Known for its pristine beaches, laid-back living and breathtaking sunsets, Hawaii is a dream vacation for most people. But between the resorts, traffic and crowded beaches, visiting the islands can feel more like a week at the office than a tropical getaway.
Head off the beaten path to these destinations and skip the crowds.
1. Head to Molokai for a True Taste of Hawaii
For a true taste of Hawaii, visit Molokai. The island is the least developed and the least touristed – and the locals want to keep it that way.
You won’t find big resorts or fine restaurants on Molokai, but you will find untouched beauty and peace.
While you’re exploring the island, head to Halawa Valley on the east tip. Nature lovers will appreciate the untouched beauty of the valley, which was the home of Polynesian settlers for more than a thousand years.
If you plan to hike in the valley, you’ll need to a hire a local guide from a local tour operator in town.
2. Swim with the Sharks in Oahu’s North Shore
Forget swimming with the dolphins – put swimming with the sharks at the top of your list of things to do in Hawaii.
Head on up to Oahu’s North Shore, where you can catch some waves and do a little cage diving. A few charter operations offer shark encounter experiences, which puts divers in a metal cage in shark-infested waters.
While great for thrill-seekers, shark encounters also educate swimmers on the need for conservation and the dwindling shark population.
3. Enjoy Some Peace and Quiet at Haleakala Volcano
The quietest place on earth is the crater of Haleakala volcano, located in Maui’s Haleakala National Park. On some days, park rangers can’t even get a decibel reading at the crater.
What makes the crater so quiet? For starters, some areas are completely devoid of life. The altitude also changes the way sound moves, and certain areas offer shelter from the wind.
4. Visit Local Farmers Markets and Attend Local Events
Mingle with the locals and get a taste of the local produce at the farmers markets. Most communities on the islands host farmers markets, and most are easy to walk to. Enjoy a cup of coffee and get some breakfast while you’re there.
While you’re there, find out what’s going on around town. From festivals to musical performances and fairs, there’s sure to be an event going on nearby.
5. Visit Sunset Beach
Offering two miles of white sand beaches, Sunset Beach is a must-see for visitors of Oahu. The beach is known for its spectacular sunsets, but visitors can also enjoy snorkeling, swimming, surfing and sunbathing on the shores.
In the winter months, Sunset Beach hosts the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing , where surfers take on waves as high as 30-feet.
6. Face Your Fears at the Curtain of Fire
A wall of erupting magma is enough to make any adventurer face their fears. Located in Pahoa, Hawaii, you’ll find the world’s most active volcano: Kilauea. This active shield volcano last erupted in 1983 and it’s still ongoing.
When you venture to the volcano, it will be different than it is right now.
The volcano changes daily, and it’s best to view the volcano from the Jagger museum at the Volcano National Park.
If you have three hours to spare, this is a volcano to go explore. You can visit the National Park via car, and this is the recommended option. There’s an 11-mile road that allows you to explore Kilauea volcano along the Crater Rim Drive.
You’ll pass through a tropical rainforest, and you can stop for short walks or you can pass through the desert, too.
But you’ll want to make sure that the drive is open because it may close due to volcanic activity, which can put guests in danger. There’s also an abundance of trails that await adventurers who want to explore the craters and volcanoes on their own.
It’s hard to have a bad time in Hawaii, even if you’re staying at a popular resort during peak travel season. But for a unique experience and a chance to mingle with the locals, head off the beaten path and experience the islands in a whole new way.