25 Unbelievable Hidden Gems in Hawaii – Unique Things To Do In Hawaii
Hawaii was the last state to join the United States of America, joining the Union in August 1959. It was pipped to the post by Alaska, which joined in January of the same year, with the previous state (Arizona) joining nearly 50 years earlier.
Hawaii, the only state entirely made up of islands, is spread across the northeast corner of Polynesia, almost at the heart of the north Pacific Ocean.
The volcanic archipelago is made up of hundreds of small and large islands and islets; six main islands are accessible to tourists. Did you know that the islands are the peaks of underwater mountains that form part of the world’s largest mountain range?
The state is known for its beautiful landscapes, fascinating landscapes, distinct culture, abundance of outdoor activities, and laid-back attitude. It is a destination that truly has something to offer almost every type of traveler.
Polynesian traditions and imports from Asia and North America have influenced local culture. The cuisine reflects the various cultures that have influenced the islands, with a fusion of native fare and elements from other Polynesia, the United States, Japan, China, Korea, Filipino, Portugal, and others.
Hawaii is the only US state that produces coffee, and it also produces roughly one-third of the world’s commercially grown pineapples. In addition, Hawaii is the largest producer of macadamia nuts. The state is home to the country’s only royal palace, the world’s largest wind generator, the largest telescope, the world’s largest dormant volcano and the most active volcano on the planet, and some of the world’s most renowned scuba diving spots.
While some of Hawaii’s glorious beaches, vibrant cities, volcanoes, and lush rainforests attract a large number of visitors and can feel overcrowded at times, there are still plenty of places where you can get off the beaten path and discover some secluded treasures.
Here are some of Hawaii’s best kept secrets.
1. Bamboo Forest, Maui
Maui’s stunning Bamboo Forest, which appears to be from a fairytale realm, can be found along the scenic Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park. Many visitors are unwilling to make the mile-long trek to get there. Those who put in the effort, however, will be rewarded with stunning scenery.
The sun shines through the tall stalks, and the densely packed trees provide plenty of shade and atmosphere. The bamboo gently sways in the breeze, and the forest stretches for about a half mile. Birds twitter and insects clack and whirl.
There are several lovely features along the way to the picturesque forest, including a beautiful waterfall. Swimming is not recommended here for safety reasons, either at the top of the falls or in the pool at the bottom. It’s a fantastic scene that’s best experienced with your eyes only.
Remember to wear sturdy closed footwear and plenty of bug repellent. Bring plenty of water with you on your walk.
2. Kawela Bay, Oahu
Kawela Bay is a lovely secluded and protected beach near Oahu’s northern tip. A reef keeps large waves from reaching the sandy shore, and it’s an excellent place to reconnect with nature and enjoy a quieter stretch of sand away from the tourist crowds.
Despite previous proposed development plans, the area remains blissfully undeveloped, protected by the North Shore Community Land Trust in accordance with locals’ wishes. This means that there are few facilities here—a small price to pay for the opportunity to enjoy a small slice of paradise in relative seclusion.
The area is enhanced by unusual banyan trees.
Swim and splash around in the calm, clear waters, try paddle boarding, kayak near the shore, sunbathe, and enjoy a picnic in beautiful surroundings.
Don’t be alarmed if you get a sense of déjà vu here; the beautiful beach has appeared in several movies, most notably Pirates of the Caribbean and The Hunger Games.
3. Kalalau Trail, Kauai
The 11-mile-long Kalalau Trail leads along the breathtaking Na Pali Coast on Hawaii’s island of Kauai. It is rugged, challenging, remote, and exceptionally beautiful. Some parts of the trail require a permit to access, and exploring with a local guide is recommended.
Camping is only permitted in two locations, and the facilities are basic, with composting toilets, no potable water, and no seating areas.
The trail winds through five pristine valleys, each equally beautiful but distinct. The soft appearance of the verdant velvet-like hills contrasts with their sharp inclines towards the waves below. Walk across towering cliff tops for some of the best views of the ocean.
