What to do in Hawaii? 8 must-do activities recommended by locals

  • Building your Hawaii itinerary can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors.
  • There are plenty of overlooked activities that won’t be inundated with other tourists – or overpriced.
  • The Hawaiians have chimed in with some recommended activities to do while you’re there and why.

Hawaii offers an abundance of activities for people, from luaus to surf lessons and visits to iconic attractions like Diamond Head. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming for visitors to figure out how to allocate their time, especially if it’s their first visit and they want to avoid tourist traps.

Who better to turn to for recommendations than the locals themselves?

“Hawaii has an incredibly rich history that goes way deeper than the hula, the luau, or the pristine beaches,” said Diana Su, senior marketing manager of the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Su, who grew up in Honolulu, has years of experience in the hospitality industry in Hawaii.

There are plenty of overlooked activities that can reward you with a deeper connection to the islands and won’t be inundated with other tourists – or overpriced. Discover below the recommended activities not to be missed as a tourist, according to locals:

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1. Cheers to that

One way to taste the islands is via a pint glass. Across the islands, talented brewmasters have opened breweries infusing beloved local flavors, such as lilikoi (passion fruit) and Hawaiian vanilla, into their drinks.

From Ola Brew in Hilo and Kona on the island of Hawaii to Lanikai Brewing in Kailua on Oahu, there are plenty of places to choose from. Not only are you supporting a local business, but you’re also sipping on unique beers you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. And if you don’t drink alcohol, many breweries offer kombucha or other locally inspired non-alcoholic beers.

2. Get dirty

You’ll likely see the light purple paste known as poi, which is made from taro, when visiting Hawaii, but consider tracing it back to the source: visit a lo’i, or taro field.

Many farms offer community work days open to the public, such as Kakoo Oiwi in Kaneohe on Oahu. Get your hands dirty as you learn how to traditionally cultivate the crop and learn about how Hawaiians have grown taro for many centuries to use as a staple in their diet.

3. Stargazing

Tourist hiking in the crater of Haleakala Volcano on the Sliding Sands Trail.  Nice view of the crater floor and the cinder cones below.  Maui, Hawaii, USA.

With low light pollution and sky-high peaks, Hawaii offers some of the best stargazing.

At Haleakala on Maui, you can see the Milky Way from the top and also reserve an overnight campsite so you can spend the night stargazing. Be careful, it will be cold when it gets dark. On the island of Hawaii, there’s Mauna Kea, where people can stargaze at the tourist information station (you’ll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get there). While on the island of Hawaii, visit the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii to learn about how native cultures use the stars and tour its full-dome planetarium.

If you are not near these volcanoes, no worries. The Stargazers of Hawaii organization holds public stargazing shows across Oahu, setting up telescopes and teaching families about the constellations and mythology around the stars.

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4. A royal visit

'Iolani Palace

In Honolulu, ‘Iolani Palace has stood proudly since 1882 and played a significant role in the overthrow of Hawaiian royalty. This is where Queen Liliuokalani was imprisoned by US officials. Today, visitors can tour the property and see the royal quarters and staterooms, even the small room where the queen was locked up, and hear the stories of Hawaiian monarchs.

su said:

I believe one of the cheapest but most amazing experiences is a visit to “Iolani Palace”. It is a wonderful way for our visitors to understand the complexity of Hawaii’s legendary past, the royal monarch and their impact on the world, the suppression of Hawaiian traditions and beliefs, international presence and relations and much more. Before visiting a place, it is important that we understand where we are going – the history, use and spirituality of the place, and the docent-led tour of Iolani Palace is a fantastic way to do this.

The palace offers docent-led tours every Wednesday and Thursday for $30 per person.

5. Pay your respects

Pi'ilanihale Heiau, near the Hawaiian town of Hana on Maui, covers nearly three acres, including a giant stone platform with volcanic stone walls.

“Hawaiians have many wah pana sites, places that are historic or celebrated in Hawaii’s cultural traditions and current spiritual rituals continue to be practiced; some of these sites are still accessible to visitors,” Su said.

Many of these sites, which range from places of worship to royal birthplaces, are now part of state and county parks or botanical gardens, such as Hale O Lono in the Waimea Valley on the North Shore of Oahu and Hikiau Heiau in Kealakekua State Historic Park in Hawaii. Island.

While seeing these ancient sites in person is an incredible experience, it’s important to remember that they are considered sacred to others.

“Before visiting these revered sites, we ask visitors to adopt culturally appropriate behavior, Hana Kupono, to evoke respect in the form of silence and transform the mundane and ordinary mood into something deeper and more meaningful,” Su added.

Traditional protocol also involves silently asking ancestors for permission and expressing gratitude for visiting the site. Never touch or disturb the site and never leave traces.

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6. Check out a local show

Aunty Wendy Tuivaioge, director of Hawaiian programs at the Four Seasons Resort Maui in Wailea, suggests people attend local and culturally relevant events, like ukulele concerts and hula competitions, at places like the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului.

These are “open to the public, it’s a great place for visitors to meet locals eager to talk and share their mana’o (thoughts) on our unique culture,” she said.

7. Take a ride

Canoeing is a great way to ride the waves of Waikiki.

When visiting Hawaii, you’ll likely spot a long canoe with side supports on the side of the main hull, called outriggers. As you may know from Disney’s “Moana,” these canoes have long played an important role in Polynesian cultures.

“The Polynesians were master navigators, and the wow (canoe) was a vital tool that not only led them to discover the Hawaiian Islands, but also provided daily sustenance and food for their families, community and families. moku (island),” said Nakoa Prejean, master navigator and founder of Hawaiian Ocean Adventures at Four Seasons Resort O’ahu in Ko Olina.

Prejean said an outrigger canoe boating experience allows visitors to actively participate in a culturally significant activity in an educational and fun way – many tours combine the canoe ride with cultural protocol like singing and diving. snorkeling or whale watching.

8. Immerse yourself

Bishop's Museum

Ha’aheo Zablan, general manager of the Kaimana Beach Hotel and a Hawaiian, recommends tourists visit the Bishop Museum as an “inexpensive but extremely immersive” experience.

Open daily, the Bishop Museum was founded in honor of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop in 1889. The museum has the largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific cultural artifacts, such as feathers made for Hawaiian royalty called kahili, and specimens of natural history. There’s also a planetarium with shows about Polynesian scouts who used the stars to navigate the Pacific Ocean. Spend a morning or afternoon here and also take time to enjoy the expansive lawn. General admission is $26.95 for adults, and there’s a military discount. If you attend their monthly After Hours event, admission is just $5 and local vendors will be selling food and drink.

Sally J. Minick