Top 20 Hawaii Attractions You Can't Miss

Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Nikki Jain

There's no other place like Hawaii in the US, so no wonder it's always at the top of vacation bucket lists. Hawaii is a beautiful state to explore, full of history, culture, and natural attractions.

There are lots of things to do in Hawaii to make the most of your vacation. Whether you're staying for a long weekend or more than a week, you'll have plenty of attractions in Hawaii to fill up your days.

Hawaii is a destination for everyone! Hang out at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world or climb to the top of dormant volcanoes. Immerse yourself in the rich island culture or learn about the abundant marine life native to the state.

Several islands make up Hawaii, and each one has exciting attractions to check out. Explore one or more islands, and you'll understand what makes Hawaii so special. Here are the must-see tourist attractions in Hawaii that you should not miss while you are there.

Things To Do in Hawaii

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1: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Carol M. Highsmith

Volcanic activity formed the entire island chain of Hawaii over millions of years. Take a trip to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for a glimpse into how it all started.

The national park is one of the most active volcanic landscapes in Hawaii. It gives visitors a chance to explore the area.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the top Hawaii attractions located on Big Island. It covers more than 300,000 acres of land, including volcanoes, lava fields, historical sites, and more.

The main highlights of the national park are two of the most active volcanoes in the world. Kīlauea is the most active volcano in the world, and Mauna Loa is the largest shield volcano in the world.

More than one million visitors come to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park every year.

Activities include hiking trails and scenic drives. Stop by the visitor center to learn about the park's natural features and points of interest. There is also a Volcano Art Center.

Stay alert for park closings due to volcanic activity.

Address: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI 96718

2: Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of the best places in Hawaii to explore underwater life | Flickr/Prayitno

There are many places to explore Hawaii's underwater world. The best place for snorkeling is at the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.

Located in Oahu near Honolulu, it's one of the best Hawaiian destinations to enjoy swimming with some of the most colorful fishes, gorgeous coral reefs, and exotic marine life in the bay's pristine blue waters.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is the first marine life district established in Hawaii. It's dedicated to preserving marine life, which includes hundreds of species of fish.

The most common animals to see are Green sea turtles and parrotfish. The surrounding coral and marine rocks are also protected.

Visitors arriving at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve must watch a short educational video to learn how to treat the marine life and environment during their visit.

Find a spot along the crescent-shaped bay to enjoy the clear waters offering high visibility to explore the coral and fish.

The abundance of marine life means that you'll always see the coolest animal species swimming past you. You can easily spend a few hours hanging out in the bay.

Address: 100 Hanauma Bay Rd, Honolulu, HI 96825

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Honolulu, Hawaii

3: Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head State Monument
Flickr/Eric Tessmer

Nearly everywhere you go in Honolulu, you'll have a view of the Diamond Head State Monument, an iconic volcanic cone overlooking the city.

Diamond Head is one of the best places in Hawaii where you'll get to enjoy a hike to the best view on the island.

Diamond Head State Monument rises 762-ft tall. It's declared as a US National Natural landmark.

The landmark is a large, extinct volcanic cone featuring a viewpoint at its highest peak. Visitors can explore most of the site.

If you're looking for some outdoor recreation, make the hiking trek to the peak of Diamond Head. The hiking trail extends for just under one mile to reach the top. It's well-marked, and you'll frequently see other tourists making the hike with you.

Reach the summit of Diamond Head for one of the most beautiful views in Honolulu. You can see all of Waikiki and the ocean. It makes for the perfect sunrise or sunset spot.

There is also a driving route to the peak.

Address: Diamond Head Road at 18th Ave., Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96815

4: Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park
Flickr/Lara Farhadi

A chance to see the sunrise from atop the Haleakala volcano is minimal but something you won't want to miss while visiting Hawaii.

The dormant Haleakala volcano is the centerpiece of the Haleakala National Park, established in 1976.

It's one of the best national parks to visit in Maui, where you'll have incredible views from the summit or at the ground level.

Haleakala National Park includes the area surrounding the volcano and the nearby wilderness.

There are many forest and jungle areas to explore where you'll encounter unique wildlife and flora living in the park.

More than one million visitors experience Haleakala National Park every year, but only a select few can say they've seen the breath-taking sunrise or sunset.

Tickets for the sunrise tours are released daily, and only those who claim the tickets can go.

Make the scenic drive to the summit to see the Haleakala Crater above the clouds. There is a visitor center and an observatory at the peak.

Address: Haleakala National Park, Kula, HI 96790

5: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Adobe Stock/Kelly Headrick

Discover Hawaii's rich cultural heritage well preserved on the northern shore of Oahu. The region originated as a thriving farming community during the rule of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Today, the lush landscape is used as the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden, which features plants from around the world. It's one of the most beautiful attractions in Hawaii.

Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a place to see incredible flora while learning about Hawaii's history.

It was a religious and spiritual site where many events took place. Walking around the site, you'll see historic structures such as a famous Hawaiian temple.

The botanical garden is sectioned into 35 different collections. Take a stroll along the paved path to check out the unique flora growing in the garden.

It has one of the best Polynesian plant collections in the world. It also has rare plants native to Hawaii and endangered Flora.

You'll see a waterfall tucked away in the garden that hosts diving shows or open to the public to swim during the off-times.

Address: 59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712

6: Panaewa Rainforest Zoo

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo

The Panaewa Rainforest is home to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, the only one of its kind in the US.

The natural environment of the rainforest creates a perfect setting for viewing animals. It's an intimate zoo where you'll have some fun experiences for all ages.

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo opened in 1978 on the island of Hawaii. It's one of the best places to visit in Hawaii to see wildlife. The zoo features 80 animal species and 40 species of plants.

Animals are showcased in various exhibitions. The most famous exhibition is the tiger exhibit, which has a population of the rare white tiger. You can also come across lots of monkeys, reptiles, and a butterfly house. Peacocks roam freely around the zoo.

Spend a couple of hours exploring the zoo attractions to get up close to your favorite animals. It includes a snack bar and a gift shop for souvenirs. Kids of all ages will have fun in the park thanks to the large playground designed for them.

The zoo is free for all visitors, although donations are welcomed.

Address: 800 Stainback Hwy, Hilo, HI 96720

Also Read: 30 Best Zoos in the US

7: Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial

Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial
Flickr/Bernard Spragg. NZ

Learn about one of the most pivotal moments in US History when you visit the Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial, one of the must-visit attractions in Hawaii.

The Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial commemorated the fatal attacks on Pearl Harbor, which led to the US entering World War II. It honors the thousands of American lives lost and exhibits the ships sunk during the attacks.

Start the experience in the visitor center, where you'll get to watch an informative documentary in the Pacific Theater to learn all about Pearl Harbor's history and its impact on the nation.

After the screening, visitors can take a ferry ride to the USS Arizona Memorial.

It's located directly on top of the sunken USS Arizona – you'll have a real-life view of the tragedy. The memorial also features a wall of names for the lost lives.

Guided tours are available at the Pearl Harbor Memorial. It's one of the best things to do in Hawaii and attracts over two million visitors every year.

Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818

Visit Website

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Honolulu and Best Battleship Museums In the USA

8: Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Flickr/Ron Cogswell

Explore the City of Refuge and get an insight into the Hawaiian culture by visiting the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.

The national park is located on the Big Island, a significant site for locals seeking refuge throughout history. Now, it's one of the popular places in Hawaii to add to your itinerary.

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park consists of several features. One of the main areas to check out is called the City of Refuge.

It's a coastal area used until the 19th century as a place for Hawaiians fleeing a death sentence or warriors who lost in battle. A local priest forgave their actions upon arrival, and they were free to live in the city.

Walk the site's grounds to see a reconstructed burial temple, protection statues, and archaeological sites.

The national park also includes the Royal Grounds. It offers a glimpse into the Hawaiian lifestyle.

Tourists can visit huts to see locals making handicrafts and talking about their culture. After exploring the park's features, head to the gift shop for souvenirs.

Address: Highway 160, Honaunau, HI 96726

9: Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon State Park
Flickr/Andrew Baerst

The island of Kaua'i is full of natural wonders, including what many consider the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

The Waimea Canyon State Park is the best way to experience one of Hawaii's most incredible natural features. It's a fantastic Hawaii attraction for outdoor recreation and stunning views.

The Waimea Canyon extends for 10-miles at reaches depths up to 3,600-feet.

The Waimea River carved out the canyon – it formed the canyon characterized by red rock and lush green valleys. There are other features to see in the park, including the Waipoo Falls.

Hiking is one of the best things to do in Waimea Canyon State Park. There are many trails in the park that lead to viewpoints overlooking the canyon or taking you to the canyon floor. The trails have various difficulties and lengths.

The best lookouts of the canyon are at the Waimea Canyon Lookout and the Kalalau Lookout. You can also find helicopter tours for an aerial perspective of the canyon.

Address: Waimea Canyon Dr, Waimea, HI 96796

Also Read: Best Things To Do in Kauai, Hawaii

10: Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
Flickr/Robert Linsdell

Kaua'i Island's northwestern coast is one of the best places for birdwatching and spotting other wildlife in Hawaii.

The Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge preserves the environment for the nesting colonies of native seabirds who thrive abundantly in the area.

Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985 to protect the area from human damage and animal predators. The park's efforts lead to improved breeding for the seabirds.

It's a popular gathering place for migratory and native birds. Some of the birds you can see throughout the year include nēnē birds, kōlea, red-footed boobies, and albatross. It's a fantastic place for birdwatching and photography.

