Unmistakable islands, unforgettable experiences

Posted by Dianne Abeen on

From the hustle and bustle of Oahu to the romance of Maui and off-the-beaten-path pursuits on Lanai and Molokai, the Hawaiian Islands offer enough to see, do and feel to fill a lifetime’s worth of dreams. So where do you begin? Hawaii’s spectacular beaches and lush valleys offer endless outdoor experiences, including surfing, hiking, skydiving, helicopter tours, paddle sports, whale-watching and zip lining. You can also swim with manta rays at night, float down tunnels on old sugar plantations and walk a lunar landscape at Garden of the Gods. Choose your adventure and let the memories begin.

Must-Visit Parks and Monuments

Among the incredible natural and historic sites in Hawaii, Maui’s Haleakala National Park, the “House of the Sun,” is a massive shield volcano that offers unparalleled sunrise views. At the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, a somber air surrounds the USS Arizona Memorial, dedicated to those killed in the 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor. The striking power of erosion is on view at Kauai’s Waimea Canyon State Park; the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” was created by the collapse of the volcano that formed the island. Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, known for its fantastical mask carvings, is a sacred place of refuge that Hawaiians used in ancient times.

More on Volcanoes

Hawaii is home to five active volcanoes. Four are located on Hawaii Island: Kīlauea, Maunaloa, Hualālai and Maunakea. The fifth, Haleakalā, is located on Maui. The most popular place to see volcanoes in Hawaii is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to two active volcanoes: Kilauea and Maunaloa. There is currently no lava flow in the park, but depending on conditions, you may be able to see steam. Visitors are required to stay on designated trails and should not approach lava. Check weather and volcano conditions before visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Outdoor Paradise

Marvel at colorful canyons, valleys and waterfalls while hiking the 35.5-kilometer Napali Coast. Crystal-clear, turquoise waters invite snorkeling in the Molokini Crater off the coast of Maui. Take a surfing lesson to ride the waves at popular Waikiki Beach or trek to the less-traveled island of Lanai to visit the Kaunolu Village Site, a prehistoric Hawaiian fishing village. On Kauai, try waterfall rappelling, tubing through old sugar plantation chutes or kayaking the serene Wailua River amid ancient mountains and rainforests. Off the Kohala Coast of Hawaii, December through April, take a whale-watching cruise at sunset and listen to whale songs on an underwater hydrophone.

Only in Hawaii

For a taste of classic Hawaii, take a private hula dance lesson and learn to make leis with the Hawaii Hula Company. In the spring, the Merrie Monarch Festival gathers the best hula groups for a visually spectacular competition and other traditional cultural activities. You’ll find slack-key guitarists, known as ki hoalu, performing at the Outrigger resorts in Waikiki; there’s also a Slack Key Festival in Kona every September. The Bishop Museum in Honolulu houses the world’s largest collection of Polynesian artifacts, and the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu’s northeast coast offers visitors an authentic luau dinner and show. The island of Molokai is home to the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, which preserves the leprosy colonies that operated there until 1969, near the tallest sea cliffs in the world.