A typical couple’s trip to Hawaii might conjure images of romantic strolls along sandy beaches, sunset cocktails under colorful skies, and afternoons lounging by rolling waves. Lovely as that may be, a serene vacation to the islands isn’t everyone’s fantasy. Some of us dream of tandem adventures—climbing mountains, sailing seas, and flying high.
If your idea of the perfect couple’s getaway is less about relaxation and more about exploration, don’t let the afternoon-nap seekers booking flights to Hawaii deter you. This archipelago is packed with opportunities for thrills.
Visit the islands of Kauai and Hawaii to squeeze the most excitement into your trip, and add these seven must-do activities to your intrepid itinerary for two.
Sail Along the Na Pali Coast
You and your partner will see the crystal clear water before landing in Lihue, so it’s natural to be drawn immediately to the water. Instead of looking for a lounge chair on one of the island’s many beaches, though, find a sailboat to take you up the Na Pali Coast. The cliffs, valleys, and beaches of this Hawaiian shoreline are world famous—and for good reason. Water and wind worked together to create the stunning steeple-like landscape, while the ocean dug through the coast to carve out arched sea caves.
To get the fullest experience, head up to the region from the southern shore. There are plenty of companies that leave from Port Allen at Hanapepe Bay and travel up the western side of the island. If you take the morning sail, you’ll get breakfast, lunch, and the chance to snorkel over coral reefs. Choose Blue Dolphin Charters if you’d like to add scuba diving to your tour. Hop aboard a Kauai Sea Tours vessel for a rafting trip that includes a remote beach picnic. Sail with Capt Andy’s Sailing Adventures for the chance to lie together across the catamaran’s front netting and spot playful dolphins and sea turtles.
Explore the State Parks
Who says you can’t find love in a pair of hiking boots? Trade your long walks on the beach for epic journeys in the forest, and it will be easy to get some space for yourselves. Travel inland to one of the island’s stunning state parks, and you’ll find an array of hiking trails, from simple lookout strolls to challenging treks through the rainforest.
On the west side, Kokee State Park offers tent camping sites, a difficult trail through the Alakai Swamp, and an easy walk along the Kawaikoi Stream. Just south of Kokee, Waimea Canyon State Park provides visitors perfect lookout points over the vast, colorful gorge from which the park gets its name. Take the Kukui Trail from the eight-mile marker down over 2,000 feet to the canyon floor to find a camp site at the state-run Wiliwili Campground.
On the east side of the island, you’ll find waterfalls, a massive fern-lined cave, and plenty of heiau, or ancient places of worship, at the Wailua River State Park. Pick your aquatic vessel of choice—kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or speedboat—and glide up or down the river, stopping along the way to hike to Wailua Falls.
Soar Above the Island
After you’ve sailed along Kauai’s coastline and hiked up its mountains, you may think you’ve seen the island from every angle. You haven’t. To get the greatest views of this gorgeous landscape, head to the sky.
There are multiple helicopter tours based near the airport in Lihue, but only one lands at what is perhaps Kauai’s greatest claim to Hollywood fame: the waterfall from the original Jurassic Park film. Book the Jurassic Falls Tour with Island Helicopters, and you’ll not only get an above-ground look at the Kalalau Valley, you’ll touch down and stand under the cool mist of Manawaiopuna Falls. Raptors not included.
Horseback Ride Along the Beach
Mahaulepu Beach, on Kauai’s southeastern coast, is a lesser-known stretch of sandy enclaves, tidal pools, and lava tubes. To travel the length of the beach and get the best panoramas, get in the saddle. CJM Country Stables leads two horseback tours a day through the region, bringing visitors to the grassy plains, high ridges, and green valleys that make this area popular. An experienced staff member will lead the trip and make sure you and your partner get an Instragram-worthy picture on your steeds above the bright blue ocean.
After your ride, be sure to stop at the Makauwahi Cave Reserve. The living museum and archeological site rests inside Hawaii’s largest limestone cave and is run by a conservation and science-focused nonprofit. The organization’s scientists study how the landscape has changed over millions of years, including the significant impact of humans. Tours are led Wednesday through Sunday, and visitors must climb through a small gated opening to access the sinkhole and cave.
Hike on an Active Volcano
There are few places in the world where you and your loved one can wander around a volcanic crater in search of sputtering lava together. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of them.
Get acquainted with the park at the Jaggar Museum and Overlook, where you can see the bubbling lava, find a list of the day's ranger-led programs, learn about Kilauea volcano’s eruption history, and get an understanding of the volcano’s current activity. After visiting the Nahuku-Thurston lava tube, explore the rest of the impressive landscape by biking the 36-mile Summit to Sea route or hiking a portion of the 7-mile one-way Crater Rim Trail.
If you just can’t get enough of this explosive park, sleep under the stars at one of the site’s two campgrounds. Outside of those designated areas, the park service allows for backcountry camping with a permit and a seven-night limit.
Search for Sea Life
The island of Hawaii’s western coast is teeming with marine life, and there’s a plethora of tour companies ready and willing to take you to see it.
The calm, clear waters provide an excellent playground for snorkelers and scuba divers. If you aren’t a certified diver, but want to make the most of your island experience, find one of the many dive shops that provide courses. Book a session and learn to breath underwater as you search for colorful fish in the coral.
Whether you and your partner choose tanks or masks to explore the salty seas, you’ll encounter fascinating wildlife. Depending on the trip, you could spot whales from your boat, snorkel with manta rays in the evening, or swim alongside spinner dolphins.
Take a Volcanic Sunrise Tour
A couple’s expedition just isn’t complete without a sunrise, and though you’ve seen the sun break the horizon loads of times, you’ve never seen it like this. With Hawaii Forest & Trail, visitors can watch the sky light up atop the world’s tallest volcano: Mauna Kea. Bundled in parkas and mittens, you’ll drive to the towering peak, learning about the cultural and spiritual significance of the mountain as you gain approximately 14,000 feet of elevation.
Because you’ll be starting your trip in the dark, you’ll get to see the stars from the volcano’s slopes—and you’ll discover why it’s home to the planet’s largest astronomy observatory. From there, you’ll enjoy an unobstructed view of one of the clearest skies in the world.
Once you’ve watched the starry sky turn bright and captured photos of the magic, you’ll journey down the volcano in your required four-wheel-drive coach to enjoy a light breakfast—all before the rest of the guests at your hotel have woken up.