From couples on a romantic getaway to families with small children, the perfect Hawaii vacation awaits. (Photo: Dreamtime)
Not sure where to go in Hawaii? We’ve got the perfect guide for every type of traveler, from romance seekers to adventurers to partiers who want to spend the day snoozing on a gorgeous stretch of sand…until nighttime rolls around again.
For Solo Travelers: Kauai
Flying solo? Make your home base Kauai’s Hanalei Town on the island’s North Shore. The small town is famous for its crescent-shaped beach and has a friendly, laid-back vibe, where travelers and locals come for the excellent surfing and on-point beachside restaurants. Start the day with a surf lesson from Hawaiian Surfing Adventures, which will get even the biggest rookies riding waves. When hunger strikes, head to Hanalei Taro & Juice Co.’s food truck for farm-to-table Hawaiian fare like kalua pig, poi, lomi salmon, and smoothies made from taro ⎯ a local, heart-shaped root vegetable sourced from Hanalei’s misty green mountains.
Spend the afternoon lounging on Hanalei Bay’s white sand beach, browsing local artists’ work at the town’s art galleries, exploring the flora and fauna at Limahuli Garden and Preserve, or kayaking the Hanalei River. Come evening, mingle at the bar at St. Regis Princeville then head to Tahiti Nui for a dinner of fresh Ahi paired with live music.
For Couples: Lanai
You’ll feel like you’re on your own private island when visiting Lanai. There are no traffic lights, and 18 miles of pristine sand make it easy to find a secluded spot by the water. Rent a four-wheel-drive to access out-of-the-way places like the Garden of the Gods, a hiking destination with otherworldly rock formations and breathtaking views of neighboring islands. Plan on a visit to Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock) ⎯ the sunset is spectacular and spinner dolphins can often be spotted playing in the water.
For Food & Culture: Big Island
Food and cultural festivals are everywhere on the Big Island. The Kona region is known for its coffee production, and celebrates the history behind the bean during the annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. This year’s event takes place from November 6 to15 and includes coffee farm tours, coffee and tea pairing events, and the Holualoa Village Coffee & Art Stroll, which takes visitors through the art enclave of Holualoa. The island also hosts the Merrie Monarch Festival each spring, when hula schools from every island come together to perform. In October, the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival draws top chefs from around the world for a week full of drinking and dining.
For Multi-Generational Groups: Hawaii Island
The Big Island has a long list of activities, from whale watching boat tours during the day to stargazing at the clear Mauna Kea night sky at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. Don’t miss a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to two active volcanoes and 333,000 acres of lava fields, volcanic craters, lava caves, and petroglyphs. Another must-do: the Polynesian Cultural Center, which offers family-friendly activities like hula lessons, canoe races, and cooking lessons, as well as one of the island’s most popular luaus.
For Beach Bums: Molokai
Make like Robinson Crusoe on Molokai, where the white sand beaches are rarely crowded and there are just a few hotels. On the west side, the three-mile Papohaku Beach is one of the state’s biggest. On the east side, Kumimi Beach is an ideal pick for snorkeling, while Halawa Beach Park offers a secluded spot for taking a dip set against the mountains of the Halawa Valley.
At the end of the day, pack a picnic and head for Kiowea Beach Park—it’s not great for swimming, but is a spectacular spot to watch the sunset and is a short drive from the ancient Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove, full of giant palms. Spend an afternoon on a mule ride along the sheer cliffs of Kalaupapa State Park, where you’ll ride the ocean to the historic town of Kalaupapa, one of Hawaii’s most remote settlements.
For Groups of Friends: Oahu
Whether your crew is into high octane activities, bumming it on the beach, or partying until the wee hours (or a bit of all three), you’ll be more than satisfied on Oahu. Adventures come on land or sea—get a bird’s eye view of the North Shore with Hawaii’s oldest and largest sky diving company, hit the waves during a group surf lesson with pro-surfer Hans Hedemann, or snorkel the reefs full of colorful fish at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.
The Beach Bar at the Moana Surfrider serves innovative cocktails accompanied by killer water views. It’s the perfect place to start your evening before moving on to Roy’s for a sushi dinner. Not ready to turn in? End the night with dancing at Rumfire.
For Families with Little Kids: Maui
West Maui’s Kaanapali Beach is one of the most eye-catching in the world and a great choice for families traveling with little ones, thanks to three miles of white sand and gentle surf. Most hotels here are large, with kid’s clubs, babysitting services and connecting bedrooms. Nearby Whalers Village has a host of shops ideal for picking up anything you might have forgotten to pack, as well as family-friendly restaurants like the beachfront Leilani’s. Order the “Keiki” kids menu, which includes locally-brewed root beer and simply grilled fish.
For Adrenaline Junkies: Kauai
Some of the world’s most breathtaking natural scenery can be found on Kauai. Start with Blue Hawaiian Helicopter’s Eco Adventure, which includes a visit to Manawaiopuna, the massive waterfall featured in Jurassic Park and a flight into the center of the crater of Mt. Waialeale, with 5,000-foot walls towering above. During summer months, visitors can sign up for a full-day guided kayak tour of the jagged cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, a 17-mile trip that includes lunch on a private beach; you can hike the 3,600-foot-deep Waimea Canyon (aka the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”) year round.
Princeville Ranch Adventures runs a zipline tour over a suspension bridge that spans a waterfall, followed by a picnic lunch at a hidden swimming hole. Visitors can also explore Kauai’s waters at night with dive outfit Fathom Five, where you’ll catch the nocturnal activity of creatures like octopus, eels, sea turtles and even the occasional shark.
This article was published through a partnership with Jetsetter magazine.