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Just about everyone knows about Hawaii’s most popular attractions, including Kauai’s stunning Na Pali coast and glorious gardens, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, Maui’s Road to Hana, and Oahu’s legendary surfing beach, Waikiki. But what about all of those magical places in the Hawaiian Islands that you haven’t heard about? Be sure and put at least one of these hidden gems in Hawaii on your itinerary.
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One’uli Beach is one of Maui’s lesser-known black sand beaches, which means it’s one of the few places on the island where you can truly escape, and perhaps even enjoy a slice of paradise all to yourself. While it’s off the beaten path for tourists, it’s not so far that it’s difficult to get to, situated in Makena State Park. Its name, “one’uli,” means “dark sands” in Hawaiian, with the sand made up of ground lava that came from a huge cross-section of the mountain that’s been dramatically cut away by the ocean. If you take a close look, you’ll be able to see exposed layers of cinder and lava that offer the unique chance to view the makeup of a cinder cone.
Secret Beach is officially called Kauapea, but most locals refer to it by its nickname. The 3,000-foot-long stretch of sand along the north shore is renowned for its scenery and seclusion. Nestled between Kalihiwai Bay and Kilauea Point, getting there requires walking a steep unmarked trail, but it’s well worth the effort to find it, as you just might be the only one there. As the water tends to be rough and subject to very strong currents, this is a beach that’s better for quiet contemplation while sitting on the soft sands or taking a peaceful stroll. If you continue walking down the coast, you’ll discover a beautiful waterfall too.
As mentioned at the start, just about everyone has heard of Maui’s famous Road to Hana, but few know about the West Maui Loop and Kahakuloa Bay. That’s a good thing for those that do, as it offers some of the most stunning views on the island, without the crowds. The loop, located on the northwest shore of the island, will bring you to Kahakuloa village, just past the Nakalele Blowhole and Olivine Pools, where more breathtaking views await, as well as tasty island treats and plenty of aloha. You’ll find a more authentic glimpse at Maui life by stopping into places like Lorraine’s shave ice and Kaukini Gallery which features some fabulous local art.
The Tree Tunnel on Kauai is a gorgeous canopy of Eucalyptus trees that line the Holo Holo Koloa Scenic Byway on a stretch of Maliuhi Road. The first mile creates a natural gateway to the South Shore and the towns of Poipu and Koloa. The original trees were planted over a century ago as a gift to the community from pineapple baron Walter McBryde. They were leftovers from a large landscape project at his estate, which now serves as the grounds of Kukuiolono Park and Golf Course.
Molokai is another one of Hawaii’s less-visited islands, but it’s home to the world’s tallest sea cliffs, which tower between 3,600 and 3,900 feet above the Pacific. They’re located on the island’s remote, north side, and there are no roads that will take you there, but there are a number of ways to admire the dramatic emerald cliffs. You can hike the trail that descends to Kalaupapa for a perspective of just how steep the cliffs are, with its more than 25 switchbacks, or, you can take a helicopter tour from Maui.
Located on the island of Lanai, one of Hawaii’s lesser-known islands, Keahiakawelo or Garden of the Gods, is an impressive red rock desert. The landscape is starkly beautiful though barren, with hundreds of round red rock towers arranged here centuries ago. Just don’t roll the dice and rearrange any of the stones as local lore says you’ll anger the gods and risk a lifetime of bad luck. While on Lanai, be sure to visit Shipwreck Beach where you can search for everything from Japanese fishing nets to violet-colored snails that have washed ashore.
Volcano Winery is the only winery on the Big Island and the southernmost winery in the United States. It sits at an elevation of 4,000 feet on the slopes of an active volcano adjacent to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and is tucked between two volcanoes, with the lava-covered landscape allowing the grapevines to flourish. Running a vineyard in Hawaii comes with unique challenges, like adapting techniques to the climate as well as higher costs to import suppliers, and few experienced vineyard workers. But the winemakers say that setting has also inspired them to incorporate local ingredients that aren’t usually found in wine, such as macadamia nut honey and pineapple into their wines.
Makauwahi Cave is the largest limestone cave in Hawaii, and one of its biggest archaeological sites. Although it’s managed to stay relatively unknown, it may be the richest fossil site in the entire Pacific. It was formed when the once fossilized sand dune collapsed, forming a natural sinkhole. In its layers, it holds pre-human plant life, animal fossils, and a 10,000-year-old diary of weather patterns. Squeeze through the mouth of the cave and you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of a vast open-air amphitheater where you can take in all of its geological glory.