Visit Hawaii Like a Local: Hidden Spots and Locals' Highlights

Are you planning a trip to Hawaii? In 2019 alone, tourists spent over 17 billion dollars visiting the islands, so you're certainly not alone.

But, if you're looking to make sure you're getting the true Hawaiian experience, rather than getting stuck in tourist traps, we can help. We've got the best places to visit in Hawaii that aren't for the average tourist.

— article continued below —

Updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides

If you're visiting Hawaii soon, be sure to download a copy of one of our updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides. We've updated the packets with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and for those who've been a time or two as well).

Select a 2023 Travel Guide

~ Trusted by Millions of Hawaii Visitors Annually ~

Non-Tourist Spots: Starting to Plan Your Trip

You should start by deciding which Hawaiian island to visit. Different islands offer different local spots and different highlights. And, some may be more prone to heavy tourist traffic than others.

For example, tourists looking to enjoy a little bit of sun often visit Maui. But that doesn't mean that Maui doesn't still offer plenty of different local spots for you to check out.

Of course, you don't have to limit yourself to just one island! You can always plan your trip so that you'll be able to visit multiple islands, to get the most out of your trip. From O'ahu to Molokaʻi, each island will certainly have something to offer.

Local Areas on the Hawaiian Islands

Look out for some of the amazing natural sites in Hawaii you might not see in the average travel guide.

Try learning about some of the more unusual historical moments you may not have heard of. For example, Raëlian UFO Peace Park, located on the Big Island, commemorates the 1970s new religious movement Raëlianism, which wanted to build a galactic embassy in Hawaii.

If you love cats, you have to check out the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. Because Lanai is more remote, it's far less likely to be overrun by tourists. So, you'll be able to enjoy the hundreds of cats at the Sanctuary without bothering them or drawing a crowd!

Visitors to Maui should check out Lahaina Town, a funky place that will allow you to shop for unique handcrafted items and learn about the history of the area.

And, it's important to learn about the colonialist history of Hawaii while you're there. Check out the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum to learn about the Royal Family of Hawaii and the indigenous cultures of the region.

Hawaii is also an important part of the history of World War II. While you're there, you can visit the Battery Cooper Bunker, the outside of the Hickam Air Base, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the U.S. Army Schofield Barracks and Tropic Lightning Museum, and many others.

Natural Sites in Hawaii

If you're fascinated by geology and the history of our planet, you should make sure you check out Makauwahi Cave in Kauai, so that you can admire amazing fossils and see how far our world has come.

The Kaumana Lava Tubes in Hilo, on the Big Island, are beautiful, free to enter, and away from mainstream attractions. Or, for one of the most beautiful waterfalls you'll ever see, go over to Waiānuenue.

Local Places to Eat in Hawaii

Hawaii offers delicious cuisine at restaurants throughout the state. Make sure you keep an eye out for local treats such as poke, poi, shaved ice, laulau, lomi salmon, and many others.

If you're headed to Oahu, check out the Giovanni Shrimp Truck for delicious shrimp scampi or Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha for shaved ice. For those who are planning on checking out Kauai, make sure you eat at Hukilau Lanai, which offers a delicious twist on traditional Hawaiian fare, or Mark's Place for some of the best lunches in the state.

Maui's delicious food options make it one of the top Hawaii places to visit. Consider visiting A Saigon Cafe if you love Vietnamese food, Tasty Crust if you're looking for breakfast food options, or Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop for classic bites.

Lanai's smaller size and population makes it less of a destination for restaurants, but there are still tasty treats for you. Go to Malibu Farm for upscale cocktails, or One Forty if you'd like to hit a buffet.

Local Events and Things Locals Do for Fun in Hawaii

There are also lots of different local events in Hawaii that you might want to plan your trip around.

Take a trip to the little town of Hilo for the Merrie Monarch Festival, which pays tribute to the rich culture of Hawaii in a weeklong event filled with crafts, performances, and so much more. Music lovers should make sure they plan their trip around Waikiki's Annual Ukelele Festival.

Art fans should make sure they overlap with an ARTafterDARK at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

For food, flowers, fresh fruit, local products and more, be sure to check out the local farmers markets on each island (links below).

For parade lovers, King Kamehameha Day in June is commemorated by a huge parade through Waikiki. Some other parades and events you might want to consider for your Hawaii visit include the following: 

  • Prince Lot Hula Festival
  • Lantern Floating Festival
  • Waikiki Holiday Parade
  • Parade of Farms
  • Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival
  • Made in Hawaii Festival
  • The Ocean Arts Festival
  • Honolulu Pride Parade
  • Annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival
  • Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival
  • Hawaii Food and Wine Festival 
  • Maui Film Festival
  • Waikiki Spam Jam

Hopefully, knowing the best events in the area will help you choose the top places to visit in Hawaii for your needs.

Non-Tourist Places to Visit in Hawaii: Just the Start

Hawaii is chock-full of amazing sights and things to enjoy. Hopefully, these places to visit in Hawaii will get you started planning an amazing trip today.

Are you excited to visit Hawaii? Are you looking for more information on Hawaii and planning your vacation? Make sure you check out some of our Hawaii travel tips today.

Updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides

If you're visiting Hawaii soon, be sure to download a copy of one of our updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides. We've updated the packets with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and for those who've been a time or two as well).

Select a 2023 Travel Guide

~ Trusted by Millions of Hawaii Visitors Annually ~

Recommended Hawaii Tours
Terms of Use & Disclosures

This website's use is your expressly conditioned acceptance of the terms, conditions, and disclaimers found within our Disclaimer of Warranty and Limitation of Liability page without any modifications. Your use of this website constitutes your acceptance of all the terms, conditions, and disclaimers posted herein. If you do not agree with any part of these terms and conditions, you should not use this website. We also receive a small commission from travel partners for some of the links found on this website. All partners and related links comply with our Advertising Disclosures. For example, as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. These links do not cost you anything and help provide the necessary funding to maintain this website. Mahalo!