From the gorgeous scenery to the spirit of aloha, there are few destinations more coveted than Hawaii. Home to some of the most spectacular beaches and views in the world, Hawaii is truly a travel bucket list staple. The best places to lounge by the beach, surf, snorkel, or explore local culture, here are your essential Hawaii bucket list ideas.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- O’ahu Bucket List Ideas
- Maui Bucket List Ideas
- Hawaii Bucket List Ideas
- Kauai Bucket List Ideas
- Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Hawaii
With so many things to add to your Hawaii bucket list, we’ve done the hard work for you. From tried-and-true favorites to off-the-beaten-path explorations, these essential Hawaii bucket list ideas will have you wanting to visit again and again. Are you ready to explore a real-world paradise?
O’ahu Bucket List Ideas
One of the largest islands in Hawaii, O’ahu is home to the state’s capital of Honolulu. Known as “the Gathering Place,” this is one of the most popular places to visit in the Hawaiian islands.
1. Surf the North Shore
Home to the world’s most famous surfing competitions, this is the best place to experience pro-level surfing. Not ready to hit the waves yourself? Set up along the shore to take in the top surfers in action.
2. Hike Diamond Head
Even if you’re not an experienced hiker, it’s worth making the trip to Diamond Head. Located on the eastern side of Waikiki, this is one of Hawaii’s most famous landmarks. Diamond Head is relatively easy, and there are so many places to take in the coastal views.
3. Tour the Pearl Harbor Memorial
Another must in O’ahu is to visit and pay respects to the Pearl Harbor Memorial and the USS Arizona Memorial. This is a place to learn about the historic and cultural aspects of World War II in Hawaii. While tours are free to the public, you will need to reserve a time in advance.
4. Walk along Sunset Beach
On O’ahu’s North Shore, you absolutely must take a walk along the infamous Sunset Beach. Popular for surfing, this is one of the quieter beaches on this island. Visit during the winter to see the surf competitions up close. In the summer, bring your snorkel to experience the sea life below the surface.
5. Visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation
Something that’s hard to find in the US outside of Walt Disney theme parks is the infamous dole whip. At the Dole Pineapple Plantation in North Shore, you can take the train through the fruit plantation as well as try the delicious treat yourself.
6. Experience Jurassic Park
Did you know part of O’ahu is known as Hawaii’s Holywood? It’s true, and Kualoa Ranch is the place to be if you’re a movie buff. This is where blockbusters like Jurassic Park, Kong: Skull Island, and the TV show Lost were all filmed.
7. Paddle out to the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar
Lastly, for an off-the-beaten-path thing to do in O’ahu, paddle out to Kaneohe Bay Sandbar. This is one of the largest natural saltwater sandbars in the world, and you can only get to it by boat, kayak, or paddleboard. Known as one of the coolest hangout spots, you’ve never seen anything like this.
Maui Bucket List Ideas
The second-most visited island in Hawaii is Maui. Known for its endless resorts, some call Maui the “playlist of the wealthy.” However, this is a great place for all types of travelers to explore.
8. Soak up the sun at Kapalua Bay Beach
For that classic, calm Hawaii beach, visit Kapalua Bay Beach. Located on the northwest side of Maui, this is a protected cove with some of the calmest waters on the island. You can swim, snorkel, and paddleboard.
9. See the sunrise from the top of Haleakala
If you’re willing to wake up super early, you absolutely must drive to the summit of Haleakala to see the sunrise. To avoid overcrowding, make sure you reserve a time with the National Park Service.
10. Take in the Dragon Teeth
These pointed spires along the Kapalua Coastal Trail were created by lava that’s eroded away. They look like the teeth of a dragon reaching out over the ocean, a unique photo spot for anyone.
11. Spend an afternoon at Lahaina
For an upscale collection of shops and restaurants, visit Lahaina on Maui to take in the views. Home to some of the best shave ice and an enormous Banyan Tree, this is more than a pretty shopping district.
12. Hike Iao Valley State Park
In Central Maui, you’ll find Iao Valley State Park. Home to the stone symbolizing the God of the Ocean in Hawaiian culture, this state park was once used as a burial site for Hawaiian royalty.
13. Go whale watching
Located within the Pacific ocean, Maui is the perfect spot to go whale watching during the winter months. You can spot humpback males from November to May, though the peak season is between January and March.
14. Wander a bamboo forest
For something you don’t see every day, visit the Pipiwai Trail in the Haleakala National Park. This four-mile out-and-back trail includes waterfalls, a huge Banyan tree, and a walk through a gorgeous bamboo forest.
Hawaii Bucket List Ideas
If you’re wondering how to make a travel bucket list for Hawaii, you might be taking a trip to the Big Island. As the name implies, this is the largest island in Hawaii, and it’s a great place to explore.
15. Take a local cooking class
When in Hawaii, do as the locals do. There are so many different cuisines in Hawaii, and it’s worth learning a bit about traditional Hawaiian cooking. You can find many Hawaiian cooking classes for learning how to create fresh poke, butter mochi, and more.
