1. Pai’a, 2. Hana, 3. Lahaina, 4. Haleiwa, 5. Lana’i City, 6. Honoka’a, 7. Naalehu, 8. Kapa’a, 9. Koloa, 10. Hanalei. While your Hawaii itinerary will most likely include some of the best beaches and popular spots like Waikiki, spending some time in a small town allows you to experience a different side of island life — one where you can learn about the area's history and culture, shop at local farmers markets, sample Kona coffee and island wine, engage with the arts scene and even live like a Hawaiian cowboy for the day. Here are the best small towns in Hawaii that you should visit.
Pai’a is Maui’s hippie and surfer town, with plantation-era architecture. Some say its residents are still in their 70s, but visitors adore its many unique and interesting shops, galleries, and restaurants. Pai’a is located in the northeast corner of Maui’s central valley, a few miles east of Kahului’s airport and just before the start of the road to Hana. Pai’a’s center is located at the intersection of Hana Highway (Route 36) and Baldwin Avenue.
While in this area of the island, you can also see the windsurfers and big waves at Hookipa and spend some time in Maui’s cowboy town of Makawao. In and around Pai’a, there are several good beaches, including Baldwin Beach. Though Kuau, the edges of Haiku, and Spreckelsville are considered separate areas, they share the same zipcode and are referred to as Pai’a.
Relax in white sands and enjoy body surfing or play on grassy areas opposite Baldwin Beach Park on the southwest corner. Eat at Mama’s Fish House after a long day of surfing or sunbathing, but make reservations well in advance, up to 3-6 months. This is a testament to the delicious farm (or ocean) to table food served by the friendly muumuu-clad staff. Walk off your delicious fresh meal by visiting colorful fronted shops with unusual names like Aloha Bead Company, Maui Craft Guild, and Maui Hands, as well as art galleries like Cesere Brothers Photography and Art Project Pai’a.
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The peaceful town of Hana, located along Maui’s rugged eastern coastline, is considered one of the last unspoiled Hawaiian frontiers. The legendary road to Hana is only 52 miles from Kahului, but the journey can take anywhere from two to four hours due to narrow one-lane bridges, hairpin turns, and incredible island views. Visitors are encouraged to take a permitted tour led by professional guides to experience the road to Hana. The 620-curve Hana Highway (HI-360) has 59 bridges. The road takes you through lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, deep pools, and dramatic seascapes. Please keep in mind that you will encounter difficult turns and narrow bridges along the way, so proceed with caution and take your time.
Joining a tour relieves stress for both the driver and the passengers, making for a more enjoyable experience, and guides provide valuable insights into the surrounding area and its cultural history. There are numerous opportunities to stop and take in the beautiful scenery. While the journey is important, once you arrive in the lovely and peaceful town of Hana, you’ll understand why the journey was worthwhile. Joining a tour relieves stress for both the driver and the passengers, making for a more enjoyable experience, and guides provide valuable insights into the surrounding area and its cultural history. There are numerous opportunities to stop and take in the beautiful scenery. While the journey is important, once you arrive in the lovely and peaceful town of Hana, you’ll understand why the journey was worthwhile.
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One of Hawaii’s most historic towns is also one of the most eclectic… and unmistakably Maui. No visit to The Valley Isle would be complete without a stroll through the bustling port town of Lahaina, which is filled with art galleries, restaurants, souvenir shops, and historic gems. Lahaina is unquestionably must-see on Maui. Front Street is the main thoroughfare, which can be reached by turning left just before mile marker 20 on Honoapi’ilani Highway. Among the many attractions in Lahaina are the massive banyan tree, which takes up an entire city block, the historic Baldwin House, the old courthouse, and the old prison. It’s worth noting that if you’re looking for free parking, you might be disappointed. There are, however, a number of parking lots around town if you’re willing to pay (and avoid getting ticketed).
What is the main draw in Lahaina? To be honest, just being there! The town is extremely popular and has a reputation for being congested. There are numerous Lahaina activities, shopping, dining, and entertainment options to choose from. If retail therapy is on your Lahaina bucket list, there are a variety of shops to choose from, ranging from cheesy Hawaiian trinkets to beautiful locally crafted jewelry. Lahaina also has a well-deserved reputation as an artsy town, with a plethora of art galleries lining the streets, catering to every type of collector. If you’re looking for a unique souvenir to remember your Hawaiian vacation by, Lahaina’s art community has you covered.
