Top 10 things to do in Hawaii


Hawaii is a dream destination, and with multiple islands, there is plenty to keep you busy. With so many options for activities, a diverse landscape, and a uniquely rich culture, you can find some pretty interesting ways to fill your days there. If a Hawaiian vacation is in your future, check out these top 10 things to do on in Hawaii while you’re there.

1. Stargaze at Mauna Kea

People stargazing at Mauna Kea
Credit: Matt Biddulph

It’s the site of the world’s largest telescopes and a chance to visit them shouldn’t be missed. From atop the state’s largest volcano, you can get a glimpse of incredible atmospheric clarity in a world renowned setting.

Aside from its impressive technology and impeccable sunset views, guests can visit the information center where nightly star gazing is held accompanied by telescopes, a documentary film and professional star gazers who can give you the low down on what you are seeing. The stars are so beautiful a trip here should definitely be a must on your list of things to do in Hawaii.

Check out our top-rated Mauna Kea summit and stargazing adventure.

2. Attend a luau

Hawaiian hula dancer at luau
Credit: Ray_LAC

This very Hawaiian event has been drawing in tourists for decades, the luau is one of the most iconic things to do in Hawaii. Both a cultural display and entertaining event, the luau lets visitors into the traditions of native Hawaiians. Enjoy authentic Hawaiian food while watching hula and fire dancers put on a performance that best represents their culture. Dance off some of your meal while you take in the ocean and palm tree views that surround you.

The Paradise Cove Luau in Waikiki is a perennial favorite. On Maui, travelers love the Feast at Lele, renowned for its amazing views over Maui’s northwestern coast.

3. Take a surf lesson

Surfer walking on Hawaiian beach
Credit: Adam Chang

Hawaii is known for its ideal surfing conditions and has been drawing in surfers from all over the country and the world. With a surfing culture that is alive and well, it is tempting for visitors to want to get in the water and experience what all of the fuss is about.

Luckily for those with no experience, there are companies all over the islands who are willing to give you lessons so that you can get out amongst the waves with confidence. Check out options on Oahu’s North Shore, on Kauai, or on Maui.

4. Go snorkeling

Snorkeling and holding underwater camera
Credit: Jakob Owens

A vibrant, underwater kingdom is what awaits along the shores of Hawaii. From giant, ancient sea turtles to colorful fish and coral, there is a lot to see. While you can grab a snorkel and head out on your own, there are quality companies around the islands who can take you out to the more remote and interesting sections of the sea.

Oahu’s Waianae Coast is a great spot for snorkeling.

5. Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Close up of erupting Hawaiian volcano
Credit: skeeze

It’s one of two national parks in Hawaii and it is entirely unique to America’s 50 plus other parks which makes it one of the most photographic things to do in Hawaii. You can hike along through lava tubes, wander across a dormant volcano and watch steam come right up from out of the ground. And, if you happen to be there at the right time, you can watch one of the active volcanoes spew lava right into the sea. One of the most dramatic ways to see the park is via helicopter flight from Kona.

6. Go whale watching

Credit: Thomas Kelley

They’re one of the sea’s most majestic creatures and you can see them in their natural habitat all around Hawaii. Join a tour and head out into the sea to search for them. The North Pacific Humpback Whales, or Hawaiian Humpbacks as people call them, come to the islands every winter to breed and give birth to their young.

Every Humpback whale that is seen in the Hawaiian waters was born here, which is why they’re known as Hawaiian Humpbacks. Get up close to these incredible creatures of the deep. The whales are very curious when they are young. Often, the Humpback whales come right next to the boat to see what you are. This provides for spectacular interactions with these huge mammals. Check out our whale watching options on Oahu or Maui.

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7. Visit Pearl Harbor

Warship at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Credit: Curtis Reese

History buffs will love visiting this significant Hawaiian site. Check out the memorials, learn about the harbor’s role in the war and take a look at the collection of battleships. In the Pearl Harbor Visitor’s Center you can observe war relics and authentic uniforms. The interactive museum exhibits chronicle World War II and the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. Save time by booking tickets in advance with PlacePass.

8. Swim with manta rays

Credit: Jeahn Laffitte

Go on a boat tour to check out these mesmerizing creatures up close. Once you spot them in the water, get in and have a swim with the mantas. Unlike sting rays, mantas are very gentle and don’t have teeth, stingers or barbs. These big and beautiful animals are truly amazing. They boast wingspans that can exceed 15 feet (4.5 meters) in width! They are completely safe to be around, so hop aboard for the aquatic experience of a lifetime!

9. Tour a coffee plantation

Close up of coffee beans on coffee plantation
Credit: Katya Austin

With the perfect climate and rich soil, Hawaii is full of excellent coffee plantations. One of the most educational things to do in Hawaii, make sure to pay one a visit in order to learn about the process, taste some free samples and see what a coffee plantation actually looks like. Discover thriving coffee orchards, and learn about the meticulous harvesting process from local coffee farmers. Then explore the coffee mills to see how the beans are processed. Sip a freshly brewed cup to experience the rich aroma and flavorful taste that distinguish Kona coffee from other varieties. Need help planning? Book a Kona coffee tour with PlacePass.

10. Go sailing

Sailboat with white sails on open water
Credit: Kristel Hayes

With hundreds of miles of coastline, Hawaii has plenty of opportunities for sailing. Hire a boat and spend the day on the water, admiring the islands from a different angle. For the ultimate photo op, time your departure for sunset, when the islands are at their finest (and most cruises offer a cocktail). Cheers!

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