From pristine beaches in a variety of colors to cascading waterfalls, active volcanoes and breathtaking mountains, it would take years to explore all that Hawaii has to offer in the way of outdoor adventure. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with 26 epic places to visit and things to do to add to your Hawaii bucket list. Depending upon how much time you have to explore our beautiful Hawaiian Islands, as well as your hiking skill level and experience in the water, you can tweak this list to best suit your needs.
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. Witness a sunrise or sunset from the summit of Mount Haleakala.
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.
2. Hang out at Waimanalo Beach.
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.
3. Hike through Thurston Lave Tube.
This 500-year-old lava cave within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a stunning geographic feature formed when a river of lava gradually forms walls and a ceiling. When the lava flow stops, the remaining lava flows downhill, and you are left with a tunnel.
4. Take a surf lesson.
Hawaii is known for its amazing surfing, and you'd be missing out if you didn't at least take a lesson. Surf lessons are available almost everywhere in Hawaii, but the top-rated lessons can be found at Hans Hedemann Surf School, Maui Beach Boys, and Kona Mike’s Surf Adventures.
5. Stargaze at the summit of 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. The summit is also home to state-of-the-art observatories, with more than a dozen telescopes funded by 11 countries.
6. Swim with sea turtles.
There is little more exciting - or uniquely Hawaiian - than getting up close and personal with Hawaiian green sea turtles, or honu.
7. Take in the views at 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.
8. Head underwater and explore Lanai’s greatest dive site, the Cathedrals.
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.
9. Go camping on the beach.
With a seemingly endless summer, Hawaii residents can enjoy camping any time of year - and really, there is little better than pitching a tent and spending your weekend staying on the beach.
10. Get up close and personal with lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
With more than 323,000 acres to explore, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the state’s largest national park – and it’s still growing! The park is also home to Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive subaerial volcano.
11. Hang out in the stunning pools at Oheo Gulch.
Also known as the Seven Sacred Pools, these seven swimming holes are connected by waterfalls and hidden within one of Maui’s bamboo forests.
12. Go mountain tubing on Kauai.
Located near Lihue, a series of tunnels and canals were built to bring water to the Lihue Sugar Plantation, which is now closed. However, the canal system is currently used to guide tubers on an adventure with a unique perspective, and even better views. Check out Kauai Backcountry Adventures for the thrill of a lifetime.
13. Visit one of Hawaii’s stunning black sand beaches, like Punalu’u.
Nestled between Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Naalehu town on the Big Island, Punaluu is perhaps Hawaii’s most famous black sand beach, and is a popular haven for honu to relax.
14. Take to the skies and go ziplining through the Hawaiian jungle.
What better way to immerse yourself in the Hawaiian rainforest than to spend the afternoon zipping through towering trees and lush valleys? And trust us – anyone can zip line!
15. Take a boat tour of Kauai’s fabled 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.
16. Drive Maui’s famous Hana Highway and explore the sites along the way.
Maui’s Road to Hana is perhaps the most popular scenic drive on the island – and possibly all of Hawaii. This infamous 64.4-mile highway that stretches from Kahului to Hana is popular not for the destination – Hana Town – but for the incredible journey it takes to get there.
17. Hike to Hawaii’s breathtaking green sand beach, Papakolea.
A 2.5-mile trail brings hikers to Papakolea Beach, also known as Green Sand Beach, the southernmost point in the United States. The trail is reserved for pedestrians and four-wheel drive vehicles – and the dangerous offshore waters make it one of the best spots for shoreline fishing.
18. Stroll through Allerton Garden.
Likened to the Garden of Eden, this artistic 80-acre section of the National Tropical Botanical Garden offers tours to visitors by reservation.
19. Try your hand at SUP (stand up paddle boarding).
SUP is more than just a favorite outdoor activity in Hawaii - it's an opportunity to explore Hawaiian waters, get away from the stresses of everyday life, and even makes for an epic workout.
20. Go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay.
Over the years, this incredible snorkeling spot has transformed from a volcanic crater to the state’s first Marine Life Conservation District. An estimated 400 species of fish now live in the gentle waters. Oh, and it was voted the best beach in America for 2016 by Doctor Beach.
21. Check out Kauai’s Blue Room.
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.
22. Witness Molokai’s majestic sea cliffs.
Towering at more than 3,500 feet on Molokai's north shore are these impressive sea cliffs inaccessible via land. Viewable via boat or helicopter tour, these are among the tallest sea cliffs in the world.
23. Take a photo in front of Lanai’s 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.
24. Visit the incredible 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.
25. Hike the Pipiwai Trail.
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 four absolutely incredible natural wonders: two towering waterfalls, a bamboo forest, and a massive banyan tree.
26. Journey to Kauai’s breathtaking 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.