38 Incredible Places to Visit in Hawaii

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Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and I’ve been lucky enough to both live there and visit frequently. I’ve visited all six islands multiple times and with each new trip I make it a point to go somewhere I’ve never been before. 

38 Incredible Places to Visit in Hawaii

After dozens of trips, here’s my (ever changing) list of places you NEED to visit in Hawaii: 


Hawaii’s most populated island is home to all of the iconic sites you’re familiar with from history and pop culture. With over 1 million people on the island, Oahu is a metropolitan mixing pot of cultures but when you get away from Honolulu, you’ll easily be swept away by the island’s charm and jaw dropping scenery. 

1.Waikiki Beach & Diamond Head

Waikiki Beach is the hub of tourist activity in Honolulu. On Oahu. In Hawaii! I’m not going to lie…it’s chaotic and crowded, and…not at all what I’m looking for from a Hawaiian vacation. 

BUT. It’s so iconic. It’s probably the most famous beach in the world and honestly, take away all of the people and buildings and it’s probably a contender for most beautiful. White sand. Turquoise water. Diamond Head in the distance. 

Every reference you’ve seen about Hawaii in movies, tv shows, commercials, etc. in the last 70 years probably revolves around Waikiki and Diamond Head. So you’ve got to see it!

A stay at the Royal Hawaiian, sunset drinks at Duke’s or House without a Key, hiking to the top of Diamond Head, enjoying the major foodie scene…put it all on your list. 

Read More: 28 Things to Do in Waikiki & Honolulu // Where Locals Eat in Waikiki

2.Kualoa Ranch

Chances are if you’ve seen any movie that’s set in a tropical jungle in the last 20 years or so…you’ve seen Kualoa Ranch. Jurassic Park made this place famous, but countless movies and tv shows have been filmed at this property on the windward coast of Oahu. 

The ranch hosts a long list of offerings to visitors from movie tours to horseback riding to ziplining. It’s one of the top tourist attractions on Oahu, but honestly, even if you’re a little adverse to touristy places, this is one you need to see. 

It’s hands down one of the most beautiful spots on Oahu, and I highly recommend the Jurassic Adventure tour. 

Read More: Visiting Kualoa Ranch

Shangri La & the Honolulu Museum of Art

When people ask me for “hidden gems” or my list of “secret spots” in Hawaii, this is my #1 recommendation. 

Famous socialite Doris Duke built Shangri La in the 1930s as a home for her impressive Islamic art collection. If you didn’t know you were at the base of Diamond Head, you’d probably think you were in Morocco or somewhere in the Middle East. 

The house is open to tours through the Honolulu Museum of Art and it takes some planning in advance, but a trip to Shangri La is a peek into one of the most picturesque places in Hawaii that very few people even know about. 

Read More: Visiting Shangri La & the Honolulu Museum of Art

4.Lanikai & Kailua

Kailua town and Lanikai Beach used to be the best kept secret in Hawaii, but…the cat’s out of the bag! This charming little beach town is what people hope Hawaii will be like.

Local shops and restaurants and the quaint small town vibes make it special, but the real show stopper here are the beaches. Lanikai Beach with its calm water and epic view of the “Mokes” is iconic, but nearby Kailua Beach is almost just as spectacular. 

Wherever you plant yourself for the day, make sure you climb to the top of the Lanikai Pillbox trail for an amazing view from above. 

Since Kailua has been “discovered” it’s really starting to change and a lot of people tongue in cheek refer to it as “little California,” but it’s still pretty charming and you 100% need to see the beaches.

5.North Shore

Oahu’s north shore is home to the most famous big wave surfing in the world. The “Triple Crown” of surfing takes place here every winter when the swells roll in and the culture is really fun. 

Compared to Honolulu’s cityscape, locals refer to the north shore as “the country,” and you can easily spend a full day hopping from beach to beach checking out the sites. 

