1. Diamond Head, Oahu
You’ve seen Diamond Head. You know its iconic silhouette. It towers commandingly in the background of world-famous Waikiki Beach. It’s the image that pops into your mind when you think, “Hawaii.”
The best view that Diamond Head may have to offer, however, is not of its silhouette but from its majestic peak. A 1.5-mile round-trip hike will bring you to panoramic scenes of Oahu’s entire southern coastline.
2. Makapuu, Oahu
Hike the gentle winding trail to the Makapuu lighthouse, and you will be rewarded with sweeping views of Oahu’s windward coast, Rabbit Island, and the open Pacific Ocean. Make the trek at dawn and witness the sun rising out of the ocean, unobstructed, before you. During the winter, whales are known to breach offshore here. Make the hike on a full moon night to take in the sights of the Pacific Ocean bathed in a silver glow.
3. Lanikai from the Pillboxes, Oahu
A quick 20-minute hike will bring you to a bird’s-eye-view of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Lanikai beach with the Mokulua Islands sitting just offshore. Sparkling azure waters stretch out before you and rolling hills blanket the landscape behind. The best part? A refreshing dip awaits you upon descent.
4. Wall of Tears, Maui
Take to the sky among the West Maui Mountains and encounter the hidden Wall of Tears amidst lush Waihee Valley. It is here where up to 17 waterfalls pour down the heavily carpeted green valley walls.
5. Sunrise from Haleakala, Maui
Rise early and bundle up for the experience of a lifetime. Make the morning pilgrimage to Haleakala, House of the Sun. From a summit of more than 10,000 feet above the sea, marvel at the sun rising from a dark bed of clouds to paint the sky in brilliant pinks, fiery oranges and stunning purples.
6. Hanalei, Kauai
Hanalei is an Eden on Kauai’s North Shore. A tranquil valley, planted with acres of emerald life-sustaining taro, leads to a welcoming crescent bay. A picturesque pier stretches out over the water, framed by chiseled mountains in the distance.
7. Waimea Canyon, Kauai
Telling the story of millions of years of volcanic activity, erosion and rainfall, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” captivates with hues of deep forest greens and earthy reds. Canyon walls more than 3,000 feet high are home to flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. Stop along the scenic lookout points or hike into the interiors of this uninhabited geological marvel. One of the best views is standing atop Waipoo Falls as the waterfall cascades down into the canyon below.
8. Na Pali Coast, Kauai
Travel by boat along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai and you will be mesmerized by fluted cliffs, wondrous sea caves and secluded beaches. Yearning to sink your toes into these forbidden shores? Jump from the boat and swim to the beach. There is no other way. This stretch of coast is inaccessible by car and can only be seen by air or sea. There are some foot trails leading in to secluded valleys, but for the most part swimming ashore from a boat is the only way to touch the sand and stand beneath the waterfalls that cascade down from ancient sea cliffs.
9. Starry Sky from Mauna Kea, Hawaii Island
Prepare to be rendered speechless as you take in the diamond studded night sky from atop Mauna Kea, the tallest seamount in the world. Mauna Kea means “white mountain” and is so named for the occasional blanket of snow that will cover its 13,000-foot summit. The mountain’s high vantage point and isolated location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean make for unrivaled views of the night sky.
10. Lava Flowing into the Sea, Hawaii Island
Lava flowing into the sea is not a perennial event nor is it predictable like the arrival of whales in Hawaii every winter. When the lava flows, it courses its formidable way to the sea, leaving a path of destruction, as well as new life, in its fiery wake. Watching the lava meet the sea is to witness the island growing before your eyes in a spectacular contrast of natural elements. Should you be so lucky, a boat or air tour will take you to experience a phenomenon few people ever will.
Hawaii.com offers more insider travel tips as well as vacation packages at www.hawaii.com.