Tried and True, and a Little Bit New
Like a string of gleaming cultured pearls, the Hawaiian Islands are linked together by a unique culture that celebrates the state's singular history, people, arts, nature, and more.
Of course, visitors will want to check out the big attractions including Waikiki Beach, Waimea Canyon, Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, USS Arizona Memorial, Diamond Head State Monument, Haleakala National Park and more. But after you have seen all of these, there is still much exploration to be done. Check out the softer side of Hawaii and new attractions gaining momentum.
A vibrant gathering spot with a blend of urban and tropical awaits visitors to Oahu. Cultural pursuits on Oahu are numerous. Located in Manoa Valley, the Manoa Heritage Center presents culture and nature with a great one-hour guided tour of a native plant botanical garden and an ancient Hawaiian heiau (a stone structure worshipping site). Over in Waimea Valley, the newly-renovated Kauhale (Hawaiian Living Site) presents life as it was like for Native Hawaiians living in the valley, with staff and cultural practitioners offering live demonstrations of kapa (fabric) making, lauhala (leaf) weaving, colorful feather work, and more.
Other new or improved options on Oahu include: the new Hukilau Marketplace (shopping, dining, and activities) at the Polynesian Cultural Center, a living museum and theme park that showcases seven Polynesian cultures and the upcoming Coral Crater Adventure Park (ziplines, off-road rides, a climbing wall, and more)
Draped in emerald valleys, soaring cliffs, and cascading waterfalls, Kauai is the idyllic location to experience the ultimate relaxation of your mind and body. Discover the undeniable allure of the island from the various lookout points and scenic vistas along the 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon, kayaking the navigable Wailua River, snorkeling on Poipu Beach, or ziplining above Kauai's lush valleys.
Kauai's National Tropical Botanical Garden recently opened a new experience at their flagship McBryde Garden. The Biodiversity Trail is a winding 800-foot walk designed to tell the story of plant evolution during the last 450 million years; it's now a part of self-guided garden tours.
Maui Maui features the best of both worlds, offering its unique blend of sophistication and small town charm. Visitors can easily explore the scenic beauty of the island, including fertile Upcountry Maui, migrating humpback whales, sunrises at Haleakala National Park, Hana Highway, sacred Iao Valley, and shimmering beaches.
Ancient Hawaii from the mountains to the sea can be explored at Maui Hawaiian Village, where the restoration of the historical valley is in progress. Taking place where Native Hawaiians have thrived for generations, tours, hands-on activities, and demonstrations in authentic food preparation, clothing design, and shelter are all possibilities. Local culture and authentic experiences can also be found at Travaasa Hana, where they've added a new outrigger canoe adventure to their extensive cultural programming in tranquil Hana Bay.
Old Lahaina is well worth a visit and the two-hour walking tour with Maui Nei is a great way to explore it, including sites from ancient Hawaii, the missionary days, the whaling period, and the monarchy and plantation eras.
With all but two of the world's climate zones, Hawaii Island is a destination made for exploration. Hawaii Island visitors can discover world-class observatories atop iconic Maunakea, explore two of the world's most active volcanoes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, snorkel with manta rays along the Kohala Coast, or go horseback riding in Waimea Valley, among many options.
Home Tours Hawaii, the island's only culinary home tour company, recently added weekly tours to Kokoleka Lani Farm, a working cacao and coffee farm in Kona. The intimate tour of the estate includes cacao and coffee history and culture, sampling of the farm's tropical fruits, a demonstration of the cacao-to-cocoa transformation, and a tour of the Kona National Soap Company, a working soap factory located on the farm that uses the bean chaff to make soap.
Other new or unique options on Hawaii Island include: the daily Hawaiian Plant Walk at the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden; a new location and tours for Hawaii Forest & Trail in Hilo, including volcanoes, waterfalls, plantations, tropical fruit farms, and more.
Lanai is an island of intriguing contrasts, embracing visitors with beauty and adventure. From luxurious resorts offering world-class amenities to stunning views atop the pine-lined Munro Trail and acrobatic spinner dolphins in Hulopoe Bay to four-wheel driving to Kaunolu-King Kamehameha's summer fishing retreat on the island's southern cliffs--Lanai is a private paradise where visitors are sure to find serenity and excitement.
