Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Hawaii Kai, HI

  • Published 2022/09/14

Situated in the east of downtown Honolulu, this idyllic community of Hawaii Kai that has something for everyone.

Hawaii Kai is the first planned community on Oahu.

In the 1960s, well-known industrialist Henry J. Kaiser transformed a wetland and fishpond area into an ideal suburban town.

Today, Hawaii Kai boasts a variety of unique shops, dining options, stunning vistas, and recreational activities such as hiking, swimming, fishing, and more.

From its sandy shores to its overlooking ranges, you’ll find something to keep you busy during your stay.

You’ll fall in love with this beautiful place after you’ve tried the best things to do in Hawaii Kai, Hawaii!

Learn about Marine Preservation in Hanauma Bay State Park

Scenic view of Hanauma Bay State Park

Nick Strolia /

Hanauma Bay State Park, located on the southeast coast of the island of Oahu, is one of the most visited sites in Hawaii Kai, and for a good reason.

In 1990, the County of Honolulu restored the abused marine ecosystem, thanks to millions of tourists who love to snorkel in Hanauma Bay.

Today, the bay is a protected marine environment with the kind of seascape that makes you want to get right into it.

Volunteers focus on educating visitors about marine life conservation and the types of marine species living in the waters of Hanauma Bay.

Manini fish on Hanauma Bay State Park's reef

Paul C Barranco /

Before you enter the state park, you will watch a short video about marine life, safety requirements, and preservation.

Hanauma Bay State Park is not a beach park where you can do the usual beach activities, but a nature preserve dedicated to safeguarding the environment.

If you want to get away from it all and relax somewhere beautiful, then Hanauma Bay State Park is the perfect place!

Aerial view of Hanauma Bay State Park

Mr. James Kelley /

Listen to the Crashing Waves at Halona Blowhole Lookout

Daytime view of Halona Blowhole Lookout

Erin Donahue Photography /

Halona Blowhole Lookout is one of the must-visit attractions you shouldn’t miss in Hawaii Kai.

The word “Halona” means “lookout” in Hawaiian, a vantage point from where you can see miles and miles of pristine coastline.

Situated near Halona Beach Cove along HI-72, Halona Blowhole Lookout is a one-of-a-kind natural wonder created from molten lava tubes from volcanic eruptions.

There are no active volcanoes around the area anymore, but the remnants of their eruptions are still an incredible sight.

Aerial view of Halona Blowhole Lookout

Wirestock Creators /

During the winter, you can see big, strong waves rushing down the lava tubes under the lookout and geysers blowing as high as 30 feet.

If you visit during whale season, you might see the whales breaking the surface of the water.

There are plenty of reasons why Halona Blowhole Lookout is worth visiting.

Have a Picnic in Maunalua Bay Beach Park

Rocky shoreline of Maunalua Bay Beach Park

Eric Broder Van Dyke /

Maunalua Bay Beach Park is a popular destination along Hawaii Kai Drive.

The name “Maunalua” means “two mountains” referring to the Koko Head and Koko Crater at the eastern part of the bay.

Henry J. Kaiser created the Maunalua Bay Beach Park upon the establishment of the Hawaii Kai Marina.

It is a favorite spot for boaters, anglers, canoe paddlers, kayakers, and picnickers because of its shallow waters and rocky ocean floor.

Although the beach better suits fishing over swimming, you can still splash around the shallow part of the beach.

There are also plenty of amenities such as picnic tables, restrooms, showers, a boat launch, parking for boat trailers, and lorking spaces.

If you want to spend the day with your family, take them to the Maunalua Bay Beach Park!

Shop ‘Til You Drop at Hawaii Kai Town Center

Oceanside dining at Hawaii Kai Town Center

Phillip B. Espinasse /

Located on Keahole Street, Hawaii Kai Towne Center is the one-stop destination for all your needs.

No matter what you need, you can always find something here at Hawaii Kai Towne Center.

This 27-acre establishment has an extensive lineup of businesses, restaurants, and retailers, so you’ll find something to keep you busy.

It is also home to many famous dining options and restaurants, like Starbucks, Outback Steakhouse, Sushiman, Ramenya, and many more.

After going through every store, you can also enjoy some entertainment at the marina docks, waterfront stage, and courtyard.

The Hawaii Kai Towne Center has everything you need, from clothing to dining.

Enjoy a fun shopping experience!

Trek the Koko Crater Trail

Daytime view of the Koko Crater Trail

lauraslens /

The Koko Crater Trail is a must-visit if you’re looking for a place to hike or explore in Hawaii Kai.

