25 Best Things to do in Hawaii

Hawaii is a perfect destination for families as well as romantic honeymooners and everyone in between. The islands are steeped in both native and World War II history, which guests can immerse themselves in by visiting historic palaces, museums, and Pearl Harbor sites such as the USS Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri. Hawaii is also famous for its volcanoes and beaches. For the best of the beach, check out Ka’anapali, HI. For volcanoes, head to the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’s Jaggar Museum and Overlook. Hawaii is the perfect destination to unwind, enjoy nature, and learn a bit of history. Photo: Don Landwehrle/Fotolia


»World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument


World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is the home of the USS Arizona Memorial. The site memorializes the location of the attack of Pearl Harbor, which led to the United States involvement in World War II. The monument tells many stories from the Pacific side of the war, including the wartime internment camps that housed many Japanese Americans, and tales from the battles in the Aleutians. Visitors begin their visit at Aloha Court in the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. From there, they can spend their day exploring the galleries, watching a film in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater, or shopping for books in the well-stocked bookstore. Read more

1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, HI 96818, Phone: 808-422-3399 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: NPS Photo

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»Battleship Missouri Memorial

Battleship Missouri Memorial


The Battleship Missouri is a U.S. Navy ship that was named after the state of Missouri. The ship, also known as “Mighty Mo” or “Big Mo,” was the last Navy battleship to be commissioned by the United States. The ship has historical significance, as it was the site where the Japanese surrendered during World War II. This momentous occasion that took place on September 2, 1945 marked the end of the war. The Battleship Missouri Memorial offers tours twice a day and opportunities to learn and explore more on your own. At the time of writing, some sections of the battleship were closed for renovation.

63 Cowpens Street, Honolulu, HI 96818, Phone: 808-455-1600 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Jeff/Fotolia

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»Ka'anapali Beach

Ka'anapali Beach


Ka’anapali Beach consists of a three-mile stretch of white sand fronting some of the most popular hotels in Maui. Ka’anapali was the first planned resort in Hawaii and has been used as an example for resorts around the world. There are five world-class hotels and six luxury condominium villages that face the beach. The shopping complex Whalers Village is also located on the beach. The village has a selection of shops and restaurants as well as a whaling museum and Hawaiian entertainment. Ka’anapali is famous for the cliff-diving ceremonies that happen each day off of the northernmost cliffs of the beach, a spot known as Black Rock.

2525 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina, HI 96761, Phone: 808-661-0011 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Scotty Robson/Fotolia

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»Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is a nature preserve and botanical garden located along the Hamakua Coast’s 4-mile scenic driving route off of Hawaii’s Route 19. The botanical garden is a living museum featuring a large, exotic collection of plants from around the world. The botanical garden contains more than 2,000 species of plants that come from more than 125 different plant families. The garden is located in a 40-acre valley that serves as a natural greenhouse and provides protection from the wind. There are nature trails that wind throughout the valley’s natural rainforest past several waterfalls and across streams.

21-717 Old Mamalahoa Highway, Papaikou, HI 96781, Phone: 808-964-5233 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

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»National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific


The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is a U.S. national cemetery located at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu. The cemetery was established after World War II to provide a permanent burial site for thousands of servicemen whose remains were awaiting burial on the island of Guam. The cemetery is the final resting place for many who died in the war’s Pacific Theater, including Wake Island and Japanese POW camps. The cemetery contains a memorial pathway that passes by several memorials that commemorate America’s veterans in various ways, including those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

2177 Puowaina Drive, Honolulu, HI 96813, Phone: 808-532-3720 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Jeff/Fotolia

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»USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park


The USS Bowfin is a Balao-class submarine that was deployed in the United States Navy and named after the bowfin fish. The sub has been open to the public since 1981. The museum and park are located conveniently in Pearl Harbor, next-door to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center. Visitors to the site can tour the museum on their own with an audio-narration device. The narration tells the stories of life aboard the submarine during World War II. The museum contains artifacts and exhibits related to submarines and their place in U.S. military history. There is also a memorial to those submarines and submariners who were lost during the Second World War. Read more

11 Arizona Memorial Drive, Honolulu, HI 96818, Phone: 808-423-1341 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park

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»Dolphin Quest

Dolphin Quest


Dolphin Quest is a dolphin-encounter experience for the whole family. They offer programs for children starting at age 2. Toddlers, young children, and their parents can participate in a 10-minute meet and greet with a dolphin. Older children, teens, and adults can have even closer encounters, including what they call Sea Quest, a 1 hour and 45 minute guided snorkel and swimming experience with Hawaiian fish and sea turtles that is then finished off with 40 minutes of swimming with dolphins. In addition to their location on Hawaii’s Big Island, Dolphin Quest has a second location at the luxurious Kahala Hotel and Resort in Oahu as well as a location in Bermuda.

