Hawaii has plenty to offer for the adventure-seeking outdoor lover, from the surf and sand to the volcano fields and snorkeling opportunities. It's one of the best places on earth to visit for a tropical, paradise-like getaway. While on your Hawaiian adventures, you'll want to spend time exploring the bigger cities and resorts, make sure you don't miss out on the charm and unique experiences offered by Hawai's smaller towns. From luscious rainforests to amazing nighttime snorkeling, these towns offer it all.
Lahaina, which means "relentless sun," is a historic community that was once a whaling village. Today, many people come to book a sunset cruise to do some whale watching, which is nothing short of breathtaking. Make it a full day by taking in one of the art galleries and enjoying the nightclubs that party on into the morning. This is a city that seems to always have an event, festival, or other activity taking place.
Home to around 1,000 people, Na'alehu is a somewhat remote community in the southern portion of the Big Island. Noted for its proximity to the Volcanoes National Park, it's easy enough to drive through the area to see the flourishing wildlife and stunning forests surrounding skyscraper-like volcanoes. The Na'alehu Sugar Plantation, which dates to the 1870s, is still present, and tours may be available. The jagged coastline makes for a breathtaking backdrop for selfies, too.
Just about nine miles from Maui, Lanai City is a much different place with its more remote and far less tourism-centric amenities. Rent a Jeep in the city to take to the beaches for a fun adventure like no other. While you're here, you can also sip a fabulous cocktail while sunbathing. Though it's a secluded island getaway, home to the latest pineapple plantation in the world, its dense forests, hilly terrain, and muddy paths make it a truly heart-pounding experience.
With under 450 people calling Hanalei home, it's truly a small town without a whole lot to do, and that's the point. Located just to the west of Princeville, this peaceful, historic settlement has a stunning beach. The 1958 film South Pacific featured scenes filmed in Hanalei. Put on some hiking gear and head out into the Hanalei Valley to find a few waterfalls to explore. When relaxation is top-of-the-mind, the lava rock terraces and lush gardens make Hanalei both relaxing and invigorating.
Even as you set out to tour small towns in Hawaii, don't overlook the adventures they may offer, including one of the most sought-after surfing villages in the world. Haleiwa has about 4500 residents and is home to the North Shore beaches, including Waimea Beach Park. The waves at this beach are intense, creating a sense of exhilaration for even the most seasoned surfer. Beginners should check out Haleiwa Beach Park as its relatively calmer waves offer the perfect training ground.
This small town of under 800 people is close to Hawaii Volcanic National Park, which provides stunning views and ash-covered fields. However, jumping in a Jeep for a tour of the rainforest areas here is even better. Hike along the trails, do some birdwatching and take in the serenity that is the sound of nature.
Kapa'a is small but boasts several artisan shops, boutiques, and art galleries along the Kinipopop Shopping Village and Wailua Shopping Plaza. You may be able to shop anywhere in Hawaii, but this remote, relaxed experience, where you can often chat with those producing the items being sold, is relaxing. While here, hike to Opaekaa Falls and make sure to consider some kayaking at Wailua River State Park.
Hawi is said to be the ideal place to restore your spirit, thanks to its lush surroundings, peaceful, retreat-like places to stay, and small, free-spirited artistic residents. There are beaches here ideal for snorkeling in lesser-disturbed areas, and the Hawi Farmer's Market features some of the freshest foods you'll find in the region.
Hana is the ideal choice for those who want to explore the natural beauty of Hawaii up close. It's possible to rent an ATV and see the rainforest, waterfalls, and tropical foliage, but why not do it on horseback instead? Hana Ranch offers regional trail riding opportunities that take you onto the beaches to some outstanding ocean views. Waianapanapa State Park is also the perfect place for adventure-seekers who want to hike and explore the area's caves.
Start your trek into the town of Koloa through the Tunnel of Trees, towering eucalyptus trees on either side of the main route into the city. Once here, stop at the plantation, considered the oldest sugarcane plantation in the state. There's an open-air museum to explore that provides an in-depth look at the growth of the sugarcane plantations in the area that began as early as 1835.
Snorkeling is a popular activity throughout Hawaii, but in Kailua-Kona, going nighttime snorkeling with manta rays is a whole new experience. Several local companies also provide nighttime cruises worth exploring, especially for the brightly colored coral reefs. For history lovers, don't skip a tour of Mokuaikaua Church, which dates to the 1800s.
Waimea is a seaport town that's one of the oldest in the region, dating back to the mid-1700s. This historic village is quaint, and though it's close enough to some larger beaches, you'll find the area fascinating, whether it's the Capital James Cook statue or the West Kaua'i Technology and Visitor Center, where you can learn about the region's past. Though it's becoming more modern, the seaport is quaint.
Kaunakakai is an outdoor adventurer's paradise with snorkeling and fishing available. What's best, though, is the kayaking. Local companies offer some great lessons, and anyone who visits will appreciate this two-hour kayaking trip from Kaunakakai through the coastline. The white sand beaches, and the coral reef, make it a stunning experience.
For something quirky to do, visit Makawao, a small town that's known for its paniolo, which is its Hawaiian cowboy culture. You can ride horses, explore the area's ranches, and even take in the Makawao Rodeo on the weekends. Be sure to see the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center, too.
Home to about 700 people, Waikane is an area of deep valleys and towering, jagged coastlines. It's not for those who are just learning to mountain climb, but for those with some skill, the views at the top of the Kaneohe Bay are fantastic.