Welcome to The Hawaiian islands! For many people, Hawaii is paradise on earth. The beautiful sunrises, massive sea turtles, vibrant volcanoes, technicolor coral reefs, and picturesque beaches are just some of the reasons people keep coming back to Hawaii.
If you’re spending less than 10 days in Hawaii, then we would suggest that you stick to a single island. However, if you’re lucky enough to be here for longer then you should definitely island hop.
We’ve traveled to Hawaii many times, and would like to share our favorite things to do on three of the best islands in the chain: Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.
Things to do in Oahu
Say aloha to tropical breezes, oceanfront luaus, and amazing marine life! Oahu is the most populated island in Hawaii, and has a great blend of city living and gorgeous beaches.
Diamond Head Hike in Oahu
No trip to Hawaii is complete without a little volcano exploration (don’t worry, Mt. Leahi has been extinct for 150,000 years). Once you get to the summit, at 760-feet above ground, you’ll have a panoramic view of Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, the Pacific Ocean, and more.
This hike takes about 2 hours and will require a park entrance fee. Your hotel can likely arrange transportation to and from the trail entrance if you’re staying in Waikiki.
Waikiki Beach in Oahu
One of Waikiki’s best features is its beach scene. Reserve a mask, snorkel, and fins and take to Waikiki’s calm waters for some ocean exploration. You’ll get to see lots of colorful fish, coral, and might even be able to see rays, turtles, or even small sharks!
This snorkel rental is for a full day, so plan to spend the rest of the day enjoying one of Oahu’s best attractions, the beach. Alternatively, you can pop by the Costco on Oahu and buy a snorkel mask so that you have it for the whole trip.
One thing to keep in mind is that Waikiki beach can get really busy. If that’s not your scene, then you should consider renting a car and driving to one of the other beaches – they’re everywhere.
Things to do in Maui
Maui is an amazing island that has lush green hills, silky waterfalls, and spectacular beaches. Maui is also home to Haleakala Crater, the largest dormant volcano in the world!
Sunrise at Haleakala in Maui
This one is for early risers. You’ll need to wake up at 4am to leave for the sunrise at Haleakala. Get dressed in warm clothing (winter jacket, scarf, gloves) as it is really cold and windy at the summit.
Follow your GPS to the summit, and be careful on the drive up the long, winding road in the dark.
The entrance fee is about $15/car, and you’ll want to drive all the way to the summit of the Haleakala Volcano (at 10,000 feet). From this windswept spot, you can watch how this giant shield volcano creates Maui’s unique weather and peer into the Mars-like crater from a number of spectacular roadside lookouts.
Another option to consider is to hike part of the Sliding Sands Trail after sunrise to get a close look at the unique colors of the crater, the desert flora, and the bizarre cinder cones.
Snorkel at Molokini in Maui
A perfect swimming spot made of a crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater.
This crater rises from 300 feet below the water and peaks at about 160 feet above sea level. Divers and snorkelers come from all around the world to experience this incredible underwater oasis.
You’ll need to arrange some transportation to Molokini as it is a few miles off the coast of Maui. We recommend going with a smaller snorkeling company that will take you out earlier, and avoid the large groups.
Things to do in Kauai
The island of Kauai (also known as the “Garden Island”), is the fourth largest island in Hawaii. It is also the oldest and home to one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world: the Na Pali coast.
Na Pali Coast in Kauai
You can’t vacation in Kauai without touring the Na Pali coast. The stunning 17 miles of coastline features hanging valleys and steep ridges thousands of feet above the ocean.
Numerous excursions are available for the Na Pali coast. We recommend a Na Pali Coast Sunset Dinner Cruise for romance and gorgeous sightseeing, a Na Pali Snorkel Rafting Expedition for up-close views, and underwater sightseeing.
Helicopter tour in Kauai
With over 70% of the island inaccessible by land, you pretty much need to book a helicopter to get the full experience of the island. From the chopper, you’ll get to see the Manawaiopuna Falls (Jurassic Park falls), the Olokele Canyon, and Waimea Canyon (Grand Canyon of the Pacific). Any of the helicopter tours is guaranteed to take your breath away!
Blue Hawaiian Kauai Helicopter Tours is one of the most popular choices. They depart from Lihue, and the flight lasts about an hour. This is sure to be a highlight of your vacation.