Landmarks of Hawaii

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Eruption of Kīlauea volcano, 1954
Eruption of Kīlauea volcano, 1954 / USGS, public domain

Most interesting landmarks of Hawaii

Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of Hawaii.

Natural landmarks

Hawaii are famous thanks to their natural beauty. Unbelievable, jungle-covered cliffs, ravines and canyons, some of the highest waterfalls in the world, some of the most active volcanoes of the world and unique fauna and flora are fascinating enough to lure millions of tourists to these remote islands.

Volcanoes

  • Halemaumau Crater with lava lake, Kilauea – Hawai’i. One of the most active volcanoes of the world, until 2018 contained one of the few lava lakes in the world.
  • Mauna Loa – Hawai’i. Volcano with the largest area in the world among the volcanoes which are above sea level. It rises 4 169 m above the sea level and 9 170 m above its base.
  • Mauna Kea – Hawai’i. One of the highest mountains in the world if measured from its underwater base – 10,203 m high. Above the sea level, it rises per 4,207 m. Due to dry and stable air above the volcano, it is one of the best places in the world for astronomical observation.
  • Molokini crater – Maui. Partially submerged volcanic crater. Some 600 m long crescent-shaped summit rises above the water. Exceptional scuba diving site due to calm water, good visibility and exceptional biological diversity.
  • Pu’u ‘Ō’ō – Hawai’i. One of the cinder cones of Kīlauea, erupting continuously since January 1983. The longest-lived known rift-zone eruption. Continuous lava flows from this cone constantly change the geography of the island, here from time to time is observed also lava lake.

Canyons, monoliths and cliffs

Waterfalls in Waipio Valley, Hawai'i
Waterfalls in Waipio Valley, Hawai’i / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Honopu Valley – Hawai’i. Deep valley in very dramatic, impressive natural setting. Impressive waterfalls. 27 m high natural arch, which makes powerful sound when hit by northern winds. Possible living site of pre-Hawaiian people – menehune – until the middle of the 19th century.
  • Iao Needle – Maui. Impressive, jungle covered cinder cone rising 686 m high.
  • Pelekunu – Wailau Cliffs – north coast of Moloka’i. Some of the highest sea cliffs, up to 1,010 m high. Drop is not vertical. Contain some waterfalls which thus belong to the highest ones in the world, including approximately 900 m high Olo’upena Falls and 840 m high Pu’uka’oku Falls.
  • Waimea Canyon – Kaua’i. This impressive canyon has been formed by Waimea River. It is some 16 m long and up to 900 m deep.
  • Waipio Valley – Hawai’i. Up to 610 m deep valley with steep walls and several large waterfalls, including Hiilawe Waterfall. Contains the steepest paved road in US and possibly, world. The average grade of this road is 25%.

Caves

  • Hualalai Ranch Cave – Hawai’i. The third longest lava cave in the world, 27,79 km long and up to 442 m deep. The cave contains some unusual cave formations of coralloid type – locally called “puff balls”.
  • Kaumana Caves – Hawai’i. One of the easiest lava caves in Hawaii to access. Kaumana Cave is 2 196 m long and the main entrance leads through a collapsed skylight. Cave formed in 1881 when the lava flow almost eliminated Hilo.
  • Kazumura Cave – Hawai’i. The longest lava tube in the world, 65.5 km long and up to 1,102 m deep.
  • Makauwahi Cave – Kaua’i. The largest limestone cave in Hawaii, the richest fossil find in the Pacific. Graveyard of ancient Hawaiians. The cave contains a sinkhole with a lake. This lake contains a 10,000 years-long history of sedimentation thus providing a very detailed and precise timeline of a natural evolution in Hawai’i. Here have been found remnants of numerous species of extinct birds.

