Looking for the best places to visit in Hawaii? Check out all of our favorite Hawaiian destinations!
The gorgeous archipelago of tropical islands known as Hawaii is a true gem of the Pacific.
Whether you’re looking to relax on Hawaii’s iconic and stunning beaches, or you want to see unique sights like lava flows or waterfalls, Hawaii has it all.
Each Hawaii island offers something special, and it’s impossible to pick which is the best Hawaiian Island.
From the so-called “Grand Canyon Of The Pacific”, Waimea Canyon on Kauai, to the gorgeous beaches like Lanikai Beach and Maui’s iconic black sand beach, every Hawaiian Island has its own unique features.
Head to the Big Island to see two active volcanoes in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, or visit one of the many unique offshore islands such as the twin Mokulua Islands near Oahu.
No matter which Hawaii island you visit, you are bound to see something incredible! For those who don’t know where to begin, here is a list of the top places to visit in Hawaii!
Find more inspiration with our list of the 25 best things to do in Hawaii!
Table of Contents
- 15 Best Places To Visit In Hawaii
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Na Pali Coast
- Oahu’s North Shore
- Lanikai Beach
- Downtown Honolulu
- Haleakala National Park
- Waimea Canyon State Park
- Pearl Harbor National Memorial
- Akaka Falls State Park
- Kaanapali Beach
- Kalaupapa National Historic Park
- Wai’anapanapa State Park
- Waikiki Beach
- Hapuna Beach
- Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve
15 Best Places To Visit In Hawaii
From visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial to hiking the Kalalau Trail in Kauai, to lounging on the beautiful beaches or scuba diving, snorkeling, and whale watching, endless fun awaits you at these amazing places to visit in Hawaii. Every one of these locations is worth adding to any Hawaii itinerary!
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a geological wonder on the Big Island of Hawaii, stands as a captivating testament to the Earth’s fiery origins and the dynamic forces that continue to shape our planet.
Encompassing over 300,000 acres of diverse landscapes, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a living laboratory where visitors can witness the breathtaking interplay of molten lava, lush rainforests, and barren lava fields.
At its heart lies the awe-inspiring duo of active volcanoes – Kīlauea and Mauna Loa – which have, over millennia, sculpted the island’s terrain and lent themselves to scientific study, cultural significance, and spiritual reverence.
As visitors venture through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, they traverse a mosaic of ecosystems that range from the summit of Mauna Loa, the world’s largest subaerial volcano, to the iconic Kīlauea Caldera, where the restless lava lake serves as a mesmerizing spectacle.
Along the Crater Rim Drive, the diverse landscape unfolds, revealing ancient petroglyphs, vibrant plant life that blooms amidst the lava beds, and the ethereal Thurston Lava Tube, a subterranean passage formed by flowing molten rock.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is definitely a highlight of the Big Island!
Read More: Check out these other great things to do on the Big Island!
Na Pali Coast
Kauai, the fourth largest of the Hawaiian Islands, is often called “The Garden Isle” and is full of natural wonders. One of those wonders is the Na Pali Coast!
Stretching for approximately 17 miles along the island’s northwest shore, this dramatic coastline is characterized by its towering emerald cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and the vibrant azure expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
Accessible only by foot, boat, seaplane and helicopter, the Na Pali Coast remains relatively untouched, preserving its wild and untamed beauty. It has some of the tallest sea cliffs in the world and is a truly fascinating place to visit in Hawaii.
The Kalalau Trail, a challenging yet rewarding trek that winds along the coastline, offers hikers an opportunity to immerse themselves in this breathtaking landscape, revealing hidden beaches, lush valleys, and panoramic vistas that evoke a sense of wonder and reverence for nature’s raw power.
The Na Pali Coast isn’t just a visual spectacle; it’s a testament to the timeless forces of nature that have sculpted this enchanting tableau over millions of years. The sheer cliffs rise dramatically from the shoreline, with their deep green hues contrasting vividly against the deep blue sea.
Beyond its natural marvels, the Na Pali Coast also bears cultural significance, as it holds ancient Hawaiian archaeological sites and legends, reminding visitors of the deep connection between the land and its indigenous people.
Whether gazing upon it from a boat, hiking its challenging trails, or witnessing the coast’s grandeur from above, the Na Pali Coast is a true testament to the sublime beauty that the Hawaiian islands have to offer.
Oahu’s North Shore
Another one of the best places to visit in Hawaii is Oahu’s North Shore, a legendary stretch of coastline renowned for its surf culture and unspoiled beauty.
