Hawaii is a wildly popular tourist destination, but the islands hold some incredible secrets. From forbidden islands to illegal hikes, there are several spots throughout the Hawaiian Islands that are completely off limits to the average person. Here are just 9 such places in the Aloha State that are surrounded by an air of mystery.
1) Sacred Falls
This impressive waterfall has been closed to the public for more than ten years due to a highly dangerous and geologically unstable canyon, but it is still visible by air tour.
2) Puuwai, Niihau
Also known as the “Forbidden Isle,” this small island is home to approximately 200 native Hawaiians who have preserved traditional ways of life, including speaking Hawaiian. Expensive air tours are available to those who are curious to see the island from above, but to enter the main town of Puuwai, you’ll need express permission from the Robinson family, who owns the island.
3) The Inner Caverns Of The Tetsuo Harano Tunnels
The H-3 freeway is quite the extraordinary drive, especially when approaching the Tetsuo Harano Tunnel, cutting through the Koolau Mountains. There are approximately 30 full-time employees stationed within the tunnel’s inner workings: half of which monitor traffic conditions, and the other half repairing and maintaining the freeways and tunnels. Except for these select individuals, not many ever get the chance to explore the tunnel’s inner workings.
4) Old Koloa Sugar Mill
This sugar mill was founded in 1835, and was the first large-scale commercial production in Hawaii. The old mill was replaced in 1912, and changed owners until it was shut down in 1996. The mill is on private property, and trespassing is obviously illegal, but you can still get some cool photos if you find the right spot.
5) Various hidden military installations and buildings.
You surely know about the major military installations on the island of Oahu: Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Schofield Barracks, and the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe. Now, it’s true that not many can fully experience these bases and all the secrets they hold, but there are other installations and buildings on the islands that most service members can’t even visit – some of which you won’t even find on a map.
6) Coco Palms Resort
This Wailua Resort opened in 1953 and was Kauai’s premier resort, attracting various celebrities, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby. The 1961 film Blue Hawaii was shot at the resort, but the resort was closed in 1992 after being damaged by Hurricane Iniki. It now sits abandoned, and is off limits, though some people choose to risk the trespassing charges.
7) Kaho’olawe Island
Kaho’olawe is the smallest of Hawaii’s eight main islands: it is approximately 11 miles long and six miles wide. The island was sparsely populated due to a lack of fresh water, and during World War II it was used as a training ground and bombing range. After decades of protests, the U.S. Navy stopped using the island for live-fire exercises in 1990. The Kahoolawe Island Reserve was established to protect and restore the island, which can only be used for native Hawaiian spiritual, cultural, and subsistence purposes.
8) Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility
Inside red hill, 450 feet below the surface, runs a train that services twenty fuel tanks that were built to withstand attacks during WWII. The former top-secret engineering feat is currently off limits to the general public, following 9/11.
9) Haiku Stairs
Also known as the Stairway to Heaven, this hike is extremely difficult, illegal and dangerous. With 3,922 steps, the stairs were built to access the Haiku Radio Station, a top secret U.S. Navy facility, which was decommissioned in the 1950s. Though it is perhaps the most famous hike in the country, the stairs have been neglected, illegal to climb. Here’s to hoping the stairs will be legal – and safe – at some point in my lifetime.
Which of these places would you most like to visit if given the opportunity? Sound off in the comments below!