The six Hawaiian islands open to tourists — Oahu, Maui, Kauai, the Big Island, Lanai and Molokai — offer natural and cultural sites that make worthwhile visits. Whether you seek family fun, ecotourism opportunities, historical immersion or a combination thereof, you will find what you seek in the Aloha State.
A rainbow graces Maui’s Haleakala National Park.
Hawaii boasts two national parks, the Big Island’s Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (nps.gov/havo) and Haleakala National Park on Maui (nps.gov/hale). The former, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is home to two active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. The National Park Service lists road and area closures due to volcanic activity online. Haleakala National Park is open 24 hours and is an ideal spot for stargazing and observing sunrises and sunsets. You can also go for a hike or swim in the fresh waters of the Pools of Oheo.
Other Natural Attractions
You need a four-wheel drive vehicle to get to the Garden of the Gods on Lanai, a lunar-like rock garden. On Kauai, drive to the 14-mile-long Waimea Canyon, denominated the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The Spouting Horn blowhole is one of the most photographed sites on Kauai, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
In Honolulu, you can visit Hawaii’s largest museum, the Bishop Museum (bishopmuseum.org), which showcases the state’s natural and cultural history through more than 24 million specimens and artifacts. At the Contemporary Museum Honolulu (cmhi.org), changing exhibitions draw from the institution’s collection of more than 3,000 works of art from 1940 to the present. Among the most novel institutions in the state is the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii (imiloahawaii.org) on the Big Island, which explores the relationship between Hawaii and outer space.
Zoos and Aquaria
The Honolulu Zoo (honoluluzoo.org) on Oahu is home to nearly 1,000 animals ranging from elephants to amphibians. If you’re on the Big Island, visit the residents of the Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens (hilozoo.com), which include the endangered Hawaiian Goose, the state bird. For a glimpse into life under the sea, devote a few hours to the Waikiki Aquarium (waquarium.org), home to 500 aquatic species.
Four of the five gardens that make up the country’s National Tropical Botanical Gardens (ntbg.org) are found on Hawaii. You can visit three — the McBryde, Allerton and Limahuli Gardens — on Kauai, the Garden Island. The fourth, the Kahanu Garden, is located on Maui, where you can also go for a stroll at the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens (mnbg.org) or the Kula Botanical Garden (kulabotanicalgarden.com). On the Big Island, spend time viewing the specimens at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (htbg.com).
The Big Island’s Kona region is known for its coffee production. Discover the process on a tour of a coffee farm, such as the Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation (mountainthunder.com) and Kona Joe Coffee (konajoe.com). Farms on Maui also offer tours, including the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm (aliikulalavender.com) and the O’o Farm (oofarm.com), which is owned by a restaurant.
The Pearl Harbor Historic Sites (pearlharborhistoricsites.org) on Oahu honor the victims of Japan’s attack on the harbor in December 1941. On Oahu, you can also visit the Iolani Palace (iolanipalace.org), circa 1882, once the home of Hawaii’s monarchs. If you are vacationing on Molokai, ride a mule to Kalaupapa National Historical Park (nps.gov/kala), where St. Damien cared for ostracized lepers in the 19th century.
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