The Hawaiian Islands are home to majestic sea coasts, stunning waterfalls and amazing natural wonders. From Akaka Falls in the Big Island to the Hana Coast of Maui, there are numerous sights that will take your breath away. Use our helpful guide to sightseeing in Hawaii to make the most of the island of aloha.
This national park tops our list of Hawaii’s natural wonders as it is the most visitor-friendly active volcano in the world. Where else can you walk through a lava tube, cross through a lava rock desert, watch as molten lava pours into the sea, view the world’s most massive volcano Mauna Loa and get a first-hand look at the Kilauea Volcano as it erupts lava? The 300,000 plus acres of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park features so many wonders of the world you’ll want to spend more than one day here if time allows.
The 16-mile stretch of Na Pali Coast in Kauai is perhaps one of the most gorgeous sights to see on all the islands. Accessible only by hearty hikers or by boat, the Na Pali Coast is a lush, emerald green treasure of sea cliffs rising more than 4,000 feet from the ocean. I recommend reserving a boat cruise around the coast so you can get the best views of the rugged cliffs, stunning waterfalls, lush valleys and isolated beaches. If you’re up for it, you can hike the Kalalau Trail. 11 miles one way, this hike traverses five major valleys of the Na Pali Coast State Park and ends at the Kalalau Beach.
You don’t receive the nickname “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” without being able to live up to the wonder the name suggests. A conflux of volcanic movement and years upon years of water from the Waimea River created the 10-mile, 3,000 ft. deep canyon. The name Waimea means “reddish water” in Hawaiian and pays homage to the canyon’s red soil. The colors of the canyon come from rainfall turning over freshly exposed lava rock from black to various shades of red, contrasted by the greens and browns of various vegetation. This natural wonder can be seen by auto touring, hiking or by helicopter.
Visitors rave about this national park no matter what time of day they visit. Home to the Haleakala Volcano, the name of the park – Haleakala – means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian and attracts numerous visitors each morning for the amazing sunrises. On a clear day, you can also see five other Hawaiian islands from the 10,023 ft. summit. Of course, star gazing here is spectacular as well, with astronomy buffs marveling at the different formations one can find atop the summit.
This sight is one of Hawaii’s signature landscapes. The dormant volcanic tuff cone received its name from British sailors who arrived in the 19th century and mistook the calcite crystals in its slopes for diamonds. However, its Hawaiian name is Leahi, which describes the mountain’s silhouette’s resemblance to the dorsal fin of a tuna. No matter what you call it, you’ll want to make the 45-minute (0.8 mile) hike to the summit of Diamond Head. Overlooking Waikiki, Honolulu and Oahu’s South Shore, the views from the top are postcard perfect.
Road to Hana (Maui): One of the top things to do in Hawaii is drive the Road to Hana in Maui. The centuries old path is dotted with spectacular scenery, rustic towns and plenty of Hawaiian culture. Fill the car up with gas, pack a picnic lunch and hit the road to discover the “Highway to Heaven.” Must-see stops and sights on the Road to Hana include Haipuaena Falls, Wailua Falls, Waianapanapa State Park Maui, Waikani Falls, Oheo Gulch, and Hamoa Beach.
Take in panoramic views of Windward Oahu and the Koolau Mountain Range. This famous historic site also spotlights Kaneohe Bay, the point where Kamehameha I forced enemy warriors over the cliff is a must-stop on any tour around the island. Drive north on the Pali Highway through tall trees and dense forests to get to the lookout. Along the way you’ll see the city of Honolulu disappear and the beauty of Hawaii start to unfold.
This preserve is one of Oahu’s most popular snorkeling destinations. Wear your swim suit and enjoy the crystal clear blue waters of the bay. Rent or bring your own snorkel gear so you can explore the reefs teeming with colorful fish.
Cruise the Hamakua Coast to view lush landscapes, cascading waterfalls and charming seaside views. The road along the Hamakua Coast ends with a view into one of the Big Island’s most remote areas. From this point, view sheer black cliffs and the wide green valley that was once home to between 4,000 to 20,000 Hawaiians.