You don’t want to miss: Haleiwa town, Matsumoto Shave Ice, Ted’s Bakery, the Sunrise Shack, the Bonzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, and the food trucks at Kahuku. 

Read More: Guide to Oahu’s North Shore // Is the Polynesian Cultural Center Worth It?

6.The Windward Coast

If I had to name the most beautiful part of Oahu, it would hands down be the windward coast. Start on the south side of the island and drive around the coast up towards the north shore. 

At the southern end you’ve got the world famous snorkeling spot Hanauma Bay and Koko Head Hike plus the Halona Blowhole. 

But the drive gets unbelievably beautiful as you drive farther north. The road winds like a ribbon between white sand beaches with turquoise water and the jagged green mountains. 

Read More: Things to Do on the Windward Coast

7.Iolani Palace

There are few places more historically significant in Hawaii than Iolani Palace. I’m always surprised by how many people don’t know the history of the Kingdom of Hawaii or how the US ended up involved. 

Well, take a tour of Iolani Palace and you’ll know pretty much everything you need to know. Besides the history lesson, the palace is spectacular. It had electricity before the White House and Buckingham Palace! 

Read More: Underrated Things to Do on Oahu

8.Pearl Harbor

I think a trip out to the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor is a must do even on a quick trip to Oahu. 

Besides the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor is also home to the USS Missouri Battleship Memorial, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, and the USS Bowfin at the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum. 

Read More: Tips for Visiting Pearl Harbor

More Posts about Oahu: 5 Day Oahu Itinerary // Best Luaus on Oahu // Where to Stay on Oahu Besides Waikiki // My Favorite Boutique Hotels in Waikiki

***Want to save major $$$ on your trip to Hawaii? I get asked ALL the time how I’m able to travel so often to Hawaii and stay at really nice resorts. Well, my favorite travel hack is cashing in points to score free airfare and free nights at some of Hawaii’s most high end resorts. Read my full guide on the exact system I use to max out credit card rewards here. Seriously, it’s going to save you soooo much money.

Big Island (Hawaii Island)

Hawaii Island (nicknamed the Big Island because of its size) is actually one of the least populated Hawaiian Islands. It’s rugged, spread out, and full of adventure. People either love it or hate it. If you love to explore, you’ll love the Big Island.

9.Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

I’m a “National Park geek” so I’ll go out of my way to visit any National Park…BUT Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is pretty special. 

There aren’t too many places in the world where you can see an active volcano, and most of the time when Kilauea is erupting it’s actually possible to see LAVA in the park. 

I’ve yet to be able to see it (the volcanoes haven’t been erupting lately and I have the worst timing ; ) but the park is still 100% worth visiting when there’s no lava. 

Hiking through the Thurston Lava tube is a don’t miss and there’s plenty of geothermal activity and formations to observe all year round. 

Read More: 1 Day Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Itinerary


Once in the running to become Hawaii’s capital, historic Hilo is one of the most charming towns in Hawaii. 

Pastel buildings, local shops and restaurants, a vibrant farmers market, and a much more local vibe make a great basecamp for exploring the more tropical and jungle-y side of the island.

If you’re looking for an off the beaten path, less touristy Hawaiian vacation, consider staying in Hilo. And even if you’re staying in Kona and enjoying all of the fun and sun of a traditional Hawaiian vacation, definitely set aside a day to explore Hilo. 

Read More: One Day in Hilo

11.Akaka Falls

The 442-foot tall Akaka Falls is one of Hawaii’s most spectacular waterfalls and it’s surprisingly accessible. 

The half mile loop trail takes you along the gorge through a lush jungle filled with tropical flowers and wild orchids. This is my favorite kind of hike…short with a BIG payoff!

12.Mauna Kea Beach

I’ve been to a lot of beaches and I think Kauna’oa (Mauna Kea) Beach is one of the best in Hawaii. 

The bay is usually so calm and protected that it feels like swimming in a pool. The snorkeling is pretty good, the sand is soft and white, and the hotel has a platform set up out in the bay that’s fun to swim out to. 

