10 Hawai’i Scenic Spots You (Probably) Haven’t Visited Yet

Published: July 1, 2022

So, you think you’ve visited all of the breathtaking must-sees in Hawai’i? You’ve been to Waimea Canyon on Kaua’i, the Nu’uanu Pali lookout on O’ahu and the Haleakalā volcano summit on Maui. You’ve even watched the evening glow of lava at Halema’uma’u crater on Hawai’i Island. But, are there any Hawai’i scenic spots you haven’t seen yet, but should? The answer is always “Yes”. Whether you’re a first-time Hawai’i visitor, or have been to the Islands so many times you’re practically a resident, there’s always more to see. This list is for you:

Napoli Coast Courtesy TravMedia/Hawaii Tourism Authority Photo by Tor Johnson

He’eia Fishpond, O’ahu

In the late 1700s, numbering in the hundreds along coastlines of the Hawaiian Islands, loko i’a, or Hawaiian fishponds, like He’eia on O’ahu’s Windward Coast are now a rare sight. He’eia, a kuapā (walled-style fishpond) believed to have been constructed by area settlers between 600 and 800 years ago, corrals 88 acres of brackish water with a 1.3-mile lava rock seawall designed to trap, fatten and herd ocean fish. The nonprofit organization Paepae o He’eia (Hawaiian for “support of He’eia”) has been carefully restoring the fishpond since 2001, offering walking tours and volunteer workdays to pitch in with restoration.       

Courtesy photo

Hulē’ia River, Kaua’i

Bordered on its west bank by the sentinel-like Ha’upu mountain range, the Hulē’ia River navigates a verdant east Kaua’i valley once used for growing kalo (taro) and rice. Since 1973, more than 241 acres of the river valley have been closed to the public and managed by the Hulē’ia National Wildlife Refuge for the protection of endangered native waterbirds that nest and feed along the river. But kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders are allowed to traverse the river as it runs through the refuge revealing some of the island’s richest flora and fauna scenery along the way.     

Hanalei River with waterfalls of Mount Waialeale in background Photo by Tor Johnson

 Ka’ena Point, O’ahu

O’ahu’s westernmost point is home to one of the last intact sand dune ecosystems in the eight main Hawaiian Islands, with more than 60 acres of it protected by the state as an ecosystem restoration project for endangered seabirds and native coastal plants. A two-hour easygoing ocean view trek is the only way in, rewarding hikers with panoramic vistas of the island’s leeward and northwest coastlines, and even the occasional sighting of a rare Hawaiian monk seal resting on the protected dunes.

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Kalaupapa Peninsula, Moloka’i

There’s basically three ways to get to Moloka’i’s remote Kalaupapa Peninsula: by plane touching down on the settlement’s tiny airstrip, atop a mule descending the peninsula’s precipitous sea cliffs via a 3.5-mile switchback trail, or hiking that same switchback. Once at the stunningly beautiful peninsula, created by a late-stage eruption long after the slow erosion of the sea cliffs to their majestic appearance today, catch your breath, take in Kalauapapa National Historical Park and enjoy the silent splendor of nature’s wonder.  

Courtesy TravMedia/Hawaii Tourism Authority

Keonehe’ehe’e (aka “Sliding Sands”) Trail, Maui

Though one of the most scenic of a handful of trails descending into the maw of Haleakalā volcano’s 10,023-foot summit erosional valley, Keonehe’ehe’e is a trek not often taken by Haleakalā National Park’s million-plus annual visitors. The trail isn’t dangerous. It just takes a hardy hiker to descend 2,600 feet over 4 miles to the valley floor and hike back up the same way, all while breathing in the summit’s low-oxygen high-altitude air. The payoff, though, is worth it. Surrounding oneself in the valley’s gorgeously otherworldly rust-colored natural wonder.  

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 Limahuli, Allerton and McBryde Gardens, Kaua’i

As individually distinctive as they are visually arresting, these three gardens managed by the nonprofit National Tropical Botanical Garden organization are hidden Kaua’i gems. Limahuli Garden and Preserve restores the native and canoe plant terraces of an early Hawaiian agricultural valley on the island’s verdant north shore. Allerton Garden is a tranquil, surprise-filled marriage of ornamental and tropical flora, art and landscape design. Bordering Allerton on Kaua’i’s south shore, McBryde Garden is home to a growing collection of tropical flora from Hawai’i and around the world. All are worth a visit.

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Old Māmalahoa Highway, Hawai’i Island

Once the main road connecting Hilo, Waimea and the many Hāmākua Coast sugar-plantation towns between them, the still-drivable, back-in-time scenic remnants of this century-old highway are worth seeking out for folks with time for slow driving and exploring. Its multi-length segments wind through rainforests, over mountain-stream-crossing bridges, and past rugged coastline, small towns and old sugar mill remnants, occasionally passing beneath the modern highway’s tall overpasses. Short on time? Drive Old Māmalahoa Highway’s easy-to-find 5-mile “Scenic Route” section, just north of Hilo.

Courtesy TravMedia/Hawaii Tourism Authority Photo by Dana Edumunds

Pu’u Huluhulu on the Maunakea-Maunaloa Saddle, Hawai’i Island

On a clear, blue-sky morning, the short, gentle hike up this unassuming cinder cone pu’u (hill), on the high-elevation land saddle between Hawai’i’s two highest mountains, delivers some of the island’s best scenery. An initial stroll through a lovely koa forest midway up the 200-foot pu’u first opens to a stunning view of Maunaloa volcano to the south, before ending dramatically at Huluhulu’s summit with an uber-panoramic view of Maunakea volcano and the vast saddle.

Pu’u Pehe, Lāna’i

You won’t see this picturesque natural landmark from the lovely white sands of popular south shore beach and bay, Hulopo’e. But walk a brief shoreline trail east from Hulopo’e and suddenly Pu’u Pehe appears, rising 80 feet from the offshore shallows. Don’t even think of making a swim for this sea stack (also known as “Sweetheart Rock”) though. Pu’u Pehe’s beauty is best admired from shore, preferably at dawn when the sun rises behind it and you can scope for honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) or spinner dolphins near the bay.

Waimoku Falls and Pīpīwai Trail, Maui

Waimoku Falls, at 400-feet Maui’s tallest cascade and a simply breathtaking slice of nature by any measure, is the final reward at the end of the Pīpīwai Trail’s two-mile length. Your other rewards on this trek into Haleakalā National Park’s Kipahulu section? Taking in the increasing tropical rainforest lushness of ‘Ohe’o Gulch as you traverse deeper into it on the way to the falls. A tranquil boardwalk section winding under the canopy of a picturesque bamboo forest as if nature itself created it. And another stunning waterfall along the way: 185-foot Makahiku Falls.

Courtesy photo, Kauai

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About The Author
Kathy Strong
Kathy Strong
PS Wish You Were Here Travel is published by veteran travel writer Kathy Strong. Strong has spent the last 30 years authoring more than 20 travel guidebooks. In addition, she wrote a weekly newspaper travel column “Going My Way” for a decade and has contributed to several magazines such as USA Today publications and AARP. Her most recent travel guidebook, SECRET SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA , is a popular guide to off-the-beaten-path adventures. PS Wish You Were Here Travel spans the globe, featuring national and international travel opportunities and focusing on unique explorations.
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