Four Must-See Locations on Four Islands

kualoa valley

Four Must-See Locations on Four Islands

Usually, the only downside to a vacation is that, at some point, it has to end. As much as we’d love for them to go on for just a few more days, life and time constraints get in the way. That being said, any amount of time spent in the Hawaiian Islands is going to be time well spent and will become the source of memories you won’t soon forget.

If you find yourself in a time crunch and have to be extra selective about what attractions, adventures, and locations to focus on, here’s a list of one location on each of the four main islands that you should pay close attention to.

Whether you’re adventuring on Kauai, relaxing on the Big Island, enjoying the weather on Maui, or exploring Oahu, be sure to make time to experience these four incredible locations.

Kualoa Ranch, Oahu

Make a new Jurassic friend, Kualoa Ranch Oahu

On Oahu, it’s a toss-up between Pearl Harbor and Kualoa Ranch, but if it’s adventure and thrills you’re looking for, the Kualoa is a great choice.

The first things you notice about this Windward Oahu swatch of beauty are the exquisite vistas that await you. Large fields of rolling hills, dense stretches of forestry, golden sandy beaches – it’s no wonder many Hollywood studios have turned to the ranch as a backdrop for their films.

Some of the most recognizable blockbusters have scenes filmed at Kualoa, and if following in the footsteps of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars piques your interest, you can set off on an ATV journey across the ranch. Not only can you see instantly-recognizable locations of movies and TV shows shot here, you also get a first-rate view of the awe-inspiring beauty of Oahu.

Hana, Maui

Waterfall and a bridge on the road to Hana, Maui

The town of Hana takes up a small chunk of the eastern coast of Maui but what it has to offer makes it seem so much bigger. Beyond exploring the quaint town and enjoying plenty of local culture and flair, the drive to Hana may be one of the most exciting parts about visiting.

The road to Hana is a 68-mile excursion that takes you down a winding road of over 600 curves and plenty of places to pull off to enjoy the natural beauty of the island. The fun starts well before you hit town, as you’re likely to happen upon multiple hidden waterfalls.

When you come to Hana, you come for the view along the road there and stay for the fun of being in an authentic old Hawaiian town.

 

 

Hilo, Hawaii

Epic Lava Hickers
Hiking across an ancient lava field, Hilo Hawaii

Located on the eastern side of the Big Island, Hilo packs an incredible punch that’s brimming with Hawaiian culture, history, and plenty of attractions to see. The town of Hilo overlooks Hilo Bay and owing to it’s location on the rainy side of the island, it’s incredibly lush and green all year long.

When you’re ready for a break from the quaint town of Hilo and its beautiful surroundings, you can set off on a hike through the nearby lava fields or better yet, take a helicopter ride to get a bird’s-eye view of the ongoing eruption of Kilauea.

Hilo is also home to the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Company, Hilo Tropical Gardens, Mokupapapa Discovery Center, and the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo.

 

 

Koloa, Kauai

Historic sugar mill, Koloa Kauai

If it’s an all-natural glimpse into the Hawaiian Islands you’re looking for, Koloa is the place for you. The attractions in and around this small town on Kauai showcase the beauty of the island along with its agricultural importance.

The Old Sugar Mill of Koloa may be the most important building on Kauai. Today, it’s a National Historic Landmark that tells the story of the first successful large-scale sugar operation in the Hawaiian Islands. You can also explore Makauwahi Cave, enjoy the view from Spouting Horn lookout, and be intrigued by the local culture at Kaneiolouma Heiau.

 

 

The Crater and the Party: Oahu’s Most Exclusive Luau

The Crater and the Party: Oahu’s Most Exclusive Luau

You’ve come to Hawaii for an authentic island experience and everywhere you look, there seems to be an opportunity to create another memory of paradise that will stick with you forever. One event that every visitor needs to experience is an authentic Hawaiian luau – one of the most culturally important activities the islands have to offer.

Oahu has no shortage of incredible authentic luaus, but there’s one that stands out among the myriad of options. The Diamond Head Luau expertly mixes Hawaiian culture with the natural awe of an ancient volcanic crater formed hundreds of thousands of years ago.

