Hawaii nature tours and highlights
Hawaii nature tours are one of the most popular things to do in Hawaii. You will find a variety of companies on all the Hawaiian islands that offer all kinds of nature and eco tours – hiking tours, bird-watching tours, waterfall tours, volcano tours and more. Hawaii's nature is rich, vivid and unique. Here you can see spectacular waterfalls cascading down from tall cliffs, lush tropical rainforests and valleys, lava fields and beaches with a variety of colors of sand (white, red, green and black). The following list is a brief compilation of some of the top natural highlights you can discover in Hawaii.
Natural highlights on Oahu
Diamond Head: Diamond Head is one the most famous landmarks on the island of Oahu. The extinct volcanic crater's 760-foot (231m) summit is the top hiking destintation on the island and for good reason. It's an easy hike and takes about 20 to 50 minutes (depending on your walking speed) to reach the top. From the observation platform you can enjoy panoramic views of Honolulu and Waikiki. On a clear day you can even see all the way to the neighbor islands of Molokai, Maui and Lanai. In the winter (November through March), you might want to bring binoculars because Diamond Head is also a good spot for whale watching.
Guided hiking tours that include transportation to Diamond Head are available. Or you can go on your own and take the public bus to get there (with bus number 23 from Waikiki). The admission to the park is $1 per person. It is open from 6 am to 6 pm daily.
Manoa Falls: Manoa Falls is a 150-foot (45m) waterfall that can be reached only by foot. Located in the Ko'olau Mountains, the hiking trail to the waterfall is just 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long one way. The path is well-maintained but can be muddy if it has recently rained. It is an easy hike, however, it does require climbing over a few large boulders at the end of the trail. It leads through a tropical rainforest, where you can see a variety of tropical flowers and trees.
The hike is quite popular. If you prefer to book a guided Manoa Falls hiking tour, you will visit the place together with a small group of other hikers and the tour guide will provide you with information about the location. If you want to go to Manoa Falls on your own, you can take bus number 5, which leaves daily from Ala Moana Shopping Center. You'll have to get off at the last stop. Ask the bus driver for assistance if you're not sure.
Pali Lookout: The Pali Lookout is located on the Pali Highway between Honolulu and Kailua. It overlooks the 985-foot cliffs of the Ko'olau Mountain Range. From up here you'll have a great panoramic ocean and mountain view and you'll be able to see a wide stretch of Oahu's windward coast, with the cities of Kaneohe and Kailua in the distance as well as the small offshore island Chinaman's Hat. The Pali Lookout left a big mark in the history of Hawaii. In 1795, King Kamehameha held his last battle here to unite all islands. Hundreds of warriors died in that battle, and according to some legends, their souls still roam this area.
The Pali Lookout is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm. There is no admission fee (but parking costs $3 for non-Hawaii residents), so if you drive on the Pali Highway, you may want to stop and spend a few moments here. Tours to the Pali Lookout are also arranged by local companies. Or if you book an Oahu circle island tour, a stop at the Pali Lookout is usually included.
Other popular natural attractions on Oahu are Kualoa Ranch, Dole Plantation, Hanauma Bay, Koko Head, Waimea Valley, Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park and the Ka Iki State Scenic Shoreline.
Natural highlights on Maui
Haleakala Crater: Haleakala Crater, also known as the “House of the Sun,” is one of the world's largest dormant volcanoes. Its summit rises 10,023 feet (3.055 m) above sea level. The crater and surrounding area is one of the most amazing places in the world. The landscape is moonlike and the view from the mountain's summit is truly spectacular. Several local companies offer tours to Haleakala, including bus, bicycle, horseback, hiking and ATV (all-terrain vehicle) tours.
One of the most popular types of tours to Haleakala is the sunrise tour, where you will be taken to the top of the volcano very early in the morning to greet the rising sun. This could turn out to be the most stunning sunrise you have ever seen. Other exciting tours being offered are sunset and star-watching tours and ranger-guided programs. If you prefer to visit Haleakala on your own, the doors to Haleakala National Park are open 24 hours, 7 days a week, except for bad weather days.
