14 Fun Things to do in Hawaii

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With so many fun things to do in Hawaii, it can be hard to figure out what to do.

When most people think of Hawaii, they think of sandy beaches, palm trees, and tropical drinks. But there is so much more to this beautiful state than just its stunning natural scenery. Hawaii is also home to a diverse range of cultures, activities, and attractions.

If you’re looking for some fun things to do in Hawaii, whether you’re a local or a visitor, here are some great ideas.

Koko Head Hike

large grassy mountain by the water

If you’re looking for a fun and challenging activity in Oahu Hawaii, the Koko Head hike is one of the best! This trail takes you on a set of steep railway ties (‘stairs’) that go up the side of a dormant volcano crater with amazing views, and it’s sure to make your legs sore the next day!

The Koko Crater Trail is not a very long hike in terms of distance, but the path is steep, and there’s a lot of elevation gain, leading these to be nicknamed the ‘Koko Head stairs of doom.’ It’s definitely a big workout and calorie burn, so it requires you to be pretty fit.

This hike is also great for sunrise or sunset, although it’s recommended to do the trek at least once during the day before attempting it for sunrise or sunset, that way you’re more familiar with the path.

The Koko Crater railway trailhead is located near Hawaii Kai, on the southeast side of Oahu island in Hawaii. It’s about 10 miles from Waikiki, and the drive only takes 30 minutes. There’s a big parking lot at Koko Head District Park, and it’s free to use for this hike. There are no entrance fees!

Contributed by David & Intan of The World Travel Guy

Helicopter Ride on Kauai

aerial view of mountain range on the ocean edge

There are plenty of things to put on a bucket list of fun things to do in Hawaii, but one activity that is a must for everyone is a Na Pali Coast helicopter tour! It is truly a staple of any Kauai itinerary!

You’ll find various options for types of helicopter tours, but it is definitely best to take a door-off ride if your stomach can handle it!

It is best to book your trip in advance and also make sure you confirm the time of the helicopter tour with the actual company, as they will put you into a slot a few days before. 

Please take note that winter is the rainy season, so if you’re going then, perhaps opt for a morning flight.

On your flight route, you will get to fly over nearly the entire island (it is about a 50-minute ride), passing Mount Waialeale (the wettest place on Earth!), Na Pali Coast State Park, Manawaiopuna Falls (Jurassic Park Falls), and the gorgeous Waimea Canyon.

If you’re taking your helicopter tour during winter, you will also get to see the northern Kauai swells in Maniniholo Bay, where surfers flock from all around the world!

Nevertheless, this is one of the most unforgettable activities that you can do in Hawaii and is a must if you’re visiting the Garden Isle!

Contributed by Megan from Next is Hawaii

Black Sand Beach on Maui

black sand beach surrounded by green trees

Thanks to its volcanic origins, Hawaii is home to several stunning black sand beaches. One of the best examples of this breathtaking landscape is the Black Sand Beach on Maui, found in the tiny town of Hana on the eastern side of the island. 

To get here, most visitors drive along the famed Road to Hana, a 65-mile drive that’s regularly been named one of the most scenic drives in the world, thanks to the dense jungle, plentiful waterfall, and unspoiled coastline you’ll pass on your journey.

Just before you reach Hana, you’ll pass Waiʻānapanapa State Park, home to the Black Sand Beach (also called “Honokalani Beach” or “Pa‘iola Beach”).

To prevent overcrowding on the beach and to protect its natural resources, the Hawaii Department of Natural Resources has instituted a reservation system for the beach for all out-of-state visitors, which requires a modest fee for parking and entry.

Reservations, which are for blocks of time of approximately three hours, must be made at least one day in advance so be sure to plan ahead!

The beach’s gnarly waves are perfect for boogie boarding or bodysurfing, and the rocky volcanic area around the sand is just begging to be explored, providing a natural playground of caves, arches, and cliffs.

Contributed by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler

Kualoa Ranch

jurassic park sign in front of large field in the mountains

No visit to the Hawaiian island of Oahu is complete without a visit to the spectacularly scenic Kualoa Ranch.

