Hawaii is easily one of the most popular American destinations for tourists worldwide. Visitors spent over $14 billion in the Hawaiian Islands in 2012 alone. While the touristy attractions are always fun, why not check out some lesser-known local favorites?
Whether you’re a resident, planning a move to Hawaii, or just visiting, take a look at these 10 awesome ways to enjoy the island life.
Head to Manoa Falls. Even though it’s just 10 minutes north of Honolulu, this day trek will make you feel like you are anywhere but a tourist spot. Manoa Falls can be seen up close by hiking the mile-long path to the top. The walk is about more than just reaching the destination, however. The trail is full of flora and fauna and framed by tall bamboo and rainforest greenery as far as the eye can see.
Eat a Loco Moco. This unique Hawaiian twist on a hamburger is unlike anything you will find on the mainland. The loco moco is made up of a hamburger steak, eggs, and rice. The entire concoction is covered in gravy. The origins of this particular dish are unknown but you can order one on the Big Island in Hilo at Café 100.
Hike the Waipio Valley. Located on the Big Island, the name Waipio translates to “curved water.” You will see plenty of lush greenery, a waterfall, and Hawaiian birds on the hike down to a place where ancient Hawaiian kings once met. The 25 percent grade on the way back up will certainly earn you the chance to chow down at a luau.
Hit up the farmers’ markets. For a taste of real Hawaiian produce, milk products, and meats, head to a farmers’ market or two. While items like raspberries, grapes, and even potatoes are tough to find locally, there are plenty of options in pineapples, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, and papaya. If you are on the Big Island, check out the daily offerings at the Keaau Village Market. On Oahu, check out the Kakaako Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings. In Maui, head to the Lipoa Street Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.
Go camping. Skip the resorts and opt instead for a down-to-earth camping experience. The great thing about going this route is that Hawaiian campsites are low-cost and many are right at the water’s edge. You can also move from one campsite to the next and create your own tour. Bring a tent of your own, or rent an RV or cabin when you arrive. For a truly breathtaking experience, plan to stay for at least one night in Volcanoes National Park.
Check out Chinatown. It’s well-known that Japanese culture has had a profound influence on life in Hawaii, but there is also plenty to observe from the Chinese. In recent years, Oahu’s Chinatown has undergone some positive changes that make it a different and fun way to spend an afternoon. Check out the shops and galleries along Nuuanu Avenue and pick up a custom-made surfboard designed by local wave-riding legends.
Get refreshed. You don’t have to look very far to find one of Hawaii’s signature sweets: shaved ice. What sets the Hawaiian version of this tasty treat apart from mainland versions is the scoop of azuki beans or ice cream in the bottom of the cone. Try pineapple or mango flavoring on top and crunch away to cool off.
Kayak at Kailua Beach.This is one of the more popular spots for locals and tourists alike. In addition to sunbathing and splashing, Kailua is a great spot for kayaking. There are rental options for kayaks that can be navigated 1.5 miles off the shore to the Mokulua Islands, which are actually two small mountains. The calm waters of Kailua Beach make it an excellent choice for families with children who want to get in the water without being knocked to the ground by the current.
Horseback ride in Hana. If your travels take you to Maui, be sure to build in an afternoon to tour the Hana area of the island on horseback. Head to the Maui Stables for expert tour guides and instruction on how to properly ride a horse if you are new to the experience. The great thing about a horseback tour is that it allows you a walking view of Maui with a little less effort.
Slow down. If you want a truly Hawaiian experience, remember that life moves at a slower speed on the Islands. Did you know that residents of Hawaii live three years longer than the national average? The laid-back, Island style of the residents is something you should try to emulate if you want a true taste of what life in Hawaii is all about.
Most of the attractions in Hawaii are based on the beautiful beaches, landscapes, and culture—so even “tourist traps” are often worth seeing. If you are looking for a more authentic Hawaiian experience, however, head to the places on this list to see the Islands the way the locals do.
What Hawaiian experience do you think is the best kept secret?