Hawai‘i has got it all: thought-provoking history, diverse cultural experiences, islands to explore and the best waves to surf in the world.
Spend up big at the money-gobbling outlets in Waikiki, tour the crave-inducing coffee plantations in Kona or take your chances in the powerful surf on O’ahu’s North Shore. There is plenty to see and do on each of the islands in Hawai‘i. Check out our guide to find out which Hawaiian Island is right for you.
Things to Do in Hawai‘i
A holiday in Hawai‘i can be as full-on or as relaxing as you’d like it to be. There is an endless checklist of activities, sites and foodie hotspots to experience, so much so, that you’ll have trouble fitting it all into one visit.
Islands to explore
The Hawaiian Islands are made up of more than 100 islands, but there are officially eight main islands that make up the Aloha State and only seven of those are inhabited: Hawaii (the Big Island), Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau and Kahoolawe.
Island-hopping your way through Hawai‘i is the best way to explore the lesser-known natural marvels without the hordes of tourists.
Dart through waterfalls in Kauai. Pop over to The Big Island to visit its active volcano, Mt Kilauea. Surf the waves at the iconic Waikiki beach in O’ahu, and climb up the summit of Haleakala in Maui for a sunrise view that is truly an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
You could spend your entire trip hiking in Hawai‘i – it is that magnificent. You can trek to the crater at Diamond Head or brave the Kalalau Trail; but no matter where you hike, be sure to keep your camera poised to capture that perfect shot of the Hawaiian coastline.
Waimea Valley Falls Park & Botanical Garden
Head up the coast to O’ahu’s North Shore for a visit to Waimea Valley Park & Botanical Garden. Take a stroll through the park and check out the rare and exotic plants that grow in this area. Continue along the path and you’ll discover the area’s famous waterfall, Waimea Falls. On your way back to your resort, stop along Kamehameha Highway for Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck for a generous serving of sweet, butter-laden fried shrimp.
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Best Time to Visit Hawai‘i
Hawai‘i is amazing all year round – depending on what you’re after. For long lazy days spent on the beach in perfect weather conditions, you’ll want to visit from April to October. You’ll have to stand in your share of long lines but the weather is unbeatable this time of year. Make the most of it with early-morning hikes, mid-afternoon swims and warm nights out at local restaurants and bars. The summer months are also better for snorkelling thanks to the warmer water temperature and calmer waters.
If you’re a surfing-buff then make sure you head to Hawai‘i from November through to March. You’ll find the biggest waves breaking at any of the North Shore areas of the islands.
Choosing the Right Accommodation in Hawai‘i
You don’t need to fork out your life’s savings to get quality accommodation in Hawai‘i. Book an Airbnb apartment alongside the ocean or hit up the budget accommodation sites for quality rooms at a fraction of the price.
The Four Seasons Hualalai won’t disappoint luxury lovers. Tea-off on the 18-hole signature golf course before indulging in a treatment at the resort’s spa. For another luxe option, check out our comprehensive review of The Modern Honolulu.
Families with young kids can’t go past a stay at the iconic Disney Resort & Spa located on the island of O’ahu. Give yourselves a break from entertaining the kids and take advantage of the themed pool parties, movie nights and waterslides on offer.
For an authentic taste of Hawai‘i, stay at the ‘Most Hawaiian Hotel’ on Kā‘anapali Beach. Be greeted in true Hawaiian fashion with an Aloha and lei kukui ceremony. Book in your hula and ukulele lessons and be prepared to leave Hawai‘i feeling like a true islander.
If absolute beachfront is your idea of bliss, check out our curated list on the best beachfront getaways.
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Top Hawaiian Beaches
Waikiki Beach is arguably the beach you first picture when you think of Hawai‘i. In addition to being one of the most accessible to travellers thanks to its close proximity to the island’s most popular hotels and resorts, it is also home to the legendary statue of world-renowned surfer Duke Kahanamoku. Hire out a small boat, grab a stand-up paddleboard and hit the open waters.
Do you love turtles? Make a trip to Laniakea Beach on the North Shore of O’ahu to witness the green sea turtles waddling up onto the shore to sun themselves for a few short hours each day. The best time to catch a glimpse of them is between 11am and 1pm. While you can see the turtles all year round, it is more common to spot them on the shore throughout summer when the waters are calmer.
It’s important to keep your distance from the turtles as it is illegal to touch or harass them. There are also volunteers located on the beach who are there to protect the sea turtles as well as educate visitors on conservation.
One of the best snorkelling spots in Hawai‘i can be found along the coast of Maui in the clear, calm waters of Kā’anapali Beach. Relax in one of the many hammocks or shaded bungalows and let your cares float away.
Hawaiian Tours & Deal Packages
If you’re heading to O’ahu and consider yourself a history buff you can choose from a variety of Pearl Harbour tours.
Discover Hawaii Tours offer island-hopping tours that tick off O’ahu, Maui, the Big Island, Kauai and Molokai. Visit the Polynesian Cultural Centre for a more detailed history on Hawai‘i and book a helicopter ride to get an overhead view of the world’s most active volcano: Mt Kilauea.
The iconic Kualoa Private Nature Reserve Ranch appears in 50 First Dates, Hawaii Five-O, LOST and – perhaps most famously – Jurassic Park. You can book an ATV ride or horseback tour through the area.
Foodie Destinations in Hawai‘i
Hawai‘i has got the culturally diverse foodie scene down pat. Get your fill of Japanese ramen, pull up alongside a food truck for an acai bowl or sample the local rum in your afternoon cocktail.
Devour a poke (‘to slice’ in Hawaiian) bowl on Maui island. For the uninitiated, it’s a deliciously fresh mix of diced fish, seasoned with salt, soy and sesame oil and served on a bed of rice with fresh avocado.
Don’t leave Hawai‘i without trying their shaved ice. Choose from a variety of fruity flavours and then watch as the ‘slushie’ is heaped onto scoops of vanilla ice cream. Now dig in before it melts. This popular dessert can be found just about everywhere in Hawai‘i, but Wailua Shave Ice in Kaua’i makes one of the best.
Eat the hidden culinary gems of Lāhainā on Maui. Weekend brunch is a must-do, but the best places get booked out in advance, so plan ahead. Try ahi bruschetta (yellow fin tuna) or the eggs hollandaise with the fresh island catch of the day.
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Cultural Festivities & Experiences in Hawai‘i
Welcome summer and celebrate Hawaiian music at the The Ukulele Festival, held annually in July at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki, Oahu. The free all-day event features internationally renowned musicians, local celebrities and a ukulele orchestra of more than 800 students.
The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is sure to delight foodies and coffee-lovers alike. It’s Hawai‘i’s oldest food festival and it runs for 10 days annually throughout November. You’ll hear Kona coffee farmers share how they grow their crops, watch coffee artists show off their skills, enjoy tastings and be entertained with music, dance and cultural events that share the rich history of Kona coffee.
What better way to round-out your trip than with a visit to Germaine’s Luau? You’ll witness a traditional pig roasting ceremony and a cultural Polynesian show. The luau is held in Kapolei on the beach.