Top 16 Famous Landmarks in Hawaii [Update 2024]

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As a U.S. state comprised of eight major islands, Hawaii has numerous notable landmarks and visiting them should be at the top of your Hawaii bucket list. While constitutionally in North America, Hawaii is physically in Oceania, which means that when you come, you get the best of both worlds – American products and practices mixed with exotic views and rich culture.

Hawaii is well-known for its magnificent national parks. There are also several cultural places on the islands where you can learn more about the old sacred practices that are still important to Hawaiians today.

Continue reading to learn in detail about the famous landmarks in Hawaii!

1. Mauna Kea, Island of Hawaii

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Peaking at 4,207.3 m (13,803 ft) above sea level, Mauna Kea is a giant dormant volcano and the highest point in Hawaii. If you start at the visitor center, it will take around 8 hours (for a round trip) to climb this volcano. Though it can be dangerous in bad weather, it is relatively easy to reach the peak.

While the volcano does not have any visible craters, you may be able to notice cinder and pumice cones near the summit if you look closely.

2. Punalu’u Beach, Pahala

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Punalu’u Beach, Pahala is one of the most famous landmarks in Hawaii.

Situated on the south side of the Big Island of Hawaii, Punalu’u Beach is a unique Hawaii landmark known for its black sand and green turtles. There are lots of things to do on this black sand beach. You can go swimming and snorkeling, take a hike along the vast coastline, or even get a permit that allows you to camp nearby.

The sand here is actually made from tiny fragments of lava. Be warned that this sand gets extra hot, so make sure to relax under the shade of the coconut palms during the midday heat.

3. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is one of the most famous landmarks in Hawaii. The park is known for protecting some unique geological features in the world. In fact, the area contains the summits of the two most active volcanoes in Hawaii: Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

You can hike along one of the many paths here, or take a driven crater tour along the slopes of the national park. You can also take the Crater Rim Drive, which passes steam vents and the Jagger Museum, which is home to many volcanic exhibits.

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4. Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube, Volcanoes National Park

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One of the most important historical landmarks to witness in Hawaii is the Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube, which is located inside the Volcanoes National Park. The lava tube is a subterranean cave that was formed by ancient flowing lava. A scenic hike to the lava tube should not be missed.

5. Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden, Papaikou

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Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden, Papaikou

Scientists, photographers, and tourists from all over the globe make the journey to the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden to view its beauty. Because of this, it is one of the most important landmarks in Hawaii.

The garden features over a mile of biodiverse habitats and wildlife. It is also notoriously beautiful, so prepare to snap a lot of photos during your visit. Most of the ticket cost to enter the Bioreserve goes towards sustainability eco-projects. Certainly, this is a very worthy cause that aims to protect the natural environment in Hawaii.

6. Rainbow Falls, Hilo

Just a short distance from the town of Hilo on the main island, Rainbow Falls is a wide waterfall famous for the rainbow colors that shine through on sunny days. The waterfall is located in the Wailuku River State Park, and it takes around 5 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.

While it is not safe to swim in the water, these falls should be visited. For the best views of the Rainbow Falls, head to the viewing platform on a clear, sunny day, and you will be blessed with an incredible photo opportunity.

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7. Captain Cook Monument, Captain Cook

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Located on the Island of Hawaii, the Captain Cook Monument is a 27 ft. obelisk dedicated to the explorer Captain James Cook. It is one of the most famous Hawaiian monuments. Cook and his crew first landed in Kealakekua Bay in January 1779 after repairing the mast on their boat.

The monument marks the rather bleak spot where Captain Cook was killed. You can reach it by boat or by a scenic hike through the national park. You can also kayak to the monument, which is just one of the many fun things to do in Kona.

8. Haleakala National Park

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Located on the island of Maui, Haleakala National Park is a huge area perfect for hiking up to Maui’s highest peak. The sweeping views of Hawaii from here are spectacular, and the land is considered sacred by locals who regard Haleakala National Park as a highly special place.

