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Your Guide to the Ultimate Hawaii Bucket List

Visiting the Hawaiian Islands is something many people wish to do in their lifetime. On one side of an island, you might encounter active volcanoes or roaring waterfalls tucked beneath dense jungle canopies. On the other side, you can see snow-capped mountains in contrast with roaring cerulean waves crashing against the sandy white shores.  

Continue reading for some of the best things to include in your Hawaii bucket list. Then, check out our comprehensive Vacation Guide for even more ideas for things to do on Oahu and the Big Island!  


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Your Guide to the Ultimate Hawaii Bucket List


1. Watch the Best Surfers in the World 

Hawaii is home to some of the best surfing spots in the world, but the North Shore of Oahu takes the cake when it comes to pro-surfing. During the peak season, lay out on the North Shore and watch some experienced surfers take on waves of 36 to 50 feet tall, sometimes reaching 100 feet! Those Kahunas are dangerous, so leave it to the professionals, but it makes for an incredible pass-time watching. 

 Some of the most epic spots on the North Shore include Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay (near the magnificent Waimea Canyon State Park, which you should save for your next day trip!) On the South Shore of Hawaii, you can find another surfer’s paradise – Waikiki Beach. Its calmer waters make it the perfect spot for a surf lesson with a view of Diamond Head! 

2. Take in Views of Honolulu on the Diamond Head Crater Hike 

A visit to Oahu isn’t complete without hiking Diamond Head! Make sure that you make reservations ahead of time, as you’ll need to reserve a spot 14 days in advance if you are an out-of-state visitor. Once you reach the summit, you can soak in views of the vibrant streets of Honolulu, the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific, and fluffy white clouds painting the horizon. If you’re lucky, you might even spot breaching humpbacks! 

3. Trek the Beautiful Oahu Waterfall Hiking Trails

Though some of the other islands have drive-up waterfalls for you to visit, hiking through the dense forests and arriving at a serene waterfall destination makes for an amazing Hawaiian memory. Visit some of the Oahu waterfall hiking trails to that range in difficulty from beginner hikes to treks for seasoned veterans. 

4. Scope Out Makapu’u Point Lighthouse 

For an exciting day outdoors, hike the Makapu’u Point Trail on the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline. There, you’ll see extraordinary views of Koko Head, Koko Crater, Makapuʻu, and Waimanalo Bay. This is a must for your Hawaii bucket list!

5. Visit Pearl Harbor 

History buffs won’t want to miss out on touring Pearl Harbor museums and WWII battleships such as the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Bowfin Submarine. While it can be heavy, hearing the history of this national historic landmark, is an experience you don’t want to miss. 

6. Snorkel at Hanauma Bay 

Hanauma Bay is undoubtedly one of the best spots on Oahu for snorkeling! Because of the dense population of colorful fish, it’s the perfect place to explore what lies beneath the waves. 

The Big Island 

7. Experience a Black Sand Beach 

Have you ever seen a black sand beach? It’s a real thing in Hawaii! You HAVE to visit one of the black sand beaches on the Big Island. These unique shores came about after thousands of years of volcanic eruptions. 

If you want to cross this natural beauty off your Hawaii bucket list, add Polulu Beach, Kehena Black Sand Beach, or Punalu’u Beach to your Big Island itinerary. 

8. Fly Over Hawaii Volcanoes National Park 

If you’ve never seen a volcano before, then a visit to the Big Island is a must! The park is home to one of the most active volcanoes on earth. In fact, you might encounter volcanic rock across the entire island! Take a helicopter tour over an active volcano for one of the most unique Hawaiian vacation experiences! 

9. Swim with Manta Rays at Night 

The Manta Ray Night Dive with Big Island Divers is one of the top-rated dives in the world. It allows you to get up close and personal with these majestic sea creatures. There’s truly nothing like it! 

10. Stargaze Like Never Before at Mauna Kea Summit 

Seeing the night sky aglow with stars in the Hawaiian night sky is a humbling experience. You suddenly become aware of how bright and brilliant the universe can be while stargazing from the Mauna Kea Summit. 

Recharge Your Energy in the Best Vacation Rental in Hawaii

Palione Papalani exterior view of the pool at night property on Oahu

Regardless of whether you choose to stay on the Big Island or Oahu, making a Private Homes Hawaii vacation rental your home away from home should be on your Hawaii bucket list! Our properties uphold a standard of quality that is unparalleled in the industry. Just imagine waking up to the sound of waves crashing along the shore just steps away from your covered lanai in a home like our Oahu Palione Papalani, or “Heavenly Sand Dune,” rental! 

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