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23 Places to Visit in Hawaii That You Can’t Miss

Olivia Perez

These are hands-down the best places to visit in Hawaii! Check it out!

Even though most visitors to the Aloha State come in search of endless sun and turquoise-toned water, there’s so much more to do in Hawaii than meets the eye.

Spread throughout its eight islands, you’ll find a vast array of exciting places to visit in Hawaii.

Ranging from the dreamy beaches that make the state famous to dazzling active volcanoes, lush tropical settings to adventure in, and destinations that brim with history and culture like no other, Hawaii is a unique place.

If you’re currently planning your trip to Hawaii but find yourself daunted with the options, we’ve put together the ultimate list of the best places to visit in Hawaii that absolutely need to be on your radar!

23 Places to Visit in Hawaii That You Can’t Miss

1. Honolulu

Waikiki Beach in Honolulu one of the best places to visit in Hawaii
Waikiki Beach in Honolulu one of the best places to visit in Hawaii

As the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu is the spot where the tropics meet the city, all with paradise-like beaches, like Waikiki Beach, and looming volcanoes backdropping your every step!

Honolulu is located on Oahu, the busiest of the Hawaiian islands, and just happens to be a city that offers a little bit of everything, making it a wonderful place to visit in America.

Ranging from an unbeatable foodie scene, tons of arts and entertainment options, cultural sights galore, and a wide array of options for those who want to escape into nature without straying too far from the city’s amenities.

Some places you can’t miss in Honolulu are the Iolani Palace (former royal palace), Ala Moana Regional Park, Waikiki Beach, and the Honolulu Museum of Art—a must for history buffs.

2. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the places that you should visit in Hawaii
Lava flowing into the ocean

It’s not exactly a secret that Hawaii is a mecca for volcanoes. The ultimate place to truly experience these mighty wonders of nature is at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where two of the world’s most active volcanoes reside – Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

While here, you’ll get the chance to walk amid a series of lava tubes and over impressive lava fields as you search for steam rising from volcanic vents – a sight that looks as though it should belong on an adventure film! 

For the ultimate experience, you can book yourself a helicopter tour in order to get close to the craters from a safe distance. 

Make sure you stick around inside the park after dark, as that’s when the lava shows its flaming red color and looks the most outstanding!

3. Hilo

Carlsmith Beach Park in Hilo in Hawaii

Hilo is the capital city of the Big Island and a wonderful place to base yourself for all things adventure.

Within the city, you’ll find opportunities galore to experience its super relaxing vibes, be it by checking out a museum, going to the zoo, or exploring its myriad of historic buildings wrapped up by lush surroundings.

In the city’s surroundings, you’ll find a display of nature like no other, including waterfalls, lush rainforest trails, sweeping canyons, striking volcanoes, and a gorgeous coast you can spend days on end exploring.

All of this makes Hilo a perfect gateway to check out some of the most amazing places to visit in Hawaii for nature.

4. NaPali Coast State Wilderness Park

 NaPali Coast State Wilderness Park is an impressive park, an awesome place to see in Hawaii
NaPali Coast State Wilderness Park is an impressive park, an awesome place to see in Hawaii

Stretching 16 miles over the north shore of Kauai, NaPali Coast is an extremely dramatic stretch of coastline that consists of beautiful beaches, hanging valleys, massive waterfalls crashing down into the ocean, and striking towering sea cliffs.

Simply put, NaPali Coast offers some of the most quintessential Hawaiian vistas, some of which look even more scenic in real life than in photographs! 

The ultimate way to explore NaPali is by going on a hike. Still, if you want to get a totally different perspective of this impressive coast, you can also explore it from a boat or up from above inside a helicopter.

5. Kailua

Kailua Beach is one of the beautiful places to visit in Hawaii
Eddy Galeotti /

Home to two of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches – Lanikai and Kailua Beach – Kailua is a relaxed beach town known for its striking beauty, green forests, and azure-toned ocean.

In town, you’ll encounter scuba dive and rental shops where you can find kayaks and snorkeling gear, as well as several locally-owned shops and restaurants. 

Even though Kailua is located pretty close to Honolulu, the vibe here is super relaxed, making it a perfect escape if you want to get away from the bustle of the city without having to stray too far away.

