To help you plan your Hawaii adventure, browse our top Hawaii tourist attractions, and get excited! From Hawaii’s pristine nature and famous outdoor draws, to observatories and aquariums, there’s a lot to see.
Never be short on things to do with our list of the most popular Hawaii attractions, perfect for friends, couples and families alike.
Mauna Kea Observatory – Big Island
Atop Hawaii’s tallest mountain you’ll find the remote Mauna Kea Observatory. The domed station is a working research facility open to tourists during the day, offering guided walks and educational exhibits. Once the sun sets, head down to the Visitor Information Center for a magical stargazing experience.
For most, Mauna Kea’s summit can only be reached by a 4WD vehicle. If you’re an expert climber, however, you can attempt the rigorous yet scenic 6-mile hike up instead – but bring a sweater.
Visit Hawaii’s Big Island in the winter and you could be in for a surprise. Snow might be the last thing you’d associate Hawaii with, but at an altitude of almost 14,000 feet, the white stuff isn’t uncommon on Mauna Kea. You may be there to get away from it, but a little snow on an otherwise tropical island paradise is nothing short of exotic.
Pearl Harbor & The WWII Valor in the Pacific Monument – Oahu
Hawaii can easily be all fun n’ games but its history offers a pause and some insight into its more serious side.
In 1941, the Japanese air attack on the Pearl Harbor military base and the USS Arizona hurled America into war, and today, the National Historic Landmark dedicated to the event is one of Hawaii’s most visited tourist attractions.
Start at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and board a tour of nearby Ford Island and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Try your hand at landing a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier in a flight simulator or climb aboard Pearl Harbor’s famous battleships, the USS Missouri, USS Oklahoma and USS Utah.
The USS Arizona Memorial floats above the sunken remains of the actual ship, parts of which can eerily still be seen below the surface.
Maui Ocean Center – Maui
Not only the largest tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere, the Maui Ocean Center plays an integral role in maintaining Hawaii’s marine ecology, growing artificial coral reefs to introduce to the wild.
The oceanography centre features more than 60 exhibits, including The Living Reef, an interactive touch pools for kids, a massive shark tank, and a sea turtle lagoon, all fed by saltwater from nearby Ma’alaea Bay.
Waikiki Beach & Diamond Head State Monument – Oahu
Don’t worry, chances are you won’t miss Hawaii’s most photographed stretch of sand. Before any island-hopping, most visitors come through Honolulu and happily end up on the golden shores of Waikiki Beach.
A suburb of Honolulu, Waikiki is blocks deep, lined with sky-scraping condos, luxe beachside resorts, upscale boutiques, dining and entertainment. Past the markets of the Waikiki Beach Walk, the always lei’d statue of Duke Kahanamoku and the picturesque pier, one of Hawaii’s most recognizable landmarks awaits.
Overlooking the beach with expansive views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean is Diamond Head, an ancient volcanic crater and Hawaii’s most famous State Monument. The steep, 2-hour (round-trip) historic hiking trail to the summit features old military bunkers and a lighthouse built in 1917.
A day or two set aside for Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head is an absolute Hawaii must.
Volcanoes National Park – Big Island
Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano, continuously stirring since the early 1980s, and is just one of five volcanoes that make up Big Island’s majestic Volcanoes National Park.
The park’s varied landscape encompasses everything from the expected lava-stricken, lunar-like desert, to rich rainforest and meandering meadows, complete with well-marked hiking trails for ranger-led tours, from the snowy summit of Mauna Loa to where molten new earth meets the ocean.
Crater Rim Drive is an 11-mile road circling the Kilauea caldera, branching off to several hiking trails that bring visitors as close to a breathing volcano as possible. For an entirely different perspective, helicopter tours of the park are equally impressive, as are treks through the Thurston Lava Tube, a natural tunnel made by drained lava.
The volcano is sacred to Indigenous Hawaiians as the home of The Goddess Pele, and surroundings should always be respected (it’s said that removing lava rocks brings a lifetime of bad luck!).
Waimea Canyon State Park – Kauai
Ten miles long, a mile across and dropping to almost 4,000 feet, Waimea Canyon covers nearly half of the green island of Kauai.
Clouds and fog can envelop the canyon, so it’s best to head out early to gawk at its gargantuan stature. Rains thicken tumbling waterfalls that pool in the Waimea River below, perfect for a swim or a picturesque kayak adventure.
For those looking to camp, Koke’e State Park can’t be beaten, ideally located just north of the canyon.