Shorten your wait to see the historical sites of Hawaii. Experience out-of-this-world island landscapes. And of course, find the most isolated beaches in paradise. Here are four island secrets for visiting each of the Hawaiian Islands.
Don’t wait in line at Pearl Harbor’s USS Arizona Memorial, Oahu
Although the USS Arizona Memorial is a free national monument, lines to take the boat out to the memorial and see its movie can be long. Reserve your tickets ahead of time online. Nothing ruins a trip more than not planning ahead and missing a major attraction you came all the way to see. Anyone interested in World War II history will want to visit Pearl Harbor, a moving reminder of the attack that launched the United States into World War II. Reserve your tickets the day before by visiting recreation.gov or calling 1-877-444-6777 (you’ll have to pay a $1.50 convenience fee per ticket but other than that, it’s free.) Each historic tour is about an hour and 15 minutes long and includes a boat ride to the site of the USS Arizona Memorial, where you can see the remains of the battleship just below the water’s surface.
Take a day-trip to Hana, Maui
The thrilling, most scenic road in the islands is the Hana Highway. Located on the easternmost side of Maui, it is a long, winding road that stretches the length of the coastline from north to south, giving you breathtaking views of the Pacific, mountains, cliffs and valleys Maui has to offer. A number of lookout points, waterfalls and natural pools line the roadway, and you’ll take 620 curves and 59 bridges, making the drive about two to four hours long one-way for those brave enough to try it. The views and bragging rights alone make this trip worth the effort.
Enjoy a drive to and hike the Na Pali Coast, Kauai
If you want to see some of the best Hawaiian views in relative solitude, make sure you visit Kauai’s beautiful Na Pali Coast. There are no roads on the westernmost side of the island, making it one of the most isolated, untouched places in the Hawaiian Islands. Determined travelers can view the rocky terrain from the air with any number of helicopter tours, or view the coastline from a boat tour or guided kayak trip. The easiest way to experience Na Pali is to drive north to the end of the road and park at or near Haena Beach Park. Strong walkers with good hiking shoes can take the Kalalau Trail in as far as you wish then turn back when ready. Magnificent views await!
Stargaze at Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s Big Island
Everyone knows about visiting the volcano but, at 14,000 feet, Mauna Kea is Hawaii’s highest point and home to the world’s largest telescopes at Mauna Kea Observatories. Drive 90 minutes from Hilo on Route 200 up the twisting, winding, Saddle Road, and stop at the Visitor Information Station of the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy to learn more about the dormant volcano and see the giant telescopes. Brace yourself for cold temperatures and the occasional snowdrift at such high altitudes, and if weather and road conditions permit, drive to the 14,000-foot summit for a view of the main observatory. Note that special car rentals may be necessary to legally drive at this high altitude. Don’t violate your rental contract. There are also tour companies that will pick you up from certain locations in Kailua-Kona and loan you cold-weather parkas and gloves for an educational trip to Mauna Kea’s summit as well as the stargazing opportunity of a lifetime using their large portable telescopes. The tour can last anywhere from seven to eight hours and often includes dinner at the Mauna Kea Visitors Center.