Everyone knows about the fabulous beaches in Hawaii, but there are plenty of other things to keep you busy! Here are four attractions that are "must dos" on each of the major islands.
Hawaii Island (Big Island)
Hawaii Island is very well known for it's coffee, most of which is grown in Kona.There are hundreds of coffee farms on this island that offer tours to help you learn about the harvesting process. Kona Coffee Living History Farm is the one I recommend.
Hawaii Island is also home to two active volcanoes, including Kilauea, which is one of the most active volcanoes on earth. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is where you will want to visit to see the hot lava flows into the sea. You can hike over hardened lava or take a helicopter or boat tour to see the flows. The park has 150 miles of hiking trails, along with a museum and visitor's center.
Another place well worth a visit is the Imiloa Astonomy Center of Hawaii, which sits at the summit of Maunakea Volcano.This center features more than 100 exhibits that intertwine astonomy and Hawaiian culture. The planetarium features several shows throughout the year.
On the western slope of the Kohal Mountains is the 8,500 acre Kahua Ranch where you can learn all about the paniolo (cowboy) life. This working ranch offers ATV rides, horseback riding, and wagon rides. At sunset, an all-you-can-eat paniolo barbecue dinner features live entertainment, dancing, horseshoe pitching, branding, and lasso lessons.
The rugged green peaks and cliffs of the Na Pali Coast on the northwestern part of Kauai are among Hawaii's most spectacular natural attractions. Several companies offer boat tours, some of which include a snokeling stop. You can also spot spinner dolphins and from December through April, whales.
Wailua River State Park, located in the lush Wailua River Valley, is best experienced from the water. Several local operators take passengers to Fern Grotto and to Opaeka'a Falls and Wailua Falls. More adventurous travelers can take a kayak tour. Inside the park, visitors can see the remains of Heiau (places of worship), pu'uhonua (places of refuge), and birthstones.
Known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," Waimea Canyon stretches about two-thirds of the length of Kauai from north to south. The canyon, which is a Hawaii state park, covers more than 1,800 acres.The canyon's beautiful colors can be seen from several lookouts, and the park also offers picnic areas and hiking trails.
Kauai has miles of man-made shallow ditches and low tunnels, built around 1870. They were used to bring water from the mountains of Kauai to a sugar plantation in the island's interior. The ditches are now used for the well known "Mountain Tubing Adventure," where you can float down the waterways and through tunnels on inflatable tubes.
Haleakala National Park is home to Haleakala volcano, which is 10,023 feet above sea level and the highest point on Maui. The red desert landscape provides a unique setting for a day hike or overnight backpacking trip. Visitors who don't mind getting up at 3 a.m. and driving
1 1/2 to 2 hours to the summit will have a front row seat to a magnificent sunrise.
At Iao Valley State Monument, the focal point is the Iao Needle, an erosion that rises 1,200 feet from the valley floor. In addition, a small botanical garden features plants that were brought by the Hawaiians who settled there.
The Maui Ocean Center, also known as the Hawaiian Aquarium, is the only marine park in the world dedicated to Hawaii's marine life. You will see more than 60 exhibits, including outdoor touch pools and the Marine Mammal Discovery Center. There's also an acrylic tunnel through the 750,000 gallon Open Ocean Exhibit.
Molokini Crater, located 2.5 miles off the coast of Maui, is the home to 250 species of marine life. A designated Hawaii State Marine Life and Bird Conservation District, Molokini has a back wall that drops to depths of 300 feet, and its reef area offers clear views to 150 feet. There are several companies that provide excursions to Molokini Crater.
Bishop Museum is Hawaii's premiere cultural museum. It features five buildings, one of which houses the Hawaiian Hall, which chronicles Hawaii's history. Other exhibits feature artifacts from cultures across Polynesia, Hawaiian art, the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, and interactive exhibits on Hawaii's natural environment.
Ioloni Palace, found in Honolulu, is the only royal palace on U.S. soil. In the basement are galleries exhibiting royal artifacts, photos, and other memorabilia. Guided tours and self-guided audio tours are available.
A visit to Oahu isn't complete without spending time at Pearl Harbor, where there are three significant World War II sites. The Arizona Memorial is the final resting place of the 1,177 crewmen of the USS Arizona Battleship, which sunk during the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Nearby, the Battleship Missouri Memorial was the site of Japan's surrender to the Allied Forces in 1945, and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park features several exhibits.
For an authentic, interactive experience, visit the Polynesian Cultural Center, which features seven "settlements" (villages representing different Polynesian islands or island groups). Guests can attend a luau with live entertainment and theatrical productions.
Hawaii is one of those amazing places that sits at the top of most people’s bucket list, with daydreamers picturing stunning sunsets and sand in their toes. But as you can see from the list above, it’s not all beaches, hula, and umbrella drinks!