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Things to Do in Hawaii - page 5

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Akaka Falls
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11 Tours and Activities

When you first set eyes on Akaka Falls you can be forgiven if your heart skips a beat. After all, the beauty of this 422 ft. waterfall has been known to catch travelers off guard, as there is something about its vertical perfection that casts a hypnotic, time-stopping trance.

Or, perhaps it’s the dramatic jungle surroundings that give the falls their grandeur, where the heavily eroded theater of green seems to gently cradle the plunge. Either way, Akaka Falls is one of the Big Island’s most popular and scenic attractions, and the short hike to reach the falls makes it easily accessible for visitors. Located 25 minutes north of Hilo, the waterfall is found within the confines of Akaka Falls State Park. A short loop trail leads from the parking lot towards the overlook for the famous falls, and along the way offers peek-a-boo views of 100 ft. Kahuna Falls.

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Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku)
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7 Tours and Activities

Set inside of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Thurston Lava tube is the most accessible lava tube on the Big Island of Hawaii. Discovered in 1913 by newspaper publisher Lorrin Thurston, this dark recess is the result of subterranean lava which once flowed through this young section of earth. 400 years old and 600 feet long, the tube is now lit by electric lights to create an eerie glow for visitors who venture inside.

On the 15-minute walk down towards the cave the dense rainforest surroundings make it hard to believe that magma ever flowed through here at all. Nevertheless, as you make your way down a set of metal stairs, the entrance to the tube stares at you like a black abyss in the jungle. Although the ceiling can be a little low at points, the walk through the tube is completely safe and is a surreal contrast to the foliage outside.

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Haleakala National Park
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Haleakala National Park protects the world’s largest dormant volcano, Haleakala Crater. Exploring its huge expanses, it’s easy to see why haleakala means ‘house of the sun’.

The park is divided into two sections: the crater and the coastal area around Kipahulu.

Visitors come here to hike the wild lunar landscapes, with overnight treks particularly popular. Sunrise is an amazing sight over Haleakala, and the park is also well worth visiting at night, when the star-filled sky is crystal clear.

On the coast, the landscape is more lush, with fern-shaded pools and tumbling waterfalls to cool off in.

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Hana
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Hana is a community on the eastern end of Maui, and it might remain largely isolated if not for the spectacular scenery on the Hana Highway that draws visitors in droves.

Hana Town itself has a small population, although there's a constant influx of travelers. It's hot and humid year-round, but you'll be able to escape the tropical conditions at any one of the many excellent beaches in and around Hana – including a black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park, and Hamoa Beach (sometimes called Hawaii's most beautiful beach).

The Hana Highway – also known as the Road to Hana – meanders more than 50 miles along the northern shore of Maui and leads to the community of Hana. If you've got the time, the best way to travel the Hana Highway is slowly, stopping frequently to check out waterfalls, beaches, and breathtaking views.

Along with the many attractions along the Road to Hana, there are also historic and scenic points of interest in Hana Town itself.

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Rainbow Falls
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Rainbow Falls create a rare instance where a Hawaiian name and an English name actually mean the same thing. Known to Hawaiians as waianuenue, the name is a reference to the arcing rainbows that can be seen in the waterfall’s mist. The image, it seems, is a natural occurrence of such beauty and wonder that it transcends linguistic lines, and today the waterfall is one of the most popular attractions when visiting the town of Hilo.

Only 50 yards from a paved parking lot in Wailuku River State Park, a large viewing area provides the best platform for gazing out at the falls. To see the waterfall’s namesake rainbow, visit the falls around 10 a.m. when the angle of light is just right. Behind the falls, a large cave forms the home of Hina—the mythological Hawaiian god who gave birth to the demigod Maui—and the turquoise pool and surrounding rain forest are the trademark photo of paradise.

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Dole Plantation
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For a fun day out in the Hawaiian countryside, discover Oahu’s pineapple heritage at the Dole Plantation. What started out as a fruit stand in the middle of the pineapple fields in 1950 is now an extremely popular Hawaiian attraction.

The Dole pineapple empire was founded more than a century ago by the Pineapple King, James Dole. Visit his original pineapple plantation to tour the living museum housed in a traditional plantation home. Exhibits trace the history of Dole and his pineapple industry, but there’s far more than history to be found here.

Get lost amongst Hawaiian plants in the world’s largest maze, ride the Pineapple Express train through the fruit fields, take a garden tour of the hibiscus, bromeliads and other tropical flowers, and dine on island cuisine at the Plantation Grille.

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Oheo Gulch
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The Ohe’o Gulch is a vibrantly green valley that has been naturally created by centuries of rainforest streams. Also called the Kipahulu Area, these lush lands became part of the Haleakala National Park in the 1940s. The main draw for visitors is the many tall waterfalls that feed into groups of large, tiered natural pools, sometimes called the Seven Sacred Pools of Ohe’o. Swimming in the fresh water is popular when water levels are safe.