Along the exciting trail, there are several sublime waterfalls and superb beaches, including the relatively secluded Kalalau Beach, also known as the Secret Beach. While the trail will undoubtedly put you to the test physically and emotionally, there are plenty of places to sit in quiet contemplation, simply communing with nature, catching your breath, and marveling at nature’s beauty.
4. Sanju Pagoda, Oahu
The soaring temple is located within Honolulu Memorial Park on the island of Oahu and is a large replica of a place of worship in Japan, the revered Minami Hoke-ji Temple in Nara. The massive pagoda, standing 119 feet tall, is a sight to behold. Despite its enormous size, it receives relatively little attention.
Showcasing fine Japanese designs, the three-level pagoda was constructed with concrete, rather than the traditional wood. It has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The impressive building, which dates back to 1966, is widely regarded as one of the tallest temples in the United States, if not the world. Despite its youth, the temple fell into ruin and disrepair when the park encountered financial difficulties. The pagoda became unsafe due to a lack of funds to maintain and preserve it. It is no longer open to the public, but visitors can still admire the magnificent structure from the outside.
5. Raëlian UFO Peace Park, Big Island
The Ralian UFO Peace Park, strange, unusual, and hidden in plain sight next to a highway, may make you question everything you thought you knew about life. It may also make you wonder about the characters who created Ralianism.
Ralianism is a cult-like alternative religion that emerged in the 1970s. The belief system was founded by Claude Vorilhon, also known as Ral, and holds that all life on Earth is descended from an alien species known as the Elohim. Adherents of major world religions believe that the prophets of those religions were all part of the Elohim, appearing as humans throughout history to reach the general population.
Following Israel’s rejection, the group intends to build a galactic embassy on Hawaii’s Big Island. For the time being, the only thing that exists is a model of the proposed embassy, which is presumably ready to welcome other species from outer space to Earth. Several strange statues encircle the model.
While the unusual structures may catch the attention of passers-by, many casual tourists would have no idea what the site represented without further investigation.
6. Keahiakawelo, Lanai
Keahiakawelo, also known as the Garden of the Gods, is a series of natural rock formations on the island of Lanai. If you’re looking for this magical place, don’t worry about taking a wrong turn; the road leading here is full of bumps and potholes. It does feel like you’re on your way to the middle of nowhere!
The presence of the formations makes the otherwise desolate terrain strangely appealing. The dry reddish earth is littered with boulders of various shapes and sizes, and previous visitors may have arranged the stones to form small towers or to create designs. However, legend has it that tampering with the stones will elicit the wrath of ancient gods—don’t say you weren’t warned!
According to legend, two wise men from the islands of Molokai and Lanai competed to see who could keep a fire burning the longest. The local sage’s efforts to win the challenge are said to have resulted in this otherworldly landscape on Lanai.
7. Harold L. Lyon Arboretum, Oahu
The Harold L. Lyon Arboretum is named after a former director of the Hawaii Sugar Planters’ Association who also specialized in the study of plant diseases. Most visitors to the area are only interested in the nearby Manoa Falls and do not take the time to visit this lush and fertile garden.
The site contains 12 well-organized gardens that are educational, attractive, and informative. There are several walking trails to explore, totaling seven miles, and contain a diverse array of tropical flora. One of the main trails encompasses the peaceful Aihualama Falls, providing a fantastic opportunity to view Mother Nature’s handiwork in all its splendour while not being surrounded by a crowd.
There are several rare and endangered Hawaiian plant species among the plants. It’s a great place to visit if you’re interested in botany and want to get off the beaten path for a few hours.
8. Glass Beach, Kauai
This may not be the first place people think of when visiting Hawaii, as it is located in the largely industrial area of Eleele on the island of Kauai. The unusual Glass Beach, on the other hand, is well worth a quick detour for.
Sure, it’s not the kind of beach where you can sunbathe on your towel, and you probably don’t want to walk around barefoot, but it does offer something unique. It won’t be the most beautiful coastal stretch you’ve ever seen, but there’s something visually appealing about smooth and rounded pieces of multi-colored glass strewn across the basalt rocks.
