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 sleepy small towns that can be found across the islands. From Kauai’s western shores to the southern tip of Hawaii Island, these charming Hawaii towns never seem to change — and that’s the way we like it.
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.
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.
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.
Home to less than 1,000 residents, this sleepy little town on the Big Island is the southernmost town in the United States (with a post office, that is). Highlights include visits to the Punalu'u Bake Shop and Hana Hou restaurant — and of course a lazy morning spent at the nearby Punalu'u Black Sand Beach.
5. Lanai City
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.
Though Hanalei is located just north of the Princeville resort area, it feels like worlds away from the Hawaiian tourism scene. With a small one-lane bridge leading into town, and an unusual mix of shopping and dining options, the very small town — approximately 0.8 square miles — is full of old world charm.
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.
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.
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 now home to less than 2,300 residents, and hasn’t seemed to change in quite some time. Don't forget to visit Tex Drive-In while you're in town!
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.
11. Old Koloa Town
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.
What’s your favorite town on this list? Any others you would add? Sleepy towns are undoubtedly fantastic, but we also love visiting
places where we can experience Old Hawaii.