Before my first trip to Hawaii I knew to expect amazing natural beauty, but I completely underestimated just how much there was to see! From the waterfalls, to the beaches, to the gorgeous grass covered mountains I just couldn’t get enough. One mistake I made was not doing enough research before our trip; as a result I missed out on some of the most gorgeous spots on the islands. When I go back, that mistake will not be made again. I wrote this post so you can know some of the lesser known parts of the islands, and make sure to make plans to explore them as well.
Also, one piece of advice is to make sure to island hope while there. It is fairly easy to get between the islands, and can add completely new elements to your Hawaiian vacation. See my post on what to expect from each Island here.
Let us know in the comments what are your favorite places to visit in Hawaii is!
Waikapalae wet cave, Kauai
This cave is located on Kauai’s northern shore, and is often called the Blue Room Cave due to its vibrant blue water. This blue tint is brightest when the sun is shining into the cave. It was also used in Pirates of Caribbean movie, but warning, the water is super cold.
Rainbow Falls, The Big Island
Rainbow (Waiānuenue) Falls is a waterfall located in Hilo, Hawaii. It got its name because if it is sunny in the morning, you will be able to see a rainbow from the falls. It is 80 ft (24 m) tall and almost 100 ft (30 m) wide.
Kilauea Crater (caldera), The Big Island
Kilauea is the most active volcano in Hawaii, which may be why in Hawaiian its name means “spewing.” The name obviously refers to the lava spewing out of the earth through this volcano.
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!
Black and white rock beach in Kona, The Big Island
This beach may not be ideal for laying out but the black and white lava rocks sure do make for a great photo!
Bamboo Forest, Maui
I knew there were Japanese influences in Hawaiian culture, but who knew you didn’t have to go all the way to Japan to see an amazing bamboo forest? It is super exciting that Maui has their own.
Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach, Maui
Photo: Courtney Nash / Flickr
Most people are surprised to learn that Hawaii features some exquisitely beautiful red sand beaches. Kaihalulu Beach in Hana, Hawaii is one place where you can observe this phenomenon, but be prepared for a decent hike to uncover this gem. Also worth noting is that due to the secluded nature of this little piece of paradise, Kaihalulu is known unofficially as a clothing-optional beach.
Thurston Lava Tube in Volcano National Park, The Big Island
This 500 year old lava cave is a must see spot if you are on The Big Island. There are quite a few lava tubes on the island, but Nahuku is one of the easiest and biggest to get to. These tubes are formed from flowing lava cooling and hardening.
Byodo-In Temple, Oahu
This temple was built to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, is a replica of another from Kyoto, Japan, and is a perfect way to pay homage to Hawaii’s Japanese influence. This beautiful temple is surrounded by lush Japanese gardens and koi ponds. It is also featured in a few tv series including Hawaii Five-O, Magnum, Lost and House of the Rising Sun.
Waterfalls at Ko’olau Mountain Range, Oahu
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.
Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Maui
Usually due to very active volcanoes, you will find beaches of just about every color in Hawaii, including black. This beach is located on the southeastern Kau coast. Punaluu Beach is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii.
Heart-Shaped Rock, Maui
Although most people call this the heart shaped rock, it is more of a heart shaped hole. Either way, this romantic spot is definitely worth a visit. It is located right by the Nakalele Blowhole (featured next in this post).
Nakalele Blowhole, Maui
The blowhole is a result of a deteriorating shoreline below a lava shelf where each wave of water is pushed into a hole in creating a geyser-like occurrence.
Waimoku Falls, Maui
Wow. Just wow! This 400ft waterfall is one of the most beautiful on the island.
Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai
This 15 miles stretch of coastline is absolutely breathtaking. It may not be the easiest of places to access in Hawaii, but you can sail, hike, or even raft along this coastline.
Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui
This 5 mile hike is not for a beginner, but provides exquisite views of the western mountains of Maui, the ocean, and even of Makamakaole Falls.
Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai
This gorgeous park is lovingly called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” This canyon is located on the Southwest side of Kauai and even though the size may not compare to the actual Grand Canyon, you will not find anything else like it in the Hawaiian Islands.
Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees, Maui
Am I the only one that had no idea these trees even existed? Rainbow tree bark on the Eucalyptus trees! The various colors form due to the outer layer of the tree continually peeling away and changing colors.
Volcanoes National Park, The Big Island
This was my husband’s favorite thing to see in all of Hawaii. There are not many places on earth where you can plan on consistently seeing molten lava without burning to death. Volcanoes National Park is one of the few areas where you can experience this. If conditions are right, the experience is AMAZING.
Ha’iku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven) Hike, Oahu
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.
Enjoy the view (in Palolo) from some of the best hotels, Oahu
Palolo is a neighborhood just outside of Honolulu. The neighborhood lies entirely in a valley. I’m jealous of the residents being surrounded by beautiful mountains and oceans. The views from many of the hotels are famous. (Image taken on the 30th floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel.) If you are looking to stay here the area is less than a mile from the famous Diamond Head hike.
Seven Sacred Pools, Maui
The Seven Sacred Pools are one of the most popular attractions in Maui. This beautiful park has pools for swimming and waterfalls. Even though it is prohibited, you will often see people jumping down the waterfalls. If you go, make sure to go early as it can get quite crowded as the day goes on.
Glass Beach, Hanapepe, Kauai
This unique beach is located in Kauai and the shoreline is formed with pieces of thousands of old glass bottles. This is similar to the famous glass beach feature in Fort Braggs, California. You can read more on that beach here.
Papakolea Beach – Kaʻū, The Big Island
Photo: Anita Gould / Flickr
Not only does Hawaii feature the typical brownish white sand beaches, red sand beaches, and black sand beaches, but Papakolea Beach features a uniquely olive colored sand. This secluded beach gets its green sand from a silicate mineral named olivine, which comes from Hawaiian lavas. I’ve seen green beaches and thought they were gross (they were gross because they were overgrown with algae and filled with rotting seaweed), but the green on Papakolea beach is entirely different and awesome.
Diamond Head Hike, Oahu
Diamond Head is probably the most popular hike in all of Hawaii. The mountain/volcano is located right off Waikiki beach, and the quick hike gives everyone beautiful views of the ocean, city, and lush green island. If you’ve never been to Hawaii, you can’t miss Diamond Head.
Akaka Falls, The Big Island
This park is a great choice for those wanting to see multiple waterfalls, but not wanting a long hike (less than ½ a mile). The first 100 foot waterfall you will see is Kahuna Falls, and the second is the 442 feet Akaka Falls.
Snorkel at Hanauma Bay, Oahu
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.
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