From beautiful black, green and red sand beaches to otherworldly caves and lava formations, the Hawaiian Islands are positively chock-full of magnificent hidden gems just waiting to be uncovered. In fact, you could spend a lifetime exploring Hawaii’s eight main islands and never run out of new places to discover. But, just in case you’re not sure where to start, I’ve compiled a list of 19 of the greatest hidden gems found throughout Hawaii to start your bucket list – from the coast of Kauai to the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Moli'i Fishpond
The Moli’i fishpond - located on Oahu’s windward coast and overlooking Chinaman’s Hat - encompasses 125 acres and ranges in depth from 4 to 30 feet, making it one of the largest fishponds found throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
2. Kauai's Blue Room
Waikapalae Cave, also known as the blue room, is quite simply the stuff of dreams. Legend states that the Maniniholo Dry Cave and the Waikapalae and Wakanaloa Wet Caves were created by Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire for her lover, but abandoned them when they filled with water.
3. Haiku Mill
From 1858 to 1879, the Haiku Mill was bustling with sugar cane production, but is now used for a slightly different purpose: serving as the backdrop for a variety of events, especially weddings. The mill is now home to an awe-inspiring mix of vine-draped ruins, French-inspired décor, and a unique ambiance.
4. Halona Cove
Situated between Halona Point and the Halona Blowhole, this small rocky cove is perfectly picturesque, and has been featured in films like Pirates of the Caribbean and 50 First Dates. Despite its Hollywood fame, the only way to reach the stunning cove is via a rocky and slightly treacherous hike, so it is often pretty secluded.
5. Fern Grotto
This naturally-formed lava cave, located off Kauai’s Wailua River, was formed millions of years ago, and is home to various native Hawaiian plant species as well as colorful, exotic plants, that come together to make visitors feel as though they have entered a tropical rainforest.
6. Lake Waiau
Located more than 13,000 feet above sea level, near the summit of Hawaii Island’s Mauna Kea, is one of only a few lakes found throughout an island state known for its incredible beaches. It is also one of the smallest lakes in the country - measuring in at just 328 meters in diameter.
7. Kaneohe Sandbar
Situated off the coast of Windward is Oahu is a picturesque slice of paradise that is only accessible during low tide. The Kaneohe sandbar, located in the middle of Kaneohe Bay surrounded by the striking Ko’olau mountains, features crystalline turquoise waters, fine white sand, and plenty of fun. At high tide, you can comfortably stand waist-deep in the water, while at low tide, the sand is completely exposed.
8. Big Island Bees
For an unconventional stop during your stay on the Big Island, be sure to check out Big Island Bees for a tour of their hives and museum, where you can learn all about honey beekeeping. Don’t forget to bring some all-natural, single-source, organic honey home with you.
9. Kauai's Weeping Wall
Deep in the heart of Kauai is the epic Weeping Wall, a collection of stunning waterfalls cascading down Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest spots on earth.
10. The Cathedrals
For a thrilling underwater adventure, consider diving at the Cathedrals, Lanai’s most popular diving spot. Experienced scuba divers will fall in love with the Cathedrals, underwater pinnacle formations formed by lava tubes and illuminated by shimmering rays of light.
11. Pe'epe'e Falls
Located just one mile past the famous Rainbow Falls on Wailuku River is Pe’epe’e Falls. Connected by a series of cascading waterfalls along columns that were formed from the slow cooling of basalt lava, these pools appear to be bubbling – almost as if they were boiling.
12. Maui's Dragon Teeth
These volcanic formations are found on the edge of the Ritz’s golf course. The jagged, gray rocks were formed hundreds of years ago when wind gusts from the ocean forced lava to harden towards the sky. This intriguing scenery looks like something out of a science fiction or fantasy novel, does it not?
13. Na Pali Sea Cave
The geological formation is surrounded by high rock walls, and features an open ceiling to the sky. You can view the sea cave from above, or enter it on a boat tour. The light from the cave's open ceiling penetrates the water, and creates an ethereal blue hue that changes colors with the moving sun.
14. Waimanu Valley
Waimanu Valley, the largest of several remote valleys on the Hamakua Coastline, is quite difficult to visit, but offers incredible views for anyone adventurous enough to tackle the nine-mile Muliwai Trail.
15. Maunawili Falls
Perhaps one of Oahu’s most stunning hidden waterfalls, this trek through the mud is never uphill for too long and offers the opportunity to jump in a beautiful waterfall at the end.
16. Molokai's Sea Cliffs
Towering at more than 3,500 feet on Molokai's north shore are these impressive sea cliffs inaccessible via land. Viewable via boat or helicopter tour, these are among the tallest sea cliffs in the world.
17. Glass Beach
Located in Hanapepe, near Port Allen Harbor, is this incredible beach covered with millions of sea glass pebbles in brilliant hues of aqua, blue and brown. The glass found at this beach was mainly from broken bottles and auto glass that was dumped years ago, and then smoothed by time and ocean tides. The beach is pretty difficult to find, but it is heaven for lovers of sea glass.
18. Ahalanui Hot Pond
There is little better after a long hike than jumping into the ocean for a quick swim – except maybe slipping into a steaming hot spring fed by the expansive Pacific Ocean and warmed geothermally by flowing lava deep beneath the surface. Ahalanui Hot Pond, found on Hawaii’s Big Island near Pahoa, and surrounded by green grass and palm trees, is the ultimate retreat.
19. Lanai Lookout
Located on Oahu’s southeastern shore, just past Hanauma Bay, on Kalanaianaole Highway, is the Lanai Lookout, a seemingly average lookout point – that is, until you step over the man-made wall surrounding the parking lot and into the incredible lava formations below. Oh, and did we mention that on a clear day you can see Lanai, Molokai and Maui from the lookout?