From Kauai’s northern coast to the tiny island of Lanai, the Hawaiian Islands are home to a laid-back lifestyle, as well as countless incredible cities and communities – some of which are so tiny that you’ll certainly get to know your neighbors. Whether you’re daydreaming about your next great Hawaiian getaway or contemplating a major move, these 16 small towns throughout the Hawaiian Islands are sure to leave you with a desire for the simple life. After all, we can all agree that
people from small town Hawaii are the absolute best.
1. Haleiwa, Oahu
Voted as the state’s favorite small town by Hawaii Magazine, Haleiwa seems like a world away from bustling Waikiki. This sleepy surfer town has a laid-back vibe and charming aesthetic, but also luxuries like killer beaches, great restaurants and adorable shops.
2. Honoka'a, Big Island
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 no home to less than 2,300 residents. Don't forget to visit Tex Drive-In while you're in town!
3. Koloa, Kauai
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.
4. Hana, Maui
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.
5. Lanai City, Lanai
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.
6. Hau'ula, Oahu
This small town on Oahu’s northeastern shores might be far away from the big city, but that is what makes it so serene and stunning. Better yet, you aren’t likely to find any tourists at Hauula Beach Park, or on the Hauula Loop Trail.
7. Volcano Village, Big Island
Tucked into Hawaii Island's Puna district near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village is home to 2,500 residents, and little else. This artistic little community is home to countless galleries and is the perfect place for a creative retreat.
8. Hanalei, Kauai
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.
9. Paia, Maui
Approximately 2,700 people call the sleepy surfside town of Paia home. With a variety of stellar restaurants, charming galleries, adorable boutiques, and the best windsurfing spot in Hawaii, it’s no wonder why many Maui residents travel to Paia for a weekend getaway.
10. Kaunakakai, Molokai
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. Hawi, Big Island
Often described as one of Hawaii Island’s best-kept secrets, Hawi is perched along the northern coastline of the Kohala coast, and is home to some incredible skydiving, ziplining, farm tours, and a pretty charming vibe. Two decades ago, a new generation of entrepreneurs and artists flocked to the former plantation village and, with the help of longtime residents, moved bookstores, galleries, boutiques and restaurants into the town’s decaying storefronts.
12. Waimanalo, Oahu
World-renowned for the amazing Waimanalo Beach, this census-designated place is as about as country as it gets on Oahu. The community is so small that the public library is actually housed inside of the local school.
13. Hanapepe, Kauai
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.
14. Makena, Maui
Prior to 2010, Makena was grouped into Wailea-Makena, but now is considered its own census-designated place with a population of fewer than 100 individuals – 99 residents, to be precise.
15. Waimea, Big Island
The first European settlers to reach Hawaii landed in Waimea in 1778, and I’m sure they were absolutely blown away by the stunning coastline. The historic town is home to approximately 1,700 residents.
16. Kapa'a, Kauai
A small Polynesian paradise, Kapa’a was recognized as one of America’s prettiest towns by Forbes. The small-town Hawaiian vibe with a ton of hotels and vacation rentals pairs perfectly with lovely little shops, and some ono grinds from one of the town’s amazing fish taco trucks.