50 Things to Do in Hawaii Guaranteed to Get You in the Aloha Spirit

From Waikiki Beach to Waimea Canyon, here's where to hang in Hawaii.

things to do in Hawaii
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What's not to love about Hawaii? Our 50th state is known for its waterfalls, volcanoes, and black-sand beaches, not to mention luxury resorts and buzzing restaurants. While this scenic archipelago offers incredible outdoor adventures, there's also cultural centers and coffee plantations to discover. If you're planning a visit, here are the best things to do on Hawaii's four main islands, which includes the Big Island, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai.

1

Though its official name is Hawaii, it's known as the Big Island — and at more than 4,000 square miles, it's larger than all of the other Hawaiian islands combined. It's known for its volcanoes, pristine beaches (including a few black-sand strands), and luxury resorts.

2 Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
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Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to the active Kilauea volcano, is one of the top things to do on the Big Island (due to the volcano's on-going eruption, the park is currently closed to visitors). Take the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive, while the 19-mile Chain of Craters Road will take you past expansive lava fields, craters, prehistoric petroglyphs, and, possibly, active lava.

More: Black-Sand Beaches in Hawaii and Other Places Around the World

3 Swim on a Beautiful Black-Sand Beach
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One of the top things to do in Hawaii is to visit a black-sand beach. Simply known as Black Sand Beach, Punalu'u is the most famous of Hawaii's jet-hued strands. In addition to a long, wide stretch of black sand dotted with volcanic rocks, you can often see endangered green and hawksbill turtles sunning themselves on the sand. Lesser-known Kehena, on the eastern shore, is a another black-sand beauty.

4 Tour a Kona Coffee Plantation
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The Kona region is known for its coffee, which draws its distinctive flavor from its high elevation and rich volcanic soil from nearby Hualalai volcano. Learn about the coffee-making process during a coffee plantation tour at Greenwell Farms, which includes a visit through the coffee fields and processing facilities, followed by a tasting.

5 Stay on the Scenic Kohala Coast
Hilton Hotels & Resorts

One of the best Hawaii hotels is the Hilton Waikoloa Village, a family-friendly amenity-rich resort that features a four-ace lagoon-style pool, complete with waterslides and waterfalls, two golf courses, the Legends of Hawaii Luau, the Kohala Spa, and numerous places to dine, including Kamuela Provision Company, serving locally sourced meat and seafood.

6 Dine on Super Fresh Seafood
'Ulu Ocean Grill

It's all about the seafood at ULU Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge in the swanky Four Seasons Hualalai. Start off with a Hawaii roll, made with ahi tuna, mango, and avocado, followed by mahi mahi in a coconut-carrot sauce. There's also a stellar wine list, featuring labels from around the world, including many from Napa Valley.

7 Star Gaze Atop Mauna Kea
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The Big Island is one of the best places to stargaze, and Mauna Kea, a sacred volcano, houses one of the world's largest research observatories. You can drive to the summit on your own to view the constellations, or sign up for a tour with Mauna Kea Summit Adventures.

8 Go Brewery Hopping
Kona Brewing Co.

The Big Island has several breweries, including Kona Brewing Company, which produces craft beers like Big Wave Golden Ale and Fire Rock Pale Ale. There's also Mehana Brewing Company in Hilo, Hawaii's largest independent craft brewer, where you can sample the Volcano Red Ale and Mauna Kea Pale Ale.

9 Zoom Above Waterfalls on a Zip Line
KapohoKine Adventures

Of all the things to do in Hawaii, this one's for all those thrill-seekers. If you're keen on an adrenaline-pumping adventure, take a ziplining tour with KapohoKine Adventures, where you'll zoom over waterfalls and lush forest on its 2,400-foot zip course — one of the longest in the Hawaiian islands. The company also also offers a day-long zip tour, complete with a Hawaiian barbecue lunch.

10 Sample a Shave Ice
Original Big Island Shave Ice Co.

This snow-cone-like local treat is served all over the islands. While on the Big Island, you can try one at the Original Big Island Shave Ice Co., a shave ice truck in the Waimea area. You can add a scoop of ice cream and top it with natural fruit syrups like guava or passionfruit, plus a drizzle of condensed milk.

11 Sign Up for a Horseback Riding Tour
Paniolo Adventures

An incredible way to see the Big Island's natural scenery is to go horseback riding. One of the top outfitters is Paniolo Adventures, which offers sunset rides on a working cattle ranch. Riders (no experience required) will be treated to stellar views of the ocean, volcanoes, and even the island of Maui.