16. Experience a traditional Luau
Another must when visiting Hawaii is to attend a traditional Hawaiian luau. This is a great way to explore local culture, especially as a first-time visitor. This includes a traditional luau feast, hula dancers, and more.
17. Go shark cage diving
If you’re seeking something more adventurous, don’t be afraid to go shark cage diving. You’ll find these excursions all over Hawaii, and it’s the ultimate bucket list item. Kona is one of the best spots for shark diving and viewing on the Big Island.
18. Snorkel along a reef
Not ready to dive with sharks? That’s okay, you can still experience underwater wildlife by snorkeling. There are so many places to snorkel along Hawaii’s beaches and reefs, but one of the best is the marine sanctuary at Kealakekua Bay.
19. See a black sand beach
Did you know Hawaii is home to many black-sand beaches? This black sand comes from eroded volcanic materials. One of the most popular black sand beaches on the Big Island is Kehena Beach. However, note this is a nude beach!
20. Take in Akaka Falls
Hawaii’s Big Island is home to numerous lush waterfalls, but this is one of the most accessible. Found on the northeast coast, you’ll find a popular walking trail with the stunning Akaka Falls.
21. Stargaze at Mauna Kea
Known as one of the best places on earth to see the night sky, the top of Mauna Kea volcano is a must-visit. That being said, be respectful when visiting. This is a sacred mountain to native people, and it’s also the source of local controversy.
Kauai Bucket List Ideas
One of the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is also known as the “Garden Island.” This description couldn’t be more accurate thanks to its emerald valleys, jagged cliffs, and tropical rainforests.
22. Take a helicopter tour
The best way to take in the jagged cliffs of Kauai is by taking a helicopter tour. Take in the Napali coast and the beauty of the island from new heights.
23. Explore the Waimea Canyon
Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” this canyon is around 14 miles long and up to 3,600 feet deep. The brown and orange cliffs contrast the beautiful green of the mountains, and this is a striking place to visit.
24. Spot turtles on Poipu Beach
If you want to take in the large population of sea turtles (and seals), visit Poipu Beach. Just make sure you don’t get too close since these are protected by law.
25. Experience the Spouting Horn Park blowhole
To see water spouting from the rocks in the ocean, you must make a quick stop at Spouting Horn Park. The blowhole sounds like something from another world, and it’s sure to be a memory to remember.
26. Visit the wildlife refuge at Kilauea Lighthouse
On this rocky peninsula, you’ll see some of the best coast views in Kauai. Better yet, this is a great place to spot wildlife like the lawson albatross and red-footed booby.
27. Soak in the Queen’s Bath
Find numerous hidden pools along the north side of the island in Princeville. Formed from lava stone, the Queen’s Bath is one of the most famous spots during low tide. For calmer seas, visit during the spring and summer.
28. Tour a chocolate farm
Did you know Kaua’i is home to many chocolate farms? It’s true, and there is so much to taste. Visit Lydgate Farms for a farm-to-bar tour and chocolate tasting experience. Yum!
Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Hawaii
Hawaii is home to unique cuisine. A blend of native, Asian, and American traditions, there are so many things to add to your food bucket list for Hawaii.
29. Snack on shaved ice
It wouldn’t be a trip to Hawaii without trying shaved ice. This Hawaiian treat is a superior snow cone. The ice is shaved so finely that it's soft and fluffy. Add some ice cream to the top or bottom for the ultimate treat.
30. Try a Hawaiian plate
No matter where you’re eating in Hawaii, you’re sure to stumble upon the classic Hawaiian plate. This is a scoop of rice with pork or chicken laulau, dried beef, and salmon on the side. It’s a great way to experience the best of Hawaii’s food.
31. Experience traditional saimin
For another traditional experience, try saimin. This is a version of Chinese egg-noodle soup that was developed during the Island’s plantation era. With both a Chinese chow mein-noodle and Japanese dashi broth, this is a cultural favorite.
32. Grab a poké bowl
In Hawaii, poké is more than a dish. This chunky, raw-fish salad is found literally everywhere. Similar to ceviche, this is a savory, unique dish made special by the islands’ delicious seafood.
33. Relish sweet mochi
For chewy, gooey goodness, you absolutely must try Hawaiian mochi. This sweet Japanese rice cake comes in different flavors around Hawaii. One of the most famous comes from Two Ladies Kitchen on the Big Island. You’ll find many family-owned recipes and twists no matter where you go.
Explore Island Beauty with a Hawaii Bucket List
Creating a bucket list is the best way to make sure you experience everything on your list. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or you prefer to relax like the locals, this Hawaii bucket list is for everyone. This is a personal way to create memories that last a lifetime and beyond.
When you create memories through new experiences, the world becomes a smaller place. What will you discover next? From Hawaii to your next destination, you never know what you’ll find.