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There are rural villages nestled along mountain slopes, historic plantation towns frozen in time, and coastal communities with epic beach access all over the beautiful islands, but none are as incredible as Haleiwa. There is so much to love about this charming coastal community in the Aloha State, whether you visit for a day or a week. Haleiwa – population: 4,589 – was founded in 1898 when businessman Benjamin Dillingham opened a hotel on Oahu’s north shore and named it Hale’iwa. It serves as the gateway to some of the world’s best surfing beaches.
Haleiwa town, with its laid-back vibe and plenty of charm, is home to incredible beaches, art galleries galore, adorable shops, stellar vacation rentals, and more mouthwatering restaurants than you could possibly visit in a single trip. Haleiwa is a safe, sleepy small town known for its creative vibe, Aloha Spirit, and breathtaking scenery. It is also a haven for big wave surfers, especially during the winter months when massive waves pound the shore.
Haleiwa is easily accessible by car from anywhere on the island of Oahu, and is located just an hour outside of the bustling tourist mecca of Waikiki. If you fly into Daniel K. Inouye International Airport from another island, the mainland, or elsewhere, visiting Haleiwa is as simple as picking up a rental car from any of the airport’s companies and driving 40 minutes into town. It’s easy to walk around the short stretch of Haleiwa Town, but you’ll want to rent a car for this weekend — to see the best of the North Shore, you’ll need to do some driving. The most distant destinations are 12 miles apart, and public transportation in this area is at best inconsistent.
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Lana’i City, located just three miles north of the airport, was established in the early 1900s as a plantation town at the heart of the island’s thriving pineapple industry. Lana’i used to produce 75 percent of the world’s pineapples, and the fruit is still celebrated in the city’s annual Pineapple Festival. Lana’i City, located in the central highlands of Lana’i and at an elevation of 1,700 feet, is noticeably cooler than the island’s coastal areas. Many of Lana’i City’s shops, restaurants, and businesses are located near Dole Park. This grassy area is a popular gathering, meeting, and picnic spot for locals. On a sunny afternoon, the park’s towering pines provide just the right amount of shade.
Lana’i City is also a great place to go for unique shopping, cheap dining, and learning about history and culture. Visit the Local Gentry, a small boutique clothing store with one-of-a-kind items. The Lana’i Art Center exhibits the work of local artists, ranging from ceramics to watercolors. Or are you interested in learning about Lana’i’s unique cultural history? Then, stop by the Lana’i Culture & Heritage Center for assistance in planning a visit to one of the many cultural and historical sites on Lana’i. Grab a cup of coffee from Coffee Works after window shopping or visiting cultural sites or pull up a chair at the Blue Ginger Café, Café 565, or Pele’s Other Garden for a true local dining experience. Enjoy the local entertainment and ambiance at Lana’i City Grille for entertainment. The Four Seasons Resort Lana’i also has additional dining and shopping options.
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Many tourists pass through Honoka’a on their way to Waipio Valley, but this small town is well worth stopping in for an afternoon. Honoka’a, like many other towns on Hawaii’s Big Island, grew as a result of the abundant and profitable sugarcane industry. However, the largest sugar company near Honoka’a closed in 1994, leaving a charming, quiet town that feels a million miles away from it all. This charming small town serves as the gateway to the Waipio Valley’s dramatic scenery. The historic Honokaa People’s Theatre, as well as a few local boutiques, an antique store, gift shops, and restaurants, can be found along its main street.
If you’re looking for a memorable souvenir, Taro Gifts is a great place to look. Tex Drive In, on the outskirts of town, is famous for its malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts). Honoka’a’s boardwalk is lined with restaurants, boutiques, and gift shops, making it ideal for a leisurely stroll, if only to stretch your legs. The timber-framed buildings resembling an old Western town — complete with Japanese building names, of course — are the epitome of rural Hawaii. If you only visit one place in town, make it Tex Drive-In. This local hangout is well-known for its malasadas, burgers, and Hawaiian cuisine. It may appear to be an odd combination, but the convenience of picking up a dozen malasadas with your lunch cannot be overstated.
