The Hawaiian Islands are known around the world for their pristine beaches in a variety of striking colors and the crystalline turquoise waves that crash against the shore. After all, the islands are home to approximately 750 miles of stunning coastline and countless magnificent beaches. And while Hawaii’s beaches are absolutely breathtaking, it’s what you’ll find inland that really makes us swoon. From striking mountain peaks to lush valleys and everywhere in between, these 17 gorgeous Hawaiian landscapes prove that Hawaii has so much more to offer than its location in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean.
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. The Pacific isn’t the only body of water you’ll find near Hawaii.
The Wailua River, which meanders through Kauai, is one of only five navigable rivers in Hawaii. The river drains from the summit of Mount Waialeale, the wettest spot in Hawaii, receiving approximately 488 inches of rain each year.
2. Oahu’s Ko’olau Mountains are simply stunning.
Serving as a backdrop to Oahu’s stunning windward coast, the Ko’olau Mountains are not a mountain range in the traditional meaning; the mountains are what remains of the Ko’olau Volcano, and are positively breathtaking. The mountain range was recognized as a National Natural Landmark in 1972.
3. Is there any better view than the famous 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, it's home to plants and trees of all shapes and sizes – giving it a more dynamic landscape than its more famous canyon cousin.
4. The summit of Mauna Kea is truly remarkable — especially at sunset.
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.
5. As is the summit of Mount Haleakala.
Haleakala National Park covers an area of approximately 33,000 acres, and the Haleakala crater is a massive seven miles across, two miles wide, and more than 2,600 feet deep. That’s large enough for all of Manhattan to fit within the crater!
6. Taro fields as far as the eye can see from the Hanalei Valley Lookout.
A jaw-dropping vista awaits you at the Hanalei Valley Lookout — the Hanalei River and expansive taro fields are flanked on either side by majestic mountains and waterfalls. Just off Highway 56/560, this picturesque lookout point proves that it’s not always about the ocean views.
7. Hawaii’s countless waterfalls are absolutely breathtaking — especially 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 short stroll leading through a jungle of banana plants, towering bamboo groves, and lush orchids.
8. This bamboo forest is the stuff dreams are made of.
Located in southeast Maui, off Hana Highway and near the Pools of Oheo, is the unforgettable Pipiwai Trail, a four-mile round trip trek that will take you on quite the enchanting journey through a lush Hawaiian tropical rainforest to a towering banyan tree, through a vast bamboo forest, and to two impressive, cascading waterfalls.
9. Is there anything prettier than this Maui lavender farm?
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.
10. Lined with trees, everyone must drive down Maluhia Road once.
The Holo Holo Koloa Scenic Byway serves as the gateway to Kauai's southern shore and is full of magnificent views and gorgeous stops, including Maluhia Road, a stretch of highway covered in a canopy of eucalyptus trees.
11. Koko Head is a gorgeous behemoth.
Located on Oahu’s southern shore is this lush volcano. Please don’t let the short 1.5-mile round trip hike to reach the summit fool you — Koko Head is brutal — we’re talking more than 1,000 railway steps leading to the summit. It’s a great workout that yields stellar views of the entire south shore of Oahu, and if you get up early enough, it is one of the best spots on the island to view the sunrise.
12. The Iao Valley is iconic, to say the least.
Located just south of the West Maui Forest Reserve and near Wailuku is Iao Valley State Park, a lush, 4,000-acre valley with miles of hiking trails, stunning vistas, and the famous Iao Needle. The fern covered lava formation rising 1,200 feet from the valley’s floor was formed from millennia of erosion of the softer rock surrounding the peak and is deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture.
13. Step away from the beach to the stunning Waipio Valley.
The sacred Waipio Valley was once the boyhood home of King Kamehameha I and is an important site for Hawaiian history and culture. But history aside, "The Valley of the Kings" certainly appears as though it was made for royalty — the valley is surrounded by tropical vegetation and 2,000-foot high cliffs.
14. You won’t find gorgeous temples on the coast.
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.
15. Makauwahi Cave is certainly an interesting sight.
This relatively unknown 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.
16. Maui’s Garden of Eden is something special.
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 groves of rainbow eucalyptus trees, which look as though they have materialized here from the pages of a storybook.
17. How could we have almost forgotten Kilauea Caldera?
Within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is Kilauea Caldera, the fiery home of one of Hawaii’s most revered gods: Pele. Kilauea is both Hawaii’s youngest shield volcano on land, as well as the most active. The volcano is also experiencing one of the most long-lived eruptions known to man — the eruption began in 1983 on the eastern rift zone, and continues to this day. It doesn't get much more wild or beautiful than that.