Traveling to Hawaiʻi and expecting to find “secret places” was once a real possibility thanks to the large size of the islands and their diverse terrain. Guide books of old would lag behind the “discovery” of new places, leaving year-long (or more) windows of opportunity for “undiscovered” places to be enjoyed without crowds. Now, thanks to new technology (mostly social media), it’s hard to find a place in Hawaiʻi that hasn’t been posted about or geo-tagged.
The reality nowadays is that we need to stop looking for “secret places,” and instead, try to find places that are underappreciated and undervisited – a place that offers more than its reputation suggests. There, you can still feel like you are discovering a little bit of a secret, or at least doing something that most people visiting the islands overlook.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Stargazing on Haleakala
- Ferry to Lanai (snorkeling)
- La Perouse Bay
- Kipahulu Campground
- Kahekili Highway
- Polipoli Recreation Area
Below, we dish on some of the places we feel are still underappreciated and undervisited on Maui, where you still have the potential to feel like you are “in” on a local secret. Here’s a list of our favorite “secret” places on Maui:
Kapalua has the benefit of being located way up on the northwest coast of Maui, “protected” by the myriad resorts and large beaches of Kaʻanapali Beach.
Why Kapalua is underappreciated or overlooked
Most people visiting this part of the island stay in Kaʻanapali, and don’t pass through to Kapalua. There are hotels and condos in Kapalua, but significantly less rooms (and more expensive) than Kaʻanapali.
Why you should visit Kapalua
Kapalua is incredibly scenic and green, with lots of rolling hills and a backdrop of forest-covered mountains. Its coastline is dotted with A-grade, white-sand beaches, with plenty of room to spread out. The area feels very communal, with large open spaces of land and preserved rainforests. When you visit Kapalua, you feel far away from the hustle and bustle of Kaʻanapali.
Where to go and what to do at Kapalua, specifically
Beaches: Kapalua offers a selection of spectacular white-sand beaches to visit, including Kapalua Bay Beach, Fleming Beach, and Slaughterhouse Beach.
Hiking: The Kapalua Coastal Trail is an easy and enjoyable trail that allows you to hike beach-to-beach, and there are other trailheads in the area as well, such as Mahana Ridge.
Snorkeling: This part of the island is also rich in snorkeling. One of our favorite places to go is Honolua Bay.
Stargazing on Haleakalā
When people think of stargazing in Hawaiʻi, they generally think of visiting Mauna Kea on the Big Island. That special place has been widely applauded and revered for its view of the night sky, so people tend to forget that you can get a similar experience on Maui atop Haleakalā.
Why it’s underappreciated or overlooked
When it comes to visiting Haleakalā, most people think of going for sunrise (which has become so popular, you now need a permit), or visiting during the day for hiking and scenic viewing.
Why you should visit
With the growth of our civilization has come an overwhelming amount of light pollution. Most people have completely lost their connection to the night sky and our place in the universe. Stargazing from a remote peak like Haleakalā will restore the wonder of our existence and spark your curiosity as you see first hand just how many stars share our solar system and beyond.
Where to go and what to do, specifically
If you want the full stargazing experience, hop on a stargazing tour with Maui Stargazing. If you simply want to see the stars without joining a tour, head up to the summit of Haleakalā to see the sunset, then stick around for the stars to come out. You can learn more about stargazing on Halekalā here. Make sure you bring warm layers!
Ferry to Lānaʻi (Snorkeling)
Compared to Maui, almost nobody visits Lānaʻi. It has only three hotels on the island, and all are luxury-based properties, with soaring room rates.
Why taking the ferry to go to Lānaʻi is underappreciated or overlooked
Lānaʻi is only seven miles from Maui, so visiting for the day is possible, but most people don’t, because, well, there is a lot to do on Maui.
Why you should take the ferry to Lānaʻi
Visiting Lānaʻi is a very cool day trip from Maui, and a chance to get in some really nice snorkeling at Hulopoʻe Beach and the Manele-Hulopoʻe Marine Life Conservation District. Snorkel boats do visit this area from Maui on half-day trips; however, you can do it on your own via the public ferry. This allows you to also explore other areas of Lānaʻi’s coast on a day trip without being bound to a snorkel boat, which does not permit you to make landfall.
Where to go on Lānaʻi and what to do, specifically
Take the Lānaʻi Ferry to Hulopoʻe Harbor. Wear your bathing suit and bring everything you need with you for the day, including snorkel gear and snacks (coolers are allowed on the ferry). The short 45-minute ride is scenic and beautiful, and once you arrive, you can set up shop for a day of exploration: snorkeling, coastal hiking, or beach bumming, with minimal crowds (try to time your snorkel with the absence of the snorkel boat) and the chance to get a feel for a different island. Take the return ferry back later that day.
