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Best things to do in Hawaii

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Where in the world: USA  /  Hawaii
Visitors can be overwhelmed by the number of things to do in Hawaii, with activities available both in urban centers and across the craggy interior landscapes. Sun worshippers can take advantage of white-tipped waves kissing well-equipped beaches, which offer something for athletic types and those wishing to grab a colorful cocktail at one of Honolulu's bright beachside bars. Take a hike up to the top of Haleakala Crater--the world's largest dormant volcano--for some of the best sunrises and sunsets you will ever see.

Hawaii is best known for its Scuba & Snorkeling, Beaches, and Zipline.

Top 15 things to do in Hawaii

1. USS Arizona Memorial, Honolulu

USS Arizona Memorial marks the final resting place of one of the most iconic World War II battleships destroyed in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. More than 1,100 sailors and marines died here when Japanese forces attacked the harbor. The memorial, constructed in 1962, attracts nearly 1 million people each year. Begin your tour at the visitor center, where you can listen to a free talk about that fateful day and watch a brief documentary about the attack. You can then take a shuttle boat to the memorial, which straddles the hull of the sunken battleship. Remember that the memorial admits only a limited number of visitors each day, so it is a good idea to book a tour well in advance. Set aside time for a visit to the memorial museum so you can take in the personal stories of American soldiers who fought and died here.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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2. Diamond Head State Monument, Honolulu

One of the first natural landmarks you see as you arrive in Honolulu, Diamond Head State Monument offers several vantage points with views of the entire island. Formed by volcanic eruptions more than 150,000 years ago, this tuff cone covers 141 hectares (350 acres). A well-beaten path leads partway to the top. Lengthy metal and concrete staircases make it easier to traverse the steepest sections, and the very narrow tunnels are illuminated. Climb to the summit if you feel fit, or enjoy the views from the lookouts along the way. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, and bring plenty of water and a snack.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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3. Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

Soak up Hawaii’s island charm while relaxing on the sandy shores of Waikiki Beach. Located on the south shore of Honolulu, the beach borders the well-known neighborhood of Waikiki, once a playground for Hawaiian royalty. Known for its pristine white sand, bathtub temperatures, and spectacular views of the Diamond Head tuff cone, the beach serves as a popular place for watersports and sunbathing year-round. Try your hand at riding the waves with a surf lesson, or take a stroll along the boardwalk, where you will find a variety of oceanside dining options and street vendors.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
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4. Scuba & Snorkeling, Lahaina

A guided snorkeling or scuba diving trip from Lahaina allows you to take a break from the bustling streets and beaches of this popular getaway and explore the island's turquoise waters teeming with vibrant marine life. With a vast variety of guided tours--by luxury sailing boat, speedboat, or kayak--you'll easily choose one that suits your budget and schedule. Whether you prefer to break a sweat and paddle or lay back and relax on a comfy boat deck, you'll visit some of the best snorkeling and diving spots in the area, including Molokini Crater, Honolua Bay, and Turtle Town. Most tours include complimentary breakfast or lunch (if not both) regardless of their duration (2 to 6 hours).
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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5. Waimea Canyon State Park, Waimea

Enjoy spectacular views of crested buttes and rugged red cliffs while hiking the geological wonder that is Waimea Canyon State Park. Fondly known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” the canyon stretches over 22.5 km (14 mi) and is 1,097 m (3,600 ft) deep. Hike along the deep valley gorge to the Waimea Overlook to admire the vivid red and green coloring of the volcanic canyon and for panoramic views of the Kaua’i interior. You can rent a car to explore the area or catch a tour bus to the top of the canyon. Be sure to carry a jacket, as the area tends to be very windy.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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6. Hana Highway - Road to Hana, Maui

One of the area's most famous highways, Hana Highway - Road to Hana is about the journey rather than the destination. Your 84 km (52 mi) trip between Kahului and Hana will guide you to some of the island's most beautiful sites, many of which are significant in local mythology. You can drive the road yourself or take a tour. The latter is a better option for nervous drivers because the winding road is very narrow. Along the way, you'll see towering waterfalls, miles of coastline, and gardens, and will have several opportunities for hiking or swimming. Food vendors are dotted along the highway, but it's a good idea to bring water and snacks with you. Stop at Halfway to Hana to sample some of its famous banana bread.
Suggested duration: 8 hours
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7. Haleakala Crater, Haleakala National Park