The trail is not only a great way to get some exercise and have fun all at once, but it also offers unique geological features you can see from the top.

The Koko Crater Trail will test your endurance and strength as you climb a thousand steps to reach the top.

Hikers at the Koko Crater Trail

Yi-Chen Chiang /

This popular hike on Oahu provides hikers with a challenge and excitement because the views from the top are spectacular.

As you go along the trail, you will find stairs carved into the side of the mountain, which was acrailway used by the military in the past.

You can easily find the Koko Crater Trail at Koko Head Park, but it’s not an easy climb!

Hikers climbing down Koko Crater Trail

itsflowingtothesoul /

Book a Tee Time at Hawaii Kai Golf Course

One of the best things to do in Hawaii Kai is to play a round of golf on a challenging layout with a scenic beach background.

Hawaii Kai Golf Course is an 18-hole executive par 3 course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.

It offers a Championship course with a challenging layout, elevation changes, and skilled dogleg holes that will undoubtedly test talented golfers.

They also have a “Golf Academy” where you can enroll in a program and hone your skills.

Hawaii Kai Golf Course provides not only a world-class golf course but also a perfect setting for your next event.

You can organize your events in the golf course’s banquet facilities that showcase Sandy Beach Park’s beautiful scenery.

If you want to practice your swing or be competitive, visit the Hawaii Kai Golf Course along the Kalanianaole Highway.

Take a Look at the Plants in Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Gorgeous sunset view from Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Wirestock Creators /

Koko Crater Botanical Garden is an oasis in the middle of Hawaii Kai, a great place to escape from the busyness of Waikiki.

Situated on Kokokani Street, this garden offers visitors a chance to escape from their daily routine and enjoy nature’s beauty at its finest.

In 1958, the Koko Crater Botanical Garden opened to preserve and provide outdoor space for people to come together and share these beautiful plants.

Cacti at Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Marina Poushkina /

The garden is home to different species of rare and exotic dryland plants, including African and Madagascan plants.

If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, visit the Koko Crater Botanical Garden in Hawaii Kai.

Blue agave at Koko Crater Botanical Garden

dejjf82 /

Watch the Waves in Spitting Caves

Colorful sunset over Spitting Caves

Calvin Hy /

Spitting Caves is one of the hidden gems of Hawaii Kai, tucked away on Lumahai Street and located near a quiet residential area in Honolulu.

Also known as the “China Walls,” the Spitting Caves are one-of-a-kind geologic structures featuring a beautiful wavy formation in the walls.

The name “Spitting Caves” came from the water that gets frequently spat out after entering the cave.

Sometimes, when the tides are strong, the water can cascade to 20 feet high; you might even see a rainbow at the end.

View of the waves from Spitting Caves

Joshua Rainey Photography /

Although the place doesn’t recommend cliff jumping and swimming in the waters around the caves, you may still enjoy a beautiful trek on the paths around the area or listen to the sounds of waves crashing.

The best time to visit is during dawn or sunset, or when the weather is not that hot.

Spitting Caves are now a popular stop for visitors who want to enjoy nature and see something new while staying in Hawaii Kai.

Ocean waves below Spitting Caves

Parthena Savides /

Relax and Unwind in Kawaikui Beach Park

Silhouette of palm trees at Kawaikui Beach Park

Leigh Anne Meeks /

Relaxing in a beach park in Hawaii Kai is a great way to unwind after a day of hiking or exploring.

You can easily access Kawaikui Beach Park from the Kalanianaole Highway, featuring a spacious field for recreational activities.

Plenty of trees provide shade in the park, and an expansive grassy area is equipped with picnic tables.

Bench on the grounds of Kawaikui Beach Park

Nancy Anderson /

Although the beach is narrow and not ready for swimming, the views in the park are spectacular.

The park is also a great place to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Hawaii Kai while having a picnic.

If you want to visit an attraction that doesn’t require much planning or preparation, then Kawaikui Beach Park is definitely for you!

Surf in the Waters of Sandy Beach

The waters of Sandy Beach

Glenncando at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Beach life is one of the most popular forms of recreation in Hawaii.

The warm climate and ample sunshine draw people from around the world to the Hawaiian islands.

If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience on the big island, there’s no better place than Sandy Beach in Hawaii Kai.

Sandy Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand and blue waters located in southeastern Oahu.

It has become a popular destination for tourists and locals seeking a day at the beach, especially during the summer when it can get very crowded.

Because of the strong currents, Sandy Beach has become an excellent destination for bodyboarding and bodysurfing.

Lifeguards around the beach keep the visitors safe and educated about the hazards in the water.

