Things to do in Hawaii

Things to do in  Hawaii

Paradise in the Pacific

Technicolor tropical dreams look like Hawaii. It's no mystery why this Pacific archipelago is synonymous with paradise: its emerald waters, powder-white beaches, and soaring mountains appear like a picture postcard brought to life. But, filled to the brim with culture and opportunities for adventure, Hawaii is so much more than a pretty face. From immersing yourself in Native Hawaiian culture at a luau or cultural center to hiking through rainforests, surfing waves, and snorkeling around vibrant coral reefs, there is no shortage of things to do in Hawaii.

Top 15 attractions in Hawaii

Road to Hana (Hana Highway)

Tropical foliage, black sand beaches, rushing waterfalls and incredible views are the calling cards of the legendary, winding Road to Hana. The famous roadway along Maui’s North Shore (also called the Hana Highway) includes 600 hairpin turns and more than 50 bridges and is known as one of the most beautiful roads in the world.More

Na Pali Coast

With steep emerald cliffs, lush valleys, and remote cascading waterfalls, the Na Pali Coast is one of Hawaii’s most beautiful regions, and no visit to Kauai is complete without a visit to this magical coastline. There are only three ways to explore the Na Pali Coast—by air, by sea, and on foot—and each offers its own unique perspective.More

Molokini Crater

When was the last time you had a snorkel adventure inside of a sunken Hawaiian volcano, or enjoyed a freshly cooked BBQ lunch on the deck of a sailing catamaran? Thanks to its calm, crystal clear waters, bright coral reef, and 250-plus species of tropical fish, Molokini Crater is the most popular spot for snorkeling tours on Maui. Spend a day on a snorkeling tour as you explore the protected marine preserve and come face to face with some of Hawaii's most colorful marine life.More

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Made up of several historic sites and memorials, Pearl Harbor honors and educates the public about the Japanese attack on the United States on December 7, 1941 that propelled the country into World War II. It’s one of Hawaii’s most-visited attractions, and one of the country’s most significant WWII memorial sites.More

Mokolii Island

Located a short distance offshore of Kualoa Point, Mokolii Island is one of Oahu’s most famous landmarks. This small, cone-shaped island attracts adventurous visitors with its secluded coves, rugged hikes, and views of Oahu’s windward coast and the Koolau mountains; the same mountains featured in scenes of the movie Jurassic Park.More

Oahu North Shore

Surfing is king on Oahu’s North Shore, where summer’s placid snorkeling spots are transformed into pounding 40-foot (12-meter) waves come winter. On land you’ll find a peaceful respite from hectic Honolulu, with scenic waterfall hikes, sleepy farms selling tropical fruit, and food trucks doling out garlic shrimp.More

Mt. Waialeale

Be prepared for more colors of green than you’ve ever seen before in the area surrounding Kauai’s central Mt. Waialeale—it’s one of the wettest places on planet Earth, receiving more than 450 inches of rainfall each year. It’s dominating sheer green 5,066 cliff wall has also been called the Wall of Tears, for the many waterfalls that fill its crevices and stream down its face during frequent rains. And, if the setting looks familiar, that could be because it starred as the backdrop for opening scenes of the original 1992 Jurassic Park movie. To get to the base of Waialeale, and to the the Wailua River, you’ll have to take a 4x4 down the bumpy Wailua Forestry Management Road and then trek in. Alternatively, several helicopter tours take you much closer to its cliff face—and its waterfalls—than you could easily get to on a hike.More


For most, traveling to Hana is about the journey, not the destination. A quiet town nestled on the Maui’s eastern shores, Hana would not be on the tourist map if not for the Road to Hana—known as one of the world’s most scenic drives. That said, the town of Hana is a tranquil escape and an excellent base for exploring the region.More

Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory

Visiting the Mauna Kea Summit and Observatories gives you the feeling of being on top of the world for good reason: You’re actually pretty close. Standing at 13,796 feet (4,138 meters), the mountain is Hawaii's tallest and the highlight of many visitors' trips to the Big Island of Hawaii. The Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) feature some of the world's largest telescopes, including equipment from Canada, France, and the University of Hawaii, due to its designation as an unparalleled destination for stargazing.More

Halona Blowhole

Located near Hanauma Bay, Halona Blowhole is a natural wonder along the southeastern coast of Oahu. Formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago, waves forced through the underwater lava tubes cause water to shoot up to 30 feet (9 meters) in the air. The lookout also offers scenic views of nearby islands on a clear day.More

Diamond Head

Arguably Hawaii's most well-known sight, Diamond Head Crater is more than just a famous Waikiki backdrop but also an entire attraction unto itself, featuring one of Oahu's best hikes for a panoramic view. From atop the 760-foot (231-meter) summit, visitors can gaze out from Koko Head Crater to the Honolulu skyline and down on Waikiki Beach, where surfers, paddlers, sailboats, and canoes all splash through the tropical waters.More

Dole Plantation

The Dole Plantation in central Oahu started out as a fruit stand in 1950—today, it sits at the heart of Hawaiian culture and agriculture. Book a tour to eat your fill of sweet pineapple; lose yourself in the garden maze; ride the Pineapple Express train; and explore the pineapple fields. You’ll also get tips and tricks on how to find the best pineapples in the store. The plantation is often included on small-group and private island tours departing from Waikiki, which sometimes combine it with snorkeling or Diamond Head.More

