Hidden Gems of Hawaii: Exploring Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations
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Hidden Gems of Hawaii: Exploring Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations

March 27, 2024

The ideal tropical vacation spot might just be the Island of Hawaii. Tourists enjoy beautiful beaches, world-class resorts, breathtaking landscapes, and the unmatched beauty of the natural world everywhere they go. Landforms such as waterfalls and volcanoes on the Big Island are popular destinations for travelers. Outside of the standard vacation itinerary, the Big Island also boasts numerous hidden gems and plenty of activities loved by the locals.

The Island of Hawaii’s reputation as a vacationer’s utopia can make it difficult to get away from crowds, particularly when exploring and sightseeing the state’s famous landmarks. For visitors willing to think like a local and take the road less traveled, there are no shortage of spectacular destinations for visitors who are looking for something a little bit different without having to battle throngs of lei-adorned crowds.

Pololū Valley

Located close to the Kohala coast, the scenic Pololū Valley offers visitors more than just its picturesque cliffside vistas and characteristic black sand beach. Those seeking to avoid the more crowded areas of the island can enjoy stunning panoramic views as well as a scenic hike into Pololū Valley itself.

  • Travel Tip: Although the steep but short hike along the Pololū Trail is well worth the effort, adventurous hikers can also enjoy a variety of beachside hiking trails that lead to other valleys in the area.
  • Fun Fact: From December to March, Pololū Valley is a well-known place for catching sight of humpback whales.

Papakōlea Beach

Papakōlea Beach is a don’t-miss spot for anyone visiting the Big Island. Despite being one of only four green sand beaches in the entire world, it manages to remain overlooked by most visitors because of its remote location. It does tend to be visited by some tourists and locals on the weekends, so if you are looking to escape the crowd you will need to get there early, but its sparking, olive-colored beaches are definitely worth the journey.

  • Travel Tip: Be ready to walk. The trek from the car park to the beach is more than two miles, and it is rated intermediate to strenuous.

Hiilawe Falls

Out of the few waterfalls on The Big Island, Hiilawe is undoubtedly one of the most dazzling. However, its secluded location and general inaccessibility make it an off-the-beaten-track tourist destination. Depending on the weather, the waterfall’s 1,200-foot flow might be little more than a slow trickle, but still worth it for those who are seeking a challenging experience.

  • Travel Tip: For vacationers not in pursuit of a rigorous hike, the best way to see the falls and surrounding rainforests is to take a helicopter ride.

Keawiki Bay

In terms of out-of-the-way destinations on the Island of Hawaii, unassuming Keawiki Bay is one of the most tourist-free places you can be. For intrepid explorers who manage to make their way through the recumbent and somewhat bleak lava fields, a serene atmosphere and exquisite black sand beaches await. The Golden Pools, named for their gold-colored algae, are another must-see on any visit to Keawiki Bay.

  • Travel Tip: Due to its uneven and rocky terrain, the hike to Keawiki Bay is fairly strenuous, so plan accordingly.

Mahai’ula Beach

Nestled into Kekaha State Park, the isolated but scenic Mahai’ula Beach is a sandy stretch of palm-lined shores that are as peaceful as they are welcoming. Ideal for beachgoers who are in pursuit of the perfect island setting, this hidden jewel is the perfect way to spend a day away from tourists.

  • Travel Tip: The access road that leads to Mahai’ula Beach also leads to secluded Makalawena Beach, so tourists are able to visit both on the same day.

Kamehameha Scenic Highway

The Big Island certainly has no shortage of scenic drives. One of the most picturesque, with its tropical mountain ranges, crystal aqua waters, and delicate, light-colored hues closing in on lava-covered landscapes, is the Kamehameha Scenic Highway. This provides tourists with multiple opportunities to get picture-perfect photographs of the Hawaiian landscape. There are also several historical sites to investigate, such as lava tubes and beautiful Keauhou Bay.

  • Travel Tip: Don’t miss the partially hidden lookout point on Kamehameha III Road, especially if you are there at sunset.

Kaumana Caves State Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is unquestionably one of the Big Island’s leading tourist attractions, but for those looking to explore a less populated lava landscape and possibly make their way through a lava tube created by Mauna Loa 150 years ago, Kaumana Caves State Park is the place to go.

  • Travel Tip: The hike is short but challenging. If you plan on exploring the caves, a flashlight and sturdy footwear are a must.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is another must-see spot for any visitor to Hawaii. On your way there, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is a spot on the island’s south coast that you won’t want to miss. Even though palm trees and volcanic black sands are readily accessible, the beach remains significantly less congested than other popular beaches.

  • Travel Tip: The beach is a known foraging spot for sea turtles, so keep your eyes peeled.

The Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube)

The Nāhuku, also known as the Thurston Lava Tube, is another hidden gem on the Island of Hawaii. These caves were conduits of molten lava rivers. At 500 years old, the Nāhuku is a Big Island attraction you don’t want to miss. The Nāhuku is easy to explore since the floor is flat, solid rock and the tube itself is lit.

  • Travel Tip: The Nāhuku is a good introduction to anyone interested in lava tubes because it is only 600 feet long.

Waialea Bay

Commonly called Beach 69, this hidden tropical paradise is a favorite among locals. Due to its somewhat obscure location, it is considered an alternative to many of the island’s more popular beaches. Visitors should bear in mind that Waialea is well-known among snorkelers and can attract quite a crowd, so if large groups are not your thing, make sure you get there early.

  • Travel Tip: While a summertime visit to Waialea is an unforgettable experience, in the winter, humpback whales and dolphins are often spotted.

Kaʻū Desert

Although it is a leeward desert rather than a true desert, the Kaʻū Desert is the only one of its kind on the Big Island. It is one of the non-tourist things to do in the southernmost district of the island. The sulfur dioxide in the area combined with the abundant rainfall causes acid rain to fall. The result is a landscape that closely resembles a desert.

  • Travel Tip: Don’t forget to take some pictures of the preserved human footprints.

Keawaiki’s Golden Pools

The Golden Pools of Keawaiki are a perfect escape from the commotion of daily life in the more densely populated regions of the Big Island. As are most of the uncommon tourist sights mentioned here, it can be a bit challenging to access. Visitors should be prepared for an arduous hike over the lava fields before they can see for themselves how the golden algae gives the Golden Pools of Keawaiki their name.

  • Travel Tip: The hike to the pools is extremely strenuous so be prepared.

Hawaii’s Future Island: Lōʻihi Seamount

As the islands traverse the Hawaii Islands Hotspot, new volcanos are created and old ones disappear. Eventually, every island will erode back into the ocean as brand-new islands surface. The next island expected to form is the still submerged Lōʻihi Seamount, which lies about 22 miles off the coast of the Island of Hawaii.

  • Travel Tip: Since Lōʻihi Island won’t be rising from the sea for another 10,000 years, there’s no real rush.


While we hope you never get injured while visiting or living in Hawaii, we are here if you ever need us. If you or a loved one sustained a serious injury while vacationing in Hawaii, you should reach out to one of our experienced Hawaii personal injury attorneys as soon as possible. Call the law firm of Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner at (808) 537-2525 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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