12 Marvel at the Waipio Valley Overlook
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It's hard to come upon a more spectacular view than the one you'll find at the Waipo Valley Lookout, located on the island's northern coast. This sacred valley, the boyhood home of King Kamehameha I, features emerald-green cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and a crescent-shaped black-sand beach.

13 Have a Sunset Cocktail at Huggo's
Huggo's

One of the top things to do while on the Big Island is to have a few sunset cocktails. Huggo's on the Rocks, rocking a casual vibe, is a perennial favorite — it's right on the water and offers nightly live entertainment. Order the pupu platter (ribs, poke, etc.) along with frozen drinks like the strawberry lava flow.

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Maui has something for everyone. Famous for its gorgeous scenery — including cascading waterfalls, which can be viewed along the popular Hana Highway — it's also known for its top-notch snorkeling, surfing, whale watching, and many other water-based activities.

15 Drive the Famous Hana Highway
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This scenic serpentine highway, located along Maui's northeast coastline, is one of the most iconic roads in Hawaii and makes for a great road trip. While the Road to Hana, as it's known, is only 53 miles from the town of Kahului to Hana, it will likely take you several hours, as you'll want to stop to soak in the beauty of cascading waterfalls, jagged cliffs, and vast taro fields. You'll want to have your camera ready at those pitstops you're bound to make — this is a popular Hawaii attraction for a reason.

16 See the Sunrise in Haleakala National Park
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Visible from just about any point on the island is Haleakala crater, the centerpiece of Haleakala National Park. This 10,023-foot dormant volcano is set amid a stunning landscape of red desert terrain, rock gardens, and cascading waterfalls. Though open throughout the day, the most popular times to visit are sunrise and sunset.

17 Sip Pineapple-Infused Vodka
Hali'imaile Distilling Company

Hali'imaile Distilling Company, located amid the pineapple and sugarcane fields in Maui's Upcountry, produces handcrafted spirits, including its signature Pau Maui vodka, made using locally grown pineapples. You can take a tour of the micro-distillery, then have a tasting of the vodka and other spirits, like Paniolo whiskey.

18 Catch the Sunset From Your Lanai
Hyatt

After a day of exploring the island, you'll want to be back at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, so you can watch the sunset from the privacy of your own lanai at this Hawaii hotel. Afterward, join fellow guests for a few drinks at the Umalu bar, overlooking the Pacific Ocean — you can never go wrong with a mango mojito or a classic mai tai.

19 Try Crispy Whole Fish at Morimoto Maui
Morimoto Maui

Within the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort is Morimoto Maui, a popular restaurant owned by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. The menu features Hawaiian-inspired seafood dishes, like crispy whole fish in a spicy tofu sauce and yellowtail fish, which is cooked at your table in a hot stone bowl.

20 Dine at Humuhumunukunukuapua'a
Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts

Yes, that's the name. Named for Hawaii's state fish, this thatched-roof restaurant sits atop a lagoon, and it's located within the Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, a luxury 40-acre Polynesian-style resort. Dine on island seafood, sip Maui-made Lokelani sparkling wine, and take in the killer sunsets. Oh, and it's OK to just call it Humuhumu.

21 Ride Aboard an Outrigger Canoe
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A fun thing to do on Maui is to take a ride on an outrigger canoe, a traditional Polynesian water vessel. Hawaiian Paddle Sports offers canoe tours aboard its six-seat, 45-foot-long outrigger canoes, and as you paddle, your guide will explain some of the local legends of the Hawaiian islands and Polynesia.

22 Hike to a Pair of Scenic Waterfalls
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If you're up for an easygoing hike to two scenic waterfalls, then head to Twin Falls in the Ho'olawa Valley (be sure to bring your bathing suit). The first smaller waterfall comes up quickly; the second, known as Caveman Falls, is a bit of a trek, but it's well worth it to see this beauty, and you can take a refreshing dip.

23 Snorkel the Molokini Crater
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Off Maui's southern coast is the Molokini Crater, a crescent-shaped volcanic crater, which offers some of the island's top snorkeling. Sign up for a half-day boat tour with Maui Snorkel Charters, where you can swim amid rainbow-hued tropical fish, turtles, eels, dolphins, and maybe even the occasional octopus.

24 Take a Whale Watching Tour
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Every winter, humpback whales migrate from Alaska to the warm waters of Maui (we like the way they think!). During a whale watching cruise with outfitters like PacWhale Eco-Adventures, you can learn about these magnificent sea creatures from on-board naturalists and hopefully have a few sightings!

