Hawaii's Top Visitor Attractions
Information about Hawaii's famous landmarks and must-see sights
Many people think of Hawaii solely as a tropical beach paradise. Without question, Hawaii has many of the world's top rated beaches. In addition, however, Hawaii has an amazingly diverse ecology which includes remote canyons, coral reefs, desert-like terrain, lush valleys, snow-capped mountains, rain-forests, active and dormant volcanoes and countless waterfalls.
The types of attractions and activities that you can experience in Hawaii vary from island to island. You'll soon learn that, while all of the Hawaiian islands were born from Pele, the goddess of Hawaii's volcanoes, each island is quite different from the others, and each has its own unique charm.
Attractions by Island
Waikiki, Downtown Honolulu, the Windward Shore, the North Shore and Central Oahu including Pearl Harbor.
The Island of Oahu is home to the ancient volcanic crater of Diamond Head. Overlooking Waikiki, this extinct crater is one of the world's most recognizable landmarks and is also one of Hawaii's most photographed natural features. Hawaii's island of Oahu has three interstates (H1, H2 and H3). They are marked with official Interstate blue and red route shields.
Another one of Hawaii's top attractions lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. Every year, thousands visit the USS Arizona Memorial and the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers from wars past. View all Oahu Attractions
Waikiki is a neighborhood of Honolulu, in the City & County of Honolulu, on the south shore of the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Waikiki has several attractions of its own, including the Waikiki Aquarium and Honolulu Zoo.
Downtown Honolulu : Downtown Honolulu has a wealth of history-themed attractions, including Iolani Palace, the only royal palace standing on American soil.
Waikiki Aquarium : The aquarium offers a glimpse of Hawaii's undersea world. Exhibits include tidal pools, endangered Hawaiian monk seals, shark tanks, and other rare species. Located at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki
Honolulu Zoo : Located between Diamond Head and Waikiki, the Honolulu Zoo offers families an up close encounter with rare endangered species including Black Rhinos, Cheetahs, Ring-tailed Lemurs, Sumatran Tigers, Asian Elephants, and more. The Honolulu Zoo is the largest zoo within a radius of 2,300 miles.
Diamond Head State Monument : The monument is one of Hawaii's most famous landmarks. Noted as a National Natural Landmark, Diamond Head crater was formed after a series of explosive eruptions 100,000 years ago. The top of the monument requires a short hike up stairs and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Honolulu city. A definite must see attraction.
Hanauma Bay Marine Preserve : One of Oahu's magnificent natural resources, this Marine Preserve offers visitors a glimpse of abundant sea life including corals, reef fish, turtles, and more. Note: the Marine Preserve limits the number of visitors entering the bay so plan on arriving early to avoid waiting.
Sea Life Park : Located at scenic Makapuu Point on Oahu's east shore, Sea Life Park offers dolphin encounters, sea lions, penguins, and a variety of other aquatic exhibits. Families will enjoy the interactive displays and hands on exhibits as well as the Sea Life Luau.
Maui offers a number of sightseeing attractions ranging from its historic towns to the best white sand beaches Hawaii has to offer. Visitors to the Valley Isle who take the long and scenic drive on Hana Highway will experience tranquil views of lush rainforest and cascading waterfalls as they travel on the famous winding road.
Conversely, the adventurous traveler will enjoy mountain biking up the 10,000 foot dormant volcano named Haleakala. Maui's tallest attraction is home to a number of space observatories and also offers a wide spectrum of scenery including indigenous plants and animals and rugged terrain. View all Maui Attractions
Kaanapali Beach : A long stretch of beautiful white sand beaches situated amongst a number of world class resorts and hotels. Kaanapali offers terrific accommodations, shopping, dining, golf, and ocean activities.
Whalers Village : One of the top Maui tourist attractions, the Whalers Village in historic Lahaina town offers a beautiful open air shopping center, surrounding shops, restaurants, and the Whalers Village Museum.
Iao Valley State Park : A lush valley which is the second wettest spot in Hawaii was also the site of a large number of ancient Hawaiian battles. Today, Iao Valley is easily one of Maui's top attractions and the Iao Needle which rises over 2,000 feet, is a popular focal point for sightseers. The Iao Valley Tour is a must for all Maui visitors.
Hookipa Beach Park : This beach along Hana Highway on Maui's north shore is one of the world's best ocean recreation spots. The beach features beautiful white sand and an extensive coral reef.
Honolua Bay : Located 10 miles north of Lahaina, Honolua Bay offers great surfing, diving, snorkeling, and sightseeing opportunities with breathtaking views from several cliff lookouts. The bay is part of the Mokule'ia Marine Life Conservation District which helps to protect its dense coral growths and abundant reef fish. Caution should be used before entering the water, especially in the winter when large surf rolls through the bay.
Island of Molokini : An offshore volcanic crater just off the coast of Maui, the island of Molokini is a popular snorkeling and diving spot which features a protected lagoon perfect for viewing Hawaii's colorful reef inhabitants.
Wailea : This southeastern stretch features some of Hawaii's best beaches if not the world. World class luxury resorts line this part of Maui which helps make Wailea's beaches extremely accessible. Visitors to Wailea will find ample photo opportunities along with excellent swimming, sun tanning, and snorkeling or diving.
