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Unforgettable Hawaiian Experiences You Must Not Miss as a First-Time Tourist

Hawaii is a world-renowned tourist destination mainly because of its many beautiful beaches, gorgeous mountains, and lush forests. Some of the locations contributing to Hawaiian tourism are the Waimea Valley waterfalls and botanical gardens. These spots, and many others, allow tourists to enjoy nature by swimming and learning about different plants. Another reason for the state’s thriving tourism industry is visitors’ appreciation for its native culture. Some tourists want to experience attending traditional parties, eating authentic food, and interacting with natives, leading them to visit the Hawaiian islands.

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You might be a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of activities available to tourists, as listed above, especially as a first-timer. Don’t worry because we’ve listed the most unforgettable experiences you shouldn’t miss.

Being welcomed by a lei

A lei is a flower garland you’ve most likely seen in movies or other media when the story’s setting is Hawaii. It’s used in welcoming guests, expressing admiration, or celebrating events. Experiencing traditional Hawaiian lei greetings is a one-of-a-kind experience because it’s a sign of a warm welcome—something you’ll certainly welcome on your first trip to the island. A lot of time goes into making leis, hence why it signifies love and affection. In this case, it signifies an appreciation for your stay.

However, lei greetings aren’t free or automatic upon landing in Hawaii. They’re more like car rentals, which you must arrange before flying. Luckily, most airlines and airport companies offer lei greetings. Make sure to book one before your trip and hand over your flight details so you can get a lei when you first arrive in Hawaii.

Surfing Hawaiian waters

Hawaii’s beaches are famous—not only for their beauty but also for their surfing suitability. These beaches have unique wave patterns and swells that are perfect for everyone, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer. You can even learn from Hawaii’s long surfing heritage: here, surfing dates back to the 4th century A.D., when Polynesians first arrived in Hawaii and used long surfboards to ride the waves. This makes surfing in Hawaii an unforgettable experience that involves partaking in one of the state’s traditions.


Our post on the best Hawaiian surfing experience suggests a few great spots for surfing, including Sunset Beach, Waikiki, and Chun’s Reef. These locations also offer surfing lessons if you’re new to the hobby, so feel free to avail yourself of one and learn to ride the waves.

Watching a hula performance

Hula is a Hawaiian dance form performed alongside a chant or song. It is done while sitting or standing and is accompanied by graceful gestures. Hawaii’s hula tradition can be traced to 1778, when the first hula performances were done at temples to honor gods or to tell stories concerning nature. It became more mainstream when it was used to welcome tourists who flocked to the state in the 1930s. Watching one is a unique experience: you’ll see how ancient Hawaiians communicated and worshiped gods—and develop a deeper appreciation for the islands’ heritage.

Your hotel may hold a hula performance for its guests, so check that out. If not, several places like the Polynesian Cultural Center (North Shore) and the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center (Maui) provide hula performances for tourists. Don’t forget to get tickets early to secure your spot.

Attending a luau

A luau is a traditional Hawaiian party that involves entertainment. Guests can enjoy traditional food like poke (diced raw fish), haupia (coconut milk dessert), and opihi (edible limpet) while watching hula performers, fire dancers, and Polynesian song performances. Luaus are a traditional way to celebrate significant events like weddings, but it’s now open for guests to experience authentic Hawaiian culture. Your accommodation may most likely host a luau, but if not, major hotel chains and cultural centers regularly hold them.

Don’t miss out on these experiences on your first Hawaiian trip to immerse yourself in the islands’ culture and history. Book your tickets early to secure your spot and enjoy these activities.