Things to Do in Hawaii - page 5
A sprawling expanse of reef—1,600 feet at its widest and one of Hawaii’s longest spanning two miles—looms just off the thin strip of white sand at Anini Beach. Parrotfish, moray eels, trumpet fish, needlefish, pufferfish and much, much more color the clear waters, popping against the drab coral rock. A thin sandbar beyond the residential area on shore often hosts fishermen and waders searching for seashells within view of the lighthouse and offshore Island at Kilauea Point in the east.
Despite steady winds that whip up light action for windsurfers that sometimes cruise its length, the coral acts as a protective barrier for the shallows making Anini one of the calmest and best snorkeling beaches on Kauai’s North Shore.
La Perouse Bay is a stretch of coastline bordering the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve on Maui’s south shore. It was named for the French explorer Jean-François de La Pérouse, the first European to set foot on Maui in the 18th century. The bay is the site of Maui’s most recent volcanic activity, and the landscape is covered in jagged, black lava rock intermixed with pieces of white coral. Though there isn’t much of a beach visitors can hike this area using the King’s Trail, which winds past several small coves.
As its waters are protected from fishing by state law, aquatic life is abundant and excellent snorkeling spots can be found off its rocky coast. Spinner dolphins sightings are frequent in the bay. When waters are calm, it can be a great spot for swimming and kayaking.
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. Once finished with the tour of the ship, learn the fascinating history of submarines in the accompanying Bowfin museum, where exhibits range from a ballistic missile that was once housed on the ship, to a 54-foot, human-guided torpedo known as a Japanese Kaiten.
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. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that the many of the trees here have persevered through three city-devastating tsunamis. Giant waves swept through Hilo in 1946, 1960 and 1975, and though these trees were not lost, a combined 222 people were.
Mokuola, or Coconut Island, is just offshore from the Big Island’s Lili‘uokalani Gardens and connected by a wide footbridge. Easy access and calm waters make it one of the Hilo’s most convenient and popular beaches. It’s great for swimming and sea turtle watching, and the picnic tables and grassy areas often host barbecues and local events.
Hawaii’s Capitol building doesn’t have the grand golden domes of capitols in other U.S. states, instead its exterior is blocky and reminiscent of the 1960s postmodern era in which it was built. But, like other capitols, its features are rife with symbolism. Inside, the central courtyard opens to the sky via narrowing layers set to mimic the interior of the volcano; the two Legislative chambers also feature unique sloped walls to achieve a similar effect. The eight supporting pillars on the front and back of the building narrow toward the top to evoke the trunks of royal palm trees, there is one for each of the main Hawaiian Islands. A raised moat reflecting pool surrounds the building and is said to symbolize the Pacific surrounding the Islands. Visitors can wander through the courtyard and grounds, which has an appropriately blocky statue of Father Damien—a sainted priest who treated Hansen’s disease patients on a remote Molokai peninsula in the late 1800s before succumbing to the disease himself—an exact duplicate represents the state in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.
Curvy, cozy and impossibly green, the Hamakua Coast is a verdant time portal on the Big Island’s northeastern side. Often referred to as the “Hamakua Heritage Corridor,” this 50-mile stretch of two-lane road passes through small, historic towns and offers a sumptuous buffet of scenery around every hairpin turn. Sugar was once king along this coast, and though the last field was planted in 1994, vestiges of the plantation past lay scattered along the trail.
Leave the city of Hilo behind and venture north toward Akaka Falls, continuing past the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden to the town of Laupahoehoe. Here you’ll find the Laupahoehoe Train Museum, a small building that showcases the history of the Hawaii Consolidated Railway. The train was vital for transporting sugar from the fields to the port of Hilo, although a devastating tsunami in 1946 obliterated the tracks.
Continue along a serpentine road oft likened to the Road to Hana, and make a stop in sleepy Honoka‘a for a dose of small town charm. Ranching and farming are big in these parts, and the rural economy and coastal location make for a haven for free-spirited artists. Continue further to Waipio Valley, the official end of the road, and if your legs are feeling up for the journey, take a hike down the state’s steepest road to the taro-lined valley floor. Waipio is the valley where King Kamehameha was hidden away as a child, and the way of life and secluded surroundings have changed little since the days of the king.
One of the most scenic roads on the Big Island, the Chain of Craters Road stretches for 19 miles (31 kilometers) from the summit of Kilauea Volcano to sea level, a change in elevation of 3,700 feet (1,128 meters). The drive offers stunning vistas across changing landscapes, access to different volcanic features, and other interesting sites.
A sandy peninsula extending into Honolulu Harbor, Magic Island—more rarely referred to by its official name, Aina Moana—affords rare right-off-the-beach green space with a protected swimming lagoon across from the Ala Moana shopping center in downtown Honolulu. The park is popular for local family barbecues and picnics, and its open 30 acres (12 acres) are fronted by remarkable banyan trees and feature tall palms, picnic tables, and long grassy lawns.
