From the bustling capital city of Honolulu and seaside towns with large tourist draws to tiny towns in the heart of the mountains, the Hawaiian islands are home to countless charming communities. Over the course of the last year, we featured many of these towns. Here are 12 picturesque and incredible towns worthy of a visit – or two – during 2017.
Located on Oahu’s breathtaking windward coast, the picturesque seaside city of Kaneohe experienced an increase in popularity of 324 percent on Airbnb, but the lush oasis is home to some breathtaking beaches, truly incredible hiking, and several hidden gems – both natural and man-made.
Located in upcountry Maui on the rural northwest slopes of Mount Haleakala is a charming little town worthy of a visit – and a little recognition. With a population of approximately 7,100, Makawao is one of Hawaii’s biggest little towns and is a haven for artists of all kinds. The town is famous for its Hawaiian cowboy, or paniolo, history; horseback-riding paniolo have wrangled cattle in the wide open fields of Maui’s upland since the 19th century.
With a population of little more than 470, Hanalei has got it all: a charming small town vibe, pristine white sand beaches, magnificent, lush surroundings, a plethora of shopping and restaurant options, as well as an impressive dedication to the spirit of Hawaii and cultural preservation.
Located along Hawaii Island’s scenic Kona coast is Kailua-Kona, a historic seaside village full of natural beauty, royal history, and plenty of charm. Established by King Kamehameha I to be the seat of his government when he was the chief of Mona before he consolidated rule of the island chain. The historic town later became the capital of a newly unified kingdom, before it moved to Lahaina, and later, Honolulu.
Just four miles from Kahalui on Maui’s famous Road to Hana is Paia, a small beach town big on charm. The town is not only known for its epic surfing and windsurfing waves, but is the epicenter of Maui’s north shore, and is full of artsy, bohemian vibes. While the adorable seaside town is gaining traction with tourists, it is still often seen as merely a spot to refuel, grab some food, and head out on the Hana Highway.
Home to more than 16,000 residents, Wahiawa is located between the island’s two volcanic mountain ranges on Route 99, the road most commonly taken by those traveling to the North Shore from Honolulu. But if you were to stop in town and take a look around, you would see that there is more than meets the eye in this small inland city.
With a population of just more than 10,000, Kapaa is a charming small town located on Kauai’s eastern shore. A small Polynesian paradise, Kapa’a was recognized as one of America’s prettiest towns by Forbes. The small-town Hawaiian vibe with a ton of hotels and vacation rentals pairs perfectly with lovely little shops, and some ono grinds from one of the town’s amazing fish taco trucks.
On the Big Island’s Kohala Coast, far away from the resorts in Kailua-Kona and the lava flows in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is a small town that’s big on charm. With a population of less than 2,000, Hawi is a funky little town that offers a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of life in a bigger city.
With a population of just under 375,000 residents, people flock to Honolulu – and not just because it is the hub of business and industry in Hawaii. As the capital city of Hawaii, Honolulu has plenty to offer in terms of natural beauty, culture, history, and the conveniences of a major American city.
Once a crazy whaling town and the original seat of Hawaiian royalty, Lahaina has since been tamed and is now full of restaurants, surf shops, boutiques, and galleries lining the city’s Front Street. Perfect for those who want to be on the water as much as possible, Lahaina Harbor is home to a variety of fishing charters, whale watch tour boats, snorkel tours, and sunset cruise options.
With a population of approximately 43,200, Hilo is the state’s fourth largest city. Unlike many big Hawaiian cities, Hilo has never experienced huge tourist draws, which means it has stayed true to the state’s pre-World War II persona, and is full of plantation-style architecture and historic storefronts.
Voted as the state’s favorite small town by HAWAII Magazine, Haleiwa seems like a world away from bustling Waikiki. This sleepy surfer town on Oahu’s north shore has a laid-back vibe and charming aesthetic, but also luxuries like killer beaches, mouthwatering restaurants, art galleries galore, adorable shops, and stellar vacation rentals.
For more incredible Hawaiian towns to add to your island bucket list, consider checking out
these 16 tiny Hawaiian towns you never knew existed.