter Tours is another popular helicopter tour that takes you to top attractions such as the Wall of Tears, Jurassic Rock, and the Haleakala Crater. 

Book a Helicopter Tour of Maui

14. See Majestic Humpback Whales on Maui

Unique Things to do in Hawaii: Humpback Whales on Maui
Image courtesy of Pacific Whale Foundation

Available from December through May, whale watching is a top thing to do in Hawaii for animal lovers. While there are multiple places to witness the incredible sight of these gentle giants in Hawaii, the waters surrounding Maui set the stage for some of the best whale watching in the world. 

It’s here that thousands of “kohola” (humpback whales) travel from colder waters in order to breed, calve, and nurse their young. These gigantic sea creatures are lured in by the shallow waters, particularly the Luau Channel between Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. 

Maui offers an ideal base for your whale watching adventure, with PacWhale Eco-Adventures (a for-profit subsidiary wholly owned by Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) that helps fund PWF’s vital Research, Education and Conservation programs to protect the ocean through science and advocacy and inspire environmental stewardship),and Redline Rafting offering some of the most popular tours. You’ll also find local tour companies that combine a day of whale watching with kayaking or snorkeling.

Fun Things to do in Hawaii: Humpback Whales on Maui
Image courtesy of Redline Rafting

On these tours, you can enjoy gorgeous ocean views while expert guides take you to the best spots for seeing the whales in action. Watch as they playfully surface above the water, slap their tails, or blow their spouts in the air!

If you’re on a budget, it’s still possible to enjoy whale watching without a tour in Maui. There are plenty of places on the island where whales can be seen from the shoreline during the whale season, including McGregor Point lookout and the beaches of Kaanapali, Kihei, and Wailea. 

Book a Catamaran Whale Cruise

15. Snorkel the Fish-Filled Waters of Molokini Crater

Best Things to do in Hawaii: Molokini Crater

Snorkeling in Molokini Crater is a highlight of any trip to Hawaii, as it’s known as one of the best snorkeling destinations in the US. This crescent-shaped spit of land rises some 160 feet off the west coast of Maui. It features a partially submerged crater caused by a volcanic eruption over 230,000 years ago. 

Located off the coast of Makena, the protected marine sanctuary offers crystal clear visibility for snorkeling enthusiasts. With no sandbars, you’re able to enjoy world-class snorkeling here with a chance to see over 250 species of tropical fish swimming in the waters below. 

The only way to reach this island is via boat, as it’s located three miles off of Maui’s southwestern coast. Most tours will also stop at nearby Turtle Town, a popular coral reef where you can often spot turtles. Some of the most popular tours include the Pride of Maui, Maui Magic, and Maui Snorkel

Many tours are available from nearby Male Harbor and Lahaina. For the best visibility, plan your excursion in the early morning. If you visit in the wintertime, you might have the bonus of seeing whales on your trip!

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16. Watch a Sunrise in Haleakala National Park

Fun Things to do in Hawaii: Haleakala National Park

Translating in Hawaiian as the “House of the Sun,” Haleakala National Park towers over the island of Maui. At over 10,000 feet above sea level, it’s home to one of the world’s best sunrises (and sunsets) and offers a chance to savor Hawaii’s most spectacular scenery. 

A popular activity at this park includes an early-morning rise, with a drive to the Haleakala Visitor Center. From here, you can experience an otherworldly sunrise featuring a beautiful landscape of vibrant colors and changing lights across the vast sea of clouds. 

However, be sure to plan your sunrise excursion ahead of time, as the National Park Service requires a reservation for vehicles to view the sunrise. The reservation is for parking at the summit and doesn’t include the entry fee to the National Park. 

Catching the sunrise at this park is only one of the popular activities to enjoy here, as it’s also home to numerous hiking trails and scenic vistas. Some of the most popular include the Hosmer Grove Trail, Halemau’u Trail, Sliding Sands Trail, and the Kuloa Point Trail. 

17. Bask in the Sunshine at Makena Beach

Hawaii Things to do: Makena Beach

If you’re looking for some fun in the sun, add Makena Beach to your Hawaii bucket list. While Maui boasts over 30 miles of beautiful beaches to explore, this picture-perfect white sand beach is one of the most popular on the island. 

Known as “The Big Beach,” it’s a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. Its white sandy shoreline stretches nearly two-thirds of a mile, making it one of the largest undeveloped beaches in Maui. 

Pack your beach towel, umbrella, and sunscreen and enjoy a relaxing day on Makena Beach, where you’ll be protected from the trade winds nestled between two black-lava outcroppings. Kick back and savor the stunning views of the nearby islands of Molokini and Kahoolawe.

There are two sections of this beach, Big Beach and Little Beach. Big Beach is set south of Wailea and offers a secluded setting when you want to escape the crowds in Kaanapali and Lahaina. Big Beach has amenities like picnic tables, food concessions, and lifeguards, while the quiet cove of Little Beach is a short walk away and has no amenities. 

