Destination Bucket List: Hawaii


I’m pretty sure Hawaii is on everyone’s bucket list.

With its deep blue waters, moss-covered mountains, lush tropical forests and rich culture, there really isn’t anything not to like about the island oasis.

So, whether you seek sun, nature or adventure, there’s much to discover in this paradise.


What to experience

1. HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK – BIG ISLAND

With its amazing geology, active volcano, miles of lava tubes and ancient petroglyphs, it’s no surprise that Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the Big Island’s best activities.

One of the most popular experiences here is the 11-mile Crater Rim drive, which gives you a stunning overview of the entire park. This spectacular tour follows the edge of the Kilauea caldera — the large volcano crater. There are several spots on the drive where you can — and should — park and do some exploring of the landscape.

And if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can skip the drive entirely and explore the park on foot. This makes for one very long day of hiking — but hey, it’s beautiful.

2. SAIL THE NA PALI COAST – KAUAI

The Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is one of Kauai’s most stunning destinations, with over 6,000 acres and 16 miles of undeveloped coast.

“Nā Pali,” which means high cliffs, is believed to be the area where the earliest Hawaiians lived. There are no roads that access this area of Kauai, so the only way to see the Nā Pali coast is either by hiking an 11-mile rugged trail or by boat tour — we suggest the boat tour.

3. DRIVE THE ROAD TO HANA – MAUAI

Featuring 50+ miles of scenic highway with a series of hairpin turns and several dozen one-lane bridges, the drive is definitely not for the faint of heart.

This road, which is considered one of the most scenic drives in the world, will take you on a journey through some of Mauai’s most stunning views. Some sensational spots to stop on the drive include Ho’okipa Bay Park, where you can see surfers tackle the waves, and the Ke’anae Peninsula, where the sight of the waves pounding mightily against the black lava rock will take your breath away. Basically, prepare yourself for stunning shots all day long.

If you make stops along the way — and you should (!!!) –, the drive will take all day, so start early and drive with care and patience.

4. POLYNESIAN CULTURE CENTER – OAHU

For over 50 years, the Polynesian Culture Center has showcased the unique culture of Hawaii and the Polynesian islands via a series of interactive shows and displays.

Your visit to the PCC includes a trip to villages of six island nations of the Pacific where you learn how to shimmy up a palm tree to grab a coconut, do a scary Maori war dance and drum Tahitian style. There are also canoe tours and an impressive pageant where dancers perform on boats floating along the central river.

When it is time to eat, you can’t miss the award-winning Ali’i luau. After the lei greeting ceremony, take your seats and get ready for a feast of the senses. Try the traditional poké and freshly roasted kalua pork while you watch dance performances from all the countries of Polynesia. 

This is the perfect excursion for kids and adults alike.

5. HELICOPTER TOUR – ALL ISLANDS

Honestly, there’s no better way to see the islands than from a birds-eye view.

Not only will you be able to gaze upon the beautiful, lush landscape, but you’ll get the see how the mountains cascade into the blue waters of the pacific ocean. Also, this is the best way to cover the most amount of ground in the shortest amount of time.

What to eat

1. POKE

A poke bowl is simply fresh, raw seafood placed on top a mound of white rice — basically like deconstructed sushi.

The most popular variety is ahi poke, which is made with yellowfin tuna. It’s so good.

2. SPAM MUSUBI

This simple combination of rice, fried Spam and dried seaweed is the crown jewel of Hawaii snacks.

3. LAU LAU

Lau Lau is a taro leaf packed with meat or fish and steamed — kind of like a tamale or dolma.

4. ACAI BOWL

This is a bowl of a thick acai berry blend topped with fruits, granola, honey and other awesome goodies.

5. SHAVE ICE

You know this one, but it tastes better in Hawaii.

How to play

1. NIGHT DIVE WITH MANTA RAYS – BIG ISLAND

One of the most exciting excursions in all of Hawaii is night diving with the manta rays.

Just north of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island is a bay where manta rays come nightly to feed. With a wingspan up to 18 feet, manta rays are the largest of the rays.

In order to attract the rays, local scuba divers lay spotlights on the ocean floor, which draw plankton to the scene. Plankton is a manta rays main food source, so when they see the flurry of plankton, they flock. It’s truly magical and other-worldly.

2. KAYAK AND HIKE ALONG THE WAILUA RIVER – KAUAI

A leisurely kayak and hike along the breathtaking Wailua River is probably the best way to spend a day.

At one point along the river, you can exit your kayak and take a short hike to a secret waterfall. The walk itself, while not overly physical, does include a couple of adventurous river crossings and clambering over old trees and down muddy banks to keep things interesting.

Overall, this adventure allows you to experience things you wouldn’t be able to from the road. We highly recommend.

3. SNORKEL MOLOKINI CRATER – MAUAI

Just off Maui’s west coast lies the striking Molokini Crater, a partially submerged, crescent-shaped volcano crater.

After about an hour long boat ride, you’ll have to opportunity to swim with some of the world’s most vibrant fish and sea life. Though it’s in the middle of the ocean, you’ll feel like you’re swimming in an actual aquarium. It’s crazy.

4. SKYDIVE ON THE NORTH SHORE – OAHU

Okay, I’m not going to describe skydiving to you — surely you know that –, but this is probably the most beautiful you’ll ever experience.

5. HIKE THE KALALAU TRAIL – KAUAI

The Kalalau Trail on the island of Kauai is arguably one of the most beautiful trails in Hawaii.

The incredible 11-mile trail stretches along the Nā Pali Coast from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach. And while the hike is strenuous, it’s well worth the work to enjoy this part of the island.

You’ll begin the hike at Ke’e beach, and then hike along the coastline for two miles until you reach Hanakapiai Beach. There, you’ll turn left at the fork and hike through a beautiful jungle-like forest to reach Hanakapiai Falls — a stunning 300 foot-high waterfall. After that, you’ll continue on the trail for more stunning views.

Note: even if you’re not able to do the entire hike, we highly recommend doing the first mile at least!

So, ready to head out on your trip? Reach out to your BeachMaster with any pre-trip questions.