Hawaii is known in the world for its tropical climate and beauty. It is a Pacific paradise that is hard to miss for tourists. It occupies the tops of massive volcanic mountaintops, giving the island diverse and beautiful landscapes. These vary from the plain lunar surface of the Kilauea volcano to the lush green forests that are filled with exotic flowers. There are also lots of waterfalls and ancient rivers in Hawaii that many tourists can visit.
The state of Hawaii is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, which is home to lots of ocean life, which gives people endless opportunities when it comes to scuba diving, surfing, snorkeling, and swimming. The people in Hawaii are also very welcoming, making you feel like you are in paradise. With so many incredible locations to see in Hawaii, it is kind of challenging to choose the best ones to visit. If you are traveling to Hawaii soon and wondering about the best places to include in your itinerary, we’re here to help you. Read on as we’re giving you a list of the must-see places in Hawaii.
1. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay is formed within the crater of a volcano. It is located on the island of Oahu, and it is a unique protected bay popular for snorkelers. Here, you can visit the Hanauma Bay Education Center, where you can learn about the bay. There are also some snorkeling rental shops in the area that offer lessons, giving the visitors a chance to see the breathtaking reef system and some of its inhabitants up-close. This is a perfect place to visit if you are into snorkeling and exploring the underwater world.
2. Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanoes National Park is located on the Big Island of Hawaii. It offers tourists a uniquely close-up look at an active volcano system where lava trickles from fissures in the earth. The surrounding landscape is shaped by cooled lava rock that has flowed over the roads in a display of its unstoppable force.
The centerpiece of the park, which is Kilauea, has been recently active and has erupted in January 2021. That eruption formed a lava lake. However, visitors should know that some parts of the park are closed during periods of seismic activity that might be dangerous. There are also other things that you can do or see in this park, such as the steaming Halema’uma’u crater, the Devastation Trail, and the Thurston Lava Tube.
3. Waimea Canyon State Park
Waimea Canyon State Park can be found on the west side of the island of Kauai. This park is often called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It stretches more than ten miles long, 3600 feet deep, and a mile wide at some points. The landscape of the canyon shows rock strata in different colors and as well as some stunning waterfalls. There are guided tours available for challenging hiking trails and rafting tours if you want to explore the river below.
4. Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
Punalu’u is located on the Big Island. It is known for its black sand that is the result of lava reaching the ocean waters and cooling instantly. This is perfect if you want to see something new instead of the usual white sand beaches. When you visit this place, you can try spotting some turtles. It’s because sea turtles usually prefer nesting in warmer black sands.
5. Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head State Monument
Waikiki Beach is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Hawaii, featuring a beautiful stretch of oceanfront beach. It is prominent for its big resorts, shopping, entertainment, and dining. You can find here the Waikiki Historic Trail, which includes historical markers that are made of surfboards, which was inspired by Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic gold medalist swimmer, and keen surfer.
You can also stroll on the Waikiki Beach Walk, which is lined with cafes and entertainment spots. At the end of the beach, you will find the Diamond Head State Monument, which creates a distinctive profile on the coastline. This place was once an important vantage point for the coastal defense of the island. Hiking to the top of it will enable you to see old bunkers and the artillery control station. On top of that, it will also give you beautiful panoramic views.
6. Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial
Pearl Harbor is an active military base and a National History Landmark that earned its place in history due to the 1941 attack that killed 1,177 servicemen on the USS Arizona. At the present time, the site is home to some attractions that are part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific Monument. This includes the USS Arizona Memorial, which floats above the remains of the sunken ship. There is no payment needed to tour the memorial, but you need to make reservations as it is very popular.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center also offers free admission. It is the meeting place for tours, including the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island. There, you can see WWII artifacts and aircraft and even experience landing an airplane on an aircraft carrier using a flight simulator.
7. Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park
This wilderness park is located on the island of Kauai, and it has some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. The Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park’s landscapes were made popular in the Jurassic Park film, showing its dramatic coastline with cliffs that seem to ripple. The best way to take in the scene is to approach by water or to go on a helicopter tour to see the breathtaking view from above. If you are an expert hiker, you can also try the Kalalau Trail, which is an eleven-mile trek traversing five valleys and takes a full day each way.
8. Hana Road
This road is officially named Hana Highway. It is a scenic 52-mile road on the island of Maui. It winds from Pa’ia through lush forests and along the coast, going to the remote town of Hana. This is perfect if you are looking into some sightseeing while driving. There are numerous attractions along the route, such as hiking trails, beaches, waterfalls, and scenic overlooks. Hana is also a place where you can experience traditional Hawaiian culture as it is relatively cut off from the rest of the island.
9. Polynesian Cultural Center
This cultural center is located in Oahu, which is less than an hour’s drive if you are from Honolulu. The center portrays the culture and daily life of the Polynesian islanders in Hawaii, Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands, Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa through dance, music, games, and craft demonstrations. The Polynesian Cultural Center features different sections that represent each of these locations. A lot of the performers here really come from the islands they represent, giving tourists an authentic experience.
10. Maui Ocean Center
The Maui Ocean Center allows tourists to see what lies beneath the surface of the ocean and learn about marine life and the ecosystems surrounding Hawaii. The aquarium features a massive Living Reef centerpiece, which is home to over 40 Pacific coral species and thousands of fish. It has a 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit where people can walk through an underwater tunnel that is surrounded by stingrays, sharks, and other marine animals. You can also visit here the Turtle Lagoon and book turtle feeding encounters.
These are some of the must-see places in Hawaii. This state is indeed a perfect tourist destination for those who are adventurous at heart and those who want to experience being close to nature. We hope this list gave you some ideas on what places to include in your itinerary when you visit Hawaii.
You can also check out the following articles for more Hawaiian topics: