Hawaii is not just beautiful sandy beaches and surfing, which I found out when I lived in Hawaii for 1.5 years.
I was stationed as a high school principal and teacher for a Danish Folk High School principal, where I had groups of Danish and Swedish students who would be staying in Hawaii for 2-3 months at a time.
When I first traveled to Hawaii in 2013, I didn’t know much about the tropical islands. My knowledge of Hawaii activities, like most others, was limited to lying on the beach and dancing hula.
Waipio Valley Trail on Big Island
I was therefore very pleasantly surprised when I found out how much more Hawaii has to offer, especially for someone like me who loves nature and likes to challenge myself.
With this blog post, I want to inspire you with some of the many opportunities available in Hawaii, besides lying on the many beautiful beaches.
Among the many activities in Hawaii, these are some of my best recommendations.
Hiking in all levels of difficulty
I love to hike and have traveled in many parts of the world, but never experienced such beautiful hiking trails as those found in Hawaii.
Kalalau Trail on Kauai
There are many hiking trails in the Hawaiian Islands and they are found in almost every difficulty and length. Whether you’ve never hiked before or you are a tanned hiker, there are routes where everyone can join.
Lulumahu Falls Trail on Oahu
Common to the many routes is that you get a fantastic nature experience with everything from rainforests and waterfalls, to the most spectacular views.
Lanikai Pillbox Trail on Oahu
Some of the routes may involve easier mountaineering and narrow trails along steep slopes. Other routes go through valleys and end up on beautiful beaches. And then there are routes that are concentrated around volcanic craters.
Kilauea vulkankrater on Big Island
Some of the routes are not very well signposted and it’s not always easy to find out where a route starts. Therefore, it can be a bit difficult for tourists on their own to find the routes without having to hire a guide.
However, there are also advantages to the bad signage – the routes are not packed with tourists and you often have them to yourself.
HERE you will find all of Hawaii’s trails – and see the routes difficulty and length.
World class diving & snorkeling in Hawaii
Diving in Hawaii is a great experience and different from island to island. But no matter which island you dive on, you will experience an unbelievably beautiful world of colored coral and fish.
Whether you are scuba diving or snorkeling, there is plenty to look at just below sea level. Each island has its own amazing scuba diving and snorkeling locations, all of which have something different to offer.
One of my great experiences has been on the Big Island, where we in the evening dived and snorkeled with giant stingray several times and watched them eat. Each time there have been approx. 15-20 stingrays that elegantly glide through the water with their giant “wings” – a very special experience that I will never forget.
Another great experience is to dive through lava tunnels and experience the unique portrayal of black lava rock and colorful coral reefs. Or wreck dive on Oahu.
In many places you will be able to get very close to curious and very confident sea turtles.
However, it’s important to note that no matter how close you get to both corals and sea creatures, don’t NEVER touch them – if you touch a sea turtle you risk a $10,000 fine.
On Maui you can go to the Molokini Islands where the wildlife is absolutely amazing or to the Lanai where you can experience 2 lava cathedrals.
On Kauai, you get a mix of it all while getting close to the “Forbidden Island” Ni’ihau – the only island that’s still 100% Hawaiian and only can be visited with the permission of the people living there.
Haleakala Nationalpark – Mauis largest volcano
Another great experience is driving to the top of Haleakala on Maui. Haleakala is Maui’s highest point and largest volcano. From the top you’ll see a fantastic sunrise, and afterwards when you walk back down you’ll get through an area that most of all looks like the planet Mars.
It’s a very cold but great experience if you are on Maui. Be aware that you must have a reservation – you can’t, as before, just drive up and see the sunrise.
There’s limited parking and as it has become a very popular place among tourists, it’s now necessary to have a reservation to park.
You can only book 2 months in advance and you also have to pay admission to the national park.
The admission ticket is valid for 3 days and can be purchased at the park entrance.
Sunrise from Haleakala
There are a number of different hiking routes through the crater. The longest of them at 21 km, the Keonehe’ehe’e Trail, also called Sliding Sands, is the most recommended.
On this route, be prepared to go uphill in several places on the Keonehe’ehe’e Trail.
Hike through the Haleakala Crater
Road to Hana on Maui – one of the greatest nature experiences
“The Road to Hana” on Maui is a distance of about 100 km which is a great experience. The tour offers waterfalls, small hiking routes, fantastic beaches, tide pools and much more.
Start your trip early in the morning to avoid long queues. On a large part of the trip, there is only one track, the roads are narrow and there are many one track bridges. It’s therefore a good idea to leave early – also so you have the opportunity, in several places, to stop along the way and take photos.