Kauai is Hawaii's Garden Isle, known for it's lush foliage, beautiful flowers and long white sand beaches. Kauai is the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. It's the perfect island for a honeymoon or romantic getaway, but also a great place for a family vacation.
Beach goers will want to make the drive to the town of Hanalei on the island's north shore. Here, the Na Pali Coast serves as a magnificent backdrop for pristine white sand beaches that line the coast. Visitors can drive to the end of the road at Haena State Park where secluded beaches offer glimpses of famed Bali Hai. View all Kauai Attractions
Spouting Horn : Located on Kauai's west side, Spouting Horn offers visitors a view of Hawaii's natural wonders where a hole in the shelf produces a blast of sea spray 30-50 feet into the air. This blowhole is situated on a rocky shelf where pounding surf provides the blowhole with its spray. Tourists will find a number of photo opportunities here.
Kauai Museum : The museum features ancient Hawaiian artifact galleries which include poi pounders, outrigger canoes, and other Polynesian implements and tools. The museum also features a rotating collection from World War II, works of art, and Hawaiian library and archival materials.
Poipu Beach Park : Poipu Beach on the west side of the island is a perfect place for diving, snorkeling, swimming, or surfing. It is not uncommon to see a few endangered Hawaiian monk seals basking in the sun at one of Kauai's popular beaches.
Hanalei Bay : The rural town of Hanalei on Kauai's north shore features a number of beautiful white sand beaches, fertile agricultural land used to grow taro (vegetable food), and a few shops and eateries. This quiet town is home to the best surf on Kauai during the winter months when large north Pacific swells roll through its outer reefs.
Haena State Park : Take Highway 560 and travel north until you hit the end of the road. You'll find Haena State Park and a few breathtaking and remote beaches. There are a few protected lagoons perfect for swimming and snorkeling but caution should be used in this area due to strong currents, rocks, cliffs, steep drop offs, and waves. Also keep in mind that the ocean is extremely rough during the winter months as large open ocean swells pound Kauai's northern coast.
Na Pali Coast : The island of Kauai offers an incredible sight comprised of cliffs rising 3000 feet along its northern shore. This rugged coast is only accessible by foot through the Kalalau trail. You can also find guided kayak tours offering a scenic journey with towering cliffs overhead.
Smith's Family Garden Luau : A Hawaiian celebration of food, music, hula, and other Hawaiian traditions situated near the historic Wailua River. Visitors attending this Kauai attraction will experience Hawaiian culture and learn about ancient Polynesian cooking methods.
The Big Island of Hawaii is the perfect place for a vacation that the entire family will remember and treasure forever. Away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and downtown Honolulu and far different from the crowds of tourists that flock to Maui, Hawaii's Big Island has something to offer everyone in the family. Attractions on the Big Island include Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Onizuka Center for Astronomy and Mauna Kea Observatory, Hulihee Palace, Puuhonua O Honaunau, Parker Ranch and the Pacific Tsunami Museum.
Hamakua Coast : Hawaii's sugar cane industry thrived here for many years on the north eastern end of the Big Island. Visitors will find ocean cliffs with waterfalls pouring fresh water into the sea below. A few attractions in Hamakua include Akaka Falls, Hawaii Tropical Botantical Garden, and Kolekole Beach.
Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center : This educational center in Kailua Kona was dedicated to Hawaii's first astronaut, Ellison Onizuka, who was tragically killed aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.
Hapuna Beach : This beach on northwest coast is the most popular and widely visited beach on the Big Island due to good public facilities and great ocean conditions. Hapuna is also the Island's driest spot so visitors to this popular attraction will encounter sunny weather most of the year.
Old Kona Airport State Park : The old airport is located just west of Kailua Kona. The unique reef and lava formations make for great snorkeling and scuba diving as well as surfing when surf permits. This area is part of the Hawaii Marine Life Conservation District.
Pacific Tsunami Museum : Created to promote public tsunami awareness and education, the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo provides a glimpse into tsunami history, its impact on Hawaii, and demonstrates the perseverance of people who have been affected by one of nature's most destructive natural phenomena.
Parker Ranch : Located in Waimea (north of Kohala), the Parker Ranch was founded in 1847 and is one of the oldest and historic ranches in the United States. Visitors can learn about the Ranch's history and culture in the islands and Hawaiian cowboys, also known as paniolo.
Waipio Valley : This sacred valley was once home to many Hawaiian rulers and is home to a number of ancient heiaus (sacred temples for kahuna and alii or high chiefs). Access to Waipio Valley is somewhat difficult, requiring 4WD transportation or a laborious hike to the bottom. However, visitors who make the difficult trek will find a stunning black sand beach fronting the valley, towering sea cliffs and waterfalls in the area that was once one of Hawaii's most fertile regions.
Rainbow Falls : Found on the Big Island's eastside near the historic town of Hilo, Rainbow Falls got its name from the rainbows that can be seen in its mist during most mornings. Located at Wailuku River State Park, visitors will also see a popular Big Island attraction called Boiling Pots, which consists of large pools connected underground which gives the impression of the water boiling.
Hawaii’s menu of visitor attractions is as versatile as it is extensive. There are worthwhile attractions on every major island, celebrating Hawaii’s history, culture, natural environment, wildlife, arts and more. Some are touristy, others are not. Some charge admissions, others are free. Each attraction, however, can significantly add to your overall experience in the islands.