By Susie Reese
Hawaii is home to Kona coffee, pineapples, the world’s largest dormant volcano, and the only royal palace in America, and year after year, the world’s most isolated population center draws millions of visitors. From history buffs and luxury seekers to nature lovers and beach bums, Hawaii offers unique experiences for every visitor, and we’ve compiled the top ten to help you choose an itinerary that fits your interests and tastes!
USS Arizona Memorial with City Tour
The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is a storied memorial, which includes the events of Pearl Harbor, the internment of Japanese Americans, the battles in the Aleutians, and the occupation of Japan. The 184-foot-long structure spans the mid-portion of the sunken battle ships and offers exhibits on the sights, sounds, and artifacts of the attack on Oahu and the aftermath. Following the memorial, explore historic Honolulu with visits to the Iolani Palace, the official residence of Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs; King Kamehameha Statue, one of Oahu’s most photographed landmarks; the State Capitol, and more.
A Traditional Luau
You haven’t experienced the Hawaiian culture unless you’ve enjoyed a traditional luau, a feast to celebrate special events, such as a battle victory or an important milestone. Luau food now blends Hawaiian, Polynesian, and even American flavors, but many still include pork cooked in imu (underground oven); poi, boiled taro roots; poke, raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice and coconut cream; and various marinated chicken, salmon, and beef. Some add in Chinese noodles, potato or macaroni salads; steamed rice; and of course, pineapples. A fresh flower lei greeting, a Mai Tai, and the hula dance make this a must-attend attraction when in Hawaii.
Active Volcano Adventure
Experience the beauty of Hawaiian landscapes with a helicopter adventure. Seeing Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, is a definite highlight with its molten oranges and reds. Also on a helicopter adventure, you’ll marvel at the natural wonder and beauty of the islands, including the tropical rainforests, breathtaking waterfalls, and dramatic cliffs. Combine your tour with a zipline course through the rainforest and a tour of Volcanoes National Park with guide for a full-day adventure.
Maui Whale Watching Experience
Humpback whales are some of the most photogenic whales in the world because of their surface activity, including breaches, pec slaps, and tail up dives, and Maui’s warm and protected waters make an inviting habitat for mating and giving birth. Take a leisurely cruise into the crystal clear waters of the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to see the migrating whales up close. From December to May, humpback whale sightings are almost a guarantee because of their mating season. Many voyages include live whale songs played over hydrophones and expert commentary, whether on a yacht, raft, or kayak.
North Shore Tour with Waimea Bay and Diamond Head
Oahu’s North Shore is a surfing mecca with gentle waves in the summer and big waves in the winter that attract beginners and veteran surfers alike, and the seven-mile stretch of beaches hosts the world’s premier surfing competitions. Waimea Bay was the legendary spot where big wave surfing originated in the 1950s and is also a beautiful place to sunbathe and picnic. Hike Diamond Head, a dormant volcano that is the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fine. It was once a military post and offers enchanting views of Waikiki and Oahu’s south shore as well as underground tunnels and military bunkers.
A Dole Plantation Visit
Hawaii produces a third of the world’s pineapple supply, so you won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit the Dole Plantation. Ride the Pineapple Express, a 22-minute train ride that takes visitors through the Dole Plantation field, providing the history of the pineapple industry in Hawaii. Wander the eight different gardens and hear stories about plantation life and the Hawaiian heritage with a Plantation Garden Tour. Oh, and you won’t want to miss the world’s largest maze, a three-acre puzzle with almost two and a half miles of paths created by 14,000 colorful Hawaiian plants. Stop by the Plantation Grille for island favorites like teriyaki chicken, kalua pork, and loco moco.
Napali Snorkel Tour
This tour is more than just a water adventure. On a Napali Snorkel Tour, you’ll take a catamaran out to the sublime Napali Coast where you’ll explore sea caves, ancient lava tubes, majestic waterfalls, and swim among marine wildlife at Kauai’s best snorkeling area. Some tours venture to hidden beaches and explore ancient fishing villages. Couple yours with a whale-watching adventure.
Haleakala Sunrise Bike Ride
See the sunrise over Haleakala Crater, the world’s largest dormant volcano. It’s so large that the city of Manhattan could fit inside, and the views of Maui from its peak at sunrise are nothing short of majestic. Riders will first drive to the summit of Haleakala National Park (10,023 above sea level) with guides offering history and commentary about the island’s rare plants and animals. Then, you will be outfitted with your bike and ride down 6,500 feet on Mount Haleakala through the switchbacks, Haleakala Ranch, and Kula before zooming through the towns of Makawao and Paia, ending at Paia Bay Beach Park.
“The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”
Formed from erosion of the Wailua River and the collapse of a volcano, Waimea Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and on the west side of Kauai, stretches more than 14 miles and 3,600 deep with its dramatic gorges and cliffs. The red rock among the lush, green valley offers an amazing spectacle of natural beauty. Experience it up close on a Wailua River cruise with stops at the famous Fern Grotto with a rainforest walk and Hanapepe Lookout with a great view of the canyon. From the latter, you can see where sections of the movie Jurassic Park were filmed.
Kona Coffee Tour
Hawaii is the only place in America that grows coffee, so you can’t skip on a Kona Coffee Tour if you worship the glorious elixir of life. (I love coffee; how can you tell?) Visit a mountain coffee plantation and taste the smooth, sweet blend of Kona beans that is usually expensive or even unavailable in the contiguous 48 states (do not mistake “Kona blend” for actual “Kona coffee”). Most coffee tours are blended with a crater experience. (See what I did there?)
Start planning your journey to Hawaii now with these ten must-see sights and tastes. Contact your local travel agent today!
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About the Author
Susie Reese is a copywriter for FC USA Artworks. She loves to travel (you know it!) and has ventured extensively across North America. She enjoys short walks on the beach and comic cons. She writes On the Go: A Magazine for Travelers and on her free-time, comics and short stories.