The Hawaiian Islands are incredibly diverse, offering travelers practically an endless number of things to do. Whether you plan on visiting the Big Island, Kauai, Maui, Oahu, or one of the lesser-visited isles, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience. To make the most of it, plan to include at least some of these things to do in Hawaii on your itinerary.

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See the Na Pali Coast, Kauai Na Pali Coast, Kauai
Na Pali Coast, Kauai

See the Na Pali Coast, Kauai (Nearby Hotels)

The Na Pali coastline is often named among the most beautiful spots in the world, and truly a must-see if you visit the island of Kauai. Located along its north shore, it can only be accessed by hiking, boat, or helicopter, with the rugged Kalalau Trail recommended only for the more adventurous. Getting a bird’s-eye view is something you’ll surely never forget, soaring over the lush, emerald-hued pinnacles that tower along the shoreline for 17 miles, with emerald- and red-hued cliffs along with magnificent waterfalls that plunge into deep, narrow valleys.

Check Out the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Kauai Waimea Canyon, Kauai
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Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Check Out the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Kauai (Nearby Hotels)

Waimea Canyon is a stunning 14-mile long, one-mile wide and 3600-feet deep ravine often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It’s best viewed from the Waimea Canyon Lookout, but if you can, aim to arrive about an hour before sunset to watch the ever-changing hues of red, orange and green cliffs when they’re at their most dramatic.

Wailua Falls, Kauai Wailua Falls, Kauai
Wailua Falls, Kauai

Wailua Falls, Kauai (Nearby Hotels)

Wailua Falls is one of the most easily accessible and most spectacularly beautiful falls on Kauai. If it looks familiar, that’s because it was made famous by appearing in the opening credits of the ‘70s television series, “Fantasy Island.” The double-barreled falls plunge for about 85 feet into a 30-foot deep pool below. They’re best viewed from the overlook above, though in ancient times, legend has it that ancestral Hawaiian warriors tested their bravery by leaping from the top – of course, it was often fatal so that’s not something you should even think about trying.

Drive the Road to Hana, Maui Road to Hana
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Road to Hana

Drive the Road to Hana, Maui (Nearby Hotels)

While you’re on Maui, you’ll have to experience one of the world’s most scenic drives, the Road to Hana. More about the journey then the destination itself, it begins at Kahuli and culminates in the little town of Hana. Along the 55-mile winding drive, you’ll notice the aroma of ginger and guava that fills the air, and look out to see an incredibly lush, tropical landscape that’s dotted with gorgeous falls, basalt-lined emerald pools and idyllic beaches. Be sure to stop at the Hana Lava Tube, one of the longest underground lava tubes on the planet. where you’ll travel into the dark realms of the earth, enjoying a cool break from the warm temperatures above the surface, while getting a close up look at how lava flows down to the ocean.

Makena Beach Makena Beach State Park, Maui
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Makena Beach State Park, Maui

Makena Beach (Nearby Hotels)

There are few better than on the silky soft golden sands of Makena Beach on Maui. The sun dips below the horizon over the crystal-clear waters, creating a colorful painting in the sky. You might even want to spend the entire day here. Separated into two distinct areas, “Big Beach” and “Little Beach,” the first is nearly two-thirds of a mile long and boasts cerulean-hued waters that are ideal for body surfing and body boarding. As there is little reef in the area, the sandy bottom shines up through the water, making for an especially breathtaking scene. Little Beach is popular with nude sunbathers, as well as drum circles and professional fire dance.

Visit Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Big Island sea turtle on Polihale black sand beach, Hawaii
Credit: K.C. Dermody
sea turtle on Polihale black sand beach, Hawaii

Visit Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Big Island (Nearby Hotels)

Punaluu Beach sits on the southeastern coast of the Big Island, and is one of the state’s most famous black sand beaches. It almost looks like a film negative of a traditional beach, with its striking jet black sands made up of basalt, a common igneous rock formed when lava rapidly cools. Here, the underwater volcanic vents ooze magma, which rapidly cools and then explodes as it touches the ocean’s waters, creating the shards of basalt seen lining the beach. With coconut palms lining the upper edge of sand, and the Hawaiian green sea turtles frequently visiting to bask on the sun on the sand, this is truly a unforgettable place to visit.

Night Dive with Stingrays, Big Island Manta Ray, off the coast of the Big Island near Kona
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Manta Ray, off the coast of the Big Island near Kona

Night Dive with Stingrays, Big Island (Nearby Hotels)

The famous manta ray night dive takes place along the shores of the Kona coast, and is widely regarded as one of the most memorable dives on the planet. The rays first started coming to this area to dine on the plankton that was attracted by bright lights shining on the water either from the hotels or from divers. Today, tour operators bring the lights, shining them up toward the surface while swimmers hold onto a float with a light that shines down. The rays come to feed on the plankton that are attracted by the lights, filtering it out of the ocean by gracefully swooping through the water, mouths open. Watching the elegant rays dipping, diving, swimming and turning in the light beams makes for an amazing experience.

Waipio Valley, Big Island Waipio Beach
Waipio Beach

Waipio Valley, Big Island (Nearby Hotels)

This paradise-like valley on the northeast coast of the Big Island is often aptly referred to as a kind of “Shangri La.” Practically cut off from the outside world, the mile-wide valley dissects the Kohala Mountains. Challenging to reach due to the steep cliffs that are on three landward sides and powerful waves on the other that make it just as unapproachable from the sea, while the daring, mostly locals, drive the steep, twisting road to get there, most car rental companies don’t allow their vehicles down it, so many visitors choose to walk instead. Your reward for doing so will be a long, black sand beach where the valley meets the ocean, while colorful ginger trees, hibiscus and orchids decorate the landscape.

Pearl Harbor USS Bowfin submarine in Pearl Harbor museum
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USS Bowfin submarine in Pearl Harbor museum

Pearl Harbor

The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is Hawaii’s No. 1 visitor destination in the state. The very spot where the Second World War began for America on December 7, 1941. While it is a rather sobering experience, literally standing over a grave site where 1,177 men lost their lives, it offers a glimpse of one of the most significant moments in U.S. history.

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