There are several other exciting wildlife animals to see swimming just off the shore. It's common to see dolphins and migrating humpback whales.

The wildlife refuge has a few landmarks. The Kilauea Lighthouse was built in 1913 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Other sites include the Mōkōlea Point and Crater Hill.

Address: Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge, Kilauea, 96754

11: Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park

Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park
Flickr/Ron Cogswell

Witness the natural beauty of the Kaua'i coast seen in the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park.

The wilderness park extends for 16 miles along the coast and more than 6,000 acres of the island's interior.

The region is one of the few Hawaii attractions inaccessible to cars, so you can only enjoy it by hiking or via the ocean.

Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is one of Hawaii's unique attractions, showcasing the towering cliffs lining the coast.

The cliffs reach heights of up to 4,000-feet tall. The park includes Kalalau Beach, Ke'e Beach, Kalalau Valley, the Honopu Valley, and more.

It's one of the best-untouched areas in Hawaii on its oldest inhabited island.

Hiking is a popular way to experience the natural setting. The Kalalau Trail is a visitor favorite that passes through the Kalalau Valley leading to the beach.

Kayaking is another way to boat along the shore and enter the sea caves. It's a fun place to go snorkeling.

The park permits seasonal camping at one of the three designated campsites.

Address: Kapaʻa, HI 96746

Also Read: Most Beautiful Rainforests In The USA

12: Waipio Valley Lookout

Waipio Valley Lookout
Flickr/paul bica

Former Hawaiian Kings used the Waipio Valley's sacred grounds, but now tourists have a chance to admire its beauty.

The valley is located on the Big Island, offering incredible views from the top of the valley and trails leading to the valley floor. There's plenty of natural sights to take in from the vistas.

The Waipio Valley Lookout is a must-see for one of the best views on the island. The lookout is located at the top of the valley for a sweeping view of the natural landmarks like waterfalls, the river, and the scenic coast.

After taking in the sights of the valley, explore the valley depths by hiking down the paved trail. The trail is for driving or pedestrians but only accessible with a 4 x 4 vehicle. It's one of the steepest roads in the US.

The Muliwai Trail takes visitors throughout the valley to see the vegetation and free-roaming horses. Camping is also permitted for overnight stays.

Address: 48-5546 Waipio Valley Rd, Waimea, HI 96743

13: Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea
Flickr/Chris Favero

If you include the underwater base of Mauna Kea, it's the tallest mountain in the world – but even the summit you'll see above sea level still makes it the highest peak in Hawaii.

It's the highest of five volcanoes that make up the island of Hawaii at 4,200-meters tall.

Take a ride to the mountain summit for views above the clouds, which is one of the best things to do in Hawaii.

Mauna Kea is one of the most sacred peaks in the Hawaiian culture. It's a dormant volcano that is over one million years old.

You can easily see the massive snow-capped summit from around the island, but for the best experience, take a trip to the summit.

Visitors can reach the summit view off-road driving up the mountain. The summit has a visitor center and the newly built Mount Kea Observatories, one of the world's largest complexes.

Time your visit around the sunrise to see the clouds illuminating below you. On clear days, you can see Maui in the distance.

Address: Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii, HI

14: Road to Hana

Road to Hana
Adobe Stock/Reimar

To fully appreciate the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, take a ride on the Hana Highway.

The highway is located on the island of Maui, connecting Hana and Kahului. Its route running along the coast led it to become one of the best scenic drives in Hawaii for tourists.

A trip on the Road to Hana will last a few hours as you drive approximately 64 miles along the northeastern coast.

Hana Highway is a curvy highway that passes through the island's tropical rainforest.

Along the journey, you'll cross bridges, enjoy views of the ocean, and pass by natural landmarks like the Seven Sacred Pools, Wailua Falls, and the Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach.

You can experience the highway by driving straight through or stop by some of the Hawaii sights to enjoy the scenery.

There is even a Hana Highway Millennium Trail Monument commemorating the route's popularity. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Address: Route 36, Maui, HI

15: Maui Ocean Center

Maui Ocean Center
Flickr/Smart Destinations

One of the best places to visit in Hawaii to get an up-close look at marine life is seeing the Maui Ocean Center.

Ranked as one of the best aquariums in the US, the facility provides massive tanks and viewing experiences to connect with the local sea creatures. Visit the Island of Maui to explore the best aquarium in Hawaii.

Maui Ocean Center opened in 1998 as a tropical reef aquarium dedicated to the region's marine life.

Various tank exhibits display the sea creatures, including coral reef habitats and shark tanks. Some of the favorite animals to see in the aquarium include sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, whales, and sea turtles.

The aquarium is a fun Hawaii attraction for all ages. Experience some of the unique activities inside the center.

The 3D Whale movie experience is one of the favorite things to see humpback whales like never before. There is also a touch tank filled with starfish and sea urchins.

