From sparkling beaches to lush mountain jungles, it’s easy to revel in nature’s beauty in the Aloha State. But a few places stand out as the most spectacular natural wonders of Hawaii – don’t miss the following awe-inspiring sights.
Road to Hana
The 64-mile Hana Highway twists and turns along the jagged and remote coastline of east Maui through a picturesque tropical landscape. You can start your journey at mile marker 0, about 10 miles east from Paia, which is the last stop for gas and supplies. Pack a picnic and plan for a leisurely drive, taking time to enjoy Hawaii’s natural beauty along the way, including pristine waterfalls, towering sea cliffs, and misty rainforests.
Hardy hikers can make the trek across the floor of a dormant volcano in Haleakala National Park (ten miles or more, depending on the trail you choose), the 10,023-foot mountain that towers over central Maui. The vistas from the crater rim, where you can look down on a still and desolate landscape of lava flows and cinder cones, are also spectacular (and require less effort to get to). Shorter hikes around the summit area offer different perspectives on the view, as well as the chance to see native forest birds and the rare silversword plant. Reservations are required to enter the park for sunrise, but you can try sunset for an equally as beautiful, less crowded option.
Even novice snorkelers can swim among schools of colorful reef fish and placid sea turtles in the calm and protected waters of this underwater park on Oahu, which formed in the flooded bowl of a volcanic crater. More than 400 species of marine life, including the confoundingly named state fish, humuhumunukunukuapua’a, can be found in the crystal clear waters of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, located about 10 miles from Waikiki. Recent efforts to protect the area – including closing the park once a week to allow animals to rest and educating visitors to prevent coral damage – have helped the reef recover its glory.
It’s easy to understand why Waipio Valley, which sits about 40 miles from Waikoloa on the Big Island, was once home to Hawaiian kings – the lush, verdant wilderness and black sand beaches are stunning. The remoteness of coastal stretch makes it better suited to those who don’t mind getting a little dirty and it features a wide variety of hiking and horseback-riding trails. If there has been a lot of rain during your visit, try to include a stop at Kaluahine Falls on your journey, as they only come to life after heavy rainfall.
Na Pali Coast
Backcountry camping permits are required to hike into the Na Pali Coast Wilderness Park on Kauai’s northwestern edge, but the rugged coastline can also be enjoyed from the sea. Boat tours give visitors a breathtaking view of the area’s steep valleys, plunging waterfalls, and sea caves – and they’re often escorted by a pod of curious spinner dolphins. For something more intrepid, some smaller rafts offer the option of landing on a sandy beach for swimming and short hikes inland.
Whether you’re an avid hiker or prefer enjoying nature through a camera lens, these natural wonders are among the best Hawaii has to offer – so be sure to plan enough time for an outdoor adventure on your next visit.