6. Princeville Botanical Gardens

Relaxing Princeville Botanical Gardens in Hawaii

If you’d like to get close and personal with Hawaii’s unique flora, there’s no better place to do so than at Princeville Botanical Gardens.

Tucked away in the lush valleys of Kauai’s North Shore, Princeville Botanical Gardens homes a super diverse collection of plants, including native species, medicinal plants, endangered flowers, and other rare specimens.

While here, you’ll get to explore the gardens on tour to get a pretty in-depth explanation of the plants that call Princeville their home, taste organic chocolate, sample delicious honey, and more!

7. Waipio Valley Lookout

Incredible view from Waipio Valley lookout in Hawaii

Also known as “The Valley of the Kings” because it was once the home to Hawaiian rulers, Waipio Valley is a gem when it comes to scenery and historical goodness.

Even though its dramatic tropical views are reason enough to visit this stunning place, it’s also a wonderful way to stand on what was once one of the most important centers for religious and political life in Hawaii.

If you don’t have time to explore the valley but still want to see it, the Waipio Valley Lookout is very easy to access and provides the most dramatic views of the valley and the cliffs that surround it, making it one of the best places to go in Hawaii if insanely dramatic views are what you’re after.

8. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area

Hapuna Beach is one of the best beaches Hawaii that you should visit

Home to one of the best beaches in Hawaii, Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area lies placidly on the Kohala Coast on the Big Island.

Here, you’ll find the island’s most extensive white sand beach, which provides terrific opportunities to sunbathe or picnic amid beautiful scenery. 

If you want to explore under the water, snorkeling here is considered top-notch, and it also happens to be a great place to spot migrating whales during the season!

9. Diamond Head State Monument

View of Honolulu from Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head is one of Oahu’s most iconic natural landmarks and one of the best places to visit in Hawaii to get an introduction to its impressive world of volcanoes.

Even though you’ve probably seen Diamond Head on tons of postcards already, nothing quite compares to actually reaching its summit. The hike to reach the volcano’s crater is pretty short at just under a mile, but its quick altitude gain can make it quite challenging!

Even if you don’t consider yourself an avid hiker, reaching the top is not too difficult, especially when you consider there are stairs on the most strenuous parts and the entire trail is paved, making it pretty safe for first-timers. 

Moreover, there are plenty of lookout points scattered along the way, giving you tons of excuses to stop and catch your breath.

10. Hanauma Bay

One of the popular places to visit in Hawaii is Hanauma Bay

Set on the island of Oahu, Hanauma Bay provides the perfect opportunity to combine beautiful nature with lots of beach time.

Even though this state park is located just a short drive away, its lush surroundings and quiet atmosphere will make you feel as though you’ve traveled a world away.

Snorkeling is king here, with hundreds of marine animals and coral found within the bay’s boundaries and being pretty easy to spot (including Honus turtles, who love hanging around here!). 

For those keen to go on a hike, make sure you hit the Koko Bay Trail, which will take you all the way up to a volcanic crater while providing stunning views of the bay along the way!

11. Polynesian Cultural Center

Visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the things to do in Oahu in 3 days

With the unique aim to bring to life the spirit and heritage of Polynesia, the Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the best places in Hawaii to visit for cultural offerings.

While here, you’ll get to spend the day learning about the soul of the Pacific Island by visiting villages, wandering through acres of tropical flora, and taking part in tons of culturally-focused activities. 

At night, you’ll get the chance to dine on authentic food while experiencing a Polynesian luau, which is a sort of rite of passage for any visitor to Hawaii!

12. Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Visiting the Kona Coffee Living History Farm is one of the best things to do on Big Island, Hawaii
By Frank SchulenburgOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Giving visitors the chance to explore an early 20th-century coffee farm, Kona Coffee Living History Farm will take you back in time to when coffee pioneers made this part of Kona their base.

As you stroll through the farm, you’ll get the chance to walk amid a world of coffee trees, watch farmers at work, visit a historic farmhouse to get a glimpse of what life at the farm was like in the 20s and see live demonstrations that depict the story of the farm.

13. Waimea Canyon State Park

Stunning Waimea Canyon State Park in Hawaii

Nicknamed “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon State Park is a stunning landscape of cascading waterfalls, lush towering cliffs, and scenery that comes in all shades of greens and pinks.