Years and years have resulted in the accumulation of glass left behind and discarded, washed up here from the ocean. Bottles and other glass have broken and shattered, the jagged edges smoothed by nature’s powerful forces. The ebb and flow of the waves has removed many of the sharp edges, leaving behind relatively harmless shiny pebble-like fragments. To be on the safe side, keep an eye out for any odd sharp edges.
9. Kaumana Lava Tubes, Big Island
The fascinating Kaumana Lava Tubes are a relatively unknown site on the Big Island, close to Hilo. Enter the intriguing tunnels to marvel at nature’s handiwork and escape the crowds that can be found in other parts of the island.
The Kaumana Lava Tubes, which run beneath the ground and were formed by the forceful flow of hot lava from volcanic eruptions, are more authentic and raw than other now more commercialised lava tubes on the Big Island. The science is as follows: hot lava flows beneath a solidified top layer of lava, eventually flowing cleanly away and leaving a hard tube behind. If a section of the roof collapses, the tube can be entered and explored, as was done at Kaumana.
There are no guards or guides here, which means that a. you can explore whenever you want, but b. you are entirely responsible for your own personal safety. If you want to go deep into the caverns, you’ll need to bring a torch. Be cautious of the jagged and slippery rocks!
10. Coco Palms Resort, Kauai
The small town of Kapaa, located at the base of Nounou Mountain, also known as the Sleeping Giant, is well-equipped to welcome visitors, with hotels, restaurants, and shops aplenty. It does have another sleeping (or, more accurately, dead) relic, though: a ruined and abandoned resort that has fallen far from its former glory.
Coco Palms Resort was, in fact, the island’s first resort. It opened in the 1950s with much aplomb, attracting well-known names like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. The opulent and pricey resort served as a cool playground for the rich and famous. The revelry was brought to an abrupt end, however, in 1992, when a devastating hurricane tore across the area.
Hurricane Iniki was a ruthless force that spared no one in its path. Insurance companies were forced to declare bankruptcy, the local economy was devastated, and the island was nearly destroyed.
The Coco Palms Resort never recovered, even after the financial, physical, and emotional wounds began to heal. Its condition has deteriorated further if not repaired. While plans to demolish the shell are in the works, disputes over land ownership have kept the resort standing forlornly.
11. Hawaii Volcano Treehouse Rental, Big Island
Hawaii Volcano Treehouse Rental, another Hawaii accommodation that is still fully functional and appealing, can be found close to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii (often referred to as the Big Island to prevent any confusion between the island and the state).
The hidden tree houses are a great way to reconnect with nature and spend a night or two in a unique setting that is sure to delight both young and old.
The wood-built dwellings are rustic, charming, and eco-friendly, perched high in the trees, with branches snuggling close to the structures and spectacular views outside every window. The tree houses appeal to many people because they are ideal for a romantic interlude, an adventurous solo stay, a family vacation to remember, or a hideaway to enjoy with your best friends.
The tree houses are 20 feet above ground, nestled in the rainforest and built across several sturdy trees. If you have vertigo, you should probably avoid them! Those with a fear of heights can leave their lofty abode and walk along the canopy skywalk for even more spectacular views of nature.
Each tree house has its own bathroom, wooden furnishings, comfortable beds, plenty of storage space, and its own seating area. Each will undoubtedly inspire awe and wonder.
12. Niihau, Niihau
Niihau, a private island, covers nearly 70 square miles and is the archipelago’s seventh-largest inhabited island. Local population estimates vary greatly, with some reports claiming that as many as 300 people live on the island, while others place the figure closer to 30-40. It makes no difference how many people live there—you won’t be able to interact with them.
The island, which is home to a school, a church, and rent-free private homes, has no electricity except for solar power and no running water; the local water supply is provided by rain catchments. When water becomes scarce, residents must relocate to another island until the rains return. Groceries are delivered on a regular barge, and meat is provided free of charge to locals.
There is, of course, no Wi-Fi, and TV reception is poor. The island, which resembles a lost land, works hard to preserve ancient Hawaiian customs, traditions, and ways of life.
The island was purchased in 1864, prior to the island group becoming a part of the United States, and is now owned by the Robinson family. Those who have read Daniel Defoe’s famous novel, Robinson Crusoe, or Johann David Wyss’s Swiss Family Robinson, may find the name fitting.
