The 50th state of the US, the island state of Hawaii is a tropical vacation dream come true for Americans and tourists from all over the world. The Hawaiian islands are really the tips of an undersea mountain range created by volcanic activity. There are five main islands and numerous smaller islands and coral reefs.
O’ahu is the third smallest of the five main islands, but the most populated, most diverse, and most visited of the islands. The result is an enchanting mix of skyscrapers, beaches, and vast plantations.
Honolulu is the state’s capital and for most the starting point of their vacation. Honolulu’s downtown is a medley of different architectural styles, shaped and reshaped by Hawaii’s immigrants. There is a Chinatown, Japanese-style temples, and even a Victorian-style royal palace, Iolani Palace.
Other attractions include Kawaiaha’o church, which was built by only using corals slabs; the famous bronze Statue of King Kamehameha; and of course, world famous Waikiki beach with the Diamond Head Crater forming the perfect backdrop. Finally, there is Pearl Harbor with the USS Arizona Memorial.
Elsewhere on O’ahu
While Honolulu offers much with city life, beaches, and history, there are other attractions worth visiting. A good example is Byodo-In Temple, a replica of a Japanese temple. Located in a secluded spot and set against an amazing backdrop of green and lush cliffs, Byodo-In Temple is the perfect place if you want to get away from it all.
If you are interested in the history of sugar making on Hawaii, give the restored Hawaii Plantation Village a try. And for those who simply came to surf or relax on the beach, the North Shore of the island is just what you were looking for.
Maui is the state’s second largest island. Once only enjoyed by locals and surfers, it is fast becoming a favorite among tourists. The island is famous for its beautiful beaches and reefs. You can find everything from secluded to endless, from Red Sand Beach to Black Sand Beach, or from wild and untouched to white sand and calm water.
Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii and the center of the whaling industry. Today, it is a charming beach town with restaurants, shops, and a buzzing nightlife. Many hotel resorts are located close-by and as a result the town is usually filled with tourists.
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala, today still considered active, was made into a US National Park to preserve and protect its astonishing beauty. Visitors can drive up to the summit and enjoy an amazing view over the island on a clear day. Often, however, they will find themselves above the clouds, which is equally as breathtaking.
Favorite activities in the park include hiking on the summit and into the cinder cones to be dazzled by the colorful landscape; taking a bike ride down the summit after watching the sun rise over the island; and if you are not into biking, you should still get up early and witness the sunrise – it can be an almost magical experience.
The Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is one the most scenic and spectacular coastal drives in the world. You will see beautiful beaches, thick jungle, and waterfall after waterfall along the road. The waterfalls are in fact the main attractions for many visitors and depending on the time of year, they can be very impressive. The road is also often very curvy and at times very narrow, causing some of the drivers to take it very slowly. You can actually buy t-shirts saying “I survived the Road to Hana.”
Being the largest among the islands, Hawaii Island is often called the Big Island. It also gives the State of Hawaii its name.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
This national park is one of the main attractions of the island and the reason for many tourists to stop by. Kilauea, one of the volcanoes that make up the island, is currently considered to be the most active volcano in the world. It has been constantly spewing lava since 1983. The most visited areas of the park are the Crater Rim Drive and the Chain of Craters Road.
Several times parts of the Chain of Craters Road have been covered by lava and today the road dead ends at the lava bed. There you can find a mobile park rangers station and if the conditions are safe and you are so inclined, you can hike on the lava to get closer to the current lava flow. But be sure to talk to the rangers and take their warnings seriously.
Hilo is a city located on the weather side of the island, which means that it does rain a lot. The city has also witnessed two tsunamis; yet it is well worth a visit, especially for its beach parks and the waterfalls located in the area.
Pu’uhonua O Honaunau NHP
Today preserved as a US National Historical Park, Pu’uhonua O Honaunau is the perfect place to learn a little bit more about Hawaii’s history. Pu’uhonua means a ‘place of refuge’, and this historical park used to be the greatest in Hawaii. Lawbreakers could escape punishment if they were able to make it to such a place of refuge, which wasn’t as easy as it might seem.
If they tried to get there through the water, they first had to make it over the sharp lava stone; and if they managed to do that, they still had to somehow pass the chief’s warriors. The system was eventually abandoned in the early 19th century, but it can still be imagined at this national historical park.
Kaua’i is the oldest island and offers spectacular landscapes. Main attractions include the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, where you can also visit the Kilauea Lighthouse, Koke’e State Park, and Wailua Falls near Lihu’e.
Beautiful Waimea Canyon is another must-see on this island. It offers many stunning lookouts, such as Waimea Canyon, Pu’u O Kila Lookout, and Kalalau Lookout, to just name a few.
Moloka’i is the least touristy of the islands, yet just as beautiful and enchanting. Visitors should take the Kamehameha V Highway to Halawa Valley, which is a beautiful coastal drive. It gives a glimpse into the old Hawaii, which is hard to find today. Along the way, you will see beautiful valleys, sandy beaches, waterfalls, and if the weather is on your side, you can even see the island of Maui in the distance.
Also worth a visit is Kalaupapa National Historical Park, which is separated from the rest of the island by the tallest sea cliffs in the world. This isolated peninsula was once used as a colony for people with Hansen’s disease and the park tells their story.