69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738, Phone: 808-886-2875 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Dolphin Quest

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»Limahuli Garden

Limahuli Garden


The Limahuli Garden and Preserve is a nature preserve and botanical garden located on Kaua’i’s north shore. The garden lies in a tropical valley and contains three different habitats, including the Makana Mountain ridge, the Limahuli Stream, and inland areas of the Ha’ena State Park. The stream features an 800-foot waterfall. The garden contains a large number of native Hawaiian and Polynesian-introduced plants. It has won several awards from the American Horticultural Society as the best botanical garden in the U.S. The garden is open to the public, but the 13 acres of nature preserve land is not open to visitors.

58301 Kuhio Highway, Hanalei, HI 96714, Phone: 808-826-1053 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: stevengaertner/Fotolia

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»Allerton Garden

Allerton Garden


Allerton Garden is a botanical garden created by Robert and John Gregg Allerton. The garden, also known as Lawa’i-kai, is located on Kaua’i’s south shore between the McBryde Garden and the Pacific Ocean. The garden is comprised of 80 beautiful acres and lies in a valley crossed by the Lawa’i stream. Allerton Garden includes pools, miniature waterfalls, garden rooms, fountains, and statues, and it is open to visitors. Guests can choose a docent-guided, self-guided, or specialty tour when they visit the garden. Tour options are available that combine a visit to Allerton Garden with adjacent McBryde Garden for even more outdoor fun.

4425 Lawai Road, Koloa, HI 96756, Phone: 808-742-2623 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: flares38/Fotolia

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»Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

Akatsuka Orchid Gardens


Akatsuka Orchid Gardens is a major player in the growth and sale of Cattleya orchids, and has been for more than thirty years. The blooming orchids, which can be seen on display at the gardens, number more than 500 at any given time. The orchids come from a number of different varieties, including Oncidiums, Miltonia, Dendrobiums, and many others. Besides the orchids, the gardens sell other flowers and tropical flower arrangements to individuals and retailers. The gardens have a handicap-accessible showroom and gift shop. The showroom has many orchids and tropical plants on display. Visitors are able to tour the property’s greenhouse.

11-3051 Volcano Road, Volcano, HI 96785 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: DmitriK/Fotolia

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»Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace


The ‘Iolani Palace was the royal residence of many rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and it is also the only royal palace on United States soil. The residents began with Kamehameha II and ended with Queen Lili’uokalani. The palace is now a National Historic Landmark. It has been restored and is currently operating as a historic house museum. The palace is located in downtown Honolulu and offers two tour options. Guests can choose to go on a docent led tour or a self-led audio-guided tour. Both tour options see the same parts of the palace – both the first and second floors. Guests of both types of tours can explore the basement gallery on their own after the tour. There is an introductory video shown every half hour in the barracks.

364 King Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, Phone: 808-522-0822 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: guynamedjames/Fotolia

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»Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy

Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy


Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy is a locally owned and operated surf academy and one of the oldest surf schools in Maui. The academy offers group as well as private and semi-private surf lessons. They also offer private and semi-private stand-up paddleboard lessons and rentals. For those who are adamant surfers, Royal Hawaiian offers an experience they call a Surfari. On the Surfari, guests will travel with native Hawaiian instructors down the coast looking for the perfect wave to ride. The experience includes an exclusive private lesson in the perfect location, which changes depending on the day and conditions.

113 Prison Street, Lahaina, HI 96761, Phone: 808-276-7873 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy

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»Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center


The Polynesian Cultural Center is a Polynesian-themed theme park and living museum on Oahu’s north shore in Laie. The park consists of forty-two acres of simulated villages staffed with actors who perform various art and craft activities from all around Polynesia. The park has an Imax special effect theater and a lagoon that guests can travel across by canoe. Each of the prominent cultures of Polynesia has their own section set up as a traditional village. Visitors can participate in an authentic luau with a roasted pig cooked in an underground oven and other traditional Polynesian dishes. The center also hosts a popular evening show that includes various aspects of Polynesian culture.

