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While Hawaii offers plenty of beauty to go around, its busier, better-known destinations may not appeal to travelers who prefer private vacations.
For clients wishing to stray from the state’s energized beach scene, mai tai bars and famous attractions, the following five mellow getaways fit the bill.
Hana, MauiFrom Kahului, visitors can hop on a Mokulele Airlines prop plane and fly to Hana’s tiny airport. Or, they can drive Hana Highway with its hundreds of hairpin turns. Either way, the route leads to this rural east Maui paradise, where Hawaiian culture thrives and time slows down.
At Hana’s venerable Hasegawa General Store, clients encounter everything from T-shirts and Hawaiian music CDs to local coffee and produce. Weary bodies succumb to massages in an open-air, thatched hut at Luana Spa Retreat, overlooking the bay. Sun and sand lovers have room to roam at Hamoa Beach, and hikers step lively in Waianapanapa State Park. Depending on budget, a serene home base awaits at the pricier Travaasa Hana as well as boutique inns and bed-and-breakfasts.
Hilo, Hawaii IslandIt’s understandable why planeloads of people head to Hawaii Island’s Kona-Kohala Coast, with its perennial westside sunshine. However, privacy seekers should book a flight into Hilo, on the eastern coast. While rain falls more frequently in Hilo, it rewards visitors with walk-up waterfalls and gardens bursting with tropical wonders.
Instead of ritzy resorts, Hilo visitors stay in laidback digs such as Grand Naniloa Hotel and the 13-unit Inn at Kulaniapia Falls, with its own magnificent cascade. A humble vibe permeates Hilo’s shops, eateries and farmers market. Pastimes range from kayaking and ziplining with KapohoKine Adventures to cosmic experiences at Imiloa Astronomy Center. Better yet, Hilo is a mere 45-minute drive from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a site of rainforests, steam vents and an active volcano.
LanaiOn Hawaii’s smallest inhabited island, visitors get away from it all, and then some. Outdoorsy types have expansive landscapes all to themselves, such as the lava rock-strewn Garden of the Gods. Golfers tee off for free at the down-home, upcountry Cavendish Public Golf Course. Hikers explore such secluded paths as the pine-lined Munro Trail and ride horses through upland terrain, where wild deer, sheep and turkey wander freely.
Lanai’s accommodations give guests room to breathe deeply. The upscale Four Seasons Resort Lanai blends authentic Hawaiian hospitality with top-notch pampering by the sea. The 11-room Hotel Lanai, built in 1923, reflects the days when pineapples filled the island’s fields. (As of press time, Hotel Lanai is closed for a refresh.) The center of commerce, Lanai City, accentuates the easygoing with its family-run businesses located around a tidy town square.
MolokaiMolokai calls to fewer visitors than Hawaii’s other islands, making it ideal for travelers looking to escape the mainstream hustle and bustle. On the island’s west end, 3-mile-long Papohaku — one of the state’s largest white-sand beaches — has minimal footprints. To the east, a cultural hike into Halawa Valley with a Molokai native leads to a spectacular waterfall. In between, clients can tour a macadamia-nut plantation and Kalaupapa National Historical Park, a peninsula at the base of 2,000-foot-high sea cliffs, where Hansen’s disease (leprosy) sufferers were banished starting in the 1860s.
For lodgings, Molokai offers condominiums, B&Bs and Hotel Molokai, imbued with genuine aloha spirit. Kaunakakai, the island’s retail hub, is beloved for its strip of simple stores selling what folks need — no frills attached
Waimea, KauaiOn the road west from the resorts of Poipu, the scenery changes to homespun shops and wide-open spaces. By the time the car reaches Waimea, the pace of life has slowed considerably. In this historic town, British Captain James Cook made his first Hawaii landing, with a statue commemorating his 1778 arrival.
In quiet Waimea Plantation Cottages, guests relax in renovated, 1900s-eras sugar-worker dwellings, each with its own kitchen and comforts of home. The cottages make a perfect starting point for explorations of the west’s natural attractions. Waimea Canyon inspires gasps with its 10-mile-long expanse, and the trails of Kokee State Park help travelers find the peace they’ve been searching for.