Best Towns & Cities in Hawaii

The islands that make up the state of Hawaii offer a variety of scenery, cultures, and histories. While big cities like Honolulu are worth a visit, towns across the islands offer wonderful slices of Hawaiian life. From Haleiwa to Hanalei, here are some of the best towns & cities in Hawaii as voted by readers and recognized in 2019 Reader’s Choice Awards.

Best Towns & Cities in Hawaii

Key Takeaways

  • Hawaii is home to a variety of charming towns and attractive cities
  • Top cities in Hawaii offer picturesque landscapes and hidden gems
  • Must-visit towns in Hawaii provide unique experiences and cultural immersion
  • These beautiful towns are popular among locals and tourists alike
  • Discover the best places to live in Hawaii for a fulfilling Hawaiian lifestyle

Haleiwa, Oahu

Haleiwa, located 30 miles north of Honolulu on the island of Oahu, is a town that has retained its old-world charm. Developed amid sugar plantations, Haleiwa is now renowned as the surfing capital of the world. With world-class waves attracting experienced surfers, the town also offers opportunities for all travelers to enjoy the pristine water and locally-owned shops.

“Haleiwa is a hidden gem for surfers. The waves here are simply incredible!” – Mark, avid surfer

Surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of Oahu’s North Shore, Haleiwa provides the perfect setting for surf enthusiasts and beach lovers. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner looking to catch your first wave, the breaks in Haleiwa deliver an unforgettable experience. The town’s warm and welcoming atmosphere, coupled with its picturesque beaches, make it an ideal destination for surfers and travelers alike.

Aside from its world-famous surf spots, Haleiwa is home to a vibrant local community and a treasure trove of unique shops and boutiques. Take a stroll along the historic Haleiwa Town Center and discover an array of surf shops, art galleries, and quaint eateries serving delicious local cuisine.

Local Surf Spots

  • Puaena Point
  • Ali’i Beach Park
  • Waimea Bay
  • Turtle Bay

Whether you’re a surfer chasing the perfect wave or simply seeking a laid-back beach town with a rich cultural heritage, Haleiwa offers something special for everyone. Don’t miss the chance to experience the spirit of aloha in the surfing capital of the world.

Month Average Wave Height (ft) Best Time to Visit
January 15-20 Peak winter swell
April 10-15 Spring swells
July 2-6 Summer surf
October 6-10 Fall swells

Naalehu, Hawaii

Naalehu, located on the island of Hawaii, proudly holds the distinction of being the southernmost spot in the USA. Situated on the edge of the magnificent Kau forest reserve, this vibrant small town offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the island. With the majestic Mauna Loa volcano in its backdrop, Naalehu provides a unique and awe-inspiring experience.

Naalehu is a haven for nature enthusiasts, with lush greenery, breathtaking views, and diverse wildlife. Travelers can explore the Kau forest reserve, hike through picturesque trails, and discover hidden waterfalls nestled within the enchanting landscape. The town’s tranquil atmosphere and pristine surroundings make it an ideal destination for those seeking serenity and outdoor adventure.

In addition to its natural wonders, Naalehu boasts a vibrant local culture and a welcoming community. Visitors can immerse themselves in the Hawaiian way of life by exploring the town’s charming shops, local restaurants, and bakeries. From traditional Hawaiian cuisine to fusion dishes, Naalehu caters to a variety of tastes, allowing visitors to indulge in the local flavors and culinary delights.

Naalehu Highlights:

  • Experience the natural beauty of the Kau forest reserve
  • Hike through scenic trails and discover hidden waterfalls
  • Marvel at the grandeur of Mauna Loa volcano
  • Immerse yourself in the local culture and community
  • Indulge in the flavors of traditional Hawaiian cuisine

Naalehu is a testament to the diverse and captivating landscapes that Hawaii has to offer. Whether you’re seeking tranquility, adventure, or a taste of authentic Hawaiian culture, Naalehu is a must-visit destination that will leave you in awe of its natural wonders.

