But if you want to know a bit of the different, quirkier things to do here in Hawaii, look no further than us. We put our heads together and made a list of the quirkiest, most oddball 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:
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.
HIMB offers educational programs and tours of the institute as well. Their Walking Tour features a boat ride to Moku o Loʻe, followed by a guided 2-hour walking tour.
If you are looking for a more in-depth program, you may consider the Expedition to Moku o Lo’e. This 3-hour program includes a lab activity and a walking tour of the island.
Put ling Li hing mui on a Margarita
Have you ever heard of Li hing mui? Originally from China, it’s a dried plum that is made into a powder. This powder is put on everything in Hawaii 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 in Hawaii. I’ve seen it in Whole Foods.
Take A Photo at The Duke Kahanamoku Statue
The iconic statue of Duke Kahanamoku, known in Hawaii as “the father of modern surfing,” is located 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 that the Hawaiian islands are so well know for. 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.
Have Shrimp Tacos at Gil’s on the Big Island
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 serving 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.
Take a Ghost Tour on Oahu
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 known for its many legends and superstitions.
Although not suitable for children, Oahu Ghost Tours promises a one-of-a-kind experience, bringing visitors 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.
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.
Get Baked Manapua at Royal Kitchen
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 were known to sell their bao buns. Over time, people in Hawaii started putting many different flavors inside their buns beside roast pork, and Manapua were 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 $1.50 each! I think it’s the cheapest – and one of the best – meals in Hawaii. Go and try once 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!
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.
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-3 pm. On Wednesday and Saturday, the hours are 8 am-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. It’s well known that the best deals in town can be found at the swap meet on imported merchandise, hand made 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.
Visit the Lava Tree State Monument
Time stands still at Lava Tree State Monument on the Big Island, located 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 Monmument.
Instead of trees, what you have here are a forest of lava, shaped like tree trunks. The molds were created when lava flow swept through the forested area in 1790. You can walk the .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.
See the Kalaupapa Leper Colony
While Molokai is a small island that most visitors don’t come to, it has one very unique claim to fame.
In 1866, the Hawaii legislature, under the reign of Kamehameha V, decided to make Kalaupapa a designated leper colony.
At the time, leprosy was believed to be highly contagious and incurable, so patients were quantized here.
Today, Kalaupapa Leper Colony is a National Historic Site. You can see the leper colony only through a guided tour. Also, you can learn about the people who lived in the leper colony, their struggles and their courage. You will also learn about Father Damien, the Belgium Priest who served the people who lived in the colony of outcasts, and you can visit the church where he preached.
Tour the Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary
Founded in 1998, the Three Ring Ranch is a private, non-profit, exotic animal sanctuary located. 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 out their natural lives 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, tours can be arranged. However, drop-ins are not allowed. 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.