Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to visit Hawaii. The winter rainy season will have ended, and temperatures will often sit comfortably in the 80s. Whether you want to experience a patriotic celebration in Hilo, watch the traditional Lantern Floating Ceremony in Honolulu, or simply enjoy a weekend away, this gorgeous island state boasts an abundance of exciting towns and cities. For beautiful scenery, comfortable Hawaii vacation rentals, and fun Memorial Day activities, check out these destinations.
1. Honolulu, Oahu
Experience a traditional Hawaiian service at the Lantern Floating Ceremony in Honolulu. Each Memorial Day, thousands of people visit Ala Moana Beach Park at sunset to send floating lanterns in memory of lost loved ones. The city also hosts a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and a parade in Waikiki. This is also a great weekend to check out the U.S.S. Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor; admission is free on Memorial Day.
2. Waimea, Kauai
If you’re traveling with kids, spend your Memorial Day weekend at the Banana Poka RoundUp in Koke’e State Park near Waimea. Listen to Hawaiian music, make forest crafts, and try your hand at basket making. Kids particularly love the crowing contest. Take advantage of the dry May weather with a hike through Waimea Canyon State Park, or pack a picnic and head down to the Waimea State Recreation Pier for a day of ocean fishing with the family. Nearby, the beach provides gentle waters for swimming or splashing in the shallows.
3. Wainiha, Kauai
Make the most of the spectacular May temperatures with a challenging hike along the Kalalau Trail near Kapaa on Kauai. This trail starts in Ha’ena State Park near Wainiha and runs for 11 miles to Kalalau Beach. For a great day trip, hike 4 miles along the Na Pali coast to the stunning Hanakapiai Falls, and enjoy a swim before heading back. Later, watch the wild waves at Lumaha’i Beach or Wainiha Beach. Be cautious about swimming, as the currents can be extremely strong.
Escape the crowds of vacationers on Molokai, one of Hawaii’s most peaceful islands. Enjoy the calm, laid-back vibe as you snorkel at Papohaku Beach and catch stunning sunsets at Kapukahehu Beach. When you’re ready to see the sights, take a mule ride through Kalaupapa National Historical Park to one of the most far-flung historic sites in Hawaii. For an educational — not to mention delicious — afternoon, head to Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm, where you can pick nuts straight from the trees.
Get off the grid for a Memorial Day weekend in Lanai, one of the loveliest and most peaceful Hawaiian islands. Book one of the island’s luxurious vacation rentals, and don’t forget a rental car with four-wheel drive as only 30 miles of roads on the island are paved. Take advantage of the lack of May tourists and explore some of Lanai’s most beautiful sites, including Shipwreck Beach, Polihua Beach, the Munro Trail, and the Garden of the Gods. If you’re a golfer, reserve a morning tee time at Manele Golf Course, where you can work on your swing high on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
6. Kipahulu, Maui
The warm evenings around Memorial Day make the weekend the perfect time to experience Haleakala National Park near Kipahulu in Maui. Pack up the family and head to the summit just before sunset. With a visibility of nearly 115 miles, the park offers some of the most beautiful sunsets on the planet. Pack a picnic and stick around until nightfall, when millions of stars twinkle overhead. During the day, enjoy the low crowd levels with a hike along the park’s many fantastic trails, including the moderate Pipiwai Trail and the challenging Halalai’i Trail into the otherworldly Haleakala Crater.
7. Captain Cook, Hawaii
Kick off the summer season with a weekend of snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay. In late May, frequent sunny days create light, bright underwater conditions, so you can see brilliantly colored schools of fish in their full glory. As you swim, adorable dolphins and sea turtles frolic nearby. The best snorkeling lies across the bay from the parking area. To get there, book a tour with companies such as Fair Wind Cruises and Sea Quest Hawaii. Look for rentals in nearby Captain Cook, offering awe-inspiring scenery and a laid-back vacation vibe.
8. Waiulua Bay, Hawaii
Spend Memorial Day swimming and sunbathing at the picture-perfect Hapuna Beach. Sugar-soft white sand, aqua-colored water, and brilliant blue skies are the norm in May, creating the ideal conditions for lazy days by the sea. Bring your body board to play in Hapuna’s legendary continuous break. Arrive early to secure a prime spot, and visit the Three Frogs Cafe for light, fresh snacks. If you’re hoping for a remote, relaxing stay, check out rentals just north of the park. For a more lively vibe, search around Waiulua Bay to the south.
9. North Shore, Oahu
Try out some of the world’s most exciting surfing on the North Shore of Oahu. By Memorial Day, the waves have usually dropped to beginner-friendly levels, and the crowds of professional surfers have left for bigger waters. If you’re new to the sport, book lessons through companies such as Sunset Suratt Surf Academy and North Shore Surf Girls. When you’re not on the waves, relax in the laid-back surfer haven of Haleiwa Town or explore the fascinating Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie.
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