One of the unique and best free things to do in Maui is to try and catch the incredible sunset in the early hours of the morning. However, you will need to make a reservation in advance to ensure entry into this famous landmark in Maui.

9. USS Arizona Memorial, Honolulu

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Also known as Pearl Harbor Memorial, this is a somber spot and one of the most famous historical landmarks in Hawaii. This spot attracts thousands of U.S. tourists each year looking to learn more about the nation’s history.

The memorial stands to remember the Americans who lost their lives in the bombing at Pearl Harbor, one of the most influential moments in U.S. history. You can wander around the museum and learn more about the tragic event at the visitor center.

10. Hanauma Bay, Honolulu, Oahu

When it comes to protecting the environment, Hanauma Bay is one of the most important landmarks in Hawaii. Located to the east of Honolulu in the Hawaii Kai neighborhood, this is a really special beach area.

Rather than a regular beach park, Hanauma Bay is a nature reserve dedicated to marine life conservation. You can still do most of the things you would expect on a regular beach, including snorkeling, surfing, and kayaking, but the activities are carefully planned, so they do not cause any damage. Also, any fees associated with the activities go towards protecting the animals.

11. Diamond Head State Monument, Honolulu

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The Diamond Head State Monument offers a stunning view of Honolulu and nearby islands. Hawaiians lovingly call this monument Lēʻahi because it resembles the dorsal fin of a tuna fish.

The most popular thing to do here is to hike to the 300,000-year-old crater, where you will be blessed with 360 views of Honolulu and the other stunning islands that make up Hawaii. This area was also home to Hawaii’s first military base, with some installations remaining visible today.

12. Kapiolani Regional Park, Honolulu

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Located in Waikiki, Kapiolani Regional Park is one of Hawaii’s oldest and largest public parks. It first opened in 1877 after being home to a horse-racing track and now it is one of the popular landmarks in Waikiki.

The park boasts the Honolulu Zoo as well as the Waikiki Shell, a live music venue that hosts a number of concerts throughout the year. There are also several sports courts where you can get involved in basketball and tennis, as well as many spots to relax with a picnic under the sun.

13. Honolulu Zoo

Honolulu Zoo is one of the major landmarks in Hawaii, loved and visited by both tourists and locals. The park first opened in 1947, although the administrator Ben Hollinger had been collecting animals to eventually show there since 1914.

Interestingly enough, it’s the only zoo in the entire United States to be commissioned by a sovereign monarch. This alone makes it worth a visit, but you’re also getting to see some of the rarest creatures in the world, including the Galapagos Tortoise and the Gharial.

14. Iolani Palace, Oahu

Iolani Palace is one of the most important historical places in Hawaii. It was previously home to some of the most famous royal rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii, including King Kamehameha and his family, and more recently, Queen Liliuokalani.

You can book a guided tour of the palace, which will give you unlimited access and behind-the-scenes knowledge. Or, tour Iolani Palace at your own pace to discover the many royal secrets that this residence holds. A statue is dedicated to King Kamehameha opposite the palace, which you should also visit while you are nearby.

15. Honolulu Museum of Art

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The Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA) is the best place to view some of Hawaii’s greatest artistic talents. This is the largest art museum in the state, founded in 1922 by Anna Rice Cooke. There’s an extensive collection of Japanese art and Mediterranean pieces here.

The HoMA also hosts many special events throughout the year, including summer nights with pizza and live DJs and exclusive showings at the attached Doris Duke Theatre.

16. National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

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National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is registered on the National Register of Historic places. It is also known as the Punchbowl Cemetery.

It serves as a memorial to honor the brave Armed Forces of the United States, who sacrificed their lives for the nation. Make sure to pay respect to the honorable demised people when you are here.

Consisting of magnificent beaches, parks, museums, etc., Hawaii is actually a state full of famous landmarks. Only by visiting them will you realize and appreciate Hawaii’s true beauty.

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