Speaking of hotels, this beach is a little hard to access (there’s limited parking) so I think it’s worth the splurge to stay a few days at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel to really live it up.

13.Kona Coffee Farm

Kona coffee is world famous and if you’re a coffee lover or you love a good farm tour then you’ll definitely want to spend some time checking out some of the local farms and even touring a processing plant. 

You can do this Napa Valley style and visit 2-3 different farms a day tasting your way around the island, or just pick one farm that offers a full tour and tasting. 

I think Greenwell Farms has one of the best free tours on the island.

If you’re a serious coffee enthusiast, consider timing your trip to coincide with the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival in November.

14.Green Sand Beach

There are only four green sand beaches in the world and you’ll find one of them on the south side of the Big Island. 

This isn’t exactly the kind of beach where you go to spend a leisurely day, but it’s a sight to see!

You’ll either have to hike six miles round trip along the coast to get to the beach (take more water than you think you’ll need because it is full sun with no shade whatsoever) or pay to ride one of the “local shuttles” ($20/person will get you a spot in the back of a jacked up Tacoma and about 45 minutes to an hour at the beach)

15.Black Sand Beach

Hawaii is famous for its black sand beaches and Punalu’u Beach is one of the best. 

Something about the black sand with the green palm trees really pops, but the real showstopper here are the turtles. 

It’s not uncommon to see half a dozen or more turtles resting on the beach here.

16.Stargazing at Mauna Kea

I never thought I’d be wearing a down parka and gloves in Hawaii and be COLD, but the summit of Mauna Kea has an elevation of 14,000 ft and occasionally even gets a dusting of snow. 

Going to the summit for sunset and stargazing is one of my all time favorite (and most unexpected) adventures in Hawaii. 

Read More: Tips for Stargazing at Mauna Kea

17.Manta Rays

One of Hawaii’s most unique wildlife phenomenons are the manta rays on the Big Island. Most manta rays are migratory but the Big Island is home to about 300 permanent manta residents. 

The mantas come out at night to feed on plankton that are attracted to lights set up around different parts of the island, and many companies offer boat tours to take people out to snorkel or dive with them. 

Yes, in the ocean. After dark. If you can’t quite work up the courage for that, make dinner reservations at Manta at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and you can watch the whole thing on dry land from their viewing platform. 

Read More: How to Swim with the Manta Rays

More Posts about the Big Island: 7 Day Big Island Itinerary // Where to Stay on the Big Island // Where to Eat on the Big Island // 28 Things You Can ONLY Do on the Big Island


Called the Garden Isle, Kauai is probably what you think of when you dream of Hawaii…lush, green, jagged mountains and a laid back island vibe. Locals on other islands often refer to Kauai as “country” and it’s easy to see why. The island isn’t exactly undiscovered or short on visitors, but it’s way less developed compared to Oahu and Maui and it’s a hiker’s paradise.

18.Napali Coast

If you come to Kauai without seeing the Napali Coast, you haven’t really been to Kauai. The jagged, green sea cliffs are one of the most dramatic landscapes on the planet, and they’re on my shortlist of places you MUST see in Hawaii. 

Because the coast is one long stretch of sea cliffs, it’s not terribly accessible, but that’s part of the fun. You can only see the Napali Coast by helicopter, boat, or by hiking the Kalalau Trail. 

Read More: How to See the Napali Coast

19.Kalalau Trail

Speaking of the Kalalau Trail, I think this is the #1 hike in Hawaii. 

The full trail is 11 miles out and back (and requires overnight camping permits), but day hikers can do the first two miles (4 miles round trip) to Hanakapiai Beach and it is SPECTACULAR. 

It’s tough to be sure, but if you’re at all physically able, you’ve got to push yourself to do this. 

The Kalalau Trail does require advance reservations to access the trailhead (either by shuttle or to get a parking spot).

