12 Places In Hawaii Worth Visiting
Wondering if the activities you booked are “worth it?” This is Hawaii we are talking about, so most likely the answer will be yes! Here are some of the best Hawaii places worth visiting.
The Top 12 Places In Hawaii Worth Visiting
Visitors to Hawaii often wonder if their planned activities are “worth it.” Peruse some Hawaii visitor forums and the question of whether something is “worth it” comes up time and time again. “Is the long drive worth it?” “Is it worth the entry fee?” “Is it worth the hike?” But when it comes to some of Hawaii’s best natural treasures, there is no question— it is always worth it. From the Mars-like sands at Haleakala Crater to dramatic waterfalls on the Big Island, here are 12 places in Hawaii worth visiting.
Na Pali Coast – Kauaʻi
Often called the jewel of the Pacific, the 17-mile-long Na Pali Coast is one of Hawaii’s last untouched places. It is a place of rugged beauty: dramatic ridge lines rise from the sea, waterfalls unspool down vertical emerald cliffs, and unspoiled beaches dot the shoreline. There are no roads to the Na Pali Coast— getting here requires a treacherous 22-mile hike, a boat ride, or a helicopter flight.
The safest, most economical way to visit is via a boat excursion. Snorkel tours and sunset cruises visit the coast daily, with departures from Hanalei and Port Allen. Alternatively, helicopter tours allow visitors to fully absorb the Na Pali Coast’s dramatic landscape and visit other stunning, hard-to-reach locales around the island.
Haleakala Crater – Maui
Although Haleakala Crater is best known for its magical sunrise, a visit to Maui’s tallest peak is worth the sinuous drive at any time of day. In fact, the expansive summit district of Haleakala National Park is worthy of a full-day exploration. Miles of rugged trails wind through Haleakala’s 2,600-foot-deep crater, past towering cinder cones, remote backcountry cabins, and populations of endangered Nene geese. Near the summit, massive telescopes— manned by the US Air Force and the University of Hawaii— point skyward. Meanwhile, epic panoramas abound.
The 10,023-foot summit presents views of the Big Island’s tallest peaks and a sweeping bird’s-eye-perspective of Maui. Visitors can also explore the park’s many lookouts, visitor centers, and a lush coniferous forest. Entry to Haleakala National Park is $30 per vehicle. Reservations must be made to enter the park between 3 am and 7 am. Park passes are valid for three days and can be used to enter HNP’s Kipahulu district.
Iolani Palace – Oahu
Set in the heart of downtown Honolulu, the Iolani Palace offers a look back in time to Hawaii’s days as a self-sufficient kingdom. The islands were once governed by dignified monarchs, and the regal palace is a testament to their avant-garde rule. When Iolani was completed in 1882, it was considered one of the finest palaces in the world. Iolani Palace was outfitted with indoor plumbing, a telephone, and electricity— several years before the White House installed its first electric lights.
Sadly, it was here that the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom took place, resulting in Hawaii’s last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, being imprisoned within the palace walls for over eight months. Today, Iolani is the only royal palace in the United States, welcoming visitors who come to admire the building’s grandeur and learn about Hawaiian history. Guided and self-guided tours are available, but options vary based on the day of the week and time. Reservations are highly recommended.
Waimoku Falls – Maui
Waimoku Falls is a 400-foot waterfall located in the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park. Unlike the roadside falls that proliferate on Maui’s eastern coast, Waimoku isn’t your average drive-by waterfall— getting here requires a four-mile round trip trek through dense rainforest on the Pipiwai Trail.
The hike to Waimoku is a treat in itself: the Pipiwai Trail snakes up Oheo Gulch through thick bamboo forests, past giant banyan trees, and a bonus waterfall lookout. At last, the trail deposits hikers near the base of Waimoku Falls, which spills 400 feet down a sheer cliff face into a verdant basin below. Entry to Haleakala National Park is $30 per vehicle. Park passes are valid for three days and can be used to enter HNP’s summit district.
Waiʻanapanapa State Park – Maui
Waiʻanapanapa State Park is one of the most popular stops on the Road to Hana. Nestled on 122 acres near Hana Town, the park is home to a number of visitor attractions— the crown jewel being Pailoa black sand beach. But don’t let Pailoa’s glistening black sands steal the brunt of your attention— after all, visitors are only allotted several hours in the park per the new reservation system.
Waiʻanapanapa is brimming with hiking trails and spellbinding historical sites waiting to be explored. On your visit, pencil in some time to wander the Ke Ala Loa O Maui trail. This three-mile trail is part of the King’s Highway— a route built under the reign of Chief Piilani in the 15th century, once used to circumnavigate the island. The Waianapanapa portion of the trail travels along a dramatic lava rock coastline, revealing views of ancient heiaus, blowholes, and native forests. Reservations are required. Entry costs $5 per person.
Molokini Crater – Maui
Often touted as one of Hawaii’s finest snorkeling spots, Molokini Crater is known for its impossibly clear waters, vibrant coral reef, and teeming populations of tropical fish. But it’s not the snorkeling alone that makes the crescent-shaped islet a must-visit: it’s the crater’s unique location. The now-dormant volcanic crater sits two miles off the south Maui coast, only accessible by boat.
