Top Things to Do in Hawaii
Whether you crave wildlife and adventure, or if relaxing on a beach and soaking up the sun and culture is more your thing, Hawaii has it all in droves. Made up of six major islands – Maui, Lanai, Oahu, Lanai, Kauai and Hawaii Island (aka Big Island) – there are plenty of activities, experiences and landscapes to keep you occupied, with each region serving up a distinct feel and personality. Here we look at what top things you should tick off on your visit:
Hawaii lays claim to 75% of all the coral in the USA and, of that, the Kona Coast is home to 57%, not to mention upwards of 5,000 tropical fish species. If that alone isn’t enough to tempt you into a snorkel mask then bear this in mind: depending on when and where you dive, there's a strong possibility that you'll come face to face with manta rays and green Hawaiian sea turtles in their natural habitat. If you're lucky, spinner dolphins and humpback whales may even make an appearance.
Whale and dolphin watching
If turtles and mantas aren’t enough to satisfy your need to see marine wildlife, chat to one of Flight Centre's Travel Experts about booking onto a dolphin or whale watching tour. Dolphin sightings are almost guaranteed year round but, for your best chance at a visual on the massive 40-tonne North Pacific humpback whales, take your trip from January to March.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
While not the easiest way to see a volcano in Hawaii, renting a car and setting a course for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park might be one of the most exciting. Two roads will take you through the park's 333,000 acres, culminating in the 11-mile long Crater Rim Drive, which circles the caldera of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The park is also home to some 150 miles of hiking trails, a museum, petroglyphs, another active volcano (Mauna Loa), a walk-in Lava tube and some seven different ecosystems to explore and experience.
Nicknamed the 'Grand Canyon of the Pacific' and formed by the Waimea River, Waimea Canyon in about 10 miles long and up to 900m deep. The canyon is easy to see from two convenient lookouts or can be furthered explored by foot, bike or river. Walking excursions range from easy to challenging and offer an astounding view of the red and brown-hued rocks, emerald hills and thunderous waterfalls.
Located on the North Coast of Hawaii Island, Waipio Valley – sometimes called the Hawaiian Valley of the Kings – is the birthplace of King Kamehameha I, responsible for uniting the Hawaiian Islands in 1810 after years of conflict, and is an important place for religious and political life in Hawaii. The valley is one mile across and five miles deep, surrounded by 610m cliffs and home to the tallest waterfall on Hawaii Island. Easily viewed from Waipio Valley Overlook, the valley is also explorable by guided van, walking or horseback riding tour.
Hiking and camping
If you visit any of the places previously mentioned, chances are you’ll manage to get a bit of hiking into your Hawaiian vacation. However, if you’re after a real challenge many of the islands will offer up something special. Top of the list is hiking the legendary Na Pali Coast on Kauai; the 11-mile Kalalau Trail takes you through an almost untouched paradise starting at Ke’e Beach ending up at Kalalau Beach, providing the only land access to this part of the Hawaiian coast. The trail is very challenging and only recommended for the experienced and brave (and permit holders).
It wouldn’t be a Hawaiian holiday if you didn’t try surfing. Whether you’re a novice or an expert Hawaii offers up something for everyone. If extreme surfing isn’t your thing but you want to catch a glimpse of the pros, annual competitions are held during the winter months, when you can watch the experts master waves the size of buildings. Oahu and Maui are perhaps most renowned for surfing – and a water sports holiday would be best served on the north and south shores of Oahu or Maui’s infamous northeast and northwest shores.
Hawaii has an abundance of beaches. You could try Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, potentially one of the most famous and popular beaches in the world, to sunbathe within view of the Diamond Head crater. The beach at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is nestled between two dormant volcanoes and is one of the most popular snorkelling beaches in Oahu (for when you get bored of sunbathing). Volcanic activity on Hawaii Island has created beaches with all colours of sand, especially spectacular though is Punaluu Black Sand Beach, where it isn’t uncommon to share the sands with turtles that come to bask in the sun.
Attend a Luau or Hula
Hula is a uniquely Hawaiian dance accompanied by a chant or song that expresses the stories, traditions and culture of Hawaii. It can be seen across all the islands at seasonal festivals or competitions, as well as live performances arranged by hotels and resorts. A Luau is the perfect place to watch Hula and learn about Hawaiian and Polynesian culture. Luau venues can be found throughout the islands, including the Paradise Cove Luau or the Alii Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu or the Old Lahaina Luau on Maui to name a few. If you attend a traditional Luau remember to try the authentic food on offer and eat like the locals eat.