18. Take a Ferry From Maui to Lanai

Best Things to do in Hawaii: Ferry From Maui to Lanai

If you’re looking for a fun day trip from Maui, a ferry ride to Lanai offers an exciting excursion. Along the way, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the island’s southern coastline. 

With the first ferry departing early from Lahaina on Maui, you can have as much time as you want to explore this beautiful Hawaiian island. Arriving at Manele Harbor, you can walk from here to Hulope’e Beach to spend an afternoon snorkeling and sunbathing. 

If you want to explore the rest of the island, it’s best to rent a 4WD vehicle. With more than 89,000 acres of countryside and 400 miles of 4WD trails without stoplights, this island has been dubbed “Hawaii’s Most Enticing Island.”

You can go off the grid and explore the 18 miles of secluded shoreline beaches. You can also see if you can spot dolphins splashing in the waters at Hulopoe Bay or marvel at the unique landscapes of Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods). 

Puupehe is a popular natural attraction on Lanai, rising majestically 80 feet out of the water 150 feet off the coastline between Manele and Hulopoe Bays. While golfers flock to Manele Golf Course, history buffs might want to add the surviving ruins of a prehistoric Hawaiian Village at Kaunolu Fishing Village to their list. 

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19. Learn to Surf at Waikiki Beach

Fun Things to do in Hawaii: Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is one of the world’s top beach destinations. It’s blessed with a picturesque shoreline backed by shopping, dining, entertainment, and luxury resorts. Located on the south shore of Honolulu, this world-class neighborhood was once a hotspot for Hawaiian royalty and has now become known as a surfer’s paradise. 

Along with an excellent collection of oceanfront resorts, the calm waters of this beautiful two-mile stretch of beach is the perfect place to try a surfing lesson. Hans Hedemann Surf School Waikiki, Kahu Surf School, Big Wave Dave at Surf & Coffee, and Sparky’s Surf School are just some of the top-rated surfing schools you’ll find in Waikiki. 

Once you’ve learned the basics of how to hang loose, you can try your hand at surfing at popular beginner spots in Waikiki, such as Queens at Kuhio Beach Park or the Waikiki Wall. Longboarders can head to Queen’s Surf for big waves, while Publics allows you to escape the crowds. 

If you’re not interested in surfing, Waikiki’s beaches are also ideal for swimming, snorkeling, boogie boarding, and canoeing. Some of the most popular beach spots are at Fort De Russy Beach Park, Gray’s Beach, and Royal Hawaiian Beach. Kids will love the calm waters at Kuhio Beach Park. 

20. Sample the Best of Hawaiian Cuisine

Must do things in Hawaii: Best of Hawaiian Cuisine

Hawaii is a foodie’s paradise. It’s home to fresh fruits and vegetables, abundant cattle farms, and Pacific Ocean waters filled with sashimi-grade fish. Visiting here without trying its local specialties would be a shame, as traditional Hawaiian cuisine is an enticing combination of ancient customs and global influences. 

Take your taste buds on a journey with local dishes such as poke, which is fresh tuna marinated with soy sauce and sesame oil and mixed with onion. Poke is perfect for a beachside picnic. Da Poke Shack on the Big Island, the Tamashiro fish market in Honolulu, and Eskimo Candy on Maui are solid spots. 

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, dig into a few sugary malasadas. These no-hole doughnuts are light and chewy and best served at Punalu’u Bake Shop and Tex Drive-In on the Big Island. For dessert, you also can’t go wrong with shave ice. Head to Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice on Maui and try local toppings like fresh mochi.

If you attend a luau, make sure to feast on kalua pork cooked in an imu, which is an underground oven. Some other culinary treasures in Hawaii you should add to your list include manapua, fish tacos, saimin, huli huli chicken, and loco loco. 

21. Challenge Yourself with a Hike to Diamond Head

Cool Things to do in Hawaii: Diamond Head

Hikers who love a challenge will enjoy tackling Diamond Head on Oahu. Considered one of the most rewarding hikes in Hawaii, this volcanic crater offers spectacular 360-degree coastal views at its summit. 

The 760-foot summit only takes about an hour to reach the top of. But there are some steep sections that include 175 stairs and a lighted 225-foot tunnel. The hike itself is about 1.5 miles round trip and is worth the effort to enjoy its postcard-worthy views of Honolulu, Waikiki, and the southern coast of Oahu. 

The volcanic cone was created more than 300,000 years ago when the southern section of the Koolau Range erupted and has been used as a vantage point ever since. The path starts out easy with paved walkways but then offers challenges in the form of switchbacks and stairs with a 560-foot elevation gain. 

