These Are The Top Three Things You Need To Do On Each Hawaiian Island
With so many fantastic islands to explore, planning a trip to Hawaii, or even just a weekend getaway to a neighboring island, can be difficult – especially on a tight schedule and budget. In reality, it would take years to explore everything just one Hawaiian Island has to offer, but unfortunately, most of us only have time for the highlights. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with the three things you need to do on each Hawaiian Island, listed in descending order from the large Hawaii Island to the small isle of Lanai.
1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI 96785, USA
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
. This 523-square-mile park contains some of the world’s most awe-inspiring wonders, not to mention the two active volcanoes. This place is downright otherworldly.
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.
2. Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea, Hawaii 96720, USA
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. At approximately one million years old, Mauna Kea passed the most active shield volcano stage hundreds of thousands of years ago. But don't worry about it spewing any fiery ash: the volcano last erupted 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, and is now considered dormant.
3. Akaka Falls
‘Akaka Falls, Hawaii 96720, USA
Located along the northeastern Hamakua Coast, Akaka Falls State Park is home to two gorgeous waterfalls fed by the Kolekole Stream: Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls. At more than 400 feet in height, Akaka Falls is perhaps the most famous waterfall on Hawaii Island – and for good reason. Cascading 442 feet into a lush, tropical jungle is Hawaii’s greatest and most wondrous waterfall. Located on the Big Island’s Hamakua Coast is
, 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.
1. Road to Hana
Hana Highway, Hana Hwy, Hawaii, USA
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. The Hana Highway was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, and you should allot approximately two and a half hours to make the 60-some mile journey, and that’s if you don’t make any stops at the incredible parks, beaches, waterfalls, and snack stands you’ll find along the way.
2. Haleakalā National Park
Haleakal? National Park, Hawaii, USA
Just 27 square miles short of equaling the entire size of Oahu,
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. Its name is fitting, considering the sunrises and sunsets from the summit are second to none. In fact, the summit is such a popular spot to watch the sunrise that you’ll actually need to make a reservation to visit.
3. Ka'anapali Beach
Kaanapali Beach, Kaanapali, HI 96761, USA
Once the vacation retreat of choice for Hawaiian royalty, today
is one of the island’s most popular expanses of white sands, surrounded by luxury hotels and resorts. Nestled along the northwestern shore of Maui on the world-famous Ka’anapali Beach on 11 acres of breathtaking tropical gardens, guests will love exploring "Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel," the incomparable Ka’anapali Beach Hotel.
1. Kailua Beach Park
Kailua Beach, Kailua, HI 96734, USA
With powder-soft, white sand, magnificent turquoise, clear water, and swaying palm trees,
is a photographer’s paradise – if you can catch the beach during a low-traffic period, that is. The water is relatively shallow, and is perfect for enjoying a lazy day at the beach. If you're looking for somewhere a bit quieter, you should also check out Kailua's neighbor, Lanikai Beach.
2. Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USA
The December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on
triggered the United State’s entry into World War II. You may not have known that Hawaii was put under martial law until the end of the war. Today, Pearl Harbor houses a variety of historical sites, and is home to more than 160 commands. If you only see one thing while visiting Pearl Harbor, it has to be the famous USS Arizona Memorial.
3. Diamond Head State Monument
Diamond Head State Monument, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
Perhaps one of the most iconic images associated with Hawaii is the towering silhouette of
on the southernmost tip of Oahu. Dubbed Diamond Head by sailors who were entranced by the volcano’s glittering peak, the mountain’s summit is littered with calcite crystals – but the name stuck. Once used for military training, the government-owned property has since been opened to the public, and is now the most iconic hike on the island for tourists.
1. Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon, Hawaii 96796, USA
Often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific,"
is certainly a thing of immense beauty. Unlike many similar canyons, Waimea Canyon was not formed solely from steady erosion, but also by a catastrophic collapse of the volcano that created the island of Kauai. At 10 miles long, a mile wide and approximately 3,600 feet deep, it is home to plants and trees of all shapes and sizes – giving it a more dynamic landscape than its more famous canyon cousin. For anyone planning to visit this natural wonder, we urge you to consider exploring the neighboring Koke’e State Park for some less interrupted views of the canyon.
While the Waimea Canyon lookout provides incredible views of crested buttes, ragged cliffs, and deep valley gorges, we suggest you continue on Waimea Canyon Drive into the mountains. Here, you will enter Koke’e State Park, which offers some of the state’s greatest hiking — for beginners and experienced hikers alike.
2. Na Pali Coast
N? Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai County, HI, USA
This piece of rugged
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.
Located on Kauai’s north shore is the magnificent Hanalei, made famous for its appearance in the award-winning musical, South Pacific. Overflowing with local history and charm,
is home to stellar views of Kauai’s taro fields, various art galleries and historic sites, as well as fresh air and the beautiful Hanalei Bay.
1. Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Kalaupapa National Historical Park, 189 Kaiulani St, Kalaupapa, HI 96742, USA
Located on the tiny island of Molokai, with the ocean on one side and giant 1,600-foot cliffs on the other, are the Kalawao and Kalaupapa Leper Colonies – described by Robert Louis Stevenson as a "prison fortified by nature."
is now a U.S. National Park, and home to a dwindling population, those of whom are outnumbered exponentially by those in the cemetery – where an estimated 2,000 graves lie unmarked, in addition to those with headstones.
2. Pāpōhaku Beach
P?p?haku Beach, Hawaii 96770, USA
You will be surprised to find very few people on this
, which is the longest white sand beach throughout the Hawaiian Islands. This secluded, white sandy beach is also known as "Three Mile Beach." This is because it's home to three whole miles of warm, soft sand. It is one of two beach parks that allow camping on Molokai, and the swimming can be extremely dangerous unless the ocean is completely flat and calm.
3. Molokai's Sea Cliffs
Towering at more than 3,500 feet on Molokai's northern shore are these impressive sea cliffs inaccessible via land, making this one of the most remote natural wonders in the world. The
, which reach heights of 2,000 feet, are the highest in the world, and a place of sublime beauty. The cliffs surround the former leper colony of Kalaupapa, which can only be reached via mule or airplane.
1. Munro Trail
L?naihale, Hawaii 96763, USA
Located just north of Lanai City, past the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele, this 12.8-mile, one lane dirt road offers panoramic views of the island. At the trail's scenic lookout, and on a clear day, you can see the neighboring islands of Maui, Mookai, Kaho’olawe, Oahu, and the Big Island. The road will also take you to the top of
, the island’s highest peak, measuring in at 3,370 feet.
2. Garden of the Gods
Keahiakawelo?Garden of the Gods?, Lanai City, HI 96763, USA
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.
3. The Cathedrals
For a thrilling underwater adventure, consider diving at the
, Lanai’s most popular diving spot. Experienced scuba divers will fall in love with the Cathedrals, underwater pinnacle formations formed by underwater lava tubes and illuminated by shimmering rays of light.
Are your top three things to do on each Hawaiian Island any different? What would you add or remove from this list? Don’t forget to check out our
ultimate Hawaiian bucket list for more inspiration.
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things to do on each Hawaiian Island
What are some other bucket-list worthy things to do in Hawaii?
Whether you have lived in Hawaii your entire life and never plan on leaving, or have just moved to the islands, there are some things you just have to do or experience while in Hawaii. Our Hawaii bucket list is always growing, but this is a pretty solid start for your exploits in the Aloha State. From stargazing at Mauna Kea Observatory and walking through Thurston Lava Tube to whale-watching at Poipu Beach and reveling in some of the
best beaches in the entire world, here are some bucket-list worthy things you must do in Hawaii.