You don’t need to be on honeymoon to enjoy the spectacular sights of the Aloha State. Hell, you don’t even have to be in love – the island life will offer you plenty to fall in love with. Yes, Hawaii’s definitely got something for everyone, with beautiful landscapes spanning over 10,000 square miles, it’s just the place you’ll want to go to indulge your eyes while making everyone else back home horribly jealous. Here’s a list of some of the most breathtaking Hawaii destinations you won’t want to miss:
1. Waimea Canyon
Don’t bust out the bikinis just yet. If you’re looking for the most beautiful places to visit in Hawaii our first place on our list is definitely more of a canteen and hiking boot destination: Waimea Canyon. Though certainly not as large as Arizona’s own Grand Canyon and definitely greener, Waimea is still known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and the name is well deserved. The gorge itself is over 10 miles long and boasts a depth of about 3600 feet – a deep enough fall to give just about anyone looking down a little vertigo. Part of Koke’e State park, there’s plenty to do and see while you’re out here (word on the street is the Pu’u Hinahina lookout is outta sight!), so bring a picnic basket and prepare to take on a few trails. It’s definitely not just a sit back and relax kind of spot, so leave the whiners at home.
2. Wailua Falls
It might certainly seem like you’re on Fantasy Island, but we promise Wailua Falls is quite real, and quite reachable for anyone visiting the island of Kaua’i. And if it seems familiar, it’s because Wailua Falls were featured in the opening credits of the popular show back in the 80s. It’s easily accessible by car, so you could just stop in briefly for a few photo ops at dawn (when they say you’ll get the best views) and be on your way. Or if you’re feeling a bit braver, and have some previous experience, you could also take the slippery hike down and treat yourself to a refreshing swim at the bottom. How’s that for a fantasy come true?
3. Molokai sea cliffs
Your fear of heights will be worth conquering for the view you’ll get at the top of the Molokai sea cliffs, which are the tallest, and certainly the most majestic, in the world. At times reaching as high up as 3,900 feet, the natural beauty of these cliffs is sure to leave you awestruck. Those with a taste for historical sites and/or the macabre might want to check out Kalaupapa National Historical Park (whose eastern cliffs are amongst the highest of all), where Saint Damien once came to the aid of individuals with Hansen’s disease (a.k.a. leprosy). Or if you’re in the mood for a slightly more amusing (and maybe even arousing) side trip, don’t forget to stop by the Phallic Rock, just 200 yards from the Kalaupapa Lookout. It’ll be worth the story.
4. Lanikai Beach
Crystal clear waters, blue skies – it’s what you came to Hawaii for in the first place, right? Lanikai Beach is just the place to find exactly this, a little slice of paradise (appropriate since they say its’ name translates to “heavenly sea”). Leave your worries behind you as you walk along the powdery sands, or take a little dip since, according to locals, Lanikai makes for one of the best swimming beaches in all of Hawaii. If you’re feeling a bit restless, how about some kayaking, canoeing, or even wind surfing? Or maybe you’ll just want to have a few drinks under the coconut trees as you gaze upon the two little offshore islands up ahead, the Mokuluas. Ahh, heaven on earth is an understatement!
5. Mauna Kea
Bet you weren’t really thinking of seeing snow while visiting Hawaii, huh? Well, what if we told you it’s totally possible?! For those who enjoy a colder climate, get yourself over to Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s tallest volcano! Standing proudly at more than 13,000 feet above sea level, the 2 million-year-old lava-filled glacier-covered mountain offers some remarkable views not only of land, but of night time sky. Mauna Kea, literally the “White Mountain”, is home to the world’s largest telescopes, and guides can help point out all the celestial bodies your heart has ever desired to see. From heaven on earth, you’ll get to see the heavens above in a whole new way.
6. Mokuleia Beach
If starry nights and chilly heights aren’t your thing, fret not. We’ve got more beaches and tropical spots for you to check out. Now, anyone that ever caught an episode of two of that mind-boggling show Lost might recognize Mokuleia Beach, which was used as the site for the plane crash that started it all. If J.J. Abrams ain’t your cup of tea though, there’s still plenty to enjoy on this popular sandy beach. While swimming might be a little more difficult here, there’s plenty of fishing and windsurfing to get done here. Just make sure to pay attention to what direction the winds blow – they won’t steer you wrong!
7. Ke’e Beach
When you reach the end of the road in Kauai, you’ll know you’ve arrived at the ever-popular, always inviting Ke’e Beach. Also serving as the entrance for the Kalalau Trail, Ke’e has a personality all its own. Walk along the shore and don’t be surprised to encounter wild chickens; dip down into the water and you might be privy to swimming alongside the highly coveted Ulua fish. And then of course, there’s the ridiculously gorgeous view of the Na Pali Coast, which is home to beautiful, untouched wilderness. Unbeatable; unforgettable.
8. Road to Hana on Maui
Speaking of roads… Who ever thought that some of the most breathtaking views in Hawaii could simply be seen from your passenger window? Our next destination will have you cruising down alongside the Hana coast. Take to the road, the Road to Hana on Maui, that is. Named one of National Geographic’s Drives of a Lifetime, you’ll want to be sure to rent yourself a good car (we suggest something with the top down) and fill ‘er up as you make your way down 50 plus miles, 600 twists and turns, and crossing nearly 60 bridges. From the comfort of your Porsche (alright fine, Ford Focus), you’ll enjoy waterfalls, exotic plants, and of course, the great Pacific beckoning you to stop at every corner. As if that weren’t enough, you’ll also be passing by the Garden of Eden Arboretum and Botanical Garden, a familiar site for anyone that’s ever seen Jurassic Park. You probably won’t encounter any pterodactyls on this trip, but the drive will still become one of your favorite memories. Make sure you stop in Maui to enjoy the views for a while.
9. Kaihalulu Beach
From your road to Hana trip, we offer a little side-venture to Kaihalulu Beach, or the Red Sand Beach, as its more frequently called. This secluded little piece of land is a bit less family-friendly than other spots (depending on your family, of course). There is no shying away from nudity as tourists bare all to enjoy their tan-line free sunbathing, sprawled out without a care in the world. Beauty to some, perhaps a bit much for others. Regardless, these surrealistic red sands are really a sight not to be missed.
10. Mount Kilauea
We’ve left the hottest spot for last on our list. After you’ve hiked mountains and soaked in some sun and ooh-ed and ahh-ed at all the other beauty Hawaii has to offer, you’ll still be taken aback when you experience Mount Kilauea up close and personal. Though it is the youngest of the shield volcanos on Hawaii’s Big Island, it is also one of the world’s largest active volcanos today. Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983 and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, which is great news for volcanologists and adventure-seeking tourists alike. Considered to be somewhat dangerous, Kilauea continues to be one of Hawaii’s most popular attractions, attracting tourists with hopes of catching a close-up glimpse of red-hot lava spewing out (an occurrence that is not always guaranteed upon visitation). Kilauea is also referred to as Pele, the goddess of fire, to the indigenous peoples. May she continue to burn brightly!
Hawaii might be home to some of the greatest surfing spots and sun-bathing hideaways in the U.S., but we hope we’ve shown you she’s got way more to offer than that! Prepare to become enamored with this chain of volcanic beauty – as if you’d have it any other way.
Al words by USA guest blogger Pris Blossom.