12 Things Hawaii Is Famous For - Updated 2024

| 7 min read
0 K+
23.5K+ readers and counting!

USA’s 50th state is a world-famous holiday destination for good reason. Despite boasting a population of fewer than 1.5 million people, the archipelago’s eight main islands punch well above their weight on the world stage - welcoming millions of visitors every year through their mix of spectacular volcanic landscapes, balmy tropical temperatures, stunning surfing action, unique wildlife and rich culture. Hawaii’s picturesque topography has also graced countless cinemas and TV screens over the decades - no doubt enhancing the island chain’s reputation as something of a tropical paradise. But, before you rush off to buy tickets to your own Pacific adventure, you might want to brush up on Hawaii’s many charms. Start by looking for a place to stay among the best yoga retreats and camper rentals in the state. Read on for a list of things Hawaii is famous for.

1. Aloha shirt

Aloha Shirts 2
Source: Photo by Flickr user daryl_mitchell used under CC BY-SA 2.0

You may have perhaps owned one or two of these in your lifetime, or at least seen one! Also, you may have come across a version of this during your office theme parties or summer family reunions. Often referred to as Hawaiian shirt, this vibrant dress shirt features a collar and buttons, sometimes to the bottom of the shirt, sometimes just down to the chest. They typically don short sleeves and are cut from funky printed cloths. In the state, this comfortable clothing is also worn as informal business attire.

Visited this place?

2. Dole Plantation (from USD 122.52)

Dole Plantation
Source: Photo by Flickr user Thank You (20,5 m... used under CC BY 2.0

Hawaii is, arguably, one of the best sources of delicious, succulent, and refreshing pineapples. It is also home to the “Pineapple Experience” that is Dole Plantation. It originally started as a tiny fruit stand in the 1950s and has grown to become a vast plantation that opened almost 4 decades later in 1989. If you’re looking for a fun and unique experience, take a closer look at what this famous Hawaii attraction can offer: the Pineapple Express Train Tour, the Plantation Garden Tour, and of course, the Pineapple Garden Maze.

Visited this place?

Oahu: Full-Day Island Highlights Tour with Transfer

Duration: 9.5 hour

162 reviews

3. Food

Hawaii: Spam Musubi
Source: Photo by Flickr user mangocyborg used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Hawaiians take their food seriously, be it the luxury Kona coffee that is grown on the archipelago - and which is among the most expensive coffees in the world - to the simple charms of tinned Spam…with a characteristic Hawaiian fusion twist. Hawaiians really love their Spam musubi. Here, it is enjoyed as comfort food - and in a big way! Some six million cans of the processed pork are consumed on the archipelago every single year - or five cans for every person. Other must-eat dishes in Hawaii include Kalua pig, a roasted pork dish, and poke, which consists of diced raw fish.

Visited this place?

4. Luaus

Source: Photo by Flickr user Andy L used under CC BY-SA 2.0

What is Hawaii known for that we perhaps all enjoy as well? Luaus! Besides food, Hawaii is known for its festive luaus, which are celebrated under tents in an outdoor area. They feature ​traditional Hawaiian music and mouth-watering dishes like Kalua puaʻa (roast pig), Lomi salmon, poke (diced raw fish), and beer. However, it might surprise you to learn that until 1819, men and women in Hawaii weren’t allowed to eat together. Luaus started when King Kamehameha II hosted a feast where he ate with the women, effectively starting a new tradition.

Visited this place?

5. A vacation spot

Source: Photo by Flickr user Erik Cooper used under CC BY 2.0

What is Hawaii famous for? Vacations, we’re telling you! Hawaii’s location in the middle of the Pacific means it enjoys some beautiful tropical weather. Throw in its stunning volcanic landscape, its picture-perfect beaches, and its surf scenes, and little wonder that the USA’s 50th state is a world-famous vacation spot that has earned itself the nickname “Paradise of the Pacific”. Indeed, its presence in innumerable movies and TV series - from Jurassic Park to Magnum P.I. - has only added to the islands’ allure in recent decades.

Visited this place?

6. Beautiful scenery

Hawaiian Scenery
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jennifer C. used under CC BY 2.0

If there’s one thing a visitor to Hawaii is guaranteed to see, it’s stunning landscapes. The archipelago has drawn legions of visitors to the islands down through the ages - and it’s easy to see why. There are simply so many places to visit. It boasts no fewer than two national parks and three national historic parks and is home to such iconic landscapes as Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, where Jurassic Park was filmed. And this is by no means the only picturesque location to enjoy. Indeed, the second-largest island in the group, Maui, has almost become a byword for paradise locations. And then there are the likes of Mauna Kea on Big Island, which towers 13,796 ft (4,205 m) above sea level and is actually taller than Mount Everest if you measure it from its base on the ocean floor. That’s big!

Visited this place?

