Off the Beaten Path: Experiencing the Real Hawaii

Off the Beaten Path: Experiencing the Real Hawaii

by Carli Jenkins

Hawaii is a paradise for tourists, and guidebooks are full of suggestions of places to go and things to do. The problem is, many visitors only follow these guidebooks, and in turn, all the attractions mentioned quickly become overcrowded and ‘touristy’. Hawaii is quite rich with scenic natural beauty, as well as region-specific food and culture, which is why visitors to the Aloha State should look beyond the guidebook-recommended activities to find the real Hawaii.

Lanikai Beach
Lanikai Beach, Oahu

The Great Outdoors

Hawaii features beautiful scenery and countless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Waterfalls abound on the islands of Hawaii, and a popular activity is hiking the trails to these waterfalls. Unfortunately, the most well-known trails and waterfalls, such as Manoa Falls on the island of Oahu and Akaka Falls on the island of Hawaii, are often mobbed with tourists, making it difficult to truly experience the natural splendor these sites offer. A little-known trick to avoiding crowds is to find a local hiking club that allows visitors to join them on their excursions. They will provide access to restricted trails that most tourists will never see, with the added benefit of accompanying locals who are often very knowledgeable about the area with information not found in the typical guidebook.

Hawaii is also famous for its beaches, and the more popular ones, such as Waikiki, experience the same overcrowding common to all of Hawaii’s famous tourist spots. An alternative is Bellows Beach, located near Honolulu on the southeastern side of Oahu. A former United States Air Force base, Bellows Beach boasts pristine shallow waters that are perfect for body boarding and surfing. The gorgeous view of the Koolau Mountains also makes Bellows Beach perfect for just relaxing and enjoying nature’s beauty in a much less crowded environment.

Hawaiian Cuisine

While typical tourists may book seats at a luau recommended by their always-present guidebooks, real Hawaiians enjoy dining on more than just poi and roast pork. Malasadas, deep fried balls of sweet dough similar to doughnuts, are a particular favorite.

Another Hawaiian delicacy is poke, chunks of raw seafood such as ahi tuna or octopus, combined with sauces, spices and sweet Maui onions and served as an appetizer.

A popular snack is manapua, a dumpling containing meat, vegetables, or any of a variety of savory fillings. Manapua can often be found in food trucks dotting the islands.

Unique Events

The cultural flavor of the real Hawaii is showcased at local events that occur throughout the year. The Honolulu Night Market is a new monthly event featuring vendors of all types, fashion shows, music and theatrical productions. Hawaiians go all out for Halloween, and locals flock to the Haunted Plantation in Waipahu, reputed to be Hawaii’s best and scariest haunted house.

Hawaii has so much to offer that it seems a waste for visitors to spend their vacations doing the same things as thousands of others. Certainly there are some popular experiences that are very enjoyable, but it is worth taking the time to explore the real Hawaii, whether it be through seeking out its unspoiled beaches, sampling the local cuisine or participating in one of its many events and festivals. By doing so, adventurous travelers can expect a uniquely Hawaiian vacation that will be remembered for years to come.

About the Author

Carli Jenkins is a jetsetting socialite and book-smart explorer. If you are interested in your own extraordinary Hawaiian adventure, Carli recommends visiting

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