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Get Closer to Nature in the Hawaiian Islands

April 10, 2014 Destination Hawaii No Comments Email Email

Whether you are looking to relax under the sun, explore Hawai’i’s stunning coasts, , or go for an ocean swim, the Hawaiian Islands are the perfect place to explore nature and the outdoors.

Visitors can enjoy an array of hiking trails, water activities, beautiful gardens, and beaches. Hawai’i offers something for all outdoor and nature lovers, no matter what kind of activity you are looking for.

Choose an island below and see what adventure awaits you in 2014:

Kaua’i

  • Navigate though Kaua’i’s silky waters in serene rivers. The WailuaHanalei, and Hūle’ia rivers offer smooth and scenic portals for exploration. Freshwater kayaking or river kayaking on any of these rivers allows you to explore breathtaking waterfalls and streams, as well as the jungle interior of the island. It is a great treat for birdwatchers too. When thinking about going down the Wailua River, be sure to check out Smith’s Motor Boat Service. Smith’s will take you through the river on a cruise boat to the Fern Grotto, a natural amphitheater covered in ferns, surrounded by an exotic jungle of tropical flowers. www.smithskauai.com/fern_grotto.html
  • If you are more interested in enjoying the salt water, explore Kaua’i’s oceans with exciting outdoor activities. Hawai’i’s warm waters are perfect for ocean kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, canoeing, and surfing. Kayak Kauaioffers multiple ocean activities for everyone to enjoy.www.kayakkauai.com/
  • For an “Adventure of a Lifetime,” the Napali Coast is a must. Napali Makaiwill share history and legends with you, while taking you through sea caves and waterfalls. Guests can even snorkel at the best locations on Napali (locations change based on the season) with chances of encountering dolphins and whales. www.napalimakai.com
  • Kaua’i is home to many beautiful beaches. Anini Beach Park is a popular north shore beach with miles of white sand and a quiet lagoon created by a reef. Lydgate Beach Park, located on the east side of the island, is perfect for keiki (children), or you can watch the surf break from a protected swimming area at Kealia BeachPoipu Beach Park, a popular south shore beach, offers crystal clear waters and occasional monk seal appearances. It even has a natural wading pool for younger swimmers. If you are looking to relax on the beach on the west side, head to Salt Pond Beach Park. This inviting park is located near Hanapepe, and is a great place for swimming and sunbathing. http://www.gohawaii.com/kauai/guidebook/topics/beaches-of-kauai
  • For incredible panoramic views of the crested buttes, rugged crags and deep valley gorges, head to the Waimea Canyon on the west side of the island. Waimea Canyon Drive leads you to a lower and main Waimea Canyon Overlook. This view offers beautiful sites of Kaua’i’s dramatic interior. The road takes you through the mountains and ends at Koke’e State Park, an excellent spot to see native plants and colorful endemic Hawaiian forest birds. Numerous trails offer hikes for beginner and experienced hikers.www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/kauai/index.cfm?park_id=7

O’ahu

  • Experience adventure in Waikīkī’s beach scene through various water activities. Aloha Beach Services offers outrigger canoe rides, surfboard/body board lessons and raft rentals form the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa (www.alohabeachservices.com). You may also enjoy surfing adventures with lessons at Hans Hedemann Surf School (www.hhsurf.com), Hawai’i Hot Spot Surf School or Hawaiian Fire(www.Hawaiianfire.com).
  • Looking for a more relaxed activity in Waikīkī’s waters? Take a ride in anOutrigger Canoeor Outrigger Catamaran with Waikiki Rigger. Snorkel with provided snorkels and masks near Diamond Head Crater, or catch a wave in the canoe, no surfboard required. www.waikikibeachsailing.com
  • If you’re looking for a different view away from Waikīkī, Wild Side Specialty Tours can help you explore miles of uninhabited beaches and the most extensive coral systems in the state. This unique and off the beaten path experience takes you to few known areas where free-roaming dolphins are known to interact with humans in the water. http://sailhawaii.com/
  • Dig below the surface and explore Oahu’s underwater scene with scuba diving. Companies such as AquaZone (www.scubaoahu.com), Breeze Hawaii (www.breezehawaiidiving.com) and Surf-N-Sea (www.surfnsea.com) provide instruction, rental diving equipment and transportation to some of the major dive spots around the island. Oahu is also the only Hawaiian island that offers accessible wreck diving.
  • For a location that offers something for everyone, go to Kualoa Ranch & Activity Club. Located in lush Ka’a’awa Valley with views of Kaneohe Bay, the club offers horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, and trolley rides for O’ahu’s adventure-seeking visitors. Want to get in the water? Take a boat across an 800-year old ancient Hawaiian fishpond to Secret Island to enjoy snorkeling, windsurfing, kayaking and standup-paddle boarding.www.kualoa.com
  • For scenic views of the Wai’anae coast to the south, Mokulē’ia to the north, and the Pacific, hike to Kaena Point. Two trailheads allow hikers to start on the south side of the island at Ka’ena Beach State Park or on the north side of the island at the end of Farrington Highway.www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/oahu/
  • The iconic Diamond Head State Monument, located along the Honolulu skyline is one of Hawai’i’s most famous landmarks. This popular hiking destination offers panoramic views of Waikīkī and O’ahu’s south shore.www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/oahu/
  • Visit World Class Botanical Gardens, historical sites and a waterfall at Waimea Valley. Visitors can explore all that Waimea Valley has to offer, including learning Hawaiian games, crafts, listening to music and storytelling by kupuna. www.waimeavalley.com

