It’s no secret that Hawaii is one of the prettiest places on earth. Sure, this place is technically a part of the USA, but it feels like a totally different world. The tropical plants and animals give the place a vibrant feel, and the culture and history of the state are incredibly rich and interesting to learn about.
If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii in the near future, you may be wondering what to see and do while you’re there. The honest truth? You’ll likely have a wonderful time in Hawaii no matter what you do. That said, there are some experiences and destinations that absolutely deserve a spot on your Hawaii travel bucket list.
Read on to learn about our top bucket list ideas for the Rainbow State.
What is a Bucket List?
Not sure what a bucket list is? It is, as you might imagine, a list. This list might contain things to do, people to meet, places to go, and experiences to have before you pass away. In other words, a to-do list for your life for which the deadline is whenever you happen to “kick the bucket”. This is where the term “bucket list” comes from.
Many people keep only a single bucket list that encompasses all aspects of their lives. However, we prefer to keep a travel list for every place we plan to visit. In today’s article we will discuss the things on our Hawaii bucket list and hopefully help you create a Hawaii travel list of your own.
Bucket List Vacations: Hawaii’s National Parks
In our opinion, some of the best things to see in any state are the attractions run by the National Parks Service. From monuments and historic sites to full-fledged national parks, these sites are always well kept, well presented, educational, engaging, and beautiful.
Below are our favorite NPS sites in the state of Hawaii. Add these to your bucket list for a guaranteed fun and interesting time.
#1. Haleakalā National Park
Head to Haleakalā National Park to see endangered species that don’t live anywhere else on earth. Admire the gorgeous volcanic landscapes and explore the sub-tropical rainforests, all while surrounding yourself with Hawaiian culture.
#2. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
An incredible and unique park, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is home to some seriously amazing landscapes. The place is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes and is the perfect place to go to learn about these incredible natural features. Be sure to check out the beautiful lava show put on by Kīlauea late at night.
#3. Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Kalaupapa Peninsula is an interesting place. It was once used as a place to banish those with leprosy and has also been used as a prison. Now, the peninsula is home to the few who are now cured but live out their entire lives in isolation.
#4. Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
Learn about the way native Hawaiians survived in this hot and arid environment. Discover their ancient ways of fishing—including how they built fishponds—and learn about other traditions that carry on into modern times.
#5. Pearl Harbor National Memorial
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a turning point in US history. Learn all about this historic event in the very place that it happened while also remembering those who lost their lives that fateful day.
#6. Pu`ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
Pu`ukoholā Heiau is an amazing place that is rich with Hawaii history. Here you can walk in the footsteps of a king, learn about a stranded sailor who made himself chief of an island, and watch as sharks swim over the top of a submerged temple.
#7. Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Looking for a safe haven? For those who broke the sacred laws known as the kapu, that place was Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau. You see, the punishment for breaking these laws was death, and those who reached Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau would be protected from this fate.
More Hawaii Bucket List Experiences
The parks above will fill quite a bit of time. That said, you probably want more than just NPS sites on your Hawaii bucket list. Lucky for you, there are plenty of other fantastic things to see and do.
The options listed below are 100% bucket list-worthy. Pick and choose the ones that sound most interesting to you or add them all to your list. You won’t regret it!
#8. Start with a Cup of Kona Coffee
Every single day in Hawaii simply must begin with a mug of Kona coffee. Most of us love coffee, but these particular beans take the experience to another level. True coffee fanatics might want to consider going on a tour of the farms that create these beans, or you can plan to attend the yearly Kona Coffee Festival.
#9. Have a Beach Day
Obviously, no trip to Hawaii is complete without a few beach days. Many people love to spend at least a day at Waikiki Beach, as it is one of the most famous beaches in the state (and perhaps the world).
That said, we also highly recommend visiting the quieter beaches of the north coast of Oahu, as well as Keaukaha Beach Park, where you are surrounded by small “islands”, creating an awesome landscape.
No matter where you go, you’re sure to have a lovely time!
#10. Hike Diamond Head
One of the most popular hikes in Oahu is the Diamond Head Trail. Once you check it out for yourself, you’ll understand why. This lovely path takes you right up a mountain and ends with some absolutely stunning views of the city and the seascape. It’s a hike that is well worthwhile.
