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Things to Do in Hawaii - page 4

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Kauai Coffee Company
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10 Tours and Activities

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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Kaumana Caves State Park
11 Tours and Activities

Created by lava flow from Mauna Loa in 1881, the Kaumana Caves are located near Hilo. Legend says Princess Ruth sat in front of the lava flow praying to the goddess Pele to save the city and the flow stopped just in the nick of time. Concrete stairs (that visitors say can be slippery) lead down through the skylight to the entrance. The caves’ exterior is full of thick and lush foliage, while the inside is loaded with lava rock. You can explore the area near the mouth of the caves in a fairly quick visit, but if you are the explorer type, you’ll need to come prepared and have some time. The lava rocks can be slippery and sharp, and the caves get dark quickly. You’ll need good sneakers or hiking shoes and a good flashlight. A headlamp is even better since it keeps your hands free. The rocks can be sharp; gloves will protect them from scrapes and cuts. Headroom can get tight at times, and some who have trekked through say a hardhat and knee pads are something to think about too.

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Banyan Drive
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17 Tours and Activities

Set back a block from Hilo’s coastline are scores of towering and sprawling banyan trees with their thick and unique trunks. Similar trees can be found throughout the state, but what makes these fifty specimens unique is their planters. Between 1933 and 1972, many famous celebrities, political figures, authors and Hawaiians personally planted or dedicated these banyan seedlings as a way to commemorate their visit or honor friends. In front of the Hilo Hawaiian hotel, a particularly large road-shading tree has a small sign indicating it was planted by George Herman “Babe” Ruth, and across Banyan Drive are trees planted by King George V, Queen Elizabeth and Richard Nixon. Other famous names visible on placards along the leafy corridor are Franklin Roosevelt, movie star Cecil B. DeMille and his wife Constance, Amelia Earhart, volcanologist Dr. Thomas Jaggar (whose name is given to the Jaggar Museum at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park) and musician Louis Armstrong.

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Waimea Valley
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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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Sunset Beach
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32 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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Hana
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Hana is a community on the eastern end of Maui, and it might remain largely isolated if not for the spectacular scenery on the Hana Highway that draws visitors in droves.

Hana Town itself has a small population, although there's a constant influx of travelers. It's hot and humid year-round, but you'll be able to escape the tropical conditions at any one of the many excellent beaches in and around Hana – including a black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park, and Hamoa Beach (sometimes called Hawaii's most beautiful beach).

The Hana Highway – also known as the Road to Hana – meanders more than 50 miles along the northern shore of Maui and leads to the community of Hana. If you've got the time, the best way to travel the Hana Highway is slowly, stopping frequently to check out waterfalls, beaches, and breathtaking views.

Along with the many attractions along the Road to Hana, there are also historic and scenic points of interest in Hana Town itself.

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La'ie Point State Wayside Park
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12 Tours and Activities

Laie Point State Wayside Park, a rocky promontory on Oahu’s North Shore hidden behind a residential neighborhood, got its 15 minutes of fame in the 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It’s here where Peter (Jason Segal) and Rachel (Mila Kunis) cement their relationship by braving the cliff jump off its side. Many daredevils still attempt the jump, but, as the abundance of floral memorials and crosses attest, it might not be the smartest choice—particularly when the waves pound during winter, making the already-challenging climb back up the cliff’s lava rock face all but impossible. Besides, there’s plenty to see from land.

Between November and March, humpback whales are often sighted in the waters off Laie Point and year-round local fishermen cast for dinner from the park’s rugged edges. To the south, the greenery of the Windward Coast looms large with its backdrop of Koolau Range “foothills.”

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Puʻuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
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Up until 1819, ancient Hawaiians adhered to religious laws that were generally known as kapu. Everything in Hawaiian life—from which fish you could eat in which season to the clothes you were allowed to wear—was regulated by thousands of different kapu that carried stiff penalties if broken. Should your shadow ever have fallen on a chief, or if you failed to kneel while he was eating, it was a broken kapu punishable by death since you had disrespected the will of the gods.

Once a sacred kapu had been broken, the only way to redeem yourself was to find a pu‘uhonua—a city of refuge where an elder or priest could cleanse you of the offending sin. Should you be found before your arrival, however, the punishment was often death. As you can imagine, pu‘uhonua were popular places during the days of ancient Hawaii, but a few are popular visitor attractions in this modern era of tourism.

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More Things to Do in Hawaii

Molokai Island

Molokai Island

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The island of Molokai may not be as popular with tourists as other Hawaiian islands, but it offers stunning scenery and plenty of opportunities to relax. Molokai's landscape includes two volcanoes, a large white sand beach, and a sacred valley – all in an island that's only 38 miles long and ten miles across. You can ride a mule through Kalaupapa National Historical Park (the only way to access the park), go camping at Papohaku Beach, and explore the Halawa Valley – where Polynesians are believed to have settled in the 7th century. Molokai is also said to be the place where hula comes from, where the goddess Laka first danced the hula. Today, there is an annual hula festival on Molokai each May.

