So you want to go to Hawaii. Of course, why wouldn’t you? Pictures of blue waters, warm sands, lush tropical forests, and luaus promise a perfect paradise. Diverse culture, thrilling outdoor activities, and exotic flavors are added bonuses that await you on your adventure. But what does it mean to go to Hawaii? Technically, the youngest state in the US is composed of hundreds of different islands—with new ones popping up all the time—and it can be confusing figuring out exactly where you need to go for your ideal escape. Fret not, we’ve got the inside scoop on the beloved islands favored by travelers and locals alike.
This island has earned the nickname, “The Gathering Place,” for a good reason and is a staple for most Hawaiian vacations. They’ll be a lot of icons you’ll recognize here: Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, and the North Shore to name a few. This is the most populated island within the chain and is the perfect blend of east meets west with native Hawaiian influence mixed in. The urban jungle of Honolulu is the state’s capital. It’s a bustling city full of great shopping, delicious food, and high-rise hotels. And running along its oceanfront edge is a little slice of paradise, the famous Waikiki Beach. If you need a break from city life, the laid back North Shore is a treasure chest ready for you to unlock its secrets. With so much history and things to see, you’re guaranteed a fun-filled trip from start to finish.
You can’t miss this!
No visit to Oahu is complete without a stop at Pearl Harbor. Pay respects to those who lost their lives defending our country on Dec. 7, 1941. The floating USS Arizona Memorial allows visitors to view the sunken ship from the water’s surface and learn about the people and events that shaped such an iconic day.
The silhouette of this volcanic crater graces the skyline with Honolulu’s skyscrapers and is quite a backdrop for Waikiki Beach. No longer active, it is now a popular hiking destination with an easy incline perfect for almost any physical level. The climb won’t take your breath away, but the views from the top certainly will!
For a taste of authentic Hawaii, hang out with laid-back locals on the famous North Shore. Contrary to the crowded concrete streets of Honolulu, the North Shore offers visitors a chance to cruise the coast and discover beachy coves, sleepy towns, and pineapple fields. Visit during the spring and summer months and grab some snorkeling gear from seaside shacks or rent a board and learn to surf on waves perfect for beginners. Come November, the peaceful atmosphere of the North Shore is rocked by some of the largest waves in the world, and seasoned and professional surfers flock to the birthplace of Big Wave Surfing.
This picturesque island is often considered the favorite of most Hawaii visitors. A popular honeymoon destination, Maui attracts travelers with lush valleys, artsy towns, peaceful beaches, and farm-to-table delicacies. You won’t find a concrete jungle here, which definitely adds to its appeal. Grab a round of golf or look for migrating humpback whales and take in everything Maui has to offer for a true Hawaiian experience.
You can’t miss this!
Road to Hana
The peaceful town of Hana is considered to be one of the last unspoiled frontiers in Hawaii and a must-stop on any Maui itinerary. What really puts this town on the map is the 52-mile drive it takes to get there. Filled with twists and turns, narrow bridges, and captivating views, hop in a rental car (we recommend a jeep or convertible) and remember, it’s all about the journey.
Iao Valley State Park
Lose yourself in the beauty of the “Valley Island” with a hike through this state park. You’ll be transported to another world among the lush green flora and babbling creeks and rivers. Rest in the mists of a waterfall while gazing up at the Iao Needle, a lava relic rising 1,200 feet in the sky.
Maui’s restaurants offer some unique and fresh flavors thanks to their farm-to-table philosophies. You can see these farms for yourself with a tour of Maui’s cooler and fertile Upcountry. Stop at Surfing Goat Diary and sample some of their award-winning cheeses or relax among the lavender fields with a cup of tea at Alii Kula Lavender Farm.
The untouched landscapes of Kauai are heaven for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. Natural wonders and historic towns are a big draw for visitors, but for the most part, crowds aren’t a problem here. Accurately named the “Garden Isle,” Kauai’s forests, valleys, and beaches have caught the eye of many film makers throughout the years as well—queue the Jurassic Park theme song.
You can’t miss this!
Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” this greener counterpart is truly a sight to behold. The Waimea Canyon Lookout and other stops along the main drive allow unparalleled views of this 14-mile monument and its cliffs and gorges. There are also a number of beginner to expert level hiking trails.
Whether by land, sea, or air, you need to see Kauai’s Napali Coast. Emerald cliffs rise from the azure waves of the Pacific Ocean for 17 miles, and majestic waterfalls crash to the clear pools below in its valleys. Hop on a boat and cruise along the scenic coast, perhaps stopping for some snorkeling along the way. Feed your adventurous side with a kayak tour in and around its caves and caverns. For seasoned hikers, try the 11-mile trail that runs through its valleys. The best views by far are from the sky on a guided helicopter tour.
Related: Outdoor Adventures on Hawaii Island
Best known as the “Big Island,” this is, you guessed it, the largest island in the chain. Also the youngest of the four main islands, Hawaii Island offers some truly unique experiences. If you’ve ever dreamed of swimming with gentle giants or watching lava flow right before your eyes, than this is the place for you.
You can’t miss this!
Hawaii Volcano National Parks
The Hawaiian Islands were born from the volcanic depths of the sea and cooling lava created the lands we love today. Hawaii Volcano National Park allows visitors the chance to see volcanoes in action. Home of Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, erupts a steady flow of glowing lave over land and pouring into the sea. Hear the lave hiss as it hits the sea on a boat tour or hike through craters on one of the 150 trails.
Manta Ray Night Swim
Measuring as wide as 23ft from wing tip to tip, Manta Rays are some of the ocean’s most gentle creatures despite their intimidating size. Although they can be spotted during the day, the best time to see them is at night when they are most active. Boats depart from Kona nightly, and give you the chance to jump in the water with dive flashlights perfect for attracting plankton, their favorite food, and offer safe viewing of the Mantas.
With the abundance of activities and experiences offered at each of the islands, we understand it can be hard to choose. We recommend picking one or two (or all four) and take an island hopping adventure to make the most of your paradise induced escape. Speak to your local agent today, and their knowledge will help you find the island(s) that are right for you!