25 Tee Off on a Seaside Course
Wailea Golf Club

Maui is known for its stunningly designed golf courses, many of which skirt the sea and have sweeping Pacific Ocean views, as well as fragrant tropical foliage along the fairways. You'll find three courses at the Grand Wailea, including the 6,825-yard Emerald Course and the 6,545-yard Blue Course.

26 Learn About Hawaiian Culture
Fairmont Kea Lani

At the Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, a gorgeous resort on Polo Beach, you can not only spend your days catching rays and ordering mai tais at the swim-up pool bar, but you can also learn about Hawaiian culture. Choose from activities like learning the hula (the traditional Hawaiian dance), taking a ukulele lesson, and learning the history of the Hawaiian language.

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Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii, is here, as is the world-famous Waikiki Beach, which is lined with resorts, restaurants, water sports concessions, and nightclubs. It's also home to Diamond Head crater and, of course, Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base.

28 Spend a Memorable Day at Pearl Harbor
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One of the top things to do on Oahu is to tour Pearl Harbor, the site of the surprise air attack on the U.S. naval base by the Japanese on December 7, 1941 — a day that will live in infamy. Today, Pearl Harbor is comprised of five historic sites, including the USS Arizona Memorial, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, as well as the Pacific Aviation Museum.

29 Hike to the Summit of Diamond Head
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Another can't-miss attraction on the island is to hike up to the summit of 760-foot Diamond Head volcanic crater. Though considered moderate, the trail involves switchbacks and numerous steps, but the reward is well worth it, as you'll be treated to 360-degree views of Waikiki, the Pacific Ocean, and the Ko'olau Mountains.

30 Attend an Authentic Hawaiian Luau
Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center is a 42-acre living history museum on Oahu's northeast shore. Wander amid seven Pacific Island "villages," to learn about the traditions of Hawaiians, Samoans, Maori, and other Polynesian peoples. The center also offers an authentic luau, canoe rides, and Hukilau Marketplacefor native crafts and jewelry.

31 Treat Yourself to a Lomi Lomi Massage
Diamond Resorts

Just minutes from Waikiki Beach, The Modern Honolulu is a buzzy boutique hotel with glam pools and the Lather Spa. Before your treatment, sip a peach green tip in the relaxation area, then prepare to bliss out during the traditional lomi lomi massage, which uses rolling techniques to gently but deeply soothe sore muscles.

32 Eat Lunch in a Trendy Food Hall
Stripsteak Waikiki

Located within the International Marketplace, The Street, A Michael Mina Social House, is a trendy food hall from celebrity chef Michael Mina. It's filled with local vendors, such as Kai Poke and Maui Onion Burger (there's also a fun tiki bar). Within the same complex is Mina's Stripsteak Waikiki, the chef's first Hawaiian restaurant.

33 Tour a Pineapple Plantation
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Spend an afternoon at Dole Plantation, a 60-acre pineapple plantation on Oahu's north shore. Navigate your way through the Pineapple Garden Maze, the world's largest maze (plan on getting lost a few times!), watch a pineapple-cutting demonstration, and take a narrated train tour of the grounds.

34 Lounge on Lanikai Beach
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Lanikai Beach, on the northeastern shore, is one of the island's most photographed beaches. Due to the offshore coral reef, the water is super calm throughout the year, making it ideal for swimming and snorkeling, as well as sailing and windsurfing. Plus, its palm-lined, mile-long stretch of powder-soft sand is perfect for strolling.

35 Hang With Mickey Mouse
Disney

At Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, kids can attend pool parties with Mickey and Goofy and watch Disney flicks on the lawn. Other activities that'll keep the little ones busy at this sprawling family-friendly Polynesian-style resort include a splash zone, water sports like snorkeling and boogie boarding, and a luau in the evening.

36 Lunch at Mahina & Sun's
Steve Czerniak

One of Oahu's most buzzed-about restaurants is Mahina & Sun's, located within the trendy Surfjack Hotel. You'll find seafood on the menu, including spicy ahi poke and opah (moonfish), but the wood fired-oven pizzas are not to be missed — try the Naked Pig version, made with fromage blanc, sweet onions, and bacon.

37 Kayak to the Mokulua Islands
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Take a 5-hour kayak tour to the Mokulua Islands. You'll kayak along pretty Kailua Bay to the main island alongside your guide (keep an eye out for sea turtles and monk seals), and while there, you'll hike to a secret cove and a take a dip in a tide pool. The tour also includes lunch and use of snorkeling equipment.

