You won’t find more incredible natural beauty packed into a small land area than in America’s youngest state. The Hawaiian Islands, measuring in at only 6,423 square miles, are home to boundless wonders, from picturesque valleys and majestic mountain peaks to jaw-dropping beaches and magnificent lakes. And while much of Hawaii can be crowded by tourists, you’re sure to find peace and quiet at these 14 hidden oases.
1. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
This beautiful 400-acre botanical garden is tucked away in Oahu's Kaneohe, and is a tranquil spot for a leisurely stroll, a scenic drive, or even a fishing and camping destination. Part of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens, this natural oasis is open daily and free to the public.
2. Haiku Mill
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, entering the mill will inspire a dream-like state.
3. Garden of the Gods
Also known as Keahiakawelo, this otherworldly rock garden at the end of Polihua Road is located 45 minutes from Lanai City. According to lore, this barren landscape is the result of a contest between two priests from Lanai and Molokai. Each was supposed to keep a fire burning on their island longer than the other, and the winner’s island would be rewarded with great abundance. Apparently Kawelo, the Lanai priest, used every bit of vegetation found in Keahiakawelo.
4. Kamehame Beach
Situated on Hawaii Island's southeastern coast, Kamehame Beach is one of the country's foremost nesting sites for the Hawksbill turtle and honu. The beach is an official turtle-breeding site, so the only guaranteed access is through volunteering with a turtle-monitoring program.
5. Lake Waiau
Located at 13,000 feet above sea level on the Big Island’s Mauna Kea, Lake Waiau is arguably one of the highest lakes in all of the United States. However, it is also relatively small, measuring in at just about 100 meters across. To reach this sacred lake, visitors will have to take a short, one-mile walk, found near Mauna Kea’s astronomy domes.
6. Kahana Valley
Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park, formerly known as Kahana Valley State Park, is often overlooked for more accessible spots on Oahu but is an absolute natural oasis for anyone who wants to get away from it all and have a little adventure.
7. Kaiwi Shoreline Trail
Instead of heading to the paved Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail, veer right at the trailhead and take the dirt path that leads down to the ocean, Kaho‘ohaihai Inlet, Pele's Chair, and beyond. The trail is approximately 2.5 miles long round trip, and will surely leave you feeling at peace with the world.
8. Kauai’s Fern Grotto
Located on the Wailua River, at the base of Mauna Kapu – also known as Forbidden Mountain – is the magical Fern Grotto, known for its ferns that grow upside down from the roof of the grotto. The naturally-formed lava cave 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.
9. Kahumana Organic Farm & Cafe
Nestled on Oahu’s secluded and peaceful leeward coast, more than 30 miles away from the hustle and bustle that is Waikiki, is a small, secluded farm and cafe located at the base of the Waianae Mountains. Part restaurant and cafe, part organic farm, part community sourced agriculture headquarters, and part group and homeless shelter, there is no place like Kahumana in the world – let alone Hawaii.
10. Waipio Valley Beach
While this Big Island beach is often seen from above at the Waipio Valley lookout, you will need to hike 1.5 miles from the parking lot down to the beach, so you can bet that you’ll be mostly alone once you arrive.
11. Mauna Kea Observatories
Due to the high altitude, dry environment and stable airflow, the summit of Mauna Kea is one of the world’s best sites for astronomical observation. Since the access road was built in 1964, thirteen telescopes funded by eleven countries have been constructed. The Mauna Kea Observatories are used for scientific research across the electromagnetic spectrum, the largest facility of its kind in the world.
12. Uluwehi Falls
Often referred to as Secret Falls, this beautiful waterfall will require substantial work to reach – but we think it’s totally worth it. Located up the Wailua River, you will need to either rent kayaks or book a guided tour to reach the trailhead. Then, you have to complete the 45-minute hike through the muddy jungle to reach the falls.
13. Byodo-In Temple
Located on Oahu’s lush windward coast at the base of the Ko’olau Mountains is the Byodo-In Temple, a small-scale replica of a famous temple in Japan that is more than 950 years old. The non-denominational shrine was dedicated in 1968 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants in Hawaii. The beautiful grounds include stunning statues, a large reflecting pond, meditation areas, and small waterfalls.
14. Papohaku Beach
This Molokai beach is probably the closest you will ever get to the deserted tropical island paradise you’ve been dreaming of. Whether you want to get away from the world and relax, or catch some world-class waves, Papohaku Beach seems to go on for miles.