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An archipelago of hundreds of volcanic islands located in a geological hot spot in the middle of Pacific, Hawaii offers diverse natural scenery and a warm tropical climate. The six major islands open to tourism draw visitors with their sun-drenched public beaches and craggy natural trails. Thanks to their mid-Pacific location, the islands boast a vibrant native culture influenced by both North America and Asia. You can spend your vacation basking in the modern comforts of the big hotels, but to experience the true spirit of these islands, remember that real Hawaiians live outdoors. Encounter nature by surfing, swimming, fishing, and picnicking, or join a guided tour across the ancient lava flows to the top of Hawaii's rugged volcanic peaks. Use our United States trip generator to arrange the details of your trip to Hawaii and other destinations.Read the Hawaii Holiday Planning Guide »
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©USS Arizona Memorial
©Diamond Head State Monument
©Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
©Waimea Canyon State Park
©Polynesian Cultural Center
©Kailua Beach Park
©Lahaina Banyan Court
©Battleship Missouri Memorial
©Poipu Beach Park
©Na Pali Coast State Park
©Sunset Beach Park
©Ala Moana Center
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Best things to do in Hawaii
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USS Arizona Memorial
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Diamond Head State Monument
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Waimea Canyon State Park
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Lahaina Banyan Court
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Swim with Dolphins
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Kid Friendly Attractions
Visit for: 8h
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
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Polynesian Cultural Center
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Kailua Beach Park
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Poipu Beach Park
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Sunset Beach Park
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Haleakala National Park
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Visit for: 1h 30m
Akaka Falls State Park
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Hawaii Holiday Planning GuideAn archipelago of hundreds of volcanic islands located in a geological hot spot in the middle of Pacific, Hawaii offers diverse natural scenery and a warm tropical climate. The six major islands open to tourism draw visitors with their sun-drenched public beaches and craggy natural trails. Thanks to their mid-Pacific location, the islands boast a vibrant native culture influenced by both North America and Asia. You can spend your entire Hawaii vacation basking in the modern comforts of the big hotels, but to experience the true spirit of these islands, remember that real Hawaiians live outdoors. Encounter nature by surfing, swimming, fishing, and picnicking, or join a guided tour across the ancient lava flows to the top of Hawaii's rugged volcanic peaks.
Places to Visit on HawaiiOahu: Home to over 85 percent of Hawaii's population, this island includes the busy city of Honolulu as well as secluded beaches, picturesque parks, high mountain peaks, and quaint little towns.
Honolulu: Hawaii's largest urban center, this vibrant city serves as the starting point for many Hawaii tours, offering visitors easy access to sandy beaches and pristine natural areas abundant in native plant and animal life.
Maui: Half of this island's territory lies within 8 km (5 mi) of the sea, so it’s not surprising that most tourist come here to swim with dolphins, snorkel with sea turtles, or simply relax on sun-kissed beaches.
Kauai: Called the "Garden Island" because of its lush greenery and tropical plants, this island contains some of the most popular places to visit in Hawaii, including plunging canyons, tall mountains, and long stretches of unspoiled coastline.
Kapaa: Known for its low-key beaches, this small town with a high concentration of tourist-oriented hotels offers visitors a chance to explore a verdant Hawaiian landscape without the distraction of the archipelago's biggest crowds.
Island of Hawaii: Aptly nicknamed the "Big Island," the Island of Hawaii includes everything from working ranches and macadamia nut plantations to active volcanoes, black-sand beaches, and tropical rainforests.
Lahaina: Formerly the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, this tropical city boasts oceanside avenues flanked with restored 19th-century buildings and a string of small restaurants, great places for meeting the locals and learning about their rich Polynesian heritage.
Kihei: Known as one of Hawaii's more budget-friendly vacation spots, Kihei serves as an ideal location for water sports, whale watching, and beach leisure.
Kailua-Kona: Once the favorite retreat of Hawaiian royalty, this thriving little town features an ideal tropical climate that makes it hugely popular with anglers, snorkelers, boaters, and cavers from around the globe.
