Hawaii Outdoor Activities
ATV Tours of Parker Ranch
Take a tour of Parker Ranch, Hawaii's oldest working cattle ranch and one of the country's largest. It is a mainstay of paniolo (cowboy) culture, an important influence in Hawaiian history. The two-hour tours take guests across open pasturelands and past a variety of plant life and ranch operations like cowboy stations, corrals, and stables. The sometimes snow-capped Mauna Kea towers in the distance, creating a breathtaking landscape. Tours depart at 8:15 am and 12:15 pm daily. Snacks and drinks are provided. Riders pay $95 per ride and must be at least 16 years old.
Deep Sea Fishing off Molokai
The fishing grounds off Molokai are among the best in the islands, and sport fishers are thrilled to return with an abundant catch of mahi-mahi, ono, ahi, and other Hawaiian deep-sea cruisers. Unlike other fishing charters that don't share the catch, Alyce C. Sportfishing's policy is to give its guests whatever they can reasonably use. What's more, the sea cliffs of Molokai's north shore - the world's highest at over an estimated 3,000 feet - provide a stunning backdrop as you search for that elusive 1,000-pound marlin. Half-day, three-quarter-day, and full-day trips are available, and the boat accommodates up to six passengers.
Ziplining is all the rage for adventure enthusiasts who want to experience Hawaii's great outdoors from a bird's eye view, and along with a healthy dose of adrenaline. Kauai and Maui are home to numerous zipline operations. They're located in different forest and valley settings, and the lines vary in length and speed. Just Live on Kauai is the only entirely treetop-based zip course, meaning your feet don't touch the ground until you finish the final traverse. The eco-conscious tour also takes you across suspended rope bridges through a forest of Norfolk pines and an optional 60-foot climbing wall. Packages range from $79 to $125.
Hanauma Bay Night Snorkeling
While three-quarters of the fish that inhabit Hawaii waters are diurnal, some of the most fascinating marine life emerges after nightfall. After the sun goes down, octopus, soldierfish, moray eels, and other night wanderers come out to feed on zooplankton, crustaceans, and tiny shrimp and fishes. For those interested in exploring the reef by flashlight, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve remains open until 10pm on the second Saturday of each month. Masks, fins, snorkels, flashlights, and lockers are available for rent. Entry fee is $5 for adults and is free for children under 13. Parking is $1.
Kayaking on the Wailua River
Wailua River is the only navigable river in Hawaii and one of Kauai‘s most outstanding natural splendors. Kayak Wailua offers an enchanting two-and-a-half-mile tour down the meandering waterway, starting from the mouth of the river. The scenic journey takes guests to ancient Kamokila village, followed by a short hike through the valley’s canyons and rainforest, and finally to Uluwehi Falls for a refreshing swim. The trip takes four and a half hours and costs $40 per person.
Paddle in a Hawaiian Sailing Canoe
Veteran canoe paddlers Sage and Liz Spalding take passengers for snorkel and sail excursions on their Hawaiian sailing canoe, the traditional vessel that brought the first Hawaiians to the islands from French Polynesia. The two hour-long tour along the pristine Wailea coastline offers a bit of Hawaiian history, as well as the seasonal opportunity to watch whales (December-April) or swim with turtles and manta rays (year-round). Juice and water are provided, and the crew will email digital pictures of your adventure. The cost is $99 per adult, $79 per child ages 5-12.
Piiholo Ranch Horseback Rides
The legendary Baldwin family, which settled on Maui in the 1830s, owns Piiholo Ranch, which is situated peacefully on the slopes of Haleakala. Six generations later, these cowboys continue to operate a working cattle ranch. Guides take visitors on horseback for a two-hour ride across the spectacular upcountry terrain, through eucalyptus forests and wide pastures to majestic vistas overlooking the valley, pineapple and sugarcane fields, the West Maui mountains, and Maui's north and south shores. Rides cost $125, which includes refreshments (juice, coffee, and snacks) along the way.
When you freefall at 120 miles per hour from 12,000 feet, you get a singular and extraordinary perspective of paradise. There's nothing quite like the deafening silence that envelops you when your parachute opens, and you're dangling in the sky, cruising with the clouds. The views from Skydive Hawaii's Mokuleia site stretch all the way to Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, and the glittering North Shore coastline. In the winter, you can also watch the whales breach. First-timers can tandem jump with licensed professional U.S. Parachute Association instructors for $225 ($150 with an online reservation); $20 jumps are available for experienced skydivers.
Tour a Kona Coffee Plantation
Like French champagne or Georgia peaches, only the beans grown in the 22-mile-long, two-mile-wide region of the Big Island’s leeward side can be labeled Kona coffee. Hawaii’s famous coffee belt lies on the slopes of two volcanoes, Hualalai and Mauna Loa, where well-draining volcanic earth and natural cloud cover provide uniquely favorable growing conditions. Several of the 600-plus family farms offer tours of their coffee orchards. Try the free tour and tasting at Kona Le‘a Plantation, an organic farm partially tended by a flock of 50 geese.
Our Experts save you money with travel deals and advice
On an open-seating flight, head for the back of the airplane. If the flight's not full, it'll likely be emptier back there.
Karen Dion Freelance Editor
Sign up for the Top 25 Newsletter
to get exclusive weekly deals