Maui

  • Haleakalā National Park is home to Maui’s highest peak. Visitors can hike above the clouds; ride on horseback across deserts and bike downhill from the summit. There are more endangered species to be found in the park than at any other National Park Service, and camping is welcomed, with two separate campgrounds and cabins available. www.Haleakalā.national-park.com/
  • Enjoy the open island air on a bike ride. Maui offers committed bikeways, making for a cyclist’s perfect island visit. There are downhill guided bicycle tours starting at the top of Haleakalā, and throughout the island’s shoreline roads. For Maui’s number one self-guided downhill bike tour, go toHaleakalā Bike Co. Inc. www.bikemaui.com
  • Maui Nui is the heart of whale watching in Hawai’i. During the winter mating and birthing season, it has the largest concentration of humpback whales in Hawai’i and can be easily viewed on whale-watching cruises and even from shore. There is also a museum, Whalers Village Museum(www.whalersmuseum.com/), and the Maui Ocean Center with exhibits on whales and whaling. www.mauioceancenter.com/
  • Sometimes getting there really is half the fun. The friendly little rural community of Hānaon Maui’s lush northeast coast is 52 miles and a world away from bustling Kahului. Sure you can hop on a little plane and fly in, but then you will miss the twisty winding fun of the Hāna Highway. This two-lane road takes you across 54 little one-lane bridges, through lush forest, under towering trees whose ripe fruit turns to a wine pulp beneath car tires, past an arboretum, picnic spots, and roadside stands selling tropical flowers and fruit. Hāna Highway is definitely a story in itself.
  • With so many different kinds of wonderful beaches around Maui, there are bound to be plenty of story angles to float your boat. There are beaches with world-class surfing and wind-surfing; beaches and adjacent shoreline perfect for kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving; beaches for hiking through ancient Hawaiian history, for seeing rare native sea life, and for just lying on the sand and soaking up rays. In Kīhei, Kalama Beach Park offers shady lawns and palm trees, and just minutes away there are the beaches ofKalepolepo, Waipu’ilani and Kama’ole.www.gohawaii.com/maui/guidebook/topics/beaches-of-maui
  • If you enjoy bird watching and are a nature lover, Keālia Pond is the perfect place for you to go. This national wildlife refuge is where endangered Hawaiian stilts and coots reside, thriving in the salt-water marsh.www.fws.gov/refuge/kealia_pond/
  • Want to spend a night under the Hawaiian sky? The Wai’ānapanapa State Park allows campers to pitch their tents near Hāna. Within a high redwood forest preserve with views of the south Maui coast offers camping facilities, and Haleakalā National Park allows camping within the crater and along the coast at Kīpahulu.www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/maui/waianapanapa.cfm 

 

Lānaʻi

  • Looking to snorkel, sail, scuba, dolphin watch, and go on an ocean rafting expedition? Trilogy Excursions operates Zodiacs and custom-made sailing catamarans for ocean adventures. See Cathedrals, lava tubes and sea cliffs under the hot Hawaiian sun. www.sailtrilogy.com
  • Travel through a rain forest filled with ohia lehua, ironwood, eucalyptus and pine trees on the Munro Trail. Rent a vehicle, bike or hike this trail and experience stunning views of Maunalei gulch and the neighbor islands of Maui, Moloka’i, Kaho’olawe, Hawai’i Island and O’ahu.www.gohawaii.com/lanai/regions-neighborhoods/central-lanai/munro-trail
  • Adventure through Lānaʻi’s cliffs, valleys and fertile hale with Hike Lanai. Hike Lanai offers guided hiking tours that are educational, fun and perfect for photo ops. www.hikelanai.com
  • A must-visit beach is located on the south side of the island, Hulopoe Beach Park. The sweeping white sand shoreline was named America’s Best Beach. Visitors can enjoy snorkeling, tide pools and go on a short hike to Pu’u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock).
  • While at Hulopo’e Bay, visitors can experience snorkeling in its calm waters. The protected marine preserve is home to a variety of colorful fish close to shore. Trilogy Ocean Sports-Lana’i can provide you with all of your snorkel needs, along with kayaking gear and more. www.scubalanai.com

