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Things to Do in Hawaii - page 5

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Waimea Valley
36 Tours and Activities

Once named the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” by Mark Twain, Waimea Valley is the gateway to one of Kauai’s most impressive natural sights, Waimea Canyon. At 26 miles across and 21 miles long, Waimea Canyon has crags, gorges, and rugged mountains characterized by a variety of colors. Natural green, red, and even purple and blue hues appear in various degrees along the eroded mountain sides. The canyon was carved thousands of years ago from waters flowing from the top of Mount Waialeale, still today one of the places on Earth with the most rainfall. There are still dozens of hidden waterfalls and pools to explore throughout the valley.

Waimea Valley, with all its natural beauty, was considered sacred by the ancient Hawaiians. Archaeological sites and more than 700 years of native Hawaiian history can still be seen, while visitors can also enjoy panoramic views of the valley from one of several lookouts or explore by foot on one of the area’s many hiking trails.

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
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55 Tours and Activities

The mega attraction on the Big Island is Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii’s sole World Heritage Site. The volatile park’s centerpiece is Kilauea Volcano, which continues to blow its top and spout molten lava, ash and steam.

Crater Rim Drive is a spectacular driving route, skirting the rim of the caldera, stopping at lookouts and taking you from rainforest to desert. The eerie and easily accessible Thurston Lava Tube is a long hollow cave-like formation, created by flowing lava.

Another driving route to follow is the winding Chain of Craters Road along the slopes of the volcano to the coast, where lava has pooled from recent eruptions.

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Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach
24 Tours and Activities

Ever had black sand between your toes? Because of the constant volcanic activity, sand comes in a variety of colors in Hawaii. Along with white, you can also find green and black, the latter of which is found on the well-known Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.

Located on the southeastern Kau coast, between Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the town of Naalehu, this beach should be on your list of places to visit when on the Big Island of Hawaii. The coastline is framed by coconut palms, but what is often found at the edge of the sand tends to steal all of the attention. Large honu, or Hawaiian green sea turtles, basking in the sun are a common sight here. Take as many pictures as you’d like, but be sure to stay a safe distance away. Swimming isn’t ideal here due to waves and currents. There is an area for picnics, so plan ahead and come prepared to enjoy lunch with a view. Don’t take any black sand from the beach—legend says that a curse will also go home with you.

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Kilauea Volcano
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13 Tours and Activities

Kilauea Volcano is the star of the Big Island’s Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii's only World Heritage Site. Kilauea Volcano remains active, spouting orange lava, venting steam, glowing and sputtering.

When conditions are safe you can drive around the volcano's edge on the 11 mile (17 kilometer) Crater Rim Drive, dotted with spectacular lookouts. Visit the park visitors center to learn about trail conditions and guided walks, and come prepared for changeable weather if you’re hiking the trails that crisscross the rim.

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Rainbow Falls
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44 Tours and Activities

Rainbow Falls create a rare instance where a Hawaiian name and an English name actually mean the same thing. Known to Hawaiians as waianuenue, the name is a reference to the arcing rainbows that can be seen in the waterfall’s mist. The image, it seems, is a natural occurrence of such beauty and wonder that it transcends linguistic lines, and today the waterfall is one of the most popular attractions when visiting the town of Hilo.

Only 50 yards from a paved parking lot in Wailuku River State Park, a large viewing area provides the best platform for gazing out at the falls. To see the waterfall’s namesake rainbow, visit the falls around 10 a.m. when the angle of light is just right. Behind the falls, a large cave forms the home of Hina—the mythological Hawaiian god who gave birth to the demigod Maui—and the turquoise pool and surrounding rain forest are the trademark photo of paradise.

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Mokolii Island
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43 Tours and Activities

The islet of Mokolii, or Chinaman’s Hat, is a rugged little outpost that’s home to wedge-tailed shearwaters and occasionally explored by adventurous visitors.

Its unusual shape makes it a popular landmark to spot from panoramic viewpoints such as Kualoa Point. The fish-filled coral reefs surrounding the island are home to sharks, adding to the island’s mystery and James Bond quality. When the tide is out you could even walk here, but it’s best to visit by kayak or boat. When you get here, you can explore sea caves or have two golden beaches all to yourself. A 20-minute climb winds to the top of the island for great views looking back to Oahu’s Windward coast.

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Waimea Bay
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35 Tours and Activities

Welcome to one of the most iconic places on O’ahu Island! Combining popular culture, history and extreme sports, Waimea Bay Beach simply does not disappoint. Its stunning panoramas alone, as seen from the Kamehameha Highway, are sufficient reason to visit the island’s northern end! The area’s international reputation emerged in 1779, when famous Captain James Cook was killed by native villagers after he tried to make the King of Hawaii captive. Staples of this period are still visible today at the Pu'u o Mahuka Heiau State Monument, the largest of its kind on the island.