Lanai Cycles features two-wheel tours on roads less travelled, including their three-hour guided tour down to Shipwreck Beach from Lookout Point, pretty Kaumalapau Harbor, and the charming plantation town of Lanai City, with local stores and the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center, which is worth a standalone visit.
The island of Molokai remains true to its roots with its lush green country, unspoiled landscapes, and untouched beaches, offering refreshing tranquility. Visitors can take a mule ride down to Kalaupapa National Historical Park or escape to the picturesque beaches of Papohaku Beach or Kapukakehu Beach (Dixie Maru Beach). On Molokai, Hawaiian culture thrives from the small central town of Kaunakakai, where King Kamehameha V built a vacation home, to sacred Halawa Valley, where there's the three-mile Halawa Valley Falls Cultural Hike.
Molokai's Kamakou Preserve is located on the slopes of Kamakou, the island's highest mountain, and features a Nature Conservancy site with more than 250 rare Hawaiian plants. Interested visitors will also want to head to Kalaupapa National Historical Park, where they will discover the sacred grounds where Hawaii's victims of Hansen's disease (leprosy) were forced into isolation from 1866 to 1969.
Did you Know?
*On the Big Island, the new Fork & Fire tour from KapohoKine Adventures features educational stops and tastings at Hamakua Mushrooms and Volcano Winery, a private cooking demonstration at Volcano House, and a sunset tour of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see the red glow of Halemaumau Crater.
*As part of its 50th anniversary, the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai also added a new stick sculpture in the McBryde Garden by internationally renowned environmental artist Patrick Dougherty, which is woven from plant materials gathered from the garden and will gradually decompose.
*For those who like to eat local plants and other local delicacies, Tasting Kauai in Oahu recently introduced The North Shore Kauai Food Tour and South Shore Kauai Food Tour.
*On Lanai, the former Lanai Theater in Lanai City has been fully restored to match its 1930s vintage appearance and reopened as the Hale Keaka. It's now a modern cinema house with two theaters.
Hawaii's Polynesian Cultural Center Features New Hukilau Marketplace and More
Last February brought the opening of the new Hukilau Marketplace at the already popular Polynesian Cultural Center. Located in Laie on Oahu’s North Shore, the opening brought the Polynesian Cultural Center’s history full circle to the days of the Laie Hukilau (a fishing technique and gathering invented by ancient Hawaiians), which provided the inspiration for the attraction’s opening back in 1963.
The new Marketplace now provides even more reasons for visitors and locals alike to head to the Polynesian Cultural Center, where the long-time attraction already featured an engaging and interactive celebration showcasing the people, culture, arts, and crafts of Polynesia. With more than 40 retail, dining, and activity providers, the already-bustling Hukilau Marketplace reestablishes Laie as a gathering place for old-fashioned family fun.
Anchoring the Hukilau Marketplace are signature stores, restaurants and attractions named and designed to pay tribute to several significant Laie landmarks and community members, including: Pounders Restaurant (named after Pounders Beach, a nearby bodysurfing hotspot, and featuring island-inspired food); Laie General Store (paying homage to beloved neighborhood businesses through signage, decor, and memorabilia); and statues of locals Hamana Kalili (father of the iconic shaka sign greeting) and Joseph Kekuku (inventor of the Hawaiian steel guitar).
There are many other locally leaning food and beverage options, as well as other stores (like the Lei-Away lei shop) and water-, beach- and inland-oriented activities. Many of the stores have long-standing ties to Laie, the North Shore, and Polynesia – and offer distinctive items not available at any other major tourist attraction or shopping center in Hawaii.
Hukilau Marketplace guests desiring a brief tour of the interior of the neighboring Polynesian Cultural Center can purchase a ticket at $10 a person for a relaxing 15-minute canoe ride down the winding, freshwater lagoon. Visitors who later decide to purchase admission to the Center’s island villages, Alii Luau, or Ha: Breath of Life, can use the $10 fare as a credit towards their total admission.