Though the Aloha State is relatively small in comparison to most mainland states, the Hawaiian Islands are incredibly dense in terms of beautiful landscapes to explore. From fiery volcanic calderas and mountain peaks that tower above the clouds to cascading waterfalls and pristine beaches in a variety of colors, here are 21 unimaginably beautiful places you absolutely must add to your bucket list.
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. 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 via 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.
2. Mount Haleakala, Maui
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!
3. 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 short stroll leading through a jungle of banana plants, towering bamboo groves, and lush orchids.
4. Kailua Beach, Oahu
With powder-soft, white sand, magnificent turquoise, clear water, and swaying palm trees, Kailua is an absolute paradise — if you can catch the beach during a low-traffic period, that is. It has often been described as one of Hawaii’s most magnificent beaches. You should also check out Kailua’s neighbor, Lanikai Beach.
5. 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 on a dirt path only advised for vehicles with four-wheel drive. On a clear day, visitors can see the islands of Molokai and Oahu.
6. Queen’s Bath, Kauai
Located in the town of Princeville on Kauai’s north shore is a unique tide pool known as Queen’s Bath once used as a bathing spot for Hawaiian royalty. A sinkhole surrounded by igneous rock, this incredible geological formation is not only a vibrant turquoise pool set in the striking black lava shoreline, but it is also a dangerous lava bench exposed to deadly high surf.
7. Kula Ali’i 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.
8. Papakolea Green Sand Beach, Hawaii Island
The southernmost point in the United States is memorable not just for its location, but for the natural wonders you will find there. On the southernmost tip of Hawaii Island is Papakolea, a green sand beach so unique that you will only find one other spot with this iconic sand on the planet. The stunning beach is only accessible via four-wheel drive, or a 3-mile hike, but trust us, the experience is entirely worth it.
9. Lanai Lookout, Oahu
Located on Oahu’s southeastern shore, just past Hanauma Bay, on Kalanianaole Highway, is the Lanai Lookout, a seemingly average lookout point — that is, until you step over the man-made wall surrounding the parking lot and into the incredible lava formations below. Oh, and did we mention that on a clear day you can see Lanai, Molokai, and Maui from the lookout?
10. 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, it's home to plants and trees of all shapes and sizes — giving it a more dynamic landscape than its more famous canyon cousin.
11. Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach, Maui
This stunning red sand beach on Maui’s eastern coast is one of only a few red sand beaches in the world. It doesn’t get more wild than this — you’ll have to access the stunning beach via an overgrown cliff-side trail, and the water is rough.
12. Waipio Valley, Hawaii Island
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.
13. 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.
14. Sea Cliffs, Molokai
The island of Molokai was formed from two distinct shield volcanoes: the east and west Molokai volcanoes. The East Molokai Volcano suffered from a catastrophic collapse approximately 1.5 million years ago, forming the impressive sea cliffs you’ll find today. 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.
15. Polihale Beach, Kauai
At the end of a long dirt road off Kuamuali’i Highway, Polihale is the largest stretch of sand in Hawaii, and is often overlooked for more accessible Kauai beaches.
16. Pipiwai Trail, Maui
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.
17. Kilauea Caldera, Hawaii Island
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. There’s really no describing the feeling of being so close to an active volcano: you simply need to experience it for yourself.
18. Kaena Point, Oahu
The northwestern tip of Oahu is home to Kaena Point State Park, a magical place full of hidden gems, including heart shaped rocks, tide pools, stunning cliff faces, and a natural reserve area created to protect nesting albatrosses, Hawaiian monk seals, and the fragile native vegetation. According to ancient Hawaiian lore, Kaena Point is the "jumping off" point for souls leaving this world.
19. Ke’e Beach, Kauai
Located in Haena State Park, Ke'e Beach marks the end of the Kuhio Highway, the furthest you can drive on Kauai's north shore. A protected reef makes this an idyllic spot for snorkeling and swimming during the summer.
20. Road to Hana, Maui
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.
21. Mauna Kea, 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.
Tell us, how many of these remarkable landscapes have you witnessed? While we love Hawaii’s
many stunning beaches, there is so much more to our beautiful state than the Pacific Ocean.