10 Quirky & Unique Things to Do in Hawaii 

Lava Tree State Monument unique things to do in Hawaii
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > 10 Quirky & Unique Things to Do in Hawaii 

We all know about Oahu’s must-do activities, like Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, and the Dole Plantation, just to name a few. But if you want to discover something different, there are lots of unique things to do in Hawaii. In fact, some of the activities are distinctively quirky! 

We put our heads together and made a list of the quirkiest, most oddball things to do in Hawaii.

Unique Things to Do in Hawaii

We think that you will enjoy these things too. If you do one or more of them, we think that you will leave with a better understanding of Hawaii’s history and culture.

If you’re looking to do something different, something most tourists don’t get to do, read on:

1. Visit Gilligan’s Island

You know the island shown in the opening credits of Gilligan’s Island? Well, that island is located right here on Oahu, off the coast of Kaneohe Bay.

Locals know this island as “Coconut Island,“ or Moku o Loe. It’s currently used by the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), a world leader in multi-disciplinary research and education in marine biology.

You can see the island from the coast of Kaneohe Bay, or you can take a boat tour out to the Kaneohe Sandbar.

2. Put Li Hing Mui on a Margarita

Have you ever heard of Li hing mui? Originally from China, it’s a dry plum that is made into a powder. People in Hawaii put this powder on everything, from ice cream to drinks. 

Personally, my favorite way to have it is in an alcoholic beverage like a margarita. It has a sweet and sour taste to it that’s hard to describe, but trust me, it pairs well with tequila!

If you see a cocktail with Li hing mui powder on it, try it! My favorite place to have it is at the Barefoot Bar at the Hale Koa in Waikiki. And here’s a pro tip: If you love it, you can buy it at many grocery stores and convenience stores in Hawaii. 

In fact, a trip to a local 7-eleven is another unique thing to do in Hawaii. Pick up some li hing mui candy, a SPAM musubi, and other quirky local treats.

3. Take A Photo at The Duke Kahanamoku Statue

duke kahanamoku statue in waikiki

The iconic statue of Duke Kahanamoku, known in Hawaii as “the father of modern surfing,” is on Kuhio Beach in Waikiki.

Start off your trip by visiting this iconic statue of Duke Kahanamoku. His outstretched arms welcome visitors to the islands. 

Duke Kahanamoku grew up surfing off the waters of Waikiki. He broke the world record in the 100-yard freestyle during his first competition and became a five-time Olympic medalist.

His fame led him to help popularize surfing and the culture of Aloha in Hawaii. He also helped start the Waikiki Beach Boys, who made money teaching visitors to Hawaii how to surf.

While you might be tempted to place a lei on Duke Kahanamoku’s outstretched arms, please don’t, because it can harm the bronze.

4. Have Shrimp Tacos at Gill’s Lanai on the Big Island: Tasty & Unique Things to do in Hawaii

Gill’s Lanai is a roadside stop. It is located way up north in Kapaau, where many visitors who don’t have a lot of time on the Big Island might skip. 

This cafe has a quaint feel to it, but don’t be fooled: it serves savory lunches and yummy beverages with a global mix of flavors in a tropical roadside setting, using the freshest locally sourced and organic ingredients whenever possible.

You can’t miss this stop, painted bright green with a Hawaiian feel. You will get to eat your food outside and enjoy the surrounding beauty during your lunch. 

On the menu, you have to try their fish tacos, made with fresh, locally caught fish. They also serve smoothies, hot dogs, and vegetarian dishes as well.

5. Take an Oahu Ghost Tour: A Unique Thing to Do in Hawaii

If you are looking for something super different to do — something that probably no one else you know has done in Hawaii — take a Ghost Tour. Hawaii is famous for its many legends and superstitions.

Hawaii Aloha Travel can help book this one-of-a-kind experience, bringing you to Oahu’s most haunted locations. Not only will you get to see Oahu’s most haunted spots, but you will also learn a lot of history about Oahu.

During this unique thing to do in Hawaii, You will learn about Oahu’s most sacred grounds and ancient burial sites, and what happened to them when the island became more developed. 

You will also see places where sacrifices were made to the gods and goddesses. All of the guides are specially trained and passionate about their work.

6. Get Baked Manapua at Royal Kitchen

manapua hawaii vacation

Chinatown is a treasure trove of good eats that most visitors don’t even know about!
A baked Manapua takes its inspiration from a Chinese bao bun. When Chinese immigrants came to Hawaii, many sold their bao buns. 

