If you’re looking at Hawaii for your class trip, chances are you don’t need me to sell you on this state’s brilliant qualities. However, you may very well need a little guidance on what to do during your time on this tropical archipelago. We’ve picked out some shining suggestions to appeal to all tastes.
Beaches & Sea Life
It would be a shame to come all the way to the only island state in the U.S. and not spend some time on the incomparable beaches or taking in the sea life. There are gorgeous beaches on every Hawaiian island but for a guaranteed good time, look to Lanikai or Hanauma Bay on Oahu, Ho’okipa Beach on Maui, and Punalu’u Beach on the Big Island. The golden-white sands, sapphire blue waves, and cerulean skies mixed with the smells of a luau pig roast, salt spray, and the mai tai in your hand is the perfect recipe for rest and relaxation after a hard semester at school. Surf, canoe over the waves, play a game of volleyball, snorkel or scuba dive to see the wildlife, or just lay back on your lounge chair and earn yourself a Hawaiian tan.
Did you know that there are 10 different climate zones on the Big Island alone? The diversity and composition of the Hawaiian islands make this state a cornucopia of natural wonders and beautiful sites. National parks and eco-tours lead you through the lush green landscape, rolling verdant hills, and active volcanoes that have been slowly oozing lava for years. Visit the Seven Sacred Pools at Oheo Gulch, the largest Japanese gardens outside of Tokyo at Liliuokalani Gardens, or the Garden of the Gods on Lana’i, an ethereal rock garden formed by volcanoes. Speaking of volcanoes, Hawaii has five. Feel the heat and danger from the moving, cooling lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park among others.
Adrenaline junkies will love all of the options for thrilling, heart-pumping adventures in Hawaii. Take to the air in a doors-off helicopter ride and try not to fall out or, for the more daring, jump out of a plane with one of the many skydiving companies. Look to the water and take a speedboat adventure, zoom at breakneck speeds over and through the waves, cliff dive off of Waimea Bay on Oahu, cave dive in the Spitting Caves, or sign up for an undersea walk. If you are really crazy, meet some live, wild sharks from the inside of a shark cage. Zip lining, parasailing, and paragliding are excellent ways to get your blood pumping and to see the islands at the same time.
Shopping & Dining
While the major cities of Hawaii may be on separate islands, this makes for a unique and totally inclusive microcosm of attractions that don’t have to compete in a large way with the other islands. Ala Moana Shopping Center in Honolulu and Queen Ka’ahumanu Center on Maui are incredible shopping outlets with all of your favorite stores including Macy’s, Forever 21, and the exclusively Hawaiian retail stores of Blue Ginger. The dining options on the islands are equally important. As you are probably students or have recently graduated, price is a large consideration. This does not have to affect your tastebuds so check out some local joints that are favorites for natives and tourists alike. Jimbo’s Restaurant, Helena’s Hawaiian Food, and Ono Seafood all offer traditional Hawaiian cuisine at a reasonable price.
History & Museums
From being the only U.S. state to have once been a monarchy to the site of the Pearl Harbor attack, Hawaii has a lot of history to its name. Visit the Pearl Harbor memorial, the USS Arizona, and the USS Missouri to pay your respects and see the big guns of a wartime vessel. Besides military history, Hawaii has some great art and history museums that can occupy your time while it’s raining outside or whenever you feel the urge. The Honolulu Academy of Art is the largest art museum in the state and includes a tour of the Doris Duke Theatre while the Bishop Museum is completely devoted to the history and culture of Hawaii. See 1.2 million cultural artifacts, 22 million plant and animal specimens, and exhibitions including giant animatronic dinosaurs.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the best highlights without a guide with some behind-the-scenes knowledge. Luckily, there are tours of all kinds including the Kalaupapa Guided Mule Ride where you ride your new best friend through the Kalaupapa National Park to see the highest sea cliffs in the world on the island of Molokai. Tour Kipu Ranch on Kauai where scenes from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and the 1995 movie “Outbreak” were filmed. Hawaii is and has been a major production state for macadamia nuts, cane sugar, coffee beans, and pineapples among others. Take a tour of some of the state’s historic plantations like the 50 acre Plantation Village or the Dole Plantation on Oahu, the Molokai Coffee Plantation Estate, or the Maui Tropical Plantation.
There’s nothing like watching the sunset from a cliffside lounge with a plate of sushi or fries at your side and Hawaii definitely has some of those destinations for you. House Without a Key, located in Waikiki’s Halekulani Hotel, has everything from a romantic seafood dinner to live Hawaiian music and dancing, rated number one in Oahu for atmosphere, service, and decor. If you’re just looking for a dancing hotspot, there are tons of popular teen night clubs but for something a little different, dive with manta rays or stargaze from Maunakea. Live music plays at the Kahilu Theatre and RumFire in the Sheraton Waikiki while the Pacific Rim luau in Honolulu and Germaine’s Luau on Kapolei are said to be a lot of fun.
You’ve worked hard all year, so why not treat yourself? Hawaii has eight islands to hop, explore, and have fun in. You’re bound to have a blast with any or all of these suggestions.