Kilauea Iki crater is one of the most visited spots in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and its most popular hike cuts across the floor of the crater—a walk into the heart of an active volcano. Though today the crater looks tame from above, steam vents still rise from areas with moisture, and the otherworldly terrain of the crater floor is unique among others in the Hawaiian chain.
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Even as early 1877, the Hawaiian Royalty recognized the need for preserving open space. With the city of Honolulu rapidly growing, King David Kalakaua—the last reigning King of Hawaii—allocated 130 of Waikiki’s acres towards a park for the people of Hawaii. Naming it after his beloved wife—Queen Kapiolani—the park today offers sprawling green fields for locals, visitors, and families.
In addition to the soccer fields, tennis courts, and jogging paths, the park also houses the Honolulu Zoo and public art shows on the weekends. For special events, the Waikiki Shell is a performance venue set in the middle of Kapiolani Park, where some of the world’s largest musical acts will throw concerts, benefits, and shows just minutes from Waikiki Beach. The Honolulu Marathon—held every December—usually finishes at Kapiolani Park, and even during other times of the year, this is a happening place for Honolulu residents to escape the city rush.
Looming large over Honolulu Harbor, the Aloha Tower complex features several buildings including a 10 story clock tower, the (now closed) Hawaii Maritime Center and several dining establishments overlooking the large wooden and permanently-stationed Falls of Clyde sailing ship. The tower, built in 1926, housed a lighthouse and its clock was one of the largest in the United States at the time. It was first structure most immigrants and visitors to Hawaii saw when their boats docked here prior to the popularization of air travel. Today, cruise ships still pull into the nook alongside the building, and, regardless of whether you arrived on one, you can take a free elevator ride to the top of the tower and lookout over downtown, Waikiki and out across the ocean. While there’s little action at the marketplace today aside from a Hooters and a Gordon Biersch restaurant, Hawaii Pacific University has plans to revitalize the area in the coming years, converting the now largely-abandoned center into meeting space, shopping, dining and even residences.
An expanse of white sand complete with beach cabanas and flanked by towering resorts, Wailea Beach is a postcard-worthy image of Maui. The idyllic beach, which holds the claim to fame that it was once rated the number one beach in American, draws in everyone from locals who come to play in the surf to sunbathers basking in beach chairs.
A landmark stop on almost every organized Honolulu tour is the nine-foot-tall bronze statue immortalizing Hawaii’s original ambassador of aloha, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku. One of those guys who was seemingly good at everything, Kahanamoku wore many hats. He was a Hollywood actor, a full-blooded Hawaiian descended from alii (the royal class), an Olympic swimmer who won gold in both the 1912 and 1920 games, an Olympic water polo player, a 13-term sheriff of Honolulu and one of Waikiki’s first surf and canoe instructors. Kahanamoku used his charm and personable nature to popularize surfing and was later the first person to be inducted into both the Surfing and Swimming Halls of Fame.
Poised in front of a longboard and welcoming visitors with open arms, the Duke statue has enjoyed a prime seaside spot across from popular Waikiki breaks since it was installed on what would have been Duke’s 100th birthday in 1990. Many visitors honor Duke’s memory by draping floral and kukui nut lei around his neck and from his arms, or just pause long enough to take a shaka selfie. Making this stop even more popular is the fact that one of Honolulu’s live city cameras is constantly trained on the statue and the palm-lined sands of Waikiki behind it — a great tool for making family back home jealous in real time.
Each summer, Duke’s OceanFest honors the waterman’s memory with ceremonies at the statue and a series of ocean sporting events including longboard surfing, paddleboard racing, swimming, surf polo and beach volleyball.
Located high in the mountains above the Kalalau Valley, Koke’e State Park is one of Kauai’s most popular hiking destinations. The park offers over a dozen trails for all ages and ability levels from gentle bird watching trails to strenuous cliff edge trails. First time visitors to Kauai won’t want to miss the panoramic views of the Kalalau Valley and Waimea Canyon from the park’s lookouts.
Situated on a hill overlooking Kealakekua Bay, St. Benedict’s Painted Church is a small yet beautiful church known for its lavishly painted interior. An active Roman Catholic parish, the church welcomes visitors and is also listed on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.
Enjoy a rush of color and fragrance as you enter Hawaii the Big Island’s Akatsuka Orchid Gardens. Brimming with flowers, exhibits, and hands-on activities, the immersive experience is as meticulously curated as the orchids themselves. See more than 500 orchids, learn the growing process, dine in the greenhouse, and plant an orchid to take home.
