There are hundreds of lists of things to do in the USA, or individual states like Hawaii, but we’ve come up with one thing in every state plus D.C. in 21 different categories. Truly something for everyone, from historic places to foods you have to try, from the downright quirky to amazing museums, and from weird places to stay to fun things to do. Our primary criteria were we have or want to see them, and they are things you can physically visit or try.
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Historic Place: Pearl Harbor
At 7:48 a.m. local time on 7th December 1941, 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft launched a surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. The devastating attack sank four battleships and damaged the other four that were in the harbour at the time. Three of the sunk ships were raised and returned to service, but the USS Arizona still lies in the harbour as a moving memorial to the attack.
Famous Person: Captain Cook
Map 9944 Kahakai Rd, Waimea, Hawaii 96796 | Kealakekua Bay State Park, Captain Cook, Hawaii 96704
Captain James Cook was the first recorded European to arrive in Hawaii, as well as the East Coast of Australia. The two monuments above are placed at the rough initial location of his first landing and the site of his killing in 1779
Natural Wonder: ‘Akaka Falls State Park
‘Akaka Falls State Park takes its name from the stunning waterfall pictured above. The waters fall 442 ft (135m) between lush greenery into the pool below, where they can often make a gorgeous rainbow.
Food & Drink: Ahi Poke and Hawaiian Sun
Ahi Poke is raw yellowfin or bigeye tuna, seasoned and served with other ingredients such as Maui onions, roasted salted candlenut and soy sauce. Not something I’m keen to try; I prefer my food cooked! But if you give it go, wash it down with Hawaiian Sun which comes in a broad choice of fruit combinations.
Factory Tour: Big Wind Kite Factory
Hand made to their own exclusive designs, the Big Wind Kite Factory has been crafting colourful kites since 1980.
Man Made: Byodo-In Temple
Map 47-200 Kahekili Hwy, Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744
This non-denominational temple is a half size replica of the temple with the same name near Kyoto, Japan. Built it 1968, it commemorates 100 years of Japanese immigration to Hawaii.
Record Breaking: Mauna Kea
Map Mauna Kea Access Rd, Hawaii
Taller than Mount Everest, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on Earth if measured from its base, rather than from sea level. But with half of its height under water, it only stretches 13,800 ft (4,200m), well short of Everest’s peak.
Quirky Record: World’s Largest Maze
This pineapple themed maze in the Dole plantation is the world’s largest. No prizes for guessing what they grow here! Not sure? Maybe it will come to you as you ride their Pineapple Express train. :-)
Activity: Learn to Surf
Ok, you aren’t going to be replicating the action in the picture just yet, but why not try your hand at surfing on some of the world’s best waves?
Atlas Obscura: Kaumana Caves
Explore a real lava tube that was created by the eruption of Mauna Loa in 1881.
Most Visited: Waikīkī Beach
The most famous beach in Hawaii; enjoy a dip in deep blue water or just chill out on the sand.
State/National Park: Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Encompassing TWO active volcanoes, this aptly named national park allows you to see molten rock shaping new land in front of your eyes.
Event: Aloha Festivals
The only statewide cultural festival in the US; enjoy parades, concerts, parties and other special events to celebrate Hawaiian culture.
Different Place to Stay: Waimea Plantation Cottages
Stay at an authentic plantation cottage set in a peaceful coconut grove by the ocean and discover a glimpse of the simple life that would have been found at a sugar plantation in the 19th Century.
Different Place to Eat: Rainbow Drive-In
Rainbow Drive-In has been offering value for money, local foods for over 50 years. These include loco moco, fried rice and their mix plate of BBQ beef, Wahoo fish and boneless chicken.
Have Some Fun: Diamond Head State Monument
Website | Map Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
As if the views at the end of the hike weren’t enough, even the way to get to Diamond Head is interesting. The 3/4 mile (1.1km) hike is not particularly difficult, but does cross uneven rocks, ascends 74 steps, then takes you through a tunnel. You then climb up 99 more steps before finally coming through a small tunnel and up a spiral staircase of 43 final steps. Finally, you come out inside a coastal artillery observation platform from 1908 and can admire the stunning view.
Film Location: Haleakalā Crater
Map Hawaii 96790
The crater of Haleakalā measures over 7 miles (11km) across and 2 miles (3km) wide, and is so vast it has other smaller volcano cones within it! Making up 75% of the island Maui, with the other 25% being Kahalawai, you really can’t escape volcanoes on Maui!
Map Island of, Naalehu, Hawaii 96772
Ka Lae is the southernmost point in the United States, yes, more southern than the famous southernmost point in Florida! It is located at 18:54:49 N 155:41:00 W and there is a constant 27 knots per hour wind blowing east to west, 24 hours per day and 365 days per year.
Something Different: Black Sand Beach
Volcanic sand, unsurprisingly, is black, and when deposited by the ocean, forms this incredible black sand beach. You can also explore Waianapanapa State Park’s other attractions, which include blowholes, lava tubes and freshwater caves.
Museum: Shangri La
Sharing its name with the fictional place from James Hilton’s 1933 novel ‘Lost Horizon’, this museum showcases Islamic art from the Doris Duke Foundation’s collection as well as architecture from the building itself.
Scenic Drive: Hana Highway
This sixty-mile coastal drive will take you through stunning vistas, past many waterfalls and through lush rainforest.
Don’t miss the Keanae Peninsula where the photo above was taken.
We’d love to hear what you think. What did we miss? What do you think we should have chosen instead?
If we love your idea, we might just swap it into the list, if we like it, maybe will give it an honourable mention; either way we’ll be sure to give you credit, AND add it to our list of things to see and do when we are in the area.
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