Hawaii, also known as the “Aloha State,” is a group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It attracts millions of visitors each year with its stunning beaches, natural beauty, and rich cultural heritage. Hawaii has a unique blend of Polynesian, Asian, and Western influences that make it a fascinating place to visit.
There are eight main islands in Hawaii: Hawaii (also known as the Big Island), Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. Each island has its own distinct character, attractions, and activities. It’s important to choose the right ones based on your preferences and interests. In this article, we will explore the best places to visit in Hawaii, island by island.
Hawaii (Big Island)
The Big Island is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands which offers a diverse range of attractions. It has active volcanoes, lush rainforests and world-class beaches. Here are some of the best places to visit on the Big Island:
- Volcanoes National Park: This park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Visitors can see steam vents, lava tubes, and other volcanic features, as well as hike through rainforests and over old lava flows.
- Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area: This beautiful white sand beach is one of the best on the Big Island, with clear blue waters that are great for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
- Akaka Falls State Park: This park features a stunning 442-foot waterfall that drops into a lush gorge surrounded by tropical foliage. There are also several hiking trails that offer scenic views of the falls and the surrounding landscape.
- Mauna Kea: This 13,800-foot mountain is one of the best places in the world for stargazing, thanks to its clear skies and lack of light pollution. Visitors can take guided tours to the summit to see the observatories and enjoy the views.
- Kona Coffee Farms: Hawaii is famous for its coffee, and the Kona region on the Big Island is known for producing some of the best in the world. Visitors can take tours of the coffee farms to see how the beans are grown and roasted, and sample some of the delicious brews.
Maui is known as the “Valley Isle” for its lush valleys and volcanic peaks. It is a popular destination for outdoor activities like surfing, snorkeling, and hiking. It is also known for its charming towns and cultural attractions. Here are some of the best places to visit on Maui:
- Road to Hana: This scenic drive along the eastern coast of Maui is one of the most popular attractions on the island. The road winds through lush rainforests, past waterfalls and scenic vistas, and through small towns and villages.
- Haleakala National Park: This park is home to the dormant Haleakala volcano, which rises to over 10,000 feet above sea level. Visitors can hike, bike, or drive to the summit for stunning views of the sunrise or sunset.
- Lahaina: This historic town was once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom and is now a popular tourist destination with charming shops, restaurants, and galleries. Visitors can also see historic landmarks like the Banyan Tree and the Lahaina Courthouse.
- Kaanapali Beach: This popular beach on the west coast of Maui is known for its soft white sand and clear blue waters, as well as for its resorts and restaurants.
- Maui Ocean Center: This aquarium is home to a variety of marine life, including sharks, rays, and sea turtles. Visitors can see exhibits on Hawaii’s marine ecosystem and learn about conservation efforts to protect the ocean.
Oahu, also known as the “Gathering Place,” is the most populous of the Hawaiian Islands. It is home to the state capital of Honolulu. It is a vibrant and cosmopolitan island with a mix of urban and natural attractions. Here are some of the best places to visit on Oahu:
- Waikiki Beach: This famous beach in Honolulu is known for its white sand, turquoise water, and views of Diamond Head. Visitors can swim, surf, or relax on the beach, and there are plenty of restaurants and shops nearby.
- Pearl Harbor: This historic site is home to the USS Arizona Memorial. It commemorates the lives lost in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Visitors can also see exhibits on the history of World War II and the role of the military in Hawaii.
- Diamond Head State Monument: This iconic volcanic crater rises over 750 feet above sea level and offers stunning views of the coast and the city of Honolulu. Visitors can hike to the summit on a well-maintained trail.
- North Shore: This rural area on the northern coast of Oahu is known for its legendary surf breaks, scenic beaches, and laid-back atmosphere. Visitors can watch surfers tackle the massive waves, or take a leisurely drive to see the sights.
- Polynesian Cultural Center: This cultural theme park offers visitors a chance to learn about the traditions and customs of the Polynesian people, including Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, and others. There are demonstrations of dance, music, and crafts, as well as a luau dinner and a nightly show.
Kauai, also known as the “Garden Isle,” is the oldest and northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands. It is a lush and tropical island with a rugged coastline and pristine beaches. Here are some of the best places to visit on Kauai:
- Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park: This remote and rugged area on the northwestern coast of Kauai is only accessible by boat or on foot. Visitors can see towering sea cliffs, waterfalls, and sea caves. You can also hike through lush valleys and along the coastline.
- Waimea Canyon State Park: This park is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” for its deep red rock formations. It has sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can hike or drive to the lookout points for stunning vistas.
- Hanalei Bay: This picturesque bay on the north shore of Kauai is surrounded by lush mountains and is popular for surfing, swimming, and kayaking. Visitors can also explore the charming town of Hanalei and its shops and restaurants.
- Wailua River State Park: This park is home to the Wailua River, which is navigable by boat or kayak. Visitors can see lush rainforest, waterfalls, and historic sites like the Fern Grotto, a natural amphitheater with hanging ferns.
- Kokee State Park: This park is located on the western side of Kauai and offers visitors a chance to see the island’s native flora and fauna, including rare birds and plants. There are also hiking trails that lead to stunning views of the coastline.
Molokai is a small and rural island that is known for its unspoiled natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. It is a quiet and peaceful island with a laid-back atmosphere. Here are some of the best places to visit on Molokai:
- Kalaupapa National Historical Park: This park is located on a remote peninsula on the northern coast of Molokai and was once a leper colony. Visitors can learn about the history of the colony and the patients who lived there. It also is worth seeing the stunning natural beauty of the area.
- Papohaku Beach: This pristine white sand beach on the western coast of Molokai is one of the largest beaches in Hawaii. Visitors can swim, surf, or just relax on the beach, and there are often few other people around.
- Halawa Valley: This lush valley on the eastern side of Molokai is home to ancient Hawaiian settlements and is considered a sacred place. Visitors can hike to the waterfalls and learn about the history and culture of the area.
- Molokai Plumeria Farm: This farm on the central part of the island is home to over 1000 plumeria trees and is a beautiful and fragrant place to visit. Visitors can take a tour of the farm and see the different varieties of plumeria. You can also buy flowers and other products on your visit.
- Kaunakakai: This small town on the southern coast of Molokai is the main population center on the island. It has a charming and laid-back vibe. Visitors can explore the local shops and restaurants, as well as learn about the history and culture of the area.
Hawaii is a unique and beautiful place with a rich history and culture. Each of the islands has its own distinct personality and attractions, and there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you are interested in hiking, surfing, history, or just relaxing on the beach, Hawaii has it all. Visit the best places on each island and you can experience the beauty and diversity of this amazing destination.