Situated on the northern tip of Oahu, this region is a magnet for surf enthusiasts, drawing them in with its iconic winter waves that can reach towering heights.
During the winter months, the North Shore becomes a global hub for professional surf competitions, where world-class athletes ride the challenging swells of breaks like Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay.
Beyond its legendary surf status, the North Shore offers a laid-back ambiance, punctuated by charming surf towns like Haleiwa, where art galleries, boutiques, and local eateries exude a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere.
Embracing a rural and rustic charm, Oahu’s North Shore is a haven for those seeking a respite from the fast-paced urban life. The area is characterized by its verdant landscapes, rolling hills, and pristine beaches that stretch for miles.
In addition to its natural beauty, the North Shore encapsulates the spirit of the local Hawaiian culture, evident in its historic sites, ancient heiau (temples), and a genuine sense of community.
Whether it’s watching the sunset paint the sky with hues of orange and pink, indulging in the freshest seafood, or simply immersing oneself in the unhurried rhythm of North Shore life, this region offers a quintessential Hawaiian experience that lingers in the hearts of those who visit.
Lanikai Beach, often referred to as a true tropical paradise, graces the northeastern shores of Oahu, Hawaii, with its unparalleled beauty and tranquil ambiance. It’s often ranked one of the world’s best beaches, and it’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Hawaii.
This pristine stretch of coastline is renowned for its powdery white sands, crystalline turquoise waters, and the iconic twin Mokulua offshore islands that punctuate the horizon.
The gentle waves and shallow waters make Lanikai Beach perfect for swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling, allowing visitors to bask in the sun-drenched splendor and immerse themselves in the vibrant underwater world just offshore.
Sunrise at Lanikai is a spectacle not to be missed, as the soft rays of dawn cast a warm glow on the Mokulua Islands and bathe the beach in a soft, golden light.
With its delicate balance of untouched nature and understated elegance, Lanikai Beach captivates the hearts of those fortunate enough to step onto its shores, offering an idyllic haven where time slows down and the soul can rejuvenate amidst the beauty of Hawaii’s coastal paradise.
If you’re a city lover, you should definitely visit the state’s capital city while visiting Hawaii!
Downtown Honolulu, the vibrant heart of Oahu’s capital city, pulsates with a unique blend of history, commerce, and cultural richness.
Steeped in both Hawaiian heritage and colonial influences, this urban center is a captivating tapestry of old and new. At its core lies the historic Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on American soil, which stands as a testament to Hawaii’s monarchy and the island’s transition to a United States territory.
The neighboring State Capitol building, an architectural marvel designed to resemble a volcano, symbolizes the islands’ distinct identity and historical journey.
Amidst the towering skyscrapers and bustling streets, visitors can discover cultural gems like the Hawaiian Mission Houses, offering insights into the past through restored missionary homes and exhibits that chronicle the social and religious transformations of the islands.
Honolulu is more than a historical repository; it’s a hub of modern activity and commerce. The bustling streets are lined with a vibrant array of shops, restaurants, and markets, offering everything from local crafts to international cuisine.
The Aloha Tower, a maritime beacon and historic landmark, stands as a welcoming sentinel to the harbor, with its observation deck providing panoramic views of the city’s skyline against the backdrop of the Pacific. You can join a traditional luau here for a fun introduction to the culture and arts of Hawaii!
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park, located on the island of Maui, is another one of the best places to visit in Hawaii. The park’s centerpiece is the massive Haleakala Crater, a dormant volcano that stretches over 10,000 feet above sea level.
The name “Haleakala” translates to “House of the Sun” in Hawaiian, and the park lives up to its name with its breathtaking sunrises and sunsets that paint the skies with an ethereal palette of colors.
Visitors often gather atop the summit in the early hours to witness the sunrise, an experience that feels almost otherworldly as the first rays of light break over the horizon and illuminate the surreal landscape below.
Haleakala National Park also encompasses a diverse range of ecosystems, from the stark volcanic terrain of the summit to the lush rainforests that cloak its slopes.
Hiking trails wind through this rich tapestry of landscapes, leading visitors to hidden waterfalls, cinder cones, and serene pools. The Sliding Sands Trail, for instance, offers a descent into the crater itself, providing an up-close encounter with its stark, otherworldly beauty.
Whether one seeks solitude and reflection or a thrilling outdoor adventure, Haleakala National Park offers a sanctuary where the natural world takes center stage, leaving an indelible impression on all who explore its breathtaking vistas.
