The Ultimate Bucket List for Hawaii

March 29, 2017

Why You Need to Visit Hawaii (and use this Ultimate Bucket List for Hawaii)

Submitted by Justine Cross

This ultimate bucket list for Hawaii, contains all the things that you need to see and do while you’re there because for as long as I can remember, I wanted to visit Hawaii . Visions of pearly, white beaches; bright, tropical landscapes and laid-back, friendly locals playing ukuleles, that charmed me, heart and soul.

When I finally turned this dream into a reality, I was not disappointed. Instead, I found so much more on these tropical islands than I even expected. From stunning, Buddhist temples to fiery volcanoes to the mesmerizing glow of the Milky Way to mind blowing sunsets and stunning stars, Hawaii has it all

This guide will help you get the most out of your trip to Hawaii, with an emphasis on the major attractions of the Big Island and the island of Oahu.

1. Sunbathe and Swim at Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, O’ahu

Waikiki Beach is definitely on the bucket list for Hawaii. Could you get any closer to paradise?

Let me paint the picture for you. The  beach glitters in the sunlight, as your toes seamlessly glide through the warm sand. As you enter the ocean, the water is the perfect temperature of a relaxing, luke-warm bath. And as you emerge, the sun delicately warms your skin, while the setting sun glitters with radiant reds, pinks and oranges.

So while some may say that Waikiki Beach is overrated, and touristy, I disagree. To enjoy this paradise completely, you just need to ignore the skyscrapers behind you and forget anything you have previously heard about Waikiki. If you can stay in the moment and keep your mind on the beauty of the beach, then you will fall in love with Waikiki, just like I did (If you’re looking for some great places to eat with the kids in O’ahu, then you’ll be delighted to know that there are a ton of options to choose from).

2. Contemplate Buddhism at Byodo-In Temple, Kaneohe, O’ahu

Bodo-In Temple is another must see item on the bucket list for Hawaii.

Byodo-In Temple or The Valley of the Temples, on the island of O’ahu, is a lesser known attraction among Hawaiian travellers. Perhaps this is part of the Buddhist temple’s charm. It is a tranquil, and peaceful place for quiet, reflective meditation.

Today, Japanese Buddhists use this temple as a place of worship, and you can admire the main statue of Buddha, for as long as you like.

The Pearl Harbor Memorial Flag flies high at the Pearl Harbor Memorial and is an item on the bucket list for Hawaii.

In the large pond that surrounds the temple, there are plenty of beautiful Koi fish, waiting to be fed, as well as some birds that will vie for your attention, and the food that you buy from the gift shop onsite. Just pop some seeds in your hand and wait for the little birds to hop onto your palms for a fun and delightful experience!

3. Respect History at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, O’ahu

The Pearl Harbor exhibits on Honolulu are an absolute must if you’re traveling to Hawaii. This historic site is a great way to learn about the series of events that culminated in the great loss of life at Pearl Harbor. Also be sure to take a short boat ride to the USS Arizona War Memorial, and pay your respects
to all those who lost their lives here.

 4. View Sunsets & Stargaze at the Top of Mauna Kea, The Big Island

The view of the sunset from Mauna Kea.

While in Hawaii, visiting the “Big Island” is a MUST! Here, you will find amazing views at the top of Mauna Kea Mountain, home to the world’s largest astronomical observatory (which has more than a dozen industrial telescopes). At 13,798 ft. above sea level, Mauna Kea may not have the highest peak in the world, but it is actually the tallest mountain on the planet since more than 19,700 ft. of mountain is actually below sea level.

On a clear day, Mauna Kea offers views across the island and beyond, with neighboring islands in the distance. And if you visit in the evening, you’ll encounter a picture perfect sunset, followed by an up close and personal view of the stars, and the Milky Way Galaxy, at the Mountain’s Visitor Centre.

