Hawaii, Far From The Hustle: Where To Travel If You Want To Escape The Tourist Crowds

If you’re planning to escape the cold winter weather in Hawaii, you’ve probably heard that overtourism issues have intensified there as well. In some cases, visitors trying to avoid the beaten path have inadvertently taken other paths in ecologically or culturally sensitive areas, much to the dismay of residents.

But as I’ve discovered on recent trips across three islands, it’s easy to enjoy a diverse range of authentic, uncrowded experiences – exploring native forests, learning about ancient and modern agriculture, and sightseeing. small historic towns – all the while going where you are not only welcome but invited. Here are some lesser-known activities to add to your next Hawaii itinerary.

Down to earth in Maui

Sandy beaches may be Valley Isle’s biggest draw, but the western flanks of Kahalawai (the Hawaiian name for the West Maui mountains) provide unique opportunities to escape the sun-drenched crowds and explore the land through farming. local.

At the Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate Factory in upper Lahaina, guides shuttle in small groups for 90 minutes Maui Chocolate Tour at the company’s 20-acre cocoa orchard, located at an even higher elevation. Walking through the luscious shade of some 8,000 trees, my group spotted red, yellow and orange bulbous cocoa pods growing directly from tree trunks. Harvested by hand, the alien-looking pods produce a pulpy mass of seeds, which are dried and roasted to become cocoa beans, the main ingredient in chocolate.

The seeds of the cocoa pods are dried and roasted to become cocoa beans, the main ingredient in chocolate.

The story of the sustainable agricultural and chocolate business of former biotechnology entrepreneur Gunars Valkirs, which includes cocoa sourced from Ecuador, is also intriguing, but nothing beats tasting its products in the open-air tower of the orchard with panoramic view. Among the individually wrapped Neapolitans, I always crave dark milk chocolate flavored with Mapulehu mangoes, also grown on the farm. You don’t have time for the visit? The the factory hosts tastings from its rooftop pavilion, and sells a tantalizing assortment of chocolate pastries, drinks and bars.

About 10 kilometers to the south is the Olowalu Valley, where a nonprofit group called Kipuka Olowalu encourages volunteers to sign up for a morning shift to help restore its 72-acre cultural reserve with taro fields and native plants. I may not remember how to carve the sheets of aalii paper, but I will never forget being greeted in the valley with a traditional Hawaiian song.

A statue of Kauai's last king, Kaumualii, was recently installed at Pa'ula'ula (Fort Elizabeth Russian State Historic Park).

Time travel on Kauai

While condos, hotels, and vacation rentals keep places like Hanalei, Kapaa, and Koloa blowing up, the relative lack of accommodation on the arid West Side of Garden Island means the historic town of Waimea remains largely untouched by weather or tourism. Of course, its history – and all of Hawaii – was irrevocably changed by the landing of British explorer Captain James Cook and his crew on the dark sands of Waimea on January 20, 1778.

Just east of Cook’s ship anchorage is Fort Elizabeth Russian State Historic Park, which hosted a brief Russian incursion in the early 1800s. Kauai’s last king, Kaumualii, cleared the rocks of a temple from its royal enclosure to be used to build a star-shaped fort. An eight-foot bronze statue of the king was installed at Pa’ula’ula – the Hawaiian name of the site that is now reviving – last March and immediately draped in necklaces. A statue of Cook, erected in 1928, is largely overlooked in a small city park.

The influence of early 19th-century New England missionaries is most easily spotted in the quaint buildings of Waimea Hawaiian Church and Waimea Mission Church. Waimea’s subsequent paniolo (cowboy) legacy seems to have a savory effect in the Wrangler restaurant and saddle room, while locals prefer the Ishihara market for poke, created by Polynesian travelers who have settled for the first time in Hawaii, and various lunch dishes – the latter reflecting the heritage of Japan, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Korean and Portuguese workers of the plantation era.

The Waikoloa Dry Forest on the Big Island protects some of the last native trees in the area, like this wiliwili.

Setting up on the island of Hawaii

Nicknamed the Big Island, this largest of all Hawaiian Islands offers many natural wonders, with Kilauea currently erupting in Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park among the most popular. But visiting its rare native forests can also inspire moments of awe – with a tiny fraction of fellow travelers.

About five miles upriver from Waikoloa Beach Resort, the rugged 275-acre Waikoloa Dry Forest may not seem promising when you walk in its doors for the free monthly huaka’i (guided hike) or three hour tree planting sessions twice a month. Yet this hot, dry area is home to spectacular examples of endemic wiliwili trees, around 300 years old, with orange-tinged bark, green leaves in winter, and flowers of different hues in summer. Hawaiians once used their light wood for surfboards and outrigger canoe floats, and their red or yellow-orange seeds for necklaces.

While the wiliwili did not bloom when I visited, other plants native to the arid lands more than made up for it: canary yellow hibiscus (ma’o hau hele), the state flower; the more compact golden yellow ilima shrub; and the pinkish-red flowers of the endangered uhiuhi tree. Held on the first Friday of each month, for up to 25 people, on 90 minutes guided hikes in the Waikoloa Dry Forest until sunset with free drinks in a lodge overlooking the ocean.

On the private upper slopes of Hualalai, the active volcano above Kailua-Kona that last erupted in 1801, you can plant a native koa while learning about Hawaiian culture and ecology. The five o’clock Hualalai crater To live (for two to four people) includes a 4×4 ride, a three-kilometer hike and a picnic at the family chalet of the brilliant guide Kimo Duarte.

Travelers are reminded to check for public health restrictions that may affect their plans.