While we love Hawaii’s capital city of Honolulu, as well as the various cities and resort towns that populate the islands’ shores, we are slightly obsessed with the charming small towns that can be found across the islands – from Kauai’s western shores to the southern tip of Hawaii Island. Because we can’t get enough of rural Hawaii, these 16 towns are about as rural as it gets in Hawaii – and are downright delightful.
1. Hana, Maui
They say that it’s not the destination, but the journey that it takes to get there, and nowhere is this more true than Hana. The infamous Road to Hana is full of twists, turns, several one-lane bridges, waterfalls, and incredible vistas - and as one of the most isolated communities in the state, Hana will certainly appeal to anyone who truly wants to experience small town life.
2. Kaunakakai, Molokai
The largest town on the island of Molokai has a population of approximately 3,400 residents. When pineapple and sugar exports were huge in Hawaii, Kaunakakai was a bustling port town. King Kamehameha V’s royal summer residence was once in this ancient canoe landing, and now the Old Western-style storefronts paint the picture of a town stuck in time.
3. Hawi, Big Island
Often described as one of Hawaii Island’s best-kept secrets, Hawi is perched along the northern coastline of the Kohala coast, and is home to some incredible skydiving, ziplining, farm tours, and a pretty charming vibe. Two decades ago, a new generation of entrepreneurs and artists flocked to the former plantation village and, with the help of longtime residents, moved bookstores, galleries, boutiques and restaurants into the town’s decaying storefronts.
4. Laie, Oahu
This small town on the northeast shore of Oahu is home to two major institutions: the Polynesian Cultural Center, and Brigham Young University’s Hawaii campus. Other than that, you’ll find basic necessities, beautiful beaches, and a retreat from the bustling capital city of Honolulu – even though it’s just an hour’s drive away.
5. Koloa, Kauai
Home to Hawaii’s first ever commercially successful sugarcane plantation, Koloa is a relic of days gone by. Home to less than 2,200 residents and shops that now occupy the plantation-style buildings, Koloa is located along Kauai’s southern shores.
6. Makawao, Maui
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. The town is famous for its Hawaiian cowboy, or paniolo, history, and is a haven for artists of all kinds.
7. Volcano, Hawaii Island
Tucked into Hawaii Island's Puna district near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village is home to 2,500 residents, and little else. This artistic little community is home to countless galleries and is the perfect place for a creative retreat.
8. Hanapepe, Kauai
With the greatest concentration of artists on the island, Hanapepe is known as “Kauai’s Biggest Little Town.” Its historic, plantation-style buildings are now home to charming shops, eateries and a surprising amount of art galleries - and it’s a beautiful place for a weekend retreat.
9. Waialua, Oahu
Located on Oahu’s north shore, past Haleiwa is the small community of Waialua. With a population of 3,800, this rural community has little more to offer than gorgeous beaches, charming farms and the always delightful Waialua Sugar Mill.
10. Lanai City, Lanai
The island’s only town sits at 1,645 feet above sea level, boasting a population of just 3,200. The historic plantation village was built in 1924, and not much has changed since then, preserving the town’s original charm – but increasing the home prices, of course.
11. Makena, Maui
Prior to 2010, Makena was grouped into Wailea-Makena, but now is considered its own census-designated place with a population of fewer than 100 individuals – 99 residents, to be precise.
12. Honoka'a, Hawaii Island
Located on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island at nearly 1,000 feet above sea level, Honoka'a was once the third largest town in Hawaii, but is no home to less than 2,300 residents. Don't forget to visit Tex Drive-In while you're in town!
13. Maunaloa, Molokai
Located on the western side of Molokai is Maunaloa, population 376, not to be confused with the Big Island volcano. The charming plantation village is the only town on the island's western coast, and is downright delightful.
14. Kekaha, Kauai
With a population of 3,500, Kekaha is one of the westernmost towns (or more accurately, census-designated places) on the island of Kauai. Not only was this rural town a major player in the sugar production industry, but it is also the site of Hawaii’s first - and only - train robbery in 1920.
15. Waimanalo, Oahu
World-renowned for the amazing Waimanalo Beach, this census-designated place is as about as country as it gets on Oahu. The community is so small that the public library is actually housed inside of the local school.
16. Waiohinu, Hawaii Island
With a population of 213, this town is located near the southern tip of the Big Island. Mark Twain supposedly visited Waiohinu in 1866, and allegedly planted a monkey pod tree here.