A legendary vacation destination, Hawaii is beloved by travelers from around the world. If you’re hoping to get away from the crowds, you’re in luck — this lush island state features plenty of secret spots just waiting to be discovered by adventurous travelers. As a bonus, many of these points of interest are an easy drive from the coziest Hawaii vacation rentals. From hikes through the rainforest to exclusive island tours, Hawaii offers something fascinating for everyone.
1. Makawao, Maui
Experience Hawaii’s cowboy culture in Makawao, a charming town in Maui’s Upcountry. Tucked away on the Haleakala volcano, this small town has been the heart of paniolo country for decades. Watch cowboys in action during the July Makawao Rodeo, or tour local ranches. Makawao is also a booming art community, offering year-round opportunities for studio tours and gallery exhibitions. Plan to stay in the village; book vacation rentals well in advance if you’re coming during the rodeo, as properties fill up quickly.
2. Hawaii’s Plantation Village, Oahu
Learn what life was like on a 1800s-era sugar plantation at Hawaii’s Plantation Village. This outdoor museum is build on the site of a restored plantation, so you can stroll through a historic store, see the bathhouse, and visit the infirmary. The village highlights the state’s multicultural roots, offering a fascinating glimpse into the melding of Hawaiian culture with traditions from Korea, Japan, Puerto Rico, and more. Visit any time of year, and stay in Waipahu or Honolulu.
3. Moa’ula Falls, Molokai
Escape the crowds at Moa’ula Falls, a stunning waterfall that’s hidden away on the island of Molokai. This huge cascade drops more than 200 feet down a jungle-covered cliff, creating perfect photo opportunities. Since the hike to the falls crosses private land, the easiest way to get there is on a guided tour with a company such as Molokai Fish and Dive; tour operators secure all of the necessary permissions, so you can enjoy the walk. Go during any month, and look for vacation rentals in Kaunakakai.
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4. Kaupo Gap, Maui
If you’re a serious hiker, don’t miss the stunning Kaupo Gap, which is accessible year-round. Book vacation rentals in Kaupo or Hana for the nights before and after the two-day trek, which takes you down the back side of the Haleakala volcano in Haleakala National Park. This challenging hike takes you through the jungle, across lush valleys, and into a dusty crater. Pack plenty of snacks, and be sure to book a shuttle from Kaupo back to your starting point.
5. Niihau Island
Explore a part of Hawaii that few visitors ever get the chance to see in Niihau, the Forbidden Island. Access to the island is granted only through a private tour; with Niihau Helicopters, you can fly in and enjoy a half day in this remote, pristine location. Watch seals sunbathing on the shore, swim and snorkel on a completely deserted beach, and enjoy an aerial view of whales and sharks. Tours are available year-round; stay in Makaweli for easy access to the heliport.
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6. Hanapepe, Kauai
Slow down in Hanapepe, a small town on the southern shores of Kauai. This adorable village has remained largely unchanged since World War II, so the streets are lined with historic, colorful buildings. Spend your afternoons browsing the many galleries and independent businesses, or head down to lovely Salt Pond Beach for a sunset bonfire. Hanapepe is lovely year-round; look for vacation rentals downtown to take advantage of the walkable layout.
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7. Munro Trail, Lana’i
Rent a mountain bike near your vacation rental in Lanai City and head for the Munro Trail, a 12.8-mile year-round route that descends from the summit of Lana’ihale to the Palawai Basin. As you ride down the dirt path, enjoy views of the Maunalei gulch – when the weather is clear, you can see six of the Hawaiian islands. The path ends near the otherworldly Keahiakawelo, Hawaii’s Garden of the Gods.
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8. Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Many visitors head to the slopes of Mauna Kea for the spectacular views and sunsets, but few try one of the most unusual activities in Hawaii: snowboarding. During the winter, several feet of snow cover the highest reaches of this dormant volcano. Pack your snowboard, rent a vehicle with four-wheel drive, and head to the summit for a fun morning on the slopes. There are no lifts, so be prepared for the hike back to the top after each run; the elevation is nearly 14,000 feet, so the effort feels more strenuous than usual. You can find plenty of vacation rentals in Hilo or Waimea.
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9. Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park, Oahu
Enjoy spectacular views of the Hawaiian landscape without the crowds at Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park on Oahu. This enormous park stretches from the summits of the Ko’oalu Mountains to Kahana Bay – for the best views, hike the Kapa’ele’ele Ko’a and Keaniani Lookout Trail. Then, hike through the rainforest on the beautiful Nakoa Trail. Both trails are easy to hike in an afternoon; bring sturdy boots and rain gear to stay dry in frequent rainstorms. Vacation rentals in Kane’ohe, Laʻie, and Honolulu are all an easy drive from the park, which is open all year.
10. Waioli Mission House Museum, Kauai
See how missionaries in the 1800s lived at the Waioli Mission House Museum, which is built inside a historic house. The small house, with its classic New England style, is an oddity for Hawaii. Inside, the home has been restored to look as it would have in 1836, with authentic furniture, books, and decorations. Fascinating exhibits tell the history of missionaries in the area. The museum is open several days per week, year-round; stay in Hanalei and call in advance for opening hours.
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