14 must-do things to do in Hawaii

Visit Hawaii: what are the best things to do and see on the paradise islands of the Aloha State?

Are you ready for a crazy vacation on a paradise island in the heart of the Pacific Ocean? Do you feel like celebrating, with a flower necklace around your neck and a cocktail in your hand? Do you dream of discovering all the secrets of Honolulu, Oahu or Maui? Buy a ticket to Hawaii and prepare yourself for a stay that will be forever etched in your memory.

An American archipelago with a population of over 1.4 million, Hawaii comprises a total of 137 islands and covers an area of over 28,000 km2. With its dreamy landscapes, dormant volcanoes, blue waters perfect for surfing, waterfalls and hot springs, Hawaii attracts thousands of tourists every year from all over the world.

Hawaii has many points of interest for you to enjoy, from the undiscovered to the tourist spot. If you want to make the most of it, you’ll need about two weeks. If you’ve already booked your ticket, let yourself be carried away by this guide to the 10 must-do things to do in Hawaii!

1. Big Island

Big Island, Hawaii

Rightly nicknamed the « Big Island », the island of Hawaii in the south of the archipelago is famous for its active volcanoes. The large influx of tourists is justified by the many treasures it holds in store, from its cultural heritage to its landscapes.

2. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

One of the first things to do when you arrive on this island is to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Here you can observe the Kilauea volcano and its almost uninterrupted eruption since 1983. Usually calm, the volcano has been quite temperamental of late, and has given the locals a few scares…

Other volcanoes are also worth a visit, such as Mauna Kea. Climbing to its summit is one of Hawaii’s must-do activities. Perched at a height of 4,207 m, this hike is ideal for both the more athletic and those who enjoy walking. During your walk, enjoy the view of Lake Wai’au, situated at 3,968 m above sea level. A word of advice for this type of high-altitude outing: don’t forget your warm clothes!

3. Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Another must-see on the island of Hawaii is Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, a preserved ancient Hawaiian village. Here, tradition and authenticity promise a cultural interlude out of time…

4. The beaches of Kailua Kona

One of Hawaii’s best-known cities is Kailua Kona. The island’s main city, it is renowned for its superb beaches, from its coastline to the north:

Magic Sands Beach: located on La’aloa Bay in Kailua Kona, Magic Sands Beach with its fine white sandbanks is a popular meeting place. Thanks to its proximity to the city, it attracts locals and tourists alike, who enjoy meeting up, watching the sunset or testing the waves, which are very popular with surfers.

Hapuna Beach : it needs no introduction. The number 1 beach on Big Island, it’s not only the largest, but also the most popular. More touristy, Hapuna Beach doesn’t really have the profile of a quiet little cove. However, aside from the crowds, its beauty doesn’t fade, and the panorama it offers is well worth the detour.

Mauna Kea Beach : Hapuna’s neighbor, Mauna Kea offers a more tranquil setting. Less popular than Hapuna, and perhaps more discreet as it nestles in the bay, it is nonetheless just as splendid, with its blue waters and white sand.

5. Oahu Island

Oahu is the most inhabited island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Nicknamed « The Meeting Place », it is particularly popular for its famous, must-see sights: so a visit to Hawaii inevitably rhymes with Oahu! Here are the main sights you won’t want to miss on your trip:

6. Honolulu

For city dwellers, Honolulu is the place to be! Capital of the state of Hawaii, Honolulu has something for everyone. For history buffs, head for the Pearl Harbor site, sadly made famous by the Japanese attack during the Second World War. While the name is well known, the sites invite you to immerse yourself in the history of the event on a historical tour. From museums and re-enactments to the various exhibitions on site, Pearl Harbor will hold no secrets for you.

Honolulu is also famous for its beaches and numerous activities. For a cultural visit, head for the Wakiki district. A favorite haunt of locals and visitors alike, Waikiki’s pace of life is seductive. Coastal and seaside, it’s home to numerous boutiques, hotels, bars and restaurants, making it a dynamic and trendy district. Its famous beach, meanwhile, is a dream come true for wave-skiers and idlers alike! Between siestas on the warm sand and feet in the water, you can take a surfing lesson, opt for a cocktail cruise or go turtle and whale watching. As you can see, there’s something for everyone in Waikiki!

7. Diamond Head

In Hawaii, nature is king. Luxuriant, it’s home to many treasures that promise to reveal one of the most incredible facets of the archipelago. Among them, Diamond Head: one of Hawaii’s most famous craters, it offers a breathtaking view of Honolulu and the ocean, especially at sunrise. To get there, numerous excursions are organized on both sides. The best is to opt for a cool morning hike: as the exercise is quite strenuous (allow 3 hours for the walk), leaving early will enable you to enjoy the excursion in the best possible conditions.

8. Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay , a pretty protected bay in the southeast of Oahu, nestles in an ancient volcanic cone. Its waves attract many surfers every year, while its marine life attracts scuba diving and snorkeling enthusiasts, who take time out with an instructor to discover a place that is home to over 400 marine species. They also come to admire the breathtaking scenery while basking in the sun. As Hanauma Bay is a protected reserve, visitors are required to pay an entrance fee in order to raise environmental awareness and continue to preserve the area.

