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, especially since I had this Hawaii packing list handy. 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.
There are even a ton of things to do in Maui on a budget. Seriously! Who knew?
So, ths guide will help you get the most out of your trip to Hawaii, with an emphasis on the major attractions of the Big Island of Hawaii and the island of Oahu (Check out this guide if you’re not sure where to stay on Oahu, if you’re wondering what is the best part of Maui to stay on or if you’re looking for some of the coolest Airbnb’s in Hawaii).
Also, don’t forget to check out Kauai since there are a ton of amazing things to do in Kauai too!
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If you’re booking a trip right now then I IMPLORE you to get travel insurance – even if it’s not from me.
After all, this past year has been a wild ride and I don’t want you to lose money because government regulations have changed.
Truth be told though, I’ve never traveled without travel insurance and don’t think you should either – especially
Therefore, find an insurance agency that covers travel changes related to COVID-19, like my two all-time faves World Nomads and Safety Wing. You can also read more about which policy is right for you in my full review here. since I think we’ve all had plans drastically change because of the pandemic.
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, especially if you know how to escape the crowds in Waikiki.
To enjoy this paradise completely, you just need to ignore the skyscrapers behind you and forget anything you have previously heard about Waikiki and Oahu Beaches in general.
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.
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! Truly the perfect place to relax after completing any of the best hikes in Oahu.
3. Respect History at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, O’ahu
The Pearl Harbor Memorial Flag flies high at the Pearl Harbor Memorial and is an item on the bucket list for Hawaii.
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. Source from Big Island Guide.
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 here really is truly a once in a lifetime 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!
***If you have extra time, you can also take Napali Coast Boat Tour!
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.