Editors' Picks: 20 of the Best Things to Do in Hawaii!

In August 1959, the "Aloha State" became the nation's 50th. It's known for it's tropical beauty, the setting for some cheesy episodes of "The Brady Bunch," and as the birthplace of President Barack Obama. We also appreciate Hawaii for its pineapples, volcanoes and the fact that it's the only U.S. state that grows coffee ("good morning!").

Hawaii is one of the most unique states in America, the setting for numerous movies (like "Jurassic Park") and a favorite destination for vacationers from around the world. But there are so many other cool things to investigate: here's our list of 20 "must-do's."

1. Visit a Royal Place

It's the only royal palace on American soil, having once been the residence of King Kamehameha III. It's beautifully preserved, with lots of fascinating artifacts and history. (Big Island)

2. Hike the Pipiwai Trail

This 4-mile trail is one of the most beautiful on Maui, leading you through a tall bamboo forest, and ultimately reaching the glorious Waimoku Falls.

3. Fantastic Whale Watching

Spring is peak humpback season in the waters around Maui, as these magnificent creatures mate, give birth and nurse their babies.

4. Kualoa Ranch

Its 4,000 acres of scenery so incredible, that its been the setting for many movies. You can take a "behind the scenes" tour, go horseback riding or ziplining through its valleys or sample some of the foods grown on premises. (Oahu)

5. Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

You've got it all here: lush tropical plants, waterfalls, huge trees, ocean views - even parrots. Stroll the meandering paths and drink in some serious beauty.

6. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes are one of Hawaii's coolest landmarks, and this park does not disappoint. You can observe two active ones (Kilauea and Mauna Loa), drive past steam vents and check out totally cool lava tubes (Big Island).

7. Meet A Bunch Of Manta Rays

When the sun goes down, adventurous divers hit the waters off Hawaii's Kona Coast to watch manta rays having their dinner. Dozens typically show up, doing all kinds of cool acrobatics.

8. Rainbow Falls

The name says it all: make an easy hike to this 80-foot waterfall and spot a rainbow. There are several viewing platforms, and the lush natural beauty around the falls ain't too shabby either. (Big Island)

9. Green Sand Beach

It gets the name for a reason: the sand really is green, as a result of a mineral called "olivine." And the color is offset by the gorgeous cliffs and blue waters surrounding it. (Big Island)

10. Go River Kayaking

While the islands are more associated with oceans, you can see some pretty amazing scenery via the rivers of Kauai. Kayaking is a tranquil way to view the lush junglescape.

11. Waimea Canyon

It's called "the Grand Canyon of the Pacific," and is spectacular in its own right. There's a great drive along it, with plenty of places to pull over and take in the scenery. The changing light, colors and clouds make every view unique. A must-see. (Kauai)

12. The Road To Hana

When you're on Maui, plan a day to make this drive of the Hana Highway. There are 59 bridges (many that are one-lane) and 600-plus winding curves. But there are also so many cool places to stop along the way, from an ancient Hawaiian temple in Kahanu Garden to the waterfall pools at Puaa Kaa State Wayside Park.

13. Big Waves, Brave Surfers

During the fall, the waves off the North Shore of Oahu get pretty monstrous. And top surfers from all over the world flock to the area to take them on. There are several competitions you can watch - which is thrilling, but a whole lot less nerve-wracking.

14. Hike Haleakala

Take a hike around this dormant volcano to view the unusual landscape, which includes sparkling "cinder cones." There are also many of the world's rarest plants and birds that call the place home. (Maui)

15. Kona Coffee Farm Tour

Kona coffee is among the most expensive in the world, and for a good reason: the taste is heavenly. Here's your chance to see what makes it so special, with a tour of one of the farms in the coffee belt. November is the time of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival.

16. U.S.S. Arizona Memorial

December 7, 1941 is a date seared into American history. The "Arizona" is the resting place of over 1,000 sailors and Marines who perished during the attack. This somber memorial is among the top attractions in Hawaii. (Big Island)

17. Bishop Museum

It's a fantastic collection of artifacts and culture, dedicated to Hawaii's past and present. Explore everything from the natural world surrounding the islands (sharks and lava shows!) to Hawaii's royal past. (Big Island)

18. Shangri-La

Doris Duke was one of America's wealthiest heiresses and philanthropists; her amazing five-acre estate overlooking Diamond Head is pretty eye-popping with its gardens and giant saltwater pool. So is her world-famous collection of Islamic art. (Big Island)

19. Go Skiing

Yes, you read that right: it actually snows in certain parts of Hawaii. Mauna Kea (which means "white mountain") is the tallest mountain in the islands and is subject to winter storms. It's pretty rugged - no lifts or grooming - but if you want to tackle a truly unique mountain, here's your chance. (Big Island)

20. Polynesian Cultural Center

Do a deep dive into island culture at this fantastic 42-acre center. Walk through an authentic Polynesian village, learn about the different cultures, take in a luau and so much more. (Big Island)

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