It's easy to see why Hawaii has become synonymous with paradise. Just look at these sugary beaches, Technicolor coral reefs and volcanoes beckoning adventurous spirits.
Snapshots of these islands scattered in the cobalt blue ocean are heavenly, without the need for any tourist-brochure embellishment. As tropical getaways go, Hawaii couldn't be easier or more worth the trip, although visiting these Polynesian islands isn't always cheap. Whether you're dreaming of swimming in waterfall pools or lazing on golden-sand beaches, you'll find what you're looking for here. Sunrises and sunsets are so spectacular that they're cause for celebration all by themselves.
Just as in days of old, life in Hawaii is lived outdoors. Whether it's surfing, swimming, fishing or picnicking with the ʻohana (extended family and friends) on weekends, encounters with nature are infused with the traditional Hawaiian value of aloha ʻaina – love and respect for the land.
Start by going hiking across ancient lava flows, up craggy volcanic peaks and along fluted pali (sea cliffs). Learn to surf, the ancient Hawaiian sport of 'wave sliding,' then snorkel or dive with bountiful tropical fish, giant manta rays and sea turtles. Kayak to a deserted offshore island or hop aboard a winter whale-watching cruise. Back on land, crawl through hollowed-out lava tubes, gallop with paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) along mountain ranch trails or zipline through cloud forests.
Floating all by itself in the middle of the Pacific, Hawaii maintains its own sense of self apart from the US mainland. Spam, shave ice, surfing, ukulele and slack key guitar music, hula, pidgin, 'rubbah slippah' (flip-flops) – these are just some of the touchstones of everyday life. Pretty much everything here feels easygoing, low-key and casual, bursting with genuine aloha and fun. You'll be equally welcome whether you're a globe-trotting surf bum, a beaming couple of honeymooners or a big family with rambunctious kids.
Why I Love Hawaii
By Sara Benson, Coordinating Author
On my first trip to Hawaii, I landed on Maui almost broke and with my luggage lost in transit. No problem: I camped by the beach, plucked ripe guava from trees and spent days hiking in Haleakalā National Park. Since that serendipitous first island sojourn, I've lived and traveled around the archipelago, from the Big Island's geological wonderland to the emerald river valleys of Kauaʻi to the big city of Honolulu, whose backstreets now seem as familiar as my own hometown. When it comes to Hawaii, I'm always ready to go again. Hana hou!
Muticulturalism & Arts
Hawaii is as proud of its multicultural heritage as it is of island-born US President Barack Obama. Here descendants of ancient Polynesians, European explorers, American missionaries and Asian plantation immigrants mix and mingle. What's remarkable about contemporary Hawaii is that multiculturalism is the rule, not the exception. Boisterous arts and cultural festivals keep diverse community traditions alive, from Hawaiian hula and outrigger canoe races to Japanese taiko drumming and modern-day surfing championships.
Best places to stay in Hawaii
Hawaii travel guide
With its sugary beaches, Technicolor coral reefs and volcanoes beckoning adventurous spirits, it's easy to see why Hawaii has become synonymous with paradise.
Secret O’ahu: sights only the locals know about
Honolulu and Waikiki from Diamond Head on O'ahu. Image by Ignacio Palacios/Getty Images. Lonely Planet has produced this article for O'ahu Visitors Bureau. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality...
Top things to do in Honolulu
Hawaii's best beaches
Discover Maui travel guide
Experience the best of Maui. This full-colour guide does the work for you - Lonely Planet's trademark expertise cuts straight to the must-see highlights of the country so no matter what your time frame or budget, you won't miss the...
Hawaiʻi the Big Island
Iconic landscape of white-sand beaches, lush rainforests and smoking volcanoes.
The nerd's guide to Hawaii's Big Island
There’s nothing wrong with the classic beach-and-umbrella-cocktail Hawaiian vacation. But nerds know that you can only read so much classic sci-fi on the balcony before your brain gets itchy for new input...
Hawaii's best beachside hotels
Discover Hawaii the Big Island travel guide
Experience the best of Hawaii the Big Island. This full-colour guide does the work for you - Lonely Planet's trademark expertise cuts straight to the must-see highlights of the country so no matter what your time frame or budget, you...
Oahu New Year's Eve Fireworks Cruise
Ring in the New Year on this fabulous Oahu New Year’s Eve cruise! Board one of Hawaii's smoothest vessels, and enjoy an amazing selection of appetizers and desserts, while watching fireworks and dancing the night away to live entertainment. Celebrate the New Year on this Oahu cruise! You’ll be picked up from your hotel and driven to the launching spot.
Big Island Hawaii Volcano Adventure
See the lava fields on a comprehensive, full-day Big Island Hawaii Volcano tour. You'll explore Hawaii Volcano National Park, Kilauea Volcano and Big Island of Hawaii's lava flows and craters, and learn about the natural history of this amazing part of the world along the way.
Waterfall adventures on the Big Island of Hawai'i
On Hawai'i Island (aka the Big Island), the beaches aren’t the only spectacular spots for water views. Throughout the island, cascading waterfalls leap off cliffs and tumble down canyon walls...
Hawaii - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to Hawaii starts here. You'll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when, how much to budget, plus in-depth info on outdoor activities on land and in the water.
Sights in Hawaii
Activities in Hawaii
Tours in Hawaii
Restaurants in Hawaii
Budget hotels & hostels
Guesthouses and B&Bs
Glorious beaches and exhilarating outdoor activities; ideal for romantics and adventurers.