Support for the Maui Ocean Center also supports its environmental conservation efforts.

Address: 192 Maalaea Rd, Wailuku, HI 96793

Visit Website

16: Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center
Flickr/Daniel Ramirez

There's no better way to immerse in the Hawaiian culture than at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). The PCC opened in 1963 to showcase the diverse cultures of the Polynesian islands.

Visitors have the opportunity to get a firsthand look at the cultures all in one location. It's one of the best cultural attractions in Hawaii.

PCC is a complex made up of eight tropical villages inspired by different Polynesian nations. Enter each of the villages to experience the local culture through live performances and demonstrations.

You'll get to hear traditional music and see authentic dances from the different islands. You can also watch handicrafts made right in front of you.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the PCC every year, making it one of the top places to visit in Hawaii. It's a destination for entertainment and education.

Join in on the fun by participating in the Lu'au celebrations. The PCC also hosts an annual World Fire Knife Dance Competition and other cultural festivals.

Address: 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy, Laie, HI 96762

Visit Website

17: Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Hawaii is one of the leading coffee growing regions in the US because of the ideal climate.

The Kona Coffee Living History Farm gives tourists a glimpse into one of the most notable historic farms preserved from the early 1900s. Take a tour of the farm for an inside look at Kona coffee and its history.

Kona Coffee is grown locally - Kona Coffee Living History Farm is one of the primary producers of the coffee.

The farm expands two acres, now converted into an open-air museum to explore the farmland and farmhouse.

Guided tours are available for a behind-the-scenes look at a typical workday on the farm.

You'll also explore the inside of the house and see how popular dishes are made. And of course, you'll taste the coffee.

Kona Coffee Living History Farm provides lots of historical information about the Japanese immigrant family who started the farm and how it grew to its current prominence in the industry.

Address: 82-6199 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, HI 96704

18: Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace is one of the most recognized buildings in Hawaii. It was the official residence for the royal rulers of Hawaii from the Kamehameha Dynasty to the Kalakaua Dynasty.

It's now a National Historic Landmark that's open to the public to see how island royalty lived.

Iolani Palace was built in 1879 with beautiful architecture showcasing a Hawaiian Renaissance style.

It's one of the centerpieces of the downtown capitol district in Honolulu. After restoration, it was temporarily used for government offices but now opened as a museum.

The Iolani Palace is a must-see while visiting Honolulu - it's the only royal palace in the US. The restoration efforts recreated the lavish interior design of the palace.

You'll get to walk through the grand halls and rooms to see the royalty's opulent lifestyle. Rooms feature original decoration and furniture.

Audio guides provide details about each of the rooms as you tour inside the palace.

Address: 364 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813

Visit Website

19: Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park
Adobe Stock/Susanne2688

The thick jungle landscape of the Akaka Falls State Park opens up to one of the most incredible sights you'll see in Hawaii.

It's named for the Akaka Falls, a major waterfall hidden within the jungle. Spend the day hiking through nature to see the waterfall and other natural sights while visiting Hawaii Island.

Akaka Falls is the centerpiece of the Akaka Falls State Park. The waterfall has a height of 442-ft tall, which flows into a deep gorge.

The park allows access to the top of the gorge for the best view of the falls.

Visitors can take the loop trail to reach different viewpoints of the waterfall around the gorge. The trail is approximately a half-mile long that takes you through the tropical jungle.

Take time to enjoy the colorful jungle flora, which is especially popular during the springtime when the flowers bloom.

The state park has other landmarks to see, including the 300-ft Kahuna Falls and other smaller waterfalls.

Address: 875 Akaka Falls Rd, Honomu, HI 96728

Also Read: 25 Best State Parks to Visit in the US

20: Makena Beach State Park

Makena Beach State Park

Spend a relaxing day in the Makena Beach State Park to enjoy the beach options. Located on Maui Island, the state park is a family-friendly destination with three beaches and a dormant volcano.

Pu'u Ola is a dormant volcano cone centrally located in the park. It reaches a height of 360-ft. The beaches are located around the volcano, so you'll always have views of it in the backdrop.

The beaches are the most popular reason to visit Makena Beach State Park.

It has three distinct beaches worth exploring each of them if you have the time. Enjoy the sights and the fun beach activities during your visit.

Big Beach is the most popular beach where you'll see a mix of locals and tourists hanging out.

The beach stretches for 1.5-miles along the coast. Some of the favorite activities include boogie boarding, bodyboarding, and sunbathing.

Be sure to check out the weekly live fire dancing and drum performances at Little Beach.

Naupaka Beach is a unique black sand beach. It's no surprise this is one of the top attractions in Hawaii!

Address: 4670 Makena Alanui, Kihei, HI 96753

Also Read: The Best West Coast Beaches You Must Visit

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