During the mid-19th century, Molokai was the setting for a leper colony. The site of the settlement in Kalaupapa is still occupied by some of its former patients, so access is by invitation or organized tour only.

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Kaumahina State Wayside Park

Kaumahina State Wayside Park

12 Tours and Activities

This 7.8-acre park is a popular stop along the Road to Hana, with several hiking trails, covered picnic facilities and scenic views of the coast. There are dozens of native Hawaiian plants and birds to see as you walk through the forested area, so take a break from the drive and get some perspective from an overlook of the Ke’anae Peninsula and the nearby village.

There are several scenic spots to catch views of the bright blue sea and the winding coastline. Trails lead down to the ocean and loop back around, so there’s space to stretch your legs while enjoying the tropical environment here. Bring your walking shoes, your camera or binoculars and a picnic to enjoy some time at this park on your way up to Hana.

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Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park

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Ala Moana Beach Park is where locals head to enjoy a weekend in the sun. While it’s moderately crowded during the middle of the week, sunny weekends are like an outdoor block party where everyone is down at the beach. Coolers, pop-up tents, BBQ’s, and beach chairs sprawl across 76 acres, and it’s a festive atmosphere along this white sand stretch of Honolulu coastline.

Even with the park’s popularity, however, visitors can still find their own little corner for relaxing out on the sand. The protected lagoon is ideal for lap swimming or visitors traveling with young children, and the offshore reef is where boogie boarders and surfers race across the waves. There isn’t much to see in the way of snorkeling, but the calm waters are perfect for sunbathing while sprawled on an inflatable raft. Lay out a blanket in the shaded grass area if you need to escape the sun, or work up a sweat on the park’s jogging trails or the popular beachfront tennis courts.

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Ko Olina

Ko Olina

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Although it is often referred to as a resort, Ko Olina doesn’t describe a property in particular. It is, in fact, a master-planned vacation and residential community containing several upscale resorts, like the Aulani Disney Resort & Spa, the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa and Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club. The area is famous for its pristine, man-made beach coves (the sand was imported from Lanai!) that are very popular with swimmers. Their creation was more a necessity than a caprice, as the ocean tends to be quite turbulent in these parts; the rock levies encase the lagoons for safer sea ventures.

The destination is famous for its unparalleled golfing opportunities, including the LPGA Lotte Championship (women's professional golf tournament on the LPGA Tour).

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Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

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9 Tours and Activities

On Ford Island in the heart of infamous Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Aviation Museum’s two massive hangars totaling more than 120,000 square feet house military aircraft from the WWII Vietnam and the Korean War. Given its setting, the highlights here are Pearl Harbor related: Hangar 37 houses Japanese Zero planes, a civilian plane that was shot down during the Pearl Harbor attacks, and a P-40 fighter plane similar to those that took flight on Dec. 7th, 1941. On the door of Hangar 79, it’s still possible to see bullet holes left from that day. But there are plenty of other planes to pique the aviation-enthusiasts interest including an authentic F4F Wildcat, the actual Stearman N2S-3 piloted solo by former President George H.W. Bush and several MiG planes from the Korean conflict.

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Honolulu

Honolulu

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5 Tours and Activities

Let the vowels and loopy sounds roll slowly off your tongue—without even picturing the golden sands and palm trees swaying in the breeze, even saying the word “Honolulu” can make a person smile. Every year in Hawaii’s capital, where surfboards, sunsets, and taking it slow are simply a way of life, millions of visitors from around the globe all gather to soak in its warmth.

While the beaches and waves are what Honolulu is best known for, there’s much more to Honolulu than simply the front of a postcard. The capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom was here at ‘Iolani Palace, and the museums, temples, and historic homes are windows to Old Hawaii. Get lost in the markets of Chinatown or pay a visit to Pearl Harbor, and let your palette explore the local farm to table cuisine. Catch a show at a downtown theater or hit the late night clubs, or rise with the sun for a standup paddle off the shores of Waikiki.

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Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center

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Hawaii means luaus, and some of the best and most authentic luaus in the Pacific are staged at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The center highlights the Polynesian cultures of many island people, including Hawaii, New Zealand, Tonga and Tahiti. Tour re-created villages then settle in to be wowed by the theatrical spectacle of the center’s live cultural shows.

Watch a canoe pageant on the lagoon, taste the Polynesian flavors of an all-you-can-eat buffet luau, and stay on for the evening show of music, dance, theater and legend.

There are heaps of fun activities for children at the center. Get the lowdown on how to crack a coconut successfully, learn how to twirl poi balls, get a washable Maori tattoo and learn how to bowl Hawaiian style.