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Plenty of small towns in Hawaii have a claim to fame, but Naalehu’s is the only one in the entire country. It is America’s southernmost town. Naalehu, Hawaii is a charming small town on the Big Island. Aside from its endless panoramic vistas and incredible black and green sand beaches, this town is also America’s southernmost. Naalehu is a small town with a population of just over 1,000 people. The town is well-known for its art scene, which includes art galleries, unique shops, a bakery, restaurants, an old theater, and a museum. Apart from the distinction of being America’s southernmost town, the beaches are the most well-known feature of Naalehu.
“Naalehu” translates to “volcanic beaches,” and the ones you can visit while in town are spectacular. Because of the constant volcanic activity, the island of Hawaii has both white and black sands. Mahana Beach, with its green sand, is a must-see on Big Island. The green tint in the sand is caused by green glassy crystals, which make up the majority of the sand on this beach. On the islands, olivine is known as “Hawaiian Diamond.” It is denser and more durable than ash fragments. The main attraction of the area is the green sand beach Mahana Beach (officially named Papaklea Beach). Visitors come from all over the islands and the world to see this rare and beautiful beach formed by Hawaiian volcanic activity. These stunning green crystals were formed by the eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano approximately 49,000 years ago. If you’re looking for more than just breathtaking scenery, Naalehu also has the Kau Forest Reserve.
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This east Kauai town is just north of Lihue and has a population of around 10,000 people. Kapa’a is a popular tourist destination with numerous hotels, condos, restaurants, and shops. The giant sleeps above the tops of Kapaa’s graceful coconut trees. The “Sleeping Giant” is just another name for an interesting formation on the Nounou Mountain range that can be seen from almost anywhere in Kapa’a. The beaches on Kapa’a are less crowded than others on the island, but swimming can be dangerous due to tricky currents. If you plan on staying in the area, make sure to check out the Waipouli Beach Resort.
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Koloa Town is a historic and charming destination on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It has a distinct blend of small-town charm, lush tropical scenery, and a rich cultural history, making it a popular tourist and visitor destination. This guide will help you make the most of your time in Old Koloa Town, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler.
Old Koloa Town is steeped in history, with a well-preserved record of Hawaiian life dating back to the early nineteenth century. Koloa Town has a lot to offer those who want to learn about its history. Its rustic buildings, which include notable landmarks such as an old store, mill house ruins, and missionary sites, can be explored. There are also fascinating museums dedicated to the region’s rich culture and heritage, including enthralling displays of memorabilia related to Hawaiian royalty and explorers of the past. Throughout the year, Koloa Town also hosts a variety of exhibits such as traditional Hawaiian music performances, hula shows, and art shows. Whatever brings someone to Old Koloa Town, they are sure to have a good time and make some wonderful memories.
Traveling to Koloa Town from the north, east, or west is relatively simple, and the best route will take you along the scenic Kaumuali’i Highway. The highway is a beautiful way to get to your destination, winding through stretches of woodland and quaint villages. Don’t forget to stop by one of the scenic viewpoint areas for a photo opportunity or to pick up some fresh local fruit – no Hawaiian vacation would be complete without it!
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Hanalei Town is located on Kauai’s north shore, west of Princeville. This lovely small town is graced with timeless beauty and is home to everything from historic sites to contemporary art galleries. Hanalei Town is an unforgettable stop on your Kauai vacation. Visit the Waioli Mission House to immerse yourself in Kauai’s history. Browse the art galleries in Hanalei for Kauai-made art and carvings made from rare, native Hawaiian woods. Locals and visitors alike flock to Hanalei for regular ukulele concerts at the Hanalei Community Center.
Fields of taro (“kalo” in Hawaiian) can be found at the foot of Hanalei’s misty green mountains. These heart-shaped plants grow in flooded patches and are used to make poi, a Hawaiian staple starch that can be found at any Kauai luau. The Hanalei Valley Lookout provides an excellent view of this emerald quilt of land. Please keep in mind that these taro farms are on private property, so only visit them on an authorized farm tour.
The historic Hanalei Pier, which was built in 1892, has long been a favorite gathering place for locals who come to fish, swim, and play music on Hanalei Bay. Oscar Hammerstein II and 20th Century Fox featured the pier in the classic film “South Pacific” in 1957, making it world famous. After a day of exploring Hanalei Town’s history and charm, sit back, relax, and watch the sunset over Hanalei Bay.
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