Outsiders are not permitted on the island, which is also known as Forbidden Island, except in exceptional circumstances. This makes Niihau a true hidden gem—and one that is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. A helicopter tour provides curious tourists with a bird’s eye view of the island.
Alternatively, those who are desperate to visit the intriguing island can join a beach tour or hunting expedition. However, there have been no visits to the community.
13. Kukaniloko Birthing Stones, Oahu
It is easy to drive right past Kukaniloko Birthing Stones on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, close to Wahiawa, without knowing anything about the site’s significance and heritage.
It may appear to be a haphazard arrangement of stones, perhaps there by chance and as nature intended, or perhaps moved there by human design. Take a moment, however you view the site, to stop, explore, and learn more about its stories.
The Kukaniloko Birthing Stones commemorate royal births and great battles. Aborigines believed that the location was where the island’s natural forces were strongest. When a new leader was to be born, the pregnant woman would be transported to this location to give birth under the watchful eye of many powerful chieftains. The baby would then be taken away and not allowed to see its mother until it was an adult.
A sacred site for islanders, it is also thought that the site served an astronomical as well as a ritualistic function.
14. Dunes, Kauai
A prehistoric landscape with unusual stone sand dunes can be found close to Koloa, tucked away in the cliffs. Yes, you read that correctly: stone sand dunes.
But, you may wonder, are they sand or stone. The answer is that the dunes were once made of sand, but over time, they underwent a process known as lithification. To put it simply, this means that the sand has compacted under pressure, lost its porosity, and transformed into stone.
The dunes, which were once sand but are now stone, have kept their vibrant sandy color, providing a wonderful visual contrast to the sea’s blues. The landscapes appear to be ancient and otherworldly.
Tracing the tops of the clips, a fairly easy walk leads to the area. The drive in, on the other hand, is a different story—a powerful 4WD is recommended.
15. Waimanu Valley, Big Island
The magnificent Waimanu Valley is the largest valley on the Hamakua Coast. While the journey to the valley may be difficult, the reward is plentiful. Those who complete the nine-mile trek will be rewarded with breathtaking views and a genuine sense of accomplishment. You can probably see why this stunning natural attraction is still a hidden gem!
Follow the Muliwai Trail through the beautiful Waipio Valley, passing by a number of picturesque streams and cascades. The path rises and falls dramatically and can become quite slick; trekking poles may become your best friend. Remember to bring everything you’ll need with you, and don’t forget to reserve your camping spot ahead of time.
The magnificent hidden valley promises relaxation, rejuvenation, and rest for the mind, body, and soul. The black sandy beaches are ideal for spending endless days basking in the sun’s soothing rays, and the crystalline (and cold) waters will entice you to swim. Views don’t get much better than this, with water on one side and a lush valley on the other.
If you want to do a little more hiking, there are several waterfalls nearby.
16. Makauwahi Cave, Kauai
The under-visited Makauwahi Cave is one of the largest caves on the island of Kauai, combining archeology, nature, and history. It contains fascinating fossils and provides a fascinating glimpse into the past.
The layers of the cave, like an ancient diary, vividly tell the story of the area’s past. A fossilized sand dune caved inwards, forming a sinkhole that can now be explored for a massive time jump. Explore animal fossils and plant fossils that were discovered on Earth long before humans arrived. It’s a fantastic location for anyone interested in geology.
Don’t be alarmed by the cave’s narrow and claustrophobic entrance; it quickly opens up into a vast cavernous space. Explore to your heart’s content before heading to the turtle sanctuary to meet new amniotic pals. Make time to admire Mahaulepu Beach, which was used in the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean.
17. Ching’s Pond, Maui
Ching’s Pond, also known as the Blue Sapphire Pools, is not visible from the road. This means that those who are unaware of the site are likely to sail by, oblivious to the nearby beauty. It is, however, a popular hangout for locals, and once you see it for yourself, you’ll understand why. The site can get quite crowded on weekends, but it should be relatively quiet during the week.
The Palauhulu Stream flows through the rocks and is crossed by a bridge. Look below the bridge for some of the most captivating sapphire blue pools; the pools are so beautiful that you may need to blink and look twice to make sure you’re not seeing things!
