Tap into the true spirit of Hawaii away from the crowds with these authentic experiences.
Hawaii has long been a beacon for paradise seekers – thanks to Hollywood shining a light on the state’s jaw-dropping natural landscapes in films and television. It’s one thing to visit a destination, it’s another thing to truly immerse yourself in the land, culture and people. Beyond the beautiful beaches, there’s a multitude of ways to make the most of your time here and gain an invaluable insight into the local culture. From surf schools to local lūʻaus and swimming with sea turtles, discover the real Hawaii with our top eight things to do in this blissful corner of the world.
Surf’s up: Catch a wave on some legendary swells
It’s well known that Hawaii is the surfing capital of the world, and along O‘ahu’s North Shore you can find famed surf breaks favoured by the pros. If you truly want to fit in with the locals, learn from the best: Turtle Bay Resort is exclusively partnered with the premier Jamie O’Brien Surf Experience surf school. Enjoy easy-to-follow lessons run by surf experts that will see you catching your first wave in no time. From complete novices to intermediate surfers looking to upskill, all ages and levels of experience are welcome.
Cross the landscape on horseback
There’s something almost spiritual about exploring new terrain on horseback: feeling the fresh air on your skin and hearing nothing but the sounds of nature underneath the clip clop of your horse’s hooves. O‘ahu is a treasure trove of lush jungle forests and gleaming, golden beaches – yours to explore atop your noble steed. Traverse lush rainforests dotted with Ironwood trees and visit the famous Bayan tree that’s been featured on a number of film sets here, before emerging onto a quiet beach to follow the oceanside trails. When you stay at Turtle Bay Resort, there are a number of horseback rides to choose from, whether you’re looking for a romantic, private adventure or a pony riding experience if you have little ones in tow.
Learn about community farming at Kuilima Farm
‘Kuilima’ means to hold hands with the land, and at Kuilima Farm that philosophy is embodied through strong community spirit and locally grown produce. Farmers and gardeners tend to 34 community garden plots with a mission of bringing fresh, natural food, food security, and agricultural and cultural education opportunities to locals and visitors. On a farm tour, meet the producers and learn about what they’re growing and why they’re growing it, see the different garden plots and have the chance to purchase fresh produce at the Farm Stand.
Swim with sea turtles from a catamaran
The ocean is a huge part of the fabric of Hawaiian culture: it’s a source of fun, food and fascination. Spend a day on the big blue aboard a Royal Hawaiian Catamaran, where you can lounge on the biggest hammock in Waikīkī, don your snorkels and swim alongside graceful sea turtles and witness an incredible sunset from the water. Royal Hawaiian Catamaran is dedicated to protecting the ocean with responsible tourism practices, such as cutting back on single-use plastics on board, practising safe swimming with marine life, and only providing reef-safe sunscreen to protect the local coral.
Be immersed in local culture
Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort’s new cultural centre is double the size of the previous one and designed to share Hawaii’s rich heritage to all its guests. The design of the centre utilises talents from local artists, such as the new virtual exhibit of the sailing canoe Hokulea, an animated projection which appears to move through water, crafted by digital artist Kari Kehau Noe. This is the perfect place to encounter authentic local culture and traditions: partake in activities including hula lessons, ukulele classes and lei-making demonstrations, led by cultural director Luana Maitland.
Take a step back to the age of dinosaurs
Rewind time to the Jurassic era at Kualoa Ranch, a 4,000-acre cattle ranch which, if you’re a Jurassic Park fan, may look familiar. The wide, green valleys and soaring peaks are instantly recognisable as the stomping grounds of dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster hit and the sequential movies which followed. Experience ‘Jurassic Valley’ for yourself on a Hollywood Movie Sites tour, see iconic film sites in Kualoa, Hakipu’u and Ka’a’awa Valleys on an off-road Jurassic adventure tour, or if you’d prefer an activity that’ll get your heart racing, go on a thrilling zipline adventure.
Take part in a traditional Hawaiian lūʻau
One of the most quintessential Hawaiian experiences you can have is as a guest at a lūʻau, a festive feast featuring live music and vibrant cultural performances. Feast on poi (taro plant root), kalua pork cooked in an earth oven and haupia (coconut pudding) alongside locals. During your meal, watch incredible hula dancing performances, Samoan knife fire dancing and witness gripping storytelling. Lūʻaus take place all across Hawaii, from O‘ahu to Maui.
Be wowed by natural wonders at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
See some of nature’s most raw and ancient landscapes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Here you’ll find the Earth’s largest volcano at 19,999 cubic miles, Mauna Loa, as well as Kīlauea, the world’s most active volcano. Learn about the sheer geographical power the volcanoes have on shaping the land, as well as the ancient beliefs and customs behind each fiery formation. Spend your time here hiking, see the Chain of Craters on a scenic drive or wander through the Thurston lava tubes. If you’d like to do something completely unforgettable, see the luminous lava flow from the sky on a helicopter tour.
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