Make Hawaii Happen! Five Adventures to Check Off Your Bucket List in 2021

By Karen Rose


Hawaii is full of exciting things to see and experience. Whether you’re an island local, a newcomer or a visitor, these experiences will open your world and give you a new insight on life.

1.  Hear Humpback Whales Sing

Baby humpback near Makena, Maui. Photo: Hawaii.com member Daniel B.

Humans aren’t the only animals who visit Hawaii for its warm waters and welcoming sunshine. Humpback whales migrate to Hawaii every winter to give birth and escape the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. These magnificent creatures return year after year to the delight of locals and visitors alike. While the female humpback whales are preoccupied with their new calves, the males are seeking mates and showing off for the females by fully breaching out of the water, slapping their tails and singing their hauntingly beautiful songs. The moans, whistles and clicks of the male humpbacks looking for love can be heard underwater nearly 20 miles away. Tour companies will drop microphones in the water and project the songs of the male whales through their speaker system. It’s truly an experience like no other. If you’re in Hawaii during whale watching season (November through April), be sure to put whale watching at the top of your bucket list!

Whale Watching Tours
The Definite Guide to Kauai Whale Watching Tours
The Definite Guide to Oahu Whale Watching Tours
The Definite Guide to Maui Whale Watching Tours
The Definitive Guide to Hawaii Island (Big Island) Whale Watching Tours

2.  See the Napali Coast (Island of Kauai)

Napali Coast, Kauai. Photo: Alena Nicholas.

Located about 90 miles north of Lihue on the mountainous shoreline on Kauai’s North Shore is the sacred Napali Coast. Extraordinary in its beauty, the emerald green cliffs and bold ridges loom over the Pacific Ocean and boast majestic waterfalls spilling into the lush valley floor below. The 17-mile coastline is rugged and often dangerous. The preferred way to experience its beauty is by air or sea. Boat tours and kayak tours bring visitors up close and personal to the incredible cliffs and remote beaches. Aerial tours depart from Lihue Airport and are considered the best way to take in the vast beauty of the Napali Coast. The most scenic areas are inaccessible by land or water, making the bird’s eye view the most coveted of all. The absolute splendor and beauty of the Napali Coast leaves a permanent and positive mark on one’s heart and soul.

Learn more about Napali Coast.

3.  Wayfind on a Hawaiian Sailing Canoe (Island of Oahu)

Hawaii Sailing Canoe Eco Tour

Photo: Holokino Hawaii.

Learn the art of Polynesian navigation with Holokino Hawaiʻi. Based out of the Kahala Hotel on Oahu’s South Shore, Holokino Hawaii offers guests a culturally authentic tour of the leeward (dry) side of the island, as seen from the ocean. Participants experience a traditional ocean voyage aboard a Hawaiian sailing canoe while learning the science and art of Polynesian navigation. Practice first hand wayfinding techniques used by Pacific Island navigators for hundreds of years.


Uluwehi, the brightly colored orange and red custom-built canoe, departs from the shore as the two-man crew rows out to sea and hoists the sails. Guests keep an eye out for honu (sea turtles) and other marine life as crew members explain the techniques of reading wind, wave currents and stars to determine their location within the ocean. The crew also goes over the basics of sailing and rowing an outrigger canoe. It’s a lot more difficult than it looks!

4.  Watch the Sunrise from Haleakala (Island of Maui)

Sunrise at Haleakala, Maui. Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.

Visitors looking for an adventurous expedition will enjoy one of Maui’s most memorable experiences — watching the sunrise from Haleakala. Towering nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, visiting Haleakala takes a bit of planning, but is well worth the time. It is advised to arrive early, because depending upon where one is staying, it can take up to two hours to drive the Haleakala Highway and up the Haleakala Crater Road to the summit. Bundle up as the summit gets quite cold—about 30 degrees colder than sea level. It’s a good idea to bring a blanket and a thermos of hot cocoa as well. Be sure and stay 20 or 30 minutes beyond sunrise for a beautiful show of light and color as the sunlight dances across the sky of Haleakala National Park. With over 30,000 acres of public land, the park boasts hiking trails and horseback riding for those who wish to stay throughout the day.

Visitors are advised to arrive at the Haleakala Visitor Center no later than a half hour before the sun rises to ensure a good spot. During summer the sun rises as early as 5:38 a.m. and in the winter as late as 6:55 a.m. The National Park Service requires a reservation for visitors wanting to enter the Summit District from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. for sunrise viewing.

Learn more about Sunrise at Haleakala.

5.  Waipio Overlook

Photo courtesy of Paul Bica.

If experiencing one of the most beautiful places on Earth is on your to-do list, Waipiʻo Valley on Hawaiʻi Island is a must-do experience. The largest of the seven windard valleys of Kohala Mountain, Waipiʻo is considered the Valley of the Kings. Its unparalleled beauty holds great historical and cultural significance to the Hawaiian people. The valley holds a small community of locals who wish to remain isolated from the larger society, so staying off private property is vital when enjoying the splendor of Waipiʻo. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the breathtaking splendor of Waipiʻo Overlook. Hiking down into the valley is generally not recommended, as it is almost impossible to get in to the valley or to the famous Hiʻilawe Falls without crossing private property. However, hikers who are respectful, don’t cross fences and try to stay on public land are not likely to run into any issues. To reach the lookout, take Hwy 240 west from Honokaʻa and the road will dead end at Waipiʻo Overlook. Remember to bring your camera, as it is a sight to behold!

Learn more about Wapiʻo Valley.

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Tunnels to Haena Beach. Photo: Jim Bahn.

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See also:
Travel Tips and Itineraries
Hotels and Accommodations
Things to Do
Annual Festivals

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