It may sound a bit cliche, but there is never a shortage of things to do in Hawaii. This list is designed to give you a starting place for planning your island itinerary, but feel free to click through to the individual links for more information.
Hawaii’s beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. All eight islands have great beaches, each with a different flavor. If you’re interested in surfing, keep in mind that the largest swells tend to hit the north facing shores in the winter, and the South facing swells in the summer. So you’ll want to time your visit based on the size of the waves and leave the really big stuff to the pros, as it can get dangerous out there! If you’re looking for snorkeling or diving, Hawaii’s reefs provide great views of fish, turtles, and other sea life, but again you’ll want to consider the tides and the wave patterns. Always check with a lifeguard and err on the side of safety!
Many of the attractions in Hawaii revolve around nature and the outdoors. For example, on the Big Island of Hawaii you absolutely must see Volcanoes National Park. For adventure lovers, there’s skydiving on the north shore of Oahu, ziplining through the forest in Maui, or hiking the majestic Na Pali Coast on Kauai. Or get yourself a tee time at one of Hawaii’s beautiful golf courses. The views are legendary and you have over 70 courses to choose from.
Hawaii has a long and many-layered history. Here you can visit sites that date back to the earliest hawaiian settlements such as heaiu or ancient fishponds. Evidence of the whaling industry can be seen in Lahaina on Maui, which was once the whaling capital of the world. Visit Hulihee Palace on the Big Island or the grand Iolani Palace on Oahu for a glimpse into the lives of the last of the Hawaiian monarchs. And of course the attacks on Pearl Harbor are commemorated with the USS Arizona Memorial.
Tours are a popular way to make the most of your time in the islands. Classic “circle island tours” are designed to be a day trip to give you an orientation of the island, and are best experienced early on in your trip. Try a food tour on Maui, a helicopter tour of the volcanoes on the Big Island, a movie tour on Kauai, or a bike and hike tour of Oahu.
>> Read more about Tours in Hawaii
Boat cruises are a popular way to get around or to spend a day or an evening in the islands. You’ll find boat charters for fishing, dinner cruises (some including fireworks), whale watching, and more. And if you want to see more than one island on your visit, you may even consider and interisland cruise.
Local boutiques, craft fairs, swap meets, or even farmers markets are some of the best places in Hawaii to find souvenirs to take home or a little something for yourself. Buying directly from the vendors helps the local economy and gives you a chance to interact with the merchants and to hear the story behind your treasures. For those who prefer to make a whole-day activity out of it, you’ll love Ala Moana Shopping Center on Oahu, the largest open-air shopping center in the entire world.
>> Read more about Shopping in Hawaii
Hawaii is one of the best places to relax and unwind. Many of the hotels and resorts feature amazing spas with traditional Hawaiian treatments such as lomilomi massage, herbal body wraps, or facials using natural aromatherapy. If you’re looking for romance, try a couples massage or for the ultimate in relaxation, get your treatment done by the ocean. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?
Drinking & Dining
It would be an absolute shame to come to Hawaii without experiencing local food. Hawaii is famous for fresh seafood, of course, but you’ll also find a growing movement to bring the farm-to-table philosophy full circle in many restaurants. Here you can sample Hawaii Regional Cuisine, a blending of local ingredients with cooking styles that show off the diverse ethnicities that make up our population. Or do like the locals do and grab a quick plate lunch, treat yourself to fresh malasadas, or cool down with some shave ice. And don’t forget to wash it all down with a mai tai!
>> Read more about Drinking and Dining in Honolulu
>> Confused about Hawaii’s Love Affair with SPAM? Read more here.
It’s true, most people will admit that the best nightlife is on Oahu. Waikiki bars and clubs stay open til 2am or even 4am and the trendy downtown arts district is a happening spot for monthly First Friday celebrations. This isn’t to say that nightlife doesn’t exist on the other islands, particularly around resort areas. But for the most part, it’s toned down a notch from what you’ll get in the city, and if you’re in a more rural area, you can expect the best nightlife to include star-gazing or kicking back with a beer and a backyard BBQ.
>> Read more about Nightlife in Hawaii
Month by month
Each month brings with it specific holidays and events as well, so check out the individual guides for reference:
January in Hawaii
February in Hawaii
March in Hawaii
April in Hawaii
May in Hawaii
June in Hawaii
July in Hawaii
August in Hawaii
September in Hawaii
October in Hawaii
November in Hawaii
December in Hawaii
Spring Break in Hawaii
Chinese New Year in Honolulu
Valentine’s Day in Hawaii
St. Patrick’s Day in Hawaii
Memorial Day in Hawaii
4th of July in Hawaii
Labor Day in Hawaii
Halloween in Hawaii
Christmas in Hawaii
New Year’s Eve in Hawaii
(Some still to come… Feel free to drop me a line if you need help with events that are not listed here!)