Iao Valley: Located about 3 miles (5 km) west of Wailuku, Iao Valley is a lush tropical valley and a favorite location for many hikers. The most famous part of the valley is the Iao Needle, a stone formation that is 1,200 feet (365 m) tall and covered with tropical vegetation. It is surrounded by the cliffs of the dormant volcano Pu'u Kukui and its top is often hidden in the clouds. Besides its natural beauty, Iao Valley is also a historical location. In 1790, it was the site of a dramatic battle held by King Kamehameha I. There is a lookout point one can hike to. The Iao Valley State Park is open from 7 am to 7 pm daily.
Other remarkable natural attractions on Maui are the Hana Coast (Road to Hana), Oheo Gulch, Wainapanapa Black Sand Beach and Red Sand Beach.
Natural highlights on Kauai
Waimea Canyon: Waimea Canyon is one of Kauai's natural wonders. The canyon is 10 miles (16 km) long, 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and more than 3,500 feet (1,066 m) deep. Inspired by the beauty of the canyon, Mark Twain named it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Several local companies offer bus and hiking tours to Waimea Canyon, some of them in combination with other attractions, such as Wailua River and Fern Grotto.
If you prefer to explore the canyon on your own, you will find many lookout points along the way. At the end of Waimea Canyon Drive, the road that leads to the canyon, you will reach the Koke'e State Park from where you can continue exploring the canyon on one of the numerous hiking trails.
Wailua River: Located on the east side of Kauai, Wailua River is the only navigable river in Hawaii. You can go kayaking on
the river or if you prefer to explore the river in a bigger boat, you will find a variety of companies on Kauai that can take you on a boat cruise all the way to Fern Grotto, another natural highlight on Kauai.
Fern Grotto: Fern Grotto is an overgrown lava cave, covered with tropical ferns. According to geologists, it was formed millions of years ago and today is considered a geological wonder of Kauai. The cave is also one of the most romantic spots in Hawaii, and many couples get married here. The Grotto is accessible by boat. Wailua River tours that include a visit to the Grotto are offered by several local tour companies.
Besides the abovementioned natural attractions, there are many other unique places on Kauai, including the Na Pali Coast State Park, Spouting Horn and Opaeka'a Falls.
Natural highlights on the Big Island of Hawaii
Volcanoes National Park: Encompassing more than 300,000 acres (1.214 km˛), the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park attracts more than one million people from all over the world every year. Here you can see a diverse environment, formed during the 70 million years of volcanic activity. Because of its unique nature, the area has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. Several tour companies offer bus or hiking tours to the world's largest active volcano. You can also explore the park on your own. It is located 30 miles (48 km) south of Hilo and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Waipio Valley: Waipio Valley is home to many waterfalls cascading down from heights of up to 1,200 feet (365 m). There is a nice lookout point overlooking this lush valley. A very steep road leads down to Waipio Beach (not a good idea to drive down on your own). You can book a tour
with a local guide and can choose between a shuttle or mule-drawn wagon.
Other spectacular natural attractions on the Big Island are Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Papakolea Green Sand Beach, Ahalanui Park, Kealakekua Bay, Pololu Valley, Lava Tree State Park, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park and the Kaimu Beach Eco-Path.
Hawaii flora and fauna
Hawaii's tropical flora and fauna is unique and diverse and you can explore it and venture out on your own or book a professionally guided tour. Each one of the Hawaiian islands has its own unique landscapes and scenery, so the tours that are being offered vary depending on each island's flora and fauna.
Hawaii historical highlights
The most popular historical attraction in Hawaii is Pearl Harbor on Oahu, where you can visit the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, watch a documentary film about the Pearl Harbor attack (which took place on December 7, 1941) and take a shuttle boat to the sunken battleship USS Arizona. You can also visit the USS Missouri, another battleship, the USS Bowfin submarine and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
Admission to the USS Arizona Memorial is free. However, there is an admission fee if you want to visit the USS Missouri, USS Bowfin and Pacific Aviation Museum. Several tour companies offer bus tours to Pearl Harbor. These tours sometimes also include a stop at Punchbowl Cemetery and other historical attractions in downtown Honolulu.