Read More: How to Get Reservations for the Kalalau Trail

20.Hanalei Town

Hanalei is the quintessential Hawaii surf town and it. is. so. cute. Stay in Princeville at a resort or condo or find a vacation rental on the north shore to be extra close. 

At the very least, plan to visit for the day. I love the local surf boutiques here plus drinks at Tahiti Nui and dinner at the Dolphin are a must.

21.Waimea Canyon

Mark Twain called Waimea Canyon the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and it doesn’t disappoint. 

It’s worth the drive to the most remote part of the island to gaze out across the canyon and from some lookouts you can even look down on a unique view of the Napali Coast.

For the most dramatic view, be sure to stop at the Kalalau Lookout. 

I haven’t been up here at sunset (yet), but since it’s a western facing view, it’s got to be spectacular. I mean, it’s spectacular any time of day, but at sunset it’s probably even better.

22.Helicopter Tour

Kauai was pretty much made to be seen from the air. Only 20% of the island is developed (including roads!) which means that most visitors only see a tiny fraction of its splendors. And boy does it have splendors. 

While every Hawaiian Island has absolutely stunning scenery, Kauai is overwhelming in the “jagged, majestic green mountains that look like the backdrop to every single Jurassic Park movie” department.  

Because many of its most beautiful sites are so remote and difficult to reach, they remain unseen by all but the most intrepid hikers and…helicopters! 

Read More: Kauai Helicopter FAQs

23.Beach House at Sunset

I like a good restaurant as much as the next girl, but besides good food, the Beach House in Poipu has the most incredible location for watching the sunset and a social “party every night” kind of vibe that makes it an experience

No trip to Kauai is complete for me until I’ve had a Monkeypod Mai Tai at the Beach House. 

Read More: Where to Eat in Poipu

24.Monk Seals on Poipu Beach

There are only about 1000 monk seals left in Hawaii and while you can technically find them on any island, I’ve only ever personally seen them on Kauai. 

The beaches on the south side of Kauai around Poipu are a favorite resting area for the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals, and after a big meal they’re known to crawl up onto the beach and nap all day. 

I’ve seen them at Poipu Beach and also Shipwreck Beach, but REMEMBER…it’s illegal to approach them so just admire them from a distance!

Read More: Things to Do in Poipu

More Posts about Kauai: 5 Day Kauai Itinerary // Things You Can ONLY Do on Kauai // Where to Stay on Kauai

Side Note: If you’re looking for a rental car for your trip, I LOVE Discount Hawaii Car Rentals. They’re seriously the only company I ever use. They’ll give you the very best prices, you don’t have to reserve with a credit card or pay until you show up, you can cancel and re-book anytime if you find a better rate, and they usually have a special that adds additional drivers for no fee. It’s a no brainer. Click here to check rates for your trip.


I’m partial to Maui as I lived here for a while and it feels like “home.” Maui has it all…beautiful beaches, jungle adventures, charming small towns, and luxe resort amenities. I think Maui is the perfect blend between Oahu and Kauai. There’s plenty to do but it doesn’t have the city vibe of Oahu and it’s not crawling with people.

25.Road to Hana

Tales of the harrowing drive along narrow and winding roads on the edge of cliffs, through jungles, and past waterfalls have only built up the folklore surrounding Hawaii’s most popular drive.

And taking part is practically a right of passage when visiting Maui. Set out early and spend the day visiting rainbow eucalyptus trees, bamboo forests, black and red sand beaches, 400 foot waterfalls, and Hana town itself which will give you a taste of the real Hawaii. Old Hawaii. 

Of all the things to do in Maui, you really shouldn’t miss this one. 

Read More: Road to Hana Itinerary // Road to Hana Tips // Driving the Backside of the Road to Hana

26.Sunrise at Haleakala National Park

There aren’t many places in the world where you can stand on top of a 10,000 ft tall volcano in the middle of the ocean and watch the sun begin to awaken. 

