Best of Hawaii
Best Small Towns in Hawaii
Haleiwa, Oahu. The North Shore is the Hawaii of Hollywood -- giant waves, surfers galore, tropical jungles, waterfalls, and mysterious Hawaiian temples. If you're looking for a quieter vacation that's closer to nature, the North Shore is your place. The artsy little beach town of Haleiwa and the surrounding shoreline seem a world away from Waikiki. The North Shore boasts good restaurants, shopping, and cultural activities -- but here they come with the quiet of country living. Bed-and-breakfasts are the most common accommodations, but there's one first-class hotel and some vacation rentals as well. Be forewarned: It's an hour's drive to Honolulu and Waikiki, and it's about twice as rainy on the North Shore as in Honolulu.
Hilo, Big Island. When the sun shines in Hilo, it's one of the most beautiful tropical cities in the Pacific. Hawaii's largest metropolis after Honolulu is a quaint, misty, flower-filled city of Victorian houses overlooking a half-moon bay, with a restored historic downtown and a clear view of Mauna Loa's often snowcapped peak. Hilo catches everyone's eye until it rains -- it rains a lot in Hilo, and when it rains, it pours.
Lahaina, Maui. This old seaport is a tame version of its former self, a raucous whaling town where sailors swaggered ashore in search of women and grog. Today the village teems with restaurants, T-shirt shops, and galleries, and parts of it are downright tacky, but there's still lots of real history to be found. Lahaina is a great place to stay; accommodations include a few old hotels, quaint bed-and-breakfasts, and a handful of oceanfront condos.
Kaunakakai, Molokai. Kaunakakai is the closest thing Molokai has to a business district. Friendly Isle Realty and Friendly Isle Travel offer islanders dream homes and vacations; Rabang's Filipino Food posts bad checks in the window; antlered deer-head trophies guard the grocery aisles at Misaki's Market; and Kanemitsu's, the town's legendary bakery, churns out fresh loaves of onion-cheese bread daily. Once an ancient canoe landing, Kaunakakai was the royal summer residence of King Kamehameha V. The port town bustled when pineapple and sugar were king, but those days, too, are gone. With its Old Weststyle storefronts laid out in a 3-block grid on a flat, dusty plain, Kaunakakai is a town from the past.
Lanai City, Lanai. The only town on this island (pop. 3,200) sits at 1,645 feet above sea level. Built in 1924, this plantation village is a tidy grid of quaint tin-roofed cottages in bright pastels, with tropical gardens of banana, lilikoi, and papaya. Many of the residents are Filipino immigrants who worked the pineapple fields. Their clapboard homes, now worth $500,000 or more, are excellent examples of historic preservation; the whole town looks like it's been kept under a belljar.