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23 Best Places To Visit In Hawaii - Updated 2020

best places to visit in hawaii
Rebecca
Rebecca
Updated

Hawaii, the beautiful Aloha State, has been a traditional destination spot for many, whether it be for a girls trip, a honeymoon, or a surfing week. Understandably, the better known islands and cities receive most of the tourist traffic, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the state is any less interesting! From villages on Oahu, to national forests on Maui, to volcanoes on the big island of Hawaii itself, there are so many different activities to be had. Take a day to explore the Polynesian culture of the islands through art shows and local food vendors; see the wildlife native to the Pacific; or have the unique chance to hike an active volcano. So keep scrolling to read more on the best places to visit in Hawaii, USA.

1. Hilo (from USD 153.0)

Hilo, located by a crescent-shaped bay on the northeastern side of the Big Island, encourages its visitors to “travel pono,” or with a positive spirit, in the hopes of keeping the integrity of the luscious land intact. Hilo is noted for its beautiful rainforests and sprawling miles of State Park, as well as a local culture influenced by the history of farming, fishing, and the sugar can industry. Get a taste of the local fare at the Hilo Farmers Market selling a variety of fish and fruits, crafts and flowers. Or, explore the landscape of Hilo via the Wailuku River State Park and see the spectacular Rainbow Falls (Waianuenue) and Peepee Falls. No matter what you choose, Hilo is guaranteed to treat you to the authentic Hawaiian experience.

Hilo Tour: Volcanoes National Park and Rainbow Falls

Duration: 6 hours

10 reviews

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2. Kauai (from USD 145.0)

Kauai, appropriately nicknamed The Garden Island, continues to be one of the less-visited of the Hawaiian Islands, but it may be a mystery as to why. Kauai is the oldest, northernmost of the Islands, with beaches of golden sands and waters with temperaments varying anywhere between perfect for wading or ideal for surfing. Needless to say, there are countless water activities with which to fill your itinerary in Kauai, from snorkeling to kayaking to swimming. For those wanting to explore the island’s terrain, choose from ziplining over one of the tropical valleys or hiking through Kokee State Park. Some of the most picturesque locations on Kauai can only be reached via air or sea, so be sure to check out those opportunities when planning out your Garden Island excursions.

Entire Kauai Island Air Tour

Duration: 1 hour 10 minutes

10 reviews

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3. Hana (from USD 191.0)

The cozy, beachy town of Hana is tucked into the eastern coast of Maui and can be reached from the infamous “Road to Hana,” or Hana Highway, a 52-mile (83-km) stretch of scenic road. When in Hana, you’ll find yourself appreciating the hospitality of the local people and the simplicity of the town. If you seek insight into Hawaiian culture, you will want to stop into the Hana Cultural Center on Ke'anini Street. Admission is free and many artifacts of the Hawaiian people are on display. See the Pu'u Ki'i Lighthouse on the easternmost side of the Hana Bay, and enjoy the warmth of the saltwater lapping against the shore. If you head south upon departure, the locals recommend stopping by the Seven Sacred Pools in the Oheo Gulch for a view of the waterfalls and pools dotting the landscape.

Heavenly Hana Day Tour

Duration: 9 hours 30 minutes

10 reviews

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4. Maui (from USD 144.79)

best places to visit in hawaii | maui

A popular choice when vacationing to Hawaii, Maui, again and again, charms and enchants its visitors with its tropical landscapes, towering volcanoes, and cascading waterfalls, as well as the many opportunities to dive into the richness of the Polynesian culture. With numerous towns scattered across the island, each with its own unique personality and significance, you’ll be hard-pressed to remain in just one for the duration of your trip. Travel down to the south and tour the incredible Haleakala National Park where you will be treated to the sunset of your life by the tallest peak in Maui–Haleakala, a completely dormant volcano. For those seeking rest, spend a day sunbathing and playing in the waters of Kaanapali Beach. So no matter how you plan your time in Maui, you will not regret a moment spent beneath its glorious rainforest canopy.

