The Hawaiian Islands are full of absolutely breathtaking wonders, and are as unique as they are isolated (and that’s saying a lot, since the islands are the most isolated population center on earth). From awe-inspiring man-made castles and serene temples to majestic mountains and jaw-dropping caves, there are some marvels in Hawaii that need to be seen to be believed.
1. Makauwahi Cave
This little-known archaeological site is home to Kauai’s largest limestone cave that was formed when the once fossilized sand dune collapsed. After you squeeze through the mouth of the cave, you will be rewarded with stunning views of a spacious open-air amphitheater.
2. Iolani Palace
It’s hard to find a man-made wonder as enchanting as Hawaii’s Iolani Palace, the royal residence for the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1845 to 1893. After the monarchy was overthrown, the building served as the capitol building until 1969, and then in 1978, restored and opened as a museum. The palace features a unique style of architecture known as American Florentine, and is the only official state royal residence on United States soil.
3. Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea measures in at 13,796 feet above sea level, the highest point in the state of Hawaii. In fact, when measured from its oceanic base deep in the vast Pacific, the mountain measures in at more than 33,000 feet tall – that’s higher than Mount Everest!
4. Waimea Canyon
Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon is certainly a thing of immense beauty. At ten miles long, a mile wide and approximately 3,600 feet deep, and is home to plants and trees of all shapes and sizes – giving it a more dynamic landscape than its more famous canyon cousin.
5. Oahu's Spitting Caves
Located on Oahu’s southeastern shore are these picturesque Spitting Caves, found below a high cliff where waves crash underneath and shoot into the cave, ejecting the water like a reverse blowhole.
6. Akaka Falls
Cascading 442 feet into a lush, tropical jungle is perhaps Hawaii’s greatest waterfall. Located on the Big Island’s Hamakua Coast is Akaka Falls, a place of pure paradise flowing from the Kolekole Stream. To view the falls, visitors take a half-hour paved trail leading through a jungle of banana plants, towering bamboo groves and lush orchids.
7. Sweetheart Rock
Puu Pehe, often referred to as Sweetheart Rock, is not only a magnificent natural landmark but a geological formation steeped in Hawaiian legend.
The story goes that there were two lovers, a Hawaiian maiden named Pehe from Lahaina and a warrior from Lanai named Makakehua. He was extremely taken with her beauty, and he hid her in a sea cave at the base of Manele’s cliffs. One day, while gathering supplies, he noticed a storm coming and started back to Pehe, who had drowned by the massive waves. Makakehua was devastated and wailed out to his ancestors to help him climb the steep rock island where he eventually buried her and jumped into the pounding surf below.
8. Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach
Located south of Hana Bay on the eastern coast of Maui, Kaihalulu is one of the few red sand beaches in the world. You’ll have to access the stunning beach via an overgrown cliff-side trail, and the water is rough, but really, the views are certainly worth a trip.
9. Na Pali Coast
This piece of rugged Kauai coastline is said to be one of the most unspoiled natural beauties in all of Hawaii: thousand foot cliffs are eroded to create vaulted valleys and hidden beaches. The erosion is the culprit behind one of the coastline’s other main features. You see, the only way to gain access is by a long, arduous hike, by boat, or via helicopter tour. And that’s not for lack of trying – roads were once attempted, but as one of the most rapidly changing shorelines in the world, it was a futile attempt.
10. Kaumana Lava Tubes
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s Thurston Lava Tube gets all the credit, but Kaumana Cave, located near Hilo, is certainly worth the visit. The skylight entrance drops into two miles of pitch-black cave, complete with stalactites and stalagmites, as well as vines and roots falling from the cave’s roof.
11. Haiku Stairs
Constructed in order to reach the Haiku Radio Station, a top-secret facility used to transmit radio signals to U.S. Navy ships in the Pacific, the Haiku Stairs became one of Hawaii’s most iconic hikes – even though the grueling 3,922 step climb is both dangerous and quite illegal. While we would never condone any of our readers making this trek, it’s hard to deny that the famous stairs are one of the most enchanting spots in all of Hawaii.
12. Mount Haleakala
Just 27 square miles short of equaling the entire size of Oahu, Mount Haleakala is a gentle giant – a dormant volcano that has inspired those who make the journey to its summit for centuries. Translating to “House of the Sun,” Haleakala rises more than 10,000 feet above sea level, comprises 75 percent of Maui Island, and is home to desert-like conditions, rainforests, and everything in between.
13. Kaimu Black Sand Beach
Located in what was once the bustling fishing village of Kalapana is Kaimu Black Sand Beach. When visiting the Big Island, most people want to see a black sand beach, but what if you could experience a black sand beach with sand younger than you are? Yeah, that’s right; the sand at this relatively new beach is only 20 years old. How cool is that?
14. Waikapalae Cave
Waikapalae Cave, also known as the blue room, is quite simply the stuff of dreams. Legend states that the Maniniholo Dry Cave and the Waikapalae and Wakanaloa Wet Caves were created by Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire for her lover, but abandoned them when they filled with water.
15. Byodo-In Temple
Located on Oahu’s lush windward coast at the base of the Ko’olau Mountains is the Byodo-In Temple, a small-scale replica of a famous temple in Japan that is more than 950 years old. The non-denominational shrine was dedicated in 1968 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants in Hawaii. The beautiful grounds include stunning statues, a large reflecting pond, meditation areas, and small waterfalls.