The Hawaiian Islands are one of the most popular destinations for tourists to enjoy the beauty of nature, chill on the mesmerizing beaches, and explore active volcanoes and natural parks. Hawaii consist of 132 islands, with Hawaii, or the Big Island, being the biggest one. The world’s biggest active volcano, Kilauea, is also located in Hawaii. To get the most out of your vacation, try poke bowl and poi, wear the Aloha shirt and the Lei, a traditional necklace made of leaves and flowers, relax on the beautiful beaches and explore the hiking trails in the national park. To make your journey unforgettable, we have prepared a list of top destinations and places to dine at in Hawaii – be sure to add them to your bucket list!
One of the most important historical landmarks in the United States, Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial, commemorates the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Over 2,000 people were killed after the attack, which prompted the US to enter World War II. The museum devoted to this pivotal moment in the history of the United States attracts over 1.7 million visitors each year. Admission is free, but make sure to book tickets in advance as this place is popular.
Your experience will start at the visitor center, where you can watch a 23-minute documentary about Pearl Harbor history and its impact on the nation. After that, you can take a ride to the USS Arizona Memorial built on the remnants of the sunken battleship USS Arizona which was destroyed during the attack. Be sure to visit USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, where you can explore life abroad the submarine of the WWII era, and explore many other outdoor exhibits.
The favorite dessert of many Americans first appeared in Florida. A lot of limes grow in those parts, so it is logical that the common stuffing for sweet baking was this citrus fruit. Now, it is a legally approved official pie in Florida. It is prepared very simply - the base of crumbs of cookies and butter, and on top is laid a gentle and airy mixture of lime juice and zest, condensed milk and eggs. Dessert is very delicious, with fresh and unusual taste and pleasant sourness.
To restore energy after exploring the historical sites, visit Restaurant 604 located within walking distance from the National Memorial. This restaurant offers an outstanding waterfront dining experience with a great view of the harbor. Here, you can enjoy Hawaiian and American dishes cooked from locally sourced ingredients, so if you are excited to try Hawaiian dishes, order a poke bowl made from marinated raw fish with fruit and vegetables. Among other options loved by visitors are fish and chips, kalua pork, key lime pie, and banana dessert.
Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii, is a great place if you are looking for a relaxed holiday on the beach. Located on the south shore of Oahu island, the Waikiki neighbourhood is popular for its beautiful beaches with turquoise water and white sand, which are perfect both for a family vacation and a romantic trip. Waikiki beaches have been favored by celebrities since the early 1990s when the first hotels were built – Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Joe DiMaggio were here. The nearby hotels, cafes, and multiple tourists give this place a lively atmosphere. If you are a fan of water sports, Waikiki beaches are the perfect place to enjoy canoeing, surfing, and boogie-boarding.
The most popular Waikiki beach overlooks the Diamond Head State Monument, the other notable sight. This monument is an extinct volcanic cone with a 300,000-year-old crater, and, once you reach the top, you can enjoy the breathtaking views of Honolulu and the ocean. The hiking trail to the top is only 1.8 miles, and admission costs $5 per person.
As you explore the Waikiki neighbourhood, stop by the Marugame Udon Japanese restaurant for a light snack or a hearty meal. This casual restaurant follows the authentic traditions of noodle making brought here from the Kagawa Prefecture, Japan. The Marugame Udon’s feature is a theater kitchen that allows you to see as your udon, tempura, and curry are being prepared. Taste the traditional curried udon, vegan udon, shrimp tempura, Big Chicken Katsu, or a filling rice bowl, and have a cup of matcha tea with a slightly bitter taste, which is known for its detoxifying effect.
In downtown Honolulu, you can find the Iolani Palace, the only official royal residence in the United States. Built in 1882 by King Kalakaua, it was the home of the last two reigning monarchs: the King himself and Queen Liliuokalani, his sister and successor. The palace was designed in the original style called the “American Florentine”, a combination of Italian architectural styles with the influence of Hawaiian architecture. Constructed as a symbol of unity and strengths of Hawaii, it had a luxurious interior with a koa staircase, royal ornaments, and portraits of monarchs, and had such novelties as the electric light system (the first one in Hawaii) and telephones.
