View of Waioli Huiia Church in Hanalei, Kauai. Image credit gg-foto via Shutterstock

10 Small Towns In Hawaii Were Ranked Among US Favorites

Small towns in Hawaii are quite different from those in many parts of the US. They come with a laid-back atmosphere, incredible scenery, and rich Polynesian history and culture. In addition, these small towns have fewer residents, which makes them super relaxing, and they are also located close to the incredible attractions that Hawaii is known for. One is even known as the southernmost town in the country, which makes visiting feel like disconnecting from the rest of the world. These small Hawaiian towns cannot be found in any other part of the US, which is why they are ranked among the favorite small towns.

Hana, Maui

Road to Hana, Black Sand Beach, Waianapanapa State Park, Maui
Road to Hana, Black Sand Beach, Waianapanapa State Park, Maui.

Hana is seriously one of the underrated towns in Hawaii that deserve more publicity. Although small and isolated, this town is the best place to experience the real Hawaii as it has remained pristine, unlike other Hawaiian cities and towns. Despite being less developed, Hana still has about three restaurants, several shops, and a hotel, and is served by an airport known as Hana Airport, which is about three miles away. In addition, the town has a beach, waterfalls, and the Hana Cultural Center & Museum.  

Hana is the endpoint of the famous Haha Highway, which stretches for 64 miles and passes through lush forests, beautiful beaches, and stunning waterfalls. 

Koloa Town, Kauai

St Raphael's Church in September 2017 in the town of Koloa, Kauai, HI. This Catholic church is the oldest church on the island of Kauai, dating from 1841.
St Raphael's Church in the town of Koloa, Kauai, Hawaii. Image credit Pamela Brick via Shutterstock

As the oldest plantation town in Hawaii, Koloa comes with an interesting history. The first successful sugar cane plantation in the Hawaiian Islands was established in this town before the concept was then spread to other islands. The town still has structures and sites that shed more light on this period in Hawaii’s history. One of the best ways to learn more about Koloa’s history is to hike the Koloa Heritage Trail, which explores geological, cultural, and historic facts about the area. Visitors to this town can even see the Old Sugar Mill of Koloa, which was part of the first sugarcane plantation from the 1800s.

In addition to the historical appeal, Koloa offers incredible natural scenery and exciting outdoor adventures, and it is also home to boutique shops, restaurants, and art galleries that feature local artworks. 

Hanalei, Kauai

Lounging chairs overlooking Hanalei Bay and the Na Pali coast Princeville Kauai Hawaii
Lounging chairs overlooking Hanalei Bay and the Na Pali coast Princeville Kauai Hawaii.

Hanalei has remained one of the favorite small towns in the US that combines amazing natural scenery with exciting outdoor adventures, and rich history. Located on Kauai’s North Shore, the town is surrounded by towering green mountains, which are complimented by the vast green taro fields that occupy the area. Less than 500 people inhabit this town, so first of all, it is a great escape from larger cities. Despite being small, however, Hanalei has a host of things to offer, from great surfing beaches to interesting attractions like the Limahuli Garden & Preserve, and the Hanalei Valley Lookout, which offers breathtaking views of the town and the natural features that surround it.

Honokaa, Island of Hawaii

Overlooking the waterfront in Honokaa, Hawaii.
Waterfront in Honokaa, Hawaii.

Honokaa is a historic small town on Hawaii’s Big Island that comes with a host of facilities and incredible natural scenery. Honokaa is particularly popular for being the gateway to the Waipi’o Valley, a gorgeous valley located on the Hamakua coast and said to have been home to the Hawaiian kings of old. This valley is home to taro fields, a black sand beach, hiking trails, and the Waipi’o Valley Lookout, which offers breathtaking views of the valley, the surrounding cliffs, and the waterbody. 

Within the town of Honokaa itself, there are so many things to enjoy, from shopping for Hawaiian goods and fresh food to tasting Hawaiian local delicacies at one of the restaurants. 

Honomu, Island of Hawaii

Rain and mist at Akaka Falls, a 300 foot tall waterfall surrounded by rain forest jungle in Akaka Falls State Park near Hilo and Honomu on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. Hawaii, United States.
Akaka Falls, a 300-foot-tall waterfall surrounded by rain forest jungle in Akaka Falls State Park near Honomu.

Honomu is a small charming town on the Big Island, along the Mamalahoa Highway, that punches above its weight when it comes to tourism. The pictures don’t even do enough justice because it does not reveal the laid-back atmosphere, fresh breeze, and the long list of things that this town has to offer. Akaka Falls, a 422-foot waterfall that is one of the most beautiful in the state, is near this town, which makes it a good base from which to explore the waterfalls. Honomu is also home to art galleries, shops, and restaurants.