La Perouse Bay
Southern Maui is by no means undiscovered. There is lots to do in this area, from the hotels/restaurants/shops of Wailea to various beaches, including the very-popular Makena State Park.
Why La Perouse Bay is underappreciated or overlooked
Located at the end of the road, La Perouse Bay doesn’t offer much in the way of long sandy beaches, has no shade, and has a lot of sharp lava rock, which keeps most of the crowds at bay, especially families with small children.
Why you should visit La Perouse Bay
La Perouse Bay is both historically significant and beautiful. Its lava rock coastline is the remnants of the last time an eruption from Haleakalā Volcano reached the sea, and its waters are clear and sparkling on sunny days. Snorkeling is an interest here, as is coastal hiking, and there is plenty of room to spread out and find a little space for yourself.
Where to go at La Parouse Bay and what to do, specifically
Snorkeling: Snorkeling at La Perouse Bay is wonderful, but for advanced swimmers only. You can get more info on snorkeling La Perouse Bay here.
Hiking: Though lacking shade, La Perouse Bay is also a great place for a unique coastal hike, its lava fields hanging over the tall cliffs of the coast. Take a stroll on the Hoapili Trail.
If you’re looking for coastal camping on Maui, it doesn’t get much better than Kīpahulu. Its campsites are spread out along the rocky coastline, with restrooms, picnic tables, drinking water, and barbecue grills.
Why the Kīpahulu campground underappreciated or overlooked
The Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park is loaded with drive-by visitors each and every day. But each evening, the streams of cars make their way back to central Maui, leaving the Kīpahulu coast quiet and serene. There is no lodging in the area, save for a small campground along the coast.
Why you should go camping at Kīpahulu
Kīpahulu has an abundance of natural beauty to share, which is why hundreds if not thousands of people make the journey each and every day. Hiking trails, coastal views, black sand beaches, and gigantic waterfalls are dotted throughout this coastline, making it a recreational playground.
Where to go and what to do at Kīpahulu, specifically
Our tip for how to do Kīpahulu right is to reserve a night or two at the Kīpahulu Campground. By mid-morning, people are already arriving from Central Maui to hike the trails and visit the beaches. But, spend the night at the campground and wake up with the sun, and you’ll have the area all to yourself for a couple hours. The joy of this can only be experienced; imagine, for example, hiking the Pīpīwai Trail – which is usually packed with people – all by yourself, and standing at the foot of the 400-foot Waimoku Falls with absolutely no one else around. You can thank us later.
The Road to Hāna attracts so much attention and traffic on Maui that other corners of the island are, by comparison, immediately deemed inferior.
Why driving the Kahekili Highway is underappreciated or overlooked: While it’s true that the Road to Hāna offers an incredible experience to visitors, the Northeast Coast also has many overlooks, stop offs, and hikes to offer – with much less fanfare.
Why you should visit the Kahekili Highway: The Northeast Coast of Maui makes a great day trip thanks to an abundance of points of interest, including hikes, blowholes, and scenic stop offs. Best part is you won’t have the volume of cars that one finds on the Road to Hāna, leading to a less-stressful experience. Driving the Northeast Coast is also less mileage, so you can do it in less time.
Where to go and what to do, specifically: Where you start depends on where you are staying, but generally speaking, you want to start in Kahului and drive northwest toward Waiheʻe.
We have lots to say about this drive – check out our guide to Maui’s scenic drives to read more.
Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area
There are many natural areas on Maui to explore, and Polipoli Spring might just be the most offbeat one when it comes to things to do on Maui.
Why The Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area is underappreciated or overlooked: Even though it’s a state recreation area, it attracts little fanfare due to its remote location at high altitude (6,200 feet), far away from the beach or any sort of volcanic scenery, which, of course, tends to steal the show on Maui.
Why you should visit Polipoli: Polipoli provides a wonderful journey into an upcountry Maui forest that’s away from the crowds. Expect a peaceful experience with incredible views of Maui as you climb the hillsides to reach the Park’s entrance, where tall forests await.
Where to go and what to do at Polipoli Springs, specifically: There is a network of four trails at Polipoli, as well as a campground. The latter is only recommended for experienced and dedicated campers due to the elevation and cold evenings, but the trail network makes for a beautiful jaunt through the forest. Bring layers to ward off any fog or chill associated with the elevation.