Over time, people in Hawaii started putting many different flavors inside their buns beside roast pork, and Manapua was born.
Traditionally these buns are steamed with Chinese sweet roast pork (char siu). Although you can get manapua at a few different places, I think that the ones at Royal Kitchen are the best.  

Instead of steaming them, Royal Kitchen bakes them and puts in many different fillings (and they were the first place to bake their manapua instead of steaming it).

On their menu is smoked kalua pork, chicken, curry chicken, Portuguese sausage, Chinese lup cheong sausage, Okinawan purple sweet potato, coconut, or Chinese black sugar.
And guess what? Royal Kitchen sells these for less than $2.50 each! I think it’s the cheapest – and one of the best – meals in Hawaii. 

Go and try one of each. My favorite is the Okinawan purple sweet potato. My husband’s favorite is the char siu. If you go, report back and let me know your favorite!

A trip to China Town to taste its great food is a unique (and delicious!) thing to do in Hawaii

7. Shop at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet

Pretty much every time one of my friends has a cool piece of art or something unique for their home, they tell me they get it from the swap meet. These local friends know one of the most unique things to do in Hawaii: shop at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet.

Aloha Stadium is about 20 minutes from Waikiki. Three days per week , the stadium becomes Hawaii’s largest open-air flea market. On Sunday, it’s open from 6:30 am to 3 pm. On Wednesday and Saturday, the hours are 8 am to 3 pm.

The Swap Meet began in 1979 as a place for locals to share their cultural diversity. Today, the market is mixed with locals and visitors, all shopping from over 400 local merchants. Lots of locals will tell you that the best deals in town are at the swap meet. Find imported merchandise, handmade items, clothing, vintage antiques, eclectic art pieces, popular local snacks, and other made in Hawaii products.

If you have some time, wander around and see what treasures you can find to bring back home for your family (and don’t forget to get something for yourself as well!).

Shopping can make you hungry, and there are also many local food trucks that you can buy prepared food from as well. Plus, there are candy vendors, fruit stands, and baked goods. 

8. Visit the Lava Tree State Monument

Lava tree state monument

Time stands still at Lava Tree State Monument on the Big Island. This unique thing to do (or, see!) in Hawaii is in the Puna District, about 40 minutes south of Hilo.

Everyone loves to see the lava formations in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. But there is something very different and unique here at the Lava Tree State Monument.
Instead of trees, what you have here is a forest of lava, shaped like tree trunks.  

The molds formed when lava flow swept through the forested area in 1790. You can walk the 0.7-mile loop, but be careful as it’s quite uneven and the tree trunks and uprooted trees make it difficult to talk.

The Lava Tree State Monument is free to enter and also has picnic benches. Bring a lunch and enjoy this unique piece of Hawaii’s history.

It’s become one of the most in-demand activities on Kauai, mostly because of how off-beat it is. One of the most unique things to do in Hawaii is to tube through Kauai’s irrigation rivers. 

Kauai Backcountry Adventures offers this one-of-a-kind experience to travelers over the age of five. You’ll board your own tube and embark on a journey through the engineered canals that once brought water to the island’s sugar cane plantations. 

It’s mostly a relaxing journey, and a fun way to see Kauai’s jungle terrain. But it’s a lot of fun!

Contact Hawaii Aloha Travel to include this in your Kauai itinerary. 

10. Tour the Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary

Founded in 1998, the Three Ring Ranch is a private, non-profit, exotic animal sanctuary. It is located on the Big Island, near Kona. 

Here, zebras, nene, hawks, owls, flamingos, and reptiles, as well as many other rare, endangered and exotic creatures live under the care of trained and passionate caretakers. It is Hawaii’s only fully accredited, USDA-licensed exotic animal sanctuary. 

Their mission is to positively impact the environment while educating Hawaii’s children about their place in the natural world.

With a huge emphasis on education, they offer pre-arranged tours. However, they don’t accept walk-in tours. If you want to visit the sanctuary, send them an email as far in advance as possible. They will do their best to set up a tour with you. They only offer tours at specific times, but they are all by appointment only.

This is because of their limited resources and because they want as little disruption to the animals as possible. Read their page on how to visit the sanctuary for more information and guidelines.

Can’t get a tour with the exotic animal sanctuary? A great alternative is to visit the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens in Hilo. This is a free activity, and a unique thing to do in Hawaii!