After the monarchy was overthrown in 1893 and the United States annexed the Hawaiian Islands, the palace was used as a capitol building and opened to the public as a museum in 1978. The original objects and décor elements were received from private collections to restore the original royal appearance of the palace. The museum is open Wednesday through Friday, and you can book a self-led or guided tour. Prices start at $26.95 per person.
To continue your royal journey, have lunch at Senia fine-dining restaurant that combines the culinary traditions of Hawaii and the world, and relies on the local bounty of ingredients as much as possible. The restaurant’s chef, Anthony Rush, along with a kitchen team creates inventive dishes using techniques that constantly evolve. Treat yourself to Maui Venison Tartare, triple-smoked king salmon, poke bowl, or braised beef cheeks with a paired wine, or choose an authentic cocktail from a special curated program.
To explore the culture of Hawaii and the Pacific Islands through adventurous and fun outdoor activities, visit Polynesian Cultural Center. Located just an hour’s drive from Honolulu, this center encompasses eight tropical villages, each of which represents different Polynesian nations. Here, you can learn about the daily life and traditions of islanders through music, performances, craft, and dance. Performers often come from islands they represent, providing you with an authentic cultural experience.
Polynesian Cultural Center is a family-friendly destination and one of the most visited landmarks in Hawaii. To learn how to fish without a net, understand what Maori tattoos symbolize, and get inspired by Samoan songs and dances, book your tickets early as this place is hugely popular. Tickets start at $79.95 per person.
Traditional guacamole is prepared by mashing avocado with lime, red onion, chili, garlic, coriander, and red onions. Then it all is seasoned with salt and pepper and immediately served.
A visit to Polynesian Cultural Center is likely to take you all day, so you will probably be on the lookout for a delicious hearty meal. The Seven Brothers restaurant is actually owned and operated by seven brothers, and here you can enjoy burgers, fries, and seafood cooked with fresh, authentic ingredients, in a family-like environment. To eat back your calories after outdoor activities, order a blue cheese burger, Hawaiian burger, homemade chips, guacamole, and other fast food dishes with a local touch. Accompany your meal with a milkshake, lemonade, or a glass of cold beer, and enjoy your relaxed evening.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a popular point of attraction for adventure lovers. Here, you can explore two active volcanoes: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. According to the legend, the Halemaumau crater of Kīlauea is where the fire goddess Pele lives, and when she loses her temper, the volcano will erupt. The Hawaii Islands originated from volcanic activity, and by visiting this park, you will take a glimpse at the history and imagine how the landscape looked like millions of years ago.
The park has 150 miles of hiking trails and takes around 300,000 acres. It encompasses six climate zones, so if you plan a multi-day visit, you will discover the breadth of amazing nature here from rainforest flora and fauna to alpine tundra. Some tours also involve the awe-inspiring views of the sunset and watching the glowing lava flowing into the ocean at night. This park offers a variety of guided tours, hiking trails, and scenic drives, so stop by Kīlauea Visitor Center to find information about the upcoming activities. The entrance fees start at $15 per person.
A crab cake is a popular American dish made of crabmeat, potatoes, spring onion, parsley, pepper, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. The cake can be baked, grilled, sautéed, fried, or broiled.
The Rim restaurant is conveniently located in the Volcano House hotel within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The owners put emphasis on creating an upscale dining experience by offering the guests American and Hawaiian dishes cooked from fresh local ingredients. Enjoy the spectacular views of the Kilauea caldera as you savour kalua pork (a Hawaiian dish cooked with pork in an underground oven), mahi mahi, crab cakes, or lobster salad and sip fruit juice, mai tai, or wine. They also offer a breakfast buffet where you can select from a variety of light snacks and filling dishes.
Hawaii offers an abundance of sights and activities for all types of tourists. Immerse yourself in Hawaiian history and culture, enjoy lazy days on the popular beaches with turquoise water and white sand, or explore the beauty of nature in one of the national parks. Hawaii has something for everyone, so keep exploring and trying the most exquisite and savoury local dishes!
What are your favorite landmarks in Hawaii? Have you tried Hawaiian cuisine? Share your experiences in the comments below!