Characterised by its love of spam, shaved ice, surfing, ukulele, hula, and aloha shirts, Hawaii is a land of powder beaches, technicolour coral reefs, and active volcanoes beckoning adventurous spirits. Comprising six islands – Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lāna’i, Maui, and Island of Hawai’i (or Big Island) – each has its own distinct personality, adventures, activities, and sights.
The heart of Hawai’i is home to the majority of the state’s diverse population. Steeped in history, it’s home to Pearl Harbor.
Stretching 7kms, the beaches of the North Shore are known for their legendary towering waves. During peak winter months (Nov-Feb), it hosts the world’s premier surfing competitions and it’s the best time to see big wave surfing when waves swell up to 9m or more. In summer (May-Sep), the waves are gentler and better for beginners.
Diamond Head (Leahi)
The iconic crater of Diamond Head State Monument (230m) defines the Honolulu skyline just beyond Waikiki. The observation deck at the top offers panoramas of Waikiki and O’ahu’s south shore, and is accessible via a challenging trail that includes 175 steps and dark, underground tunnels and old military bunkers (flashlight required).
Home to several natural wonders, this “Garden Isle” is draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs aged by time and the elements.
The most stunning feature of Kaua’i’s North Shore, this 27km stretch of coastline is lined with jagged cliffs up over 900m tall, accented with lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls and sea caves. You can hike or take an air or boat tour to view this breathtaking natural wonder.
Kokee State Park
Just north of Waimea Canyon, the park is draped in lush forest and wild flowers where you can view native plants and birds like the apapane and moa. The park offers over 70kms of Hawai’i’s finest hiking trails, some leading through forests with views of valleys opening up to the North Shore, others to views of Waimea Canyon, “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific” at 1,100km deep with its crested buttes, rugged crags and deep valley gorges.
The smallest inhabited island in Hawai’i, Lāna’i used to be known as the largest pineapple plantation in the world (thanks to Dole). These days, it’s known for its luxury resorts.
This 20.6km hiking and biking trail offers sweeping vistas among majestic Cook pine trees, ohia lehua, ironwood, and eucalyptus. The scenic lookout has views of all 6 Hawai’ian islands, and the trail takes you to the top of Lanaihale (House of Lāna’i), the island’s highest peak (1,030m).
Also known as Shipwreck Beach, this windy, 13km stretch of beach has wrecked numerous ships along its shallow, rocky channel, including the rusted hull of a ghostly oil tanker from the 1940s.
Known as the “Friendly Isle”, it’s home to the highest sea cliffs in the world and the longest continuous fringing reef.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
The historic site preserves a former leper colony situated on the Kalaupapa Peninsula, accessible only via a scenic mule ride (or hiking tour) which takes you along a 4.6km-long trail that passes countless switchbacks. Along the way you’ll see the tallest sea cliffs in the world (up to 1,200m) of North Shore Pali.
This deep, jagged valley is blessed with beautiful vistas and towering waterfalls, like the double-tiered Mooula Falls (76m). It’s one of the island’s most historic areas where ancient Polynesians were thought to have settled. The drive there takes you past Hawaiian Fishponds, Kumimi Beach, and Halawa Bay.
Known as “the Valley Isle”, it’s famous for its beaches, the sacred Iao Valley, and views of migrating humpback whales in winter.
Iao Valley State Park
The 16km-long park is home to towering emerald peaks jutting from fog-shrouded forests and burbling streams. The Iao Needle (366m), green-mantled rock outcropping, is one of Maui’s most iconic sights. There are easy hikes on paved trails with ridge-top lookouts within the park.
Haleakala National Park
The park’s landscape ranges from Mars-like red deserts and rock gardens to lush waterfalls and scenic vistas over the ocean, accessible via numerous hiking trails. The Haleakala Crater is huge a dormant volcanic crater that’s popular for sunrise and sunsets. Not far away is Hana, a tiny village accessible by one of the most winding and beautiful roads in the world, with 600 white-knuckle turns and 50 bridges, clinging along the island’s northern coast for 84km.
ISLAND OF HAWAI’I (BIG ISLAND)
The biggest island in the chain, you can travel through all but four of the world’s different climate zones there, ranging from Wet Tropical to Polar Tundra.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
This massive park is home to two volcanoes – Maunaloa and Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on earth which produces so much lava it can resurface a 30km-long, 2-lane highway per day. You can see the glow of the crater at night at the Jaggar Museum. There are over 240kms of hiking trails in the park, through volcanic craters, deserts, and rainforests, in addition to petroglyphs, and a walk-in lava tube. The Crater Rim Drive circles the caldera, and Chain of Craters Road showcases lava flows into the ocean.
Hamakua Heritage Corridor
This scenic drive is filled with gardens, waterfalls, small towns, and scenic coastal views. Highlights include Hawai’i’s most famous falls, the Akaka Falls (135m) and the triple-decker Umauma Falls, as well as Laupahoehoe Point with views of dramatic sea cliffs. The trip ends at Waipio Valley Lookout with views of a lush landscape, waterfalls and a black sand beach surrounded by soaring valley walls.
Scoot operates direct flights to Honolulu, with a brief layover in Osaka (total flight time is 15-18 hours).