While millions of tourists descend on this gorgeous state every year, I believe too few ever venture far from their hotel’s beach or the tried-and-true tourist attractions to see the true beauty of the islands. This is a real shame, as the Hawaiian Islands have many more truly special sites that can make a lasting impression on those willing to make a little effort to seek them out.
It’s hard to overstate the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands; their palm-fringed beaches and vivid blue seas are some of the nicest in the world, offering residents and visitors alike countless opportunities for fun in the sun. The 50th state is known for lush tropical jungles, fiery volcanoes, cascading waterfalls and excellent snorkeling and diving sites. In short, Hawaii has a lot to offer visitors – but many tourists never get the opportunity to experience it all.
Waterfalls of Hawaii
Thanks to its tropical Pacific climate and mountainous composition, scenic waterfalls abound in the state of Hawaii; in fact, many are even visible from popular drives, such as along Maui’s Road to Hana. A number of the most spectacular waterfalls, however, require more effort to reach and it’s often this very remoteness that, in fact, lends to their overall beauty and tableau. One of my personal favorites is the stunning 400-foot Waimoku Falls in Maui, which lies at the end of a gorgeous, roughly four-mile round-trip hike. This hike includes a bonus waterfall, the 185-foot Makahiku Falls, amidst a trek through an enchanting bamboo forest. There are a few areas on this trail that may present a bit of a challenge to some; for instance, hikers need to be prepared for a bit of a climb, as there is a 650-foot rise in elevation, and this trail can be quite muddy. Depending on water levels, there may be some areas where hikers have to hopscotch on rocks across the Pipiwai Stream. In the end, I’ve always found that the surrounding natural greenery and the lovely sight of Waimoku Falls itself makes this trek worth all the effort.
Another destination that I feel gets left off too many Hawaiian itineraries is the small island of Molokai. As the most “un-touristy” of all the major islands, Molokai has no traffic lights and no large shopping malls. This is the island that I believe still best retains the feel of old Hawaii. Molokai’s Kalaupapa National Historical Park was once the site of a leper colony run by the famous humanitarian Father Damien. Today, visitors can take a memorable mule ride 1,700 feet down the side of a sea cliff to reach the village of Kalaupapa. I would highly recommend this ride, which includes 26 switchbacks and gorgeous ocean views, except for those afraid of heights. One of the more unusual attractions on Molokai is Kauleonanahoa, which is also known as “Phallic Rock” because of its resemblance to – well – its namesake. According to local legend, women who want to get pregnant should bring offerings to Kauleonanahoa and spend the night at this site. I can’t guarantee results, but it does makes for an interesting photo opportunity!
Oahu Unspoiled Scenic Sites
Because of money or time concerns, I realize that traveling to another island like Molokai isn’t always a possibility. Luckily, even Oahu – the most visited and popular of the Hawaiian Islands – has plenty of remote, scenic sites where you won’t feel like you’re part of a hoard of tourists. Halona Beach, for example, is a world-famous strip of sand and surf, yet it’s not overrun with tourists, partly because it can only be reached by a steep, rocky, downhill trek. This picturesque little cove is also known as the “From Here to Eternity Beach” because the movie’s iconic and often parodied kissing and rolling-in-the-sand scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr was filmed here. I consider this a very worthwhile side trip, as it kills two birds with one stone. The Halona Blowhole, another very famous Hawaiian attraction, is also located close by. The Halona Blowhole is a natural lava tube that, when hit just right by a wave, will spout water up to 30 feet in the air. The best time to see this phenomenon is at high tide.
Dramatic Big Island Sites
If you’re looking for a beautiful, remote escape on the Big Island of Hawaii, I would recommend that travelers either kayak or find a boat to take them to Kealakekua Bay, which is only accessible by water. This lovely bay, which is also known as Captain Cook’s Bay, is an excellent spot for snorkeling and scuba diving, and it is also home to a family of friendly spinner dolphins. In addition, Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park was the site of Hikiau Heiau, a major native Hawaiian religious site.
Kauai’s Na Pali Coastline
With its lush tropical foliage, gorgeous views of azure seas, and ruggedly impressive cliffs, Kauai’s Na Pali coastline boasts some of the most spectacular landscapes in all of Hawaii. There are few roads that lead to this area and most of the Na Pali coastline is also inaccessible by sea, as its famous cliffs drop straight down into the sea. Although travelers can fly over the area by helicopter or skim its coast by boat, I would highly recommend that those who want the full Na Pali experience should hike into this pristine area instead. A two-mile hike will take a visitor to scenic Hanakapi’ai Beach. Travelers looking for a longer hike can continue on for another nine miles on the Kalalau Trail, as this beautiful trek crosses over five stunning valleys.
Kauai’s Cacoa Farm
Travelers to Hawaii can enjoy many different types of tours, including traditional excursions to macadamia nut farms, kite factories, and pineapple or coffee plantations. For something a little more unusual, stop by Kauai’s Steelgrass Farm, which features a cacao tree orchard. Hawaii is the only state in the union where the cacao pods, from which chocolate is made, will grow. The Steelgrass Chocolate Farm’s three-hour tour includes an eleven-course tasting of different samples of dark chocolate from around the world, a walk through the cacao tree orchards, and also rare black bamboo groves. Interestingly enough, Steelgrass Farm is also the site of a Bamboo Sculpture residency and a professional voice-over and music recording studio.
Although it’s not possible to hit every gorgeous site in Hawaii, I believe every visitor should take the time to check out at least one of these less touristy sites – they won’t be disappointed!
About the Author: Aloha Tony is a real estate agent who specializes in luxury properties on Oahu. He has lived in Hawaii for decades, and currently resides there with his loving family.