Secrets of paradise: What to do in Hawaii

Stairway in Hawaii surrounded by lush scenery that leads to the ocean
Beach-goers enjoying the water in Kauai, Hawaii

If you’re scoping out what to do in Hawaii, you’ve first got to decide which of the four main islands to visit. While the state contains eight major islands, most visitors find their paradise on the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, or Oahu. One thing’s for sure, though: Whether you’re open to island-hopping or want to settle into one Hawaiian vacation rental, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Aloha State.

Explorers looking for a slower pace of life will thrive on the Big Island, while action-seekers will love Oahu’s flashy attractions. Each Hawaiian island has something unique to offer—read on to learn more about what to do on each island in Hawaii.

Things to do on the Big Island, Hawaii

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The largest of the Hawaiian islands, the Big Island offers visitors calm forests, stark volcanic fields, ranches, towns, and (of course) beaches. Explore the natural wonders of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can warm your fingers over the heat of flowing lava. When you need a pick-me-up, venture out to one of the Big Island’s coffee farms for a tour and a fresh hot cup. The ocean is always the main attraction in paradise, though, and you’ll get a hearty dose of Pacific waves on the Big Island, from the Kohala Coast to a manta ray snorkeling expedition.

What to do in Oahu, Hawaii

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Looking for that classic island experience? Oahu just might be your paradise. Sign up for surfing lessons at Waikiki Beach, which you might recognize from Hawaii Five-0 and other Hollywood vignettes, and face the world-famous waves. Land-lovers should try hiking the famous Diamond Head trail, which culminates in a spectacular view of the city and ocean below (try to spot your vacation rental!). Honolulu, the state capital and the island's epicenter, serves as a glamorous shopping and dining hub for visitors from all over the globe—sample some fancy sushi while you’re here!

Beach-goers enjoying the water in Kauai, Hawaii

Things to do in Kauai, Hawaii

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Kauai’s nickname, the Garden Isle, hints at the island’s near-magical natural beauty. Whether you stay in a Princeville vacation rental or a Wailea condo, there’s no sidestepping Kauai’s lush forests, striking shoreline views, and colorful coves. Expert-level kayakers can take the adventure of a lifetime along the Napali coastline, but the extraordinary cliffs and beaches can also be enjoyed by helicopter or boat tour. In any case, you’ll experience sights like nowhere else on earth. Waimea Canyon State Park, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” is another destination that will take your breath away. If you’re not up for all that action, or just need a break from it, Hanalei Bay is home to some beautiful and relaxing beaches.

What to do in Maui, Hawaii

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The lush beauty of Maui is bound to blow you away—from rolling hills to dense rainforests to perfect beaches, it’s hard to go wrong during your stay in a Maui vacation rental. However, if you need a little direction, we’d recommend starting with a sunrise at the top of Mt. Haleakala (an easy drive, no climbing required). If you’re here in the winter, whale-watching is a must, but it’s worth keeping an eye out any time of year. Resort life is at its finest in West Maui, so a Lahaina or Kaanapali vacation rental is an excellent home base for island-wide explorations like the famous Road to Hana.

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