Top 10 Must-See Tourist Attractions in Hawaii for First-Time Visitors

Are you thinking about visiting Hawaii but aren’t sure what to see? Keep scrolling to find out the top 10 attractions in Hawaii worth seeing!
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Hawaii, a paradise nestled in the Pacific Ocean, is a popular vacation destination known for its stunning beaches, lush landscapes, and rich culture.

Each of its islands has unique features, offering a diverse range of experiences for every traveler.

If you’re planning your first trip to the Aloha State, you’re in for a treat! This blog post is specially crafted for first-time visitors like you, highlighting the top 10 must-see attractions in Hawaii.

From world-famous beaches to incredible natural wonders, these attractions showcase the very best of what Hawaii has to offer.

Read on to discover the spots that should be at the top of your Hawaii bucket list.

With this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to explore Hawaii’s most iconic sights and make the most of your Hawaiian adventure!

10 Amazing Hawaii Attractions Worth Seeing

Waikiki Beach, Oahu

Waikiki Beach is one of the most iconic and popular tourist spots in Hawaii, located on the island of Oahu.

This stunning beach stretches for two miles along the southern coast of Honolulu and is known for its beautiful white sands, crystal-clear waters, and breathtaking views of Diamond Head, a dormant volcano that serves as a backdrop to the beach.

Waikiki Beach has been a favorite destination for visitors from around the world for over a century, and it’s easy to see why.

Hawaii Honolulu couple surfers going surfing on waikiki beach with surfboards running in water. Healthy active sport lifestyle fitness people at diamond head mountain landscape.
There are lots of fun things to do at Waikiki Beach on Oahu.

Surfing at Waikiki Beach

When you visit Waikiki Beach, you’ll have plenty of activities and attractions to choose from. Surfing is one of the most popular activities at Waikiki, thanks to its gentle waves that are perfect for beginners.

If you’ve never tried surfing before, this is a great place to learn! There are many surf schools along the beach where you can rent equipment and take lessons from experienced instructors.

In addition to surfing, you can try paddleboarding, snorkeling, or simply take a relaxing swim in the warm waters. The beach is lined with resorts, shops, and restaurants, so you can take a break from the sun and enjoy some shopping or dining.

There’s also a beachfront promenade where you can take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the views.

Waikiki Attractions

Just a short walk from the beach, you’ll find the Waikiki Aquarium, where you can learn about the marine life of the Pacific Ocean.

You can also visit the Honolulu Zoo, which is home to over 900 animals from around the world.

And if you’re interested in history and culture, you can explore the Royal Hawaiian Center, where you can learn about Hawaiian history and traditions through exhibits, performances, and workshops.

Overall, Waikiki Beach offers a perfect mix of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and cultural attractions, making it a must-visit spot for first-time visitors to Hawaii.

Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Oahu

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Oahu is a historic site that holds great significance for both the United States and the world.

It is here that the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval base on December 7, 1941, leading to the United States’ entry into World War II.

Today, the memorial stands as a tribute to the brave men and women who lost their lives during the attack and serves as a reminder of the importance of peace.

Image of An American flag flys over the Arizona Memorial where the USS Arizona was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Oahu Hawaii.
USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

USS Arizona Memorial

The centerpiece of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial is the USS Arizona Memorial. This somber and moving memorial is built directly over the sunken battleship USS Arizona, where over 1,100 sailors and Marines lost their lives.

Visitors can take a boat ride to the memorial, where they can view the remains of the ship and the names of those who perished inscribed on a marble wall.

Other Pearl Harbor Attractions

The memorial also includes several other sites and exhibits that offer insight into the events of that fateful day and its aftermath.

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center features exhibits, photographs, and artifacts that tell the story of the attack and the response of the United States.

The Pacific Fleet Museum (formerly USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park) allows visitors to explore a real submarine and learn about the role of submarines in World War II.

The Battleship Missouri Memorial, where the Japanese formally surrendered to the Allies, offers a glimpse into life aboard a battleship and the history of the war in the Pacific.

