Hawaii's Hidden GemsJuly 12, 2012 By: Jena Tesse Fox
Hawaii has more than enough famous places to explore—Diamondhead, Waikiki, Lahaina, Kona—but there are just as many hidden gems that only the dedicated specialists know about. We asked a few Hawaii specialists for advice on their favorite secret spots throughout the island. Here are a few of their recommendations for your clients.
Janine Elder of TravelSeeker4u recommends visiting the “little hippie town” of Paia on Maui. “It has over 30 Boutique shops filled with items you will not find anywhere else on Maui,” she says of the North Shore town. “It also has some great local restaurants and home of the famous Mama's fish house.” For swimming, she likes the "fishbowl" at Wailea: “Just south of the resorts in Kihei and Wailea is a vast section of lava rock flowing down from the volcano. Hike along the rocks toward the ocean to see different interesting pools. Get to the end to find the fishbowl, which is the best snorkeling spot on the island!”
For local cuisine, she recommends Bubba’s Burgers (which has been an island institution since 1936) or Shrimp Station at Waimea. “The best is after a drive and hike up in the Waimea Canyon,” she adds. “[The restaurant] is located just at the entrance, a little shack on the side of the road with the best coconut shrimp I've ever eaten.”
On Kauai, she recommends taking a short kayak trip up the Wailua River and then hiking down a trail to Secret Falls. “Just gorgeous!” For Hawaii Island, she suggests visiting Ocean Rider’s seahorse farm—a breeding ground for the tiny aquatic animals. “They have tubs and tubs of them. You will see multiple sizes and colors—they even let you put your hands in the water and the seahorses latch onto your little finger. And the best part, you can actually buy one and take it or have it shipped home. So much fun!”
Linda Dancer of Honeymoons Inc. recommends taking an Island Seaplane tour of Oahu, or learning about Pearl Harbor on a Home of the Brave tour. “It takes you back to 1940s era,” she says, noting that visitors can learn not just about the attack at Pearl Harbor but about the rest of World War II and afterwards. Visitors can see many scenes from famous moves such as "From Here to Eternity." For restaurants on the island, she recommends Ted's Bakery for their chocolate haupia pie: “Get a to-go box and go watch the surfers off Sunset Beach," she advises.
On Lanai, Dancer recommends picking up prints of Hawaii at the Mike Carroll Gallery. Foodies should visit the Stella Blues Café on Maui, which she likes for its semi-casual homestyle cooking.
For dining on Hawaii Island, she suggests visiting the Hawaii Vanilla Company, which, in addition to a restaurant, offers tours of the vanilla farm and can host small weddings. For a unique cultural experience, Dancer likes the Anna Ranch Cultural Center. The home of Hawaii’s "first lady of cattle ranching" is now a museum with koa wood furniture and lots of cultural demonstrations. There’s also a weekly farmers market to pick up local cuisine.
Vicky Kometani, a local hospitality veteran with Current Events, recommends going on one of the free cultural tours at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa. For dining, she likes Teshima's Restaurant in Kainaliu (“Yummy fried rice!”) or the Lemon Grass restaurant at Kailua Village.
Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Tor Johnson.