There’s no doubt in our minds that the Hawaiian Islands are downright heavenly, but there are some places that will make you feel closer to heaven than others. From striking mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls to white sand beaches and even a few man-made wonders, these 17 places found throughout the Hawaiians will make you feel as though you’ve found heaven on earth.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Garden of the Gods, Lanai
Also known as Keahiakawelo, this otherworldly rock garden at the end of Polihua Road is located 45 minutes from Lanai City. According to lore, this barren landscape is the result of a contest between two priests from Lanai and Molokai. Each was supposed to keep a fire burning on their island longer than the other, and the winner’s island would be rewarded with great abundance. Apparently Kawelo, the Lanai priest, used every bit of vegetation found in Keahiakawelo.
2. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii Island
Whether you have lived on Hawaii’s Big Island for your entire life, or this is your first time visiting, you absolutely must explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. A trip to Hawaii Volcanoes isn’t complete without a visit to the Kilauea Caldera, a trip down the Thurston Lava Tube, a walk through the lava fields, a drive down the Chain of Craters Road, and, of course, as much hiking as you can handle.
3. Hanalei, Kauai
Though Hanalei is located just north of the Princeville resort area, it feels like worlds away from the Hawaiian tourism scene. With a small one-lane bridge leading into town, and an unusual mix of shopping and dining options, the very small town – approximately 0.8 square miles – is full of old world charm. The beautiful town and neighboring Hanalei Bay have been featured in various films, including the 1958 musical classic, South Pacific.
4. Garden of Eden, Maui
These lush botanical gardens are set on 26 acres full of trails, picnic spots, waterfalls and coastal views. Visitors should be sure not to miss these incredible grove of rainbow eucalyptus trees, which look as though they have materialized here from the pages of a storybook.
5. Akaka Falls, Hawaii island
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.
6. Byodo-In Temple, Oahu
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.
7. Kauai’s Fern Grotto
This naturally-formed lava cave, located off Kauai’s Wailua River, was formed millions of years ago, and is home to various native Hawaiian plant species as well as colorful, exotic plants, that come together to make visitors feel as though they have entered a tropical rainforest.
8. Kula Lavender Farm, Maui
Upcountry Maui, near Mount Haleakala, gets a great deal of rain, resulting in lush, green scenery, and flourishing lavender at the Kula Lavender Farm. But the beautiful, fragrant lavender isn’t the only thing to see at this gorgeous farm – visitors will also be rewarded with panoramic views of the entire western half of the island.
9. Mount Haleakala, Maui
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.
10. Na Pali Coast, Kauai
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.
11. Painted Church, Hawaii Island
Officially known as St. Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church, this magnificent piece of art on Hawaii Island is open to the public seven days a week, and holds mass five days each week. The masterpiece was built from 1899 to 1902 under the direction of Catholic missionary Father John Velghe, an untrained folk artist who painted frescoes along the interior ceiling and walls depicting various biblical scenes.
12. The Cathedrals, Lanai
For a thrilling underwater adventure, consider diving at the Cathedrals, Lanai’s most popular diving spot. Experienced scuba divers will fall in love with the Cathedrals, underwater pinnacle formations formed by lava tubes and illuminated by shimmering rays of light.
13. Molokini, Maui
A small, uninhabited islet between the islands of Maui and Kaho’olawe, Molokini is a crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater. The islet has an approximate area of just 23 acres, and is a world-class snorkeling and scuba diving destination.
14. Waimanalo Beach, Oahu
Located on Oahu’s windward coast is this phenomenal beach with three miles of sloping white sand, and the seemingly endless azure sea. Hundreds of ironwood trees provide much-needed relief from the sun, and the beach’s picnic tables and grilles make Waimanalo a destination for weekend barbecues.
15. Mount Ka’ala, Oahu
At just over 4,000 feet above sea level, Mount Ka’ala is the highest peak on the island of Oahu, and let’s face it, is quite heavenly. Part of the Waianae Mountain Range, the summit can only be reached via a strenuous day hike.
16. Mauna Kea Observatories, Hawaii Island
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. The summit is also home to one of most-well known observatories in the world.
17. Waimea Canyon, Kauai
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.
For more incredible natural wonders, check out our ultimate natural wonders road trips on
Kauai and Hawaii Island.