The pools are accessible via two trails. One is far more difficult than the other, and it is not recommended. Look for a large tree about 50 feet beyond the bridge—this is the best trail to take.
Fairies, nymphs, and other water-loving mythological beings could easily make their home here. If you dive into the water, you might have an ethereal experience. Take caution, though, because the water moves deceptively quickly, and it’s easy to lose your footing and be carried away for a long distance.
There are rocks in the water, and the area is not suitable for diving. Though you may see others diving into the water from nearby high points, it is best to avoid doing so. Why jeopardize the rest of your vacation for a single thrill?
18. Kau Desert, Big Island
The Kau Desert on Hawaii’s Big Island can be described as expansive, lunar-like, unusual, and dry, to name a few adjectives. Underfoot, there is sand, volcanic ash, and gravel, as well as rocks and solidified lava. There is very little wildlife here, and the desolate landscapes are almost completely devoid of green plant life.
It’s not just the harsh terrain and dry conditions that prevent anything from growing here; the rain that does fall is generally too acidic to be beneficial to life. Sulphur dioxide is released from volcanic vents and combines with water droplets in the air, causing toxic rain.
The unusual vistas are quite striking, in a rugged, raw, and dramatic kind of way, like a place that the world forgot. It can get quite hot out here, so bring plenty of water, apply sunscreen, dress comfortably, and wear a hat.
Hikers and trekkers who enjoy seeing places that are a little different will undoubtedly enjoy this location. Please keep in mind that trails may be closed if the volcanoes become too active. Nobody wants to be exposed to the noxious gases that they spew into the atmosphere!
19. The Vintage Cave Club, Oahu
The Vintage Cave Club is one of the fanciest (and most expensive) restaurants on Oahu, if not the entire island of Hawaii. It is upmarket, stylish, exclusive, and luxurious, with a price tag to match. While not a secret gem per se, it could be considered fairly hidden due to the high costs that keep many people away.
If you have an unexpected windfall or want to really blow it, The Vintage Cave Club promises an experience unlike any other.
The dimly lit restaurant’s bare brick walls are adorned with world-class artwork by famous painters such as Picasso, Zhou Ling, Anton Molnar, and Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita. Exquisite glasswork and ceramics add to the opulence and sophistication.
The wine cellar is stocked with a wide variety of fine wines, with something to please every palate and preference. There are also a variety of vintage whiskies, cognacs, brandies, and other spirits. When it comes to your meal, the Japanese-French fusion gastronomy will undoubtedly create an explosive taste sensation in your mouth. The inventive chef creates dishes with fresh and local ingredients.
20. Lanai Cat Sanctuary, Lanai
Lanai Cat Sanctuary, which houses approximately 500 cats, is a purr-fect place for all fans of cute and cuddly felines. The former strays are protected on 25,000 square feet of land at the refuge.
Previously, the remote island had an unmanageable number of stray cats, which resulted in the animals being slaughtered, often inhumanely. The sanctuary was established to protect and rescue unwanted kitties by providing them with a safe and comfortable environment in which to live, play, and be at peace.
The protection of the cats also contributes to the survival of another species on the island, the ua’u bird. Previously, feral cats were following their natural hunting instincts and catching native birds. Although neuter and release programs helped control the growing number of cats, they did little to help the birds. As a result, the sanctuary opened in 2009, which was great news for everyone!
Cat-loving visitors can now visit the sanctuary to play with the cats, learn more about the work of the sanctuary, lend a hand, and, of course, make a gratefully appreciated donation.
21. Pineapple Garden Maze, Oahu
The Pineapple Garden Maze, a massive maze in the grounds of the Dole Pineapple Plantation, holds the honor and glory of being the world’s largest plant maze.
The maze covers two acres of land and has about two and a half miles of paths. Of course, some are dead ends that lead nowhere, while others are purposefully designed to confuse and confuse those attempting to navigate the maze.
There are several ways out, though, so don’t worry—you won’t be eaten by minotaurs or trapped in a labyrinth forever!