While here, you’ll get to explore one of Hawaii’s most striking natural wonders, be it through a scenic drive or on a hike, with relaxing strolls available to strenuous challenges for those looking to put their hiking skills to the test. 

A must-do hike you can’t miss is the Canyon Trail, which is considered moderate and will take you to a beautiful 800-foot waterfall and a lookout point that offers unraveling views of the canyon.

14. Keahiakawelo

Awesome landscape at Keahiakawelo in Hawaii

Due to its unusual terrain, Keahiakawelo is a unique place in Hawaii to visit if you’re the type of traveler who prefers to stray off the beaten path.

Located on the island of Lanai, Keahiakawelo, or Garden of the Gods, provides a landscape so unique you wouldn’t expect to see in Hawaii: a sea of boulders, spires, rock towers, and all sorts of whacky-looking rock formations that will very much make you feel as though you traveled into Mars!

15. Mauna Kea Summit

The mighty summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii

Reaching a height of a whopping 33,497 feet (yes, you read that right!), Mauna Kea isn’t only the tallest mountain in Hawaii but also in the entire world!

Even though Everest is commonly thought to be the world’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, is actually way higher, but because its peak stands at 13,802 feet above sea level (the rest is submerged underwater!), it’s still disputed which of these mountains wins the award of the highest.[1]

With that said, hiking Hawaii’s tallest volcano is an experience like no other, especially when you take into account the dramatic views it offers.

Despite its height, the Mauna Kea Summit Trail typically takes just under 8 hours to complete one way. 

The hike is considered challenging, but with so many incredible vistas all over, you will have plenty of excuses to stop and rest if you need to. 

Besides, the trail to the summit is one of the most popular activities on the island.

Take into account the altitude, weather, mountain conditions, and fitness levels before attempting this hike!

16. Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Aerial view of Kalaupapa National Historical Park in Hawaii

Even though Hawaii is exceptionally scenic, there’s no denying that its history was not always as bright, and Kalaupapa National Park is the perfect example of that.

When Hansen’s disease (leprosy) arrived on the Hawaiian archipelago in the 17th century, King Kamehameha V sent patients to an isolated corner on the north shore of Molokai. Ever since then, over 8,000 people have passed away at Kalaupapa as a result of leprosy. 

Even today, the park is still used as a refuge for a few residents who, although cured, are still forced to live in isolation.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park was established to preserve the memories of the people who were forcibly sent here as well as to ensure the remaining residents can live peacefully and comfortably. 

Moreover, the park also acts as an educational center to create awareness of Hansen’s disease.

In order to visit Kalaupapa, you need to get a permit to do so before your visit. Moreover, you’ll also need to hike a 3.5-mile, pretty challenging trail. Keep in mind that people under 16 years old are not allowed to enter Kalaupapa.

17. Hana Road

Awesome view along Hana Road in Hawai

Driving the Hana Road is one of the most scenic ways to explore some of the best the island of Maui has to offer in terms of nature and views.

Connecting Kahului to the town of Hana, this scenic drive is only 52 miles but can take several hours to complete as the highway is pretty twisty and narrow. 

Moreover, there are plenty of stops worth making scattered along the way, so make sure to plan at least a full day for it!

As you make your way to Hana, you’ll get the chance to check out waterfalls, see tons of beautiful flora, pass over 50 bridges, walk amid a bamboo forest, and so much more!

18. Lanikai Beach

Oahu, Hawaii is one of the winter sun destinations in the US

Constantly ranked as the best beach in Hawaii and one of the most beautiful in the entire world, Lanikai translates into “heavenly ocean,” which is a pretty good description of what being here feels like!

This gorgeous beach in Oahu is surrounded by miles and miles of golden sand and clear azure water, making swimming here an absolute treat. 

Another super fun thing to do is to rent a kayak or paddleboard to reach the Mokulua islands, a set of two small islets located off the shore of Lanikai that are the epitome of paradise on Earth!

19. Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park at Sunrise

Haleakala is a massive shield volcano that rises over 10,000 feet above sea level. 