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a place of reflection and remembrance, where visitors can learn about the events that shaped the course of history and pay their respects to those who gave their lives in service to their country.

It is a must-visit Hawaii attraction for anyone interested in history and the impact of war on the world.

Haleakalā National Park, Maui

Haleakalā National Park, located on the island of Maui, is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Hawaii for the first time.

The park is renowned for its otherworldly landscapes, unique ecosystems, and the dormant Haleakalā volcano, which is the highest peak on Maui.

The name “Haleakalā” means “House of the Sun” in Hawaiian, and it’s easy to see why when you witness the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets from the summit of this magnificent volcano.

Image of Beautiful sunrise scene on Haleakala volcano, Maui island, Hawaii
It’s COLD up at Haleakala Crater on Maui.

Sunrise at Haleakala National Park

One of the most popular activities in the park is watching the sunrise from the summit of Haleakalā.

As the sun slowly rises over the horizon, the sky is painted with vibrant shades of pink, orange, and purple, creating a magical atmosphere that you won’t soon forget.

If you’re not a morning person, you can also catch the equally stunning sunset from the summit. Just be sure to dress warmly, as temperatures at the summit can be quite chilly, especially in the early morning and late evening.

Maui Hiking Trails

Haleakalā National Park also offers a range of hiking trails for visitors of all skill levels.

One of the most popular trails is the Sliding Sands Trail, which takes you through the cinder desert and offers incredible views of the crater.

The Hosmer Grove Trail, on the other hand, is a shorter hike through a forest of native and non-native trees, providing a chance to spot some of the park’s unique bird species.

No matter your interests, Haleakalā National Park has something for everyone.

Whether you’re watching the sunrise from the summit, hiking through the diverse landscapes, or simply taking in the views, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience at this one-of-a-kind national park.

Road to Hana, Maui

The Road to Hana is a scenic drive that winds along the eastern coast of Maui, offering stunning views of lush rainforests, waterfalls, and the Pacific Ocean.

This famous drive is one of the most popular attractions on the island and is a must-see for first-time visitors to Hawaii.

The journey along the Road to Hana is as much an adventure as the destination itself, with its narrow, winding roads, hairpin turns, and one-lane bridges.

Maui, Hawaii Hana Highway - Wailua Iki Falls (Wailuaiki). Road to Hana connects Kahului to the town of Hana Over 59 bridges, 620 curves, tropical rainforest
There are tons of waterfalls on the Road to Hana in Maui.

Popular Road to Hana Stops

As you drive along the Hana Highway, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the coastline and lush, tropical landscapes.

The road is dotted with picturesque waterfalls, many of which are just a short hike from the highway.

One of the most popular waterfalls is Twin Falls, where you can take a refreshing dip in the natural pools.

The Garden of Eden Arboretum is another must-see stop, featuring 26 acres of tropical gardens and panoramic views of the ocean and mountains.

As you continue along the Road to Hana, you’ll come across the black sand beaches of Wai’anapanapa State Park, the tranquil pools of Ohe’o Gulch, and the quaint town of Hana itself.

Along the way, you can stop at local fruit stands and try some of the island’s delicious fresh produce, such as banana bread, coconut water, and tropical fruits.

Road to Hana Tips

When exploring the Road to Hana, it’s essential to take your time and enjoy the journey.

Start your drive early in the morning to avoid traffic and have plenty of time to explore the many stops along the way.

Wear comfortable shoes for hiking, bring snacks and water, and make sure your camera is fully charged – you’ll want to capture the stunning views and memorable moments of this unforgettable adventure.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, located on the Big Island, is a remarkable destination that showcases the raw power and beauty of nature.

Home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, this national park offers visitors a unique opportunity to witness the Earth’s inner forces at work.

Image of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at sunset
There are tons of places to explore at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Things to Do at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

One of the park’s highlights is the active Kilauea volcano, which has been continuously erupting since 1983.

