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Five of Hawaii's hidden gems
While millions of visitors flock to Hawaii's fabled golden shores, there are a number of sights around the state that are well-off the typical tourist map - and well worth a visit when in town.
Papohaku Beach, Moloka'i
Stoically occupying the west end of the island of Moloka'i, Papohaku Beach is one of the largest white sand beaches in the state of Hawaii, minus all of the crowds. Nearly three miles long and 100 yards wide, a day with more than 6 people is a crowded day at Papohaku. Visitors can gaze across the Kaiwi channel towards neighboring Oahu, its one million residents and crowded beaches merely an afterthought in this isolated corner of paradise. While campers must obtain a state permit for the campground, casual visits to this expanse of sand are free of charge.
Mo'okini Heiau, birthplace of King Kamehameha, Hawai'i
The first person to unite the Hawaiian Islands under a single system of rule, the journey of the revered King Kamehameha the Great began on this windswept pastureland out on Upolu Point. Set just outside of the sprawling Mo'okini heiau, an ancient Hawaiian temple erected in 480 A.D. to Ku., the Hawaiian God of War, a small sign marks where Kamehameha was born in 1858. The sight is reachable via the Upolu airport road, though the final two miles to the heiau are on an uneven dirt road, and four-wheel drive is highly recommended if the road is wet or muddy. Hiking is a good backup option. Free admission.
The "Blue Room", Kaua'i
Tucked away in the verdant jungles of northern Kaua'i, the "Blue Room" is a fresh-water pool that perfectly catches the sunlight, illuminating an exquisite shade of blue to the cold waters within. Located a short walk up a narrow, muddy trail, the combination of the lush green rainforest, vibrantly colored tropical flowers, and ice-blue water inside of the cave create a hidden treasure on Kaua'i that is literally minutes off of the normally beaten path. Free Admission.
Paliku Cabin, Maui
While thousands of visitors annually make the pre-dawn pilgrimage to witness the sunrise from the summit of Maui's Haleakala Volcano, few venture down into the intricate network of hiking trails that line the crater floor of Haleakala National Park. Aside from the alien landscape and multi-hued cinder cones exploding from the nearby trails, there are three well maintained cabins inside of the crater that are available for public use, the most stunning of which is Paliku. This quaint cabin at 6,300 ft features an exquisitely lush landscape, and wild nene geese patrol the mist-shrouded hillside. Cabins in the park can be reserved at https://fhnp.org/wcr for a fee of $75/night.
Kaunolu Fishing VIllage, Lana'i
Little more than a rocky outcropping at the base of towering sea cliffs, this National Historic Landmark was once the site of a thriving village that was the recreation center of royalty. A favorite fishing spot of Kamehameha, Kaunolu also features "Kahekili's Leap", a spot from which warriors would throw themselves off of a 60 ft. cliff into the bay below to prove their valor. Exceptionally remote, Trilogy Excursions offers snorkeling trips to Kaunolu and the southwestern coastline of Lana'i. ($150/day)