It doesn’t get much more breathtakingly scenic than the Hawaiian islands, and everybody knows it.
In turn, vacays to the Aloha State can be needlessly expensive and overrun with beachgoers, especially during tourist season. So what’s a traveler to do?
With an island destination as popular and pricey as Hawaii, doing as the locals do often makes all the difference. After all, there are sprawling beaches, natural wonders, and hidden gems barely off the beaten path that are just as beautiful, if not more so, than the big tourist destinations. Best of all, they’re a lot less crowded.
Here are six of the most secluded, special, and swoon-worthy spots that locals find paradise.
Lanai is often said to be where locals go to “reconnect” with their surroundings. Not only for its undeniable and quiet beauty but for its strong sense of community and well-preserved Hawaiin identity.
Once an island-wide pineapple plantation, Lanai is the smallest inhabited island in all of Hawaii, but residents say there’s much more to it than meets the eye. Take the Garden of the Gods, for instance. This visual wonder is unlike anything else you’ll see around Hawaii. The vast rock garden is sprawling with stunning geological formations of every size, shape, and color. For those who want to dive even deeper into local culture, there’s an ancient fishing village called Kaunolu you can actually explore.
If you’re looking for a low-key but luxurious place to go with endless natural sights to see, Lanai is just the ticket.
Looking for the best spot to witness a quintessential Hawaiin sunrise or sunset? This is where you’ll want to go.
Upcountry Maui is home to the Haleakala National Park, revered by locals for its cultural significance and spiritual history. Haleakala means “House of the Sun” and this sacred locale definitely lives up to its name. The 30,000-acre national park is centered around a dormant shield volcano boasting one of the world’s largest volcanic craters. Occupying more than 75% of Maui, it’s also home to many endangered species, including the sphinx moth and Hawaiian hoary bat, all dwelling in the lush forest below. Those visiting frequently sightsee on horseback.
Beyond the stunning national park, there’s plenty to experience. Locals suggest checking out the farmer’s market in Makawao while you’re here. From tropical fruits to fresh-cut flowers, you’ll find everything you need to feel right at home.
Sadly, the Sacred Falls remains closed to tourists for now, but there are plenty of other incredible spots worth looking into if you’re near the Windward Coast of Oahu. Manana Island is one of them.
Commonly called Rabbit Island, this secluded and protected sanctuary gets its name because it’s said to resemble a rabbit head, but also because rabbits once inhabited it. This unique and uninhabited islet requires permission to go to, but locals promise the extra effort it takes to explore the tiny but treasured gem will be totally worth it.
Frankly, there’s a ton to do on Oahu’s windward coast whether you’re in the mood to mingle or not. There are private sightseeing tours, local hiking trails, and quiet coves all around. Per Trip Advisor, there’s also kayaking, shore excursions, sporting events, and exciting nightlife for those looking to have some lively fun with the locals.
Molokai boasts countless deserted beaches and the world’s tallest sea cliffs. If you’re looking to really take in Hawaii for its simple, untouched, and jaw-dropping beauty, this is the place to be.
Molokai is the least developed of all the islands, and a large chunk of the population is of Hawaiian descent. You’ll find no high rises here. Instead, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in Hawaiin traditions, language, and history in a natural way. Maui County has managed to dodge mass development for longer than any other island, making the experience for many who visit here feel purely Hawaiian.
According to Travel+Leisure, the Kalaupapa Lookout is an absolute must for all who visit. “The lookout sits on the edge of a 2,000-foot cliff where you can see the expansive Pacific Ocean with Kalaupapa peninsula sprawled before you,” Miki’ala Pescaia, a Molokai-born Native told T+L.
On top of that, there’s Papaohaku Beach. Rumor has it, it’s never crowded. On occasion, you could even be the only person on the shore for miles, or at all.
North Shore, Oahu
If you’re looking for a sleepier beach without going too far from Honolulu, North Shore, Oahu, might be right up your alley. Frequented by locals, nearby visitors, and jet-setting vacationers alike, this special spot with a jungly backdrop is revered for its glimmering deserted beaches. It’s also less than an hour from the Capital.
Many come to North Shore just to surf, but you don’t need to be part of the swelling surf culture to fit in. Those looking for a little solitude and a much-needed city escape come here to relax just as often.
If you find the time amidst all the unwinding, take the easy walk to Waimea Valley and jump into the freshwater pools of Waimea Falls.
South Shore, Kauai
You’ll arrive at South Shore, Kauai, after driving through a tunnel of trees. On the other side of its grand gateway, you’ll be greeted by the warmth of the sun.
Dubbed the “Garden Isle,” Kauai is covered in vegetation, and therefore, it’s equally famous for being rainy. South Shore provides all who seek it a sunny escape from life’s storms.
Maybe you want to snorkel and swim in crystal clear waters. Or maybe you want to watch one of South Shore’s famed sunsets off the protected cove of Baby Beach. Either way, you’ll be in good company.