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Suggestions for a not-too-touristy Hawaiian vacation?

We're pretty flexible and can make our way to any island if properly motivated. What I'm keen to avoid is the Honolulu scene or any super-obvious resorts.

6 Answers

top answer by
Janice from Golden, CO

Hi Jason - we've had great luck avoiding the tourist hoard when going to Kauai especially in the off-season.  The north shore near Hanalei tends to be less crowded than the south shore near  Poipu.

Having said that, I've heard from friends and family in the know that going to  Molokai is about as far away from the crowds as you can get and still have some hotels to stay at.  These same friends have said that the Kona can also be less touristy if you avoid Kailua-Kona.

If you are going to O'ahu, I recommend going to the  North Shore and don't even go near Waikiki.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Kauai (attraction)
  2. Hanalei (city)
  3. Poipu (attraction)
  4. Molokai (island)
  5. Kona (island)
  6. O'ahu (attraction)
  7. North Shore (region)
8 thanks

answered by
JR from Manhattan Beach

I've never been to Molokai so I can't comment on that idea, but I would say avoid Maui (unless you wanted to get super romantic and chill at the  Hotel Hana Maui and Honua Spa) and the Big Island. They are both great, but dominated by larger resorts and hence have the touristy feel that it sounds like you're wanting to avoid.

I'd stick to Kauai and specifically, Hanalei. There are a lot of vrbo/airbnb type of rentals so you can avoid the hotels and condos in nearby Princeville. Hanalei has a sleepy/stoney kind of vibe with some decent restaurants/bars and some epic hikes beaches and hikes nearby.  

Restaurants/bars: Postcards Cafe and Bar Acuda in town and noteworthy.

Beaches: Ke'e Beach is drivable and worth it. It's at the beginning of the trailhead to hiking the Na'Pali Coast State Park. But more than Ke'e, I really liked  Kahalahala Beach. It's long and was totally empty the time we were there. We walked the whole thing and only ran into one of ther person (who happened to be Laird Hamilton... true story). Also check out Queens Bath but be careful of surf there and Kahalahala. It can get hairy especially in winter. 

Hanalei has plenty of "civilzed" things nearby as well if you need to feel the snobby embrace of luxury. The The St. Regis Princeville Resort is very close and great for a breakfast and a view. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Molokai (island)
  2. Maui (attraction)
  3. Hotel Hana Maui and Honua Spa (hotel)
  4. Kauai (attraction)
  5. Hanalei (city)
  6. Princeville (city)
  7. Postcards Cafe (restaurant)
  8. Bar Acuda (attraction)
  9. Ke'e Beach (attraction)
  10. Na'Pali Coast State Park (attraction)
  11. Kahalahala Beach (attraction)
  12. Queens Bath (attraction)
  13. The St. Regis Princeville Resort (hotel)
5 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Andrew from Manhattan Beach

On my only trip to Hawaii, we rented a condo on Kaui in Poipu through VRBO.  We picked up groceries at the nearby grocery store and cooked most of our own meals.  I was very psyched our place had an outdoor grill we could use.

We managed to find several hiking trails that were off the beaten path and made for great secluded day trips.  We also spent a full day at Waimea Canyon which was definitely worth the trip.  I also highly recommend Island Taco to finish off the day at Waimea.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Poipu (attraction)
  2. Waimea Canyon (attraction)
  3. Island Taco (restaurant)
3 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Brew from Manhattan Beach

JR has some great tips above on Kauai and Hanalei, for sure.  I would agree whole-heartedly with the Hanalei recommendation.  Up past Hanalei is Haena, which is also very cool.  If you don't want to stay in a vacation rental, the  Hanalei Colony Resort is an awesome spot and more of condos rather than a traditional hotel.  Very close to the town of Hanalei,  Ke'e Beach, the hike to  Hanakapiai Beach and  Hanakapi 'ai Falls falls, etc.

Regarding the Big Island, I would disagree with JR in that there are some very cool places that are less-touristy, but you would want to avoid the Kailua-Kona and Kohala Coast areas.  We stayed near  Captain Cook at a place called the  South Kona Hideaway, which was a little guest house and very cool.  The area around Captain Cook and  Kealakekua Bay Park has some very non-touristy stuff to see and do and some cool, very old style Hawaiian locals restaurants, namely  Teshima's Restaurant and the  Manago Hotel. These are both on the side of the road and kind of institutions, in different ways.   

One area on the Big Island that most people do not see is the coffee country up the hill from Kona.  Not sure I'd stay up there for my whole trip, but the area is very different and interesting.  But whether you stay there or not, I would definitely make a trip up to have lunch or dinner at the  Holuakoa Cafe.  Great place.  

Over on the  Hilo side, you will find very non-touristy Hawaii (although, there's still lots to do for tourists.  

If you want to see non-touristy Hawaii, driving the coast road through Captain Cook to the Kīlauea Volcano or Hilo, you pass through some really interesting little towns, see some great scenery, etc.  Very interesting drive.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hanalei Colony Resort (hotel)
  2. Ke'e Beach (attraction)
  3. Hanakapiai Beach (attraction)
  4. Hanakapi 'ai Falls (attraction)
  5. Captain Cook (city)
  6. South Kona Hideaway (hotel)
  7. Kealakekua Bay Park (attraction)
  8. Teshima's Restaurant (restaurant)
  9. Manago Hotel (hotel)
  10. Holuakoa Cafe (restaurant)
  11. Hilo (attraction)
  12. Kīlauea Volcano (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
lori from Kansas

If you want to feel more like a local instead of a tourist on any island, may I suggest:

  • Rent a condo instead of staying at a hotel. (Try You can shop at the local grocery store and cook your own meals. You might meet fellow Hawaii residents living in your condo or apartment complex. They will know the best kept island secrets and have great advice for sightseeing.
  • Rent a car from an off-airport location. The car will most likely be a lot cheaper than any airport on-site rental stations. When you arrive, just take a quick cab ride to the car rental place.. its no big deal. While on Kaua'i, we rented an older Honda Civic that had a lot of "character" from Kauai Car & Scooter Rental in  Lihue ( It made us feel more like locals driving around in an older car and we were never afraid that it would get broken into because of what it looked like.

You can still visit the "touristy" places, just do it when there are less people there. Arrive at attractions when they first open, few people are up that early, and even fewer children are there!

When we visited  Maui, we took the famous road to  Hana to see the black sand beach. Although many travel back the Road to Hana the same way they came, we took the road which led to the back side of Haleakala. The sun sets on this side of the island which makes for a beautiful drive home. There are rolling pastures and farms, along with ocean scenery here, and you almost feel like you are completely alone on the drive back 'home'.

When you do dine out, try  L & L Hawaiian Barbecue (found on most of the larger islands) or other smaller local eateries. 

Although you need quite a bit of supplies, you can also hike and camp on any of the islands. (Check for permit requirements.) We rented a camping kit on Maui from Camp Maui ( and camped at Kipahulu for 3 nights. Most tourists are definitely not camping on their vacation!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Kaua'i (attraction)
  2. Lihue (city)
  3. Maui (attraction)
  4. Hana (city)
  5. Haleakala (attraction)
  6. L & L Hawaiian Barbecue (restaurant)
  7. Maui (attraction)
  8. Kipahulu (attraction)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Jo from Los Angeles, California

hi what would be a beautiful island that is peaceful secluded, away from touristy people. I want a island that has a very exoctic beach an a location where the sunrise is amazing an lots of nature an great food. Im not really into the resort theme, but i want to visit a more island place not city 

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