The Hawaiian Islands are bursting at the seams full of enchanting natural and man-made wonders – so many, in fact, that there are countless places you perhaps have never heard of. From magnificent caves and secluded beaches to interesting geological formations and ancient Hawaiian sacred spots, here are 14 of Hawaii’s best kept secrets.
1. Makauwahi Cave
This relatively unknown archaeological site is home to Kauai’s largest limestone cave that was formed when the once fossilized sand dune collapsed. After you squeeze through the mouth of the cave, you will be rewarded with stunning views of a spacious open-air amphitheater.
2. Golden Ponds of Keawaiki
In the middle of a massive lava field on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast is this pair of freshwater pools, home to a thriving population of golden algae that gives the pools a luminescent glow.
3. Maui’s Dragon Teeth
These volcanic formations are found on the edge of the Ritz’s golf course. The jagged, gray rocks were formed hundreds of years ago when wind gusts from the ocean forced lava to harden towards the sky. This intriguing scenery looks like something out of a science fiction or fantasy novel, does it not?
4. Lyon Arboretum
While this beautiful arboretum has been open to the public for more than 40 years, many locals and tourists alike opt for the more popular Manoa Falls. The 194-acre research site is home to more than 5,000 tropical and sub-tropical plants, as well as 12 beautiful gardens and seven miles of hiking trails. The main trailhead leads to the stunning, and not too crowded Aihualama Falls.
5. Garden of the Gods
Keahiakawelo, also known as Garden of the Gods, is a magnificent rock garden located at the end of Polihua Road, 45 minutes from Lanai City. According to Hawaiian legend, the landscape is a result of a contest between two kahuna – priests – from Lanai and Molokai. They were challenged to keep a fire burning on their respective islands longer than the other. Kawelo, the kahuna from Lanai, used all vegetation in Keahiakawelo to keep the fire burning – which is why the area is so barren.
6. Lanai Lookout
Located on Oahu’s southeastern shore, just past Hanauma Bay, on Kalanaianaole Highway, is the Lanai Lookout, a seemingly average lookout point – that is, until you step over the man-made wall surrounding the parking lot and into the incredible lava formations below. Oh, and did we mention that on a clear day you can see Lanai, Molokai and Maui from the lookout?
7. Mo’omomi Preserve
This sprawling 921-acre preserve on Molokai protects one of the state’s last intact coastal regions, boasting sand dunes a mile long and hundreds of feet wide. Home to native plant species, Mo’omomi is also a nesting site for native shorebirds, the Hawaiian owl, and green sea turtles.
8. Kaumana Cave
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s Thurston Lava Tube gets all the credit, but Kaumana Cave, located near Hilo, is certainly worth the visit. The skylight entrance drops into two miles of pitch-black cave, complete with stalactites and stalagmites, as well as vines and roots falling from the cave’s roof.
9. Mokuleia Beach
Located on the remote northwestern shore of Oahu, just past Haleiwa, is this secluded beach – the nearest store and restrooms are more than ten miles away. The bright blue water is almost always choppy, and green sea turtles tend to hang out on the shore during the summer. In fact, this beach is so secluded that it was used in filming the first season of Lost.
10. Big Island Bees
For an unconventional stop during your stay on the Big Island, be sure to check out Big Island Bees for a tour of their hives and museum, where you can learn all about honey beekeeping. Don’t forget to bring some all-natural, single-source, organic honey home with you.
11. East-West Center
Located on the University of Hawaii Manoa’s campus is the East-West Center, a serene space in the middle of the city that was designated by the United States Congress in order to pursue the strengthening of relationships with the Asia-Pacific region by way of education and research. The center features a zen garden and art gallery with rotating exhibitions.
12. Kahumana Farm + Café
Towards the back of Oahu’s Waianae Valley is this charming organic farm, café and temple that grows their own papayas and maintains an aquaponics garden. Their Community Supported Agriculture subscriptions are a must for organic eaters on Oahu!
13. Waioko Pond
Waioko Pond, a serene seaside pond located on Maui’s Hana Highway, was named Venus Pool in a guidebook for no documented reason. The pool carved into the rugged shoreline is undoubtedly gorgeous, though it is prone to flash flooding, and can be difficult to access unless you are an experienced off-trail hiker.
14. Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau
Located on a hillside overlooking Waimea Bay, this heiau – an ancient Hawaiian temple – is the largest on the island, and might have been constructed as early as the 1600s. In the late 1700s, during a period of political upheaval, it is suspected that there was human sacrifice at the temple, perhaps to encourage war success.
How many of these secrets did you know about? What other spots would you add to this list?