Maui: 5-Hour Waterfall & Rainforest Hike with Picnic Lunch

Duration: 5 hour

40 reviews

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5. Molokai (from USD 189.0)

Molokai is Hawaii’s fifth-largest island measuring in at just 38 miles long by 10 miles wide. Although geographically, the island might not appear very large, it provides plenty of opportunity for adventure and engagement with many Native Hawaiian people who have inhabited the island for many, many years. Molokai mostly receives its character from the many rocky cliffs and hills making up its landscape, which you can explore firsthand via a trek through Kalaupapa National Historical Park. Or, spend a day laying in the soft white sands of Papohaku Beach, situated on the West End of the island. From Hawaii’s largest fringing reef to Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove, you’ll find yourself blissfully immersed in the natural, totally preserved beauty for which Molokai is known and loved.

Splendorous Sea Cliffs of Molokai Air Tour - Kapalua Departure

Duration: 40 to 45 minutes

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6. Big Island (from USD 494.0)

The Big Island of Hawaii, so named for a size that could contain all the other islands twice over, is nothing short of an environmental phenomenon. Explore the awesome volcanoes of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, from Maunaloa to Kilauea, one of the most active volcanos on earth. See the unusual black sand of Punaluu Black Sand Beach, and maybe catch a glimpse of the sea turtles resting in the warmth of the sand. From the valleys of Hilo in the East to the snowy caps of Maunakea, you’ll find no shortage of beautiful landscapes on which to feast your eyes. And with the size of the island comes the multiple villages populating it, each of which has its own uniqueness while upholding the integrity of the native culture and richness of the environment.

Big Island Spectacular Helicopter Tour

Duration: 2 hours

1 review

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7. Lanai

Lava Flows at Sweetheart Rock Lanai Hawaii
Source: Photo by user https://www.flick... used under CC BY 2.0

Lanai entices its visitors for a number of reasons – the island is home to some 400 miles (644 km) of incredible terrain allowing for an off-roading adventure, but also a handful of luxurious resorts enticing anyone seeking a break from the hustle of life outside the secluded island. Visit Keahiakawelo, the Garden of the Gods, on the northern end of the island and explore, via mountain bike, the marvelous rock towers and boulders spread across the “lunar landscape.” Or, travel down south to Hulopo'e Bay to learn the romantically tragic legend behind Puu Pehe, the sea stack rising out of the waters (and if you’re lucky, you may see a spinner dolphin or two playing in the waves)!

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8. Oahu (from USD 117.73)

oahu

Oahu ranks as one of the more popular Hawaiian destinations, with its 112 miles (180 km) of shoreline; waters for both relaxing, such as popular Waikiki in Honolulu, or surfing up in the North Shore; historical destinations, from Iolani Palace the former home of the Hawaiian rulers, to the memorial of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. Oahu also offers many air adventures, from parasailing over the warm waters of Waikiki, to sky diving over the green mountains, to helicopter tours giving you views of the island only a bird can see! From resorts to shopping areas, to luaus, Oahu offers everything you need for an all-inclusive taste of Hawaii’s tropical culture.

Oahu 120-Mile Full-Day Tour Including Dole Plantation

Duration: 10 hour

94 reviews

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9. Maunawili


Maunawili is a lush, gorgeous valley on Oahu, and it is home to Maunawili Falls, a popular waterfall accessed through a hike into the rainforest. The trail will lead you up and down a hillside, over tree roots and across streams, around boulders, and through muddy pathways – it’s not for the faint of heart, but the end results of the falls make the trek more than worth it; plus at one point in the hike you will emerge from the cover of the jungle and be treated to a stunning view of the surrounding rainforest. You’ll be treated at the conclusion of your journey with a dip into the water, and the fall itself cascading its 20 feet into the pool below.

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10. Honolulu (from USD 399.0)

The bustling city of Honolulu sits on the southern shores of Oahu, drawing in visitors from all over with its gorgeous beaches, including Waikiki, high rise resorts and hotels, and countless options for delicious dining and local shopping. See the USS Arizona Memorial in the nearby Pearl City. Hike the moderately leisurely trail near the Windward Coast to the Makapuu Point Lighthouse. Get a taste of cultural art at The Honolulu Museum of Art or dive into history at The Bishop Museum. Shop for all your Hawaiian-influenced gear at Hilo Hattie’s. Or tap into the vibrant nightlife Honolulu at one of its exciting downtown bars.