Sandy Beach is one of the best beaches in Hawaii Kai because it has everything you need for an enjoyable stay.

Watch the Sunset at Lanai Lookout

Scenic view of Lanai Lookout

Jason C-K. Chan /

The Lanai Lookout is one of the popular lookout spots in Hawaii Kai that offers a panoramic view of the ocean.

It sits right off the Kalanianaʻole Highway and is one of the three lookouts on the main roadside.

The lookout is at the top of a cliff and offers gorgeous views of Lana’i and the surrounding islands, like Maui and Molokai.

Landscape of Lanai Lookout

Todamo /

Moreover, it is also the best spot to watch whales from December to March, during the whale season.

Take time to sit down and enjoy the view, or walk around Lanai Lookout and let go of all your stress.

People at Lanai Lookout

Alex Krassel /

Take a Dip at the Toilet Bowl Swimming Hole

The Toilet Bowl Swimming Hole is a natural swimming hole in Hanauma Bay that you shouldn’t miss.

A lava formation created a large pool of water, where visitors go swimming or relax.

When the waves force water into the pool through a hole in the lava rock, the water gets pulled back out through the same spot, much like a toilet bowl—hence the name “Toilet Bowl” Swimming Hole.

If you want to visit the swimming hole, you can access it through the trail that begins at the Hanauma Bay Beach Park.

The trails can be slippery, so practice extreme caution when traversing the path to the Toilet Bowl.

Other Things to Do Nearby

If you think your adventure ends in Hawaii Kai, think again.

Once you step outside the boundaries of this beach community, you’ll see a whole new world filled with exciting places to visit and interesting things to do.

What’s the best part about this?

These places are all within 30 minutes from Hawaii Kai!

Hike the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

Trail leading to Makapu’u Lighthouse

E.J.Johnson Photography /

The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is 30 minutes away from Hawaii Kai and one of the most popular hikes in the area.

The trail begins at the Makapu’u trailhead.

As you go along the route, you’ll enjoy the view of the breathtaking Oahu coastline, offshore islets, and the famous red-roofed Makapu’u Lighthouse.

The lighthouse is off-limits to visitors, but you can appreciate its beauty from afar; plus, it makes a good background for your pictures.

Tourists along Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

Steve Heap /

On a fine day, you can catch a glimpse of the two Hawaiian islands, Lana’i and Moloka’i.

The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is the perfect spot for whale watching during the season, so bring your binoculars and have a look at the wildlife in the area.

Bring your sunscreen, camera, and lots of water when you hike the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail to enjoy the experience better.

View of the Makapu’u Lighthouse from its trail

Lu Yang /

Visit the Marine Animals in Sea Life Park

Seals at Sea Life Park

Eric Broder Van Dyke /

A 23-minute drive away from Hawaii Kai will take you to this family-friendly marine park in Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii.

The Sea Life Park is great for bringing your kids to spot the local sea life and learn about them.

The marine park offers educational and fun activities that you and your children will enjoy.

As you explore the park, you will see a variety of fish and other sea creatures, including sharks, rays, and sea turtles.

Trail at Sea Life Park

Eric Broder Van Dyke /

If you get hungry, you can enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants in this park if you have time to spare.

In addition, you can also witness special events in the park, including the nightly Ka Moana Luau.

Whether you want education or entertainment, Sea Life Park can provide you with the best of both worlds.

Scenic view from Sea Life Park

Eric Broder Van Dyke /

Splash around Waimanalo Beach

Strong waves at Waimanalo Beach

diy13 /

With three miles of pristine white sand shores, a turquoise sea, and towering trees, Waimanalo Beach is a bona fide paradise.

Waimanalo Beach is a 17-minute drive from Hawaii Kai, known for its spectacular beauty.

The beach is usually quiet and clean, although it can get crowded during the summer.

The best thing about Waimanalo Beach is that you can do many activities there.

Lifeguard station at Waimanalo Beach

Leigh Anne Meeks /

You can enjoy surfing, bodyboarding, or just relax under the sun with a book or your favorite tunes on your headphones.

There are restrooms, showers, and picnic tables nearby.

Spend some time enjoying the beach without worrying about finding somewhere else to go.

Check out Waimanalo Beach if you’re looking for an authentic Hawaiian experience.

Ironwood trees at Waimanalo Beach

Ppictures /

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a place to relax, explore, and enjoy the great outdoors, you should consider visiting Hawaii Kai.

Hawaii Kai makes for an ideal escape from the city and offers plenty of activities to keep visitors entertained.

Plan your visit today and discover the best things to do in Hawaii Kai!

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