Climb aboard any Molokini excursion, and you’ll enjoy spectacular views, epic snorkeling, and unparalleled whale-watching opportunities (in season). For a dose of exclusiveness, book a tour that snorkels Molokini’s rarely-seen back wall, which steeply drops to a depth of over 300 feet.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Big Island
Hawaii Island is alive, and you can find proof at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Comprising two of the world’s most active volcanoes— Mauna Loa and Kilauea— the park is bristling with otherworldly sights. Steam billows from deep cracks in the earth. Colorful crystals spring from sulfur deposits. And, on certain occasions, the Halemaumau Crater glows red with boiling lava.
Beyond the volcanic activity, the National Park boasts countless hikes, unique exhibits, and several beautiful drives. Entry is $30 per vehicle.
Akaka Falls – Big Island
Hilo averages a whopping 156 inches of rainfall a year, resulting in evergreen countryside and plenty of streaming waterfalls. The most accessible— and awe-inspiring— of said waterfalls is Akaka Falls. Nestled in a lush valley north of Hilo, Akaka Falls tumbles 442 feet into a stream-eroded gorge.
At the state park, visitors can beeline it to the falls or wander the short-but-scenic loop trail, which meanders through dense tropical foliage and past a lookout for the 100-foot Kahuna Falls, eventually leading to Akaka. Entry is $5 per person.
Puʻuhonua O Honaunau – Big Island
Puʻuhonua O Honaunau, often called “Place of Refuge,” was once a sanctuary for those who broke kapu— a rigid set of laws that used to govern Old Hawaii. The punishment for breaking the kapu was death, and the only way to avoid the fatal penalty was to reach a nearby Puʻuhonua in time. Once within the Puʻuhonua walls, kapu breakers were pardoned by a kahuna and free to live their lives within the Place of Refuge. Today, Puʻuhonua O Honaunau is a living piece of Hawaiian history.
The park is home to sacred temples adorned with figures of Hawaiian gods and ancient walls that enclose the sanctuary. In addition to being an alluring historical sight, Puʻuhonua O Honaunau is breathtaking, with brilliant white sand and palm tree groves. Be sure to pack your camera! Puʻuhonua O Honaunau is a National Historic Park, open 8:30 am to 4:30 pm daily. Entry is $20 per vehicle.
ʻIao Valley State Monument – Maui
Serving as one of Central Maui’s biggest attractions, ʻIao Valley draws scores of visitors who come to admire the area’s dramatic and perpetually lush landscape. Millennia of winds and rains sculpted Iao into the striking valley it is today and formed one of the monument’s most famous attractions: the Iao Needle, a 1,200-foot columnar rock. Walking trails meander through the park, leading to panoramic lookouts and the banks of a stream that pours from the heart of the valley— one of the rainiest places on earth.
As tranquil as ʻIao is today, the valley was once the site of a violent battle, where both Maui and King Kamehameha’s armies clashed. If ʻIao Valley’s emerald walls could talk… Entry is $5 per person.
And for those wanting more from this now peaceful and beautiful region, staying at the Iao Valley Inn is highly recommended.
Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse – Oahu
The historic Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse is perched on Oahu’s easternmost point, situated on a 600-foot sea cliff overlooking Makapuʻu Beach. Getting here requires an easy trek on a paved, 2.5-mile out-and-back trail, but be warned: there’s no shade along the way, and the trail is one of the most popular on the island, so prepare for intense heat and crowds. However, the payoff is well worth it: hikers who reach the lookout are rewarded with unparalleled views of Oahu’s windward coast, numerous offshore islets, Koko Head, and, on a clear day, Molokai. In whale season, hikers are afforded exceptional whale-watching opportunities, complemented by the lookout’s on-site telescope.
Waimea Canyon State Park – Kauaʻi
Dubbed the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific,’ Waimea Canyon is a natural masterpiece. The epic gorge was eroded over four million years by the steady waters of the Waimea River and the cataclysmic collapse of Kauai’s central volcano. Today the canyon measures 14 miles long, 3,600 feet deep, and a mile wide. Visitors can appreciate the canyon’s grandeur at Waimea Canyon State Park, where scenic drives, hiking trails, and sweeping views of waterfalls and craggy peaks abound.
Carve out some time to explore one of the park’s user-friendly hiking trails, like the short-but-sweet Iliau Nature Loop Trail. This 0.4-mile nature trail is great for families and provides panoramic canyon views. But don’t end your day at Waimea Canyon— Kokeʻe State Park is just a few miles up the road. Here, visitors will find breathtaking vistas of the Na Pali Coast, a natural history museum, a lodge, and over 45 miles of hiking trails. Entry at both parks is $5 per person.
Enjoy the room and elevation afforded by a double decker catamaran, given unprecedented views. Expert marine naturalists will guide you through your whale watch and answer all your humpback questions.
Trilogy has been hosting Maui visitors for over 40 years, and the knowledgeable crew and spacious catamarans make for an informative and comfortable day on the water.