Though the Hawaiian Islands may be small in terms of landmass, there are countless incredible hidden gems to be found across the beautiful islands we call home. From cascading waterfalls, pristine beaches, and stunning lookout points to charming towns, enchanting man-made structures, and mouthwatering eateries, we’ve written about some magnificent hidden gems across the Aloha State over the last two years – and these 15 places are easily some of Hawaii’s best-kept secrets.
Nestled between Hanauma Bay and Koko Head to the west and the Halona Blowhole to the right on Kalanaianaole Highway, the breathtaking Lanai Lookout is often overlooked for more well-known attractions. From the parking lot of this scenic overlook, you will have uninterrupted views of the stunning Pacific Ocean, and, on a clear day, the islands of Lanai, Molokai and even Maui, but the volcanic formations you’ll find here are the true standouts.
Located on the southern coast of Kauai between Waimea and Koloa is Hanapepe, one of the islands’ best kept secrets. This little beach town is home to 2,600 residents and is often referred to as "Kauai’s Biggest Little Town."Hanapepe’s historic, plantation-style buildings are now home to charming shops, eateries and a surprising amount of art galleries. In fact, Hanapepe is home to the largest concentration of artists on the island.
Located in Haiku on Maui’s northeastern coast, the Haiku Sugar Mill looks as though it has been pulled straight out of the pages of a storybook – with wayward vines draping 150-year-old stone walls that were left exposed to the elements in the late 1800s. Both a wedding venue and garden offering botanical tours, this breathtaking slice of history is positively dreamy.
Kaimu Black Sand Beach
The land that the beach encompasses and the area surrounding it simply didn’t exist twenty years ago. And let’s face it - it’s pretty incredible to walk on land that might be younger than you - especially since so much of the land + wilderness we experience is ancient in comparison. With jaw-dropping views of the Puna coastline - as well as a stunning volcanic landscape, it’s hard not to feel as though you are on the absolute edge of the world.
Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park
Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park, formerly known as Kahana Valley State Park, is often overlooked for more accessible spots on the island but is an absolute natural oasis for anyone who wants to get away from it all and have a little adventure. The state park is Hawaii’s only public ahupua’a - an ancient land division - and stretches from the shores of Kahana Bay to the tip of Pu’u Pauao at 2,670 feet in elevation.
Braddah Hutt’s BBQ
This hole-in-the-wall eatery is - quite literally - a food truck in the middle of nowhere, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth the journey. The atmosphere is that of a neighborhood cookout rather than a high-class restaurant, with prices ranging from $8 to $13 for generous portions served on a paper plate with a plastic fork.
Kauai’s secluded Waimea Beach is, quite simply, the stuff dreams are made of. The rare black sand beach is located on Kauai’s relatively undeveloped western shore and will absolutely enchant you. Though most focus on the beach’s incredibly rich black sand, I am absolutely head over heels for the picturesque Waimea Pier, the embodiment of Old Hawaii. The pier was once an important location for whaling ships that came into port during the 19th century, and while the pier isn’t original, you will still find people using the pier for fishing and crabbing.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
Once you drive through Ho’omaluhia’s entrance, you will be immediately surrounded by a magnificent garden full of vibrant, tropical flora that stretches on for miles. Nestled at the base of the majestic Ko’olau Mountains, this peaceful refuge was established in 1982, and designed and built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers for flood protection.
Kauai Aadheenam Hindu Temple
Up in the hills, four miles above the coastal town of Kapaa and hidden amongst Kauai’s lush, tropical landscape is the Kauai Aadheenam Hindu Temple – a beautiful magnificent spiritual sanctuary that sits on 363 acres near the wettest spot on earth, Mt. Waialeale. The monastery is now home to the head of the monastery – or the Guru Mahasannidhanam - Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, and his order of 21 swamis, yogis and sadhakas from six nations.
On Oahu’s northern shore, west of Haleiwa and more than 10 miles from the nearest restroom, is a picturesque beach nestled between the beautiful Waianae Mountain Range and the vast Pacific Ocean. The beautiful, fine sand found on Mokuleia will invite you in, and thee breathtaking blue water will keep you coming back for more. The waves are almost always choppy here, but the waters are rich with sea life and you will often find green sea turtles basking on the sand during the summer months.
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.
Wai Koa Loop Trail
The trail is accessible through the Anaina Hou Community Park, and will lead you on a journey through the the Wai Koa Plantation, a working farm on 500 private acres, as well as the largest mahogany forest in North America. Ideal for everyone from running enthusiasts to families with young children, the trail is relatively flat, and can be easily walked in two to three hours. If you’re up to it, mountain bike rentals are also available on the property.
Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site
Nestled in the mountains above some of Oahu’s best north shore surfing spots, far away from the crowds, is the often overlooked Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site, a true undiscovered Hawaiian destination. Pu’u O Mahuka is the largest such temple on the island of Oahu, and might have been constructed as early as the 1600s. Under the guidance of high priest Ka’opulupulu under Oʻahu chief Kahahana, 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.
As you are driving along Maui’s Hana Highway from the north, the first notable attraction you will discover is this picturesque string of waterfalls, also known as Hololawa Falls. Reminiscent of a fantasy world, this gorgeous spot features two absolutely dreamy waterfalls and a pool below, perfect for a quick swim.
Paradise Bay Resort
Surrounded by palm trees and nestled into a quiet residential neighborhood just five miles from Kaneohe Town and eleven miles from Kailua Beach, Paradise Bay resort is a low-key haven for anyone looking to get away from it all.
What hidden gems would you like us to write about next? For the ultimate summer spent on the coast, be sure to add
these 15 secret spots along Hawaii’s coast to your bucket list.