Many travelers plan to venture no further than the beach on their Hawaiian vacation. But for those who like a little more adventure, taking time off means more opportunities for exploration. There is nothing like experiencing the thrills of kayaking through sea caves or hiking up to waterfalls and seeing live volcanoes. After you have fully relaxed, the best way to enjoy Hawaii is to dive in full throttle and get that heart pumping in the sunshine.
Fortunately if you only have a short time, you can squeeze all the experiences into one action-packed day with a tour or drive around the coasts of the islands. These tours are available on most of the islands, allowing you to absorb as much of the landscapes as possible. Because the number of activities in Hawaii may seem overwhelming, we have broken down an at-a-glance list to help you brainstorm which options will best suit you, your family and friends as you travel to Hawaii.
Culture and Culinary Tours – Enjoy a wide range of cuisine from farms, to hole in the wall places and ethnic restaurants. Discover more details about the delicious food tours by checking out our Culinary Tours page.
Helicopter Rides – Each Hawaiian island is like an individual masterpiece of creation that is often best experienced from the aerial point of view. Your opinion of Hawaii will never be the same after you soar over the striking and varied paradise below on the serene Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tour.
Submarine Rides – A flight over the highest of waterfalls and mountains in the Aloha State would be greatly complemented by exploring deep below the waves in one of the Atlantis Submarine Tours. The underwater seascapes of coral reef and sunken ships are some of the most awe-inspiring views of Hawaii.
Sunset Cruises – At the end of a long day enjoy lounging on the deck of a cruise ship and watching the sun descend into the ocean. On Oahu, the Star of Honolulu Dinner Cruise offers those who step on board unparalleled views of the Pacific at twilight while dining on elegant cuisine.
Golfing – For golf lovers, the Hawaiian Islands prove more even more deserving of the term “tropical paradise.” Some of the most beautiful award-winning golf courses and resorts are located in Hawaii. As there are many options to choose from, consider our island-by-island breakdown of Golf Vacations to pick which course you would like to try the most.
Biking – Kauai’s Waimea canyon-to-coast bike ride is one of the most beautiful 12-mile treks along the Pacific Ocean. The Big Island provides biking tours through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park stretching between the town of Kona and Hilo. Maui’s popular biking trail is the Haleakala downhill bike tour where you can coast through eucalyptus forests and tropical farms. Oahu’s biking tours can take you deep into the heart of the Ko’olau Mountain rainforest or through gently sloping rides toward the coast.
Luaus – The Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu has just about everything you could imagine for a memorable evening at a Hawaiian luau. Every island has unique flowers and highlights that are incorporated into the celebrations. On Maui, there is the well-loved Old Lahaina Luau. The luau at Kona Village on the Big Island is another popular attraction. The Luau Kalamaku on Kauai is a good choice if you are staying on the Garden Isle.
Historical Sites – The Hawaiian Islands are proliferated with historic landmarks and sites of cultural significance such as: the only royal palace in the country, Iolani Palace, on Oahu, the historic Hansen’s disease colony on Molokai’s Kalaupapa Peninsula, the epic Kepaniwai battle site between Kamehameha and Kalanikupule at the Iao Valley on Maui, the wide variety of Hawaiian heiaus (temples) on the Big Island and the Word War II memorials at Pearl Harbor.
Hiking – Hiking paths in Hawaii are ubiquitous. There are countless trails off the beaten paths to seemingly hidden waterfalls, lookouts and ocean views. One of the most outstanding and popular options on Maui is the Haleakala National Park summit where you can gaze upon breathtaking scenery above the level of gathering clouds. Trekking up to Mauna Kea on the Big Island is a great place to star-gaze at night. While the Na Pali Coast sea cliff hike on Kauai offers one of the most striking coastal views in the Aloha State. Nature lovers will enjoy the untouched beauty of Waipo Valley and the vibrant red-stone depths of Waimea Canyon on the Big Island.
Camping – Each island has exceptional state parks where enthusiast campers can obtain single day or multiple day camping passes. For more information, refer to our Hawaii Travel Tips page for the contact details regarding camping permits.
Zip Lining – Maui bring vacationers the opportunity to go zip lining over the Lahaina Dragon Fruit Farm or the Ka’anapali coast. Stellar zip lining tracks can be found at Poipu and Princeville on the island of Kauai. While the Back Country Lihue Treetop Canopy track will have you feeling like you are part of the forest as you glide above the trees. The Big Island’s Hilo Zip Lining Adventure will take you soaring through the air past waterfalls in state parks; while the Kohala Zipline provides an option that gives you a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the forest floor below.
Horseback Riding – For many, horseback riding through hills and on beaches is one of the most exciting activities to do on vacation. Horseback riding on the Big Island could lead you into Waipo Valley over streams, jungles and taro patches. On Kauai, the Princeville Ranch offers horseback rides leading to stunning waterfalls as well as private rides with picnics. Maui horseback riders can saddle up and explore pastures and forests at Pi’iholo Ranch. Oahu offers horseback tours at Kualoa Ranch as well as through North Shore coastal trails.
Kayak and Canoeing – On Kauai you and your family can enjoy mountain tubing near the Old Lihue Sugar Plantation, kayaking down the Wailua River, Hawaii’s only navigable river, or rappelling down the gentle waters of the 30-foot Huleia Waterfall with your friends. On the Big Island, you can kayak through sea caves in Keauhou Bay, swim with the manta rays or enjoy a guided tour through Puako and Kealakekua bays. Maui offers kayaking and snorkeling picnic tours; while Oahu offers beach kayak rentals, outrigger canoe paddling and racing on the south and north shores.
Surfing, Wind Surfing and Kite Boarding – Hawaii is renowned for being home to some of most legendary surf spots in the world, ranging from the deadly Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore to family-friendly waves at Waikiki. Oahu’s North Shore has many premier surf spots; while Maui is arguably the preferred island for wind surfers and kite boarders, as steady coastal breezes make it an ideal location. Our surf page has all the details of surfing places you won’t want to miss.
Parasailing and Jet Ski Rentals – Oahu is the best starting point for extreme water sports and other unique activities as many places offer packages for parasailing and jet ski rentals. On Maui, both Lahaina and Ka’anapali offer parasailing tours; while on the Big Island, Kailua-Kona is the place to parasail over the Pacific.
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving – Snorkeling on the Big Island can be combined with dolphin watching and barbeque cruise package on boats launching from harbors near Kailua-Kona. Dive in for unforgettable swimming and snorkeling excursions with manta rays from Honokohau Harbor or Keauhou Bay, also on the Big Island. Maui offers a Molokini snorkel and dinner cruise as well as scuba diving from Ma’alaea Harbor. Families vacationing on Maui can also opt for Honolua Bay snorkeling and sailing combinations packages as well. Oahu’s Hanauma Bay is a popular marine life reserve for avid snorkelers, and for those who want to maximize their underwater encounter, there are numerous activities you can combine with sailing, picnics and dolphin watching. Kauai has guided snorkeling tours at Poipu Beach; while on Molokai you can get scuba diving or snorkeling tours for those who enjoy diving into the deepest, undisturbed reefs.
Activities by Island – Here is more information on types of activities that are available on each island.
Sightseeing Videos – The islands of Hawaii are truly a tropical paradise. Trying out unique activities showcases the most incredible parts of the Hawaiian experience, while creating memories that will stay with you for a lifetime. Check out our videos below to get a glimpse of what you can see and do on each Hawaiian island.