 

Molokaʻi

  • With Moloka’i having a very calm ocean due to the reef, it is an excellent place to go kayaking. Visitors can paddle to the south coast with ease in the morning before the trade winds begin to get heavy, and explore the ancient fishponds that line the coast. Moloka’i Outdoors (www.molokai-outdoors.com/)and Moloka’i Fish and Dive(www.molokaifishanddive.com) provide guided kayak excursions.
  • Discover three miles of uninterrupted beach and sand down Moloka’i’s west end. Papohoku Beach is one of Hawaiʻi’s largest white sand beaches with campsites, indoor and outdoor showers, and picnic and restroom facilities. There is little foot-traffic allowing you to truly relax in peace.www.gohawaii.com/molokai/guidebook/topics/beaches
  • Experience a whale watching tour from historic Lahaina Harbor orKaunakakai Harbor, and experience these beautiful creatures right in front of your very own eyes. Let expert tours take you to the best areas in the ocean for view of 45-ton whales breaching, tail-slapping and blowing spouts in the air.
  • For a different perspective of the island, call Sunshine Helicopters. Soar over the land in “Black Beauty” state-of-the-art helicopters for views you just can’t get on the ground. www.sunshinehelicopter.com

 

Hawai’i Island

  • Explore 70 million years of volcanic process by car and bike at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Designated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site (1987). Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (333,086 acres) is an unparalleled natural display of volcanic forces, endemic plants and rare birds. This 500 square-mile park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes Kīlauea and Mauna Loa – at 13,766 feet in elevation, it’s the second highest peak in Hawai’i. Explore lava tubes, dried lava lakes, black sand beaches and more, and safely view volcanic activity. Expect to spend an amazing day here, and also enjoy the Park’s Visitor Center, Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory, the Jaggar Museum located on the Kilauea Crater and the Thurston Lava Tube, all on an 11-mile Crater Rim Drive.  www.hawaii.volcanoes.national-park.com/
  • Three other national sites – Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historic ParkPu’ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site and Kaloko-Honōkohau National Historic Park – make ancient Hawaiian history come alive. Also, the 175-mile Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail is easily one of the most dazzling beautiful hikes you’ll ever take. www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm
  • If you’re on Hawai’i Island, visiting the summit of Mauna Kea is a must. At 13,796-feet-high, this mountain is home to 13 astronomical observatories and is considered to be the world’s best observing site. First, stop at the Visitor Information Station named Onizuka Center for International Astronomy at the 9,300-foot level to watch videos, see interactive displays, view astronomy/telescopes information, and get acclimated to the change in altitude. Then experience amazing views while being able to stargazing, and even watch the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis/visiting-mauna-kea/visiting-the-summit.html
  • Take a course in Hawaiian ethno botany for a day in a 15-acre site at theAmy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden. Learn about various native and indigenous plants that ancient Hawaiians used to cultivate or utilize in their daily lives as medicines, foods, tools and more.www.bishopmuseum.org/greenwell/
  • Ulu La’au or Waimea Nature Park, located in the heart of Waimea, is a 10-acre preserve. During this self-guided tour, you can learn about native plants and what they are used for, and learn about the history of the area. This beautiful park, open daily during daylight hours, is perfect for a casual walk and picnic.
  • Visitors can explore the waters of Kealakekua Bay with Kona Boys on a guided kayak and snorkel tour in the morning or afternoon. To ensure a fun and safe experience for children and adults alike, all guides are lifeguard, CPR, and first aid certified. Kayak and snorkel gear, healthy snacks and drinks are included. www.konaboys.com
  • Kahalu’u Beach Park in Kona is Hawai’i Island’s premier snorkeling and green sea turtle bay. This shallow, safe bay is also home to more than 100 species of reef fish and 400 year-old corals, which the Kahalu’u Bay Education Center helps to protect and preserve through proceeds from snorkel gear rentals and underwater camera purchases.www.kohalacenter.org/kahaluubay/about.html
  • Enjoy a complimentary presentation about manta rays by Fair Wind Big Island Ocean Guides (www.fair-wind.com/)and by Sea Paradise at theSheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa (www.sheratonkona.com). The “Manta Ray Talk” presentation is organized for resort guests and the general public, held adjacent to the Manta Ray bar & Grill each Monday through Saturday evening after sunset.
  • The Mauna Lani Resort celebrates “Turtle Independence Day” every year on July 4 in celebration of the honu, the Hawaiian green turtle. The resort has raised juvenile honu from O’ahu’sSea Life Park in saltwater ponds since 1989, and releases them into the ocean when they are ready.www.maunalani.com

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