Naalehu Attractions

Attraction Description
Kau forest reserve A vast nature reserve with lush forests, hiking trails, and beautiful waterfalls.
Mauna Loa volcano One of the world’s largest and most active volcanoes, offering stunning views and unique geological formations.
Local restaurants and bakeries Experience the flavors of Hawaiian cuisine in Naalehu’s charming eateries.

Naalehu, Hawaii – the southernmost spot in the USA – is a hidden gem that showcases the beauty of the island and invites visitors to explore its wonders. Whether you choose to immerse yourself in nature, indulge in local delicacies, or simply relax in the tranquil atmosphere, Naalehu promises an unforgettable experience in the heart of Hawaii.

Hawi, Hawaii

Located on the northernmost tip of Hawaii’s Big Island, Hawi is a charming town with a rich history of sugar production. The town’s central business district is home to art galleries, restaurants, and boutique shops. Hawi is also known for hosting the biking portion of the world-famous Ironman Triathlon, attracting athletes from around the world. For outdoor enthusiasts, nearby attractions include the Kohala fruit farm and Kohala zip lines.

In Hawi, visitors can explore the town’s fascinating past through its restored plantation-era buildings and cultural landmarks. The Hawi Plantation Museum, housed in the historic Hawi Union Church, offers a glimpse into the town’s sugar plantation heritage.

The Hawi region is renowned for its natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities. The Kohala forest reserve, located just outside of town, encompasses lush rainforests and offers hiking trails that lead to breathtaking views. Adventure seekers can also experience the thrill of ziplining through the scenic Kohala forest canopy. For those interested in agriculture, the Kohala fruit farm provides a unique opportunity to learn about tropical fruits and indulge in farm-to-table experiences.

Notable Attractions in Hawi, Hawaii:

  • Ironman Triathlon: Hawi’s role as a venue for the biking portion of the Ironman Triathlon attracts athletes and spectators from all over the world.
  • Kohala Zip Lines: Experience the thrill of ziplining through the Kohala forest canopy, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
  • Kohala Fruit Farm: Explore the lush fruit orchards and indulge in farm-fresh tropical fruits at the Kohala fruit farm.

“Hawi, with its beautiful scenery and rich history, offers a unique blend of outdoor adventure and cultural immersion for visitors.”

Honokaa, Hawaii

Honokaa, situated on the island of Hawaii, is a charming town that holds a rich history. It grew out of a thriving sugar-growing industry and has now transformed into a vibrant community with a host of attractions for visitors to enjoy.

The town is home to a picturesque historic downtown area, which boasts a beloved community theater, restaurants serving delicious local cuisine, and shops selling unique handicrafts. Strolling through the streets of Honokaa is like stepping back in time with its well-preserved buildings and old-fashioned charm.

One of the highlights of Honokaa’s calendar is Western Week, a lively festival that celebrates the town’s history of ranching. This annual event brings together locals and visitors alike to enjoy rodeo events, live music, and a festive atmosphere that truly captures the spirit of the West.

For those seeking outdoor adventure, Honokaa is also the gateway to the stunning Waipio Valley. This spectacular valley is known for its lush green landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and cascading waterfalls. Visitors can explore the valley through exhilarating horseback tours, immersing themselves in the natural beauty of this hidden gem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbXPJjgIbuo

Top Attractions in Honokaa

Attraction Description
Honokaa People’s Theatre A beloved community theater that showcases a variety of performances, including live music, plays, and film screenings.
Tex Drive-In A local favorite known for its mouthwatering malasadas and plate lunches, offering a taste of authentic Hawaiian cuisine.
Waipio Cookhouse A charming eatery that serves up delicious farm-to-table dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.
Kapulena Falls A beautiful waterfall located near Honokaa, accessible via a scenic hike through the lush surrounding forest.

Whether you’re exploring Honokaa’s historic downtown, joining in the festivities of Western Week, or venturing into the breathtaking Waipio Valley, this captivating town offers a truly unforgettable experience for travelers wishing to immerse themselves in the beauty and culture of Hawaii.