Waterfalls

Wall of Tears, Maui
Wall of Tears, Maui / Steve Jurvetson, / CC BY 2.0
  • Hiilawe Waterfall – Hawai’i, Waipio Valley. Very impressive, powerful 442 m high waterfall, main drop is 366 m high.
  • Honokohau Falls – Maui. 341 m high falls from eternal cloud along emerald green mountain slope.
  • Kahiwa Falls – Molokai. Beautiful 660 m tall and up to 8 m wide waterfall falling directly into the ocean. Highest drop is 183 m tall.
  • Olo’upena Falls – Molokai. At 900 meters in height, this is an amazing seasonal waterfall. Considered to be the fourth highest waterfall in the world.
  • Papalaua Falls – Molokai. Approximately 501 m high, very impressive fall at the far end of enormous, up to 850 m deep valley.
  • Wai’ale’ale Falls – Hawai’i. Group of very tall waterfalls in a narrow canyon. It is possible that their height reaches 900 m.
  • Waihilau Falls – Hawai’i. 792 m high, flows throughout the year.
  • Wailua Falls – Kauai. 26 m tall, powerful waterfall with a single plunge. At low water the stream of falling water is divided into two separate falls.
  • Waipoo Falls – Kauai. Some 244 m tall waterfall with two major plunges. The beauty of this waterfall is supplemented by the orange colored rock with impressive erosion structures.
  • Wall of Tears, Maui in Puu Kukui – Maui. Group of some 17 very tall (up to 480 m) waterfalls in dramatic landscape, falling down in one of the wettest places on Earth.

Ecosystems

Haleakalā silversword in bloom, Maui
Haleakalā silversword in bloom, Maui / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Haleakalā silversword grove – Maui. This plant grows only in alpine desert on the top of Haleakalā volcano. The unusual succulent plant grows up to 2 meters tall and flowers once per 15 – 50 years.
  • Kure Atoll – Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The northernmost coral atoll in the world. The only island – Green Island – is habitat for hundreds of thousands of birds.
  • Laysan Island – Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This small, remote island has a hypersaline lake in its central part and endemic species of animals and plants including endemic duck and finch.
  • Nihoa Island – Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. 70 ha large island with its own palm species, several endemic bird species, flowers and giant crickets.

Other natural landmarks of Hawaii

  • Halona Blowhole – O’ahu. Powerful, visually very impressive blowhole. It is especially high at high tide and on windy days.
  • Ka’u Desert – Hawai’i. Unusual natural phenomenon: a desert of dried lava that is devoid of any vegetation. Although the rainfall here exceeds 1,000 mm per year, the rain is acid due to nearby volcanic vents and this eliminates any plants. Often the area becomes dangerous due to poisonous gas blows.
  • Nakalele Blowhole – Maui. Impressive blowhole in the lava fields of Maui. The approximately 30 m tall fountain beats from a shallow pool close to the sea.
  • Mount Waialeale – Kaua’i. Summit of this mountain is one of the wettest places on Earth with an average rainfall of 9,500 mm. The maximum rainfall in 1982 reached 17,300 mm. Thanks to the weather conditions here has formed a swampy biotope which is protected now as Alaka’i Wilderness Preserve. The area contains numerous unique species. Numerous waterfalls (Wai’ale’ale Falls) are falling along the 600 m high wall of crater. There is a wetter place in Hawaii – Big Bog in Maui.

Man made landmarks

Hawaii are inhabited comparatively recently.

There are alluring stories about some unknown ancient people – menehune – living here up to the middle of the 19th century (Honopū Valley, Hawai’i), but – as there is not found convincing testimony, this story belongs to legends.

Polynesians arrived in Hawaii in two waves – sometimes around 300 BC and around 1000 AD. Their culture is alive up to this day and they have created numerous exciting monuments, always accompanied by legends. There could be mentioned heiau – temples on large stone platforms and petroglyph sites.

Throughout the late 19th century descendants of Europeans gained more and more influence until they organised overthrow of Hawaiian government in 1893. Since then Hawaii gradually turned into a part of Western world with typical styles of architecture while retaining unique Hawaiian features.

Architecture monuments

Observatories on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawai'i
Observatories on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawai’i / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Aloha Tower – Hawai’i, Honolulu. This unusual and beautiful lighthouse was built in Art Deco and Neo-Gothic style in 1925. It is 56 m high with additional 12 m tall flag mast.
  • Haiku Stairs – O’ahu. Dangerous stairway with (possibly) 3922 steps. Originally built in 1943 for a secret war-time radio station. Currently it is illegal to climb due to safety reasons and property issues. Many visitors though take this risk due to very impressive sights.
  • Iolani Palace – Hawai’i. The only royal palace in United States, built in 1879 by king Kamehameha V and used as royal residence until 1893. Palace is built in unique architectural style sometimes called – American Florentine style.
  • Mauna Kea Observatory – Hawai’i. Group of astronomical research facilities on the summit of Mauna Kea. In total here are 12 telescopes, each into separate building, some telescopes belong to the largest in the world.
  • Windward Viaducts – O’ahu. Impressive pair of highway viaducts leading along the foot of Ko’olau Range. Viaducts are some 2 km long each, with both ends entering into tunnels.