Short Honolulu City Private Tour From Waikiki

Duration: 2 hours

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11. Kailua (from USD 103.0)

Most words fall short when describing the serenely beautiful, tropically enchanting town of Kailua, situated just 12 miles (19 km) from Honolulu on Oahu’s far eastern shore. Characterized by green hills, turquoise waters, and golden beaches, Kailua has remained a quintessential beach town, kept quiet safe from the influences of urbanized vacation destinations. Here you can find boutiques selling all your surfing/beach babe outfits, an artisan chocolate shop, and a dive restaurant, to name a few. You’ll want to spend hours lazing away on Lanikai Beach or Kailua Beach, both known for kayaking, bodysurfing, and swimming opportunities. And from the distance, watch the moon rise over the Na Mokulua Islands. So much surrounding beauty will tempt you to forget vacationing and considering moving to this real life paradise.

Kayaking Tour of Kailua Bay with Lunch

Duration: 5 hours

10 reviews

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12. Mililani Town


The town of Mililani sits right near the middle of Oahu Island, just slightly northwest of Pearl City. Mililani offers a perfect opportunity to escape the excitement of Honolulu (17 miles, 27 km northwest) for a day trip, or as a quaint vacation town with easy access to all the amusements of Oahu. Here in Mililani, you can spend a day browsing the fresh selections of the Farmer’s Market, choosing from a wide variety of locally grown fruits, handmade crafts and keepsakes, and freshly squeezed juice. See the unique environment of Mari’s Gardens, the largest aquaponic and hydroponic farm in Hawai dedicated to making the islands completely self-sustaining. Or, discover the enchanting rainbow tunnel and take a totally Insta-worthy picture posed by its painted walls!

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13. Kahului

Rainbow at Kanaha Beach, Kahului, Maui
Source: Photo by user Peter Volpe used under CC BY 2.0

The town of Kahului rests on the northern shore of Maui by Kahului Harbor right near Kahului Bay, and it is where Maui’s main airport is located, making it an easy place to visit. The Harbor remains a popular place to fish, canoe, and surf as it no longer serves as the main thoroughfare for large cargo ships. Kahana Beach Park also serves as a popular location for windsurfers, as well as a beautiful beach area to soak in the sunshine. Further inland, you will find the admission free Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary, the wetland environment being home to many birds including two of Hawaii’s own endangered species. And if you find yourself with some extra time, stop by the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens for a closer look at the lush vegetation making Maui so beautiful!

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14. Kihei


Kihei sits right on the stunning Maalaea Bay where visitors have the opportunity to take many different whale and dolphin sighting tours, whether it be up close and personal via snorkeling, or from the comfort of a harbor dock. With 36 sprawling acres (88 hectares) of oceanfront property dotted with palm trees and covered in golden sand, you’ll find lots of space to relax and sunbathe, as well as plenty of water to surf, canoe, snorkel, and swim. Watch the sunset over the distant island of Lanai from your cozy hotel room looking over the ocean.

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15. Halawa


Halawa sits right on Pearl Harbor, a tropical neighborhood overlooking shimmering waters. You might find yourself in Halawa for a football game at the Aloha Stadium, cheering on the local Hawaiian Warriors! Halawa is also home to the very beautiful, very culturally respected Halawa Valley, which you might find yourself driving through. Halawa’s neighborhoods provide lovely views of Pearl Harbor, and possibly even Diamond Head from the right location, so you’ll be guaranteed some great sights from your hotel or vacation home should Halawa be your town of choice!

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16. Waimalu


Waimalu is one of Honolulu’s suburbs, located on the western side of Oahu against the coastline. Take some time to wander the city streets, exploring the neighborhood parks scattered through the area. Neal S. Blaisdell Park sits right on the coast of the East Loch and Newton Park is further inland with its golf driving range. From numerous shopping areas to restaurants, Waimalu might be the perfect home away from home for anyone looking to vacation close within the city!

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17. Waianae

Waianae-Makaha (Papaoneone Beach) - panoramio
Source: Photo by user nick hoke used under CC BY 3.0

The quaint town of Waianae lies on the west side of Oahu and it is home to numerous, crowd-favorite beach parks. Choose from Pōkaʻī Bay Beach Park or Lualualei Beach Park to splash around in the water or rest under a towering palm. Take a tour from Wai'anae Small Boat Harbor and venture out into the ocean for a glimpse of dolphins or some picturesque views of the coastline. Be sure to stop at Kū'īlioloa Heiau, a peninsula jutting out between the two beaches, which, legend has it, once housed a temple of learning for numerous nautical trades.