Visitors can watch the spectacle of molten lava flowing from the crater and creating new land as it reaches the ocean.

The park offers several vantage points to safely observe the eruption, including several overlooks and the Chain of Craters Road.

Exploring the park’s diverse landscapes is a treat for outdoor enthusiasts.

Hiking trails like the Kilauea Iki Trail and the Crater Rim Trail lead you through lush rainforests, steam vents, and other volcanic features.

Nahuku Lava Tube is another popular attraction, allowing you to walk through a tunnel-like cave formed by cooling lava.

And, if you’re interested in the cultural history of the park, visit the ancient petroglyphs at Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs, where you can see rock carvings made by native Hawaiians.

Volcano House

For a unique experience, consider staying or dining at the Volcano House, the only hotel located within the park.

Perched on the rim of the Kilauea volcano, this historic hotel offers stunning views of the glowing lava from the comfort of your table.

Enjoy a delicious meal as you watch the mesmerizing display of the lava’s red and orange hues against the night sky.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the Big Island. With its dramatic landscapes, active volcanoes, and rich cultural history, this park offers an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.

Nā Pali Coast, Kauai

The Nā Pali Coast, located on the island of Kauai, is one of the most breathtaking and iconic attractions in Hawaii.

The name “Nā Pali” means “high cliffs” in Hawaiian, and the coastline certainly lives up to its name. The Nā Pali Coast features rugged cliffs that rise steeply from the ocean, reaching heights of up to 4,000 feet.

These dramatic cliffs are punctuated by lush valleys, cascading waterfalls, and pristine beaches that are accessible only by boat or foot.

Image of Beautiful aerial view of spectacular Na Pali coast, Kauai, Hawaii
The Na Pali Coast is GORGEOUS.

Na Pali Coast Boat Tours

One of the most popular ways to explore the Nā Pali Coast is by boat.

Boat tours give you the chance to see the stunning cliffs up close, as well as explore sea caves, snorkel in crystal-clear waters, and spot marine life like dolphins and sea turtles.

During the summer months, the waters are calm enough for kayaking, allowing you to paddle along the coastline and discover hidden beaches and waterfalls.

Hiking the Na Pali Coast State Park

Hiking is another excellent way to experience the Nā Pali Coast. The Kalalau Trail is a challenging 11-mile trek that offers incredible views of the coastline and leads to the remote Kalalau Beach.

The trail takes you through lush valleys, past cascading waterfalls, and along narrow cliffside paths. It’s a strenuous hike, but the stunning scenery and sense of adventure make it well worth the effort.

Kauai Helicopter Tours

If you’re looking for a unique perspective of the Nā Pali Coast, consider taking a helicopter tour. From the air, you can truly appreciate the grandeur of the cliffs and the beauty of the secluded valleys and beaches.

A helicopter tour is an unforgettable experience that gives you a bird’s-eye view of one of Hawaii’s most awe-inspiring landscapes.

No matter how you choose to explore the Nā Pali Coast, you’re sure to be captivated by its rugged beauty and natural splendor.

Whether you’re on a boat, hiking the trails, or flying high above the cliffs, you’ll be treated to some of the most stunning views in all of Hawaii.

Hanauma Bay, Oahu

Hanauma Bay, located on the island of Oahu, is a stunning natural wonder that attracts visitors from around the world.

Formed within a volcanic crater, the bay’s calm, crystal-clear waters are home to a diverse and vibrant marine ecosystem.

Hanauma Bay is a designated Nature Preserve and Marine Life Conservation District, which means it’s protected to ensure the preservation of its unique marine life.

Snorkelling at the coral reef of Hanauma Bay, a former volcanic crater, now a national reserve
Hanauma Bay is the most popular Oahu snorkeling spot.

Things to do at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

One of the most popular activities at Hanauma Bay is snorkeling. With its shallow waters and abundant marine life, the bay is a snorkeler’s paradise.

As you swim through the clear waters, you’ll be greeted by schools of colorful fish, including the Hawaii state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. You might even spot a sea turtle or two!