Located on the eastern side of the island, the large property is colloquially known as Hollywood’s Hawaii set and can be seen in major blockbusters such as Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, and Jumanji, as well as TV shows including Hawaii 5-0 and Lost.  

Visitors to the Ranch have a number of options for tours showcasing the famous movie locations and memorabilia. The mountains surrounding the ranch will be instantly recognisable and the coastal views from the high points of the Ranch are stunning.  

The property also includes military bunkers from WW2, the largest of which now holds film memorabilia, and is a working cattle ranch and a site for sustainable farming to contribute to the island’s food supply. Adventurers can ride the ziplines and ride Quad bikes.

Tours can be purchased individually from around US$50 per adult, but there are also a number of tour options available as a bundle which does work out to be better valued.

Kualoa Ranch is approximately 45 minutes bus ride from Waikiki so if you aren’t driving it is worth considering a tour bundle and making a day out of the visit.

Contributed by Holly from Globeblogging

Luau in Oahu

luau dancers on a stage

Going to a luau in Oahu is probably one of the fun and cultural things to enjoy on the island. What’s not to like when you wear your best Aloha wear, don some fresh leis and enjoy a tropical drink like a mai tais.

Most luau offer a fun educational and cultural experience before the meal, and of course, the feast is amazing to eat some of the most traditional local dishes people on the islands enjoy. You should try the Kailua pork, lomi salmon, sweet potatoes, and yes, even the starchy poi dish.

Most entertainment that follows the meal is colorful and lively, and there’s even some audience participation involved. You’ll love the experience and as you can see luau can range the gamut from traditional Hawaiian style, Pan Pacific experiences to even family-friendly with Disney characters.

It all depends on your budget and the type of luau you are interested in doing for fun, cultural experience, the food, or all of the above.

Contributed by Noel with This Hawaii Life

Whale Watching in Maui

whales tail sticking out of the water

If you are visiting Hawaii in winter (December to March), a whale-watching boat trip is a must-do activity. 

Every year over 10,000 humpback whales head south from Alaska to Hawaii to mate, give birth, and nurse their calves in Hawaii’s warm waters. 

You can see whales on all the Hawaii islands (we saw a few on our Napali Coast boat trip on Kauai), but the absolute best place to spot them is Maui, especially from Lahaina on the west coast. 

We couldn’t believe how many we saw on our boat tour without even heading too far—dozens of immense whales were breaching, slapping their tails, and swimming alongside their young. It’s an incredible sight. You can even hear the otherworldly whale song through a hydrophone. 

I recommend booking a whale watching tour early in your trip in case it gets cancelled, or like us, you love it so much you decide to do it again. Sunrise is a beautiful time, but you’ll likely see whales at any time of day. 

We took a two-hour, small group boat tour from Lahaina with Makai Adventures, which costs $73. 

See our Maui itinerary for more details. 

Contributed by Erin from Never Ending Voyage

Night Snorkel with Manta Rays

fish underwater

One of the most unique activities that MUST be added to your Big Island itinerary is a night snorkel with manta rays. 

Not to be confused with stingrays, manta rays are gentle giants of the ocean, only eating plankton. 

Most tours depart out of Keahou Bay as the boat ride is less than 5 minutes out to the manta ray spot just offshore. In fact, if you stay or visit the Outrigger Kona Resort, you can see the manta rays from their viewing deck!

Once the boat is parked, you will get in the water with your snorkel gear, ankle floaties, and wetsuit. All that is required of you is to hang on “superman style” to a floating board with blue lights shining into the water. The lights attract the plankton which then attracts the manta rays (and help you see them).

For about 30 minutes you’ll watch these behemoth creatures feast with wide open mouths, swimming towards you as if you are going to be eaten. Then at the last moment, they make a sudden sharp turn, avoiding you completely. 

Their graceful dance show of twisting and turning in the deep ocean below you is an experience you’ll never forget!

Prices can range from around $80-150 per person. Check Groupon for any deals! 

Contributed by Tabitha from Travel Compositions

Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation

small trail with an entrance sign above it

Calling all coffee lovers! Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation is a must-visit on the Big Island, and it’s one of the most fun things to do in Hawaii. At an elevation of 3200 ft, this location is often in the clouds above Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, only 20 minutes away but worlds apart.