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Kekaha Kai State Park (Kona Coast State Park)

Kekaha Kai State Park (Kona Coast State Park)

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With much of its coastline covered in jagged black lava rock, Kona is not well known for its beaches. However, a few locales offer the unspoiled white sand oases that typify Hawaii, including the palm-lined stretches at Kekaha Kai (Kona Coast) State Park. The best beachy parts are located more than a mile down a bumpy road through the remnants of a jumbled lava flow. Signs calling stretches “unimproved” are an understatement. Hualalai Volcano, looming behind the park, oozed these paths to the sea between the late 1700s and 1801. To truly appreciate the ocean dip awaiting you (and to satisfy many rental car agreements), hike the 1.6 miles in instead. When you arrive seaside, the small facilities—including limited parking, toilets, showers and an on-the-beach picnic area will be straight in front of you. But, to get to the larger stretches of white sand, you’ll need to continue on, turning right at the signs before the toilet blocks to reach Mahai’ula Bay.

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USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park

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There are only 15 American submarines that remain from World War II, and the most-heralded of them—the USS Bowfin—now sits in Pearl Harbor, where the war American’s war first started. Known as the “Avenger of Pearl Harbor,” the USS Bowfin was built in Maine and sailed the South Pacific. It set off on its mission exactly one year after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and 44 different enemy ships would eventually succumb to her guns.

Today, visitors to Pearl Harbor can walk inside the submarine to see the cramped metal quarters, and get an authentic feel for the daily hardships of the boys in the “Silent Service.” In nine tours of duty only one crewmember died from injuries in battle, and when visiting today, you can stand in the chambers where these brave sailors celebrated a successful strike.

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Waimanalo Beach Park

Waimanalo Beach Park

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What locals refer to as Waimanalo Beach Park could easily be described as paradise by most visitors; what with its three miles of soft white sand flanked by Hawaii’s famous Koolau Mountains, soaring ironwood trees and dreamy azure and emerald sea, one can hardly argue that Waimanalo Beach Park is nothing short of heaven on earth. In opposition to more famous and more active Waimea Bay Beach, Waimanalo Beach Park is infinitely more tranquil. A silent retreat during the week, it shifts into a family-friendly, chill picnic and barbecue spot for locals.

Waimea’s waves are neither too high nor break far from the beach, making it the ultimate body boarding and body surfing spot on O’ahu, in addition to being perfect for lengthy tanning sessions. Early-risers will be pleased to learn that Waimanalo Beach Park is also an excellent place to catch a good sunrise, thanks to its unbeatable eastward location.

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Poipu Beach Park

Poipu Beach Park

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Poipu Beach Park is Kauai’s most popular beach resort for families, with a natural ocean pool, golden sand and an endless array of watersports.

This beach is watched over by lifeguards, to ensure safe seaside fun for all the family. You’ll also find a playground, washing facilities, picnic tables, shady lawns and mini golf.

The vacation activities are boundless at Poipu, from summertime surfing and year-round snorkeling to hiking, horseback riding and golf.

Other beaches nearby include protected Baby Beach for youngsters, body-surfing waves at Brennecke’s, snorkeling from Lawai and shoreline walking at Shipwreck’s Beach.

As this is a resort area, you’ll also find great shopping and dining at Poipu Beach, including popular oceanfront restaurants and seafood beach bars.

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Maui Tropical Plantation

Maui Tropical Plantation

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For a look at what Maui's agricultural life once looked like, visit Maui Tropical Plantation – a sort of plantation theme park that's also still a working plantation.

Maui Tropical Plantation covers about 60 acres, and was originally designed to turn the island's rich agricultural history into a tourist attraction. There is a tram ride you can take, which includes a narrated tour of the plantation and historic information. You'll learn about crops for which Maui is famous – sugar cane, pineapple, coffee, bananas, and macadamia nuts, among other things. You can even try your hand at husking a coconut.

In addition to the crops themselves, the plantation also features the Maui Country Store, which is full of products made on the island of Maui. There's an on-site restaurant, too, where you can sample some of the fresh fruits you see growing in the fields all around you.

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Waikiki

Waikiki

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Waikiki pretty much embodies the ancient spirit of aloha: oceanfront high rises, white sand beaches, world-class dining and some of the world’s best surfing certainly explains the neighborhood’s alluring magnetism. The name Waikiki as such means spouting fresh water in the native Hawaiian language; it refers to the streams and springs that formerly fed the wetlands separating Waikiki from the interior. Once a playground for Hawaiian royalty, and now a playground for the rich and famous of the entire planet, Waikiki has become one of the most iconic beaches in the world and draws millions of visitors every year – and with most hotel rooms being just a block or two from the ocean, it’s easy to understand why.

But more than just glitz and glory, Waikiki is really mostly about surf. What could possibly be most picturesque than learning the basics of surfing at the foot of Diamond Head State Monument and by boys who were taught everything they know by local celebrity.

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Kaneohe Bay

Kaneohe Bay

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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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