The Hawaiian islands are a stunningly beautiful collection of misty plateaus, tropical coastlines, rocky ocean cliffs, lava deserts, and bamboo and fern forests. Traditional native Hawaiian culture remains strong on most islands and has gained a lot of support in recent decades, following centuries of colonization that threatened to wipe out indigenous practices and language. However, Hawaii is also a melting pot of many cultures, thanks to its proximity to Asia and its status as a world-famous tourist destination.

The state capital of Honolulu offers an ideal starting point for a trip to Hawaii. It pairs upscale shopping malls like Ala Moana Center and famous beaches such as Waikiki with historic landmarks such as Iolani Palace, the former home of the island’s last monarchy, and Hanauma Bay, a beautiful nature preserve.

Getting to know the Hawaiian culture is easy with the help of local guides who offer full-day and half-day guided tours. On Maui, tour companies lead hiking trips to the spectacular Wailua Falls and to the summit of Haleakala Crater. A visit to Iao Valley State Monument is also a highlight, as it’s believed to be the site of a sacred battle between indigenous Hawaiians and the forces of American colonization.

A helicopter tour of the Volcanoes National Park is another must-do. The park’s craggy ocean cliffs are dramatic, and its volcanic landscape includes the active Kilauea Volcano, which spewed out lava for years until it was finally stopped. Other attractions include the steaming Waialea Volcano, and hiking trails such as the Pipiwai Trail, which features a bamboo forest and the beautiful Waimoku Falls.

Other Hawaii attractions include the Diamond Head crater, which is the perfect place to go for a hike or watch the surfers of Oahu’s famously pristine beaches. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, on the island of Oahu, is a poignant WWII memorial to the nearly 2,000 soldiers and sailors who lost their lives in the battle for Hawaii.

While COVID-19 has affected visitor numbers, the Aloha State is rebounding and tourism is stronger than ever. Visitors from the United States are returning in greater numbers than they were before the pandemic, and people from Asia, who once made up a significant part of the visitor population, have begun to return as well. The State Constitution has been amended to include Hawaiian as an official language, and many schools across the islands are teaching the language to children. Many Hawaiians are passionate about preserving the culture and want to share it with the rest of the world. The cultural attractions on the islands are a testament to that commitment.

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