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OVERVIEW

Hawaii is an isolated volcanic archipelago in the Central Pacific. Its islands are renowned for their rugged landscapes of cliffs, waterfalls, tropical foliage and beaches with gold, red, black and even green sands. Of the 6 main islands, Oahu has Hawaii’s only big city, Honolulu, home to crescent Waikiki Beach and the Pearl Harbor memorials.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

Hiking on Hawaii Island

Hawaii Island is heaven for hikers. Whether you’re looking for a challenging trail on fields of lava or short, scenic hikes through historic sites, you’ll find just what you’re looking for here.

Most hiking adventures begin in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which offers more than 150-miles of trails. Stroll through Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube), take a day hike along Chain of Craters Road or walk over volcanic fields to witness the power of creation as lava flows into the sea in Kalapana. For the well-equipped and experienced backpackers, hike overnight in the park's backcountry. See a ranger at the Kilauea Visitor Center to get trail information, maps and permits.

Other famous hikes can be found on the Kona Coast on the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, also known as the King’s Trail. This 175-mile trail weaves through hundreds of important cultural sites including sacred heiau (temples), Hawaiian fishponds, petroglyphs and other historic sites. You’ll also find a variety of other amazing hikes including the Pololu Valley. Lookout in North Kohala which leads to a black sand beach and guided hikes into lush Waipio Valley, known as the Valley of Kings.

 

Horseback Riding on Hawaii Island

The paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) culture is a big part of the lifestyle and history of Hawaii Island. With a wealth of scenic, open landscapes to explore in Waimea and other spots throughout the island, ranchers are happy to share their paniolo stories and knowledge with you on a horseback.

Hawaii Island offers a variety of fun ways to saddle up for an unforgettable paniolo experience. From scenic storytelling tours by horse-drawn wagon to a hands-on chance to take the reins and go on real cattle drive. Choose from a diverse selection of beautiful environments to ride through including the upcountry pastures of Kahua Ranch, the tropical Waipio Valley stream and waterfalls trails, or the southern reaches of a historic trail to Kealakekua Bay – complete with swimming and snorkeling. As you ride along these scenic vistas you’ll see why horseback riding on Hawaii Island is truly unique.

 

Hula on Hawaii Island

Hula is a uniquely Hawaiian dance accompanied by chant or song that preserves and perpetuates the stories, traditions and culture of Hawaii. Hawaii Island has the honor of hosting the world’s biggest and most renowned Hula competition, the Merrie Monarch Festival. Held annually in Downtown Hilo (follows Easter Sunday in March-April) the Merrie Monarch Festival was named after King David Kalakaua, who revived hula in the late 19th century after decades of disapproval by Christian missionaries. An olelo (saying) from King Kalakaua has been adopted by the Merrie Monarch Festival: ‘Hula is the language of the heart, therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.’

Although getting tickets to the hula competitions can be tough, the Merrie Monarch Festival includes a variety of free events that are open to the public. There are also many other hula competitions and exhibitions held throughout the year. Other events include: Hula Arts at Kilauea series, (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park) Iolani Luahine Hula Festival and Hula Scholarship Competition (February, Kailua-Kona), Queen Liliuokalani Festival (September, Hilo), Moku o Keawe International Festival (November, Kohala Coast). And you can often see live performances at historic sites like Hulihee Palace and Hawaii Island’s hotels and resorts.

A luau is another fun and festive place to watch the hula and learn about Hawaiian and Polynesian culture. Hula is traditionally taught by a kumu hula (hula teacher) in a hula halau (hula school) but visitors can sometimes get free lessons at select Hawaii Island hotels and resorts. If you’re brave enough, some luau performances even let you take the stage to show off your new hula skills.

 

Paniolo (Hawaiian Cowboys) of Hawaii Island

Hawaii Island has an unexpected heritage, a rich cowboy culture more than a century old, centered in the upcountry ranchlands of Waimea and North Kohala.

Called ‘paniolo’ by Hawaiians, the skilled cowboys’ train local men to rope and ride a generation before their American counterparts in the Wild West. Their contribution to local culture includes the guitar and ukulele, and a lifestyle of hard work, close-knit family ties and wonderful music that thrives to this day.

Today, paniolo traditions continue. You can take a tour of Kahua Ranch (began in 1928) and other ranches like Anna Ranch or Paniolo Adventures in the upcountry pastures of Hawaii Island or learn about this interesting facet of Hawaii’s culture at the Paniolo Preservation Society. Although today’s paniolo often use all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) in open country (horses only in close quarters), you can still go horseback riding and explore the beautiful landscapes of Waimea. ATV rides are also available.

Paniolo traditions can also be seen during Hawaii Island events, parades and festivals. You’ll also notice beautiful Pau riders, women dressed in colorful flowing garments, with both the riders and their horses draped with fabulous lei. This is just another paniolo tradition that still lives on today on Hawaii Island.

 

Molokini Snorkeling

The beautiful islet of Molokini is found off of Maui's southwestern coast, and is perfectly suited for snorkelers and divers. Molokini is a State Marine Life and Bird Conservation District, protecting the unique and indigenous Hawaiian plant, animal and marine life that call this volcanic crater home. Locals and visitors alike enjoy exploring this crater's beautiful crystalline waters that contain over 250 varieties of tropical fish.

