The Best of Outdoor Hawaii
And we’re not just talking about beaches (though those are obviously a prime reason vacationers head to Hawaii). Try these other outdoor adventures for a taste of what makes Hawaii one of the most exciting destinations on the planet.
Witness the Whales
From December to April, humpback whales cruise Hawaiian waters. You can see these gentle giants from almost any shore; simply scan the horizon for a spout. You can hear them, too, by ducking your head below the surface and listening for their otherworldly music. Boats on every island offer whale-watching cruises, but Maui is your best bet for seeing the massive marine mammals up close. Try Trilogy for a first-class catamaran ride, or, if you’re adventurous, climb into an outrigger canoe with Hawaiian Paddle Sports.
The entire island chain is made of volcanoes; don’t miss the opportunity to explore them. On Oahu, the whole family can hike to the top of ancient, world-famous Diamond Head Crater. At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, where Kilauea has been erupting since 1983, acres of new black rock and billowing sulfurous steam give hints of Pele’s presence even when red-hot lava isn’t visible. On Maui, Haleakala National Park provides a bird’s-eye view into a long-dormant volcanic crater.
Get Misted by Waterfalls
Waterfalls thundering down into sparkling pools are some of Hawaii’s most beautiful natural wonders. If you’re on the Big Island, head to the spectacular 442-foot Akaka Falls, north of Hilo. On Maui, the Road to Hana offers numerous viewing opportunities; at the end of the drive, you’ll find Oheo Gulch, with some of the most dramatic and accessible waterfalls on the islands. Kauai is laced with waterfalls, especially along the North Shore and in the Wailua area, where you can drive right up to 151-foot Opaekaa Falls and 80-foot Wailua Falls. On Molokai, the 250-foot Moaula Falls can be visited only via a guided cultural hike through breathtaking Halawa Valley, but that, too, is a very special experience.
Peer into Waimea Canyon (Kauai)
It may not share the vast dimensions of Arizona’s Grand Canyon, but Kauai’s colorful gorge—a mile wide, 3,600 feet deep, and 14 miles long—has a grandeur all its own, easily viewed from several overlooks just off Kokee Road. Hike to Waipoo Falls to experience its red parapets up close, or take one of the helicopter rides that swoop between its walls like the white-tailed tropicbird.
Explore the Napali Coast (Kauai)
With the exception of the Kalalau Valley Overlook, the fluted ridges and deep, primeval valleys of the island’s northwest portion can’t be viewed by car. You must hike the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, kayak, take a snorkel cruise, or book a or book a helicopter ride to experience its wild, stunning beauty.
Four-Wheel It on Lanai
Off-roading is a way of life on barely paved Lanai. Rugged trails lead to deserted beaches, abandoned villages, sacred sites, and valleys filled with wild game.