Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the United States, arguably the entire world. The white-sand beaches, impressive national parks, and other tourist attractions make it an ideal place for a tropical getaway.
The Best Things to Do in Hawaii in 2023
Whether you’re heading to Oahu, Maui, Honolulu, or other lesser-visited parts of Hawaii, there’s fun to be had. Here are 21 amazing things to do on your trip to Hawaii.
1. Spend a Day on Waikiki Beach
You’ll find Waikiki Beach on the south shore of Oahu. This famous area is a natural beach that stretches for two miles. This is a significant tourist attraction, so don’t be surprised if you see hundreds of beachgoers lounging in the sand, swimming, and surfing in the water.
On the one side, you’ll have a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, and on the other, you’ll see high-rise condos and resorts where tourists love to stay.
While the beach tends to be crowded, it’s still a beach that you need to visit, even if only for a few hours when you’re in Hawaii. Don’t forget your ocean-safe sunscreen, beach towel, beach chair, and plenty of water and snacks if you’re heading to Waikiki Beach.
2. Attend the Paradise Cove Luau
Attending a luau while in Hawaii is a beautiful experience. The Paradise Cove Luau is one of the most popular in Hawaii for people of all ages.
They host the luau outside, near the ocean, so you have a beautiful view while the dancers share their culture with you. Adults can start their luau experience with a delicious Mai Tai while listening to traditional Hawaiian music.
You’ll walk through the Hawaiian Village and learn about arts and play games.
You’ll end your night feasting on classic Hawaiian dishes while watching performers. You’ll need to head to Kapolei, Hawaii, for this experience. It’s about half an hour to the west of Honolulu.
Read Next: The 10 Best Luaus in Hawaii in 2023
3. Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Whether you’re staying on the Big Island or not, you may want to make a trip to the Big Island to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You can walk through the park on the various hiking trails while observing active volcanoes.
There are two active volcanoes in the park, Kīlauea, and Mauna Loa. When you visit this park, you’ll want to drive along Crater Rim Drive. This offers you some fantastic views of the volcanoes and craters in the park.
When you need a break from hiking, you can visit the Jagger Museum, which offers different exhibits where you can learn more about volcanoes. Don’t forget to head outside to the Halema’uma’u Crater viewing point!
Read Next: Where to Stay on the Big Island
4. Dive With Manta Rays
Hawaii is known for its diverse marine life in the waters. Swimming, diving, and snorkeling are all popular things to do here, but if you want something that will leave you with your jaw on the floor, you need to book a tour to dive with the manta rays.
Manta Ray Dive of Hawaii is a great tour company to consider. They offer different tours where they take both snorkelers and divers out to swim with these giants, or you can go on a snorkeler’s only boat. All the gear you’ll need is included in the final price when you book.
The qualified team will take you offshore on the Hawaiian Kona Coast, where you’ll be in the waters with the 240+ resident manta rays that they’ve all named. The adventure is at nighttime, and they provide lights, and it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
5. Tour the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
Another attraction on the Big Island is the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. This garden is in Papaikou, just north of the county seat Hilo. There are over a mile of trails within the gardens for you to walk through blissfully and photograph.
You’ll walk the paths through greenery to find streams and waterfalls. Towards the end of the trail, you’ll have amazing views of Onomea Bay.
You’ll get to experience the biodiversity that Hawaii offers as you walk through the gardens. There’s a picnic area at the far end of the botanical gardens where you can sit and enjoy the beauty while enjoying a snack if you bring some.
6. Sample Wine and Beer at Nani Moon Meadery
For those over 21 years old, you can visit the only meadery in the state, Nani Moon Meadery. You’ll find the only mead producer in Hawaii on the island of Kauai. It’s in a populated area of the island in the town of Kapaʻa, which has plenty of other places to explore, too.
Nani Moon Meadery offers adults mead tastings in their taproom. Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in history, dating back 6,000 years.
The flavors here mimic the islands with pineapple mead, pineapple and lime, ginger spice, and more. After your tasting, you’re more than welcome to purchase a bottle or two of your favorite mead to take with you on the rest of your Hawaiian vacation.
7. Visit the Pearl Harbor National Monument
You can’t visit Honolulu without stopping at the Pearl Harbor National Monument. It’s also known as the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. It’s also an extremely moving experience (I’d know — I’ve been twice).
Whether you had a family member who perished in this monumental event or not, this can be an emotional experience for everyone.
Pearl Harbor shows the history of the military’s presence in Hawaii during the war and leading up to the attack on December 7th, 1941. Pearl Harbor is a place of learning and remembrance, so you’ll want to be as respectful as possible while walking around.