It’s become a pilgrimage of sorts, with bleary eyed tourists waking up in the middle of the night and donning coats and hats to make the long and windy drive up the mountain to Haleakala’s summit where they stake out spots and wait for a glimpse of those first sights of peachy orange hues peaking through the cloud canopy. 

It’s been called magical and that’s all you can really say about it. You’re unlikely to experience this kind of phenomenon anywhere else in the world.

Read More: Tips for Sunrise at Haleakala


The slopes of Haleakala are home to an area called the “upcountry” and it’s home to some of my favorite places in Hawaii. 

The area is predominantly local, and if you couldn’t look out and see the ocean you’d probably think you were in the Texas Hill Country or Colorado high meadows instead of Hawaii. 

The lava rock has created super fertile soil and that combined with the moderate climate make for spectacular agricultural conditions. You’ll find every type of farm tour you can think of here. 

On my “don’t miss” list is the Ali’i Lavender Farm, Maui Wine, and Maui Pineapple Tour. 

Read More: Things to Do Upcountry // Maui Wine // Maui Lavender Farm // Maui Pineapple Tour

28.Molokini Crater & Turtle Town

Located three miles off Maui’s southern shore, Molokini Crater has long been Maui’s (and possibly Hawaii’s) most popular snorkeling and diving destination and it’s easy to see why.

The partially submerged volcanic crater with its famous crescent shape is not only home to an extensive coral reef with 250+ species of tropical fish, but it also has an incredible quality of water that boasts up to 150 feet of visibility.

My favorite way to snorkel Molokini is with Kai Kanani on their Sunrise Deluxe Snorkel because they get to Molokini before the crowds show up and they also include a stop at the famous Turtle Town on the way back. 

Read More: Is Snorkeling Molokini Worth It? // Where to See Turtles in Maui

29.Kapalua Coastal Trail

My favorite kind of hike is actually more of a stroll through incredibly beautiful scenery…and that’s pretty much what the Kapalua Coastal Trail is. 

Set up your beach gear at Kapalua Bay in the morning and then walk the trail 1.5 miles out and back past some of Maui’s prettiest beaches, lava fields, and coastal scenery.

30.Iao Valley

Maui’s Iao Valley is where you’ll get those “Jurassic Park vibes.” Jagged, green mountains are the backdrop to a lush jungle that seems like it could be home to a spare dino or two. In terms of actual history, this is the site where King Kamehameha I defeated Maui’s army and united the Hawaiian Islands. 

You’ll need to do a little light hiking to get the best views, but it’s a great easy hike on Maui. There’s a 0.6 mile paved walkway that leads to an overlook of the Iao Needle.  There’s also a small botanical garden where you can learn about the plants brought to the valley by the Hawaiians who first settled there.


Maui’s posh resort area is where I go when I want the full blown luxury resort experience in Hawaii. 

There’s a handful of swanky beach resorts that are all connected by the Wailea Beach Walk and the whole area is one convenient bubble of gorgeous beaches, swaying palm trees, manicured tropical landscapes, water activities, golf, tennis, restaurants, shopping, spas, and every vacation activity you can imagine. 

It’s pretty much paradise. 

Read More: Wailea Resorts Ranked // Best Restaurants in Wailea // Things to Do in South Maui

32.Kahekili Highway

The Road to Hana gets all the glory on Maui, but the Kahekili Highway that wraps around West Maui is just as scenic with way less traffic. It’s actually a lot more harrowing too!

But the first 15 miles or so north of Kapalua is a spectacular drive that’s a fully paved two lane road. Don’t miss it! 

After that, travel at your own risk ; )

33.Big Beach

Also called Makena State Park, or sometimes Makena Beach, this is one of Maui’s most beautiful beaches. 

It’s a long stretch of golden/white sand with beautiful blue water. There’s a strong shore break here (as the life guards will often remind you) so be careful when entering and exiting the water. 

And at the far north end of Big Beach, there’s a rock formation you can climb up (the views are amazing!)