Archaeological monuments

Pu'ukohola Heiau, Hawai'i
Pu’ukohola Heiau, Hawai’i / rjones0856, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Hale O Pi’ilani Heiau – Maui. The largest known heiau – ancient Hawaiian temple. Its area is roughly 12,000 m² and walls rise up to 15 m tall. This heiau was developed since the 1200ies.
  • Honokohau petroglyphs – Hawai’i. Comparatively recent petroglyphs, one even shows a full-rigged ship.
  • King’s Highway – Maui. This ancient paved foot trail was built in the 16th century, during the reign of King Pi’ilani to promote the trade on the island.
  • Necker Island – Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This small, remote, uninhabited island contains 33 stone shrines and many stone artifacts. Archaeologists believe that this island was used for ceremonial purposes.
  • Pohaku Kani – Maui. Large basalt stone, one of the best known of the bell stones of Hawaii. When the stone is struck sharply, it stone emits a low sound. In earlier times, this effect was used to announced the royal births.
  • Puako petroglyphs – Hawai’i. An area with more than 30000 petroglyphs. This could be the largest collection of petroglyphs in the Pacific region. Numerous signs hint at a preliminary development of a local writing system.
  • Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau – Hawai’i. A site where those who broke the law could avoid the death sentence. This tradition continued until the early 19th century. Reconstructed temple, residence site for powerful chiefs.
  • Pu’ukohola Heiau – Hawai’i. Last and one of the largest ancient Hawaiian temples, built sometimes around 1790. The enormous stone platform is an impressive element of landscape.
  • Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs – Hawai’i. One of the largest petroglyph sites in Polynesia. Content of the images is linked to a cult of life.
  • Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau – O’ahu. The largest heiau – ancient Hawaiian temple – in O’ahu. It was built in the 17th – 18th century and the area of the elevated stone platform reaches almost 8,000 m².
  • Ulupo Heiau – Hawai’i. An enormous ancient temple with 55 by 43 m large platform. Walls of the platform rise up to 9 m tall. The temple reached the height of its importance around 1750 AD.

Described landmarks of Hawaii

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The Hawaiian Islands belong to the most remote islands in the world. Hawaii is characterized by a tropical climate, mountainous relief, volcanism, and isolation. If compared to most islands in the Pacific, several Hawaiian Islands have comparatively large landmass. All these factors have led to the development of numerous impressive and unique natural attractions and some impressive monuments of culture.

Islands of Hawaii

Hawaiian Islands are a state of the United States. This state here is divided in 8 main islands and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands:

  • Hawai’i
  • Kaho’olawe
  • Kaua’i
  • Lāna’i
  • Maui
  • Molokai
  • Ni’ihau
  • Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
  • O’ahu

Among the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is located Midway Atoll which is not a part of Hawaii state and in this site is reviewed separately.

Hawaii, promotional video


HawaiiHTA, September 2016

Featured: Wai’ale’ale Falls

Wai'ale'ale Falls, Hawaii
Wai’ale’ale Falls / Miguel Vieira, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Summit of the 1,544 m high Wai’ale’ale volcano belongs to the rainiest places of the world – here fall some 10,800 mm of rain per year. More than 10 meters! No wonder that the volcano is covered with bright green jungle and adorned with many waterfalls. Especially impressive is the dramatic box canyon to the east with the numerous beautiful Wai’ale’ale Falls.

Articles about Hawaii

Top 10 waterfalls of Hawaiian islands

Wailua Falls, Hawaii
Wailua Falls / Miguel Vieira, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Top 12 Moloka’i waterfalls

Map of 12 best waterfalls in Molokai Island

Blowholes in Hawaii

Spouting Horn, Kauai
Spouting Horn, Kauai./ Markus Jöbstl, Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
List of 15 locations in Hawaii where are found blowholes.

Recommended books

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Hawaii


Packed with culture and activities for travelers to enjoy including beautiful beaches, volcanoes, and insider tips for everywhere from Honolulu to Waikiki. Try local delicacies with our guide to great restaurants and cafes featuring island cuisine, or check out the best restaurants, clubs, and bars. We have the best hotels for every budget, plus fun activities for solitary travel or for families and children to make the very best of any visit to Hawaii.

Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook


The finest guidebook ever written for the Big Island. Now you can plan your best vacation ever. This all new eighth edition is a candid, humorous guide to everything there is to see and do on the Big Island. Best-selling author and longtime Hawai’i resident, Andrew Doughty, unlocks the secrets of an island so vast and diverse that many visitors never realize all that it has to offer.

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