Must See Hawaii: Oahu and Maui

On my earlier article about the top things to do while visiting Hawaii, I highlighted the natural wonders that reside at both ends of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai and Hawai’i. As a traveler to this Pacific paradise, you’ll begin to understand how the geological forces that create and shape these islands become an important part of the Hawaiian culture. I will continue to highlight natural attractions on this list but will also invite you to examine the historic and cultural attractions that make Hawaii such a fascinating place to visit. Here are a handful of Oahu and Maui top attractions to add to your must see Hawaii bucket list.

Oahu and Maui Top Attractions

Enjoy the Sceneries Along the Road to Hana

A visit to the island of Maui really won’t be complete without driving along the infamous Hana Highway. The Road to Hana scenic drive is the island’s most popular attraction and for good reason. Cascading waterfalls, dramatic cliffs, and access to an abundance of pristine beaches are just a few of the reasons why so many visitors consider this as one of Oahu and Maui top attractions.

If it’s your first time tackling the road, it might be more suitable for you to join a small tour group where all you have to do is enjoy the sceneries and not worry about the drive. This will also give you an opportunity to see the highlights where you can then decide which areas you’ll like to spend more time upon return. The downside to this of course, is that you will be on a schedule and may not have the time or the freedom to explore places of interest to you. If you insist on getting a rental car and driving yourself, consider spending a night in Hana to make the most out of your experience.

Must See Hawaii
Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park via Flickr by Andrew Wong, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Brave the Surfs in Oahu’s North Shore

Oahu’s legendary North Shore is a 17-mile stretch of coastal area popular with beach goers and surfers. It contains over 50 beaches alone! What makes this section more inviting, especially for surfers, is the large waves it receives all year round, but particularly in winter, where 30 to 40-foot swells can be seen on a daily basis. Surfers all over the globe come to the North Shore to compete or simply ride some of the longest waves you’ll see anywhere. Popular surfing spots include Waimea, Sunset, and Kahuku beaches where beginner surfers can also brave the turquoise waters. If you’re lucky, you can also catch a glimpse of the native Hawaiian green sea turtles, which frequent these waters.

Oahu and Maui Top Attractions: North Shore
Surfer and Waves, North Shore via Flickr by Tom Trelvik, CC BY-SA 2.0

Pay Respects at Pearl Harbor

It was a day that will be forever remembered in American history. That early morning hours of December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor where 2,403 Americans were killed. The event signaled the United States’ involvement in World War II. As you visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific, home to the USS Arizona memorial today, think about what it would have been if the attack on Pearl Harbor never happened and how different the world might have been. Visitors to the site will also have the opportunity to learn more about the history of Pearl Harbor, the different types of ships that set up anchor, and hear stories from survivors and victims on both sides of the war.

Must See Hawaii
USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor via Flickr by Allan, CC BY-NC 2.0

Discover the Ancient Hawaiian Heritage at Haleakala National Park

At first glance, you’ll likely think that you’re no longer in Hawaii but somewhere in the middle of a desert in the southwestern part of the United Sates, but then as you walk further south, the paths reveal signs of life and you hear the faint gushing of the waves along Maui’s southern coast. This is the magic of Haleakala National Park, where stories of ancient and modern Hawaiian culture flourish. When you’re here, you’ll understand the deeply rooted bond Hawaiians have with nature and discover flora and fauna that’s unique to this variable landscape such as the rare Silversword. Hike up to the summit where you’ll get a panoramic view of the Haleakalā Crater, Maui’s dormant volcano with a lunar-like caldera and where you’ll get a glimpse of the nearby Big Island’s volcanic peaks on a cloud free day.

Oahu and Maui Top Attractions: Haleakala Visitor Center Viewpoint
Haleakala Visitor Center Viewpoint via Flickr by Dana, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Did your favorite Hawaii sights make our list of Oahu and Maui top attractions? Let us know in the comments below.

About Iris A


Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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