Read More: Best Beaches in Wailea & Kihei

34.Mama’s Fish House

Mama’s Fish House is easily the most recommendable special occasion restaurant in Hawaii. Tell 100 people who’ve been to Maui before that you’re going to Maui and 95 of them will ask “are you going to Mama’s?”

It’s not a “hidden gem” or an out of the way place that nobody knows about. But it’s the best.

Located beachfront on Maui’s north shore, the setting is incredible, the vibe is laid back luxury, and the food is memorable. 

I wouldn’t necessarily say a luau is a “must do” in Hawaii, but a meal at Mama’s certainly is ; ) 

Read More: Is Mama’s Fish House Worth It?

35.Whale Watching Off Maui

Humpback whales migrate from the cold waters of Alaska to the warm waters of Hawaii each year to mate, give birth, and raise their young. While the whales can be seen in season around all of the Hawaiian Islands, if this is a bucket list experience for you, you’re going to want to visit Maui in February. It’s PEAK whale season and they are EVERYWHERE.

There are a TON of companies that take visitors (and locals alike!) out on boats to get a closer look at the whales. Humpback whales are protected in Hawaii so all boats are required to stay 100 yards away from whales (unless the whale approaches the boat), but (despite extremely rare circumstances) that’s MUCH closer than you’ll be if you’re viewing them from the beach.

Read More: Whale Watching on Maui

More Posts about Maui: 9 Things to Skip on Maui // Where to Find Maui Condos // 4 Day Maui Itinerary // Wailea vs Kaanapali 


Molokai is a super local island with very little development. Imagine Hawaii 50 years ago. It’s not for most visitors, but if you like to get off the beaten path and you’re willing to forgo most of the tourist amenities, it’s really special.

36.Kalaupapa National Historical Park

On the north shore of Molokai, the tallest sea cliffs in the world protect the stunning Kalaupapa Peninsula which is home to the most isolated community in the Hawaiian Islands. 

While the area’s natural beauty is second to none, Kalaupapa has an important but sad place in Hawaiian history. With low immunity to western diseases, thousands of Native Hawaiian people suffered from Hansen’s disease (leprosy).

For over 100 years (from 1866 to 1969), patients diagnosed with Hansen’s disease were forcibly separated from their families to live in isolation on the Kalaupapa Peninsula. 

There’s still a small, active community living in Kalaupapa and even though the site has now been designated a National Historical Park, entry to the community requires a permit. This used to be possible through a guided tour, but all visits were paused during COVID and while they’re in the works to resume, it’s still not possible yet. But more details to come soon!

In the meantime, the view from the Kalaupapa Overlook is incredible.

37.Halawa Valley

A trip to Molokai’s Halawa Valley is like a trip back in time. I think the lush, tropical end of Molokai is the most beautiful part of the island and the drive out there is incredible (a bit like the Road to Hana on Maui, but without the traffic ; ) 

You’ll pass restored fish ponds, a spectacular view of Maui in the distance, and an overlook where you can see the waterfall at the back of the valley. 

The beach at the bottom of the valley is beautiful, but to make the most of your visit, I recommend either a visit to Halawa Tropical Flower Farm or the Halawa Valley Falls Cultural Hike. 

More Posts about Molokai: Is Molokai Worth Visiting? // 3 Day Molokai Itinerary


Hawaii’s smallest and least populated island is basically a private island nowadays (98% owned by Larry Ellison – founder of Oracle). The island has two Four Seasons resorts and it’s pretty much a playground for the rich and famous, but it’s still worth a day trip even if you don’t have that kind of cash.

38.Hulopo’e Beach

Hulopo’e Beach is one of the prettiest places to spend the day in Hawaii. The beach is a golden crescent fringed with plenty of shady palm trees and an excellent reef to snorkel.

From the beach, it’s a short hike to check out the tidepools and Puʻu Pehe. 

I’ve visited Lanai (and this beach specifically) on a day trip with Trilogy and also on my own taking the ferry from Maui. The Trilogy excursion is one of my favorites that I’ve done in Hawaii, but it’s also really doable on your own since the beach is just a short walk from where the public ferry docks. 