55-370 Kamehameha Highway, Laie, HI 96762, Phone: 800-367-7060 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Polynesian Cultural Center

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»Home of the Brave Museum and Tours

Home of the Brave Museum and Tours


Home of the Brave Museum and Tours is a private company that offers tours of Pearl Harbor and Hawaii’s Battlefield sites. They also own a private museum that is only open a couple of days a week. The museum contains items donated by veterans and their families. The collection is quite massive and consists of the largest WWII artifact collection in the Pacific. There is also an on-site brewery, and guests can enjoy fresh-brewed craft beer in the Wiki Waki Woo Bar. Next door to the Home of the Brave Museum is a WWII themed brewpub called the Brewseum.

909 Waimanu Street, Honolulu, HI 96814, Phone: 808-396-8112 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Home of the Brave Museum and Tours

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»Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park

Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park


Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park preserves a former refuge site from the times of an older Hawaii. The sanctuary was a place where lawbreakers could go to escape punishment. There were walls surrounding the Hale o Keawe temple, which held the bones of chiefs and was said to give the sacred place their power. The site is considered sacred even today, and visitors should act respectful and refrain from loud or unmannered behavior while there. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the grounds and the Pu’uhonua. Those who are looking for more of a challenge can hike the back country trails to other historic sites from Hawaii’s past. Fishing and picnicking is permitted in the park’s picnic area.

1871 Trail, Captain Cook, HI 96704, Phone: 808-328-2326 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: srongkrod/Fotolia

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»Byodo-In Temple

Byodo-In Temple


The Byodo-In Temple is a non-denominational temple at the Valley of the Temples in O’ahu that was built in commemoration of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The temple is located at the foot of the beautiful Ko’alau Mountains and is a replica of the famous Byodo-In Temple that was built almost 1000 years ago in Japan. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors of any faith are welcome to worship, meditate, or simply appreciate the temple grounds. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and include small waterfalls, areas for meditation, and a large reflecting pond. Visitors will certainly have a chance to see the many wild peacocks that roam the grounds or the beautiful Japanese koi carp that swim in the park’s water.

47-200 Kahekii Highway, Kaneohe, HI 96744, Phone: 808-239-9844 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: shanemyersphoto/Fotolia

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»Greenwell Farms

Greenwell Farms


Greenwell Farms is a coffee farm that has been around since 1850. The farm has a historic store and offers free tours all day, every day. You can take a personalized walking tour of the coffee fields where you can see coffee growing. You can also visit the processing facilities where you can see coffee being processed and learn about each and every stage of the production process as it is roasted and prepared for sale. The tour includes samples of several coffee products as well. On Thursdays, the local historical society hosts a community event where they bake traditional Portuguese bread in a wood-fired oven.

81-6581 Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, HI 96750, Phone: 808-323-2275 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Greenwell Farms

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»Thomas A. Jaggar Museum

Thomas A. Jaggar Museum


The Thomas A. Jaggar Museum is a very busy attraction in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is located along the Crater Rim Driving Tour. The Jaggar Museum is dedicated to volcanology and has exhibits related to equipment used by volcanologists to study volcanoes. Exhibits include working seismograph machines as well as gear and clothing that shows evidence of scientists who have gotten too close to the lava. The museum also contains a gift shop that sells books, maps, videos, apparel, and a variety of other souvenirs. The overlook outside the museum provides one of the best views of Kilauea Caldera, one of the most active volcanoes on the planet.

Crater Rim Drive, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano, Island of Hawaii, HI 96718, Phone: 808-985-6000 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: srongkrod/Fotolia

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»Honolulu Museum of Art

Honolulu Museum of Art


The Honolulu Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the state of Hawaii and was founded in 1922. The museum is home to the United State’s largest single collection of Asian and Pacific art and includes more than 50,000 works of art. Visitors can tour the museum galleries on their own or arrange for docent-guided private tours. The museum’s Doris Duke Theatre is an art house theater that shows many independent and international films throughout the year. The museum store sells a variety of art, handicrafts, books, stationary, jewelry, and more. The museum also boasts a popular cafe that regularly attracts a large crowd at lunchtime.

