Hawai’i is the most remote island chain in the world. That means it’s the farthest group of islands in the world from any major landmass or continent. That’s pretty remote! And it’s one of the reasons we love Hawai’i. While we always try to be respectful of the islands and its residents (and their private property), Steve and I love to find those pockets of Hawaii that few people take the time and effort to see, where it feels like it’s all our own. Here are the most remote places we’ve been in Hawaii so far.
King Kamehameha I Birthplace: Island of Hawai’i
On the northernmost tip of the Island of Hawai’i, near the town of Hawi, you’ll find a trailhead at the very tiny Upolu Airport. The trail is four miles round-trip, but there’s no shade and no facilities, so bring water and hike it early in the day if you can.
Once there, you’ll find a heiau (an ancient Hawaiian temple), as well as the birthplace of King Kamehameha I, the first man to unite the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom.
Kalalau Trail: Kaua’i
Located at the literal end of the road on Kaua’i’s secluded and occasionally inaccessible North Shore, the famous Kalalau trail is not for the paved path hiker. You’ll need to make reservations 30 days in advance, within minutes of them coming available, and if you plan to hike the entire 22 miles round-trip, you’ll have to make an overnight reservation.
So, is it worth the trouble? It all depends on you. Are lush jungle, dramatic cliffs, imposing mountain peaks, secluded beaches, and ocean views to make you swoon on your list? Then probably so. It’s one of the most beautiful places on the most beautiful island in the world. But you’ll want to see it for yourself.
Essential for visiting: Your Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Kalalau Trail
Kahekili’s Leap: Lana’i
The whole island is remote, with the only access being a passenger ferry, tiny plane, or private jet. There are no flights to or from the mainland. You have to want to get there. Lana’i is the best juxtaposition of luxury and rugged. On one end of the spectrum, you have not one, but two Four Seasons properties that will run you $1000-$2000 per night.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have only 30 miles of paved roads, and countless miles of off-roads. And I’m not talking dirt or sand. I’m talking rocks, boulders, ruts you could get lost in. It’s epic and adventurous and unlike anywhere else I’ve been in Hawaii. The most rugged, most remote place I visited on the island was the Kaunolu Village Site. It’s a National Historic Site, and a sacred place for ancient Hawaiians. Kahekili’s Leap, at the top of the rocky, steep trail, is the only place you can go to see Lana’i tallest sea cliff. It’s not safe. It’s epic.
Essential info: The Best Places to Go WITH 4WD on Lana’i
Polihua Beach: Lana’i
Lots of places on Lana’i are remote, so I couldn’t choose just one! Polihua Beach is about an hours’ off-road drive from Lana’i City. It’s no easy feat to get there, even in a Jeep, but once you arrive, you’ll know it was worth the effort. The beach stretches for miles, and it’s wide, too. You won’t believe how massive it is until you see it for yourself. Just be sure not to drive on the beach itself. It’s a nesting area for sea turtles, and you won’t want to damage them. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some while you’re here.
More here: How to Plan a Trip to Lana’i, Hawaii
Everyone does the Road to Hana, right? Well, kind of. Many people turn back before they get to Hana. Others turn around as soon as they get there. Very few people actually take the time to explore Hana, much less stay there.
But you can. We stayed at a vacation rental in the rain forest just a few miles from Hana Town. We woke up and drove to the Pipiwai Trail and had the bamboo forest to ourselves—hours before anyone starting the trail that day could dream of getting there.
Stop for banana bread at Halfway to Hana. Get out and marvel at the many waterfalls along the way. Drive slow and enjoy the journey. But don’t forget to truly see the destination, too.
Read on: How to Spend Three Days in Hana
Halawa Valley: Molokai
The Halawa Valley was formerly one of the most populated towns on Molokai, but a 1946 tsunami forced those living there to relocate (though, miraculously, no one died), with the exception of one remaining family, the Solatorios.
That family allows tourists to go on a guided hike through their private property to a gorgeous waterfall. Before starting the hike, you’ll talk to the Solatorios, who live an authentically Hawaiian life there. You’ll learn about Hawaiian culture, see pictures of the valley before the tsunami, and see one of the remotest places in the world.
Kalaupapa Peninsula: Molokai
Molokai gets two mentions in this post, and once you visit, you’ll know why.
This location was chosen to be a leper colony by King Kamehameha V for exactly one important reason: its remoteness. The Hawaiian people were more susceptible to the disease, so the King’s effort was to mitigate cases going forward. This peninsula is blocked off from the rest of the world by the ocean on three sides, and the tallest sea cliffs in the world on the fourth.
But people did live here for hundreds of years before becoming a leper colony. They were relocated so that those with leprosy (currently called Hansen’s Disease) could live out the rest of their days away from the rest of the world. It has served as home to over 8,500 people living with Hansen’s Disease from 1865 to present, but the current residents have chosen to stay there, since the disease has been cured since 1969.
The peninsula became a U.S. National Historic Park in 1980, and you can respectfully visit via small plane, donkey ride, or steep, guided hike. Note: when we visited in 2019, the trail had washed out, making small plane the only way to visit the peninsula.
Nanina Beach: Ni’ihau
Where do I even begin? This island is fittingly nicknamed “The Forbidden Island.” You can’t stay here overnight—there are no restaurants, no hotels, not even wi-fi. But you can visit for a few hours if you’re lucky.
You’ll have to sign up for a helicopter tour, and you’ll definitely want to bring water and a bag to collect shells—this the only island where beach combing is truly encouraged. You can snorkel, sunbathe, admire the endangered Hawaiian monk seals, and even spot sea turtles swimming among the rocky coastline and lava flats.
Few people even know that Ni’ihau exists. And even fewer know that you can visit. Fewer still are willing to do what it takes to make it happen in their lifetime.
Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: O’ahu
This trail was unbelievably beautiful. It’s not too far from Waikiki, but because it’s in a gated community and requires a first-come-first-served pass, it feels completely set apart from the crowds and touristy feel so many jaded O’ahu visitors like to complain about. Instead of complaining, go find this adventure.
The trail is just over five miles round-trip, with stunning views of Diamond Head and Waikiki from the ridge and a rewarding 360-degree view at the top. If there are clouds, wait a moment for them to pass. You’ve hiked to one of the remotest places in Hawaii. Don’t rush to leave.
More here: The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Hawaii: O’ahu
Want more? You’ll find all my best Hawaii tips, travel advice, and more on my dedicated Hawaiian Islands Page!
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