The bay’s coral reefs are teeming with life, making it an unforgettable underwater experience for visitors of all ages.

Before entering the water, all visitors must watch an educational video about the bay’s ecosystem and the importance of protecting it.

The video also provides tips on how to snorkel responsibly, such as not touching the coral or marine life. Hanauma Bay’s conservation efforts are vital to maintaining the health and beauty of the bay for future generations.

Educational Programs

In addition to snorkeling, Hanauma Bay offers several educational programs, including guided reef tours and marine education talks.

These programs provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the bay’s marine life and the role they play in preserving it.

Visiting Hanauma Bay is not only a chance to experience some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii but also an opportunity to learn about marine conservation and the importance of protecting our natural resources.

Whether you’re a first-time snorkeler or a seasoned underwater explorer, Hanauma Bay is a must-see attraction on Oahu that you won’t want to miss.

Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai

Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” is a breathtaking natural wonder on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Carved by the Waimea River over millions of years, this impressive canyon stretches for 14 miles and reaches depths of up to 3,600 feet.

Its deep valleys and jagged cliffs are painted with hues of red, brown, and green, creating a picturesque landscape that captivates visitors from around the world.

View into the Grand Canyon of the Pacific or Waimea Canyon island of Kauai in the Hawaiian islands
Waimea Canyon is a top Kauai tourist attraction.

Hiking Trails in Waimea Canyon State Park

One of the best ways to explore Waimea Canyon is by hiking. The canyon offers a variety of hiking trails for all skill levels, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks.

Some of the most popular trails include the Waimea Canyon Trail, which provides stunning views of the canyon and waterfalls, and the Kukui Trail, which descends into the canyon and offers a unique perspective of its vastness.

Along the way, you’ll be treated to sweeping views of the canyon, lush vegetation, and native wildlife.

Kokee State Park

For those who prefer a less strenuous experience, a drive up to Kokee State Park is a must.

Located at the top of Waimea Canyon, the park offers panoramic views of the canyon and the surrounding landscape.

One of the highlights of the park is the Kalalau Lookout, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Kalalau Valley and the Nā Pali Coast.

The lookout is a popular spot for photographers, as the ever-changing light creates a dramatic and stunning backdrop.

Whether you choose to hike through the canyon or take in the views from Kokee State Park, Waimea Canyon is a must-see attraction for first-time visitors to Kauai.

Its awe-inspiring landscape and natural beauty make it one of the most unforgettable destinations in Hawaii.

Akaka Falls State Park, Big Island

Akaka Falls State Park, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, is a tropical paradise that showcases the incredible beauty of the Hawaiian Islands.

The park is known for its lush rainforest, colorful flowers, and, of course, the spectacular Akaka Falls.

This majestic waterfall plunges 442 feet into a stream-eroded gorge, creating a breathtaking sight that’s a must-see for any first-time visitor to Hawaii.

Image of Akaka Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii
Akaka Falls near Hilo, Hawaii.

Loop Trail

The park features a well-maintained loop trail that takes you through a lush rainforest filled with bamboo groves, ferns, and orchids.

As you hike, you’ll be surrounded by the sounds of chirping birds and the gentle rustling of leaves.

Along the trail, you’ll find two waterfalls: Kahuna Falls and the iconic Akaka Falls. The trail offers several viewpoints where you can admire the falls and take in the stunning scenery.

The loop trail is about half a mile long and is suitable for all skill levels, making it a great option for families and solo travelers alike.


Photographers will be in heaven at Akaka Falls State Park. The lush rainforest and the towering waterfall create a picturesque backdrop that’s perfect for capturing stunning photos.

Whether you’re a professional photographer or just want to snap a few pictures for your social media, the park offers endless opportunities for great shots.

Akaka Falls State Park is a true gem on the Big Island that showcases the natural beauty of Hawaii.

Whether you’re hiking through the rainforest, admiring the waterfall, or capturing the perfect photo, the park is sure to leave a lasting impression on you.

