Hawai'i is a must have on any bucket list. From the crashing waves to the culture to the music, even the bright colors Hawaii is a must visit.
Hawai'i comprises thousands of islands, the most prominent being 8 islands. The main island of Hawaii, also known as Hawai'i or the big island, is the largest island. The main island can fit all other 7 islands combined with lots of room left over. Maui is the second largest. Most people know Maui for the Road to Hana, which is very beautiful. The smaller islands surrounding Maui and O'ahu are Moloka'i, Lana'i, and Kaho'olawe. Kaho'olawe is off limits because it was used for military purposes. O'ahu is third in the chain. O'ahu is home to the capital, which is Honolulu. Kauai is fourth, then a tiny island by the name of Ni'ihau. Ni'ihau is off limits to the public because it is home to several 100% Native Hawaiians.
Each island has something unique about it. No where on any island is the same, it's all different. I have put together a list of places to go on the four larger islands based off my experiences. Mahalo Nui Loa and Aloha!
1- NaPali Coast
Going to Hawaii is just like going to another planet. However, on the North Shore of the island of Kauai, you'll find tall and jagged cliffs. The only way that I can describe it is it being a slice of heaven. The cliffs are a vibrant shade of green. No camera or photo can do a justice of how large, gorgeous, and amazing the NaPali Coast is. The only way to access these monstrous cliffs are by boat, plane, or helicopter. Check out my aviation page to find out my journey of how I discovered Aviation. When I viewed them I took a catamaran snorkeling tour. It was very much worth it. There has also been multiple movies that have been filmed by the NaPali Coast that feature some beaches. Once again, these beaches are only accessible by boat.
2- Byodo-In Temple
I have always been fascinated with other cultures besides my own, the same goes for religions. If you are interested in culture, then the Byodo-In temple is for you. The temple belongs to the Buddhist religion. Continuing on, inside there is a large statue of Buddha that nearly touches the ceiling. The main reason why I loved the Byodo-In temple was because of all the detail. The carving work is perfect and each color is spot on. Since the temple is secluded, there are also lots of plants. There's a lot of statues throughout the property. The color scheme is very vibrant, which makes the building make a statement against the lush hills that surround it.
3- Lanai-Molokini Snorkel
Under the sea is a whole new world. It's very interesting to see the different colors, patterns, and behaviors of the sea life. When my family and I were in Maui, we did a snorkeling trip out to Lanai. I personally liked this tour better than the Molokini snorkel. There were much more fish and less people. When snorkeling make sure to wear a lot of sunscreen because the UV rays is stronger in Hawaii. Getting sunburned on your back is the worst way to ruin a trip to Hawaii. Most of the beaches in Hawaii are very snorkel friendly. If you want to see more fish and larger fish, then take the boat ride out further. Please remember to not touch the turtles, as it is very illegal in Hawaii. The further out you go, the more plentiful the fish are. I personally loved to attempt to spot the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a swimming by. This is the Hawaiian state fish.
4- Fern Grotto
Another Kauai favorite of mine is the Fern Grotto. Like the Napali Coast, the Fern Grotto is also only accessible by boat. A boat will take people up the Wailua river. There will be a short walk until the trees open up into a cave like shape. Along the walk and in the grotto you will see so many different species of plants. Everything is so green and beautiful. The reason why it is called the Fern Grotto is because fern plants cover almost everything. After taking the Fern Grotto tour you can also attend a luau. They have excellent food and a wonderful show.
5- Waimea Valley
On O'ahu lies the secret Waimea Valley. Waimea Valley is a short hike that leads to a secluded waterfall. The pool around the waterfall looks turquoise blue on clear days. People can swim in the pool beneath the waterfall. The water was cold, but it was defiantly worth it. They will require life jackets.
One rule of caution, avoid waterfalls at all costs during and after a storm. Because Hawaii is a tropical destination, it provides the perfect conditions for tropical bacteria to re-produce. It would not be fun if someone got sick during vacation. After a storm is when waterfalls are in full force dumping water. Just remember to use common sense and keep yourself safe. Some of the locals may be able to provide some advice.
6- Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is a very beautiful road. There are plentiful amounts of plants a long the way. Make sure to make the pit stops along the journey. Take time to observe the foliage. If you love waterfalls this is the place for you. Road to Hana is on Maui, and is also home to a black sand beach. The sand seems unnatural and very odd. I also loved the contrast between the green plants and the black rocks.
7- Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon is located on the island of Kauai. Don't get this one confused with Waimea Valley, which is on O'ahu. Also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon consists of very tall mountain like cliffs that dip down into a bowl like shape.
The most interesting part about Hawaii is that each island can be broken up into different climates. For example, the side of Kauai with Waimea Canyon is categorized as the desert side of the island. Whereas, the North side with the Napali Coast is the lush tropical side. The same goes for Maui. Road to Hana is very pretty and lush. Other parts of Maui look mainly desert. When visiting the canyon, you'll notice the red dirt. Kauai has a lot of red dirt. Fun fact, you can actually purchase a T-shirt dyed with the soil.
8- Black Sands Beaches
Black sand beaches are defiantly rare and are for sure worth seeing. The photos on the internet do not even bring out the vibrant colors or the contrast between the green plants and the black sand. The black sand is formed by the erosion of lava rocks. There are black sand beaches on the main island and Maui. There are many other colors of sand on each island. I personally think that the black sand is the prettiest.
9- Diamond Head Crater
A hiking trail, on O'ahu, leads up to a crater. Hikers have to walk up a series of stairs to reach the top of the crater. Once at the top of the crater, you get a fabulous view of Honolulu. The view is so pretty and well worth the stairs. If you do choose to do Diamond Head, go for it. If you are skeptical, take your time. No one is in a rush or wants you to run up the stairs like there's no tomorrow. Everything is so beautiful when seeing it from a whole new level.
10- Polynesian Cultural Center
If learning, cultures, and cuisines are your favorites then the Polynesian Cultural Center is defiantly worth it. My favorite part was learning about the culture and watching the shows. The PCC really gives the opportunity to reach out and understand the cultures of Polynesia.
The featured culture is not just Hawaii. They also include Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, and Tonga. If trying something new is on your agenda, try the PCC.
11- Hawaiian Luau
Learning about the Hawaiian culture is a must for going to Hawaii. Each island has an opportunity to participate in a luau. There is also an optional extra for a luau at the PCC. At each luau it will be different from place to place. My favorite part about the luau's was getting involved with the culture. I have found that involving oneself in the culture helps them bond with the place and the people.
12- Pearl Harbor
Any history lover or military personnel will love it here. There is so much to see from submarines to memorials. People who are also into aviation and airplanes will be fascinated with the Pacific Aviation Museum. I loved everything about pearl Harbor. My favorite part was visiting the actual memorial and visiting the aviation museum. It is a well kept place that is clean and defiantly worth going to. Going to Pearl Harbor can also just be used as a time of reflection.
13- Watch Lava on Hawai'i
While I have yet to travel to the main island, I have not seen the lava flow yet. One day I will be able to make it there. I have heard from the locals that the lava flow is very interesting to watch. If you want to see lava go to the main island, which is the newest island formation. Volcanoes National Park will have some great insights on volcanoes, eruption, and lava. Whatever you do here, make sure it is done respectfully and safely.
14- Watch Sunset or Sunrise
Sunsets are very pretty in Hawaii, unlike any I have seen anywhere else. Hawaii sunsets are phenomenal for photos or to just enjoy. Watch out for the weather everyday throughout your trip so that you can at least get one sunset watching evening in.
15- Kayak and Snorkel
Kayaking is a great way to burn calories while enjoying the fresh air. I took my kayak trip when I went to O'ahu. We kayaked out to Coconut Island and the waves were vary calm. I was very worried about the waves toppling the kayaks over. That did not happen and it was a very peaceful trip. I highly advise keeping weather in mind. When planning your trip leave a couple extra days as fluff, so if a storm shows up you can just move the kayak trip to another day. While kayaking make sure to look down in the water and observe all the sea life.
"Oi kai ka lau e hana i ola honua."
There are thousands of different activities to do on the islands of Hawaii. These things that I have listed are certainly a must have on a bucket list. While each place in the world has its pros and cons, the pros certainly outweigh the cons in Hawaii. Hawaii is such a unique place with unique land features, climate, and aura. I am so elated that I have had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii.
I've always thought of Hawaii as a secret garden. The classic fairy tale, with the key ready to open the door to the garden. There is so much to discover on Hawaii. This is what makes the islands so unique. Each and every turn brings new opportunities that opens new doors to new secret gardens. From the stunning views to the fun in the sun activities.
Aloha and a hui hou!