7. Water sports

Surfing on the North Shore - near Sunset Beach
Source: Photo by Flickr user Daniel Ramirez used under CC BY 2.0

It will come as no surprise that an island archipelago like Hawaii is a mecca for water sports enthusiasts. It remains as one of the best non-touristy things to do in the state. Its location amid the trade winds of the mid-Pacific has made it something of a surfers’ paradise - the big waves and turquoise waters having cast their spell on many a visitor. But it isn’t just surfing that brings water sports enthusiasts to flock to the islands. They are naturally a popular sailing spot too. And the reefs and atolls of the archipelago are also a huge draw among snorkellers and scuba divers who are eager to encounter some of the spectacular marine species that call Hawaii their home. Indeed, the islands act as a natural barrier to the ocean’s currents. This has made the local waters exceptionally fertile for sea life - from green turtles to spiny lobsters and much more.

Visited this place?

8. Excellent weather

Source: Photo by Flickr user Angelin Song used under CC BY 2.0

Hawaii’s status as the USA’s most southernmost state and its location within the tropics means it enjoys balmy temperatures year-round. Daily highs typically rise between 28 to 31 degrees Celsius (82.4 to 87.8 Fahrenheit) depending on the time of year, while night-time lows are 18 to 24 degrees Celsius (64.4 to 75.2 Fahrenheit). This remarkable consistency - plus the effect of the trade winds in reducing relative humidity - has made Hawaii something of a paradise for tourists from around the world. You can easily plan your day for some romantic things to do in the island. Of course, while this holds true of the archipelago as a whole, each island has its own climate quirks. Its position in the middle of the largest ocean on Earth means it is no stranger to tropical storms, while the sheer height of the likes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa means snow is not uncommon on their upper slopes.

Visited this place?

9. A diverse culture

Hula Kahiko Hawaii Volcanoes National Park 02
Source: Photo by user Ron Ardis used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Hawaii’s rich and diverse culture is a result of its history as something of a melting pot for different peoples. The native Polynesian influences, which were once suppressed by the authorities, are today embraced by the 1.4 million people who call the islands home. For instance, luaus are a common tradition when celebrating a child’s first birthday, while the Polynesian love of surfing has truly conquered the world. And then there are the cultural influences that have made their presence felt through successive waves of immigration. Hawaii’s love of food is a fusion of all manner of different cuisines from around the world - from American and Portuguese to Chinese and native Hawaiian.

Visited this place?

10. Diverse fauna

Laysan ducks
Source: Photo by user John Klavitter / ... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

One of the greater things Hawaii is known for is its fauna. The archipelago’s isolated location in the middle of the Pacific - as well as its diverse range of landscapes and habitats - has made it something of an evolutionary hotspot through the aeons. Dozens of species are unique to the islands. This is especially true of its bird population, which features everything from the critically endangered Laysan duck to the Hawaiian crow, the latter of which is extinct in the wild but is subject to a reintroduction programme. The archipelago also boasts innumerable fish species and invertebrates, as well as two indigenous mammals - the Hawaiian monk seal and the Hawaiian hoary bat - both of which are endangered. Naturally, there have been steps to try to protect Hawaii’s rich wildlife, and there are a number of national parks. And then there’s the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which covers more than 140,000 square miles (360,000 sq km) of the ocean - larger than all of the USA’s national parks put together.

Visited this place?

11. Volcanic activity

Lava Into the Sea at Night, Big Island of Hawaii
Source: Photo by user Rennett Stowe used under CC BY 2.0

Hawaii owes its very existence to volcanic activity, so it’s little surprise that volcanism is one of its most famous characteristics. The archipelago sits above a mantle plume - a magma hot spot that has punched its way through the Earth’s crust to create each island in turn over millions of years, in a process akin to a giant geological conveyor belt. Indeed, this process can be seen in the islands’ very layout - their arrangement in a loose line is the direct result of continental drift over the stationary hot spot. Each island was slowly built up over millions of years of volcanic activity before slowly moving to the north-west and away from the plume. A new island then forms in its place and the whole process repeats again. Naturally, this means that Big Island, which currently sits above the hot spot and is formed out of five different shield volcanoes, boasts some of the youngest rocks in the entire island chain. It is also home to the only currently active volcanoes in the archipelago - including Kilauea, which has been erupting continuously for the past 35 years.

Visited this place?

12. The hula dance

Woman Dancing Hula 33
Source: Photo by Flickr user Amaury Laporte used under CC BY 2.0

No list of things Hawaii is famous for is arguably complete without mention of the hula. This famous thing in Hawaii, which has charmed its way across the world and entered the global consciousness, is actually not one dance, but many different forms. Once suppressed, today this important part of Hawaiian culture is flourishing, thanks to a resurgence in the 20th century when the dance form featured in documentary film footage and sparked a surge in interest. Indeed, it is such a draw for tourists that Merrie Monarch Festival - a week-long hula competition that runs every spring - has been charming tourists from across the globe for more than 50 years.

Visited this place?

The Pacific beckons

Hawaii is a destination that features in many traveller’s bucket lists. From fun luaus to unbeatable sunset views, Hawaii’s multitude of charms is out there just waiting for you to discover. Will you heed the call?

Visited this place?
Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our Privacy Policy for more information on how we use your data

Philip, a writer and photographer situated in the heart of the picturesque Scottish Highlands, is a seasoned professional journalist with a rich portfolio of contributions to various newspapers,...Read more

 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Explore Hawaii
Looking for accommodation?
Good things are meant to be shared!
Back to top
Visited any of these places? Click this button to activate our "Add a Tip" feature to share your experience.