Here’s one more really important thing you need to know before your Hawaii trip…

Reservations You Need to Make BEFORE Your Hawaii Trip

You’ve got your airfare, hotel, rental car and your big activities booked, so you should be good to go, right? Wrong!

Travel is BOOMING in Hawaii so a lot of state and national parks used the closure and reopening to institute reservation systems at some of the island’s most popular spots to make things a little more sustainable.

That means that there are now over half a dozen sites (beaches, trailheads, etc.) that require advance reservations. And some sell out well before you arrive on the island so you really need to have some sort of a plan.

I recently saw somebody in a Hawaii travel group post in a panic that they didn’t know they had to make reservations for things in advance…they thought they could just show up and “go with the flow.” I was tempted to say, well, “as long as the flow doesn’t take you somewhere that requires reservations, you can!” ; )

But I don’t want YOU to be that person, so I’ve pulled together a list of all the places you need to reserve entry in advance (plus all the details on booking windows, price, links, etc.) and a handful of popular tourist hotspots that book out really far in advance too.

Haleakala National Park (Maui)

To visit Haleakala National Park for sunrise at the summit, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are required to enter the park gates between 3AM and 7AM (sunrise hours).

Online reservations are $1 per reservation/vehicle PLUS you’ll pay the park entrance fee of $30/vehicle when you arrive (National Park annual passes are also accepted at the gate).

The reservation booking window opens 60 days in advance at 7AM HST. There are also a limited number of tickets released two days before.

You can make one reservation every three days with the same account. So if you want to make reservations for back to back days (in case of weather/conditions), you’ll need to do so with separate accounts (email addresses).

If you can’t get reservations for sunrise, you can enter the park anytime after 7AM without reservations. The summit is spectacular during the day and you don’t need reservations for sunset.

I strongly recommend creating an account before and making sure you’re logged in at 7AM HST because it’s not uncommon for reservations to sell out quickly.

Waianapanapa State Park (Maui)

To visit Maui’s famous black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park on the Road to Hana, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are required to visit the beach and are distributed in windows from 7AM-10AM, 10AM-12:30PM, 12:30PM-3PM, and 3PM-6PM. And they are pretty strict about exiting by the end of your window time (you can arrive anytime within your window).

It’s $5/person to enter plus $10/vehicle to park and those fees are paid when you book your time slot.

Reservations open up 30 days in advance.

Iao Valley State Park (Maui)

To visit the lush, green mountains and hike at Iao Valley State Park, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are offered for 90 minute time slots beginning at 7AM and ending at 6PM. They ask that you arrive within the first 30 minutes of your time slot.

Entry is $5/person plus $10/vehicle to park.

Reservations open up 30 days in advance.

Diamond Head (Oahu)

To hike to the top of Waikiki’s famous Diamond Head, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are offered in two hour increments beginning at 6AM (6AM-8AM, 8AM-10AM, etc.) and ending at 6PM. If you’re parking onsite, they ask that you arrive within the first 30 minutes of your reservation window.

Entry is $5/person plus $10/vehicle to park.

Reservations open up 30 days in advance.

Tip: I recommend booking one of the first two time slots because there isn’t much shade on this hike and it gets pretty hot.

Hanauma Bay (Oahu)

To snorkel at Oahu’s pristine Hanauma Bay, you must make reservations in advance here.

Entry times are staggered in 10 minute increments from 7AM to 1:20PM with roughly 1000 slots being assigned in advance every day.

Reservations can be made two days in advance and they open at 7AM HST. They’re usually gone in minutes (if not seconds).

If you’re unable to get an advanced reservation, you can try for a day of, walk in ticket. They open at 6:45AM and they only have a limited number available. Everyone in your group needs to be present when you purchase your tickets in person.

There are no reservations for parking and it’s first come, first serve. $3/vehicle.

