Hidden Hawaii: Seven Unique Experiences You Don’t Want to Miss

Beyond the world-famous beaches and beautiful sunsets, Hawaii is teeming with off-the-beaten-path experiences that showcase the stunning landscapes and rich culture of the islands. Here are a few of our must-see favorites.

Hawaii off the beaten pathMAUI: Black Sand Beach

Situated off the scenic Hana Highway, Waiʻanapanapa State Park is one of Maui’s most picture-worthy destinations. You’ll want to spend an entire day exploring the sparkling tide pools, freshwater streams, caves, trails and ample seabird viewing opportunities.

The park’s most striking feature is its beautiful black sand beach, nestled in a sheltered cove and surrounded by lush green foliage. Created over millennia of surf crashing down on bubbling lava flow, the area is unique on the island, rare in the world and a must-see while on Maui.

Hawaii off the beaten pathKAUAI: Wailua Falls

Hawaii is home to some of the world’s most majestic waterfalls, but the dramatic and double-tiered Wailua Falls stands out as one of the islands’ most picturesque. Located a short drive inland from Kauai’s eastern shore, the falls are easily accessible by car.

Step up to the scenic overlook, and you’ll feel immersed in the natural beauty of the Garden Isle. When the sunlight hits the mist just right, you may even see a stunning waterfall rainbow.

Hawaii off the beaten pathHAWAI’I ISLAND: Lapakahi State Historical Park

Step back in time 600 years and explore a traditional fishing village on Hawai‘i Island’s rugged northwest coast. Located on a scenic stretch of rocky shoreline amid swaying palms and lava stone walls, the historic settlement features restored hale (houses), as well as artifacts like stone tools and games. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the life of early Hawaiians.

As you stroll along the seaside trails, keep an eye on the ocean. The surrounding waters are part of a Marine Life Conservation District, and from January to March, you may spot a humpback whale spouting or breaching in the distance.

Quick Tip:

The park has minimal shade, so visit in the early morning to avoid the heat and bring plenty of water. A one-mile, self-guided tour is available.

Hawaii off the beaten pathMAUI: Hana Lava Tube

One of the most intriguing stops on the famous Road to Hana, the Ka‘eleku Caverns offers you the chance to walk through a nearly 1,000-year-old lava tube. Also known as the Hana Lava Tube, this geological wonder was formed when the outer layer of molten lava flow cooled and hardened more quickly than the lava stream in the center, forming a tunnel.

As you explore, you can see unique lava formations including pillars, stalagmites and even lava that hardened mid-fall.  Think of it as spelunking, Hawaiian style.

Quick Tip:

Wear shoes with a good grip and grab a flashlight at the Visitor Center to help you navigate. Self-guided tours are available.

Hawaii off the beaten pathKAUAI: Kauai Hindu Monastery

Tucked away at the end of a scenic mountain road — and not far from Wailua Falls — lies Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, one of the island’s most surprising and best-kept secrets. While monks live and meditate here, the monastery welcomes visitors.

While you’re there, you can stroll through the traditional Hindu sacred garden teeming with exotic plants and flowers, including bamboo, orchids and plumeria. The monastery grounds also feature tranquil reflecting pools, serene meditation spots and ornate architecture, including a hand-sculpted white granite Iraivan temple currently under construction.

Quick Tip:

The monastery is open to guests from 9 a.m. to noon daily. A weekly guided tour is offered; alternatively, self-guided tour materials are available. As you will be visiting a spiritual site, wear modest clothing that covers your legs and shoulders.

Hawaii off the beaten pathOAHU: Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Located in the idyllic Waimea Valley on Oahu’s North Shore, the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden showcases an extensive array of native Hawaiian plants and flowers. Enjoy a leisurely walk through 300 acres of natural splendor encompassing 41 themed gardens, the Kamananui Stream and a 45-foot waterfall with swimming pond.

Along the way, you’ll also pass by archaeological sites that tell the story of the island’s history and culture. It’s the perfect place to take a quiet stroll surrounded by Oahu’s gorgeous greenery.

Hawaii off the beaten pathMAUI: A Volcano Winery

When you think of Hawaii, fine wine might not be the first thing that jumps to mind. That’s why you’ll be happily surprised when you visit MauiWine and its Ulupalakua Vineyards. Perched on the southern slopes the Haleakalā Volcano, the grapes are nourished by the rich volcanic soil and thrive in the temperate climate. These unique growing conditions make for exceptional wines, born and bottled on Maui.

Take a tour or savor a tasting while enjoying the beautiful premises, historical buildings and sense of place each glass imparts. The vineyard also produces pineapple wine, a popular alternative made with fresh cut fruit.