You can scour travel books and websites for advice about exciting Hawaii vacations, but nothing beats finding the small little hidden pockets of Hawaiian gems. For me, it is these little adventures that make a Hawaiian getaway unique, unforgettable and special. And you won’t have to shell out huge sums of money to have a taste of the “real” Hawaii—not the Hawaii painted by guidebooks—but the beautiful islands on which 1.36 million people call home.
I scream for Ice Cream
I’ve never been a fan of coconuts, unless they came in the form of a pina coladas or Coconut Glen’s Ice Cream. Hands down, it’s one of the best ice cream products I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying. Made from fresh coconuts, his ice cream and candy products are all 100% natural, organic and vegan! Requiring a bit of a trip to Mile 27 ½ Hana Highway in Maui, you’ll find a humble shack where you can enjoy scoop out delicious ice cream using a coconut spoon made from coconut husk out of a bowl made from coconut shells beneath the beautiful Hawaiian sun. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you should try the Chili Chocolate Chipotle—you won’t be disappointed.
Fresh Pick of the Season
A little off the beaten path, as many would say, but definitely worth the trek is Tropical Farms on the eastern coast of Oahu. Get yourself on this one-hour tour led by an in-house comedian named “The Chief” and you’ll get a crash course about Hawaiian culture. On this short, but compact tour, you’ll get a chance to see the entire farm, learn how to start a fire (without a lighter) and how to open a coconut, enjoy a boat ride on a fishpond where you’ll get a mini history lesson, and a tour of fruit trees. The best part of this entire tour: hands down, the chance to try fresh guava and star fruits right off the trees themselves.
A Valley of Peace and Serenity
Built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, the Byodo-In Temple is a replica of the temple in Uji, Japan. As a non-denominational Buddhist temple, it is the perfect place for any visitor to come and pray, meditate or just enjoy the natural grounds on which this temple is built. Surrounded by large koi ponds and home to peacocks, black sans, and kois, the Byodo-In Temple boasts serene meditation niches for those looking for a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. Against the backdrop of Ko’olau Mountains, I can’t think of a more beautiful or peaceful place to meditate and reflect.
Cathedrals Under the Sea
And I mean this literally. About 45 minutes off the Southern coast of Lanai are underwater Cathedrals that make for amazing diving sites (please keep in mind, these sites are much more suited for intermediate and advanced divers). There are two Cathedrals that are of interest here: the first includes a 100-foot long lava tube that’s about two stories in height; the second (at a depth of about 15-65 feet) is home to an abundance of marine life and features visibility of up to 100 feet. Of all the marvels and beauty of the nature above the world, it is these underwater majestic adventures that amaze me the most. Untouched by human technology and free of industrial development, I think it’s an understatement to say that words cannot describe the beauty that lives beneath.
Garden of the Gods
Otherwise known as Keahiakawelo, it is a rock garden located about 7 miles from Lanai City (please note that due to dirt roads, only 4-wheel drive vehicles are recommended for this trek). Littered with rocks (to all my geology buffs out there, excuse my colloquialism) of all shapes and sizes, the landscape void of any vegetation looks as if it recently rained of rocks. There are a number of legends that have been constructed to tell the tale of how these rocks got here, but one thing is clear: the combination of crusted lava surface and eerie rock formations make this site a red-orange geological gem!
Now all of these little gems that I’ve suggested are all a bit off the beaten path so make sure you’re prepared for the journey (with plenty of gas, comfortable walking shoes, and ample water). But I promise you this much, that your journey to these hidden pockets in Hawaii will not be a waste of your time. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Hidden Hawaiian Gems!
This guest post was written by Leslie. Obsessed with new adventures in new places, great food and good company, she describes herself as a simple girl from a big city looking to assert her imaginative vision against the creatures of the common place, in hopes of finding something extraordinary in the process.