There are certain attractions in Hawaii that everyone visits: Waikiki Beach, Waimea Canyon, the USS Arizona Memorial, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, just to name a few. While these attractions are phenomenal in their own ways, there are other off the beaten path destinations that are as unique as they are beautiful, and offer a glimpse into the often unseen side of Hawaii.
1. Kaena Point
This park encompasses rugged and wild coastline of the northwestern tip of Oahu. You can walk to the point from either direction, and the views are truly second to none.
2. Iao Valley State Park
Iao Valley is a 6.2-acre park that includes the site of the battle of Kepaniwai, where the forces of Kamehameha I conquered the Maui army in 1790.
3. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
A picturesque Kauai lighthouse stands amongst towering cliffs that look into the Pacific Ocean, home to the endangered monk seals, humpback whales in the winter, and honu.
4. Wailua River
The Wailua River is one of only five navigable rivers in Hawaii. The river drains from Waialeale Mountain, which averages 488 inches of rain annually. This lush river valley holds several hidden gems of their own – a fern-covered cave, several waterfalls, and even sites of historical and spiritual significance.
5. Spitting Cave
The spitting cave is located east of Honolulu, below a high cliff where waves crash underneath and shoot into the cave, ejecting the water like a reverse blowhole. Don't get too blown away by the beauty, though - the cliffs are also quite dangerous.
6. Old Hanapepe Town
Combine this lovely swinging bridge, the small town’s bustling art scene and stellar views and you’ve got a quintessential Hawaiian town.
7. New Kaimu Beach
This picturesque beach did not exist in its current state twenty years ago: the original Kaimu Beach was completely destroyed by lava flows in 1990. Because this mineral-rich beach is relatively new, and the larger Punalu’u is located just down the coast, this picturesque spot remains largely tourist-free.
8. Hawaii Plantation Village
Hawaii Plantation Village is an outdoor history museum that tells the story of the island’s sugar cane workers and life on the planation circa 1850 to 1950, as well as the history of immigration to Hawaii.
9. Lulumahu Falls
A bamboo forest, a field that will remind you of The Sound of Music, a jungle trail, and a stunning waterfall… Could you ask for anything more in a hike? Because this trail encompasses so many gorgeous aspects of our Hawaiian landscapes, and it’s a relatively easy two-mile trail, this is the hike we take all visitors on when they vacation on Oahu.
10. Nualolo Trail
The Nualolo Trail is a four mile hike that begins at the Koke'e Ranger Station, and provides some stellar views of Kauai.
11. Mu Ryang-Sa Buddhist Temple
There’s no doubt about it that Kaneohe’s Byodo-In Temple is gorgeous, but this Korean Buddhist temple hidden in Manoa Valley is absolutely breathtaking. Visit on a Saturday afternoon for a guided meditation session, or simply explore the grounds.
12. Waipio Valley
While the valley is absolutely breathtaking, the road into the Waipio Valley from the lookout is pretty gnarly, gaining 800 vertical feet in just 0.6 miles, making it the steepest road of its length in the United States.
13. Wai’ale’ale Weeping Wall
Mount Wai'ale'ale is the wettest spot on earth, and the magnificent waterfalls that cascade down the mountainside are absolutely mesmerizing.
14. Mokuleia Beach
On Oahu’s northwest shore, just past Haleiwa is this often-secluded beach. The nearest store or restroom is more than ten miles away, and the television show Lost filmed its first season on Mokuleia. The water is almost always choppy, but the water is rich with marine life, and sea turtles love to hang out on the shore during the summer months.
How many of these incredible places have you been to? What are your favorite spots to take visitors? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!