#11. Explore a Volcanic Crater
Speaking of hikes, we also highly recommend a hike though Kīlauea Iki Crater. This is an absolutely incredible and unique experience that everyone should try while in the Rainbow State. Walk down into the crater to see the steam rising dramatically from the earth and feel the heat that goes along with it.
#12. Walk Through a Lava Tube
Another super cool thing you can do in Hawaii is walk through an actual lava tube! The Thurston Lava Tube is located just a few miles from the crater mentioned above and provides an excellent intro to geology. It’s bizarre to think about the fact that lava used to rush through the very tube you’re walking through.
#13. Taste Fresh Pineapple
Pineapple grows all over Hawaii and is available in almost every store, shop, and restaurant. Get some—we promise you’ll be buying more. This stuff is absolutely incredible.
#14. Try Kālua Pork
Another delicious Hawaiian dish is Kālua Pork. This is pork cooked in a special underground oven called an imu. It’s juicy, flavorful, and the perfect dinner entrée to eat alongside your fresh pineapple.
#15. Spend an Evening on Mauna Kea
While climbing Mauna Kea Mountain is quite challenging, the reward is the amazing view you’ll receive at the end. In the case of this mountain, we highly recommend an evening climb. By timing things just right, you’ll finish your climb with a spectacular sunset. Be sure to stick around after for some of the best stargazing you’ll ever experience.
#16. Attend a Luau
Clearly, a luau is a must while in hawaii. This is a traditional Hawaiian party that includes delicious foods, traditional games and music, and of course, hula dancing. Finding a luau to join is never hard while in the state, but if you do somehow have trouble, just ask around.
#17. Go Snorkeling
Hawaii has some of the best snorkeling in the world. And one of the best things to look for during an underwater adventure? Sea turtles! Sea turtles are frequent visitors to this place, and they are some of the coolest ocean creatures to observe.
#18. Take a Whale or Dolphin Tour
Some other really neat ocean creatures to try to see? Whales and dolphins! Lucky for you, both can be found in the waters around Hawaii. We highly recommend going on a whale- or dolphin-watching tour to check out these magnificent mammals.
#19. Swim with Manta Rays
Manta rays are also well worth getting to know during your time in the state. Manta ray snorkeling trips are easy enough to find, and are well worth the investment, as they allow you to see some seriously amazing creatures right up close.
#20. Explore Waimea Valley
Waimea Valley is a beautiful little gem. Many will recognize the falls here as the iconic falls from the Lost TV show, but even those who have never seen Lost will appreciate the beauty of the place. Trees, flowers, and shrubs of all sorts fill the place with natural color and lovely smells, and you can even swim in the waterfall!
#21. Walk to the Islet of Mokoliʻi
While there are only eight main Hawaiian islands, there are a number of smaller islets. One of these is Mokoli’i, a cute little islet about ⅓ of a mile from Kualoa Point on Oahu. At low tide, it’s possible to walk to Mokoli’i and do a bit of exploring. Just be sure to walk back before the tide rises!
#22. Check Out Rainbow Falls
Hawaii is called the Rainbow State for a reason. The place is chock-full of rainbows. Generally speaking, these happen in the sky after a rainstorm. However, another kind of rainbow can be found on the Big Island at Rainbow Falls. Here, the light hits the water just right, creating gorgeous rainbows.
#23. Stroll Liliuokalani Park and Gardens
If you’ll be in downtown Hilo at all, Liliuokalani Park and Gardens is an excellent place to visit. The lovely plants and well-manicured lawns create a very zen space that is perfect for a relaxing stroll.
#24. Drive the Hana Highway
Finally, there is the Hana Highway. This road stretches for over 60 miles past incredible scenery such as amazing waterfalls, awesome ocean vistas, and gorgeous rainforests. It’s a wonderful way to see a lot of the island relatively quickly and is a must-do for Maui visitors.
Clearly, there’s no denying the fact that Hawaii has a lot of amazing things to see put on your Hawaii bucket list. The best way to see as many as possible? A campervan! Traveling in an RV allows you to move from one spot to another easily so you can see more things. Why not book your Hawaii RV rental today?