Two streams, the the Palikea and Pipiwai, are the source of all of the water in this area. Visitors can hike the two-mile Pipiwai Trail (3-5 hours roundtrip) along the streams with view of the pools. Along the trail, there is one tranquil natural pool that can be less crowded than the Seven Sacred Pools area. The path ends at the 400-foot-tall Waimoku Falls, and you can always cool off in the pools after finishing the hike.

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Waipio Valley
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Forming a deep natural amphitheater, washed by the sea and waterfalls, the Big Island’s Waipi'o Valley is a natural wonderland of flowering rainforest and hiking trails.

Cliffs thousands of feet high line the famously steep valley, and waterfalls course their way down to the valley floor.

The curved black-sand beach here is reached by a steep route entering the valley, and lookouts give stupendous views from above.

It’s a magical place, where battles were fought by Kamehameha the Great, and the site of temples and royal burial caves.

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More Things to Do in Hawaii

Halona Blowhole

Halona Blowhole

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Once visitors are aware that hālona means “lookout” in Hawaiian, it becomes quite clear what the Halona Blowhole is about: views, Pacific Ocean and blowhole! The Halona Blowhole is one of the most spectacular natural wonders on O’ahu Island; the more than 1,000-year-old geyser-like rock formation is characterized by a hole which propels incoming surf in a narrow, molten lava tube, shooting sea spray high into the air as a result - sometimes up to 30 feet. This is mostly a summery phenomenon but wintertime also has a big ticket item drawing visitors: humpback whales. The lookout point offers unobstructed views of the O’ahu shoreline as well as glimpses of Lanai and Moloka'I Islands on clear days.

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Kilohana Plantation

Kilohana Plantation

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About as touristy as you can get on sleepy Kauai, Kilohana Plantation, the former estate of a sugar baron, now boasts a short train ride through tropical orchards, an upscale alfresco restaurant, the headquarters for Kauai’s only major rum distillery, shopping and a spa, plus a luau complete with fire twirlers. Thanks to a 1980s restoration, the 16,000-square-foot manor house retains much of the structural charm it must have had when Gaylord Parke Wilcox, the head of the Grove Farm sugar plantation, built the Tudor mansion in 1935.

Though history buffs will find a few interior nods to the Hawaii Historic Landmark’s former use—vintage photographs, ornate carpeting, hardwood floors and wainscoting—this is no museum. The home’s bedrooms, sitting rooms and sunrooms now host shops purveying a huge variety of 8island-inspired souvenirs from glassworks to pottery, apparel and jewelry to coconut carvings, confections and spices.

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Kaneohe Bay

Kaneohe Bay

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The best stretch of sand in Kaneohe Bay is out on the middle of the sea. That’s where the sandbar, or “Sunken Island” emerges during low tide, and its sugary white sands are like a floating cay that was made especially for you. Kayaking to the sandbar is one of the most popular activities on the Windward Side of Oahu, and while the beaches along the shoreline aren’t great for swimming, the protected waters make the perfect spot for paddling, boating, or kayaking.

In addition to the sandbar, five islands poke above the turquoise, reef-fringed waters. The tallest of the islands—Chinaman’s Hat—rises 200 feet from the northern edge of the bay and offshore of Kualoa Park. Known to Hawaiians as Mokoli“i, the island resembles a large straw that seems to be floating on the surface of the water.

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Kona (Kailua-Kona)

Kona (Kailua-Kona)

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Often called Kailua-Kona, and referring to the western Kona Coast district as a whole, Kona is on the leeward (dry and sunny) side of the Big Island.

The Kona Coast is the Big Island’s vacation central, with good weather, watersports, great beaches, Hawaiian temples, museums, restaurants and shops. The annual Ironman Triathlon is held here in October. While you’re here, sample the local Kona coffee, follow the scenic oceanfront drive to Kailua Pier, visit the former royal palaces of Kamakahonu and Hulihee, and drop into Hawaii's first church.

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Kilauea Volcano

Kilauea Volcano

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Kilauea Volcano is the star of the Big Island’s Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii's only World Heritage Site. Kilauea Volcano remains active, spouting orange lava, venting steam, glowing and sputtering.

When conditions are safe you can drive around the volcano's edge on the 11 mile (17 kilometer) Crater Rim Drive, dotted with spectacular lookouts. Visit the park visitors center to learn about trail conditions and guided walks, and come prepared for changeable weather if you’re hiking the trails that crisscross the rim.

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Chain of Craters Road

Chain of Craters Road

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For as overly dramatic as the name might sound, this road is literally a winding journey that weaves past volcanic craters—many of which still steam with life from magma within their core.

