FYI – I made my husband write this post
Hawaii has a reputation for being the ultimate tropical paradise, and if you have ever been there, then you know that this reputation is well deserved. None of the Hawaiian islands are that big, but they are all packed with unique and amazing things to see and do for everyone from beach bums to adrenaline junkies. Not only is Hawaii a geographic dreamland, but the Hawaiian people show what a gem Polynesian culture really is.
I am especially grateful for the Hawaiian islands as I partially credit them for the ability to “trick” my wife into marrying me. I scored some free buddy passes to Hawaii, and immediately invited Claire to join me on a quick weekend getaway. I knew she couldn’t resist a free trip to a place she had never been, even though she may have had concerns about me being the company. Once we were there, I think she wrongfully applied her love of Hawaii to me, and thankfully I was able to keep those positive associations going straight through to our wedding!
We ended up loving our hotel! The location was right by the beach and price was perfect! You can book and check out current prices here.
There is no way to choose just 11 things to do in Hawaii, so this post focuses on the top 11 things to do on Oahu (the most commonly visited island).
To read an overview of all of the Hawaiian islands click here.
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1. Snorkel at Hanauma Bay
Snorkel at Hanauma Bay
This beautiful bay features is an easy and excellent location to snorkel. There are over 400 species of fish, and an abundance of (my favorite) sea turtles. Make sure if you snorkel you have a waterproof phone case or a dry bag dry bag for your electronics.
2. Waterfalls at Ko’olau Mountain Range
Waterfalls at Ko’olau Mountain Range
- This mountain range was formed by ancient volcanoes erupting. Today, there are dramatic cliffs left on the Eastern side of Oahu. On a rainy day water pools at the top and you can see spectacular waterfalls coming down the cliffs.
Psst: If you’re interested in planning the cheapest trip possible to Hawaii, then I created a free cheatsheet for you, which details the top 5 tools we used to plan our trip to Hawaii. Click the image below to download it!
3. North Shore
Photo: Loffit (Creative Commons 2.0)
The Northern shore of the island is not nearly as developed as other parts of Oahu, but should also be on your list. Each winter the shore is pounded with 30 ft tall waves that make it a surfers’ paradise. It is easy and fun to spot professional surfers riding the waves all day. Even though Claire insisted I remain a spectator I tried to ride the waves myself; this was a big mistake as I got tossed like a ragdoll.
4. Visit Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941 Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. This devastating attack pulled the United States into World War II, which ultimately changed the entire face of the globe. The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is a sobering reminder of what we have come through. Though this changes the tone from the rest of Hawaiian vacation, it needs to be included.
5. Hike Diamond Head
Photo: Brian Snelson / Flickr
Hike Diamond Head
This mountain/volcanic crater is one of the best spots in Hawaii for a quick hike. It is only about a mile long and not difficult (seriously Grandmas do it). Once at the summit you have breathtaking views of Waikiki and the endless blue ocean.
6. Ha’iku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven) Hike
Photo: Wikipedia / Public Domain
Ha’iku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven) Hike
Supposedly this hike is now illegal due to private land ownership and liability issues, though I know many people are still doing it. I include it because it is something you will hear about when planning a trip to Hawaii. The metal stairs and ladders create a challenging but amazing hike.
7. Zipline and Rope Bridges Through the Rainforest
Zipline and Rope Bridges Through the Rainforest
Though there are many places in Hawaii that you can zipline above and climb up platforms via rope bridges through the dense rainforest canopy. Climb Works is one of the best. They feature ziplines, atv rides, rappelling, and suspension bridges.
8. Surf Lessons at Waikiki Beach
Surf Lessons at Waikiki Beach
- This is the busiest tourist spot in Hawaii. The white sand, clear blue water, and never ending small waves make this a perfect spot for beginners to become a grommet (supposedly this means beginning surfer). Great instructors make this possible for even the least athletically inclined.
9. Polynesian Cultural Center
Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center is the perfect place to experience traditional Polynesian Culture. They have recreations of traditional villages and an amazing luau with native Polynesian dancers.
10. Cliff Jumping at La’ie Point
Cliff Jumping at La’ie Point (this picture isn’t actually from La’ie Point, but you get the idea)
- There are a lot of places one can cliff jump, and some are actually pretty dangerous. The one where I safely jumped was La’ie Point on the North Shore.
11. Dole Pineapple Plantation
Dole Pineapple Plantation
Some people think this place is dull, but I loved learning about the agricultural history of Hawaii, getting lost in the garden maze (like a corn maze, but bigger), and the samples of fresh island fruit (the fruit samples alone make it worth the stop).
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