 

Hike the Legendary Na Pali Coast, Kauai

Considered the state’s best backpacking route, the 22-mile round-trip Kalalau trail cuts through the famed Na Pali Coast, an unspoiled wonderland where fluted cliffs and lush valleys crash abruptly into the blue Pacific. Originally built in the mid-1800s, the trail has narrow switchbacks, sheer drop-offs, and alarming, cliff-grabbing turns. Needless to say, only the brave and experienced need apply. After traversing five valleys, the path ends—as if the bounty for your trouble—at the golden sands of Kalalau Beach. Here, pitch a tent under the jungle canopy, then shower under the valley’s legendary beachside waterfall. Isolated and inspired, don’t be surprised if bidding aloha to the modern world comes to mind. Though state permits allow only five nights total (including time spent at Hanakoa, a campsite six miles from the trailhead) that doesn’t stop some wanderlust souls, including those who prefer the fashion sense of Adam and Eve, from making it their mission to avoid regular sweeps by officials.

 

Whale Watching

Get excited for one of the most magical experiences in Hawaii, and book a whale watching tour on your next vacation in the Pacific Islands. Whale Watching is quite certainly one of the best things to do in Hawaii, and an invaluable experience that will not be soon forgotten! Seeing the great North Pacific Humpback Whales in action during their annual migration to Hawaiian waters is witnessing Mother Nature firsthand. It is truly awe-inspiring to feel the freedom of the open ocean, smell the sweet and salty Hawaiian air, and to view 40-ton Humpback Whales gracefully dancing through clear Pacific waters, and if you’re lucky, breach high above the ocean surface!

 

Golfing

Golfing in Hawaii is heaven on earth for all golf enthusiasts! Ranging from golf student to golf professional, the Hawaiian Islands offer a gorgeous golf experience for everyone.

The golf community in Hawaii ranges from public courses to the uber-private and elite golf locales only available to the rare few. From all golf resorts in the State of Hawaii, golfers and friends will surely lavish in the luxury of immaculate conditions; warm sunshine, pristine greens, a luxurious atmosphere, privacy, and fabulous 360-degree panoramic views.

 

Beach Hopping

Beach Hopping in Hawaii isn’t just one of the most popular activities in Hawaii, but it’s also kind of one of the biggest reasons why you want to visit Hawaii, right? Yeah! Who doesn’t daydream about long and lazy days basking under the glorious Hawaiian sunshine? Everyone wants to return home from their Hawaiian Island vacation with a golden suntan and a look of relaxation stretching across their face. Go ahead! Plan your fabulous Hawaiian vacation, but make sure you research about beaches ahead of time.

If you’re traveling with children during the winter, you may want to find the best beach for calm swimming, building sand castles, light snorkeling and fun in the sun. In this case, visit Kailua Beach or Haunama Bay on Oahu. Looking for an adult beach adventure with rock jumping and stand up paddle adventures? Check out Ka’anapali beaches on Maui. Have you always dreamt of swimming with Dolphins or Manta Rays? Look into Big Island ocean adventures in Kona.

One of the best parts about visiting Hawaii is exploring beaches and sightseeing en route. Enjoy an array of super fun beach activities and ocean adventures in Hawaii!

 

Surfing

The first western written account of surfing in Hawaii was in 1779 by Lieutenant James King. He colorfully described Native Hawaiians riding wood planks on the ocean swells of the Big Island’s Kealakekua Bay. In the ancient Hawaiian language, surfing is also referred to as ‘hee nalu,’ and was indefinitely a spiritual practice that engaged the Native Hawaiians with the energy of their gods. In history, hee nalu (surfing) was an activity reserved for Hawaiian royalty, and termed the ‘Sport of the Kings.’ Today, surfing is an ocean activity available to the masses throughout the world. It is one of the most popular ocean sports, and one that is constantly transitioning with unique skills, trends, style, technique and craftsmanship. The Islands of Hawaii still remain on the forefront as the best place in the world for surfing.

 

Helicopter Tours

If you love adventure and incredibly beautiful Hawaii scenery, you should definitely take a Hawaii helicopter tour! There are a handful of amazing helicopter tour companies located throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and they all offer unique aerial experiences. Just imagine flying over hidden valleys and waterfalls, and seeing Hawaii’s coastlines with a birds eye view!

 

Ziplining

One of the newest top outdoor activities in Hawaii is definitely ziplining! The most popular zipline courses in Hawaii are found on Maui, Kauai and on the Big Island. While ziplining in Hawaii, guests have a rare chance to experience island adventure in a whole new way. Ziplining is a great family activity in Hawaii and super popular with teenagers!

 

Horseback Riding Tours

Exploring horseback riding tours in Hawaii is one of the best ways to adventure Hawaii’s spectacular coastlines and country sides! Up on a well-trained horse, both beginners and experienced riders can experience Hawaii in a super memorable way. Calmly walk through coastline trails, or jaunt and gallop over some of Hawaii’s most in-the-know private horseback riding locations. Throughout the Hawaiian Islands, guests and residents can both enjoy private and group horseback riding tours, or private and group horseback riding lessons.

 

Stage Shows

Mix things up during your next vacation to Hawaii! Book tickets for Hawaii stage shows and check out some truly amazing live entertainment! Stage shows in Hawaii are offered throughout the island chain and vary in offerings with live music, theatrical productions, magic shows, dance performances, comedy, Hawaiian luaus, and more.

 

Windsurfing

Windsurfing was once upon a time more popular than surfing in Hawaii! Can you believe that? Wow! Back in the 1980’s windsurfing fanatics traveled from across the world to windsurf in Hawaii. Back then, Hawaiian beaches were full of windsurfers, European accents and fluorescent swim trunks! Now, you’ll only find that kind of scene at in-the-know windsurfing locales. Hawaii windsurfing is definitely a genre of its own.

 

Camping

If you’re looking for one of the coolest, most integrated and best in-the-know activities to do in Hawaii, you should consider island camping! Every Hawaiian Island has a surplus of amazing camping destinations, but not all of them are specifically open to the public. If you are a Hawaii visitor that is planning on camping in Hawaii, please make sure that you choose a legally designated camping site.