38 Stay in World-Famous Waikiki
Hyatt

If you want to be in the middle of everything, stay at the Hyatt Centric, a boutique hotel in Waikiki, Hawaii's most famous beach resort. After checking out Diamond Head and other attractions, cool off in the pool, then dig in to dishes like ahi poke and coconut shrimp in the tapas-style restaurant called The Lanai.

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Considered by many to have the most spectacular scenery, Kauai is a lush and rugged island, with rocky cliffs along its coastline, dense rainforests, tropical foliage, and cascading waterfalls. It's also home to many unspoiled beaches and sprawling resorts.

40 Hike in a Spectacularly Scenic Canyon
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Known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," Waimea Canyon is a must-see attraction on Kauai's west side. To experience this 10-mile-long, 1-mile-wide, and more than 3,600-foot-deep gorge — you can drive or take a hike, both lead to beautiful lookouts, where you can snap photos and ponder the rugged beauty of this geological wonder.

41 See Rugged Cliffs by Helicopter
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One of the world's most beautiful places is the Na Pali Coast, 17 miles of rugged cliffs, located 90 miles north of Lihue on the north shore. Take a helicopter ride to get a bird's-eye view of the emerald-hued cliffs, or, if you're an experienced hiker, you can tackle the famed 11-mile Kalalau Trail, passing native flora along the way.

42 Go Snorkeling on Poipu Beach
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Though known as the Garden Isle due to its lush scenery, Kauai has some pretty sweet beaches, too. One of the top strands is Poipu Beach, a crescent-shaped beauty with golden sand that's ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing. Keep an eye out for Hawaiian green sea turtles, and December through May, humpback whales.

43 Chill in a Poolside Cabana
Sheraton Kauai Resort​

The Sheraton Kauai Resort, which sits on one of the loveliest stretches of Poipu Beach, has a bi-level lagoon-style waterfront swimming pool. Rent one of the poolside cabanas for the day, which come with a super comfy chairs and couches and food and drink service from Lava's restaurant (try the Kalua pork tacos).

44 Dine in a Roy Yamaguchi Restaurant
Eating House 1849

Eating House 1849, from celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, who is considered the creator of Hawaiian fusion cuisine, is a farm-to-table hotspot serving dishes like big-eye tuna poke with a sesame rice cracker, beef short ribs in a peanut sauce, and grilled prawns in a roasted mushroom risotto, along with handcrafted cocktails.

45 Order a Slice of Hula Pie
Duke’s Restaurants

A great spot to wile away a few hours is Duke's, a classic Kauai restaurant and bar, known for its laid-back vibe, tropical-themed cocktails, and delicious desserts like the Hula Pie, which is macadamia nut ice cream in a chocolate cookie crust. Stop by on a Sunday, when musician Henry Kapono and his band play until sunset.

46 Arrange a Private Torchlit Dinner
St. Regis Princeville

During a stay at the St. Regis Princeville, a postcard-perfect north-shore resort, you can dine in Makana Terrace or the Nalu Kai Grill, but for a truly romantic experience, book the private dinner, where you'll be treated to a four-course gourmet meal in a secluded spot lit by tiki torches overlooking Hanalei Bay.

47 Smell the Flowers in a Botanic Garden
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Allerton Garden, on the south shore, is a top thing to do on Kauai. Wander amid the bamboo and fruit trees, and be sure to check out the gigantic Moreton Bay fig trees, which were featured in Jurassic Park. Nearby is McBryde Garden, which features flowering trees, orchids, palms, and other tropical foliage.

48 Marvel at Wailua Falls
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Kauai has numerous waterfalls, but not all are as accessible as Wailua Falls, north of Lihue. Rather than a strenuous hike, you can simply park your car and follow the path to the falls. You definitely won't be disappointed by these twin beauties, which some might recognize from the opening credits of the show Fantasy Island.

49 Stop in for a Rum Tasting
Koloa Rum Company

Enjoy a rum tasting in the tasting room of Koloa Rum Company, located on the historic Kilohana plantation in Lihue. This micro-distiller creates small-batch rum from local sugarcane. In addition to white and dark rums, you can sample rums flavored with ingredients like coconut and coffee.

50 Take a Surf Lesson
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If you're in Hawaii, why not take a surfing lesson? The Koa Kea Hotel & Resort on Poipu Beach offers lessons, where an instructor will teach you how to stand on the board while still on the sand, then you'll head into the water to try what you've learned. Beyond Poipu Beach, another other surfing hotspot is nearby Lawai Beach.

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