Hilo: Located near some of the most popular Hawaii tourist attractions, Hilo contains a blend of Asian and Polynesian cultures and offers access to a national park known for encompassing two active volcanoes.
Things to Do on Hawaii
Popular Hawaii Tourist AttractionsUSS Arizona Memorial: This world-famous memorial marks the final resting place of one of the most iconic American battleships, destroyed during the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
Diamond Head State Monument: An eye-catching natural landmark and a major Hawaii attraction, this tuff cone features several vantage points offering sweeping vistas of Oahu's tropical landscapes.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve: Home to some 400 species of fish, this nature preserve features a sheltered inlet of calm and clear waters, hugely appealing to both amateur and professional snorkelers from around the world.
Waikiki Beach: Known for its pristine white sands and pleasant water temperature, this popular beach remains one of Hawaii's best places for various water activities, including surfing, swimming, and snorkeling.
Polynesian Cultural Center: A good starting point for educational Hawaii tours, this living history museum provides hourly tours, live performances, and interactive experiences at each of its seven villages designed to represent different Polynesian cultures.
Old Lahaina Luau: Held on a beach at the north side of Lahaina, this traditional feast offers visitors a chance to take part in hula dances and try some authentic Hawaiian specialties, including kalua pork, ahi poke, and pulehu steak.
Trilogy Excursions: A favorite with tourists interested in active Hawaii holidays, this family-run operation with over four decades of experience provides customizable snorkeling and eco-friendly catamaran tours.
Discover Hawaii Tours: A convenient alternative for travelers with limited time to explore Hawaii, this tour operator provides personalized experiences that range from helicopter tours and traditional luaus to dolphin excursions and visits to the historic battleship memorials of Pearl Harbor.
Ka'anapali Beach: Part of a beachfront resort, this beach lures pleasure seekers with its warm sands and shallow waters, as well as regular boat tours and a string of kiosks offering snorkeling gear and surfing lessons.
Planning a Hawaii Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit on Hawaii with KidsLife is lived outdoors on Hawaii, a fact that makes it one of the world's most popular destinations for active vacations. The archipelago offers plenty of opportunities to swim, snorkel, fish, surf, or picnic with your "ohana"--extended family and friends. Begin your family's Hawaii trip at Hilo, a major city on the "Big Island." Filled with urban attractions, the city's walkable downtown features everything from kid-friendly ice cream parlors and farmers markets, to upscale shops and trendy restaurants. Honolulu remains an ideal destination for families interested in enriching their vacation with a little history. The city's war memorials and museums pay homage to the soldiers who fought in the Pacific War and provide an in-depth look at one of American history's most dramatic episodes. To escape the noisy crowds consistently thronging Hawaii's big urban centers, base your adventure in a smaller town with a low-key character, like Kapaa or Wailuku.
Things to Do on Hawaii with KidsA land of stunning natural beauty and pristine wilderness areas virtually untouched by man, Hawaii has always appealed to families traveling with babies, toddlers, or teens. Instead of spending your entire Hawaii vacation hanging out indoors, take advantage of the archipelago's great outdoors and spend time playing on beaches or exploring natural parks. At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to two active volcanoes, the kids can learn about the important role volcanic eruptions have played in shaping the planet. The park offers over 240 km (150 mi) of trails and seven distinct ecological zones. Akaka Falls State Park features two waterfalls plummeting into a stream-eroded gorge. Popular with amateur photographers, this state park offers a network of easy walking tracks, ideal for families with small children. For a change of pace, take the little ones to see Battleship Missouri Memorial, where the Japanese military surrendered at the end of World War II. At the end of each day, leave some time for family fun on Hawaii's sunny beaches, like Napili Beach and Poipu Beach Park.