Located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Chain of Craters Road drops 3,700 feet over 20 scorched Earth miles. It's the main conduit for exploring the park and accessing its numerous hikes, and it ends at the point where lava crossed the road in a 2003 eruption. There are numerous trailheads that start from the road, although hiking can be hazardous across the sharp lava rocks and there are no facilities or supplies. Even if you don’t venture out the trails, the views simply from driving the road are spectacular in their geologic beauty. Patches of rainforest over a thousand years old appear as islands amidst a sea of lava rock, and pit craters that formed from collapsing Earth lie pockmarked just off the road.

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Mokolii Island

Mokolii Island

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The islet of Mokolii, or Chinaman’s Hat, is a rugged little outpost that’s home to wedge-tailed shearwaters and occasionally explored by adventurous visitors.

Its unusual shape makes it a popular landmark to spot from panoramic viewpoints such as Kualoa Point. The fish-filled coral reefs surrounding the island are home to sharks, adding to the island’s mystery and James Bond quality. When the tide is out you could even walk here, but it’s best to visit by kayak or boat. When you get here, you can explore sea caves or have two golden beaches all to yourself. A 20-minute climb winds to the top of the island for great views looking back to Oahu’s Windward coast.

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Kohala

Kohala

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Like a large thumb jutting into the sea, the Kohala district occupies the northwestern tip of the sprawling Big Island of Hawaii. Formed by a 5,400 ft. volcano which last erupted over 120,000 years ago, the Kohala district today is dominated by lush valleys, laidback plantation towns, verdant pastures, and ancient Hawaiian religious sites. It’s an outpost of cowboys and hippies, beaches and valleys, and architecture which ranges from the modern resorts of South Kohala to ancient temples constructed entirely of stone. Although the land area of Kohala only comprises 6% of the island’s total, it could still take weeks to explore in its entirety. More than just a part of the Big Island of Hawaii, Kohala is easily a destination unto itself.

Most visitors to South Kohala are familiar with the resort enclaves of Waikoloa and Mauna Lani where irrigated golf courses sit in stark contrast to the surrounding black lava fields.

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Kolekole Falls

Kolekole Falls

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Maybe not as well-known as nearby neighbor Akaka Falls, Kolekole Falls is hidden beneath a bridge along the Hamakua Coast, north of Hilo. Lush and almost jungle-like, the waterfall is part of Kolekole Beach Park.

There is a rocky beach where the Kolekole Stream meets the ocean that has a reputation for being rough. Kolekole Beach Park, like other coastal areas along Hawaii can experience seasonal high surf and strong currents, making the ocean unsafe for swimming. But the stream is usually calm and a favorite swimming spot complete with a rope swing tied to a banyan tree. The streamside park is also a popular place to fish and picnic. Along with picnic tables, there are barbecue pits, pavilions with electricity and restrooms.

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Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls

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Kauai is known as “The Garden Isle” for its exceptionally verdant beauty, and when you first catch sight of Wailua Falls it’s easy to understand why. Spilling 80 feet over a rocky ledge into a fresh water pool below, this double-streamed, misty cascade so perfectly captures the tropical essence that it was used as part of the opening scene for the TV show, Fantasy Island.

And, while there’s definitely no shortage of waterfalls on Kauai, what makes Wailua Falls so popular is the fact that you can see the falls without even having to hike. As you follow rural, Ma’alu Road as it twists its way up the mountain, there will eventually be a large parking lot approximately four miles up from the highway. Here, from a sweeping viewpoint on a country road looking over Wailua Stream, a heart-stopping view of Wailua Falls is only a few steps away.

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Haleiwa

Haleiwa

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Set on Oahu’s famous north shore just minutes from world-class surf, funky Haleiwa is the Hawaiian antithesis of urban Honolulu. Gone are the brand-name glamorous stores of Ala Moana Mall, and enter the small, locally-owned boutiques with tanned and beautiful staff. Surfboards poke from the back of trucks that cruise the two lane roads, and boardshorts, bikinis, and rubber slippers are the de facto outfit of choice. Haleiwa, however, has two different moods—and they change with the time of year. In spring, summer, and early fall, Haleiwa is a sunny, laidback beach town where where you can start the day with a shark diving tour and finish with a barbecue at the beach. The waves are flat, the skies are blue, and you’re fare more likely to pack a snorkel than a surfboard or boogie board to the beach.

In winter, however, the entire surf world descends on Haleiwa and the buzz in the air is electric.

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Kohala Coast

Kohala Coast

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Kaumahina State Wayside Park

Kaumahina State Wayside Park

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This 7.8-acre park is a popular stop along the Road to Hana, with several hiking trails, covered picnic facilities and scenic views of the coast. There are dozens of native Hawaiian plants and birds to see as you walk through the forested area, so take a break from the drive and get some perspective from an overlook of the Ke’anae Peninsula and the nearby village.

There are several scenic spots to catch views of the bright blue sea and the winding coastline. Trails lead down to the ocean and loop back around, so there’s space to stretch your legs while enjoying the tropical environment here. Bring your walking shoes, your camera or binoculars and a picnic to enjoy some time at this park on your way up to Hana.

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