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An All-Travelers' Guide to Hawaii

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Hawaii is one of those idyllic travel destinations that has something to offer everyone at any time of year. No wonder 8 million people visit the Aloha state every year. Because there is so much to see and do, I connected with Robyn Basso at the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau to help us create a quickie all-travelers' guide. You can view our video interview with Robyn below and read on for her top picks.

To keep things interesting, we've broken down the top picks for things to do and the islands to do them on by traveler type.

Swim with dolphins or manta rays - Get up close and personal with these amazing marine creatures in their own natural environment. Embark on a morning sail off Oahu's quiet Waianae Coast for a water encounter with Hawaiian spinner dolphins; or suit up for a nighttime dive off the Kona Coast on Hawaii Island to swim with the manta rays.

Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson

Conquer your fears - Take your vacation to new heights on an adrenaline-pumping skydive or zipline in the Hawaiian Islands. Whether you're taking the plunge out of a plane above Oahu's picturesque North Shore or soaring over Kauai's lush rainforest or the 250-foot Akaka Falls (Hawaii Island) by zipline, don't forget to enjoy the incredible views along the way.

Vacation on Hawaii's lesser-known islands - Away from crowds and the hustle and bustle of everyday life are the islands of Lanai and Molokai. Lanai is known for its peaceful seclusion, high-caliber golf courses, and enthralling sights for explorers. On Molokai, you can seemingly travel back in time, feeling the mana (power) of the Hawaiian culture and enjoying outdoor adventures ranging from sports fishing to mule rides.

Get out of your comfort zone - Trying something new together will spark romance and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Photo: HTA/Tor Johnson

Splurge a little - Upgrade to an ocean view room or tack on a few extra days and visit multiple islands for a very rich and diverse experience. Many hotels put together specialized offerings such as private beach dinners and ocean-side couples massages that would make for a memorable experience.

Savor Hawaii's cuisine - From shave ice to sashimi, everything tastes better in Hawaii. The culinary scene in the islands has evolved to be incredibly fresh, local, ethnic, inspiring, and ono (delicious). Given the variety of food trucks, new and tried and true restaurants, and culinary festivals in Hawaii, avid foodies will find plenty to do and taste.


Regions that offer a range of accommodation options and are within close proximity to a variety of activities, shopping and dining outlets tend to be the most popular for family/multigenerational travelers, including:
  • Poipu, Kauai - Family-friendly beaches, conveniently located near shopping, dining and golf
  • Waikiki, Oahu - Nightlife, shopping, variety of dining and entertainment options, history, arts and culture, family-friendly attractions
  • Kaanapali, Maui - Great beaches, outdoor ocean and land activities, golf, shopping and dining
  • Kona, Hawaii Island - Culture, national parks, museums, shopping and dining

Photo: Big Island Visitors Bureau/Kirk Lee Aeder

Hawaii's outdoor activities, historical attractions, agritourism experiences, evolving culinary scene, and cultural festivals continue to be extremely popular with family travelers. Travelers enjoy the variety and diversity of experiences found on each island. On Hawaii Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains at the top destination for hiking, exploring the Thurston Lava Tube, and the awe-inspring experience of visiting Halemaumau Crater.

Take the road less traveled - After witnessing a magnificent sunrise on Haleakala, Maui's highest peak, take the road less traveled and bike down the crater. Cycling down world's largest dormant volcano may seem daunting, but the ride is surprisingly relaxing and one that the whole family will always remember.

Hiking - Waterfalls, lush rainforests, native plants and breathtaking ocean views are just a few of the sights to look forward to on one of Hawaii's many trails. A variety of hikes with various length and difficulty are available for every skill level. Just remember - the harder the climb, the more rewarding the view.

Photo: HTA/Tor Johnson

Stand-up Paddle Boarding (SUP) - Experience the sport that is taking Hawaii by storm. While SUP looks deceptively easy, the popular activity delivers a full body workout and has become a popular cross-training activity. The best part about SUP? The spectacular view unlike any boring gym--a clear blue horizon teeming with ocean life.

Restore a taro patch - Spend the morning at one of Oahu's most beautiful off-the-beaten-path locations and join a community workday at Kakoo Oiwi. Clearing invasive vegetation, weeding and maintaining existing taro, or building auwai (irrigation ditch) for new taro will give you a new appreciation for Hawaiian culture, farming, and ecology.

Attend one of the many cultural festivals and events as it enables you to mingle with locals, sample local fare, and participate in historic traditions. One example is the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, co-founded by chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong. Through the support of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaiian Airlines and other tourism industry partnerships, this event has gotten bigger and better each year. It started out on Oahu and in four years is now represented on three islands: Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island. More than 80 renowned chefs, culinary personalities and winemakers come to Hawaii for this week-long event, and it sells out every year.

Check out some of Hawaii's farmers' markets to sample local food products and buy made-in-Hawaii gifts. For a more intimate experience, book a farm or agricultural tour.

Photo: HTA/Sri Maiava Rusden

Pamper yourself with treatments incorporating the locally grown, sourced, or harvested ingredients like Spa Grande's Alii Honey Facial using honey from the Grand Wailea's rooftop apiary (Maui) or a body treatment utilizing Hawaiian noni, coconut, kukui, volcanic clay, and ti leaves at Anara Spa at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. Give yourself the ultimate treat, and book an oceanfront massage for an unforgettable experience.

Mālama pono!