On the southern coast of Oahu, it’s impossible to miss Diamond Head. Located to the southeast of Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, the crater has long played a role in the island’s history. From ancient Hawaiian temples to military bases, the crater has been used through the years for a variety of purposes.

The Diamond Head Luau

Flower Lei Making
Flower lei making

Today, Diamond Head provides a stunning backdrop for what’s considered Oahu’s most exclusive luau. The guest list is short, so be sure to get your name on it before you even leave for your vacation. Those who do get to enjoy the Diamond Head Luau are treated to an experience that showcases some of the most colorful aspects of Hawaiian culture, from the delicious spread of traditional and modern food for all to enjoy to the introduction to local customs like basket weaving, lei making, and hula lessons.

 

 

 

 

 

The Luau Experience

Diamond Head Luau Polynesians
Polynesian dancers

The moment you arrive you’re immersed in an incredible culture with a lei greeting – a warm Hawaiian welcome. The smaller group of guests lets you mingle with those around you while you wait for the festivities to truly begin. Once the night is kicked off, it’s an endless stream of locally inspired music, lots of expertly prepared food, and a  healthy dose of Hawaiian culture.

Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to try ukulele lessons or receive a (temporary) Hawaiian tattoo. Beyond the food, the Diamond Head Luau is alive with Hawaiian and Polynesian entertainment, including hula dancers who showcase the customary Hawaiian dance.

The Diamond Head Luau is one of Oahu’s finest experiences; one that serves as an introduction to the Pacific influences that have made Hawaii into the paradise it is today.

Aloha and Welcome to Oahu!

Aloha and Welcome to Oahu!

Oahu is known as “The Gathering Place,” which is fitting as it’s the most popular destination for travelers to the islands – and for good cause. From the North Shore to the southern beaches, the island is brimming with activities to enjoy and stunning sights to see, and to ensure every visitor to the island gets the experience they deserve, we’ve compiled this quick guide to the island.

The North Shore

Map of Oahu

When people talk about Oahu, they often mean the beaches of Waikiki. Of course they’re spectacularly beautiful, but limiting oneself the southern edge of the island means missing out on many hidden gems in other parts of Oahu.

The North Shore is a spark of natural beauty, brimming with expansive forest reserves, laid-back towns, and miles of golden, sandy beaches. Botanical gardens stretch across acres of land while waterfalls are tucked away in the deepest reaches of thick, lush jungles. For a look at old Oahu culture, take a stop at Waimea Valley for a string of cultural exhibits.

It’s pretty much the opposite of Waikiki, and also a terrific complement to it.

The Windward Side

Between the North Shore and the southern edge of Oahu is the Windward Side. Here, you can enjoy stretches of soft beach that overlook scenic islets like Mokolii, more commonly known as Chinaman’s Hat.

This is also the location of Kualoa Ranch, a popular excursion for travelers to Oahu. Familiar to visitors from movies like Jurassic Park and Mighty Joe Young, Kualoa Ranch hosts an array of fun activities, like ATV rides over rolling plains and ziplining over some of Hollywood’s favorite locations.

Pearl Harbor

Aerial View of Pearl Harbor
USS Arizona Memorial and Battleship Missouri

Before you hit the beach, make a stop at a slice of Oahu that’s of major historical importance. Pearl Harbor was the site of the December 7, 1941 surprise Japanese attack that marked the start of World War II for the US.

Though still an active military base, visitors can explore the Pearl Harbor’s many memorials and exhibits for an in-depth look at the events of that long-ago Sunday morning. Take a short boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial to pay respects to the 1,177 men who lost their lives when the mighty battleship exploded and sank. Get a taste of what life was like aboard a submarine during World War II at the Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. Stand on the deck of the Battleship Missouri where the surrender documents ending the war were signed.

 

 

Waikiki

No look at the wonders of Oahu would be complete without mentioning the place that’s the very symbol of Hawaii tourism. Waikiki is a tourist district extraordinaire just minutes from historic downtown Honolulu and Diamond Head Crater. Nestled between these historically fascinating settings, Waikiki offers fun in the sun and world-class dining and shopping along with some quirky adventures, like a visit to the Waikiki Aquarium or a boat ride to snorkel in the crystalline waters of the Pacific.