900 Beretania Street, Honolulu, HI 96814, Phone: 808-532-8700 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Honolulu Museum of Art

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»Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor

Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor


The Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor is Hawaii’s premier aviation museum located on historic Ford Island. The museum features many different aviation exhibits, most of which are directly related to World War II and specifically the attack on Pearl Harbor. The museum’s hangars show damage that resulted from the Pearl Harbor Attacks on December 7, 1941. Some important aircraft in the museum include the remains of the Japanese A6M2 Zero B11-120 that crash-landed on Ni’ihau during the attacks as well as many other World War II era planes. The museum is home to the planes that President George H.W. Bush used for flight training and his first solo flight as well.

319 Lexington Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96818, Phone: 808-441-1000 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor

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»Hawaii Plantation Village

Hawaii Plantation Village


Hawaii Plantation Village is an outdoor museum that features historical homes and botanical gardens. The site tells the story of the Hawaiian people through a variety of exhibits and experiences. Guests can explore the site with the help of local guides who can teach them about Hawaiian life in the early 1900s. There are more than twenty-five historic plantation homes and other buildings located throughout the village. The homes are filled with personal artifacts including furniture, clothing, and artwork. The botanical gardens feature native Hawaiian plants as well as many unusual species that were brought from East Asia and other Pacific Islands. The village has a gift shop that sells a variety of Hawaiian goods, cookbooks, souvenirs, and more.

94-695 Waipahu Street, Waipahu, HI 96797, Phone: 808-677-0110 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Hawaii Plantation Village

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»Whalers Village Museum

Whalers Village Museum


The Whalers Village Museum is a whaling museum located in a beachside mall. The museum tells the story of Lahaina’s history as a whaling town. The town was especially active in the whaling industry from 1825 to 1860. The Whalers Village Museum features a stunning collection of 19th century scrimshaw art. Scrimshaw refers to pictures that are carved into the teeth and bones of whales and then colored in with ink. The museum also has a large model whaling ship and other whaling artifacts. Exhibits can be toured using self-guided audio devices in several languages. At the time of writing, the museum was closed temporarily for renovations.

H-6, 2435 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina, HI 96761, Phone: 808-661-4567 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Whalers Village Museum

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»Queen Emma Summer Palace

Queen Emma Summer Palace


Queen Emma Summer Palace, also known as Hanaiakamalama, was the retreat home of Queen Emma of Hawaii during the years 1857 to 1885. Her husband and son also stayed in the home. The palace is located in the lush and beautiful Nuuanu Valley. The Nuuanu Pali Lookout offers a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. The palace is currently preserved as a home museum, which contains a large collection of Queen Emma’s personal belongings and furniture. The exhibits also include other royal artifacts and memorabilia. The museum store sells a selection of local, handcrafted items as well as Hawaiian books and other merchandise.

2913 Pali Highway, Honolulu, HI 96817, Phone: 808-595-3167 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Queen Emma Summer Palace

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»Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Kona Coffee Living History Farm


Hawaii is home to several coffee plantations and processing facilities. Kona Coffee Living History Farm is located on the Daisaku Uchida Coffee Farm in the Big Island’s Kona District. The historic farm was established on 5.5 acres of land in 1900. The farm tells the story of Hawaii’s history in the coffee industry and allows guests to explore and learn about the farm through self-guided tours. The property includes a 1920’s farmhouse where employees in period dress demonstrate daily life during the times. Guests should certainly take advantage of the opportunity to sample the farm’s 100% Kona coffee and buy some to take home.

82-6199 Marmalahoa Highway, Captain Cook, HI 96704, Phone: 808-323-3222 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Kona Coffee Living History Farm

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»Shangri La

Shangri La


Shangri La is an Islamic-style mansion built by Doris Duke near Diamond Head. The home was inspired by the extensive travels of Duke who was an heiress and philanthropist. Her travels took her through North Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Asia. The home reflects traditions from these exotic lands. It is now owned and operated by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. The art center offers guided tours, artist residencies, and more. The center’s art collection includes approximately 2,500 pieces of art and artifacts from Islamic countries around the world. The center hosts cultural events throughout the year such as dances and lectures.

4055 Papu Circle, Honolulu, HI 96816, Phone: 808-734-1941 25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii - Photo: Shangri La

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25 Best Things to Do in Hawaii