The third largest island in Hawaii, and also the most populated, Oahu is home to approximately two-thirds of Hawaii’s population. It also just so happens that nearly 45 percent of tourists to Hawaii visit Waikiki, a densely populated stretch of coastline many locals stay far away from. After all, there is so much more to discover throughout the Hawaiian Islands than a beach that is
full of imported sand. Today, in celebration of the Aloha State and ALL it has to offer, here are 15 magnificent places you’ll want to visit that you won’t find in Waikiki, or on Oahu in general. From black sand beaches to fairytale gardens, you’ll undoubtedly want to add these underrated destinations to your Hawaii bucket list.
1. Wailua Valley State Wayside, Maui
Located just past mile marker 18 on Maui’s famous Hana Highway is the Wailua Valley State Wayside, a picturesque lookout point with views of Ke'anae Valley, Wailua Peninsula, the Ko'olau Gap, various waterfalls, and even the rim of Haleakala Crater. This slice of paradise is often overlooked for more famous stops along the Road to Hana, but should not be discredited.
2. Hanapepe, Kauai
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.
3. Liliuokalani Park and Gardens, Hawaii Island
Located in the heart of Hilo — Hawaii’s oldest city — near Coconut Island on the breathtaking Banyan Drive, is Liliuokalani Park and Gardens, a positively enchanting slice of waterfront paradise. Featuring the largest Edo—style garden outside of Japan, this 24-acre park and garden was named after Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, and was dedicated in 1917 as a tribute to Hawaii’s first Japanese immigrants who worked in the sugarcane fields.
4. Mo’omomi Preserve, Molokai
This sprawling 921-acre preserve on Molokai protects one of the state’s last intact coastal regions, boasting sand dunes a mile long and hundreds of feet wide. Home to native plant species, Mo’omomi is also a nesting site for native shorebirds, the Hawaiian owl, and green sea turtles.
5. Waioko Pond, Maui
Waioko Pond, a serene seaside pond located on Maui’s Hana Highway, was named Venus Pool in a guidebook for no documented reason. The pool carved into the rugged shoreline is undoubtedly gorgeous, though it is prone to flash flooding, and can be difficult to access unless you are an experienced off-trail hiker.
6. Hanakapi’ai Falls, Kauai
Situated on Kauai’s fabled Na Pali Coast is Hanakapi’ai Falls, accessible only by a strenuous day hike. The trail is, in fact, the beginning of the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, but only takes you four miles in, past Hanakapi’ai Beach and up to the valley and approximately 300—foot cascading waterfall.
7. Kehena Black Sand Beach, Hawaii Island
The Hawaiian Islands are home to several gorgeous black sand beaches, including this picturesque stretch of sand. Sometimes known as Dolphin Beach, Kehena is also a known spinner dolphin hangout. The beach was formed during a 1955 lava flow and is one of the few places in Hawaii that allows nudity.
8. Munro Trail, Lanai
Located just north of Lanai City, past the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele, this 12.8-mile, one lane dirt road offers panoramic views of the island. At the trail's scenic lookout, and on a clear day, you can see the neighboring islands of Maui, Molokai, Kaho’olawe, Oahu, and the Big Island. The road will also take you to the top of Lanaihale, the island’s highest peak, measuring in at 3,370 feet.
9. 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 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.
10. Kalihiwai Beach, Kauai
Kalihiwai is an ironwood-lined crescent-shaped bay located on Kauai's northern shore. Be sure to check out the brackish pools located behind the beach near the stream — this is a perfect area for kids to wade, swim, and float.
11. Kohala Mountain Road, Hawaii Island
Meandering across the northern tip of Hawaii Island from Waimea to Hawi, Kohala Mountain Road will transport you to another place. Known locally as "The High Road," this scenic road measures in at just under 20 miles — and is positively stunning the entire way, passing by rolling hillsides, ranchlands, and some pretty jaw-dropping vistas. Despite the stupendous views and wide open spaces, this mountain road is rarely crowded and full of magnificent pull-offs to stop for either a secluded picnic or a quick photograph.
12. Papohaku Beach, Molokai
You will be surprised to find very few people on this stunning beach, which is the longest white sand beach throughout the Hawaiian Islands. During World War II, the military performed training exercises here and buried entire vehicles at the waterline, which can be seen during high surf.
13. Waianapanapa State Park, Maui
Located on Maui’s Road to Hana is this amazing state park, with an absolutely stunning black sand beach, hikes, a blowhole, ocean caves, sea arches, freshwater pools and cliff diving. What more could a true explorer want in a park? Camping, perhaps? Oh yeah, they have that too.
14. Limahuli Gardens, Kauai
Situated on Kauai’s north shore in a tropical valley is Limahuli Gardens, overlooking the ocean and Makana Mountain, and featuring lava rock terraces built by ancient Hawaiians in order to cultivate taro.
15. South Point, Hawaii Island
Located at the end of South Point Road near Na’alehu, on the southernmost tip of Hawaii Island, is this picturesque spot known for its phenomenal fishing and sweeping panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Ka Lae, Hawaiian for "the point," is the southernmost post in the entire United States, and is a popular tourist destination, despite its remote location.
Don’t think we’re saying Oahu is all bad. We actually happen to think this often overrated island is actually pretty incredible.