It’s $25/person to snorkel at Hanauma Bay (12 and under, active military, and locals with HI ID are free).

The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday (CLOSED MONDAY AND TUESDAY) from 6:45AM-4PM. Last entry is at 1:30PM, the beach is cleared at 3:15PM and you have to leave the facility by 4PM.

Jellyfish patterns can also affect whether or not the bay is open so double check the day before/day of.

USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor (Oahu)

If you want to take the boat tour at Pearl Harbor out to the USS Arizona, it’s recommended to make advance reservations here.

Online reservations are guaranteed a specific boarding time to go out to the USS Arizona. If you’re unable to get an advance reservation, you can wait standby when you arrive. The line could be short (15 minutes or so) or long (hours) and it just depends on the day (if they’re having problems with the loading dock sometimes they don’t take many from the standby line) and the time of day.

Reservations are supposed to open up 60 days in advance, but keep an eye on your exact dates, because lately they’ve actually been opening up about 57ish days in advance???

They also release a small batch of tickets the day before.

The boat ride out to the USS Arizona is free, but it’s $1 to make the reservations online.

They recently started charging $7/vehicle for parking at Pearl Harbor.

Haena State Park / Kalalau Trail (Kauai)

If you want to hike Kauai’s famous Kalalau Trail, you must make advance reservations here.
You’ve got three options here:

1) Parking & Entry: This is the most flexible option and also the most limited. THESE RESERVATIONS SELL OUT IN LESS THAN A MINUTE. There are three time slots available: 6:30AM-12:30PM, 12:30PM-5:30PM and 4:30PM to sunset. You can purchase multiple time slots if you want to stay longer. It’s $10/timeslot (parking) plus $5/person and you have to reserve every person when you initially book. Everybody has to arrive in the same car and your ID needs to match the reservation.

2) Shuttle & Entry: If you can’t get parking at the trailhead, there’s also a shuttle option. Shuttle reservations are $35/person (16+), $25/person (ages 4-15), 3 and under can ride free. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes 6:20AM to 6:40PM.

3) Entry Only: If you’re a Hawaiian resident (with HI ID) or someone WITH a Hawaiian resident, you can purchase entry only for $5/person with no advance reservations. Also, if you’re walking or biking to the trailhead you can do this option. But there is NOWHERE to park in the area to walk in. So this really only works for those with bikes or who are staying close enough to walk. They will tow your car if you park outside the designated areas.

The reservation window opens 30 days in advance at 12AM HST. The parking & entry option usually sells out in a minute, but the shuttle availability will last longer.

There are a TON of FAQs here including the possibility of snagging a canceled reservation.

Other Things to Book in Advance

Hawaii is a busy place these days! Besides the state and national parks above, here’s a handful of miscellaneous things you should make reservations for in advance (if they’re on your radar):

Mama’s Fish House (Maui): The iconic spot is the most popular restaurant in Hawaii and dinner reservations usually start filling up about 6 months in advance (they open up bookings 18 months in advance). Make reservations through their website and if the dates you want are already booked, you can join a waitlist. Most people have pretty good success getting in on the waitlist (even if it’s for lunch).

Old Lahaina Luau (Maui): Honestly, any luau you’re planning to attend you should book early, but most people are usually shocked how far out the Old Lahaina Luau books out. Book it as soon as you know your dates (I think they open at the six month window). They also have a waitlist.

Kualoa Ranch UTV Tour (Oahu): Everybody loves Jurassic Park so getting to ride UTVs where they filmed the movies is very popular. The ranch offers a lot of different tours but the UTV tours usually book out a couple of months in advance.

Spa Reservations: If you’re staying at a resort with a spa (or planning on visiting one), don’t wait until you arrive to make your reservations. I’d make them at least a month in advance.

Tee Times: Same for golf, reserve your tee times well in advance.

Dining Reservations: Any “fancy” or resort restaurant is likely to be booked up these days so if you like having a nice dinner every night, make your plans in advance.