The Hawaiian Islands have long remained one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world due to the area’s flamboyant foliage, pleasant weather year-round, friendly locals, and numerous recreational activities. Near many vacation rentals in Hawaii are almost endless opportunities for swimming, water sports, sightseeing, appreciating nature, and fine dining. Here are the best weekend getaway locations in Hawaii.

1. Waikiki on Oahu

beach ocean waterThe neighborhood of Waikiki lies at the southern end of the city of Honolulu on the lovely shore of the Pacific Ocean. World-renowned strands such as Kahanamoku Beach, Queen’s Beach, Kuhio Beach, and Waikiki Beach itself are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, beach volleyball, and stand-up paddleboarding. Take a surfing lesson, and enjoy this traditional iconic Hawaiian sport. At the southern end of Waikiki and the north side of Queen Kapiolani Park is the Honolulu Zoo, with its lush botanical gardens and fascinating exotic animals. The Waikiki Aquarium sits at the western edge of the park. Situated adjacent to a live coral reef, the aquarium has amazing exhibits of sharks, giant clams, rare Hawaiian monk seals, and Hawaiian and South Pacific marine communities. Just south of Queen Kapiolani Park is Diamond Head, a volcanic cone that looms large on the southern Honolulu skyline. Take the short hike to the top of Diamond Head for a breathtaking view of Honolulu and the southern coastline of Oahu.

Waikiki is just minutes away from downtown Honolulu and its eclectic selection of restaurants and vibrant nightlife. Honolulu’s attractions include Iolani Palace, the former residence of the monarchs of Hawaii that is now open for tours. The enormous Bishop Museum has a vast collection of Polynesian artifacts, a planetarium, and a science adventure center. At Pearl Harbor, 30 minutes from Waikiki, visit World War II memorials such as the USS Arizona Memorial and Visitor’s Center, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

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2. Kailua on Oahu

sandy beach ocean
Source: Flickr/JamesZ_Flickr

The beautiful town of Kailua on the windward, or eastern side of Oahu, is the perfect place for a weekend getaway. Although less crowded than Waikiki, it has a 2.5-mile crescent-shaped family-friendly stretch of beach that slopes gently into the water. Besides swimming, popular water activities include kayaking, paddleboarding, bodysurfing, and windsurfing. Just inland is the Maunawili Falls Trail, a 2.5 mile round trip through lush tropical foliage to a gorgeous waterfall, where you can take a dip in the cool mountain pool at the base. A few miles south is Sea Life Park Hawaii, a marine mammal and bird sanctuary with an aquarium, live animal shows, and opportunities for you to interact with sea turtles, sea lions, and dolphins.

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3. Haleiwa on Oahu

surfing waves
Source: Flickr/Anthony Quintano

Haleiwa is a town on the north shore of Oahu near Waialua Bay about 30 miles north of Honolulu. Haleiwa is a beautiful, laid-back surfing town with a pleasant harbor and a long beach. It’s a great place to stroll and browse the boutiques, art galleries, and surf shops. Enjoy some scrumptious local seafood, and have some cool, sweet shaved ice for dessert. Near Haleiwa are the world-famous surf spots of Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and the Banzai Pipeline. Try out the sport yourself when the waves are relatively calm, and when they kick up, witness world champions take on some of the most challenging waves on Earth.

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4. Lihue on Kauai

Hawaii cliffs waterfall
Source: Flickr/Jessie Hodge

Kauai, known as the Garden Island, is the northernmost of the major Hawaiian Islands. Lovely Lihue, the government, cultural, and commercial center of the island, lies on the southeastern shore. Several beaches provide opportunities for swimming, surfing, and stand-up paddleboarding. Just north of town is gorgeous Wailua Falls, a breathtakingly beautiful double cascading waterfall. The nearby historic Kilohana Estate, a former sugar plantation, now hosts tropical gardens, festive luaus, and a railroad that takes you on a tour of the vast estate. Lihue is also home to some fascinating museums that highlight local history, including the Grove Farm Homestead Museum and the Kauai Museum.

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5. Lahaina on Maui

hawaii water mountains
Source: Flickr/Jasperdo

The resort town of Lahaina is on the western side of the incomparably beautiful island of Maui. Formerly a whaling village, Lahaina is now full of vibrant shops, art galleries, and restaurants. The town still retains its historic ambiance, with over 55 acres set apart as historic districts. Follow the historic trail and visit Front Street, the Pioneer Inn, the U.S. Seaman’s Hospital, old Lahaina Prison, and the largest banyan tree in the United States. Nearby is the Plantation Course at Kapalua, one of the premier golf courses in Hawaii. From Lahaina Harbor, join a whale watching cruise and spot some magnificent humpback whales.

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6. Hana on Maui

Hawaii beachThe charming town of Hana on the east coast of Maui makes an ideal weekend getaway spot. Surrounded by pristine rainforests, the town is a true tropical paradise. Shop at famous historic Hasegawa General Store and Hana Ranch Store. For a look at flamboyant local flora, visit the Kaia Ranch Tropical Botanical Gardens. Waianapanapa State Park, about 10 miles to the south, has colonies of seabirds, lava tubes, sea stacks, blowholes, and an amazing black sand beach. Near the park are the Pools of Oheo, also known as the Seven Sacred Pools, where you can swim in gorgeous freshwater tiered pools fed by waterfalls. If you’re feeling energetic, a vigorous hike takes you past the pools to stunning 400-foot Waimoku Falls.

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7. Kailua-Kona on the Big Island

Hawaii beach trees
Source: Flickr/John Menard

Kailua-Kona is a seaside village on the central west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. This colorful town is a fascinating place to explore, with important historic spots such as the impressive Hulihee Palace, where royalty used to spend their vacations, and Mokuaikawa Church, the first Christian church in Hawaii. After sunset, Kailua-Kona comes alive with nightlife, and its seafood restaurants are among the best on the island. Nearby is coastal Kaloko Honokohau National Historic Park, which recreates a native Hawaiian settlement including housing platforms, fishing ponds, and religious sites. The park also features recreational activities such as hiking, canoeing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

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8. Hilo on the Big Island

Hawaii rainbow falls
Source: Flickr/Al Case

The town of Hilo, on the eastern side of the Big Island, is on the shore of a gorgeous crescent-shaped bay. Stroll and visit the Hilo Farmer’s Market and the East Hawaii Cultural Center. Fascinating museums include the Pacific Tsunami Museum, the Lyman Museum, and Imiloa Astronomy Center. Hilo is also a gateway to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can hike up close to active volcanoes.

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