Waimea Canyon State Park
Waimea Canyon State Park, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” is a natural marvel nestled on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
This awe-inspiring geological wonder stretches across approximately 14 miles and descends nearly 3,600 feet, revealing a stunning palette of vibrant reds, oranges, and greens that paint the canyon walls.
Carved over millions of years by the erosive forces of wind and water, Waimea Canyon offers a glimpse into the Earth’s intricate geological history. The dramatic contrast between the lush vegetation and the deep, colorful chasms creates a breathtaking panorama that has captivated visitors for generations.
Trails like the Canyon Trail and the Cliff Trail lead hikers to breathtaking viewpoints that offer sweeping vistas of the canyon and the Napali Coast beyond.
As visitors ascend or descend through the canyon’s layers, they traverse lush forests, cross gushing streams, and witness waterfalls cascading down the cliffs.
The Red Dirt Waterfall Hike, for example, treats hikers to a surreal experience as they traverse rust-colored trails that seem to lead through a magical realm.
With its unrivaled natural beauty and the sense of awe it inspires, Waimea Canyon State Park is a must-visit destination for those seeking to connect with the raw majesty of Kauai’s rugged interior.
Find more things to do in Kauai in our complete guide!
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
Those interested in history should absolutely visit Pearl Harbor while exploring Oahu. The Pearl Harbor National Memorial stands as a solemn tribute to a pivotal moment in American history and a place of reflection on the sacrifices made during World War II.
The Pearl Harbor Oahu memorial encompasses several iconic sites, including the USS Arizona Memorial, which straddles the sunken battleship that serves as a watery grave for over 1,100 sailors who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The stark white structure floats above the sunken vessel, allowing visitors to pay their respects and gain insight into the devastating impact of the attack that propelled the United States into World War II.
The nearby USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park and the Battleship Missouri Memorial further deepen the historical immersion, offering visitors the chance to explore a submarine and the very ship where the Japanese surrendered, marking the end of the war.
The visitor center houses exhibits, photographs, and artifacts that vividly recount the events of that fateful day and the subsequent global conflict.
The memorial serves as a reminder of the human cost of war and the enduring importance of promoting peace, while also honoring the bravery and sacrifice of those who defended their nation in the face of adversity.
As a place of both education and remembrance, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial holds a significant place in the collective memory of the United States and the world.
Akaka Falls State Park
Another one of the best places to visit in Hawaii is Akaka Falls State Park. Situated on the lush Big Island of Hawaii, is a haven of tropical beauty and cascading wonder.
The park’s main attraction, Akaka Falls, is a towering waterfall that drops 442 feet into a lush gorge, creating a breathtaking spectacle of natural power and serenity.
A short, well-maintained trail winds through the park’s dense rainforest, leading visitors through a tapestry of exotic flora, including bamboo groves and vibrant orchids.
As you follow the path, the anticipation builds until you catch your first glimpse of the stunning Akaka Falls, a pristine example of Hawaii’s dynamic natural landscapes.
No matter how much time you have on the Big Island, Akaka Falls State Park is one of the best places to visit on the entire island, so make sure you plan a visit there!
Kaanapali Beach, a paradisiacal stretch of coastline on the island of Maui, is a haven of sun, sand, and surf that embodies the charm of the Hawaiian Islands.
With its golden sands stretching for miles along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, this beach beckons visitors with its postcard-perfect beauty and laid-back ambiance.
Nestled against the backdrop of the West Maui Mountains, Kaanapali Beach offers a blend of natural splendor and luxurious amenities, making it a destination that caters to both relaxation and adventure.
The beach is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, making it an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities. Moreover, the daily cliff diving ceremony off the iconic Puu Kekaa (Black Rock) adds a touch of tradition and spectacle to the beach experience.
Maui is also known for its incredible whale watching, so try to include that in your Maui itinerary! You can often spot Hawaiian green sea turtles and other marine life on a boat tour here.
Kalaupapa National Historic Park
Located on the remote Kalaupapa Peninsula on the island of Molokai, Kalaupapa National Historical Park is a place of profound historical significance and poignant remembrance.
The park serves as a memorial to the devastating impact of Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and the individuals who were forcibly isolated on the peninsula during a dark chapter in Hawaiian history.
Kalaupapa National Historic Park encapsulates the stories of those who were sent into exile due to the stigma surrounding the disease, showcasing their resilience, struggles, and triumphs.
With its stunning coastal landscapes, including towering sea cliffs that rise dramatically from the ocean, the park offers a striking contrast between the beauty of the environment and the haunting history it holds.