Many years later, Waimea Bay Beach once again gained popularity by becoming the top surfing destination in the world and officially starting the 1950s now-iconic surf phenomenon (as demonstrated by the Beach Boys’ famous song!). In fact, surfing is still very much in fashion in this neck of the woods, with numerous surfing events taking place throughout the year.

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Akaka Falls
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11 Tours and Activities

When you first set eyes on Akaka Falls you can be forgiven if your heart skips a beat. After all, the beauty of this 422 ft. waterfall has been known to catch travelers off guard, as there is something about its vertical perfection that casts a hypnotic, time-stopping trance.

Or, perhaps it’s the dramatic jungle surroundings that give the falls their grandeur, where the heavily eroded theater of green seems to gently cradle the plunge. Either way, Akaka Falls is one of the Big Island’s most popular and scenic attractions, and the short hike to reach the falls makes it easily accessible for visitors. Located 25 minutes north of Hilo, the waterfall is found within the confines of Akaka Falls State Park. A short loop trail leads from the parking lot towards the overlook for the famous falls, and along the way offers peek-a-boo views of 100 ft. Kahuna Falls.

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Spouting Horn
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20 Tours and Activities

When the island of Kauai erupted from the sea between 4 and 5 million years ago, parts of the coastline were riddled with tubes where molten lava once flowed. One of those spots is the Spouting Horn on the island’s southern coast, where waves are channeled into the tube before violently erupting in a saltwater geyser over 50 feet in the air. Compared to other Hawaiian blowholes, what makes Kauai’s Spouting Horn unique is the guttural moan that precedes the powerful eruption. A second, smaller hole in the rocks funnels air as opposed to water, and the result is a sound that makes it seem like the rocks themselves are groaning. No wonder Hawaiians believed that a mo’o was stuck inside of the rocks—a mischievous lizard of Polynesian lore that can still be heard to this day. Once finished admiring the geyser and feeling the ocean’s fury, peruse the homemade souvenir stalls erected by local vendors.

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More Things to Do in Hawaii

Oheo Gulch

Oheo Gulch

13 Tours and Activities

The Ohe’o Gulch is a vibrantly green valley that has been naturally created by centuries of rainforest streams. Also called the Kipahulu Area, these lush lands became part of the Haleakala National Park in the 1940s. The main draw for visitors is the many tall waterfalls that feed into groups of large, tiered natural pools, sometimes called the Seven Sacred Pools of Ohe’o. Swimming in the fresh water is popular when water levels are safe.

Two streams, the the Palikea and Pipiwai, are the source of all of the water in this area. Visitors can hike the two-mile Pipiwai Trail (3-5 hours roundtrip) along the streams with view of the pools. Along the trail, there is one tranquil natural pool that can be less crowded than the Seven Sacred Pools area. The path ends at the 400-foot-tall Waimoku Falls, and you can always cool off in the pools after finishing the hike.

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Nu'uanu Pali Lookout

Nu'uanu Pali Lookout

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On Oahu’s Windward (or east) Coast, Nuuanu Pali Lookout stands sentinel over the 1,200-foot (360 m) cliffs of the Koolau mountains.

One of the best viewpoints on Oahu, the lookout provides panoramic vistas across the island. You can also see Chinaman’s Hat and Kaneohe Bay. In 1795 the lookout was the site of a massacre, when King Kamehameha defeated the island’s warriors by forcing them off the treacherous cliff top to their deaths. Hold on to your hat, as it can get extremely windy up here, and bring a warm coat and your camera.

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Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku)

Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku)

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Set inside of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Thurston Lava tube is the most accessible lava tube on the Big Island of Hawaii. Discovered in 1913 by newspaper publisher Lorrin Thurston, this dark recess is the result of subterranean lava which once flowed through this young section of earth. 400 years old and 600 feet long, the tube is now lit by electric lights to create an eerie glow for visitors who venture inside.

On the 15-minute walk down towards the cave the dense rainforest surroundings make it hard to believe that magma ever flowed through here at all. Nevertheless, as you make your way down a set of metal stairs, the entrance to the tube stares at you like a black abyss in the jungle. Although the ceiling can be a little low at points, the walk through the tube is completely safe and is a surreal contrast to the foliage outside.

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Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

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3 Tours and Activities

Forming a deep natural amphitheater, washed by the sea and waterfalls, the Big Island’s Waipi'o Valley is a natural wonderland of flowering rainforest and hiking trails.

Cliffs thousands of feet high line the famously steep valley, and waterfalls course their way down to the valley floor.