Known primarily for its dramatic sunrises and sunsets, Haleakala Crater is the world's largest dormant volcano, forming more than 75 percent of the island of Maui. Over a million years old, the volcano is locally known as the "House of the Sun," its tallest peak rising up to 3,055 m (10,023 ft) above sea level. You can reach the summit, gaze into the crater, or walk across its floor by hiking up a series of rugged trails. Though there's little chance of an eruption, you must be extremely careful on the steep and often treacherous paths. Check the weather before you go and dress appropriately for cold temperatures at the summit.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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8. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Honolulu

Famous for its sheltered inlet of calm and clear turquoise water, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve protects about 400 different species of fish and attracts amateur and professional snorkelers from around the world. The bay is also a nursery for green sea turtles, which you may see nesting as you walk or swim along the coastline. You can rent diving equipment if you don't bring your own and spend a day searching for parrotfish and coral. The preserve's regulations prohibit touching or walking on the coral heads, which often resemble large rocks on the ocean's floor. Keep in mind that touching or brushing up against coral or marine rocks may also result in serious wounds.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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9. Scuba & Snorkeling, Kailua-Kona

A snorkeling or scuba tour from Kailua-Kona lets you see a range of marine creatures frequenting the area. As your boat glides to spots teeming with spinner dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays, and tropical fish, you'll listen to your experienced captain tell folk tales and stories about the history of the island. In addition to cruising and snorkeling or diving, you can paddle a kayak along the volcanic shoreline or watch manta rays feed on plankton under the moonlight. These tours last between 90 minutes and 5 hours.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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10. Ka'anapali Beach, Lahaina

Located in a popular beachfront resort, Ka'anapali Beach attracts visitors with its warm sands and shallow waters close to shore. You can board a tour boat right from the beach, or drop by one of many kiosks along the sands to rent snorkeling gear or purchase sunscreen. The beach also features several booths where you can sign up for sailing and surfing lessons, or find out about upcoming luaus and kayaking excursions. Several major hotels and shops surround the beach, along with a shopping complex and a renowned whaling museum. For an ultimate Hawaiian vacation within walking distance of this beach, book a stay at the nearby condominium village.
Suggested duration: 4h 30 min
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11. Kilauea Iki Trailhead, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Leading through lush vegetation and its namesake crater, Kilauea Iki Trailhead offers you the chance to hike through one of Hawaii's most famous volcanic areas inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This 6.4 km (4 mi) round-trip trail will take you from the crater's rim and eventually lead you across the bottom of the formation. Be sure to keep an eye out for native birds and animals as you trek the rainforest. You'll find that the residual heat from subterranean lava causes water to evaporate and rise in clouds of steam from the crater floor. Keep in mind that the trail itself is considered moderately difficult and the 122 m (400 ft) descent down from the crater rim is quite steep and rocky, so be sure to wear comfortable footwear.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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12. Swim with Dolphins, Kailua-Kona

Get as up close as possible to playful spinner dolphins and other amazing sea creatures at the marine-life conservation area of Kealakekua Bay. Let an experienced guide take you to the best snorkeling spots, providing interesting facts about the area's geological features and biodiversity. Keep an eye open for lava tubes and caves along the volcanic shoreline, before stopping to swim or snorkel at a protected sapphire cove. Apart from dolphins, you will likely encounter sea turtles and tropical fish swirling around colorful corals on this 3-5-hour excursion.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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13. Maui Ocean Center, Wailuku

Get a close-up view of Hawaii’s diverse marine life at Maui Ocean Center. This aquarium has recreated Hawaii’s ocean ecosystem and hosts only animals that naturally occur in the region. Gain a deeper understanding of the islands’ rich underwater world from more than 60 exhibits and information displays. Explore the Open Ocean exhibit, which features a 240-degree-view acrylic tunnel through a 2.8 million l (750,000 gal) tank. You’ll feel like you’re walking the ocean floor as y+F16ou watch sharks, stingrays, and thousands of tropical reef fish. Certified divers can even swim in the massive tank.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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14. Kailua Beach Park, Kailua

Stephen Leatherman, known as America's beach expert, ranked Kailua Beach Park the best beach in America in 1998. The water attracts surfers and bodysurfers to its gentle waves. The beach itself slopes slowly into the water with no coral or rock. The shallow water and slight incline make swimming easy. Take advantage of the regular trade winds and try your hand at wind and kitesurfing here.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
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15. Zipline, Lihue

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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