Hawaii is on nearly everyone’s travel bucket list, but every island has different, unique attractions. Not sure how to decide? Check out our favorite places throughout the islands and start planning your trip. Aloha!
BLACK ROCK ON KA’ANAPALI BEACH (MAUI)
If you’re a fan of anything fun, you need to go to Black Rock. Cliff diving, scuba, and snorkeling with tropical fish are just the beginning – sea turtles are usually spotted here and the stunning scenery is a photographers paradise. Every night the Sheraton Hotelhas a symbolic torch lighting/diving ceremony that symbolizes the site’s ancient legend that spirits jump off these rocks as a final passing. The torches at sunset are gorgeous, so make this a full day excursion.
WAIPIʻO VALLEY (HAWAII, THE BIG ISLAND)
Home of Hawaii’s tallest waterfall, the secluded Waipiʻo Valley is full of hidden gems not accessible to the public. Because it is private property you must book a tour to gain access to it all; although we recommend KapohoKine Adventures, there are tour companies who offer horseback riding or ATV tours as well.
SHIPWRECK BEACH (KAUAI)
Although the real shipwreck for which it’s named for has long disappeared, Shipwreck Beach has awesome views and is a favorite for local surfers. Swimming is only recommended for strong swimmers due to rough waters, but experienced surfers and boogie boarders may be up for the challenge! Hiking the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is well worth it, and the golden sand beaches are perfect for sunbathing.
The Grand Hyatt Resort & Spa is a gorgeous property that sits right on Shipwreck Beach and comes highly recommended by other travelers looking for a luxurious getaway on Kauai.
ROAD TO HANA (MAUI)
Time to rent a Jeep, pack a bag, and hit the road! The drive to Hana takes about 2 to 3 hours (depending on where you’re departing from), but that’s with no stops – and trust us, you will want to stop. Plan for a few days to really take in all of the sights of Hana has to offer and book a hotel reservation in Hana Town! Dining, waterfalls, beaches, and trails are scattered along Hana Highway, so take your time and pick some places that seem to interest you most. This interactive map may help you plan your trip.
NA PALI COAST (KAUAI)
The magical 17-mile shoreline of the Na Pali Coast is so unique, in part due its remote location. The only way to access this area is by water, helicopter, or your own two feet. Take a swim in the Open Ceiling Sea Cave and check out the Waiahuakua stream, which ends tumbling off the mountain through the roof of a sea cave. Talk about amazing photo op!
If you are looking to spend some time on the north shore, (which I highly recommend!) the St. Regis Princeville is very close to the main trails on the Na Pali Coast and this resort is beyond stunning.
PAPOHAKU BEACH (MOLOKAI)
One of the largest white sand beaches in Hawaii is also one of the quietest, so if you’re looking to get away from the crowds for a while this is the place to go. You can soak in views of Oahu from the shore but getting in the waters is fairly dangerous and highly discouraged.
MANELE BAY (LANA’I)
Another quiet getaway! Swim at Hulopoe Beach, golf at the gorgeous Four Seasons Resort, or explore marine life at the tide pools. This family-friendly spot has picnic areas and gentle waters perfect for swimming; hula lessons and lei-making classes are offered by the Four Seasons for those looking for an authentic Hawaiian cultural experience.
Although the famous Molokai mule rides are currently unavailable, this sacred Molokai village has a distinctly unique settlement history that will likely be fascinating to curious visitors. The beautiful St. Philomena Church founded by a beloved Father Damien can be visited by booking a Damien tour, which also visit the final resting place of Father Damien himself. Research Kalaupapa’s history beforehand and prepare yourself for a spiritual, breathtaking journey.
POLOLU VALLEY (HAWAII, THE BIG ISLAND)
The black sand beaches and black lava rock make for a gorgeous landscape, and the short (but steep) hike is very rewarding – bring lots of water and shoes with good traction, as the trail can be slippery. Stop by the small town of Hawi on your way for lunch and homemade fudge!
Staying on the Kohala Coast is a must during your trip to the Big Island of Hawaii.Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel has one of the few swimming beaches on this side of the island and it even has a few resident turtles to keep you company while snorkeling. I stayed here for three nights and did not want to leave
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK (HAWAII, THE BIG ISLAND)
For those outdoorsy types, this national park will be a must-see. Deserts and lush rain forests make for an awesome hiking and biking experience, and that’s just during the day! Go at night to see the glow from molten lava, and take in the view from above by helicopter with Paradise Helicopters tours in Hilo. They even offer extreme no-door tours for you adrenaline junkies!
PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR HAWAII
Photo Equipment – I highly recommend bringing a GoPro for underwater photos (and a selfie stick!) and a nice camera for land activities. (See our complete travel camera buying guide here.)
Clothing – Sandals or flip flops (I love Rainbow sandals), a couple of swimsuits,sunglasses, and a sun hat are must-haves any time of year. I also highly recommend bringing water shoes.
Rash Guard – I always pack my long-sleeve rash guard on island trips. It protects you from the sun when snorkeling and provides a little warmth if the water is chilly.
Snorkel Equipment – You’ll save a ton of money by bringing your own and you won’t be stuck with old equipment. We brought this mask and these travel size fins.
Reusable Water Bottle – Refilling your water bottle not only saves money, but it’s so much better for the environment! We use this CamelBak water bottle at home, but if you want something more compact, this collapsible water bottle is perfect for travel days and hiking.