In addition, it may be a good idea to bring some driving sickness pills. I’ve never been sick from driving before, until I was a passenger in a car on this stretch. There are a lot of sharp turns on the way.
Parachuting in Hawaii
If you want an adrenaline rush, then you must try parachuting.
Parachuting takes place only from the North Shore of Oahu. I have parachuted 5 times in Hawaii and it’s a completely indescribable feeling.
To jump out of the plane and be in free fall by several hundred kilometers per hour, for subsequent float through the air and enjoy the view over the North Shores beautiful coastline from the parachute, is a totally unforgettable experience.
My first parachute jump on Oahu
Surfing, SUP boarding and kayaking
Something you associate with Hawaii is surfing. It’s also very widespread, and when the waves are good, many people are surfing.
At Waikiki Beach you always see a lot of tourists with their surf instructors.
I got surf lessons myself at Waikiki Beach, but besides it’s fun, it’s also mega hard and definitely not easy. With a good deal of patience and an unknown number of attempts, I finally learned it. However, I am by no means a pro.
In winter, you can experience the world’s largest surfing competition on the North Shore of Oahu, which is definitely a must see if you’re in Hawaii at the time. It’s horrifying to see how high the waves are, and the respect for the surfers increases with the height of the waves.
In addition to surfing, there are also many who SUP board (stand up paddle boarding).
It’s easier to learn how to SUP board than surfing, but it’s just as hard and you can feel it in every muscle in the body.
I would definitely recommend trying it, but if you haven’t tried it before, start somewhere without waves. To SUP board requires some balance and control to stay on the board – especially when there are waves.
A good place to try it is in Haleiwa on the North Shore of Oahu or on the Wailua River on Kauai. In both places there are small rivers where the water is completely still and it can be practiced at your own pace while enjoying nature.
SUP boarding in Haleiwa on the North Shore
In many places you can rent kayaks which is a nice activity for all ages and doesn’t require special skills.
A good recommendation for kayaking places is the Mokulua Islands at Lanikai Beach. Here you will find a stunningly beautiful coastline overlooking Lanikai and Waimanalo beach parks with the mountains in the background. It can’t get much better.
Helicopter ride – the ultimate view
Other activities that I highly recommend are the helicopter trips across the islands of Big Island and Kauai, as these 2 islands are particularly unique and beautiful in their own way.
Big Island because of the active volcano, where the amazing contrasts between the vast amount of lava and the lush landscape are huge and unique.
Kilauea vulkanen on Big Island
Kauai because the island is the most fertile of all the islands, and possesses the Pacific Ocean’s response to the Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali coast, which is indescribably beautiful.
Na Pali-kysten on Kauai
Boat trips with the chance to spot dolphins
A boat trip to the Napali coast on Kauai is highly recommended – if you skip the Kalalau hiking route. You get very close and enjoy a spectacular view of the cliffs, valleys, waterfalls and beaches, as taken from an adventure book. It’s so beautiful and magnificent.
Na Pali-kysten on Kauai
On the Big Island, on the Kona side, and on Oahu at Waimea you can go on boat trips. On these boat trips you may be lucky to see and swim with dolphins, as well as snorkeling with sea turtles.
Every time I have been on these boat trips, I have seen and swam with dolphins. It’s pure magic to see and experience them swimming, jumping and playing in the water, and not least listening to them talk underwater.
Dolphins on a snorkeling trip on Oahu
There are plenty of experiences in Hawaii, and many more than the ones I’ve described.
One thing is for sure, you won’t be bored on a trip to Hawaii.
If you would like to read more about Hawaii or have questions related to Hawaii, then you are most welcome to visit my website “Group Adventure“. A small travel agency with a blog that I launched in early 2019.
I arrange active group trips to Hawaii, but also write blog posts about everything worth knowing about Hawaii.
To me, Hawaii is so much more than a regular destination. To understand what paradise Hawaii is, you have to visit the islands, because Hawaii is far more than just beaches.
Hawaii is beautiful scenery, activities and not least a culture that is very special on the islands – and therefore also is called “The Aloha Spirit” – which is truly true and must be experienced.
My name is Anna Kristensen. I have lived, worked, studied and traveled for about 10 years and have visited more than 60 countries. I am a very passionate and adventurous person who loves nature, meeting with locals and adventure. I moved back to Denmark and more specifically Copenhagen 4 years ago, but as often as I can, I go on adventures out in the big world.
Aloha og Mahalo 🙂