There is a free tour of the coffee process with a free sample. Of course, there is a shop to buy the varieties of coffee they make there

In addition, there is a self-guided lava tube and nature walk for $10 per family or group. This is a short walk, and yes, you are on a mountain, so there is some up and down.

You will be able to get close to three lava tubes, which are fun to see. There is a large deck at the end with tables, so if you pack a lunch, it could be an enjoyable place to eat and see some nature and coffee trees.

Mountain Thunder Coffee produces award-winning Kona coffee. It is grown and processed on this plantation. It is a short winding drive up the mountain to get there (best to go early). Then enjoy some great coffee and nature on an adventurous day out.

Contributed by Cindy from Bluebagnomads.com

Volcanoes National Park

large lava field

Hawaii is known for beaches and volcanoes, especially on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Visitors flock to the Big Island to visit Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which is both a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is open year-round, 24/7. Like any other National Park, there is a vehicle fee. For this particular park entrance fees are $30 for non-commercial vehicles and the fee is good for seven days.

There are two volcanoes within the park, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Kilauea is considered to be the world’s most active volcano.

There are several ways to see the volcanoes. Visitors can drive the Crater Rim Drive or hike the Crater Rim Trail. For the more adventurous, take a helicopter tour above the active volcano.

One of the most memorable and beautiful experiences in Volcanoes National Park is viewing the Lava Glow at night. The lava is present in the volcano but shines brilliantly at night. It is a remarkable site to see. If you think it can’t get any better, just look up.

This part of the world has some of the prettiest starry skies, where you can see millions of stars without any interference from city lights.

Contributed by Brandon from Zimmin Around the World

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden 

close up of red flowers in the mountains

Ho’omaluhia is perhaps one of the most beautiful places on the entire island of Oahu. 

The 400-acre tropical garden nestled at the base of the Ko’olau mountains overlooking Loko Waimaluhia reservoir boasts plants from tropical regions around the world, including areas like Polynesia, the Philippines, and Africa. Located on the east side of the island, it is a must-visit for any Oahu itinerary!

The garden, which opened to the public in 1982, draws roughly 600,000 visitors each year and has become a peaceful refuge for Hawaii residents and guests alike. Ho’omaluhia even means “place of peace and tranquility” in Hawaiian.

Entrance to the garden is free. Beyond the main entrance, you’ll find several different areas off the main road where you can park and explore or even hike on one of the garden trails.

You can drive through the garden in about 30 minutes; however, to truly appreciate its beauty, plan to spend 1-2 hours walking along the trails and enjoying the lush green landscapes that Hawaii is known for.

Tip for visiting: While the most photographed spot in the park is the palm tree-lined road right at the entrance, visitors are no longer allowed to stop on the road to take a photo of this spot, as it causes traffic to back up going into the park. 

Contributed by Melissa from Parenthood and Passports

Road to Hana

small coffee cart in a wooded area

Driving the legendary Road to Hana is one of the best bucket list experiences in Maui. This meandering highway hugs the eastern coastline from lively Paia to rural Hana.

The 53-mile Road to Hana with its 620 curves and 59 one-lane bridges is all about the journey. With sweeping ocean views on one side and lush rainforests on the other, you’ll discover Maui’s wild side.

Along the way, you’ll find a selection of quaint food stalls and several must-sees. Some stops that you can’t miss out on are Twin Falls, the Garden of Eden, Honomanū Bay lookout, Wailua Valley State Wayside Park, Waikani Falls, the Hana lava tubes, and Waianapanapa State Park with its black sand beach.

And the fun doesn’t end there since there are even more places to discover right past Hana, such as the red sand beach, the Seven Sacred Pools, and the Pipiwai trail.

With so many exciting highlights to discover, it’s recommended to spend at least one night in Hana before returning to your accommodation via Paia.

Some visitors prefer to take the back road from Hana to return to their resort area, which leads via Haleakala National Park. Note that part of this isolated road is unpaved, so do check with your Maui car rental company if you’re allowed to drive it.