You’ll get to see the memorial of the USS Arizona, Uss bowfin Submarine Museum, the Battleship Missouri, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
8. Hike Into a Dormant Volcano at Haleakala National Park
If you’ve ever wanted to hike a dormant volcano, you can when visiting Maui. Haleakala National Park is the place to do so. It’s a typical summit to watch the sunrise or sunset.
If you’re thinking of catching the sunrise at the summit, you’ll need to leave very early, around four in the morning. Of course, you don’t need to watch the sunrise or sunset on the summit if you don’t want to.
You can enjoy your day hiking up the dormant volcano and back down. It’s a little strenuous, especially in the Hawaii heat, but you can’t beat the views and sense of accomplishment.
There are also several other fantastic hiking trails throughout Haleakala National Park for you to experience if the hike up the volcano is too much.
9. Go Whale Watching
November through April is the prime time if you want to see a large migration of humpback whales in Hawaii. There are times when you can see these gentle giants from the shores of Hawaii, but if you want to get a closer look at them, you can book a whale-watching tour.
Several tour companies take locals and visitors whale watching. Most tours last for about three hours, and during the months of November through April, you will almost surely see whales. Of course, there are times when you may not get lucky.
But nine times out of ten, you’ll get to see at least one of these creatures. All the major Hawaiian Islands offer whale-watching tours. If you’re staying at a hotel, you can ask about them or do a quick Google search.
10. Tour the Dole Plantation
In Wahiawa, Hawaii, you’ll find the Dole Plantation. This is a historic pineapple plantation that now serves as a popular tourist attraction in Honolulu County. Part of the plantation includes a fun train ride, and it has the largest maze in the world.
More than one million people visit the plantation every year, making it one of the most famous attractions in Oahu. Staff at the plantation will show you around and teach you about the history of pineapples on the island.
You can visit the plantation store before leaving for some unique pineapple gifts. They also have plenty of pineapple snacks and beverages you need to try. If you can only try one thing, you need to try the famous DoleWhip!
11. Take Surfing Lessons
Hawaii has some of the best surfing globally, so why not take some surfing lessons while you’re visiting? One of the best places to do so is in Waikiki. This is because the waters there tend to be a little calmer than in other parts of the island, which is better for those who’ve never surfed before.
Kahu Surf School is a great company that offers you surfing lessons off of Waikiki Beach. Many of the instructors have been surfing their whole lives and are all trained in water safety.
When booking your lessons, you can choose a one or two-hour option. In addition to choosing how long your lessons will be, you can go with one-on-one lessons or learn in a small group.
12. Visit Hanalei Bay
Another beautiful beach that you need to visit is Hanalei Bay. Nestled on the north shore of Kauaʻi, it’s the largest bay on the island. You can enjoy nearly two miles of sandy beach with the mountains of Hawaii towering behind you.
You can lounge on the beach all day, swim, or venture into the town of Hanalei, which is the midpoint of the bay. The waters are bright blue and usually reasonably calm.
In the summer, you’ll see a plethora of sailboats and people paddleboarding in the water. The waters are usually warm and make the perfect way to cool down when the sun is beating down on you.
13. Walk the Kalalau Trail
If you’re looking for an extensive yet beautiful trail to walk, you need to head to the island of Kauai. The Kalalau Trail runs for 11 miles from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach. You’ll walk along the Napali Coast, taking in some of the most breathtaking views.
The trail is the only land access on this part of the Hawaiian coast, and you’ll pass through five valleys on your way to the other end.
You’ll gain and lose elevation throughout the trail as much of it isn’t entirely paved. If you’re going to walk the trail, be sure to wear proper shoes, pack plenty of water, and legal sunscreen to protect your skin.
14. Go Golfing
Another thing that Hawaii is famous for is beautiful golf courses. Scattered across the islands, you’ll find championship golf courses that you can play. Most of them require tee times to be scheduled in advance, but you can make most of them online.
Many of the best golf courses are near popular resorts. As you browse the courses, you’ll find putting greens, driving ranges, and restaurants on the properties that you can visit before or after your tee time.
If you’re looking for fantastic courses to play, here are some of the top choices:
- Nanea G.C., Kailua-Kona
- Kuki’o G. and Beach Club, Kailua-Kona
- The C. at Hokuli’a, Kealakekua
- Princeville Makai Golf Club, Princeville, Kauai
15. See Waterfalls at Akaka Falls State Park
On Hawai’i Island is Akaka Falls State Park. It’s north of the city of Hilo and gives you some of the best waterfall views around. The waterfall that the park is named after is Akaka Falls and sits 442 feet tall.
When you arrive at the park, you’ll need to pay a small admission fee. From there, you’ll follow the stairway that leads to your two paths.