Kona (Kailua-Kona)

Kailua-Kona, the largest town on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the epicenter of activities and tours on the Kona Coast—part of the island’s western (leeward) side. The antithesis to the lush, often rainy jungles of Hilo on the island’s eastern (windward) side, dry and sunny Kona’s activities put a huge emphasis on long days in the outdoors. Kailua-Kona is the jumping-off point for the Big Island’s best coffee-farm tours, superb reef snorkeling, all levels of hiking, and experiencing ancient Hawaiian culture, while downtown’s seaside shops and dining come with spectacular sunset views.More

Makapuu Lighthouse

Within Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline on Oahu’s Windward Coast, the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is a popular hike ending at the historical red-roofed Makapu’u Lighthouse, built in 1909. Though the lighthouse is not open to the public, the moderately challenging hike attracts travelers and locals alike for its stunning coastal views.More

Waikiki Beach

For decades, Waikiki Beach has been Oahu’s tourist mecca thanks to its palm-fringed white-sand beaches and high-rise luxury hotels that stretch from downtown Honolulu east toward the towering Diamond Head. Here all the spoils of Hawaiian beach life—from sunbathing and swimming to snorkeling and fruity-cocktail sipping—are within steps of world-class shopping and dining.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Hawaii

Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial
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Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial

Night Manta Ray Adventure on the Big Island, Hawaii
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Molokini and Turtle Town Snorkeling Adventure Aboard the Malolo
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Chief's Luau Admission

Chief's Luau Admission

Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial & Battleship Missouri
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All Inclusive Ultimate Circle Island Day Tour with Lunch and Waimea Waterfall
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Maui Snorkeling Molokini Crater and Turtle Town aboard Pride of Maui
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Star Casual Sunset and Show Cruise

Star Casual Sunset and Show Cruise

From Ma'alaea Harbor, Maui: Molokini Snorkeling Adventure Aboard Calypso
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From Ma'alaea Harbor, Maui: Molokini Snorkeling Adventure Aboard Calypso

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Manta Ray Night Snorkel

Manta Ray Night Snorkel

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Kauai ECO Adventure Helicopter Tour
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Entire Kauai Island Air Tour

Entire Kauai Island Air Tour

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All about Hawaii

When to visit

With year-round sunshine and balmy temperatures, Hawaii is always delightful. However, to avoid the biggest crowds (and highest hotel rates), skip the peak season (late December–early January). Late spring and early fall are excellent alternatives. Each island has a packed calendar of events and festivals, so perhaps visit to coincide with Oahu’s King Kamehameha Celebration in June, for example, or the Island of Hawaii’s Merrie Monarch Festival around Easter.

Getting around

Public transportation on Oahu is good, albeit slow, but you’ll want your own wheels for getting off the beaten track and for exploring around the other Hawaiian Islands. A standard vehicle is suitable for getting to the main Hawaiian sights, but you might consider renting a 4WD vehicle for going off-road on the Island of Hawaii and Lanai. To get between the islands, you’ll need to fly: Inter-island flights are quick and frequent.

Traveler tips

Hawaiian people are typically warm and welcoming to visitors, but decades of mass tourism to the islands has brought the occasional conflict. Before visiting, take time to learn about native Hawaiian history and culture. While there, heed local customs, such as respecting elders, removing shoes before entering a home, practicing Aloha ʻAina (love of the land) by treading lightly, and using Hawaiian words such as aloha (“hello” and “goodbye”) and mahalo (“thank you”).

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People Also Ask

What is Hawaii known for?

Hawaii is known for its surfing scene, lush landscapes, active volcanoes, and beautiful beaches. Its also known for its vibrant culture—many are familiar with its luaus, leis, hula dancers, and ukelele music.

What should I do on my first trip to Hawaii?

That depends on which island you are planning to visit. If, like most people, you will be on Oahu, you’ll want to hike up Diamond Head for views of Waikiki; go snorkeling in Molokini Crater; head for the North Shore to watch the surfers (or take a lesson); and eat your way around Honolulu’s Chinatown.

Which Hawaiian island has the most activities?

Travelers typically find that Oahu has the biggest variety of activities. On Oahu, you can enjoy the outdoors by hiking, snorkeling, surfing, or lounging on the beach; soak up culture and history at Iolani Palace, Pearl Harbor, and the Bishop Museum; and sample some great food in Chinatown and from the North Shore’s food trucks.

What is the most common thing to do in Hawaii?

It depends on which island you are visiting, but hanging out at the beach is popular across the archipelago. Otherwise, exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, visiting Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head on Oahu, and driving the Road to Hana on Maui are common activities.

How many days do you need to see Hawaii?

That depends on how many islands you want to visit. If you are staying on just one island, five full days is a good minimum length. If you want to see one or two more, add on at least five more days. Remember to take the long flight (and jet lag) into account when making plans.

How expensive is it to go to Hawaii?

Hawaii is expensive, no matter where you’re traveling from. The cost of airfare and accommodations alone are tough on the wallet, especially if you want to stay on the ocean. Since Hawaii is an archipelago in the middle of the Pacific, food is also very expensive. That said, you can soften the blow by visiting outside of peak seasons.

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