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18. Lahaina (from USD 13.99)

lahaina

Lahaina is a must-stop on your Hawaiian trip to Maui, with the historic significance of the town itself bringing visitors all over for a tour through more than 55 acres (22 hectares) of historic lands. Once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom as well as a famous whaling village (Herman Melville himself set sail from Lahaina’s harbor), you’ll find remnants of the influence throughout the city. Lahaina’s streets are lined with shops and restaurants to give you a taste of authentic Hawaiian culture, as well as many art galleries where you might get a look at what the Hawaiians find important in their culture. Sit under the country’s largest banyan tree and find yourself wanting to come back and partake in all the beauty of Lahaina again and again!

Maui: Lahaina Old Town Self-Guided Audio Tour

Duration: 3 hour

1 review

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19. Waimea

Waimea pastures
Source: Photo by user Bonus Onus used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Waimea is known as paniolo country, referring to the Hawaiian cowboys who call this piece of the island home. Waimea sits near the northern end of the Big Island, immediately south of Pu'u O Umi Natural Area Reserve and looks more like something you’d expect to find on the mainland, with rolling fields of green and cows meandering their way around. A trip to Kahua Ranch, a working sheep and cattle ranch, allows you to experience the landscape of Waimea via either horseback or ATV. Back in the town itself, you will be able to dine on the delicious local cuisine for which Waimea is known!

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20. Holualoa

2017 01 11 Holualoa - morning walk042
Source: Photo by user Blake Handley used under CC BY 2.0

The village of Holualoa is tucked among the foothills of the volcano Hualalai on the west shore of the Island of Hawaii. It’s a must-visit for anyone with a passion for coffee and/or art, as the village is home to many native artists, as well as it sits right in the heart of Kona coffee country. Of course, this natively brewed coffee and locally crafted artwork is available all throughout the year, with various art galleries and coffee orchards open to the public, but in case you happen to be visiting in November, stop by the Holualoa Village Coffee & Art Stroll where you can chat with the artists selling their pieces and sample coffees as you explore!

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21. Ocean Pointe

Sunset At Ewa Beach
Source: Photo by user W Koscielniak used under CC BY 2.0

Ocean Pointe sits slightly inland from Mamala Bay on the southern side of Oahu. You will find the four golf courses in the area provide a lovely way to spend a breezy Hawaiian afternoon! For those seeking more of a beach day, choose from White Plains Beach to the west or Ewa Beach to the East. Take some surfing lessons at Ewa Beach and ride those rolling waves like a pro in no time!

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22. Wailea


Wailea offers a top honeymooning spot with its numerous, luxurious resorts and hotels situated right on the beach. Choose from the gorgeous sands and warm waters of Wailea Beach, Polo Beach, or Ulua Beach Park for a serene day in the sun. Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve allows you to see a coastal lava field, plus provides opportunities for snorkeling for personal interaction with the native underwater creatures! And for the early-risers (although everyone might want to get up for this!), trek down to La Perouse Bay for a chance at a glimpse of the majestic spinner dolphins!

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23. Pearl City

Pearl Harbor
Source: Pixabay

Pearl City, best known for the patriotic memorial of the USS Arizona, rests near Pearl Harbor on the Middle Loch, slightly northwest of Honolulu. Take time to explore the harbor, especially the USS Arizona Memorial (admission free) and adjoining museum to learn about the significance of the bombings on Pearl Harbor during WWII. If you’re looking for a delicious, healthy place to eat, stop into Down to Earth and sample the salad bar customers rave about! And then stop by the Pearlridge shopping center on your way out of the city for a little last-minute gift!

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An authentic Hawaiian experience

Lanikai Beach, Hawaii
Source: Photo by user Cristo Vlahos used under CC BY-SA 3.0

With countless places to explore, tours to take, beaches to lie on, volcanoes to hike, and local cuisines to sample, you will never run out of things to do in Hawaii. No matter what island you choose to visit, each provides its own rich culture whose flavor influences everything in the area, guaranteeing you a truly authentic Hawaiian experience!

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Rebecca wishes she could spend her time traveling the world and has fallen in love with the food, the views, the people, and the pure experience of being somewhere else and immersing herself in a...Read more

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