The curved black-sand beach here is reached by a steep route entering the valley, and lookouts give stupendous views from above.

It’s a magical place, where battles were fought by Kamehameha the Great, and the site of temples and royal burial caves.

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Banyan Tree Park

Banyan Tree Park

4 Tours and Activities
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Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls

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20 Tours and Activities

Kauai is known as “The Garden Isle” for its exceptionally verdant beauty, and when you first catch sight of Wailua Falls it’s easy to understand why. Spilling 80 feet over a rocky ledge into a fresh water pool below, this double-streamed, misty cascade so perfectly captures the tropical essence that it was used as part of the opening scene for the TV show, Fantasy Island.

And, while there’s definitely no shortage of waterfalls on Kauai, what makes Wailua Falls so popular is the fact that you can see the falls without even having to hike. As you follow rural, Ma’alu Road as it twists its way up the mountain, there will eventually be a large parking lot approximately four miles up from the highway. Here, from a sweeping viewpoint on a country road looking over Wailua Stream, a heart-stopping view of Wailua Falls is only a few steps away.

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Sandy Beach Park

Sandy Beach Park

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37 Tours and Activities
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Haleiwa

Haleiwa

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16 Tours and Activities

Set on Oahu’s famous north shore just minutes from world-class surf, funky Haleiwa is the Hawaiian antithesis of urban Honolulu. Gone are the brand-name glamorous stores of Ala Moana Mall, and enter the small, locally-owned boutiques with tanned and beautiful staff. Surfboards poke from the back of trucks that cruise the two lane roads, and boardshorts, bikinis, and rubber slippers are the de facto outfit of choice. Haleiwa, however, has two different moods—and they change with the time of year. In spring, summer, and early fall, Haleiwa is a sunny, laidback beach town where where you can start the day with a shark diving tour and finish with a barbecue at the beach. The waves are flat, the skies are blue, and you’re fare more likely to pack a snorkel than a surfboard or boogie board to the beach.

In winter, however, the entire surf world descends on Haleiwa and the buzz in the air is electric.

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Captain Cook Monument

Captain Cook Monument

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British explorer Captain James Cook met his death at Kealakekua Bay on February 14, 1779 perhaps due to a misunderstanding over the use of a boat.

Today, a white obelisk marks the spot where he died, standing sentinel over the lush coast and its crystal-clear water. There’s great snorkeling from the coast’s black rock beaches, along with diving and kayaking.

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Waihee Ridge Trail

Waihee Ridge Trail

3 Tours and Activities
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Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

38 Tours and Activities

White sand, blue sea, great waves and shady palms. If it sounds too good to be true, it must be Sunset Beach!

This 2-mile (3 km) stretch of sand is targeted by swimmers and snorkelers in the calm of summer, and by the world’s best surfers during December and January, when the wintertime waves are at their lethal best for pro surfer tournaments. Pack a picnic to enjoy under the palms, go swimming in summer under the watchful eye of the beach lifeguards, and collect shells in tidal pools when the tide’s out.

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Kaneohe Bay

Kaneohe Bay

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14 Tours and Activities

The best stretch of sand in Kaneohe Bay is out on the middle of the sea. That’s where the sandbar, or “Sunken Island” emerges during low tide, and its sugary white sands are like a floating cay that was made especially for you. Kayaking to the sandbar is one of the most popular activities on the Windward Side of Oahu, and while the beaches along the shoreline aren’t great for swimming, the protected waters make the perfect spot for paddling, boating, or kayaking.

In addition to the sandbar, five islands poke above the turquoise, reef-fringed waters. The tallest of the islands—Chinaman’s Hat—rises 200 feet from the northern edge of the bay and offshore of Kualoa Park. Known to Hawaiians as Mokoli“i, the island resembles a large straw that seems to be floating on the surface of the water.

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Kauai Coffee Company

Kauai Coffee Company

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There was once a time when the island of Kauai was awash in waving green sugar. When the last mill closed down, however, in October of 2009, the island was left searching for a new crop to step in and fill the void. Luckily for island plantation workers and caffeine lovers worldwide, coffee is starting to pick up on Kauai where the sugar cane industry left off.

Nowhere is this more evident than at Kauai Coffee Company in the town of Kalaheo, where over 4 million trees on 3,100 acres officially make this the largest coffee farm found anywhere in the United States. Take a guided tour through the coffee fields to learn the production process, or sample from over 20 different coffees at the large tasting room on site. Every bean that’s served and sold is grown right here in Hawaii, and when you’ve gotten enough of a buzz for the day, look out at the rows of waving green leaves that disappear over gentle hills to the tropical shoreline below.

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