Access to Kalaupapa is restricted due to its isolated location, with visitors typically arriving via a mule ride down a steep trail or by small plane. Once there, visitors can explore the remnants of the settlement, including historic buildings, churches, and graveyards that bear witness to the lives of those who lived and suffered there.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park is one of the most unique places to visit in Hawaii!
Wai’anapanapa State Park
Wai’anapanapa State Park on Maui’s rugged eastern coastline is a breathtaking testament to the raw power of nature and the rich cultural heritage of Hawaii.
The park’s diverse landscapes are a tapestry of lush greenery, striking black sand beaches, and towering sea cliffs, all shaped over centuries by volcanic activity and the relentless forces of the Pacific Ocean.
Home to the famous black sand beach, created by the volcanic minerals, here you can admire the stark yet striking contrast to the turquoise waters and verdant surroundings.
Exploring the sea caves, blowholes, and lava tubes within the park offers a mesmerizing glimpse into the ever-evolving nature of the Hawaiian archipelago.
Beyond its stunning black sand beach and geological wonders, Wai’anapanapa State Park also holds immense cultural significance.
The area was historically inhabited by native Hawaiians, and the park’s name translates to “glistening water” in the Hawaiian language.
The nearby Pailoa Bay contains a freshwater spring that was believed to be a bathing place for Hawaiian royalty. Ancient Hawaiian legends and stories intertwine with the rugged beauty of the park, adding an air of mystique to its already enchanting atmosphere.
Check out our detailed 3, 5, or 7 day Maui Itinerary for more ideas on this beautiful island!
Waikiki Beach, an iconic crescent of golden sand framed by the gleaming skyscrapers of Honolulu, stands as one of Hawaii’s most famous and bustling coastal destinations.
Situated on the southern coast of Oahu, this vibrant stretch of shoreline is synonymous with Hawaiian leisure and surf culture. With its gentle waves, warm waters, and a backdrop that seamlessly blends natural beauty with modern urbanity, the famous Waikiki Beach exudes an atmosphere of relaxation and recreation.
The beach’s shallow waters make it an ideal spot for novice surfers and people of all ages. Go on a glass-bottom boat tour or a snorkel tour to immerse yourself in the underwater beauty of Waikiki Beach!
Or if you’re looking for a more adventurous outdoor activity, consider hiking the Diamond Head Crater! Located right next to Waikiki Beach, Diamon Head Crater is an iconic place to visit in Hawaii that offers stunning views!
Whether lounging on the sands, catching waves, or hiking Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach encapsulates the spirit of Hawaii’s unique blend of natural splendor and urban vitality.
Hapuna Beach, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, is another highlight of the Hawaiian Islands.
Widely acclaimed as one of Hawaii’s best beaches, Hapuna stretches for about half a mile along the Kohala Coast, drawing visitors and locals alike to its inviting shores.
Whether sunbathing on the soft sands, exploring the tide pools, or playing beach volleyball, Hapuna Beach exudes a laid-back ambiance that makes it a highlight of the Big Island.
Surrounded by the majestic Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, Hapuna Beach also presents a breathtaking backdrop that perfectly complements the natural beauty of the coastline.
The Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area features well-maintained facilities, including picnic areas, showers, and lifeguards, ensuring a comfortable and safe experience for all visitors.
While the beach itself is a haven for sun seekers, its surrounding landscapes offer opportunities for adventure. Nearby hiking trails lead to panoramic viewpoints, showcasing sweeping vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the island’s rugged terrain.
Whether spending a leisurely day under the sun or venturing into the scenic wonders that envelop it, Hapuna Beach captures the essence of a Hawaiian paradise, leaving an indelible imprint on those fortunate enough to revel in its beauty.
Read Next: Check out these fun things to do in Hilo while you’re on the Big Island!
Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve
Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve, located on the southeastern shore of Oahu, Hawaii, is a haven of marine biodiversity and natural beauty that draws snorkelers, swimmers, and nature enthusiasts from around the world.
Formed within the remains of a volcanic crater, the bay’s sheltered waters and vibrant coral reefs provide a unique window into Hawaii’s underwater ecosystem.
With its crystalline waters teeming with colorful fish and marine life, Hanauma Bay offers an unparalleled opportunity for snorkelers of all skill levels to explore the enchanting underwater world.
The bay’s carefully preserved environment serves as a reminder of the delicate balance that must be maintained to ensure the health of coral reefs and the species that call them home.
The bay’s ecosystem has been designated a marine life conservation district, with regulations in place to protect the delicate balance of its environment.
Hanauma Bay serves as a powerful reminder of the preciousness of marine ecosystems, offering a unique opportunity for connection with the natural world while emphasizing the necessity of their preservation for future generations.
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