Island Dreaming: Top 20 Hawaii Bucket List

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As temperatures start to drop with winter approaching, what better time to start your island day dreaming? From breathtaking ocean views and lush tropical rainforests, Hawaii is the perfect getaway to satisfy those island cravings.

After becoming more than just a little envious of my parents’ trip to the islands a few years back (their photos are featured here!), I knew Hawaii had to be one of my next city escapes. Below are my top 20 bucket list picks for the perfect aloha getaway.

“For me, the magic of Hawaii comes from the stillness, the sea, the stars.” – Joanne Harris

1. Snorkel on the Big Island and Maui.

Although you can pretty much snorkel anywhere in Hawaii’s pristine blue waters, the Big Island and Maui offer some of the best spots with reefs to ogle over, abundant wildlife and colorful coral. Fancy some Hawaii snorkeling? Check out this guide to some of the best spots to snorkel in on the islands.

2. Rent a luxury villa with Big Island Villas and Vacation Rentals.

What better way to live on island time than by staying in your very own luxury villa! Check out some of these amazing Big Island vacation rentals.

3. Rent a motorcycle and ride along the twisting roads of North Shore to timeless Hana in East Maui.

To say I was a just a tad jelly of my Dad’s motorcycle adventure throughout Hawaii would be a bit of an understatement. I can only hope one day I’ll be able to hit the pavement of Hawaii’s tropical twisting roads overlooking majestic mountain terrain and ocean views.

4. Kayak through Kauai’s rivers.

Kauai is home to the only navigable rivers in Hawaii. Heading through tropical, lush greenery of Hawaii’s jungles is both a relaxing and exquisite way to take in the landscape. If this sounds right up your ally, learn more here.

5. Find a sea turtle in the waters of Hawaii.

Did you know Hawaii is home to five species of sea turtles? Also known as honu, check out some of the best places to catch sea turtles here.

6. Explore the Thurtson Lava Tube.

Have a hankering to explore some lava caves? This tropical forest featuring an extensive subterranean cave was formed by ancient flowing lava long ago.

7. Catch a killer sunset over the water.

With views like these how could you ever want to go back to the mainland?

9. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Delve into the exciting world of an active volcano and the biological diversity that goes along with it. Check out how to plan your visit here.

10. Hike through Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park.

Positioned in northwest Kauai Island, the park is known for it’s lofty sea cliffs, streams, and tumbling waterfalls.

11. Swim at Lanikai Beach.

Rated as one of the best beaches in Oahu, the waves offer calm waters for all ages. Not only is it one of the best beaches on Oahu but it is consistently rated as one of the most beautiful in the world.

12. Attempt a surf lesson at Waikiki.

I say attempt knowing well full I am not the most coordinated of people. However, with Waikiki’s perfectly shaped waves, it’s the perfect spot to shred some gnar for newbies like myself.

13. Dip my toes in the sand at Punalulu Black Sand Beach.

Where else in the USA can you create footprints along the beach created by lava flowing into the ocean? Hawaii’s Panalulu Black Sand Beach is a perfect walk on the beach for those looking for ocean views with a unique twist.

14. Watch for humpback whales in Maui.

It’s no wonder that one of the most popular activities in Hawaii is to watch majestic humpback whales in their natural environment. Check out this great guide on whale watching in Maui.

15. Buy fresh roadside tropical fruit.

Catch a roadside fruit stand and taste the delicious sweetness of a ripe guava, mango, lychee, star fruit, banana, passion fruit, pineapple, or papaya.

16. Meander through the Diamond Head Walk.

Located near Honolulu, the Diamond Head Walk offers a 1.6 mile scenic trail for all skill levels.

17. Gobble up a poke bowl.

Poke, a raw fish salad typically served as an appetizer, is a must try food on the islands. Traditional poke are made with aku, an oily tune, and he’e, octopus.

18. Rent a convertible and let your hair down on Old Mamalahoa Highway’s scenic four-mile detour off the Hawaii Belt Road.

For some serious fomo vibes, check out these photos from my parents trip.

19. See a Polynesian Luau.

Although Polynesian Luau’s can get pretty touristy, especially on the Big Island, finding a traditional luau can be a great way to round out your Hawaiian outdoors getaway with a bit of local culture. Whichever Polynesian Luau experience you decide on, be sure it includes kalua pua’a, or roast pork. Traditionally the pork is prepared in an Hawaiian imu, or underground steam oven.

20. Staregaze at the Mauna Kea Observatories.

If you’re like me and fascinated by the stars, there’s no better place to check out the night sky than at the number of independent astronomical Mauna Kea Observatories located at the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island. Click here to find out times for the free public stargazing events.

Have you been to Hawaii? What would you add to the bucket list?

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