Contributed by Sarah Vanheel from CosmopoliClan

Hilo Waterfalls

large waterfall in the mountains

One of the fun things to do in Hawaii is to visit the Hilo waterfalls. The Hilo waterfalls are on the east coast of the Big Island near Volcanoes National Park.

The Hilo side of the Big Island is full of lush green vegetation and cooler temperatures. This is a great place to visit if you’re looking for the beautiful vegetation and ecosystem Hawaii is known for.

Akaka Falls State Park has two amazing waterfalls – Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls. There is a short half-mile trail that will take you past these waterfalls. Akaka Falls is a towering 442 feet and is beautiful.

Rainbow Falls is another beautiful waterfall to visit. You can see the waterfall from the parking lot, but there is a short trail that will take you to the top of the falls. There are really neat banyan trees and beautiful views.

Umauma Falls is located on private property, but there is no cost to visit the falls. You are limited to visiting during business hours, however. The last of the waterfalls is Pe’epe’e Falls. It is close to Rainbow Falls. The lookout point isn’t very close to the waterfall, but it is worth the quick stop.

There is no cost to visit the waterfalls in Hilo. You should plan on about half a day to visit the Hilo waterfalls. They are all pretty close to each other, so there isn’t much driving time.

Contributed by Candice from CS Ginger

Haleakalā National Park

woman standing in a rocky area in the mountains

Another one of the most fun things to do in Hawaii is Haleakalā National Park in Maui. The name of this sacred Hawaiian landscape means “house of the sun” as legend has it the demigod Maui captured the sun in order to make the days longer.

This is fitting because one of the most popular things to do during any Maui itinerary is to visit Haleakalā at sunrise.

The national park covers more than 33,000 acres and is divided into two sections: the summit area and the coastal Kipahulu area. Both sections are gorgeous, but most people prioritize the summit because it offers breathtaking views from the highest point on the island.

It costs $30 per vehicle to visit the national park. The summit is about a 30-minute drive from the entrance. As you ascend the windy road, the landscape will change from grassy farmland to martian-like red rocks near the inactive volcano’s summit.

Since the summit is accessed via the less touristy Upcountry area in eastern Maui, you can expect to drive between 1-2 hours from your hotel if you’re staying in the popular beach areas of Kihei, Lahaina, or Ka’anapali.

There are a bunch of hiking trails to choose from once you’re at the summit. The best time to visit is at sunset because it’s less hot, the crowds are often thinner, and you can get stunning photos, but the most popular time to visit is at sunrise.

Know if you do this, though, you need to book your reservation months in advance and be prepared to start your day ~3 AM!

If you do decide to brave the crowds at sunrise, take a hike in order to find a viewing spot. The crowds are often thinner, and you’ll get better photo ops. Leleiwi Overlook is a good option because it’s relatively short and easy.

Contributed by Adria from The Emerald Palate 

Surf Lessons

people surfing in bright blue water

If you are headed to the Hawaiian Islands, you are probably familiar with its famed surf culture, most notably on the North Shore of Hawaii. 

During the winter, many of the beaches are notorious for huge waves and are, therefore, a magnet for some of the biggest names in the surf world.  

Hawaii is known as one of the best surfing spots in the world and is a big piece of Hawaiian history, made famous by great Hawaiians like Duke Kahanamoku and the first lifeguard of Waimea beach and hero, Eddie Aikau.   

So learning to surf there in the presence of greatness is definitely a bucket list item in Hawaii. 

There are many places where you can book a surf lesson including on the shores of Waikiki and the North Shore of Hawaii, in Kaanapali and Kihei in Maui, and essentially on each of the islands. 

You can check with your hotel or look at sites like Gone Surfing Hawaii, Get Your Guide, or Viator to book a lesson.  Cost is around $165 per person, and typically you are surfing smaller waves, learning to get up on the board, and most students ride a few waves even in their first lesson. 

Expect to spend the first half of the lesson out of the water, as the teachers show you how put your body on the road and to use your body strength to pop up on the board (it’s harder than it looks!)

Then, you will take to the water to work on your skills on the waves.  Kids as young as five can take surf lessons and it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Oahu with kids (or on any of the islands).

Contributed by Keri of Bon Voyage With Kids

This post was all about fun things to do in Hawaii. Enjoy your trip!

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