With approximately 14,000 plants, inhale the scents and admire the sights as you try to figure out the path to freedom. Those who complete the maze in a timely manner will have their names displayed on a sign near the maze. Most people take about an hour to figure out the maze and find their way out.
22. The Himalayan Academy, Kauai
When you visit the Hindu Himalayan Academy, you may feel as if you’ve been transported to Nepal, Tibet, or some other faraway land. Instead of the rugged terrain of the Himalayan Mountains, you’ll find tropical landscapes.
Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami founded the tranquil monastery as a place where eastern religions meet Polynesian customs and western ways of life, and as a sanctuary where old and new blend in almost perfect harmony.
The academy, which serves as a global outreach and educational center for Hinduism, adheres to the ancient teachings of gurus from Sri Lanka and southern India.
The monastery and temple are in an ideal location for worshiping sacred deities and seeking inner peace and balance, surrounded by towering cliffs, cascading cascades, lush rainforests, and a deep blue sea. The temple structure is impressive.
Monks dress in traditional handmade robes, eat fresh homegrown food, and devote their entire lives to a greater cause. They do, however, have full access to modern technology. If you look closely, you’ll notice smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other electronic devices among their possessions.
23. Shangri La, Oahu
Shangri La is a hidden collection of striking Islamic art that transitions from Hinduism to Islam. Doris Duke, a wealthy philanthropist, founded the collection, which is located near the state capital of Honolulu.
Duke’s Hawaiian hideaway was the paradisiacal Shangri La. The building was designed by her and is heavily influenced by her travels around the world. She was particularly drawn to the Middle East, as evidenced by the architecture.
The house is filled with beautiful artwork that Duke collected over many years and from various locations. Detailed wooden carvings from Morocco, colorful tile work from Iran, and embroidered textiles from Central Asia are some examples. There are numerous paintings and sculptures, some of which she personally commissioned from eminent names in the Islamic art world.
Shangri La, named after a legendary lost paradise, sits on several acres of land overlooking the roiling sea. A large saltwater pool and an Iranian-style pavilion can be found on the grounds.
24. The Blue Room, Kauai
The unusual Blue Room, another of Hawaii’s magical and almost unbelievable natural wonders, is a spectacular cave that leads into an enchanting wet subterranean world.
While you will have already passed two caves on the way, nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming majesty of the phenomenal Blue Room. It contains a hidden back cave that shimmers and shines a radiant shade of deep blue when the water level is high, and is also known as Waikapalae wet cave.
While the hypnotic scenery may tempt you to take a quick dip, visitors are discouraged from entering the water due to germ risks. Do not enter if you have any open cuts or scratches, and do not consume any of the vile liquid. Though it may be difficult, try to persevere—a great swimming beach, Ke’e Beach, is just a short walk away.
This could be a great place to scuba if you have your own equipment and are experienced in cave diving.
25. The Liljestrand House, Oahu
The Liljestrand House is a historic home on Oahu that was built more than 50 years ago. It was built on Mr. and Mrs. Liljestrand’s orders and is an excellent example of the work of the eminent modernist American-Russian architect, Vladimir Ossipoff. See what fashion was like in Hawaii in the middle of the twentieth century.
Mr. and Mrs. Liljestrand were an American-Chinese couple who arrived in Hawaii in the late 1930s. Originally en route to China, they decided to stay in Hawaii until political problems in Mr. Liljestrand’s homeland called them down. They eventually abandoned these plans and decided to stay in Hawaii, searching high and low for the perfect piece of land.
They struck a deal for the land where their home was built after meeting by chance on a hike in the then-undeveloped Tantalus Hills. Although they were extremely picky when it came to the construction of their home, it paid off because they ended up with the exact home that they had imagined in their minds.
The house is now on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned by the couple’s children. They are proud of their family home and are usually more than willing to allow visitors to look inside if they ask ahead of time.
Although Hawaii requires you to work hard to enjoy its hidden gems, such as taking long and arduous hikes and making advance appointments, it is well worth stepping off the beaten path and popular tourist trail to discover another side of the beautiful island state.
Topic: 25 Unbelievable Hidden Gems in Hawaii – Unique Things To Do In Hawaii
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By: Travel Pixy