One path takes you directly to Akaka Falls, and the other takes you to another waterfall called Kahuna Falls, which is worth seeing while you’re there. The trail isn’t super long but as you walk, remember to stay on the path at all times.
16. Snorkel Near the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles
The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are a magnificent sight to see if you can. One of the best ways to do this is by booking a snorkeling tour at Turtle Canyon. As with other tours in Hawaii, you’ll find several companies offering these excursions.
Taking a catamaran to Turtle Canyon is one of the most sought-after ways to do this. You’ll enjoy sailing through the waters until you reach your destination. Most tour companies offer all the snorkel gear you’ll need.
You can go snorkeling for two or three hours from Waikiki. You’ll have access to water, snacks, and – if you’re an adult – two complimentary alcoholic beverages.
17. Tour the Polynesian Cultural Center
One of the best things you can do in Hawaii is to learn about the Polynesian culture. There’s no better place to do this than at the Polynesian Cultural Center. It’s a family-friendly attraction in Laie, which is on the north shore of Oahu.
The center sits on 42-acres of land where you can learn about the history and culture of the Pacific Islands. As you walk through the center, you’ll visit villages that showcase six different Pacific cultures in one place.
You’ll learn about all their traditions and artwork, and if you want, you can attend a luau. They also offer fire spinning shows that showcase more of their culture.
18. Take a Helicopter Tour
Helicopter tours are popular in Hawaii. They’re a fantastic way to see the islands from new heights. You’ll be mesmerized by how stunning the islands look from the sky and won’t soon forget this experience if you choose to do this.
An excellent helicopter tour company in Hawaii is Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours. They’ve been showing people the islands from the sky for over 35 years.
The best part is that you can choose to take a tour from Maui, Oahu, the Big Island, or Kauai. Each tour is unique, and your tour guide will show you amazing spots on each island and tell you more about the island’s history.
19. Snorkel Molokini Crater
Molokini Crater is a stunning crater off the coast of Maui. It’s famous for snorkeling and scuba diving. Snorkeling anywhere in Hawaii will give you an experience you’ll never forget, but the Molokini Crater is a top attraction for aquatic lovers.
You’ll need a boat to get out to the crater, and several companies take tourists out to the site for hours at a time. Snorkel Molokini Maui is an excellent option if you wonder who can get you there.
Molokini Crater has excellent visibility with varying depths. The depths range from 20 to 50 feet, and some spots are over 300 feet. The crater is about half a mile wide, so you’ll have plenty of ocean to explore.
20. Watch the Big Wave Riders Compete
When visiting the north shore of Oahu, you may get lucky and see the big wave riders compete or just surf for enjoyment. The north shore is known for its larger surf, so you’ll see talented surfers showing their stuff here.
Typically, you’ll see the big wave riders on the north shore in the winter. November through March are the best times to visit to watch these athletes in action.
21. Swim With Dolphins
You can snorkel with turtles, fish, and even manta rays. While you can do this in the ocean, you can visit Dolphin Quest in Oahu if you want to swim with dolphins. The attraction is at the Kahala Hotel and requires advanced booking.
They offer several options for swimming with the dolphins. Their most popular package is their 30 minute one where you swim with the animals and pose for photo ops.
Longer times are available if you prefer to swim with them for more than 30 minutes. You can book as an individual, or if you’re traveling with friends and family, there are packages for that, too.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you feel like you still have questions about visiting Hawaii, here are some of the most commonly asked questions about The Aloha State.
Where should you go for your first time in Hawaii?
Most people recommend going to the island of Oahu for your first time in Hawaii. It’s the most famous island and where you’ll find the central city, Honolulu.
How many days should I spend in Hawaii?
It can take a while to travel to the islands, so it’s recommended that you stay for ten days to get the whole experience and be able to do everything on your wishlist. Longer allows for even more time to explore and island-hop, but anything shorter, you may not be able to have the experience you want in Hawaii.
Is Oahu or Maui cheaper?
It’s no secret that Hawaii isn’t cheap, but there are more affordable islands than others. Oahu tends to be the cheapest Hawaiian island, while Maui is the most expensive.
What’s the number one attraction in Hawaii?
The top attraction in Hawaii is Waikiki Beach. Diamond Head State Monument comes in at a close second or is tied for first, depending on who you ask.
What’s the most popular food in Hawaii?
Seafood is the most popular in Hawaii for obvious reasons. Specifically, you can’t go to Hawaii without trying some fresh poke or a poke bowl.
Over to You — Book Your Hawaiian Adventure Today!
Hawaii is filled to the brim with wonderful things to do. Whether you prefer to spend your days lounging on some of the best beaches in the world or swimming in the ocean, you’ll make memories that you’ll have for the rest of your life. Happy travels!