5. Hike Through An Active Volcanic Crater, Kīlauea Iki, The Big Island

Some of the beautiful flowers that grow along an active volcano.

The Big Island of Hawaii is also home to Volcano National Park, which offers you the unique opportunity of hiking through craters and viewing an active lava flow display, at night.

Even though Kīlauea Iki Crater is enormous in size, it is fairly easy to hike to. Just walk about 15-20 minutes down the slope, of the mountain, and into the crater, where you can spend your time exploring every inch of this unique place. While here, you’ll not only find gaps in the rocks, where steam has escaped from the volcanic rock underneath, but you’ll also spot some incredible plant species that actually grow within the cracks. Hiking through her
e really is truly a once in a life time opportunity!

 6. Watch the Lava Night Glow, Kilauea, The Big Island

The glow from the lava of the volcano.

Make sure to stay at the Volcano National Park until the early hours of the evening, when you will be treated to the spectacular sight of active lava flows, from the Kilauea volcano, glowing in the night. Here, molten hot lava ebbs flows through the rocks and creates colors of red and orange that create a stunning contrast to the jet black sky. The Visitor Centre offers tremendous views of the lava flow, from a safe distance and if you’re lucky, you may even spot lava bursting from the top of the volcano too!


Well, there you have it, my bucket list for anyone visiting O’ahu and The Big Island of Hawaii. Whether you’re after some relaxation on the beach or some exciting new adventures, Hawaii has something for everyone to enjoy!

A big thanks to Justine Cross for submitting this fabulous bucket list for Hawaii. She recently embarked on a short trip around Iceland, and is now wandering through her homeland: England, whilst preparing for her next trip. Read her blog, Wanderer of the World (check it out here), for travel tips and inspiration for all of the other wanderers out there. You can also follow her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.



Nanny by day and travel blogger any other time.

I love writing and traveling and bearing my soul on the page.
I want to inspire others to face their fears and join me on an adventure.


  • Ivy 12 months ago

    I saw Byodo-In Temple on someone’s Instagram a few days ago and had no idea it’s in Oahu. Totally thought it was taken somewhere in Japan! I can’t believe we missed this temple when we were there, that’ll be our #1 when we revisit Oahu. Mauna Kea reminds me of the Haleakala crater in Maui. Stargazing sounds a lot more appealing than watching the sunrise, only because waking up early is such a struggle haha. We’ve only been to Oahu and Maui, so I can’t wait to visit the Big Island one day!

    • girlwiththepassport 12 months ago

      I have yet to go to Hawaii but this list makes me want to move it to the top of my list. And I am the same way. For me, getting up early is a no go. I would take stargazing any day.

  • Gokul Raj 12 months ago

    I would love to visit the Pearl Harbor. So much history lies within that place.

  • Claire 12 months ago

    Ah this is such a cool post!! So pleased to say I have done all but one of these! The Big Island is just absolutely incredible and gets missed off people’s lists all too often!!

  • Adrenaline Romance 12 months ago

    My aunt, residing in Los Angeles, California, recently had a vacation in Hawaii. And she said it’s absolutely gorgeous! She has been to some of the places you mentioned here; Waikiki Beach was her favorite. We hope to visit Hawaii if we ever have the chance to travel abroad.

  • Christina 11 months ago

    Hawaii is on our list of places to see in the future. We would thoroughly enjoy the hiking and volcano. I had no idea there were buddhist temples in Hawaii. That would be incredible to see!

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      Yeah, I had no idea either but it makes sense given the large Asian population on the island

  • Anna 11 months ago

    Such a great post to check out the Big Island, and I love your descriptions – so poetic! One of my favorite things to do on the Big Island is to do the Manta Ray night dive! A must-try for divers!

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      So good to hear about that. That sounds incredible and thanks for the kind words!!

  • Marky 11 months ago

    Wow. I always wanted to visit Hawaii and from your list of things to do, it made me even more interested to experience all those things 🙂

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