9. Wahiawa Botanical Garden

What else is there to do in Hawaii if you want to immerse yourself in postcard-perfect scenery? In addition to beaches, craters and nature reserves, the island of Oahu is home to the superb Wahiawa Botanical Garden. Comprising 11 hectares of tropical forest, this garden is a true natural paradise, home to a veritable rainforest where numerous Hawaiian, Australian and Tasmanian varieties grow side by side. Remember to bring a raincoat with you on your visit, as the area is very humid (132 to 200 cm of rain fall per year).

10. Manoa Falls

How about an adventure in the Hawaiian jungle? Head for the Manoa hiking trail, used as a backdrop for the Jurassic Park movie! From the heart of the mountain forest to the Koolau Valley, surrounded by ferns, streams and other natural gems, set off on a half-day excursion that will immerse you in a lush setting. The highlight? Manoa Falls, the island’s highest waterfall!

11. The island of Kauai

Kauai Island, Hawaii

Kauai, also known as « Garden Island », is the oldest island in the archipelago, with very little urban development. This makes it an idyllic location for nature lovers and sports enthusiasts, with plenty of outdoor activities on offer. One of the first places to visit is Waimea Canyon State Park. The famous Kalalau Trail is also a must-do when in Hawaii. Be careful, however, if it’s raining, as the site may be closed or difficult to access. This hike will allow you to admire the Na Pali Coast after just a few kilometers.

For the less athletic, Koke’e State Park provides access to this coast by car. Don’t hesitate to camp on these sites to get the most out of them! And don’t miss Secret Beach, perfect for swimming and diving.

12. The island of Maui

Maui Island, Hawaii

Nicknamed « Valley Island » or « Magic Island », Maui is the second-largest island in the archipelago after Big Island. It is home to one of the world’s largest craters, the Haleakala volcano. Set out at night on the volcano’s hiking trails, and make your way to the sunrise to witness a spectacle that will leave you speechless. Sunrise at Haleakala is one of the must-sees on any trip to Hawaii. And if you want to pull out all the stops, simply for fun or for a special occasion, there are helicopter flights over Maui to watch the famous sunset from up there!

Maui’s beaches are another of Hawaii’s pearls. Among them is the black-sand Blacksand Beach. Created from the lava of the Kilauea volcano, which flows into the ocean, it is home to numerous turtles, which you can easily observe throughout the day.

Finally, about 15 minutes north of Lihue, the peaceful Wailua River has many surprises in store for you. Considered the largest navigable river in the archipelago, it boasts a rich and dense tropical environment, with numerous waterfalls and the famous Fern Grotto, a popular spot for walkers.

13. Niihau Island

Île de Niihau, Hawaï

Photo credit: Flickr – Steve Corey

Connoisseurs will wonder why we mention this island in our article. Owned by the Robinson family since 1864, Niihau, nicknamed  » The Forbidden Island « , is a private and often forgotten El Dorado west of Kauai, home to 160 inhabitants who speak the Hawaiian dialect. Totally closed to the public to preserve its local culture, Niihau is home to a precious land of exceptional flora and fauna: an arid promised land, perfect for raising livestock. A real little paradise on earth, where mass tourism will never have a place.

Although the initiative has been hailed, the Robinson family is still opening its doors to visitors. For just a few hours, visitors can opt for a variety of expeditions. Helicopter flights, game hunting, snorkeling and diving… All activities are organized on the outskirts or on a beach of the volcanic island, far from the local population. Be warned, though, that while the experience promises to be unforgettable, spending a few hours on Niihau comes at a price!

14. Also in Hawaii

Nuuanu Pali Lookout

Photo credit: Flickr – TheKarenD

  • Sunset Beach, a wild and popular beach where swimming is prohibited. A little jewel to be discovered with caution.
  • Iolani Palace: former residence of the last Hawaiian rulers on the island of Oahu, the palace opens its doors for a guided historical tour of Hawaiian royalty.
  • Kalaupapa Peninsula, on the island of Molokai.
  • Kihola Bay, north of Kona on the Big Island.
  • Kukui’ula Village, Kauai.
  • Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area in Maui’s Kula Forest Reserve.
  • Nuuanu Pali Lookout, on Oahu, which also offers superb views.
  • Papakōlea Beach, on the island of Hawaii.

How to get to Hawaii

To get to Hawaii, you’ll find several airlines and different flights from France. The latter are not direct, so you’ll have to make a stopover in Los Angeles, for example, before taking another flight to Honolulu airport. If you have a bit of time, I’d advise you to visit the city of Los Angeles and leave a day or two later for Hawaii. Whatever your plans, don’t forget to take a look at our partner Ulysse’ s website to find a flight at the best price.

Once you’re there, you’ll need to rent a 4×4 to get around as much as possible (the archipelago requires a lot of driving to explore!) while remaining independent.

Finally, to sail between the main islands of the archipelago, such as Maui or Ohau, remember to book a boat/ferry: there are many in transit, so you can visit the archipelago in style.

Where to stay in Hawaii?

It’s important to choose where to sleep in Hawaii, depending on your itinerary, your preferences and, above all, your budget. Bear in mind that accommodations near beaches are more expensive than those in the mountains. Some people will tell you that it’s better to find accommodation for the whole duration of your stay, and to do a little driving every day. In any case, to help you plan your trip, don’t hesitate to consult our article on where to stay in Hawaii and book your hotel for less on this hotel comparator.

Map of hotels and accommodations – Honolulu (Hawaii),us