Kaunakakai, Molokai

Kaunakakai is a peaceful town located on the island of Molokai in Hawaii. Known for its fishing, ranching, and farming, Kaunakakai offers visitors a unique experience away from the bustling tourist areas. The town is steeped in history and has a rich cultural heritage that reflects the island’s diverse traditions.

One notable attraction near Kaunakakai is Kalaupapa, a former leper colony located just 12 miles to the north. This historical site provides insight into the challenging history of the area and the resilience of its residents.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Kaunakakai offers excellent fishing opportunities. The surrounding waters are abundant with various species, providing anglers with a chance to reel in a big catch. Whether you prefer deep-sea fishing or leisurely shore fishing, Kaunakakai has options for everyone.

Visitors can also explore the local culture by visiting attractions like Kiowea Beach Park, where you can relax on the sandy shores or take a dip in the crystal-clear waters. Another notable site is the ancient royal coconut grove of Kapuaiwa, where you can learn about the significance of coconut trees in Hawaiian culture.

“Kaunakakai offers a tranquil escape for those seeking a genuine Hawaiian experience. From its rich fishing heritage to the historic sites nearby, there is something for everyone in this hidden gem of Molokai.”

Nearby Attractions:

  • Kalaupapa – Explore the history of the former leper colony and learn about the lives of those who lived there.
  • Kiowea Beach Park – Relax on the sandy shores or enjoy a refreshing swim in the turquoise waters.
  • Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove – Discover the ancient royal coconut grove and learn about its significance in Hawaiian culture.

Whether you’re interested in fishing, exploring historical sites, or immersing yourself in local culture, Kaunakakai is a must-visit destination in Molokai.

Lanai City, Lanai

Lanai City, situated on the beautiful island of Lanai, offers visitors a unique and enriching experience. This charming town, once a major producer of pineapples, now showcases its rich history and provides a range of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy.

In Lanai City, you’ll find a delightful mix of restaurants, art galleries, jewelry shops, and coffee houses that add to its vibrant atmosphere. Whether you want to savor local cuisine, admire unique artworks, or indulge in a cup of freshly brewed coffee, Lanai City has something to suit every taste.

For those seeking outdoor adventures, Lanai City offers an array of exciting activities. Take a biking tour and explore the island’s stunning landscapes, go for a thrilling horseback riding experience, or tee off at one of the world-class golf courses. If shooting sports are more your style, try your hand at clay shooting and test your precision and accuracy.

Immerse yourself in Lanai City’s natural wonders and make unforgettable memories as you discover the beauty of Lanai, often referred to as the Pineapple Island. With its scenic landscapes, diverse wildlife, and welcoming community, Lanai City is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Local Attractions in Lanai City:

  • Golf: Experience world-class golf courses surrounded by breathtaking views.
  • Biking Tours: Explore the island’s natural beauty on two wheels.
  • Horseback Riding: Embark on a memorable horseback adventure through Lanai’s picturesque landscapes.
  • Clay Shooting: Test your marksmanship skills and enjoy the thrill of clay shooting.

“Lanai City is a hidden gem on the Pineapple Island, offering a delightful blend of history and outdoor activities.”

Hana, Maui

Hana, located on the eastern side of Maui, is a secluded town that offers a unique and remote experience. Nestled amidst lush greenery and pristine landscapes, Hana is a haven for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike.

The famous Road to Hana is an attraction in itself, taking travelers on a picturesque journey filled with breathtaking views, cascading waterfalls, and winding scenic drives. This iconic road trip is a must-do for visitors looking to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Maui.

One of the highlights of Hana is Hana Bay, a tranquil beach with calm turquoise waters, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. The bay offers a peaceful escape from the bustling tourist areas, allowing visitors to relax and soak in the beauty of the surroundings.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Hana boasts a wide range of activities such as hiking trails that lead to hidden waterfalls, exploring tropical gardens boasting vibrant flora, and immersing in the rich history of the Pi’ilanihale Heiau, one of the largest ancient temples in Hawaii. These attractions offer a glimpse into the cultural heritage and natural wonders of the region.