Located on the island of Maui, this massive national park stretches from the summit of Haleakala to the sea, enclosing subalpine shrublands, tropical rainforests, dry forests, and even alpine zones, making it a true wonderland if you want to get an idea of how varied the landscape in Hawaii can get!

While Haleakala can be seen from pretty much everywhere in Maui, no experience quite compares to actually standing on it to truly understand its vast size. 

Sunsets and sunrises are the main reason most people visit this Hawaiian national park, but there’s plenty more to do here if you want to linger a while longer.

Among the many things to do at Haleakala, you’ll find various hiking trails for every experience level, horseback riding, and stargazing like no other. 

Moreover, Haleakala homes more endangered species than any other national park in the United States, giving hikers plenty of opportunities for rare wildlife and flora sightings!

20. Napili Beach

Napili beach in Hawaii with beach goers by the beach

As the most visited beach in Maui, Napili Beach may get pretty crowded, but it’s still one of the best places to visit in Hawaii if a stunning beach is what you’re after.

Boasting a golden-white sandy shore and clear turquoise waters, Napili Beach is a perfect go-to for sunbathing, swimming, and paddleboarding. 

Snorkeling here is also a dream, with tons of colorful coral dotting the surface and tropical fish swimming all over.

21. Wai’anapanapa State Park

Black beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park in Maui in Hawaii

Wai’anapanapa translates into “glistening waters,” and while the waters around it are definitely reason enough to visit this stunning state park, its main allure comes from the fact that it boasts a coastline covered in black sand beaches that looks as dramatic as ever!

As one of the top attractions on the Road to Hana, Wai’anapanapa offers panoramic views so unique you’re unlikely to find anything else like them in the world. 

Here, you’ll find lush hills, valleys, and cliffs covered in tropical plants contrasted by a black basalt lava shore.

While the main reason most travelers visit Wai’anapanapa is to see its famous black sand, there’s plenty more to do at this state park, so make sure you stay awhile. 

Among the best things to do, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails, get the chance to see a blowhole splashing onto the surface, and have the unique opportunity to explore a few anchialine pool caves!

22. Akaka Falls State Park

The impressive falls of Akaka Falls State Park in Hawaii

Standing tall at a whopping 442 feet high, Akaka Falls State Park is home to the tallest waterfall in entire Hawaii.

While the waterfall itself is the star of the show at Akaka Falls, the hike to reach it is an experience in itself. While short and relatively easy, the trail provides opportunities to walk amid beautiful flora, including orchids, draping ferns, and bamboo groves.

The falls can be spotted from various points throughout the hike, but once you reach the end, you’ll get the chance to see them from above, which is an experience guaranteed to have you dropping your jaw right to the ground!

23. Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial

USS Arizona and USS Missouri Memorials at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii

Whether you consider yourself a history aficionado or not, visiting Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial is pretty much a rite of passage when visiting Hawaii.

Set in Oahu, Pearl Harbour is the state’s most iconic historical site and one of the most important in the entire history of the United States. 

A visit to Pearl Harbor National Memorial will give you the chance to learn more about one of the most crucial and catastrophic events in the history of the country, as well as give you the opportunity to pay homage to the victims of WWII.

During your visit, make sure you also take some time to see the USS Arizona Memorial Center, which was built over the remains of the battleship USS Arizona that sunk after it was bombed by Japanese Naval Forces. 

In order to visit, you’ll get to hop on a Navy-operated shuttle boat to reach it after watching an educational documentary at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater. 

Keep in mind that there is a limited number of tickets available for the USS Arizona Memorial Center, so make sure you make an advanced reservation (tickets are released 56 days before the day of visit).

Final Words on the Best Places to Visit in Hawaii

We hope this list of the best places to visit in Hawaii gave you some ideas on what to see and do. From adventures atop volcanoes to days spent lounging at the beach and exploring places that feel almost other-worldly, getting bored while traveling The Aloha State is pretty much an impossible feat.

Regardless of whether you focus on a single island or you want to take your time to hop around them, you’re guaranteed a trip of a lifetime no matter which of these places in Hawaii you decide to place on your itinerary!

Which of these places to visit in Hawaii are you most excited to see? We’d love to know all about your plans for The Aloha State, so feel free to tell us all about them in the comment section below!