Lahaina, Maui

Tropical Coastline near Lahaina, Maui
Tropical Coastline near Lahaina, Maui.

Despite the devastating wildfire of the summer of 2023 that came like a plague and destroyed the town’s infrastructure, Lahaina remains one of the best towns in Hawaii and an all-time favorite in the country that will soon hopefully be restored. The town was once the royal capital of the Hawaiian kingdom, and it is inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places. Besides the historical appeal, Lahaina also features beautiful beaches, art galleries, shops, and restaurants. Activities like hiking, canoeing, and sunset watching are particularly enjoyable in this town due to its favorable weather, abundance of sunshine, and amazing natural scenery. 

In addition, Lahaina is an amazing place to watch whales, and several tours are available every winter to give visitors this experience. 

Lanai City, Lanai

An old historic wooden church surrounded by palm trees on Lanai Island in Hawaii.
An old historic wooden church surrounded by palm trees on Lanai Island in Hawaii.

Think of vast green fields, picturesque coastlines, paved roads with no traffic lights or traffic, and buildings surrounded by greenery. That is a good picture of Lanai City, but there’s even more. This small town with less than 4,000 people is full of friendly locals, always willing to help or talk to visitors. The town is endowed with a lot of infrastructure, from hotels, to shops and bars, and it also offers some exciting activities that will keep visitors busy. 

For a start, one can simply stroll through the streets to witness the sccenery and see the town more intimately. Next, one can visit the art gallery and heritage center to learn more about Hawaiian history and culture. For more experience, one can drive 6 miles to Keahiakawelo, also known as the Garden of the Gods, which is a desert-like landscape filled with boulders and stunning rock towers which are particularly magical at sunset. 

Na’alehu, Island of Hawaii

Tourists and local fishermen gather on the cliffs of South Point on a warm day to enjoy the Hawaiian sunshine
Tourists and local fishermen gather on the cliffs of South Point near Na’alehu. Image credit Ty King via

Na’alehu is a small charming town on the Big Island that just seems to be stuck in the 1800s when it was a vibrant sugar cane town. This sleepy little town is perfect for people seeking absolute seclusion from the rest of the world, and it is also a great place to raise families or retire. The town is chock full of natural endowments, from forests to beaches, stunning rock formations, and many more. Within the town, there are a few shops, restaurants, and a hotel, as well as a museum, bakery, and theater house. There are exciting outdoor activities like beach walking and hiking in and around this town, and being the southernmost town in the US also makes it unique.

Haleiwa, Oahu

Traditional shops in Haleiwa.
Traditional shops in Haleiwa. Image credit Marvin Minder via Shutterstock

Positioned on Oahu’s North Shore, Haleiwa is one of the most beloved surf towns in the country. The town is home to beaches featuring consistent waves and several shops stuffed with surfing equipment. Although the surf is the most popular thing to do here, Haleiwa has so much more to offer, like several art galleries that shed more light on its rich history and culture and a laid-back atmosphere that will get one in the Aloha spirit. 

An ideal day in Haleiwa can start with a delicious meal at a restaurant and end at Polu Gallery or the beach, watching the sunset. There is no special order to follow, but regardless of the itinerary, every moment spent in Haleiwa is sure to be unforgettable.

Makawao, Maui

Makawao Street with the museum.
Makawao Street with the museum. Image credit EQRoy via Shutterstock.

Also known as the cowboy capital of Hawaii, Makawao is a slightly larger town that has managed to retain a small-town feel. The town was once a hot spot for plantation, and today, it is filled with ranches and horses which visitors can ride. Makawao is home to the largest rodeo in Hawaii, where Hawaiian cowboys can be seen engaging in several thrilling sports like bull riding and barrel racing. 

When it comes to facilities, Makawao has everything from shops to art galleries. Visitors here will also enjoy amazing scenery and activities such as hiking, and mountain biking in Makawao Forest Reserve, which is a few miles from the town.

The US is full of towns, but these Hawaiian small towns are unique. In addition to the laid-back atmosphere and breathtaking natural beauty, these tiny towns also host fewer populations which is synonymous with zero traffic, uncrowded attractions, and satisfying serenity. It’s no wonder they are ranked as the favorites among US travelers, from those looking to retire to those who want to raise a family or just escape from it all.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 10 Small Towns In Hawaii Were Ranked Among US Favorites

More in Places