Hawaii's beaches may be beautiful, but the islands have other great activities for tourists that don't involve sitting in the sun on a lounge chair all day.
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Even though Hawaii is known for its breathtaking beaches, the 50th state actually offers much more than just a swim in crystalline waters and great waves to surf. Discover the archipelago’s wonders — away from its sandy stretches — with this selection of activities we’ve come up with for you.
From the soaring cliffs of the Waimea Canyon in Kauai to the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Oahu, Hawaii will win the hearts even of those who are allergic to relaxing on lounge chairs under the sun.Check out the best sun-safe activities to do while visiting any of the islands — just make sure to slather on some SPF first.
View from the Road to Hana.
MauiHana and the Pools of OheoKnown as “the last of the unspoiled Hawaiian frontiers,” the serene village of Hana is one of island’s gems. This isolated spot in eastern Maui is a natural wonder (and a good two- to four-hour drive from the main tourist areas), with a rugged, untouched coastline, beautiful waterfalls, gorgeous lookouts on the way, and the charming Hasegawa General Store — a family-run business that has been around for four generations.
Some 15 miles south, the popular Pools of Oheo are the perfect spot for a dip in a tranquil lagoon with a waterfall or a hike through the rainforest.Lahaina and the Iao Valley State Park
The town of Lahaina, once the whaling capital of the Pacific, has managed to retain its historic charm despite the development and the tourism. Some of the best restaurants, bars and art galleries are here, and visitors flock to the docks to hop on one of the numerous whale-watching cruises organized by several travel agents in town.
For those who want to add some cultural activities to the mix, the Lahaina Jodo Mission is a serene spot, home to one of the largest statues of Buddha outside Asia. One of Maui’s most recognizable landmarks, the Iao Valley State Park and its 1,200-foot needle, is less than an hour away and features breathtaking views of the valley, a few great trails and a nature center.
Pearl Harbor Memorial
The USS Arizona Memorial’s visitor center offers several tours a day around the site where one of the turning points in American history took place. Here you’ll find where the majority of the sailors killed during the attack by the Japanese Imperial Forces rest, and there are several monuments commemorating the events of that infamous Dec. 7, 1941 that are open to the public.Diamond Head
Forget Waikiki and its crowded beaches, and head south towards the iconic silhouette of the Diamond Head (Leahi). This 760-foot tuff crater was used as a military lookout in the early 20th century, and visitors can still explore the bunkers and tunnels, and enjoy some of the best views in Hawaii.Kauai
This smaller yet still impressive version of the Grand Canyon is one of the natural must-sees in Kauai. There are very few lookouts, so make sure to go all the way to the Kokee State Park for the best views of the gorges and the soaring cliffs of the Napali Coast. There are restrooms, picnic areas and a number of trails ranging from easy to challenging.The North Shore
Those who want to get a better close-up of the Napali Cliffs should head to the North Shore, where spectacular vistas, whale-watching spots and lovely towns await. While Princeville attracts tourists for its world-class golf courses, the pretty town of Hanalei is famous for its galleries, restaurants and shops.
Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge is home to the historic Kilauea Lighthouse, arguably one of the best whale-watching spots in Kauai.Big IslandHistoric Kailua Village
Four telescopes of the Mauna Kea Observatory
Once the Hawaiian Royal Family’s quiet summer retreat, Kailua is now a lively seaside town full of shops and restaurants. For a sample of Kailua’s rich history check out Hulihee Palace, the summerhouse of the royals in the 19th century; or the Ahuena Heiau, King Kamehameha’s personal religious site, located inside the Kona Beach Hotel.Mauna KeaThis imposing dormant volcano towers almost 14,000 feet above the Big Island, offering not only jaw-dropping views, but also the best stargazing programs in Hawaii. (Bonus: They’re free!) There are several trails through stunning volcanic formations, escorted summit tours and lots of activities organized daily by the Onizuka Center.LanaiKeahiakawelo
This barren landscape, known as the Garden of Gods, transports the visitor to a desolate planet with no vegetation and a mysterious lunar topography from which Molokai Island can be seen on clear days. The best time of the day to visit it is at dusk, when the sun sets off the myriad colors of the spires and rocks scattered everywhere.Kaunolu
This ancient Hawaiian fishing village, located on the southern tip of the island, is where King Kamehameha the Great would spend the summer months in the late 18th century. It is thought to have been first inhabited in the 15th century, and visitors can see the foundations of dozens of ancient homes, walls, and burial sites. It is accessible by four-wheel drive vehicle only.
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