Visiting Hana is like stepping back in time, where the pace is slower, and the beauty of the island unfolds at its own leisurely rhythm. It’s a destination that rewards those willing to venture off the beaten path and embrace the serene ambiance that Hana has to offer.

Hana, Maui Highlights:

  • The scenic Road to Hana with its stunning views and waterfalls
  • Relaxing at Hana Bay and enjoying water activities
  • Hiking trails leading to hidden waterfalls and stunning vistas
  • Exploring tropical gardens with vibrant flora
  • Discovering the ancient Pi’ilanihale Heiau

Experience the untouched beauty of Hana and create unforgettable memories in this hidden gem of Maui.

Conclusion

Hawaii, with its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, is a treasure trove of beautiful towns and cities. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, adventure seeker, or history buff, the islands offer a wide range of experiences to suit every taste. From the charming town of Haleiwa, known as the surfing capital of the world, to the peaceful town of Kaunakakai with its fishing and farming traditions, each destination showcases the unique beauty and essence of Hawaii.

For those seeking a taste of local life, towns like Naalehu and Honokaa offer a glimpse into the authentic Hawaiian lifestyle. From exploring the southernmost spot in the USA in Naalehu to participating in Honokaa’s lively Western Week festival, these towns provide immersive experiences that will leave lasting memories.

Whether it’s the picturesque Lanai City with its fascinating history as the Pineapple Island or the secluded town of Hana on Maui’s eastern side, Hawaii’s towns and cities never fail to captivate visitors. Indulge in the adventure of the famous Road to Hana or unwind on Hana Bay’s pristine beaches – the choice is yours. With their hidden gems, attractive locales, and warm aloha spirit, the best towns and cities in Hawaii beckon you to explore, experience, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

FAQ

What are the best towns and cities in Hawaii?

Some of the best towns and cities in Hawaii include Haleiwa, Naalehu, Hawi, Honokaa, Kaunakakai, Lanai City, and Hana.

Why is Haleiwa on Oahu known as the surfing capital of the world?

Haleiwa, located on the island of Oahu, has world-class waves that attract experienced surfers from around the globe.

What makes Naalehu a unique town in Hawaii?

Naalehu proudly claims to be the southernmost spot in the USA and offers visitors the chance to experience the natural beauty of the Kau forest reserve and Mauna Loa volcano.

What is special about Hawi in Hawaii?

Hawi, located on the northernmost tip of Hawaii’s Big Island, is a charming town with a rich history of sugar production. It is also known for hosting the biking portion of the world-famous Ironman Triathlon.

What can I explore in Honokaa, Hawaii?

Honokaa is a historic town on the island of Hawaii that celebrates its ranching heritage with events like Western Week. Visitors can also explore the nearby Waipio Valley through horseback tours.

What makes Kaunakakai a peaceful town in Hawaii?

Kaunakakai on the island of Molokai is known for its peaceful atmosphere, fishing, ranching, and farming. Visitors can experience the local culture and explore attractions like Kiowea Beach Park and the ancient royal coconut grove of Kapuaiwa.

What can I do in Lanai City, Lanai?

Lanai City, once a major pineapple producer, offers visitors a chance to explore its rich history and enjoy outdoor activities like biking, horseback riding, golfing, and clay shooting.

What attractions can I find in Hana, Maui?

Hana, located on the eastern side of Maui, offers a unique and remote experience. Visitors can enjoy the famous Road to Hana with its stunning views and waterfalls, explore pristine beaches like Wai’anapanapa State Park, and visit sites like the Pi’ilanihale Heiau.

What makes these towns and cities the best in Hawaii?

These towns and cities capture the essence of Hawaiian culture and offer a range of experiences, from surfing in Haleiwa to exploring the remote beauty of Hana. Each town has its own charm and attractions, making them must-visit destinations in Hawaii.

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