Spending a couple of weeks on the beach with a cool cocktail allows all your muscles to relax while a dip in the ocean and washes away all the cares in the world.  But many people leave their dream vacation feeling like something is missing.  Don’t be that guy! Hawaii offers so many diverse excursions so revise your bucket list. Getting to Hawaii isn’t what you cross off the list. Experiencing Hawaii is.

Remember the post cards, movie clips, television shows with Hawaiian backdrops? This is why you are here.  So get out of your hotel and its cabanas to really be in Hawaii.  Forget the scavenger hunt of fun, which means you’ll be so tired you need a vacation from your vacation. Take four out of your 10 days and make these happen.  Then go chill on the beach with a ice cold drink, Hawaiian style with no time concern.  Any locals bucket list starts here and really is the definitive list that will open your heart to why you really came to Hawaii.

Makapu’u Lighthouse

Historic Makap'uu Point Light (Makapu'u Lighthouse) on cliffside of the island of Oahu with view of Pacific Ocean. It has the largest lens of any lighthouse in the United States. 2015.

Situated on the eastern point of Oahu,  the Makapu’u Lighthouse is a short, one-mile hike up approximately 500 feet. Bring lots of water as this isn’t a hike into the rain forests you’ve heard of.  This is a trek up a lava protrusion constructed in 1909 with sparse vegetation surrounding it.  Don’t worry, you’ll thank me when you get to the top. Look down to see just how amazing an island in the midst of the deep blue sea is.  If you’re lucky and you are there in the peak of the humpback whale migration (November through May), you’ll see a herd hugging the shoreline as they round the eastern corner of the island and move on. Take the fresh sea air in, while you snap your 20 selfies, each worthy of being a postcard all on its own. 

Hanauma Bay

But you didn’t come to Hawaii just to only traipse through dessert-like lava protrusions.  So give yourself the opportunity to snorkel with turtles on one of the most exquisite snorkeling backdrops in the world, Hanauma Bay.  As you descend via tram into this marine preserve, your excitement builds as you determine what you think will be the bets spot for snorkeling. There is something for everyone here. Young children will giggle as schools of colorful fish swoop the shoreline by their feet.  The inner reef rewards the amateur snorkeler with parrot fish, tangs, moray eels and trigger fish – including the state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a – extra points if you can learn to say it.  Groups of divers converge to the center of the bay where the reef drops for even greater diversity including the beauty of the green sea turtles. But please, don’t touch.  They are endangered and protected. Adults entrance is $7.50; kids under 12 are free. 

Maunawili Falls

Maunawili Falls

Of course you came to Hawaii with images of beachs, but you probably have a few rainforest pictures dancing in your head too.  For those who really want to step into the one on Oahu, drive over the Pali Highway and go to Maunawili Falls. The drive alone will have you in awe, with jetting cliff extending a thousand feet above and a thousand feet below you.  When you emerge from the tunnel to see the Kailua and Kaneohe, your heart will skip a beat.  Please, keep at least one eye on the road, you will be several thousand feet up. Drive all the way down on what will now be Kalanianiole Hwy.  You will see Auola Rd, pass it and turn onto the second Auola Rd – no one said it would be easy. Veer onto Maunawili Rd and look for the trailhead as you drive through this quiet old Hawaiian community. Yes, people really do live here, so please be considerate.  As you enter the trail, the smell of mangoes invigorates you. Make your way along the stream. Know you will be muddy and wet at times, crossing the stream at several locations and getting a refreshing downpour if your are lucky.  At the end of the 2.5 mile luscious hike is a pool with a waterfall.  Take a picnic, enjoy a dip and cool off before you work your way back. Or, if you want the easy route, you can just see the beauty of Oahu from a helicopter.

Not everything to be seen or experienced is on Oahu.  In fact, each island has it’s own unique things you must make time for, even if you have to come back next year.   While there are many things, there is one that is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for tourists. 

Big Island, Lava Flowing into the Ocean

The site of molten orange lava flowing into the Pacific Ocean, billowing steam and bubbling the waters is a site like no other.  Kilauea volcano has been erupting constantly since 1983, with lava flows adding miles of new land to the already largest of the islands in the Hawaiian chain.  This site is breathtaking under any context.  But if you enjoy sport fishing, you can experience one of the most captivating geological activities happening in the world at night.   Fish during the day on a charter fishing boat and enjoy the catch just off shore while watching the light show of lava.  No one knows how long before the volcano goddess, Pele goes back to sleep, so check this out while you still can.  

So get out there, relax, hike, swim and see why Hawaiians know there is no better place to chill than right at home while making all your friends back home jealous of your Instagram account.