Tips for a Family Vacation on HawaiiUsed to catering to families with kids of all ages, Hawaii remains one of the world's most relaxed holiday destinations. Most popular attractions offer outstanding facilities for children, which you can easily spot by looking for a recognizable family-friendly icon. To experience the best these vibrant islands have to offer, pack your Hawaii itinerary with outdoor activities on land and on the sea. You can swim or surf off most beaches, and hike, cycle, or rock climb at most state and national parks. To soak up some authentic Hawaiian culture, take the family to a luau, an exuberant feast that comes with local music, dancing, and tasty island specialties. Avoid exhausting the kids with too many museums and historical sites, and try to choose activities appealing to the entire family. Select your accommodations based on the family's sightseeing priorities and available modern amenities. Many resort hotels offer plenty of kid-oriented distractions, as well as convenient babysitting services ideal for those nights when parents just need a night all to themselves.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday on Hawaii
Cuisine of HawaiiAs expected from a place that brings together many different cultures, Hawaii features a diverse cuisine blending elements of traditional Polynesian, Portuguese, American, and Asian cooking styles. Fresh seafood remains the staple ingredient of local gastronomy, with many dishes accompanied by tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, banana, and papaya. You'll find trendy restaurants run by big-name chefs in Honolulu, but to take part in a traditional island event and taste some simple yet tasty foods, include a Lahaina luau on your list of top things to do in Hawaii. Traditional luaus usually feature most of Hawaii's best-known dishes, including lomi salmon (salted and hand-mixed with vegetables) and kalua pork (wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven). The easiest way to discover Hawaiian cuisine quickly is on a food tour, but if you have more time to explore, visit places like Kailua Farmers Market. While exploring this street bazaar, you can try Hawaii's favorite snacks, like candied macadamia nuts, arare rice crackers, and dried octopus strips.
Shopping on HawaiiA major tourist destination, Hawaii offers visitors plenty of modern buying options, including giant shopping malls and upscale boutiques. A big draw for shopaholics from around the globe, Ala Moana Center serves as one of the largest outdoor shopping venues in the world, housing nearly 300 stores and 70 restaurants. Another outstanding mall experience, Royal Hawaiian Center offers shopping, dining, and entertainment, along with regular educational events designed to celebrate local culture and heritage. If you prefer low-key shopping venues, add a few outdoor farmers markets to your Hawaii sightseeing schedule. Good options include Waimea Homestead Farmers Market and Maui Swap Meet, where you can pick up everything from huge wood carvings to easy-to-pack shell necklaces.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Hawaii
History of HawaiiThough historians know little about Hawaii's earliest history, most experts agree the first Polynesian settlers probably arrived around 300 CE. A second wave of immigrants arrived from Tahiti around 1000 CE. Controlled by local chieftains, Hawaii's early society followed a rigorous code of conduct known locally as "kapu." Start your Hawaii tour at Polynesian Cultural Center, an ideal place to learn about local history and culture.
In 1778 explorer James Cook became the first white Westerner to arrive on the islands. Local tribes mistakenly assumed he was their god Lono and treated him like a deity. Exhibiting suspiciously ungodlike behavior, Cook used local temple idols for firewood and then abducted the King of Hawaii. The king's supporters cut the European visit short by killing Cook and several of his men.
Late 18th century saw the rise of King Kamehameha, credited with uniting all Hawaiian islands and bringing a period of peace and stability to a rapidly changing native society. Learn more about this historical period at Iolani Palace, once the seat of government for the independent Kingdom of Hawaii. Constructed in 1879, this building witnessed the reign of Queen Lili'uokalani, Hawaii's last monarch.
Christian missionaries and immigrants from China, Japan, Portugal, and the Philippines continued to arrive through the 19th century, bringing with them new culinary, religious, political, and economic influences. The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown by a group of American businessmen, with the U.S. government annexing Hawaii in 1898. Enhance your Hawaii holiday with visits to places like Kauai Museum and Puukohola National Historic Park, where you can immerse yourself in Hawaiian cultural and artistic heritage.
Hawaii played a major role in American history when an unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into World War II. The infamous strike by the Japanese navy sunk four American battleships and killed over 2,400 American soldiers. Visit USS Arizona Memorial to discover the story behind the lost battleships and pay homage to the American military personnel who participated in this theater of war.
Declared a U.S. state on August 21, 1959, Hawaii features stunning natural scenery, pleasant climate, and an abundance of public beaches that make it one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. Devote a good part of your Hawaii trip to exploring the islands on foot at designated walking tracks like Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail and Kauai Path.