You can take as long as you want along the trail, as it provides plenty of sturdy railings to help you along. In addition, you’ll also discover a collection of beautiful lookout points where you can stop and take a breath. 

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22. Take a Tour of Pearl Harbor

Fun Things to do in Hawaii: Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor is one of the most historically significant sites in Hawaii and a must-visit for any history enthusiast. Located in Central Oahu, there are five historic sites honoring the events occurring at this National Historic Landmark. 

The events of December 7, 1941, are known as the “date which will live in infamy” and are considered to have changed the course of history. At Pearl Harbor, you can hear first-hand stories from survivors of the surprise air attack and learn about what it was like during the chaotic day on Battleship Row. 

Some of the highlights include walking through a historic airplane hangar, as well as the chance to peer into the harbor where the famed USS Arizona rests. The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is a free attraction at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, offering access to Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

Learn more about World War II history as you tour the world-class museums and see the plaques honoring the lives lost. It’s a poignant and powerful landmark in Hawaii, with exhibits that highlight the events leading up to the attack on Oahu and its aftermath. 

23. Attend a Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Hawaii Things to do: Polynesian Cultural Center

An excellent way to immerse yourself in the rich heritage of the Pacific Islands, the Polynesian Cultural Center offers authentic Polynesian luaus and hands-on activities. It’s one of the top-rated family attractions in Hawaii, featuring six Pacific Island villages as well as exhibits and an award-winning show. 

Its island villages represent the unique cultures of Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. Spread out across 42 acres along Oahu’s North Shore, its nightly dinners provide the ultimate luau experience. 

There are multiple dining options, including the Ali’i Luau Buffet featuring songs, dances, and celebrations from across the Pacific. Come hungry to the Gateway Buffet, as this dinner option is “all you can eat.” The Polynesian Cultural Center offers an array of packages that include a luau dinner as well as other perks such as a canoe ride through the lagoon. 

The nightly Ha Breath of Life Show is considered a must-see, featuring Polynesian dance, music, and blazing fire knives with over 100 Polynesian natives and special effects. There’s also a marketplace where you can pick up various Hawaiian and island-themed souvenirs such as handiworks, clothing, and jewelry. 

24. Dive with Sharks on the North Shore

What to do in Hawaii: Sharks on the North Shore
Images courtesy of North Shore Shark Adventures

Adrenaline junkies won’t want to miss a chance to swim with sharks in Hawaii. A bucket list activity for thrill-seekers, the North Shore Shark Adventures offers guided shark diving excursions with Hawaii’s most fierce creatures. 

Your adventure starts on the North Shore of Oahu, departing the Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor and venturing three miles out to sea. Along the way, you might spot some of Hawaii’s other local wildlife, including dolphins, Hawaiian green sea turtles, and humpback whales (from November to May). 

Enjoy the view of Oahu’s North Shore as you make your way to the cage diving site, where shark sightings are 100% guaranteed. Visibility is so good (about 150 feet or more) that you’ll see the sharks come up from the deep. 

Once the cage is partially submerged in the water, the real adventure begins. Galapagos and Sandbar sharks are often seen and can reach up to 12 feet in length. Tiger and hammerhead sharks are occasionally spotted.

Another thrill on Oahu’s North Shore area is its famed surf spots. Beginners can catch a wave at Malaekahana Beach or Pua’ena Point, while experts looking for big waves can visit Sunset Beach, the Pipeline, or Waimea. 

Book a Shark Diving Adventure

25. Go on a 4×4 Tour in Kualoa Ranch in Oahu

Cool Things to do in Hawaii: Kualoa Ranch in Oahu

A 4,000-acre Private Nature Reserve and working cattle ranch on the island of Oahu, Kuala Ranch is where to go for pure adventure. In addition to adrenaline-fueled ATV tours, this nature retreat offers a chance to enjoy zip-lines, beaches, and tours of unique Hollywood film locations. 

Hop in an ATV and see Kualoa Ranch up close and personal. Here, you’ll drive through the beautiful Kaawa “Jurassic” Valley and the lush Hakipu’u rainforest. Rambling through the mud and crossing seasonal streams is part of the fun, and you’ll even get the chance to pass famous movie sites. 

Kuala Ranch has options for one and two-hour ATV tours, with a chance for adults 21 and over to drive the open-air vehicle through the landscapes themselves. Heading out rain or shine, these tours traverse the scenic valleys and remote areas rarely visited by others.  

Other tours here are just as exciting, with the Hollywood Movie Sites Tour taking you to where Jurassic World was shot, as well as the boneyard from Kong Skull Island, the Jumanji area, and Godzilla’s massive footprints. There are also tour options for zip-lining, mountain biking, horseback riding, and a Jungle Expedition Tour. 

There you have it! 25 of the best things to do in Hawaii. What’s your favorite thing to do in the Aloha State?

Planning a trip to Hawaii? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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