Your ultimate Hawaii bucket list

With its spectacular beaches, stunning natural beauty and vibrant dining, the Pacific archipelago of Hawaii has something for everyone.

The eight islands that make up Hawaii have become synonymous with tropical paradise and when you check out our bucket list you’ll understand why.

If you’re heading to Hawaii, make sure these sights are on your must-see list:

1. The Banzai Pipeline

Known around the world for its perfect barrelling waves, the legendary Banzai Pipeline or “Pipe” is found off Ehukai Beach Park along the Seven Mile Miracle (a collection of premier Hawaiian surf gems separated by a 10-minute drive) on Oahu’s North Shore.

One of the biggest, heaviest waves on the planet, it’s also the most famous.

During winter, massive swells up to 15 metres high break on the shallow reef, making it a sight to behold and the perfect place for watching some of the world’s top surfing.

volcano house

2. Volcano House

One of Hawaii’s most popular natural tourist attractions, heritage-listed Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to some of the most active volcanoes on the planet.

Kilauea, which has been in a state of constant eruption since 1983, is the most popular and sitting perched right up on its 1227-metre summit is Hawaii’s oldest hotel, the unique Volcano House.

A hotspot for explorers and adventure junkies, this place gives a whole new meaning to “room with a view” as you look out over the Kilauea Caldera, complete with ash and pluming smoke.

3. Halona Blowhole and Beach Cove

Another of Hawaii’s natural wonders, the Halona Blowhole was created thousands of years ago when molten lava tubes were formed from volcanic eruptions.

The natural geyser, fuelled by the sea, reaches up to nine metres high.

In Hawaiian, “Halona” means lookout and visitors are also able to enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Oceans, including the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai.

And just below is one of Oahu’s most iconic (and romantic) beaches, the Halona Beach Cove – the one made famous by Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling around in the surf in From Here to Eternity. Pucker up!

4. Kualoa Regional Park

For a more relaxing natural attraction, head to this incredible nature reserve on East Oahu, with its view to nearby Mokoli’I Island (nicknamed Chinaman’s Hat due to its shape).

There’s a reason you’ve seen Kualoa on screen (think Jurassic Park, Lost and Hawaii Five-O) – with majestic mountains on one side and the tranquil Pacific Ocean on the other, it’s a filmmaker’s dream!

There’s a (sand) bucket load of history here too. Kualoa means “long ancestral background” in the local language – according to early legend, the area was once sacred due to the whale bones frequently washed ashore.


5. Waikiki

Ahhhhh, wonderful Waikiki with its sparkling white sands and turquoise waters.

Located on the south shore of Honolulu, this world-famous neighbourhood was once a playground for Hawaiian royalty.

Legendary Hawaiian board rider Duke Kahanamoku, credited with making surfing popular as a modern sport, grew up catching waves here. And, being a protected bay, Waikiki is a prime spot for beginners.

With the stunning Diamond Head crater in the background and brilliant shopping and nightlife just steps away when you’ve finished at the beach, there’s something for everyone.

Our tip on where to stay? You can’t go past the luxury Alohilani Resort in Waikiki Beach, which presides over the famous shoreline with an awe-inspiring design that pays homage to Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage.

If the 1,000,000-litre Oceanarium with 500 sea creatures doesn’t take your breath away, the expansive seascape pool deck with dramatic infinity pool and rooftop fitness area with tennis courts, batting cages and sunset yoga will have you doing the happy hula!

6. Valley of the Temples Memorial Park

There are so many hidden gems to be discovered in Hawaii and this is one not to miss.

Set among the tropical beauty of Oahu, the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park provides a slice of authentic Buddhist serenity for visitors and locals alike.

The centrepiece undoubtedly the 1960s replica of an 11th-century Japanese Buddhist temple.

A traditional burial ground nestled into the steep hills adjacent to the temple is where thousands of Buddhist, Shinto, Protestant and Catholic residents of Hawaii are buried.

Known for its serenity, the park offers a change of pace for weary travellers.

7. ‘Bizcation’ with Nurture Her and Nurture 360

Hawaii doesn’t have to be all about holidaying. How about adding some “biz” into your vacation by indulging in an offshore business retreat that will leave you recharged and refocused for the year ahead?

AFL legend Paul Roos and wife Tami, a best-selling author, speaker and meditation teacher, take inspiration from the tranquil island life here for their unique retreats, Nurture Her and Nurture 360.

The holistic conferences are designed as multi-faceted business escapes, with a focus on building networks and leadership skills, alongside a mindful health and wellness program. Now that’s our idea of an offsite!

8. Other things to keep an eye out for

If you’ve always fancied a tattoo, drop in and see Keliʻi Makua, the first Hawaiian in more than 200 years to receive the title of “kahuna kā uhi” or Hawaiian tattoo priest.

He uses an ancient technique known as Tatau, the traditional Hawaiian art of tapping with a tool called a moli, made of wood and bone, which is dipped in ink.

And if you’re wandering past the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, keep your nose to the breeze!

Archaeologists at the university’s College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature have decoded and recreated a millennia-old perfume worn by ancient Egyptians, and perhaps even the famed Queen of the Nile herself, Cleopatra. Cleopatra Number 5?

Just one more royal reason Hawaii is one place we should all visit at least once in our lifetimes!

Written by Liz McGrath.