So, don’t miss the chance to visit this incredible destination on your Hawaiian vacation!

Lanikai Beach, Oahu

Lanikai Beach, located on the windward side of Oahu, is often considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

With its crystal-clear turquoise waters, soft white sand, and swaying palm trees, it’s no wonder this beach is a favorite destination for locals and tourists alike.

The name “Lanikai” translates to “heavenly sea,” and it’s easy to see why when you set foot on this paradise.

Image of Lanikai beach on Oahu
Lanikai is a popular Oahu beach.

Things to Do

Lanikai Beach is perfect for relaxation and water sports. The calm waters make it an excellent spot for swimming and snorkeling.

You can explore the vibrant marine life and coral reefs that lie beneath the surface, where you might spot colorful fish, sea turtles, and other marine creatures.

Kayaking is another popular activity at Lanikai Beach, especially to the nearby Mokulua Islands, two small islets off the coast that are a haven for seabirds. Rent a kayak and paddle out to these islands for a unique and peaceful experience.

The beach is also an excellent spot for sunbathing and watching the sunrise. The beach faces east, so you can catch the sun rising over the Mokulua Islands, creating a picturesque and serene scene. Whether you’re a morning person or not, this is a sight you won’t want to miss.

Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Nearby, you’ll find the popular Lanikai Pillbox Hike, a short trail that leads to two old military pillboxes on top of a ridge.

From here, you’ll have a panoramic view of Lanikai Beach, the Mokulua Islands, and the stunning Koolau Mountain Range.

Lanikai Beach is more than just a beautiful beach; it’s a destination that offers a range of activities and attractions to suit everyone’s tastes.

Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore the underwater world, or catch a breathtaking sunrise, Lanikai Beach has it all.

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this heavenly spot on your Hawaiian vacation!

Hawaii Tourist Attractions FAQs

Is the Maui Ocean Center worth it?

The Maui Ocean Center is worth it for visitors interested in marine life, as it offers a unique opportunity to learn about Hawaii’s underwater world through its aquarium exhibits and interactive displays.

What is the Waikiki Beach Walk?

The Waikiki Beach Walk is a vibrant shopping, dining, and entertainment area located in the heart of Waikiki, offering a wide range of shops, restaurants, and cultural performances.

Is there a national historic landmark in Hawaii?

Yes, there are several national historic landmarks in Hawaii, including the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and the Iolani Palace in Honolulu.

Do I need reservations for Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve?

Yes, reservations are required for Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve due to its popularity and efforts to protect the fragile marine ecosystem.

Do I need reservations for Diamond Head State Monument?

Yes, as of 2020, reservations are required for the Diamond Head State Monument to manage the number of visitors and ensure a better experience for all.

Where is the only living history farm in Hawaii?

The only living history farm in Hawaii is the Kona Coffee Living History Farm located in the Kona district on the Big Island.

Is the Waipio Valley Lookout worth it?

The Waipio Valley Lookout is worth it for its breathtaking views of the lush valley, rugged cliffs, and stunning coastline, offering a picturesque glimpse into Hawaii’s natural beauty.

Where is the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo?

The Panaewa Rainforest Zoo is located near Hilo on the Big Island, showcasing various tropical animals and plants within a beautiful rainforest setting.

Best Hawaii Tourist Attractions Wrap Up

We’ve highlighted the top 10 must-see attractions in Hawaii for first-time visitors.

From the famous Waikiki Beach to the breathtaking Nā Pali Coast, these spots showcase the unique beauty and rich culture of the islands.

Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a mix of both, Hawaii has something for everyone.

We encourage you to explore these attractions and experience the diverse landscapes and activities that make Hawaii a true paradise.

Get ready to discover the Aloha spirit and create unforgettable memories on your Hawaiian vacation!

Looking for more Hawaii travel resources? Check out the best Hawaiian island to visit, tips for visiting Hawaii for the first time, the best time to visit Hawaii, and how to plan a trip to Hawaii!

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