Say ‘aloha’ to Hawaii: an incredible archipelago with six main islands – each of which is full of surprises. Prepare to be amazed by peaceful Kauai, surf-centric O‘ahu, mellow Maui, , luxurious Lanai, heritage-rich Molokai and, of course, the lively Island of Hawaii. From active volcanoes, black-sand beaches, historic towns and scenic mountain-river tubing, Hawaii is on a mission to excite you. Don’t just take our advice, though; let Hawaii happen…

A rich history

Hawaii’s unique culture is a blend of Polynesian, British, American, Chinese, Japanese and Filipino influences. Start by uncovering Hawaii’s rich history on Oahu, home to two-thirds of Hawaii’s population and the most visited of the islands (hence its nickname: ‘the Gathering Place’). The state capital, Honolulu, sits on the southeast coast; west of Honolulu is Pearl Harbor, which was famously devastated by the Japanese forces in 1941. Visitors can learn about Pearl Harbor’s past via four key attractions: the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Battleship Missouri, the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Bowfin Museum.

History lessons with a difference

Get a different kind of history lesson at Oahu’s Polynesian Cultural Center, which champions seven Polynesian cultures via replica villages. You can also visit the ornate ʻIolani Palace, where Hawaii’s royal rulers once resided; Queen Emma’s Summer Palace (a holiday retreat for Queen Emma of Hawaii from 1857 to 1885); and the Bishop Museum, which boasts the world’s largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts and natural history specimens.

Puʻuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

Over on Hawaii’s eponymous island, the Island of Hawai‘i, star-filled nights, diverse climates, dramatic volcanoes, inspiring nature and a lively, hospitable culture await. Step back in time by visiting Puʻuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park: a sacred site that once provided a place of refuge for criminals, defeated warriors and civilians during battle. No physical harm could come to those who reached the boundaries of the Pu’uhonua.

Festivals and rock carvings

While you’re on the Island of Hawai‘i, visit Mookini Luakini Heiau: Hawaii’s most sacred temple. If you’re here in Easter, don’t miss the famous annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival; if you can’t get tickets, island-hub Hilo hosts plenty of spin-off events. Don’t go home without hunting for petroglyphs (rock carvings) in the Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Field, in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Roughly 3,000 ancient designs have been discovered, including marchers, dancers and family groups, plus chicken, dog, turtle and deity symbols.

Kilohana Plantation

Keen to keep learning? Relaxing Kauai is home to Kilohana: a sprawling plantation estate built in 1935 by sugar baron Gaylord Wilcox. Visitors can take a train ride through tropical orchards, admire the Tudor-style mansion, taste potent rum made at the on-site distillery, and learn all about plantation life.

Cowboy Culture

Over on Maui, discover Hawaii’s cowboy culture, which dates back to the late 19th century. Meet the paniolo – Hawaii’s ranching community – in the characterful town of Makawao, perched on the mid-slopes of Maui’s Haleakala volcano. Don’t miss the Makawao Rodeo, which takes place annually on 4 July: this is Hawaii’s main paniolo competition, and has been going strong for more than 50 years. Watch calf-roping, barrel-racing and bareback bronc-riding, Hawaiian-style. While you’re here, grab a cream puff from T. Komoda Store, which was opened by a Japanese plantation worker back in 1916. Prepare to join a queue for this delicious sweet treat…