Hawaii is celebrated for its natural beauty. A group of islands where the landscape is defined by monumental volcanoes, rainforest and miles of blonde beaches, this Pacific state possesses no shortage of natural wonders to get swept away by – according to global travellers, however, these are the best that the ‘Aloha State’ has to offer.*
Clim up to Hawaii's Kilauea Caldera at Twilight for a sensational sight
Volcano is a village that serves as a launchpad for those looking to visit The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Located on the Big Island, this park is home to two volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kīlauea, the latter being one of the world’s most active. Mauna Loa has a quiet, unassuming presence (it’s a low-lying shield volcano, a type named for its resemblance to a warrior’s shield), whereas Kīlauea is a bubbling, primal force of earth’s might, spewing phenomenal levels of lava daily. The volcanoes are both open to visitors though that does depend on weather conditions and volcanic activity. Explore the surrounding silvery moonscapes of ash, stone and lava rock fields. And if you make it up to the top of Kīlauea, be sure to pay respect to the Hawaiian deity of fire and creation, Pele, who lives in Kīlauea’s Halema?uma?u crater. Visit Kazumura Cave on your way down from Kīlauea – the world’s longest and deepest lava tube – before coming up for air at Hale Ohia Cottages.
The banyan tree in Lahaina is the largest of its kind in the USA
Located on the island of Maui, Lahaina is one of Hawaii’s most historic cities, having served as the capital of the state for most of the 19th century. Now, it’s a luxurious getaway for visitors in search of watery escapes and a rather memorable leafy landmark that’s tied to the local identity – the largest banyan tree in both Hawaii and the USA. Planted in commemoration of the arrival of Protestant missionaries in Lahaina, the tree has blossomed over the past 150 years into a sprawling forest of its own, with 16 trunks and a veritable labyrinth of branches. Beyond the tree, Lahaina’s natural beauty lies in its coastal location, which makes it privy to some of the state’s most spectacular sunsets and enviable whale-watching opportunities. Whale-watch in the wintertime and you’re almost guaranteed to spot these enormous mammals silhouetted against the backdrop of Maui’s forested coastline. And when you’re done admiring this natural spectacle, return to the beachfront Napili Surf Resort.
The Kalalau Trail is one of the hardest hiking trails in the world
The town of Kapa’a is a popular place to base yourself for exploring the island of Kauai, where Hawaii’s natural beauty is at its most primeval and untamed. For sheer wonder, nothing beats Waimea Canyon State Park, a sculpted expanse of rambling red lava rock that’s been dubbed ‘the Grand Canyon of the Pacific’. Another option is to head to the Wailua River, a fast-flowing body of water enveloped by forest-covered mountains – visitors can kayak along it, seeing tumbling falls and tropical forest along the way. Finally, no visit to the island would be complete without a jaunt through Koke’e State Park, a tumble of jurassic scenery with emerald foliage and coral-coloured cliffs. Hike one of the seven trails or take the road up to the Kalalau Lookout for glorious views and to spot some of Hawaii’s rare native bird species. Make your way back to Kapa’a and the leafy Secret Garden Room.
Views of the crushed orange sky and whipped clouds are rather unforgettable
The coastal town of Kailua-Kona has long drawn beach-lovers to its shores. and boasts some of the Big Island’s grandest scenery. Its proximity to the previously mentioned Hawaii Volcanoes Park is a large part of this appeal.. But you can also head a little further out of town to Mauna Kea Summit for a different kind of spectacle; Mauna Kea (White Mountain) has a sacred standing in Hawaiian culture, since it is believed to be the point at which the heavens and earth are connected. Climb up to the observatory at the summit and look out across the whipped cloudscapes at sunset. And if you hang around long enough, you’ll also get views of Hawaii’s clear, star-pricked night sky. Come back to earth at Big Island Retreat.
The Rainbow Falls take their name from the rainbows formed when sunshine hits the mist
Hilo is another Big Island town whose appeal lies in its sweep of green gardens and rushing waterfalls (not to mention its friendly aloha-type spirit). Make the short trip from town to Wailuku River State Park and the Rainbow Falls – an 80-foot high cascade that’s fringed by dense, tropical rainforest. In the Hawaiian language, it’s known as ‘rainbow water’ thanks to the sunshine that trickles through in the morning, illuminating the mist with rainbows. It’s also believed that the Hawaiian goddess of Hina lives in the lava cave behind the falls. The falls are free to visit and make a lovely stop before wandering through the Japanese-inspired gardens of Hilo’s Lili’uokalani Park, across little footbridges that reach over still ponds. Afterwards, Bay House Bed and Breakfast is just a short stroll up the coast.
**The data scientists at Booking.com dug into internal data to find the most highly rated destinations in Hawaii for ‘nature’.