Hawaii is gorgeous, and that's a fact. The pristine beaches are absolutely one of its biggest draws, but they are only part of Hawaii's allure. There are many more reasons to head to the islands. Off the sand, there's an entire ecosystem of natural wonders to explore, from waterfalls to rainforests to volcanos! Plus, travelers often come back from the island raving about the unique lifestyle -- something so different than found in the rest of the continental U.S. But for many people, 1.4 million to be exact, it's real life. Here are six reasons to visit Hawaii that go well beyond the beaches.
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1. For the Unique Cuisine
Originally, Hawaii didn't have many to promise its first settlers any sort of bounty. The islanders however, over time, learned to completely rely on themselves for sustenance. They grow, catch or raise much of the food that ends up on their plates. While, of course, some foods are imported, the people of Hawaii like to be self sufficient. They have a lot of pride for their land and their native culinary skills. Because of this, you'll find the freshest fish, the ripest fruit, the most impressive produce and some really interesting cuisine crossroads. On any given island, you'll see evidence of Japanese influence. Most notably, . Inspired by the Japanese dish of sashimi, poke is a Hawaiian staple that's making a big splash in the continental U.S., too.
2. For the Spirituality
The indigenous people of Hawaii are deeply connected with their land and take great pride in their heritage. You can visit the many sacred sites around the island to learn more about their spiritual connection to Hawaii. The Polynesian Cultural Center is a great educational resource that visitors should add to their itineraries. If you're looking to find your own piece of mind, yoga and mediation opportunities abound all over the islands.
3. For the State Parks
While you might think of beach-side relaxation when you think of Hawaii, some of the best parts of the island are at the end of a long hike. Check out one of their state parks for an opportunity to hike alongside a volcano, into a crater, and through a lush rainforest. There are 50 state parks that make up approximately 30,000 acres on the five major islands, so you'll never run out of things to do. Plus, you can check out archeological and cultural sites along many of the trails. You can get your workout, your sightseeing, and some education in at the same time!
4. For the High-Altitude Sunrises
If you can get yourself up at 3 a.m., you'll be glad you did, because this site is definitely worth seeing. The sunrise viewing from the is one of the greatest sunrise opportunities you'll find in the world. After a two-hour drive to the top of the mountain, you'll find yourself at 10,000 feet above sea level, watching the sun rise above what feels like the rest of the world. Visiting this sight definitely involves a little bit of planning, but is every bit worth the stress and fatigue. This is the kind of sunrise show that you'll remember for the rest of your life.
5. Because There Are No Snakes
The Hawaiian islands rose up from the ocean through volcanic eruptions, so there's technically no indigenous wildlife on the land. The only animals that live there either flew there, swam there, or arrived via passenger boat. Luckily, snakes haven't made the trek. Though there have been some recent reports that some tree snakes were spotted, the island, as a whole, is not home to any snake species. Pet snakes are not permitted on the island either. So if you're terrified of snakes like I am, Hawaii is your dream destination. Instead, you're more likely to be greeted by other wildlife, like sea turtles.
6. For the Road to Hana
Imagine an all-day road trip that takes you through every possible terrain at an increasing incline on a skinny, windy road. Sounds both terrifying and amazing, right? That's the Road to Hana, a scenic route that takes visitors to the island of Maui on a whopping 65-mile tour of all the island has to offer. Against bluffs, through rainforests, along craters and volcanoes, this trip is a great way to download the massive island in one day. If you plan on signing up for a tour, or driving yourself, make sure you have a lot of room in your camera's storage -- you're going to need it.
Check out our Hawaii Travel Guide.
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