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Close encounters with whales off the Kohala Coast

Hawaii

Hawaii Bucket List – 5 Epic Outdoor Adventures

By: Idoia Gkikas

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    Hawaii

Hawaii is filled with activities that deserve to be on your itinerary.

But these five must-see, can’t-miss outdoor adventures will earn you bragging rights and fill your Instagram feed with epic photos that could only be from the Aloha State.

​​​​​​​Horseback Riding on Maui

Cowboys in Hawaii? Yes, really. Visit the working cattle ranch at Piiholo Ranch in Maui’s Upcountry, where you’ll ride with paniolo (cowboys) while breathing in the smell of lush greenery and salty ocean air. Or, take it a little higher with a horseback tour of the peaks of Haleakala. Exploring a dormant volcano at more than 3,000 meters above sea level is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, made all the more memorable on horseback.

Horses graze in a field on Maui

Horses graze in a field on Maui
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Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Max Wanger
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Mountain Tubing on Kauai

Hook up with Kauai Backcountry Adventures for tubing like you’ve never experienced before. This “river” is actually the irrigation system for the old Lihue Plantation. As your guide sets you up at the launch site, you’ll be handed an inner tube and . . . a headlamp? Just put it on – you’ll need it as you pass through the dark tunnels and caverns that were dug by hand for the plantation in the 1870s. 

Entering a cave on a Kauai Backcountry Adventures tubing tour

Entering a cave on a Kauai Backcountry Adventures tubing tour
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Hiking Leahi (Diamond Head) on Oahu

With a crater rim that dominates Oahu’s south shore skyline, Diamond Head State Monument is a hike just begging to be experienced. It’s a bit of a strenuous climb to the top, traversing nearly 200 stairs, dark tunnels and military bunkers (it was once a military defense outpost), but you’ll be left speechless when you see the sweeping views of Waikiki, the south shore and the indomitable Pacific Ocean. 

Incredible view of Waikiki atop Diamond Head State Monument

Incredible view of Waikiki atop Diamond Head State Monument
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Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
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Whale Watching Off the Kohala Coast

A whale-watching excursion off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island is a truly unique experience. From December through April, discover the remarkable beauty of these ocean giants and find your connection with nature. Outfitters such as Kohala Sail & Sea offer multiple tour packages. Combine whale watching with snorkeling, or book a sunset cruise to witness one of Hawaii’s impossibly pretty sunsets as you listen to whale songs on an underwater hydrophone. 

A whale’s fluke surfaces during a whale watching tour in Hawaii

A whale’s fluke surfaces during a whale watching tour in Hawaii
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Swimming with Manta Rays on Kona’s South Shore

Some people like to frequent clubs and bars after dark. In Hawaii, nature lovers prefer to wear a snorkel and go swimming with majestic manta rays. Multiple companies offer night-time snorkel and dive trips where you can see massive manta rays – some as wide as 5 meters across, wingtip to wingtip – feeding in the plankton-rich water. It’s an unforgettable adventure that will leave you saying, “Only in Hawaii!”

Swimming with manta rays during a dive on Kona’s South Shore

Swimming with manta rays during a dive on Kona’s South Shore
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Getting There

Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is your main gateway to Oahu and the rest of Hawaii, but airports are available on each island so it’s easy to explore the entire state. Fly into Hilo (ITO) or Kona (KOA) international airports on Hawaii Island, Kahului Airport (OGG) on Maui, Lanai Airport (LNY) on Lanai, Molokai Airport (MKK) on Molokai and Lihue Airport (LIH) on Kauai.

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