When most people think of lavender farms, they don’t think of Hawaii. But this farm’s fragrant seaside breezes and sweeping ocean vistas might make you forget all about France and merge the colorful purple blooms forever in your mind with memories of Maui. The (relatively) tiny Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm welcomes visitors for daily tours of its 13.5-acre cliff-side plot sporting 45 different varieties of the calming herb. It’s location in Kula, 4,000 feet above sea level in the Island’s elevated central region, enjoys a Mediterranean climate and also grows olive trees, hydrangea, South African protea and succulents.
Explore the farm on your own via their lavender treasure hunt or take a guided walking or golf-cart property tour departing several times each day (additional costs apply). In case you needed another way to relax on Maui, the farm house’s large lanai (porch) overlooking its gardens, white gazebo and the sea provides the perfect spot to indulge in lavender tea, a pre-packed gourmet picnic lunch featuring a special lavender-infused dessert or other organic botanical products from the onsite gift shop.
With 100 acres (40.5 hectares) of public beach situated right between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, Ala Moana Beach Park is a local favorite and top destination for Oahu visitors. There are paths for walking, calm water for swimming and stand-up paddleboarding, gentle waves for surfing, and plenty of soft, golden sand for sunbathing.
You might never guess that the twisting labyrinth of branches, roots, and foliage engulfing the Banyan Tree Park square all stem from a single banyan tree. Planted in front of the Lahaina courthouse in 1873, the tree now consists of a dense canopy expanding more than 60 feet (18 meters) with innumerable offshoots providing shade for picnickers, art shows, and passers-by.
The dramatic landscape of Kilauea Point—a rocky promontory crowned by a historic red-topped lighthouse—is one of Kauai’s most scenic spots. And on this Island, that’s saying a lot. Pacific trade winds whip up the water surrounding the blustery point and drive them, shattering into millions of tiny droplets, against the more than 500-foot-tall sheer cliff faces. Seabirds soar and dive into the deep blue water for food.
Most of the expansive 203-acre refuge is off limits—it protects some of the largest nesting colonies of seabirds in the main Hawaiian Islands. But, from the short interpretive trail between the entrance and the lighthouse, it’s easy to find red- and white-tailed tropic birds, albatross, great frigatebirds, red- and brown-footed boobies and wedge-tailed shearwaters flying overhead. Hawaiian spinner dolphins, rare monk seals and migrating humpback whales (Nov. and April), can sometimes be spotted offshore. The area is also an important habitat for the nēnē, the world’s rarest goose and Hawaii’s state bird.
Visitors can climb the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse, built in 1913, for outstanding ocean panoramas on tours offered two days a week. A small bookstore and information center has details about the various birds and habitats in the refuge.
Iao Valley State Monument park, in West Maui, is popular with hikers and sightseers. The valley was the site of the famous Battle of Kepaniwai, which took place between Kamehameha—founder of the Hawaiian Kingdom—and Maui’s warriors in the late 18th century. Today, the rainforest-filled valley is a popular spot to enjoy local flora.
Just across the street from the tropical Pacific Ocean in downtown Honolulu, the four-story Ala Moana Center (often just called Ala Moana) is currently the world’s largest outdoor shopping mall. With 2.4 million square feet of retail space alone (that’s as much as 42 football fields!), the sprawling property boasts 340 shops and 80 restaurants including national and international name brands chains (Burberry, Cartier, Apple, Gap, Macy’s, Starbucks, California Pizza Kitchen and Barnes & Noble) as well as Hawaii-only outlets (Happy Wahine Boutique, Big Island Candies, Kahala Sportswear, Martin & MacArthur, Honolulu Coffee Co. and Sand People). Free live entertainment—from singing competitions to hula performances and fashion shows—often take place in its central corridor stage. Always bustling, Ala Moana Center is the place to see and be seen for residents and visitors alike.
The revamped Shirokiya Japan Village walk, the last stronghold of an otherwise extinct Japanese department store, is perhaps the mall’s most unique-to-Hawaii offering. The space was revamped in 2016 and boasts 32 different Japanese food vendors, shopping, artwork and a spirit garden all fashioned to look like the thoroughfares of a traditional monzen-machi village.
Situated on Maui’s northern tip past the sweltering shores of Lahaina, Kapalua is a luxurious enclave of beaches, golf, tennis and resorts. The signature beach—Kapalua Bay—has been voted America’s best, and the Plantation Golf Course regularly hosts the best in professional golf. Snorkel with sea turtles and colorful reef fish at hidden Namalu Bay, or hike the Village Walking Trails that climb their way up the ridge. Wherever you stand in Kapalua, the island of Moloka’i dramatically sits on the not-too-distant horizon, and whitecaps fleck the Pailolo Channel that separates the two islands. In winter, locals flock to Fleming Beach Park for the bodysurfing and waves, and secret, white sand Oneloa Bay is a sanctuary of footprints and silence. And, even though tony Kapalua is only 20 minutes from Lahaina, its exposure to the trade winds means it’s always cooler just a few minutes up the road.
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- Things to do in Big Island of Hawaii
- Things to do in Kauai
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